There was a time when Toronto rapper D-Sisive felt people would want to hear goofy rhymes about sodomizing chickens more than about deeply personal issues, like the loss of his mother.

His shows included the chicken bit, a Colonel Sanders costume and a Remy Shand impersonator. That’s going back almost a decade before the man who won SOCAN’s 2009 Echo Songwriting Prize (along with co-writer Muneshine) started writing more seriously and poignantly, on such releases as 2008’s The B.O.O.K. and 2009’s Let The Children Die. He was signed to EMI Music Publishing Canada back then and landed on the cover of Toronto weekly Now magazine, which named him 2001’s Best Unsigned Artist.

“I was the court jester at the time,” says D-Sisive, whose real name is Derek Christoff. “[EMI] saw potential through the plush mascot costumes, but that’s who I was then. I was more interested in making people laugh or trying odd theatrics… Looking back now, I think it was the result of having nothing to say.”

Then his life took a tragic turn, leading to a seven-year creative drought. “It started when my father’s drinking took a turn for the worse,” he says. “It used to be beer only; it became hard liquor, no eating. It affected his health. I was the only person taking care of him. I had no interest in writing songs between trips to hospitals or drunken fights. Very draining.”

When his mother died, he was able to stay creative because he had his father to keep everything together. “When he died? I didn’t have anyone,” says D-Sisive. “I feel like I had to go through what I went through in order to evolve into the person and the songwriter I am now.”

His inspiration was restored one night after he returned to live in the Oakwood neighbourhood where he had grown up. Listening to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, he wrote the first verse to his song “Brian Wilson,” which would appear on his eventual comeback, The B.O.O.K.

“From there, I wrote ‘Knee Caps,’” says the twice-Juno-nominated rapper. “I just dove into the more personal side of writing, which was weird for me at first because I always felt that nobody would want to hear my story. Then once I started doing it, it was non-stop.

“Everything that I talk about in my songs is 100 percent truthful. I don’t exaggerate anything and I don’t hold anything back… I’m just grateful that I stumbled upon that style of writing because that’s what has separated me from the rest of the Canadian hip-hop scene.”

D-Sisive’s new album, Run With The Creeps, is out in November. One hundred percent truthful? He’s running with creeps? “Yes,” he laughs. “There are a bunch of creeps running a marathon.”

Track Record
• D-Sisive has started a blog to document the creative process of his next album at runwiththecreeps.com
• A planned collaboration with Buck 65 called The Ricardo Christoff Apparatus “will happen”; the pair released “The Night Before Christmas” in December 2010
• His Hijack Series includes a mash-up of Deadmau5’ “A City In Florida” put to his “Graffitti Wall” and “If I Live To See Tomorrow” written to Sigur Ros’ “Festival.”


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This stony plain has produced a rich musical crop.

Long recognized as Canada’s premier roots-music label, Edmonton-based Stony Plain Records is highly regarded in international music-industry circles. This year marks the company’s 35th anniversary, and it has celebrated by releasing a double-CD (with bonus DVD) collection.
35 Years Of Stony Plain illustrates the label’s stylistic breadth. “We call ourselves a roots music label, and that is a pretty broad umbrella,” says Stony Plain founder and head Holger Petersen, one of the most respected figures in the Canadian music industry. The compilation features Canadian singer-songwriters like Ian Tyson, David Wilcox and Corb Lund alongside U.S. counterparts like Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle. It also includes the likes of Jeff Healey, Long John Baldry and King Biscuit Boy, as well as Duke Robillard and Rory Block.

As the compilation confirms, Stony Plain signs (or licenses albums from) American as well as Canadian artists. The label also has a well-established network of international distributors, which has proven invaluable to the Canadians on their roster. “The Canadian blues market is very supportive, but the only way we can make the numbers add up is by selling these artists internationally,” says Petersen. He cites two summer Canadian blues releases by MonkeyJunk and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne as examples.

Petersen takes pride in Stony Plain boosting the careers of Canadian artists, especially fellow Albertans Tyson and Lund. “They’re both really talented songwriters and artists, who are from and who write about this region,” he says. “That makes it extra satisfying.” Petersen admits that the phenomenal platinum sales of Tyson’s 1986 album Cowboyography (his first on Stony Plain and the label’s all-time bestseller) proved crucial for the company’s survival.

“The synchronization and master licensing income, and of course the SOCAN residuals, have made a big difference over the years.”

The music publishing component has been an important factor in Stony Plain’s longevity. “The synch[ronization] and master [licensing] income, and of course the SOCAN residuals, have made a big difference over the years,” says Petersen. “We have two active publishing companies, under the banner of Stony Plain Music. We tend to co-publish with the artists we sign. That’s a great incentive for everybody, especially nowadays. We’ve had a lot of arrangements with Canadian and some U.S. TV series where material in our catalogue is pre-cleared. They need to move quickly and not have to track down a publisher separately from the master owner.” Recent success stories in television placements include upcoming TNT series Memphis Beat and a tune for a new DVD release of the Crossing Jordan series.

Petersen has long lent his talent and energy to industry organizations. “I was a director of SOCAN for many years [1990-2006],” he says. “That was a great experience for me. It’s an excellent organization that really supports Canadian songwriters.”


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Few bands today have been exploding quite like Austra. From Jay-Z’s tweets of approval to European tours that have sold out 1,000-seat venues, these Toronto-based purveyors of shadowy electro-pop can’t be stopped. Austra began as the brainchild of Katie Stelmanis. At 10, she was singing in a children’s opera chorus, and began crafting moody synth-pop in her teens. Originally recording under her own name, Stelmanis released her first album, Join Us, in 2008 and contributed her distinctive vocals to Fucked Up’s Polaris Prize-winning Chemistry of Common Life. With the addition of drummer Maya Postepski (Trust) and bassist Dorian Wolf (ex-Spiral Beach), Austra was born. The band’s dark-yet-danceable ’80s sound spread like wildfire, finding fans worldwide. Austra’s debut, Feel It Break, produced by Damian Taylor (Bjork, Prodigy), has already become a smash hit, featured on hundreds of blogs and making many critics’ Best of the Year lists.


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