VanMusic: Can you give us a brief history of Perplexity Of Things? How did this project start? Who is all involved?
The idea of Perplexity of Things started when I was 18. I knew that I wanted to make music, but wasn’t quite sure where to start. All I could come up with at the time was the name. I’ve always jammed with friends, but didn’t have anybody I could really connect with— someone who shared the same taste and mindset. So I realized that I would have to do it all myself, if I was going to approach this seriously.
I always played drums and bass guitar, but my love for electronic music forced me to go out and buy a synthesizer. So I basically spent the next couple years figuring out how to play it, as well as the guitar. I eventually put out an EP of the first songs I had written in 2007. It wasn’t really until my second EP, however, that I really found my sound. I felt much more confidant and comfortable with writing and playing with the second release.
VanMusic: I really like your new single Someday, and the video is great.
Thank you! The song was actually mixed by Dave “Rave” Ogilvie, who I know you just did a Jakalope tour with!
As for the video, I just edited a bunch of scenes from the Fritz Lang film “Metropolis” with the music. There isn’t any meaning or connection between the film and song. I just always thought the film had really cool/creepy visuals and thought it might go well with the music.
VM: Can you let our VM readers in on Perplexity of Things songwriting and recording process.
When I did my first EP, the songwriting and recording went hand in hand. I was recording everything as I was writing it. My writing process has changed since then.
Now I don’t usually touch an instrument until I have a song completely mapped out in my head. This starts off with just some sort of melody and if it’s in my head the next day, I think I’m on the right track. So I just keep building it up in my mind for the next few days. Then I’ll sit down at a keyboard or synthesizer and start demoing the key parts and once I’m in the studio and it’s all recorded, it usually turns out exactly like that complete song I had in my head or better.
I work closely with friend and engineer Adam Fair for the recording process. I sometimes feel sorry for him when I’m trying to describe the song in my head, he puts up with a lot. I tell him ‘this is what the song will sound like’ and just try to hum or sound out the ideas first. I tell him how every drum part will sound, describe how the strings, guitars and everything will be—making all these sounds and effects with my voice. And when I think he isn’t getting it, as he looks at me like I’m crazy, he picks up on it right away and knows exactly what I mean and what I’m trying to achieve.
Once we’re on the same page, we’ll start laying down the drum patterns with samples or record me playing live drums, then I’ll just start going through every instrument to track: synths, keys, guitars, bass and lastly vocals. Once the arrangement is down and all the parts are recorded, Adam goes to town editing and tweaking everything. Then we’ll go through and do a final mix and that’s about it.
Dave Ogilvie, however, mixed the last couple songs that I did, including “Someday”. That was an interesting process as well. He’s someone I’ve always had huge respect for and been a fan of. So I feel very fortunate to have his name now associated with my music. My friend, Chris Huggett, played guitar on these songs as well.
VM: How do you feel about selling music online (pros and cons) and also your thoughts about illegal music downloading as an artist?
As an independent artist there are definitely pros and cons to releasing music online. In order to address this, however, you have to talk about the industry as a whole from an independent musicians perspective.
I find that unless you’re an established act or on some sort of label, most people won’t give your music a chance or give a shit about who you are, no matter how good your music is. Not just from a listener’s perspective, but also in terms of trying to get reviews and have your music featured on blogs/sites, etc. Nobody is willing to give you a chance to get your name out there. Not unless you have tons of money to market yourself and pay some established, credible music review sites to listen to you. I’m not trying to complain, I’m just saying how hard it can be for indie artists. You can get reviews and your music featured on sites, but out of the 100 people you contact, you can expect maybe 1 to get back to you and at times it can feel defeating.
In terms of selling music, that too is a huge challenge—to convince people to take a chance on you when you’re not credible or established. It’s especially hard when major acts, that aren’t selling like they used to (in today’s industry), are forced to give away free music that might entice people to buy other things from them, such as merch, deluxe box sets or coming to a show. So when people are already not paying for records, from bands they love, why the hell are they going to want to buy something from you, someone they haven’t even heard much about? You’re basically forced to give your music away for free.
