Our Lady Peace
Silent Uproar: How's the US tour been so far?
Mike: Actually, it's been a nice surprise. It's been awesome. We didn't really get a chance to tour properly on our own on our last record. We spent like three months out with Creed, and we never really got a chance to get out and play. We're finding the friends we made on Naveed and Clumsy haven't gone away, people are coming and know the songs. Even the new record, before it had really even come out, people were singing the songs. I guess it would be that Napster thing.
SU: Yeah, that Napster thing ...
Mike: That's fine by me, whatever. They're excited about the music and they're enjoying it.
SU: I haven't read a review of the show yet and was wondering if you any kind of multimedia enhancements along with you on this tour?
Mike: Oh we sure do. The guy that did the artwork for our new record, Oli Goldsmith, he did a video installation of some original video art for us. The first video for the song 'In Repair', which was the first single in Canada, we did a video for that and Oli was the one who did that. We got him to do some more stuff like that for the shows. It's pretty cool, it does add another dimension and it's nice to have something else going on.
SU: I know there's still about a month of dates left for your US tour, but some Canadian fans emailed me and were wondering when the next tour of Canada will commence?
Mike: Our keyboard player was asking me that today, "When are we going to do Canada?" I don't know. My schedule runs through late July and it's all still America, so, I don't know! I'd like to tour Canada during the summer just because we've toured it in the winter too many times. That's hardcore.
SU: Speaking of Canadian tours, how is it to come to the States and play to smaller audiences in comparison?
Mike: Oh it's great! It's sort of nice that we get to do all the different things. You know what I mean? I think right now I prefer the smaller clubs to dead be honest. It's right there, it's immediate and it's intimate and you get all sweaty. It feels really good and really organic and really natural.
SU: Like the crowd is right there with you?
Mike: Yeah, it's not that I don't like the arenas, there's something to be said about the big rock shows. We're involved in everything with that; we help design the staging and the lighting. That's cool, I really do enjoy that but I'm enjoying the clubs hugely right now.
SU: Will the band be heading to the UK and abroad to promote the recent release of 'Spiritual Machines' there?
Mike: I've heard those rumors. I've heard rumors that we are going to go to the UK and Japan, which I'm just jazzed about. I mean how stupid is it that I get to go to Japan and to Europe because I play guitar. That's just screwed.
SU: Kind of changing gears a little bit, but what age was it that you started playing guitar and what made you pick up a guitar?
Mike: I guess I started pretty late, when I was about 17. Honestly, it was that my friends had started to play guitar and it was around me. I went to see Queen when I was a kid. The guitarist Brian May, who used to do the extended solos, I was like fourth row right in front of him. It's [was] at the Canadian National Exhibition Stadium and it's 15,000 people going nuts for this guy. I look up and his eyes are closed, like he doesn't even know we're there. [He was] just completely transported by the experience of playing his instrument. It just made me think, whatever can make you not aware of that many people, I've got to try that. And I did, it was trouble, I started playing guitar and it all went downhill from there.
SU: What music is influencing and inspiring you currently?
Mike: All sorts of stuff, I've tended to be reaching backwards into music lately. Everything from Beatles, I keep listening to Buckley's record, and Flaming Lips 'Soft Bulletin' I think that's one of the best records in quite a little while. A Canadian, I don't know if you can even call them a band, a Canadian ensemble called Godspeed You Black Emperor...
SU: Yeah, "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To The Sky" ...
Mike: That would be the record I've been listening to a little bit lately. I like it cause it's different. You know what I mean? It does things differently than you're usually doing with music. Anything that can make me reevaluate music and enjoy it in a different way is cool by me ... Actually, the new "Canada" EP is really good too.
SU: I'm very disappointed in the American music scene right now and it seems to be slowly contaminating the entire world. Do you find it frustrating to try and push a mature rock album like "Spiritual Machines" to this adolescent pop, rap-metal dominated scene?
Mike: Well, we faced it on the last record too. I'm not going to wave a flag as if we are some kind of heroes, but maybe we're making music right now that's not what the majority of people are interested in listening too. That doesn't change the way we treat our music. It would be real nice if everyone was into was we are doing, but sort of not the point. We released a record like "Happiness..." [and] we were very, very proud of that record. I think maybe we weren't quite as aware of what the world had turned into while we were making the record. It completely went over the heads of most people, the general radio populous. It's a little frustrating sometimes; it doesn't make me love the record any less because people didn't like it. I think that if something happens with this record where people don't get it, it won't change my approach to it either. You can't control that stuff. You can't pay too much attention to it.
SU: I've read a lot of reviews of the album in magazines, and it seems to be quite a critical success. Have you taken any notice to that, or do you just dismiss reviews because they are simply just one person's opinion?
Mike: I think we treat in same way as when critics shred us. It one's person's opinion and they just happen to get their opinion published. I've got to admit I like reading the good reviews better than the bad reviews. The bad reviews, sometimes I'm like, "you're not paying attention!" Don't dislike us because you don't like the way we look, just shut up. It's what it is, but we're going to treat right the things we can control, like the music. We can't control how people will receive it or how people will talk about it or how people will accept it. We're just going to let that stuff go.
