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Tuesday, June 11, 2002

The Tragically Hip's Gord Sinclair chat transcript

Still A Leafs Fan: Why did you decide on Hugh Padgham for this particular album ("In Violet Light"), and what did he bring to the studio that was different from other producers you have worked with in the past?

Gord Sinclair: When we first started writing for the record, we realized right away it was going to be more like a live compositional thing than a studio record. We put together a dream wish list. Hugh was at or near the top, because of his work on (The Police's) "Synchronicity" and "English Settlement" by XTC. We sent him the material, and he got back right away. He was enthused, and he had a hole in his schedule. We jumped a the chance to work with him. At the same time, he was looking to do a project that would now be considered an old-school way: 24 tracks of analog tape. Setting up a rock and roll band in a studio, the way he used to make records when he started, rather than making use of all the digital technology out there.

Steve Cunningham: Gord: Any plans to release a new "live/in concert" video/DVD?

Gord Sinclair: No immediate plans on the live DVD or concert recording. But it is something we have talked about and may tackle in the fall. It is something that we would stage right ... over the course of the summer. We hope to be updating The Hip Club with live recordings from different venues on the tour. We are going back to a lot of our favourite rooms to play. When we go into places like The Fillmore, we try to record what we've done, to mark the occasion. If we get something we feel might be of interest, we will put it out over the net, as part of The Hip Club. I don't think The Hip Club makes a live record obsolete. The way we approached "Live Between Us", that was a document of a single show, which is the mark of a good live record. We would not be releasing entire shows this way. This allows us to filter through and pick choice cuts. A live record is no better or worse than the performance. If it comes together, it is cool to document it. I think the documentation is more valid than a greatest-hits live. I think the shows will reflect that. The last few days we have been developing the new material to take to the stage. When you rehearse, you look at your range of options -- the new record first, but hoping to pepper in a wide variety of songs as we go out. We haven't figured out how to approach it yet. We touched on so much stuff on the last swing, it is limitless what we can tackle. It will be interesting how the new stuff plays off the old stuff.

Jim Harchar (Buffalo) (biggest Hip fan) : What is your fave song, and why is it?

Gord Sinclair: Right now, I honestly really do like the whole record ("In Violet Light"). I have been listening to it a lot in my car, going back and forth. I have been listening to it, and I like how it goes as a whole album. But "Good Life", "Silver Jet", I think that is a solid one-two kind of vibe. "Silver Jet" was the last song we wrote for the record. It sort of came to the fore just at the end of the sessions with Hugh. We recorded that and "Are You Ready" in Bath. I like the "little song that could" motif that makes it onto the record. And it is a pretty rockin' song, too.

Ren Bostelaar, Ottawa (fanboy for life): At this point, Gord, does the band plan to slow it down a little? Nine (studio) albums, umpteen tour dates, and a decade and a half of being Canadian rock royalty ... can we expect more of the same in the coming years, or will you guys take another, perhaps longer, break from business to be with your loved ones? In short, should we expect another Hip album in 2004?

Gord Sinclair: I think we have found a pretty good schedule that worked nicely for us last time. We were off the road for a year and three or four months. That seemed like a great amount of time to tackle outside projects; compose and rehearse a new record, and spend a lot of good time with our families, at home. It gave Gord ample opportunity to explore his solo record and book. I don't see why we wouldn't stay on that schedule. We are talking about being irregular with our recording. Breaks in touring, and then record songs as they come up. Keep output on a fairly regular interval.

Sean: Hey, Gord! Just curious why you guys thanked "Snoop Dogg" on this album? Cheers and good luck with the upcoming tour!!

Gord Sinclair: We made really good friends with a guy named Snoop Dogg, who was a chef at a resort across the street from the studio. Really great people, and really made you feel welcome.

Julia Franklin: Which song from "IVL" will pose the biggest challenge to play? live?

