As they approach their fifth anniversary, the foursome who make
up Metalwood can proudly take stock of their incredibly prolific
and consistently excellent musical output accomplished as a Canadian
indie jazz band. That success - five albums in four years, two Juno
Awards, one further Juno nomination, a tour of Europe, plus holding
it all together from three different cities - has, of course, led
them to become the first jazz group in Canada signed to the legendary
Verve Music Group.
Their debut major label release, the punchy groove jazz "The
Recline", hit the streets in May 2001, and the band is currently
in the middle of a cross-Canada tour (with stops on the festival
circuit - Listen to CBC Radio 2's "After Hours" this Friday,
July 13, 2001 to catch Metalwood performing LIVE from the Winnipeg
Jazz Festival - bringing their "jazz for the brain/grooves
for the body and soul" music to the masses.
Prior to the tour, electric bassist Chris Tarry took some time
to chat about the band's unlikely past, exciting present (including
thoughts on being in the studio with guitarist John Scofield) and
Metalwood is: Ian Froman, drums; Mike Murley, saxes; Chris Tarry,
bass; Brad Turner, trumpet/keyboards.
Writer/Photographer Josephine Ochej is a regular contributor to
The Jazz Review, the Westender
and Coda Magazine. Her column "Jazzie"
appears regularly on vancouverJazz.com.
JOSEPHINE OCHEJ: Tell me the brief history of how the band
TARRY: I was on tour with my band, and Ian Froman and I had
played together for years, in the Chris Tarry Trio, Chris Tarry
Group kind of thing, and he and I talked about starting up something
that was a little more groove-based, cause we were doing pretty
sorta ECM, kinda jazzy stuff and so decided on Mike and Brad. I
came back and called Brad, and Brad and I sort of ran with the idea,
you know, we sort of put the concept into motion. He called Murley,
and… that’s how it started; we just sort of called them up and said,
‘Let’s do a record, you guys wanna do it? There’s no money, but
whaddya say? Something cool could happen.’ Murley didn’t know me
or Ian, but knew Brad and said, ‘Ya… ok’ and he came out. He and
Froman flew out on the same plane, and by the time they got off
they were best friends. By the time we all hung out and watched
a couple hours of hockey, we were all best friends. Then we went
in and recorded a record.
JO: What point did you feel that thing where it clicks and
you knew it was gonna work?
CT: It’s funny, I do have a specific point – I don’t know
if Brad would say the same thing – when we recorded the first record,
I thought it was really good, but I wasn’t… sure. I didn’t know.
Brad and I had put the record in a certain order, a different order
than what ended up appearing - putting a record in the proper order
is a very big thing. We sent it to Murley, just on a chance, and
he said, ‘Well, how about this?’ and the order that he suggested
is what ended up on the record. When he did that and I listened
back to that, the whole album made sense and it clicked for me;
and I thought, ‘Oh gosh, this is really good. We’ve got something
here, you know, we have a sound and [it’s] something I haven’t heard
before. That was sort of it right there. And when it won the Juno,
we thought ‘Uh oh, hang on…’.
JO: Did you have any sort of thoughts about how you would
manage the tri-city thing then? Or were you just really trying to
see if the music worked and then you would deal with the consequences?
CT: Ya, we wanted to see if the music would work and we
knew we were all so busy doing other things. I was doing a lot of
the Chris Tarry solo stuff, and Brad was doing his stuff and Murley’s
doing his thing and Froman’s busy in New York, so we sort of just
came into it with the idea of, ‘Well, we’ll just do it when we can
do it, and when it won the Juno, we thought, ‘Hey, we should tour’.
Brad and I actually financed the first hit that we went out; we
played just to get the word out and get the press to be able to
get some grant money. We did one weekend in Van one weekend in Toronto,
and that was sort of the start of it, and that got a lot of press.
The clubs at both places were packed and that’s where it started
to roll from there. We got a lot of government support and it went
that way. Without the Canada Council’s support it never would have
happened; they paid to make sure we could all end up in the same
city. But even today as it’s getting more and more, and the major
record label’s behind us, there’s still a lot of flying-in the night
before the gig or the day of the gig and just playing.
JO: It’s just a fact of the jazz world?
CT: It’s a fact of the jazz world. But now we do it so much
more than we ever have that the band is… it’s able to keep that
edge a lot easier than… before it may have taken us a set to warm
up. But it’s amazing how fast it’s able to come back with that band.
It’s just, like a couple of tunes, it’s like, ‘Ok, this is where
we’re at,’ and it just goes.
JO: Was there ever a point it became difficult to manage
the three-city thing or you just deal with it?
CT: No, we just deal with it. And now it seems to be the
way it is, especially with the major label thing. We had to make
a real commitment to them that we would be ready to go at the drop
of a hat, so yeah, it doesn’t seem to… it’s funny, in a way, not
that it saves money, but if there’s a gig in Vancouver, you’re only
playing for 2 people to fly in. And then, if you’re playing a gig
in Toronto, you’re only paying for 2 people, kinda cause Ian lives
in New York. So really, in two gigs we’re only paying for the whole
band to fly one place, really, in the space of two gigs. It sort
of works out.
