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Oui, j’ai parlé à John K Samson

16 novembre 2010

Avoir la chance de parler pendant vingt minutes avec le gars qui a écrit des albums comme Fallow, Left & Leaving et Reconstruction Site c’est complètement irréel pour moi. Le frontman de The Weakerthans sera de passage à Montréal ce samedi (le show est annulé !) avec Correction Line Ensemble et ça m’étonnerait en ciboire que la prestation ne soit pas mémorable. J’peux pas croire que je ne lui ai pas posé une question à propos de Michel Foucault.

So you’ll be leaving for a solo tour soon.

Yeah. Well it’s not exactly solo, it’s with a whole bunch of other folks but I’ll be doing some of my own stuff it’s true.

So you decided to do some solo material and put it out as seven inches.

I’ve put out two now. The second one just came out. I’m gonna do at least one more I think. And that will be out maybe in the winter. And then maybe put them all together and release a CD and then probably get back on Weakerthans business.

When does a guy that has been singing and writing stuff for The Weakerthans for almost 15 years comes to the point where he wants to write some solo stuff?

We were just taking some time off and that was something I wanted to do. Just a little kind of hobby I actually wanted to go around and check out different small town in Manitoba and different roads so the idea was that I would write three songs about specific piece of road in Manitoba. So I just thought it would be kind of a hobby to do between Weakerthans things. And that’s what it turned out to be so it’s really good. And also getting to play with these folks I’ll be playing with in Montreal, called the Correction Line Ensemble. So it’s my songs and Christine Fellows’ songs and also classical materials so it’s really kind of fun. It’s really interesting for me and totally different instruments to play with. There’s cello, viola, marimba and piano. It’s a very interesting way to do a show I think. Mixing totally classical stuff and popular stuff.

Through the years you’ve worked on many different musical project. Hardcore-punk with Propagandhi, folk-punk with The Weakerthans and too many others to mention. What’s the most challenging record or project you consider having been part of?

Geez…the most challenging…I guess it might be the one that I’m touring now with the Correction Line Ensemble. Just because I think it’s kind of ambitious to put all these different genres together and these different musicians. That’s certainly been a really rewarding challenge for me. I think it would be it. I mean, there have been lots of records that have been difficult to make. Almost every record is very difficult in its own way. But I think that this tour is a productive challenge for me.

Is there an artist on ANTI- that you would love to collaborate with?

Oh sure. There’s plenty actually. Obviously there’s Tom Waits. I’m a huge huge fan, Billy Bragg, Mavis Staples, Jolie Holland. Yeah, they’re all pretty great on that roster.

So what NHL team do you cheer up for this year?

Oh, the Canadiens. I’m a Habs fan from a while back. I was a Jets fan when I was a kid, certainly. But into my teens and later I’ve been a Habs fan. I’ve always had a soft spot for the team of the 70’s. The Ken Dryden and Guy Lafleur, I remember loving them as a kid.

Did you ever get about an argument with Chris Hannah about the Habs and the Leafs?

When we were hanging out I don’t think either of us was that much interested in hockey. But I’m definitely not a Maple Leafs fan. They’re pretty awful. They sometime start well but I mean…really. Compare their payroll to where they should be to where they actually are. I have no confidence in them in making the playoffs this year.

So do you think that The Rifle will ever be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

I’m afraid that probably not. I mean the numbers aren’t quite there. If he played maybe a few more years in the same fashion he had, he probably would be. But there are things that cut his career short. Things that he would point out like, he was very struggling with his addiction in the end of his career but I feel that just because his story is so compelling that he should be there. I think if there was any justice he would be. I think Hockey Hall of Fame is pretty weird. The voting form is pretty random and weird. So maybe that means that someday he will be but, I don’t have a lot of hope. I hope that people will sign my petition which you can find online. I’d like to make it a couple thousands and submit that sometime next year.

He had a pretty crazy year the season that he scored 61 goals.

I know. That’s the year that he got the Conn Smith trophy even if he lost the finals against the Habs. I wasn’t a Philly fan growing up but I always loved Reggie Leach. I think that a lot of people would tell you the same thing. That they hated the Flyers but they loved The Rifle. What a player. And just his story, I mean, he didn’t even have his own skates until he was twelve. If you’ve ever been to Riverton, Manitoba it makes it even more amazing. Like I went there and hanged out for a few days and it would have been a pretty ruff town to grow up in for a native kid I think. That year is the same year he scored five goals in a playoff game.

