Ian Blurton is a big name in Canadian indie music. A gigging musician since the early ’80s and also a producer whose credits include records for The Weakerthans, The Lowest of the Low and Amy Millan. This July, Ian Blurton’s power-trio C’Mon released their latest record Beyond The Pale Horse. I talked to Ian about the new album and C’Mon’s plans for touring. I also used this opportunity to ask Ian what he thought about the state of play of Canadian music in the year 2010. We also discussed the emergence of 70’s era influenced heavy rock that is breaking through in North America with several bands that may be creating the sound and scene that will define this decade: it’s something I consider to be a revival at least, and what might even lead to a full-on resuscitation. Interview by Brian Banks, editor and founder of Music Vice.
“I think so much music is computerized and fake at this point that it’s going to turn back to the pure thing.” – Ian Blurton
You’ve just come off a 10 date Canadian tour and tonight you’re launching your new record, Beyond The Pale Horse. How was the tour?
We went out to Calgary and played the Sled Island festival after playing two sets at North By Northeast in Toronto. We have a small fan base but they are very loyal. They really like rocking out, so it’s been good shows, good physical shows.
I actually first saw you guys play way back in 2007 at Petite Campus, Montreal…
Oh my god.
I was with The Mongrels while filming a documentary, and I believe you yourself sir actually stuck your head in the tiny shared dressing room backstage while wearing a box on your head…
Oh, I remember that.
You might’ve been drinking that night?
That was a really memorable gig, it was electric. The thing that struck me most about it was the energy that you guys had on stage, especially you and Katie, the chemistry was incredible. What is that’s so unique about C’Mon that can generate that kind of energy?
It’s really hard for me to say because I’ve never seen us live. I don’t really know, I just know that we’re really good friends and that really helps if you meet somebody like that in a band and you can play with them.
There’s definitely a different vibe with C’Mon. For example, with one of your other current projects, Ian Blurton’s Happy Endings, its much more of a jam vibe, a lot more use of the effects pedals and you’re standing around, there’s no energy.
Well with that band, I don’t want it to be anything like this band. This band is unique to the three of us, so I don’t try to recreate any of that shit with another band. It wouldn’t feel right anyway, you know, because it [Ian Blurtin’s Happy Endings] is so player orientated – why would I be standing on a table for a five minute solo?
So C’Mon is your main band, your main project?
Oh absolutely. The Happy Endings thing only happened because it was going to take a long time to make the new C’Mon record and I just wanted to keep playing. Katie doesn’t live here, she lives in New Orleans. It wasn’t even a real band or a real record, it was just something to do.
Fair enough, fair enough. You’re quite revered in Canada, you know, the name Ian Blurton is always punctuated with some kind of phrase like “Canadian indie music icon”. As a Canadian music veteran, where do you see Canadian music on the map right now?
I think it’s in a really good place actually because it’s finally getting respect worldwide. When I first started playing in the ‘80s, there was very few Canadian bands that actually went outside of the borders. That was one thing that changed – we wanted an American record deal more than a Canadian record deal, which is what everyone went after. At that time it was DOA and No Means No were the only ones who were at the level to be out there touring the world. And now it’s like hundreds of bands… you know, Fucked Up, Cursed, Career Suicide, or, fuck, I don’t know, even Broken Social Scene, Metric…
Arcade Fire, all that…
Yeah, exactly, Arcade Fire. They’ve all kind of spread out and it’s been really, really big for the Canadian music industry.
I mean, it’s like being a Canadian metal band, you don’t get a lot of respect in Canada but if you go over to Europe and you’re wearing a Voivod shirt, people are like “Aaaaargh!”. You know? I think the main problem is, bands like that don’t get respect in Canada. Heavy music doesn’t get any respect at all. Their isn’t even a Juno category for hard music whatsoever. And some of these bands sell a lot records.
It’s true. With Music Vice we cover a lot of music throughout Canada, the UK and Australia and I know that for Canadian metal bands like Cancer Bats, the kind of reception their getting over in Australia and the UK is incredible. Australians especially, they just love their metal. I guess maybe in Canada we take things for granted?
Or in Canada they just try to push it down a little bit too, you know? Like, Cancer Bats should be getting way more respect in Canada than they do.
Let’s talk about the new record. On Beyond The Pale Horse, Katie is coming stepping up to the mic a lot more, doing more of the vocals.
Yeah, that was intentional. We wanted more of like, X, and also there’s this band called Verbena that we both love love and they have a female-male lead singer duo. So we really wanted to go for more of that vibe. She sung one song on the last record, that was her first song and she really liked it, so. I just like male-female heaviness too you know, and it kind of gives us maybe a little bit of a unique angle, you know?
You mentioned X there – did you get a chance to see them back at NXNE?
No. I think we played at the same time. But I saw them a year ago in N’Orleans and they were phenomenal. Billy Zoom is one of my favourite guitar players of all time.
Could you tell me a bit about the creative process for creating a C’Mon record?
It’s natural I guess. Our producer really pushed us on this record to make it nasty.
