If only for a moment, QRO managed to pin down the Apostle of Hustle, Andrew Whiteman of Broken Social Scene. In the interview, Whiteman talked about the new Apostle record, Eats Darkness (QRO review), the upcoming Broken Social Scene (QRO spotlight on) record, all his other projects, ‘fear factors’, Canadian politics, American TV, Latin influences, where he gets his freak on, goin’ Vegas, and much more…
QRO: How did making Eats Darkness compare with making your last record, National Anthem of Nowhere (QRO review)?
Andrew Whiteman: Well, in a lot of ways it was really similar. Kind of made a ‘shadow record’ first, that’s made in the basement, with a lot of late night stoner jams, and then chopping in on ProTools and all that stuff, fooling around.
I never really know exactly what it’s going to be when we go into the studio. And then, when we go into the studio, you figure it out. And National Anthem was the same thing.
QRO: Where did you get all of those sound clips that you inserted into Eats Darkness?
AW: I got a lot of them, if not all of them, from the net, from the web.
QRO: Who was the woman talking about revolution?
AW: She’s actually a fantastic New York City poet. She’s been playing with St. Mark’s Poetry Project, just over on 14th. Her name’s Bernadette Mayer.
I got a lot of poets from Ubu Web, ubu.com. It’s a site of contemporary poets and avant-garde.
QRO: What was the very first thing, talking about snakes?
AW: Certain things… I stole things from TV shows; I stole things from other record. I’m just not allowed to steal those things.
So I had to redo them. The woman that’s speaking in “Snakes” is actually from a TV show, that’s actually a man who’s speaking, and he’s not actually speaking those words – my lawyer told me I had to change one-third of the wording.
I might release, just on my blog later, all of those soundscapes with the original things in ‘em. Because, you know, if I just give them away…
QRO: Those do seem to have made the record shorter. Was it intentional to make a record shorter than, say, National Anthem?
AW: There’s actually four more of those little soundscapes, and there’s another song, but after listening, we just decided it was a better flow.
I was thinking about the first Latin Playboys record, which is a huge record for me, and the same thing: the thing is thirty-four minutes long, but it’s so the perfect length.
I don’t think you wanna go more than forty minutes. Nobody really has that attention span anymore…
QRO: You mention Latin Playboys. How much did your time in Cuba, and your Cuban/Latin American influences, come through on this record, especially as compared to National Anthem, which seemed to particularly have it?
AW: National Anthem, I borrowed lyrics from Victor Jara and Garcia Lorca and stuff.
I was having a lot of fun making those soundscapes – I could have done two hours of that…
QRO: It seems like your last really got you a lot of attention. Did you feel any extra pressure with this record, as a follow-up to that?
AW: No, dude, man, my pressure is just like, I have two semi-full-time jobs, being in Broken Social Scene and doing this. To be honest, that’s the only pressure I feel, man. It’s hard man – it wipes you out. I’m done…
I think, after I tour in the fall with Apostle, I’m gonna take that shit underground for a while.
I have a psychedelic stoner movie that I’m releasing called, “The Demand Age”. That’ll be done in December. That’s based on a poem by Ezra Pound. It has performance and video.
Apostle, we also recorded a record with a voodoo priest. He’s from Haiti, and he also lives Jersey City. So he came up to Canada. His name is Jean-Baptiste Bonga. We recorded a record of voodoo music with him.
So, I have things to keep me busy while BSS is starting to gear up. BSS is going to go hard next year, and when BSS goes hard, I’ve got no time to tour or anything. Apostle of Hustle is going to have to be more of a ‘guerilla activity’, which suits me fine. It’ll work really well that way.
They just set me up with a blog, so I’m gonna figure out how to do that. There are certain blogs I really love. I’m excited about that.
QRO: You said Apostle will be touring again in the fall?
AW: Yeah, definitely. We haven’t really done much touring – a little bit in Ontario, and just this little run here, and that’s it. So October or something, we’ll definitely go out for a month or six weeks, for sure.
