Colin MacKenzie

Colin MacKenzie

Byta & Envision Management

Byta North America - preaching the gospel.

This interview is also available in French

Who are you?

Colin Mackenzie

Where are you based?

Montreal, Canada

Where do you work? What do you do?

Alongside Byta. I also work at Envision Management and Production – artist strategy, grant writing. Management – artist Jerry Granelli, a great improv drummer (Vince Guaraldi Trio drummer, played on A Charlie Brown Christmas). Working on a short animated film with the NFB in Canada.

What are you listening to?

Lately – like right now..and this will change tomorrow, or next week…
New Jungle album is a fun listen – old disco vibes… And yea, the videos are killer too. I am a sucker for Sharon Van Etten – always happy when a new album comes out from her direction. I just bought this old Kris Kristofferson album – The Silver Tongued Devil and I, his 2nd I think, sounds a lot like Leonard Cohen. Also Silla and Rise – two Inuit Throat singers and a DJ. I have been digging back into those recently released Prince demos – Piano & A Microphone 1983, I dig the new Neneh Cherry, the new Cat Power, Kamasi Washington, the new Charles Lloyd with Lucinda Williams, Bedouine, Brian Owens’ Soul of Cash – Johnny Cash tribute, a gift and I love it. New J Mascis is always a treat, new Jessica Moss is sonic poetry. It is all a bit schizophrenic, in that I am reading and listening to a lot of stuff and so end up jumping out of an article or podcast to dig into some music reference that was mentioned… That can lead to the rabbit hole effect… and popping my head out in the world of Chinese Hip Hop or Ukulele folk.

How do you find new music?

Strangely daytime is not where I make a lot of music discoveries – much of what we listen to at the Envision office does not tend to be “new music” – unless we get sent demos by one of the artists we work with. Folks tend to listen to their own soundtracks with headphones on. This is a new situation, due to growth at Envision (so all good) – used to just be two of us taking turns on the workday soundtrack – throwing down new discoveries for each other, which was fun. These days there are too many choices, and too many tastes when it comes to our office Sonos system. That being said I do try and slip new discoveries into our office playlist.

But we do run Spotify, and so the playlists that get a lot of spins are Spotify’s Outliers, Release Radar and Discovery Weekly. Then we punch in various genre names into the “playlists” and roll with that. When tension bubbles up, deadlines and such… the office requests anything “chill”. Basically, put “Chill” in front of any genre of music… And it ends up being a mellow office-friendly version of that music, then I sometimes head for the earbuds. So right now, in these winter months, I do crave and search out music that has a little more crunch/edge to it outside of office hours. I do have to admit I had no idea Chillhop was a thing…

Outside of the Spotify world, I check the Pitchfork reviews each morning as well as what is on the NPR First Listen, and will every two weeks or so tune into All Songs Considered also on NPR, I check Canada’s national music mag Exclaim, as well as music in The New Yorker. I also have an old school subscription to the Sunday New York Times and a French paper in Montreal Le Devoir. So I scan their music sections each week for tips/surprises as well.

I do not do Facebook, but I do hear about a lot of new music from emails via various publicists and record labels and a little from Twitter.

We work with a number of interesting artists at Envision and so I also come to a lot of music through their suggestions and who they might be working with or touring with at any given moment.

When I go out to see shows – opening bands can still be a great surprise.

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

I listen to music at work, as well as at home. I like to dial in the RAWK station in my home town when driving solo that would be CHOM-FM (I heard some writer in New York asking if Rock radio is even still a thing… Ahhhhh, yea dude, in Montreal it is). I like to tune in just to see how many tunes it takes them to get to a Led Zeppelin, or a Police, or Pink Floyd track. I make very few discoveries there but I do relive my 14 year old self. On longer trips in the car I will break out some new music. My family lives a 10 hour drive from me, so LOTS of driving time… With a bluetooth speaker I mix it up between investigative and music podcasts like NYT’s Popcast and also play music on my iPhone and Spotify. The old car still has a CD player so I gather up my old music and toss a pile into the back seat, if I have company in the passenger seat they play DJ.

