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Posted: September 19 2010 at 16:44
This French-Canadian group (but not Quebecois), is from the Northern-Ontario province where almost half the population is francophone. Cano stands for Cooperative Artistes du Nouvel Ontario and they were based in the city of Sudbury. Formed as far back as 71, and from an ideal semi-hippy-pastoral commune and developing into theater, poetry, writers, and a whole bunch of artisans/craftsmen and a 320 acres Buffalo ranch. This commune attracted people from all over Northern Ontario, Quebec, Acadians from Eastern Canada. One of the branches became the musical group, and recorded in late 75 their debut album after being together for over three years.
Their music exemplifies best the Northern Canadian Pioneering spirit, and lyrically, the songs often make reference to the harsh condition they and their ancestor endured: the voyageurs, the portage from one lake to another, the fur-trading, the wars between the colonizing powers, the life with the Indians etc.. An octet, their music sounds like a folkier and more challenging Renaissance (Haslam-era), but they have clearly their own sound too.
Let me also add that they are true legends we are very exited about this interview with the founding member David Colin Burt.
Just to give us the right images in our heads and the right feelings for the rest of this interview; please tell us more about North-Ontario and the landscape there.
The northern Ontario landscape is rugged and hilly with rocky projections and tough pine trees, white birch trees, lush vegetation, forest glades, grassy expanses, thick bush, and countless shades of blue and green peppered by colourful spring, summer and autumn flowers. There are literally thousands of rivers and lakes. Wildlife abounds with bears, wolves, moose, wildcats, deer, heron, loons, eagles, hawks, songbirds and so on. In the late spring and summer, black flies and mosquitoes can be a problem if one is not protected either with repellent or smoke from a campfire ~ Don’t you dare wear perfume or cologne or use fragrant shampoo in the bush or you will be eaten alive. In the winter, the north usually becomes snow-covered and it can stay crispy white until late winter / early spring. Winter temperatures can reach 50 below sometimes ~ feels like the skin is burning and certain dog breeds have to wear jackets and boots.
A famous team of artists called The Group of Seven captured a lot of the landscape of the Ontario northland on canvas. As well as the physical landscape, these artists managed to capture the unique emotion that one gets while in the north. As for the people of the north, there is prevalent mix of those of European descent with the indigenous peoples. Most folks are friendly and easy to talk to. Most people can swim and ice-skate. The indigenous people tend to shun or become quickly bored with small talk but they do enjoy a good story be it an issue in the news or a personal event. English and French are the predominate languages in the north. Almost all of the francophone people are bilingual. Some of the Anglophones speak the local variety of French.
Cano, short for Coopérative des Artistes du Nouvel-Ontario', was a commune which included all sorts of artists, painters, sculptors, etc. Please tell us more about this commune. Does it still exist?
It was actually a cooperative as the acronym CANO suggests. It was managed as a commune only in the first summer of its existence. This cooperative today only exists in the memory and hearts of the creative artists that founded it. It was located at a farm just outside of Earlton in the Tri-town area, well north of North Bay.
From my one and only visit there, I noted that most of the barn on the property had been converted into workshops and living spaces for some of the artists. It was an amazing place also noted for the buffalo that grazed on the fields of the farm. Painters, actors, writers, musicians, and more artists of all disciplines gathered there to create collectively and promote the ideal coined as the “New Ontario”. This social phenomenon was anchored by a strong Francophone contingent for the purpose of preserving the rich history and identity of its people and the creation of a vibrant future for the coming generations.
Many artists commuted from elsewhere and visited for periods of time. Those times were very exciting times. When I first met him, André Paiement, the premier founder of CANO, was extremely enthusiastic about the cooperative and its purpose; but, because of positive influences, things were beginning to grow and change, and people were beginning to move off from the farm to create new centers or splinter groups when I came on the scene.
From this cooperative, when and by whom was the band Cano formed?
CANO musique was indirectly formed from CANO the cooperative. To be clear, I will have to step back in time in order to answer this question properly. Many good things sprang from the original cooperative, particularly a vibrant theatre company called Le Théatre du Nouvel-Ontario, a.k.a. the TNO. André Paiement founded the TNO and, for logistical reasons, the new theatre company moved away from the original communal farm to the city of Sudbury, a northern metropolis at the hub of the trans-Canada-highway.
