Roots Rocker to play Grad Club

The dapper Doucet lounges in pensive thought.
The dapper Doucet lounges in pensive thought.
Luke Doucet draws inspiration from Tom Waits.
Luke Doucet draws inspiration from Tom Waits.

Interview: Luke Doucet @ The Grad Club

Luke Doucet’s name may not ring a bell at first, but to members of the Canadian music scene he’s not only ringing bells, but doing just about everything else as well.

Doucet always seems to have a hand in multiple projects at any given time, and has for many years. This veteran has worked with the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk and Blue Rodeo. He’s also done some producing work, is the front man of the rock band Veal, and also has a successful solo career. Luke took some time on an oh-so-rare day-off to talk to the Journal about his upcoming tour, which will be making a stop at The Grad Club tonight, and his new album, Outlaws [live + unreleased], due to be released this week.

JOURNAL: I guess I’m catching you right at the brink of this tour, Kingston being your first stop. What sort of feelings do you have before starting a tour?

Well, it really depends. I probably spend nine or 10 months on the road out of the year. If there’s any anticipation and there is for me at this point, more to do with the fact that I’ve been doing different things for the last few months and I’m looking forward to getting back to this.

What have you been doing?

I’ve been producing a record for NQ Arbuckle and I’ve been recording a new record for myself and I’ve been on tour for the last four or five months playing guitar with Sarah McLachlan in Australia and New Zealand.

Do you have any expectations for this particular tour?

Well, I don’t know, I’m doing the tour with Danny [Michel], and we’ve been friends for a long time. We’ve toured together a bunch, but the last few times we toured together was a few years ago and it was just the two of us and we were on stage together, and we traded songs, and that was a lot of fun. Now that I have a live record coming out this week and Danny has his Bowie record coming out, we just both happened to be looking to go on the road at the same time, so we thought why not. It just makes sense.

So from what you’ve seen from travelling across Canada, is there a particular city you could say has the liveliest scene for you?

I would say Edmonton is way up there, very surprising to most people. But Edmonton rocks in a pretty shocking way. Edmonton’s never had a successful band. Every city has had its hit, Edmonton hasn’t.

But it has the scene?

Yeah, it has this unbelievable underground scene. Some of the best rock and roll—like young pissy snotty kids just out of high school who are playing fucking awesome rock and roll and it’s really inspiring.

So, let’s talk about your new album. Why did you decide to do a live album?

Well, I was pretty happy with the way the live stuff was sounding. I have a lot of respect for the courage and bravery it takes to say, “Here, this is what happened on stage, listen to it.” People say, “It’s sooo much better live,” but it’s like yah cause we’re up on stage and we’re in the lights and you’ve had three beers and there’s a cute girl you’ve been looking at and it’s like, “What a party!” Of course it’s great, it’s a fucking good time.

So do you find there’s more pressure than normal when you know you’re recording a performance for an album?

Oh God yeah, those shows were fucking brutal. The stress, anxiety. Also the record label made the mistake of telling me how much it was going to cost. So I thought oh great, so every time I fuck up and the song is unusable, that is going to cost us like a thousand dollars? It was just more pressure than I needed.

Do you think you can lose that sense of the free, live spontaneity of a performance because of that added pressure of the recording?

Yeah, a little bit. But, when I’m playing I get locked in what I’m doing, and it’s still very much a candid snapshot of a performance. But I was playing yesterday and I thought, “I wish I had played like that for the live record.” But it’s just rehearsal, and you always play better when you’re at home on your bed in your underwear than you do in front of an audience and you’re not trying to be cool.

You have one Tom Waits number on this new album, so is he fairly influential for you?

Yeah, he’s always been influential to me. Somebody asked me, “Why’d you put a Tom Waits song on there, isn’t that pretty obvious?” and I think “Well, fuck you man,” I sound like Kermit the Frog and he sounds like Charles Bukowski. I don’t think most people think of him as a blues artist but I really do. I think that Tom Waits is a natural heir to what blues is supposed to be and what modern blues could be, in that the lyrical content and the story are highly evolved. So where they started off in the ’20s, like Robert Johnson wasn’t singing about the same kind of characters and scenarios as Tom Waits. But if you listen to the sounds and textures of his music, it’s the absolute natural progression of that.

I think that most of the world has missed the mark on where to take blues music. I find it frustrating. I ran screaming from blues when I was 19, because I had spent three years in a band with my father in Winnipeg playing blues, and I was heading off into that “I’m a guitar genius” blues world which is so tacky and awful and I realized it and I definitely can’t go there. So, I moved to Vancouver and pretended I never even played any kind of roots music at all, and now I’m just realising that it’s ok to play roots music, and you can do it with integrity.

What do you enjoy about playing solo versus playing with Veal?

It’s not as loud when I play solo, and I can sing without screaming. If I want to sing gay little folk songs I can. Whereas with Veal, it’s a rock and roll band and it always should be a rock and roll band. They’re totally different things, I don’t think I could ever commit to doing any one.

So what’s next for you after this tour is over?

I go straight to Dublin and I’m rehearsing with McLachlan for a week and then we tour Europe for six weeks. Then I come back to Canada and I’ll spend the next month finishing my next record and then in the New Year we go back to Australia.

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