Welcome to the Present Tense Fanzine, a fan-to-fan cyberzine for those who have come to appreciate the sounds of Moxy Früvous. The PTF will be (for now) a monthly publication. Coming next month... an interview with Micheal Koppleman, the producer of "wood".
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I guess there's no way I can make "the Present Tense Interview" sound nearly as prestigious as the "Rolling Stone Interview". That doesn't mean I can't use capitol letters. And the fact is, Rolling Stone hasn't interviewed Moxy Früvous yet. I guess that means that we're now the trendsetters. Electronic and all. All the news that clicks.
It sounds like the Tower of Babylon back here, behind stage 1, and it's hot enough that it actually could be Mesopotamia. Every year, it seems, when I drive eight hours north to Winnipeg for this festival, it seems to get hotter. So we sit here, the seven of us, sweating in a circle, awaiting an interview that has to compete with the workshop in progress behind us.
I suppose I should have mentioned in that first paragraph that I was with Moxy Früvous, and that the point of the circle was to conduct an interview... but my mind doesn't always take the path of least resistance. The four members of the band: Mike Ford, Murray Foster, Jean Ghomeshi, and David Matheson have seated themselves with us to discuss their latest album, wood, and other matters on the minds of FrüFans. "Shoot, Cragun," says Ghomeshi, and the interview has begun. The Present Tense Interview. Never mind.
Okay, let's start out. First question I wanted to ask you guys: Talking about the evolution between first the demo tape, now coming out and Bargainville, and finally coming out to wood, there's been a bit of an evolution... you've gone a bit more instrumental, a bit more of an orchestrated sound, how did this come about?
Dave: Just naturally, I'd say, just naturally. When we got together, we had to make a conscious decision not to use instruments, because we all played stuff, and we didn't know who played what. So we decided to start a cappella, and it's just sorta - little by little, we just brought things on board.
Murray: With Bargainville there was a sort of a consciousness in the band floating around that we would record things that we would play live, we would arrange songs so that we could play them live. I think that was less of a factor with this album. We brought in fiddle, and clarinet, instruments that we probably won't have live most of the time. So it sounds a little fuller than in the past.
Mike: And, ah, there's a lot of sides to the band. Bargainville covered a good chunk of the pizzazz and zest and vaudeville kinda side - although not a lot, a bit - and one thing that may have lacked from it was the texture that we're capable of, getting sound textures as a band, and in the words of Irving Marchaun...
Murray: Irving Marchaun's a poet.
Mike: "mystery." So that's something we concentrated more on, getting great feels and sounds as a group. And I think we feel more like a group now, because after Bargainville, and up until wood, we toured like crazy, so we were always playing together, so there was a lot more of that feeling.
Jean: And we also see this as a long-term project, Moxy Früvous, and we hope it keeps changing, and so wood was a view of where our heads were at, where our hearts were at the 1994-5 juncture, when we wrote these songs. We hope, we expect that fans of ours will catch on to the fact that Früvous is always going to be something that changes, that keeps morphing into something else, with the commonalty that it's always us, our voices, with a focus on the vocals, as it always has been, but it'll keep changing.
The B-album IS coming out?
And this is going to be a compilation of short shelf-life songs?
Mike: Not necessarily short shelf-life. The line that we put on wood is "satirical bits and oddities," and some of them are things that we've had in the live show, or written for specific purposes in the past, and didn't make it to either album, and a few are brand new, commenting on something new, or just stuff that filtered up in the wood writing sessions but didn't quite fit with the wood vibe. We're not quite finished assembling it, but we'd like to have it soon available to people.
Why weren't these recorded in the past?
Jean: That's part of it, part of it's what you said. "Short shelf-life" is kinda a crude way of putting it, but that's part of it. We want to make an album like wood, with the songs that are on wood, that is consistently something you can listen to for a hundred years.
Murray: a hundred years?
