by Alex Paillon Red-mass-band

Hannah and Roy Talk Red Mass

Here is an interview with Montreal’s very own Red Mass featuring legendary frontman Roy Vucino – aka Choyce from garage-punk bands CPC Gangbangs, Les Sexareenos and PYPY– and his partner Hannah Lewis, as they dismantle the system of the traditional band archetype, in their co-creative mindsets and collaborative stations, mesmerizing listening ears the world over with their mad musical powers, and wading the mucky waters in this trying pandemic time.

What does Red Mass mean/stand for?
 
Roy: 
The name of the band was meant to symbolize that art can offer spiritual comfort and guidance just like religion can. Red is also the colour of life, love but also of blood and violence, all these are key themes in the band’s universe.
I found out after I had named the project that an actual Red Mass is one held for members of the judiciary system such as lawyers and judges. I studied law in University but ended up changing paths to concentrate on art so I thought it was fitting.
Who are Red Mass?
Hannah:
Right now Roy and I are the core of the band  but I feel, Red Mass has always (firstly) been a giant recording and performance project. There has been a revolving roster of great musician on stage and in the studio. It “is” whoever has been involved at any point during its lifespan. 
You say you are a music collective.  What do you mean by that?
Roy:
The term was used to describe us in a few articles and it stuck but I see us more as a collaborative project. We are a collective in the strict sense of the word but I never really thought of us as a collective since we don’t take decisions collectively. People come in and out but their involvement is usually limited to the period of time when we they are working with us. 
pic by Marie-Claude Guay
Your new record, A Hopeless Noise, features a smorgasbord of different artists and musicians. From Mike Watt to Evan Dando to King Khan to John Kastner. How did you envision this and enlist all these people?
Roy:
Some of them are our buddies like Khan and Froberg, some we had met through touring and some of them we just wrote out of the blue. We just thought it was a fun way to work with people of different backgrounds and skills. Fuck the idea that the more successful musicians or artists are in another sphere. Deep down we are all doing this coz it simple appeases some urge in us or fills some big hole in our psyche.
Hannah:
A lot of the drive to work with so many different people came from really working each song for itself. We began contacting people for input and just didn’t stop. 
Each had its own personality, story and drive and we felt the freedom to work with that on a performance level as well as in the songwriting. The conversations often went something like, “hey, would it be insane to have so and so’s guitar sound on this part?” then we’d pretty much contact them and see if they were into it.
How did you go about recording all these tracks with all these different artists?
Roy:
It varies from song to song. I recorded a few on my cassette 4 track recorder then we mixed them with Sebastien Perry at Planet Studios and some were done entirely at Planet with Seb.
We did a few tracks with Raf Katigbak at his jam studio and one track with Dave Kunstatter at the old DNA studios. Most of the guests recorded their vocal tracks themselves either at home or studios in their own city. For a few tracks we had to travel to the artists’ hometown for example for ‘Killer on the loose’ we went to NY and recorded the vocals at Rick Froberg’s jam space.
Hannah: 
Our approach recording wise is not dissimilar to our approach with involving each artist. We went with whatever worked for them and us and used whatever resources we had to work with and got it done.
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A Hopeless Noise is a concept album about Diamond Girl. Can you talk about that? Who is Diamond Girl?
Roy:
She’s an ex model who falls from grace and loses touch with reality. She still has delusions of grandeur but she is now living in the poor conditions wandering the city in night clubs where she encounters a vile array of low lives. Her mental state slowly starts deteriorating and she turns to violence.

Hannah:
‘Diamond Girl’ is also a representation of ourselves. She is a character who is meant explore our adaptiveness as humans as we wander through life and deal with situations that fundamentally change us. She is meant to represent all of the personalities we acquire throughout our lives and how we utilize them from situation to situation, for self preservation. The character itself runs through some tough times in life and exists on a shaky plane of reality, which allowed us to really delve deep into her many “facets”, hence the reference to a diamond (which has many facets, or cuts).

