The complete Q&A: Raine Maida

 

 
 
 

MONTREAL - Our Lady Peace is about to embark on a cross-Canada tour, during which the band will play two shows in most cities – one featuring a complete performance of the 1997 album Clumsy, and one featuring the 2000 album Spiritual Machines. The tour comes to Montreal’s Olympia (1004 Ste. Catherine St. E.) on March 9 and 10. Tickets cost $49.50. Call 514-790-1245 or order at www.admission.com.

The Gazette’s Jordan Zivitz spoke with Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maida as the band was rehearsing for the tour. Here’s a transcript of the interview.

Gazette: So, the blindingly obvious question first: Why do Clumsy and Spiritual Machines out of all the albums at your disposal?

Raine Maida: Well, I’ll tell you … we’re in the midst of rehearsals now, and it’s a lot of work. Clumsy, we play half that record anyway, but … (Pause) I would have gone with Naveed, honestly. I think all of our first thoughts were to do that record, and maybe Spiritual. But we couldn’t come to a really clear decision, so we put it up to our fans – we put the call out on a couple different websites – and those were the two records.

Gazette: I thought you were going to say that you would have opted for Naveed and Clumsy, which seemed like the two most obvious choices. I was happy to see Spiritual Machines chosen.

Maida: Yeah, we wanted to do Spiritual, so we were happy that that was a favourite. I probably shouldn’t even say this out loud, but rehearsing Spiritual and having all those R.K. intros – Ray Kurzweil; he speaks in between songs – it’s going to be such an amazing show.

Gazette: You didn’t really get to do that very much on the original tour for the album, right?

Maida: We didn’t, no. And there’s a few songs on that record that we’ve never played. I’m in love with that record. It’s got such a flow and a vibe. It’s going to be really powerful.

Gazette: That’s funny, because I was under the impression from some interviews I’ve read that you had some problems with that album.

Maida: I’ve probably suppressed some stuff, but my memories of it right now are pretty good. (Laughs) I mean, it was a hard record to make; it was the last record we made with Arnold (Lanni, producer), and he wasn’t as present during that record. I think our aspirations were pretty lofty with that record, in terms of the whole Kurzweil thing, and trying to base it around a book that was half out of my realm, definitely. I think we all thought that we understood it, but at the end of the day, you’re talking about a really brilliant man and a pretty profound book. So it took a while to get right, and lyrically as well. But I appreciate the work I did lyrically; it does all tie together. As I sing these songs, it has that feeling of fixing things, and kind of where Ray was going in terms of being able to fix anything and possibly living beyond the realm of any human being and whatever anyone could think of a human living.

Gazette: It certainly makes sense to perform it in this way; it seems like your most indivisible album, where it doesn’t feel right reaching in and plucking just a few songs.

Maida: Exactly. And I think that’s why we’re so excited. Clumsy will be great, too, because there’s a lot of hits on there and people know them, but when we start running through the Spiritual stuff, it’s all so connected. It’s going to be a great hour of music.

Gazette: What about Clumsy, in terms of how you view that album now?

Maida: It sounds fine. I think it’s going to be great – I think the familiarity will be what really sells that record as a whole, playing it. What we’re really trying to do here is basically put on two shows every night. The album version is the first hour, then intermission, and then we come out and do another hour and a half of other songs. And as people probably expect, and as I think we’ll deliver, it’ll be mostly hits after that. But we’ve really made an effort to make sure that both sets are very different from each other, lighting-wise and the look of each set. So I think people will walk away feeling like they kind of saw two shows.

Gazette: Or four shows, if they’re going both nights.

Maida: Exactly, yeah.

Gazette: How deep is the well of songs you’re drawing from for that second half?

Maida: We’re just working on that right now, actually. We just went through the sets again, and now we’re trying to discuss it. I think a lot of it’s going to be how much my vocals can take. Especially on Spiritual – it’s an acrobatic record. It’s a little taxing, but I think at the end of the day, people will get 25 songs. I think we feel like there’s a bunch of songs we need to play, but I’m sure there’s going to be a handful of others – we’re talking about three or four deeper cuts that we haven’t played. And it’s funny – playing Are You Sad? again; we used to play that, but we haven’t played it in a while – it’ll be hard for us, the way we’re all feeling about that song right now, not to put it in the regular set on the Clumsy night.

