Adam Marshall has been involved with music in one form or another since the late nineties. Whether trafficking records and Underground Resistance t-shirts over the Canadian border or throwing parties with a core group of friends in response to rave music, he has kept his feet firmly planted in musical soil. For the better half of the last decade he has produced music under his own name and released music from the likes of The Mole, Basic Soul Unit, and West Norwood Cassette Library through his label New Kanada. With the music and creative landscape in constant shift Adam has partnered up with another artist hailing from Toronto, XI. After meeting outside of their hometown in Berlin, the pair decided to start a live project. During one of the first warm days of the season in Berlin we sat down with Adam Marshall to chat about Toronto and his Graze project with Christian Andersen.
Why don’t we start at the beginning, we know you were active in the music scene during the nineties. How did those past experiences help you? “In the mid nineties I started getting into electronic music and the culture back in Toronto, quite heavily. At the time the rave scene in Toronto was going crazy and things were really big and impersonal. Right around that time a few friends of mine and I kind of started our own little response to what was going on by doing smaller, more focused stuff that we were really passionate about. Being so close to Chicago and Detroit, especially back in the late nineties, a lot of it had that as focus, but because we were in Toronto we had a lot of European influence as well. Back then I also worked at a record store for five years, which was one of the better record stores in the city and that was definitely a nice defining experience. I got familiar with a lot of the music that was coming out at that time and had access to a lot of it.”
Coming up through all of that and sort of getting your electronic music education in that scene how has that influenced the label and the direction you’re taking artistically? “I’d say the one defining thing with Toronto is that there are so many influences. I guess it’s sort of like London. I was influenced by stuff I was really interested in and stuff I was not interested in at all. Now, looking back I can see that mélange of influences really defines a lot of people who come from Toronto, especially after traveling. I’d say that’s definitely followed through with myself as a DJ and producer and ultimately the label because the label moves around a lot stylistically. That whole vibe is where I come from. To kind of be into one thing and stay in it for the sake of it never really occurred to a lot of us.” So you don’t have a singular influence? “I grew up with a lot of influences from a lot of different places and a lot of styles of music, some of which I might not have liked immediately, but through friends and just being open to it I was exposed to a lot of good stuff in different genres. For example, when I started buying records in Toronto at a place called Play De Records. Toronto got every record even way back then, but we’d go in and we’d be the only guys listening to house or techno in the whole store and there’d be people waiting to hear the newest Jamaican 7-inch. At that time I hated it, but I realized those experiences [helped me] like a lot of types of music these days. Those earlier experiences in Toronto really allowed me to be a chameleon, especially with the label.”
How do you usually decide on what to put out on the label? “At the beginning a lot of people I had a relationship to somehow. Lately, I’ve run into some artists over the Internet and if it clicks it just clicks. I don’t really plan a lot in advance with the label. I find that if I let stuff come to me it does. Usually, it’s one or two specially things. Fate seems to run the label quite effectively.”
Stream: Graze – Graze (New Kanada)
You’ve started a project called Graze with XI. When did you become aware of his music? “We didn’t really know each other. We knew of each other through a couple of people. When the dubstep thing was kind of taking off in Toronto Christian was really into that, but there was a lot of terrible stuff in Toronto. I heard some of Christian’s music and I didn’t know what to call it, but it was quite innovative. We never really met because we were from two very different scenes in Toronto. He was from the jungle side of things and I was from the other side. I think we both always had a mutual admiration. Then he moved over here [Berlin] about a year and half ago and I had been talking to him about signing his solo record on New Kanada. When he moved over here we became pretty close and decided to work on music together.”
How soon after you met did you guys decide to start working together? Was your work together spontaneous? “The project wasn’t that casual. We really wanted to do a project together because a lot of the music he represents and produces I was really into and he was getting into a lot of music from where I was coming from, so we knew it might work. We also knew it might be refreshing to work with someone who doesn’t do the exact same type of music. We wanted to get a project together to specifically perform live. That was the plan, assuming it all worked. The underlying idea was to get something we could tour, jam, and perform live with. I’ve been switching a lot into live performances of my own stuff, but I always wanted to do it with someone else and this presented itself, so we jumped on it. It all started working out very quickly. He’s back in Toronto now and we got everything done in about four months, which is pretty good seeing as we were both travelling quite a bit.”
It’s interesting that you wanted this to become a live show immediately. What’s the setup like? “From the live prospective I play with a lot of hardware stuff, but to tell you the truth I’ve been buying gear for so long that the stuff goes in and out, so we’re not really set to particular pieces. The songs were started together in the computer, moved back & forth, and we put the structure together just by file sharing. We were never actually in the same room, apart from mixdowns and when we had the songs done and jammed them out. The actual working on music we did separately. Since we had this in mind from the beginning everything’s ready to be stripped, stemmed, and looped effectively in a more hardware scenario. So the live side is a lot more hardware based, but the creation and production isn’t.” Have you guys played live together yet? “We’ve jammed a lot together, but no official shows yet. We’re not doing any gigs until Mutek because we wanted to wait until the record comes out.”
Playing Mutek as your first gig together is kind of a big deal. Do you guys have any larger goals for you project? “We almost have the next album finished, so that’s the trajectory – releasing a full length, probably in the fall. We just have to figure out where the home is and how that’s going to roll. Again, we’d like to tour with this as much as we can.”
Are shopping the album around? “We don’t have anywhere distinctly in mind and this is what happened with the “Graze” release – we were really happy with it and thinking about getting it on a bigger label, but in the end that just didn’t make sense. I’m happy we went with New Kanada, but as a moving on trajectory I’d consider something else for a full length. I don’t know if New Kanada’s built for full length releases.”
Catch Adam Marshall & Christian “XI” Andersen live as Graze Friday, May 31st at Mutek.
Stream: Graze – Ques (New Kanada)