A few months after releasing New Worlds, a sophomore album filled to the brim with ravaging sounds and an alarming social message, Montréal electro trio Black Tiger Sex Machine continues its conquest of the world.

Being huge sci-fi fans, Marc-André Chagnon, Julien Maranda, and Patrick Barry came up with a lively and fiery post-apocalyptic stage show for their lengthy tour, one that will see them criss-cross North America and Asia after making the rounds of the summer electronic music festival circuit. “We’ve always loved movies like Blade Runner and Mad Max, which happen in worlds that don’t exist, and where we wouldn’t want to live, but by which we’re still mesmerized,” says Maranda.

The three musicians and entrepreneurs founded Kannibalen Records, home to Apashe and Lektrique, among others, and they’re in complete control of their artistic offering, which is rooted in a sci-fi story with countless plot twists. Dressed in feline headgear, the characters they play onstage are the leaders of a cult, the “BTSM Church,” whose goal is to fight the evil forces of German doctor Kannibalen. Having come to North America to treat people contaminated by a bacteria, the scientist loses his mind when his entire family dies, and he proceeds to synthesize the original virus to better contaminate water sources, turning people into cannibals.

The video for “Zombie,” launched last spring, shows us that ever since the release of Welcome to Our Church in 2016, the “BTSM Church” rebels have lost ground, and the fate of the human race could hardly be less assured. That’s where the concept of this second album – an industrial electro-house affair with hints of dubstep – lives: in exploring the countless ways evil forces win over good ones. The song titles alone (“War,” “Madness,” “Artificial Intelligence,” “Replicants”) signal the issues that motivate their creators. “We’re interested in technology and politics, and hot topics like artificial intelligence, which can bring about both positive and negative changes,” says Barry.

“Just think about the impact that artificial intelligence will have on the middle class, soon enough. Some jobs will be robotized, and unless you’re a strategist or a creative, you’re likely to suffer from that,” says Chagnon. “Sure, humans have always come up with solutions, but right now our problems are bigger than ever, especially for the environment.”

New Worlds is the embodiment of the rather pessimistic worldview shared by the creative trio. “We write our music as the soundtrack to a movie where all our emotions are channelled. The more intense passages in our songs are clearly about what makes us anxious, but there are more ambient and atmospheric moments, too,” says Barry.

“It’s all about how we question the world we live in,” continues Maranda. “Being from Montréal, it’s easy to be more optimistic, because we do have a certain level of environmental awareness, but we saw something entirely different in China. There are way too many people and pollution is extreme. We’re not judging, but we gather information.”

Asian Boom and DIY Spirit

Black Tiger Sex MachineLuckily, their observations didn’t alter the trio’s Asian experience. In that booming market, where the number of fetivals double every year (they claim), these three – who’ve been friends since their early teens – were piqued the interest of many promoters, and a slew of new fans.

“Our set in South Korea was super-tight, with a huge LED wall behind us. Right after the show, we felt the impact; some bookers from Thailand wanted to invite us to the Full Moon Party. We had to decline because we were in China on that day, and playing Chicago after that… Luckily, we’re going in November, and our agent told us to be prepared to play in Asia five or six times a year. I think the very lively aspect of our brand is central to all that, as is our very cinematic vibe.”

Although Black Tiger Sex Machine has very little media presence in Québec, they can be proud of making it abroad without the support of a major record label. Founded in 2009, the trio started as a DJ team in Montréal, before exploding on the scene thanks to its first Kannibalen event at Belmont, a legendary club on the Main (as locals call Saint-Laurent Boulevard). “We were asked if we could organize a big event in that big venue in only 10 days, and we’d never done anything like that!” Chagnon recalls. “Against all odds, there were no other electro events in Montréal that night, and 500 kids showed up. It was a true home run! The energy was unbelievable, it was like a Skrillex show.”

After several more editions of the event, they had a brilliant idea: turn the Kannibalen brand into a record label. “I was listening to this BBC podcast where Pedro Winter, an agent to Justice and Daft Punk, explained how he transformed his Ed Banger event into a record label,” says Maranda. “On a smaller scale, we also had the opportunity to create a fan base that was aware of our brand, so all we had to do was find a way to connect all those people with our releases. Obviously, we had no idea how to get such a project on the road, so we relied on our background and our instinct to make it as professional as possible.”

Then, step by step, the guys found their respective strengths. Patrick Barry’s degree in finance led him to take control of accounting, while remaining the band’s keyboardist and main melodist. Marc-André Chagnon took the helm to create of their live shows, including the sound mix and visuals, while Julien Maranda became responsible for marketing, booking tours, and mixing and mastering their releases. He’s also in charge of controlling the lights in the feline helmets using his finger drum.

In short, this trio is a blazing example of what the do-it-yourself philosophy does best. “We made a few mistakes early on, but in the end, we managed to build an excellent work ethic. And I think our ethic is among the best in the province,” says Maranda, “because we’re one of the bands that tour the most internationally. Above all, we showed it’s possible to get into that game even without much experience. We simply grew any which way we could, organically, step by step.”

