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Animés par le même amour inconditionnel de la langue française, Biz et Batlamfondent Loco Locass en 1995. À la suite d’une rencontre déterminante avec DJ Chafiik, le trio fait paraître une poignée de maquettes bricolées à la maison, puis un premier album complet voit le jour en 2000 (Manifestif). Suivent le projet musical interactif In Vivo en 2002 et, deux ans plus tard, le populaire Amour Oral.

Après avoir rudement mis à l’épreuve la patience des amateurs en repoussant la date de parution de leur troisième album à plusieurs reprises, les gars franchiront bientôt (enfin !) la ligne d’arrivée. Mais qu’on se donne le mot : il faudra sans doute patienter encore jusqu’en 2011 pour se mettre le nouvel opus du groupe dans les oreilles. « L’album n’est pas encore prêt, » lance d’emblée Chafiik. On est à deux ou trois chansons d’avoir un disque complet, mais il manque un certain équilibre dans les textes. » Biz poursuit : « On n’a pas toujours le contrôle sur ces choses-là. Personnellement, j’aurais été prêt avant, mais Batlam, en tant que comédien, a été très occupé avec le film Dédé à travers les brumes. Inévitablement, ça nous a retardés, mais ça l’a enrichi en tant qu’être humain. Il s’est immergé dans la musique des Colocs et a trouvé une grande force mélodique. Ça lui a donné de nouvelles idées. Ainsi, le nouveau compact sera teinté de ces expériences. »

 

ET C’EST LE BUT !

Derrière la console de ce très attend disque (toujours sans titre), Chafiik balance quelques titres qui se retrouveront sur cette nouvelle production du trio : « Les géants », « Un conte social de Kevin et

Gaétan », « La trahison des marchands », « M’accrocher ? » et… « Le but ». Complétée au printemps 2008, la chanson s’est sournoisement glissée sur les ondes d’une station AM avant d’être entendue

lors des séries éliminatoires de 2009. Mais le succès fut tout sauf instantané. « L’an dernier, on a sorti la chanson, mais les séries n’ont duré que quatre matchs et la pièce a tourné pendant trois jours ! C’est un morceau qui a beaucoup d’ambition. On a voulu écrire l’ultime chanson sur le Canadien de Montréal. Rien de moins.

 

On connait l’histoire du club et on connait aussi l’importance du hockey en tant que peuple. La structure même de la chanson est reliée à l’histoire du club, à une saison de hockey, à la vie d’un joueur, » affirme Chafiik.

 

Il reprend son souffle et enchaîne : « La récompense ultime ? Que les gens finissent par oublier que Loco Locass l’a composée et qu’elle devienne un chant de ralliement. Qu’elle appartienne au peuple. » Biz renchérit : « C’est la chanson qui nous a pris le plus de temps à compléter : deux ans et demi ! Ce fut un travail colossal au niveau de la structure car c’est une chanson remplie de symboles. On peut l’interpréter de plusieurs façons, » estime-t-il.

 

MUSICIENS POPULAIRES

Ironiquement, c’est au cours des dernières années, alors que le groupe n’avait aucun album à défendre, qu’il s’est le plus souvent retrouvé sous les projecteurs. En plus d’avoir travaillé avec un orchestre symphonique (pour le film Symphonie Locass ainsi que lors de leur prestation aux FrancoFolies 2007), la bande a signé le thème de la série Montréal/Québec (« Hymne à Québec »). Puis, le tandem Biz/Batlam s’est fait remarquer avec le projet du Moulin à paroles, présenté sur les Plaines d’Abraham. Toutes ces experiences ont contribué à modifier quelque peu l’approche musicale du trio. Biz : « Je pense qu’on a goûté au Plaisir d’être entendus par le plus grand nombre. On est de meilleurs constructeurs de chansons qu’avant. On comprend comment une chanson est bâtie.

