Chad VanGaalen: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Chad VanGaalen: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Chad VanGaalen just dropped his sixth album on Sub Pop, the tense-yet-gorgeous Light Information, a record that sounds kind of like a Kubrick film pressed to wax.

To celebrate its release, the Canadian musician-artist-animator-director shared with TIDAL some records that changed his life.

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George Michael, Faith

This album was the first album that I ever owned. My sister gave it to me when I was in grade four along with a walkman. I think I listened to it for a year straight before getting a copy of INXS’ Listen Like Thieves. I was burning the tires off my BMX to this record, and had all the lyrics memorized as well as the sax solos. I think the horn arrangements stick with me to this day as far as what I would hang over a song.

Beastie Boys, Check Your Head 

I bought this album for better or for worse before I got Paul’s Boutique. If you were into skateboarding in the ’90s, then this album was everywhere. I loved how it was perfectly sequenced and had this giant scope as a whole album. It seemed impossible to have so many elements smashed into one record and still have it make sense, and the love that was infused into that record really translated. Oh, and the comedy… I felt a deepness and a respect that I had not felt from a pop album before. It was a gift. Thank you, Beastie Boys!

Pixies, Doolittle

A perfect rock album. Perfectly recorded, and Kim’s singing! Also impossible guitar tones. This album hit at the perfect time. I was breaking up with the first person I ever fell in love with, walking for kilometers through the snow drifts just to get to her house. I had a walkman with auto reverse at this point so I would wear the tape out and have to take it apart to fix it. This is what introduced me to looping tapes. I figured it out from repairing my Doolittle tape.

Nirvana, Bleach & Nevermind

I got these at the same time, and like everyone else, they changed me forever. I don’t think I need to get that into it. The comic book store (Phoenix Comics) that I had been going to since I was a child had just opened an ultra-tiny record store in the back called Melodiya Records. I went to go get as many Nirvana singles as I could. Bootlegs and whatever I could get. I would fiend over that shit.

The dude who worked at that shop saw what I was buying and gave me play copies of Shellac’s At Action Park, Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and Sebadoh’s Harmacy and in that one fell swoop, he blew open my musical world. His name is Wes Hegg, and he also put on a lot of the underground rock shows in Calgary at the time. Thank you, Wes!

Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation

This album is still desert island shit for me. I fell in love with the potential of free poetry. The way they presented themselves as artists but in the most unpretentious way, all while repping all the artists they loved. The way this album sounded invited everyone to make art. I was also getting into recording stuff at this time, so it hit perfectly with just not giving a shit and just letting stuff get gross on tape. This is how I wanted records to sound and still to this day I a/b against this record, just so I know the guitars sound ok.

I also loved how they were this band of so many heads. Like Kim would just breathe into you, and set you straight outside the 7-Eleven at 3 a.m. Thurston would take you down the sci-fi mind holes and spin you around ’til you fell. Lee would lead you down in the sewers to the crystal-lit chambers. And Steve was the magic carpet for all of them, just perfect, impossibly perfect.

The free moments and breakdowns in this album grew into my own reality. It invited me to start improvising. It showed me how you could evoke emotion with sound. And then you get to follow them through the experimental discography of Sonic Youth! Why would you ever play guitar in a standard tuning after this record? The beautiful dissonance.

My friend Chris and I had a tape deck that we would bring to the school across the street and just shoot hoops to this record all summer. I don’t think I ever would have bothered with recording if it wasn’t for this album. True love.

(Photo credit: Marc Rimmer)

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