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Q&A: Ruskin

Local fun-loving rocker band Ruskin is back from a hiatus and is preparing an all-new recording session for release, perhaps even on cassette (audiophiles, take note). A jam session with members Corey Abell, Joe Chipman, Keanan Holness and Colby Morgan yielded thoughts on the band’s creative process and distinctly new musical direction, along with a surprisingly in-depth exploration of who they’d eat first if trapped on a desert island.

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By Alex Watkins (The Cascade) – Email

Date Posted: September 19, 2011
Print Edition: September 14, 2011

Local fun-loving rocker band Ruskin is back from a hiatus and is preparing an all-new recording session for release, perhaps even on cassette (audiophiles, take note). A jam session with members Corey Abell, Joe Chipman, Keanan Holness and Colby Morgan yielded thoughts on the band’s creative process and distinctly new musical direction, along with a surprisingly in-depth exploration of who they’d eat first if trapped on a desert island.

I just want to start off by asking how you guys met each other and [getting] a brief history of the band.
CA: I guess it starts when I met Keanan, if you wanna go way back… I was in elementary school, and we were the only kids that liked rock and roll, and we both played electric bass; I remember just sitting in front of him with a bass… and I had no idea how to play it.
CM: I don’t even know, I think me and Keanan started jamming… acoustic, just hanging out… we had no idea… what to call it; Corey came up with Ruskin [the name of the area the band practices in].
JC: Bronson Izzard [of local group Familia] is how I came into this band… we went to a party… with a bunch of people I had never met but… I saw some familiar faces. And later, after Bronson put the bug in… somebody’s ear, I saw [the other band members] at the skate park… and [they] were like: “You wanna jam?” And… that was it, I think.
KH: We didn’t wanna seem too needy, so we didn’t tell him he was in the band right away.
CA: We waited until the beginning of the second practice… And we were like, “Hey Joe, can you join the band?” And he was like: “Ohhh yeah, that’d be cool.” [And then we told him,] “We’re going on a tour in a month.” [Laughs] And he was like, “Alright.”

So you guys took a bit of a break for awhile – what have you been up to most recently? Do you have any plans for recording or touring?
CA: We just recorded a live-off-the-floor session that is to be mixed and released. I think it’s gonna be called “Ruskin: Blown up and Exploded.” [Laughter] CM: No it’s not!
CA: Dammit! I was hoping if I said it now, it’d have to stick…

Where was your first show?
CA: Our first show with Joe was at a Halloween party in a hall… we all had hilarious costumes on. [CM was] an alien, [KH was] a robot… I had an astronaut costume and Joe was this super-handsome doctor.
JC: Super-handsome.
KH: And… all three of us left the stage, [and] were just like: “Everybody, this is our new drummer,” and we all just left and got drinks, and Joe just had to do a drum solo… [until] we came back.

In the early Ruskin days [your music] was a lot different than the new stuff that you’ve been coming out with, and I was wondering if… you’re naturally building on what happened before, or [if you’re] consciously trying to take a step in a new direction?
KH: I wouldn’t say consciously; I think it’s just happened… organically.
CM: Our new songs got more rock-y, because we started listening to heavier music, I think.  And then since we were on that hiatus we came back and we didn’t have anything to play… we had old songs but we couldn’t really remember them, so… they got really simple.

So even your old stuff has changed now.
CA: Yeah, totally. We play it so differently, and that’s just who we are musically now.
CM: Personally, since we’ve started playing, I’ve been just trying to make people move… like, we played at the Zoo Zhop [recently] and I… stopped playing guitar and we just jumped into the crowd, and everyone was just moving. We also played at the Biltmore and we spiced things up a lot, I think.
KH: That was our first show back [from the hiatus]… We’re not allowed to play at the Biltmore [now]. [Laughter]

Really?
JC: We had the whole crowd rush the stage on our last two songs, and it was fucking rad, because we played last and the band before us was the headlining band.

So did people rush the stage spontaneously, or did you kind of tell them to?
CA: Yeah, we can’t say they did it of their own accord; we definitely played a part.
CM: By provoking them.
KH: By backing away from the microphones! [Laughs]

I remember at the Battle of the Bands [Maple Ridge competition], you got those balls and you threw them out in the crowd…
CA: That was planned fun. We were like: “OK, we’re gonna get balls, and at this part of the set we’re gonna kick them in the audience.” Now it’s just like: “Well, we’ll see what happens and… just go with it.”
KH: Plus we can’t afford balls now.
JC: I was thinking of a better stage prop than balls: it was the confetti guns. We went to the dollar store before we played at the Big Easy – the music festival in Nanaimo –and we found these confetti guns [so we could] shoot a bunch of confetti into the crowd.
CM: But it was windy that day and it all blew back at us! [Laughter]

When are you going to come out with the stuff you’ve recorded?
CA: TBA. Yeah, we’re gonna figure it all out.

Are you going to sell it off your MySpace?
KH: We’ll probably just give it away at shows, that’s what we normally do.
CM: We’re not really good with the whole other side of things, we just know how to play music… [but] we’ve spent a lot of money! [Laughs]

I have one last question for you guys, and this one’s kind of silly, but… if you were trapped on a desert island together, who would you eat first?
CA: Colby has a lot of sharp bones that could really facilitate the use of weapons and spears to hunt, so I might just kill Colby as a resource. [Laughter] CM: I think we might thrive in that environment! [Laughs] We could actually concentrate on something!
KH: No, we couldn’t.

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