Kevin Drew

Just after announcing 'Influences', his solo instrumental record as K.D.A.P., Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene and more talked with QRO....
Kevin Drew : Q&A

Just after announcing Influences, his solo instrumental record as K.D.A.P., Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene and more talked with QRO. In the long conversation, Drew talked about Influences and ‘Keven Drew a Picture,’ using the new Endlesss app to make it while in the forests of England, everyone & everything else who actually made the record, his hometown of Toronto (from condos to the kids), working with prison arts charity The Right Now Project (even at Rikers Island), disliking the social media term ‘followers,’ the upcoming 20th anniversary show for Social Scene, last New Year’s Eve’s ‘Big Night In’ livestream, his mini-cape scarf, American withholding tax, it all coming down to, ‘This is cool, you should listen to it,’ and much, much more…

Don’t let your home turn on you, because of your attitude towards your home.

QRO: How are you doing?

Kevin Drew: I’m alright, thank you.

Toronto has not had strong leadership, and Canada as well has had some very confusing leadership going on in the last few years, let alone with the pandemic.

So, I’m very much here in Toronto right now. It’s a city that I’ve always loved.

I tried to get out of for some years, and I just ended up back in it. But it’s because, as you know, as you get older, you don’t fight. You take it moment-by-moment; I could leave tomorrow, I could stay for ten years, you know?

There comes a point where you realize what battle is worth it. Because there’s a lot to be battling out there.

One of them is, don’t let your home turn on you, because of your attitude towards your home. I say this out of experience of taking that bad attitude, of being like, ‘I gotta get outta here! I gotta get outta here!’

But honestly, as my career continued, and sort of slowed down, and more kids were injected into the neighborhood, I just sort of became a patron of the old school hood here. There is a sort of passing of the guard to a more upper-class society, and a lot of hedge fund aspects, which happens to cities, but there’s still grounded people within the classes among it all. Though condos have basically taken over the town, as Charlie Spearin [Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think] said, “Traffic is inevitable when a city is thriving.”

Like I said, when you don’t have strong leadership, then you’re not gonna have people believing in the direction of where your city’s going, because it’s too confusing, in the aspects of how to deal with the homeless, how to deal with the constant condos, how to deal with the real estate market, how to deal with the bike lanes – and then you throw in the pandemic with, ‘We’re open – We’re closed – We’re open – we’re closed…’ Just the independent getting the shit kicked out of them.

There’s still this generation that’s coming in strong with battles that they have set their sights on, and are in it for the long haul.

There were some great, which I didn’t partake in, we had some good government programs serve, they had money set aside, but as it continued and went on as long as it did…

It’s just become so tough on the psyche of the independent owner.

What’s interesting to me is the learned behavior that we have all taken on, generations below us, and generations above us, but I don’t know the kids coming up. I got a lotta hope from them, because they’re just doing a lot of, ‘Fuck you!’ Attitudes are attitudes, but there is a way where they’re standing strong in their voice, and in their beliefs, and what they do stand for.

Even though social media has completely annihilated the playing field of identity through popularity, there’s still this generation that’s coming in strong with battles that they have set their sights on, and are in it for the long haul. Immediate gratification does nothing for us.

But I do see some of these kids coming in and just being like, ‘Don’t fuck with us.’ And quite frankly, I’m like, ‘What do you want me to do?…’

I’m putting out this new record, and I released something last week. The real interesting aspect to it is, when I started with Charlie, with K.C. Accidental, with the instrumental records (there was a little bit of singing), we made them for our friends.

And now, I’ve realized, just even seeing my community come out this last week, just my little inner community – ‘Oh wow, I’m making records for my friends again!’

I think there’s something beautiful in that. Because it is so crazy out there.

I also feel really, really happy, and proud, and lucky, and privileged to have had the career that I did with Social Scene, and with those people in Social Scene, and with the teams that have come in & out of Social Scene. I don’t look at any of that and say, ‘Okay, I need more.’

I look at it go, ‘Do you want to keep playing? Sure, let’s just make sure it makes sense.’ To get back out there with Social Scene, and to keep what we have going, we would need to sharpen our swords, so everybody’s gotta do their stretches. Swords aren’t light – you gotta do your stretches. You gotta make sure your shoulders are in place, cause you also gotta play some instruments, as you’re out there battling to have your place remain within what it is.