It is important to note that all of the theatrical plays that André Paiement wrote or adapted included some kind of musical element, mostly original music, which included live singing by the actors. Herein lies the connection, the bridge from theatre (TNO) to band (CANO).
Stepping back further in time in this story, well before CANO musique existed, André was knowledgeable of the Canadian / Californian band called Merryweather, one of the bands I was in just prior to my return to Canada. I was doing pick-up gigs in Ontario to make some cash flow. André saw me playing with a bar-band in his hometown of Sturgeon Falls, a small town down the road and east of Sudbury. André slipped out of the bar between our sets, went to his home to get something and returned after only minutes to show me one of the Merryweather albums, Word of Mouth, and asked if I was the same guitar player as the one on the album. Yes indeed, that was my California band, Merryweather.
Later that evening, André and I jammed with our guitars and we became fast friends. I will never forget that winter night with members of the band called Morgan, André and Michael Gallagher all sitting in that near-derelict motel room making great music until the sun came up to light the frosty crisp snow-covered ground.
After a few months passed, André asked me to join on as musical director for his theatrical plays. The pay for the work was enough to live on for months at a time so I agreed. For three years after our first meeting, while I worked on the music for his plays, André and I dreamed of creating a theatrical orchestra. We kept our eyes and ears open and gradually brought in other musicians and characters that fit the chemistry and who shared the aspirations of this emerging and uniquely diverse band of vagabond players.
Regarding the inclusion of band members, our first drummer and musical colleague, Bill Cymbala, moved back south and then on to British Columbia; so we got Mike Dasti, the youngest member of CANO, on the drum kit. Ergo, the founding musicians included André Paiement with sister Rachel Paiement and Marcel Aymar on vocals and acoustic guitars and miscellaneous instruments, John Doerr on bass and trombone, Mike Dasti on drums, Mike Kendel on keyboards and vocals, I provided the electric guitar work, and Wasyl Kohut added a dynamic energy with his violin and mandolin. Later on, CANO was blessed with the participation of some of the finest violin-fiddle players in the country honouring Waysl's mastery and adding their own flare. From time to time, a host of players from a pool of friends and studio professionals, as well as the musically gifted Paiement family, joined in on the recording projects.
As for the other participants, Michael Gallagher, Mark Delorme and Gary McGroarty took care of managing the artistic direction and general administration. Cederic Michaud, a close friend of the band, independently pitched in with his amazing photography. Poet and professor, Robert Dickson independently helped with the literary work whenever needed. Other independent writers such as Jean-Marc Dalpé and Gaston Trembley contributed their work as the band progressed. It was a big group with eleven members at the core, all sharing monetary proceeds evenly ~ Sometimes we starved but, generally, we were a happy bunch and grateful to be part of the experience!
Please give me your (long or brief) thoughts and lowdowns on.......
Tous Dans L'Meme Bateau from 1976
Yes . . . Magical but raw ~ rough around the edges, innocent. It was the first time in the big studio for some of us, so there were growing pains. Several of the songs became timeless: Dimanche Aprés Midi, Pluie Estivale and Viens Nous Voir in particular. Luc Cousineau with assistant Red Mitchell were the producers. We recorded that album in Montreal.
Au Nord De Notre Vie from 1977
Yes . . . Magical too, but more sophisticated than the first album with some epic concept music that paid homage to life in the north. Worth noting: Wasyl was jamming over a three-chord pattern during a sound check on stage, months before we went into the studio to do Au Nord, and that little jam later developed into a tune called Spirit of the North, which to me is a signature tune on that album with its vivid soundscape of the northern wilderness. Don Oriolo with assistant Ed Stasium produced that one. They were from New Jersey. There was lot of action; laughing, intellectual arguing, discussing and filmmaking going on while the National Film Board followed our lives through the studio and on tour with their camera. We recorded in Toronto. Most of our work was recorded in Toronto.
