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Kym Brown

Totally Dusted with Brian Borcherdt

Brian Borcherdt

Holy Fuck's Brian Borcherdt sets out on his own with DUSTED and Totally Dusted.

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By Amil Delic

We've been blessed with some beautiful weather in Toronto over that last two weeks. Fourteen straight days of 25 degrees Celsius or better. And everyone seems to been in a better mood. Except for the City of Toronto soccer fields. They aren't looking so hot but feeling it. My shorts are out and I have dug up my hercules sandals because they are the shit. The new bike lock has been purchased because I had lost my keys in the winter thanks to a Stuck on Planet Earth concert at the Mod Club. But I have yet to saw off the original bike lock off. So I did not take my bike to the Brian Borchedt interview, instead I jumped on to the Spadina 510 street car and had begun my journey to the Raging Bull to grab a drink and some lunch with the DUSTED and HOLY FUCK frontman. I was pretty excited because I was introduced to HOLY FUCK back in 2005 and have been a fan ever since. But Brian's new project was a little different with elements of HOLY FUCK minus two bandmates.

We quickly got on the topic of phones as Brian had to take a very important call to sort out some equipment issues and I happened to notice his very snazzy cell.

Amil - How much do phones play a factor in music today?

Brian - I think everyone needs it for part of their networking. Even if it's for fun. Just keeping people interested is what it's all about. As a musician, I have to find a way to make myself seem interesting. It's bogus but you have to do it on a daily basis. And I don't do it. I'm tuned out entirely because I don't enjoy being online for longer then I have to be.

Amil - Do you really think that nowadays an artists has to be "out there" to be recognized?

Brian - Yeah. I do. I don't think you have to personally but I think someone has to for you. And even the people who have this totally edgy image. And you look at this person and you think that they are a freak. And on their own wavelength. And they aren't connected. But they are….some of those people are the ones that are already out there, social degenerates making this mysterious music. They're total nerds. They go home and search Perez Hiltons blog, and they're totally tuned in. They are Instagram'ing. They are at home recording on Garage Band putting stuff out using their MIDI. Not everyone is like that. I'm not like that because I'm old enough that I'm outside of that. Plus, I'm having a hard time picking up on a lot of that stuff.

Amil - And you aren't letting yourself get involved in that social media driven world?

Brian - Yeah. I deliberately don't want to. I believe in the idea of just being yourself. I find that it's getting to a point where I have to give in at some point. Trust me, I've played in enough music festivals and hung out with enough bands to know that the ones that have the weirdo images, they're just as likely to be streaming Americas Next Top Model at the airport.

Amil - That's just fucked up. But I'l take it for what it is.

Brian - But that's the other side of it. Maybe one of the reasons to why my career has changed somewhat and things look different throughout it is because I didn't have the easy opportunity or the self-awareness to really tap into what I thought I was or what I really wanted to do. And that's interesting because I have a documented history where you can watch me grow and sometimes I'd rather not have that because it's kind of like having baby photos for the world to see.

Amil -  I've talked to artists who say that they like having that because they can look back later and hear what they were like back then. They like having those memories. Are there parts of your discography that you would have rather not put out looking back now?

Brian - Maybe not. It depends on how far out of the spectrum you come out from. If someone is growing up within this system of downtown Toronto or have exposure to something inspiring and interesting, it's good to see all the varieties of things they express and who they were. But then again, when you're coming from a whole different world from a fishing town that didn't have any outside influence. There was a time in my life when I thought Stone Temple Pilots were edgy because I didn't have an older sibling. There is no art schools, no culture, no community or campus radio to tune into. No compass to guide you in any direction. It is interesting because I do think I had that dousing rod that eventually lead me to something cool that I felt was expressing me for who I was. But I think it was a difficult way of getting there. I should be proud of that and I think I am. I say "I think" cause it's hard to be sure because I need to look further outside or I need deeper perspective. Maybe in 20 years, I'll go "this is all really cool" and I think it does look a little different than a lot of the average persons bio because I started out in a lot of melodic, grungy, experimental metal and…

Amil - Like the Melvins?