JO: You and Brad sort of taking the ball and running it
earlier on, did that sort of de facto make you guys the leaders,
really? Were decisions largely up to you guys and you would check
in with the others and see if they were able to do it?
CT: Brad and I ran the band for the first couple of years.
And that’s where having a four-piece band spread out over the country
makes it hard, so it’s obviously the two guys who live in the same
city who have to deal with the day-to-day stuff. There wasn’t that
much. It was sort of just… run by itself. People with gigs would
come in, and people would want to fly us in to do these amazing
gigs and we’re like, ‘Ok…?…!’ and we’d just work it out. Now, it’s
a whole different thing. We’ve got management in Toronto and all
the official things, so everything is split. It’s like a four-way
thing. To be honest, Brad and I – the four of us, we just concentrate
on the music. We have nothing to do with the day-to-day running
of it anymore.
JO: That’s got to be a relief in some ways and kind of scary
in others when you’re used to having your hand in everything and
knowing exactly where it is. You have to put your trust in them.
CT: Totally. For me, though, it’s beautiful. Now Murley
and Froman have taken over a lot of the sort of… Froman’s like the
road manager, he deals with all the money and that sort of stuff,
which was always sort of my and Brad’s job. So they really stepped
up to the plate and said, ‘Ok, you guys have done this for a couple
of years, let us take over.’ Murley does all the set lists. Brad
just… all he has to do is carry his Rhodes which is a big enough
worry [laughs]. It’s sort of nice, for me, I’ve got a solo record
coming out in September, and a bunch of different things, so it’s
allowed me to go and do a lot more things and play with a lot more
JO: Are you at all shocked by how well-received the band
is by the public? It does cross musical genres, and jazz isn’t exactly
known as being a huge-selling thing very frequently. You’ve definitely
got an audience, and a lot of people know who Metalwood is, for
sure across Canada, I don’t know about the States. I’ve read things
in Downbeat, etc. Is that at all surprising, coming from
CT: I guess a little bit. We approach it very much as an
acoustic jazz quartet, because we’re all jazz musicians. It’s the
only way we know how to approach it. The thing is, it’s got this
energy and a sort of spark-plug drummer that makes it this spectacle
to watch, and also, not only watch, when you’re playing in a big
club, people can sort of get down to it. A lot of musicians tell
me, 'My wife can dig it cause she can dance to it, and I can listen
to all the happening solos'. To me, that’s where the crossover is,
and I think this kind of music, if you’re not having fun and doing
it and making it into something, it can tend to fall flat. I think
we’re really fortunate where we’ve got four really strong musicians
in this band and are able to take it to a level where it appeals
to jazz people and people that are players, and also to people that
are just normal people. It does sort of surprise me, I guess. But
it’s great, we’re excited. In the beginning, we were like, ‘Are
we more of a soft-seater? Or are we more of a big club [band]?’
It sort of seems to me like it goes over everywhere.
JO: Maximum Jazz. I got the story from Brian Watson (who
bought the label last year), but I’m not entirely sure… Which came
first… the label…or…?
CT: …The egg? Ha ha. I’ll give you the whole story. I was
there from the beginning. What came first was that Shawn Pierce
and I started a company that was actually a production studio to
produce records for people, and for major labels. Basically, we
had a studio in the 12th & Arbutus area [in Vancouver]. We went
in there and did a bunch of records for people and produced our
own stuff, even pop stuff and whatever, building up a catalogue
for publishing, so he’s big into the film and TV industry. So, it
started as Maximum Music Ltd., which is the main company. One of
the first records we did – in fact the first Metalwood Record was
done as a test project for the studio. When we were rehearsing the
band in the studio, Shawn was busy setting up the studio in the
control room. The day we recorded the first record, he [had just]
plugged all the stuff in and there were no buzzes and hums, and
we just went ahead and recorded the album. That studio ran for about
a year. Metalwood took off and we had a couple offers from different
smaller labels and things, and we decided, ‘Listen, if we want to
make some money at this – well, not necessarily money, but keep
it until something really big happens, we should do something ourselves.’
So, Brad and Shawn and I started a division of Maximum Music Ltd.
called Maximum Jazz, the record label. We got a distribution deal
with Festival, because the Metalwood record was selling, so we got
a distribution deal for the whole label. And then we took on a couple
of people like Kate [Hammett-Vaughan] and Mike [Allen], different
things, basically just offering them distribution deals. We didn’t
have anything in terms of being able to do what Brian’s doing, like
promotion and all that sort of stuff. So it was sort of like, listen,
give us your records and we’ll put it in stores, and we’ll take
$2, kind of thing. And that just became really hard to manage; it
was becoming too much for Brad and I and everybody, it was sort
of a self-run label, and people would just sorta call me or Brad
or Shawn [and go] ‘What do I do? Where do I drop my CDs off?’ ‘Oh,
well, you take it over here’ ‘Ok, cool’. It was a way for them to
have a distribution deal with a really cool-looking logo that was
attached to a fairly successful band, and it had a really cool mailing
address, basically a mail box. And at the point that the whole deal
with Metalwood happened, Brian, who had the company Maximum Management,
approached us and offered to buy the label from us. So, it worked
out great because Metalwood was leaving for a newer thing and he
bought the label form us, and has run with it terrifically; he’s
going to grow it into one of Canada’s biggest jazz labels, I think.