I like what we did. I never set out to make that my entire life, or accomplishments, but I certainly wanted to rock out with people that I love, so I feel like I achieved that.

And then, the aspect of putting out this record, I do feel like I just sorta was like, ‘You know what? I made this thing!’ And I had so much fun making it! And also, I had no idea I was gonna make it. I didn’t even know what I was doing. [laughs] I didn’t! It was fuckin’ awesome!

So, what is the plan behind it? It’s like, well, people are gonna work really hard, here’s your social media strategy within a tiny, tiny, tiny little community of social media that I & Social Scene have. Here is your marketing strategy within the hopes that people like yourselves and other publications, they’ll all talk about it.

But really, what it comes down to is, ‘This is cool. You should listen to it.’ That’s what I’m going on. That’s how this one’s getting distributed, ‘This is cool. You should listen to it.’

So, I’m just trying to get it out there enough so that those who want to listen to it, can listen to it. And know it exists. Because so many times, you just don’t know stuff is out there.

That’s how this one’s getting distributed, ‘This is cool. You should listen to it.’

QRO: Oh yeah! I have to ‘professionally’ know stuff that’s out there, and I still miss stuff. For the average person who’s working a regular job, to follow what is going out there, it can be very difficult.

Especially when it’s a solo release, it’s not the big band…

KD: I even fuckin’ changed my name, Ted! ‘You know what? Fuck it, I’m doubling down!’ This how much I’m not chasing this.

Be truthful, be honest, do what you want to do, hope that you fall in a Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come” philosophy on life.

Obviously, finances are a major issue among artists, and music, and musicians these days, and I feel it. And, this may not be a way of making a living anymore. I’m gonna have to very much switch gears to my other ‘talents.’

But you don’t do it for that. You do it because you love it. And it’s this cheesy, and stereotypical, and a bumper sticker, but…

That was what I realized by titling this thing “Influences” – I was like, ‘I didn’t write this record. The life that I lived wrote this record.’ The people that I have listened to wrote this record. The music I have listened to wrote this record. My friends who I’ve played with wrote this record. The relationships that I’ve been in wrote this record. My friends who have died wrote this record. The decisions I made wrote this record. The choices I made wrote this record. The regrets that I finally let go wrote this record. The places that I wanna go wrote this record.

I didn’t write this record. I was just a vessel for it. It was so cool; I never really experienced that before.

What helped with that a lot too was not having to turn around and then rely on words. Just going on the impulse and the feel of the music itself.

And being able to just be in my own personal studio wherever I wanted to be, because I had this phone, and I had this beautiful app that is called Endlesss.

[at this point the phone rings with a call from Amy Millan – Broken Social Scene, Stars – that Drew has to decline]

I was like, ‘I didn’t write this record. The life that I lived wrote this record.’

I’m doing this interview for you, is that okay? It’s been a long time now – what do you want?…

QRO: You were in England where you did this?

KD: I was. Then I came back to Ontario, took the phone. Went up to the Bathouse where I love to make records. That’s where I did [solo record] Darlings (QRO review), then I did Secret Path with Gord [Downie], and then I did some of my own recordings again, and then I did The [Tragically] Hip with Gord.

Now, Spencer, who’s the reason I go up there. It’s a beautiful, lovely museum of a home. Niles Spencer and Dave Hamelin [Broken Social Scene, Eight and a Half, The Stills] and I did a lot of work together, with Darlings, and with the Gord work, and The Hip.

And then I came back up there with Joe Chiccarelli and Social Scene for Hug of Thunder (QRO review) and we worked with Niles. And then I went back up there just for a few weekends and worked on the two EPs [Let’s Try For the After, Vol. 1 & 2QRO reviewQRO review] with Niles, and Chucky was up there.

And then I kind of disappeared for a bit. To the point of where, when I came back, it was really interesting, I realized Niles & I, I had to sort of prove to him my love.

