Jean Barker, MWEB: So this your first time in South Africa. What are you expecting to find here?
Tal Bachman: I don't know exactly what I'm expecting but believe it or not, I've been in loads of discussions ever since I was in high school about the dramatic changes South Africa has experienced. And of course I have known loads of South African émigrés that have come to Canada and the United States. So I'm really looking forward to seeing the place first hand.
MWEB: Your song "She's so high" - that was your big break internationally, right? - was used in Idols and Kurt from Norway won with it. What do you think of Idols and contests like it - do they discover real talent?
TB: I just couldn't care less. I don't have any problem with [Contests like Idols] at all. I couldn't summon any moral outrage. I can't summon any feeling of artistic disdain. As far as I can see, it's a great thing when the public finds new singers or performers that they appreciate, and they get to put their records out.
MWEB: I suppose...
TB: You see, I had commercial success with that first single off the first record. But you got to remember, I hung around all the guys running the record companies, guys that pretty much disdained on principle anybody that ever had a hit. And these were the very guys that presumably were supposed to be getting music that the public wanted to hear out to the public! To me, that kind of elitism really ends up... it's snobbery. It ends up driving me nuts. And at the end of day, I was like "You know, I love Radiohead more than anybody, but you know, how can you keep music from the general population, which, rightly or wrongly, likes Shania Twain and all these people - just because you don't think it's "good for them." Relax! I don't care. Honestly. There is room for both top forty hits, and also for more obscure songs.
I think it's great because it helps break the back of record company elitism.
MWEB: You write mainly love songs, or songs about love. Is that something that's very central to your life now? Your first album was more politically oriented. The reason for that change?
TB: I don't know. I guess I was just thinking when I started putting together this album that I did on my own, that I'd like it focussed on one particular theme. That heroic but everyday task of needing someone and trying to start a life with them and trying to work though all the things that go along with that. [Tal laughs drily, as though he's remembering the odd rough time.] And it's not exactly musical rocket science or anything but I just thought, "You know this is an experience common to everybody." When you start a family, you're starting your own little universe with kids.
[Tal writes about this openly in the cool track off Staring Down the Sun, sweetly titled "Once in a lifetime":"...New love, new life/ Straight face, hoping everything's fine/ We've got no frills, late bill /Rent payments, we're walking uphill/But we're in tune, in time/You're due at the end of July/So we'll work hard, take heart..."]
MWEB: As a Canadian, how does the change in American politics - for the conservative - affect you? And how do you you see your role as an artist? TB: In terms of day to day life, nothing has really affected my life. But I don't even know that much could. You see, I live on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia. But, um, I guess I can say that while there are difficulties to be concerned about in the American military efforts over in the Middle East, that President Bush has taken a lot of unwarranted shtick for that.
TB: It's probably more than you want to get into
MWEB: Not necessarily...
TB: I'm not consumed with hatred or indignation when any country - how can I put it - takes means to defend itself. And I think that even if Iraq turns out not to have been the threat that not only the US, but really the rest of the world's intelligence agencies thought it was, it's still fair to say that Iraq gave every impression of being that kind of antagonist. But it's probably more than you want to get into.
That's fine. Er, do you think having a famous father (Randy Bachman, founder member of Bachman Turner Overdrive, makers of the hit "Ain't seen nothing yet") helped you? Did it help you learn the music business?
Not so much in terms of business. That had changed so drastically by the time I got up to bat. But in terms of how to write songs, produce songs, and play things, like guitar and drums - how to get all that stuff together? Yeah. Growing up in a musical household was invaluable.
MWEB: And fame? What are the good and bad things about making it?
TB: [He sounds like he's smiling at the other end of the line.] The good and bad about being famous? Well, you're a writer, right?
So then you know, it's pleasing to produce something that other people enjoy, or they got a kick out of, shifted their perspective, or that meant a lot to them. It's very nice. It's very flattering. And you get cut special breaks sometimes if you achieve any level of prominence.
On the other hand if you do achieve any sort of notoriety people try to take you down a peg. And it's not always easy to discern why, you know? Or to figure out what you've done to provoke something. So there's that, and that kinda sucks. - Jean Barker
Catch Tal Bachman Live before he sails back to his Island at the KKNK, Oppikoppi Easter Festival, and in some major towns at...
26 March: OppiKoppi Easter Festival, Northam 27 March: Splash Festival, PE29 March: Roxy's, Jo'burg (with Karma from Henry Ate)30 March: Canadian High Commission private function 1 April: KKNK - township gig (Bridgeton township) 2 April: KKNK - Kaktus Oppi Vlaktes
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