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City + Colour Q&A: Dallas Green’s ‘Little Hell’

Ben Patashnik
Ben Patashnik 5 April 2011 at 18.30

You might have heard of him.

You worked with producer Alex Newport on the new album after Dan Ashton tragically passed away. Why did you decide to record at Dan's studios in Ontario?
“I decided to go back [to the studio] to pay homage to Dan because he owned it. It’s such a beautiful place to make music anyway but I thought if I could make a record there and help keep it open for a little bit longer, then that’s what I would do. I wanted Alex to produce because he actually e-mailed us a couple of years ago saying he’s a fan of what I’m doing and that if we were ever in a position where we needed a producer or mixer he’d love to do it. We had sent some songs out and tried to contact a bunch of different people, sort of outside the box people who we thought it would have been neat to make a record with, but none of them got back to us. Then Alex’s name came up again, and I sent him the demos and he wrote me back a very sweet, nice e-mail detailing his thoughts on each song and it seemed like he knew what I was looking for.”

Had you heard any of his previous work?
“Yeah, he has done lots of rock and punk records and that didn’t really seem like a perfect fit on paper, which is what I liked. He also specialised in making records on tape which is always what I was always interested in trying. What was our working relationship like? It was good. At times it got very heated just because he was trying to get the absolute best out of me and if you’ve given your best it’s hard when he sees that I could do better. When it gets to that moment you butt heads a little bit, but in the end I think we both had the same common goal. I think that it turned out beautifully.”

You've said this album will have some 'sexy' moments on it - how steamy are we talking?
“Not Barry White sexy… but Jeff Buckley sexy.”

What were you keen to try out this time that you haven't done in the past?
“I tried to use my voice more. I wrote songs in lower keys and higher keys and tried to use my whole range. Live I can sing low, high, loud and I can sing quietly, but when it came to the album I was really worried about it. When you’re recording you get into this weird headspace where you’re not sure if what you’re doing is right. On this album I tried to write from a point of influence because I’ve always been influenced by blues music and old R&B and soul and stuff like that. But I’ve never really attempted to get that across in my music and I feel like I did that a little bit. There will definitely be people who are shocked, you know those people who always just want you to stay the same.”

You had Gordon Downie of The Tragically Hip sing on 'Sleeping Sickness' on the last album - have you got any guest appearances this time?
“No, I don’t. I didn’t want to follow that up with another person, just because people expect it. I sort of left all the songs just to me, which I think is okay.”

How are you feeling about your show at the Royal Albert Hall?
“I’m pretty terrified actually. It’s not even that it’s huge it’s just that it’s the Royal Albert Hall. I know lots of different types of people have played there over the years and it’s pretty scary and I hope I don’t let everyone down. WIll I be playing any new songs? Yeah, definitely. I’ll play at least two or three. I don’t want to play lots because I don’t want the people who aren’t at these shows to experience YouTube versions of the songs. I want it to be a surprise… for when the record is leaked on to the internet ahead of its release date. So, I’ll probably play a few songs…I don’t tour that often over here so I’ll still play the old songs that I know people want to hear, maybe some fun covers, just try to keep it well rounded. I think you’ve got to really be careful with how many songs you mix in, just because I know what it’s like when you go to a show and people play new songs that you don’t know. It’s hard to get into it because you’re trying to listen but you’re also trying to stay in the moment of the show.”

Finally, what's happening with Alexisonfire at the moment?
“We just finished touring in December, so it’s kind of just the time when we all break and do other things and try to be normal for a little bit.”

For more on City & Colour, check out the new issue of Rock Sound, onsale now.

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