Michael Brock Taps into his Scorpio Power
This small town boy went to the artistic wild west of Berlin to find his Patti Smith “Just Kids” story.
I met struggling actor Michael Brock a few years ago when he was a server at an oyster bar in Vancouver’s business district. Fast forward to 2014 (with some time in Berlin, Germany in the meantime), Brock is releasing his first EP Scorpio (as well as an upcoming full length) on Vancouver’s most hyped indie electronic music record label Hybridity Records. This is my chat with one of Vancouver’s rising electronic indie R&B talents.
Scott Wood: Hello Michael Brock! You've said you decided to try singing when acting jobs dried up because you wanted to make art. Why music?
Michael Brock: It wasn't really like this brand new idea. I have always been a singer, but I started acting for film and TV when I was 4, so that was all I knew of as an artistic career path. I turned 23, was hardly booking [any acting roles] and felt uninspired by the audition process an unknown actor goes through. Whether or not I got to perform was up to all these business people, a decision that rarely seemed rooted in art or talent.
I can make music alone in my bedroom and perform it anytime. The business side of the music industry is fucking tough too, but I’m constantly getting to perform work that I care about. However, you can see me in a campy movie that just came out, Date and Switch, playing a drug dealer at a big gay rave. Don't blink.
Scott Wood: Whenever you change your type of work, there's a steep learning curve. Can you talk a bit about one of the challenges you overcame while making the record?The business side of the music industry is fucking tough... but I'm constantly getting to perform work that I care about.
Michael Brock: The day I recorded the title track "Scorpio" for the EP was the first day I had ever been in a recording studio. I didn't know anything about being a recording artist, mixing/mastering, how many hours it takes to finish a song. It was a heavy learning process. I am putting in the hours right now and intensely developing myself. The sound, the new music I’ve written for the LP, and specifically the live set, are an entirely new thing from 1 year ago. To me, the EP already sounds like baby Michael. I have gone through phases of embarrassment, but I think/hope that is endearing.
Scott Wood: You were a child actor. What was it like to see acting (and by extension the arts) as a valid form of work (something you could make a living at and not just play) as a child?
Michael Brock: I had a really good time in the film and TV world when I was young. Of course it impacted my understanding of a career in the arts. I think it gave me a good work ethic and a clear idea of what success means for me. Fame is unnecessary for success as an artist.
Scott Wood: You've opened for former teen pop sensation Aaron Carter at Vancouver’s Fortune Sound Lounge. He's an example of a performer who found fame and money at an early age, burned out and had to file bankruptcy last year at the age of 26. If you had landed a well-paying sitcom role as a teen, do you think you could've followed a similar path? Did you get to party with him that night?
Michael Brock: I read up on Aaron Carter before that show and he has dealt with things far more difficult than money problems. We all have. I could have been on a different path with success like his at a young age. I also could have tragically drowned or something. I don't know. He put on a great show, and I didn't party with him.
Scott Wood: It almost compulsory for Vancouver musicians to do a stint in Berlin these days. You are no exception. What did this time in Berlin do for you and what do you think the city can give to all Canadian artists?I have gone through phases of embarrassment, but I think/hope that is endearing.
Michael Brock: Berlin might push you around at first, throw firecrackers at you around the holidays, and toughen you up. Shortly after, you could be an inspired part of this crazy and mind expanding crashpad. It feels lawless: everyone is a sexy artist and it’s so cheap to live there. I met some great friends/collaborators who found an R&B singer cool amidst the primarily techno crowd. I wrote a lot of music there and met Books (the producer of my songs “Green and Black,” “Soundtracks,” and soon to be released “Denim Jacket”) who I continue to work with overseas. If you are open to whatever and seeking your Patti Smith “Just Kids” story, you could very well find it in Berlin. Can't wait to be back there.
Scott Wood: Everyone I know who has done the pilgrimage to Berlin comes back with a crazy sexdancethemeall night party they have gone to. What's one of yours?
Michael Brock: Things got hot. Scorpio power. Scorpio secrets.
Scott Wood: You're the sole songwriter for this project but worked with several different producers. Can you take a track and the producer you worked with and talk about your working relationship?
Michael Brock: There isn't a songwriting formula for me yet. Each one feels like an experiment. I’ll break down unreleased tunes Fame is unnecessary for success as an artist. “Gateway Drug” (produced by Books) and “Bad Timing” (produced by Project Pablo). I start with a simple kick drum on loop, lay down with my lyric book and find a melody, record this rough demo, add in some backup vocals, and a simple chord progression on my piano. I sent these to the boys with a pretty specific breakdown of my ideas and some “inspiration” sounds. Books and Project Pablo were on a similar wavelength and there wasn't much back and forth. Thank you both! These collaborations have been a great part of the process. I am however feeling weird/excited to say that about half of the upcoming full length LP (no idea when it will be ready) is produced by me. I used to think that autonomy might make me feel insane, but it feels really good.
Scott Wood: The centrepiece of your Scorpio EP is the title track. A relationship is at the centre of the song. Does the other person in the relationship know about the song? How did he react?
Michael Brock: This is the first song I ever wrote. The lyrics are two separate poems spliced together. One about an unwanted power dynamic in a past relationship, and one about staying up all night in an airstream parked on a fruit orchard with my friend. Both these devils are aware, and I've seen their lit up faces when I sing it.
Scott Wood: You grew up in Fernie BC (a small town on the edge of the Rockies). Can you tell me a bit about what that was like? What’s one small town aspect of Michael Brock that you hope you never lose and one small town aspect you are always trying to suppress?I used to think that autonomy might make me feel insane, but it feels really good.
Michael Brock: I am forever grateful that my parents moved our family there when they did. The balance between city and small town life is something I will probably always need to stay sane. Being an angsty, badass little teen shithead in Fernie was the coolest and I think the things I appreciate about myself were developed there. Someone I know posted “think like a mountain, feel like a river” [on their Facebook page] a while ago. I hope I never lose full understanding of that. I try to supress saying “stoked” and feeling anxious in crowds.
Scott Wood: Thanks for answering my questions! Please introduce your favourite Michael Brock video.
Michael Brock: Here is the Emmett Rose directed music video for my song “Scorpio.”
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