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Great Big Seaに関する雑談、その他音楽、あるいはただの読書日記

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今日ちょっと多めですがお付き合いくださいね。
ちょっとサボるとすぐに情報が溜まるのでよくない。
AlanのインタビューとBobのインタビュー。
Bobのは本文たたんでおきます。


テレビ。4分ごろからGBSの話です。
寄付をした話。
一番有名な曲が流れるのはお約束です。

The Sound.caこちらのラジオで電話インタビュー。直接音源へ飛ぶ場合はこちらへ。
RHの話と、バンドの話。
いろんな曲の話をしています。SUtS多めです。
Clearest Indicationへの言及がありました。
Russの話がちょっと多すぎないか? と思ったのは内緒。
最後の6問について。とてもAlanっぽい。
Road or Studio?
-- Road.
Lennon or McCartney?
-- Lennon and McCartney.(選べ! と言われて笑いながら拒否。)
Most important singing songs. melody, lyrics, rhysm?
-- lyrics.
What Song brings you most proud of.
-- Ordinary Day.
What is your favorite beer?
-- Guiness.
One word, Great Big Sea.
-- 聞 こ え ま せ ん で し た 。
(OKPで訊いてきました。誰かが答えてくれないかと期待してます。)

(1月29日追記)"Dandy" ということです。(Thanks Kim!!)

Bobのインタビュー
結構長いので心して読むように。

Long before his role in Great Big Sea, Hallett struggled in a number of punk bands during the 1980s. He describes membership in these groups as “pretty interchangeable.” Running parallel to his interest in punk music was his obsession with traditional folk music. “I kept that well back in the closet,” he recalls. “If there was anyone else my age into folk music at that time, I never met them.” This feeling of isolation changed when, during his university years, Hallett journeyed to Halifax for a student newspaper conference. Along with a friend he attended a lively club performance by the Barra MacNeils, the highly regarded Celtic folk band from Cape Breton. The audience and band members continued the revelry after the show at a house party bursting with drummers and pipers and fiddlers. For Hallett, this was a life-altering moment. “I felt like I had stepped into this alternate universe, where everyone around me was into the thing I loved more than anything in the world. It was as if I had finally found my niche, my group, and my place in the world.” Deciding then and there that he was done with punk music and other vague career aspirations, he dedicated himself to his innate passion: learning and playing traditional music. As the multi-instrumentalist maintains in the book, “if I had not gone to that party that night, I would probably have stayed at my nascent government job, slowly sliding into despair, always wondering what I had missed.”

Hallett formed a folk band called Rankin Street along with Séan McCann. For a few years, the group played drunken pub gigs in St. John’s, eventually transforming into Great Big Sea when the two friends met Alan Doyle in 1993. Hallett recalled this period during a recent chat with Canadian Interviews: “We found Alan, who was as ambitious as we were and had our kind of work ethic. We abandoned the informal, boozed-up charge that was Rankin Street and said ‘okay, this is our new band, and this is how we’re going to play. We’re going to record an album and incorporate the name. This is going to be a real business. This is going to be a real band!’”

In the following interview, Bob Hallett discusses some of the defining moments of his musical life. He talks about the Irish band Ryan’s Fancy and the influence that group had on his perception of Newfoundland folk music. He considers what was in the air that night in Halifax following the concert by the Barra MacNeils, which had such a profound impact on his outlook. Fans of Great Big Sea will be intrigued by the insight Hallett offers into some of the more difficult times in the history of the group, including a disastrous fall 1997 tour of Germany and the troubles involved in recording the 2002 album Sea of No Cares.

It is great to find a musician willing to recognize that often the low points for a band are just as significant as the highs!

CI: Near the beginning of Writing Out the Notes you mention that, for your father, ‘music was life itself.’ One of the best parts in the book, or at least one of the parts that I enjoyed the most, is when you describe the sights and sounds of a church parade in St. John’s. Your father was playing in a marching band. As I understand it, he died when you were fairly young, but how would you characterize the impact that he had on you in instilling that deep-rooted love of music?