Jean: Once you pass the century mark, an album starts to wear on you. Whereas something like the Rush Limbaugh song is something that so many people have been asking us for a recording of. But once they have it, and they play it a few times... they may not listen to it forever. It's the present day, and that's the nature of satire. I was talking to a guy yesterday, and he said that that's a really smart idea, to categorize your albums a bit, so that people can get the satire, but it's not interrupting the flow of...
Dave: An album like wood.
Jean: Yeah, an album like wood.
Was there a point where a conscious decision was made to record these songs, whereas prior you had made a decision not to, or was this just an idea that popped up?
Mike: The B-Album songs, you mean?
Yeah, the B-Album songs.
Murray: First of all, it was a coupla years ago, and it was... initially, we were going to release two albums at the time of Bargainville, one being satirical and one being serious. We sorta didn't have time, didn't put the time into it then. So the idea is old, the material for it has been around along time, but we just never really made the time to do it.
Dave: It's just that we do so many different things, it's nice to put them in different bags for people to choose what they want.
Jean: And also, it should be known that the b-album isn't something that we expect to sell millions of copies of. It's more of something that if you're into the group, and you want a short sampler of their catalogue of satirical songs, that's where it is, y'know. It's kinda an honest "here you go," if you want it. It's not a third album for Moxy Früvous.
Mike: It may never be in stores. At the start, just selling them at gigs.
You guys do quite a few covers, a lot of covers. How do you choose these covers? Is this like you saying "this is who influences us," or is this a song "we think we can adapt," or...
Murray: Whatever song that Mike knows the lyrics to, we can cover.
Jean: Well it came out of... do you know the Chia Pets?
Jean: It came out of... you're thinking of us, the Chia Pets?
Jean: We were the Chia Pets for a few years, we were playing a bar game, where we would do like Elvis Costello, Squeeze songs, stuff like that. And right towards the end of that Dave came and did some songs with us... and so a lot of that catalogue... like Jockey Full of Bourbon, we used to do in the Chia Pets. We've done these in our Früvous shows. The funny thing is, I can't think of a cover that we've picked in the last year and a half that we've kept. We tried last year doing You're Gonna Loose that Girl by the Beatles, and ditched it. But this Gordie one, but this Gordie Lightfoot one...
I never did get to find out about Gordon Lightfoot. A Warner exec stopped by, and interrupted the flow of the interview. Once it had been settled that Früvous would be at the media tent at 6:00, he left. We began again, this time on a different note.
What is the future of Bole? It this a one-time thing or is it going to happen again?
Murray: We may, for tax reasons, get rid of Früvous and form "Bole." We will be known as Mr. A. Bole, Mr. B. Bole, Mr. E. Bola... Yeah, I think we'll do that sorta thing again, I don't know if we'll keep the name "Bole", but...
Dave: We might be "Lowell" next time.
Mike: Or "Josh"...
Jean: Or http://www...
Was that for the sake of anonymity, or...
Mike: Primarily anonymity. Toronto's "Now" magazine, you just open it up and it lists all the incredible bands that are playing, and the incredible amount of bands that are playing all over town. We wanted to do these gigs, but we didn't want people to go "oh, it's the Früvous hiding gig!" and we didn't want our name spelled backwards or something, I don't know...
Jean: Beatles, or something...
Mike: So we wanted something that looked like another... If a band was starting out, they would probably name themselves...
Jean: Especially if they were grungy...
Mike: with a four letter, on syllable...
Mike: and there's a Canadian band Jale, but it's not spelled "jail". So the long form is Bole, attributed to Jale.
There were rumors that the Bole shows were going to be...
the stuff that was played was going to be on the album. But about six of the songs that you played at these gigs never made it to the album, was... those because...
Mike: Six? Maybe one or two...
Maybe one or two...
Mike: Johnny Saucep'n
Johnny Saucep'n was one...
Mike: There was a song we did once called something people...
Dave: Oh yeah, that's right.
Mike: The idea of Bole was to try out the stuff for the album, and one or two didn't make it to wood, but they're still in the Früvous cauldron, being stirred around.
