Kyle Bobby Dunn

‘We are all lonely’ – and other revelations with Kyle Bobby Dunn

There isn’t much of a “scene” for wordless, beat-less drone music; so if you’re going to produce it, be prepared to relish time by yourself. Canadian producer Kyle Bobby Dunn thrives in this lonesome endeavour, as you can hear on his second double album Bring Me the Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn, out on UK label Low Point this month.

Dunn’s quiet productions are perfect for contemplation, yet his music is embraced by the frantically-paced blogosphere (as well as Pitchfork, NPR, and the New York Times).  Ambient music tends to promote self-reflection, but Dunn’s sensibility is unique and bluntly honest  (see  Movement for the Completely Fucked), providing introspective people with a soundtrack for their lives. Today, the 26-year-old tells us about the inspiration for Bring Me the Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn, which, among other things, stems from existential limbo and lost love, not to mention an appreciation for Canadian nature … and strip malls.
– Marsha Casselman

How does “Bring me the Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn” differ from your former works “A Young Person’s Guide” and “Ways of Meaning”?

Kyle Bobby Dunn: A Young Person’s Guide was a lot about space, sort of comfortable space with oneself and the world outside of one’s head. There are some sad comforts there as well, but on Ways of Meaning, I tried to embrace the miserable –  to turn bright moments on the ones that looked very bleak. The song Movement for the Completely Fucked was like a smile at a funeral sort of song. The new album is like taking a walk to your favourite lake and finding a big hole there, and still walking around in that hole.

What do you mean by the hole?

I guess I mean that I’ve realized there was once a beauty in my life and being haunted by it still and living with that, it’s like walking around in something that isn’t there anymore, but felt, and it just plays deeply into the new work.

You just released a video for “An Evening with Dusty.” Is there a concept behind that song?

An Evening With Dusty stems from a strange Christmas eve I had in 2004 with this girl and her mother. We sat around drinking espressos and touching the piano until the wee hours. I have no idea what ever happened to them

, they just vanished from my life after that evening. Or maybe I vanished? Either or, I was haunte

d by that evening and it kind of tied a knot about how much of my life in the southern United States vanished in a sad and almost mysterious way.

And what is the inspiration for “Moitie et Moitie”

It’s basically how I can feel pretty awful and pretty good at the same time. How I seem to be one person but also someone I don’t really know – and it’s a daily thing for me.

Moitié et Moitié by kyle bobby dunn

How has your upbringing in Toronto and living in Calgary influenced your work?

I was born outside of Toronto in the Mississauga area and spent a lot of time in the Muskoka and Lake of Bays area when I was a child. The beauty, but rather bittersweet situation of going there to visit relatives and really another life altogether has certainly helped mold the sounds I make now… Calgary has some very beautiful parts mixed in with the very bland, boring, and dullness. I spent a lot of time near the Glenmore Reservoir, Fish Creek Park, and loved stretching out to the foothills and mountainous parts. But in my music anything from a washroom or old video store at a suburban strip plaza to a large, magnificent hill dense in forests has been an inspiration.

And Brooklyn?

I moved there for school and a certain someone, but neither school nor the person worked out for me so I began performing and trying to approach my life as an artist might, but I just don’t know if I am. My new album is basically about being as lost as one might ever possibly be with oneself.

Your music exacerbates what I happened to be feeling at the time, whether it be sadness or hope or peacefulness. Would you say your music attracts ‘feeling types’ or ‘thinking types’?

A lot of both. I actually went on a lot of bike rides and rides out into the country while digesting the sounds of the new songs. I felt like doing things, which might be a good sign for this music that must seem like “inactive” music for a lot of people. There is no rhythm, no catchy chorus line, no rock outs, yet I really want to play concerts at indoor swimming pools and maybe in environments where people can walk around or be adventurous. I think it can also compliment a good, aged glass of wine or whisky though and you wouldn’t want to be in a swimming pool for that. It gets harder and harder to talk about my music without sounding like a complete retard – maybe I am and nobody had the heart to tell me ever.

It’s perfect for meditation. Do you meditate, and do you see others using it for that purpose?

I don’t meditate, perhaps I should. I think the music, for me, is reflective and contemplative. Maybe it can inspire thoughts or ideas, but I really don’t know what exact purpose it serves the listener.

The interviewer at NPR described it as music for lonely people. Perhaps more aptly it’s for introverted people?

