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Interview With GROOVY AARDVARK

GROOVY AARDVARK
By Stéphane Bélanger

GROOVY AARDVARK

Many bands from around here in Québec have had fulfilling careers on the local scenes, drawing major fan base and admiration from countless fans and from the industry alike. It is the case of one of the most important local band, GROOVY AARDVARK, whom has been active on the local scene for the last thirteen years or so. Here is an interview that I did in January with frontman bassman/singer Vincent Peake, who tells us about the band's next projects to conquer Europe in the years 2000 and about their up-coming material, etc. Read on!

—>Hey man! What have you guys been up to these last few months?<—
"Well, we are now jamming with our new guitar player Denis (Lepage - ex-B.A.R.F. and GUANO)..."

—>Yeah! How is it so far with him?<—
"It's pretty freaky so far! I didn't know what to expect in the beginning... But then again somehow, it's probably what I also expected. There were some very freaky riffs that Denis couldn't use with either B.A.R.F. or GUANO. So we started working from those now..."

—>So you've already started composing new material?<—
"Yeah! At this point, we're up to about two and half new songs that we've worked on with Denis. We work about three times a week on the new material."

—>Is he still working with B.A.R.F. or GUANO at the same time or are they gone for good?<—
"No, he's totally done with those two bands. He's only part of GROOVY AARDVARK now."

—>And as far as his contribution to your music is, will it have a major impact on your sound?<—
"I think that it will bind the guitars together a lot more than it used to be in the last couple of years. That brings a new element of intricacy, like faster riffs and stuff. So far, it's great! We take it one day at a time anyway. We're very confident of what's coming! We do intense jams. The communication is very good!"

—>And the new drummer isn't that new anymore, now is he?<—
"Pierre!? Oh yes, he's been in the band for three years! He's a permanent member."

—>What the hell does "Oryctérope" (the title of the last studio album) means?<—
"It's an ant-hill. It's the real name for it. It's the family."

Vincent Peake

—>So you still keep this entire "ant-workers"/"aardvark overseer" concept to this day!?<—
"Yes, pretty much. It's a painting that a guy I know did and we used it for the cover and concept of the album."

—>How did it do sales-wise?<—
"So far, we have sold nine thousand."

—>Only in Canada?<—
"In fact, it's almost only in Québec! But we just signed a new deal with MusiDisc (France) for Europe, which will be valid starting this spring."

—>For the next album?<—
"For all four studio albums and the Live album! We will record the new album in about ten months. We want to spend the year working on it. We totally aim for Europe with this one!"

—>Who will you record with?<—
"It's too early still. But we bought all kinds of stuff to record ourselves; soundboard, ADAT, etc."

—>Will (your old guitarist) M.A. do the sound for you or is he totally out of the picture? Did he left the band in bad terms with you guys?<—
"No, he's still our buddy! He's still part of our entourage. He will even do a few gigs as our soundman. He offered us his services. He still likes to be with us, and that's what he'll miss the most he told us."

—>When was the Live album released?<—
"It came out on November the 1st."

—>Is it doing good?<—
"Yeah, we've sold four thousand so far. It's not so bad. And there's the new video-clip from this album, which helps..."

—>Where did you record that Live album?<—
"We recorded half of it at the Polliwog Fest at Parc Jeanne-Mance and the other half in Longueuil at the Édouard-Monpetit college."

—>Who recorded it?<—
"It's Kazz..."

—>The title ("Exit Stage Dive") is pretty much inspired by RUSH, isn't it? ;-)) <—
"Yeah, you're right!" - laughs - "It originally was Peter Jackson from B.A.R.F. who found that title. They thought of using that title for their Live album, but then they did not use it... So I told him: 'If you don't mind, I'll use it!' I really liked it. Oh by the way, did you know that we are re-recording all of the old demos!"

Oryctérope

—>Yeah, I heard of that! Did you re-do all of the tracks?<—
"Yes. We re-recorded all those songs with the original line-up: Danny, Stéphane Vigeant, Martin and M.A... Three guitars! Danny did all of the tracks and all! It was wild!"

