I’d never deny that there’s a more than a handful of factors that have led to the current state of SBS, my personal mindset or the show we now know to be SBS Live This Week! Sometimes when I sit here and connect all those dots…I’m truly amazed how it has all come together. So it’s only fair that I share these stories with you and how this whole vision has turned from a simple version of an open house into so much more than we ever thought possible….
The beginning is completely simple: We love music. How could we bring it closer to us? My wife Becky and I bought a house in Abbostford in a quiet location that is suited for making a little more noise than normal. Most of our neighbours are farmer fields with a few houses surrounding the area as well. Inside this house was an extra room that was built, somewhat obviously, that covered an old window joining two rooms together. But to be perfectly honest – it still hadn’t really hit us yet.
I then began to read – no, CONSUME – the Dave Grohl biography “This Is A Call.” And it was. The inspiration for sleepingbagstudios was largely due to my reading this, realizing that Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters had won a grammy by recording REAL music in Dave’s garage. Then the pieces started to come together…slowly…in all of our minds. That is why Mr. Grohl remains the Jesus of SBS and always will be. He not only made it seem more than possible – it was something to be DESIRED. A real SOUND experience, one that can still capture the magic of a live band and translate it to a recording.
As vivid as the pictures might have been in my mind – without another key factor in this equation, I was running with a somewhat blind vision. I really didn’t know what the studio he had looked like – so we needed to come up with a great set up from other ideas. Rob @ SBS and I talked at length about what makes performances great and what makes a standout place to play. Many things were talked about…the Austin City Limits performances…any of them. Our own Commodore Ballroom (Where we saw Quicksand last night) has great sound, great lighting and the unique dance floor. All of these types of elements were considered, but none more so than The Henry Rollins Show.
I honestly don’t think that there’s any possible way – despite only being around for two seasons – that this show could be called or considered any sort of failed attempt. The honesty and respect that Rollins could communicate with a band or artist through an interview was something I had always taken to heart. I had done many interviews myself before in a past online magazine’s life, and though I always felt like I knew enough from my musical background – I wasn’t working at truly developing my craft – admittedly, I was still pissing around. Seeing the passion that Rollins could convey about the music and the people behind its creation was a powerful, powerful thing for me. He remains a constant influence, I see his spoken word every time he’s in town and have gone as far as Hollywood to see him speak. His road stories blow my mind – but it’s both the way he communicates and has done his homework on the people he’s taking to that has always impresses me most. There’s a respect from him that is very hard to find in what can be a very plastic and all-about-me industry.
The show had that element – but it also had THE SICKEST one room private studio basically ever aired on TV. If you haven’t seen this show – go and check out a clip because it’s ridiculously good. Rob and I knew that we couldn’t settle for anything less than something that would contain that same kind of private, this-is-you-and-no-one-else feeling that came with looking at that studio. It just looked like they were on an entirely new kind of stage – one with excellent sound, and a set up that really allowed bands to perform comfortably.
Had to have it need to have it gotta have it how do we get it and how do we get it FASTER? That became the game we were playing. From a collective 12 straight years of working with and recording together, Rob and I completed the vision for the look, the feel and then began working on finishing an instrument collection with an end goal of having an ability to make or create virtually any sound we can think of. We’ve pulled that off to the point where we now have instruments here at the studio that we’ve modified or even created ourselves – the sound possibilities are endless. Other key players – “Hot Electric” Martin fixed up SBS electrically so that if the power goes out in the neighbourhood – we’ll very likely be the last house WITH juice before it goes. Becky spent hours painting the studio as I soundproofed from the outside and then layered the inside with sleeping-bags wall to wall it to make a dead-room for recording.
The control room was set up in the other room I had mentioned before. We knocked out that spot where the window WAS and now that’s where the window IS. We use it for communication between us and the bands recording here if we’re not using headsets and mics. Another third storage room for the rest of the instrument collection – and that’s really it – the not-so-secret is out – sleepingbagstudios was born.
When we had finally opened – we actually saw a few people right off the bat to come out and record, which was awesome – that need to bring a concert to my immediate area was being satisfied on what was seeming to shape up to be a regular basis. As with all music business, or any business really – there’s lots of up and down swings. When it started to get slow, I started to think up other ideas on how to expose who we are, what we do, and how much we CARE about music in some other way than simple shallow advertising. Again, having interviewed bands like Calexico, Tegan And Sara, Godsmack and countless others – I started to wonder if this wouldn’t be a better idea on an indie level? My best conversations in those past interviews had always come from bands that weren’t known for anything yet – like at the time I had interviewed Tegan, those two wonder-twins hadn’t had the world attention they now enjoy. At that time, Tegan was just another artist at the beginning of the ride – and you could sense that she knew it – and if I couldn’t get that out of AN HOUR AND A HALF of conversation, taping it to a recorder all the while pressed between my phone and my ear in complete rookie fashion and listening to it over and over for an eventual like, 14 page online interview transcription….well, I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I am now….