Gazette: Right. So are you going to be doing that? If people go to both shows, will the second half be more or less different each night?

Maida: Yeah, just by virtue of the fact that those records have already been spoken for; you’re not going to hear any of those songs in the second set. And with Clumsy, we’ll have to augment a bunch more, because all of a sudden, like, five of our hits are gone out of that set. (Laughs) But so be it. I think that the charm of doing this, is that it’s going to be something different for everyone.

Gazette: So it’s not like Superman’s Dead is going to be played in the second half of the Spiritual Machines night? It would be restricted purely to the Clumsy set?

Maida: That I don’t know. We don’t want to be too ambitious, in terms of what fans are expecting. I think the majority of people, yeah, you want to hear Spiritual, but then you do want to hear the songs that you’ve grown up with. I think there’ll be a crossover, but it’s going to give us the chance to implement some other songs that we haven’t played for a while, because there’s space in the set all of a sudden.

Gazette: That idea of growing up with these songs…how do you figure the audience is going to be on this tour? Do you think you’re going to get some older fans back who might have lost track of the band in recent years?

Maida: I think so. That’s kind of the excitement of the tour. A lot of it is spawned from them – especially the Spiritual fans. From Spiritual Machines to Gravity, with Bob Rock: We made a lot of new fans with that record, but those are vastly different records. And there are people who like Spiritual Machines and like Happiness, and they hate everything else. (Laughs) Which is fine. So yeah, I think this is going to bring a variety, in terms of our fan base. And I think what’s best about this whole process, and doing the work, is that the records sound different, yes, but when we play it live, the way the band is now, it all fits again. All of a sudden everything really is sounding cohesive again, in terms of the way we play it and the energy and just where we are as a band. And the live show is by far better than it’s ever been. It feels really great.

Gazette: I imagine it’s especially been a big deal for Steve, since he wasn’t in the band for either of these albums.

Maida: It is. Well, Spiritual Machines – when we first spoke to Steve, I think that was thing that made him really want to be a part of this. That was a big record for him. He was living in Michigan at the time, and it got played a lot on Detroit radio and a little bit deeper where he was living, and it was a record he bought and grew to know the band on. And he’s such a great guitar player … that record is pretty dense, and the fact that we can basically do it as a three-piece, with me playing some acoustic guitar and stuff, is pretty amazing.

Gazette: Yeah, I remember seeing the Spiritual Machines tour and being impressed at how the arrangements came off on stage.

Maida: Yeah, and that’s what we’re really feeling now. If there was any trepidation when we were discussing this and it was just an idea, it’s amazing how it all was able to come to life. It’s funny – the songs sound better to me. We were all talking about it last night: We finished rehearsing at 1 in the morning, and we were just like, “I wish we were this good as musicians and that the confidence was this good when we made that record.” Because there’s a lot of power in these songs now.

Gazette: What is it that you think you bring to these songs now that you couldn’t when you recorded them?

Maida: You know what it is? I think it’s an acceptance. I don’t know if that sounds pretentious or not, but over the last three years – speaking for me, but I think the other guys feel this way as well – you’re in a band for the first 10 years, and you sign to Columbia Records and you’re getting flown all over the world and doing shows, and people are paying a lot of money for our videos and all that stuff, it’s like this carrot that’s still being dangled. Even though you’re in it and you have your fans, and we’re making money and we’re supporting ourselves, it still feels like, “You know what? This is a really ridiculous way to make a living. How long is this s--t going to last?” But then there’s a tipping point, where you feel like, “You know what? This is it. This is what we do. We’re artists and this isn’t going away, and no one can take this away.” There’s something to be said for the way we made this last record, Burn Burn: we did it completely on our own, at my place, and I think it’s a really strong record. So that acceptance has really sunk in from everyone, in terms of, “Yeah, we are this. It’s a real part of us.” And whether there’s a label or not, the music business is kind of irrelevant to us, because we are our own little entity now, and can either co-exist or exist without it. I guess it’s a little bit liberating.

