Interview: A Tribe Called Red

A Tribe Called Red played their biggest show in Quebec yesterday at Festival d'été de Québec. We caught up with Bear Witness just prior to the festival to talk about We are the Halluci Nation.

- Jul 13, 2017

A Tribe Called Red put on two shows yesterday at Festival d'été de Québec. The first one opened the night on the main stage, Scène Bell on the Plains of Abraham. Crowds of people began running into the field as soon as the first beat dropped and by the end of their set the roar of the fans could be heard from miles away. DJ NDN hyped the crowd as the beats kept flowing resulting in a 45min set of pure energy.

#ViewFromTheOffice #Work #festivaldete

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The second show was later that night at the Imperial Bell which is an intimate club in the downtown core of Quebec city. The drums of their music could be felt through your entire body. As the dance floor became more and more energized, the stomping of the dancing audience fell in unison to the bass, entrancing the crowd. As ATCR brought out their dancers the crowd became even more excited creating a sweaty dance party with crowd surfers riding just in front of the stage.

Imperial Bell ATR

Photo Credit: Vithiya Murugadas

Both shows had completely different vibes but both were electrifying proving once again that A Tribe Called Red's nation is growing.

We caught up with Bear Witness just before their shows in Quebec City to talk about the tour, changes in the band and We are the Halluci Nation.

How has your creative process changed since the beginning of A Tribe Called Red?

It’s completely different since we started in 2008, we have different people in the group now. Part of the reason this album (We are the Halluci Nation) took almost three years in the making was getting used to working with 2oolman and figuring out what his process was like and what our process was like and finding our stride together. At the same time we were playing shows and trying to figure out how Tim (2oolman) worked into that as well. There was a curve that happened in learning how to work together but once we got there we definitely have something that is a lot deeper than what we had before.

Do you face any challenges, being that there are three of you? Is it difficult to get on the same page?

Everybody kind of gets their say… it would definitely be more difficult with 4 people. Three is a good number and as much as it is the three of us, its not... as we have a lot of people around us who are putting work into our albums.  There is a whole machine around us that is helping shape what we do.

Do you feel like A Tribe Called Red has been able to facilitate a ground for upcoming Indigenous artists?

I definitely hope so; the amount of talent that lies within the Indigenous community in music alone is amazing. For a long time people outside of the Indigenous communities weren’t necessarily listening to what was going on, if anything we have been able to upgrade that profile. We like to do whatever we can to support other Indigenous artists and you can see that with the amount of people we tried to include on We are the Halluci Nation.

There was so much more collaboration on this new album what was the process in looking for different artists to work with?

A lot of the people that we featured are friends who we have wanted to work with for a long time. As you are touring you become friends with people and you start to build up ideas and then the next cycle for creating an album happens and then all of sudden you go from three guys who create music from their bedrooms to knowing people to work with and having opportunities to bring together and bigger artists to collaborate with. We were told we could have bigger ideas on this album, we were told you guys can dream bigger now because you have achieved a certain level of success. The success of this album has really been opening up a lot of doors which I guess is how things work. The more exposure you get is the more opportunities.

Because you're touring more now with this album,  is it difficult to get back into the creative process?

That’s kind of the way things work with music. You have time where you get to be really creative and there’s times where you’re just on the road which is generally a little less creative. We did record a lot for this album on the road but the actual construction of this album was when we took time off. Right now when the touring gets hectic it mostly just becomes about the live show more than anything else.

Do you prefer club shows or festival shows?

They are really different experiences.  There is something really amazing about a huge field of people that you can’t really see the end of and the roar that comes off of a crowd like that but, then there is something completely different about playing to a crowd that is less than 10 feet away from you and you can touch and feel the venue. They both have their excitement.

Since your music is so rooted in your culture what is the reception like in Europe?

It’s super different, it’s always different to us when we aren’t playing to an Indigenous audience. It’s not that we make our music only for Indigenous people but to save time there is an understanding there. Even when we went to play in Mexico to people who had never heard of us before there was still an understanding and nothing needed to be explained.  So in Europe that’s the kind of boundary we face, but we could face that anywhere in Canada or the US too where people aren’t necessarily understanding where our music is coming from and the larger picture around it. That can be draining sometimes to have to explain yourself or feel that people do not understand exactly what you are doing.

How did you get into Dj-ing?

I have been obsessed with music from a really young age. I was never a person who could play music. My family is all artists and when they noticed I had an interest in music they put me in music classes and playing instruments just never came to me. But I was still obsessed with it and I had a huge music collection and when my friends went to Peterborough for university I would show up to their houses with a big bag of CDs and tapes and hangout in their living rooms and play them music. I met another group of Djs there and one of them showed me how to DJ and kind of forced me into it. My friends basically said you have all this music and you love it so much you need to do something with it.

Who are the musicians that you have looked up to?

All my DJ-ing is based in Reggae and Dancehall and Jamaican music and lately I have been really digging into the roots of what got me into Dj-ing with artists like Lee Scratch Perry, King Tubby, Scientist and the Mad Professor.  All that kind of Dub music really inspired me to DJ but my love for music really stretches further and wider than that …another one of my favorite artist is Tom Waites.

What is coming up next after the tour?

Right now its one foot in front of the other.  Doing the tour is definitely all that’s on anyone’s mind right now and hopefully a break after that. Getting back into the studio is definitely something we all want to do within the next year.

A Tribe Called Red continues their tour and will be at the Ottawa Bluefest this Friday July 14th and then over to the west coast of Canada and the US. The success of We are the Halluci Nation continues as the album was added to the short list for the Polaris Music Prize.

Post by : Sabrina Spence

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