Interview with Output 1:1:1

Photo Credit: Emma Letki

Dec. 11th- Alternative Sound had the chance to talk to Daniel Janvier of the Toronto experimental band Output 1:1:1! Daniel had some great things to say about being a musician, writing songs, and his biggest influences. You can read the whole interview below!

Photo Credit: Emma Letki

Welcome to Alternative Sound! First, tell us who you are, your pronouns, where you’re from, and what you do!

My name is Daniel Janvier (he/him). I’m the creator of Output 1:1:1, a Toronto-based experimental band. I sing and play guitar, bass, and some auxiliary percussion on the record, as well as piano on some of our soundcloud pieces.

What made you pursue music? Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?

I don’t think I have a very exciting answer – I must’ve just thought it was cool when I was younger. I don’t believe in the idea of vocations or “callings.” I think there was something about music that reflects an element of my personality for sure. It’s only recently that I’ve found it to be a therapeutic form of expression. I’ve come to see a kind of language in it. A language that you can continuously restructure. You can approach it from so many different perspectives – it’s quite freeing when you get to it.

Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?

Radiohead, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Portishead are some of the most immediate artists that come to mind. But there’s a multitude of additional influences – like seeing Tanya Tagaq lead a 50 person choir and a jazz-metal band in an hour of complete improvisation. That energy influences the type of performance we try to put together.

You just released a new record called ‘Retroactive Rock Record’ – congratulations! What was the inspiration for this EP? Does it have any special meaning?

Thank you. The sound of the EP was influenced by a series of panic attacks I experienced in 2016. I tried to keep honest to the emotional experience of what I had internalized during that time and, well, much of my life. The lyrics for each song came together as I was working on the music, but I tried to make them connect as a tool of communicating an experience – I wasn’t interested in directly stating what my personal experience felt like.

When I started making what would become this EP, the music was a lot more abstract and, for good reason, pretty heavy. Sadness was intrinsically tied to the panic attacks – hopelessness recurring with significant frequency, and the music reflects that. But I do want to note the difference, at least as I see it, between hopelessness and suicide – not as a defence, but it simply wasn’t how I experienced it. That was something I consciously wanted to convey in some form in the music.  

There’s this lazy kind of humour around sad music and suicide. It might have lessened a bit recently, but I’ve witnessed people (think writers, people on the news, or just people you work with) treat sad music as though it reflects only suicidal tendencies, or a completely misanthropic view of the world. It might just be a deflection – maybe sad music is something deeply uncomfortable to those people, or maybe it’s just a genre preference. I tend to think it’s the latter, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Afterall, I can’t get into musicals, metal, or pop punk but I think it’s important to not be rude about it. It’s absolutely fine to not connect with sad music, it would just be ideal if people weren’t so pretentious in their own tastes. I know I’ve been guilty of that.

Album Art by Stefan Herda

What’s it like for you to see a song go from an idea, go through the recording process, and then be released? Was there anything special about recording this new single?

I feel like I can spend hours obsessing over the tone of an instrument before any melody or rhythm gets put down. It’s something I’ve been working on because I have a lot of work to do in my life. If I only have 3 hours to start a song, I would like to be able to get past that process in 30 minutes. One of the benefits of this EP is that Séan and I were committed to using only our own equipment and knowledge. It gave us a lot more time and saved A LOT of money on the recording side. But to be able to have a more chaotic song, like “Black Jacket”, present my 45th take to Séan (who produced the EP and played percussion on most of the tracks, “Black Jacket” included) and see were he can take it both on the cajon and through the recording software available to us is immensely exciting. That song went through a lot of changes – it was more chord heavy, it had a more driving bass, and on many recordings I played percussion so poorly that you couldn’t tell where the beat was.

But what must have been the most special part of this recording was how honest we were able to make it. We poured so much time and energy into it, and we did so with a solid understanding of what we wanted to create. There was a lot of room for change and perfecting parts, but it felt like all of the changes we put in were to serve the right ends. To be able to do that alone is really special to me.

There can be a lot of stress involved with making music- how do you stay positive during the hard times? What makes it worth it for you?

Time and money are the most stressful things. You can only dedicate so much time to something because of all the responsibilities you need to take care of. And the largest commitment is to be able to afford the basic cost of living. If we rented studio time and an engineer, that would be an additional stress, absolutely. We’d have a limited amount of time to get everything in and as perfect as we could. It’s possible we’d walk away with a great deal more weak recordings.

