In some bands, once each member establishes their role in the songwriting and recording processes, they guard their musical turf almost religiously. If those roles change, the potential for the kind of conflicts that can tear an act apart increases greatly.

That’s never been a problem for Protest The Hero. Over nearly 15 years, PTH have fluidly adapted to dramatic changes in the music industry, while fostering a creative process that finds them actively encouraging each other to evolve – without ever fracturing the bond that’s kept them together. That bond has existed since they were children, says lead singer Rody Walker, who credits their longevity to a collective passion for the music they make and their shared outlook.

“We have an amazing capacity to have a good time despite the circumstances,” says Walker. “We

“We do this because we love it, and nothing could be so bad that it would make us stop.” – Protest The Hero’s Rody Walker

do this because we love it, and nothing could be so bad that it would make us stop.”

“I don’t think we’ve written any record the same way,” Walker continues. In fact, he says, their new album (yet to be named and released as of press time) is the first PTH record for which he’s written all the lyrics, instead of sharing those duties with longtime lyricist/bassist, Arif Mirabdolbaghi, as he did on 2011’s Scurrilous.

It’s also the first time PTH opted to crowdfund a record through Indigogo, rather than partner with a label – a campaign they announced in January 2013, which found them reaching their stated goal of $125,000 within thirty hours and ultimately raising a total of $341,146.

Four songs into the writing process, however, PTH found themselves facing a change far harder to adjust to than any they’d dealt with previously; drummer Moe Carlson’s decision to pursue a career in tool-and-die manufacturing and, ultimately, his departure from the band.

Usually Carlson, Mirabdolbaghi and guitarists Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar write the tracks. Then

“We have to keep reinventing what we do. We have to be able change direction at the drop of a hat.” – Protest The Hero’s Luke Hoskin

Mirabdolbaghi – and now Walker – contribute lyrics and melodies. After talking it through with Carlson, however, PTH decided, mutually and amicably, to continue writing without him.

Embracing change has always been key to PTH’s creative growth. “We have to keep reinventing what we do,” says Hoskin. “We have to be able change direction at the drop of a hat.” That said, Carlson’s departure was particularly difficult for Hoskin. “He was the first person I’d bounce ideas off,” Hoskin says. “It was like losing your identity as a writer because you’ve always written with this person.”

To fill that void, Hoskin turned to Cameron McLellan – a longtime friend of the band, who started out as their lighting technician before taking over as their sound engineer. Hoskin and McLellan had written together before, but never with PTH in mind. They began by sifting through bits and pieces of previous music they’d worked on together on tour as well as generating new material.

Even after they began recording – with Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler filling in for Carlson – it became necessary to alter their process again, Hoskin continues. And, after laying down drums with returning producer Julius “Juice” Butty at the helm, PTH and Butty decided that the best way to move forward was for McLellan to produce the remainder of the sessions.

While the resulting album features some songs that are more linear than PTH’s past efforts, they haven’t abandoned their progressive metal roots. “There are some songs that are simpler, and some that are more complex, than anything we’ve ever written,” Walker says.

Going forward without a label, however, they expect the process of releasing the record to be more complicated than ever before. “We’re excited,” Hoskin says, “but we had to step up and make every decision about every aspect of this album. That’s something we didn’t have to do before. Now we have to or they won’t get sorted out. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

FYI
Publisher: Protest The Hero – self-published
Discography: Search for the Truth (EP, 2002), Kezia (2005), Fortress (2008), Scurrilous (2011)
SOCAN Members since 2003
Visit www.protestthehero.ca


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The idea of creating a Latin music band came to Shantal Arroyo during a trip to Mexico in 2011. “One night in a Puerto Vallarta bar,” the hardcore punk band Overbass member remembers, “I complained about the American music that was always playing, and my friends said, ‘If you’re not happy with it, then set up your own band and come back here to play!’

“It was an interesting thought, but the people I was hanging out with at the time were not Latinos – they were all punks and metal-heads! But I knew that many of them were in the process of adopting second instruments, so I started recruiting for the new project. We ended up being 17 in the band, and it went on from there,” says the voluble Mexican-born musician.

Made up of musicians from Montreal’s alternative scene (including Grimskunk’s Joe Evil), the band initially hoped to expand both their repertoire and their appeal. “We felt like making a different kind of music,” says Arroyo. “All of us were very experienced and secretly pined for a taste of big venues. With this project, the whole Mexican market was opening up to us. We’d seen our Mano Negra chums go from bar gigs to big stadium concerts, and we were hoping that this would happen to us, too. Mind you, we knew this would be quite a challenge musically – singing is one thing, but screaming is quite another,” the 40-year-old artist muses.

As Collectivo’s early concerts included many Latin music covers, band members had some time to get used to the musicality of Spanish lyrics. “With this in place,” Arroyo recalls, “we thought it was time we released an album. But our first experience in the recording studio wasn’t easy. The room was so packed we couldn’t move when we recorded Hasta la fiesta… siempre! And this happened while the recording technology was moving from reels to digital. So making that album was quite a challenge!”

The band’s second opus, Especial, a more mature and diversified song collection, was released in 2005 and followed in 2011 with Tropical Trash, a more sonically mature offering partly recorded in a Montreal theatre. The clan’s latest effort, Jaune Électrik, came out this summer in a burst exotic rhythms and sunny, festive melodies typical of Colectivo’s energetic style, but with a significant change – French lyrics.

“Our first three albums were largely exploratory,” Arroyo explains, “but we felt the need to sing in French on the next one. That was to be our next thing. We had the album produced by Vander. We chose this ex-Colocs member for his energy and also because he is used to large, multi-ethnic groups, and can deal with people who don’t use technical words. Many of us are self-taught musicians, and we needed someone who could understand us.”

