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Raine Maida (of Our Lady Peace) Interview

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , , .

Growing up in Canada, there now remains a short-list of bands that released music during my time there which will forever be burned into my mind. Groups like the Tragically Hip and the Headstones come to mind; but somewhere near the top of that list is Our Lady Peace. Now releasing its seventh studio album, Burn Burn, the band finds itself with a freedom that it hasn’t had in well over a decade: the freedom to take their time with a recording, record and produce it by themselves, and ultimately release it under their terms. In addition to speaking on each of these subjects, Raine Maida, lead singer and co-founder of the group, also took some time recently to elaborate on the band’s forthcoming touring plans, his thoughts on leaving Sony, and his reasoning behind not pursuing a career in mixed martial arts.

I had heard that Burn Burn is based off a quote from a book you read, could you tell me about that?

Raine Maida: It’s one of my favorite Jack Kerouac quotes. It’s really about kind of doing things against the grain. It’s tough for me to say what Kerouac was thinking, but it’s about freedom. It’s about having your own timetable, your own thought process. Being a little bit mad, you know, in that sense. And kind of going against the status quo. It’s not like this record is going against the status quo—it’s a rock and roll record—but for us there was a lot of freedom associated with this record because it’s the first time that we own it. We produced it ourselves. We didn’t really have a label when we started the record. We wanted to do something beyond all the constraints and confines that we’ve been put under being in the music business for the last 10, 11 years being with Sony.

When you’re talking about freedom, did that kind of transfer over from all the time you spent just working on your own album?

Raine Maida: Well, I think making my solo record was a great experiment in the sense of how it was made. I wasn’t going to make a solo record unless I could own it so my manager was able to get me the rights back to my solo material. There is something that burns, a synapse that happens in your brain when you have ownership. And it’s not really a tangible thing, or something you can put your finger on, but it’s very real. And it really changed the way I made that record and it really kind of altered the way we did the Our Lady Peace record. It just kind of transferred that energy. We did it in my house in my studio without any real kind of outside influence. By not having the producer it was really just a form of trusting our own instincts. And that was a really important step for us.

When you’re taking control of the album do you have control of the first single you’re putting out?

Raine Maida: We have control of everything. We ended up signing a deal with ILG which is a Warner independent label. But it’s more of partnership: we own the masters, and we make the decisions together and at the end of the day the decision’s ours. It’s a much better place for us to be. And not that I have anything bad to say against Sony, because it’s easy to knock the major labels over the last bunch of years. Except for our last record, they’ve been a really, really great choice. And I’m not a bitter guy, so I don’t really feel something negative toward Sony. It’s just times have changed and the band is at a place where we can do everything on our own, so we love it.

That’s great. That’s got to be a fantastic relief. How long were you working on the record, about two years?

Raine Maida: Years, but it was done in very small spurts. I don’t know if people know that. Like five or six 10 day sessions; it probably took about six weeks total to record but we spread it out. Not having a producer, I think it’s important to get perspective, so when we’d record a few songs, then you get away from them. And then come two months later: fresh. That way we knew what was good and what wasn’t.

Speaking of what was good and what wasn’t, did you just record the 10 songs on the album or are there a bunch of others that are just kicking around from the sessions?

Raine Maida: There’s probably five of them, we probably ended up recording 15 songs total. We worked on some other ideas, you know, the way the record was recorded everything was done live off the floor. So we’d basically write and record songs in a day, or a day in a half. So pretty much, if we weren’t feeling it and it wasn’t there in half an hour… There’s some sketches of songs, maybe another five sketches of songs, but we only finished 14 or 15.

Do you think you’ll end up releasing those at any point in time?

Raine Maida: Well, there are a couple that are for iTunes, like a deluxe package, there are two songs. “Timebomb” and another song called “The Right Stuff” that are not going to be on the record, but they’re going to be bonus tracks that people can grab off iTunes if they want.

