Rewind to 1999: A pre-9/11 world is enjoying economic prosperity, small (but dumb) cell phones and every imaginable colour of pants. But there are two Canadian cartoon characters that will never quite be happy: the despondent, perpetually lovelorn Simon, and his stoic pal Milo.
They shouldn't have been so down; from 1998 through the end of 2000, their band, Prozzäk (helmed IRL by the Philosopher Kings' Jay Levine and James Bryan McCollum) ruled Canadian charts, radio airwaves and MuchMusic video rotation, earning the band a devoted following through songs like "Strange Disease," "Sucks to Be You" and "www.nevergetoveryou."
In their songs and animated videos, Simon and Milo travelled the world in search of true love, but the journey seemed to reach a conclusion in 2005 — until now. With a new album out, aptly titled Forever 1999, the musical cartoon duo are now back on the road, but they took a few a moments out to talk candidly (and in-character) about what they've been up to and where they're headed next.
What are you up to?
Simon: I've just attended my fifth Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting in Los Angeles where I met a really cute girl. I'm starting a support group for singer songwriters called Anonymous Singer Songwriters — we already have 75,000 members in the first week in the Los Angeles area alone. Just finished up our new album Forever 1999, which documents my online dating adventures along with my depressive transference of unrequited love onto an innocent cat named Miles.
Milo: Designing a sustainable off-the-grid eco pod for Simon and I in Fiji, transcribing J.S. Bach's cello suites for ukulele, and laundry.
What are your current fixations?
Simon: I love protein bars infused with CBD oil; books: The Secret Life of the American Musical; fixations: the art of ghosting.
Milo: Music: "I Feel it Coming" by the Weeknd feat. Daft Punk; film: Hidden Figures; book: Trevor Noah's Born a Crime; art: David Shrigley; lifestyle: capoeira.
Why do you live where you do?
Simon: I need change in my life — probably the reason I mess up all my relationships. I did T.O. and New York and Paris and London and Tokyo and now I'm doing L.A. Next up, maybe a small town sort of thing. Whenever things get scary I can run back to the safety of the compound.
Milo: Isle of Man, for the sheep and tax haven; L.A. for the kale smoothies.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Simon: "Famous Blue Raincoat" by Leonard Cohen; "Happier Than the Morning Sun" by Stevie Wonder; Great Expectations by Charles Dickens; Manhattan by Woody Allen; "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin; "Hamilton" by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Milo: I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
Simon: Playing double bass in class at York U. when Oscar Peterson walked in and sat down at the piano and asked me to play "Someday My Prince Will Come" with him. Still the best musical experience of my life and only a few muso-dorks were there to witness it. Yes, Simon went to McGill and York.
Milo: Playing the Atomic Lollipop festival at the Ontario Science Centre. A one-of-a-kind moment in a one-of-a-kind festival in a one-of-a-kind venue.
What have been your career highs and lows?
Milo: High: playing with the legend Englebert Humperdinck in Baku, for the Eurovision song contest. Low: ranking last in the Eurovision contest.
Simon: High: ranking last in a Eurovision contest (phew). Low: Being asked to star in a softcore porn in North Hollywood called Humperdinck.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Simon: Before a gig: A reporter for a Vancouver arts mag once compared my hair cut to Liza Minnelli right before going on stage. Needless to say I had a very insecure performance. During a gig: I once overheard the sound guy in my in-ear monitors tell my current girlfriend that she is a wonderful kisser. After a gig: A disgruntled fan attacked me with an eraser. He got half of my left shoe before security subdued him.
Milo: When Simon said "You're dead to me" after I played a wrong note in a concert.
What should everyone shut up about?
Simon: Everyone needs to speak out against outdated xenophobic archaic politicians so now is not the time to shut up.
Milo: Any form of hate speech.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
Simon: Like: alone time. Dislike: alone time.
Milo: Like: my positivity. Dislike: my hip flexors. They are so tight.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Simon: Drive up the PCH with the top down and go wine tasting all day with the one I love. Ahh will that happen?
Milo: morning meditation followed by hot yoga, and a big brunch of blueberry pancakes, bacon, and a green smoothie to balance it out.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Simon: I should have stayed with Alana and Sarah and Christina and Jess and Gema and… Wait, they left me I think? But I subconsciously scuttled the relationship by becoming aloof, so I left them, but I should have tried harder or changed who I was or am or will be. Let's change the damn topic.
Milo: Don't go to the club when you have an early morning interview.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Simon: I have been kicked out of a band, I have kicked people out of my band, I have been kicked out of bed and I have been kicked out of a band's bed and I have kicked a band out of my bed, but I've never kicked someone out of my bed.
Milo: Any dynamic where my pain is someone else's pleasure.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Simon: I think of Mom and Dad and snow and fresh air and that if you break your arm you don't have to take out a loan.
Milo: Love, beauty, nature and maple syrup. Not necessarily in that order.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Simon: My own money? Milo still gives me an allowance, so I don't know what that's like. But I think I picked out Duran Duran maybe the first time.
Milo: Destroyer by KISS. The album cover is spectacular.
What was your most memorable day job?
Simon: Brickyard back in the old neighbourhood. You had to bang bricks together all day and if they made a ding you put them in a neat pile and if they made a thud you tossed them in a bin. I was really too small to keep up with the rest of the chaps. I can still smell the brick dust and feel the orange gunk coming out of my nose in the middle of the night while I shook in fear at the sadistic treatment I'd receive the next day from the other angry teens at work.
Milo: Baking strudel in the Naschmarkt in Vienna.
How do you spoil yourself?
Simon: A crisp vodka with diet coke and a splash of lemon or a dry Pinot Noir drifting above Paris in a hot air balloon wearing nothing but a white linen robe.
Milo: Some "me" time on the beach in Jamaica with a ginger beer in my hand.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
Simon: A brick tester.
Milo: A frustrated baker.
What do you fear most?
Simon: Cylon Raiders
Milo: Brussels sprouts
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Simon: Secret hookups with dangerous women who would make my father angry to see me dating.
Milo: House music.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Simon: I complimented Maxwell on his army parka when we toured with him and six months later after only speaking to him once he bought me one. I called him to thank him, but also had to ask him to meet me at the store with the receipt, because it was the wrong size and I had to exchange it.
Milo: Playing Truth or Dare with Shania Twain in the Bahamas.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Simon: Probably share a pizza with Albert Einstein and just chat about stuff.
Milo: Guitar maestro Andres Segovia. We would drink the finest bottle of Rioja and eat paella.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Simon: Just hang out at her place I think.
Milo: Cleaning my room.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Simon: The song I will write with my future bride.
Milo: "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by the Beatles.