Murray: Some we didn't have time to arrange them the way we did - we hashed them out, and hashed them out, and never really were satisfied, so we said "we're not going to record this" - this time.
You've had one French, or one Quebecois song, on each album....
Erik [Johnson, a friend]: about sleep...
Yeah, they're all about sleep. Is this intentional, is this...
Dave: They have to be about sleep....
Jean: It's a happy coincidence...
It's a happy coincidence?
Jean: Well, it's also in our contract. Our manager, "Jaques" Ross... At least 8 percent of the material that we release on each album has to be...
Dave: a French song about dreams.
Murray: It also just happens with the albums that someone will float something, someone will say "Let's do a song in French," so the suggestions out there, and then to disagree with that suggestion is racism. So we have to, then, put the French song on the album.
Jean: There was a big problem when we refused to put the Uruguayan song that I was working on the record. Dave implied that he was going to charge me, formally, under the Human Rights Act, but we worked it out through a compromise.
When you tour Europe, how does that work: are you well received, does radio play happen?
Mike: Well, what we did last year is quite a bit of UK, lot's of England, a bit of Scotland, one festival in Denmark. So that's our European experience. We were equal parts terrified and excited when we went over...
Murray: Two of us were excited and...
Mike: There was some real good reception and now we have some pockets that we can go back and expand on. One of the things that we got a lot of was "oh, they're not going to like your Canadian references, you can't do that." They said the same thing in the states, but we kept a lot of them in, and people aren't that (a) disinterested in Canada, or (b) ignorant of Canada...
Murray: or (c) none of the above.
Jean: They enjoyed it.
How are you generally treated in the states, are you treated as an alternative band?
Jean: Yeah. It generally depends upon the place. In the Philadelphia area, we have a good image as an alternative/folk band. Which is kinda like what we're like here, because of WXPN and the whole folk community there is really into us, and we're developing a real following there. I think a lot of the other cities, yeah, we're like an alternative/acoustic band.
Do you find the amount of CHR radio play you get to be a problem? Do you enjoy Top 40 following?
Dave: We don't get that much...
Mike: You'd be surprised...
Murray: It is a problem.
Mike: To start off, King of Spain was kinda a renegade. It didn't follow the rules and stuff and that was neat, and then Stuck in the 90's got a good little chunk. That was great, cause it got it out there a bit more, but...
Murray: It was Much Music that was responsible for our younger audience in Canada.
Mike: But the broadcasts, what they choose for those CHR stations is still so incredibly narrow, and it will probably keep getting narrower, that there's not too much danger of us getting splattered all over the airwaves.
How do you feel about video as a medium?
Murray: Very mixed feelings I think we have, because philosophically... There's a Loudon Wainwright III song last night... "This song has no video, you'll have to listen to the words"... and that's kinda how I feel about video, it takes you away from the song itself, and it takes the culture away from the song itself, it works across culture. And so we're moving as a society more towards image than meaning. Videos themselves, I mean we're not happy with a lot of our own video catalogue. It's a tough medium for us, to really express ourselves in. But with this last one, I think we're all really happy, because we really said "If we're gonna do this, we're gonna make it an artistic statement." We're not gonna let a director decide. We're really going to take it and create a short film as opposed to just some nice images that played on...
Down from Above?
Dave: Down from Above, yeah.
Jean: I'm increasingly getting pissed off with video. Originally, I thought it was exciting, but it's such a major player in a lot of ways, and has so little to do, in a lot of cases, with the artist and with the music. If you have the budget, and you have a video that happens to be written by somebody other than the band. In a lot of cases, the band sells a lot of records then. It's in some ways antithetical to what really should be happening. Which is that people should be trusted in a group and their records based on the creativity that they are responsible for. I mean that's not to say - I imagine Peter Gabriel has a big hand in his videos, and I love them, and they do make me want to buy his records, almost as an homage. "Way to go with that video, I'll pay 20 bucks for your CD." But the rest of the time, it's just a record company buying ad time for a band and creating an image.
