It’s a difficult thing to describe a character like avant-pop perpetuator Sean Nicholas Savage and do him justice. Poetry and romance is in his very essence, so it seems only natural, then, that he is an exemplary of music that is saturated in emotions. Too classic to be considered overrated, too forward-thinking to be passé, Savage’s musical auteurism cultivates a kind of pseudo-nostalgia, yearning for something that you were never sure was there in the first place. Managing to track him down after recording in Germany, I wrote to him, hoping to gain insight into Savage’s complexities.
BeatRoute: What have you been focusing on since the release of Other Life?
Sean Nicholas Savage: I toured a lot this year, put a band together for most of that in Europe and I just finished recording a new record, that I took my time writing.
BR: Your repertoire is extensive with nine albums to your name. How do you figure that you’re able to do this — can you describe this relationship with your music? How about the music you listen to?
SNS: I go through hard phases of listening to a few things that really inspire me every month or so, I think that’s a common thing. My relationship to my music is a deep, deep love and I was thinking about this actually recently, having been doing this recent recording. Lyrically, I’m always capturing some potent moment in my life in a song, so I am starting to feel like a real beat up old truck, having all of these serious and beautiful pieces of my life up on the walls, y’know? And that’s exactly how I need to live.
BR: Your music is so expressive and emotionally bare, how or why is this the crux of your performances? Have you ever felt uncomfortable being so vivid and intimate?
SNS: Thank you. I get so paranoid and I can be mean and just tear everything down. I really do that often actually, but these just performances and recordings of experiences and themes in my life, stand up, even against me. I guess, the more raw, the less control, the less touched, the less I can question it. So, I’m most comfortable and least tripped out when I’m naked doing this.
BR: To further the previous question, do you pull from everyday experiences to create your lyrics, or are they made up of more profound moments? What is profound for Sean Nicholas Savage?
SNS: Sex is so profound, I was just thinking about sex. I can’t believe these people on the streets, they’re all so damn sexy, I mean every one of ‘em, no matter how and they all want to get together with somebody, and they all have their culture and desires, and sometimes I can’t believe that “love” is truly running every damn thing. Even hate is only a love shadow really, yin and yang, that is profound.
BR: Being a primarily solo artist, can you explain your creative process in the context of others, through collaboration and with the Arbutus Records family?
SNS: I write poems and rants and I rant all the time. I’m pretty restless, I hate sleeping and, when I sleep, I dream hard. I like to write right out of a dream, or fantasize within the plot of a dream and write that. Also, closing my eyes — you know when you’re very tired or wasted and you’ve got supercharged imagination? I write the words like that sometimes. Then the music is always changing based on so many things: where I’m at, where my people are at, where music’s at, where my mp3’s at?
BR: Do you ever find that your tendencies/affinities change mid-album? How do you adapt to these changes in how you make music?
SNS: They always change a few times, that’s very important. You start out 1d and end up hopefully in 4 or 5d. It’s a journey, through the heart and through time.
BR: What sorts of difficulties have you been confronted with in the making of this album? Are they familiar, as in the same difficulties that you’ve had in the past with other albums, or are they newfound?
SNS: Other Life was very difficult, due to personal problems of every kind last year: love life, family life, my health, etc. I write all kinds of songs, but I don’t typically release “bummer tracks” and I wrote mostly bummer tracks last year. I didn’t know what to do for the sound with what I had and I was under a lot of dirty pressure, just out of circumstances. It’s good though, man, more than “I love myself,” right? So, I’m still pleased looking back. The artwork says it all.
BR: I read that you are studying/sampling cinematic soundtracks during the making of your newest record. How have they helped in shaping the new songs/album? What are you trying to convey in this album that differs from the past records?
SNS: I’m not sampling, but I am really interested in soundtracks. I like my recordings to be able to sit right where they belong in the event of listening, if people are chilling, talking, eating, my album’s the soundtrack, but if they want to take a close listen, it’s all there. That’s the idea, anyways.
Catch Sean Nicholas Savage at Republik (Calgary) on December 13 and at Artery (Edmonton) on December 14.
By Nivedita Iyer