Raine Maida on Our Lady Peace's Curve and solo work
Raine Maida has been fronting Canadian rock and roll heavyweights Our Lady Peace for 20 years. The band released their finest work in almost a decade this spring in Curve, have been touring North America most of the summer and somewhere in between all that Maida found time to write and record two solo EPs, Pachamama and Pachamama II (available for free download at his website). MSN caught up with Raine while he was in Toronto for OLP's show at Echo Beach to talk writing, family, touring and these brand new EPs.
How did making these EPs differ from your first solo outing The Hunter's Lullaby?
To me, it's the evolution of self-sufficiency to be honest. What's going on here is there's no real drums. There's real elements, but anything that's real in terms of percussion is me just playing it. I've been programming a lot of stuff and having fun doing that and making sounds. I guess the program stuff caught my fancy a little more. I definitely did it on the last record, but a lot of the times I had real drums played over top of the beats. This is kind of just programming, which is cool for me. I love playing percussion. I love improvising on top of programmed stuff. I think for me, what I love about the programming aspect and not having another layered, real, organic kit on it, is the space it allows the track. [Songs] like "Sleep" and different vibes like that, it leaves the space. The more elements you add onto the track, obviously, the less space you leave. I just really like how these things are a little colder and dryer sounding in that sense. There's just more air to it.
Did you tend to write on piano or guitar more often?
The solo stuff, which is interesting, it starts more with a beat. It starts more with the rhythms. I guess, in my head, that's how I differentiate between OLP and this stuff in terms of writing. OLP, definitely the songs that I write are more of a coffee in the morning and an acoustic guitar. This stuff definitely has coffee involved but it's more sitting at a computer with a pad and programming and stuff.
Coffee is your fuel for writing?
Yeah. I never drank coffee most of my life but the last 3 or 4 years, I started to really enjoy it. I don't know why I was scared of it before. I think I'm scared of addiction. I know people get addicted to a lot of different things. I always put coffee into that same monitor, but yeah, I love it now.
I don't remember Chantal's voice being as prominently featured on the last record.
Yeah, you're right, but only in the sense of people saying "Wow, I didn't know you could sing like that." It was people thinking it was my falsetto and stuff. I think on this one, I definitely made a point to just have her. Before, she was involved in the sense that I always had her in to get her opinion on stuff, and she played on a lot of things, a lot of piano. This time I haven't had her in at all, except for "Hey, come sing on this." So when she does come and sing on it, it's meant to be heard.
With Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland seeing all kinds of success as Whitehorse, has it sparked the idea in the two of you to put out a full on collaboration record?
I don't know. I mean, we've talked about it for years and about eight years ago, we almost started doing that, and I don't know, there's something really unique about just having a career. We just played two nights at this winery, called Jackson Triggs in Ontario, just up north in Niagara-on-the-Lake. She did the first night and I played the second night, but we both played together both nights. She sings on a song called "A Mess," on my new EP and that feels like we're making music together. I don't know if it really has to be, in my head anymore, an official Raine & Chantal solo record, or a collaboration record. I think it's just something we can do when it feels right. I would hate to do that just to say that we're doing that. It's almost forcing it to happen. I think the way we're going about it now, it's very organic, and it's just in little spots that really are special, rather than trying to make a record.
Let's talk about "A Mess." It's talking about boxing again, which is a heavy theme on Curve. Was it written during those sessions or afterwards?
That song was written three weeks ago. I wrote and recorded that song in a day. The day before... OLP just finished a north-eastern US run, from Boston to New York to Philadelphia to DC. I wanted to get another three songs up before I left. That was a song that just kind of poured out of me. Wrote and recorded it right away. The thing for me, with the boxing and the martial arts, it's just a part of my life. When I'm at home, I'm spending 3 hours at Robot Fight Club, which is where I take my kid. They do an hour of Jujutsu and an hour of Muay Thai. If I get bored, two blocks down the street is Krav Maga, so I'll jump over there. It's funny, the fighting thing is just always around. Just being around those people, it's pretty inspiring, the level of dedication. I think that's what I really love about it. Obviously the fitness part of it is pretty cool but the intensity and dedication is just something that kind of defines me. It's just such a big part of my life and seeing my kid do it as well, she's always present
Are the kids musical?
Yeah very. Not from us. A friend of ours comes in on the weekends and just does a very open class with them, where they each get a half hour with them and they can just choose whatever they want to do. If my oldest son feels like playing drums, they do a half-hour of drums. If he feels like picking up the guitar that day, they've been doing that for the last few years. They can jam. It's funny, a producer friend of mine who was in the studio the other day, while we were on the road, was borrowing my studio, and had Jenny Lewis in, and my son Rowan was hanging around. All of a sudden, I got video of Jason Lader, who helped us out on Curve, playing bass with my son, Rowan, playing drums. And I'm just like, "Oh, my God. This is ridiculous." Most of the time, I don't even know how they're progressing in their music, because we try, not to be stand-offs, but I don't want to be the person that's teaching them. I want them to be influenced by whatever moves them. I think it's healthy for us to kind of be a bit distant to their music, for now, anyway. And I love that feeling where I was just like "Holy cow, I didn't know you could play a fill like that."
