SOCAN’s new Board of Directors for 2018-2021 has elected its President and officers, as well as appointed the chair and members of its four committees.

Heading the Board, and the Executive Governance Committee, as President and Chair is Marc Ouellette, who was a board member of the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada (SODRAC) from 2000 to 2006, and was its President in 2006. He was also a board member of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) and has been a board member of the Société professionnelle des auteurs et compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ), including two years as President from 2002 to 2004.

Other officers of the Board include Jennifer  Mitchell as first Vice-Chair, Rosaire Archambault as second Vice-Chair, Vivian Barclay as secretary, Earl Rosen as treasurer, and Stan Meissner as past President.

Glenn Morley is the chair of the Tariff, Licensing & Distribution Committee; Ed Henderson chairs the Membership Committee; Past President Stan Meissner will chair the Risk Identification & Management Committee, and co-chairs the Pension Plan Committee.

A few months after releasing New Worlds, a sophomore album filled to the brim with ravaging sounds and an alarming social message, Montréal electro trio Black Tiger Sex Machine continues its conquest of the world.

Being huge sci-fi fans, Marc-André Chagnon, Julien Maranda, and Patrick Barry came up with a lively and fiery post-apocalyptic stage show for their lengthy tour, one that will see them criss-cross North America and Asia after making the rounds of the summer electronic music festival circuit. “We’ve always loved movies like Blade Runner and Mad Max, which happen in worlds that don’t exist, and where we wouldn’t want to live, but by which we’re still mesmerized,” says Maranda.

The three musicians and entrepreneurs founded Kannibalen Records, home to Apashe and Lektrique, among others, and they’re in complete control of their artistic offering, which is rooted in a sci-fi story with countless plot twists. Dressed in feline headgear, the characters they play onstage are the leaders of a cult, the “BTSM Church,” whose goal is to fight the evil forces of German doctor Kannibalen. Having come to North America to treat people contaminated by a bacteria, the scientist loses his mind when his entire family dies, and he proceeds to synthesize the original virus to better contaminate water sources, turning people into cannibals.

The video for “Zombie,” launched last spring, shows us that ever since the release of Welcome to Our Church in 2016, the “BTSM Church” rebels have lost ground, and the fate of the human race could hardly be less assured. That’s where the concept of this second album – an industrial electro-house affair with hints of dubstep – lives: in exploring the countless ways evil forces win over good ones. The song titles alone (“War,” “Madness,” “Artificial Intelligence,” “Replicants”) signal the issues that motivate their creators. “We’re interested in technology and politics, and hot topics like artificial intelligence, which can bring about both positive and negative changes,” says Barry.

“Just think about the impact that artificial intelligence will have on the middle class, soon enough. Some jobs will be robotized, and unless you’re a strategist or a creative, you’re likely to suffer from that,” says Chagnon. “Sure, humans have always come up with solutions, but right now our problems are bigger than ever, especially for the environment.”

New Worlds is the embodiment of the rather pessimistic worldview shared by the creative trio. “We write our music as the soundtrack to a movie where all our emotions are channelled. The more intense passages in our songs are clearly about what makes us anxious, but there are more ambient and atmospheric moments, too,” says Barry.

“It’s all about how we question the world we live in,” continues Maranda. “Being from Montréal, it’s easy to be more optimistic, because we do have a certain level of environmental awareness, but we saw something entirely different in China. There are way too many people and pollution is extreme. We’re not judging, but we gather information.”

Asian Boom and DIY Spirit

Black Tiger Sex MachineLuckily, their observations didn’t alter the trio’s Asian experience. In that booming market, where the number of fetivals double every year (they claim), these three – who’ve been friends since their early teens – were piqued the interest of many promoters, and a slew of new fans.

“Our set in South Korea was super-tight, with a huge LED wall behind us. Right after the show, we felt the impact; some bookers from Thailand wanted to invite us to the Full Moon Party. We had to decline because we were in China on that day, and playing Chicago after that… Luckily, we’re going in November, and our agent told us to be prepared to play in Asia five or six times a year. I think the very lively aspect of our brand is central to all that, as is our very cinematic vibe.”

