Emily Haines Interview

Metric, Broken Social Scene and more
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Everything in the world of Emily Haines is "amazing".

While Metric are hardly down beat the singer's effervescent personality blazes down the phone line. Oozing enthusiasm it's easy to understand just how Metric could go from being penniless Brooklyn based musicians to an international success.

Returning with their latest album 'Fantasies' last year Metric produced their most pop-centric effort to date. A word of mouth success, it built upon their sterling reputation to become the band's most successful album yet.

Dropping by close friends Broken Social Scene to record a track on their new album, Emily Haines is now set to work with Lou Reed on a special one off performance. Taking place in Australia, it demonstrates the respect the Canadian born singer holds amongst the upper echelons of rock music.

Stopping off in Britain just long enough to perform a handful of shows with Metric, it seems that life really is amazing for Emily Haines. With all that on her plate, the singer still manages to find time for a quick chat with ClashMusic...

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‘Fantasies’ has become one of your most successful albums, did you anticipate that?
I think we always do. The thing about this band is that we’re in it for the adventure. From the very beginning when we had like 20 fans we’ve moved to all the way along. It’s been really interesting to see as it has been primarily without the help of the music industry proper, or any kind of money or marketing. It’s been a constant growth for us. ‘Fantasies’ was right on track. It’s definitely nice to be back in London, having sold out one show and announced another. We just played in Paris last night and there’s definitely a feeling that all the love we put into those little club shows has come together. That’s what we’re here for: to enjoy the ride.

It’s the old story of a hard working band making good – what factors have led to this success?
It’s something that we’ve been discussing a lot recently. Every step we’ve taken, every move we’ve made to put in blunt terms has been a matter of having to be the people we are. Opportunities came to us that required us to, for example, submit to someone else writing our music, or telling us what to do creatively, or making me look a certain way - we’ve always said no to those things. What emerged was this path and I don’t know if we’d ever intended to do that. If there had been a multi-million dollar record deal at the beginning which suited us we would have taken it. For us, we took the old model of independent labels and now we actually employ a lot of people. It’s not that it’s just about us, it’s about shifting it so that a musician doesn’t just feel like an employee at a label. The musician runs the show but there’s all kinds of people working on it together. It’s easy to work hard when you love what you’re doing and you love your band.

How do you assemble that team?
Over the years sort of by accident we ended up with some pretty heavy friends, people who were just starting out themselves who went on to occupy some pretty powerful positions. Which is nice. We’re happy to be part of what we’re doing, and the people around us give us support. If you take a recording contract and actually see where the money goes.. yes we needed to step it up on this record but that didn’t need to be by signing with a label. So we sat with lawyers and structured it in such a way that we could hand pick the people that we want to work with. Since we own it we are able to embrace the new technologies which develop. For example with Spotify in the UK who are just starting out in the States – that was a prime example as we could work with them, whereas a record company would have to protect themselves in different ways. It’s primarily young people who are interested in technology as well as the future of music, instead of the past.

Metric - Help, I'm Alive



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After ‘Fantasies’ you release an acoustic EP, what lay behind this decision?
In the creative process for this record we had something called the ‘Campfire Test’. It’s really funny with production as you can mask things, like place a riff somewhere to cover up some structural problems. Like if your wall is coming down you can put a poster over it. All the great songs by The Beatles or The Stones you can play on a piano. Pink Floyd songs which you think are so mind blowing you can play on the piano with four chords. You should be able to play this stuff simply, with no synths, no production and we ended up with these other versions which we really enjoy. People seem to like them and asked us to release them so we did.

You seem drawn to creative communities, how important is that aspect to your work?
I guess it must be. We were talking about this, it’s like when you look at life and evaluate the most important things it’s having friends. I look at how lucky I am to know these people. Even in Canada, I only went to public school there was no money for anything special but I went to a public school which had a really great music program. All my friends in Canada benefitted from that. I guess I was raised to value that, and I’ve stuck with it. It’s all happened that way – from San Francisco to New York, Montreal and Toronto. That’s the fun of it. It’s not just getting there, it’s getting there and having all your friends there with you because they’re successful on their own terms as well. It’s much more fun than making music with strangers.

What led to the recent guest slot with Tiesto?
Oh it was really cool actually! I’m always interested in working with people but I generally stay clear of most things which are at all close to what Metric are doing. I was really interested to work with him as it was so far away from what Metric does. My friends were cheering me on, saying I could be a diva! The question was whether I liked the song, and he sent me over an mp3 and without even listening to it I put it into GarageBand and started recording. I wrote the song when I listened to it for the first time, so before I had the chance to work on anything I just sang. That became the song! I just sent over my GarageBand vocals and they really liked it. I went to one of the shows and it was such a different world to the one I’m in. It was an interesting challenge, I like doing things which are outside the things I’m used to.

How was the collaboration with Broken Social Scene?
Oh it was it great! It’s funny Kevin and I were talking about it. I’ve known them since High School, Broken Social Scene have just been a part of my life. It used to be that we would hang out and make music but the Kevin gave it a name. So much has happened for all of us and there’s so little time for us to get together. My part on the record ‘Sentimental Xs’ was recorded right before Christmas at the last possible minute before I left the country, I just had to make it happen. They played New York and I came along to debut the song, and it was funny as they were saying it would be weird to play the city and for me not to be there. We just had to do it. It was great! I think those guys made a great record and I’ll always, always be happy to be part of it.

Broken Social Scene - Sentimental Xs



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That collective has transformed the image of Canadian music, how does it feel to be part of such an emblem of indie cool?
Oh my God! When we moved to New York back in 97 / 98 you would never say you were Canadian. It was just flat out mockery. If you were from another country people would say like ‘wow that’s so unacceptable to be so rude about it!’ But if you’re from Canada people just think it’s Bryan Adams and Alannis Morressete. Really that again had to do with the dominance of the major label system, where everyone in Canada knew there were great musicians – they just couldn’t get out. I’m so proud to have been part of the next generation of musicians. The most hilarious thing for me is that where we moved in Williamsburg, right near the loft all those bands were there. The first pioneering people. I’ve just found out that there’s this bar called Ontario which only serves Canadian beer and only plays Canadian bands on the jukebox. It’s such a great victory for all the musicians out of Canada who were stifled. I’m gonna go there and have, like, a Steam Whistle!

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