 

Aujourd’hui, on est capables de faire de la musique populaire, dans le bon sens du terme, appréciée et destinée au plus grand nombre d’individus, mais tenant compte de notre pensée et de nos

convictions. On a appris que dans un discours, moins c’est plus. » S’occupant des charpentes musicales ainsi que des rythmes, Chafiik signe également une certaine portion (approximativement 20 %) des textes, parfois personnels, souvent à portée politique et sociale, du trio.

Habiles manipulateurs de mots, Batlam et Biz se partagent l’écriture de la majorité des titres. « S’ils contribuent un peu moins à la musique que moi, ils ont des idées précises. Parfois, ils arrivent avec le souffle premier d’une chanson et je n’ai qu’à ajouter un beat. Ils savent très bien ce qu’ils veulent et c’est une joie de travailler de la sorte, » précise Chafiik.

Alors que ce dernier vient de completer la réalisation d’un album pour sa soeur (Alecka), nouvellement signée avec l’Équipe Spectra, Biz poursuit pour sa part un projet de livre, encore au stade embryonnaire. De plus, un jeune comédien local vient de l’approcher pour adapter son premier bouquin (Dérives) au théâtre. Sinon, pour les prochains mois, les activités des membres du trio convergeront vers un seul et même objectif : Loco Locass. « On veut terminer l’album et partir sur la route l’an prochain. On est rendus à un stade de notoriété où l’on reçoit beaucoup de propositions. Il faut savoir dire non. On ne veut pas aller trop vite, brusquer les choses. On met la barre haute à chaque fois et on veut se surpasser. » Gageons que l’amateur est febrile d’entendre le résultat.



Jodie Ferneyhough has done a lot of growing up since assuming the managing director’s job at Universal Music Publishing Canada nine years ago. In 2001, he took his seat at his first CMPA board of directors meeting feeling every inch the impostor. “I knew who most of the players were and I looked up to them,” he recalls. “They were established business people and here I was, this punk-rock, indie guy with ripped jeans. I was completely terrified. For the next few years I’d say to my wife, ‘One of these days somebody’s going to figure out that I really don’t know what I’m doing.’”

After five years spent learning the music-publishing ropes at peermusic Canada, Ferneyhough felt he was ready to “raise my game and play with the big boys, but I had to grow up a lot, get respect on the boards, get noticed, have a positive voice.”

Today, Ferneyhough can comfortably claim to have done all of the above. He has held it together for UMPG Canada during a period when music sales have been eviscerated and radio play eroded. He sits on the boards of SOCAN, the SOCAN Foundation, the CMPA (presently in his third term as president) and CMRRA. “I took on the SOCAN Foundation board because I wanted to learn what it was, to really understand what they do. I want to have a complete picture of all the bodies I belong to,” he says.

 

“I go to Ottawa a lot for the CMPA. Right now we’re lobbying for changes to Bill C-32. It’s not what I signed up for but it’s become a big part of my job and it’s important. The climate has become so challenging for music publishers and creators and we have to fight for every crumb.”

Ferneyhough started in the music business on the distribution side (stocking shelves), before moving into artist management and then on to music publishing. He’s made a lot of friends and seen a lot of good people fall down for want of a benefit plan, something few indie enterprises are in a position to provide. So he’s throwing his weight behind a pet project called the Unison Benevolent Fund, an operation he hopes will be able to provide health insurance and emergency relief to people in the music business who find their backs against a wall.

“SOCAN was instrumental in helping us get started,” says Ferneyhough. “It’s not just for musicians — it will be for managers, booking agents, roadies, independent professionals who have dedicated themselves to the business but who don’t have access to low-cost health and dental insurance. Right now, we’re trying to build awareness and raise seed money; our goal is to come up with $1-million by 2011.” For more information, visit unisonfund.ca.



