The Spirit of the Music in OUR LADY PEACE: an interview with Duncan Coutts

Por Mónica CePer

High School years are one of the most important in our lives, many of us developed our music taste over those years, as part of the magazine “THE JACK” we had the opportunity to interview Duncan Coutts, Bass player from Canadian Alternative Rock band “Our Lady Peace”, one of those bands who changed my musical compass through my life. We talked about several interesting topics, like his 27 anniversary as member of the band, his early years as a musician, the future of rock music and off course the inspiration about its brand new album “Spiritual Machines II” released on last January 2022.

Our Lady Peace reached several records as a Rock Band formed in Toronto, Ontario in 1992, particularly in its native Canada.

The band currently also features Duncan Coutts on bass, Steve Mazur on guitars, and Jason Pierce on drums and led, since band´s formation, by lead vocalist Raine Maida, with top charts songs like “Starseed”, “Clumsy”, “Superman´s Dead”, “One Man Army”, “Are you Sad?”, “Somewhere Out There” and the opening song from the 90´s movie cult horror “The  Craft“,  “Tomorrow Never Knows” a cover  originally interpreted and played by The Beatles.

10 studio albums, several tours sharing stage with outstanding musicians and bands like Alanis Morissette, Candlebox, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins to name a few and after continually won Juno and Much Music awards, Our Lady Peace continues playing hard and writing songs to fans around the world.

The Jack: Nice to meet you, Duncan Coutts, is really a pleasure to have this interview particularly on this days, Happy Anniversary, according with the information online, you started with Our Lady Peace on September, 23rd. 1995. It´s a whole story, 27 years with the band…

Duncan Coutts: Right, yeah, is to be involved with this band for some many years, it´s not something I take lightly, it´s an honor it´s a privilege to people still want to listen to us, and talk to us, come to shows and allow us to do what we love to do.

The Jack:  What do you remember from those first sessions? When you were recording with the band the album “Clumsy” and that will be interesting to share with the fans.

Duncan Coutts: The real story is not on the internet, actually, it dates back to 1991ish, because Raine and I went to High School together and played in our first band and we went to school in different cities, so then they went got  popular and got signed, became the band that they became, and so when I got the called from him to come to an audition in September 1995 I thought he was kidding me. I remember being slightly overwhelmed, extremely excited and we run in to a tour where we played down the eastern seaboard of the United States, maybe 6 shows in little tiny bars, and then played into arenas with a band called Candlebox and other one called Sponge, baptism by fire for me, I went from playing in front of 20 people a night, to playing in front of thousands of people a night, it was amazing and still amazing to this day.

The Jack: I remember that I was in High School when “Superman´s Dead” was a totally hit, , and as you explained, that particular time when you were at High School you met Raine, how did you begin with your musical interest and who was part or was involved in your decision to be a musician?

Duncan Coutts: My parents forced me to do music when I was young, they thought I had an aptitude for it, so I played the Cello as a little kid, and then I sang in choirs when I was a little kid, and then I was brainwashed by KISS( when I was  really young) and I wanted to be a rockstar and then I can actually pinpoint the time that happened to me, when I wanted to be a musician was, I saw the Joshua Tree Tour by U2 in 1987, and  as all exhibit in Toronto  is called the Exhibition Stadium, the old Stadium were used to be, they ended with a song called “40” and literally everyone sang that song, while each member left the stage so were just the crowd and the drummer at the end, Larry, and everyone was walking into the night still singing that song, that was the moment where I had this ephiphany that I thought that if I could be and individual or part of a band that can write a song that affected some people away that this song affected sixty thousand people that´s what I want to do with my life. Literally, that was the day that it started for me.

The Jack:  Music has a big purpose, it helps when you feel depressed or happy then every single word that you are listening became really important, as an example, in my playlist I have in constantly rotation “Somewhere Out There”, exactly that song from the “Gravity” album is really important to me, but in your own perspective which song do you find more representative to the sound and essence of OUR LADY PEACE?

Duncan Coutts: We never been a band that tries to repeat ourselves, so I said early on, I think have to say “Starseed” is very representative, I think a lot of people will said “Clumsy” but I would actually say  “Superman´s Dead”. I agree with you, there so many people really resonate with “Somewhere Out There”, but am I say “Innocent” was the one on that record where we felt in territory that we are not comfortable with. I resonate with the honesty of a song like “Are you sad?” from “Spiritual Machines”, I mean, there so many songs… “Spiritual Machines 2” there´s 2 songs one called (I mean I love all the songs I really do), but playing live  a song called “Wish you well”, is a really, really great bridge between “where we are now and where we used to be”, sonically speaking, when we played “Clumsy”, when we were opening for Alanis in 1996, before the record came out, we recorded half of record and we were testing it, people resonated to that song live, well before they ever heard it, and then we started to play “Wish you well” before this record came out and the same thing happened and there´s no saying they are having the same success, but it was an emotional line between those two songs, I would say.

