Entries in toronto (4)


52 Chokeules

We've been die hard fans of powerhouse MC Chokeules since high school.  When we ventured to the wrong side of the tracks (so to speak) in London, Ontario to the legendary (and now long gone) Embassy Hotel to see the trio known only as Toolshed.  This was probably back in 2000, and even then we were taken aback by the sheer force of Choke's delivery, and the perfect balance these three MCs were able to strike with one another.  

Cut to 2015, dozens of projects later and Chokeules has been in Toronto for a while, keeping extra busy as a card carrying member of the extra prolific Backburner crew alongside Toolshed partner Timbuktu and a bunch of other Toronto allstars such as More Or Les, Wordburglar, Ghettosocks and D Sisive.  He's also an active performer and contributor to The 5 Dollar Rap Show, a Toronto institution for 5 years now, bi-monthly at Rancho Relaxo.  We had a chance to chat with Choke leading up to the 5 year anniversary party, this Friday, April 10., 2015.

Fingers On Blast:  First of all thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.

Chokeules:  It's my pleasure, thanks.

Fingers On Blast:  What's your first memory of hip hop?

Chokeules:  Probably just hearing songs in the schoolyard, listening to tapes that friends had stolen from their older brothers or sisters. My dad got me my first albums, Beastie Boys Licensed To Ill  and Fat Boys Crushin’, because that’s what the guy at the record store recommended for a 9-year-old. He wasn’t wrong. 

Fingers On Blast:  You're always involved in projects that involve so many collaborations with crews like Backburner, Swamp Thing, Toolshed or even on solo albums that have tracks with huge rosters on them.  What's the creative process for those projects involving so many creative minds?

Chokeules:  Yeah, I definitely enjoy the group dynamic, making music with your friends is fun as hell, and pushes you to be better. The creative process is basically just speak up if you have a dope idea. I’m in the studio every week with Swamp Thing, so even when we’re working on solo stuff we’re still bouncing ideas off each other and brainstorming for future projects. 

Fingers On Blast:  On Friday April 10th you'll be performing with Swamp Thing at Toronto's Rancho Relaxo for the 5th anniversary of the $5 Rap Show.  Can we expect any shows or tours outside of Toronto anytime soon?

Chokeules:  Yeah, that’s the $5 Rap Shows 5th Anniversary, which Swamp Thing has been down with since the jump, so we’re excited to celebrate. It’s a dope lineup too, so it’s gonna be a crazy show. There’s also an Urbnet Showcase for CMW next month. We'll be at Hard Luck Bar, Thursday May 7th, playing with some heavyweights. 

Fingers On Blast:  Outside of your immediate circle of artists, who are some of your favourite artists out there today?

Chokeules:  I’m out of touch with a lot of the new artists, but it’s cool to see boom bap and rap skills in the limelight again with acts like Joey Badass, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson, etc…even if I don’t have all the albums in heavy rotation, I’m always glad to see dope rappers doing well. And Run The Jewels is killing it right now, so it’s great to see dope shit actually get the credit it deserves. 

Fingers On Blast:  There's certainly been no shortage of projects coming from you lately, but what's in the works that we can get excited about?

Chokeules:  Yeah, we like to stay busy. There’s actually two new albums coming- the Peter Project produced Peter Swamp Project, and another crazy Swamp Thing album called Pray To Science. We’ve been working on both for a minute and they’re gonna melt some faces.

Fingers On Blast:  Which one of your past projects have the result that you're most happy with?

Chokeules:  Swamp Thing’s last album, Outer Limits. Go listen to my entire discography and tell me I’m wrong. Or just listen to that one, depending on your time constraints. 

Thanks so much to Chokeules for taking the time to chat. If you're in Toronto this weekend and love that real rap music, head to Rancho Relaxo on College Street for the 5th Anniversary of The 5 Dollar Rap Show. If you can't make it, head over here for lots of music and news from Chokeules and support this man!



47 Shad

Shad has been on an upward trajectory for a bunch of years now.  We've found ourselves wondering at times, how can he continue to be SO good?  How can he keep coming up with these incredible ideas?  How can he be always outdoing himself (and everybody else)? The answer is, he is a real artist.  A creative entity who's humble approach seems to ensure maximum inspiration. We've loved pretty much everything Shad has done and lately he's been accomplishing some pretty amazing feats; such as guest hosting CBC's Q, and announcing a solo show at Massey Hall in Toronto (March 27).  He's a busy guy, and there's no limits or ending in sight, lucky for us, he took the time to answer a few of our questions. 


