Interview with Ken Tizzard
Ken Tizzard a man, a bass and his songs - by Mel in Toronto
The not so distant past of a career once highlighted by world tours and sold out arena shows, still harbours and resonates in the mind of this renowned Canadian musician: Meet Ken Tizzard - performing alone with his bass, on stage of a candlelit room in a downtown Toronto bar a former major label artist gone indie.
Our seventh indieMortal7 is one of Canada's top bass players, having spent twelve years playing with The Watchmen followed by three years with Thornley. Now, it's only him, filling the room with beautiful sounds, intriguing and new at the same time, on his mission in "exploring new ways to play the bass, that haven't been explored before."
After a 15-year career as a major label musician, Ken Tizzard decided about one and a half years ago that he wanted to be a solo artist. "I've been playing rock for a long time and I wanted to explore a more mellower, introspective style of music," Ken says on the phone from his home East of Toronto. The idea of playing bass and singing was inspired by Leonard Cohen's song Halleluja'. "That song was one of the first sort of cover tunes that I analyzed and picked apart when I was trying to come up with a method of playing bass that actually didn't sound like bass and also didn't really sound like guitar. And that one gave me a lot of ideas that further inspired my own original music."
His original music is mostly inspired by personal experience, but also more recently by political events. Ken says about ALL BECAUSE OF YOU that "originally, when I wrote that, it was about being heartbroken
When I write a song, it has a very specific meaning to me, but over time the meaning shifts, it's like the song has a life of its own." Ken wrote the song IF YOU WERE WRONG about his experience, when his idea of performing as a solo artist with a bass and one voice was met with criticism by his friends in the music industry. THIRTEEN takes a critical look at the media and how war is presented. The lyrics make a clear statement: "As a child I never dreamed That watching war could be so clean That with each kill we are entertained."
This summer Ken Tizzard is taking his music out West to Calgary. The father of two children will take his family along with him. "I am pretty excited to be going out. I haven't taken any of my new stuff out West at all, so it's exciting," Ken says. For the first time in his life, Ken is making music under his real name: "This Ken Tizzard solo persona is a really interesting thing for me and it's extremely challenging.
I've done 50 or 60 shows with this project now and it's still terrifying." Ken concludes that "There is something nice about being scared. I am not a big fan of complacency.
I like to be growing and moving forward."
And growing and moving forward is what he does with his solo persona. "I'm constantly being excited by new instruments; the acoustic guitar is a new thing for me. The bass guitar as an instrument, just with its sonority and the frequencies that are different there, I am still finding a lot of new stuff. There is still ground to be uncovered," Ken says.
A big reason, why Ken Tizzard decided to take a different direction has to do with his five and seven year old daughters. Ken explains that "one of the things that I was incredibly scared about was coming off the rock 'n roll road at 45 or 48 and having a couple of teenage daughters that I didn't know. The thought of that scared the hell out of me." Ken concludes that "I've been incredibly lucky. I've had the opportunity to play with one of Canada's top bands for a long time, we made a lot of records, gold and platinum, I got to record in fantastic studios and tour the world. Then I got to work with my brother in law [Ian Thornley, lead singer of Thornley] for a couple of years which was an amazing musical experience and we got to do everything from Jay Lenno to touring with Nickelback, Three Doors Down and Three Days Grace, all these fantastic bands and all these experiences. Now I've got my kids, I am still playing music, and I'm raising my kids. I really feel like, it couldn't be much better."
"In your own words" ONE on ONE with Mel and Ken Tizzard
Mel: Why was it important to you to be an indieMortal?
Ken: Well, it's weird, because the whole internet music community is a strange thing for me, because I am not used to it. I am a little bit old school: You go out and you perform for people and you get a reaction. It was only a year ago that somebody said to me, you really should get a MySpace page.
And then somebody recently said that there is this thing called indieSolo, you should apply.
And then, when the indieMortals contest came up
I sent out an e-mail to my fan database, that I've got, they started coming in and I got the e-mail saying, you are one of the top seven.
It's cool. The idea behind indieSolo I think is great. ... Anything that is helping out indie bands at this point in time is very, very important. There is a lot of great music out there that's not getting heard. And it is important to support these communities and I think the indieSolo community is definitely going to be good.
It has got some great potential.
Mel: Which opportunities do you see with indieSolo?
Ken: It's just more exposure. I don't look at my records and music as money anymore. Which was part of being a commercial artist, you were always trying to write radio singles that would turn into money. Since I stopped looking at my music as money, I get so much more comfort in it. The money comes from different places. People come out to the shows and they buy the shirts and they buy the CDs, even though they have the music, but they want to support you. And it's a really cool thing. I think the average Joe out there is starting to understand that the internet and file sharing is taking away musician's incomes. And I think that fans are starting to support music more than they have before.
The respect for musicians is coming back and everybody knows that it is getting harder and harder to make a living as a musician; it's almost the honour system.
Even though the music is free on my sites, on the kentizzard.com page and MySpace page, people still go to iTunes and pay the $0.99 and it's really good.
I really, really appreciate and respect that.
Mel: What does it mean to you to be an indie artist?
Ken: It means that I have to be my own publicist, my own manager, my own photo editor, my own road crew, there is a huge list. I sat down one day and wrote down all the things you have to do as an indie artist and it's really amazing, the stuff that you take for granted when you are with a major label.
I do enjoy being an indie artist. Quiet Storey House' is the first record I've ever fully recouped on.
I like being fully in control of my destiny right now. My mistakes are my mistakes, and my rewards are my rewards.
Mel: Who are your influences?
Ken: From a song writing perspective Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, John Lennon and from a bass playing perspective, one of my favourite bass players of all times is Tony Levin
Stanley Clark had a big influence on me,
Paul McCartney, and Bach. You can never forget Bach. Especially as a bass player, analyzing the cello suites was one of the biggest growth experiences musically.
Mel: What would you like to achieve with your music?
Ken: I guess deep down inside I'd like to leave something behind that people will remember. Which is getting more and more difficult to do with the amount of music that's being created right now, it's easier to make records and it's easier to get music out there. However, I do feel that music is my life. A full time job, I don't work another job, this is all I do: music and family.
At the end of the day it would be nice to be remembered as somebody who did something that people liked.
Mel: Which artist would you like to record a song with and why?
Ken: Bob Dylan. I've always said that the day I get to record a tune with Bob Dylan, I can give it all up. It's not a goal of mine per se, but it's a big time dream. To record a song with Bob Dylan, would be I can't even imagine what this would be like. Dylan has influenced me since I was a teenager and I've been listening to his music
To work with him would be an absolute dream come true.
Mel: Did you have training in playing bass?
Ken: No, I bought a bass from my neighbour and I actually thought it was a guitar for a year, I did not know there was a difference. And at the time I was listening to a lot of heavy metal, a lot of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and Motley Crue. And I was trying to learn all of these guitar solos and one day a friend of mine, I have an older sister and a friend of hers, was at the house and he said: What are you doing?' I said: I am just trying to figure this solo out.' But you are playing the bass.' And I said: A what?' 'That's a bass guitar.' And I said, Yeah.' That's not what you are doing on a bass that's an electric guitar. A bass only has four strings; you don't play it like that.' And I said: What does the bass do?' And he played me some bass lines and I said: Oh man, that's boring.' (laughs) I remember the entire thing. And it was actually him who said that maybe you should try and listen to some Stanley Park and that's when I first realized that bass could be different. But I didn't know the difference; I thought I had a guitar. It's my how I got started story.
by Mel in Toronto [Melanie Schade]
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