How would you say Red Mass has evolved over the years, from Roy when you started it in the mid-2000s until now?
Hannah:
The direction of the band has always been heavily influenced by the the art, literature and and music that interested the people who were currently involved. 
We’ve focused on creating music we were passionate about at the moment, using whatever influences we were digging at the time. I think this approach had made for creating interesting and ever evolving music and creating a conversation between many artists. We’ve never tied ourselves to a specific sound, genre, intent or message. 
Roy:
I think we understand now how to better work with our collaborators. We tend to work with people in their comfort zones more. 
What was the first record you ever bought?
Roy:
The first record I owned was Bryan Adams ‘Into the Fire’ my dad had bought it for me but then he smashed it. I normally had a loving upbringing and he’s a nice dude but i remember he smashed that particular record so i remember that record for that. The first record i bought for myself was a tape. Either Dead Kennedys ‘Give me convenience or give me death’ or Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’. I remember going to a cassette store in the Chateaguay mall and buying them just because of the artwork.
Hannah:
I can’t quite remember. Probably Brittany Spears or S Club 7.
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How and when and why did you start playing music?
Hannah:
I grew up in some pretty remote places so as a young kid I would go for long walks and sing whatever came into my head for hours. I loved the freedom and solitude of being alone in nature and connecting with my thoughts like this. My parents also put me in a touring children’s choir when I was in grade 5, which was insanely fun. When I was 13 or 14 I saved up and bought myself a guitar and started writing songs that now didn’t disappear once they were out of my head.
Roy:
I started studying music when I was really young. At first I learned the basics with xylophone and a bit of piano and after that I switched to guitar. My dad taught me chords and then i took classical guitar lessons. I started performing at restaurants when I was a teenager. One of my first jobs was a rollerskating waiter for banquets. It was as bad as it sounds. Between servings I would have to take off my roller skates and play short sets of oldies covers like Buddy Holly, Ricky Nelson and Elvis. Totally brutal but great way to break the ice.
Red Mass live
What are your influences (music, film, art, culture, people?)
Roy:
The band’s sound is very influenced by Roxy Music, the Sound, Killing Joke, Joy Division, Bauhaus & Sonic Youth. I love playing garage and punk but i listen to a lot more country, pop, hip-hop and jazz music. I been listening to Philip Glass ‘Glassworks’, Big L, Betty Davis, the Weeknd’s new album a lot and tons of Waylon Jennings. As fas as films go Fassbinder and Kurosawa are two of my favourite directors. I also love Sci-Fi , I’m a Trekkie, i watched film noirs and tons of Horror films. 
For authors Murakami (both Ryu and Haruki), JG Ballard and Cormac McCarthy and for art that inspired us DA DA, expressionism and surrealism are big influences. I like certain abstract artists like Kadinsky as well. For culture I like reading up on spiritual philosphers like Ram Dass as well as occultists like Austin Osman Spare or comic book writer Grant Morrison.
For ‘A Hopeless Noise’ specifically we were heavily inspired by Cervantes’ Don Quixote and novels by Bret Easton Ellis.
Hannah:
I am influenced by pretty much whatever I come across as far as art and culture goes. What I enjoy is exploring architecture, paintings, literature and film as an influence. I feel like I look for things that evoke a certain mood rather than exploring specific genres and whatnot. If I can find a piece that hits all of my senses and transports me, I am happy. 
How are you coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, musically as a band,  and personally?
Roy:
I’m trying to create at home but honestly I find the situation sad and uninspiring. 
Hannah and me have been apart for close to a month so we’ve been ping ponging ideas back and forth but i’m mostly just remixing material i have for an upcoming solo album.
Hannah:
I have been feeling pretty displaced by the Covid situation. I have not been able to be home  so have been staying at different family members houses until I can get back to my own. I am usually one to digest a situation before I feel the urge to write about it, so that will probably come a little bit down the line. On a bright note, I feel extremely fortunate to exist where I do at the moment. The fact that I feel I have time to do an interview about my band, live in a safe place and have no worries about where my next meal will come from is pretty extraordinary.
Red Mass Hannah Lewis
I saw you opened for the Cult last year – how was that gig for you? Did you get to meet  Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy?
Roy:
It was totally awesome. Everyone warned us that they might not be too friendly but they dug our set and introduced themselves afterwards. They ended up being real nice and I talked about guitar pedals and gear with Billy Duffy. I was kind of freaking out, I grew up on that shit.
Hannah:
Those guys were really funny and very nice with us. I had a blast doing that show. At one point after the show we were chatting with a couple of the band members and crew and I happened to glance across the room and glimpsed a freshly showered Ian Ashbury garbed only in a towel strutting around. He came out of the change room to chat once he was dressed and in polite British (and Canadian) fashion and there no mention of the incident. It was pretty hilarious.
Once we are “’back to normal” what’s next on the horizon for Red Mass?
Roy:
A launch for ‘A Hopeless Noise’ then going to record a new album in Berlin and more touring in Europe.
Hannah:
We were really excited to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones in Europe and would love to physically work from there for the next Red Mass project.

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