Little Songs are a change of pace for Moist singer

by Karen Bliss
Canadian Music Week '98 Magazine
March 9, 1998

MONTREAL: While David Usher continues work on Moist's third album, the singer will maintain his profile with next week's release of a solo debut for EMI Music Canada.

More subtle and intimate than the band's anguished rock, little songs is essentially a stripped-down, acoustic-based album, textured with trumpet, Hammond B3, Wurlitzer, mini-Moog bass, cello, djembe and weird loops.

The first single is the gently propulsive forestfire, which debuted at #61 on CHR chart and #65 at rock radio its first week out. Two remixes by new Virgin signing The Boomtang Boys are also being worked.

"We've had a great response initially from radio," enthuses EMI national promotion VP Peter Diemer. "Already we've seen adds out of the box from stations like Z95 in Vancouver, CKIS in Calgary, CKKL in Ottawa, all three Montreal CHRs, CHOM in Montreal, CFNY and Hits 103 in Toronto, and C100 in Halifax."

A video for forestfire was shot in Mexico with Toronto-based Q Films director Javier Aguilera, who did the surreal Gasoline cideo, the final single from Moist's triple platinum sophomore album, Creature.

Usher, who fronts Moist without an instrument, has actually been playing guitar for 14 years and wrote all the songs on a $70 plywood acoustic guitar he bought off a friend a decade ago.

After building a backlog of songs that weren't suitable for the band, he began recording at home when time allowed from his busy touring schedule. EMI had no qualms about letting Usher proceed with the record "independently," as he virtually self-produced it at home.

"This is David's baby," says EMI talent acquisition and artist development VP Tim Trombley. "He's really had the vision for this all the way through and we had a lot of confidence in him to realize it."

Working with Creature producer Paul Northfield and minimal gear in his kitchen, Usher brought in additional musicians as needed. They cut the album in three separate 10-day sessions during Christmas '96 and April and June last year.

"Paul did all the engineering sitting on the floor because I had this low, low table and that's where the gear was set up," Usher says. "There's a small room off my kitchen, it's like a black hole, and every time er'd do a vocal take I would unplug the fridge and turn off the phone.

"Then we'd have friends over. They guys (Moist), they all came over and all played on something. We brought a lot of Jameson's (Irish whiskey) and a lot of coffee."

The result is an intimate collection of acoustic groove songs that shows another side of the Moist singer - from the eerie and sparse unholy, dirty & beauftiul and the lilting acoustic trickster to the folky st. lawrence river, which features trumpet and Hammond B3 subtleties.

The working title of the album, which was printed on the advandce CDs and crossed out with a thick black marker, was little songs to fuck to. It has, however, been shortened to the more tasteful little songs since nobody wants the music overshadowed by the album title.

Usher, who's currently on a 10-date Moist tour of the northeastern U.S. with Creed and Big Wreck, will begin promoting the album before meeting up with Moist in Vancouver at the Juno Awards.

"We're going to put a pretty heavy concentration on the province of Quebec out of the gate because Quebec is such a strong market and David's very well known there," says EMI marketing director Carole MacDonald. "Then we're going to follow that up with a western and Ontario promo trip following the Junos.

"The most effective way to market little songs is to look at what's been done for Moist in the past and try and do something a little bit different. We're going to be doing more street postering. I think that the whole approach overall is going to be more street, less big rock'n'roll triple platinum."

At the moment, because of Usher's commitment to Moist and writing for the next album, he has no idea if he'll tour behind the album. "I'll just wair and see," he says. "I need some space from the record before I can even think about that."