I think people are very afraid to embrace the fact that they are all lonely. Even those who sitting around with their friends thinking they aren’t. But I’m not trying to say I am cooler than thou because I am lonely or anything, I just unfortunately feel it more than most people probably. But it’s nice too, I mean I love going out for an evening of terrible dance music or drinks with friends, but I am still very much into being by myself with quieter music playing in my ears. And I suffer weird looks from that still. It’s like people are in some kind of competition to prove they aren’t lonely or something. I would hope any person could enjoy my music, because every person is lonely. I’m sure the NPR guy knows that.

How to be a “rock star DJ”, featuring Justice at HARDfest

justice jesuspose

This summer, Toronto is hosting the most EDM-saturated, Skrillex-ified festival circuit it has ever seen. The turnout at HARDToronto Saturday (an extention of L.A.’s HARDfest feat. Justice and M83) was impressive – still in the thousands – considering we had the choice of Osheaga and Deadmau5-headlined Veld festivals on that same night.

Like never before, big festivals like these are propping up electronic acts on huge stages like rock stars, and there’s been backlash. I can see why: DJs and producers, accustomed to playing the dark corners of clubs, are sometimes not comfortable handling stadium-sized crowds. I’ve seen stage setups with little or no visuals to entertain, except the DJ/producer bopping around, head down. Fans salute and make devil horns as if they’ve just finished a masturbatory guitar solo, despite the fact he/she’s simply played the part of the track where the bass drops. Mostly the DJs aren’t really DJing; they’re live mixing, adding layers, turning knobs. But can most people can tell when they’re witnessing talent, when they’re simply hearing the preprogrammed base track, or if the performers aren’t actually doing anything? Add to that, the idea of putting the producer in front and center of the party, whether their set is live mixed or not, is a concern even for popular electronic acts. Why? Because it is electronic dance music: You’re not supposed to be staring at the stage, you’re supposed to be dancing.

Yet in the case of the French electro-duo Justice on Saturday, I found the DJ=rockstar=popstar spectacle to work, and the French embrace of the cheesiest parts of rock n’ roll can teach us how to put on a good show. Rock fans know very well that much of the live show is posturing. You might get off on seeing Angus Young do his hammer-ons and pull-offs at the beginning ofThunderstruck, but in truth, an amateur guitarist can play that riff. It’s not about talent in that moment either. He’s pretty much “pressing play,” or at least on autopilot.

As an EDM act, Justice aren’t simply pressing play, but are embracing theatrics via hair metal posturing: stadium shows, Marshall stacks, leather jackets, chain smoking, and a slew of groupies. “You guys ROCK!” fans shout, meaning it literally, and their latest 70’s prog-rock-influenced album Audio Video Discogoes further with that epic sound on record. On stage, regardless of what they’re actually doing with that giant modular synthesizer, Justice are performing. They’re absolutely cocky on stage. Xavier de Rosnay got out from behind the decks and stood infront of the cross, arms raised in power pose, for a full unflinching minute. Fans worshiped.

Right before Justice were to hit the stage, we’d endured a torrential downpour (with appropriately hard hits of lightning) for half an hour. The rain stopped, the Justice Cross lit up, and we were suddenly at a drenched disco version of an AC/DC concert. Thunderstruck.

I’ve resigned to the fact that this is dance music in pop form, and that it’s okay. And if you’re going to perform it, do it with swagger. Or at least some epic visuals. I believe this stadium EDM can exist concurrently with small club gigs, but I prefer the latter, where you’re not there for the spectacle up front, you’re there to party with the people. You’re facing the front of the room, but not fixated on what the performer is technically doing. It’s dark, it’s distorted, you’re dancing, and the “DJ” is doing his/her job – not impressing you with stage antics, but modifying his set to keep you moving.

Blog digging producer Ryan Hemsworth a long way from Halifax

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth, a 22-year-old bedroom producer from Halifax, has risen to recognition over the past year with a couple of blog-hyped EPs, and is now commissioned to do remixes for the likes of French “electro-bro” Brodinski’s label, Bromance Records. I discussed his strategy in theJuly issue of AUX’s ipad magazine. Aside from producing for nu rappers like Main Attraktionz, he’s got a knack for remixing a mash of genres, from pop to RnB. Speaking of which, you’ll likely hear his 48-hour-old remix of Frank Ocean’s Thinkin Bout You this Saturday as he plays Wrongbar’s monthly SLOWED event in Toronto.

