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Interview for Id Magazine



This interview, as gently edited by Michael "Fuzzwonder" Barclay and with
photos by Sylvia "Commie !" Chow will appear in the mid-July issue of Id
Magazine. I thought it would be welcome here (Someone's gotta up the
signal-to-nooise ratio to make Covey happy-and all those Cool Blue Halo
Updates are driving me mad with Girlish enthusiasm and glee ! Look,
Thompson, they're good, but I don't need to know what Barry had for lunch
yesterday, okay ?) I leave Sunday for parts  South,possibly to never
return; phone's dead Friday, e-mail toast that day too for a while- so
goodbye. And Safe Travels.

        Article Follows.

                Sloan not only came out of nowhere, they made nowhere
somewhere.  Starting from Halifax with the 1992 Peppermint EP, they
followed it up with their international DGC debut, Smeared, a feedbacked
distortoroar of assault hooks. Then came 1994's Twice Removed, jangly and
gentle, cited by Spin magazine as one of"The Best 10 Albums You Didn't Hear
in 1994", and similar critical notices chronicled how the album was great,
just destined to not sell outside of a circle of fans. Then, it was
whispered (but never formally announced) that the band was done with. Over.
Andrew Scott (Drums) was in Toronto, working with the Sadies and his own
band, Maker's Mark; Patrick Pentland (Guitar)  was writing and relaxing;
Chris Murphy (Bass) was working at Murderecords (the label that Sloan
started) and drumming for the Superfriendz and Lil' Orton Hoggett, and Jay
Ferguson (Guitar) was managing the Inbreds and working at Murderecords.
There were rumours of division, of a desire to weasel out of their DGC
contract, of tour burnout, of the stress of having four writers in one
band.

        Come summertime 1996, the release of a new album, One Chord to
Another, is a welcome surprise to some and a shock to others.  (It has no
effect on the people who never cared in the first place.) It's on
Murderecords, with MCA helping out in Canada. The day before its June 12th
release, Jay Ferguson was able to talk about the band, what happened, and
the record,  including the question of who, if anyone, is releasing it
through the rest of the globe. "Well, we don't really know what we're going
to do elsewhere...just kidding. ...for the States, it will probably end up
coming out on DGC. But we're not positive yet. "

        Would this be a continuation of the earlier contract ? There have
been rumours that DGC heard the new album and wanted it, and the band,
back; that DGC would forge a renewal of the old contract. "It's a new
relationship, let's put it that way..." He laughs. As for rumours of DGC
pulling them back in,"It wasn't really like that. About a year and a half
ago, when we thought that we weren't going to continue making records or
play live, and we weren't sure what we were going to do, we told this to
Geffen. They still wanted to put out our next two records.... And we said
''Well, look..don't bother pushing it because there might not be a band to
put out any records', and they were like 'Oh really ? Well, okay- we'll
wait and see what happens'. They just let everything expire, and they
didn't push us, which was graceful of them; they could of forced us to make
records, or put out a greatest hits and a live album. Which woulda been
just sorta crappy."

        So then; the band was over. Done with. Side Projects, other
interests. Then it wasn't over. "...Then we decided to make a new record,
and we started recording, and just out of courtesy to our A&R person at
Geffen ( Todd Sullivan), who is always very supportive of us, we said
'Look, we're going to put this record out on Murder on our own in Canada;
we just thought we would send it to you so you could hear it and if you're
interested in putting it out in the States...'  and he's like 'Of
course.....'  ... so that's just the way it happened and we just decided to
start talking about details and contracts and things like that, so
nothing's officially been signed or anything, but that's what we're
tentatively working towards:  putting it out on Geffen in the States...."

        Ferguson wasn't completely ecstatic about working with the American
arm of DGC in the past. "....It was quite frustrating being on Geffen with
their reaction to Twice Removed and everything; (The Geffen Radio
Department's) reaction was 'We don't understand this record; we can't
really hear this between Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails on
Commercial Alternative radio- why don't you go back and record some more
stuff ?' and 'How come the guitars aren't louder and beefier blahblahblah-
it doesn't fit into the preconceived ideal of what we think Sloan should
be.' .So, they told us to go record some more, go try again, and we just
sort of flat-out said no, because you could keep second guessing yourself
your whole life, and you could go back and make another record and they
could still say 'Oh, we still don't like this.'  and then you just keep
going back trying to please somebody else and if you don't please yourself
or your own band then why bother continuing ? It just gets too confusing
and probably too frustrating."

