Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Interviews:: Joel Plaskett

When I talk about Joel here on the site, I usually make some kind of vague reference to our connection to him. Often it's something witty about how far back we go with him, but here's the real deal: we both went to high school with Joel. Halifax West, class of 93 suckers. And yes, we are old, thanks for noticing. But that's it, pretty underwhelming I know. As tennous as that connection might be, it's still there, so it's a little surprising we haven't interviewed him on the hill. Up till now that is.

Joel and the Emergency are doing a double set at the Marquee this Saturday night (it's sold out I'm afraid, but if you have some connections or happen to be the invisible man, perhaps you can still get in). Anyway, this is shaping up to be a great show, and I figured this was as good a time as any for us to talk to him. We sent Joel a few questions via email, and he was good enough to go through them all and send back some very thoughtful answers. So check it out for yourself, it's a solid read.

hh:: First off, congrats on your ECMA haul this year. I was wondering how you feel about awards in general? These days they can be kind of discounted by some people (ahem, bloggers), but does winning one give the artist a tangible boost?

jp:: Thanks! I've definitely felt the benefits of being nominated and winning some awards. It's a strange thing to be involved in but I've learned to embrace it and roll with the attention it brings. Those events have a momentum of their own. In earlier years I'd scratch my head and ask "Where do I fit in?" Now I'm amidst it and I feel lucky and kind of sheepish. I've become part of the establishment I once felt outside of. Go frickin' figure...

hh::In that same vein, how do you feel about the Junos? They seem to get scoffed at in some circles, but as an artist, do you feel this years list of nominees is representative of where the Canadian music scene is right now?

jp::The Junos have been great to me. Since 1999 I've been nominated for 5 juno awards (one with the Hermit, two with the Emergency and two individually for songwriting). I've never won one but the acknowledgement in the nominations has been great and they've certainly helped my career. I think the Junos walk a bit of a tightrope and there is always going to be a debate as to whether all the the nominations are appropriate. This years nominations seem to walk the tightrope fairly successfully. Good to see Feist with so many nods. Arcade Fire, Wintersleep, Jill Barber, Skratch Bastid, The Sadies, Tegan and Sara, Neil Young. Lots of great artists.

hh::On to your upcoming Marquee show. You guys are playing a double set that I heard described as a "career retrospective", is that the intention? What was the motivation for doing this show at this point?

jp::We're due for a rocking Marquee show, having missed New Years Eve this year. It was fun revisiting the older records at the Horseshoe in December so I figured we'll play some of those older tunes here too.

hh::Is the Marquee your favorite Halifax venue? How about your favorite non-Halifax venue?

jp::Marquee is always a great time. I really like seeing bands at Gus' although I've never played there myself. I love the Balck Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec. The Horseshoe is classic as is the Commodore in Vancouver.

hh::One of the most frequent gripes I hear in this city is lack of "big" shows and being un-able to attract big-name artists to play here on a regular basis. What's your take? Do you think if we had bigger/more suitable venues that could happen, or are we simply too far off the path geographically?

jp::I think the geography is a big part of it. It's expensive for bands to make it this far east. As the city becomes bigger and if the economy improves then there will be enough people with enough money to pay the high ticket prices required for some of the bigger acts to make the trip east.

hh::Surely you're tired of answering "why do you stay in Halifax" type questions, but they're hard to resist, so...considering the recent "resurgence" of the Halifax scene, do you think it's easier or harder for Halifax based bands to break right now as opposed to those in Toronto and Montreal?

jp::I think Halifax has always had unique talent with a geographic disadvantage in terms of "breaking" nationally. It takes serious traveling, time and effort. Personally, I like the distance people have to travel to get here so I wouldn't change a thing. It seems like there are more Halifax bands and songwriters playing professionally these days than there has ever been.

hh::In an interview with The Coast a while ago, you talked about wanting to stay here, but that it was getting kind of hectic as far as people recognizing you/coming up to you to talk etc. Do you find that is intruding on your day to day life when you're back in town? Are you accosted when you go to the corner store to buy bread, or is it not at that level yet?

jp::I was kind of mortified when I read that article, no slight on the writer, Ian Gormely. I just found myself talking with him the day after the White Stripes show where I got a little overwhelmed by being recognized and having a bunch of pictures taken. When I read what I'd been quoted on I felt kind of weird. It's usually only at certain music events when I can feel a little exposed. It's nice to be recognized, it's just tough when you want to be anonymous, and particularly weird when I'm out with my wife. For the most part, people are pretty cool if then approach me and it's encouraging to have made fans who see you as a real person

hh::Do you find it surreal coming back to Halifax after being out on the road? Like one week you're in Australia, and the next you're hanging backstage with Dave Boyd or being called Sloan by Jared Power at a stop light. Is it surreal, or just something you're used to by now. (I realize those are gratuitous high school references, but I wanted to work them in somehow).

jp::Yes, it can be surreal. Two old friends from YCMA Camp Wapomeo (Ryan and Jeremy McGrail) showed up at my show in Belgrave, Australia. Then I was at Gus' Pub the other night and I saw this woman, Jess, that I met in Sydney. Small world. Classmates from Halifax West are still very much a part of my world here and there. I like it. I run into Duncan Finley at Video Difference all the time.

hh::Speaking of high school, if you were put on the spot and forced to choose, who would you say was a bigger dick in high school, me or Acker? You can be honest. I think most people would say me because the Ack's little guy charisma often disguised the fact that he was insulting people to their face.

jp::You both were cruel and funny bastards. Ack was David Spade to your Sandler. :)

So there you go, he's a very talented guy who's already had a tremendously successful career, but you can see from this tat he's still pretty grounded. Always nice to see that. Also nice to see him call the Ack David Spade, I enjoyed that a great deal when I read his answers. Big thanks to Joel for doing this, and I'll see you at the show if you've got tickets.

Posted at 8:56 AM by naedoo :: 1 comments

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At 4:18 PM, Blogger guero canadiense did sayeth:

Ack as Spade? I'll buy that.


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