Brendan Canning explains Broken Social Scene’s splintered but still very together existence

[11 October 2008]

By Chris Riemenschneider

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)

It’s not the most conventional band there ever was. But at the same time, it’s not that hard to figure out.’

That’s how Brendan Canning summarized his all-star band/collective/clique Broken Social Scene, which has become the Canadian indie-rock version of “American Idol.” BSS is best-known as the launching pad for “1 2 3 4” mega-hitmaker Feist. Since its 1999 genesis, other members have also gone on to issue albums as Stars, Metric, Jason Collett and Apostle of Hustle.

Over the past year and a half, Broken Social Scene also has become the Canadian indie-rock version of the Wu-Tang Clan, issuing solo albums by its two principal members, Canning and Kevin Drew, under a “Broken Social Scene Presents” brand.

Canning’s record, “Something for All of Us,” is the latest, and thus it’s the album du jour for the BSS tour. The tour doesn’t include the starlet singers, Feist or Emily Haines of Metric, but it will feature Apostle of Hustle’s Andrew Whiteman and Land of Talk’s Lizzie Powell.

Talking by phone from his home in Toronto, Canning gave a more thorough explanation of the beast that is Broken Social Scene.

Are these Broken Social Scene solo albums more like the Kiss solo records or the Wu-Tang Clan’s?
I’d say probably Wu-Tang over Kiss. With Kiss, there was some serious strategizing, because those records all came out at once and the covers matched up. As far as the Wu-Tang goes, their solo acts within the group made better records than those Kiss records. Except Ace’s was pretty good.

What was the strategizing, if any, behind these albums?
It was just sort of necessary because Kevin and I don’t have the other band outlets that everyone else in the group has.

Will there be “BSS Presents ...” albums by other members, or will you focus back on a regular BSS record?
I don’t think we’ll do “Broken Social Scene Presents ...” for anyone else. There are other people within the band releasing other records. And yes, there will be another Broken Social Scene record. We don’t have any kind of date, but we have every intention of doing another one. We are playing songs on this tour that are new Broken Social Scene songs, ones people haven’t heard.

How did BSS come about in the first place?
It was Kevin and myself making the “Feel Good Lost” record. We started recording in the autumn of 1999, with no certain purpose as yet. We had just kind of known each other a bit from around town and decided to get together and make a record. Then we started playing shows, and for those we rounded up a collection of Kevin’s friends and my friends.

We both knew a lot of people in Toronto. So we took some time and all wrote songs together. That was continually happening in 2001. As people came in and out of the city, the band changed; at the end of it all, we had a good body of work to draw on. That was essentially how we came to release the “You Forgot It in People” record.

What exactly is the relationship between BSS and the Arts & Crafts label?
I introduced Kevin and a friend of mine, Jeff Remedios, and they started the label. And it just became this label to house all the different affiliated acts that at least came close to being related to Broken Social Scene - all people who at one time or another have played and maybe still are playing in Broken Social Scene.

So, just to get an idea how Broken Social Scene Inc. works: Do you personally get a cut when Feist sells a T-shirt?
No. I don’t get points on her merchandise. I got a songwriting credit on one of her tunes. That’s as far as I go toward getting into her pocketbook.

Is Feist still a part of the Broken Social Scene scene?
Not so much right now, because her path has definitely taken her to different places. You know, she’s playing the hockey arena here in Toronto next month. She had a really massive single; that really changes things. I’ve known Feist since 1993. It’s great seeing where her career has gone.

BSS seems to be a good launching pad for female vocalists. Any idea why?
Yeah, it has been that way, but then again, I think Leslie Feist would’ve done just fine without Broken Social Scene, too. But we definitely have a lot of female vocalists come in and out of the camp, which has been good for everyone.

So who’d win in a cage match: Broken Social Scene or (fellow Canadian supergroup) the New Pornographers?
I think I’ve probably watched more wrestling than anyone in either band. I went to a lot of matches in the ‘80s, and I’ve actually seen a few cage matches. So I’d have a few tricks up my sleeve. I’d be the one pulling brass knuckles out of my tights. I’d maybe have to keep an eye on (Pornographers drummer) Kurt Dahle. But I think we’d take ‘em.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/brendan-canning-explains-broken-social-scenes-splintered-but-still-very-tog/