Profile: Raine Maida

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SPACE
Raine Maida keeps it simple on his latest solo album
Photography by Jalani Morgan

I can easily say that I don’t remember Canadian music without the name Raine Maida in it. And I think a lot of other 20-something music fans can say same thing. I distinctly remember my early years of music nerd-dom, flipping on Much Music, seeing that eerie, gritty video for Our Lady Peace’s “Superman’s Dead” and being completely taken aback by Maida’s signature howling voice. Fast forward to 2013, and Maida’s fresh off of the release of his second solo album We All Get Lighter. You won’t find that 90’s era OLP howl on this record, but the huge range of musical influences and inspired themes you do find proves Maida has never lost the passion that’s always drawn people to him and his music.

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Amanda Cuda: What made you decide it was time to really focus on finishing and releasing the new album?
Raine Maida: It just came down to timing. I had it at a point where I could have really finished it two years ago. It was so close to being finished and then OLP came down to L.A. and we started recording and it just went so quickly. It wasn’t planned that we were going to have another record ready, but Curve was done. I never wanted to have my solo stuff take precedence over the band. We ended up releasing that record and so my stuff got kind of put on hold.

AC: But now do you feel like the timing was right? That everything came out the way that you wanted it to?
RM: I think so, yeah. I mean, it’s always a work in progress. I have so many songs and these just felt like eight songs that fit together. And it’s not so much maybe instrument-wise — more lyrically and thematically.

AC: Right, because I was going to say, there’s a really large range of sounds and styles on the album. There’s spoken word, there’s more classic rock, there’s synth heavy tracks. Was that something that you knew you wanted for this album when you were making it?
RM: Well, I felt like on my first solo record, Hunter’s Lullaby, it was very focussed—more spoken word over beats. I would never call myself a spoken word artist, but it was that kind of vibe. And I have a lot of stuff like that again. But I just felt like I wanted to use this record as a platform to broaden what I can do solo-wise. It felt like if I were to put out another record like Hunter’s, it would have been a little derivative, for me as an artist anyway.

AC: My personal favourite tracks are actually the ones that I didn’t really expect to hear from you. Stuff like “Rising Tide” and “Numbers”.
RM: Numbers is my favourite song that I’ve ever written.

AC: Yeah? Why’s that?
RM: Being an artist in a rock band for so long, it really never happens where I’d have that much space in a track. And I love that it’s very, what I’d consider, dub. Like James Blake and stuff like that. It’s just so sparse and you’re hanging on the little intricacies of an artist. You know, whether it’s a little timbre thing in my voice or a little sound. The minimalist of it is really attractive to me right now.

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AC: And is that something that you’ve been playing with for a while?
RM: Yeah. There’s something to be said for the craft of being able to keep something that sparse and to have it still work. A lot of times I’ll have a song like that but it just feels like, for whatever reason—the arrangement or maybe the melody or any harmonic stuff going on—it doesn’t quite making it. So you end up adding a cello or violin or maybe another synth. But with “Numbers” it was like: it is what it is and it works.

AC: So you’ve clearly used a lot of new sounds and new ideas on this album that you haven’t really released before. Can you tell us a bit more about other new things that you tried with this record?
RM: For me, everything’s an experiment. I think I’ve probably tried all this stuff before—it’s just a matter of getting it to work. I hadn’t really experimented too much with horns before. I think at the end of “Rising Tide” that just became this really almost prog-y horn thing. It’s like a horn solo, but there are four or five tracks of horns.

I guess what was interesting for me was it was really one of the first times where, with this friend of mine in L.A., I would just send him the tracks and he’d stay up all night and he’d send me, like 32 tracks the next day. So it was a lot of sorting through, but I think I like the experiment of not being there. That’s probably the ultimate creativity for someone—not having any parameters set by the producer or artist. So I ended up doing horns on that song. And then I ended up doing that with a lot of the cello from a friend of mine that lives in Toronto, Kevin Fox. I would just send him stuff and started to really enjoy that process. It was hard to do it at first because you’re really trusting someone and they don’t always get it right. Sometimes we’d have to go back and then send notes. But a lot of the time there was things that I wouldn’t have thought of which I just love.

AC: You’ve been in the music business for a while now – has the whole process and idea of creating music changed for you now as opposed to when you started off?
RM: Yeah, I mean, I think if you have something that’s successful then all of a sudden things start to tighten up on your creativity in terms of opinion and voices and the business of it. I always used to think to myself, “Well, I’m not letting that shit get in the way.” But it’s really not until you have the ultimate freedom, and you’re truly making a record without all those outside forces, that you’re just this vehicle kind of going on your own path. So that’s really what’s happened to me on Hunter’s, with OLP, this new record and now this stuff I’m doing with a friend of mine, which is really, kind of, electro-folk.

AC: Electro-folk? Who are you working on that with?
RM: A friend of mine, Aaron Ellingson. He was in this band called Young Empires. He’s like this firestorm of music, so he’s just always making these tracks and beats. He started sending me stuff a couple of months ago. There’s something about the way that we’re crafting things and again, it’s trying to be simple in that electro way where there’s not, like, fucking bass just taking up the whole track. It’s very minimalist, it’s kind of dancey, and it’s really like the coolest electro music. It’s like Nine Inch Nails meets Michael Jackson. We were in the studio late last night and I just walked out of there saying, “Wow. This will be an amazing thing if people dig this,” because it’s just been so easy. And usually nothing’s ever easy. It’s been an amazing journey and I just love where it’s leading right now.

AC: So it sounds like you’re working on a million different things right now. But now that the album’s out, what are you plans for the near future?
RM: I’m just doing some festivals. After I do Osheaga I’m going to chill for the last three weeks of the summer and finish this thing with Aaron. Then I do want to tour my solo record properly. In the fall I’ll try to find six weeks where I can hit America and Canada and just at least have that record feel like it’s lived its life.