5 Questions With Artist Chris Ironside

Chris Ironside is a Toronto-based artist working in drawing and photography. He is interested in representations of masculine ideals and identity through performance, documentation and the staged image. His work has been exhibited throughout North America and has appeared in several publications, including a set of commissioned drawings for Headmaster Magazine and a featured article on his photographic series, Mr. Long Weekend, in Issue 114 of C Magazine. He currently teaches photography in the School of Fine Art and Music (SOFAM) at the University of Guelph where he is the recipient of the 2012-2013 College of Arts Sessional Teaching Excellence Award.

We had the honour to chat with Ironside to get to know more about the artist.

What would be your theme song and why?

I love the idea of a theme song and I think everyone should have one. My current theme song would be Amanda Lepore’s “My Hair Looks Fierce” – for obvious reasons.

If you could eat, pray, love your life where would you go and why?

New York City. When I was younger my first introduction to New York was through the television show Fame. I was in love with the series and I wanted to go to the High School of Performing Arts when I was old enough. That dream was never realized, but nowadays I do get to New York several times a year. I love the energy of the city and the creative inspiration that comes from being there as the city has a real sense of being so immediately alive all of the time. And then there are the people who I find to be interesting, stylish and attractive.

What is your secret obsession?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret. To be honest though, I am great at keeping other people’s secrets, but I have a hard time keeping my own especially when I am really excited about something or someone. That being the case, my current not-so-secret obsessions are Andrew Christian underwear (the Almost Naked collection), Justin Vivian Bond (because JVB is everything) and Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks in 2016 (I have been waiting 25 years to see Laura Palmer, again).

Who was the last person to make you smile?

My partner, Noah, who eight and a half years into our relationship still knows how to make me smile no matter what my mood!

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I am not sure of the exact moment because for a long time it was a toss up between being an artist and moving to New York to act on daytime television. However, long before Cindy Sherman went through her clown phase, I went through one of my own. The summer that I was four years old I drew a lot of pictures of clowns and sold them in a “gallery” I set-up in the back shed of my grandparents’ cottage. At the time, my drawings were selling for ten cents a “masterpiece” to my parents, grandparents and great aunts. Looking back now, I would say that was a good indication that I wanted to be an artist.

 

Timber Timbre Concert Review

Canadian band Timber Timbre played a sold out three night show this past weekend at Lee’s Palace. The band mates include Taylor Kirk, Simon Trottier, Mathieu Charbonneau, Olivier Farfield and Mika Posen who performed a dreamy cinematic live show. If you haven’t heard about the band before maybe you’ll recognize some of their songs like ‘Magic Arrow’, which was featured on AMC’s hit show Breaking Bad and Good Wife.

The LED light signage of Hot Dreams and a cross contrasted with the dark stage made you feel as though you were pulled into an eerie deserted bar in the middle of nowhere. The enchanting show had the venue fall into a trance when the band played one of their most adored songs ’Hot Dreams’ mesmerizing the audience with their haunting yet dreamy blues, especially with Taylor Kirk’s amazing vocals.

Their latest album Hot Dreams released this past April and is available on iTunes. Make sure to check out their website for more info: timbertimbre.com

Photo Cred: Photo 1 (cover photo) and Photo 3 by Jean-baptiste Toussaint, Photo 2 by Lucia Graca, Photo 4 by Jeff Bierk

Holiday Shopping with YO SOX

When Christmas is just around the corner, last minute holiday shopping can get quite stressful. But don’t worry, Toronto-based brand YO SOX got you covered. Their first-ever Pop-up shop, located at 567 Queen St. West in Toronto will open till December 22.

Giving socks as Christmas presents doesn’t have to be boring anymore. YO SOX offers a large selection of humorous novelty and bold graphic patterned designs for men, women and most recently, kids. So now you can for sure find a perfect pair for everyone in your family.

Founded in the summer of 2013, YO SOX has quickly become one of the fastest growing and most popular sock brands. Each sock is exceptionally crafted in Turkish compact cotton. So you are not only buying the comfort and the fashion, but also letting your feet to make statements.

