Berlin-boy heads home

Joel Gibb no longer lives in Canada, but he still considers The Hidden Cameras a Toronto band

With a plethora of past and present players, The Hidden Cameras are never without company.
With a plethora of past and present players, The Hidden Cameras are never without company.
Supplied Photo by Norman Wong

Joel Gibb calls Berlin, Germany his home, but he still considers his ever-changing super group a hometown band.

“I still feel like we’re a Canadian band,” The Hidden Cameras’ frontman said. “Toronto’s not going away.” If anything Toronto is expanding—much like Gibb’s band, who have become notorious on the Canadian scene for their high-energy shows, inventive melodies and that almost indescribable Canuk sound—one of the band’s anthems “Mississauga Goddamn” speaks for a whole generation of GTA commuters. But will their new album Origin: Orphan be as— well—Canadian?

“Originally, I had a little romance going—but I wanted to live [in Berlin] so badly. So I may have exaggerated the romance a little,” Gibb said of his move to Germany. “I like the scene there. I like the freedom. Of course, as Canadians, we have a certain amount of freedom. But we also have a certain amount of conservative and prudishness. I wanted to get out of my own language and culture. I think that when you’re young it’s important to travel and when you’re older it’s important to move to new places and really experience them.” The Hidden Cameras’ latest album was recorded in different places over a longer more sporadic period of time. A rare practice, considering most bands have two days in one studio.

“It was slightly different than past records,” Gibb said. “I broke that whole process up to expand my own horizons. The songs that stand out are the ones I recorded in Berlin.” Much like his departure from Canada is Gibb strays from typical recording practices.

“The idea of going back into a studio is awful … it’s not me. I don’t do that anymore.” Gibb’s forays into the art and film world have also flourished over the band’s history. He does all the artwork for the band’s album covers and has recently shown his work in Berlin this past winter and at the Tate Modern Gallery in London. Gibb also just directed the music video for the band’s single “In the Na.” “It’s an everything and anything project. Why would you want to limit yourself?” he said. “When I do write songs I have images in mind. For example the song “In the Na”—I had a very specific images and scenes in mind.”

Over the years The Hidden Cameras have gained and lost members along the way. Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy, Reg Vermue of Gentlemen Reg, Laura Barrett, Maggie MacDonald of Republic of Safety, Dave Meslin the founder of the Toronto Public Space Committee, Bob Wiseman, Steve Kado the founder of Blocks Recording Club, member of Barcelona Pavilion and Ninja High School, Ohad Benchetrit of Do Make Say Think, Don Kerr of The Rheostatics have all served time in the band.

“Who’s not been in my band is the real question,” Gibbs laughed.

The Hidden Cameras have become famous for their live shows, perhaps due to the fact that there are so many members or the fact that they’ve been known to don creepy cloaks and blindfold audience members.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” Gibb said. “Each tour is different. There’s no rules about what to expect at a Hidden Cameras show. There’s no set plan. If I get inspiration or some crazy prop who knows what could happen? It’s an inclusive band. We try to blur the line between the band and the audience.”

The Hidden Cameras are on tour across Canada. A cross-U.S. tour starts at the beginning of November. No stranger to the road, Gibb says he isn’t as excited about touring as he used to be.

“I’m excited to get out there and play shows,” he said. “But I’m not excited like ‘Oh my God, I’ve never toured before’ excited.”

But will Joel Gibb ever feel excitement for his forgetting Toronto streets again? It’s hard to say.

“It’s too expensive. It’s not right for me right now,” Gibb sighed. “I’m getting sick of Berlin though. There’s a dreariness to Berlin winters whereas there’s a beauty to Canadians ones. The cold soaks into your bones in Berlin and I guess I get bored. I’d love to live somewhere warm.”

The Hidden Cameras play the Grad Club with Gentleman Reg this Friday night at the Grad Club. Tickets are $13 in advance and available from Destinations, The Grad Club or online at Doors open at 9 p.m.

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