Are you still involved in the Arbeiter Ring Publishing?

Yeah. Actually that’s a big part of my life still. I’m a managing editor there and I still spend a lot of time working on there. This week I’ve been working on getting books ready for the printer. I really enjoy it. When I’m here in Winnipeg I spend a lot of time on that.

Is it at a kind of peak right now or it has been more active in the past?

No it’s actually busier that it’s ever been. We will put out five books this year which is the most we’ve ever done. We’re really moving forward I think. I’m really excited about it.

Does the principle of participatory economy have proved to work through the years?

Well, I’m not sure that it really applies to us. We’re just a small company. There’s only two of us working there and there’s a collective of five for the editorial board. So yes, I’m not sure it really applies to us but it’s definitely something that we are interested in.

Correct me if I’m wrong but you’ve never wrote a novel before.

No I haven’t. I’ve never written anything except songs and some poems.

Do you plan on doing so one day?

I’d love to but I don’t really think I have it in me. I’m not really sure that I have the abilities. I think songs and poems are my thing. Anything longer just kind of intimidates me. I really enjoy working with writers and getting involved in working on novel but I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever…maybe some day.

Is there a book that you’ve ever put out that you love more than the others?

Geez I don’t know. Good question. I guess one of the first books we put out which was a book of short stories called Any Given Power by Alissa York and I was really excited about that. And recently we just put out a book called This is an Honour Song and it’s an anthology about the Oka crisis. That one is important because the Oka crisis was one of the things that really politicized me and really made me think about the world in a different way. I was really proud to put out that book.

So most of the books you put out are about politic?

Yeah most of them are. We actually put out a book of poetry, which also quite a political book I think, by a man name Kaie Kellough who’s a Montreal poet actually. That was our first book of poetry and I’m really excited about that, he’s a really great Montreal poet. We have published fiction but yeah, our mandate is to publish a large percentage of political books. Politic is a big part of my life.

What’s the most disturbing thing about the whole Omar Khadr thing for you?

It’s disturbing on so many levels. I guess the United States acting as a rogue police force. And children should never prosecute in that manner. It’s extremely disturbing. The fact that the Canadian government didn’t even wanted to bring him back to Canada, it’s chilling. It just points to this weird collapse of the rule of law in that kind of war on terror era that we’re living in. It’s freighting.

Recently you collaborated to the Bad Religion tribute compilation. The Weakerthans cover the song Sanity from the album No Control. Do you remember the first time you heard that song or that record?

I don’t remember the first time I heard that record but I do remember that me and Stephen were in a band when we were sixteen in high school and one of the first song we ever played was call Voice of God Is Government from Bad Religion’s first record. I was really excited about that because it was so easy and fun to play and it was kind of one of the first time I remember playing music and it sounded like something. Bad Religion was a big influence and a big inspiration I guess.

Why did you choose that song?

I’ve always thought it was an interesting song and we kind of all really liked it. We voted on which one we would do. I love a lot of Bad Religion songs and we just thought it would be a fun one and that we could do something weird with it.

What do you think will be the biggest impact of this band, the lyrics of Greg Graffin or the music of Mister Brett?

I wonder. I think both. Because I think that it kind of inspired people to think about politic in their lives and also I think inspired people to know that if they wanted to play music they could really. You can play music and make it really innovative and interesting and fun even if you’re just using four chords and have a decent beat. The songs a really simple but they’re actually pretty accomplished musicians. It really established the genre and gave kids like me the tools to actually make music. That’s probably their greatest legacy I guess.

I did an interview with your drummer, Jason Tait, a few years back just before the release of your record Reunion Tour and he told me then that he would be surprised if you guys ever make another record. What do you think of that today?

I think we’re always saying that. I would be surprised too but I think it will probably happen. After you make a record you always feel like you never want to make that again. I always feel that way. It takes a while to forget how painful it is and then eventually you want to make another record. We’ll make another one eventually. I just don’t know when it will be. I’m 90 percents sure.

John K Samson et Correction Line Ensemble samedi le 20 novembre 2010 au Cabaret du Mile-End. Le show est annulé !

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