 

Milosh & Rhye

Although Mike Milosh has been putting out dreamy electronic music since 2004, it wasn’t until his mysterious collaboration with Robin Hannibal and the duo’s performance act as Rhye that charmed a larger audience. Rhye’s highly acclaimed album, Woman, exuded a mysteriousness that intrigued music lovers with wistful and emotional lyrics. After the Rhye project, Milosh continued his solo artistic endeavours by releasing another solo album, Jetlag, in 2013; a record inspired by all the travelling he did while performing with Rhye. Since then, he’s been performing a blend of Milosh and Rhye in various venues and is currently working on a new solo album that should be released by summer 2015.

During an interview with Novella, Milosh opened up about Rhye, his musical inspirations, Toronto’s music scene and an inside scoop about his new upcoming album. After getting a chance to talk to him, Milosh revealed his authentic passion and knowledge for music as well as his versatility and sincere love of various genres including 90s hip-hop, jazz, classical music, Pink Floyd and Autechre.

Hey! How was the tour?

It was good. I’m a little bit tired right now but it was good. It wasn’t very big. But we’re going to Mexico next week and visiting Mexico City and Guadalajara so we’re still doing it but I always do 3 or 4 shows then take a week off.

So your last album, Jetlag, I read was inspired by the crazy amount of travelling you were doing when performing with Rhye. I think it said you visited about 40 different cities when you were writing it?

It’s not just that. I was travelling a lot between Berlin and LA when I was making the Rhye records. So the last 5 years of my life have been nonstop travel and big flights like Berlin to LA. It’s a long flight and I did about 7 of them in 5 months. So it was just this constant, always in another time zone, never clicking back into the clock you get when you’re in your time zone for a long enough period. So I don’t know the exact amount of cities I reached at that point because I made the record overtime and I also made the record the same time as the Rhye record so I had to put it on hold contractually because I wasn’t allowed to release until after.

What can we expect from your next album? How is it different from Jetlag or is it still pretty fresh to reveal anything?

I’m about 3-4 songs in and I think the big difference is, because I’ve done 97 shows as Rhye, and I plan on doing more, but I plan on mixing my Milosh work and the Rhye stuff because it’s really fun to play it all. So I put 5 or 6 songs in the Rhye set, which are Milosh songs, and I think the way it’s evolving or influencing me is that elements of that live show are coming into the record so bringing in cello, violin or viola, some trombone or base clarinet. I’m trying to get into a church to do a real pipe organ for the recording of either the first or last song of the record; I can’t decide where I’m going to put it. But for that song, I kind of did a mock version of it so we’re trying to go into one of the churches that we played live at this past Friday because it has the nicest pipe organ and it sounds insane. It’s just so huge that I want to incorporate that stuff in my new music so that then those two worlds Rhye and Milosh kind of melt because I’m never going to make another Rhye record. So for me it’s now all about bringing in anything or something about the Rhye record and bringing it into the Milosh record and move forward that way.

Do you ever stay in contact with Robin Hannibal? Do you ask for his advice and feedback on some of your solo stuff? Or do you both just stick to your own stuff right now?

He’s such a busy guy and I’m so busy and I haven’t talked to him in over 3 years because he’s not a part of the live show…But I’m doing some collaborations if you want me to get into to that.

Yes, of course. Who are you collaborating with right now? 

I’m doing collaborations with people but I don’t know if it’s going to be a part of the record. But this Saturday I’m working with Clams Casino and we’re working on a song. I’m doing a track with Nosaj Thing, an amazing electronic producer. There’s a couple of other collaborations that I’m in talks with people about and it’s just a matter of whether they’ll match the record so maybe they’ll just be singles that come out.

With all these collaborations I have to ask, what music has influenced you over the years with your music and writing?

It’s pretty broad. If I’m to say what inspires me sonically from a band perspective, I love old classical compositions. I love Pergolesi’s vocal work, Adagio for strings in G Minor by Albinon. I love a lot of Beethoven and fugues. I love listening to stuff that’s rich and dynamic even without vocals too because you can have such lows and highs with incorporating a 40 piece orchestra and then stripping down to just the organ like in the adagio. In electronic music, Aphex Twin and I am a huge Autechre fan but that totally surprises people. Tri Repetae [Autechre record] is super brilliant you kind of put it on and let it hit you. I love 90s hip hop CL Smooth, Souls of Mischief, a couple of Craig Mack tracks, Black Sheep and stuff like that and it’s a little more fun. I also love Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd. I think Pink Floyd had a huge influence on me.

Pink Floyd?

