Let’s hope it doesn’t snow again

Chad VanGaalen’s rescheduled gig kicks off 2012 right

Calgary’s Chad VanGaalen brings his self-deprecating rock to the West End Cultural Centre this weekend. Killbeat

Although musicians receive the label “pretentious” far too often, the word does not apply to Canadian singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen.

“I live a pretty simple life; I don’t really leave my house much,” VanGaalen says with a laugh. “I’ve got two kids, so between my family and my work, I just listen to records all day. It’s pretty luxurious, but I have to keep myself focused to actually do stuff.”

Luckily for us, that focus has stayed sharp enough to see the Calgarian release four EPs and four albums since 2004, including last year’s acclaimed Diaper Island.

With his early work pegged as indie-rock with an electronic influence and the latter release considered more of a dirty rock ‘n roll style, VanGaalen has also found time to mix things up even further with side project Black Mold.

“Before everyone thought I was a songwriter, I kind of got into more soundscapey stuff, more experimental stuff, so I’ve always had way more stuff going on in that sense,” VanGaalen explains. “I always tried to slip it in on the records, but it never really worked out properly. Now I can slip in that stuff and not act like it’s a solo show.”

With both musical projects on the go, as well as a series of eight self-recorded, -dubbed and -released cassettes (some under the Black Mold moniker), VanGaalen also finds time to feed his passions for animation and illustration.

For years, the artist has been creating music videos for himself as well as others (including J Mascis and Holy Fuck) and designing the album artwork for each of his full-length releases.

Starting on the visual art path very early on, the musical side of things didn’t come quite as quick. Thankfully, bands such as Sonic Youth and Nirvana caught the singer’s attention before he lost interest completely.

“I didn’t really listen to music at all except for the stuff I was kind of exposed to at the grocery store,” VanGaalen says. “Those two bands (Sonic Youth and Nirvana) were kind of right when grunge was breaking out. The grunge scene was kind of stoned out and less pretentious and everyone was invited to it more than the punk scene here in Calgary.”

Making his way to Winnipeg to make up for an earlier weather-related postponement, VanGaalen will follow-up with his annual month-long tour to Europe including stops in the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Even with fans that show up to see him year after year, the singer still struggles to understand his appeal.

“It’s ridiculous in Canada that people come out to shows or even care anymore,” he says. “Every place that I’ve been has been pretty good, (but) I always feel like I’m wasting people’s time.”

Judging by the near sold-out crowd who’ve been clinging to their original tickets since the November postponement, his fear couldn’t possibly ring less true.

Published in Volume 66, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 11, 2012)

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