Brian - Yeah. The Melvins.

Amil - They are going back on tour as Melvins Lite.

Brian - Yeah. First coming to Toronto, I was out watching Melvin's shows. I think that's all really cool but I feel like it's all a mile away from what I am now and a mile away from HOLY FUCK. I guess it's just a broad canvas and I that's really good. I think that's only natural and I think that most people do have very eclectic tastes. But maybe most people are more clever at refining it to somethings that's easily absorbable.

Amil - For all the people that love HOLY FUCK, how does the transition work to DUSTED in your head?

Brian - I guess that's it. If you look at the wider canvas, you see that there is elements of all of it. Maybe I took too much acid in my youth but I really wanted to approach things from a certain philosophical view and that was also fun. I wasn't going to over think or be to pretentious about it. But I saw that a lot of what I was inspired by and a lot of musicians that I was listening to were just trying to add something new to the universe. I just wanted to take a stab at something that was totally different from what I was doing already and new in my own universe, my own life. It started largely with a concept --food arrives & we both get Tuna Melts----I wanted to do something that was different and challenging to myself, and HOLY FUCK was that outlet. It was tremendous fun and it is tremendous fun. And I think that fun and excitement comes through in the music. Hopefully the fans see that and that it becomes contagious. I want people to respond to it because there is a sort of energy to it. There is something pure and innocent about it, inspite of what some people think of the name. But I think the name is pure and innocent in itself.

Amil - In reality, lets all grow up for a second.

Brian - Exactly. Let's have some fun. I think that's natural. And at the end of the day, I learnt to play guitar first. Like most people probably. Grew up with a wide array of records and some of the ones that affected me most were the ones that really felt had a certain lasting emotional connection; whether it Nervana or whether it was Neil Young. The albums that hit me on a deeper level and you always seem to return to those. It's like every time you go out and have fun and party a bit hard, the next day you have to return to ground zero. You have to return to who you really are and I think when I do that, what is really there at the core is something that hums away or drums away in more of a moody…

Amil - Like a "Low Humming". (Track #4 off Total Dust)

Brian - Yeah. Exactly. It comes back to the resident mood.

Amil - If you could define DUSTED without referencing; cleaning, coke, PCP or  drinking a town dry, how would you describe DUSTED? Maybe go into how you and Leon met and how the whole project arose?

 

Brian - LAUGH. I liked the name DUSTED because there is an aesthetic implication of dust and a cloud of something but it's also a state of mind/out of mind experience. A lot of my lyrics seem to be hovering around the idea, "where am I comfortable", "where am I right now", "what am I really thinking", "what is anyone really thinking", "what is our fate"…chuckle. Sometimes these questions are best examined in a difference state of mind and not your straight up party time. I like that I touch all those bases and I wanted to get away from records that had my name as the heading. On one hand, it could be liberating. But I found it wasn't because every time I had a new idea or new aesthetic or new style I wanted to pursue, I felt the need to give it a new band name and start a new band from scratch. Because I wanted to keep everything in it's own pocket and I realized instead that I needed one heading that I can experiment within. I can go this way or that way. One DUSTED record could sound like this one and the next could be a real summer pop jam. And thats fair because bands do change. But maybe this solo singer/songwriter thing already comes with an embedded kind of expectation of what you're going to get; a guy and a guitar. I didn't really feel a kin to people who are content to fall under their own name. Nothing is wrong with it but sharing bills with those guys night after night after night, I just thought this isn't where I am. I want to do something different. I want to make it more of a band.

Amil - Tough, eh?

