News From The Great Beyond
Heavy Blinkers in the Studio
"I recently saw a documentary about Roswell and it renewed my faith in the fact that something dodgy is going on. I am not sure if the government is reverse-engineering spaceships or anything, but why the hell not?"
Such is the theory of The Heavy Blinkers' Jason MacIsaac. The Nova Scotia based band is in the midst of recording new material for a CD entitled Health, but music wasn't all that was on his mind. In fact, as he is writing an email to this writer, he checks Area 51 on a few remote satellites. After 10 minutes he returns and reports. "I couldn't make much out, but I didn't not see aliens. I don't know, I have so many bits and pieces of Roswell info as mental furniture in my brain, I can't separate fact from the Dwight Yoakam/Kyle McLaughlin movie."
After this bit of journalistic and scientific insight, the conversation turns to music.
Having lived in both NY and LA, the competition to be noticed is fierce. Being tucked away in your corner of the world, does making music, and honing your craft, become easier?
I am not sure if it makes it any easier, but there aren't as many distractions, to be sure. I live in a city of about 300,000, and it's very much a tourist town. I spend most of my time at my piano in the dark, in my living room, with a cat on my lap. I am a firm believer that Nova Scotia's four VERY distinct seasons inform my writing and perhaps the overall mood of our city. Out of the corner of our eye, we see things being born, growing, and dying, year after year. I think that subconsciously it has an effect on a person. When I look back at lyrics that I have written, many of them seem to be preoccupied with the weather and the life cycle. On a more practical level, it is often too cold to go outside, so I will default to tea and my piano quite a bit in the winter. I get more writing done in the winter than the other three seasons combined.
What can you reveal about the "Health"?
Health is a song cycle about martyred saints, people who are lost and who have lost, and ultimately death, I suppose. It's a really upbeat album. There are many female characters that occupy the Health songs, and in many ways they are related. Most of the characters are amalgams of historical figures and women who had an impact on my childhood. It's a pretty depressing, sparse set of songs. That being said, there are two or three songs that lyrically have nothing to do with the rest of the album, but they were written at the same time and I was in the same head-space, so to me, they warrant inclusion.
I read on your blog (The Heavy Blinkers Album #5 Blog) that 'Health' was going to be a double album. That is quite an ambitious undertaking. When did you decide to go that route and what factors entered into making the decision?
Everyone, and I mean everyone, I know is telling me that it should be a single album. Perhaps two albums of material will fit on one disc as with our self-titled album, so I can cheat that way. It's just awfully hard to divorce songs from an album when there is an overarching narrative that must be told. Getting rid of a particular song might be tantamount to getting rid of the conclusion, or the body, or the intro etc. I consciously decided to make a double concept album and I am not looking back and imposing "concept album" status on it. It was written that way. For better or worse, I have a plan.
You have been debuting various tracks from 'Health.' What are the advantages and disadvantages of that strategy.
I'm just trying to suss out how they will be received. I already have the order of the songs figured out, so it's weird playing them out of context. It's even more weird playing them alongside older material, but it is thrilling to play them nevertheless. Most of the songs are a bit austere, and, lyrically, a bit (and I hesitate to use this word..) poetic. Historically, Heavy Blinkers gigs have consisted largely of the upbeat danceable material out of respect for those who want to shake a tail-feather. These new shows are more for people who come in from the rain and who would rather just listen to music, hopefully some pretty music that will inspire them.
Are you a type A or type B personality? What effect does that have on the day-to-day operations of the band?
I guess in some very specific way, I'm type A. When it comes to the music, I am a driven workaholic, always busy, impatient, etc. However, when dealing with people, I am definitely type B. I am a very laid back person, but my music is precious to me and I can get cranky. Everyone in the band is good friends and there have been very few fights over the past seven or so years. I'm a pretty lousy communicator when it comes to trying to express the music in my head to other people, and I am sure that it is frustrating for the band at times.
I noticed you did some shows with Jenn Grant. Is Ruth Minnikin still a member of the HB?
Ruth is still a member of the Heavy Blinkers. Recently, Ruth has been on tour with her psych-country outfit and then immediately back on the road with her "Traveling Wilburys" style super-songwriter group. Working with Jenn was born out of necessity., but she is a gem! Her spirit is infectious and she understands the importance of nuance. We have been very careful to do totally different material, and to present it as a trio. It's a totally different animal. We flew to Toronto to do the Toronto Film Festival and we leave at the end of November for a two week tour of the U.K.. Jenn is wonderful.
Finally, when will the new material be released?
I am hoping that all the tracking will be done by the summer and that it will be out this time next year, but we may see Roswellian aliens before we see Health. I will keep you posted.