—>Man, this is awesome! You recorded all the old songs from your old demos?<—
"All except "Ants Have No Chance" and "Covert Actions", since those two had been done on our debut album. But aside from those, all the old tracks were remade. That includes our three demos; "One Fine Day...", the '89 Demo and "...Hero"... Plus two tracks that we never did record. There are seventeen songs total."

—>When is this coming out?<—
"We're not sure yet if we'll be releasing it before or after the next album. Probably before because there will be a long period before the new album comes out. It may come out as early as in April but it might be a little later too. But it's all recorded and I'm presently doing the vocals. The mixing will come very shortly."

—>Man, I can't wait to hear that! "One Fine Day" has been one of my favorite, if not my favorite demo of the 80s... Will it have the same intensity, aggressiveness and speed as the original versions?<—
"Yes! And it will sound much better than the original versions."

—>Will you promote it as a S.M.D. (original name: SCHIZOPHRENIC MUFF DIVERS) release?<—
"No, but it will probably be the title of that album though... But it will come out as a GROOVY AARDVARK release since by the time the first demo came out, we were already called GROOVY AARDVARK. We probably won't support it with any tour. It's more of an anthology. It will be a chance for the original fans to get this since they are now impossible to find, and for the newer fans to see what we did back then. It was a real blast to record those songs! It was Stéphane Vigeant's idea. He's the one who financed the project. He wanted to keep those songs with a better sound, etc. So he invited us all to do it with all original members."

GROOVY circa 1987

—>I know that you used to listen to a lot of old stuff... Are you still into it?<—
"Yeah! Maybe a little less, but there are still a lot of old album that aged very well, like good wine."

—>Are you still working on that side-project with Stéphane Vigeant?<—
"Well, yes... Actually, I still play music with him; we have about seven or eight tunes ready, but I started another side-band too. It's a full line-up and I play drums in that project too. We started working on this one two weeks ago and we already have six songs ready! The guys I'm playing with already had riffs composed and stuff. It's not that complicated to assemble it."

—>What style are you playing there?<—
"In your face type Metal... Very powerful, down type of large riffing, nothing too complicated... And I love the work out playing drums offers. It's different from playing bass with GROOVY... For me, that's awesome!"

—>Yeah, it is a totally different trip than playing bass...<—
"Yes! But I like to keep the stability and the drive in my playing. Before, I had some difficulties keeping the tempo and the independence... But I'm doing real fine now and I really like it!"

—>You know it's a great work out when you get off your drums and you're beat and tired!<—
"Yes, totally... Well, you know what I mean!" - laughs!

—>So now you compose with both bands...<—
"Well actually, since it is mostly the other guys who brought the original riffs with my new (yet nameless) project, I mostly learn what they bring to the rehearsals. So I did not contribute any riffs yet. I put the drum parts together though..."

—>But you'll eventually compose music with that project too!?<—
"Oh yes, of course!"

—>As for GROOVY AARDVARK, how do you proceed when you compose?<—
"All four of us compose. For now, that's how it is. Denis had some riffs; we started from all kind of stuff and we built four or five minutes of music with him. The final arrangements are done by all of us."

—>You've always composed that way?<—
"Yeah, pretty much... Me and Martin often composed together, when Pierre could not be there. But otherwise, when we call for a jam, nobody leaves before the other and we all work on the stuff together."

—>Is it the same thing for lyrics?<—
"No, lyrics are more personal. I'm the one who works hard on this."

—>Are you a fast writer, or do you have to think for a few months to compose lyrics?<—
"Oh, that's pretty much my case! I should work a little faster on the lyrics!" - laughs - "I find composing music to be much easier for me than to write texts."

Vacuum

—>Do you find your inspirations in books or what? Do you read a lot?<—
"No I don't. I'm more into reading magazines and stuff. I'm hooked on the National Geographic. I also subscribed to La Presse and stuff like that... I read about every day life."

—>Then that's what inspires you for your lyrics...?<—
"Not at all... I'd rather write stories... Real life stories from facts that I know from people I know, etc. It is pretty close to reality but I put it in my own personal words. But it's not politic."

