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INTERVIEW – Ian Thornley of Big Wreck, March 2013

| 15 March 2013 | Reply

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ToddStar: First of all, thanks for taking time out for 100% Rock, we really appreciate it.  We know you’re busy, so we appreciate you taking time out for us.

Ian: It’s no problem at all man.

ToddStar: If it’s OK with you I’d like to jump in and discuss Albatross, the new album that just dropped here in the US. Ever since I got my first listen to this thing, and since I was able to go pick it up a couple of days ago; this things been in my normal rotation of albums, and I find I’m listening to it over, and over.  What can you tell us about the disc that someone might not know, first or second run through?

Ian: What do you mean, as far as actually listening to it?  I’m not sure I understand the question.

ToddStar: Just some of the history behind it, some of the anecdotes and the recording and the disc in general.

Ian: First and foremost, we didn’t know it was going to be a Big Wreck album when we started recording it.  We just went into the studio to record some music.  I think from a personal standpoint, I was happy to be out of the deal that I was in prior to that.  So, we had this unwritten mission statement going into the studio, which was to do whatever felt right, regardless of whether there was a guy behind a desk somewhere who though it would fit into some radio format.  And that was really freeing and really… that just set the stage for us to have a lot of fun, and make what I think is a great record, without any real compromises, or sort of trimming the fat for commercial sake.  Like I said, we weren’t going into it to make a Big Wreck album per se, it was just a record, it was time to make a record, and it was time to not make formula rock.  Because I sort of feel like I’ve been squeezed into that box, to a certain degree, on the last couple of records, uh, Thornley albums.  So it was just, I just wanted to make music, to be honest with you, and that’s the way it came out.  I think just the way it sounds and the way it sort of hits you, would be reminiscent of certainly the first Big Wreck album, because there was no record company involvement in that one, that was written and done before Atlantic Records got involved.  I guess there’s a similar feel, and of course the involvement of Brian just sort of, the whole thing lent itself to being called a Big wreck thing.  It actually helped close the last chapter for a bit.

ToddStar: OK, I mean was your intention when you started the writing process to maybe do something more under the name Thornley, or…?

Ian: I honestly didn’t give that any thought, it was just Ian Thornley in the studio, I didn’t give any thought.  I think it was Nick Raskulinecz who was the first one I think to say, this should be a Big Wreck album, and then Eric Ratz jumped right on that, put a BW sticker up on the track sheet.  That was about half way through the recording process, so I think when you look at the track sheet about fifty times a day,  every time you look up there you’d see that BW logo, it just took a while to sink in.  I was reticent at first to go with the Big Wreck thing, but it took a while to sink in, and once it did it was like, yeah why not?  You know, it’s still my tunes, it’s my playing, its my voice, why not?  You know, what’s the difference?

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ToddStar: In your mind, what makes this album, sonically different than your last couple of releases, whether it be a Big Wreck release or a Thornley release?

Ian: Sonically, it’s what I want to do, and I think that gets overlooked, just the way a record sounds.  To me that’s the… room that you’re walking into, and you hang your paintings and you put your furniture in, but I mean, the actual room itself is the way the record sounds.  And I don’t think anyone really cares about that any more, everything is so prefab now, you just hit a button and there’s your song, you know what I’m saying?  There’s your drum sound, there’s your guitar sound, there’s your vocal sound and go!  You know chorus line and make some wicked line in the verse.  Pick one of the five or six chord progressions that are available on whatever program and then go.  You’ve got a hit!  That’s fine and dandy for a lot of people, but I’m inspired by the atmosphere, and the sound of a song.  And I think that.. I know that there are a lot of engineers and producers who still give a shit about that, and still really want to learn more.  I already know a ton, and I think on this record, sonically it was… you know Eric Ratz  and I left to our own devices in the studio, that’s what’s going to happen.  We both like the same sort of thing, and just speaking about drum sounds for instance, he’s got a huge trick bag as far as “OK I want a big, roomy, John Bonham sound for this one.”  “OK I want the tight, Mick Fleetwood sound for this one.”  He knows exactly how to get all those sounds.  I don’t think those sounds are really being used a lot these days, but whatever.  To me it really helps with the atmosphere of the whole thing, and I think everything else will follow suit.  Same thing with the guitar sound, and the bass sound, and the vocal sound.  That’s not just cookie cutter, set up the mic, and go.

ToddStar: Listening through the disk, there are some songs that just jump out to me, I mean, obviously the disk opener Head Together, it’s a kick ass rocker.  But then you get later on in the disk and you get You Caught My Eye, which could almost feel ZZ Top playing in the room when I heard that song.

Ian: Well that’s what we were going for, for sure, kind of like our best Billy Gibbons impersonation.

ToddStar:  I like the fact that a lot of the songs really mix it up.  You even get, you know, Glass Room it’s just another one with high energy and a cool vibe created, but you hit that bass line, it’s just pretty strong in there…

Ian: Yeah.

ToddStar:… Are there any songs that you find yourself going back to and listening to, and saying, yeah, that’s just a great rock tune!?

