I’ve had the chance to speak with a handful of artists now prior to their residencies and it seems as though, almost by accident, something pretty cool is starting to emerge. Though, as you said, everyone is working on their own unique project, collectively, all of these songs and all of these albums that have been written inside this space and using this very rare collection of instruments are starting to form a musical quilt of sorts that will forever have the National Music Centre’s stamp on it.
MAH: I really like the idea that other people are also doing this residency but that they’re all coming at their art in their own way. I also like the idea that there will be people coming in just to see what develops. Some will probably be happy with one song and others might create 20, who knows!
For us, especially getting to be two of the first crop of artists to do this at the National Music Centre, it’s just really cool. I think our goal is not necessarily to see where the instruments lead us but to use them to construct something and have that as a document.
Are you guys hoping to make an album then?
KC: Yeah, I think we’re going to try and make an album. We’ve got a limited amount of time and that seems like a good deadline. Then at the end of it once it’s all said and done, we’ll get some time to think about it and see what we want to change, if anything, you know? I think that’s a really great way to start a record or even to finish one. Ideally, you want to go in with a burst, know you have a certain amount of time, work really hard to finish it, and then see where you end up at the end of it.
MAH: I think the beautiful thing about being at NMC is that if you’re in the middle of something and suddenly think, ‘You know what would sound great on this? Some mellotron!’ You can snap your fingers and there it is.
KC: I’m pretty excited about the idea of having that sort of access to instruments as well. For me, I‘m a keyboard player so I’ve been in studios before where they have a really big collection of synths and I definitely find that each instrument has its own very specific habits or a thing that it’s particularly good at or just something that it will inspire all on its own.
When you change from one physical instrument to another, what you come up with is different than if you’re just working with a controller, a single keyboard, and a bunch of synths in the computer. I’ve worked that way as well and I do love it but for different reasons because having the ability to move from instrument to instrument changes the way you think about structure and about melody—it’s just a really neat way to write a song.
MAH: I think it really makes you respect the capabilities and limitations of an instrument as well. If you are working with a synthetic mellotron for example (and you’ve probably noticed how much I love mellotrons) you can move it, tweak it, sample things, and make them into something different. It’s as if the National Music Centre is giving us all of this wood and these nails and hammers and saying, ‘Build something!’
Why don’t we talk about an album or artist that is close to each of your hearts and why?
MAH: I’m just going to say Kathryn Calder, obviously. [Laughs]
KC: Yes, aside from Mark [laughs] I guess the person who really comes to mind is Joni Mitchell. I mean Joni is practically from another planet––that’s how good her songwriting is and how beautiful and thoughtful her lyrics are. She uses all of these different unusual tunings, and it’s as if you can’t even begin to emulate her songwriting because it is so inimitable, you know? For her, it’s just totally natural. For the rest of us, we can’t even begin to understand it. Her level of songwriting is like the bar I set for myself, even though it’s probably never going to happen. [Laughs]
Or even someone like Paul Simon. I grew up with a lot of Paul Simon records like Graceland, and his lyrics are just really great. They’re always about all kinds of things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of writing about, and he uses these chord changes that seem to come out of nowhere but never feel out of place.
For me, those are the two artists that I spent a lot of time with growing up, both in terms of listening to their records and feeling really strongly influenced by them in my life.
Continue reading via the National Music Centre.