Here is the rest of my  interview with Hemsworth, who plans to drop an new EP, Last Words, this month. Now living in Ottawa for the summer, he talks about being the centre of attention when he DJs, spinning music that is too slow for me to dance to, and how he now gets 30,000 hits on his Soundcloud tracks despite being so new, and rarely having met anyone he’s working with.

What are you listening to these days, and how would you describe your own music?

I listen to as much music as I can, whether it’s house, UK dance, rap, old, new, whatever. I’m honestly making a few different styles of music. I produce rap for rappers and as a solo artist I make dance music, dark electronic music.

Who are your fav rappers right now?

Main Attrakionz, Danny Brown, Meek Mill, Gunplay, Flocka, Travis Porter, and I’m always into Three 6 Mafia, Tommy Wright, and other Memphis artists’ back catalogue.
Cold & Tempted by Ryan Hemsworth

How does someone from Halifax hook up with making beats for stoner rappers from Oakland?

I’ve never met Shady Blaze or any of the rappers I work with. We’ve communicated and collaborated entirely through emails and Twitter. I’ve been working with him for a while. He’s a super quick worker, we did a free album last summer (Distorted) in no time at all. I just emailed him one day some time in 2011 and asked if he needed beats. He said yes, and we sent stuff back and forth (at a pretty rapid pace sometimes; he works as fast as he raps).

What kind of music were you raised on, and does that influence your production work? (I hear a lot of melody, so I’m guessing you listened to some pop and maybe rock).

In middle school I mainly listened to 90s rock, grunge and all that, but I’ve always loved pop music and appreciated creating something special out of a simple song formula. Listening to every type of music is important to understanding what you like, don’t like, and what works and doesn’t in every context. I enjoy digesting a lot of different genres at a time, which is probably why it makes sense to me to go from Bjork to Dipset in a mix.
Thinkin Bout You (Ryan Hemsworth Bootleg) by Frank Ocean

Your house track “Deros” seems a bit left field compared to your other productions. Are you a house and techno fan and do you see yourself doing more of that in future?

That track was a quick experiment. Once in a while I’ll try to do something different, in that case I was trying to make some darker house, I think. I don’t think it’s healthy to get too comfortable with a certain sound, it gives people a lot to talk about if they want to pigeonhole you or criticize your style. I like house though, I’m a big fan of Brodinski and what Club Cheval are doing in France right now. Maybe I’ll make more stuff like that next week, who knows.
Deros by Ryan Hemsworth

How do you play live? Are you shy of being the centre of attention, and do you consider yourself performing or just part of the party?

I use Ableton for my live sets. My mixes are a reflection of how my performances go down, minus the sweat and all that. I still surprise myself, in that I’m not too nervous to perform really. My brain is weird and instead of panicking before a show, I get sleepy. So pre-show, I’m probably backstage looking like I’m about to nod off, which isn’t a good look, but as soon as I’m up and performing it’s always an electric feeling. As for performing, it’s give and take. The music and performance facilitates the party, but the performer and audience go hand in hand – we’re all hoping the night doesn’t end up sucking.

I find a lot of the music (like what you and Shlomo play) is almost too slow to dance to. Are you concerned with people dancing at your DJ shows?

I share the same mindset as Shlohmo – it’s more interesting to make emotional music at home, but when you get to the club, no one wants to be sad and have a bummer time listening to your slow stuff on a Friday night. In my sets nowadays I literally go from half-time, double-time, to four-on-the-floor and back. I think that’s surprising to people, especially if you’re used to going to house shows or certain nights that is a consistent speed and style the entire time. I’m not a fan of listening to the same stuff all night and I think the element of surprise is important, so I’m not scared if people get a little put off by that or aren’t sure how to react (as long as they’re not walking away). Every show is a learning experience.

Ryan Hemsworth – SLOWED SUMMER by Scion Sessions

What’s next for you?

I’m just finishing up my next EP, which is coming out in August with Wedidit Collective, who I’m working with now. Shlohmo, RL Grime and Groundislava are just a few on the team, it’s really just a group of some of my favourite artists so I’m really excited to be a part of it. I’ve got some remixes lined up from Shlohmo, Canblaster and Sam Tiba to name a few. And I’ve got more production to come for Deniro Farrar and Main Attrakionz.

