Duncan Coutts of Our Lady Peace
After the 2005 release of their album “Healthy In Paranoid Times” it was questionable if the world would ever hear from Our Lady Peace again. While their loyal fan base hoped for the best it seemed as if OLP (Raine Maida on vocals, Duncan Coutts on bass, Jeremy Taggart on drums and Steve Mazur on Guitar) may have called it a day, but now, four years later, the band has resurrected and released their latest album “Burn Burn”.
With a renewed outlook on the band and fresh new ideas the band approached the making of “Burn Burn” with the enthusiasm and drive of their debut release. The band didn’t have to answer to anyone in the studio except themselves, which is sometimes the hardest task of all. Recording the album their own way, on their own time, and on their own dime allowed them the opportunity to give it the perspective and attention needed to make the album everything they wanted it to be. Grabbing the title from the Jack Kerouac novel “On the Road” is no coincidence either. The theme of Kerouac’s quote is one of refusing to compromise and that is exactly the stance Our Lady Peace took going into writing and recording their latest effort. Taking back full control of their musical destiny, the band set forth to write and record an album that captured their raw energy, excitement, and overall passion for who they are as musicians down to their core.
Not wasting any time, the band is already out on the road in support of Burn Burn and loving every minute of it. Bassist Duncan Coutts recently took some time to talk to us about the new album, the recording process and his aversion to social networking.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | September 2009
Congrats on the new album, it’s great to hear new stuff from you guys. The band has described the process of writing and recording the album as a return to your instincts when you went into write your first album. Can you expand on what you meant by that?
I think that the similarity is this, the first and second records were made by pretty young guys who were just excited to be in the studio and very much on the green side of things. This album is the first time that we self-produced and I think that the energy in the studio was as close to the energy on those first couple of records. I don’t think they sonically sound the same at all but I think that there’s an excitement and an inherent energy to the recording of this record that was similar to Naveed and Clumsy.
So the recording process has been described as a “no-pressure” type situation which is not often what fans might imagine the recording process to be like and it’s been said that you didn’t over think or under think anything so how were you able to find that balance overall?
I think that a lot of people had actually written us off because we’d gone quiet for a little while. We all needed to go away and gather some new influences and new experiences and new ideas so that when we did come back together we’d have something to talk about musically speaking. I think it’s always been our idea that once we feel that we have nothing to say to each other musically anymore that it’s time to hang it up. The way it really went down was when we finally did decide to get back together we knew that it was going to be tough to get perspective when we were self-producing so we never spent more than a week or ten days tops together and we’d work on three to six ideas. We tried not to be precious with those ideas, we’d let them happen organically and as quickly as possible and we were able to tap into some energy that was great. We would record three to six ideas and the key was that we didn’t listen to them immediately after we were done, we didn’t take them back home with us. We wouldn’t see each other from a month to three months because we had the luxury of time and that afforded us the opportunity to gain perspective. The danger is when you record a song, you’re usually excited about it. Then you leave the studio thinking it’s the best thing you’ve ever done, but when you come back after not hearing it for awhile you have a different perspective and that’s the way we made this record. Even though it took about two and a half years to make this record we only recorded for about seven weeks tops.
That was actually something I was going to ask, I did see that the recording process started in early 2007, so that explains it.
Yes, there were periods where we didn’t see each other for four months so you really do get a lot of perspective on what you’ve accomplished up to that point and then it starts to evolve and we got together more frequently. From a business standpoint we’ve been away a long time so it’s not necessarily a great idea but it was the way that we needed to make this record in order for this band to move on and to stay a band. We’ve never felt tighter or better as a band and we’re excited about the record that we made.
So the album was self-produced and I think that your fans will remember some of the different prolific producers that you’ve worked with throughout the years; what do you think was the benefit to producing the album yourselves?
We needed to take control. We’re essentially an indie band at this point and we wanted to make a record on our own terms. We’ve learned enough at this point in our career after making six studio records that we felt we needed to do it for the growth of the band. I think it was partly a reaction to how our last record was made. I don’t want to discredit our last record, there are moments on that record that I love and that I will cherish but it was a very difficult album to make and there were too many people involved in the process of making it. Decisions were beyond our control in terms of budgets and schedules, and all the things that have nothing to do with the creation of music. I think for us to grow as a band and gain more respect for one another and to prove that we could do it; we had to make the record this way. Will we self-produce our record next time? I’m not sure, there are other producers we’d love to work with but at least we know now that we can make a record totally on our own, paid for by us without anyone telling us what to do.
Musically as a collective effort this album really gives everyone in the band their time to shine; do you think that this is your best album to date as far as being able to showcase everyone’s individual talents?
It certainly feels like the most collaborative record to date. It was made prickly, it was made live off of the floor, it’s meant to have that feel, and it’s meant to sound like we’re capturing our live show. I think we all just got to a place as players that we feel like we have stuff to show and we’ve learned restraint in other parts so when we do step out a bit it shines a little more. Maybe we’re just slow learners.
In 2005 you did go your separate ways for awhile; do you think that break was something that the band needed?
Absolutely! Without it we wouldn’t be a band anymore I don’t think.
Was there ever a time during that break that you thought the band might be over forever?
When all your phones go silent for awhile sometimes you wonder but I think that we were closer to breaking up during the making of our last album. We did a tour at the end of the last record that just reminded us what a relationship we have with our fans and friends and we have something pretty special so to throw it away over silly stuff would be stupid. At the end of the day it all comes down to the music, if we got together and we didn’t have anything to say to one another and it wasn’t working musically speaking then we would not have made a record. We’re not the type of band that remakes the same song over and over which from a marketing standpoint may be really dumb if you think about it. People like the taste of Coke so they keep buying Coke, they don’t want you to change the recipe but we’re just not that kind of band. We are always trying to push each other and challenge each other musically and say something different lyrically for Raine as well. I think if we get to the point where we feel like we’re not doing that anymore and touring becomes about commerce then we’re out, we’re done.
