By Kris Ketonen
The new year is bringing with it brand new music from Canadian rock icons Big Wreck. Grace Street, Big Wreck’s fifth studio album, releases on February 3, and the band has embarked on a coast-to-coast Canadian tour that brings them to Thunder Bay’s Rockhouse on February 14. The Walleye chatted with frontman Ian Thornley a few days before the tour kicked off.
The Walleye: You’ve got a new album releasing soon, and you’re heading out on a long tour—how are you feeling these days?
Ian Thornley: You’re always excited. There’s a little bit of nerves when you have something new. Ultimately, you try to please yourself when you’re making music, but before you release it to the public, it goes through your mind—I really hope people dig it anywhere near as much as I do. So it’s exciting, but a little nervous. It’s real different.
TW: Do you feel pressure to sound a certain way?
IT: I’m always trying to stretch as a writer and craftsman of music, I’m always trying to do different things. With this record, there was almost a mission statement from the onset between [producer] Garth Richardson and myself—we were like “Let’s make a record where every song is a trip, and every song has its own thing.”
TW: How much of that approach was due to Garth Richardson producing?
IT: He helped facilitate the whole thing. In his trick bag, he has a lot of tools at his disposal. Every record, I expand my trick bag, there’s always “Oooh, I like that, I’ll steal that from that engineer, from that guy.” There’s always great, wonderful tricks, and Garth has a lot of them. And a lot of them just come from conversations. For instance, the wine glass thing. You know when you have a crystal wine glass and you wet your finger and you can make a tone out of it? We just had a conversation about the song “Motionless”—what can we do in that chorus to really get it pop? Because the whole song was pretty barren as it was recorded. And I liked that. I liked how intimate it was. All you could hear was a guitar, a bass, and drums, with maybe a one-note overdub here and there. And then the chorus would come, and it’s like well, how can we make it pop, but it’s not a typical Ian move, not a typical Big Wreck thing, what can we do that’s different? The wine glass thing came up, and I quickly forgot about it. We were on to some other stuff. And then an hour later or so, Garth shows up with a bunch of crystal wine glasses, and a turkey baster. The turkey baster, of course, is to tune each glass. We spent a while tuning it to essentially a G major scale, and then recording the wine glasses. And it sounds like a it could be keyboard, but it’s way too organic for that. These kinds of things happened all over the place.
TW: How is the departure of guitarist Paulo Neta affecting the tour?
IT: We’ve been rehearsing as a four-piece, and it’s new and strange, but it’s also very familiar, because Big Wreck initially was a four-piece, as was Thornely.
TW: Will you be bring another guitarist on?
IT: It’d be hard to find somebody to replace Paulo. Not only with his talent, but it’s also a chemistry thing. He is one of my best friends, and I love the guy dearly, and I’ve known him forever. I’m not going to get somebody to cover all that ground musically, but also gel with the rest of the guys and myself to be on a bus for a month and a half. That wasn’t going to happen. So it was like “Alright, let’s just see how this feels as a four-piece.” And once we started rehearsing as a four-piece, I was like “I missed this, this is actually fun.” Nothing against Paulo, obviously—he’s a brilliant musician. But when there’s four people making noise, there’s obviously that much more room than there is with five people making noise.