Eclipse from 1978
Some members of CANO call this LP the dark album. Sadly, we were now without André. We did incorporate much of his poetry to compose our take on the coming of the actual 1984. It is a musical connection with Orwell’s future visions as well as a mirror on anyone anywhere in 1978. Eerily, the lyrics of Bienvenue 1984 still ring true today, 2010. The tunes dealt with such things as mysticism, the effects of the moon on the minds of the people, earthly mother / child-parent union, and a journey on a mystical train in a headlong rush into the unknown. We performed our tunes in English and French this time around, as that was always the plan from the beginning; that is, the plan was to continually record our growing stock of English tunes ~ there were never any limitations in CANO.
With so much freedom we became more responsible for our work and the content of the music as you can hear in Soleil Mon Chef directly rendered from the TNO archives. Incidentally, André had penned a wonderful song called Blue Dragon Fly that should have been recorded ~ it's in the family archives somewhere. Gene Martynec produced Eclipse.
Rendezvous from 1979
This project included some more English language tunes, mixed with the French tunes, and Rendezvous remains, technically, to be the best sounding album of the collection with Jim Vallance in the producer's chair. Brian Adams sang some harmonies and Super Tramp's John Helliwell sat in on the sax. Our usual go-to players, Monique Paiement, Matt Zymbal, Rick Francis, et al, joined us on many of the sessions throughout our journey.
A&M was now earnestly trying to get CANO to reach a larger audience. The world was changing as it always is and alas, as much as we tried, we had a lot of difficulty trying to write tunes for the pop mainstream of the late 70s / early 80s ~ Our tunes always ended up sounding more like alternative listening than commercial pop. I am especially fond of certain tunes from the album Rendezvous including Autobus, Sometimes the Blues and a quirky theatrical spoof on life in Florida called Floridarity Forever.
To me, A&M records with Alpert and Moss in the USA and the Canadian contingent of A&M under Gerry Lacoursiere made a big difference in our creative lives. They gave us so much freedom to express our art while radio was generally going disco. Coincidentally, at that time, Frank Zappa was bemoaning the loss of great jazz players who were all going to end up playing disco-music and become desensitized ~ lost in that thumping beat.
I will never forget Herb Alpert’s visit to see us play in Ottawa at the NAC / National Arts Centre. He was part owner in A&M and leader of the famous band Tijuana Brass. We were all excited about Herb being there to see our performance, and later with his wife join us at dinner; but, alas, the economy was in a downturn and soon A&M USA could not take us on after letting so many of their own American acts go. Maybe there will be a reunion with the classic staff of A&M records, Canada and USA, one day ~ You’ve got to love them all because they were all about good music! Herb Alpert wanted to get more into jazz and leave the rut of the pop tours. I wish now that I would have asked him then to join our band as a player rather than as an executive! Only in my dreams now!
Spirit Of the North from 1980
This was a compilation album and it included a few more musical attempts at reaching the mainstream commercial market. Jim Vallance produced a couple of new tunes that were added to this album. They were great productions but the project as a whole was the idea of the record company's A&R department and it ended up being rather loose in concept and direction as the band’s direction was leaning toward disarray. For some, this collection of tunes is still a collector's item! The art and artistic integrity was always good and healthy, no matter the direction.
Visible from 1985
Visible has some great tunes. This was mostly a male performance album with female backup singers. Rachel had become frustrated with business dealings and life in Toronto, so she decided to move out west to British Columbia where she sang some jazz, did studio work and eventually married Jim Vallance and settled down in Vancouver. So, with Rachel having moved on, the female singers who provided supporting vocal work from then on were Mary-Lu Zahalan, Louise Lemieux and Johana Vanderkley.
Marcel recorded some tunes with lyrics written in his native Acadian dialect. There is also a theatric piece based on a superb poem by Jean Marc Dalpé that translates as The Invisible Man. Mike Kendel did a nice rendition on one of André's original theatrical pieces called J'ai Bien Vécu. So there were lots of interesting concepts going on when we made Visible.
For one reason or another, the mastering quality suffered somewhat; nevertheless, there are some good tunes there. This project was more of a Marcel Aymar feature as he was on a writing spree at the time. At almost every rehearsal, Marcel would come in with new tunes and fresh ideas so we rallied around him.
Visible was a collective band production. Violinist Ben Mink sat in on those sessions, contributing wonderfully from the essence of his art.
Your last album was in 1985, according to our information. What happened to Cano in the years between '85 and these days? What is the latest update on your band and what are your plans for this and next year?