QRO: [laughs]

KD: I was like, ‘Why’s this guy on my fuckin’ ass all the time? It just seems like, everything I say, he doesn’t believe…’

But we reestablished a working friendship, but it’s also a friendship. We’ve been through a lot together. I love him; I love his impulses.

I actually just worked with him with a band. I brought up a band.

He has his sound, he has his way of doing things, he has what plug-ins he likes. But he has that excitement as well, and that journey into what he considers a song and structure. And I’ve seen it evolve from being there in 2003. It’s just wild to watch him.

So, when I came in and brought K.D.A.P. – first of all, it broke his brain, cause he didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. We were unloading all these loops into ProTools, saying, ‘Okay, this one goes here, this one goes here…’

You have eight tracks to work with, but you can keep stacking, and you can keep adding sounds. But as you do that, they’re gonna start doubling, and tripling. So, when you pull up an individual track, which used to be just a high hat, now it’s a high hat, a bass line, and a little key thing. Each loop you add into the computer, you have to follow where that high hat goes. Because it was originally on that track…

It was a lot of fucking work, I’ll say.

You have eight tracks to work with, but you can keep stacking, and you can keep adding sounds. But as you do that, they’re gonna start doubling, and tripling.

So, Niles was a little like, ‘What the hell have you done to me? What are you doing; what did you bring me?’

And then, once we got everything loaded in, and started going to an organic side, it opened up the procedure of what we were doing. It opened up the soundtrack.

It was a long little time period off. I also injured myself. I love Social Scene, but there was nothing going on there, and then the pandemic. Somehow, I was gifted this way of creating new music. The app just spoke to me, and it just gave me such a childlike excitement every morning, to get up and walk through the trees, to rely on satellites and make beats & loops, and just instrumental jams. To the point of where I thought, ‘I’m gonna go home, and I’m gonna see.’

So, I went up to Bathouse, and it all just started to work, started to click. And then I just decided, ‘You know what? I want to go out there, and I wanna play in rooms with people. And I wanna have my own moniker; I wanna be called “K.D.A.P.” I wanna come with like a laptop screen, a couple of dancers, and a drummer, and just go for it.’

And I stuck by it. I stuck by the work we did. I reached out to Endlesss; I befriended the founder of it. We’ve become quite close lately. I have no stock in it. I have no vested interest…

The app just spoke to me, and it just gave me such a childlike excitement every morning

QRO: So, you started by using [Endlesss], and then got in contact with them?

KD: I was worried – I just couldn’t quite fathom that I could take this and download it, and be like, ‘Okay, look, I wrote this.’

But what I realized is, when you do pay for the platform, it’s no different than when you get a keyboard that comes with a patch of sounds. It’s not illegal to use those sounds. I think we did a wonderful job within displaying Endless in the way we mixed it and put stuff in, but I was clearly worried that I wasn’t allowed to use what I created. I needed reassurances from the el jefe. And then, we just took to each other.

And I believe this is something that I think could get into school boards. They’re cancelling music programs left, right, and center.

I believe prisons – they have no arts communities in prisons, especially with the pandemic right now. And just to have people have an element, not only just showing them how to use the program and make music, but then, you start to find what you’re feeling.

That’s the most beautiful thing about music, is it does describe what your identity is, inside of you.

I said this to Tim [Exile], who is the founder. I said, ‘This is something I love; I kept a lot of the sounds so people could see, if they wanted to, to investigate Endlesss. They could be, “Look, this sounds right here; this sounds right here.”’ You’re still the driver, but they do not write the music for you. They provide the sounds, but you have to come with your heart & your impulse.

That’s the most beautiful thing about music, is it does describe what your identity is, inside of you.

But I was saying to Tim, that would be such an incredible thing to bring into prisoner systems.

Because one thing we’re doing is, we’re working with this project, The Right Now Project. As we speak, Ohad [Benchetrit] [Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think] and I have this ambient record that’s under the name ‘Broken Social Scene’ that’s in Riker’s Island. That’s in other New York jail systems now. Because we teamed up with this lovely gentleman from Right Now Project, and he’s brought our music, he’s made some videos to it, Charlie has put some things in, I’m gonna put my K.D.A.P. in.

