Radio Free Universe (Interview)
Today we speak to George from Radio Free Universe.
Let’s start with this: What’s the history of your band?
We started in 2010. We all played in other bands local to Southern Ontario. My former group hosted an original music night at the Corktown in Hamilton. ON. That’s where I met Ryan our current guitar player. We’ve been through a few line-up changes. In fact, Ryan used to play bass in RFU. It was a weird situation as he is an incredible guitar player, but it made for some interesting changes. It took us a long time to get where we are now. It didn’t just happen overnight. Everyone in the group right now has a deep respect for one another. We are excited to play together, excited for the sound we make as a team. Everyone listens to any suggestion because in the end, we are all listening to each other and trying to get to the same place.
What’s your musical history? (Trained or Amateur)?
I studied classical opera, choral music and jazz. I learned to hate it only because the entire time I was composing my own music. I travelled a great amount and really that’s where my identity as a singer formed. I’ve sung Indian classical music, blues, Sufi singing, 50’s Greek music, reggae, folk, overall anything that felt magical to me, I wanted to own it. As a sound engineer I slept on the floor of some impressive studios working around some serious musicians. This is where I learned the value of self analysis. The best education I’ve had as a writer is exercising that part of my brain that connects my vocal cords to the instant, to a spontaneous place where the music is forming. That’s something you can’t learn from anyone but yourself. I think we are all like that. Ryan (guitar) and Ashton (Drums) studied at Mohawk College (one of the reasons Hamilton has such a vibrant scene). Adam came up in scene in Hamilton. He took his fair shake of guitar and music lessons in rock. He’s been playing in bands and hosting jams for a long time and it shows.
So what can you tell us about your latest album? (Inspiration. Sound. Style.)
Casa del Diablo, is Spanish for “The House of The Devil”
I spent a good deal of time living in the USA. It’s a vibrant real culture from coast to coast. I don’t believe in the devil, but I do believe that people trap themselves in things. The enticement of pleasure and wants that the country truly offers a great deal of opportunity, but it’s also lined with a thirst that is unquenchable. Money can be good, but in the United States it fuels every fire. The country has literally become an evolved beast that feeds of people’s desire and fear. Everything you can think of corruption wise is alive and thriving there. As well as every great innovation and creative spirit. This album is about those things combined with my experience there. At the same time it’s a celebration of sorts. No song judges any one at anytime. Nothing says this is bad or that is good. It’s just an observation. Example ‘American Gun’ is one of those tracks that work for people who don’t like them and people that do. All the songs are observational not so much political. The most amazing thing about that country is with all that going on you find people who are happy and full of love. That’s amazing if you think about it.”
How did you go about making it?
The first 4 tunes were with producer Glen Robinson, we did those at a space called Porcelain in Hamilton. I was also in the process of building Jetpack Studios at that point, but it wasn’t ready. After the first 4 tunes, I think it was Glen who filled me with the faith that I could actually produce a band I was a member of. It was all in treating each other with respect and just kind of doing what I do with other groups I work with.
Anything you’ve learnt as you’ve gone along? Or have you simply tried a bit of everything to see how it works?
Try everything. Find the good in everything. Work hard.
What sort of technology and instruments do you work with?
Jetpack Studio has a Class A Neve Console and tons of real outboard gear. It’s kick ass and we make real records with it because we have the time to explore the song. Most of the time greatness is achieved through hard work. Having this facility has really paid off.
Anything you’re keen to use on your next album?
The same facility!! As now it’s all finished so I’m really excited to mix in a tuned room where acoustic accuracy is created by the physical build of the control room. People just don’t build things like this any more.
Any future plans for your solo work, or do you have other projects on the horizon?
I’m producing a few albums with Mark McMaster over at Jetpack Studios. Most of the work is in song writing mode.
Any plans for upcoming live shows?
Releasing at the Horseshoe Tavern on March 8th in Toronto and the Hamilton release party is March 25th.
An agent has come on board, so a US and Canadian Tour is in the works.
Let’s have a few general questions now. What do you see as a musicians role in society?
Music isn’t about me. It’s about the song. Each song is a being a gift with something to live for. I have no ego only the song does. It tells me who I am and why I’m here. I want the song to do say what it has to say.
How’s the scene different in your country to what we’re familiar with?
Canada? Well it’s spread out. So it’s a bit more isolated. Generally though I can play with almost any style of music and people feel what we do. I’m not sure if that’s Canadians or what, but I think we cross genres a bit more. People here just want to feel something like anywhere else.
-Anything unique to your country?
I have mixed emotions about Canada, it’s a beautiful country with a good amount of hidden dirty secrets. People here are still clutching to the idea that there is a music scene. You can’t have music that’s politically correct and polite as a prerequisite.
Where do you stand on music videos?
Music is audio, the art of the musician ends there. If you can find a way to express that art with a video then you may be able to do something meaningful, or maybe you just find a way to attach the performance characteristics to the song. I don’t fight things like that. I just kind of let them happen.
However for the record, I wish I didn’t have to make the things.
-Do you see their value in today’s world?
The world attaches its own values to things. Videos have become valuable.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Any advice for new bands?
Play all the time. Write 40 complete songs before you do anything. Don’t go to your buddy who went to Fanshaw or Trebas last year and record your records. Write 40 songs, go to a real producer with real credit and a real facility. Stay out of the box (meaning using a computer to mix without a console) and play shit. Learn how to play and jam every day. Don’t buy shitty guitars, get them set up often take care of your stuff and be a pro.
Let’s have some generic questions. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Sci-Fi or Fantasy?
Oh man. Both.
Horror doesn’t scare me. Unless it’s American Politics that shit scares the crap out of me.
Books or Comics?
Trump or Putin?
Anything you’d like to tell our readers?
Buy new music. Play it for your friends. Don’t try to be anything be authentic to what makes you feel something. Trends are for fashion magazines
Any last words for our readers?
Listen to all kinds of everything. Don’t like or dislike your music because you’re friends say so. There is always that guy or girl with “that” opinion that makes fun of your personal taste. Why you like or dislike something is a thing you have to own. There is good music in all categories. We spend too much time defining ourselves instead of learning about each other. Music is the best way to do just that. It’s supposed to unify us, not divide us.