The band will play at ÎleSoniq on August 10.

Gavin Sheppard, seated in Public Records’ basement bunker headquarters in downtown Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, is discussing urban infrastructure. Specifically, urban music infrastructure. Although the city’s spending another year with its highest-profile hip-hop and R&B exports topping charts, collecting awards, and headlining festivals, these internet-fueled global successes have been accomplished despite the domestic industry’s long-standing lack of investment in urban music.

“The argument for a long time has been that [urban music is] a smaller market and, at this point, we know it’s undeniably the largest market across the country and beyond,” says Sheppard. “There’s a larger conversation here about Canada’s inability to admit how racist it is. Doesn’t mean every individual within the country is a racist person – that’s why it’s called institutionalized racism. But the first black A&R in this country was hired in 2005. That’s insane.”

Sheppard points out that for years Canadian urban music was relegated to “street marketing,” until Universal finally established a department. He says that there’s still an overall “lack of label infrastructure, in terms of people that can recognize the talent at the very beginning, and develop it, market it, and promote it.” He also cites how few people of colour are booking agents, club promoters and in management companies. “I don’t mean any disrespect to very few people that do occupy these spaces – but in terms of an institutional level, it’s almost non-existent.”

Sheppard has spent his career trying to change this.

He’s been in the music game for two decades–first as a high-schooler hawking mixtapes, then as a fledgling manager for friends, including Toronto rapper Rochester – and in the community development game for about as long. In 2000, he co-founded a hip-hop youth program called Inner City Visions that began as a community centre drop-in, with breakdancing, MC battles and DJ lessons, before adding free studio access that attracted lines of young artists who couldn’t afford recording time.

Pilla B

Pilla B

In the wake of 2005’s Summer of the Gun, this grassroots effort got funding to evolve into the now-internationally renowned Remix Project to bring more urban music-based business opportunities to Toronto’s marginalized communities. Boasting the slogan “get money, make change,” this nonprofit incubator has fostered such talents as Jessie Reyez, who Sheppard still works with as a consultant, as well as wunderkind beat-maker WondaGurl, and JUNO-winning rapper/producer Rich Kidd.

“About a year ago, I was thinking about what my next steps were, given the reality that I was aged out of being a young person,” Sheppard says, noting Remix prides itself on being a youth-led initiative. “I wanted to continue to have an impact. To continue to be involved in music and culture. To complement the work that we’d been doing, by adding to the infrastructure, and becoming yet another exit strategy for young people looking to change their scenarios and get into music full-time and actually make a career of it.”

Public Records launched last spring as a partnership with Universal Music Canada to specifically address these industry gaps and develop new urban acts. The label’s first rap release was Pilla B’s album 1 Year to The Day, produced by Harley Arsenault, and executive produced by Noah “40” Shebib as his first non-OVO project. The title references the release date, a year after Pilla was shot, and his best friend/musical collaborator Yung Dubz was killed.

“It follows a very traumatic experience and outlines his perspectives and his mental and emotional state,” Sheppard explains. “The content is very raw, but it’s also an entry point to start creating a new reality, for not just himself, but his immediate family and his immediate peers. One of the most important things when you’re dealing with a lot of trauma is to be able to talk about it, and talk about it in a healthy way, and be able to say things that are even outlandish sometimes to get them off of your chest.”



Public has also signed charismatic 21-year-old R&B singer-songwriter Surauchie from Toronto’s North York who, Sheppard says, “really accurately represents where a lot of young people’s heads are at – she authentically embodies ‘now.’” And their first non-local signing is Tiara Thomas from Indianapolis, a singer who first made waves with a feature on Wale’s 2013 hit “Bad,” and signals the label is also seeking talent beyond Toronto.

Public Records wants to find and nurture “emerging world-class” artists in need of opportunity. But Sheppard says he doesn’t want to tie them down with long contracts and options like the majors might. Instead, it’s geared primarily toward propelling these artists to the next level. Then they can decide if they want to stay on, sign directly to Universal or another major, or go totally independent and leverage corporate partnerships.

“It’s a label setup that is very much a launching pad for careers, to get people into that international space,” he says. “So it’s still get money, make change.”

SOCAN’s new Board of Directors for 2018-2021 has elected its President and officers, as well as appointed the chair and members of its four committees.

Heading the Board, and the Executive Governance Committee, as President and Chair is Marc Ouellette, who was a board member of the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada (SODRAC) from 2000 to 2006, and was its President in 2006. He was also a board member of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) and has been a board member of the Société professionnelle des auteurs et compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ), including two years as President from 2002 to 2004.

Other officers of the Board include Jennifer  Mitchell as first Vice-Chair, Rosaire Archambault as second Vice-Chair, Vivian Barclay as secretary, Earl Rosen as treasurer, and Stan Meissner as past President.

Glenn Morley is the chair of the Tariff, Licensing & Distribution Committee; Ed Henderson chairs the Membership Committee; Past President Stan Meissner will chair the Risk Identification & Management Committee, and co-chairs the Pension Plan Committee.