By Keith Sharp
Big Wreck lead vocalist/co-producer and chief songwriter Ian Thornley has a piece of advice for anyone contemplating listening to band’s latest opus, `Grace Street’ – Use headphones!
At a time when the attention span of most listeners is about 60 seconds and the majority of new music comprises of a collection of soundbites, Big Wreck takes their music output seriously.
“We aimed for `Grace Street’ to feel like how record albums used to feel when people listened to them from top to bottom,” explained Thornley, on the phone from Victoria B.C where his band is preparing for their second stop on an ambitious tour of key Canadian and U.S theatre venues that will bring them to Toronto’s Phoenix Theatre February 18th, Montreal’s Corona Theatre March 8th before concluding the Canadian portion of their tour March 13th in Fredericton.
“I am a head phone advocate, you need to listen to a record on head phones to really appreciate what you are listening to, you can’t just listen to a record through a smart phone speaker!,” Thornley declares.
Ever since reforming Big Wreck in 2011 to record the band’s third release, `Albatross’, Thornley has worked against the grain, producing complete albums that defy current radio trends.
“I’ve never paid attention to trends, I don’t know what is happening at radio, it all sounds the same to me, it sounds like music created by robots,” Thornley allowed. “If people want familiarity, that’s fine by me but music has always mean’t more to me than just sonic wallpaper.
“But, mind you, I only say this because i’m broke. If I was making money and selling tons of records, I’d be saying, `Hey this is great’,” he laughs.
In recording `Grace Street’ ( Thornley’s current Toronto address), he was forced to make a change from his usual production partner Eric Ratz (not available for this project) and instead hooked up with established producer Garth Richardson (Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rage Against The Machine). “I had just moved to a West Coast manager and Garth was suggested. Fortunately for me, Garth said that producing a Big Wreck record was on his creative bucket list so away we went.”
“What Garth brought to the table was a different perspective,” Thornley allowed. “He’ll come at production from a different angle and totally mess you up with an idea you would have never thought of”.
It was Richardson who thought of using wine glasses and a turkey baster for the unique sounds achieved on one track “Motionless” “Once Garth opened up, we kicked around all these crazy ideas. One was to fill a bunch of wine glasses with water and achieve a certain sound. Next thing I know, Garth arrives with a box of wine glasses, a turkey baster and we tuned the glasses to a G minor scale,” Thornley explained. “We could have easily replicated that sound by using a keyboard synth or an app but there is something generic about capturing that authentic sound.”
With alt rock tracks like “One Good Piece Of Me”, “It Comes As No Surprise”, “Diggin In” and an ambitious seven-minute instrumental track “Skybunk Marche”, Thornley, original guitarist Brad Doherty, bassist Dave McMillan, drummer Chuck Keeping and guitarist Paulo Nesta (who has since departed the band due to family reasons), continue Big Wreck’s progressive vein, captured on their previous two albums; `Albatross’ (2011) and Ghosts (2014).
The fact that Big Wreck has been able to re-establish itself after the original project disbanded in 2001 after the original quartet of Thornley, Doherty, bassist Dave Henning and drummer Forrest Williams went their separate ways following the release of their first two albums; 1997’s `In Loving Memory Of and 2001’s “The Pleasure And The Greed’ is no small achievement. Yet Thornley’s recipe for survival is his ability to be continually creative.
“Any musician who thinks they’ve created their masterpiece, their “Stairway To Heaven” is in danger of stop being creative, your search is over” Thornley explained. “As far as Big Wreck is concerned , we’ve always tried to top what we’ve done in the past and always try to make our next record the next big record. It’s that objective which keeps us going.”
For Tour information and tickets to see Big Wreck go to, http://www.bigwreckmusic.com/