-First off, if there were such a thing, what's a typical day in the life of Shad?

Every day is different! Usually I got a couple projects on the go so I spend some time on email, trying to keep up with things. Exercise, pray, eat... Work on new music... watch nba highlights, read... Catch up with friends and family. 

-What inspires you to create?  How do you stay motivated?

The unbelievable privilege of getting to do this for a living. The joy of creating, the fun of music... The desire to get better and communicate more purely... Also just deadlines and having to work like everyone else.

-How has your approach to creating and recording the music grown between 'When This Is Over' and 'Flying Colours'?

I've just learned so much, first of all. I didn't even know what EQ was back when I started making my first album. I didn't know anything beyond writing lyrics and maybe a vague idea of what songs are supposed to feel like. The motivation is different now too: Back then I was just writing songs because it was like an impulse. I was a little bit angsty and bored and had all the wild kid emotions. Every album since then, the inspiration has been different. 

-What's your process for preparing to take the stage?  Does it differ from show to show?

It doesn't differ much. I like to get into the room and get a sense of what the energy is like; what people are looking for that night and what I have to offer. Then I try to build a set list around those things and bring the right energy to the stage. Only pre-show rules for me are: a) no eating too close to showtime and b) wear a black t-shirt and lightweight shoes.

-Who is making your favorite music right now?  If you could work with anyone, who might it be?

Well it looks like the 3 giants of hip hop (Kanye, Drake, and Kendrick) got albums coming this year so we'll see! Outside of rap I'm liking Caribou's album a lot. The Alvvays album. and this band Copeland who broke up years ago but just put something out again in 2014.

Thanks so much to Shad for chatting with us!  You can help him get back on Q on CBC by tweeting @CBCRadioQ with the hashtag #QtheFuture in support of Shad being the next host. 
You can also retweet the status below, or post your own. 




036 AN21



We had the chance to ask Size Records' super dj & producer a few questions leading up to the massive show in Toronto this weekend. This Saturday at The Guvernment, catch AN21 alongside Max Vangeli, Third Party and Qulinez. Get tickets here.

-First of all, thank you so much for chatting with us.  We know you are extremely busy, what have you been up to lately?

Just finished the first week of the Size North American tour and preparing for the second! It´s been so much fun travelling with Max Vangeli, Third Party & Qulinez. We do Size shows often around the world but this is the first time we do an intense tour together! Other than that ive been working on solo productions in the studio.


 -Your first track was 'Flonko', how has your perspective on production changed since then?

I didn’t really care back then, It was about having fun and songs were very basic but yet powerful. Since the ‘EDM bubble’ popped up the production level has increased drastically. Today everything has to be perfect and have so many different things happening every second in a song. A couple of years ago people didn’t care how a song was mixed or about the dynamic of it. And to be honest, I kind of miss that spontaneousness of music where you worked on a song for a day or two and just released it. Everything is too well thought-out today, too perfect.


 -You've created some very innovative remixes, some that became more recognizable than the originals, how does the process usually work for your collaborative remixes?

I love remixing but it rarely happens, I have my own process before i know if I should do it or not. I need to really  be able to grasp the meaning of the song, I listen to the original multiple times while reading the lyrics to be able to interpret it my own way. But it can also be as simple as finding a good short hook



-You've collaborated with some incredibly talented people, who would you still love to work with? Or are there songs you would love to remix?

I would love to work with Patrick Watson, I admire his writing and way of singing. 



-The Size Family has been touring North America on the N / A tour, how do you approach those shows as a group? Are there a lot of new tracks being produced on the road?

We just finished the first week of the tour and haven’t had time to work on anything yet, But I’m sure that we will! A couple of months ago we were all locked down in the studio in Los Angeles for 30 days. We didn’t really collaborate then so I’m sure we will on this tour! 


-What's a day in your life like?  Either on tour or at home in the studio?

Every day is different, I take every hour as it comes depending on my mood. I can be very spontaneous but also lock myself in the house for days.


-You've toured all over the world, where are your favorite places on Earth?  What have been your most memorable shows?

I get that question a lot and I really can’t answer it. I can be anywhere in the world as long as I have good company. Best show is a tough question too but the best one this year so far was our Decade party in Miami. I can’t believe Size is 10 years and ive experienced this journey with my brother, It´s just been amazing and I can’t wait to see what the upcoming 10 years have in store for us! The last 10 minutes of the show Steve invited all of us into the booth for a very emotional moment. Just incredible.