So it’s great, cause he’s doing all the things that Brad and I as
musicians, and Shawn, just due to time, we couldn’t do.
JO: So, how exactly did the major label thing happen – did
they find you or had you been sending CDs around?
CT: It’s always they know who you are, but in order to get
a major label deal – I think, I know this is my first time I’ve
ever been involved in something like this – but it definitely had
to do with us having a fan on the inside.
JO: Not to mention probably pretty decent record sales?
CT: Ya, for an indie jazz thing we had good sales, but it
was really championed by Scott Morin. Scott worked at Virgin Records
in Vancouver and he loved the band. He went to Capilano College
[Jazz Studies Program] and he knew all of us, and he loved the band.
He went on to work as assistant to A&R at Verve New York, and
then when the gig in Canada came up, to head up Verve Canada, he
got the job. First thing he did was sign us. That’s how it happened
for us. It’s always a bit of luck and a bit of timing. You never
know what a nice fan will do for you. And now it’s Metalwood-o-rama.
JO: So the structure is, technically it’s Blue Thumb Records,
distributed by Universal, which is owned by the Verve Group? Is
that how it works?
CT: How it works is Universal owns the Verve Music Group,
and VMG is a group of labels that is Verve, Blue Thumb, Impulse
and GRP. So essentially we’re released on the VMG, with the Blue
Thumb imprint. Each imprint within Verve stipulates a different
sound kind of music, so Blue Thumb is traditionally the groovier
stuff. There’s a lot of logos on the back of that CD!
JO: So how thrilled were you to see that Verve logo on the
back of the CD, cause that’s a lot of history, a lot of great jazz…?
CT: We’re the first Canadian jazz group, signed in Canada,
to have the imprint, so it’s a big thing for us. It was amazing,
and Scott did it, he made it happen. He really believed in the project,
and he’s done an amazing job of getting everybody including the
mail room guy at every Universal across the country totally psyched
about it. So we have this amazing support from the label and we
have this amazing support on a grassroots level from an unbelievably
big label, so it’s pretty neat to see.
JO: And Maximum is still the biggest logo!
CT: You notice that it’s a new logo for Maximum? Since we
sold the ‘M’ and the Maximum Jazz label to Brian… Maximum Music
Ltd. is still a company that Shawn and I own. We did the deal, technically,
with Maximum Music Ltd., cause now basically they’re just the sole
owner of Metalwood, with Universal. All it is, is that everyone’s
keeping the name Maximum, cause they love it. There’s too many Maximums
now! Basically Maximum Ltd. is Shawn and I, and Maximum Jazz and
Maximum Management are Brian.
JO: The long-term plan. When was the point that you started
to go, ‘We’ve got something going here, we’d better make some plans’,
or was it still just taking it as it came?
CT: I think now there’s long-term plans, now that we have
management and they block off dates with us, and stuff. I mean,
it’s still a hard band to book cause we’re all so busy doing other
peoples’ projects and other things. Brad’s taking a sabbatical,
a year off Cap, and [has] done some stuff like that to sort of free
up the schedule to be able to do various things cause we realized
they’ve put a lot of time and energy behind us and we’re sort of
willing to go for it right now. It’s interesting, we’re seeing where
it’s gonna take us. It’s still a hard band to book. The way we do
it is book blocks of time. They’ll say, ‘Listen, we want you to
do a college tour, for instance, in October for two weeks. Do you
have two weeks here, two weeks there, and we’ll get together as
a band and say, ‘Oh we’ve got these two weeks, Murley can do this,
I can’t do this, let’s do this’ and then we present them with two
or three weeks and then they fill it, and that’s how it works. But
it seems to work really well for us, it makes it seem like we’re
out there all the time, but to actually get us out there is still
a big job. This time [May-June 2001], this tour time has been held
for a year and a half, coming up. We’re doing 2 1/2 weeks, then
we come home for a week, then we go out for another two weeks. The
second two weeks was originally held for Europe, but we decided
to stay in Canada and do more just to push the record. So basically
they just point us in the right direction, they tell us what they
want us to do and we work it out and we come to a general consensus
and we go for it.
JO: The deal with Universal, is it a single deal, a multi-album
deal, distribution – or is it all of it?
CT: It’s all of that. They picked up all of our old albums
for a distribution deal, so all of the old albums are being distributed
by Universal now, so that’s why people are having such a hard time
finding them in stores, because they had to be pulled out and then
remanufactured with all the stuff and then go back into stores,
so… plus… so they’re gonna be back in stores in the next month.
The other one is an A&R/licensing deal, which they’re doing
more and more these days, which is basically, where they license
the album from us for a period of certain time, but it’s multi-,
like an A&R deal, so they have options up to six different albums
– so it’s sort of a six-album deal, I think. Don’t quote me on the
number, I don’t have it in front of me. [Ok, Chris, I won’t. JO]
JO: What were some of the things that maybe made you nervous
about doing a major label thing?
