Is there such a thing as bad press? Or does “bad” press more or less serve the same purpose as good press — to get people talking about an event, person, band or news story?
The Ketamines bass player Paul Lawton might just be considered a subject matter expert on the issue.
Earlier this year, Lawton posted a blog, Slagging Off: Death To The Canadian Music Industry, on the Tumblr social media network. He used the site as a means to bring to the surface what he considered to be faults across various facets of the Canadian music industry. The Ontario musician left few stones unturned, unleashing criticism upon everything ranging from grant-funding bodies such as Factor to the CBC itself. Lawton also used Slagging Off as an outlet to call out specific Canadian bands that he felt were too derivative and/or lacked any type of originality.
Many came out in support of Lawton and applauded his courage to say what many might have been already thinking but just didn’t have the gall to address. Naturally however, there was also a significant amount of people, including acclaimed artist Dan Mangan and Factor itself, who stepped up to the plate in effort to dispel some of the frustrations expressed by Lawton.
Performing with The Ketamines at the Esquire Tavern in Moncton next Wednesday night, Lawton says that he never could have anticipated the attention that Slagging Off would bring him.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting the level of attention that I got,” Lawton tells The Times & Transcript from his home in Toronto. “There were a few weeks that were intense, for sure. I was going through some heavy life stuff at the same time and that whole month felt like living inside a pressure cooker.”
Asked if he believes that the site has served as a launching point for renewed discussion around the very beefs that he brought forward, Lawton says that he has yet to really see any kind of meaningful discussion arise as a result.
“Pretty much every person who is into Canadian music had something to say about it, but I’m not sure you could call any of it meaningful discussion,” he says. “Nor was there really an attempt at a discussion. It is much like any political discussion right now; people find evidence that supports their view point and use that evidence to shout at the other side. The closest thing to discussion was between me and Dan Mangan, and even that caused a whole bunch of shouting from people on both sides. I guess that comes from the initial tone of the blog where I was being brutally honest about Canadian bands and music celebs. I’m not sure any of the discussion was meaningful. It just made some people feel good about their opinions.
“I love Canadian music,” Lawton clarifies. “I’ve been playing, helping bands, writing about bands and booking bands since the mid-’90s and feel that the Canadian scene is in rough shape right now. My goal when I started was to address a lot of the key issues that I think are plaguing us right now. I did that and it just caused a bunch more noise, which is also why I started.”
While Slagging Off might have made Lawton and The Ketamines a bit more of a household name than they had been, the group aren’t exactly newbies to the Canadian music scene. The garage-rock influenced band was formed in 1999 and while they have seen a bit of a revolving door of musicians, Lawton and co-founding member James Leroy have remained constants in the band.
The constantly changing band members and dynamic might not work for some groups however Lawton shares that it has worked out rather well for The Ketamines thus far
“The goal for the band was to always have a flexible lineup. I think some bands absolutely need to have very specific people involved to work, but I like the feeling of getting on stage with different people who interpret the music in unique ways.”
The band is getting set for a flurry of upcoming releases over the remainder of the year including four 7-inch single releases as well as a full-length album, You Can’t Serve Two Masters. Lawton shares the abundance of new Ketamines material coming down the pipe is thanks to an especially prolific writing spree that the group embarked upon last year.
“When it came time to put together You Can’t Serve Two Masters, we realized that we had 60 songs in the can,” he says. “Because we feel no album should ever have more than 12 songs on it, it left us with a lot of loose ends and the idea of doing a series of 7-inch singles with various Canadian record labels was born.”