QRO: Have you ever toured ‘south of the [American] border’?
QRO: Didn’t Broken Social Scene’s South American tour get cancelled? And so did Miami’s Langerado… (QRO preview of what would have been)
AW: Yeah, that sucked that that was done.
BSS, we did one show in Mexico City once. And there was this guy in his thirties and his son that came up to me in Chicago and said, “Hey, we just want you to know, we have a lot of friends in Mexico City and they love your music…” I mean, it’s nice to think about it. One day, I guess…
QRO: How was the Metronome Festival (QRO Festival Guide) in Chicago last weekend?
AW: Oh, it was terrible weather. But on the positive side, I got to see Kid Congo Powers. That was fantastic. Great people – I had a blast.
QRO: A few years ago, you were doing a bunch of residencies, like at Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review) in New York. How do those compare to ‘regular’ touring?
AW: I loved it. We had a great time.
Because the two clubs that we pinned it around was Mercury and Schuba’s in Chicago, so there was Mercury on Mondays, Schuba’s on Thursdays, I think, so we’d go back and forth, and hit Brooklyn, and Washington, and little places in between. It was great.
QRO: At the first of those Mercury dates, you had a whole speech before “Fast Pony For Victor Jara”, to create an image in people’s minds – do you still do that?
AW: No, we actually, certain songs… We’re very restless people, we get bored way too easily, way too quickly. We get bored way faster than the audience. We actually haven’t been playing that song.
As much as I want to eventually end up in Vegas, I can’t really be repeating myself that much. I’ll pull that out in thirty years…
QRO: You started this tour in Ontario, before heading south. Do you notice anything different between American & Canadian crowds?
AW: I just find it more exciting being in America, simply because of the ‘fear factor’, you know what I mean? Lot of danger, people with guns, a lot of anger – good luck to Obama, but, you know…
America’s a funky place. It freaks you out. When you’re from Canada, no matter many years of my life have I spent here, but every time I cross back in Canada, everyone goes like, “Oh my god! Roll a joint, let’s get high, just take it easy…”
Being here, it’s too… You have rednecks so deeply embedded in the culture. Part of redneck culture is important – that’s what made America America, “Hey, I’m doing my thing. Get the fuck off my back!” And that’s a good philosophy – to some degree…
QRO: Is your Apostle touring limited by Broken Social Scene touring?
AW: Oh, yeah. Social Scene’s recording right now, and we have a few shows here and there, but I had some dates I had to cancel this summer, with Apostle, because Broken got dates – and when Broken says we got dates, you gotta go. That’s just how it is…
QRO: Do you still get to fit in an Apostle song or two when BSS plays?
AW: It really depends the show, how the show’s going.
QRO: Do you still play “National Anthem of Nowhere”, or do you now do something off of Eats Darkness?
AW: We toured [BSS singer/guitarist Brendan] Canning’s (QRO interview) record (Broken Social Scene Presents: Brendan Canning’s Something For All of Us… – QRO review) in November, and I would tend to play “National Anthem”. But it doesn’t matter to me – I’ll play anything…
QRO: What’s it like when both acts perform at the same event, like you would have at that Olympic Island show, had it not gotten cancelled?
AW: Festival’s are getting cancelled all over, but it’s indicative of what’s going on. Plus Kevy [Kevin Drew, BSS singer/guitarist] picked the bands [for Olympic Island], and he picked bands that he wanted to see, and I don’t think they necessarily had draw for the rest of the people. Beach House (QRO album review) and Explosions [In the Sky – QRO photos], they’re fantastic bands, I love them both, but… I’m very disappointed. That would have been an amazing day.
QRO: Before you put it out, did anyone ever tell you to call the new record ‘Broken Social Scene Presents: The Apostle of Hustle’s – or Andrew Whiteman’s – Eats Darkness’?