CT: Right from the get-go, there was always a discussion
of ‘Okay, well, there’s a major label, there’s some support behind
us…’, [and] - at least from Scott’s point of view - ‘Let’s get some
guests on the album. Let’s do something a little different, because
we’ve done four albums already. Let’s change it up a bit, cause
Metalwood’s always gotta keep growing, it’s always gotta be fun.’
So when he approached us and said, ‘Hey, you wanna play with Sco?’
[Laughs] We were like, [taken aback in disbelief, but obviously
thrilled] ‘Ohhhh-kay…!’ and ya, that made me a little bit nervous.
And then he said, ‘How about Mino?’ And I said, ‘Now I’m even more
nervous.’ Anyways, it was a pretty amazing experience. It’s a bit
of a different sound, and you know, it’s cool, there’s still that
Metalwood edge to it.
JO: I think the jazz fans probably would like something
a little different, and the groove fans are even more satiated because
the groove thing flows consistently through it.
CT: We’ve had a couple people say that Scofield sounds like
Scofield, like Scofield stuff.
JO: Well, he is… him.
CT: Ya, Number One: he is him, a definitive sound. And Number
Two, we only had a day in the studio with those guys. All the stuff
that was recorded with them was recorded in about ten hours, so
we had to make sure that they came in – they were coming without
any rehearsal, so the best thing in order to make stuff like that
happen, being guys that have done countless records with different
people and wanting it to go smoothly, the easiest way is you write
for them. So we wrote for them and wanted to make them feel comfortable
and that’s the key and that’s why it worked and that’s why it worked
as well as it did. There’s that tune “Pressure” at the end, and
Sco takes that solo on the fade out and he’s playing like I haven’t
heard him play since, like [1997’s] “Blue Matter”. He’s playing
some unbelievable stuff on there. And you know, it just was proof
that they really had a great time. They were terrific to work with,
and oh my, it was just an amazing experience.
JO: Was it a comfortable thing? At first, it was probably
like, ‘Here we are with John Scofield…’
CT: Unbelievable. He comes into the studio and he started
plugging in his amp and we’re sitting there, and all of a sudden
he started warming up and the mic was on and Shawn turned it up,
and it’s just like, ‘There’s Sco coming through the speakers. He’s
in the next room.’
JO: Had you met any of those guys before?
CT: We played with Mino the night before at the Cellar.
That was pretty crazy. Wow. A lot of sound going on there.
JO: Actually, you could kind of see the point where it clicked.
It was later on, I think, in the second set.
CT: Ya, the second set. The first set, we were a little
taken aback, going, ‘Oh my god’. You could see the shock in our
eyes. It was great right away. Sco was amazing and he just imparted
some really great talks to us, about playing with Miles and stuff.
He’s just a normal guy, working on his thing like everybody else.
And he had some great things to say. Brad would finish a solo and
he'd go, [affects awe-struck, yet laidback Scofield imitation] ‘Man,
what a great solo’. He was sitting in the control room when I took
the bass solo on the record [UB the Monster intro] and I was really
self-conscious and I went in and I was like, ‘I gotta re-do that’.
And he goes, ‘Man, no way. That was a great bass solo, man, you
gotta keep that. You are fucking great, man!’ He’s like, just totally
supportive and he loved the musicianship in the band, and he was
knocked out by Murley, too. ‘Man, you’re a great tenor player, man!’
This is how he started talking!
JO: Right on. Sounds like an awesome experience. Did anybody
videotape it by any chance?
CT: There is videotape. I don’t know where it ended up.
They were doing EPKs [electronic press kits] and stuff, it’s all
JO: Videos? Is that entering the picture?
CT: Well, we have one that we did a little while ago for
JO: I have never seen it.
CT: There’s an alien in it.
JO: Which tune?
CT: It’s called, the tune “Newton”, off the second record
[Metalwood 2]. It’s on Bravo every once in a while, but we’ll see
what happens. It’s pretty funny. We’re not even in it. [It was done
by] this really great guy Marcus Rodgers, he was nominated for a
West Coast Music Award. He’s in a lot of videos and he was just
into the band he wanted to do it and he hooked it all up.
JO:Q Wait a minute, maybe I did see it. Is there a loop
and a lot of street…
JO: Alright, I have seen it. What about the future?
CT: I don’t know. Hopefully. Be funny to see it on Much
Music. Hey, if Herbie Hancock could do it, why not!
JO: A difference on this album from previous ones is the
musical credits. First of all, they’re not listed on the back of
the CD by person, like they usually are. There are no Metalwood-credited
songs. Is that because the Metalwood-credited songs on previous
CDs were improv songs in the studio?
CT: Ya, every time you see a Metalwood [credit], it’s always
an improv in the studio. We did some improvs on this one, but we
just decided, ‘Let’s just feature the guests’. It would’ve been
– the other Metalwood records are notoriously really long cause
you know, we didn’t care, we just put whatever we wanted on it.
You listen to it, you’re in for a good hour and a half. But we wanted
to make this a concise statement, it’s our first major label thing,
plus we didn’t want to cut any one of the things with the guests
on it because playing with Scofield, for us, was a pretty momentous
occasion. So we got some stuff that we’ll maybe release on the next
one, and that kind of thing.
