Artist Profile: Barzin (part 2)

OK, here is part 2 of my interview with Monotreme recording artist Barzin! (read part 1 HERE) In this episode, we start off talking about his recent European tour:

Was the reception pretty good?

For this tour? Yeah, it was the best one so far, in terms of reviews and people coming out, CD sales. We got some good reviews in big publications in different countries. It really helps in Europe. It helps with getting people out to the shows, and it's a little different than I find here. Reviews don't always translate into people coming to the shows, being interested.

That's true. Recommendations don't seem to help here

Yeah, I've given up trying to rely on things like that. I remember when I was trying to organize the CD release show here in Toronto, I'd heard about the NOW magazine review... but I knew I shouldn't rely on that to get people out. I had to email people, friends, to get them out.

Yeah, this is the one to come too, if you only come to one show!

Exactly! You know.

You had a good crowd for the show, you seemed to sell a lot of CD's too.

I think it was mostly friends. But that's what's good about CD release shows, friends come and feel obligated to buy your CD's. I wish it was like that every show... but not for me

Me neither. When I released my EP I think I sold more in the CD release, than I have in the time since!

Yeah, you sell that many CD's and think it's all going to be like this! It's deceiving.

You sold a lot of CD's in Europe, what was it like, were people happy to buy?

Yeah, and Signing.

Like autographs?

Yeah, people actually waiting... coming up to me and wanting me to autograph stuff. The first couple shows it was hard to get used to, but after a while if no one asked for it I'd think, What's going on?!

Ha, yeah, that's how you would gage the bad shows! So what is the process for you, when you write songs?

Well, I fell like I haven't really written! I sit down and I strum on guitar, hum along.... but I never consider those writing days. I find I'm always trying to... It's like training. The more I warm up, get melodies rolling in my mind. I hope that a week of doing that, a song or melody will come. There isn't much of a process to be honest. It's just sitting down and trying to wade through the crap coming out of me! I wish, after all these years, I had a system... I don't know if you do?

No, not really. I pick up my guitar a lot and strum it and put it down. Sometimes something good will come out of it.

That reminds me, there is a system, I find very effective. I'll listen to music that I like, and I'll write down the chord structure and phrasing. And once I put myself into someone Else's head, and how they write, I find that usually triggers or inspires me. So it's sort of a nice way to get myself to write.

Who do you listen to when you do these kinda things?

I have this songwriting book. There's a massive list of songs, and they're divided by; These songs are written using 3 chords; these songs are written using 4 chords. and I listen to those songs. But recently it's not doing it, because I don't like those songs. So I've been listening to songs I like, I'll go straight to those people. Richard Buckner, I'm a big fan of. Various people.

You did a great Leonard Cohen cover at the show

I think I've exhausted Leonard Cohen. I've taken apart so many of his songs. There are just no more songs to take apart! But he's great. When I need to get inspired I go to him, I find he sets for me a certain bar that's really high and hard to get to.

I noticed on your myspace page, you post a lot of poetry, you had a great Raymond Carver piece up the other day. Do you go towards that for writing?

I do. Poetry really inspires me to write. Write poetry though, it doesn't really inspire me to write a song. But I find it's a really good exercise to read poetry, because it keeps me in tune to words... and it's a good place to steal words too! I always steal.

Who doesn't. I guess the goal is to steal from so many places that it can't be traced back!

Exactly! In your mind you always know where you stole it. but most people don't notice it. The secret is mixing all the things you steal, and hiding in your own style. Although in my last album, I had finished this one song, really liked it, and then it dawned on me when I finished that song, that it might sound like someone Else's. So I played my song and that song for someone.... and they were like, yeah that's way too similar. So do I take it as my own, or give credit to the other writer? Eventually I just covered the song. I scrapped my words and had to chase down the band through their manager... it was the Dears, so, I had to get permission and covered that song. Sometimes it's just too close.

You had a couple good people producing the album.

I recorded the album with Jeremy Darby at Canterbury. He's got amazing mics. The sounds he gets... he gets really hi-fi sounds, which aren't every bodies cup of tea, but I wanted a pretty hi-fi recording. With Don Kerr as well. Don's equipment is not as high end, but it was great recording with him. What I did, was I basically recorded the entire album with Don first. Then I recorded the entire album again with Jeremy... which was a little... excessive? I picked and choosed the songs that felt better. Then I mixed the songs with Daryl Rudorf who did Justin Rutledge and Nico Case. But the majority of mixing was done with Chad he works at a studio called which is another high end studio. I couldn't have afforded them at all, but I did some vocals, they have these Christmas rates, like $400 a day or something, using these amazing microphones. When I was there, I was telling them I was looking for a place to mix my album, and Chad found out about it, and was like "How much money do you got?" And I said... This much... which wasn't alot. But he liked the songs, and said he'd do it for what I had.

The album does sound fantastic. Very unified.

Thanks. And also Joao Carvalho who mastered it was great.

So what do you have coming up?

Just trying to set up some shows for Montreal. And then the album gets released in the US soon. I was thinking of touring there... but I can't do it. I can't take the band it's just too expensive. I can't afford it. I'd do it solo, I'm just not very good about it. I don't even want to try it.

What do you find the hardest thing about doing it solo?

um... I just don't think my music... I think it's the way I write, I doesn't lend itself to a solo setting. The songs don't hold up. I don't have the voice for one. I don't have the guitar chops. I've tried it. That's how I met Olenka, I did a solo set at the Alex P. Keaton. and I just got eaten alive by that room

Everybody does. I played there a couple times too, but it's such a loud room. Everyone is chatting. It's hard to find a place to play solo.

I think that's unfortunately the way the system is organized in North America. It's organized around bars, so people who want to do that stuff will get drowned out most of the times. Where as, if we were playing in places like Massey Hall, which is unrealistic I know, if there was a system in place for playing like that I'd do a solo set like that.

You never know it could happen.

It's weird, you never know who gets peoples imaginations, and who doesn't. It's like the lottery.

It seems like people get to a level where they're good and it's just luck from there on. It's kinda weird... and a little scary.

Yeah, sometimes I just throw my hands up. because I don't know what else to do except wait. and see if it catches on

That's really tough.

That whole world of trying to be a musician... and balancing your own life with your music is a whole other subject matter I haven't been able to figure out.

Sometimes I think, Why do I do this?

Yeah, exactly

How do you answer it?

When I want to be comical and extreme I think of it as a sickness. It's in your body, and no matter what you do you just can't get rid of it. Give yourself over to it. Give you life over to it... Do what you want to do with my life! It's what it feels like. It's very hard to answer why we keep doing what we do.

Well, that's it! Tune in tomorrow for This Week in Toronto, then I'll get a track of the week up on Friday, so long!

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