But I heard you’re graduated from journalism school – what do you plan to do with that?

I’ve finished studying at University of King’s College in Halifax this year. I’m in Ottawa for at least this summer and we’ll see after that. I just finished school in the city I grew up in all my life, so naturally I’m taking some time away from both of those things. Hopefully music can keep me afloat because I’m not too interested in reporting on boring local news right now.

Tampons, A&R hawks and heavy metal acceptance

dentata tampon

Having recovered from Canadian Music Week, we have a few observations to share beyond the usual “this band played, they were good” reviews.

Major labels: Good luck scouting the underground

As major labels continue to cannibalize each other, some say into complete irrelevency, you might think big deals at CMW are a thing of the past. So I was shocked to see a group of grey-haired suited-up men from one of the “Big 4″ major labels scouting Toronto jazz-hip hop fusers Badbadnotgood and Montreal DJ/producer Lunice at Wrongbar Friday. “He’s a cute little bugger isn’t he?” one of them remarked of Lunice. Bugger? I responded that I’ve been eyeing him for a while. Interest in Lunice has likely doubled since he’s paired with Scottish electronic prodigy Hudson Mohawke to for a bass-hip-hop project calledTNGHT. The president of said major label was particularly smitten with Montreal singer-producer Ango, who took the stage with BBNG for a rendition of Sade’sNo Ordinary Love. Still, I don’t see any of these acts wanting to sign to a major, and the A&R reps were too busy drinking to notice a more unknown breakout act, a last-minute opener from Montreal named Black Iris Black Atlass – a doomed soulful voice which could rival The Weeknd. – Marsha Casselman

The date change wasn’t such a bad thing after all

There was some hand-wringing this year about CMW’s controversial decision (at least among insider types) to move the festival from its usual pre-SXSW perch to the week after the Texas fest. The date change didn’t exactly bring in a huge payload of notable names, and surprisingly tacked CMW on after Austin, but it did even one score between it and its superior Toronto summer festival, NXNE: the weather. Instead of its usual freezing rain, the festival coincided with unseasonable summer-like weather that allowed for more NXNE-style daytime events (typically our favourite part of any festival). Audio Blood Media’s Thursday party, for instance, screamed NXNE, taking place as it did on a Chinatown rooftop, with free cold beer, Sneaky Dee’s nachos and the “Jagerettes” handing out branded underwear. Okay, that last bit was a bit strange. – Richard Trapunski

Bands should use props more often

In a sea of indie bands who often just stand there and play, it was refreshing to see a little theatrics at CMW. We projected there would be blood on stage for gothic punk-metal band Dentata at our Comfort Zone showcase Saturday, but we didn’t expect this kind of blood. When frontwoman lifted her skirt to reveal her stained underpants, then from somewhere pulled out a bloody tampon AND put it in her mouth – the audience was in shock, awe and delight. Luckily it was fake blood – at least that’s what we’re hoping. You might want to double check the Untold City’s footage.  Truthfully though, this kind of stunt might be relegated to the punk and metal world. (Dentata’s new lineup certainly beefs up the metal content with their flawless cover of Metallica’s “Jump in the Fire”.) – Marsha Casselman

Toronto likes metal, so where’s it at?

Okay, we get it. Toronto is an indie rock/electronic/Drake-centric city. At least, that’s what the Toronto press would have you believe. The amazing crowd at the CMW Metalliance Showcase would have disagreed with you entirely. Featuring a stellar bill of heavy metal artists including Dying Fetus, Job for a Cowboy, DevilDriver (and more!), the Metalliance showcase was sparsely attended by media and CMW staff. An utter shock, I can assure you, given the fact that the show was one of my most exciting festival experiences. The love and loyalty Toronto displays to heavy metal is without par. Vancouver’s ‘3 Inches of Blood‘ were the only Canadian heavy metallurgists to appear on the bill (considering the impressive body of heavy metal to come out of Canada recently, this is in itself a shock. I would have liked to have seen Calgary’sMares of Thrace on the bill) . 3 Inches of Blood is touring in promotion of their hot-off-the-press NWOBHM-inspired release Long Live Heavy Metal, which is a fine sentiment for a showcase that saw little to no attention from the festival itself, but a truly inspiring turnout from Toronto metalheads who moshed and headbanged up a storm in support. (though the moshers got their share of pushing and shoving in. One kind gentleman gave me a rather unpleasant shot to the sternum in his attempts to start a one-man moshpit). Given the fact that the Opera House was packed to the gills, I can only hope that CMW hears the call and offers more (and better promoted) Canadian metal next year. – Chris Wright

