When it comes to the Mount Rushmore of the golden era of Canadian rock, in the 1990s, the four bands that would make it are Our Lady Peace, Moist, Tea Party and I Mother Earth. Despite being a quarter century out from their peak, Ottawa has hosted three quarters of these bands already this year, and will be completing the quad when I Mother Earth hits the stage at the Bronson Centre Music Theatre on Friday night.
Formed in 1990, the foursome of Edwin, brothers Jagori and Christian Tanna and Bruce Gordon burst onto the scene with the platinum certified Dig in 1993, and the double-platinum Scenery and Fish in 1996. The band then went through a transition with Brian Byrne replacing Edwin up front, and then by 2004, I Mother Earth went on hiatus. After reforming in 2012, the band went through another transition on bass (with Chuck Dailey replacing Bruce Gordon), and in 2016, Edwin returned to the lineup.
This Friday, they’ll be performing at the Bronson Centre Music Theatre with support from The Standstills as part of CHEZ 106’s Biggs & Barr Holiday Giv’er, raising money for the Ottawa Suit Fund. A great night of rock for a great cause.
While I Mother Earth showed they’re in great form as a band, including their last show in Ottawa (2018’s Hopped and Confused festival), long-time fans have been awaiting news on when they’ll finally deliver new material—which will be the first featuring Edwin on vocals since 1996.
That subject, among many, were part of our chat with drummer and lyricist Christian Tanna this week.
APT613: This year, we’ve had Our Lady Peace, Tea Party and Moist all come to town, so thanks for coming to close out 2019 for us.
Christian Tanna: There really was a ton of stuff going on back then, when you look back with the benefit of hindsight. When you’re in the middle of it, you’re not really thinking about it too much. You’re just doing your job, you’re having fun. But then you look back at all the music that came out in that era, it’s pretty crazy.
It’s so funny because, you know, us and Our Lady Peace just did a show out in Calgary together, and we did a tour together a couple of years ago. I was talking to Jeff Martin from the Tea Party like last week or something like that. Some of these bands stuck around or some just kind of went quiet for a little while, but they’re all still out there, and are still really good, without really slowing down. There must’ve been something to it all back then. I find it interesting that bands from that era still find a way to keep going strong.
I never play the “back in my day” card. We’re just playing rock music, and it’s pretty straight forward. But here we are, all these guys around the same age, still doing it in different ways and forms. But I think we’re all still doing it because we still enjoy it, but also because we can still do it. And I don’t underestimate that. We could ‘not’ be able to do it, like no one show up to our shows, then it wouldn’t be as fun anymore. But people are still coming to these things. It’s great.
The places are packed. But it’s not just that. It’s striking that it’s not only fanse from that era. I was at the Moist concert last month, and when they announced it had been 25 years since Silver was released, the girl next to me mentioned she wasn’t even born yet.
When you think about it, our core audience in 1995 was anywhere from 15 to 21 years old. And you know, here we are 25 years later, and those people have kids. So it is it’s gotten very interesting.
As far as live shows, having seen you in 2018, you had almost the same energy as you did back in the early days.
One thing’s for sure, we feel like we’re playing better than we ever used to. Which is a funny thing. As a drummer, I play much more efficiently, and I’m not trying to break everything in sight. We pay more attention to detail now, which we never used to. You know, “let’s just go out and give it” and if everyone likes it, great. But I think everyone gets to a point where, with us, we know what we want more out of this, now more than ever. I think half of it is we want ourselves to have a good time. That’s what we told ourselves, that we’re going to do this as long as we’re having a good time. And it is fun. We really are having a good time. Because there’s less pressure, there’s less everything—we just go out play.
I think sometimes the shows reflect that, there’s a looseness about it. Where a big mistake during a set meant dirty stares after the show 20 years ago, now, it’s like “hey, that was pretty funny.” So there’s a looseness about the whole thing that I think might be translating sometimes.
I think that’s a great mindset for a band with your sound. When you debuted, your sound was different than most of the rock that was being made. You had much more of a jam/funk feel that wasn’t around from anybody else.
And as the years went on, we tried to differentiate ourselves even more in that way. I think we probably jam a little more, or a lot more, than other bands and just take some sections of some songs and go. We grew up on Santana, so that’s very much a huge part of what we do, with that jammy aspect of it, and with all the percussion and everything. So right away, there was a differentiator. Even the stuff we have coming out next year, where we push that even further. It’s funny, you can’t really change your stripes I guess. You are what you write, and that’s just the stuff that comes out. And sometimes, it’s quirky King Crimson-y kind of thing, which we also enjoy.
It was a big part of what we did was “Let’s not be like anyone else” and if that’s your attitude going forward, you just run with it.
So in terms of the new music that you mentioned. When can we expect that to pop up?
Basically, we’ve got a bunch of music together and we’re finishing a few things, but we’re still trying to decide what shape it should take. Is this an album? Should we just put out a single? Maybe it’s just an EP with four songs to get them out there. But we ended up with more music than we bargained for, so after this show this weekend, we’re gathering ourselves up to see what we have. We’d like to just finish the rest of it off and have it out in the new year. The sooner the better for us. So probably in the next month or so we’ll let people know what it’s going to be and go from there.
I Mother Earth will be performing at the Bronson Centre Music Theatre (211 Bronson Ave) with support from The Standstills, as part of CHEZ 106’s The Biggs & Barr Holiday Giv’er, raising money for the Ottawa Suit Fund. Doors open at 7pm, tickets available here