Broken Social Scene’s Andrew Whiteman: Trusting the Good Feeling
J. Gordon
9/4/2006 10:00:53 PM

"Your enemy is time. Can you make a record that will sound like it’s not gonna age badly, so in five or ten years it’s still gonna resonate? "

Canadian musician and songwriter, Andrew Whiteman, is a busy man. As one of the handful of consistent members (the others being Leslie Feist, Brendan Canning, Kevin Drew and Justin Peroff) in the dynamic, musical chairs-kind of band, Broken Social Scene, this easy-going, seemingly blissful guy has also got a few other tricks up his sleeve. One of them is an intriguing side project, Apostle Hustle, which he’s producing up in the Canadian countryside where “there’s nothing up there but inspiration and 50 year old scotch.”. While BSS have proven themselves not only as indie gods with their groundbreaking, critically-acclaimed second release, You Forgot It In People [Arts & Crafts], Whiteman hasn’t lost his head. He’s sweet, humble, and, in line with the message of Lollapalooza, where we found him, he’s looking to use his talents to make the world a better place:

NT: There are so many major Canadian bands today. Is it a tight-knit scene? And how receptive are people of other cultures to your message as you travel around the world?

“Are you asking me, do we like, throw down?” he laughs. “Honestly, we’re on the road a lot. I met Carl Newman [New Pornographers] here in Chicago at the Intonation Festival. We met Arcade Fire in Barcelona. We see each other on the road more than at home.

“When I first went to Malaysia, I didn’t realize this is like an 80% Muslim country, and I was hanging out with people who were very fantastic. The only thing I had in my consciousness was a bunch of dudes with beards and turbans shaking their fists in the air. That was my understanding from watching TV and never having gone to an Islamic country. Iraqis are not war Jihad machines just like not everyone in America belongs to the fucking Klan. I think people are smart enough to know that. Well, maybe…” [laughs]

Andrew Whiteman, left, performing with Broken Social Scene at Lollapalooza 2006

NT: Is there a mission for Broken Social Scene, and/or Apostle Hustle?

“Our latest mission is to make an exceptional record.”

NT: So what’s the test? How do you know?

“That’s super-personal,” Andrew laughs.

NT: Well, if you’d prefer, we could ask you about your love life…

“Ah ha ha ha ha! That’s the answer to my love life! What’s the litmus test? I dunno. [he thumps his chest with his fist] It’s gotta hit home. Me, personally? The answer would be trying to make a record that beats time. Your enemy is time. Can you make a record that will sound like it’s not gonna age badly, so in five or ten years it’s still gonna resonate? If you make a record that’s a slam-dunk right now, but it’s gonna sound hokey in three years, that’s also an extremely valid thing to do. But it’s not my mission.”

He speaks about Gnarls Barkley’s huge hit, “Crazy.”
“The first time I heard it I was like, ‘Fuck! This is fresh!’ But now I can’t stand it. Six months later the song sounds dated.”

NT: So how is working with a huge group like Broken Social Scene different to your new side project, Apostle Hustle?

“The music is different, the objective is different.” he says, telling a tale of one track where he had his goddaughter and her friends give him playground jump rope rhymes to which he laid down some beats. “It’s really weird, and really cool. [Also], in Apostle Hustle, all songs are in a minor key. If they’re not, they at least try to evoke a minor key. There’s a Brazilian word, saudage--it means melancholic and reflective, even if it’s an up song, like a Samba. It’s more of a dusk to dawn thing. Whereas with Social Scene, it’s a celebration of times, all times…even if it’s a celebration of paranoia!”

NT: So, is it a nightmare to keep all these personalities together, working on the same page, so to speak?

“There’s a core of us, and it’s like, you punch in and you punch out. We’re going on tour. Oh, can you come? You can’t? Who the hell are we gonna get? Any time we’re asked a question about organization, we say there really isn’t any. That keeps it fresh and spontaneous. The studio where we work, we can’t even fit that many people in there! It’s very much a digital process; layer, layer, layer, layer. It’s fun that way. I love playing music with these people.”

NT: You seem like such an easy-going guy. What gets you angry?

“One of my personal rages is keeping open space untouched by corporations.” He discusses the difference in sports and other programming, including so many concert tours, with extreme forms of marketing and corporate labels slapped on absolutely everything. “We’re community-oriented beings. We’re connected to everything. I’m not saying if you’ve looked at more logos you’re more apt to shoot people, but it has a resonance. We live in a war, man.”

NT: With two bands, a few collective albums and so many songs, is it hard to get on stage and remember all these guitar parts?

“No. It comes back. Sometimes it comes back like a fist in your face. [smacks hand] We make all kinds of mistakes all the time, but from minute one with playing with these people, it absolutely is a good feeling. We trust that.”

Andrew says he plans to stay in both bands a long time. “If you hear rumors that Broken Social Scene is breaking up, it’s totally not true.” He says that Americans can expect a fall tour for BSS, and he’ll be on the road again with Apostle Hustle when that album comes out in February 2007.

Photos by J. Gordon


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