Photo: Arden Wray
Photo: Arden Wray

Five Questions With... Don Kerr of Communism

Only in Canada could a band can get away with calling itself Communism. Perhaps it’s because that over the past 30 years, much of our indie rock scene has functioned under Karl Marx’s original philosophy, with those ideas helping to launch countless ventures, and—in many well-known examples—transformed bands into “collectives.”

Communism’s most prominent member, Don Kerr, has been an active participant in all of this, from his renowned reputation as a producer to his extensive association with other artists including Ron Sexsmith, Rheostatics, Feist, Tanya Tagaq, and GordDownie. No matter what situation Kerr has found himself in, his approach has remained the same in terms of putting pure expression above all else.

That spirit is the foundation of Communism, which Kerr formed a few years ago with fellow stalwarts of the Toronto indie scene, guitarist Paul Linklater and bassist Kevin Lacroix. The group’s debut album, Get Down, Get Together (out this week through Zunior.com and Outside Music) delivers high-energy alt-pop with a political edge, something Kerr has specialized in throughout his career.

As Communism prepares for a run of dates in and around Toronto over the next several weeks, Kerr took some time to share his thoughts on the project, and look back on some of his other achievements.

 

How did Communism originally come together, and what was the musical vision for this album?

Communism started with me singing melodies and drumming on my desk, building experimental dance music one small element at a time. Also, with my young son bringing home current pop music on birthday party mix tapes, I got excited about high-energy pop music. I then brought in my best friends, Kevin and Paul, and the rock trio of my dreams was born.

 

You’ve played with many great artists. What things have you learned from those experiences that you’ve applied to Communism?

Playing with Dave Bidini [Rheostatics] has taught me that music is best when it is as alive as it can be. When the songs can be played with at every gig—not trying to make them sound like the record—the audience hears that energy, and the whole room takes part in that night’s creation of the music. That for me is music at its most thrilling.

 

You're also a well-known producer. Has your approach in the studio changed much over the years?

As with live shows, recording is best when the music is alive as possible rather than too well planned or pre-defined. Sure, everything can be digitally manipulated and perfected, and people can collaborate from across the globe, but there is a tangible life in music that can be lost with excessive use of these modern technologies. New technology is best used to shake up creativity, not to make things seem easier.

 

What have been the most memorable touring experiences?

Touring is a time when we are removed from the static and mundane, and get to revel in the dream state of moving through time and space, enchanting new people each day with the best we have to offer. It is like a drug, so much joy with so little effort—as long as everything is well organized, and the team all get along and bring out the best in each other. Whether it’s Japan, Ireland, Spain, any great festival, where for a weekend everything in the world seems to make sense, are non-stop great time. It’s about getting the priorities correct: music, community, celebration, cooperation.

If there were anything you could change about the music industry, what would it be?

I really wish the music industry prioritized music over industry. So many musicians are convinced to make “financially viable” decisions, with the result being far more bland than if we were rewarded for other factors like originality, skill, bravery, musicality and depth.

 

 

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