By 1994, Cool Blue Halo was about two or three years old, and we had experienced two or three line-up changes in that time. Our most recent line-up to that point involved Paul Boudreau and I (the two band founders) and drummer extraordinaire Cliff Gibb, with Paul on guitar and myself on bass, as our most recent bassist and vocalist, Melanie Rusinak, had left to form a wonderful new band, Chaz Rules. Paul, Cliff and I recorded a song with Terry Pulliam (whose Soundmarket Studios was Ground Zero for so many indie bands in the early 90s), 52 Pickup, which has never been issued on CD but which you can find on YouTube (maybe it’ll make the 25th anniversary Kangaroo set – ha!). Shortly after that, Cliff amicably left CBH to join the mighty Thrush Hermit.
After a few years of line-up changes and stops and starts, both Paul and I were feeling a little glum. From what I can recall, Paul wanted to take a little break before trying to find another drummer and/or bassist. Or maybe we both decided to take a little hiatus. Either way, CBH took an indefinite break as a performing and recording entity while Paul and I thought about next steps.
At that point, I was working as a DJ at a couple of local Halifax clubs – the Double Deuce and the Club Flamingo – and was immersing myself in a lot of new music. A lot of us locals were enthralled by the latest My Bloody Valentine album, Loveless (true story – I bought the cassette copy originally and took it back to the store, thinking it was defective. Upon getting my replacement copy, I realized the slurring sonics were intentional, which made me love it even more). I was also getting into Swervedriver, Radiohead, Suede, and tons of other new bands from the UK and US that were moving away from “rock and roll” and making very adventurous and ambitious recordings. One night after work, I wrote a song on bass at about 3am or so which, in my head, alternated between a very heavy, menacing bass riff and what I called “sparkly guitars.” I banged out the lyrics and then, some time later, went to Terry Pulliam to book some studio time and attempt recording it.
If I recall correctly, Terry had a series of samples from one of his other clients on a cassette tape, and we took a drum loop from it. From there we dug out his formidable create of vintage guitar pedals, connected guitars and basses through all manner of effects and gizmos, and when Terry would raise his eyebrows that certain way (anyone who has ever recorded with him knows that look), I knew we were doing something interesting.
I regarded the project as a necessary therapy session and not necessarily as a releasable product. But fairly soon after recording it, other musicians working with Terry – many of them friends – had mentioned that they had heard the song and really liked it. So Terry offered to release the song, along with the CBH recording of 52 Pickup, as a Cool Blue Halo 45 via his own imprint, which had the appropriate moniker of Release Records. Meanwhile, a good friend of mine from Halifax, James Parker, had moved to Toronto to go to film school and asked if he could create a video for the song as a school project, with his classmate and friend Shannon Duhasky.
The video was surreal, stunning, and benefited greatly from only having me appear in the final 10 seconds. It ran at an art opening on a continuous loop. Somehow, it made its way to MuchMusic which, at the time, championed indie music and innovative videos. Then-VJ Sook-Yin Lee was particularly fond of the video and she played it often (for which we are eternally grateful), and at the 1995 MuchMusic Video Awards, we were up for three awards. We didn’t win any, but I do recall drunkenly yelling “GOWAN!” across a room at the party/broadcast and then hiding behind a desk before he turned around. (Forgive the audio quality of the clip linked to in this post as it appears to have taped off the TV from an episode of ‘MuchEast.’ And for the record, I dig Gowan, particularly that first record.)
Eventually, Paul and I decided to take another stab at performing as Cool Blue Halo again. I decided to poach a couple of musicians from other bands that I’d seen at the Deuce – bassist/guitarist Jason Ives from Spike N, drummer Glenn MacCulloch from the Booming Airplanes – and met with both of them at different times at the wonderful Trident Café to propose joining the band. Luckily, they did, and we went on to create an album that sounds markedly different from this track, but definitely more in line with the original vision for Cool Blue Halo.
This track is now being offered for the first time on CD and digitally on the DWRecordings remastered re-issue of that album, Kangaroo. For a song that was intended to be more of an experiment than anything else, I’m happy that it’s had an opportunity to re-emerge. Listening to it in conjunction with the Kangaroo material we recorded with Laurence Currie is an interesting exercise in “compare and contrast” – indeed, we took a stab at re-recording the song as a band with Laurence for the album, and now you can listen to both. I’ve always said that you can dress a pop song in any number of outfits – a sharp suit or a scuzzy t-shirt and jean combo – but at its heart it will always be a pop song. If it resonates, it doesn’t matter what it’s wearing.
I remember getting a call at home in Halifax in 1995 from an A&R rep who was working with Polygram in Toronto at the time. He had seen the video and was quite intrigued to hear more from this mystery band from the East Coast. While nothing came of it in the end, I took a small amount of pride from hearing him say: “I don’t know what the hell this is, but I like it.” What more can one ask for? – BW, 2017