Murray: It's also why I think bands don't last as long now. Like their life span's much more faster to the top, faster to the bottom. Because bands don't develop long term musical careers, they can hit overnight because of a video without the musical talent to back it up. So the next album, they're gone. That's another bad effect of videos.
Mike: And Much Music, they sorta have a license to print money for themselves, because it doesn't cost them anything - these videos come to them for free, and they can make incredible revenues from the advertising, and they can just pump out stuff constantly. And yet, to get a Canadian program on television that just has a musician playing for an hour, once a week, is so hard in this country. They keep trying 'em. It's like "oooh" the ratings go down, et cetera, et cetera...
Murray: Ah look, you could say the same thing about radio, in that they get songs for free and they sell advertising.
Murray: They don't have live concerts very often.
Some bands like Peter Gabriel and others have brought in artistic directors, like... somebody brought in the Brothers Quay... U2's used Antonin Corbijn a lot, who's an artsy photographer, has there been any thought like that of collaborating videography, bringing people in whose job it is to make art from video?
Jean: That's kinda what we've done with our new video, Down from Above, we wrote the story, and Lisa realized it, and we were very much involved in the creation of the whole video. Hence the fact that we're proud of the video. It's pretty fucked up - it's a different kind of video. Who knows if it'll get a lot of play, and if it does get a lot of play it'll help make us feel good that there's something that we've been artistically involved in and proud of out there.
Do you feel like you have to fight images of the band, or do you just wanna do your own thing?
Dave: Sometimes they can hamstring you a bit. It's like "well this is what the whole crowd expects," so do we do that or do we do what we want to do? So yeah, there's an element of that, but I think we're fairly resolute that we will be who we are. Is that what you mean? Yeah. There's someplaces where the image is more solid than others, and the image that you have to grow towards, or work against, or say "Hey! It's not only about that." In some places, it's a bigger hurdle, in some places it's no hurdle at all.
Mike: Even in places where we're popular, like here, there's images of us we don't espew. Earlier today, with a Minneapolis-based radio station, public radio or something, and the guy ran into the group, "Yeah I love seeing you guys, it's the best kind of comedy... straight, good comedy" and we gave him a copy of wood- he's going to go home and go "I'm not laughing."
Dave: Where's the punch line?
Mike: I'm not laughing, I guess they failed.
That's probably someone from... My mom and dad listen to the Morning Show from the cities and all I've ever heard that they play is King of Spain. I had a question... Oh yeah, you credit all songs to the group... you seem to function as a unit... and yet you brought in Michael Koppleman and Danny Levin on the new album. How does that work when you bring in people on the side?
Mike: Well, Michael Koppleman, for instance, when we were interviewing him for the job, we said it would have to be someone who... as if we were making our own album and this was another set of ears... this wouldn't be someone who makes his own kind of album. It would just be another guy, another set of ears, and his reply was "I can't see it being any other way, I can't imagine, I think bands should always do it that way." So he was perfect in that way.
Jean: He co-produced the record with Frente! in a similar way. We've always been about bringing people into our family who believe in allowing us our anonymity, and mostly enhancing and supporting it, whether it be our sound person, our manager... it's always a big step for them... do they believe in what we're doing, and do they want to allow us to do it. And fortunately, that's exactly what we found with Michael Koppleman. Danny Levin's a friend of ours.
At the beginning of It's Too Cold, it's not in the lyric sheet, somebody says something I can't make out... Do you want to say what that is?
Dave: We were commenting on how good the bed track felt.
Jean: You're talking about the girl sound?
Yeah. The high pitched...
Jean: The woman, like the...
Jean: One by one, I see and I love, all those that you have given me.
Mike: It's taken from this obscure lecture tape that we found.. religious... in the studio...
Jean: Yeah, pseudo-religious type of thing.
Murray: But there's a real message there, so dig deeper...
Mike: It started off being a song Homeric type of thing, like it was... we had that opening thing then we thought it would be really cool to have a spoken thing here. Well, buddy-boy here starts rooting through a bag of cassettes someone left at a local laundromat, next thing you know we're...
