In the shadow of the Fernsehturm:
An interview with Adam Traynor about Canadian bands in Berlin
Grey skies, poor nutrition passed off as “traditional” food, protests of impressive frequency and size, dirty looks… these could belong to one of a few cities. Mocky, Taylor Savvy, Ad Hawk, Peaches, Feist, Gonzales… at one time or another, these all definitely belonged to Berlin. And at others, certain cities in Canada. Feist and Gonzales have moved on to Paris, but back in ein Sommertag in Berlin, August ’04, I queried one of said ex-pats, former Montrealer Ad Hawk (Adam Traynor), who runs these days with the Mocky crew, earning his keep rhymin’.
What projects are you involved in?
The Ad Hawk album, Use Your Delusion, is in production. I’ve been busy touring with Mocky and this fall we’re touring as a four-piece with Savvy and Kevin Blechdom to support Mocky’s album release in Europe. Under The Covers is my edutainment cover band with Blechdom. It’s kind of a parody band, which seems to be where we both come from to some extent (eg., The Permanent Stains). I don’t know so much about success, but I heard that my track with Mocky, “Mickey Mouse Motherfuckas,” is a big radio hit in Belgium. They have this Bande Dessinee culture there – The Puppetmastaz store their shit in my apartment so we make tracks together when they’re around.
When Berlin, why Berlin?
I first visited in October 2001 – there were some really cheap post-911 flights at the time. Since Ad Hawk is nothing if not topical (never mind opportunistic), some of the Berlin Canadians and I came up with a musical project, “Sky Marshals,” to reflect the changing times – and to turn a profit from them. We figured that the airlines were going to jump on the chance to make people feel safer through music… But the good thing about The Sky Marshals was that it spawned “The 4 Elements”… So I made regular 4 Elements-related trips to Berlin until finally relocating here in 2003. I figured that the time of the mighty Dollar was over, so I’m chasing the robust Euro.
With so many Canadians here to represent, is there a shared sound?
I’m not sure if there are actually so many Canadians here, or if they just have a disproportionate visibility because of the waves of conquest over the last six years, starting with Gonz and Peach, followed by Taylor Savvy. Ad Hawk is a musical point man in Mocky’s campaign. It’s the typical pattern of migration, though. Like, they say that Toronto is a huge Italian colony, but that most of the people there can be traced back to one village in Sicily, because once upon a time, one person moved to Toronto, and then the next year his neighbour in Sicily moved, and so on and so on, and the seed of this one Sicilian village became a huge Little Italy. So there’s a Canadian mafia here, but the shared sensibility is more familial than nationalistic. And musically speaking, I see a lot of collaboration in the production, even though most of these artists operate under solo handles.
So, there’s no flag on your backpack, when you see Canadian flags on backpacks do you say “hi” or quietly cross the street?
I pretend to be German. The backpack thing is kind of a catch-22, because if you have a flag, it says “I’m a proud and friendly Canadian, naive enough to think that you actually care and can distinguish me from an American.” If you don’t have one and you speak this North American English, then you might as well be American – and a target of hatred. So it’s be ridiculed or be hated. Maybe that’s a clue as to why I am – and maybe this applies to the other Canadians – so willing to make a fool of myself onstage here. It’s the doctrine of pre-emptive self-ridicule. But actually, I have a Swiss flag on my backpack, and I try to pass my accent in German off as a dialect.
What Berlin acts are you listening to?
I love The Bench, Cobra Killer, Planning To Rock, Namosh, Angie Reed, Snax, Candy Hank. Kevin Blechdom, Taylor Savvy and Jamie Liddell are all fixing to drop heavy sophomore albums, as are the Puppetmastaz.
Which Canadian beer do you miss?
Are you kidding? It’s Germany! The only beers I miss are Root and Ginger.