Mike Petkau is different things to different people. He’s a record producer, a songwriter, a musician and the visionary behind Record of the Week Club, among other projects. Now he’s been appointed artistic director of the West End Cultural Centre.
How does one of the busiest musicians in the city take on such a prestigious position while juggling everything on his increasingly large plate, and what does he plan to do with his new found power?
Petkau ain’t saying that much.
“I’m interested in pushing Winnipeg’s boundaries a little bit,” Petkau explained in his brand-new office at the corner of Sherbrook and Ellice.
Although Petkau is hesitant to share what he has in store for the WECC, it sounds like the famed music venue has made the right move in hiring him.
He has been involved in many exciting and original projects in the past, such as the aforementioned Record of the Week Club, a project which started small, but became a sensation inside and outside the city.
Bringing together musicians from diverse backgrounds once a week to write, record and mix one track in a single evening was once just an idea in Petkau’s brain. But after 16 weeks, a record was born.
“It turned out great. It produced some absolutely amazing music,” he said.
Nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award, the album has participants from bands such as Moses Mayes, The Weakerthans, Nathan, Mahogany Frog, and others artists such as Inuit throat singer Nikki Komaksiutiksak.
Keewatin Arctic, the record’s most popular track, featuring Komaksiutiksak, John K. Sampson and electronic artist Blunderspublik, can be heard online for free.
While cruising the net you can also check out HeadInTheSand.ca, the new online arm of Mike Petkau’s local musical body. The new website was launched at the beginning of January and is intended to be a fully interactive experience. Petkau hopes to create a place where creativity and community can come together.
For instance, it will include video and audio footage of an album being created by any one of the artists in his collective. Visitors will then be able to comment on a given track’s development: was the song better before the synth was added? Is there really a need for more cowbell?
Thus far, the Head in the Sand collective includes Todd Hunter, Demetra, From the Moon and, of course, Petkau’s own bands, Les Jupes and The Liptonians.
The Liptonians, for whom Petkau handles guitar duties, are currently in the studio and are set to release their sophomore record later this year. The band’s first self-titled album was recorded with little budget, production or band members, with Petkau, bassist Darren Grunau and drummer Terrell Froese joining after it was finished. But this time around, Petkau will have a hand with the mixing.
“It’ll feel and sound a little different. It’ll sound more like a studio album than a basement album, for better or worse,” Petkau said.
One thing’s for sure – with his involvement, The Liptonians will be putting out a very different kind of record.
With the new WECC gig being his focus instead of full-time audio engineering, any album that Petkau produces will have to be a labour of love.
That being said, the “busiest man in Winnipeg music” still has many projects he’d like to get involved with.
“I really, really want to do a hip-hop album.”
Les Jupes debuts a new line-up and releases a single with a show happening Thursday, Mar. 11. Stay tuned to www.headinthesand.ca for details.