—>Do you find it frustrating sometimes that you guys have just kept on working and working on this band for all these years and yet you seem to be known almost nowhere else but in Québec?<—
"A little, yes... But we do lots of other stuff, you know! We work, study and stuff... And there's my girlfriend!" - laughs

—>But now, with the new album, you will put a lot of emphasis and effort on the European market, don't you?<—
"Yes! Now that's what I find the most encouraging; we went on an European tour in 1996 and it is by far the greatest experience we ever had! So to go back there for as long as possible is our ultimate goal!"

—>You want to tour there again?<—
"Yes... For at least two months."

—>And when you went there, was it a one-shot deal?<—
"No. It was a sixty days/forty-five dates tour, mostly in Germany. It was totally full in Eastern-Germany!"

—>How was it?<—
"It was pretty drab man... Pretty hard."

—>But I guess that in 1996, it wasn't as hard as if you would have been there in 1986...<—
"Of course! VOÏVOD went there in... '89, I think... The year the wall came down anyway... That must have been weird!"

—>Yeah, with our western civilization's way of life and all that...<—
"Totally. I felt that some did not accept it well. Those that were there I guess were still communists. They did not give a damn about capitalism. Some even gave us a lot of crap because we were hanging t-shirts to sell. They were shouting at us and told us to take those shirts down and to put them back in their boxes!"

—>Oh yeah!!?? By the club owners or by the fans?<—
"Anybody! The fans... In the beginning, I was mentioning that we had some stuff for sale and they would give me the finger. But as soon as we got on the west side, it was the total opposite: We were selling even more than here in Québec! It wasn't real expensive, so people bought all the shirts and all the discs they could! The difference is enormous!"

—>So now that you have that one foot in Europe, I guess you want to go back there at all costs!<—
"Exactly! But we did not want to go back there for nothing, without a contract, nor any distribution. It's expensive and it's a long and hard procedure. There are a few dates from the other tour that we will keep, but there are several dates that won't be on our next tour's schedule."

—>Let's get back to MusiDisc... Are they going to handle all of Europe?<—
"No. They'll take care of France and they will place albums in all of the cities we'll be playing in, depending on the tour."

—>And you still have no news about the United-States?<—
"No. But since we have this, we are pushing a lot more for Europe."

GROOVY Live!

—>Yeah, you'll be able to keep half of your set of songs in French...<—
"Yeah! That's not a problem to us. Languages are not a problem in Europe. So we won't need to slash through our set for that."

—>Another reason why you'll be pushing for the European market...<—
"Yes. And the European are a lot more open-minded than the North-American fans. They will accept a lot more types of music and styles and everything. I loved it there!"

—>So I guess that European tour has been the best one you did so far, right? Or maybe another one?<—
"Oh no, it definitely was the European tour! It is also the only very intense touring we did. We were definitely touched by that tour. We still talk about it pretty much every week! It was a fucking blast!"

—>So all the other tours you did in Québec were small bursts of dates here and there...<—
"For the most part, yes. But now, we're doing a twelve dates mini-tour around the province. We start in late January and will finish those in early March. Pretty much all the bigger city outside of Montréal. After that, we'll play a lot in the spring. It's good because we have only played three shows so far with Denis since he joined us in October... And they were shows in Manitoba!"

—>In Manitoba?? You went all the way up to Manitoba to play three shows?<—
"Yeah!! Well, we were invited and they payed for the plane and all... It was a Franco-Festival!"

—>Oh yeah! Did it go well?<—
"Yeah, it was awesome! The French Manitobans are very well aware of what's going on here, it's incredible! Radio is very much alike here!"

—>I did not know that...<—
"Well, there are over fifty thousand French speaking people over there! It's a pretty big French community. That's good for us! And we had a great time."

—>Speaking of having a great time, did you have a good time on December 31st?<—
"Well, not really... I missed it! The countdown, I mean... I was trying to reach my girlfriend at the bar where she works and there was so much commotion in Montréal that I got stuck in the trafic inside an unknown taxi!" - laughs - "I missed it totally!"

