The pride and joy of La Ronge, Saskatchewan will be hitting St. Catharines this week as part of a cross-Canada tour with Burlington’s Finger 11. Breach of Trust, made up of Colin Cheechoo, guitar and vocals, William Aubut, drums, Marty Ballentyne, vocals and guitar, and Zane Kryzanowsky, bass and vocals, has been garnering national interest since being signed to EMI in March. The music behemoth signed them on the basis of their 1996 EP Dead Issue and an early version of their latest CD, Songs for Dying Nations. Less than a week into their new tour, the Press caught up with Marty Ballentyne in Windsor just before a show at St. Clair College.
BP: What’s changed since your first release? How has being signed to a major label helped and hindered you?
MB: It’s definitely helped in that we have a big team of people that know what they’re doing and are very enthusiastic about the project … It doesn’t feel like a cold, corporate, clichd major-label relationship. We feel very supported …
We can focus more and more on the artistic aspect of everything we’re doing rather than look at the whole thing. We’re still very much business-oriented and business-minded in terms of looking at decisions and strategy and how things are going. But we’re in a collaborative relationship with the people who are there to do that … we’re not on the front lines, having to make every phone call … It frees us up.
BP: With such a long time to wait [EMI pushed the release date], did you start dissecting things on the album? Were you still satisfied with it by the time it came out?
MB: We made this record on our own, before we had any label involvement. It was definitely the record we wanted to make, and we tend to look at it like we were developing and growing … A year from now we’re going to make a different record … It’s been with us for a year and a half, almost two years … so we’re getting ready to make more music.
BP: How do you feel about the ‘nu metal’ moniker? Where do you feel you fit on the spectrum of modern music?
MB: Classifications and tags are useful for people because the world we live in is definitely classified and categorized. It’s the nature of the world we’re born into that we learn to put things into a box … If people want to call us ‘nu metal,’ they can do that. We’ve been called ‘punk metal,’ we’ve been called ‘alternative,’ we’ve been called all kinds of things. It’s more for the people than for us. You never hear musicians talk in those terms, really. It’s about expression and what we’re into.
BP: Are there any bands you identify with?
MB: I don’t know who we have anything in common with, necessarily, because, as I said it’s about the tags, and doing what we do and trying to define that and define ourselves. And it’s definitely an intuitive exploration of our identities musically, personally, spiritually …
In terms of who inspire us, there’s tons of bands. I think, commonly, we all really like the band Faith No More — you remember them from the ‘90s. They were a great band and a big inspiration to everyone. In the early 90s, late 80s, a bunch of bands came out: Living Colour, there was Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, the Chili Peppers … All those bands really started to show us that you could be heavy, you could explore, you could write really good songs in the context of something heavier, which wasn’t happening so much.
BP: So much of the music that’s coming out of the prairies seem to be pretty fast and furious, what is it about the prairies that breeds loud rock? Do you consider yourselves part of a scene?
MB: I’ve got to correct you there because we come from the bush, really, not the prairies. [Ed. note: The Press hangs our collective heads in shame for our geographical incompetence]. Everyone thinks of the prairies when they
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when they think of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, but the Northern Shield is above the prairies. We come from the north, and we’re kind of an anomaly in our region because there’s no real heavy bands … The four of us share the background of being the kid in the small town who likes heavy music, is a little bit odd and got picked on by people, maybe was a bit sensitive, strange or an outcast in some way or another and developed a real hard conviction that that was what we all wanted to do with our lives when we got older. And we never lost it and we’re still going after it now.
BP: the title of your latest CD is pretty evocative. Why ‘Dying Nations’? And are songs supposed to be able to do anything about that?
BOT: I don’t know. That’s a question that I think everyone should think about. How does it affect how we look at things, whether it’s a song, a painting, a film, a book or a poem. Does it make you think about things? Do you react and respond to that in a way that makes a difference, in your life at least?
I’m glad you say that it’s evocative because that’s the whole point. The art that we’re inspired by is very provocative. It’s uneasy in the sense that you’re not allowed to just sit there and let it be wallpaper. Our favourite movies are Goodfellas, and Taxi Driver, and Clockwork Orange and Apocalypse Now and they’re experiences where you can’t just sit there. You have to make choices, you have to think about things …
Whether music has the power to change or to do something is up to people. People have the right of choice, and they can choose to let it be a passive experience or a more active experience where they think about it. That’s the thing with a lot of heavy music, that’s the music where the kids buy it at the record store, take it home, put the headphones on and look at the artwork and read the lyrics and really think about it.
BP: A lot of press coverage seems to be very centred on the fact that all of the band members are of native descent. How much do you identify with your background? Do you feel that the interest in it is exploitive?
BOT: Our drummer did an interview earlier today, and he put it really well. He said we’re not using it as a calling, card, but there’s nothing else that we would ever want to be, or would ever be. We’re all very much in touch and very attuned to who we are and where we come from and our background and our history, culturally. We all have different levels of connection with it and we feel different things about it but we all know who we are and we’re all very proud of that.
But I think it says more about the rest of society or culture or where people are coming from than us that the questions get asked a lot of the time.
It’s not something that we want to exploit. The things that you see on the record and the lyrics definitely come from that. Being of an indigenous culture has a very primal, very profound influence on us, but it’s not something that we’re out pimping.
BP: I interviewed one of the guys from Finger 11 recently and he described how they pride themselves on touring with bands they like and respect. How did you hook up with them?
BOT: As far as we know, it has something to do with what you just said, and for that we are very, very grateful … We met them for the first time in London. They were super-nice, and have been super-nice every time we see them.
It’s nice to play with a band that likes what you do. It’s nice to have a mutual respect, which we definitely do. We’ve watched the guys and very much enjoyed what they’ve done. We have a lot of respect for what they’ve been able to accomplish by becoming an international act.
We played Edgefest in July in Toronto, and from what I understand their manager and some of the guys from the band came to see us and liked what they saw. And apparently they’d had a CD sent to them by our manager, so they were aware of us and really liked it. And then when the first round of their plans for touring didn’t work out, I guess they had a chance to do something, so we got the call. And we’re really grateful to come out and play with them.
BP: What’s your live show like when compared with your albums? A lot of your sound is pretty layered, how do you reproduce that?
BOT: It’s pretty dense in that the way we wrote it and arranged it. It’s aggressive and it’s in your face … The thing about it though, is the density can be credited to arrangement and production. We didn’t do a lot of layering. We didn’t do anything we couldn’t reproduce with our four sets of hands and feet.
The crowd might get hit with sweat from Cheech, though.
BP: What do you listen to when you’re on the road?
BOT: All kinds of stuff, Michael Jackson ‘cause it’s groovy and it’s old-school. Stevie Wonder CD from the early years, and we brought some Public Enemy on this tour … Incubus and Stone Temple Pilots, and marvelous pop-rock stuff.
Breach of Trust’s future plans include finishing up the tour with Finger 11, which lasts until early October, then going back home to work on a new album. Look for them to return to this neck of the woods before Christmas. The band plays an all-ages show with Finger 11 and Slurpee Monday at Front 54 this Tuesday, Sept. 11.