        The fact of the matter is that Twice Removed makes much more sense
now that it can be viewed alongside Guided By Voices, Superfriendz and
Oasis and Zumpano and other Superpop acts who take their cues from the
60's. Was Twice Removed prescience or just dumb luck ? "It's not like we
saw this wave coming.  'I sensed a change in the music industry'.I'm just
quoting this book...about (Arista Records President) Clive Davis. At the
end of one of the chapters he says 'I sensed a change in the music
industry, but I couldn't tell what it was.'  And over the next chapters,
it's Disco. We're just making records to please ourselves, and we like
those sort of...I love old Who records, and the Hollies; Beatles records
too, I suppose, Bee Gees records, The Left Bank, that kinda stuff, so I
don't know if we thought 'This is what's coming along, we better do it.'".
It was more like we were showing our influences, and now it's popular
again, which is sorta odd...."

        Twice Removed had a crucial advantage over One Chord To Another,
though- it was a last record, not just another record. You have to say nice
things at the funeral, but if the deceased shows signs of life again, it's
open season. There's a sense that One Chord might be on the receiving end
of some backlash. Fine, says Ferguson. "I would welcome it, because we love
to fight - there's your headline, we love to fight- not amongst ourselves.
We're up for the challenge of an opponent, let's put it that way."   And as
for people who would suggest Sloan only got back together due to a positive
response made in retrospect ?   "I wouldn't care, because I think we made a
really great record; if we made a crappy record and it did really well then
I would be perhaps a little bit more intimidated. If we made a really good
record, it doesn't really matter...and if it doesn't do well, it doesn't
sell well, I swear to god, I'm totally happy with our records. I want it to
do well,and I hate things when they don't do well, but in the back of my
mind, you've got a record that lasts forever; that's really good. "

        Still, any decision to record had to get over the facts of separate
lives both in terms of physical and emotional distance. "The challenges
weren't really geographic, it was...maybe a little emotional, but not
terribly. I still see Patrick all the time,and Chris and I see each other
all the time because we're here at Murder; there weren't really any
challenges except to come up with some good songs. Geographically, (with)
Andrew being in Toronto....Andrew came down at Christmas and we had sent
him tapes of all the songs already, and he came down and we recorded the
drums, and then he went home after Christmas..." It sounds almost simple.

        Scott sent tapes of his own songs for the new album, A Side Wins,
400 Meters, to Halifax, as well. Pentland wrote One Chord's first single,
The Good In Everyone, as well as Everything You've Done Wrong and Can't
Face Up. Murphy's weighs in with the greatest number of total songs,
including Nothing Left To Make Me Want To  Stay, Autobiography, G Turns To
D, Anyone Who's Anyone and Take the Bench. Ferguson wrote Junior Panthers
and The Lines You Amend. For all the disparate voices, there's a certain
unity; all the songs seem to be about either living awkward lives, or
music. "I guess that's what we write about; we don't really write about
politics or any kind of social issues....we write about what's going on in
our lives, and I think that's always been the way we write generally...."
In the background, Chris Murphy, Smartass bass player, chimes in:
"Greenpeace on Line one." Still, many people try to find deeper meaning in
the songs- such as the fan theory that Coax Me is about Kurt Cobain. "I get
a total charge out of that, because I used to think about that stuff when I
was a kid.......I get a kick out of that when they're wrong, because that's
kinda funny."

        Ferguson's hopes for the new album are simple: "It'll knock Twice
Removed off the top of the (Chart Magazine) greatest Canadian albums of all
time chart; it'll be number one, Twice Removed will be number two, Harvest
will be # 3." He laughs. "I don't know, I hope people will like it....and I
hope the people who liked our other records like it as well, because
they've been very good to us, sticking with us through all this retarded
business."

        Finally, one question remains: Is Twice Removed another Sloan
record, one of a series....or is it the newest last record from a band who
have quit before and could do it again on a moment's notice ? "It remains
to be seen what we'll do touring-wise, but I think we will make another
record or more records, that's what we're planning on; right now we're in
the mindset where we would like to make more records, and I think we'll
continue to make good records. That's as it stands now." Right now, the
past is the past, the record comes out tomorrow, the future awaits,  and
Jay Ferguson is happy with his friends, his band, and their new record.

        James Rocchi.