Five Questions With… Bedouin Soundclash's Jay Malinowski
The Juno-winning duo has returned with its first album in almost a decade. Here its singer/songwriter discusses the comeback, the meaning of the record's title, his artistic evolution, and love of Salt Spring Island and the Beatles.
By Jason Schneider
Nearly a decade since their last record, Jay Malinowski and Eon Sinclair, better known as the duo Bedouin Soundclash, return with their fifth studio album MASS, available now via Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc.
While pulling from its old catalogue of eclectic post-punk world-beat tendencies, the band journeys further into New Orleans jazz, afro-pop, electronic and gospel on this latest offering, reflecting a creative rebirth influenced by the cities and musicians that surrounded them.
Co-produced by Bedouin Soundclash and legendary Philadelphia House DJ King Britt, along with musical direction from Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall, MASS brings together two communities through sessions held at Marigny Studio’s in New Orleans with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and in Vancouver at St. James Church with the children of the St. James Music Academy.
Despite the critical acclaim their 2010 album Light The Horizon received, it wasn’t clear in its aftermath whether Malinowski and Sinclair would record any music together again. Malinowski wrote a novel and released two solo albums while Sinclair was busy doing session work and DJing.
However, the spark for MASS came out of the blue one day when Malinowski envisioned a song—which eventually became Clock-Work on the new album—that combined a piano riff with a break-beat and horns sampled from an old big-band swing record. That opened the door to a host of new ideas, and a new chapter for the Juno-winning group.
We spoke to Malinowski as Bedouin Soundclash prepared for an extensive UK tour this month. They’re back in Canada in November, with a date on Nov. 14 at Centre In The Square in Kitchener ON. Go to bedouinsoundclash.com for more details.
What was the process like making MASS, and what makes it stand apart from your past work?
As the name suggests, MASS was the coming together of many, many people. We went down to New Orleans for the first part of the recording process, holed up in the studio and filled the place with incredible musicians—Preservation Hall Jazz Band on horns, Mike Dillon on marimba, The Asylum Chorus Choir, the list goes on. At one point we seemed to have at least 20 musicians in the studio. It was a real social gathering, and so the name MASS seemed to connect with the process: the coming together of many people and energies to creating something new. Then we took the project west and collaborated with the kids at the St James Music Academy in the St James Church in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver. I think we had enough time between our last album to reflect and put to bed our old ideas of what the band could and couldn’t be. Now we see a future of possibilities musically, and this album represents that rebirth.
What song on the record are you most proud of and why?
I’m most proud of Edges Of The Night, purely as a group effort logistically. We recorded that song in one take live off the floor from Preservation Hall. There were 25 musicians crammed into the Hall in the middle of August with no air conditioning, which in New Orleans is a big deal. Some of the guys the night before were saying you gotta pray to the ghosts of the hall because things can go wrong in strange ways there. When we finished that song it was pure joy. You can hear it on the take. I was proud to be a part of that moment.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
The short answer is that it’s always in process. I never feel I’ve gotten what I was trying to record. I think in general, though, I have always loved trying to take two or three seemingly disparate things and putting them together so that it seems like they were naturally supposed to hang together.
What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
Moving back out to the west coast and living on Salt Spring Island. It’s nice to be out of the city.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
My mother was a huge Beatles fan and saw them in Toronto in ’64 and ‘66. I remember going through her vinyl as a kid and being fascinated with those records. Hearing John shout on Twist and Shout was transformative to my young mind...and it still is! So for my fifth birthday, she took her vinyl and recorded that song back to back over and over again on a cassette so I could listen to it non-stop and pretend I was Ringo.