JO: When you write your tunes and Brad writes his tunes,
do you write them pretty much fully and then bring them to the other
guys? I’m guessing you guys start with each other since you’re here,
or do you write them and then bring pieces of it and say, ‘What
do you think of this?’
CT: It’s interesting how we do it. We do it all ourselves,
individually. We midi them up on the computer, so we basically have
a working version of what the tune will sound like. And then we
email them to each other, to the whole band, and everybody checks
them out. Or we burn CDs, with this [record], we actually had 16
tunes written. We recorded, I think, like, 14. And so there’s a
bunch of other stuff that will probably surface at one time or another.
JO: The out takes.
CT: The out takes!
JO: In 20 years.
CT: Exactly, when we’re all old and gray. So we sent out
the tapes, a CD with charts, with midi-demos on them, and everybody
gets them and we all learn the tunes, and then we come together
and we play ‘em.
JO: Modern technology! You wouldn’t have been able to do
this ten years ago, even!
CT: No. I know. It couldn’t exist in the old dark ages.
JO: That’s incredible.
CT: Ya. So, that’s how we do it.
JO: So you’re a high tech band, really.
CT: We are high tech. Everybody’s on email – it’s amazing
how much of this booking and stuff, everything in this band gets
done by email.
JO: Probably saves a lot on long distance charges, too.
So, what would you do if you ever were in the same city? You wouldn’t
know what to do, would you?
CT: We’d never rehearse because we don’t rehearse already.
We don’t want to ruin a good thing, you know, by doing something
as crass as rehearsing.
JO: It’s got to keep things fresh, because you’ve got that
nervous edge, I’m sure, because it’s like, ‘Ok, we haven’t played
together in a couple of months!’
CT: Ya, totally. It’s becoming easier and easier. Sometimes,
there’s certain things, like the tune, "U B the Monster".
That was written in a sound check. I started playing a groove and
Ian started playing along, in a sound check in Italy last summer.
"Bumpus", "U B the Monster", and "Mr. Mike"
were written [when] we had a couple of days off in a hotel room
in Italy, and Brad just set up the Trinity, and he would write a
tune and do a sequence, and take a break, then I would write a tune
and do a sequence and then, one guy would be drinking beer on the
bed and he’d be done, and we’d hop up and do another tune. We wrote
a bunch there that ended up on the record. Cause that was sort of…
when we were doing that tour, we were doing all the original negotiations
[with Verve], which is, like, that’s over a year ago [that it] started
going down about the record and the potential for Scofield to be
on it. It’s been a long time coming, a year, and then even before
that, getting all the guys in New York interested in it – it’s been
at least a year and a half ordeal.
JO: I heard about the stuff going down in Italy. The lost/stolen
plane tickets and laptop?
CT: That was mine.
[More talk about waywardness of ‘stuff’ in Italy as tape runs out
and requires flippage. ]
JO: Did you have time to do any improvs with the guests?
CT: No, we didn’t do any with them, but we did do some with
us, the second day. The whole thing was recorded in about a day
and a half. Most Metalwood records… all of them, actually, were
recorded in about a day in a half. It’s a neat process. Go in and
all this great music just sorta happens.
JO: And there was no talk of trying to do it any other way?
Or it just works for you.
CT: Ya, it just works for us. We go in and we get the job
done and it just happens to be at a high level. Funny how that happens.
JO: Being with this major major label, do you feel
any new expectations in this new situation, in terms of sales and
performance – is that a little bit more nerve wracking?
CT: It is… we’re just gonna concentrate on doing the music,
but we’re out there a lot now because we know that in order for
us to do more stuff, which we wanna do, we have to sell records.
We’re out there doing what we love, which is playing, and the music
is developing, obviously, and growing and doing all this sort of
stuff, so that’s the reward. But deep down, I think, it’s obviously
always there, especially for a jazz release, it ain’t easy to sell
records. It’s amazing, Canadian jazz bands and stuff, what they
consider a successful selling record. It would just make the pop
people just absolutely die.
JO: What kind of numbers are we talking, just a couple of
CT: Oh ya. That’s a great…, you’d be amazed about what the
American guys sell, too, not too much.. probably a little less than
JO: When I think of the whole debate about jazz being such
a small little community and you go out to a show and there’s a
few people there, and they probably all have the record, but it’s
just a small pocket – per city!
CT: I know. It’s amazing.
JO: It amazes me continually how many players there are
– it’s this huge pool.
CT: There’s this untapped resource that if people went down
and took the time to go down and buy a Canadian jazz record, they’d
realize they’ve got some of the best jazz musicians in the world,
living right here at their back door. And that they can go and see
them at The Cellar for ten bucks, is a real treat at this moment.
But it’s hard to get people out. It’s really hard.
JO: I think it’s also this town, it’s built for leisure.
CT: I’m the same way, when it’s nice out I want to hop on
my mountain bike, and go ride in the mountains. It’s part of the
appeal of living here.
JO: Has all this given you and Brad any thoughts of relocating,
or is working fine the way it is?
