The Watchmen chatted with JAM! Music on Friday, November 23, 2001 about their new disc 'Slomotion' and more.
Okay, Dan is virtually in the house. So let's get this show on the road ...
Deuji - in Vancouver:
I have listened to some of the interviews that you guys
have done with respect to "Slomotion". You have indicated
some dissatisfaction with the state of music these days. So
what are you listening to?
Also, I loved the "Kanadiana" stuff. Are there plans to
release a soundtrack CD?
The Watchmen: Let me see ...
State of the industry.
I am listening to the new Bjork, REM, Crowded House, Billy Bragg, Nick Drake.
"Kanadiana" -- no plans for a soundtrack, but the music will come out in some capacity or other. That is a movie I scored about 18 months ago. People really took to the tunes.
I was wondering what kind of changes you have noticed in
the Canadian music business since The Watchmen started out?
Are things better or worse now?
The Watchmen: I think they are a little worse. There is no artist development. Bands have three months to make their dent, and more often they are gone.
There was a lot more artist development 10 years ago. Labels were willing to grow with bands more than they are now.
John from Windsor:
What made you decide to not do a video for "Absolutely"?
The Watchmen: This record is unconventional in the two-CD-ness and approach, so we wanted to follow through and approach the promotion differently. We shot a commercial. A video is commercial, anyway. We will be shooting a video for "Holiday" in a couple of days. So much for unconventionality.
Has Danny ever considered doing some solo work?
The Watchmen: I am doing that in the form of movies. I have scored "Kanadiana" and short films out of Toronto: "Man Of Substance" and "You Might Be The Youngest". That is how I am stretching my legs. But I am going to be making music for a while, so who knows? But it is very rewarding writing music for moving pictures.
I have been following you for many years. Just wondering If
you ever get tired of touring, and what do you like to do on
The Watchmen: Yes, we do get tired. It is the hardest job you'll ever love. Books, scotch and weed ...
What musicians influenced you to embark on a career in
The Watchmen: I think REM had a big part of it, particularly Michael Stipe's melodies. They are sort of in my head. They made me want to be a singer. Well, I have always been singing, but they made me want to be a melody guy.
There are lots, but that is a major one.
During your cross-country tour, are you playing any of your old
material, specifically songs from "McLarenFurnaceRoom", like
The Watchmen: Yes, we do. We do "Mister", "Run And Hide". We are trying to rotate the set list. We are doing the whole new record, and then we do new stuff every day.
OL BLUE EYES:
When you made the new record, you kind of explored a new
direction. Was there any concern that it might alienate fans
who have followed the group for a long time? Does it bother
you that fans might want the group to stay in one place
rather than evolve and change?
The Watchmen: I understand that. I think we expect it, that we would keep some fans, lose some and get some new fans. And hopefully those old fans we lose will support bands who are where we were six years ago. But ultimately we have to change to keep ourselves excited and interested. Hopefully the fans appreciate that.
BUZZ & BOOMER:
Are you going to the Grey Cup to sing the national anthem
before the Bombers kick the living crap out of the Stamps?
The Watchmen: If I was asked, I would be there. But I am on the road. But I did sing the anthem at the last "Hockey Night In Canada" game at the Winnipeg Arena.
Have you guys ever considered knocking the whole major
label thing on the head and selling your music directly to
fans? Other groups like The Cure are starting to do this.
The Watchmen: We have thought about doing that. It is not entirely unlikely, the way things are going. Cut out the middleman. There are elements of it are attractive. But you give up video and major national exposure. But it is a thought that has crossed our mind.
Who knows? It is impossible to tell. The ball is in our court.
What was behind the decision to include a best-of disc with
your new album? It's a pretty unusual move.
The Watchmen: It has been 10 years for us. We thought it was time to put out a package like this. We had been away for three years. We wanted a comprehensive package. The fans have asked for it, and we thought it was the right time,
How would you define success in the Canadian music
Are you satisfied with the level of success you've
The Watchmen: I would define success as selling enough records to continue doing what we are doing. You have to compare yourself with yourself, succeed at what you want to succeed in. And we have. We could have more. There are some that are more successful, but many more that have less. We make music for a living, and I have been doing it for a dozen years. That is cool.
What can fans expect from your live show tonight in
The Watchmen: Lots of new, lots of old. The new stuff sounds really, really good. Bigger and wider than on previous occasions, because we are playing with loops and samplers, so it is a real three-dimensional sound.
Has the departure of Sammy Kohn hindered you guys in any way
creatively in a live sense?