It’s fitting, somehow, that Catherine MacLellan compares songwriting to gardening. After all, the Prince Edward Island-based singer-songwriter is unabashedly obsessed with the latter. She admits that these days, her garden is where she finds her inspiration. “I really love digging in the dirt,” she says with a laugh. “A lot of things come to me there.”

 

For MacLellan, the songwriting process is as mysterious as a sprouting seed growing into a full-blown plant. “It’s similar in the sense that you don’t have total control of it,” she explains thoughtfully. “You do what you can…. You can put compost in the ground, but then it’s kind of up to the seed.” MacLellan describes her own rather organic songwriting process as one wherein she waits for a “song feeling” to strike, rather than adhering to any sort of strict writing schedule. “Basically, I just feel a song coming on, and then I sit down and write it.”

 

It’s an approach that has served her well thus far. With three albums under her belt, MacLellan’s honest, unpretentious and heartfelt approach to music-making has earned her heaps of praise from both audiences and critics alike. Most recently, she won both Female Solo Recording of the Year and Folk Recording of the Year at the 2010 East Coast Music Awards for her album Water in the Ground, along with Solo Artist of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards. In the last year she also represented PEI as part of CBC Radio 2’s Great Canadian Song Quest, and took home a handful of prizes — including both Songwriter and Album of the Year — at the 2010 Music PEI Awards.

 

Though MacLellan jokes that she first starting writing “bad songs” at age 10 (her brother’s cigarette smoking was an early theme), she says it was the death of her father, singer-songwriter Gene MacLellan, from suicide in 1995 that enabled her to find her voice in music. “I was a shy kid,” says MacLellan, who was 14 at the time, “and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I hid in my room and wrote all these sad songs. That’s really how I got started.” MacLellan says songwriting is still her preferred method for exploring things that are hard to talk about. “I’m still on the path of writing songs about emotions that I can’t find the words for in everyday conversation.”

 

MacLellan, who was born in Ontario but grew up in PEI, credits her father for showing her what was possible for her own musical career. “We would come home from school and he’d be editing a song or writing one with a guitar,” she recalls, “and that was how he made his living. I think it gave me the idea that I could do it.” But thanks to the early exposure, she also knew better than to romanticize life in the music industry. “I knew it would be a struggle, but it was one that I was willing to take up.”

 

Though MacLellan acknowledges her reputation for making melancholy music, she is currently embracing a more optimistic outlook in her songwriting. “I don’t want to leave a legacy of ‘I’m so sad and my life is so hard,’” she says with a smile, crediting the birth of her daughter, Isabel, now four, for helping her to find some lightness. “Suddenly it wasn’t about me any more. My perspective definitely changed.” Though she acknowledges the pull to write sad songs about things like break-ups, MacLellan says she realized she didn’t want to keep herself stuck in that rut. “I wanted to get myself out of the pattern of sadness and misery. I want to be happy!”

 

On the cusp of getting to work on her next album (“I have a big backlog of songs,” she says), which she hopes to have realized within the next year, MacLellan says she’s grateful to get to make music for a living. “I don’t have these grand dreams,” she says. “Mine are really practical. My one dream was to get to do this for a living and to not have to do another job — and now it’s about what I have to do to keep this going.”

 

She acknowledges having a dream come true, however, when in February, she shared a stage with musicians Gordon Lightfoot and Gord Downie as part of a behind-the-music concert presented by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, wherein an emerging artist is invited to perform with more established musicians. “I can’t believe it actually happened,” she says, the disbelief at playing with two of her musical heroes still palpable. “I don’t see how it can get much better than that!”

 

At the end of the day, however, MacLellan says she feels privileged to come home to her daughter — and to her garden. “I’m kind of a homebody,” she says, acknowledging that her touring schedule gives her a best-of-both-worlds balance between big-city stimulation and small-town community living. One more dream, she says, is to find a way to make touring “more meaningful and less crazy.” Then, MacLellan says, she really could imagine doing it for the rest of her life. “I’m a practical dreamer,” she says. “I like attainable dreams.”