Found somewhere in between the white noise of the city and the bleak pastoral landscapes of the prairies in winter, is the music of Maybe Smith. Behind the barrage of slide guitar, rattling synths and dissonant electronic froth is Colin Skrapek, a former Concordia design student who went back to his native Saskatoon and has produced three fulllength albums (including this year’s Second Best Death) and an EP.
Skrapek has also started a record label, Sir Handsome Records, and has found that desolation and the cold winter nights of Saskatchewan make for an ideal creative environment.
Along with hip-hop artist Soso, Skrapek will be taking his musical moniker on tour, playing Montreal this month for the first time. I talked with Skrapek via msn messenger while he was nestled away at his home in Saskatoon on the eve of Maybe Smith’s maiden voyage back towards the project’s point of initial fruition.
The conversation touched upon such topics as genre mixing, sample collecting and bowls of soup. What follows is a taste of a wonderfully scattered conversation regarding his creative process and the state of truly independent music in a time where ‘indie’ has become a corporate catch phrase.
The Concordian: Where will the tour bring you?
Maybe: I’m on tour with hip-hop artist Soso. It’s mostly just east of Saskatchewan — Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, London — all our enemies live out west. It’ll be me, Soso and his brother as our driver/roadie. It’s my first multi-city tour. Soso has toured before, although neither of us has ever played in Montreal.
The Concordian: And how did you get hooked up with a hip-hop artist for the tour? Your current record is about the furthest thing from hip-hop, apart from the RZA style b-movie sample intro…
Maybe: Soso and I have more in common than our different genres suggest. Saskatoon’s not a very big city and it’s fairly secluded, and like-minded musicians tend to gravitate toward each other. We both make music on our own and put it out on our own. Even though our music is different, we’re basically doing the exact same thing. I love hip-hop music. My music, even though it sounds nothing like hip-hop, is created in a similar way.
The Concordian: I love how you prairie boys are all buddies. In Montreal bands are like gangs, and their groupies have dancing knife-fights after the shows.
Maybe: It’s too cold in Saskatoon to be fighting each other. We make each other bowls of soup after shows.
The Concordian: The album is a real clash of what seems to be pretty straight up country songs with Fennesz-like glitchiness. Was this something planned, or just how it worked out?
Maybe: A bit of both, I think. I just combine sounds I enjoy until I’m happy with the turnout. I happen to love country music and electronic stuff, Fennesz included. I think sounds that may be considered to be from polar-opposite genres can sound incredible together in the right context. There’s no point in limiting it.
The Concordian: Regarding the different textures, especially the stuff that seems to be underneath most of the album, how was that produced (i.e. any samples, field recordings, etc.)?
Maybe: It’s largely samples, with the odd bit of keyboard, and then they’re processed to the point of being unrecognizable, basically until I come up with a sound that I’m happy with.
The Concordian: I interviewed The Books last year when they were in town and they are insane about collecting samples. Your music seems a little more dependent on classical song construction, but do you collect little sound fragments just in case?
Maybe: Yah, my samples are more individual instrument sounds than full bits like the Books use. I don’t have the patience to be a crate digger, although sometime I wish I did. I’m usually looking more for a specific sound or tone than a melody or loop.
The Concordian: It’s certainly a romantic image, but is probably more annoying and time consuming than anything.
Maybe: It changes the way you listen to music. You’re always listening for your next sample instead of just enjoying the song. That’s another reason why I try not to get crazy about it.
The Concordian: In traveling across Canada with Soso, is it more likely that by the end of your travels you will end up producing a hip hop record or he a country album?
Maybe: Actually, we’ve already decided that I’m going to help produce his next album. I have no idea what that’s going to sound like, but I’m excited about it. Apparently he wants to do more singing. As well, when he plays live on the tour I’ll be in the shadows accompanying him on various instruments.
Maybe Smith is on tour with hip-hop artist Soso and will be in Montreal on April 20 at Main Hall with guest Bleubird. His latest album is entitled Second Best Death (Sir Handsome Records) and is available via maplemusic.com or at his label’s website: sirhandsomerecords.com.