CT: It seems to be working fine right now. I think the beauty
of Metalwood is any of us could be anywhere. It just happens so
naturally when we come back that it makes it easy. I could be living
in Balzac, Alberta; it doesn’t matter where we are individually.
I think we’re so used to doing it this way that now that’s just
JO: It really is a small, open world in that way now. I
read an article about married couples living on separate continents
and making it work. Because it’s so easy to travel and the technology.
CT: Soon they’ll be able to beam you somewhere.
JO: Do you think that this deal is going to maybe open the
door a little bit for some other musicians in Canada?
CT: I hope so. I really hope so. And I think a lot of people,
at least the press from the other parts of the country, are amazed
that one of the top jazz groups is from Vancouver. They’re like,
‘You guys are from Vancouver?’ I really hope it does, I really hope
it does. I hope that it works so much that they give some deals
to some other just-as-deserving musicians, cause this town definitely
has them, and they’re some of the best in the world.
JO: Plans for other countries, aka the U.S.? Obviously you’re
well-established in Canada, you’re gonna further that with the upcoming
dates. Is there a U.S. plan or is that in the works?
CT: Yes, it’s in the works, and Verve in the U.S. has plans
on releasing it. The first thing we’re doing, I don’t know if it’s
confirmed, but we’re doing some stuff at the House of Blues in Chicago
in July. We’re doing New York in September and different things
like that, so it’s starting to happen. For the second year in a
row we got talent deserving wider recognition in Downbeat
this month, so that’s great. Downbeat’s doing some great
stuff, and of course, the editor of Downbeat did the liner
notes [for "The Recline"]. It’s good, and we’re gonna
get down there. We’ve got a lot of U.S. fans – I was at Long &
McQuade buying bass strings the other day and the guy at the bass
centre said, ‘You know there were some Americans here. They just
came up to buy the Metalwood record.’ So, I don’t know people… it’s
so funny how people hear about stuff.
JO: Will the other albums get distribution in the U.S.?
CT: We’re not sure about that right now. But they’re looking
at the new one.
JO: When will that happen?
CT: There isn’t a set date, but it looks like… actually,
I don’t even know… they’re trying to work it out between who releases
it first, Europe or the U.S. Whether we go to Europe first is sort
of like where we’re at, and because we’ve already been to Europe
they’re thinking, go there, and then they’ll release it in the U.S.
JO: Has Metalwood played in the U.S. yet?
CT: No. Never have. A total Canadian band. Canadian and
European. But all these people sorta know about it, by hearing about
it, and hearing preferably some good things, so they come up and
buy the record.
JO: How many trips to Europe?
CT: Just once. It was a long one. It was great. It was an
amazing tour. We did a double bill with… we did a festival that
was just us and [Joe] Zawinul (leader of ‘70s fusion group Weather
Report, a main Metalwood influence); and [laughing] there was also
‘Metalwood and Puppet Show’.
CT: "Spinal Tap".
JO: Oh, right! Which countries?
CT: Italy, the U.K. and Belgium. It was an amazing trip.
JO: Did anybody keep a tour diary?
CT: There’s lots of pictures, some of which are un-showable.
Maybe one day I’ll write down…the first 48 hours were unbelievable.
JO: Is this the primary gig for all of you?
CT: Right now, because they want us to make a commitment
to it. We’re all still doing a lot of different stuff. I’m on the
road with Junction and François Houle and Peggy and blah blah blah.
Fortunately, I haven’t had too many conflicts; there’s the odd thing
I’ve had to get out of, but other than that.
JO: Although jazz festival season is coming up and that’s
got to be tricky.
CT: I don’t know how I managed to pull that one off, but
I ended up being able to do one of three Junction gigs, an Alma
Libre gig and a François gig…
JO: Plus three Metalwood gigs.
CT: Plus three Metalwood gigs! And we’re only in town for
three days! How did I manage that?!
JO: They obviously took great pains to make that work. I
don’t know how Ken Pickering and those guys do that… the programming…
even just with the local guys – it blows my mind.
CT: What did you think of that article?
[ Ed. note: On May 22, 2001, the Vancouver Courier
ran a cover-story that purported to be about the Vancouver jazz
scene and, especially, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
It was little more than a half-baked, error-riddled personal attack
on Ken Pickering, the festival's artistic director. The article
carried no byline which, apparently, was left out inadvertently.
The author turned out to be Monika Ullmann. The one positive result
of the piece was the debate it sparked in the Vancouver Jazz Forum.
To read that discussion click
JO: I haven’t seen it, but I heard about it. I heard the
story from Chris Wong and that there was no byline on it so everyone
thought it was him.
CT: Who was the writer? Do you know her?
JO: No. I haven’t heard of her.
CT: They called Scofield ‘PAUL Scofield’ and Metalwood ‘avant
JO: Oh man, she was probably run out of town on a rail.
But I read all the subsequent things on vancouverjazz.com. What
did you think of that, from a musician’s standpoint? Typical?
CT: It sounded like a lot of musicians were taken out of
context; I could hear what they were saying, but at the same time,
I think that, my personal opinion is that Ken Pickering does an
absolutely amazing job. I think it’s one of the biggest festivals
in North America.