Murray: In the microphone booth with an antenna, hooking up a big cable that comes out the back... No, I just went through and found a quote which somehow related to the song, which no one could understand. We sped it up, so it sounds like a young girl, so it would fit in the allotted time we had...
Mike: So it fit in the video.
Murray: To continue with the theme of the band, and the agenda of the band.
Mike: Have you heard the Green Eggs and Ham recorded version?
Mike: You know the high voice in that?
Mike: Dave's daughter.
Are you serious?
Wow, I did not know that.
Dave: It's never come up in an interview.
Wow that's very interesting.
Dave: She's five, but she...
Jean: She was two at the time.
Murray: What a clever thing.
Dave: She was one year old, singing like that.
Murray: Clever "it".
When we transcribed it, we transcribed it as "high female voice." On the page, that's what it says.
Jean: High Female Voice, bracket Dave's daughter, you can put now.
Murray: Dave's daughter, and then bracket "come home".
Dave: Come home Lucy.
I love you Lucy.
Dave: Don't stay with that mother of yours, she loathes you. We can make you rich.
The Klezmatics album. How did that come about?
Mike: Funny you should ask. At the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
Was it here?
Jean: I met Lauren, the leader of the Klezmatics here, and we started writing back and forth. He invited us to perform on their new record, so while we were on tour in the states, we stopped up in New York, sang on that song, and it was Lauren and David from the Klezmatics that we came and sang outside today... Well, sang, played the clarinet outside.
As we left the shade, I was wondering exactly how hot it was on that day when Jean met Lauren. Sweltering, if memory serves. We walked back to our campsite in search of a cold beverage and some shade. That night, on mainstage, the Früv Four performed a show that had the entire audience on their feet. The weather had turned cooler, and the day had taken a definite turn towards coolness as well.
This article was originally posted to alt.music.moxy-fruvous, alt.fan.moxy.fruvous, and alt.music.canada. It is reprinted with permission of the author
It was a dark and storm night . . .
No, no, no, I'm confusing it with last week . . .
It was a clear and balmy night. They half-eaten cheesecake moon beamed down on the beaming, streaming multitudes as they exited the intimate Bathurst Street Theatre where, in the ninety minutes prior, Moxy Früvous delivered a splendiforous performance, as usual, in the increasingly sweltering palaestra (hey guys, next time can you try scheduling a show here in, say, January, as opposed to July? I mean, sauna-vabitch, you might as well have touted this as the Moxy Früvous Miracle Weight-loss Clinic and Musical Revue. Whew! Just a suggestion.)
Bob Snider opened the show at 8 p.m. What can I say about Bob? Bob was . . . well, . . . Bob. Could he be, palindromatically, anything else but . . . BOB? This shoot-from-the-lip, calls-'em-like- he-sees'em, soi-disant what-you-see-is-what-you-get folkish balladeer delivered two handfuls of tunes that are articulately, deceptively simple yet betray profound insights into human nature and nature's nature. Catch his new CD, "Caterwaul and Doggerel", a must-hear.
Moxy Fruvous tipped their collective crown and paid tribute to this local legend with a cover of Snider's "Hash" song (yeah, y'know the one that Dave's parents reportedly disapprovingly frowned upon as "that drug song", which may, in part, explain away their conspicuous absense in the audience. The other three FrüMen's parents and odd sibling (nothing personal, Neil F.!) were in attendance which, interestingly, lent the evening the air of an elementary school concert! Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm (hey, you *dummies*, this is a crash test of your ability to spot allusions, musical, video and otherwise, so be sharp, class!)
Ok, ok, so here's the setlist, if memory serves:
The novelty wears on . . . . .
However trite, it's still true: A good time was had by all.
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© 1995 Joshua Cragun, all rights reserved, except for articles, which are © 1995 by their various authors, all rights reserved. PTF is a fan-operated cyberzine, and is in no way commercially affiliated with the band Moxy Früvous, Warner Records Canada, Jam Entertainment, or their afilliates.