What happens is, the art programs were cancelled during the pandemic. But they did get these tablets, bulletproof fuckin’ tablets, and a lot of musicians have given work over. It’s not a great fuckin’ [jail] system, as you know, jails in New York are very fucking freaky-deaky, as they are in so many places in the world.

What we created was sort of an ambient record, and we put it to nature, and we put it outside, and I was recently told it was one of the most-watched ones going in that program.

And it’s interesting, also, that it’s in New York. It’s not here in Toronto or Ontario, but it’s in New York. I think that’s a testament to how I feel about New York, and how New York has provided such an incredible life for me whenever I go out there, to play gigs or visit friends or whatever.

I know it’s like, ‘New York’s the best city!’ But it still kinda is. It just kinda is.

You’re like, ‘Well, of course it’s too much, it’s this, and on,’ but it’s still fucking New York.

I know it’s like, ‘New York’s the best city!’ But it still kinda is. It just kinda is.

QRO: Did you go to England to make it, or did you decide to make it while already in England?

KD: No, I was out there hanging with one of my most loveliest people, and I spent a few months out there with her and her family. It was amazing. It was out there, in the countryside.

This was at a point where you could still travel. I just decided to do it. It was worth it to me. You have to weigh the options: What’s worth living for, and what’s worth dying for? At that point, I thought, ‘Fuck it, man! I want to go out, I want to go to London. I want to see the people my heart wants to see.’ And I have an opportunity to just go down, full well knowing there’s quarantine, and quarantine on the other side.

Now, it wasn’t Christmastime. It wasn’t when everybody was like, ‘What are you traveling for?!?’ It was still very early on. I left in June. I would not have done it everyone was shaming. And I felt, again, very privileged that I could go, but I could, so I went.

And, while I was there, I was just kicking it. So, obviously, when you’re kicking it, you have this friend here [hold up phone], and I thought, ‘I read on Pitchfork about all these apps.’ And Endlesss came up, and just the way it was described, I went, ‘Oh, let me check that out.’ And then I just messed around for a few days and thought, ‘That was fun.’

And then, it clicked one day. I just went, ‘Wait a second. I can go back to the beginning, and start again, but use the same drum refill, make a change, and then, holy shit, I can put this all through reverb!…’ And then suddenly, off I went.

Obviously, I’m a child of instrumental music. I grew up on sound effects; it’s what I wanted to do in life. I love electronic music, I’ve always loved dance music, I’ve always loved soundtracks, I’ve always loved ambient. It kind of combined everything that I like, and just presented it to me.

I know there’s going to be kickback, because there always is, whenever it becomes easier to create something. But as I said, you’re still the driver. You still have to present it in a way that has an individual reality to it, and an honesty to it.

I’m a child of instrumental music.

QRO: You still have to make all those individual decisions…

KD: Yes.

I’m never threatened by easier way of doing things. If you still need the genuine-ality of it, then that will ring through.

No one has done this yet, made a record off of what Endlesss is doing. I thought by the time this thing was done, they would probably be a bunch, some released tracks, and possibly there are, but not a full record.

But fuck it, I thought, ‘Let’s sort of take a new way, and put it with an old way, and see what happens…’

QRO: Had you been thinking about something like this years before, but didn’t have the app to do it?

KD: I don’t even have a studio. I don’t even have ProTools in my house.

That’s what was the most incredible thing: Suddenly, I was able to work. In the middle of a forest, I was able to work. It was incredible for me. I was like, ‘Wow! I’m in the middle of some trees, and I’m breaking it down!’

So, yes, I think opportunity unveils what you’re going to create. Given this opportunity, I was able to, as I said, just become this vessel to whatever was coming through me at the time, put it all into these beats, and these loops, and these sounds, and write jams, so many of them.

That’s what was the most incredible thing: Suddenly, I was able to work. In the middle of a forest, I was able to work.

QRO: Which came first: Influences or those ambient music Instagram livestreams you were doing during the pandemic?

KD: That was before.

I was doing that because I was alone, in my apartment, and I thought, ‘You know, god, there must be so many people out there alone…’

I just was using, as I said, I have a very, very tiny community on social media, but it’s great people.