I need to provide a little more history in order to answer the question of the bridge from CANO-past to CANO-present. As I mentioned, Rachel had moved out west. André had departed from this world prior to that. We had become a different band by the early 1980s.
Actually, before recording our 1985 album, we had temporarily changed our name to Masque and recorded a mystery album, which has some wonderful stuff on it, all in English, but the decision to change the name had proven to be counterproductive. In retrospect, I think we should have remained under the name CANO rather than Masque. Perhaps we should have been a little bolder in promoting our new city sound. Country kids, eh!
Without Rachel, our singer tour de force, three of the guys went for vocal coaching under Rosemary Burns in order to pick up the slack in the vocal department. We thought we had a chance with a new identity and a renewed career. However, just before touring, Wasyl, our wonderfully gifted violinist and mandolin player, succumbed to natural causes and that finished us for a while. We eventually gave up on Masque as a band name, as to go through all of the rebuilding seemed insurmountable at the time despite the support from A&M records.
There were a few interesting pick-up gigs for CANO after that. We did a provincially funded tour with Dinah Christie on a very amusing variety show throughout Ontario in 1984. I loved those times! We had recorded Visible with violinist Ben Mink and the aforementioned three lady backup singers. On some live gigs, the late sax player / guitarist, David Norris-Elye, joined us. This brings me back to your question.
CANO had tried to become two things: a production company and a band; but, to have the remainder of the original members all trying to live off of a dwindling income during an economic recession ~ well, we were done for. I was the first one to throw in the towel and call it quits at an important band meeting and others followed suit. It felt like a bomb had gone off. It was a very emotional experience. I went home and broke down . . . such a difficult measure to take after such a wonderful adventure! Band members and those closely connected with CANO were all in a bit of shock - a little grief, a little relief.
Very close to our final project of those times, Canada honoured CANO by sending us to represent our country at the World's Fair in Japan in 1985. After our last show on the grand stage at the fair, some of us climbed a hill in the dark behind stage and looked up at a big bright full moon and declared it was now official ~ CANO was retiring. The full moon was fitting, as it was the same big moon that was with us on our inaugural gig way back when. Our violinist at that time, Ben Mink, went on to work and record with K.D. Lang, the new sensation who shared the bill with CANO at the show in Japan.
Since 1985, the members of CANO have all moved in different career directions. We went into independent music production, film production, teaching, public transit work, government work, museum work and so on. However, we never really let go of music ~ playing on different rock, country, jazz and blues projects, often working together. Above all, CANO still remains in our blood and we often get together socially by visiting, having BBQs and sometimes doing special projects or attending special events. In early 2009, we received honorary certificates from College Boreal, the same college that houses the theatre named after André Paiement.
Over the past few years, CANO has resurfaced on special occasions in live concerts and TV appearances with special guests such as vocalist Monique Paiement, guitarist Rick Francis, violinists Don Reed and Bobby Lalonde joining five original members. It sounds great! It seems many friends and fans are still with us, as well as some new ones from the younger generation. During an interview in March 2010, Mike Dasti and I were asked if we were going to reunite officially. We were groping for words to answer the question when Mike pointed at the TV camera and said in a comedic way, "You just never know!"
You have been compared to Harmonium and Renaissance. But how would you describe your music and which bands would you compare your music with ?
During our publicity tours we were often posed with that question and it was always difficult to answer. We carried many diverse influences ~ each player brought his / her own influences. In the early years, I had just finished working a whole year in the USA with up-and-coming punk-funk star Rick James. Rick had introduced me to the music from the nations of Africa, which influenced me deeply. I was also heavily influenced by the Cultural Revolution during my California days in the late 60s early 70s.
Bringing key elements to early CANO, André was influenced by everything from world music to classic theatrical music. John loved jazz. Wasyl loved blues, uptown country and his Ukrainian influences were certainly there. Mike Kendel was extremely diverse and loved anything good. Mike Dasti was a rocker with a little country deep down. Rachel respected all of the great singers anywhere from Bessie Smith, Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Patty Page to Joni Mitchell, Roberta Flack and so on, and she brought all of this influence to the table. Marcel always carried his Acadian and Cajun traditions and musical influences close to his heart. It is also important to note that several of the members of CANO were actors too and we often used theatrics, even comedy, in our concerts. John Doerr described our music accurately during an interview when he called CANO "a musical hybrid" ~ you never knew what we were going to come up with! It seemed that people who listened to Harmonium would listen to CANO too, but we were two very different bands. Some people have even referred to CANO as a jam-band but the chord changes that we liked to improvise over were a little more complex than your average garage band.
