The Russian Futurists's Keyboard Kaos

The Russian Futurists's Keyboard Kaos
When then-23-year-old synth enthusiast Matthew Adam Hart released his debut album as the Russian Futurists in 2000, he sounded behind the times, with the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt and Momus as his only bedfellows. Two years later, with his much improved Let's Get Ready to Crumble, Hart is no longer the sole synth sound-scaper in Canadian indie rock, and every new buzz band has a synth at their side.

"It's not as novel as it once was," Hart concurs. "But it's not like I use them for any other reason than that's what was around when I started recording. Plus I can't play guitar, which limits my ability to write. And they're cheap. When you combine sounds from different ones you get these weird textures that you couldn't recreate on any other instrument. They're quite versatile."

Hart is a poster boy for the Eno-esque democratic theory of synth pop, admitting that he can't even play piano. "The funny thing is that I can't even play my own songs when we play live," he says. "When I record the songs, I play it once and I never play it again. So when someone asks me to show them the chords, I have no clue. I have to get the band to show me. Whenever we practice I'll be trying to teach them new parts, but they end up showing me the parts."

Hart's live band consists of several old friends playing synths on tables while Hart sits in the middle conducting things with his mixer and singing. The fact that Hart and his buddies are all plaid-wearing, Labatt 50-chugging hosers who look like they're chilling out after road hockey practice makes their synth spectacle all the more entertaining — especially when the keyboards start breaking.

"I have 15 or 20 little Casio things, and without fail at every show at least one keyboard breaks," Hart sighs, although he usually doesn't have problems replacing his gear. You'll find him at the local Cash Converters. "It's a total rip-off, though — I don't know how they get away charging $30 for these things," he laughs. "You can find them at garage sales for a dollar. But if you go into Cash Converters in small towns where they have 50 people scouring for gear, you can find some good stuff there. I have my dad on constant lookout on garage sales. He goes out every week and calls me, ‘Hey son, I got you another big Casio here for a dollar-fifty!' I'm just like, ‘Right on!'"