Mares of Thrace The Pilgrimage

Album Review: Mares of Thrace “The Pilgrimage” is the most evil thing

Tearing out of the gate with all the fury and ferocity of their fire-breathing, flesh-eating namesakes, Calgary doom-noise duo (and newest members of Sonic Unyon Metal) Mares of Thrace have unleashed the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed 2010 debut The Moulting. Titled The Pilgrimage and broken into three acts thematically tied to the biblical story of King David and his seduction of Bathsheba, this record is without a doubt one of the most evil things I have ever had the privilege to listen to.

Seriously. It’s this and Reign in Blood.

The duo’s sound has been refined quite a bit since The Moulting. The former bassist in Juno-winning metallers KEN Mode, Thérèse Lanz’s uses a super-modded baritone guitar (complete with a bass pickup designed by Converge’s Kurt Ballou). It’s an instrument capable of sounding crushing, crunchy and perfectly melodic all within the same song. Stefani MacKichon’s pounding, jazz-trained drum attack also demands some serious kudos, but Mares of Thrace have axed some of the more experimental breakdowns that could be found on The Moulting in favour of a more consistent assault on the eardrums. Lanz’s vocals are perfect for the kind of rabid-animal sound the band’s music creates, and she shifts effortlessly between her hardcore-influenced screams and a damn impressive death growl.

The Gallwasp by Mares of Thrace

Tracks like The Gallwasp really define what makes Mares of Thrace such a pleasure. It begins with a slow, lurching riff that violently gives way to MacKichon’s relentless pounding of the drum and Lanz’s horrific shrieks and roars. This is strongly-flavoured extreme metal and it tastes so good (though I suspect if Mares of Thrace were a beverage, it would be a rather noxious flesh and blood puree).

The duo still find opportunities to play with their sound – a too-rare thing in modern heavy metal. The centrepiece of Act III’s The Three-Legged Courtesanis a thoroughly sinister-sounding riff that reminds me of the kind of void-evoking doom metal that Pallbearer recently mastered so perfectly. Make no mistake though, Mares of Thrace are all about throwing you into the fire, and there’s no shortage of wailing and gnashing of teeth on The Pilgrimage.

If you’ve read our coverage, you might remember my bellyaching about the lack of attention paid to metal in the Canadian music industry. The Pilgrimage could potentially do everything to change that. This album is all venom, fury and fire. Let’s hope it peaks the interest of the metalheads on the Polaris Prize jury this year.

Dentata’s got bite


Dentata’s got bite3 a.m. is no time to begin writing. But Canadian Music Week has had me up all night, bouncing from one sweaty, gross venue to the next. I guess many of us will have to do the same thing today. It’ll be a tough slog. Toronto’s Dentata aremuch tougher than that. In fact, they’re the most hard-bitten thing you’re likely to hear during CMW. In what seems to be a nebulous mix of indie rock bands and singer-songwriters (and I must stress I love seeing these artists as well), Dentata are mean, scary, and rough.

Their sound reminds me of the earliest of Hole records, back when Courtney Love had Kurt Cobain writing her songs and she still seemed to possess an ounce or two of credibility. They play a thick, heavy version of gothic punk that demanded I follow them up with a serving of Black Sabbath and Black Flag.

Dentata have been making the rounds in the Toronto scene for a while now. We covered them back in 2011 as one of our bands to watch. Since then they’ve gone through a line-up change (their drummer left the band this year) and they’re hard at work on an EP. What you really need to know is that that this kind of blistering punk is rare these days, and Dentata are making a great brand of raw, aggressive music.

They attracted the attention of filmmaker Richard Kern, who’s work with artists like Henry Rollins and Sonic Youth makes Dentata seem like a natural fit. The video for Earwig (above) was released earlier this year, and makes the most of the band’s sex appeal (Ha. As if Kern is interested in doing anything else).  Yeah, Dentata are a pretty sexy band, but there’s a great sound behind their image, and their music is what makes Dentata so intense on stage.

Seriously. If nothing else, they have a great name.