JO: I think it’s the best. I’ve not been to the others,
but from what I’ve seen of the programs, it’s huge.
CT: It’s amazing and he does a great job. And if you compare
it to local musicians getting gigs at other festivals, it’s unprecedented.
JO: Even in New York, the JVC festival, it’s really small
by comparison, a few gigs a night. And here it’s a couple of dozen,
CT: And the local musicians here, I think, have it the best;
[some think] it’s just never good enough.
JO: I think if they visited some other scenes, they’d see
that, but it’s not an ideal world. I heard a statistic that jazz
record sales are less than three percent of all record sales.
CT: And you don’t even want to know what the percentage
of that three percent is Canadian jazz.
JO: But, it’s the genre we’ve chosen and we have to do the
best we can. A lot of us aren’t doing it for the money, cause they’re
CT: Absolutely. For the joy!
JO: And because you HAVE to; you have that passion, you
just do it.
CT: You gotta do it.
JO: Have you dared dream of a day where this thing is so
huge that you don’t really have to worry about it, you can play
whatever you want?
CT: I guess that’s ultimately, I dunno, I guess we’re just
sort of – we’ve always done it for fun and taken it where it takes
it, and I think if we have too many expectations there’s the ability
to be disappointed. It’s already gone way above and beyond anything
I ever thought it would, so anything else is a bonus. To me, it’s
already at that point, just to be involved, playing with these great
musicians. I’ve gotten to play in some really great places and do
some really great gigs, and play with some world-class, famous players
– it’s been unbelievable. Everyday it keeps going is an extra thing,
so it’s good that way. I don’t think we have any misconceptions
that way. Of course we’d love to see it go huge and be bigger than
it is, but only time will tell now.
JO: And the thing is, it’s possible now, and that’s got
to be amazing.
CT: It’s probably got the biggest, best possibility right
now and I think there’s a lot of people waiting to see what happens.
JO: The name Metalwood. Who was the brainchild behind that
CT: Ian. I hope this doesn’t destroy the whole moniker for
you. It’s really not a deep story at all. Are you ready?
CT: Okay, this is gonna ruin it for you.
JO: Hit me.
CT: It’s named after a golf club.
JO: [Howling laughter] But it’s so appropriate.
CT: Ian named the band. He had just bought a new set of
clubs and he was really into playing golf. And he said, ‘Let’s call
it Metalwood, man’. And that was it. This was the first initial
conversation before even Brad or Murley was… see, Froman came up
with the original concept for the band, and so when I went back
to call Brad, when I got home off the tour, I said, ‘Hey, Brad,
I was talking to Ian, he really wants to do this band, and he wants
us to run with it’. He always wanted to play with Brad, Ian did,
too. And he thinks we should call it Metalwood. Brad was like, ‘Metalwood,
ya, cool, man’. I don’t even think Brad actually knew the… actually,
no, Murley didn’t even know the origin of the name until this week.
We did like, three days of 12-hour press days in Toronto, so that
was the question and Murley didn’t even know.
JO: I saw U2 on Much Music and apparently The Edge said
he would love to go back and remix and re-do all kinds of things
on their old albums. Do you guys feel at all that way or is it an
accurate record of where you were and that’s just dandy?
CT: Ya, I think it’s just dandy. I listen to the old ones
and they’ve got such a raw edge to them, you know, feeling each
other out and growing, and this record is just a logical extension.
It keeps growing and changing – as long as we keep it interesting
and fun it’ll be around for a long, long time. That’s the most important
JO: The name of this album, “The Recline” – does it juts
coincide with the more laidback grooves thing?
CT: I think so, but originally there was a tune that didn’t
make the record called “The Recline” that Brad wrote and we just
thought it sounded cool. I didn’t even actually think about as the
recline, like somebody laying down, but then the graphic artist
guy at Universal sort of ran with it, and came up with the recline
guy and that’ll be the t-shirt.
JO: On the liner notes here, when I open the first fold,
there’s a little recline logo, the MW and then a 4. Is that album
number four… oh no, cause this is album number five… but…
CT: It’s number four, but five.
JO: It’s number four in the studio sequence, is that why
the four is there?
CT: It’s supposed to read “The Recline Metalwood 4”.
JO: I knew that 4 was in there for that. Cool. I was gonna
say, you couldn’t call it 4!
CT: We decided it was time to get away from that or people
would say, ‘They’re really starting to sound like Chicago now!’
JO: That the album is… I’m sure people are focusing on this,
and I hate to do this, but it is a little more laidback, a little
more groove-riddled – was that conscious thought in writing it or
did it come out that way? Did it make sense because that’s where
Scofield and those guys are at?
CT: I think that’s the main reason behind it, because we
wrote for those guys. I think if you listen to the ones that are
just the quartet, there’s some real burning, traditional Metalwood
stuff. You know, we really wanted to make those guys feel as comfortable
as possible, and so, you know, in order to have some people walk
in on an unknown situation – I’ve done that so many times, it’s
just such an awkward situation – we just wanted to make them really
comfortable. And plus, we only had a day.
