For god’s sake, people, stop telling Jag Tanna that I Mother Earth has to release another song.
According to a Q&A that the band did for a small number of people at a nearby restaurant after they blew the roof off of the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts (they’ll likely have to soon start a fundraising campaign for the necessary renovations), Jag doesn’t exactly find those sorts of comments encouraging during the songwriting process. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It makes him walk away from writing.
“I’d love to snap my fingers and go, OK, we’ve got five, six, seven songs, but we all have things that we’re doing right now,” he said.
“When somebody says to me, ‘You have to, you have to,’ it makes me feel like how we felt when we stopped, and we stopped because there were too many we have to, we-have-tos. That took the magic away for us, that’s why we stopped. Our whole thing is, I have the hockey net. You know the kid that has the hockey net in street hockey, and he takes it and he goes home and all the kids are standing there going, ‘We can’t play hockey.’”
“We have meetings and he’s like, ‘No!’ It’s like, ‘Ah, he’s taking his net and going home,’” Brian Byrne added.
“We sit around my kitchen table making a big strategy and I’m like, ‘I quit, I’m out.’ I’ve quit probably in the last year like 12, 15 times. Then I go to the bathroom and I come back and they’re all still at the kitchen table and I’m back in,” Jag said.
“The thing is, he doesn’t notify anyone, he just quits in his head,” Brian said.
Performing in a soft-seat theatre is a bit of an unusual venue for I Mother Earth (although the last IME show I saw pre-reonion was at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay on Feb. 13, 2000), and the crowd, while adoring, may have been a bit more subdued as a result. Some people sat throughout the performance although, by the end of the show, most had left their seats. The performance clocked in at three hours and 20 minutes, requiring an incredible amount of stamina from the band members.
“I don’t really do that well in pacing myself at anything,” Brian said. “It’s a totally different vibe, it’s not like a big bar where everybody’s bombed, it’s a whole different attitude. I really quite enjoyed it. I like how people are really quiet and respectful between songs.”
“It’s a little disconcerting at times, isn’t it, like wait a minute,” noted the moderator, whose name I didn’t catch, although he works for the Weather Network.
“We’re not used to that sort of vibe, that silence,” Jag said.
“It’s a tough thing with the silence, because that’s when people have the opportunity during the silence to bark out things sort of randomly,” said Mr.Moderator.
“We’re not afraid of that.”
Jag noted he wears heavy-duty earplugs during shows and can’t hear anything while on stage. He relies on seeing the crowd in between songs to tell how it is reacting to the set.
The band prefers a lengthy set over a short one, Jag said, noting many of their songs are very long.
“We get into these opening situations and for us it’s just a real drag. For us to play for 45 minutes is what, six songs, seven songs?,” he said.
“Five,” Brian replied.
“We did the Nickelback tour, we played, what, 40 minutes, 35 minutes, our set list was five songs,” Jag said. “We’re like, what do we do now? We’re not even sweating. But to do something like this and just look at each other and go into the extended part or keep it tight … that’s kind of where we live, that’s where we’re happy, that’s where things start to come together.”
“Our direction right now is that we just don’t give a fuck,” Jag said. “Our whole career we’ve frustrated a lot of people because as much as people want to push us into competing with, like, Our Lady Peace, the Watchmen, we just said, no, we’re entirely different. Not better (ed note: yes, better), not worse, just different, we think differently about music. It’s not about writing singles, it’s about writing songs that we like and that hopefully everybody else likes.
“With the new stuff, again, we did We Got the Love and there was no direction. We thought, do we go in a Quicksilver direction, in a Scenery & Fish direction, instead of pointing where we needed to go we just sort of let it go, because that’s how we’ve done everything.
“We made a huge dent in bringing us back with a song that’s over six minutes long and all the record companies are like, ‘How the fuck did you do it?’ because they’re pushing three-minute-long songs. We said, we’re pushing six-minute-long good songs.
“We’re working on a new tune now and it’s better than We Got the Love.”
The moderator at one point referred to Chuck Dailey, who filled in on bass for Bruce Gordon, as Bruce, which led to laughter from people in the audience and calls of “Chuck” and “Not-Bruce.”
At one point, Jag said of percussionist Daniel Mansilla, “He’s more rock than any of us, any fucking Canadian band anywhere, Daniel is more rock.”
In response to a question from a fan who had travelled from Buffalo, New York for the show, Jag noted he had no formal musical training, although he and Chris had their father as a mentor.
“You listen to music, you play it, you do whatever as a kid and it will lead you wherever,” Jag said. “It’s one of those things where, like, I have a million chords that I can play, I couldn’t tell you the name of one of them.”
“You know D and G,” Brian said.
“I know D, but then you add in a toe, a finger. I them them ‘a fancy, a D-fancy,’” Jag replied.
Chuck talked about the process of trying to learn some of IME’s complicated song passages.
“When I’m figuring out the songs I count them and I come to these guys and say, ‘This part is seven-seven … and they’re like, ‘No numbers!’” Chuck said.
“He said, ‘Oh I think this is how you do it,’ and I say, ‘Shh, don’t say anything! Just fucking play the song,’” said Jag.
“But you know what, it helped me a lot because that’s what I did, I started just listening rather than counting and now I can feel it,” Chuck said.
“When we got together to do our big shows at Sound Academy in March, we hadn’t played in so long and going back and relearning, I always used to read about Rush, they would write their album and the be like, ‘Oh man, how are we going to go play this thing?’” Christian said. “And we kind of felt the same, not about everything, some songs are pretty straight up, but we’d listen to Meat Dreams and a couple of other things and like, ‘How the fuck are we gonna play this?’ Not that everything’s so complicated, it’s just how do you make it all work nicely like it’s supposed to.”
Jag talked about the fact that he generally doesn’t listen to their music, except when having to figure out how to play something.
“I’m like, ‘I know the chord, come to me, I don’t want to listen … We did it in sound check and I’m like, ‘Oh, I played it right.’”
One funny moment came courtesy of a guy in the audience after asking Jag about his influences: “Almost the whole concert, all I’m thinking is, ‘Santana and just groovy sexy magic, man.’”
“That’s exactly what I was saying too,” Brian said.
Because he apparently drove to the venue in a time machine and got stuck in 1997, the moderator asked about the process of welcoming a new singer, 15 years after it actually happened and forgetting that it has been talked about to death.
“They have such standards for what they’re creating and for what, I guess, we do together now, so trying to play that catch-up, that was really tough,” Brian said. “They were always really supportive and if I got really twisted, he was always good, he would take me out for drinks. It was a lot of work to catch up to that, these guys have been playing with each other since they were two.”
“Playing live was probably the hardest,” Jag said. “His second show was like 35,000 people. He was barfing, he’s throwing up and we’re backstage like, ‘Do you think the kid’s gonna be OK?’ And sure enough, we walked out onstage, he just took over the whole stage, he climbed the rafters, the crowd was going nuts, it was like, ‘Shit, I guess this is easier than we thought.’”
“There was less flexing,” Christian added.
In closing, Christian had a few words for the fans who have stuck with the band through the eight-year hiatus that ended last March.
“As a band we want to thank all of you guys. You guys could have all went away or just not been interested and we just had a year of amazement because all of our old friends and fans came out … Seriously, we sit around and talk about it, how unbelievable this group of people is that comes to see us. We’re dumbfounded. We don’t know why, but we love it and we want you to know there’s actually a lot more coming, too.”