Sebastien Grainger The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Published Dec 09, 2013While Death From Above 1979's reunion has taken up the lion's share of Sebastien Grainger's time of late, the musician still found time to cobble together the tracks that make up his new solo record, Yours to Discover. "I had divorced myself from collaborators in 2009," he says, which gave rise to the idea of making a record completely on his own.
The album is the yin to DFA 1979's yang, filled with poppy, keyboard-driven numbers. Some, like "The Streets Are Still A Mess" date back to 2009 while others were written after he moved to Los Angeles in late 2012. "It's more aligned with the kind of music I listen to on a daily basis," he says, noting that using MIDI instruments is more conducive to his new, one-man approach. "You don't need a studio, you don't need a band. It's more fun, it's more casual and its still songwriting."
What are you up to?
I just put out a solo record! Shouldn't that be enough?
What are your current fixations?
I'm really into the new Drake record and lentil tourtiere, the meat pie that French Canadians make, but made with lentils instead.
Why do you live where you do?
[I moved to L.A.] mainly because of the sunshine and I really love traffic. It's my favourite thing. [I left Canada] for a variety of different reasons. Just wanting a change. It's an interesting place. A lot of people have a lot to say about it and I don't think they've spent much time here. There's something about it that feels like there's real stuff happening here. If feels like a developing culture which is strange, because it's the apex of the entertainment industry. But there's cool stuff happening here in art and music. It's fun to be somewhere where the scene doesn't seem like it's played out, or people are bored or people are too cool. There's an actual alternative culture here.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Enter the Void. Have you seen it? It's about a guy who does a weird drug in Japan and dies. Then the whole movie is his spirit flying through his life. It's really crazy. It's Gaspar Noé, he's the French filmmaker who made Irreversible.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
It's a tie. The first one was the first time I saw the Dears play at the Horseshoe. There was probably 20 people there. Maybe more, but it didn't feel very well populated. Murray [Lightburn, the Dears singer-guitarist] probably had the most incredible voice I'd ever heard. At one point in the show he was on the ground in front of me screaming his face off. I don't think I'd ever seen a show where the singer walked off the stage. I'd been at shows where there was no stage, like punk shows and shows in people's basements. That was a very important moment for me.
The other one was when my sister was too anxious to go the New Kids on the Block show so my dad took me and my friend and my brother and we stood in a stadium full of screaming girls. I'd never heard anything louder than that, teenage girls just screaming as loud as they could. I wanted that thing, I wanted to hear that all the time. I'm addicted to that sound. I haven't achieved that yet. There's 20 percent teenage girls and 80 percent sweaty guys.
What have been your career highs and lows?
I think that the high so far has been the Death From Above reunion. Just seeing how excited people can be about music and about a band. If people weren't excited we wouldn't do it. It would be self-indulgent. When we started doing it again in front of people, why would I not want to do that? It's such a great experience and I like sharing those moments with people. The low? Anytime you get to do what you want for a living, the lows are relative. I do have a specific memory of turning 30 on the road, getting a tire changed in the parking lot of a Canadian Tire and a schleppy tour. That wasn't the lowest point of my career but it was a point where I was pretty self aware as to what my goals were and they weren't sitting in Canadian Tire parking lot in Winnipeg for the rest of my life.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
The whole point of playing in a really loud band is that you completely eliminate the heckler from the equation. No matter what anyone says you just keep playing or you turn it up or you turn away from the crowd. My attitude with Death From Above and into my solo band for so long was being really combative with the audience, to the point of it being super uncool. I don't think I do that anymore. I try to be more inclusive, or I want to be more inclusive.
I remember playing a solo show early on and someone requesting a Death From Above song and I felt that to be in poor taste. Not in a way like, "I really want to hear that song." They were like, "This sucks. Let's hear Death From Above." That's cool, great band, but that's not what this is, and also, fuck you that's a terrible thing to say.
I witnessed a similar thing happen to Emily Haines when she was doing a solo show at the Garrison and someone kept yelling out Metric songs. I got so angry I started a fight with the guy and I pushed him out of the bar. I was so angry, partly because he was totally disrespecting my friend, but also it was my chance to fight that guy. Although I did fight the other guy as well, I pushed him around. I don't know. Those things make me excited. If you're looking for a story where I was depressed, no. This is a story of when I pushed someone.
What should everyone shut up about?
I don't know. Miley Cyrus's pussy? It's there. It's a fully grown pussy. Let's shut up about it.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I dislike how I can't even tell if I'm being sarcastic anymore. The really clever one would be "I love being sarcastic," but I don't want to say that. My false modesty is what I love about myself. It's so Canadian. It's so un-Kanye.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Doing nothing. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm, a hot meal and a cup of coffee. I don't want to do anything.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
All the ones I'm thinking of are not the ones I want to say out loud. I've never gotten any good advice. That's my answer.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Being Hitler. For both. For a variety of reasons. You have to fill in the blanks.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
That's a weird question. I'm not a nationalistic type person. Any answer to this question is so uncool. I think about Gord Downie on a skateboard doing an olly over the CN Tower.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
The first cassette I bought was the second Ninja Turtles soundtrack and the first CD I bought was Beatles For Sale, which is slightly cooler and I got more use out of that one.
What was your most memorable day job?
I worked customer service at Microsoft. That's pretty much the only one I remember. Death From Above is my day job, my solo career is my night job. That's the way it works, right? "Don't quit your day job!" I won't.
How do you spoil yourself?
I spoil myself with red meat, like a steak that's barely cooked. It has to be really good. It can't be crummy. I spoil myself with red meat and red wine.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
Fat. It keeps me trim.
What do you fear most?
These are such broad questions that I definitely don't think about ever. Fear itself baby!
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
My wife's... my wife. I was going to say something more specific, but my beautiful wife.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I was hanging out with a friend of mine and we were talking about weird shit that happens when you're in a band. There's so many stories that if I catalogued them properly I could really wow my family and friends or people that don't have any experience with the entertainment industry. I could regale them for a long time. But I'm not good at remembering these things. I should have a drawer in my mind that's just "cool stories for mom and dad" and you pull them out at dinner.
You see people all the time in L.A,, like the drummer from the Doors getting coffee. Weird shit. I saw Lisa Bonet at the grocery store the other night, who is the most fuckable Huxtable. The comedian Jon Daly does this bit called Bill Cosby Bukowski. It's Charles Bukowski speaking like Bill Cosby. It's really weird and he has a bit called [adopt a Bill Cosby voice] "Who is the most fuckable Huxtable?" and it's Denise. And I saw Denise at the grocery store.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
It would be Hitler and I'd serve him a bowl of rusty nails.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Painting her garage door. She tried to get me to do it 15 years ago and I was so bad. I painted the corner, then I smoked a cigarette, then I logged on to the internet on a 14.4 modem and then came back down and painted a bit more. She came home from work and said, "Why does it smell like cigarettes in here?" Just say painted the garage; don't add all that other stuff.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Hold on, let me find it so that the joke's actually funny... "Finally" by Cece Peniston. I love the idea of someone reading that, then searching for it and listening to it.