I don’t buy into that ‘Following’ shit, and ‘Followers,’ and all that shit. It’s not for me. And I would never say, “I have this many followers” – I’m not being ‘followed,’ I’m being hung out with. People are coming into my world to just say, ‘Cool, great, love it, thank you,’ and that’s what I try to do in others.

And I think that’s the better way of describing it, because so much of what we learned when we were young, and what divides us from those who weren’t taught this is you were taught, ‘Be a leader, not a follower.’ And then the oppressed were taught, ‘Be a follower; do what you’re told.’

So, I come from the side of, obviously, privilege, where I was taught, ‘Be a leader, not a follower.’ So, it’s interesting how everybody bought into it.

I wish there was another terminology. It would help us out, as a society, I think, if there was another terminology for it.

I’m not being ‘followed,’ I’m being hung out with.

QRO: I always get confused when I see “Followers” and “Following” – which one means which…

KD: [laughs]

I’m not a big seller of myself. I’m charming as fuck, or I at least have been throughout my life… I love being out there with the people.

But then this notion of it… Like many, I find it very difficult. And I do get lost in it. I get a little bit in the addictive thing, where suddenly I don’t feel so good, and I’ve lost a few hours cause I’m diving through everybody’s stuff.

And people are coaching me on how to do it, but it’s not really the language that I know how to do. But not because I’m ‘cool’, because I know it’s really now the way that it’s actually become, this is it: you’re making records for those who know about you on social media.

So, you’re like, ‘Wow! Shitballs!’ You have to sort of take that notion of where we’ve landed in life, and gotta accept that it’s TikTok culture now.

And it doesn’t speak to me. It’s very simple and it doesn’t speak to me. And it doesn’t speak to a lot of people. And it does speak to a lot of people. It’s given a lot of people a chance to feel what it’s like to be admired & loved, and in the spotlight. And it’s given everyone their own platform and stage to do so, through algorithms, and corporations figuring out how to get to you and how to sell to you.

I’m not a big seller of myself. I’m charming as fuck, or I at least have been throughout my life…

And it used to cause me great debate, or argue, but now I’ve just accepted that that’s what people want, and that’s how a lot of people want to get their content, and get their news, and get their entertainment, and find people that they identify with, and find people who are doing things that they love…

It’s great, but for me, it dismisses art, still. Art plays a very small part in that.

You can learn how to do that. You just have to be right with yourself. If you even scratch some of your bone off your lungs to go out there, then maybe you gotta do something else. There’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe this is just not for you. Because selling is huge; you’ve gotta sell yourself.

And I’ve always known that. I’m doing it right now.

Look at how art is so dismissed in today’s day & age, and how are we doing as a society? How we doin’?…

QRO: How have your bandmates in Broken Social Scene been doing, during the pandemic? I interviewed Charles Spearin last year (QRO interview), when he did Thank God, The Plague Is Over (QRO review) with Josefin Runsteen…

KD: He’s doing well.

I think everybody’s doing well. I don’t want to speak for them, but they’re living their lives, they’re doing things.

We just had this show come up, for a hometown show at Massey Hall [December 16th], so we talked with everybody. A little check-in. We never know who-the-hell’s gonna show up to these things anyways.

It was just one of those, ‘Hey, we got asked to do a show. We sort of said yes, and we’re putting it up, and now it’s in celebration of twenty years. Whoever’s around, let’s talk about it in October.’ I think everyone’s just happy with a check-in.

It’s been a long time. People are allowed to sort of come back. They know where the house is; it’s there.

You know when you go back to your family’s home, you go, ‘Oh, my bed used to be here! This is where we did “Capture the Flag” in this backyard! There’s the tree we climbed! There’s where we kissed!’ ‘The House of Social Scene’ now.

Look at how art is so dismissed in today’s day & age, and how are we doing as a society? How we doin’?…

After the twenty years, I’ve just said, ‘Hey, you know what? I just want to show up, play. Choose the set list with everyone, make the show special, bring out other guests, bring out new artists.’ Try to put some money in the pocket.

Everyone still understands it’s not a big funded band. I think there’s a respectful understanding for those, there are other bands cruising & stuff.

