Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene): 5(ish) Albums That Changed My Life
Charles Spearin of Do Make Say Think, KC Accidental and Broken Social Scene spoke with TIDAL about some of the records that changed his life… while standing in a lavender field in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
Broken Social Scene’s newest record, Hug of Thunder, just dropped via Arts & Crafts, and it seems Spearin was feeling a bit nostalgic about his friendship with the band’s Kevin Drew during our chat. Check out the Tortoise record that brought them together, and much more, below:
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Isao Tomita, Kosmos
My dad played a lot of bizarre, synthesizer classical music and there’s one album by Isao Tomita who was a Japanese synthesizer artist from the ‘70s called Kosmos [that he liked a lot]. The reason I consider this one important or life-changing is because it’s kind of where I started with music; that was my first impression of what music was. It’s pretty bizarre when I go back and listen to it; it has synthesizers versions of Debussy along with the Star Wars theme thrown in there.
I remember listening to it and almost having hallucinations because the music was so powerful. When you think about that as your first exposure to music in the world, it’s kind of an odd place to start.
David Bowie, Lodger
It could basically be any David Bowie record. My cousins introduced me to Let’s Dance and then we started going through all the David Bowie records. We would sit around and write out the lyrics. It became our first obsession with music.
In a way the production style, the Tony Visconti production style, Brian Eno — all that created a kind of norm for me for how music should sound. All these different wild combinations of drum sounds, guitar sounds, synthesizer sounds — inscrutable lyrics. I could pick any Bowie record, but Lodger is one that gets overlooked a lot and it was one that I spent a lot of time with.
Pink Floyd, Atom Heart Mother
The production approach in Pink Floyd really caught my attention. Atom Heart Mother in particular has a real mix of orchestral and pop and synthesizer and just experimental noises. It continued the sense of, ‘How far can you go in music?’ It’s just really impressive in terms of their fearlessness. It was a record that just had a cow on the cover and nothing else. No words. There’s just a song about making breakfast, ‘Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast.’ That was a record that just gave me a lot of courage when it came to the boundaries of music — expanding the boundaries of music.
Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3
I always listened to a bunch of classical music anyway and I had a friend who introduced me to this piece of music called ‘Allegri’s Miserere,’ which is almost Renaissance — just a little bit past Gregorian chants. It’s really stunningly beautiful. I played it for a friend and he said, ‘You should hear Henryk Górecki who’s a modern composer from 1970, because he’s almost even more all-encompassing. It’s like listening to humanity when you listen to this.’
I brought it home and I listened to the CD of it and it just brought me to tears right away, which doesn’t happen often. I listened to it again and again and it basically taught me what music can be for. It’s so powerful. Even today, I’ve been sitting there in the kitchen eating my breakfast and it was playing on the radio and I couldn’t control myself — I‘ll weep. It’s embarrassing.
This album is a remix of the first Tortoise album and it was the album that connected me to Kevin Drew, who I then started a band with. So that was actually life-changing, in that we met through appreciation of this album. The first two albums, the self-titled one and Millions Now Living Will Never Die, those were also ones that we spent a huge amount of time [listening to].
That was actually how I met Kevin. We were at school together, sound-engineering school, and he came up to me and said, ‘You look like a guy who likes Tortoise.’ I didn’t know what that meant, but I was like, ‘I do!’ We became best friends and played each other music all the time, but it was that album that kind of connected me with Kevin. Ever since then I’ve been making music with Kevin — and that was like twenty years ago.
Amon Tobin, Permutation
It kind of represented a different approach to making music as well — the whole relationship between the bass and the drums. Jungle and drum and bass really opened up a whole perspective on how to relate to different instruments.
We used to play in raves. There was tons of music in Toronto, which is great, but there was a lot of regurgitating of old music. It was refreshing to go to raves and hear new music — songs that weren’t songs. Music that would last for hours and hours. At these raves in Toronto, [my band] Do Make Say Think used play in the chill-out room. So people would be listening to their drum and bass in one room, and then when they would get too overwhelmed they would come to the chill-out room and listen to us play super long drone music.
So that was the first way that I played music that felt really new. I’m only citing Amon Tobin as one of a slew of different producers from the time, but he is excellent.
BONUS: Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It in People
That was the album…after that I don’t think I’ve had a job since then. It turned me into a professional touring musician and I haven’t looked back since — that was pretty life-changing.
(Photo credit: Norman Wong)
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