Interview by Kit Burns
Don’t blame Canada for Nickelback.
The country has a long tradition of influential cutting-edge greatness, from Leonard Cohen to Rush. You can include Tig Wired among Canada’s unique properties, an amalgam of alternative rock, country, blues, and jazz that shouldn’t make sense at all. Tig Wired’s new album, Ne Obliviscaris, is a homage to the blue collar working class. Colin and Chris Campbell provide insight on one of the most original projects in the music scene.
Kit Burns: Your album, Ne Obliviscaris, carries the theme of songs for blue-collar workers in industrial areas such as welders and riggers. What was the inspiration behind this?
Chris Campbell: The inspiration came from working in the industrial arena for the last 25 years; there are a ton of people who work this lifestyle and no one ever gave them a mention, so I figured it was about time someone expressed what life on the road can be like. Being blessed with having a musician in the family, it was an easy step to take the idea to my brother and have him get involved. Lets face it: welders weld, fitters fit, riggers rig, and music pros make the music. I tried to get the gist of the workplace and feel of the temperment of the workers across to Colin, and he made it work. The name Ne Obliviscaris comes from the Campbell Clan motto which means never forget or forget not, which is a very appropriate saying in the business of working in the trades on a lot of levels. You spend weeks on end working 12 hours or more, seven days a week until the job is done, away from home and family, it can be a rough haul on peoples relationships and the Tig Wired CD reflects some of the things we all go through because of the job we do. The tunes speak across a number of trades – boilermakers, pipe fitters, millwrights, iron workers, scaffolders, brickies, tin bashers etc…even engineers. All these people are involved in making a project work and be successful. There are a lot of dynamics that go down on the job due to money and time constraints; the environment is very rarely a friendly one to work in. Lots of times the heat, gasses, and dusts create difficult situations. The stress of the job and the unwinding from a job all create a surreal life when the end of your day ends up in a camp housing for everyone. Let’s face it: it is a cauldron for mixing things up. The CD is meant to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of the trade.
Burns: Stylistically, the album is fairly eclectic. How did you match the sounds with the lyrical content? Did the music come first?
Colin Campbell: I’d say both approaches took place. Initially Chris generated pages of lyrics about his perceptions and experiences in the industry over the past 20 or so years. He had some general ideas about what type of feel or style certain lyrics could fit with – like hurtin’ blues or country rock or whatever. I filtered the lyrics through my head, got a main idea or concept to run with then re-shaped, added, deleted and ultimately wrote more lyrics with the idea of making them fit a musical structure. With other tunes I had a musical idea or hook in my head that I thought could develop into a good groove or set of changes. I purposely moved the ‘musical styles’ all over the place in an attempt to connect with as many of the people in the workplace as possible. If you like country, funk, blues, rock, reggae, jazz, you’ll hopefully find something to suit your musical palate on the CD. This approach might make the CD harder to promote since it doesn’t lend itself to compartmentalization or packaging where you could say for instance that this is a collection of 14 blues tunes or 14 R&B selections. On the other hand a lot of people don’t want a CD with the same genre of music from start to finish.
Burns: Is Tig Wired a band or a project?
Colin: Project. Again, I’d say its both. It was a concept of Chris’ which led to a project, which led to the utilization of some local musicians/friends/fellow band members of mine to air out some of my ideas in live and studio settings, which led right back to the further development of the project. At the moment Tig Wired isn’t performing but if we were presented with the opportunity to play a series of gigs the ‘band’ would get together in a hurry.
Burns: Where does the name come from?
Chris: TIG is a form of welding on the upper end of the technique scale, and I felt Tig Wired would be a name easily recognized by the people we are getting the message out to.
Burns: You’re based in Canada. How has the album been received locally?
Chris: Locally, now there’s a concept. I guess because the idea behind the Tig Wired project is aimed at such a wide variety of people (age, trade, locations where they live, jobs they are working at etc..) that local exposure really would mean exposure to the trades people out there in the shops, refineries, power plants and pulp mills. I’ve packed the CD along with me to shutdowns/turnarounds and am selling them to the people whom I work with. Needless to say, the reception is great as it relates so well to those people who are also on the road working. Sales across Canada are OK and also there have been requests to send the CD abroad to places like Japan, Australia, Europe, and Arabia where there seems to be a decent reception to it. Some of the Union Halls have helped out by selling the CD for us.
The music scene has not really picked up on the project at this point but it has received good exposure from the work force such as Union newsletters throughout North America, from several of the trades. A couple of the tunes do speak of the need to work safe and smart and it’s been good to see the Unions and contracting companies willing to use the safety message offered as a way of reaching workers from ‘outside of the box’ mentality. We have also had construction companies purchase the CD as a recognition or safety award to give out to their employees, something different than a hat or a mug. So locally speaking the reception to the audience it is aimed for is good. We have been getting radio play from the college / university stations as well as CBC and public radio like CKUA in Alberta. It’s good to see the support offered to independent recording from these venues.