SU: I've found "Spiritual Machines" is definitely a more mature album than past albums. Songs like 'Right Behind You' and 'Life' build into this overwhelming mass of sound and emotion. How do you think the writing process for the band has changed for this record?
Mike: I think for one thing Raine was a lot more committed to writing before we went to record. We brought a lot of these songs in a more-or-less finished form and we just sort of had to get a hold of them and make them Our Lady Peace songs. You're never going to program a drum machine to sound like Jeremy. And obviously Raine stepped up as co-producer on this one. Arnold was a little less involved than he has been previously. I think the process is something we're less afraid of and we sort of come to terms and figured out what we are. Both on "Clumsy" and "Happiness..." we did a lot of exploration because we could, because the opportunity was there to explore. Were as sometimes, what you are looking for is right in front of you. So stop screwing around. Accept that this is good. I like this. Is the best guitar sound ever recorded? Well, I don't care. I get it; I feel the emotion in the part that it relates to the song. And at that point you're done, and you just have to learn to trust it.
SU: I've read about the influence of Ray Kurzweil's book, "The Age Of Spiritual Machines", on the album. How did you first become interested in Kurzweil's writing?
Mike: (laughs) ... I'm so embarrassed about this, every time I get asked this I have to be honest. Have you ever seen the book?
SU: Yeah, I've read a little excerpts of it, but not the whole thing.
Mike: You know how it's got that bright shiny prismatic cover? That would be why I found the book. Walking through a bookstore it's like, "Ooh shiny, ooh look a shiny book!" And that was it. I read the cover and all and I said, "Hmm, that sound interesting." I more or less bought it on a whim. When I read it, it was like "Whoa geez!"
SU: Kurzweil's writing seems to predict a future dominated by computer technology, but the songs on the album seem to be a celebration of humanity and ways to improve your human experiences. Did you mean for the album to be kind of a wake up call for those who listen to it?
Mike: I don't know that we really intended a message as much as it was just that which we were exploring at the time. It's certainly dwelling in the space between technology and humanity. It's the suggestion that one may happen at the expense of the other. I don't know if I fully endorse one direction or the other. I don't think because we can technologically analyze what human beings are mechanically, that their spiritual side is not accounted for in that equation. I'm not thinking that it's outside of us, but at the same time we turn to all this technology, these downstream advancements, and all of these future things. That doesn't really help when your little brother's having a crappy day. Maybe your is in pain and needs help now. That's where a lot of musings existed, in the distance between here and there.
SU: I love the guitar work on songs like 'Made To Heal' and 'The Wonderful Future', what's your approach when creating lines such as those?
Mike: On 'The Wonderful Future' [Jeremy] played a completely bizarre drum take and I'm like, "Oh my god, what am I going to do on this thing?" It was riff I had been kicking around for a bit and Raine was like, "Well can you change that riff to fit into the time of this thing?" I was like "Hmm, I can give it a swing," and that was it. There's always been a good sort of energy between the guys in the band, right? Everyone knows what the other guy does because you get a clearer view of what the other guys does, because you're not playing it. I would have never had thought to take a riff like 'Wonderful Future' and put it into that drum groove. I would have started with something completely different. Raine was like, "No dude. You've got to write riffs for this song." A lot of it is intuitive or just plain old scrubbing around and trying stuff.
SU: On a personal level, what is your favorite song from 'Spiritual Machines'?
Mike: I think for me maybe 'Are You Sad?' Ask me next week and I'll probably say something different. 'Are You Sad?' has got a really beautiful feeling to it. I know for the guitar, the main sort of note oriented, that was like a couple of passes. It was more-or-less what I did on the scratch. That was after Jeremy got mugged. Some stupid little thugs went kicking on him. They chipped his right tibia, so he couldn't play drums. We had a friend named Matt Cameron and he came to the studio and played. He came in on a Friday; everything had to be on those songs, done, and leaving by the Wednesday after that. That was everything, bass, all the guitars, any keyboards, vocals, everything. We actually had to do two songs at that time 'Are You Sad?' was one of those songs and 'Right Behind You' was the other. We had no choice it had to be done. So, we were recording the guitars on the song and again Raine was like, "Why don't you play what you did on the scratch track?" I said, "What did I play on the scratch track?" We went back and listened to it then played a version of it. I think I did two passes and went, "Umm, ok we're done." That was it and again it's that whole thing about starting to get more comfortable in what we are. That sort of an effected sound is something I like and will use instinctively. Those sort of lines come naturally, so leave them.
SU: I was wondering how did you get hooked up with Oli Goldsmith at Backyard Circus? The artwork made for the album seems to fit perfectly and I've read that he was reading "The Age Of Spiritual Machines" too.