—>So in all of the band's career, what would you consider as your high point! What are you the most proud of?<—
"Well, to have endured all of this time!" - laughs

—>It's been what, twelve years now?<—
"Thirteen, actually! It's been thirteen years this last November."

—>And in thirteen years, there must be something, aside from your European tour, that kind of stands-out, doesn't it?<—
"Well, I guess that the fact that we made it to this point almost on our own. To acquire a level of respectability all over the province. And with the media too. To make people realize that there are other ways to play Rock music in Québec. Even if it's not radio-friendly, it existed and we helped put our scene in value and made it known to the general public. I think it is cool that we had some sort of a success with the media. They finally understood that what all these bands were doing is valid and solid."

—>Speaking of the local scene, what do you think of the Québec scene nowadays?<—
"It kind of goes round and round. There is no real development and there are no real changes. There are many concert halls that are closing down, there are new bands that come out; they're real good, you believe in them, then they split... The musicians seem to be a lot more individualistic. They are looking to work alone, etc."

—>I think that there are also many bands from here that get disillusioned with the industry...<—
Debut album "Yeah... We are also unfavorably affected here because it is a smaller market and the radios are so weak here. The commercial radios never got on the wagon and we are way behind compared to the other international radios. They just don't play any Alternative music... Not even bands like KORN or RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. They don't even play it on CHOM, Montréal's biggest Rock station. Normally, bigger radios play those bands. Here, we fight a useless war. It's tough to ride two thousand kilometers to play one gig in Sept-Îles, to have three hundred people and then come back... It will be a great show and all, but we always have to make excessive efforts to make ourselves known."

—>Especially for a band that has been around for thirteen years!<—
"Yeah! But I still like it a lot. I still have a lot of pleasure to be in a band. I would not trade that for anything in the world. But you're right, I am disillusioned with the local industry, that's quite clear. I think that we made our way in that, disturbing the old ways of thinking. We saw what it's like; some doors will open but they'll rapidly close back. Then we kind of took advantage of the GREEN DAY/OFFSPRING wave that was popular a few years ago... I think that if we would have released a song like "Dérangeant" this year, it would not do as well as when we released it... Well, not on the radio anyway. But we lived it and I can't say that we enjoyed it that much. That's why we did not work on having a hit song on "Oryctérope". We did an album that we felt like doing and there is no big hit on it... It did not sell as much but we expected that. That's an another reason why we aim so much on Europe. If we could spend a whole year over there, we would grow a lot as a band. That's the kind of thing that I'm ready to do once more. I'm ready to start all over in Europe and keep on doing this for as long as possible."

—>How many video-clips have you done so far?<—
"Ten ... But they did not all make it on TV though. There are two on the first album; "Y'a Tu Quelqu'un" and "For Your Love"; There are four from "Vacuum"; and there are four videos on the last album "Oryctérope". But they don't play much on TV..."

—>Well, Musique Plus sucks as much as they could possibly suck... And then some! The animators all suck, except for Claude Rajotte, and the music they play suck even more...<—
"Oh yeah... It's too commercial, there are too many commercials and there's a lot of techno music and stuff. All that's popular now is dance music, techno, Rap, hip-hop and all that crap. At this time, it's not easy for Rock bands."

GROOVY in Europe

—>Except that I think that there is a come back for the real underground, non-commercial music...<—
"Yeah, to a certain point. That always happens: For every waves you have, there is a counter wave that tries to annihilate it."

—>I saw your web site... Who did it?<—
"It is called Yagadou... They are two guys."

—>And is there a difference in your promotion since you have it?<—
"Well, I think it helped a lot for the shows' promotion. But it's hard to calculate the real impact it has... Somewhat like the videos... It does a difference but how much? I don't really know..."

—>Ok man, I'll let you go now! Thanks a lot for your time! It was a cool interview!<—
"Thanks a lot Master! I'll check it out once it's on-line!"

Speaking of on-line, you can check their web sites either here (official) or here!


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