Very cool. Before when you were talking about the change between labels, and the time you spent in between that, how much has that changed the way you approach your songs. Because a lot of the change I see it is not just in how you’re writing your songs, but how you sound, how your voice sounds…

Raine Maida: I don’t know if it’s… It’s a very organic process, so depending on what the song is for me that really kind of dictates how I sing it. This is definitely much more—the energy is a very live energy. So it feels a little more stripped down and rock to me, so it’s probably closer to our first record. Probably something that’s close to Naveed in terms of energy. Songs like “Monkey Brains” and “All You Did,” those are very up-tempo rock songs; for us anyway. So there’s definitely that passion, and I won’t say aggression, but it’s back to that.

That’s one of my favorites, “Monkey Brains.” Got a quick question for you that has nothing to do with the album, really—just something off the wall. I was watching an interview the other day of you in the Much Music studio and you mentioned that you had grown up doing some jiu-jitsu.

Raine Maida: Yeah.

Are you a fan of MMA?

Raine Maida: I am. Yeah, it’s kind of like a guilty pleasure of mine. It gets really kind of gory and violent sometimes but… I think the great fighters—I grew up doing kempo karate for many years when I was younger and I switched to jiu-jitsu with a guy who was teaching in Toronto. You see guys like Anderson Silva and George St-Pierre, the really great athletes and the guys that are really well rounded. I think they’re all amazing technicians and it’s more like a chess game with those guys. It’s something closer to what Bruce Lee maybe would have ended up doing by amalgamating all those styles.

Probably so.

Raine Maida: Yeah, I do enjoy it.

Do you still practice?

Raine Maida: I don’t as much any more, I just don’t have time. A friend of mine who is another writer, he was studying Gracie’s… Gracie has a studio like five minutes from my house here. I really wanted to get into it because he was one of my former idols. But a friend of mine who is another writer and singer studied with him, actually got pretty high up but he literally herniated two discs in his neck. And that’s just by nature of the sport, if you’re doing it three days a week, sparring and grappling and stuff, something’s going to happen. You know, all these guys get injured at some point. So my friend, the pressure when he goes to sing is just too much for his neck, so I just unfortunately can’t risk that.

Yeah… probably best to stay away from. Back to the record, are you guys planning on doing a nationwide tour or all throughout North America with this?

Raine Maida: July is pretty much Canada: festivals and stuff that we’re doing. Then August is down in the US. Probably September we’ll be going to Europe for a couple weeks and then right after that we’ll start planning more extensive tours throughout North America. I think we’ll hit probably 15-20 cities in the US in August, so that’ll be great.

Again, with the freedom on the record, do you have the freedom to take with you on the tour who you want?

Raine Maida: Oh yeah, we have 100 % control. We have a show in New York, Irving Plaza on the day on the release in July and a friend of mine from Long Island just called me today, and he just started a new band—so I just put him on the bill.

Very cool.

Raine Maida: Yeah, it’s definitely a different vibe right now. We’re in that place where we can kind of do whatever we want and we’re really grateful.

With your friends, did you bring any friends into the studio with you when you were recording the album?

Raine Maida: We didn’t. You know, we kind of really kept it to ourselves. It was something, like I said at the beginning, just having the four of us and not having any outside influence and trusting our own instincts is something really that we hadn’t done since we were making demos before we got signed. I really wanted to take care of that and not let anyone infiltrate it. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just for this record that’s what we felt we needed to do. But maybe the next record we’ll actually hire a producer. So who knows.

Despite that you said you just did little recording spurts, almost. How did you stay energetic enough to stay with it over the couple years there.

Raine Maida: I think it’s just a product of everyone was very excited about the music. Like every time we’d come together at least two out of the three songs, everyone really, really was jazzed about. That stuff’s infectious. The fact that you stay away from it for two months, come back in together, and you listen to for the first time again and it’s just… like “Monkey Brains,” I remember we hadn’t listened to it for three months. I put it up in the studio the night the guys got back into town and we all freaked out like wow, this is like one of the best things we’ve written in years. And that energy is what fuels it, and the fact that it’s made live and it’s made to play live. We recorded it live, and we knew that when it sounds this good in the studio, just the four of us playing this stuff, it’s going to translate to the road in a very powerful way. So I think everyone, it was all like let’s get this record finished ’cause I want to get out there and play it.