Photo by Barry Roden
I recently had a chance to sit down with Canadian rock and metal icon Lee Aaron at a benefit for Musicounts, a charity associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences that helps fund music education programs in schools. The evening took place at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre, and featured artists like God Made Me Funky and Simone Denny collaborating on a number of covers and originals. Aaron herself belted out a memorable take on the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.”
Aaron initially became well known in the Eighties heavy metal and glam rock scenes, but grew dissatisfied with the genre as well as her image. She’s since made well-received forays into alternative rock, blues, and jazz. I spoke to Aaron between sets about her personal connection to Musicounts’ cause, what you can expect from her live show these days, and the modern perception of her early material.
Photo by Dustin Rabin
Canadian alt-rockers Finger Eleven have attracted a variety of fans over the years by approaching their base sound from a different angle with every release. From their funk-heavy early material, to their mildly metallic middle period, and the tight and catchy hard rock that would see them fly up the charts. Their latest album is 2015’s Five Crooked Lines, and it thankfully brings back some of the sonic rawness of their early albums following a couple of more slickly-produced affairs.
I recently met up with guitarist Rick Jackett before a jammed and sweaty set at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre to speak about how all their different styles actually come from the same place, the dangers of getting too comfortable in the studio, and the lasting effects of having an international chart topper.
Photo by Eddie Chachon
“I’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately,” quipped Vanessa Carlton from the stage at Toronto’s Mod Club before launching into her 2001 alt-pop hit “A Thousand Miles.” A few hours earlier Carlton and I were sitting in a sweltering hotel room talking about whether or not the song was still worth playing, as it doesn’t really line up with her more recent material. Take for example her latest album, 2015’s Liberman, which comes across as a subtle mix of piano folk rock and trip-hop.
Back on stage Carlton slyly concluded that she continues to play the song just because she’s “really nice.” In addition to waxing nostalgic on her biggest track, we also talked about how she arrived at her current sound, and how being a new mom has changed the way she performs live.
Vanessa Carlton will kick off the winter leg of her North American Liberman Tour in Vancouver on January 14th. The album is available now on Dine Alone Records and you can watch the video for “House of Seven Swords” here.
Photos by Andrew Epstein
I recently had the chance to speak with guitarist Kaoru of Japan’s art rock legends Dir En Grey. The band, who began their life nearly two decades ago in the glammed out visual kei scene, are arguably the most well known Japanese speaking act in the world. They’ve always had two levels of musical style, releasing avant-garde rock compositions alongside pop ballads. In recent years the former has had a distinct metallic touch. Along with a more toned-down look on stage this new sound swelled their fan-base in Europe and North America.
Their latest album Arche goes against this formula by combining their two sides into a unique experience that doesn’t reveal all its secrets in the first listen. It’s garnered the band some of the best reviews of their career. Much like the music on the new album, interviewing the band can also require peeling back a few layers. I sat down with Kaoru before an energetic set at Toronto’s Opera House to chat (through a translator) about the new album, his need to be loud, and re-embracing the visual side of the band. Also with the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 once again in the news, we touched on the band’s Scream for the Truth campaign which called for government transparency in the wake of the tragedy
Check out my previous interview with Dir En Grey bassist Toshiya from 2014.