I met Ryan Purchase in grade 9 (we were 15), at Campbell Collegiate, in Regina. We hit it off immediately because we were both really into the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as well as the Lord of the Rings. I remember going over to his house and playing the HHGTTG text-based video game (which you can now play online – for free!! But be warned – it’s INFURIATING!!!), and listening to a lot of music – I’m pretty sure Ryan was the one who introduced me to Dread Zeppelin (oh yeah, we were both big Led Zeppelin fans). Basically, we liked all the same stuff – the only area we ever differed was Dr Who, which I never got into. We acted very silly in class, not exactly tormenting the teachers, but probably annoying and confusing them a lot. Mr Ransom, our French teacher, in particular. For example, a class exercise involving the phrase “j’aime le rosbif” spawned a whole four years of roast-beef-centered conversations, as well as roast beef sandwiches left on his desk as gifts.
We also both played in the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra (Ryan plays the trombone), we both went to the University of Regina for our B.Mus. degrees, we both played in the Regina Symphony Orchestra, and we lived in Toronto at the same time (Ryan for the two years of his M.Mus. at University of Toronto, me only for one year for the first year of an Artist Diploma at the Glenn Gould School of Music). We haven’t lived in the same city since, though – Ryan lived in Edmonton for many years, and eventually moved to Ottawa, while I travelled all over the place working on cruise ships for a few years, lived in Krakow for a year, then Vancouver for two years, and eventually settled in Montreal.
In 2004, we spent most of the month of May backpacking in Iceland. This was a life-changing experience for both of us. It’s imprinted so strongly on my psyche that it still feels like it just happened, even though it was more than a decade ago. We backpacked throughout the southern part of the country, where it was usually quite easy to find rides and places to stay, although we ended up several times at the hostel in Vik (the town at the southernmost point of the country, famous for it’s huge cliff overlooking a black sand beach and the rock figures in the water, which legend tells us are three trolls who were caught in the morning light after struggling to pull a captured ship to shore). We met tons of amazing people, both locals and travellers. There were two Scandinavian women around our age driving the circumference of Iceland who we bumped into several times and in several places throughout our trip!
When we wanted to go to the more remote areas in the north of the country, we rented a car for a week, a Volkswagon Golf which we named after the young woman who worked at the Vik hostel, Aesa. Unfortunately, the car rental used up our accommodations budget, so we slept in the car the whole time (except for one night in Siglufjordur, where we went to a hotel and had the whole place to ourselves). As uncomfortable as it was for the two of us to sleep in such a small car when it was still below freezing at night, we awoke in some pretty amazing places. Although once we woke up to discover we had slept in a school parking lot, that was more funny than amazing.
As you can probably imagine, Ryan and I have musically collaborated many times over the years. We’ve both attended KlezKanada many times, which is where I met a lot of musicians I play with regularly. We’re both into improvised music, and even though we’ve explored it in different ways, we have performed many times together, often through the IMOO series in Ottawa. Ryan recently released an album, Morphology of a Lover, which is pretty amazing, as was the entire process. He assembled a bunch of great improvisers (me, Mike Essoudry, Amy Horvey, Megan Jerome, Christian Dawid, and Ryan), and recorded us individually but in sequence, having either just an idea in our minds to explore, or sometimes a recording of only the previous person, which we reacted to. He then took all these separate improvised elements, and edited them together to create an incredibly cohesive and musical album.
Morphology of a Lover is one of the albums included in my “Complete Works of Joel Kerr” Indiegogo perk. Thanks Ryan!
Siach Hasadeh is the most spiritually rejuvenating group I play in. We take ancient Chassidic hymns and give them a modern interpretation, using various arranging techniques and a lot of improvisation. It’s very meditative and introspective music, but because of the element of improvisation, very expressive at the same time. Often, everyday life can be exhausting and spiritually draining. One of the reasons I play music is that a great musical experience will refresh me and uplift me. But some music does this more than others, and more consistently. Any time Siach Hasadeh performs, I feel revitalized – about music, life, and humanity in general.
The group is, at its core, a duo of myself on double bass and Yoni Kaston on clarinet. But we frequently collaborate with other musicians – and our collaboration with violinist Daniel Fuchs and cellist Gaël Huard has turned into another full-fledged iteration of the band, one where we have been working a lot with different improvisation exercises and techniques, searching for a larger vocabulary with which to interpret the melodies of the material we perform. We have also worked a lot with harmonica virtuoso Jason Rosenblatt and Turkish Oud player and maker Ismail Fencioglu, both on stage and in the studio. In the past we have also worked with Oud player Nicolas Royer-Artuso, cellist Jackie Fay, and percussionist Francois Landry.
I first met Yoni at KlezKanada, an annual Jewish culture and music retreat/camp in the Laurentian mountains just north of Montreal. We played a tune together at an open mic at about 4am, and the musical connection was immediately apparent. We discovered we both lived in Montreal, and the project developed from there.
This year we released our second album, Song of the Grasses. It was recorded, mixed and mastered by Adam Tiller, who was in the McGill sound recording program while I was doing my masters degree, so we worked together a lot then. He did an incredible job with the sound of this album, I’m very happy with it. Adam is now working as a sound designer at Ubisoft.
In March 2014, we did a small tour of the North-East US, playing in New York, New Jersey, Vermont and Connecticut. Because of that tour, we were recently included in some “Best of 2014” lists on the New York Music Daily blog. Our show at the Stephen Wise Synagogue on the Upper West Side was among the Best New York Concerts of 2014, Our album Song of the Grasses was among the 50 Best Albums of 2014, and the song Kumi Roni from the same album was among the 100 Best Songs of 2014.
I, for one, am excited to see where this group goes!!