Some month ago Montreal artist d’Eon‘s new double album, simply titled LP, dropped on Hippos In Tanks. The ambitious release is described as ‘an oratorio in four movements – a humanistic mix of electronic pop with devotional subject matter”.
Electronic Beats: There seems to be a rising scene of avant-garde pop groups coming out of Montréal, such as Purity Ring and Grimes. Is this really ‘a thing’?
D’Eon: I think what happens in Montreal a lot is that there are artists or bands that will sort of participate locally in Montreal and play shows within Montreal, and after a couple of years start going international. I certainly wasn’t living in Montreal at the time but in the early to mid-‘00s there were bands in Montreal like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Arcade Fire, and Wolf Parade, all who ended up going international. I feel like it’s a transitional stage for Montreal again. I moved to Montreal in 2010, so that was a very formative year for me and my friends because that’s when a lot of us started playing shows and making new music. It must have been October or November of 2009 that I played my first show as D’Eon in Montreal and that was with Claire Boucher of Grimes and a few other local bands that ended up doing really well for themselves.
How do you manage to live as a DIY artist in Montreal?
One of the main reasons why Montreal is really conducive to that is rent is so cheap and most people who I know that are involved in music don’t have a job. People might sell weed or run a record label or put on shows, DJ or run a venue, but it’s not exactly necessary to have a full-time job because you pay so little in rent that you have time to not work.
In the last few years, Berlin as a city became more trendy and rents have been rising. Are there less people living in Montreal now than twenty years ago?
It’s interesting, I don’t know. People like Claire and I have all moved from other cities to come do music because it’s so cheap. I think the reason it doesn’t have the huge waves of people coming in like New York or Berlin is that if you can’t speak French then you can’t get a job. That really limits people’s choices when they move here. I don’t speak French well enough to work at McDonalds, and so the only choice that you have is to learn French or find a really, really rare, miraculous job that you might be able to speak English at. Or be a musician or do something on your own. That’s why I think a lot of people create their own jobs by making music and running labels and stuff, because there really aren’t that many jobs. Another reason why people don’t come here is that there’s protests and riots going on all over the place.
It started off with the university students being really displeased at the fact that the government of Quebec was going to raise tuition fees. The students started protesting… it was really a very student-oriented thing about that one issue. For a while the government of Quebec decided to pass a law that made it illegal for more than 50 people to gather without government consent. Cops started beating people up every night and all kinds of crazy stuff. Now it’s become more about being anti-martial law as well as university tuition rates, it’s really become European-style; a lot of discontent about everything.
It’s really interesting; the people who were protesting and rioting were a lot of students and also political activists in general. Also a lot of nationalists like Quebec nationalists who want Quebec to become a nation. There was a lot of different motivations happening at the same time. What’s happening is that protests are happening in the downtown area, which the city of Montreal’s government is developing for tourism so there were a lot of tourist events this summer that were planned to happen at the exact same place where they were protesting. I think tourism is going to go way down this summer because of the protests, which is almost a good thing because the Mafia runs a lot of those tourist sites and construction projects. That’s the other thing that people are pissed about. We don’t want to be controlled by the municipal government that is controlled by the Mafia. It’s more of a disruption of the Mafia’s plans for the city’s tourism. There’s a big criminal aspect in Montreal. It’s hard to play a party without having to deal with drug dealers and the Mafia.
How old are you again?
And these kids are younger?
They’re a lot younger. When I was trying to find a way out of the riot zone there was a passage in an alley with cobblestone staircases that you would have to go through to escape to escape the zone where the cops were. I was going through this passageway between two buildings and there was this young guy who must have been 16 or 17, in a military helmet guiding people up this passageway to get people away from the cops.
What kind of crime do you have over in Canada?
It’s the Sicilian Mafia and they’ve been around for a long time, maybe 60 – 70 years in Montreal, mostly because of the drug trade and construction projects. They’re basically hired by the city government to build things like for roadwork and bridges, so they build our stuff for us which is a big scandal. There’s a whole bunch of people being investigated for their connections.
On the other side these problems seem to produce enough anger or motivation for focusing on your special interests, for example being your latest record.