-Other than music, what else are you passionate about?

What is there in life besides music? and anything that surrounds that?


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us.  Is there anything else we should know about?

Im really excited for our show at the Guverment. I played there a couple of years ago and it was a blast so can’t wait!!! 



027 July Talk

July Talk's self titled debut is one of the most exciting albums we've heard in a while.  It was released last October, and we just caught on recently.  As vocalist/guitarist Peter Dreimanis says 'Sometimes that's how it is with a band's first album'.  They've just headed out on tour with Besnard Lakes and Grounders, and kicked off the tour with a mindblowing performance at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club in their home town of Toronto.  We were fortunate enough to be in attendance at the show, and to sit down with Peter just beforehand to learn a bit more about the band that's fast becoming the talk of the town, and the world.

Fingers on Blast: We've heard the band formed as a result of something of a chance encounter.  Can you tell us a bit of that story?

Peter Dreimanis: Yeah, there's two ways to answer that question.  The band formed from two sort of chance happenings.  I met Leah in a bar, walked in and quite quickly realized that this was a person I should work with or atleast know artistically.  
The other chance encounter is in fact probably more interesting.  I was playing in another band and Danny the drummer was also the drummer in this band.  We went through a hellish tour in Europe.  It was a crazy snow storm, we were partying way too hard and ended up getting stuck in Heathrow airport in London for 5 days.  The band had totally fallen apart at this point and in the back of my mind while this was happening I realized that I had all these songs and I had this person, Leah that I had met.  
The band formed in Heathrow airport, everything that was severed all of a sudden became connected.  We got back and practiced everyday for 2 weeks, and I taught them all these songs, Leah and I showed them what we had been working on in these little acoustic sessions we'd been doing every Wednesday morning.  I think Leah and I have, at least I have for her a certain infatuation that doesn't seem to want to go away; the way she can control a crowd and the way she always reacts to a space.
We have played a lot of shows, and she will never play the same show. 

F.O.B.: We've heard about the Leah's devotion to a truthful show.  That is a major focus?

P.D.: It's number one for her to be honest and it's hard to be honest every night for 35-40 shows in a row sometimes.  It's not that I've ever felt challenged by that in a realistic sense, cause by the time you're on stage I am always excited and I've never felt other than that.  But Leah will walk into a space and find things, like yesterday we played a show on a rooftop.  There's a youtube video that we saw and we were all laughing at where she grabbed a guys phone who was filming from the crowd, and kept filming.  There were these trees and she was shaking them to try to make it seem windy. She got the crowd to all shake these trees.  
It's just an amazing thing to watch her walk into a room and say 'What can we do with this?'.  It's gotten to the point where she doesn't want to wear the same thing or redo anything she's ever done.  So we are in a constant state of reinvention which is fun, I think especially for people in Toronto who don't want to see the same show many times.  

F.O.B.: One of the first things we noticed checking out the band is the dynamic contrast.  Is that something that came naturally?

P.D.: No, it's definitely calculated.  It came naturally in some cases.  It's an organic thing, but it's absolutely calculated.  The goal would be to have this project be all encompassing, cohesively about contrast.  So having it be black and white, and having the dynamics, everything has to be symmetrical.
It was always about having the quietest quiets we can muster, like the smallest things you can come up with and then the loudest, most incredible, big, hooky chorus.  My ideal goal would be having an all encompassing project about light, dark, loud, quiet, and the things in between.  Having that feeling where everything has a reaction and it's accountable.  Because if I want to write an angry song, I can't really because she's going to sing back.  She's going to sing the counterpart to that and sort of be pushing against that.  

F.O.B.: That's something you can see in the video for 'Guns + Ammunition'.  Especially if you're hearing the band for the first time when you see it.  We didn't expect Leah's voice, and we're probably not the only ones that's happened to.

P.D.: We knew that video was going to be introducing us to a lot of new people.  'Paper Girl' we had done a certain thing with, and we knew that we needed to put out that symbol video as an introduction, like a 'Hi, how are you?'. By doing that luckily we were able to access more people with the 'Guns + Ammunition' video. Adam Crosby directed 'Paper Girl' and Josh Warburton is our bass player, they directed this one.  It's so smart to be able to start with me, and then go through the whole band, and you think you get it and then it's like 'Oh!'.  To have this ever looping, never gonna end video was a really important step for us to take.  