AW: Oh, no man – I don’t need no ‘BSS Presents’!
That was fear factor, in my mind. That was fear factor on Kevin or Brendan’s part. If you’re gonna put out a solo record, put your fuckin’ name on it, brother! They’re gonna know your name – you’re the jefe of BSS, people are gonna know. You don’t need a little ‘BSS Presents’ – that’s jive, man…
QRO: But you’re working on a new Broken Social Scene record…
AW: We don’t know what it’s called, we don’t know what it’s going to sound like, but we’re plugging away. I don’t know when that’s going to be done, but I’m hoping November. That’d be nice, around then, so we could get to work in the new year.
QRO: Do you have any post-Darkness material?
AW: I have a shitload, a backlog of material.
QRO: Do you play any of it live?
AW: No, I’m not playing it live. I don’t want to confuse people. That’s the problem when we play our new material.
Generally, an Apostle of Hustle record, it’s one of those records, you listen to it, and you’re like, “Uh, I kinda like it? Not sure…” And then, fourth, fifth time in, then you start to catch it. That’s just the nature of the recordings. I don’t want to confuse people, they come to the show and we blast them with like eight new songs…
Plus, like I said, we’ve rearranged five of the old tunes, because we just get so bored. “National Anthem of Nowhere” is not an anthemic indie-rock thing anymore; now, we’ve flipped that upside-down.
QRO: Is there a Sebastien of “Cheap Like Sebastien”?
AW: Yes! Sebastien’s probably a porn actor.
I was watching porn with Kevin in a hotel room. That’s what that song’s about…
QRO: Do you still get state support from the Canadian government?
QRO: Considering that Canadian musicians do get support from the government, and the two main parties have different opinions about that…
QRO: As much as you can in a two-party system. Do you think that affects Canadian bands politically? Like, as opposed to American or Brits, you all have a personal, financial stake in the outcome of their elections…
AW: For us, when you can be eligible to get a grant to help you cover your tour expenses, that’s fuckin’ huge. So do I have a concern about who’s in office in Canada? Yeah, absolutely. But I don’t see any Trudeau on the horizon. He was out last great Prime Minister, and he was out by 1980…
QRO: Then was Mulroney…
AW: Mulroney, as far as I can… He can be stabbed and crucified. If I see his son, walking along on the street, I’ll spit on him. Mulroney, he’s like Reagan – he’s worse than Reagan. He sold our country up the fucking river…
QRO: What was it like when Broken Social Scene appeared on Late Night with David Letterman (QRO Indie on Late Night TV)?
AW: Uh… It’s fun, sure.
I mean, he’s not funny. Dave’s not funny. One of those shows, we got to meet Andy Samberg, and that was exciting, just ‘cause he’s fuckin’ funny. But Dave’s not funny. Talk shows – who the fuck watches a talk show? You know what I mean?
I tell you what was fun: the first time we played Letterman, Paul Shafer played with us. It was great to shoot the shit with Paul – and I got to cue him, “Alright, Paul, here’s your moment, go!”
But, so what? It’s no thing, man. I got paid union scale, so that’s cool. But I don’t know anybody who watches a talk show. Certainly not Letterman…
I’m not saying it’s not nice to play on TV – it’s nice to play on TV. But let’s have some kind of, I don’t know, standard? Let’s do something funny.
They’re sweet people. The people that work there are very professional and very nice. I don’t want to slag anyone who works there. I’m just saying Dave’s not funny.
QRO: Are there any Apostle songs you particularly like playing live?
AW: Yes – a lot of them. My favorite one to perform is called “Perfect Fit”, though. That’s from our new record. That’s because I don’t play, I just sing.
I’m trying to angle my career towards Vegas, that type of thing.
And I know that’s not cool, but there’s just something about Bobby Darren and that kind of swing. I love it.
QRO: Are there any songs that you can’t play, or just don’t like to play?
AW: Yeah, well some songs, we haven’t worked on, or we try different versions.