Brian - Yeah. Tougher than you'd think it'd be. It shouldn't be the easiest thing but it's just hard to get it out. When it's coming out of your own head, the easiest way to do it was to start a record first and see what was happening. And Leon was the right guy to do it with b/c Leon is a guy with a studio, a guy with all the right mics and just a little space. A garage that was converted in to a studio which was comfortable to me. I wasn't going to be spending a lot per hour and I wasn't going to be rushed. It was just myself and a buddy who were able to put every song under a magnifying glass and see what we were doing with it. The dynamic between the two of us was really good. It was a very organic process but I really needed it,

Amil - How long did it take you to record the album?

Brian - I think the moment that I felt like I was on the right path was a year ago in January when I started working on the bulk of this record. It was finished in May of last year. I actually sat with it for quite a long time. Not deliberately but that's just the way things turned out. I've been doing this long enough to know that I shouldn't be in to big of a hurry. I think when you are young, you really feel like you need to turn everything around really quickly because you feel like your own universe is changing so much and it overwhelming. But I've done enough records to know that sometimes waiting a year isn't the worst thing in the world. There are elements on this records that started in early 2009. But my life was different back then because that was right in the throw of busy busy HOLY FUCK stuff.  I think January of 2009 I was ready to go out on tour for another long overwhelming trip with my HOLY FUCK bandmates and I had to put everything on hold. So when it was time to start this record, I went back and noticed that I already had a half dozen songs that I already liked. And a couple of those made it on to the DUSTED recored.

Amil - From what you do with HOLY FUCK to what you are doing now with DUSTED are two different genres of music, do you think that there will be some overlap or if any?

Brian - I hope that there is some overlap. I think this is quite common for anyone in the iPod generation. I'd like to think somebody could see the value in HOLY FUCK and see it as well in DUSTED. Those are just two examples of different kinds of music but everyone has their music for their moods or activities. You have the stuff that you listen to when you want to get shit done or when you want to walk fast to get to work. Then there is the stuff that just puts you in a good mood compared to something that you could sit at home and stare at the ceiling. I think that there is room for all of the above and more in everyone's life. A band like DUSTED and HOLY FUCK can coexist because I need more time to reflect on my own to build something from scratch. Where as HOLY FUCK, we're trying to connect between the four of us and then beyond that, we are trying to connect with the audience that we are playing for. It's very much a live thing by trying to bring in a whole room and coming in with any expectations. Where this is different. It's just myself in a room and I have something that I'm expecting and I'm bring in Leon who has to connect with me on that level.

Amil - When you do go on stage (depending on what you are playing), there must be a different mood between HOLY FUCK and DUSTED. How do you prepare yourself for such a turnover?

Brian  - You've got to be two different people all of the sudden. I refuse to do them both in one show cause there has been people asking me to do it. I don't want to do two in one show because at some level, you've got to leave it up to the imagination of the audience. You need to give the audience at least one character. You can't go behind the curtain and come back an say, " Hey! Look everyone! Now I'm happy!". And you've got a different hat on and you're dancing around. While a minute ago, I was bruiting over a guitar. That's just too much. I don't want to be the jack of traits. At least not all in one night.

I find one of the hardest things is extensively touring as a solo artist. Mind you I haven't done great long tours on my own. But if I was out on my own doing a tour, I think I'd be more likely to grow a little weary of myself. It's like going on a date and then realizing an hour in that you've done all the talking. Then you start to think…"Is it me?",  "Is it her?", She's not going to call me back". And maybe every now an then you need that feeling of self indulgence to just be the only one talking to get everything off your chest. But then if you did it the next night and the next night and the next, god! You'd start turning into a total asshole. So being in a two piece like DUSTED, you're sharing something with someone else on stage. I find something very healthy about that. I can't think of a better career to have.