Mike: It was weird. We knew we wanted sort of a collage, almost multi-media kind of stuff for the artwork. When you're soliciting an artist they send you their book, which has a selection of their work, etc. We got this pile of books with guys from London, LA, San Francisco, and all over the place. Then we see this book and we're like this is really cool, he's from Toronto, and as a matter of fact his studio is about a 20-minutes walk from our rehearsal space. We immediately thought, "wow this is really cool" and he's got some great ideas. Then, he and I were having a phone conversation to focus more on what was going on. It was around that time we were starting to figure out that the record had been all inspired by this book. So I mentioned it to him, and he was reading it. Which is nuts! I couldn't believe it. Of course I think everyone ought to read the book, but the fact that he was just made me stop for a second and go, "Hmm, that's kind of weird?" If you are really into Kurzweil you'll see there are an enormous of amount of points like that; geometry, fractal geometry, all kinds of stuff that just links the whole thing up. The serendipity of the entire experience is almost not funny it's so tied up.
SU: That's cool ...
Mike: Actually, I had him to do some original artwork for one of my guitars. One my guitars now has Oli Goldsmith artwork on it. I gave him my guitar, he took a picture of it, and then did a bunch of mock-ups of what he thought would be cool on the guitar. I chose from them and I think he put all the others up on his site, I think he was really pleased with them.
SU: I think it's cool how much emphasis Our Lady Peace places on its fans. Is that kind of relationship with your fans something you've always tried to push?
Mike: Yes, absolutely. Our first website I think was in 95. Really, the Internet is where we found so much of a contact with our fans. We've watched and enjoyed the experience of a community that exists sort of outside of us. It may be a common experience they share in the band, but it's definitely taken on its own life. It's got a community of its own, which is very, very cool. It's always been really interesting for me, I'm very idealistic and I've always hoped that people would be pulling for the good. On the Clumsy Congress part of our web presence, they're judging each other and they're relating to each other purely on the contents of their ideas. The thing that I love about the Internet is that nobody knows if you're rich or poor, black or white, a university graduate or high school drop out. Here's your idea and that's it. Martin Luther King, that was what he was looking for. I warned you I'm an idealist, that's my outlook.
SU: Our Lady Peace seems like a band that uses its celebrity to help out world causes with your work with Stargiving and War Child Canada. Later this month Much Music is going to show a special on War2Music. How has the band been involved with that particular charity?
Mike: Actually the band hasn't. Raine and Chantal (Raine's wife) were invited by War Child to do these visits to hot spots on the globe where children are being affected by military conflict. They were going to Iraq and they asked Raine if he would like to come along. He obviously felt it would be a life changing experience and a perspective you could really grow from, so he was able to go and definitely is changed man as a result. In terms of anytime you can lend this ephemeral stupid thing that celebrity is and if you can actually apply it to something that makes a difference in peoples lives, it feels pretty nice. We all do our own little things and tend to be actually a lot quieter with the charity stuff then we are vocal. It's just good, it's just good karma.
SU: Your scheduled to play Conan O'Brien on April 27th and you did Craig Kilborn last month. Do you like doing those kinds of shows, where you kind of just get one song and that's it?
Mike: No. It's not that I hate them or anything; it's a little weird. That's not a rock show. You're there in a TV studio and you're doing one song under bright lights and it's cold in those TV studios. The cameras don't like condensation and warmth, so they keep them kind of chilly. It's just disconnected to don't feel like your link to the fans directly, but it's an opportunity and we're going to take advantage of it.
SU: What are you're hopes for Our Lady Peace in the future? Do you see the band being a long-term act?
Mike: I don't know. I hope so obviously. But, I think more than "hopes for" there are "fears of". It would be a great fear of mine that we would do this because it's a good paycheck. I hope we only ever do this because we think there's an opportunity to make good music, and to do something musically, creatively, and artistically. If I ever get the sense that it's not that, then I'll leave. That would just be my integrity in the role of the band that is what my hopes are. With that in mind, if we all maintain our integrity, I don't see why we wouldn't be a long-term band.
SU: Is there anything else in the world you would rather do than play music?
Mike: Not that I've found out. I'm very happy doing what I do. I'd love to get involved in Kurzweil's organization and work with some of his people because he's such a wonderful idealist and sick, intelligent guy. I went to this conference in Monterey this year and hung out with these really smart people. I mean these really crazy smart people and I was just totally energized by it. I cannot get enough of it now that it's started. I'm reading textbooks from MIT and I'm not that smart a person, but it doesn't seem like work anymore. I know when I was at university it always felt like work to crack open a text and study it. Now I'm like, "there's something in there I want it" and that's such a great feeling. So, that's maybe the only other thing I enjoy as much as music.
SU: Is there anything else you would like to say to the people who will read this, like a final thought or idea?
Mike: I've been wondering about something lately, I keep seeing the term, with regards to some of Ray [Kurzweil's] writing, where they say the "unapologetic optimist". I'd like to ask why people think they need to have an apology for being an optimist? Why would you be apologetic for being an optimist? Don't be.