Ottawa, Canada’s BLUE CROSS!
BLUE CROSS is a two-piece post punk band from Ottawa. They formed before the semi-recent goth trend and have had several releases over the past few years. I thought I’d shed some light on this mysterious band. You may know Jo mainly from GERM ATTACK or him booking your band a show the last time you played Ottawa.
—Interview by Amelia
MRR: BLUE CROSS formed in 2009 and is only two members — Jo and Jess?
Jo: Yeah, it’s only two people as it’s a lot more efficient. BLUE CROSS started as two people and will most likely remain that way, as it’s a simple working formula.
MRR: Who does what in BLUE CROSS?
Jo: I play the instruments and Jessica sings. We both write lyrics. Sometimes I’ll write entire songs and sometimes I’m just adding to lyrics she’s already written. She’ll modify stuff I’ve written if she finds that it wouldn’t come out sounding right once sung. The music is essentially improvised. It’s recorded DIY with very limited gear and knowledge. Its got a go with the flow approach as its built in layers starting with percussion. I’ve been playing drums the longest, so I always visualize music based on rhythmic patterns. Admittedly the band’s newer songs have progressively been more thought out in advance. I think it’s probably the heavy metal influences in the music really shining through. Heavy metal is generally technically proficient and slave to the metronome. It’s not the most organic kind of music because if something is off, then it fucks with the balance of the song. Do you get what I mean? You listen to a band like THE STOOGES and it’s so chaotic and organic, but then you compare it to a band like ANGEL WITCH and it’s always on the dot…yet they’re both atmospheric rock ‘n’ roll. Ultimately BLUE CROSS draws parallels between styles of music that haven’t really crossed genres so much. You look at metal bands like DEATH SS, BLACK HOLE or PAUL CHAIN and those bands atmospheric, dirgey, grimy sounds definitely give CHRISTIAN DEATH or BAUHAUS a run for their goth money.
MRR: How did you two meet? When did you decide to do a project together?
Jo: I’ve known Jess forever but rarely see her since she moved to Montreal many years ago. Not sure how we met, but it was through mutual friends. One day, a few years ago, said she’d be in town and would stop by for a visit. I had just recorded a local band that day so all this gear was set up. Since I’m afflicted with some sort of non stop music machine disease, while I was waiting for her to show up, I made up three songs. Those songs where very rhythmic. I think since I had Jess’ upcoming visit in mind they came out sounding scary, as she is a legit goth! When we where teens and punx thought goth was COAL CHAMBER or CRADLE OF FILTH and that DISRUPT or STATE OF FEAR was the coolest thing since sliced bread, she knew what was up! She’s a spooky kid with punk brains! Anyway, back to my story—when she showed up an hour or two later, I was literally holding the keyboard note down as she walked in to the last song. I asked her to sing for this ridiculous music I just made. We made up nonsensical lyrics secretly borrowed from CONDEMNED 84 and DISCHARGE lyrics at lightning speed then recorded the vocals. A few weeks later I figured we should make a hundred tapes. Those got distributed fast and somehow became a freak hit with local hipsters.
MRR: I really liked the title track off the I Am Death LP. Anything you want to say about that album? How many copies were pressed?
Jo: That title track is a good example of when we transitioned to using drum machines more than real drums. If you saw how we record this shit, you’d think it’s a ghetto version of modern day studio trickery. A lot of tracks have one measure of drums recorded then repeated, cut ‘n’ paste style. Also, a lot of the drumming features a drum machine and real drums playing simultaneously. This band leaves a lot of room for improvising! I think the trick is to not get carried away ’cause next thing you know you’ll be recording “an army of didgeridoos”! There’s two different pressing of the album on cassette tape. One by local indie rock/experimental tape label Bruised Tongue Tapes. They do a good job and are pretty rad guys with Hitlerjugend haircuts. The other is done by a similar label in Lyon, France called Pain Frites Tapes. I met them in person so they could give me the tapes while I was bass player for heavy metal band CAUCHEMAR in spring 2012 when we were touring through Lyon. They where real nice, but weren’t digging the metal show ahhaa. Surprisingly the CAUCHMAR merch table sold a lot of BLUE CROSS I Am Death tapes during the rest of that tour. We were even featured in metal zines consequently. I’m not sure how many copies are pressed of this record, but the guy who released it, Christian Troxell, is pretty busy and has released a wide array of bands on his Noxious Noise label like GASMIASMA or THOU and books shows for bands like PENTAGRAM and co runs a vegan Korean restaurant in New Orleans. I wish the front and back cover didn’t get screwed up somewhere in the process. If you look at it, you’ll notice the pixilation. Somehow, something went wrong….
