Nova Scotia’s Rich Aucoin can easily be described as a concept artist. He takes his work very seriously, putting together the lyrics and melodies, connecting with the right individuals to help record and produce, and then creates an elaborate must-be-there-to-experience live performance with visuals and other distractions.

He’s releasing a new album this month (May 17), and having a release party here in Toronto at the Drake Hotel, a place he’s played before, and loves. Opening the show is his pal, Regina Gently, who also has recently recorded some new music, and who some may remember from their previous incarnations as Light Fires, and Gentleman Reg.

Read on for an exclusive Q&A Rich did with theBUZZ, and be sure to check out the show on May 22nd at the Drake. Before you go, listen to a couple tracks below from Rich’s new album, Release.

Tell me about the meaning behind your most recent single release, The Mind, and that wonderful accompanying video.

It’s the “first single” this year but it joins The Middle, The Fear, The Dream and Release as songs released so far. The Mind is an instrumental that blends Jenn Grant and my voices together in wordless chopped up melodies. Jeremy Malvin aka Chrome Sparks plays the drums and percussion along with Justin Peroff from Broken Social Scene. the video was made by Meghan Tansey Whitton over a year and half filming all over the Nova Scotian coast in different seasons. it felt like the a great abstract visual for its accompanying abstract song. 

Your new album, Release, is coordinated to be matched with the film “Alice in Wonderland”. How did this all come about? Was the music created, followed by the concept to match it with the film, or the music was created after the decision to match with the film?

yeah. i decided to write the record to sync to Alice at the same time as wanting to make a record about death. i realized the film could work if i cut off the third act and just make Alice’s decent into Wonderland being an introspection she’s having while preparing for death. it was nice to sync to a musical again since my last sync was to the claymation 1979 version of The Little Prince so its visuals were without a pulse or tempo for the most part.

How does your interpretation differ from the Pink Floyd version?

the Floyd sync is to The Wizard of Oz but they both have thematic and percussive points of alignment but mine is intentional and more like a score than theirs which I believe was un-intentional and an amazing coincidence. would love to find out it was intentional someday though maybe on Waters’ deathbed or something. 

Overall, the feeling is very ethereal and dreamy. Where are you taking listeners on this trip?

I guess I’m taking listeners lyrically into themselves looking at: the importance of dreams, their place in life and their awareness of time, their relationships to others, the importance of change and letting go, the idea that we have no freewill or that we don’t even exist, letting go of the past, letting go of the mind, letting go of the fear, pausing for a moment as you reflect on your life before releasing yourself to death. 

Following your previous two album releases, should listeners be experiencing a continuing saga of all things beautiful about death and transition?

Yes. this record may very well be the final part in the trilogy of my first three records that all are very much a part of one another. I’ve already recorded my next record and it’s a huge departure from these first three.  

What are some of the key differences in this latest recording, compared to your previous two?

one of the biggest is that we got funding for the first time with this record so the fidelity is noticeably better. the songs are a huge contrast to Ephemeral where the aim on that record was to capture the energy of the live show and make a very fast and aggressive sounding record. this record breathes much more and is back to a more contemplative headphone record than Ephemeral. It’s more inline with WADTL.  

I read that the album took three years to create, across five cities in 16 studios with 70-plus collaborators and over a hundred instruments. My “mind” is exploding just thinking of this. Can you explain the creativity behind some of this production process?

oh all my records have had a similar number. WADTL had over 500 musicians on it and took me a full year to edit alone in my basement before working on it with Joel Waddell, my producing partner. Ephemeral had us recording the audiences we performed for over a summer at festivals so it starts off with a choir made up of approximately 20,000 people. Ephemeral also had around 60 musicians playing the instruments on it as well. So this wasn’t the first rodeo of that kind of patch-work recording process. I think my records and songs just take a while to develop and go through so many incarnations that we’re constantly searching for sounds for years while working on them until we find ones that will do the idea justice. one day I’ll make a live off the floor record and let someone else mix it which will feel quite unreal.  

Once again you’ve collaborated with several different musicians on your new album, and not necessarily altogether in the same studio. Does this way of recording differ much from the days when remote recordings were not possible, and all musicians had to get together in the same room to make things happen?

Yeah, I’m very much a musician of my time and place. I’ve been making beats/recordings since I was in grade 8 with Fruity Loops and figuring out how to make layered music alone rather than relying on needing to find a large band to make the kind of music I wanted to make.  

You have a show coming up here in Toronto at the Drake Hotel on May 22nd. What can people expect from you at this intimate space?

The Drake has been my go-to for album release shows, just a fun place to celebrate putting something out into the world with friends and fans. this time will be different though as I’ll have a 9 piece killer band with Anna Ruddick on bass, Christine Bougie on guitar, Robin Hatch on keys, May Akanuma on sax, Dwayne Christie on drums, Maylee Todd/Kyla Charter/James Bailey on vocals.

I hear you have Regina Gently opening up for you, who also has recently released some new material. Have you worked/collaborated with her previously under her other projects, Light Fires or Gentleman Reg?

We performed together at one of Jason Collett’s Basement Revue shows during the Luminato Art Festival. It was really nice. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while. 

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.