BH: Well for him, and for just about everybody in my family and in my neighbourhood, music was as casual as laundry and cooking. It wasn’t something that required you to leave the house and take lessons, or required sort of a performance setting. It was something that people did and they were completely unselfconscious about it, you know? For my father, he was an accountant. There was no real professional music life in Newfoundland at that time, but what he actually did was music. He played in marching bands and he played in churches. I’m sure if there had been a kind of band like mine to join, he would have.

CI: One of the pleasures in reading the book is learning how you came to discover music and learn about artists while you were growing up in St. John’s, obviously before the Internet age. I’m thirty-two years old, so I had enough of that before the Internet sort of shifted the way people find music. I enjoyed the moments in the book like when you describe buying the first Figgy Duff album for nine dollars at K-Mart after hearing about it for the first time on the CBC. Those little stories convey a sense of enchantment, I guess, in finding new music that I’m not sure exists in the same way today with iTunes …

BH: It was a lot harder! When you say that, you sound automatically like a geezer, but there’s no other way to describe it. The only place to buy records that I could walk to as a young teenager was the K-Mart store. The K-Mart had, at best, forty or fifty records there, and that was it. And I didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have a lot of money. Like I said, my father died when I was young, and we didn’t have a lot of disposable money kicking around. A record was an important purchase for me, and because of that I thought about it for a long time. When you only had a choice between thirty records, what you did buy became really important, so I thought about it a lot. I say that to teenagers now and they look at me like I’m crazy, but it was so difficult to get this stuff, and it felt so important, that these decisions took on a lot of weight.

CI: You devote a chapter to explaining the significance of Ryan’s Fancy. Now, I’m an Ontario guy and I didn’t know a whole lot about the band. I watched the YouTube clip this morning of Great Big Sea giving out an achievement award for Ryan’s Fancy a few years ago at the East Coast Music Awards. I thought it would be interesting if you could give a sense of how Ryan’s Fancy helped to restore the significance of Newfoundland folk music for Newfoundlanders.

BH: Well, what happened in Newfoundland – I mean, you hear a lot of talk in the world at large about the ‘Folk Revival’ in America and Canada and England, where that sort of family and community level folk music had died and it needed to be revived by outsiders. To some degree that didn’t happen in Newfoundland because the tradition had not died, but what Ryan’s Fancy did, I think – and I didn’t say this in the book, but subsequently I thought about it – what they did was make it professional. They said ‘this is not just something that is informal, like singing Christmas carols or ‘Happy Birthday’; this is actually really good music that people need to see on stage and performed in a professional manner.’ That’s what they did that really separated them from everybody else.

Plus, Newfoundlanders probably have a bit more self-esteem now, but in the fifties and sixties this was a nation that had voted itself out of existence, you know? You want to talk about people who had an inferiority complex! And then Ryan’s Fancy just by embracing it, and being outsiders embracing it, really polished up the music and said, ‘This is good. This is important. You people aren’t fools. You’re not wasting your time. This is actually really good and important and everyone else should hear it.’ We probably should have known that anyway, but by them saying it, it added a lot to it and we’re grateful for it.

CI: Is it fair to say then that having Ryan’s Fancy there in the seventies laid some foundation stones for Great Big Sea? You mention that, in the eighties, the music sort of disappeared again for a while until you guys and a few others started to bring it back.

BH: It’s not so much that it disappeared as that it went back inside again. It went back to the community level and to the family level. It ceased to exist at an ‘industrial’ level, for lack of a better word. What we did when we came back was that we took their aesthetic, not so much their repertoire but the way they approached it, and brought that to a rock n’ roll audience. What bands like Figgy Duff and the Wonderful Grand Band did was that essentially they were rock n’ roll bands that had a fiddle player or whatever. They were coming at it from a rock n’ roll point-of-view.

What was different about us is that we were never a rock n’ roll band. We didn’t sing that way and we didn’t think that way. It was about taking folk music and making it accessible to a pop audience, not the other way around. It wasn’t taking rock music and adding folk music. It was taking folk music and adding rock music, which sounds like it’s the same thing but it isn’t, really.

