Volume 93, Issue 5

Friday, June 11, 1999


Canadians inspired By Divine Right

I Love You Perfect, need not change for anyone

Hopkins goes bananas in latest movie

Sparklehorse shines through trauma

Kerouac biography unearths subterranean beat writer

A magical Midsummer Night brought to life at Stratford

Canadians inspired By Divine Right

Photo by Stephen Chung
SOME DAY WE'LL BE TAKING THE ELEVATOR. Canadian rockers By Divine Right negotiate the long stairway to success.

By Aaron Wherry

Gazette Staff

Not so long ago, By Divine Right were a little known band wading their way through the musical underground. Then the good ship Hip came along, pulled them above water and gave them the break they needed to shine.

Despite the incredible windfall experienced by the band after touring with The Tragically Hip, lead singer and songwriter Jose Marie Contreras isn't exactly surprised by his band's place in the spotlight.

"I never thought we'd get the exposure we're getting now. It was never our game plan to do all this – make a video and such," Contreras explains. "But on a whole other level, we're pretty arrogant. I've known for a few years that what we're doing is cool and it almost didn't matter whether the universe found out or not."

Arrogant? Not exactly the word most would use to describe a band who spends much of their first music video making doughnuts and tobogganing. Is this a band showcasing its arrogance and trying to look cool?

"No, but that's because we are cool, so we don't have to try," Contreras deadpans. "But honestly, we are very arrogant and I think, rightly so. I think we're an excellent band, with really cool songs and I think we're doing something special. It's a lot more sincere than other bands in Canada."

From almost any other rock star this kind of talk would seem like pretentious banter. But coming from this charismatic crooner, it reflects genuine honesty – a respectable and admirable trait.

But image is merely a small part of the enigma which is Jose Marie Contreras. To really grasp or attempt to understand this creative mind, one must delve into his music. His songs and the process by which they are created reveals the spirit that drives this musician.

Despite the arrogance surrounding his work, Contreras feels the need to explain he is not the one who deserves the credit for bringing melody and lyric together. He is only a conduit between his muse and this world. His job is to keep making music and as long as his muse continues to come through he seems unlikely to stop.

"I don't write my songs. They are already written and then they float down and find me, into my head, my spirit," he explains. "I have a muse and she writes the songs and sends them to me. I'm just lucky enough to be here."

This reliance on a higher being not only benefited Contreras' musical life, but had an impact on everything he does. Contreras lives a spiritual life, but at the same time, he explains, far from a religious one.

"I'm religiously insane. I love life and music and women and food, but I was raised atheist. Along the way through music and art, I discovered this spirituality. It wasn't anything that someone had told me about or I'd been taught or read in the bible," Contreras says.

"I am communing with everything and I'm part of the universe. Through music I found I could transcend and my life became richer. Human beings are magical, mystical beings, so I just try and exist in that light."

But much like the success and the luck Contreras has come across on his travels, the spirituality in his life did not come by design, but rather by divine right.

"I stumbled across it just by being alive. Then you read things from 100 years ago and William Blake stumbled across the same thing. And 2,000 years ago, Plato stumbled across the same thing. It's in us. But I'm rambling..."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999