Ezra Jordan from CTV’s The Launch performs at SOCAN offices
Story by Howard Druckman | April 27, 2018
Ezra Jordan, one of the contending artists on the debut season of CTV’s hit music-competition program The Launch, treated our Toronto staff to a SOCAN Session on April 17, 2018, in the Harmony Lounge.
Playing keyboards, alongside his backing band of bass, guitar, and drums, Jordan performed his original songs for a half-hour, then answered a few questions from the crowd. Offering his own unique, catchy combination of R&B, soul, funk, and pop – and alternating vocally between his compelling baritone and striking falsetto – Jordan played six songs, including the singles “Only Got Eyes for Her” and “Lonely Now.”
Answering questions, he talked about how participating in The Launch was “a crazy whirlwind” full of non-stop activity, allowing for perhaps four hours of sleep each night. Jordan discussed how he gets many of his song ideas while driving, and tends to get started on songs with either a few lines, or a full-blown concept, on which he then works. Asked what more SOCAN can do for him, he jokingly answered, “Add a few zeros on my cheques!”
Since appearing on The Launch, where the 23-year-old impressed celebrity judges Fergie and Stephan Moccio, Jordan has seen his songs collectively earn more than 600,000 streams. While his success on the TV show has been an undoubtable career boost, Jordan — the son of SOCAN member singer-songwriters Amy Sky and Marc Jordan – has been performing since the age of four.
At age of 18, he suffered a life-threatening leg injury. Forced to put a hold on his piano training during the recovery process, he turned to singing and songwriting as an outlet. Back on his feet, Jordan joined JUNO Award-nominated artist Scott Helman as his keyboard player and backup singer. He then moved to L.A. to attend the Musician’s Institute, where he focused on his solo career.
SOCAN thanks Jordan Ezra for entertaining our staff, and wishes him continued success.
Five years after his first club performance, Scarborough’s Khalil Tatem – a.k.a. KILLY – is killin’ it for real: joints like 2017’s “Killamonjaro” and “No Romance” are racking up streams and views well into the eight figures.
Now, with his 11-track independent album Surrender Your Soul, and a summer world tour that will take him across the Atlantic as far as Warsaw, the 20-year-old is giving the world notice that the 6ix has exported a third R&B/hip-hop innovator from the land of Drake and The Weeknd.
“This is a sound that’s bigger than the city,” boasts KILLY about his 808s & Heartbreak–inspired flow, that electronically fluctuates his vocal delivery, leans heavily on ad-lib and vernacular, and is often framed by looped samples of subdued keyboard and synth passages. “There’s no one else that’s doing this anywhere.”
The boast isn’t idle, if public response is the mitigating litmus test: KILLY’s collective output, including the 2017 non-Surrender Your Soul tracks “Distance,” “Forecast,” and “No Romance” is approaching 50 million streams alone, while the rapidly rising rapper’s YouTube videos sit pretty at a viewership of 33 million. “It’s cool to finally see people realize it and take notice,” says KILLY. “It’s only been a year for me.”
In the sense of public exposure and aggregating a respectable fan base, KILLY is correct. But if you listen to his career progress, as noted in “Surrender (Intro),” where KILLY reveals that he “Had my first show at the end of ’15 (yeah)/First video came summer ’16 (yeah).” A large portion of Surrender Your Soul is all about the fact that his ascension is so rapid; the fact that it’s been independently released through his own Secret Sound Club label is even more impressive.
“Killamonjaro,” originally released in 2017, was the big breakthrough that made KILLY more than an underground sensation: it was the turning point that married instinct with spontaneity and best showcased KILLY’s magic. “For ‘Killamonjaro,’ I heard the beat and I wrote the structure of it,” he says, “and then I just told my engineer, ‘You have to record this song right now.’ We just linked up and I did it. It wasn’t anything more or anything less, really.
