Thunderheist Strikes!

Thursday, 09 April 2009

The unfortunate truth of the music press is that it is often a very narrow passageway through which the same information is passed to the public via a multitude of outlets and the resulting coverage – no matter how innovative or celebrated it might be – is really only a case of variations on the same theme with the only difference being the rhetoric that appears between point A and point B. It gets difficult for interview subjects to regurgitate the same information and stories over and over again too; eventually it begins to feel like the sum of those experiences and the music that was produced by them only amounts to a two-dimensional caricature of the artist in question. For example, when asked how it was that his band Thunderheist came together, producer/soundsmith Graham “Grahmzilla” Bertie advises journalistic hopefuls to consult the duo's web site because the question and story have been flogged, since he and emcee Isis came together two years ago, to the point that it has lost all meaning anyway.

With that assertion in hand, here are a couple of Bertie-admonished bits of trivia and details about Thunderheist that have gone largely unexplored since the group appeared in 2007:

  • Thunderheist co-founder Graham Bertie is the son of Canadian Olympic wrestler Gordon Bertie and he “was conceived in the Olympic village in Montreal in 1976” according to the producer.
  • Bertie has a bionic arm – “there's titanium infused into my wrist – from a really bad snowboarding accident.”
  • Finally, the most interesting tidbit of information prescient to the wave of public interest that Thunderheist has enjoyed of late is that their current hit single, “Jerk It,” almost got left on the cutting room floor because Bertie hated the track.

“I thought it was really cool when the song was featured in the  Mickey Rourke film The Wrestler but the funniest thing about “Jerk It” is that, when it was originally created, I thought for sure it was going to be thrown away,” laughs the producer at the memory of how his band's biggest hit to date came together. “Isis had an a cappella – she had already recorded part of that song over someone else's production – and so I took a stab at it. When I sent it back to her, I told her that the beat was only temporary because I hated it but she loved it and she wouldn't let me change it.

"It basically became our anthem," Bertie sighs, noting that the irony of the moment isn't lost on him. "I actually like the song now, but it took a while; it's just so simple! But given the way it has taken off, I've discovered that simple isn't always a bad thing. It's really just the little song that keeps going too – I don't know how we managed to get it in such an excellent movie, but I'm not going to complain about that [laughing].”

Those aforementioned tidbits of little known minutia will end up being the sort of thing that new fans will salivate over in the coming months if Thunderheist and its self-titled debut continues to build steam. Originally released on iTunes in early March, Thunderheist comes out through Big Dada records on March 31st but, rather than having to work as hard as most fledgling bands do when their first album finally sees the light of day, according to Bertie his group's challenge will be to ensure that they do not allow themselves to languish – something that Bertie says will be the height of simplicity itself given that the duo is already getting the itch to start working on new music. “Our manager recently brought it to our attention that iTunes classified us as rap and our album's currently charting at number three through iTunes Canada,” announces Bertie with a hint of pride. “I think that's pretty amazing but, really, it's pretty old for us.

“We actually worked on Isis' solo project before we started working on Thunderheist together and that was more traditional rap,” continues Bertie, outlining the beginnings of the Thunderheist collaboration. “That's her background and she raps on seventy-five percent of this album as well, but I think that while that's all part of it, there's a lot more going on and the nice thing about us is that, in the beginning, everything was pretty off-the-cuff and it just seemed to work. There wasn't really a lot of planning involved; unlike so many other bands now that are very focused before they even start making music, for us it was the opposite; we came together, she had some a cappellas and I had some music and we just got it all done really quickly.

“That sort of worked to our advantage, but it worked against us too and part of the reason this record took two years to make was because we didn't really have a plan and things  blew up faster than we ever expected,” continues the producer, getting philosophical. “We ended up traveling a lot in that first year so it sort of delayed the finalizing for an album. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but for us it's very hard to have the album come out now because a lot of this material is from over two years ago so we're already reaching the point where we're really interested to start making more new music that's representative of where we want to go and these songs are starting to sound a little different when we perform them live now too.”

In spite of Bertie's desire to continue creating though, his schedule dictates that he'll have no choice but to wait a while before he and Isis are able to get back to writing and even longer before they get to record again. Thunderheist's glowing online reception recently caught the eye of one of Canada's few reputable print-based music sources, Exclaim!*@#, and the mag jumped at the opportunity to endorse a cross-Canada tour for the duo. Following that, according to Bertie, Thunderheist is already committed to tours through Europe and the United States as well as a significant number of the high profile festivals happening this summer in support of Thunderheist before they have the chance to return home. In talking to the producer, one gets the impression that, on one hand, the opportunities being afforded the band are exciting prospects that the duo can't wait to begin work on but, on the other, the prospect simply sounds exhausting. “We're already tired a lot,” confesses Bertie, laughing. “Our shows usually start late and of course we play even later, it's always a booze-a-thon and I noticed that – particularly at our five shows for South By Southwest – we forget to eat regularly so, while we'd like to start working on new music as soon as we can, what we're doing right now doesn't make for the greatest writing environment. There has been a little bit of stuff done, but it's usually a matter of banging out rough ideas really quick and then revisiting them when I get home and turning them into actual songs but I can't even picture that in my mind at the moment because we're pretty much going non-stop until August. We've got a Canadian tour in April and then a European tour for all of May and then the States in June, July is festival season but that's the way it goes. With less money to be made in record sales, you have to be on the road a lot.”

As bleak as some might think it sounds, Bertie can't hide the glimmer of excitement when he says, “That's okay though because I have to be committed to this; we don't know how long it's going to last so we're just going to go all-out every show while it does.”


Thunderheist online

Thunderheist myspace

Thunderheist – "Jerk It" – [mp3]

Thunderheist's self-titled album is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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