There’s a song on the new record, “Whistle In the Fog”, and Dean plays electronic drums. He really wasn’t happy playing normal drums with it, and we didn’t want to bring the whole fucking thing [just for that song].
We tried playing it in a mellow way, but that didn’t make any sense to me, because that song is basically, the character who’s singing the song is an imam, and he’s exhorting the few lonely men that gather around him to jihad. It’s basically, ‘Attack!’ It’s a jihad song. So I didn’t feel right singing it super-sensitive and quiet. Haven’t worked that one out yet. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to do that one or not.
QRO: In Broken Social Scene shows, how do you feel about playing older material vs. newer?
AW: I don’t know man, I’m happy. I’m thrilled that my band is that popular, that people want to hear our songs, that I get to go around playing them. I’m blessed that I don’t have to do anything else right now in order to make my rent. So no complaints, man. None at all.
That’s why I have Apostle of Hustle, right? If I really want to get my freak on, I’ll do it over here. When I’m with BSS, just fuckin’ give her.
QRO: What’s it like, working ‘two jobs’?
AW: It is two jobs.
It’s too much, man. I’m tired. I’ve been doing two jobs since Folkloric [Feel] came out. So that’s roughly five years. And I don’t wanna do two jobs anymore.
For me, BSS, that’s my gig. That’s my money gig. That is my job. That’s why I had to cancel shows. Because
So I have that and I get my rent paid because I play guitar and write tunes for BSS. So I’m very lucky, man.
QRO: Where did you find your Apostle of Hustle band mates?
AW: I’ve known Julian Brown for years and years. I played in a trio with him a long time ago. I met Dean [Stone] a long time ago; me and Dean played with Feist. It was a little trio: me and Dean and Feist (QRO live review). That’s where I met Dean.
QRO: Do you have any favorite cities or venues that you’ve played? Other than Vegas…
AW: Well, I haven’t played Vegas. Just wait, man…
I’m a big fan of Portland [Oregon]. I like Tucson; it’s a fantastic place.
Chicago’s fuckin’ awesome, but Chicago is big. Chicago’s the one city, every time I drop down, I still don’t know which way was up. One time, last year, at Lollapalooza, I brought my bike. After we were finished with Lollapalooza, before we did a gig at the Metro, I got on my bike and road around, and then I really felt Chicago – the museums, did some book shopping…
And, you know, what are you going to say about New York? It’s always great…
Philly, South Street in Philly. I have a favorite shoe store and a favorite hat store in Philly.
I like it everywhere.
QRO: Do you have a favorite tour story?
AW: A favorite tour story? No, I don’t have a ‘favorite’ one.
QRO: Or just a good one.
AW: A good one? A good tour story was the first time Apostle went overseas. We played in this festival called ‘Kleinrightling’, and it was in Austria. We played this tiny little thing for 2,500 people.
Those guys had never been to Germany before. We went with Marty [Davis Kinack] – he produces Apostle of Hustle, and he does front of the house for Social Scene. Marty’s a very close friend, so the four of us went over. They had us staying at this little white-haired old lady’s beautiful mountain château, and we got shit-faced, played cards, kept everyone else in the place up.
I don’t know why this is interesting, but this is interesting to me: when we went outside in the morning, I noticed that there was this tree, stripped of all of its greenery, and it had a flowery halo at the top of it.
Austria’s super-Catholic, right? I had this total psychic vibe about this giant tree, this is some reminder of ancient, crazy, pagan – Andrei Tarkovsky, the Russian filmmaker, he has this great scene in Andrei Rublev, it’s about the monk, early Christianity, but then they have this moment where it’s a total, naked, bacchanalia vibe.
I guess this isn’t actually that interesting a tour story, but I’m just thinking about that awesome pagan tree, and she was this nice little old lady, and I just basically saw her with all of her clothes off, drinking goat’s blood, fornicating with nature.
I should just say that that happened, actually…