“I walk into the studio, a beat gets played, and I make the song on the spot. If it needs more production behind it, we’ll add guitars or add ad-libs. It’s less thinking, more feeling. For me, it’s very free-flowing, very liberal – it just happens, I just feel it. I don’t write down lyrics or anything, it’s just on-the-spot, in-the-moment. It’s capturing the energy of the moment.”
But as is the case for most artists, no one is an island. KILLY tapped into a community of producers for Surrender Your Soul that are both A-listers and novices. The former included Boi-1da (Drake, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar), Daxz (Drake, Travi$ Scott), WondaGurl (Drake, Jay Z, SZA), 1Mind (French Montana, Lil Yachty), and Wallis Lane (Drake, Logic, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Trey Songz).
KILLY is nonplussed about whether or not they have previous experience. “I don’t really care too much about whether they need the exposure, or if they’re established. If you make good music, you make good music,” he says. “I don’t care if you have 50 placements on the Top 100, or you have zero. I have 16yrold producing (“No Romance”) and I also have Boi-1da producing. For everyone, from all ages, all walks of life, it’s just a beautiful thing for everyone to be able to come together. The biggest notoriety of being established – it’s just who makes good music.”
“I walk into the studio, a beat gets played, and I make the song on the spot.”
Originally from Toronto, KILLY spent some of his early teens in his Bajan Filipino household in Victoria, B.C., before returning a few years ago – inspired by Speaker Knockerz, Kanye West, Tame Impala, Joey Bada$$ and James Blake – and obsessed with making his own impact.
“I’ve been doing this since I was young,” says KILLY. “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t. I wake up, and that’s what I think about. Even before the success of it, it was always like that.”
He made his connections quickly, by getting involved in Toronto nightlife. “It was pretty rapid, all of this,” he says. “It just started out with me being surrounded by the culture, me being at parties, me around other creatives. Like that, you know? And then it just escalated to where the people I was listening to, I ended up being in the same room with [them]. It kind of avalanched.”
The secret to his success is tapping into his emotions. “The music is based off mood, based off energy,” says KILLY, who recently dropped “No Bad No Sad” as his new single. “It’s just the best way that I can capture how I feel, and how the people around me feel. My environment, my mental space – it’s all captured sonically.”
And while he provides the words, his producers provide the sonics. And again, KILLY determines his professional ties from the personal vibe he gets from a potential producer. “They’re all my friends,” he says, “and I feel that if I can connect with you on a personal level, I can connect with you on a musical level. Those are my peoples.”
And while he doesn’t go into much detail, it sounds like KILLY is preparing to take on a mentoring role, and form his own dynasty. “Everything we do is just me and my dogs,” he says. Secret Sound Club. Everything’s in-house.” Says his publicist, “Secret Sound Club was founded by KILLY, and is the label under which all his music has been released. It’s an indie label. We haven’t officially announced the other artists who are on Secret Sound Club.”
More recently, KILLY traveled beyond North American borders for the first time to cut some sides in Jamaica with “my good friend” WondaGurl. “We stayed in St. Elizabeth and Kingston,” he says, “and linked up with some musicians down there. I smoked strong and there were some good vibes. Can’t complain.”
He’s hoping to release the results in the fall, but until then he’s experiencing the “euphoric state” of concert performance, and introducing audiences to Surrender Your Soul. Whether or not future songs expand the subject of his music beyond himself, KILLY is unapologetic for shining the spotlight there.
“There’s no one that knows you as good as you, why wouldn’t you talk about that?” he asks rhetorically. “My stories are best for me.”
Photo by Carl Thériault
Grimskunk: Healthy, Necessary Rage
Story by Dominic Tardif | April 27, 2018
“Everything that’s bad for the world is good for rock’n’roll,” a wise man once said. He might well have added that everything that’s bad for the world – Trump, the extreme right’s attempt to establish credibility, the designation of false collective enemies – is, paradoxically, good for GrimSkunk… and their fans. The rage that acts as the engine for Unreason in the Age of Madness, a ninth album for the Godfathers of Québec’s alternative rock scene, is fuelled by the countless hotspots of a planet under the reign of a powerful elite that can only conquer by dividing.