Which brings us to LAURA KELSEY – you might have seen that we’ve posted links to her “Misery Is Waiting” acoustic performance on our You Tube channel and everywhere else we could. Facebook page, CFOX page – this is what we do NOW in addition to the recording. Here’s the story on how she helped change that if your eyes aren’t tired by now…
I spent about 2 weeks heavily advertising all kinds of interviews for SBS – craigslist, fiverr, any place I can find really – but like I’ve said to all musicians in Vancouver – there’s really no more of a central place than CFOX in terms of open dialogue and communication between the music creators and music fans themselves. The idea EXPLODED. I was contacted by several people and bands looking to do SOMETHING to get their hard work and efforts some attention. Many booked time from that first round – we’re actually still seeing a few of those come through on SBS Live from the glory days when I still had an upside-down bridge-troll strapped to my chin. And some backed out – most likely because they didn’t know what we were about just yet. Some of them have contacted us since to set things up now that they’ve seen what we do. We still have time for those bands – but to be honest, I DO REMEMBER. There’s a communication level that I look for, and as you have all heard me say – I tend to lean towards a band with something TO SAY or something TO PROVE. When I feel they don’t have that drive or that magic – it’s NEVER going to make me stop wanting to talk about music – or their music for that matter – but I do have a unique sense of what will get that person or band to that next level…and all types of communication – music, written, verbal, body language – all tell me clearly what your motives are and what does or doesn’t DRIVE you and your music. Hence, though lengthy – I spend time writing these long e-mails and internet postings with you because we are all DRIVEN TO THE MAX to do what we do here at SBS….
But for the sake of wrapping this up before the year is done….back to LAURA KELSEY. She was the first one booked, and asked if she could bring her dog Tundra. I am all about making the bands and artists feel comfortable here at SBS – that’s my job – and that’s how genuine and REAL conversations come about here – so of course I said yes. And while I was busy setting up what would become SBS Live This Week in my control room – I was logistically thinking about Tundra’s needs in this situation – that she would certainly be more comfortable outside….
So LAURA – if you’re reading this – your beautiful dog TUNDRA ripped the mat right out from underneath me that day. Please thank her for me – here’s why…
This show didn’t belong in a control room. It never did. I don’t know what I was honestly thinking to tell you the truth. But by Laura taking our interview outside into the cold (You can hear me freezing in that interview – it’s not nervousness I swear) SBS Live This Week had an opportunity to MOVE from where I had it originally, and into the studio where it now resides with all the best toys to make it look the way it does on screen. More importantly – I learned very quickly how versatile I would have to be, and an empathy for what makes people comfortable in situations like these.
And man did we laugh! What a great first experience into the “show” business – I thought she represented herself very well – there’s not too much BS in the SBS shows I like to think – that is the REAL Laura Kelsey. We’ve always been committed to showing bands and artists in their best light – if you NEED a second shot at a question – we’re cool with that kind of thing – we WANT you to be at your best because we want the WORLD to see you. Some do need that, and some don’t – there’s others that wouldn’t care or wouldn’t want to edit their “mistakes” if that’s what you can even call a real life slip-up.
At the end of the day, and after everything you’ve all told me – you all want something REAL. Well I can tell you for a fact – because we still weren’t sure where we were going with this – that is the REAL Laura Kelsey you see in our interview with her on SBS Live – there’s hardly even an edit or chop on the floor – and though we did make her blue in colour (Not mood) – because the setting had moved so much from the control room to outside, it allowed for a quick minimal set up. This is the kind of thing, that after you standardize or solidify an idea like we have now with the show, well….that clearer vision always makes you re-examine your work for where you could have done better.
And while I myself could have shot or edited this better today maybe – I could never ask for more than Laura gave us on that night. Not only were BOTH performances outstanding, confident and clear – but her own easy going personality is still reflected in my work there today. She took it easy on a rookie setting up a brand new show – which again was able to teach me incredibly valuable lessons. That we’re all finding our way – but that we’re all in it together and connected somehow. We all need to be aware of each other working hard out there in our crafts and supporting the music. To keep on being reasonable and adaptable and respectful towards other genres and ideals.
LAURA KELSEY – I’ll personally never be able to thank you enough for this experience. It might not have ever even happened without a good first experience, from a talented artist like you to start….I don’t know. But I’m glad I don’t have to think about that because of how well that truly went. So from me, and from all of us at SBS….you have our eternal thank-yous.