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Call & Response: Solvent

Call & Response: Solvent

Like most cities around the world, Toronto is experiencing a third wave of electro. Local hero Jason Amm (aka Solvent) has been making underground electro pop for over a decade now - since electro's second wave.

He loves analogue synthesizers - which date back to the early days of the genre, and he loves singing through a vocoder. What's not to love? His greatest hits CD Demonstration Tape (1997-2007) is essential listening, and his song "My Radio" should be heard by anyone who likes any kind of pop music.

Solvent and long-time friend/collaborator Lowfish cram their keyboards into the Rivoli tomorrow night, as part of their "Now We Are Dead" tour (an unfortunate goodbye to their former label Suction Records). I spoke with Solvent about his favourite city, his favourite band, and about the death of vinyl pressing in Canada.

Keep reading for the complete interview.

blogTO: Why are you called Solvent?

Solvent: It's the name of a song from the first Skinny Puppy EP. When I first started I was really into the goth/industrial scene and I imagined I would make really dark music, so naming myself after a Skinny Puppy song made more sense then than it does now.

How would you describe your music using only one word?

Synthpop (but that word can mean a lot of things, and most of those things are really terrible!)

You were born in Zimbabwe - a pretty exotic birthplace. Did you live there for a while or were you just born there by chance?

It's where my father came from, but I only lived there for a little over a year.

How long have you lived in Toronto? What do you like best about living here?

I grew up in Scarborough and have lived in downtown Toronto for about ten years. I tour all over the world so I do a lot of traveling, and it doesn't get much better than Toronto in my opinion. It's got everything you'd want in a big city, but without all the usual crime and filth!

This tour coincides with your "Now We Are Dead" 12-inch EP with Lowfish. Does the end of vinyl pressing in Canada bother a Canadian vinyl lover like yourself?

I was bummed out about that because we were going to press our 12-inch there, and now we're getting it pressed in Detroit instead. In theory it's kinda sad that you can no longer press a record in Canada, but since I'm no longer running a record label, I can't really complain about it too much. Obviously the demand isn't there, which I'm sure is in no small part to there's something that is affecting vinyl lovers. Soon the demand will be so low that it might even become too difficult and expensive to press vinyl anywhere.

Your favourite band is Soft Cell. Like me, most people only identify them as a one-hit wonder for "Tainted Love". What other songs should Soft Cell be remembered for?

That one-hit wonder status for Soft Cell is really unfortunate, especially since "Tainted Love" is a cover version, while they were top-notch songwriters. But it's only like that in North America; they had several top 10 hits in the UK/Europe. Personally I like their early demo material the best, but that might be too lo-fi and weird for most people. For starters, "Memorabilia" is a fantastic & timeless proto-techno track, and "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" is a perfect pop ballad that is just overflowing with emotion.

What do you hope happens in 2008?

I'm going to be completely focussed on completing my next record.

What can you tell us about your upcoming full-length record?

I think it will be a vocal-heavy record if it turns out like I want it to. Some of it's going to sound very un-Solvent-like and hopefully turn some heads, but I don't want the whole thing to be like that. There will definitely be songs on there for the old Solvent fans too.

"Now We Are Dead" Tour
Featuring Solvent, Lowfish with Team Dethlab
Saturday, January 19
The Rivoli
332 Queen Street West
$12 adv at Rotate This, Soundscapes, Ticketmaster

Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with artists from or playing in Toronto.

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