Yeah, big time. They don’t stay to a format. They’re not thinking oh I have to do verse chorus verse chorus. When you listen to the track Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” from the Ummagumma record it’s the weirdest thing ever. There’s animal noises and a guy acting like he’s a pict which is a weird Scottish native tribe guy thing. I love the idea of never being locked to one thing. My biggest complaint about the Rhye record from a personal standpoint is that it’s very verse chorus verse chorus. Now I think that’s also why the record was able to transcend and more people could kind of understand it but I don’t always want to do just verse chorus because as a performer, it can get really uninspiring. So my live shows I totally delve into some weird areas with the tracks. Like ‘Open’ [single from Rhye record] is a 9-minute song now. It goes to all these places and to me it’s super important to do that and hopefully pull your audience with you and take them to some of those journeys. Not everyone is into it but…

Well it’s a change and it’s about being different, right. So is that something we can expect for the next album too, less verse chorus?

Yeah, not verse chorus per se but it’s a little more straight ahead on this record.

What’s your go-to album? Something that’s always iPod ready. 

C.L Smooth & Pete Rock The Main Ingredient is always iPod ready. I always have Dntel’s whole catalogue ready to play especially when I’m comparing my music. I think his production is so good that I just want to be able to listen to it anytime. I really like listening to Lhasa’s first record because I do a lot of road trips and I’m on a bus the entire time. I love listening to her fire that she had inside of her. I always have Autechre on and ready to go. I have a collection of songs that my dad gave me that are all classical pieces ready to go.

What was your most memorable concert experience when you performed and viewed?

 Performing, I have 3 tops and I’ll tell you why. One in LA last April I did the Walt Disney Hall. It’s unbelievably memorable because it’s probably the best room in the world to sing in. I also got the entire crowd, which is couple thousand people, to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to my wife, which was really cool. It’s just one of those career highlights, where I’m like that’s amazing I got the opportunity to do that.  Massey Hall was my second most memorable and it’s because I grew up in Toronto and my parents’ first date was at Massey Hall. So it was really cool to play there and have my parents be there because they rarely get to see me sing live it was very cool to play for them and their friends and my friends since a lot of my friends don’t get to see me either. And it’s Massey Hall, which is a great venue and I’ve seen one of my favourite performers there.  Also this Friday, when I played in L.A., it was absolutely phenomenal for me. We played in a Cathedral, which fits about 2000 people. It was sold out.

In terms of viewing I have to name you a couple. I saw Sigur Róse play at Massey hall and I didn’t know who they were yet. A friend of mine told me to check them out and I went and I saw them play and I was literally blown away by it. I could not believe how absolutely beautiful the night was, it was crazy. It just stuck with me because I’ve always wanted to achieve that level of emotions. I could feel my spine tingling to every song. It was amazing.  I saw Ahmad Jamal play a set at the top of the senator in Toronto, a tiny jazz club that’s no longer there I think, and only about 25 people showed up and Ahmad Jamal played this music, he’s an amazing jazz pianist. I was literally crying watching it just because everything was hitting me. He came up to me after and bought me a drink and hung out with me. I think he just loved the fact that I was 18 or 19 at the time and he loved a young person loving his music. I had the exact same experience with Lani Smith. Lani Smith did an organ performance on Hammond B-3 at the top of the Senator and bought my friends a drink half way through the show and came out and talked to us. He offered me a Hammond B-3 organ for free, which was super nice for this guy to give me a $5000 organ for no reason. Everything about it was so perfect because he’s such a talented musician.

Would you ever do that for a fan now too?

Yeah I try to do little things all the time. Actually I did a really cool show with my good friend Paul Fixture in Ireland where we played 2 shows back to back in a hotel room and we just had about 25 people on the bed and I sang to them in the bedroom and it was amazing; it’s wasn’t about glory, it’s connection. I’m trying to set up a show where we get a house and I want to invite people to come to a living room performance. It’s cool to play a 2000 person venue, it’s almost transcendental but also if you can play for a couple of people or small crowd it can be amazing as well, it’s just harder to pull off financially because of obvious reasons.

Who would you love to collaborate? 

Thom Yorke [Radio Head] for sure. I’d like to collaborate with Björk as well. Those would be my 2 top choices right now including the people I’m already collaborating with. They’ve obviously influenced me so it’d be really amazing.

Where do you go in Toronto to scope out the music scene? I know Massey Hall is one of them.