MRR: I heard your new LP will be along those lines, but with a lot of songs influenced from The X-Files conspiracies? Can you elaborate on this?
Jo: Yeah the new LP is recorded and in the manufacturing process that is so long as anyone who has been in bands knows. The album name is in fact Conspiracy and was recorded during an X-Files binge. The most recurring theme in BLUE CROSS is that of mistrust towards the bullshit we’re fed daily. BLUE CROSS is pure skepticism. It ties in with the X-Files as 2-3 songs deal with alien abduction and alien invasion conspiracies theories. Believe in it or don’t, the underlying message is to always question what we’re told. It seems obvious to me that the same powerful elite who own most of the world’s resources also own the media….and therefore, own the way the masses think. Sure, punk rock is somewhat sheltered from this, but a lot of so called liberated minds still get caught up in the pitfalls. We thought of having the “Take me to your dealer” alien smoking a blunt with Rasta hat on as the album cover, but then opted for something close and a bit more tasteful as to not loose all credibility — ahhaa!
MRR: Do you play live shows?
Jo: Nah, we aren’t enough people to play shows- besides our songs are all improvised and have never been rehearsed. At once point, we had a full line up recruited that practiced for a few months, but it morphed into another band that I quit. That band only recorded a similar to BLUE CROSS live demo that’s unreleased. I was playing guitar and became the default singer. It included members of PREGNANCY SCARES, ASILE and MANNEQUIN. Now we’ve put together a new live line up that includes members of ASILE. Those guys have a hand in everything. They’re like Ottawa’s all star band or something! The future will yield a live show, but a rare appearance I can assure you! We’re not trying to sound exclusive or like BATHORY or something, it’s just a matter of logistics.
MRR: What releases have you put out and when?
Jo: 3-track demo cassette in 2009, Mass Hysteria LP in 2011 and I Am Death LP in 2012. If all goes well Conspiracy will be released in 2013.
MRR: What do you think about the recent goth trend?
Jo: I’ve become aware of this so called trend from being asked that question while responding to other BLUE CROSS interviews. I think I was sheltered from it ’cause aside from a band called DEAD LIGHTS that went nowhere, there wasn’t any of that going on in Ottawa. Stylistically, goth is really flexible, so this trend could be a good thing by forcing people to think outside the box. I don’t think this style of music ever died. It just morphed into EBM…Essentially bad third rate techno or nu-metal. It’s about time that a wave of punx reclaimed the music and culture that was theirs to begin with. I should start checking out some of these bands that are getting hyped. I’m sure some of them have made really good songs. I just hope that this stays a punk think and doesn’t get taken over by hipsters. I mean you already got bands like COLD CAVE and stuff…
MRR: How did you both discover goth or post-punk—was it through the punk scene?
Jo: Well it came hand in hand with punk. It’s a symbiotic relationship culture and music wise, so it’s only natural. Like SIOUXIE AND THE BANSHEES, JOY DIVISION and KILLING JOKE are staples of punk, you know? Like maybe to some punx from my generation or younger, punk was blast beating grindcore or hipster post rock and then the goth-o-rama explosion of the 2010’s finally happened…so a lot of these people jumped in on the band wagon because for them it was new. I owe this success to bands like SPECTRES and DEATHCHARGE finally got a bit of success after years of hard work.
MRR: What are your local post punk scenes like in Ottawa?
Jo: Well essentially it’s non-existent. Its just part of the general punk scene. There’s not much division here musically. All the bands play together. The main division is in between garage rock/indie rock/hipster and hardcore punks, but even those two scenes cooperate from time to time. It’s a small city, but gigs are usually packed. There’s a new band featuring Nitaya Sims who was involved in the previously mention DEAD LIGHTS, who’s got some spooky shit on the go and there’s a band called EAT CROW whose got a Nick Cave vibe. Montreal and Ottawa are kind of like sister cities. The scenes interact a lot with each other due to proximity. Ottawa gets all the DIY bands good well attended gigs, while Montreal’s scene maybe more jaded towards that, but they get the bigger gigs. Bands of note in Montreal would be DEKODER and COMPLICATIONS whom apparently have become some sort of funky psychedelic outfit. There’s a bunch of hipster and cold wave bands that I don’t really know about, but they could be worth looking into…
MRR: Any last words?
Jo: I wish we had a proper recording set up and a producer. We could be the next big thing ahhaha.
MRR: How can readers contact BLUE CROSS?
Jo: Come to my house and hang out. Send weird Jess / 1878 Rachel Est / Montreal, QB / H2H 1P6 / CANADA