You should put him on the next EP, when it comes out.
You know what, if I don't have to hire a drummer anymore, and I can just bring him out, I'd love it.
So what is the plan? Two EPs just came out, not much marketing behind them, besides you basically saying on Twitter, here's some songs for free.
I just love the idea of it. I love the freedom of it, like what we were talking about with "The Mess." I think as a musician or as an artist it's what you want to be able to do. I think that's why I was so drawn to spoken word eight or nine years ago, in the sense of, the friends that I know who do it, they can write something in the afternoon, then that night, be at some little coffee shop or club and performing it. It was so relevant to me. That was in the day, of you think about our records, and they would take three months to make, and then you only put out a single, so no one really hears the rest of the record for six months. It just seemed like this really archaic way of how art is consumed. For me, I'm at that point now, where I just can write a song in a day and just put it up. I have another three or four more songs almost ready to go and probably in September put [them] up. I've talked about making a CD or record, like eight or nine songs and put it out around Christmas. Maybe package it with these nine songs, as well. I'm not sure. It's just a very interesting time. What it also does, is it just keeps me creative, in the sense that, I feel like I'm always working on something. It's a great feeling knowing that people are going to hear it. I can just put it out there. Definitely in the old music paradigm, sometimes I didn't want to write on the road because I knew that I'd never have a chance to get to it for eight months. You don't want to have something sitting around, knowing that you can just get sick of it, and think it's crap, whether it is or not, just by the sheer fact that you've have had it and have known it for so long. There's something to be said about having that spontaneity and the instantaneousness of being able to record something and releasing it.
There's a song on one of the new EPs called "Dead Flowers" in it you say "the more we learn, the less we know." What did you mean by that?
I think we're just living in a time now where we're just so bombarded with information but our wheels are just spinning. It can feel that so often, whether it's in politics, even the charitable sector, everything's so confusing. You think with information, you would be able to do things, and simplify stuff. I even look at my kids, and I'm just like, "sh*t, it's even more difficult for them,' because they're just bombarded with so much stuff.
We've been talking a lot about the solo disc, but Curve only came out a few months ago. Before writing the record, OLP went out on the road and played Spiritual Machines and Clumsy in their entireties. How much did playing those old records influence chord changes or themes or lyrics, when thinking about making this new record?
Spiritual Machines was big, for sure. Not so much the songwriting or the way I went about writing songs, or even the instrumentation. Just in terms of the mindset. As artists, we were in a really great place when we made that record. We kind of just said, "Screw everything." The fact that we were able to get Ray Kurzweil to talk and give his little excerpts of his book on the record, we had Elvin Jones play on the record, we just had so many great things happen on that record. It felt like we were in a really great, creative place that playing that record reminded us of that space and the experimentation and just kind of where we like to exist. That energy, we were able to tap into that in the studio. It was pretty profound, the fact that we chose that record.
I've heard you say that "Clumsy" is the song that breaks the barrier between audience and band every night. How do you choose where in a set list that sits knowing it'll break that barrier?
Usually, we play that song later. Especially on this tour, for whatever reason, that barrier has been broken really quickly. Even with songs, like this last tour, we started opening with a song called "Rabbits," which is off of Curve. It's one of the later songs [on the record], but for some reason, that song really connects and does that well. I'm not sure why, but it's been pretty amazing to watch it happen. "Clumsy" definitely does that because there are parts that people sing along, but there's so many songs now that the crowd can just kind of sing on their own. It's such a fortunate thing.
How do you choose a set list? There's almost too many hit songs now, that you can't play them all in a night.
And we don't. And this is the first time on this campaign, since we've put out Curve, we've really made an effort to change the set list from night to night and make sure that it's not just, "insert one or two new songs." It's like changing it up, so half the set is different. I think we, in part, did that because we have a lot of fans, like on this east coast trip in the US, we'll have a bunch of fans who will travel, and see five or six shows in a row, so somewhat for them, and somewhat for us. Sometimes the set list doesn't go as well, the flow isn't always as right. I don't know if the audience always notices that, but for us, it's just an interesting thing for us to experiment with. It makes soundcheck exciting. It helps sound check as well, in the sense that you're trying to brush up on songs that we haven't played in a couple of weeks. It definitely makes it, and I would never say the word work, but you kind of have to be on your songs as musicians. It's cool that way.
As you know, we gotta do Five Questions. Five quick questions, one word answers.
Road or Studio?
Lennon or McCartney?
When you hear a song, what usually hits you first; lyrics, melody, or
Song you've written that you're most proud of?
I love "As Fast as You Can" and I love "Dead Flowers."
And in one word, Our Lady Peace?
Verge. It's a precursor.
On the verge of what? Let's close it out with that one. What do you, as a band, still hope to accomplish?
I think what the hope is, is that we're slowly and meticulously becoming a band that matters. I know that can sound so damn pretentious. But I think in our hearts, the effort, and the time that we're putting into this thing, you want it to matter. It isn't about money for us. It isn't about the business. This is about making great records. Any mistakes we have made in the past, and directions we have taken that we don't like, it's about making sure that whatever we leave people with, in terms of the next 10 years, is important in the scope of music. I think Curve was a really big step in that direction for us.