The other thing we did is that we sort of took their technical approach to playing. Rock bands set up in a certain way. The drummer is at the back, the bass player is back there, and the lead singer then sort of sets it up in a half-moon shape. Almost all of them do, whereas Ryan’s Fancy stood across the front of the stage. There were songs with three or four or five of them, but that’s how they always performed. We just loved that idea of the whole band standing right at the front of the stage. When we started doing that, it gave us a really distinctive visual look too. People weren’t used to seeing bands that looked like us. The young guys who were playing acoustic instruments, a lot of folk bands were sitting down looking like Michael Landon! It was a really serious academic thing. We took the Ryan’s Fancy approach, which is really physical and ‘in your face’ and exciting and raucous, and we brought that to a much younger generation. Like I said, we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

CI: Another band that clearly played a key role for you musically was the Barra MacNeils. There is a story that you tell about a particularly exceptional house party somewhere in Halifax after the Barras had played a show and most of the people from the bar turned up, and others too. As you describe it in the book, it seems like the whole group was seized by some sort of musical spirit. Looking back at that night, do you chalk it up to impressive alcohol consumption, or what was really going on that night?

BH: Certainly I’ve been as drunk many times before that and after that and not had that much fun! It wasn’t just that it was a great party. I felt like I had stumbled into – you know, the only equivalent is if you’ve ever been in a foreign country and you couldn’t understand the language, and you spent a week wandering around getting on the wrong buses and trying to read bathroom doors and that kind of thing, and then all of a sudden you show up at a hostel and everyone speaks English. All of a sudden it’s a huge relief because you’ve found your people again and now you can communicate! That’s kind of the way this party was.

I was searching for a way to do this and for fellow travellers, and I wasn’t finding them at the time in Newfoundland. I knew Séan, but I didn’t know we had the same interests. It was proving to be really difficult to take this passion of mine and turn it into something real. I thought I was the only guy, just this obsessive who was pouring over this material, trying to learn these songs and learn these instruments. There were no sessions. There were no folk bars in St. John’s at the time. There were no pubs where you could go play. I just didn’t know anybody else. Then, just by accident, I banged into this party and found this thriving world of people who were more or less my age and reflected my interests, and not only that, were doing it at a really high level. They were obviously having the time of their lives. I thought ‘man, this is it – I have to get into this!’ Like I said, it was a transformation. It was like the first time you have really good steak, and you think ‘why have I been eating this shitty food?’ … I wouldn’t say it was a religious experience, but it was definitely a spiritual experience where it was like ‘fuck this man, I’m on the wrong track! I’ve got to change my life. I have to do this. This is so much better.’

The irony of that story is that it was completely happenstance. Later on I got to be friends with the Barra MacNeils, and they remembered the party and it was a completely singular event in their lives as well! They never went to one near as good either. But the fact that I was there couldn’t have been more random and happenstance. I didn’t know the people having it. I don’t know, even now, who had it, where it was, or how I got there. The whole thing is just this big drunken blur where I kind of fell into this party and had the time of my life. It completely changed everything about what I was doing, and it was complete serendipity.

CI: You spend a few pages in the book documenting the on-stage indulgences of your band Rankin Street, which morphed eventually into Great Big Sea. You note that it was then that you and Séan really learned how to perform under all types of conditions. What I’m curious about is the business side of the equation. How did it happen that Great Big Sea slowly became so much more a professional outfit than Rankin Street had been?

BH: Well, it was a conscious effort on our part not to waste any more time on the foolishness that was Rankin Street. When we started that band, we sort of felt that – it seems ridiculous now – that drinking, which was always a hobby for us as much as it was an affliction, it felt like we had to be these superhuman drinkers just to do it. A lot of the guys we idolized like Shane MacGowan and Brendan Behan, people like this were monster drinkers too. So that’s why we thought we had to be these drunken poets and be these crazy guys like The Dubliners if we were going to do this. So Rankin Street was the ultimate expression of that exploration. That went on for four years, but we got to the point where we were like, ‘you know, when we get this right, it’s really, really good, and the audiences are responding.’ And the audiences were really young. The other folk bands were playing for seniors and trying to be the Irish Rovers, and we were turning into something different: ‘Let’s stop doing this bullshit, getting up there loaded and carrying on this sort of student art project, and let’s see if we can do this for real!’

