sruxton: It has been a long time since the Broken Toys days, how good does it feel to be playing again live in one of Halifax’s nightspots?
Steve McCall: Ya, a funny thing happened to me on the way to the office. It feels great to be playing again. It’s been a while since music has been a focus for me. In many ways my life has come full circle. Broken Toys was a fixture in the local and national scene in the 1980’s. From the time I left high school being in a band was all I ever wanted to do. There came a moment in my life where all of that changed and I found myself disillusioned with looking at life from the stage of a bar. I felt empty and that I had nothing to say and that started to become apparent to me. I had several small starts and stops trying to cultivate some authenticity as a songwriter after that but the timing never seemed quite right.
sruxton: We noticed that your band was using a wireless mixing setup at The Argyle. Do you think this wireless technology makes it easier for the audio technician ?
Steve McCall: I really don’t know that much about it. That was the first time I have ever used wireless mixing. It was also the first time for the sound man so that, and the lack of a sound check did not make for the smoothest opening night. If you really understand the technology it could be really helpful. I hear a number of big touring acts use it so the sound guy can walk around the building and make separate adjustments based on what he is hearing in that section as opposed to mixing sound for the whole room based on the sweet spot on the floor where he is confined. You still have a mixer. The ipad only gives you mobile access to it from wherever you are in the room.
sruxton: When you were putting material together for your CD One, was there any specific audience targeted?
Steve McCall: No. I still never know what to say when people ask me what style of music I’m writing. I was just focusing on being as authentic and revealing as I could with the hope that someone may relate to what I was doing. There were many moments in the writing recording process where I felt connected to anonymous souls who I sensed would connect to it. Of all the hats I wear in life “marketing” is not one that I think about very much. If you know someone who could help with that???
sruxton: Your CD contains an impressive list of musicians that took part in the recording process. How big a part did the Internet play in helping this project come together?
Steve McCall: I wasn’t totally sure I was making a record until I was deep in it. The songs all started as a folk acoustic type thing maybe a little percussion/ conga. One day one of my buddies walked in and saw my old electric hanging from a shelf with a 6 month old broken string and asked why I wasn’t using it. At that point I started to entertain what that might bring to the sound so I bought a pack of strings and tried a few things. Then I came across this 12 string electric and I really liked that kind of George Harrison/ Mamas and Papas kind of sound.
I did everything in my home studio and since I didn’t have room or technology for recording live drums, I started to look into who was out there doing drum tracks and sending digital files. I had four drummers do tracks. Phil Robertson in Vancouver played on two. Gulli Briem did all 11 at a studio in Iceland but I only used about 5 of those tracks in the end. If you are not in the room explaining exactly what you want it is very hard to get it in my experience. I saw local drummer Geoff Arsenault play with Ian Janes at the Carlton and he totally blew me away so I contracted him to record several tracks at a Halifax studio called Echo Chamber.
All of the songs were pieced together as they were being created. From there I just started looking for who might add some cool flavours to it. There were also three keyboard players, Ron Huestis and Ross Billard on a couple and then Kim Dunn came in and did six or seven tracks in one morning. And then there were several singers who performed on one of two songs each. It was a very Steely Dan way to record an album except without a partner or producer. I don’t think I will ever do it that way again.
sruxton: We are all older, and have many more commitments to things like jobs and family, which take up a lot of time. Do these commitments restrict your ability to do more frequent live shows?
Steve McCall: Well you have that right. I recorded and mixed the record often very late into the morning after my “day job” as a massage therapist and after”daddy duty” was completed. Again, when I first started I was only trying to write songs. I wasn’t sure I was making a full length record. I quickly realized that if I was going to get any of it heard I would have to go out and perform it myself. I have never identified as a singer so I had a great deal of “stuff” to get over to be the front man. My first show was at Tour Tech East last year. We got the show last minute with two weeks notice based on having an “almost done record” so I got on the phone and put a band together to play it. We have not played that much but it looks like that is all about to change. Im feeling more comfortable now that I have 4 whole shows under my belt!
sruxton: To finish up we want to thank you for participating in this interview. Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
Steve McCall: Thanks so much Stephen for having me. I’m honoured to have an opportunity to sharpen my “marketing skills”!
That concludes our interview with local recording artist Steve McCall. We hope you enjoyed your visit, and be sure to tell your friends to stop in. You can also also feel free to check us out on Facebook for more frequent updates from Rockin’ HRM