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Shad vows to deliver at Jazz Fest

Posted by Margot / June 25, 2010

Sven Carlsson is the founder and a frequent contributor to independent music website Beatnik. He recently sat down with one of Canada's rising hip hop MCs, Shad, and lucky for us, Sven decided to share the interview with Midnight Poutine. You can find more of Sven's pen at Beatnik or on twitter @beatnikonline. And be sure to read his review of Shad's critically acclaimed and (I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm pretty sure) soon-to-be Polaris Prize Shortlist album TSOL.

On his third and latest album TSOL, London, Ontario MC Shad claims to summarize "27 years of looking". And whether dealing with women's place in hiphop (something he also professes to know little about on "Keep Shining"), the importance of names in determining social status in Western society ("A Good Name") or "spazzing out" rhyming on lead single "Yaa I Get It," many will agree that he's done it successfully. Shad's TSOL tour accross the country brings him to Montreal's Jazz Festival this Friday, 25 June, and though not everyone will be familiar with his thought-provoking musical output, he does sport some tricks up his sleeve to get any crowd going.

"I try to mix things up on stage," Shad explains from London, Ontario, where he is catching some well-needed down time ahead of the start of his tour. "If people are more familiar with my songs, I may take more time to talk in between songs if the audience feels like it's more familiar with people. If that's not the case, I try to keep it high energy and connect on that level. I'll do some impromptu freestyling or call-and-response stuff to get the audience going, and I get the guitar out too."

Witnesses to Shad's live show will have been treated not only to his vocal and freestyling abilities, but also his simultaneous skills on the guitar. On his recordings, however, Shad shies away from leaving the vocal booth. "I don't consider myself the most proficient player," he admits. "So when I don't have to play anything I prefer not to. I can just guide some of the ideas or pick parts. For me, playing is more of a necessity than anything else, and it's something I do live because it switches up the dynamic."
Currently based in BC where he's pursuing a part-time master's degree, Shad has been in some pretty good company during the recording of TSOL. Lisa Lobsinger and Brendan Canning, both of acclaimed indie outfit Broken Social Scene, passed through Shad's studio during the recording sessions and lended their talents to its creation. "Those guys just happened to know and have worked with Ryan and John, who wrote a couple of the tracks with me. Brendan and Lisa were coming to the studio from time to time and felt like helping out. They did a great job."

Lisa of BSS sings back up for the second single "Rose Garden", the video for which is shot in a back-alley on a small budget, mimicking Hype Williams' classic video "Drop" for Californian hiphop trio The Pharcyde to great effect. That particular song was destined for the album long before its recording took place. "It depends on the track, but Rose Garden was one [that I planned to include early on]. My DJ sent me the track, and I knew I wanted that on the album. I was just trying to match the mood of the track [when I was writing]."

Not all of TSOL was conceived ahead of time, though. Shad explains that he found himself with a lot of scattered lyrics, abundant in wordplay if the lyrics of "Rose Garden" are anything to go by, but without a clear concept before the recording sessions began early this year. "For this album, I was in a situation where a lot of random rhymes in my head were non-conceptual and unstructured," he says.

"So I sat down and thought I really needed some ideas that would tie songs together, to make songs that were more concise and could connect with people. I really liked the rhymes I had in my mind but I needed some concepts.

"So did you fit the old rhymes into the new concepts or did you scrap everything?"

It was actually a lot of starting from scratch and coming up with some ideas that are important to me and can fit in a song structure. Conceptual songs like "Listen," "At the Same Time," all of those were written during the recording process. They were a way to make the project cohesive and interesting to me, whereas songs like "We Are the Ones" are a lot more non-conceptual and were recorded before the bulk of the album."

As his music discloses, "there will be some issues to address," but that never stops Shad from putting on a playful and energetic live performance. "Last time we came to Montreal was for the Warped Tour in 2009, and before that we played Pop Montreal which was great, that's one of the best festivals I've ever played at, in terms of the vibe they create," he recalls.

Given that Shad may be performing to an older, less familiar audience at the Jazz Festival on Friday, we can expect an intensly dynamic and personal set, one that is sure to gain him some more followers from around these parts, whether their appreciation is for live improvisation or downright lyrical skills.



Sarabeth / June 25, 2010 at 03:35 pm
Hi Margot,
Lisa Lobsinger sings on Rose Garden, but she DOES NOT appear in the video.
Jer / June 25, 2010 at 09:24 pm
Thanks Sarabeth. Sven confirms this is the case so I'm changing the article to reflect this. Apologies to Lisa and to the girl in the video who is not Lisa
Ines / June 26, 2010 at 05:13 am
I missed this Jazz Fest, but I read it was great.
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