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"It's a comment on where we come from culturally, but we also wanted our name to be open to interpretation;" Marty says. "The band is about posing questions, not providing answers. We want people to ask us about the name."
A lot more people are asking these days. Since the release of their CD, Songs for Dying Nations, Breach of Trust has gained critical acclaim as a new and passionate voice on the metal/alternative rock scene. When Songs was first released in 2000, the band included Marty (vocals and guitar), Bill (drums), Zane Kryzanowsky (bass) and Colin Cheechoo (guitar and vocals). Zane and Colin have since left to pursue other interests. In fact, after touring in support of the re-release of the CD in 2001 (we'll get to that story in a minute), the guys spent much of 2002 living in different parts of the country. Now they've got two new members and have regrouped in La Ronge to write material for a new CD.
Brent Stutsky, who used to play with Minion, is new on bass and former Citra Ahra member Dean Zabalotney is on guitar.
"Brent joined the band in July," Marty says. "He sent us a video tape and CD after seeing a news item on MuchMusic. He came out and played with us, and we felt he was a good fit, so right away we put his feet to the fire.
"Awakening to the possibilities that lie within / Awakening of the sacred gifts that we've been given"
-from Awakening, Songs for Dying NationsHe played his first gig in Regina with us and then the next one was on MuchMusic during National Aboriginal Day:"
Marty and Bill have known Dean for years. "We were all part of the same circle when we were playing in different bands, so we'd hang out a lot. We thought of him immediately when we needed to fill the spot. He came out and jammed with us, and officially joined the band on Christmas Day.
"Now we've all come together, we have a feeling of brotherhood. And we've made a commitment to being here, in the same place", says Marty, who moved back from Vancouver. "We recently signed with new management out of New York, and Bill and I were down there before Christmas to meet with them about developing our fan base in the U.S. So now we're writing songs for a new album:"
It's a different ball game this time around, and this leads us back to the story behind the hard-won success of Songs for Dying Nations.
Breach of Trust actually produced the album independently in 1999 for a 2000 release. What's truly amazing is that they financed it themselves by taking advantage of every available grant and loan. They knew that if they wanted a record deal, the band would have to prove it could be successful. To do that, they needed to show record labels a top quality studio album full of original material. With $100,000 in funds, they attracted "studio guru" Glen Robinson, who had produced such notables as The Tea Party and Keith Richards. The CD was recorded in Montreal and Vancouver studios, then mastered in New York City.
That was just step one. Now the band had to promote the album and get their music - and their name - in front of the media.They spent the summer of 2000 playing festivals and club dates as well as industry showcases in California. In August, they played the famous Whiskey A Go-Go and Troubadour clubs in Hollywood, where many of rock's biggest names had got their start.
All this hard work (okay, a lot of it was huge fun) paid off when the call came from EMI Music Canada, one of the biggest players in the music industry. EMI signed the
At the 2001 Canadian aboriginal music awards, Breach of trust won all three categories they were nominated for:
Best group/duo, best rock album (songs for dying nations) and best songwriter (complicated).
band and re-released Songs for Dying Nations in 2001. In announcing the deal, Deane Cameron, the president of EMI Music Canada said, "Breach of Trust offers a uniquely powerful perspective on both life and music. We are very excited to bring this kind of passionate, hard edged energy into our family of artists."
The band's perspective is certainly unique. "We happen to come from a place that not many others have even seen. Our world view is new to many people, there's nothing like it out there right now;" Marty says.
For the band members, the Aboriginal heritage is family history. It is simply who they are, and Marty says they're comfortable with that. "We see ourselves as musicians. I have reservations about labeling ourselves as an Aboriginal band because this isn't traditional First Nations or Aboriginal music."
That's an understatement. If you want a good comparison of their sound, think Soundgarden, Korn, Nirvana, and even a little Led Zeppelin. A review on the Internet site, newmusicwest.com, calls them "soothingly vicious ... reclamation as a musical statement." So how does Breach of Trust define their music? Ballentyne told Mike Ross of the Edmonton Sun that "being Indian is not a prerequisite for our band - and that's how we feel about the music, too. When people discover it, good for them. But you don't need to know that we're Indian to dig what we're doing."
The music is fiery, urgent, angry. Yet it is also thoughtful and poetic. The lyrics on one of the most riveting tracks on Songs, entitled Who Am I, seem almost tender: 'life is a gift we forget to acknowledge / love sees through the eyes of our grandmothers / time passes by without consent or apology so / I will try to give back all that's been given. But when delivered to the explosive beat of driving guitars, drums and emotional vocals, you've got a powerful combination that reviewers have dubbed visionary metal/alternative.
While word-of-mouth on Songs continues to gain new fans around the world, thanks in large part to the Internet, the guys are busy working on new material. "We want to go into the recording studio with about 20 or 25 songs. We have about ten, so we've got a bunch more writing to do," Marty says.
In writing, you're pulling ideas and coalescing them from the universe around you. We've been doing this for ten years now, so we're getting better at saying what we want to say, about getting our point across in the least amount of words. That's important for us. If you listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival or the Ramones, for example, all their songs are three minutes or less. We're really into that as a band. It's more powerful."
The guys expect to go into the studio to record in March and release the new CD in the summer. Then they'll set up a tour in support of the album.
"In performing in live shows, you're projecting everything you've been working on for the past months outward, to the people. It's a whole different thing. You're in a different place every night, passing through people's lives. It's like an adventure. It's all good."