JO: Are you hoping Scofield will play with you in New York?
CT: Well, we’re hoping when we play here at the festival,
that maybe he’ll play a few tunes. Who knows? Maybe he’ll feel the
urge to come up and play again. That would be a lot of fun.
JO: The “U. B. the Monster” intro, you literally made my
friend weep. I looked over and I’m like, “Are you ok?’ Do you ever
have that emotional an experience? You always have that huge grin
on your face, you look so happy?
CT: People say that. That’s not always what’s going through
my head, though.
JO: Is it tension pulling the corners of your mouth up?
CT: I don’t know what it is. That particular tune was something
I started doing with Michael Occhipinti’s band. I’ve been doing
some gigs and some touring with them and that sort of loop thing,
I sort of got into doing it then, so I decided, doing the Metalwood
thing pretty much right after that, I would give it a shot and it
sort of worked out for that tune. It’s now become part of the show
or whatever. It’s… I don’t know if I necessarily think that, people
always say I look like I’m smiling all the time and I’m glad, because
sometimes what’s going through my head is, ‘Oh, not that note again.
Oh Jesus. Why do I always play that? Ah! Stop!’ I mean, that’s what’s
going through a lot of musicians’ minds; there’s always that self-doubt.
You get to a point where hopefully, your good nights… your bad nights
sound good and your good nights sound great.
JO: Is there ever a point when you’re with these guys now,
does it get more and more that you can relax and enjoy it and just
feel the emotion of it?
CT: Oh yeah. Totally. I think it’s that way for all four
of us now. We’re not reading much anymore, the tunes are pretty
internalized. We’ve been playing the tunes for a long time. We actually
played a gig in Brandon, three nights at the Brandon Jazz Festival,
and Murley couldn’t do it, and Jon Bentley subbed for us. And you
know, I guess, we don’t even realize how many tunes and how many
records we’ve put out, and sometimes we just call tunes and do whatever,
and Bentley’s like, “Man, you guys got a lot of tunes, and they’re
all really hard”. And we’re like, ‘They don’t seem very hard’, but
I guess we’ve been playing them for so long that’s it’s sort of
like, we go to that place and it’s part of the whole experience.
JO: He’s a great player, too.
CT: He’s great. He’s a lot of fun.
JO: I love his stuff. He’s actually one of my favourite
players. You do often have an expression of pleasant surprise at
each other on stage. And you all get that look like, ‘Shit, that’s
cool! Man, who IS that guy?!’
CT: Here goes Ian – hang on! There’s a lot of foot-tapping
JO: Actually, that was one of my questions for you. You’ve
got to write a song called “My Left Foot”?
CT: I know, my left foot goes.
JO: Do you wear out your left shoe more than your right?
CT: [Resignedly] I know. It’s crazy. I don’t know how it
does that. It’s got a bit of a mind of its own.
JO: You also do this little dance.
CT: Like a Jaco dance. Too many years of watching Jaco videos.
JO: What would you say is each of the member’s strength
in the band?
CT: Oh geez. I think that everybody in this band, to make
it work on this level, has two things that make this band work,
I think, to the degree that it works. They all have great time,
meaning internal time. And everybody has unbelievable instincts.
I think in order for that to have to happen, there’s… above and
beyond musical ability, which is obviously a big part of it, but
I think that those two things really make this band what they are.
You say there’s a lot of smiles and stuff that go on stage, that’s
because there’s this trust. This trust that goes on between Ian
and I, and Brad and Murley, and we’re all connected by this invisible
thread that connects us all together. And there’s never any question,
it’s just always, it’s just not a question, it’s just a surprise.
I think that’s probably the strongest quality of everybody.
JO: Do you think that’s a rare thing in music, maybe not
so much in jazz, where you’re really out on a limb – not that you
aren’t in other musics, but I think in jazz you REALLY are – because
there’s so much improvising going on?
CT: Absolutely. You’re really putting yourself out there
and it has the potential to be really bad. But when it’s great,
it’s the best thing in the world. You just gotta go for it, and
that’s definitely what this band has an ability to somehow do, I
don’t know how. It’s a little bit of a mystery.
JO: Chemistry and magic. How would you describe Metalwood
to someone who’d never heard it? Like maybe that alien in the video?
CT: I’d say HE is the music. He defines the music. I would
say that we are… I always describe it as, I think it’s the one that
works for me best, I don’t know if it helps anyone else out whatsoever,
but it’s like an acoustic jazz quartet with electric instruments,
I think, cause it’s got that focus behind it. The difference in
a band that’s come from being a jazz-rock band and is playing sort
of jazzy stuff and their influences are based in rock – it’s not
that. We’re four jazz musicians that have influences in electronica
and a bunch of different other stuff, but the genesis for the idea
of the concept, and what’s actually going on in the tunes, you know,
head, solo, forms and all that stuff, is all jazz-like, and the
interaction is all jazz-like, cause that’s all we know. I think
maybe that’s what gives it a bit of a different sound for all the
people, you know, the crossover guys and everything else, that just
sort of like… cause they get to hear a lot of bands that are coming
from the funk-groove thing, but they’re coming from the other end