Giving away free music definitely has pros and cons too. It really is the easiest way to have people listen to your music. Firstly, you have to become a self-promoter/manager. Utilize every social media tool and spam everything to show people you have music available. Once they hear it, you have to hope they’ll actually download it, even when it’s free. If they do, the biggest pro is that it’s extremely cool and rewarding to hear the instant feedback and interest. With the Internet, your music has reach all over the world. It’s always really cool to hear back from say Germany or France. When giving away free music, you also have to hope that the person who downloaded it will believe in what you’re doing and in a sense, work for you. You really hope that they’re telling friends or sharing a link on Facebook or Twitter. I don’t just give away the music for free, however. I have my material available on iTunes or other digital retailers as well. I think it’s important to give listeners the option. If they are taking it for free and telling friends about it or buying it off of iTunes, either way it’s a win.
With all that said, I don’t want to keep giving away free music forever. I would hope that one day I could actually make some sort of living off of doing this. I think people sometimes forget that independent musicians, such as myself, aren’t made of money and put all they have into making music. In order to keep recording and releasing music, you need the money, simple fact.
VM: Can you name some of your musical and non-musical influences?
I grew up with a musical family. My dad is a musician and he and my uncle were in a band together. Their parents were musicians too. My dad even bought me my first drum kit when I was 10 or 11. I’ve been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember—with my sisters listening to Depeche Mode or my parents playing the Beatles, music was always around. All of these factors had a huge influence on me for sure.
My biggest musical influence, however, has always been Nine Inch Nails/Trent Reznor. I’ve been a huge fan ever since I was a kid. In fact my first show ever was the NIN/David Bowie tour. When I think of an artist’s career I’d like to emulate, it would easily be his. It just seems like, in my opinion, everything was done smart and in the right way: music, presentation, etc.… Another huge inspiration, of course, is Depeche Mode. They too are a band that just seemed to get it right. I find myself drawn towards artists such as these who have edge, depth and meaning to their music and yet somehow still have the ability to have a mass appeal. Last but not least is Skinny Puppy. I first got into them in high school and it had a huge impact on me. You really had to give each album a thorough listen to really appreciate it. To this day I don’t know how the hell they did half the shit they did on “Last Rights.” That album is 20 years old now, yet it still sounds like nothing else out there. I listen to and am influenced by a lot of music, but those three are the bands that have stood out the most.
VM: What city/venue would be the ultimate place to perform in?
Being from the Toronto, an absolute dream would be to one-day play The Phoenix or Kool Haus. I’ve seen countless shows at these venues, from some of my favourite bands, so to play them would be an incredible experience. Another dream would be to play some big festivals, such as Coachella in California or Reading in the UK. I’ve always wanted to come to Vancouver too. It just seems like an awesome place with a cool music scene.
VM: What are some future plans for Perplexity of Things? Any upcoming releases and tours?
I’m going to be making my first LP this spring, which I can hopefully release in late summer. The album will consist of re-worked versions of some old songs, plus a few new and will also include the single “Someday.” I’m hoping Dave Ogilvie will again be available to mix a couple tracks. I would love to have the opportunity to work more closely with him in the future and pick his brain. I might also be pressing the LP or at the very least pressing a limited 7” single of “Someday.”
In terms of touring, I’ve tried many times to get a live band together to play these songs. That’s been a huge challenge in itself. Like I’ve said previously, unless you’re on some sort of label or established, nobody will give you a chance or in this case play your songs. It’s either they want to be paid by you or play their own songs. I realize I could just go out there with a laptop and a keyboard, but that always looks so lame to me. I think a full band is the best option for properly representing my songs. So for now I’ll just focus on what’s most important, the music.
You play bass though, right? haha