Resurrection of the Creature

Excerpt by James Morrison

You've gotta give Moist their propers. They've negotiated the minefield that is the Canadian music industry with a finesse that belies their relative inexperience. Of course, it hasn't been easy. It never is. But in the three short years since singer David Usher, guitarist Mark Makoway, bassist Jeff Pearce, keyboardist Kevin Young and drummer Paul Wilcox shopped their first demo to a uniformly indifferent army of A&R reps, they've skirted the bear pits and tank traps that have swallowed other bands whole. No matter what the potential pitfall, the band has found a way to turn the situation to its favour. And with the out-of-box success of their second album, Creature, Moist now find themselves poised on the verge of a breakthrough of Tragically Hip-like proportions. That's not just wishful thinking, either. Moist's debut, Silver, recorded independently for the industry equivalent of pocket change, yielded one of 1994's most indelible songs in 'Push' - without the backing of a major. That is, until EMI Music Canada woke up, smelled the cappuccino and signed the band. By the time the album's run was finished, Silver had gone triple platinum (300,000 units) and given up two more singles, 'Silver' and 'Believe Me'. Boom! From farm team to franchise players, just like that.

Given that level of success, the birth of Creature should have been a relatively pain-free experience. But it was a longer and more difficult labour than anyone anticipated. "We weren't expecting it to take as long as it did," Pearce says. "But at the same time, it was nice to be able to take that extra time and be really sure we were doing things right. We were given the opportunity to second-guess our choices, to sit back and look at the record as a whole - what the 'story' of the album was going to be and how it was going to work as a narrative unto itself."

"We're definitely hard on ourselves," agrees Makoway. "We're very self-critical - and critical of each other, which sometimes creates tensions. And sometimes those tensions are exactly what makes a song great. When everyone is really focused and really intense, that's when the best songs come out."During this time, rumours flew that the band was a little light on material for their current effort - a suggestion that prompts laughter from both of them. Makoway says they took a long time to write this record because they knew that the pressure was on. "We knew about the sophomore jinx and that everyone'd be looking at us under a microscope, so we had to make sure it was our best work. We wrote a bunch of songs in Thailand [Usher is part-Thai, and Moist toured there as conquering heroes], we wrote a bunch of songs in Vancouver - in total, we wrote about 35 songs."It was just a totally different process than making the first record. Because of the time factor, even in the studio it was different, it wasn't the sort of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am way of recording we did when we had no money and no time. A lot of the time, actually, we ended up looking for that kind of spark, playing a song all day long looking for the one take that sounded like guerilla rock.""We don't write very well when we have too much time," Pearce adds. "We work much better under deadlines. We can piss around an issue until the day before it has to be resolved. When we went into the studio, there were five songs the record company hadn't even heard yet, including 'Leave It Alone' and 'Resurrection'. We cut them first, and the label was very, very happy to hear them."

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