Gord Sinclair: That is an interesting question. That is what we have been going through in the last little bit. So far, they all interpret really well, I think. We haven't played them for people, but in rehearsal, they take on a live life of their own, which is really important. Because they were written with performance in mind, as a rock band, a quintet, we kind of arranged them that they would all work live. "Leave" is going to be interesting. Probably quite different from the album version. I believe songs continue to evolve as you perform them live, often for the better. This album is going to age really nicely.

Dr. Gonzo Jones: Mr. Sinclair, What drew you to the bass when you started playing music? Do you have any favourite contemporaries that you listen to or admire? (Looking forward to the new album!)

Gord Sinclair: I first started playing bass with Robby in high school. It was, friend puts rock band together, younger friend wants to join and can't play guitar, plays bass. That's where it got started. As I learned to play the instrument, other players influenced me. Andy Fraser from Free, a huge album for me to learn the bass, John McVie from the Bluesbreakers. Since then, playing with Johnny is the biggest influence. Any member of a rhythm section, to play with the same drummer for two decades, makes the job easier. But my favourite is Duck Dunn, of the less-is-more school. When he was out on the road with Neil Young, I got to meet him. At Roskilde. I was most nervous meeting him. I knew I was in the company of greatness.

Ken from Massachusetts: Do you think Gord Downie's "Coke Machine Glow" -- the experience of working outside of The Hip -- had an impact on "In Violet Light"?

Gord Sinclair: That would be difficult for me to answer. I think Gord making "CMG" was a really great thing for him, and a great thing for us. When you have got five guys writing songs together for years and years, you get a backlog of material, and sometimes it suggests other directions, and Gord got a chance to explore that. I think anything like that is positive and would help us.

coolcatmissy: Hi Gord, Do you think that there will be another single after "It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken"? If so, what do you think it will be? Thanks! Can't wait to see the new video!

Gord Sinclair: I certainly hope there would be. "Good Life" is an interesting and divergent choice for us. In the past, we have been inclined to release an uptempo rock number, to leap into the record. Because it is a different thing, it was a good choice. The songs I always think will be good singles never turn out to be good singles. I would like to see "Silver Jet". You could do a cool video for that.

Lennon: Personally, I have been reborn (an entirely different person) since the September 11 attacks on America. Is it coincidental or gestational that "IVL" is being released exactly nine months later?

Gord Sinclair: That is completely coincidental. I would say the events of Sept. 11 happened while we were in the studio in Bath, writing, doing prep work. Everybody was radically effected by those events. With a number of the songs, you can interpret a direct or indirect ... A lot of cases, "Leave" was inspired by those events. A unique Gord Downie view of what happened. And references in "A Good Life" as well. If it makes all of us more conscious of the universal truths, then it is a direct influence. (What about "Darkest Canuck"?) It's probably a little much for me to go on to. For me, there are a hundred different stories going on in that. To me -- and again, this is my interpretation -- the "Darkest Canuck" recounts a summer evening, sitting on your porch, waiting to go to the drive-in, where the song ends up. "Metaphors", it is a pretty cool tune. At six and a half minutes, it is the most ambitious musical thing on the record. (Is "Darkest Canuck" two songs put together) Yeah, it was a work in progress. We recorded it as two separate numbers. But in the composition phase, we were quoting a chordal pattern from the first in the second. And lyrically, it is all meant to be linear. We approached it as a suite, movement one and movement two. But we were experimenting with changing the tempos, so we approached the second half as its own thing.

Ryan Chiasson: When do you guys plan to tour across the country in support of the new album?

Gord Sinclair: We are going to be touching most of the regions, with the exception of the West coast, over the summer. And then we intend to mount a full canadian tour in September. (Will it be an arena tour?) We are toying with different ideas. We have done three or four arena tours for the last couple of records. We would like to do something cool and something different. We have a plan, but the plan hasn't been announced yet.

Chad McIntyre: As an American fan who owns every album you've ever made, it shocks and amazes me that, with all the American and Canadian crap that gets U.S. airplay, your music has never been embraced by American radio stations. Does it frustrate you? It pisses me off.

