Once you've acquired the services of a big-shot producer like Bob Rock, you're not supposed to fire his ass then bring him back again. But that's what Our Lady Peace singer-lyricist Raine Maida did during the recording of his band's latest CD, Healthy in Paranoid Times. As the Toronto resident explains from his second home in L.A., things were getting ugly at one point.
“It was taking a long time to finish,” Maida explains of the 2005 CD. “I think we were at, like, 35 songs, and we all sat in a room and said, 'Yeah, but there's only eight that we all like.' Everyone's really frustrated, and you're getting pressure from the record company, from management. And I think Bob had even lost perspective at this point. We're sitting there in this shitty little studio in Malibu, and it just got a little aggressive and agitated in the room.
“I basically just walked out,” he continues, “I was like, 'I'm done.' And Bob packed up his shit and sent it back to Maui. We're very strong personalities, so we had just had enough of each other for that amount of time. It's nothing personal; it's about the music, ya know.”
The two rockers eventually patched things up and completed the 12-track disc, but it was a long haul. According to Healthy's liner-note factoids, 10 different studios were used for the project, which took 1,165 days to run its course. It wasn't all anguish, though. Between sessions, Maida and Rock attended the Coachella Music Festival together, where Maida discovered that his producer's musical tastes weren't confined to the radio-friendly, multiplatinum hard-rock bands he's helmed.
“It's a true alternative-music festival out in Palm Desert just outside of L.A.,” Maida explains, “and there was, like, the Rapture and Arcade Fire and LCD Sound System””all of these kinda cool underground bands. The Cure played that year too, and the Cure is probably one of Bob's favourite bands. He's noted for, like, Metallica and Míƒ ¶tley Críƒ ¼e and all that big rock stuff, so it's weird that the Bob that I know just loves all different types of music.”
When Rock produced OLP's 2002 CD, Gravity, he brought that “big rock” sound Maida refers to in spades, but it's not so evident on the new disc. With its layers of shimmering guitars and soul-searching vocals, it resembles U2 a lot more than the Críƒ ¼e. “Working with Bob on Gravity, we were basically just getting to know him,” he recalls. “It was a much more stripped-down, big Bob Rock record that we did pretty quickly. And this time we wanted to take all of the best things about this band that we'd done over the last 10 years and make a record out of them. We just wanted to write interesting songs that had some depth, so we never went for big rock.”
With songs like “Will the Future Blame Us” ””which ponders how history will judge today's warring ways””Healthy in Paranoid Times is the most politically oriented of OLP's six studio albums. “It's a more political time,” notes Maida, who, as an active member of the War Child charity organization, spent a couple of weeks in Darfur observing the plight of kids in war-torn Sudan. On returning to his bandmates in the land of plenty, Maida had to hold back from sounding too self-righteous in light of the suffering he'd witnessed there. “There were some [lyrics] that were way too over the top and preachy,” he admits, “and I had to pull a lot of stuff back. This isn't a solo record for me, this is Our Lady Peace, so I have three people that I contend with in terms of how far I can go with saying things.”
Those other three guys””guitarist Steve Mazur, bassist Duncan Coutts, and drummer Jeremy Taggart””will help Maida blast forth OLP's latest tunes at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Thursday and Friday (April 27 and 28). According to a news article in last week's Straight, the current Canadian government has taken the conflict in Darfur off its main agenda, so Maida may use the upcoming gigs as a soapbox for his humanitarian ideals. But he reserves comment when asked for his opinion of our recently chosen leader.
“I wasn't too big a fan of anybody that was up there [in the federal election],” he says, “so we'll just see how far [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper takes us. In the last seven years Canada's really pulled away in terms of being different from the U.S., and that's been a very important thing for us as a country....I just hope Harper doesn't acquiesce to [George] Bush and what's happening in the U.S.”