Champion wins with unlikely combination of minimal techno and guitars
In a musical career spanning over twenty years, Montreal’s Maxime Morin has recorded CDs and EPs of house and techno music, played in heavy metal, punk and Top 40 bands, and now – in a culmination of his experiences that sounds as unique and wholly personal as an album can – has combined his mastery of the guitar with his skills as an electronica producer to create Chill ‘Em All, released this week by Saboteur Records.
His agenda clear from the start, Morin, recording now as Champion, never strays from a basic theme of layering guitar loops over minimal techno, showing that such a simple combination can succeed as effectively as, say, the guitar, bass and drums setup did for decades of rock’n'roll.
"It’s all guitars," explains Morin of his sound. "On the album I only used 909s, 808s [seminal Roland drum machines] and guitars. Some percussion here and there, but no synth sounds." The result is a thoroughly listenable exploration of two seemingly disparate elements of musical culture, one that will appeal as easily to techno fans as it will to rock, blues or folk enthusiasts.
"I played guitar for about 15 years," tells Morin. "I stopped playing when I was about 27. I was very technical, playing Eruption by Van Halen, but I got to the point where I realized that I had nothing to tell anymore with the guitar, and it became extremely boring." Like many, including myself, during the early ’90s, Morin embarked on a journey of realization that brought him slowly from metal to electronic music and the rave scene that it belonged to.
"When you’re 13, heavy metal is cool, but at 25, the people are all fucking posers, superficial. More and more I was giving less time to my metal friends and hanging out at Foufounes’s techno Sundays, and slowly I got hooked on this. Musically, metal was done, finito – all the new stuff was about electronic music. Then a girlfriend brought me to a warehouse party! Even at that time there was a big difference between house music people, who were kind of the wrong people to hang out with for me ’cause we were rockers, and the warehouse parties, where there were gays, lesbians and transvestites, punks, and I felt more at home." Of course, Morin had to get over the aversion to dance music common among metal heads. "Totally, I was like ‘Dance music is crap!’ So it was actually a big liberation, to lose my fear of dance music."
While all 11 tracks contain Morin’s guitar loops, the riffs and tone of the work is a far cry from metal. "Of the songs with singing," he elaborates, "The Plow is a gospel, and the lyrics from the other two are from Negro Songs of Protest. Lawrence Gellert, an Austrian immigrant, he started recording black prisoners in the South in the ’30s and made these albums, it’s really interesting."
The album is launched in grand fashion Monday evening, where Morin will be accompanied by four guitarists, a bassist and singer onstage at the SAT. "When we play together, I just play the drums, nothing artificial, so that way people know who’s doing what. When you see a live performance and it’s just a freaking DAT, or it’s just a playback, they press play and then smoke a cigarette, I think that sucks. When I play live, it’s live – it’s improvisation. I’m proud of that."
Chill ‘Em All CD launch at SAT, Nov. 15, at 5 p.m.