What are your experiences with the music industry?
My experiences? I recently got back from Los Angeles on a work / play trip and there are many new things cooking. Historically, I recorded on labels such as Capitol Records, Altantic Records and A&M Records among others with varying degrees of success and I will forever value those experiences.
I produced country music for a while and really enjoyed that, getting several top-tens in the independent country markets. I am presently studying the trends of how the music industry is changing as I am preparing to do several new musical projects including a personal CD and a Rick James compilation project from archival rehearsal recordings. I have just started constructing a web site under the domain of David Colin Burt.
There is still a pretty big interest in your band from all over the world. How is your contact with your fans and what is your reaction to the adulation you receive?
I am pretty sure I can speak for the others here ~ It's an honour and a pleasant surprise that people still listen to us and that the people from the younger generations have been turning on to us.
Our web-site under the domain of canomusique is very nice, thanks to Jim Vallance's generous work, and this has been a big help in keeping us in touch with the fans and vice versa.
Do you have any regrets in your career and/or life ?
I have no regrets. The human tragedies of people so close to us all have hurt deeply: Suzie Beauchmin who took over André’s TNO, and André and Wasyl, had all met with tragedy. They are resting in three different northern towns that run along a stretch of the Trans Canada Highway: North Bay, Sturgeon Falls and Sudbury. Alas, this all etched in history now and there is no going back.
I sometimes wish that I had carried on with the multi-record deal with Capitol records back in the Merryweather / California days. Steve Miller hung on and took a similar route with Capitol and finally achieved what we call success ~ he “made it". However, if I had never, albeit it ill advisedly and rashly, left the band Merryweather at the end of our third ovation at a packed stadium in San Diego, the CANO musique experience would never have happened.
Hmmm ~ one recalls Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken, and how the drift of those words apply to this experience. Personally, trusting in good health and a little luck, there is a lot more music to come, friends to make and maybe some old enemies to endear.
What are your five favourite albums of all time?
Wow, good question: Miles Davis / Kind of Blue; the Beatles’ White Album; a compilation CD of world music called Hemisphere No More; Van Morrison / Poetic Champions Compose; Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins / Neck and Neck, which is good old sit-around-the-kitchen-table fun that I love to play at the camp. Those are the first five to come to mind. There is some new stuff that is intriguing and there are always those discoveries of past gems yet to come.
Anything you want to add to this interview ?
Yes, with the newest pool of young talent such as a young upstart, from small-town nowhere, who composes very smart and crafty tunes and a son of a certain writer producer who is a powerful creative force to be reckoned with, and other upcoming enthusiastic individuals, it feels great to pass the torch and, in turn, become rejuvenated by the new energy! As well, André Paiement through his craft and CANO through its music have become part of the curriculum of many Francophone schools across Canada.
There is another cosmic element in all of this that I feel is important to mention. There will be a Merryweather reunion and CD coming up in USA with London archival journalist Nick Warburton following the action; but curiously, although I had impetuously left the band Merryweather in the summer of 1970, with a slight detour of working with Rick James in Salt and Pepper for a year, the road taken eventually lead me to the discovery of CANO in the winter 1972.
If it weren't for that Merryweather album aptly called Word of Mouth that an inquisitive André Paiement held in front of my face in that run-down bar on that freezing cold winter night way up north in Sturgeon Falls, none of this would have ever happened.
Thank you to David for this interview
Edited by toroddfuglesteg - September 23 2010 at 16:27
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: February 25 2011 at 20:06|
I have Au Nord de Notre Vie, and it was one of the albums that Guy Guden used to play a lot in Santa Barbara when it first came out ... excellent work, and really well played and designed ... if I can say those words. It is a very nice album and enjoyable and then some. It might not have the glitter or the gold, but it has the goods ... great music and beautifully played.
Nice to see this remembered. Extremely nice to see this remembered, in fact!
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!
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