Honestly, even when I’m talking like this, I’m like, ‘How the fuck do we make this thing work?’ And it is down to the people involved, and the band. And those who came and guested, never asked for anything, and were able to fund their own ways through life. Very grateful. Never had anyone raise their hand and say, ‘What the fuck is this?’ and go after anything, or the label…

I knock on wood. [knocks on wood] I don’t think there’s any reason for that to ever happen. It’s always open. There’s always an emotional audit. You’re always fucking five steps away from an emotional audience.

I’m proud of us. Obviously, a lot of inter-relationships, up-and-downs and all that, but that’s life, that’s how it goes.

The fact that I can write an e-mail to everyone, do this sort of ‘check-in’ with some people on text, and just say, ‘Hey, we’re still here. Let’s see who’s around in the fall, and I love & miss you. Hopefully, if not this show, other shows, we’ll just still be able to keep getting out there and playing together.’

QRO: Was the New Year’s Eve ‘Big Night In’ livestream show the first time Broken Social Scene had all performed together since the pandemic shut everything down?

KD: Yeah.

You sign up for these things, not for the prestige, but they’re paying you, it’s going to charity, it’s helping out restaurants. Obviously, everybody needs help, across the board.

That one came to us, they were in a jam, I knew the organizers. I said to the band, ‘Look, you wanna do this? We’re not gonna look bad doing it. We’ll help some people. A few thousand people will watch.’ Maybe five thousand people watched; it was really promoted last minute. We had the best time.

We got together, we were like, ‘Okay, pandemic, I’m scared and all this stuff’ – no. The people that did the show, called the show, filmed the show, the venue we were at [Paradise Theatre], all of us together. Kept it very small.

I love that we brought out Moscow Apartment. They were seventeen-years-old…

QRO: Okay, I don’t feel so bad about having not heard of them – I guess they haven’t been around that long…

KD: No, they have not.

They’re great women, and they’re very cool, their music, they’re coming out. That’s part of supporting the youth that are out there killing it. The young adults that are out there killing it.

Honestly, even when I’m talking like this, I’m like, ‘How the fuck do we make this thing work?’

But I had such a great time. Everyone did.

And I felt we picked a wonderful set, sort of different.

QRO: Yeah, you played in a kind of a circle, as opposed to the two lines you normally do.

KD: That was so cool. We should do every show like that…

Also, Ariel [Engle] [Broken Social Scene, La Force], just the way she dressed.

QRO: Oh yeah, that really blue outfit. Really highlighted her…

KD: Yes.

QRO: And what was that cape-like thing you were wearing?

KD: I heard your wrote that – it was a scarf, motherfucker!… [laughs]

Honestly, it was a scarf, but the way that I wore it – from Ed in London, a wonderful store called Ed, it was bought for me – I didn’t know at the time.

First of all, I love covering my neck at all times when it’s winter, whether I’m indoors or outdoors. Gordon Downie taught me that. He said, ‘Always have your neck covered,’ and I thought, ‘He’s right!’

Except sexually – don’t strangle me… I found out the hard way…

But I was watching it, and I thought, ‘It does look like a cape!’ [laughs] You know what? Fuck it, embrace it, go with it…

QRO: Is this the longest you’ve not been on tour?

KD: No. Because we stopped at the end of 2011. I didn’t go back out on the road until 2014, so we did two years there. Maybe we did one show. We took a big chunk of touring off.

We’re not a heavy touring band, because it costs a lot of money for us to tour. We have to have the right offers.

And even within that, as we’ve become a social media society, none of us clued into that festivals would be looking at our media accounts. Oh shit…

When you timetable the things that matter to you, that wasn’t it.

QRO: I remember Charles saying how difficult it is, with American withholding taxes…

KD: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We know all this shit that we shouldn’t need to know, but my dad’s our business manager, so we know it inside-out, which is great – like all fathers, they want to teach you what you should know, so when you’re not there, you’re not getting ripped off by other people.

But withholding tax – I mean, that might be the title of our next fuckin’ record…

But I was watching it, and I thought, ‘It does look like a cape!’

Broken Social Scene playing “Shampoo Suicide” live at Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn, NY on September 8th, 2011:

Watch also them playing “KC Accidental”, “Meet Me In the Basement” and “Fire Eye’d Boy”.

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