Although Black Tiger Sex Machine has very little media presence in Québec, they can be proud of making it abroad without the support of a major record label. Founded in 2009, the trio started as a DJ team in Montréal, before exploding on the scene thanks to its first Kannibalen event at Belmont, a legendary club on the Main (as locals call Saint-Laurent Boulevard). “We were asked if we could organize a big event in that big venue in only 10 days, and we’d never done anything like that!” Chagnon recalls. “Against all odds, there were no other electro events in Montréal that night, and 500 kids showed up. It was a true home run! The energy was unbelievable, it was like a Skrillex show.”

After several more editions of the event, they had a brilliant idea: turn the Kannibalen brand into a record label. “I was listening to this BBC podcast where Pedro Winter, an agent to Justice and Daft Punk, explained how he transformed his Ed Banger event into a record label,” says Maranda. “On a smaller scale, we also had the opportunity to create a fan base that was aware of our brand, so all we had to do was find a way to connect all those people with our releases. Obviously, we had no idea how to get such a project on the road, so we relied on our background and our instinct to make it as professional as possible.”

Then, step by step, the guys found their respective strengths. Patrick Barry’s degree in finance led him to take control of accounting, while remaining the band’s keyboardist and main melodist. Marc-André Chagnon took the helm to create of their live shows, including the sound mix and visuals, while Julien Maranda became responsible for marketing, booking tours, and mixing and mastering their releases. He’s also in charge of controlling the lights in the feline helmets using his finger drum.

In short, this trio is a blazing example of what the do-it-yourself philosophy does best. “We made a few mistakes early on, but in the end, we managed to build an excellent work ethic. And I think our ethic is among the best in the province,” says Maranda, “because we’re one of the bands that tour the most internationally. Above all, we showed it’s possible to get into that game even without much experience. We simply grew any which way we could, organically, step by step.”

The band will play at ÎleSoniq on August 10.

The London-based Rokstone Studios has served as an incubator for songs that have taken over the world. Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Pink’s “What About Us,” and a number of hits later popularized by such boy bands as The Wanted, Westlife, and One Direction were put together there by the master of the house, British composer Steve Mac. As the British music industry giant Simon Cowell’s right-hand man, Mac plays in the same league as Max Martin and Dr. Luke, two pop music mercenaries who artists, music producers, and managers call to craft and produce hit songs.

One day in June of 2018, the visitors entering the famed studio were, of all people, two French-speaking Montrealers, Zacharie Raymond, a.k.a Soké, and Yannick Rastogi, a.k.a. KNY Factory (on Soundcloud), both at the personal invitation of Steve Mac. And all the hit-making producer wanted to find out was how the musicians behind the Banx & Ranx duo had managed to produce “Answerphone,” a dancehall mega-hit with afro-beat, electro-trap, and Caribbean influences.

“He said he wanted to understand the science behind the piece,” says Raymond. “I couldn’t believe we were in his studio at his request,” adds Rastogi. “He was telling us how much he loved the Banx & Ranx sound. It was crazy!”

Thanks also to the talents of singer Ella Eyre and rapper Yxng Bane, “Answerphone” now totals 65 million plays on Spotify (and probably more by the time you finish this sentence).

Just two months after its release in March of 2018, the song reached No. 5 on the U.K. Singles Chart. In fact, it was the United Kingdom as a whole that was answering the Banx & Ranx call, since “Answerphone” also climbed to the No. 10 position on both the Irish and Scottish charts.

“It’s the song that changed everything,” says Raymond. “People’s perceptions of our music suddenly changed. Locked doors flew open. Incredible producers and artists started calling us and wanting to meet us. We just spent a week in Jamaica working with Sean Paul.”

It wasn’t the first time the Parlophone label-signed duo worked with the Dancehall King. Sean Paul’s latest EP includes four songs credited to the Canadian duo. “We’re also receiving tons of requests from artists who want us to re-mix their songs [Gorillaz, Major Lazer, David Guetta]. We can hardly keep up!”