Because I grew up there, some of the places I’d scope out don’t exist anymore. I used to go to the We’ave, across from the AGO but it doesn’t exist anymore. I used to love the top of the Senator it was such an amazing place inside. After that, I’d love to see a show at The Great Hall. I played there too and really liked it so I’d love to see it from the audience perspective. And I’ve seen a bunch of shows at the Government way back when.

What would be your theme song?

It’d be the whole Garbage EP that Autechre put out from beginning to end.

 Fill in the blank. I can’t live without_____.

 Love and music.

What’s next for you now? You’re going to Mexico at the end of the month to continue the tour there.

Yeah I’m doing a little tour there and spend some time there as well. Chilling out for a little bit then I’m coming back here [L.A.] and working on music for the next couple of months. I also own a printing company that’s based in Toronto so I’ll be flying back and fourth between Toronto and LA. I kind of do some prints for photographers and I do all of my own posters so I want to do them for other bands and teach them how to make some money with merchandise. I have a buddy, Paul who played with me in Ireland, his band has a farm in Orangeville and he’s going to build a recording studio so I’m going to go there and record some music.

It’s always nice to get away from the hectic city life.

I like being removed from that hum that’s in the city.

Are you playing in Toronto anytime soon? 

So because I’m working on this record, I don’t know what it’s going to be called, right now it has a lot to do with this situation where me and my friend got surrounded by a pack of 6 wolves in Orangeville; they wanted to kill us. So it really affected me so one of the songs is called 6 wolves. So I want to do something in Toronto before the album comes out but I want to maybe play a bunch of new material. I’ve been talking to, I don’t know if I’m really supposed to say anything, but I’ve been talking to some people trying to do something really special in Toronto. Something really sweet, not huge, a little bit smaller but really really special. It’d probably be around April hopefully before the record comes out so I can start kind of testing new songs live and I want my parents to be there.

So the new album should be released sometime after April then? Is that the date you’re gearing towards?

Yeah, I’d like for it to be finished by March in terms of everything I’ve done, in terms of recording. It then takes a long time to set up. That’s the reality especially in this climate now where there’s so much stuff out there. It takes 6 months to really set up an album so you can release it and people know it exists, it’s hard. So it’s probably going to be released early summer I think.

Anything else you want our readers to know about?

Okay this is going to get political for a second. People should think about supporting the music that they like more. I’m totally on board with the whole Taylor Swift rejecting Spotify. I had a huge fight with Spotify. I tried to pull my records off and I think they’re the most corrupt business model and people should start realizing that capitalism in music is very dangerous because there’s usually a very small group of people that are taking advantage of a whole bunch of artists and figuring how to make money off of them. The artists with Spotify have been completely relegated to this appendix over here and the labels and Spotify are making a lot of money and the artists are making next to no money. I just think people should start to become conscientious of what is the world they want to have. Do they want to live in a world where you can’t continue to make art because there’s no financial sustainability in it and if you’re an artist yourself you should try to feed that industry in a positive way rather than sucking from it like a parasite. I want to leave readers with the idea of questioning things. What world do we want to live in? Do we want to invade countries and kill people? Do we want to be burning oil? Do we want to be stealing from artists? At what cost? Like it all comes together on how we want to create our world by the decisions that we make. I just released this song when ‘Right Never Comes’ and the lyric is, “We’re building worlds with our minds now we get to live in it”. I just want people to think about what is the world you want to live in because you do create it.

  

Reuben And The Dark

What started off as a solo project, quickly grew into a talented 5 multi-instrumentalist band from Calgary led by lead vocalist and founder Reuben Bullock. The band members have evolved over the years but the current line-up features Shea Alain, Brock Geiger, Dillon Whitfield, and Kaelen Ohm. Their haunting indie-folk music exudes many different emotions and tries to capture the contrast between light and dark.

Since, the band opened for Hayden and Doug Paisley at the Danforth Music Hall last year, we’ve been hearing more about RATD in the Canadian music scene. After their North American tour with Australian indie-folk band, Boy & Bear, Novella had the chance to talk exclusively with Reuben about the bands’ latest album, Funeral Sky, their most memorable concert experiences and what’s in store for the up-and-coming band from Calgary.

There have been a few changes in band members, so tell me a little bit about the formation of Reuben And The Dark and how it’s evolved over the years. 

