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21st January 2017

Early Days


Q: Welcome back; it’s been a while…


AA: Yeah! Twenty-seven years or something like that. We’ve only been here once. There was always talk for a couple of years that we were going back to Japan but it never happened.


Q: Over thirty years together and you are one of the few bands in the world that have never changed line-ups.


AA: That’s true.


Q: What’s the secret?


AA: We still love what we’re doing, three of the four are family which can be bad or good but in this case it’s good. I’m the one that’s not so I get to be the cop. (smiles)


Q: There’s never been any Ray/Dave Davies or Oasis moments though have there?


AA: No I’ve been waiting for it! I’ve known them since kindergarten so we’ve all grown up together. 


Q: One quick question about Whites Off Earth Now!! before we move onto more current things: Your debut was a selection of Blues greats with one original contribution and I’ve often wondered why there was just the one and really, why one at all? Why not just make it a complete Blues covers album?


AA: Yeah…I’m trying to remember to…It was written on that day, I guess Michael was thinking about writing at that point and the first time they ever did I think was the day we recorded the record. We did it all live in our garage with a single microphone – just like the Trinity Sessions – and that was our first attempt at the one mic thing so that’s why we did it again but yeah, just at the end of that long day, Mike thought we had the sound set up and the space so let’s try to get this song. They were in there for twenty minutes, recorded it and it sounded great and just decided to put it with those other tracks. We didn’t really think ‘Why is it there?’ or anything; it just sounded good.


Q: Since then, you’ve all grown up, got families, other commitments other than the band, how do you balance all that?


AA: Well you know, the touring schedule goes from the first decade when you’[d be out nine months of the year and the second is seven months and it keeps going down so that’s a big part of the equation – not being away for long as a stretches at a time. It’s usually two weeks at the most these days so we are able to maintain our families. You grow into things and the band balances along with that. It’s still really exciting though when we get together away from the families whether it’s to record or play somewhere. It’s like being at Band Camp on the tour bus – free again. (smiles)


Q: Are you all still in Toronto?


AA: They are. I’ve been out west on Vancouver Island for twenty years now.


Notes Falling Slow


Q: For your Notes Falling Slow set, you chose a point in your career between 2001 and 2007. Why that era?


AA: Just that we were talking about a few of those songs from those records when we were back out on the road and we all realized we had a sort of collective amnesia about it because we kind of kids at the time. Then when we delved into our demos and stuff, we found we had all these tracks that we had forgotten about. A lot of them we redid, some were just remixed, which ended up as a new record that we put with the package. So rediscovering those songs just made it seem like the right thing to do.


Q: Any more stuff that you may have forgotten about?


AA: Not to that extent, no. That was quite a lot and we were surprised by that. There’s a song here or there probably but not much.


Q: Is it possible to explain what happened between back then and recently to get Cold Evening Wind to the point you wanted it?


AA: It was interesting rerecording a lot of those ideas because we see them completely differently now. It was an idea from back then but we applied our experience now towards it. It happened very quickly as well. We didn’t labour it too much; we just kind of knew what it needed.


Songwriting and Recording


Q: How do you record? As a band?


AA: Pretty much. We do whatever we can live. The stuff that we’ll have trouble with – things leading into other things – we’ll do later but we do try to get it all at once. We’ve always been like that because that’s how we play. At f were always kind of terrified of going into the studio but that’s why we ended up with this guy who had the one microphone. He said we won’t touch it, won’t take it apart which is what we loved because that’s what we thought the recording process was all about – ripping it apart and then trying to figure out how to make it work by putting it all back together again. We still are in a way so we do keep it to a minimum.


Q: So if Michael comes in with a new song, what’s the process you go through after that? Does he pretty much have your parts worked out or are you all give a free reign to come up with your parts?

AA: Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he leaves us to find a groove on it.


Q: How long does it take to work out?


AA: We use the Elton John approach. He got his lyrics from Bernie Taupin who lived in Los Angeles via snail mail, he’d open them, sit down at the piano and he said ‘If the melody doesn’t come to me in five minutes, I put it aside. I may try it later or just forget about it.’ We always loved that idea and we do that all the time so that’s sort of become our philosophy too. If it doesn’t come right away, give it time and try it again later.


Q: At what point does Jeff (Bird) come into it?


AA: We found Jeff right away actually. He came in on the second album (The Trinity Sessions) to vary the sound a little bit by playing other instruments. He came recommended but I forget from whom and he found all the others. He was like the muso guy and he’s been with us since then, live and on record. For new material, he’s not there at the start but if we hear a part for him we’ll bring him in.




Q: You do do some extraordinary cover versions…


AA: Yeah that’s sort of how we started. We realized we had a sound just playing and our idea at the beginning was to just not write songs. We would play other people’s songs and apply our sound to it which is what the first album is and half the second.


Q: Where did that sound come from?


AA: We’ve analyzed it and what it really was is when we were first jamming together as a band, there was a third brother who played guitar. It sounded quite like The Grateful Dead because he sounded quite jangly and filled up the space. We tried that for a while, trying to decide what kind of band we wanted to be and then he decided he didn’t want to be in the band anymore and so the first day when we got together and played without him, we thought it was really cool because there was all this space in the music. We didn’t realize how much space he had taken up and it was a lot because he played 12-String as well so we just did the same songs we had been doing without him and that’s it, purely by accident.