Does Colectivo use a special method to create its red-hot tunes? “There are three principal composers – Denis Lepage, Joe Evil and Joël Tremblay,” says Arroyo. “They bring in a rough outline for every song, and then we make the arrangements one section at a time, moving from brass to drums to percussions to strings. Working this way requires great humility, as all players work on their own small section of a larger whole. But we’re like family and aren’t afraid of criticizing one another. With time, we’ve learned to talk about what really matters. We just have to be careful not to take it badly. Our modus operandi could be described as well-structured chaos.”

Besides her mother (also a guitarist and singer) and her partner Joël (also a member of Overbas), Arroyo’s musical heroes include the Basque artist Fermin Muguruza, who co-produced the collective’s second album. “In my mind, he has a practically perfect track record,” she says. “Although he has been approached by major recording companies, he has remained true to his own values and creative vision. That’s remarkable.

“I value authenticity. We tried new things as a way to get more people interested and create a more commercial sound, but we felt terribly awkward doing it – like elephants in a china shop! We are punk artists first and foremost. We can’t forget that.”

Now boasting 11 band members (including eight original ones), Colectivo marches on, although at a somewhat reduced pace at the moment, as a few band members have recently become parents. Although music is her life, Arroyo has realistic expectations when it comes to the prospect of making a living as a musician.

“Everyone in the group has a day job,” she admits. “Nobody is making a living with their art. I have long since decided that music was the thing that was keeping me alive. But I also chose not to starve to death. Music remains my main occupation, but I refuse to compromise. I prefer holding two jobs and worrying about how to get it all together. This is what Colectivo means to me – a vital energy.”


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“Hey, Nashville! Break’s over!

Jason Blaine remembers the gentle joshing he received from fellow workers during the few years he toiled at a filing cabinet factory back in the ‘90s. As a then-aspiring country music singer and songwriter who dreamed of living in Music City, Tennessee, and making an impact on country music, Blaine was ribbed by a few blue-collar types on the job, but never let it get under his skin.

“I got teased a bit, but I think it was all in good fun,” recalls Blaine, who was raised on a radio diet of Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt and Vince Gill, among others. “They literally named me ‘Nashville,’ but I thought, ‘That’s all right.’ I always knew I’d end up as a songwriter in Nashville.”

Today, the Pembroke, ON, native Blaine, 33, has transformed fantasy into reality with his wife

“If I was a country fan, what would I want to hear? A turn-it-up loud, all-summer-long, drive-around-in-my-truck album.”

Amy and their three kids, Grace, Sara and Carter. Although he may live south of the Canadian border, Blaine’s star is still very much on the rise back home. In 2012, his fourth album, Life So Far, yielded the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Single of the Year with “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore.” This year, he’s nominated for aCCMAs for Songwriter of the Year – for “Cool,” a co-write with Deric Ruttan, from his stellar 2013 album Everything I Love.

Co-produced by Blaine with Scott Cooke (Florida Georgia Line, Nickelback), Everything I Love is packed with irresistible earworms like the energetic “Rock It, Country Girl,” the celebratory “Good Ol’ Nights” and the slap-happy “Friends of Mine.” The latter features a quartet of homegrown country stars – Jason McCoy, Gord Bamford, Deric Ruttan and Chad Brownlee – chiming in on the festivities.

“I joked to them that if they hadn’t agreed to do it, I’d have to re-name the song ‘No Friends,’” Blaine chuckles.

Each song on Everything I Love is marked by melodic maturity, everyman lyrics, a hint of swagger and a stylistic versatility that adheres to Music Row expectations while still allowing Blaine to maintain his own identity. That’s something he may not have necessarily achieved had he landed anywhere other than in Nashville.

“I felt like I would have copped out on a dream of mine if I’d never actually went there and tried to figure out that scene and make friends,” admits Blaine, who honed his musical chops playing in a band with his dad and his brother. “It is a hub for amazing talent. If you go thinking you’re a pretty good songwriter, you will be humbled. If you go there thinking you’re a pretty good musician, you will be humbled. And you’ll be better for it.

“You go to some writers’ nights, you just go and listen and you think, ‘God, that’s amazing.’ You’ll

“There are still personal songs on it, but I really focused on fun and writing these uptempo crowd anthems.”

hear songs that you may never hear on the radio, and there are more undiscovered hits than there are hits. But it will raise your game, and I have friends and peers that I count on and trust that I can bounce stuff off, and they’ll go either, ‘Yeah man, that’s really great stuff,’ or they’ll send you back to the drawing board.”

Some of those friends and collaborators have impressive track records: fellow Canadians Ruttan (Blake Shelton’s “Mine Would Be You,” Eric Church’s “Hell On The Heart”); Kelly Archer (Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch) and Steven Lee Olsen (The Judds, 98 Degrees); and U.S. writers Jim Beavers (Tim McGraw’s “Felt Good On My Lips”, Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup”) and George Teren (Brad Paisley’s “Where I Get Where I’m Going”, Tim McGraw’s “Real Good Man”.)

“I’m more of a melody/music/groove/guitar-riff guy,’ says Blaine, whose most popular U.S. placement has been “Work It Out” on country rapper Colt Ford’s Top 10 album Every Chance I Get, a song that featured Luke Bryan on vocals. “I think I’m stronger in that area than lyrics, which is why I’ve just been really fortunate to write with some guys who have just been honing their craft for years, like a George Teren, or a Deric Ruttan.


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