Ian: Yeah I think… it’s one of the things that, the records been done for a while now and I still go back to occasionally and sit through it real quick, and we’ve been touring quite a bit here in Canada, so you have different favorite’s going on, from week to week let’s say.  But I’m really proud of the record, I think that it’s stood the test of time so far, I know It hasn’t been that long.  There’s nothing out there where I cringe, let’s put it that way.  I get that like with Glass Room, that’s sort of a different departure for me, song writing wise, and arrangement wise, but I love it.  Maybe because it’s a little bit different?  I didn’t go with any of my sort of, knee jerk, here’s how it’s going to sound, were going to go with these sort of things.  It was sort of a, let’s not bring in the big guitars for the chorus, how about we bring in a couple of twelve sting acoustics for the chorus, like, just sort of rethinking the whole; here’s how you get, a chorus to be bigger.  Or what would Tom Petty do as opposed to, what would Nickelback do?  You know, what would Tom Petty have done in the late 70s as opposed to, what Staind did on their last record, it’s never been… I guess you’re looking at it a different way.

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ToddStar: If you had to describe the sound of Big Wreck to somebody, how would you do that?

Ian: I have no idea  [Both Laugh]  Reading some of these reviews, some of it’s just bloody hurtful, so I try to stay away from all that shit.  You’ve got to listen to it and see if you like it, because there’s a lot of horrible, horrible descriptions out there that I think miss the mark completely.  And you wonder if people even have ears on their head!  I would say its quality rock and roll.  Its high quality rock and roll at competitive prices.  That’s how I’d describe it.

ToddStar: Yeah I loved that you mixed everything up.  Like you said earlier, there’s not that formula song writing on this, where every song is different, like, we talked about the ZZ Top and the Billy Gibbons thing.  You talk about Glass Room with the different feel; you went for blues, you went for acoustic, you went for rock, and I really appreciate that, as someone who listens to music.

Ian: Right on, I appreciate you saying that man.

ToddStar: Well like you said, this has been out in Canada for a while and you guys have been touring it, and you’re getting ready to hit the States, I think it’s in the beginning of April you’re going to be in Detroit.  When you’re performing live, are you mixing some of the material up evenly?  Are you digging more out of this one than older stuff?

Ian: Well, I don’t know, I’d say it’s a pretty even mix, and also dependent on the show and the venue.  Some of these gigs that we’ve done are hour shows, and we think 300 people are going to show up, and all of a sudden six thousand show up, and were like, OK, we’ll I’m not just gonna plow through the new album.  And I’m talking… this was like last summer so the album had been out for a couple of months, it just… I don’t think that’s fair to all the people that showed up.  They want to hear the old stuff, they want to hear that song, they want hear Blown Wide Open and the rest of it.  I still enjoy playing those tunes, there’s nothing wrong with that.  But as a band you probably enjoy playing the new stuff a little more.  There’s a fine line between pleasing yourself, and pleasing the people that pay to come see you.  If you can’t get off on your own music… I remember going to see, I don’t want to mention the band’s name, but going to see a band that I respected a lot, and they didn’t play one song that I knew.  Towards the end they even came back for an encore, and then played some sort of computer jammed, revamped version of a song that was almost a hit off of one of their early records.  But it was all new stuff that no one had heard, save maybe ten percent of the super, über-fans right in the front row.  The rest of us were like, what are we doing here, you know?  I don’t want to watch people experiment, I want to connect with the songs that I know and love.  I think for us it’s a nice mix of old and new, but always trying to keep the audience in mind, like, what are they getting off on?

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ToddStar: If you had to pick a band or two as a possible pairing for an ideal tour to go out on the road with Big Wreck, who would you take with you?

Ian: I don’t know.  We’ve been asked that a bunch, and I still have no idea.  It’s a tough one!  I’m sort of sick of the, I don’t know if you call it, active rock, or modern rock, and whatever it is, you grab a mic and go GRR go for it.  That’s a bit tired, and I don’t… I somehow, and for some reason we keep getting roped in with that shit, and I don’t get it.  [Laughs]  But then again you can’t very well rope us in with a blues act, or with the Black Crowes or something more jammy.  Were somewhere more in between, somewhere between sort of, slack tuned Agro Rock, and the sort of bluesy, jammy… we’re somewhere in the middle and I don’t know what other bands are.  And honestly I don’t listen to the radio or anything, so I’m not up to date.

ToddStar: Thank you for the segway! What was the last CD or MP3 you listened to that wasn’t your own music?

Ian: A John Schofield record called In a Peaceful Way or something like that, its a really mellow John Schofield record, and I was pretty blown away by it. I’ve been listening to quite a bit of that.

ToddStar: OK, that’s fair enough. Well listen I know you’re a busy man, and I appreciate the time, so I’ve got one more for you before we let you go. Ian, what’s the meaning of life?

Ian: The meaning of life?  Really!?  [Both laugh]  I don’t know, I really don’t know.  I’m still trying to figure that one out, I have no idea!  I can give you what the meaning of life today is… Trying to stay warm, and enjoying some good coffee, there you go, that’s the meaning of life for me today.  And I have, like three or four songs that I’ve got to finish writing, so there you go.

ToddStar: There you go! Other than making sure people see the Facebook and the website and all the social media, anything else you’d like to make sure we point people to?

Ian: Any and all shows that are coming up, I don’t even know, they’re sort of rolling in day by day.

ToddStar: Cool, we’ll make sure they get those lists, and again, thank you so much for taking time out for 100% Rock. We love the album, we love you guys, we can’t wait to see in Detroit in April!

Ian: Right on man, thank you.

ToddStar: Thanks Ian

Ian: Take care

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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