My dad just gave me an old CD player, Denon 5 CD player. So literally last night I put 5 CDs into the player at home and let it go – DJ Shuffle repeat – but I had no way to play a CD at home for about 6-9 months before that.
NO to cassettes, I got rid of my double cassette deck (for making dubs and mixtapes) about 8 years ago, but I still have some… and yes to LPs. I have lots of LPs and still give them a spin and still buy them at shows, record shops… In fact, I just replaced my needle/cartridge and a friend of mine just gave me a leather turntable matt (sorry PETA) not sure if it really works… Am going to really test it with some new Jazz, Glenn Gould and yes my fresh new blue Sharon Van Etten album. I tend to buy an LP by an artist I really like and want to support… often when I see them live.

A friend just gave me a classical album – Daniil Trifonov a crazy piano player, as well as a giant box set of John Coltrane LPs. So that may be my listening homework for the next few weeks.

A lot of what I listen to around the house can also end up being off Spotify. It is super easy… and I can call up whatever is on my brain or what I just read or heard about and dip my toe in to see if it’s “just right”.

Where do you do most of your music listening?

Probably split between work and home… And some in motion – walking with buds in my ears. Podcasts about music or music I have on my iPhone… I do not have unlimited data so I will also download some albums on Spotify to listen to in transit

As mentioned I have Sonos at work… at home too where the “stereo system – CD player and turntable, is nothing crazy or vintage (just old) or crazy high end (my friend’s turntable cartridge cost more than my whole set up), but solid and does the job and makes the piles of CDs and LPs seem relevant, helps rationalize the “collection” gets me out of my chair to flip an LP, look at the cover, liner notes.

How do find and listen to pre-release music?

Because of what I do for a living and some of my connections, I do get advances from a few record companies – I download them to my computer and drag them into my iTunes. Also, get advances through Byta. I tend to tune into various websites that do 1st listens, NPR, CBC Radio First Play, Pitchfork and the French side of CBC – in Montreal, NYT used to do some, Guardian, etc.

Of course, I get tracks sent to me from the artists I work with – often private Soundcloud links, or via WeTransfer, DropBox, etc. I get sent rough demos and finished mixes, all pre-release material.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

I used to live and die with iTunes, but in the last couple of years, it has become more of a pain in the ass. I stick with Spotify to quickly “listen” to anything anyone suggests to me – my fast fix.

Soundcloud links and streaming links in general actually have been frustrating because I will listen to the track and then a week later have no idea where the link is and have to go back to my email to dig around and try and remember where it came from and from who.

When I get sent tracks via WeTransfer I then need to download them to my computer, Dropbox, same thing… and then I have to spend what seems like hours dropping in titles and names and such once I input the tracks into iTunes.

Trying to listen to anything on Youtube drives me nuts because it shuts down if you go someplace else on your iPhone. But that is a spot where I find things…

I notice more and more a lot of the artists of interest to me have stuff on BandCamp.

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

I will make playlists and am just starting to do a better job of putting a “star” on the material in Spotify.

Obviously, the LPs just keep taking up more and more room in my apartment, I need to do some spring cleaning in that dept for sure… Just ask my partner…

I have a folder on my desktop at work and at home usually, they contain different “albums” so I want to play something and it is literally left at work on my computer not synced on the mighty cloud so at home I can not listen to it if it is not out yet, on Spotify. I also, once a year or every 18 months… Have to go through my laptop to “clean out” anything I do not need as my hard drive fills up with films and songs and pictures…

Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

Yes. Totally.

Every year I make a best-of compilation – of fave tracks from the year, I send that digital mixed tape- 15-20 tracks to about 50-60 people every Christmas Morning (North American time). That used to reflect the music I had purchased over the last 12 months, but now it is just music I have heard that I liked, maybe bands I have been to live that past year and re-discoveries.

I also send notes to my friends and email a link, either a track, a video on YouTube, or an article about an artist, I let friends know a new album is out and they should check it out. I will even buy iTunes albums for friends to get them on-side (I have older friends)… Now also starting to send Spotify links to people if an album is out in the world.

Anything you want to “promote”?

Oh, yea… Lots of great things. New Tim Hecker Konoyo: kind of awesome, the Colin Stetson soundtrack to the horror film Hereditary. Should definitely check out the “How To Be Alone” Tanya Davis video. Also, new Richard Reed Parry video that goes with his new album Quiet River of Dust. Jerry Granelli’s album – Dance Hall has some great versions of music he came up with, throughout his career. Great winter music: New Kid Koala album; Music to Draw to:io.

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