We found Alan, who was as ambitious as we were and had our kind of work ethic. We abandoned the informal, boozed-up charge that was Rankin Street and said ‘okay, this is our new band, and this is how we’re going to play. We’re going to record an album and incorporate the name! This is going to be a real business. This is going to be a real band.’ …

CI: A little while ago, early in October, I spoke with your band-mate Séan about the making of Safe Upon the Shore. Several of the songs on that album were made in rapid-fire fashion, recorded shortly after being written. I thought it was interesting to contrast that with your account in the book of recording a couple songs on the Sea of No Cares album where the process was so much longer. You were sort of expressing your surprise or astonishment at how long it took. How do you explain the change in philosophy for the band over the years in terms of recording?

BH: The philosophy never changed. We always knew, and we know, that things are better when they’re intense and quick, and we get to whatever the point is in a pretty expeditious fashion. For Sea of No Cares, a bunch of things happened there that led to us painting ourselves into an artistic corner. The first one was that we started our own studio. In the past we were always under these ferocious deadlines where it was more ‘this is costing us billions of dollars! We’ve only got two weeks. We’ve got to get it done. We’ve got to get it done!’ Standards were always a slave to the clock and to the bill. Once we had our own studio, that particular pressure was gone. Our tendency to second-guess ourselves took right over.

Also, the producer we hired – we had been used to a guy like Danny Greenspoon who produced our first two records, and Steve Berlin our third one, and they were pretty hands-on guys who had really clear ideas: ‘this is how we’re going to do it, and here’s the plan’. We just put a big chart on the wall and starting ticking stuff off. Once we started doing it ourselves, it was really hard to do it with nobody in charge and everybody disagreeing on everything. So we hired a producer and he didn’t work out, and then we scrapped all that. And it was one of those winters when it snowed everyday, and getting down there was just a huge pain in the ass! After a while, it started to feel like we’d failed grade seven or something. Even though we knew we had dug ourselves a massive hole, I think now we could probably recognize that, having found ourselves at the bottom of a hole, the thing to do would be to stop digging, whereas during the Sea of No Cares album, rather than stop digging we just dug even harder. Our hole kept getting deeper and deeper.

CI: In the whole book, probably the funniest story, at least at this point in time, involves the first tour taken on by Great Big Sea in Germany. There was a headlining gig in Hamburg that was a bust, and then not much help came from Del Amitri, the Scottish band that you were opening for on the other dates. Are there other Great Big Sea tours that went as poorly, or is that one just the standout as the absolute low point for the band?

BH: There are lots of tours that have had poor moments, some of which have gone on for several days. What was so distinctive about that tour was that the contrast between our expectations and the outcome was so massive. And the fact that it was so brief; we were only there for five days, which was never really going to work out. We had just given ourselves this vision that we were going to go over there and make this big splash, but instead it was completely humiliating. The whole thing achieved nothing. It was a classic example of the term hubris …

We’ve had lots of tours where shit didn’t go right, or gigs went south, or promoters turned out to be non-existent, where everybody planned for something that turned out to be something else, but nothing has gone quite so badly so consistently as that German tour did.

CI: Here’s the last question I have for you: I was interested to read that once upon a time you interviewed Steve Earle before he played a show in St. John’s. That little slice of music journalism is only one part of what you’ve written over the years: the guide to the music business for the federal government, a documentary about folksongs for CBC Radio, all these things that I wasn’t really aware of beforehand and I’m sure more people will know about when they pick up the book. Just out of curiosity, do you find that writing about music has sort of helped to feed your songwriting over the years, or is it something that you divide and it just helps because it’s quite different?

BH: I don’t consciously divide it. The forms are so different that, for me, it’s like using a camera and painting a picture, you know? With songwriting, first of all, I don’t usually write about myself when I’m songwriting. I’ll create a fictional character and then create a moment of drama to help tell that story. ‘The Old Black Rum’ is probably the most well known of the songs I’ve written, but I’ve never drank seventeen rums like that on a Friday night on George Street. I didn’t do that, although I know lots of people who did! But it’s a fictional form. It’s also very, very concise. It’s very short. You have to say it all and you have to say it perfectly, and you have to do that in twelve lines or less, whereas with writing the kind of first-person non-fiction narrative stuff that I do, there is no outside limit, that’s for sure. It’s just a matter of me getting it right or not getting it right. So I find it really different. It’s not like I’m going to write songs or I’m going to do this. It’s whatever inspires you in the end. I find it hard to compare the two.
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