Gord Sinclair: There were moments where it was frustrating. But that is the nature of the business in the United States, and in Canada. We have been with a number of different record companies in the States. I don't think we have ever really had a clear business focus before, which I think you need to be super successful, in the corporate business side. The support we have received has been amazing. Just like our friend who wrote the e-mail, it typifies our relationship in the States. We have just signed with friends at Rounder Records, who I think are embracing the band in that kind of spirit. It has never been a matter of quantity, but the quality of the support we receive.

Rob: Hey, Gord. I've been listening to "IVL" all day today. Fantastic! Why did you guys choose Bahamas to record this CD?

Gord Sinclair: Hugh Padgham had suggested we go down there, to work with Terry Manning, this most incredible guy. A great engineer, who started making records at Stax in Memphis, and engineered "Zep III", ZZ Top. Stax-Volt stuff. He is running Compass Point. He said, if we are going to make a rock 'n' roll record, let's get with Terry. All the stuff with Lenny Kravitz he has done, the sounds are mind-blowing. Also, when it is November, Rekyavik doesn't come up. The southern climate didn't hurt us a bit.

Aaron: Is it true that you're planning special offers to members of your fan club? And how do you join your fan club?

Gord Sinclair: The Hip Club has never been easier to join. Inside every copy of "IVL", there is a card for membership. Just log on to thehipclub.com, and you get your personal security number, and all our stuff is going to be made available. Right now, we have tracks left over from the recording that we will be sporadically releasing, as well as live stuff. You get front of the line, merch, and there is going to be some live stuff that is very funky. It allows us to get closer to the fans than we ever have before.

Paul N: What will you do after The Hip calls it quits?

God Sin clair: We have never really projected ourselves that far ahead. We kind of approach things one project at a time. After going through making "IVL", you have a feeling there is not an end in sight. Creatively, it was still real rewarding and generally a fun experience. To me, those are the hallmarks of a great job. Why look elsewhere? After playing with the same guys for so long, what else would I do? I could work for Rand McNally and show them the errors in their maps.

Patrick_Montreal: How do you feel this album has allowed you to grow as a musician compared to previous Hip albums? Rock on, Patrick

Gord Sinclair: For me personally, the influence of working with Hugh and Terry, along with Johnny in the rhythm section -- but really as a whole group. To work with guys with such a great ear for music, especially Padgham. He is a real rhythm player's producer. He was a real pleasure to work with. Nothing but encouraging the whole time, and helped me learn about the instrument. In terms of arrangements, presenting them in a stripped-down way, listening to how the instruments function off each other. We were trying to be almost minimalist with the record. That makes you focus on what your band mates are doing. Ultimately that makes you a better player, and (makes for) a better song.

Rob: Did Bobby create the artwork for "IVL" again ? How did the name "IVL" come about ?

Gord Sinclair: Rob did the painting that graces the cover of the record. He was inspired by Gord to do it. It is a difficult process, when it comes down to naming a collection of songs. There were a number of different suggestions floating around. "In Violet Light" caught everyone when Gord brought it up. It struck everyone right away. The meaning can be taken literally -- it sets a pastoral mood, a quiet kind of calm mood; a before-the-dawn vibe. The other is, "inviolate" -- which is a hopeful message in the wake of Sept. 11. There are aspects to humanity, maybe music being one of them, and love and the like, that can't be extinguished. It is taken from a lyric in "Silver Jet". It works in both contexts. It encapsulates the full collection of songs, and maybe what we are trying to do. There was a list of 20 or 25 candidates. It is something we vow every time, that we are going to reform the process: start with a title and work backwards. But we never do. But Gord always manages to come up with the perfect title.

Gord Sinclair: I want to thank everyone for logging on. Look for us over the course of the summer, and listen over the next couple of nights as we debut the record live on the radio. Looking forward to seeing everyone in the summer. Thanks for your support. (More on The Tragically Hip)

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