Where are you based?
Where do you work? What do you do?
I am the Co-Director of Choir! Choir! Choir!, an interactive musical project that turns a room full of strangers into an awesome choir in one evening. I also make films, TV and my own music as Mister Nobu.
What are you listening to?
I’ve been really into instrumental piano like Alexandra Streliski and cinematic soundscapes by Max Richter (Sleep) and Nils Frahm. Reading Booker T’s autobiography from last year took me back to listening to all the soul greats which never time out – Otis, Aretha, Sam & Dave. And over the last few years, I finally got into country music, getting into the masters from Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, Dolly, Nick Lowe, Emmylou Harris Conway Twitty, George Jones, Buck Owens, Bobby Bare etc etc, to tunes from the show Nashville (nothing is too cheesy). I have found my way back to DJ Krush and love the upbeat live feeds Fatboy Slim has been doing during the pandemic.
How do you discover new music?
So many of my friends are amateur musicologists and so I’m always being told about a new (or new to me) musician or band – like Burna Boy, Bill Ricchini, Emitt Rhodes, Bill Fay, Hannah Cohen, Charlotte Adigery and many more. Sometimes, Spotify’s algorithm gets it right and will suggest something I love – that’s how I’ve discovered newer buzzy acts like Big Thief + Cass McCombs + Drugdealer + Weyes Blood. The new onslaught of music docs has reminded me of music (and the people behind it) to get me back into a particular artist or album. I fell on the Teddy Pendergrass doc the other night and now I’m back to listening to him and The Blue Notes a ton. Other times, I’ll remember one song and then explore through streaming to find their catalogue – I’ve always loved Labi Siffre’s tune “My Song” and the other day it popped in my head which led me to going through his discography – which is really fantastic. As a touring musician, I also discover a lot of music at festivals we play. I had heard of Perfume Genius and Michael Kiwanuka but seeing them play live at Sasquatch made me appreciate them, and listen to them, a whole lot more. But I always feel like I’m missing something. I go to bandcamp and get easily overwhelmed by the sheer volume of excellent music being made and quietly released. I also just downloaded the app Radio Garden to tune into live radio from around the world after a pal highly recommended Radio Octopus (France) and Radio Couleur Chartreuse. So far so good. And because I’m anticipating getting a belated Tshirt from one of the best Toronto bands of all time, I’ve been going through The Deadly Snakes’ records. Still amazing.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?
Streaming because it’s so easy. Oddly, CD’s because I bought a used car a couple years back and it has a player, allowing me to resuscitate my collection from years gone by. People also throw away CDs a lot and I find myself picking them up in random hallways and street corners. Vinyl is on hold until I get a new system up and running but I just got an incredible pressing of Matthew Grimson’s posthumous release. I’m into digital and the huge breadth that is available to us now, but sitting down to vinyl is more than appreciating the form and the warmth of the sound, it’s also about giving yourself time to do nothing but just listen to music.
“I’m into digital and the huge breadth that is available to us now, but sitting down to vinyl is more than appreciating the form and the warmth of the sound, it’s also about giving yourself time to do nothing but just listen to music.”
Where do you do most of your music listening?
I listen to music when I run, in the bath, lounging on the couch, in my car. I’m a bit in transition so it’s never a fancy set up but looking forward to putting together a very intimate/high quality listening area.
How do you find and listen to pre-release music?
I get lucky when friends send me their music before it’s released but that doesn’t happen all that often. I’m happy to wait to hear it when it comes out but it’s always fun to hear something while it’s being put together to watch it morph.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
The main frustration is that the sound quality isn’t optimized. In-ear headphones have never fit properly for me so I’m never getting a good EQ, if I’m out for a walk or run. If files are sent via email, I have to transfer them to VLC otherwise the music stops when my phone powers down.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
These days, Spotify is where I do most of my listening. But I don’t invest a whole lot of time to build up playlists and archive artists I want to listen to. I’m lazy and don’t want to spend all that time on my screens. The best part of music is that it’s always there… somewhere.
Discover the #HowWeListen Playlist
Listen to the #HowWeListen 2021 Picks playlist. Curated by this year’s interviewees.
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
I post on social media. But there’s always conversations with friends going on where we are sharing our listening over texts and chats.
Anything you want to “promote”?
Arts & Crafts just released my latest full-length record TAVIE which you can pick up at misternobu.com – some form of emo-indie-pop – or check it out on the streams. My Choir! Choir! Choir! Project keeps running, despite the pandemic – lately, we covered Across The Universe with Rufus Wainwright on lead and 1500 singers from around the globe who submitted vids. Find us online! I think everyone should listen to Marker Starling, a Toronto musician who has been at it for years, and just gets better with every release. André Ethier (formerly The Deadly Snakes) keeps coming out with mellow gems. Halifax’s Smaller Hearts have such a great vibe. Look up DATU, another Toronto-based band who mix their Phillipino roots with Soul/RnB to create something really fresh. My pal Bill Travis has performed as Mushkat for more than a couple decades and his latest “Still Life Lessons” is great. Amaara’s ‘Heartspeak’ has solid vibes.
"People also throw away CDs a lot and I find myself picking them up in random hallways and street corners."