Gazette: Is it also a bit of gratitude as well as acceptance, after what you went through while making Healthy in Paranoid Times?

Maida: Oh, definitely. We definitely felt like this was something we had to challenge ourselves with and see if we could do, because there was no way we were going back to that time. We exerted way too much energy for a record that should have been much simpler. Without delving too deep into that whole story, we just felt like, “Okay, we need to go completely at the opposite end of the spectrum, keep everyone out of the studio, just get back to four guys trusting their instincts.” And that’s what we did, and it worked for us. It’s validating in a way. I think it’s made the band feel like the brotherhood is bigger than ever and the confidence is bigger than ever.

Gazette: I read an interview with Duncan not so long ago where it sounded like you were already working on a new album along the same lines as Burn Burn.

Maida: We definitely are – we’ve already started writing. But playing Spiritual and really having to analyze those songs again, even me going back to a lot of those lyrics – playing the hits is one thing, but playing some of the deeper tracks, it’s really brought me back to the great things about this band. So I think our fans – especially for people of that ilk, who like those records – I think they’re going to find a lot of that stuff creeping its way back into our music. Because we have complete control again, and now we’re able to basically do what we want. So even conceptually, what we’re talking about for the next record, in terms of the way it’s going to be recorded and how we’re going to it, it’s definitely the same way as Burn Burn – we’re just going to do it on our own. But I think we’re going to have a little bit more fun even than what we did with Burn Burn and really push the boundaries again.

Gazette: So, how did the decision come up to do this tour to begin with? Not just the specific albums, but to concentrate on albums at all? Because I don’t think you did that much touring for Burn Burn, did you?

Maida: Yeah, we did. Not in Canada, but we toured the U.S. all summer and right into November. I think we did close to 100 shows in the U.S. Our schedule was so busy down in the States that when we finally started talking about Canada, we said, “We can’t just do this. We have to try to do something different and a little bit more special.” This felt like a way to… I don’t want to say give back, because it’s not really that, but this felt like a way to put on something different for our fans. There are people up there who have seen us 60 times, or 50 times, or 30 times. So for those types of fans, we really wanted to push the boundaries in terms of the experience they have at one of our shows.

Gazette: I think it is giving back in a way; you’re still charging money, so it’s not totally altruistic, but playing a complete album is definitely a way of acknowledging fans who have been with you for a long time, I think.

Maida: Yeah, we feel really good about it. And maybe the next tour we can do a couple different records. We’ll see how it works out. But so far, I’m really excited about it.

Gazette: Are there any albums you would never do this with?

Maida: I don’t think so. I think Happiness would be a challenge as well, because of the depth of the sounds, and the sonic palette on that record is pretty varied. But anything goes. It’s funny – I’m playing tambourine on a song. I don’t think I’ve ever shaken a tambourine in my life on stage. (Laughs) But you have a bit of a different outlook when you go to tackle a record in its entirety, because like you said, it’s this piece of music. It’s not just these hit songs that get played on the radio. And it’s meant to be, in our minds, this listening experience. So that first set isn’t going to be like this big rock show; it’s going to be almost like us in the studio recording it again, and getting that kind of feel and really playing it well. So that’s why on a song called Made to Heal I’m playing tambourine. Because there’s a tambourine on the record, so I’ve got to do it.

Gazette: I imagine that’s also why you’ve chosen the venues you have for the tour, right? I mean, Massey Hall isn’t exactly a huge rock palace.