The Plan

It all began for Banx & Ranx when they started posting their first re-mixes online. “I started playing music when I was very young and living in Guadeloupe,” says Rastogi. “I first learned the piano, but they were more interested in rapping my knuckles than teaching me how to play. Then I got interested in the ka (a Guadeloupean drum), but I finally fell into reggae. I soon started producing my own riddims because nobody wanted to do it for me.”

Arriving in Canada at the age of 19 or so, Rastogi became interested in electro music at first. “I always loved rhythm, so it made sense,” he explains. “But I knew that I wanted to keep my Caribbean influences. So I started mixing the two styles.” Rastogi then started posting his first pieces and re-mixes on Soundcloud, the platform where Raymond would discover him. “He sent me a message. I was already following him, so I knew who he was, but we hadn’t spoken yet at the time.”

Known on the Québec rap scene for his collaborations with Koriass, D-Track, and Samian, Raymond started honing his talents as an electro-beat producer. “I was very trap, jungle, and drum & bass,” he says. “Then I fell into urban music. I worked with many rappers, but I couldn’t actually see myself being active in that environment, long-term. I was looking for something else, and I got hooked on reggae music. I fell in love with dancehall. I learned the Jamaican Patois. I worked hard on my solo career [to the point of releasing the Cellules album in Québec in 2012]. But I soon realized that I wasn’t really happy with performing live. I was playing shows for the paycheck. I didn’t want to be that kind of an artist. My real strength was as a composer and producer.”

Once they got to know one another, Rastogi and Raymond worked on a few shared projects before producing their first song, “Crime Scene.” “This is where we first understood that we could work as a team,” Rastogi explains. “We shared the same vision: making electro music and r-emixes while keeping our Caribbean influences. The Banx & Ranx objective was soon established. We wanted to write for ourselves, but also for other world-class artists. On the other hand, we would never have thought that we would get this close to pop music.”

Now that we’re on the subject, it’s not every day that we have an opportunity to talk with local composers who hobnob with the world’s pop elite. According to stereotype, that sphere of the industry builds its success on famous commercial recipes. “Before you can talk of a recipe,” Rastogi warns, “you’ve got to realize that the secret for breaking out at that level is non-stop work. You must be willing to spend a lot of time away from your family, and not be afraid of eating Kraft Diner. You can’t be afraid of failure either, because a lot of people are going to say no to you. You never know when the money will start coming in. But above all, you have to make many, many friends. Our success is 25 percent music and 75 percent contacts made during years of hard work. It requires an enormous amount of rigour and logistics. We’ve got friends in London, Jamaica, Sweden, the U.S. You have to spread your network right across the world.

“If you want to make it as a composer on the international scene, you need to be more than just a beatmaker,” he continues. “You have to be able to build the structure of a song, produce it, think of all the different vocal lines and their harmonies. This is where our strength lies. While we occasionally write separately, and send files back and forth, we’re much more productive when we lock ourselves up in a studio. We usually come out a few hours later with a brand new song.”

This is exactly how “Answerphone” came into being, during a November 2017 afternoon session in London’s Hammersmith area. “There were five of us in the studio,” Rastogi recalls. There was Zacharie and me, Ella Eyre, our friend Shakka, and Blonde’s Jacob Manson. We talked for an hour while listening to Nigerian music. Then the afro-beat materialized. We thought about a guitar line, a verse, a bridge, a chorus. Everything fell into place quickly. We started off at around noon, and the song was completed by early evening. But the craziest thing was that our management team had booked two studio sessions at the same time for us! So, after giving our instructions for “Answerphone,” we quickly moved to another part of the studio where we were recording with the dancehall singer Culan. Then we started working on “Answerphone” again, and so on. The song featuring Culan hasn’t been released yet.”

And what if that other composition becomes as successful as “Answerphone”? “Then we’d be talking about a very productive afternoon!” laughs Rastogi.