The Jack:  Talking about “Spiritual Machines 2”, last January was the traditional released of this 10th. Studio album, how is related with the similar titled album from 2000? Obviously, I think that is the second part of the concept album, right?

Duncan Coutts: Spiritual Machines 1” we just recording on tour, I don´t remember the exact time line, our guitar player at the time, Mike Turner brought in this book by Ray Kurzweil called “the Age of Spiritual Machines” and Raine really wanted to make a record mostly about that, so became a concept record, and I´ll say probably 60% was concept, and 40%  was real life and it really resonated with a lot of people, and for years Raine and I been discussing how do will do to follow up to that record, and then we were coming into the Pandemic and  everything was shut down and we were trying to make music apart from each other it felt like it was the right time to revisit it and so many Ray Kurzweil´s predictions had come true from “Spiritual Machines” book. I heard some of the predictions and he agreed to be part of this, so it felt like where we are in  society, socially, with technology, and how we all  use it , it felt like the right time to go back and revisited “Spiritual Machines”.

The Jack:  By the way, when I was researching about the current record, I was thinking, who was the inspiration about the lead single “Stop Making Stupid People Famous”?

Duncan Coutts:  Life! (Laughs) Is funny, ´cause I´m not the lyricist, it´s Raine´s domain, he´s told the story on stage when we played this a number of times, asking the question: How do we get here? In terms of what´s going on socially speaking, political speaking, these are his words not mine, so I am going to deflect a little bit, but he is all in bread crumbs back, he pays it back to Paris Hilton, and not there´s anything typical wrong with her, but there´s the fact that people, they were so engrossed to the idea of the reality show, you had Flavor Flav who was one of the most bad-ass rappers, one of the most dangerous rappers ever doing a reality show, and then you follow through from that, and you can see how we ended up where we are today. All extrapolated out further, you know we had a reality star as the president of United States.

The Jack: Totally true, and that question will lead us to look into the 80s synth sound you have in “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” is a collaboration with Pussy Riot and to me was a match made in heaven and perfect to create conscience about the scenario that we are talking about: technology and social media, as part of Our Lady Peace had been experienced whole changes in music since early 90s according with your perspective, how do you see the future in rock music? 

DUNCAN COUTTS: Well, I think we need to embrace the electronic, but I really hope, the wooden strings instruments do not leave us for good, because there is an emotional response that I get standing in front of an amplifier playing a great big choir, I´m not the guitar player in the band but I love to do it, our songs are based on wooden instruments with metal strings I Would never get tired of use I think embrace both, I think so use this things as tools, you can create great sounds with synthetic instruments, but I think is important to keep the old wooden ones as part of the  fold.

The Jack: A multi-media tour was scheduled in June 2022, as spectators or audience what can we expect from The Wonderful Future Theatrical Experience?

Duncan Coutts: So we did that through June in Canada, and we´ll try to find a way to do it in America, it becomes problematic logistically, bring right now, everyone is trying to tour the economics has changed so much, but what we are able to do is use, not the holograms, but the way these holograms were presented it was an entirely different thing, we actually got to play, there´s  a Canadian singer/songwriter, Sarah Slean is her name, she did a version before she was ever  known, she was probably 15 years old, of a song of first record was called “Julia”, big rock song in this really beautiful piano interpretation, not a ballad, but this really just  beautiful piece of music, so back in 1997, we got this tape, Raine´s  said “we have to do this live”, so I actually  I had to learn to play the piano, in order to do it live in 97, for this tour we actually recorded an hologram doing  that song and we are able to record Nadia from Pussy Riot doing her part “Stupid people” and then we are able to play with her every night. We have so interactive hologram experience for the fans after the show, it was pretty really incredible.

The JACK: Last andbasic question as closure of this amazing interview and important to all your fans in this side of the continent, Do you have plans to come to Latin America soon?

Duncan Coutts: We have a pretty active channel in Discord, and someone from Mexico asked me this question weeks ago when we have a LIVE in Discord we are supposed to play in Mexico City many years ago, for some reason felt through and we absolutely have to make it, there will be people who will interested to seeing us, but all over our managers/agents are trying to make that will happen.

The Jack: That will be awesome, to have the opportunity to see you here in our nation, Duncan it was pleasure to talk with you, anything else that you want to add to the fans of the band here in Mexico?

Duncan Coutts:  Thank you for your support, come to Discord to find us, and look for tour dates hopefully on the new year, it won´t be this year and I think our American tour is actually  get push off     into the next year and hopefully we can figure out our way to get down in sometime in 2023.

The Jack:  Lastly, I would ask if you can you give us a Message to our followers and readers specially?

Duncan Coutts:  First of all, to your followers: ¡Thank you for being music fans!, thank you for listening to us if you do, and  we played some things Ray Kurzweil said some people took as challenging and it´s really is about AI, and Nano-technologies and there is some different people voices and Raine´s would said  there´s some many people who are trying to divide us  and we came here every night to share music, share an experience and be one and put all differences to side and if more people can  do that on regular basis, especially those who hold power we will be on a lot better place.

Thanks Duncan!

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