Maida: No, we want it to sound good. We really want the sonic quality to be there. And even the lighting. I went and saw this show the other night here in L.A.; this friend of mine’s a singer-songwriter, an incredibly talented young artist, and we went to this…it’s not a club; it’s basically this big studio that a guy named Bob Clearmountain runs. He’s a big producer and runs this thing called Apogee; it’s analog-to-digital converters, really high-end stuff. And where Apogee’s headquarters are here in Santa Monica, they have this big room, and there’s a studio in there. So they invited like 80 people in, and the environment…they made a record there that night, basically. There was a mixing desk there, and he was behind the console; so you have Bob Clearmountain basically mixing your show live and recording it at the same time. We all went, and it just really helped us; it felt like, that’s how these album sets have to be. They have to be like you’re there, you’re living this record again, just like you had headphones on. We’re doing our best. The music itself – because it’s a little bit bombastic, you’re talking about live rock drums, there’s always something that you have to let go of, but I think it’s going to sound pretty good.

Gazette: Do you think of yourselves as an “album” band?

Maida: Ever since Clumsy came out and everybody jumped on our bandwagon and we had all these big hits and sold a lot of records, we were always really cautious of saying, “It’s not about this record for us. We want to have a body of work.” But I feel like we’ve gotten close to that now, where we can go play records and people want to come see it. So I feel like, through all the bulls--t of this industry and the pressure it can put on a band once you’ve had success and then you didn’t and then you had it again, we were able to kind of navigate those waters. And I think we’re much further down the road than we could have been, considering some of the stuff that’s happened in the band and some of the problems we’ve been through.

Gazette: When did you start feeling like you were a legacy band, if that doesn’t sound too highfalutin?

Maida: We don’t really feel like that, but we do appreciate all the work we’ve done. Especially seeing the state the business is at now, and how difficult it is for new bands to forge a career. It’s a different time. So I think we’re really appreciative of everything that we have. And it’s not like I would go out there and be one of the haters against Sony Music or Columbia; it’s not that at all. We were able to get through our whole contract and make a bunch of records for them, but still keep the fact that we’re I think more than what a record company perceives us and more than just songs that were on the radio. I think that was always important to us, and we’ve been able to prove that to ourselves.

Gazette: You were talking about it being so difficult for younger bands; I don’t think it’s only that. It’s also your contemporaries to a degree. I was trying to think of other bands you grew alongside that are still going or that could do this kind of tour with the amount of material they have, and I was at a loss.

Maida: Yeah, it’s funny; we get that a lot. I don’t know how we made it, but we did.

Gazette: Do you ever reflect on that, or does it just feel like second nature that you’ve lasted this long?

Maida: It’s not second nature. It’s always humbling when you think about it. When we walk out on stage every night…we hadn’t been to Texas in seven years before this last tour, when we went down there. We sold out, like, three House of Blues dates. And these are big House of Blues theatres – 2,200 people, 2,300 people. I wasn’t in tears, but I was really kind of choked up when we walked out on stage. All these people that are still supporting us, and it’s humbling. We’re really grateful for that connection. Whatever it was that we did – through our music, or live shows, or somewhere in the middle – the fact that people are still with us and as passionate as we are is pretty amazing.

Gazette: You’ve never struck me as a band – or a person – who takes that connection for granted, having seen your shows. At least in Montreal. There always seemed to be an appreciation for the response you were getting.

Maida: Absolutely. I think you always have to be in the moment for those things. Those moments when you’re on stage, when you have all that feedback and people singing your songs back to you – if you’re not enjoying that, then something’s wrong. We’re lucky: we get to enjoy that at 95 per cent of our shows. It’s moving, and we’re respectful of the fact that people have grown up with us, or if there’s new fans that they’ve been turned on to us somehow. It’s a great thing for us. And Montreal’s always been a special place for us. Besides the fact that it’s probably my favourite city in Canada, the culture there is much closer to European culture – obviously – and I think that parallels the way they view the arts there. And music fans are very passionate people, so those are always great shows every time we’re there.

Gazette: Is there any particular show you remember where you started to get that feeling early on, where Montreal differentiated itself?