I read a quote by you where you said the song “Dreamland” was the song that signified the whole recording process of the album for you?
A song sometimes comes along during the recording process where it brings what you’ve done into focus. It may not be the best song on the record or even a single but it’s the song where you all of a sudden go past the point where you’re recording songs and you feel like you’re making a record. Dreamland felt like that for us, once we had that song we felt like everything had to be as good as that and that we had a record. There were many many highs after that but that was the first inkling that we had a record.
With so many albums under your belt and the band constantly evolving sound wise, do you ever have a concern about fans not following you from album to album with that evolution?
It’s a concern but it’s something that selfishly you can’t really think of. There are certain things that we can’t completely abandon. We’re not going to go make a Jazz record or anything; Raine’s voice is unique so there will always be a large element of our sound in that. There are certain things that you want to be aware of but really when we’re writing we’re just trying to excite each other musically and lyrically. I remember having a conversation with Raine about the song Paper Moon when he was recording the vocal and he explained that there were two ways he could do the pre-chorus. One had his signature falsetto and I hadn’t heard him do it in awhile and so I told him that he had to do it that way because I’ve missed it and I’m sure some of the fans have missed it as well, so there are little elements like that that we try and be aware of but beyond that we just let the music happen.
I’ve read that the name of the album is a Kerouac quote from “On The Road”, who’s idea was that and how does it relate to the album?
It was really Raine’s idea. It’s about not compromising and that works on a lot of levels for us at this point.
As a bassist, what songs on the new album are most rewarding for you to play live? I’m going to guess that Monkey Brains is a favorite?
Why because of the big bass solo? Yeah that’s how we are opening the show. That’s a fun one that was totally born out of a guitar riff. It was a guitar riff that I had, and if you’ll notice it’s super simple because that’s what happens when a bass player plays guitar. Steve heard that and he wanted to turn it into something and then Raine got his hands on it. But yes, that’s a rewarding one to play, it’s a challenging one to play and sing at the same time. It’s really hard as a player, I like even the simple songs on the album, it’s really fun to just be subtle and caress a note in a very simple way. You get both ends of the spectrum really.
I know you just hit the road, is the set list evolving as the tour goes on because I recently read a post by Raine where he said that you just performed Escape Artist live for the first time as well.
Last night we did that song and then Steve started playing the lick of Bring Back the Sun (Off of Gravity) and we hadn’t even talked about doing that song. We hadn’t played it in about five years and we’ve never played it without a fifth member in the band for the piano part. I think there are certain songs that people expect to hear so we don’t shy away from that so we’ll have other songs that we rotate in and out of the set each night.
I couldn’t help but notice that a few of the guys in the band are on MySpace and Twitter but you’re nowhere to be found, are you not a fan of social networking?
I came up when there was so much mystery about the band and I’m probably foolishly trying to hold on to that a little bit.
So you’re the dark horse?
Yes, I’m the bassist; I’m supposed to be the quiet one right? Now that Raine is twittering (I can’t believe he is) I may have to join the 21st century and get my act together, but I’ve enjoyed flying under the radar, there is a certain element of mystery about it but that’s not what’s popular in this day and age.
Having been involved in the music industry for so long I’m sure you’ve seen it evolve in both good ways and bad, what has been the biggest change for you as a band from that first album until now as far as the industry goes?
Trying to make money, not to be crass but there’s a huge portion of the population that don’t pay for music. There are of course are those that do but it’s a different world now. I’ve been working with some young bands and it’s really tough to get them off of the ground because there are not that many people on the industry side who are willing to invest in new bands because the back end is just not there. Young bands have to get out there and tour because that’s the only way to get a core following. That’s the beauty about when we came up in the nineties is that we had a record company that for better or for worse they paid for us to be on the road for 21 months in a row and that’s not a cheap proposition but it allowed us to tour our asses off so we could develop relationships with people in different cities. That’s really set us up for today where we can go back and even if we don’t have a song on the radio there will be people that will come out to our shows. That’s becoming a lot harder for young bands. Technology has allowed us to make music cheaper and faster and the internet has allowed us to spread the word easier but it’s just trying to find a way for the young bands to thrive, that’s the downside.
For more info on Our Lady Peace and their latest album Burn Burn visit:
Follow OLP on Twitter
Check out Our Lady Peace Live:
Sep 26 2009 Harbourfront Centre – Abbey Road f. Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace Toronto, Ontario
Sep 27 2009 Harbourfront Centre – Abbey Road f. Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace Toronto, Ontario
Oct 19 2009 Belly Up Solona Beach, California
Oct 20 2009 House of Blues Anaheim, California
Oct 21 2009 Clubhouse Music Venue – Our Lady Peace Tempe, Arizona
Oct 22 2009 Rio Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, Nevada
Oct 24 2009 The Woodlands Pavillion Houston
Oct 25 2009 House of Blues New Orleans
Oct 27 2009 Electric Cowboy Johnson City, Tennessee
Oct 29 2009 Newport Music Hall Columbus, Ohio
Oct 30 2009 The Pageant St. Louis
Oct 31 2009 Kansas City Power & Light District Kansas City, Missouri
Oct 31 2009 Kansas City Power & Light District – Our Lady Peace at KC Live Kansas City, Missouri
Nov 13 2009 Wild Bills Saloon Banff, Alberta