So it does change from HOLY FUCK to DUSTED. But I'm still safe and feel like I'm hiding a little within an aesthetic. In this case, it's a bit more of the drowning, distorting vocals and the erring washy symbols. There is something I can always get lost in within my own head. Like I can get lost in my own daydream. That's what's so important. If I'm to present or if I'm right there in that moment and the vale is lifted, all the sudden I get embarrassed. Because I realize, "Oh Shit! I'm standing in front of a bunch of strange people and I'm singing" and that's really weird. I having things where you can get within a cloud, like a cloud of dust and pier through. And you're able to form shapes and words out of. And you can do it with your buddy.
  
AD - Ideal Venue to play at as DUSTED?  Mood wise. Not over all appearance or capacity.

With DUSTED, It's all fairly new. I looking forward to the opportunity of doing festivals because I'm wondering if we'll be able to connect in that same way. I think it takes a little more introspection and a little bit more dedication from the audience. And if don't already know what  they are getting into and they are just going to come and see what this is all about. And there is two guys up there and they arrive at the moment when we are playing one of the more somber songs. Have we won them over or have we lost them? It's interesting. I look forward to that opportunity to try. At this point in time, I think it's best suited for a smaller venue but intimated enough and filled with people that are genuinely stoked to be there.

AD - I like the DUSTED album because it's a good mix of melodic songs and upbeat catchy tunes. It almost reminds me of a feel good Matthew Good you could say. You drown out the vocals a bit. The duration of the album is 30 minutes, which I think is a good running time for it. When you were going into this record two years back, did you have a set time in mind?

BB - I have too many songs written for my own good. It's what I really enjoy doing more than anything is writing. And that's great for my own sanity. I know that I won't get through a fraction of the stuff that I've written. Hopefully what I get out there in the recorded world will be some of the better stuff. That's definitely become a more recent goal of just honing in on what I like the most as a pose to documenting everything. One of the easy ways to do that is to just put yourself in the shoes of the listeners and ask "How long do I give a shit for?", "How long will I hang on to somebodies words?". I'm as guilty of being a A.D.D. member of this generation as anyone else. I don't try to fight it. I think that was just the way I was born and it feels like the media is changing around me. And I like it. If it's a half hour record, people still might not list to the whole thing. They might in the right environment but when it's right there, you'll want to change it anyway. There will be times when someone will want to finish the entire album because they've enjoyed bits of it.

AD - Your album is basically an audio booklet, much like a story. How much of factor did the order of the songs play to you?

BB - Huge. That's one of the things that takes the longest. When I'm working on a record, I'll take home mixes and make notes, and try to find ways to improve it. I wouldn't touch the actually music unless Leon and I were together because it's always good to get another perspective. But that's nothing compared to what it's like when I'm trying to sequence it. Then that's all I'm doing. It's almost everyday where it involves smoking a J and going for a hour long walk with eight different playlists. I almost put too much thought into it. But that's just who I am. I think it's a very important step when your trying to make a full record.

AD- You released Coyotes a few years back and it seems like you took a few steps back from that full-on moody record but kept some parts. You moved on to something new. Something a bit quicker with added effects. How would you describe some of the upbeat tunes?

BB - I feel like I'm trying to hold on to an even line. Like a drown or one constant beacon. And if it's slow, it's easier cause you can kind of putt along on a slower pace. And it's easier to keep your eye on the ball. But I think when I'm doing something a little heavier, it's very much like that. I don't feel the need to totally shoot it up over the moon. Right when you think it's going to kick in, I try to pull it back again. When you go to a guitar solo instead of going all over the fret board, you still hold on to that one drown note. It's like a bee flying along or the bouncing ball that leads you over the lyrics. Even the melody I try to hit so many notes while changing the stuff underneath it. That makes it fun. And I feel like it also helps you cut the fat out of it. Like a very melodic verse and a chorus, you don't need to put in a lot of extra stuff.  And then it is wrapped up and done in two and a half minutes. But it held on to you the whole time. It's hard for me to explain it.

AD - What portion of the album would you tell people to listen to if they wanted to capture the essence of Total Dust?