F.O.B.: There have definitely been times where we've started to wonder if it's the second or third time we've watched it.  We're curious about the characters of the label guys.  Are they an inside joke with the band?

P.D.:  Kind of, but we had really want to have the era of (producer) Phil Spector.  We knew that we needed some reference to 'the Man'.  We thought it would be hilarious to put ourselves in that situation because we're not.  We don't have pressure.  We obviously, like every band deal with label dudes.  They've always been super nice to us, and very helpful.  It was more of trying to place ourselves in the era.  
We really wanted to have that early 60's look, so we built that whole room on a soundstage.  It was this kind of star shaped thing where we each had our own sort of world.  

F.O.B.: We read on twitter that Muneshine is remixing a July Talk song.  How did that come about?

P.D.: There's actually a whole bunch, there's going to be a remix EP.  One in particular I'm really into, but I'd like to keep it a secret until it's out.

F.O.B.: How do you feel surrendering your music to someone else like that?

P.D.: Terrified.  I am a terrible control freak, and I think that sometimes that can be a very positive thing.  I think it's really important to have control, especially when I'm going for such a branded thing.  
There's obviously negatives to that too.  Our manager is constantly telling me to let go of a bit of control.  That's part of what remixes are for, and to open ourselves up to new people.  It's an exciting thing, it's a new thing, and it's something I think I'll be more comfortable with on the next record. But it's definitely a bit scary.

F.O.B.: Along similar lines, there are some youtube covers of July Talk songs.  Have you listened to any of them?

P.D.: We listened to one of them, and we thought it was sort of a rite of passage.  You know, the first time somebody plays your song on youtube is a pretty big thing.  But we all listened to it, and thought it was awesome.  After I listened to it, I thought 'Oh my god' I got a bit scared.  Now everytime we play that song I'm always thinking I have to play it more like me.  To have someone actually listen to our song and decide to do that is mindblowing.   

F.O.B.: On the topic of covers, you did a version of Wilco's 'Venus Stopped the Train'.  Do you include many covers in your shows? Is that the only one?

P.D.: That's the only one.  We did a Replacements cover night at the Shoe once, which was really fun.  I am crazy about the Replacements.  I would never do it in our set, I think it's important when you're a young band to turn your songs into the ones that people sing along to before you start playing other peoples'. 
When Leah and I met, that was the song.  The same European tour, where we were stranded in Heathrow I got an email from her that was like 'The tiny hammers inside of that piano'.  That was all the email said.  How do you write that song and not put it on the record?  Not to say that it should have been on the record, but that's your outtake?  Are you kidding me? 

F.O.B.: We're big fans of Wilco, and the story of how 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' was made is pretty fascinating.  

P.D.: Have you seen that movie? (I Am Trying To Break Your Heart) Amazing.

F.O.B.: We're curious when your album was recorded.  It was released in October 2012?

P.D.: Most of it was recorded in February of last year, but that was when we started.  I probably didn't finalize most of it until August.  

F.O.B.: You've been on tour with some amazing artists, and you're about to head out on the road.  What does the summer schedule look like?  

P.D.: Besnard Lakes.  It's going to awesome.  I love their new record.  Then we go down to the States with Grounders, from Toronto.  We're playing a bunch of festivals.  We get to open for the Bare Naked Ladies.  If I had a million dollars I'd open for the Bare Naked Ladies.  We're playing Hillside, Edgefest, Sled Island, Port Renfrew.

F.O.B.: When you're out on the road what is absolutely essential?  

P.D.: We stop all the time at Value Village, and Lakes to swim.  We don't take much, gear, a pair of jeans, four t-shirts, a million of these.  (White shirts he wears onstage)

F.O.B.: Do you have a pre-show ritual?

P.D.: Hit myself in the face! Gotta wake up.  And I get a new shirt every show.  Superstition.  

F.O.B.: Do they usually survive?
P.D.: The show? No, they usually get covered in something.

F.O.B.: What has been the happiest/proudest moment as a band?

P.D.: I gotta throw this one to Halifax.  The show the last time we were in Halifax.  Everyone in that room was involved in something, and it was the best.  We all went through something together.  It was at a place called the Carlton, which we're going back to.

Thanks so much for Peter for speaking with us and the rest of July Talk. Check out more from them here. And make sure you see them on tour: