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25/06/12 - PHASE 6 : THERE IS A VOICE


Phase 6. My tribute to Trish Keenan of Broadcast. It was planned that way. I was looking forward to it because I knew I would never lack inspiration for the single.


Montag // There is a Voice from Sam Gurry on Vimeo.



I met Trish and James of Broadcast for the first time in 1999. It was in NYC. My roommate Olivier and I traveled all the way from Montreal to attend Broadcast's first North Amercan show. It was at the Bowery Ballroom. I wasn't even 21. I was a huge fan, obviously. I asked their manager, Martin Pike (who also manages Stereolab) if it was possible to get an interview with the band, which he organized for me. I had a radioshow specialized in British pop back then, it was at CISM, Université de Montréal's campus radio station. The interview happened. And we became friends. I have no clue how it happened but it did. We met a few more times over the years but there were numerous emails. Our correspondance was the most inspiring thing for me. Trish and James would send me some tunes that they were currently listening to, they would talk about their latest finds, rare vinyls and obscure soundtracks. They opened me up to many new musical worlds. I considered them my mentors, no less. Trish, especially, was the person who encouraged me to make music the most. I have no words to describe how grateful I am that we met, that I could be a friend to them, that we could even spend some time at their place, listening to their favorite music, that I still consider today some of the best music I've ever heard. Our connection was through music obviously. But all that music made that connection also very personal and emotional. Very emotional, as far as I'm concerned, but in a very restrained way at the same time..

I remember exactly where I was when I heard about Trish's sudden death. It was snowing. I was on Mont-Royal street in Montreal and I was checking my emails when I came accross a post by my friend Nicolas (of Team Ghost): RIP Trish Keenan. It was a brutal shock that went through my entire body. I remember walking back home, with heavy bags full of groceries... I thought I would never get to my place. I was heavy, slowed down by a profound sadness.

The following night, I recorded a cover of a Broadcast song called "Distant Call" (LINK!!) which as always been one of my favorites. Maybe because it was the b-side to another favorite track of mine: "Come On Let's Go". To me, it is a perfect single. An uplifting pop number followed by the most nostalgic and beautiful song. I recorded the song acapella, as I was listening to Trish's voice in my headphones. I was singing with her. My own way of saying goodbye I guess. Although a few weeks later, I attended her funeral and I felt lucky to see James again. It was all very surreal. Unbelievably sad.

But more than a year later, when came the time to write a song for Trish, it wasn't just sadness that was left in me to find some inspiration. There was a strength, some kind of surnatural power that Trish gave me... It will all sound really phoney but that's how I felt as I was writing There Is A Voice.. The lyrics were inspired by emails that Trish sent me about two years ago now. One of them was describing a huge winter storm that happened in the UK. She was describing how the canal right by their home was all transformed, frozen, and that everything looked "quite alien". But I also wanted to make the song about Trish's voice, that voice that was present so often in my life. It had to be about her voice.


This track was recorded by James Cargill of Broadcast in 2003. It was after we spent some time at a studio in Birmingham where they were working on The HaHa Sound. I was playing on an old weathered violin... Trish asked me to improvise... James assembled a few sounds and included some of the violin I played. Here is what he sent me a few weeks later.

I have no clue how the composition happened: the music came to me instantly. I guess it's not just a tribute to Trish but to Broadcast's music in general, their world and their sound. The sonic space that I was in while writing There Is A Voice was a familiar place for me so the assembling of all the components happened so quickly. I was a little self-conscious at times, because I knew the sound quality wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be. But I did get some help from a few friends, including the addition of some sound effects created with the help of a Roland Space Echo, thanks to my friend Philippe Roberge, an tape-delay device that Trish used to use a lot on her vocals in the last few years. And my friend Simon Tremblay (AKA James Bay) did the mastering, giving the track more presence and depth. As a huge Broadcast fan, I think Simon was happy to contribute to the track.

The song is messy, there are tons of things to listen to... including some 60s electronic music samples. I felt like using some samples was also adequate because Broadcast was one of the first bands that used samples that I was immediately drawn to, on "Work and Non Work" which was the first music I ever heard by them... a compilation of their early singles. The idea of using samples also seemed natural in a way. I wanted a sound that was busy and dense, combining different elements that to me, defined Broadcast's music production. But in my own lo-fi style of course.

Listening to the song now, with a bit of perspective, I realize that the bridge sounds a lot like some early Montag tunes. Maybe it was subconscious but I met with Trish before I even started making music and using sounds that are reminescent of Montag's early days made sense. It really reminds me of how Broadcast influenced me when I was writing my very first demos.

I think I might understand where that strong friendship came from. Trish and I had the same passion for music. Not the same talent. I don't consider myself as a significant composer - just a passionate music maker. Broadcast was and is an important band. And becoming friends with Trish and James is something I will always be grateful for, it was life changing and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be writing those lines and half of the music I ever wrote if I hadn't met them. They were the reason why I realized I had to make music, to embrace my passion for it.

So this is my own humble way of saying thank you to a friend and a truly great artist. Hope you enjoy the track.

LE PAVILLON DE LA FRANCE

I have been working on an iPhone application that is a guided tour of the site of Expo 67, the universal exhibition that happened in 1967 in Montreal. I was asked to write some original music for the project and I asked James Cargill if he'd be interesed in collaborating on a few tracks. The music is meant to be a sound portrait of some of the pavillions that are still on the site today. The French Pavillion is now Montreal's casino - a shame really because the building has a unique architecture. But the music was written so that we can really feel the language of the building's architecture. James contributed to this b-side with some spaced-out arpeggios sound that are meant to represent "the spinning movement" that its metallic structure creates.

James and I wrote a track inspired by The Man, a massive sculpture by American sculptor Alexander Calder, as well as a track inspired by the American Pavillion, designed by Buckminster Fuller.

All very geeky, I know. The application will be available as of September. I'll probably post something on my website then!

Next month: a song with some choir arrangements!

 




   
    graphic design and Phases artwork by Curiousflux