The Watchmen: I don't know. That is a question I can't answer. We are really pleased with this record and how it is sounding live. We are touring with a live drummer. We would have made a different record if Sammy hadn't left the band.
What do you think about MP3s?
The Watchmen: I understand the double-edged sword-ness of it. Bands like us make the majority of their money from live shows. The record company is so f---ed up, they make the most of the money, so they and Metallica are the most upset.
Promotion is good. It is better to join them than to beat them, because that is not going to happen.
I don't think there is a way to gauge the effect. Hopefully, more people like your band and there is more of your music out there. It is better to have a box of merch stolen and distributed than burned in a house fire. You don't make the money, but at least it is out there and it perpetuates The Watchmen.
What is your relationship with The Hip, and did you enjoy
touring with them?
The Watchmen: I know the guys. I don't know them well. We have done lots of shows over the years. Really cool. Good band.
Hey, Danny. I hear you moved into Bruce Cockburn's old house
in Toronto. Was this intentional or just a coincidence?
Can't wait to see you in Grande Prairie next month!
The Watchmen: That is the myth that I was told by the previous buyers. I don't know if it is true. I still don't know if it is the case.
Any thoughts on why a disproportionate amount of the
enduring, cool music that has come out of Canada originates
The Watchmen: It has something to do with the weather. People hole up in the winter. Being detached from the industry, by reason of size and population, (which) resides in Toronto.
When you are away from the eye of the industry, you do your own thing. That is the Winnipeg way.
Marcus from Hamilton, Ontario:
What are your favourite venues to play? My personal
favourite was my first Watchmen show in Waterloo @ Phils
Grandson's, way back in 1993. Just wanted to say I really
enjoy the innovation and change in the Watchmen's music
over the years and wish you much success in the future.
The Watchmen: Well, thank you to Hamilton!
Favourite venue? Wherever we are sounding good. Good sound, good monitors, good stages. We have played weird places that worked out and then nice places that didn't work out. This place we are playing tonight (Kool Haus) is cool. Some nice places in Europe, too.
What technology do you use on stage to do your sequencing?
The Watchmen: We have a bunch of stuff. A sampler, a sequencer, a MacIntosh laptop that handles most of the wizzybox sounds.
Did the events on Sept. 11 affect you guys' plans on touring
in the States?
The Watchmen: They didn't directly affect our plans. We are waiting and looking to America in the new year. I am not interested in going down there any time soon, but you can't stay away forever.
It is scary, plain and simple. I am not interested in waiting at the border, entering a country that is at war. I would rather go to Australia, which is what we are doing in the new year.
What's the best advice you would give someone entering the
The Watchmen: Make sure it is what you want to do. Because it is hard, and it is not glamorous.
The Watchmen comic book is being turned into a movie. Would
you guys be interested in doing the music?
The Watchmen: Yes, we would. But I am not sure how that is going to happen. I heard about it. It would be pretty cool. We are working on it, but probably lots of people would want to do the music.
We had trouble with the name because of the Sony Watchman TV. But the comic people were cool. They thought it was okay, and they gave us free stuff.
Jamie from Toronto:
Hey guys. I've been a big fan for a long time, primarily
because you're one of the few bands whose CDs I can throw
on and listen to all the way through from top to bottom.
With so many strong songs, how do you decide which ones to
release as singles?
The Watchmen: That is a large process. The record company does a lot of it. You want to get to a point where you don't care what is a single, because you like the whole record. It doesn't matter to me. I like the whole record, so you leave it up to the people who are supposed to know what they are doing.
Hi. I love the new single but don't know how a) the
industry and b) the market is reacting to it. What's the
story so far?
The Watchmen: The story is that it is doing better than any other record we have released at this time, in the other records' lives. The single is really successful, and the sales are great. We are certified gold (Editor's note: 50,000 copies shipped to stores).
What Canadian bands are you guys listening to?
The Watchmen: Paul McLeod plays in the Skydiggers and does his solo stuff. His solo album is great.
What are your favourite songs to play live?
The Watchmen: Off the new record, Together, Phonecall, Holiday, and Soft Parade.
Old stuff? The slower, more mellow ones are cooler for me because I can finally hear myself -- Brighter Hell, Middle East.
Is there another artist out there whose career you see as
the ideal kind of life, in terms of mixing success and
The Watchmen: Probably Billy Bragg, I would say. He is pretty successful and I don't think all his records are great, but people respect him and he knows what he is talking about.
So... Will Ian from BW get up and sing with you tonight at
the Kool Haus?
The Watchmen: Probably (BW is Big Wreck), if he is not too drunk.
The Watchmen: Farewell, thanks for tuning in.