It came from a solo project of me performing and recording under my own name. I put together sort of a back up band to perform the very first CD, which was the solo album that I had done with a guy in Calgary. So I guess I put together a back up band played the show and that kind of ended up being the last time I played solo, you know after doing that one show it was nice having these guys with me on the stage that I never went back to being solo for the most part. And that went on for a year or so until we started getting booked for bigger shows, planning more recordings and played so much as a band that Reuben And The Dark just became a way of saying this is a project instead of just a guy and a guitar. And the lineup has shifted and probably will continue to as life changes but yeah there’s definitely a chord that kind of remains from the beginning and then people have come and gone.

So right now you just finished the North American tour with Boy & Bear. How’d that go?

 It was great. We just got off that now. I just got back to Calgary 2 days ago. It was good we were on the road for almost 6 weeks. It started in Austin and we did Austin City Limits [Music Festival], which was an honour to be a part of. Then we joined Boy & Bear in Montreal and played about 15 shows with them. I wasn’t very familiar with their music or them personally but we ended up getting along really well and there was enough in common with the audience. We could play to their audience every night and have a nice time. It ended up being a really nice tour.

It was definitely a good collaboration since both bands have that similar indie-folk feel.

Yeah and we got the chance to play some venues that we wouldn’t be playing if we were touring on our own so we stepped it up. We played a lot of theatres, ballrooms, which is kind of where I’d like to be for sure.

Tell me the process you went through making your latest album Funeral Sky.

Funeral Sky is kind of interesting because it was done over two years and kind of recorded and re-recorded a number of times. It was the first time that a real attention to detail was put into recording. I’ve never been one to stress too much being in the studio just a lot of times we go in, plugged in and play the song until it was finished. Now we tried a bunch of different things like some of the tunes are recorded in a basement with a tape machine, some of them we went up to the Banff Centre and got to use state of the art facility. And with others we worked with a producer in Toronto and a friend of mine from London came down, he’s a drummer in a band from out there, and he created the whole record for us and then we took all of those sessions and really looked at it to see what was going to fit the best under the theme of the album title. It’s kind of a curated collection of recordings more than a concept album.

The album definitely exudes deeper and meaningful emotions. What was your emotional state during that time when writing the songs, if you want to share?

Yeah, I don’t know I suppose with writing maybe more dramatic imageries and scenarios have always felt closer. Drawing from just life [laughs]. Not to be general but the idea though with it was to not just show things that are depressing; I wanted it to have its dark side but at the same time for it to kind of feel full of life too. You know for it to be sad but joyous at the same time. Trying to work with the duality of light and dark really.

Who have been some of your biggest inspirations in music and your writing?

I feel like because my writing tends to be more lyrical maybe content and story based, I think I draw from a lot of relationships, friends and the people in my life, stories I hear and tell. I mean the music really comes together in a way that my musical influences tend to be the people that I’m playing with in the band. I just sit down and play with an acoustic guitar and tend to write as much as I can and then we’ll get together as a band and the rest of the music happens in that way.

What’s your go-to album? Something that’s always iPod ready.

I listen to more records actually. I don’t tend to listen to much music on the run. The only time I get to really listen to music properly is when I’m sitting down at home. A record I listen to quite a bit is Muchacho by the band Phosphorescent. That one’s probably got the most spins in the last year for me.

What was your most memorable concert experience Reuben And The Dark played?

Playing hometown in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta has always been nice because the audience is always so great. I would say getting to be a part of Austin City Limits [Music Festival] was pretty massive just because it’s something that not a lot of many bands get to play that festival and we felt pretty lucky to get to spend 10 days in Austin. And then there’s so many in this year alone that had so many great highlights of just playing Canadian music festivals and sharing the stage with some of the bands. But the standout would be Austin City Limits.

You also played at Osheaga this year. Was that your first time at the festival?

Yeah, that was really nice. Montreal was nuts [laughs]. Yeah it was and I’d really love to go back to it.

What’s next for Reuben And The Dark?

Well we’re doing a west coast tour kind of coming up right away and then hopefully taking the holidays and a couple of the winter months to regroup and refocus for spring.

Will you be coming to Toronto soon?

Yeah, really soon. We’re actually moving up there. So there will be more Toronto in the future.

Funeral Sky can be purchased on iTunes. Get to know more about the band at reubenandthedark.com

Photo Cred: Photo 1 (cover photo) by Neil Van, Photo 2 & 3 by Mackenzie Walker