The work itself was one of the more positive ways to deal with that stress. It’s incredibly rewarding to put a lot of work into something and feel like you’ve created something meaningful out of it. But I don’t look at it as a need to “stay positive,” and I worry that kind of thinking can have harmful effects on people who go through anything similar to my experiences with anxiety and panic attacks. Allowing yourself to enjoy something or even allowing yourself to feel at ease or content is something entirely different than staying positive. It’s pausing your need to always produce, and freeing yourself to go for a walk with someone you care about, or to enjoy an excitable dog in the park, or listen to a record from someone you admire. It’s incredibly difficult but it can actually be attainable. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not a corrective – you’re probably stressed for a good reason, and telling yourself “stay positive” ignores what your body is telling you.

Speaking of making it worth it, has there been anything during your music career that you’re especially proud of?

I’ve really enjoyed being able to share this process with some of the people I love most. Séan and I have been friends since we were 9 years old and have been through a lot together. There’s a lot of trust in that friendship that helped build this project. Eli, who shot the videos, was in a band with Séan and I before this project. He and I have worked closely on a few film projects he put together, and I’ve got to watch his talents grow over the years. Stefan and I went to the University of Guelph together. I’ve always admired his work and I’m very fortunate to have him share his art for this project. Michelle, who produced “Issue at Track Level” with Séan is one of the first people I spoke to about my panic attacks. She pushed me to put as much of myself in the material as possible. And my partner, Emma, not only did all of the photography for the press, but also appeared with me in the video for “Retroactive Rock Record”. I remember when I first showed her the very first demo for that song. There’s something incredible about including your loved ones on a project, even one as dark and heavy as this one developed. There’s something even better about those people wanting to be involved.

What does being a musician mean to you?

I think a musician isn’t a singular idea anymore. When I was younger, many of the musicians I knew were interested in mostly technical aspects of being a musician – what gear you had, how fast you could sweep pick, how much your strings cost. I didn’t really fit in with that, and I didn’t think of myself as that much of a musician. Then I started meeting people who self identified as “singer-songwriter” and I felt that was a redundant way to introduce yourself, so I didn’t think of myself as that much of a singer-songwriter. I’ve only recently allowed myself to understand that being a musician can mean whatever the hell I want it to. If music can be deconstructed and reproduced, so can the definitions that are associated to it. It’s all about intention. Lyrics can be poetry or words that carry mood.

What do you want people to get out of your music?

I hope people can hear something that they connect with. Maybe not something obvious or at the surface, but something in the experience of hearing those five songs that is relatable. And hopefully that kind of connection will make people excited to hear more.

You must have some exciting things coming up in the future- is there anything on the horizon you can talk about?

I’ve been working with a few local musicians to build a live show for this material. They’ve each come from different musical backgrounds, so it’s been very exciting building musical chemistry together and witnessing how they interpret the material. I’m confident it will be an energetic, visceral interpretation of the music in a way that can only be produced by these musicians working together.

Additionally, I’ve been recording material for a follow up for some time. In early 2020, Séan and I will begin selecting and mixing the tracks for that.

What’s the #1 reason everyone should check out ‘Radioactive Rock Record’?

The first thing people tell me about when they heard it is how good it sounds. That is completely Séan’s fault. The sound of the bass on the opening track is so heavy and it really hooks you in. The elements of the songs play around each other, and at times warp melodies into something else entirely. It’s awesome.

Any last words?

Thank you for sharing your space with me. I really appreciate the chance to talk about this work, and share my thoughts on it. If I could share some of the work of the people who helped build this project:

Séan released an EP on bandcamp while we were working on Retroactive Rock Record.

Stefan’s website features some of his most interesting creations. I couldn’t attempt to describe his work without sounding like an idiot, but it’s quite incredible.

Eli has released quite a few webseries over the years. The first videos he shot for this project is still one of my favourites.

I’ve started playing with a musician named Mike Robbins, who has some truly wonderful music on his soundcloud. His support has been instrumental in building the live act.

You can stay up-to-date on everything Output 1:1:1 is doing by following them on Facebook and Spotify!

Photo Credit: Emma Letki

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