Protestors are anarchists / Dissenters are terrorists / You have no right / No right to resist, the band screams on “Let’s Start a War,” a fake call-to-arms that imitates – to better satirize it – an attempt to reduce the desire to protest in the streets to a temper tantrum. All those intellectual shortcuts now sadly to anyone who’s even glanced at the comments under Facebook posts by any major broadcaster or tabloid newspaper.
“Sadly, there’s more and more people that gobble up the complete bullshit that the right feeds them since Reagan, who said the fortune of the rich would benefit everyone,” says singer/guitarist Franz Schuller, not exactly reticent to serve up a copious slice of vitriolic opinion.
“The fact is, a lot of people in certain media have a vested interest in the one percent remaining in place, and their job is to pretend lies are truth, divide the working class, the uneducated, the poor, by telling them their real enemies are intellectual elites and Hollywood stars.”
Recorded in Gibson, B.C., with Garth Richardson (who produced Rage Against the Machine’s first album), the follow-up to 2012’s Set Fire! still tries to imagine a planet where all borders are abolished, and there are no limits between musical genres. From reggae on “Same Mistake” to the very Pink Floyd-ian vibe of “Starlight,” or the rompin’, stompin’ punk energy of “Gimme Revolution,” GrimSkunk remains true to its legendary, chameleon-like versatility.
“More than ever, the goal of this band is to make people think,” says Schuller, on behalf of his bandmates – keyboardist and singer Joe Evil, bassist Vincent Peake, drummer Ben Shatskoff, and guitarist Peter Edwards. Edwards, on “Hanging Out in the Rain” and “Computeur Screen,” plays guitar solos that reveal the band’s never-quite-abandoned love for prog-rock.
“Some people think we’re preachy, but we don’t tell people what to do or not to do,” says Schuller. “It’s fine if you don’t agree with our ideas. We’re just trying to shine a light on some that are different than those used to brainwash people and make them conform, like sheep in a herd. We want to expose them to different ideas, ideas that might make them want to make civil and political decisions that are different.”
One thing is clear: the band, about to celebrate its 30th Anniversary in November, is still a long way from creating a proverbial folk album for homebody past-punks.
“Of course not, because we still have the same values as when we were young and we don’t feel like turning our backs on the oppressed who need our support,” says Schuller. He decries, on “Same Mistake,” the “redneck revival” of La Meute and other identity-based groups, 20 years after attacking blind nationalism on “Lâchez vos drapeaux,” from the band’s mythical album Fieldtrip.
In other words, how can one stop being angry when the reasons for anger have remained the same? “It’s not because you grow old or more comfortable that you should stop caring about others, especially when so many of them are exploited, persecuted, killed and despised,” says Schuller. “We have a human responsibility towards the other living beings on this planet.”
“Fuck the NRA” GrimSkunk yells on “The Right to Bear Harm,” its raging anti-weapons protest song. “I believe that when you feel angry about something, it’s necessary to express it in the most natural and authentic way possible,” says Schuller. “The basic tenet of punk is that saying things softly has a limited impact. Saying things loudly allows for debate and questioning. Take the kids who manifested against the NRA after the Parkland massacre. We called them pathetic, juvenile, but they shook things up. Anger can be a good motivation, if it’s directed towards a positive outcome.”
But punk’s anger also allows, quite simply and thankfully, to get the things that make your blood boil, in this increasingly injustice-filled world, out of your system. “People thrash during a GrimSkunk show, they throw themselves every which way, and walk out of there covered in bruises because they’ve fallen to the floor, but they also walk out of there with a smile on their faces the size of the sun,” says Schuller. “They’ve been liberated of their frustrations.” At least until the next morning’s headlines.