The Keelor Inside Me Blue Rodeo's Days In Between is no interim album By DAVE JOHNSTON
The Keelor Inside Me
Blue Rodeo's Days In Between is no interim album
By DAVE JOHNSTON
The cover of Blue Rodeos new disc, The Days In Between, shows a lone car drifting down a barren road. The isolated journey the image evokes seems to fit Greg Keelors personalityunlike the rest of the Toronto-based band, Keelor headed out into the country. Hes never been comfortable with being famous. If he had a choice, hed move even farther away.
For now, Keelor is happily tucked away in his home, an hour east of Toronto. In a short while, he will join his bandmatesJim Cuddy, bassist Bazil Donovan, drummer Glenn Milchem, organist James Gray and guitarist Kim Deschampsout on the familiar road for their latest tour of this home and native land. His manner over the telephone is much like his posture onstagea bit like that of a dreamer.
Vue Weekly: Theres something about Blue Rodeo thats fascinated me, and thats the consistency in the music. You can go back and listen to Casino, and listen to something recorded later on, and they sound like they were made at the same time. It seems like the band hasnt allowed itself to be affected by musical trends whatsoever. Whats your opinion on that?
Greg Keelor: In our world, weve taken turns. We went from Lost Together to doing something like Five Days, which was a totally different thing for us. But its always Jim and myself as songwriters, and there are certain styles that we write in. Were prisoners of who we are, and theres no getting around the kind of songs we make. The musical route is always the same, but you take detours all the time.
Youre also one of the few Canadian bands that can lay a claim to longevity. Do you have any contemporaries that you think should have received as much attention as you have?
When Jim and I started the band back in 1978, there was this guy around at the time who was like a hero to us. Theres a song about him on the new album called "Rage." Keith Whittaker sang in a band called the Demics, and Keith was an amazing songwriter. He was a gifted poet, a great singer and a great physical presence onstagemenacing and intimidating. I can remember back when we were first making itwhatever that meansand people would ask about success and stuff like that. To these people, the phenomenon of success is more important than the music you make. Ive always felt like a bit of a fraud and a cheat because there were people like Keith who were natural poets, and I felt that I wasnt in the same league. Here I was experiencing this success, where people who I thought were better than me were still in obscurity. Keith died a couple of years ago, and hes still an inspiring character. The second gig that Jim and I ever did, back when we were the Hi-Fis, we opened for the Demics. After the gig, he threw a drunken arm around me and gave me a lecture about what rock n roll was. I believed him at the time, because he was Keith Demic!
How do you relate the song to Keith?
The song is about sitting in this bar in Toronto, the Cameron, where everybody used to hang out. It was a great scene. And hed sit there, and after three pints hed start singing these stream-of-consciousness songsabout the people in the bar, or some book he had been reading. These songs would be caustic, but a lot of fun. After six beers, hed get a little meaner, and then hed want to go to another bar. That was when it would get really scary, because youd be out on the street, he was a nut, and you didnt know where you were going. The line in the song"When will you rage again?"refers to the fact that after the Demics broke up, Keith never found another outfit to work with. He was always talking about it, but nothing ever seemed to pull together. It doesnt refer to throwing a beer bottle across a room. Its asking about when youll get back to doing what you do so well.
Tell me about the first single, "Somebody Waits."
It was one of those numbers that was fun to hear percolate into being. While we were recording the record, Jim would go over to this piano in the corner during breaks and start working out the chords for it. So wed hear him over in the corner, working away on it, and every day it would flesh out a bit more. I eventually asked him if we were going to put the song on the record, and he said, "Oh, I dunno. I dont really seem to have a song yet." We liked hearing it so much that we recorded the music. Once we did that, Jim was able to actually finish the song."
Were there many more surprise moments like that in the studio?
The communication was really good. People were making lots of suggestions and everyone seemed open to them. There have been times in the band where communication wasnt good, where people would make a suggestion and youd tell them to fuck off. I can think back a couple of years ago, and I wouldnt listen to somebody who thought that a lyric wasnt very good. People were helping shape the songs this time, and that was kind of fun.
Is this a sign of maturity for the band?
I think we went over a bit of a hump a couple of years back. We did some solo records, which were like a release valve for us. Plus there was the issue of identifying with the band and all that stuffwe deconstructed things. Time, too. The recording sessions were timed just rightstarting rehearsals right after a tour [like Stardust Picnic] isnt a good idea.
What was the attraction of heading off to Daniel Lanoiss studio in New Orleans to record this album?
There arent that many great studios around Toronto for making records. Theres a few that have nice vibes, but the gear isnt spectacular. Besides, the places that have all the good gear are kind of cold and corporate. Weve always had this problem. This studio in New Orleans, though, was built for making records. It has this old recording board from [legendary New York record studio] the Hit Factory. Tons of great records have been made on this board. This was the place where Trina [Shoemaker, producer] learned her trade, too. We were just comfortable down there.
The New Orleans vibe worked for you, then.
But I didnt even go outside for the first five days we were down there. Its a big old place, so you never feel like youre on top of each other. Theres so many little rooms and corners that you can get away from whatever youre doing. Its nice to be able to go to bed in the same place youre recording in, so you can get your head firmly planted up your own ass for a few days.
So are you going to leave everything and move to New Orleans?
Naw. Id rather get more isolated than anything. Thats more my kind of speed.
With the Whitlams Jubilee Auditorium Mon-Tue, Feb 14-15
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