Volume 95, Issue 74

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

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Winnipeg's Weakerthans wanna be your Valentine

Martina likes to get hands-on

Exaggerating extremes
Body fails to float in life's wake

Outside the Box

Cope debuts on top

Porn o' Plenty

Winnipeg's Weakerthans wanna be your Valentine

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

John K. Samson's world is a web of connections.

His choice of record label reflects his personal politics, which becomes quite clear after listening to the dense poetry of his lyrics based on or perhaps reflective of a lifetime spent living in the isolated chill of Winnipeg.

The record label in question G7 Welcoming Committee is home to a wide variety of musicians who subscribe to a left-wing political agenda, including the (International) Noise Conspiracy, Randy and Propagandhi. It's also home to Samson's uncompromisingly talented band, The Weakerthans.

Gazette File Photo

Formed in 1997, the band is celebrating their five-year anniversary with a small tour that includes a Valentine's Day stop in London. Valentine's Day is a bittersweet occasion for The Weakerthans to play a show, considering they perform some of the most wrenching songs about loneliness and the endless search for a connection with another human being.

As for the band's connection to its label, Samson credits most of it to a commodity he says cannot be over-estimated in the music industry trust. "We like their structure and the way they work," he says. "We think they do a good job."

G7, which also operates out of Winnipeg, attempts to marry the world of left-wing political ideology with guitar-soaked Indie-rock. The label's diverse bank of musicians share what Samson calls a "common politic" and it's a politic he and his band members are clearly in accordance with.

"There can be a startling range of genres and styles and they can all share something in common," he says. "It takes all different kinds of aesthetics there is no political aesthetic, no Marxist aesthetic or anarchist aesthetic those are tools for understanding the world and the form that takes when those things are translated into creative works are as varied as the world is."

One of Samson's tools for understanding and relating to the world around him is his songwriting, which places a strong emphasis on storytelling.

"I read more than I listen and that certainly affects the lyrics and structure of the songs," he explains. "With songwriting, every song is different you start with nothing and build something."

One such building block is the narrative, which is often told through an intentionally ambiguous second-person.

"There's a lot of confusion of who the narrator is, which is, in most cases, purposeful. I'm not really interested in writing love songs, I'm especially not interested in writing 'you done me wrong' songs anymore. You can pretty much look at any songwriter and see their early work as an attempt to enlarge who they are mostly because they are not sure who they are. That's very valid, but it's not something I want to do anymore, it's not something that interests me," Samson admits.

"I'm more interested in the world around me than I am with my interior world."

For 28 years, the world around him has been Winnipeg, a city that has made an indelible mark on his life.

"It's shaped who I am and the way I interpret the world. I think the land itself has a lot to do with that the way the city was formed, architecturally and geographically," he says.

But the city has also shaped Samson's coming-of-age as an earnest musician and storyteller. "It's quite an isolated place and there's generally a small degree of potential for fame and glory here so people just do things. Maybe it's easier to be a little more genuine in what you're creating when you don't have a huge chance of screwing a major record deal or something," he says.

"There's a different impetus and I think it makes for an interesting output from this city."

The Weakerthans play Call the Office tomorrow night with special guests Elevator. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2002