BB - That's a really tough question. That is why I sequenced the first two songs where they were because it all comes down to the record being moody but with a certain kind of fun to it. Like a two and half minute song that says what it means to say. But it gives you some instrumental moments where it's drowny with a single tambourine hit. You feel really connected with the emotional side of the song. But it doesn't harp on it too much. It's not begging for much I don't think.

AD - Where were you when you wrote "Into The Atmosphere"? What state of mind where you in?

BB - I was in a dressing room in East Hasting, Vancouver. The most busted out part of North America. It's not the most busted out place because there are other places in North America that are worse. But there is nothing close to Blade Runner than that part of the world. There is just a lot of humanity there and you have to load-in all of your equipment from the van first thing when you arrive. Of course you would anyway but you need to bring in all of your personal belongings, your cassette adaptors, your power bars, the football, frisbee and everything. Because the van will get broken into if they see anything in it. The venue actually tells you to do this when you are loading in. And that's fine but you are sitting there in this dressing room with your entire life that you've been traveling with the last few months around you. And that was the atmosphere.

AD - Cover art, design and packaging. This means a lot to you. If you could explain the cover art and the little man on the cover?

BB - The debate was over what kind of paper we were going to use. But I think we made a good package. James Mejia did a great job on the cover art. He's a good friend of mine. He and I were working on ideas without arriving to a conclusion. But I recently got in to the band, Kingston Trio. They are a great folk pop trio from the late 50s early 60s. They definitely got overlooked when Bob Dylan came along. And for good reason. They were very nerdy and wholesome. It was a very short lived image and the kids moved from it very quickly. But I think they had a big part in leading people through the hedge maze that was folk Americana, and a lot of foreign folk melodies which helped pave the way for Peter, Paul and Mary and all these folk artists. It's a very nerdy fascination. But all of their album covers have the three of them in their striped button up short sleeve shirts, with their guitars looking wholesome. Like that whole American college look. Almost like the frat party hired the band to come in and perform. I was just looking at the album and thinking how hilarious they look but also how badass they were. There were so many nights where I'd be up late trying to stay on my wife's schedule listening to weird folk records and smoking hash and drinking beer. LAUGH. After a while, I knew what I wanted to do for the album cover. I didn't have the guys head exploding because I was disrespecting the Kingston Trio. But I was trying to find an iconic image. But someone like Elvis was too iconic and too familiar. There is just something about the classic troubadour and his guitar. It was the perfect image to have on the cover. Him with a huge ink explosion coming out of his head. Originally, it was suppose to be a big dust cloud but we waned to push the aesthetic even further.

AD - Last question and let's keep it a cultural one. Outside of Canada, how much do people know about Canadians?

BB - One thing that I find really funny is that they think that we are really nice. And i think that is a little bit incorrect. How do these Americans come here, walk around the same streets that I walk, go to the same bars and restaurants that I go to and then they go home, and the first thing they say is how nice y'all are. And when I go down to the states, the only reason why I'm getting this titbit of information in the first place is because they've been outgoing enough to even strike up a conversation when they find out where I'm from. And now they have to share this history with me about the time they went to Toronto. Already these are three things we wouldn't normally do as Canadians. And maybe they are actively engaging people because maybe we are more friendly than we really realise.

It was pleasure talking to Brian Borchedt as we smashed a few drinks post-vomit incident on the street car. You can find everything you need about DUSTED on their webpage www.totallydusted.com and stream the entire record on Polyvinyl Records website. The album drops July 10th on Polyvinyl Records (internationally) and Hand Drawn Dracula in Canada. I'd suggest that you give this record a serious listen. It's a record that is filled with tracks that can be played in many different settings and lyrics that will catch you off guard if you aren't listening closely. Stay tuned because a DUSTED show maybe coming to your city or town this summer. And trust me, it's a show that is full of emotion, energy and maybe a violinist. Sounds even better after a few pops and cheese sandwiches. 

 
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