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Bad Canada wants to get a reaction... from the music

New Vancouver band talks about Mezcal, microtonal pianos and the modern day Notorious BIG

By Scott Wood

While enjoying a drink in Vancouver's Dude Chilling Park, friend and musician Noah told me about how a trip to Mexico and his interest in microtonal pianos had inspired some new music. I had known Noah from his previous band, Redrick Sultan and I thought it would be a great idea to talk about the new record and his new project Bad Canada

The name Bad Canada is more intended to bring a certain emotional response when listening to the music than to make a specific statement.

Scott Wood: Hello Noah from Bad Canada! Thanks for chatting with me. Let's start with a song. 

Noah from Bad Canada: The lyrics to this song "Hot Mary" were written by [infamous "magician"] Aleister Crowley.  I feel that this song best captures the overall feelings of the album, the magic that sometimes create songs, the spirits who live among us, and the desert. It is also my favourite song on the album and has many layers of special significance to me.

Scott Wood: The band name Bad Canada. Is it a statement or some sort? Right now the country is in full swing celebrating Canada's 150th Anniversary. What are your feelings on the country of your birth? 

Noah from Bad Canada: The name Bad Canada is more intended to bring a certain emotional response when listening to the music than to make a specific statement. The name came from spending a lot of time in Mexico, recording most of this album in Mexico, and the relative perceptions of Canada in Mexico and Mexico in Canada. There is a lot that comes with perception, and a lot that isn't seen in the peripherals when you look closely at something, and on the other hand a lot that can missed when you look away. The album has rejections to many forms of optimization and holds the aesthetic of the unique beauty inherent in everything, what sets everything apart from everything else, the "infinity in the palm of your hand, the eternity in an hour". There is also the acknowledgement of the drug trade in North America, the overdose crisis in Vancouver, and the cartel violence in Mexico, opposite ends of a dark situation that we are in together.  

Scott Wood: You originally intended Bad Canada to be a solo project. But now you do it with your girlfriend. What made you decide to ask your girlfriend to be in the band? 

Noah from Bad Canada: Adrienne and I first started playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs together when I realized she knew all the words on the Aeroplane Over the Sea album; I had been already learning all those songs myself. In many ways, Bad Canada still is really a solo project. I recorded a majority of it while I was alone in San Luis Potosí. I recorded Adrienne's voice on two tracks before leaving, and Spencer Hargreaves (from my old band Redrick Sultan) playing drums for one track. When I got back from Mexico, I recorded Adrienne on some more tracks, as well as Spencer, Bella McKee, and Julia Barros, all for vocals. The live show I have done solo, as well as a duo with Adrienne, a trio with Adrienne and Julia, and different arrangements of some songs with Spencer under the band name Norb and Terry. I'd like to keep the future live and studio members of this project to be open, but there is at least one new song being recorded as a duo with Adrienne.

Adrienne and I first started playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs together when I realized she knew all the words on the Aeroplane Over the Sea album.

Scott WoodNoah, having your girlfriend in the band can be cost-effective but a tough balance as work and art bleed into the relationship. When's the weirdest time you've needed to talk about music together? 

Noah from Bad Canada: Probably the weirdest music time together, talking and playing, was when Adrienne came to visit me in San Luis Potosí. We did a few piano improvisations together, each on a differently tuned piano, you can hear this on the track "San Luis Potosí I."

Scott Wood: You recently you got back from a life-changing  trip. You went to Mexico to play some old microtonal pianos. Can you tell me about this experience? 

Bad Canada

Noah from Bad Canada: I went to San Luis Potosí, Mexico to play with the Sonido 13 pianos metamorfeados designed by Julian Carrillo. These pianos are designed as a set with the aesthetic of a sound-continuum, dividing the whole-tone scale into smaller and smaller parts with the most extreme piano having 96 divisions of the octave (there are 16 pianos). On the Bad Canada debut, mostly the 30 tone piano was played, with one track on the 18 tone piano (guess which one). It was incredible to have had permission to play such unique and historic pianos in such a beautiful and interesting place. The acoustics of the room were great too, a huge L-shaped stone room with really high ceiling and large windows, it made for a really unique sound quality. Vocals of one song were recorded in this room too. Near the end of my stay, some neuro-computer-scientists came to talk to me about the pianos and hear me play, they were doing work on cognitive perception of sound, that was interesting. I met many amazing people on this trip, made some good friends, saw some good friends from past visits, played some cool shows, drank lots of mezcal, and I finally have some friends who will speak to me only in Spanish.

Travelling to Mexico a number of times of the past few years, increasingly for music, has had a big impact on my musical perspective and my perspectives of Canada, Mexico, and the world

Scott Wood: You can't have an experience like that without that experience effecting the music you make. Can you tell me how? 

Noah from Bad Canada: Travelling to Mexico a number of times of the past few years, increasingly for music, has had a big impact on my musical perspective and my perspectives of Canada, Mexico, and the world. The trip was also the first time I was able to play and write micro-tonal music on my preferred instrument, the piano. The history of the instruments, their years of neglect, the ghosts that live inside them, and the old city that they live in, where the parks are filled with music seemingly every night, the deserts that surround the city, and the cactus's everywhere, and the spiritual northern part of the state definitely entered into the atmosphere of the recordings.

Scott Wood: So you actually recorded this record in Mexico? Tell me about that. 

Bad Canada

Noah from Bad Canada: Yes, all the pianos were recorded in the Centro Carrillo in downtown San Luis Potosí, in a museum/archive/piano space. The guitars and my were recorded in my apartment there. The other vocalists and the bass were recorded at home in Vancouver. It was really great to record in a new environment. Stone buildings are really common in SLP and they have a vastly different sound quality than the wood buildings in Vancouver, the environmental sounds (like the constant ringing of church bells everywhere) had an impact on the music as well (and would occasionally get captured). The album really feels like a link between the two places for me, one doesn't exist without the other.

Scott Wood: Wow. Sounds like an amazing trip. Now that you're back in Canada, what do you miss the most? 

Noah from Bad Canada: Mezcal, tacos, salsas, speaking Spanish, having a room of pianos being my day-job, weekend trips to other states, the sun, friends who live in Mexico, the experimental music scene there.

Scott Wood: You're releasing this record on June 19. And that date has a special significance for you. Can you tell me more about it...? 

Noah from Bad Canada: It has multiple significances actually.  It will be the day before I leave Canada again, to do some performances and talks in Mexico, Austria, and South Africa. It is my half-birthday. And it is also the birthday of a friend of mine who recently passed. She brought up my spirits a lot once when I was feeling really down on a past trip to San Luis Potosí. I spoke to her about her getting involved in the Bad Canada band at the beginning of the year, I was still thinking that might happen when I heard the news.

Scott Wood: Thanks for answering these questions,

Noah from Bad Canada. Let's end with another song.   

Noah from Bad Canada: This song "SWOUP" is a tribute to the rapper Spark Master Tape and the Paper Platoon. One of my favourite artists and painters.  To me, the modern day Notorious BIG.

You can find out more Bad Canada on the band's Bandcamp page

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