David Bowie on the cover of Cult MTL Feb. 2016. Illustration by Nik Brovkin
Montreal musicians and artists pay tribute to David Bowie with favourite tunes and thoughts about his impact on them, their work and culture at large.
Song: “Young Americans”
“It’s a very magical thing to have created so much work that so many people can find themselves in. As much as people like to make him into a unicorn or something — there’s that otherworldly quality — it’s like he was able to see all sides of the prism when he was singing about loneliness. He was almost like a friend.
“When I was making my second record, the most folky record I’ve ever made, I was listening to Ziggy Stardust all the time. [With this new] record coming out, he’s definitely been on my mind a lot lately. My friends and I talk about him every day! I was actually listening to Station to Station when I found out [that he had died] that night.
“When you fall in love with somebody as an artist, they have different kinds of influences on you. I’ve always been inspired by his ability as a songwriter not to tell you how to feel but make you feel so many things. I’ve been going back to some of my favourite performances of his, and he really makes you realize as a performer that you can be free.”
—Basia Bulat, singer/musician. Her fourth album, Good Advice, will be released by Secret City on Feb. 12, and launches at Club Soda on Feb. 18.
Song: “Five Years”
“Trying to pick one Bowie track is near impossible, but ‘Five Years’ will hold a place in my heart forever.
“It’s been interesting to watch Bowie being deified. Words like ‘genius’ get thrown around a lot, indeed, and now with social media, public outpourings get misdirected so often for dead celebs who leave behind mostly a pile of rubbish. David Bowie is far beyond any of that. It has been hard for me to reconcile because I took his work and now his passing a bit personally, even without ever knowing him. His music has played an important role in my life and in my own journey as an artist. I refuse to share ‘my’ Bowie with anyone (lol) except maybe my children when they’re ready for it.
“I just pray now that we won’t be inundated with shitty Bowie covers in an effort to ‘celebrate’ him. In this age, it’s sickeningly opportunistic, not to mention the absolute worst thing one can do to ‘honour’ him. Leave his music alone and just drop the needle on the records and enjoy; don’t mutilate the man’s perfect body of work. It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna repaint some Picasso — to honour it.’ Y’know?”
—Murray Lightburn of the Dears. The band released their sixth album Times Infinity in Sept. 2015, and will continue to tour this year, playing Russia for the first time. Lightburn is also working on a second solo album.
Song: “Ashes to Ashes”
“I grew up with the new wave, Labyrinth incarnation and of course the hits, all of which I dug as a kid. Later I was turned off the idea of Bowie a bit, during the Britpop years when he was fashionable again. I hated the sound of people trying to sing like him (I still do). Seen through 1990s lenses, he was all shiny surfaces. The misunderstanding came from his imitators. Over time his originality and genius began to inspire me again, especially as I dug into the Berlin recordings. He became meaningful to me for his fearless visions, his constant change and triumph, dragging people along with him — a true superman. No one has that artistic force now; things are gone in a thumb-swipe. I got hooked on Blackstar — breathtaking stuff. I had a feeling about it, but was still stunned by what unfolded. Has anyone ever exited the Earth that way? I think he’s awakened people with a very noble message about life and art.”
“As for ‘Ashes to Ashes’ — talk about superman! He eulogizes himself and a whole decade and then presents us the future. Love the alternating dread and wistfulness before that sinister outtro.”
—Trevor Anderson of the High Dials. The band has just returned from their first ever Latin American tour, in support of their fifth album In the A.M. Wilds.
CONTINUE TO PAGE 2: DJ Lexis, Jef Barbara, Plastik Patrik and Ben Shemie of Suuns