Q: When the Cowboy Junkies take on a cover, everyone knows it’s going to be something quite different. How do you approach the arrangement for it; something like Run For Your Life where you’ve not only changed the arrangement and feel but also the message in the song?


AA: I guess it was a comment by someone who suggested it was misogynistic and why would we want to do that and we said ‘yeah it is!’ So we decided to give it a really aggressive feel because of that comment. I guess that came across.


Q: It certainly did. Dead Flowers as well.


AA: Yeah we did that after we had been touring with Townes Van Zandt for a while. He was doing it in his set – a beautiful cover of it – so we decided to try and do it as well. A nod to Townes for sure.


Other Stuff

Q: You as a band have had great success, a long time before the internet and file sharing and everything and you’ve been on both major and independent labels so you are in a rather unique position to answer this or at least be a good judge of it: how do you feel about the current state of the music business and what advice would you give to someone starting out today?


AA: That’s tough to answer because we had that luxury of selling records once and all formats, coming up in a world where that was how you listened to music. You bought a record which paid royalties and then came if you don’t buy it you’re going to kill music and there’s still that balance: if you can’t support yourself, how are you going to keep making music? It’s always going to be a hobby and you can’t really commit to it. There really isn’t an answer other than you have to figure it out yourself. You have to be able to multi-task which I know a lot of people can’t – I don’t know if I could do all that, learn all the digital stuff and do social media and all that.


Q: So if you were a young lad of fifteen or so now…


AA: I wouldn’t be able to do it. All I would want to do is play music. I wouldn’t want to do all that stuff and nobody’s going to do it for me because there’s no money in it for them at first so it’s tough.


Q: A harsh, realistic answer.

AA:  Well I don’t want to sugar coat it because I just don’t see it being good. You could kill yourself playing live but a lot of people can’t do that either or they don’t want to.


Q: How’s the live scene in Canada these days?


AA: It’s good! I don’t know if it’s as good as the US or here because ticket prices in North America have sky-rocketed in that last ten years. You pay $150 to see a band these days which is a lot! You know, you and your wife go to the gig, babysitter, etc and it’s $500. I guess it’s part of the not-buying-records-thing but it’s a finite world of money out there and people can’t pay $100 every week to see a band.


Q: Have you ever met a Beatle?


AA: No. They are tough to meet. The closest we got I guess was we saw Paul once at either Glastonbury or Reading – one of those festivals in England – and it was a very weird situation. We had been on earlier in the evening around five o’clock or something and that night was Elvis Costello and there were rumours that Paul was coming to play with him. The rumours built up over two hours and sure enough, the security tightened up over those two hours so we knew something was definitely happening. The security actually came in to where we were eating in the catering tents backstage and I guess we were eating burgers or something because he said ‘Guys, you’ll have to get rid of those. Can’t have those around.’ and we said ‘Why?’ to which he replied, ‘Well Paul McCartney is coming and he’s vegetarian and he doesn’t want to see anybody eating meat.’ (laughs)


Q: He’s that strict?


AA: He’s that strict – yeah. We were taken out. We weren’t even allowed to sit in there because he’s that famous. They cleared the whole space of non-essential personnel, he walks through, does his set and walks out. So no. We thought ’Yeah! We’re gonna meet Paul McCartney!’ but we were not even close.


Q: Mr Anton, thank you very much for your time and opinions. It won’t be another twenty-seven years ‘til the next time will it?


AA: (laughs) I hope not – we wouldn’t make it.















Q:いろいろな質問の前に『Whites Off Earth Now!!』についてお聞きしたいのですが。あなた方のデビュー盤は、1曲のオリジナル以外はブルースのカバーでしたよね。私はしばしばなぜあれで終わってしまったのだろう?と思っていたんです。全曲ブルースのアルバムを作る気はなかったのですか?








『Notes Falling Slow』のこと

Q:ボックスセット『Notes Falling Slow』には、2001年から2007年までの間の作品が選ばれていますが、なぜこの時期だったのですか?






Q:「Cold Evening Wind」ができるまでのいきさつを教えていただきたいのですが。














AA:すぐに絡んでくるよ。セカンド・アルバム(『The Trinity Sessions』)では、他の楽器をプレイしてくれてサウンドに色を添えてくれた。彼のことは誰かに薦められて参加してもらったんだけど、彼はすぐに必要なものに気づいたんだ。彼はまさにミュージシャンズ・ミュージシャンだね。それ以来、ずっと一緒にやっているよ。レコードでもライブでもね。新曲を扱う時には彼はいないけど、ここは彼のパートだなと僕たちが感じると、彼を呼ぶんだ。









Q:カウボーイ・ジャンキーズのカバー曲は、どこか違うって聴いたみんなが思います。曲のアレンジはどうしているのですか?「Run For Your Life」なんて、アレンジもですが、詞のメッセージさえ変えているように思いますが。



Q:「Dead Flowers」もやってますよね。

AA:ああ、“Townes Van Zandt”としばらくツアーをしたことがあってね。彼がこの曲をセットに組んでて、素晴らしい出来だった。だから僕たちもこの曲をカバーしようと決めたんだ。タウンズも納得してくれると思うよ。























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