Generally I’ll bring a rough idea and we’ll jam it out and see what works. On this record the lyrics came last because I lost all the words when we were touring. We were going out to Victoria, BC and we were going to record the album there and I lost all the words to the album on the way out to Victoria. So we just wrote the songs the way they should be and then added the lyrics after, which is kind of weird.
So do you have any goals for where C’Mon are going to be going next?
We definitely want to go to Europe again on this record. We want to tour the US for the first time with this record. We want to go to Australia really bad. With every record we put out we kind of spread the net a little bit farther, and hopefully we can end up going to all the places that we want to. I mean it’s tough, we don’t have a record label and we just do things our own way – some people think it’s crazy but it seems to work for us.
You’re quite lo-fi when it comes to the distribution of your music, it’s more about the physical copy.
Yes, that’s true. I think that’s actually going to change on this record. I mean we have a friend that’s helping us put this record out from London, Ontario.
It might more sense in terms of the foreign markets like Australia, using the whole online thing…
Yeah. That’s the one beautiful thing about online is the world-wide aspect of it. Anyone can hear it. That’s why it’s so important to have some songs up for free so that you can get people interested.
Do you have any kind of strategy, scribbled notes on paper, for cracking these other markets?
No, not really. When we went to Europe we brought lots records and sold tons of recored there, and we hooked up with this distribution company who are going to take some copies of this new record.
You know, it’s finding the right people. And rock music is hard to sell to a lot of people. It’s not really watered down rock music… it’s like rock music in the purest sense I think.
The thing that I’m getting in your sound – with your latest stuff and going back to the C’Mon that I’ve known since 2007 – it’s all kind of heavily influenced by the true roots of rock n’ roll, from 70’s, 60’s...
And right now in 2010 when I’m looking at the new albums that I really like, I’m looking at The Dead Weather, I’m looking at the Black Keys, Bon Iver… all the stuff like that, all so heavily influenced by the blues and 70’s heavy rock. There’s a huge revival thing happening right now. Suddenly after all the crap from the last decade, the new wave, the new ‘hardcore’… I don’t know, its just like a light switch has gone off with some bands and now we have an new scene emerging, soaked with old school soul.. .there’s truth to the music. Is this something you’re noticing or is just me?
No, I agree, there’s a lot more good heavy bands. The fact that The Dead Weather can draw so many people to listen to that type of music is pretty amazing. Even Them Crooked Vultures – like live, they’re are phenomenal.
I think there is a purity in both those bands that you’re talking about, in the songs too, that people want. Black Keys – their new record is great. Actually Russ from The Mercy Now turned me onto the Black Keys. I think so much music is computerized and fake at this point that it’s going to turn back to the pure thing. I mean, it goes like that in waves anyway. If you look in the history of music, it’ll be really pure one period, and then really bubblegum, synthesized… and I think it’s going back to the pure thing.
Definitely. I mean especially with that new Black Keys album, I’d heard a bit of buzz but then when I first got my hands on a promotional copy of the album, I gave it a play and wow… it had the hairs on the back of my neck tingling.
C’Mon have a style of music which fits within this heavy rock revival…
Hopefully what we’re doing is not just completely retro though. I mean hopefully there’s enough other influences there that keeps it contemporary. We don’t wanna be AC/DC or… ya know… we want to be C’Mon.
I know you don’t have a crystal ball, and maybe not the pyschic powers of Paul the psychic octopus…
Octopus? Oh [from the World Cup], no… apparently he’s a fucking genius.
Yeah, but do you think this change, this revival, will continue to grow?
Yeah, I think every time we get to a peak in the music industry… I mean Britney Spears and that whole thing has kind of peaked, and now it’s going down. Now there are bands who can actually play live and kick out, and I think probably in the next two years I think you’ll see a lot of bands who’ll come up who are really honest and true.
Unfortunately a lot of the rock ‘n roll bands from the last 10 years have died out really fast but hopefully there will be new ones.
You’ve been a gigging musician since ’82. How do you see the community has evolved? Obviously now we have the internet but do you think there is still a true community, like out on the road?
Oh yeah, absolutely. We have friends in every town who helps us out. Like, we know a guitar player in a band who is a mechanic, or people who help set up shows. We still do it that old Black Flag kind of way. I really believe in that way because it fosters a sense of community, you help each other out and it’s not based on something that’s false, it’s an actual thing. And the shows are generally better, because people know it’s a bunch of people who are working together to put on a show.
To wrap this up in the usual way: This interview is for Music Vice, so Ian Blurton, do you have any vices other than music that you wish to reveal?
Besides music? I have a lot of vices… As for music, I have an amplifier problem, I buy too many. I have about seven right now, and eight guitars. And I buy a lot of records, I have a vinyl fetish… it’s pretty bad and I’ve just had to move…
How much vinyl are we talking here?
It took days. Music is definitely my vice.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
C’Mon’s latest record Beyond The Pale Horse is out now via Blown Speaker records. For more info visit the band’s website.