Maida: Yeah. We played Foufounes on our first tour across Canada. Once we made Naveed, we toured and we were opening for I Mother Earth. And that show was like, “Oh my God, I want to do this forever.” It was one of those really hot, sweaty, crazy club shows. It just gets in your pores and you feel like, “Wow, whatever we have to do to make this continue and preserve it.” The high I remember we all got from that, when we were loading our own gear into our van afterwards…and I remember it was freezing outside, but it was awesome. Incredible. I remember going into Montreal, because we were based out of Toronto, we’d come to Montreal and play…I don’t even remember the place…

Gazette: Jailhouse, I think.

Maida: Yeah, Jailhouse. Stuff like that. People really didn’t know us back then. But we’d go to Foufounes to see bands after our show or if we had a night off. And back then, I was like, “Man, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could play here?” And we finally got to, and even though we were opening, it was off the charts.

Gazette: Have you seen any shows where a band has performed a complete album like you’re doing on this tour?

Maida: I haven’t, no. Steve saw Devo here in L.A. last year, but they just did the record and that was it. So a very short show, and there was really no talking in between the songs, and it wasn’t his favourite Devo record that they did – I can’t remember which one. He said he really appreciated the experience, but felt like it could have been more. We kind of borrowed a bit from that, in the sense of wanting to make our show an evening-length concept. Even our merch; I think we’ve really gone the distance on the merchandise and the different things we’re selling. There’s a lot of stuff very specific to this tour. Old Bill Graham-style posters we have that are very specific to each record, and a tour book of the stuff we’ve been doing in the U.S., and some of the rehearsal stuff for this tour. It’s all very specific to this upcoming tour. Hopefully this will all be another great OLP memory in people’s minds; if they have a few others, hopefully this will be the top one.

Gazette: What would your dream show be, in terms of seeing another artist playing an album from front to back?

Maida: I was always a huge Soundgarden fan, and I’d love to see them do Badmotorfinger. It had a real sound to it, just the way it was produced – it was very cohesive. What else…it would be incredible to watch U2 do The Unforgettable Fire. That would blow my mind. Getting back to the way they were without all the pomposity. Just those guys. I’ve watched the video a few times where they’re making that record with Eno and Lanois, and there’s something very humble about them when they’re making that. It would be amazing to see them get back to that place. That innocence – there was something really genuine about it. They were kind of discovering themselves and discovering some guitar sounds.

Gazette: I talked to you when The Hunters Lullaby came out, and you said that the security of Our Lady Peace was getting to you. Is this tour a way to feel less secure and challenge yourselves more? Is less security still a good thing for you?

Maida: I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t feel that with this. Like I said, there’s that whole awareness thing, an acceptance, that’s given us a new attitude. So I think we feel really secure in this and really proud of what we’re going to put out there on this upcoming tour. My solo thing… I’m just finishing another solo record right now, and that’s something that’s easier to do now, obviously – the fact that I have my own studio and the fact that we don’t have to tour as much as we did before. We’re really content as long as we can get out and get to enough of our fans on each record now. It’s just a really good flow happening now. And there’s really no tension. We were talking about it earlier today – we were asking, when’s the record going to be done, when are we going to put it out, are we going to do some other OLP shows this summer. It’s a really good place. It’s amazing to see where we are now if you were to see us three years ago.

Gazette: Just seeing the documentary in the Healthy in Paranoid Times package, I can get a very vague idea.

Maida: Yeah, and that was pretty PG. (Laughs)

Gazette: Do you think it’s necessary for a long-running band to reach that point eventually?

Maida: I don’t know. There’s something to be said for coming a little too close to the edge, because I think we’re all fairly normal people, but we are artists, and there’s a lot of insecurities with artists in general. So you just don’t want to get to that point where someone says something that you maybe can’t back. It’s kind of like a marriage. You lose that trust. Because we’re doing something so naked and so personal, making music together, that it’d be tough to come back from something like that. So I’m glad we didn’t get to that point. Nothing was taken that far. I think it’s dangerous.

jzivitz@thegazette.canwest.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Story Tools

 
 
Font:
 
Image:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Gazette Headline News

 
Sign up to receive daily headline news from The Gazette.
 
 
 
 

Top Stories from ET Canada