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Interviews

Interview with Cherie Currie, Runaways Legend

By: Sheena Lyonnais November 11, 2013

cheriecurrie

Cherie Currie, lead singer of the revolutionary band the Runaways and author of Neon Angel, arguably one of the best music memoirs of our time, tears into Toronto tomorrow with a headlining show at Lee's Palace. Having recently won the Rock Legend Award at the Malibu Music Awards, Currie found herself on stage performing with guitarist Lita Ford for the first time in more than 35 years. The emotions that brought back naturally revved up a desire to reunite the band that brought them together.

Read more: Interview with Cherie Currie, Runaways Legend

Interview with Anna Cyzon, Toronto's Secret Pop Prowess

By: Sheena Lyonnais August 2, 2013

She'll be the first to tell you that this has been a wild ride. As a first year university student, Anna Cyzon auditioned and made it to the top 20 of Canadian Idol. It landed her a hosting gig at eTalk and eventually her own show on MTV Canada. But when the ball starts rolling, it doesn't always stop. Cyzon was making a name for herself (not to mention a decent paycheque), but it was clouded by her dream to pursue music. She was unhappy, but grateful. She was determined, but comfortable.  
 
That's when, she says, the universe intervened. Cyzon's show was cancelled, MTV faced cutbacks, and although she could have gone back to TV, she made the decision not to. 
 
"I felt like it wasn't my destiny," she says. "I tried it out and I made some money but I also learned in that process that money is worthless if you're not doing what you love. That's how I was in my TV days. I didn't want to be a role model. I didn't want to be recognized." 
 
Things have changed. We're sitting on a patio along Queen West and she's wearing an oversized white t-shirt with 'Homie' written on the front. With her bright blonde hair and fresh street style she's impossible not to notice. The shirt was a gift from her sister, Cyzon's go-to for fashion advice, who told her to wear it with a big chain and red lipstick. She listened. 
 
After television, Cyzon jumped back into music, performing first with her band Killing Hollywood, before switching gears and putting music out under her own name, Cyzon. To see her live is to see a rare breed of performer, for she is a wild woman on stage, a frantic beating heart of a musician that barely stops to breathe. It is this that drives her. 
 
"I want to feel that feeling of freedom that I get when I'm in the studio, when I'm in a microphone, when I'm on a stage. That feeling is priceless," she says. 
 
Cyzon is not afraid to push the limits in pursuit of this freedom and she has made more than one tough decision in an effort to protect her artistic integrity. She most famously turned down an offer from Gene Simmons because "it didn't feel right." More recently, she released her debut video for "Into the Sun," a video so gory MuchMusic refused to play it.
 
 
"You can never live your life as coulda, shoulda, woulda," she says. "That video for me was an unleashing of the past and a rebirth of sorts. Everyone has an internal battle and things they have to conquer and triumph, and there's things in that video that are representing that. Maybe it was a little bit gory to my liking and if I could go back maybe I would edit it a little differently, a little less bloody, but it wouldn't change the fact that it wouldn't get played."
 
Cyzon was born in Poland. Her parents were members of a folklore group and Cyzon would often find herself on stage rehearsing with them at a young age. She moved to Canada with her family at age six and they promptly enrolled her in vocal lessons and signed her up for festivals. It was no surprise then, when at age 11 Cyzon realized she wanted—needed—music to be her life. 
 
"Some girls want to get married and have a princess wedding, but for as long as I can remember music was my dream," she says. 
 
"My dad had brought home a karaoke machine around that time and we would go to Buffalo. The States had a wide variety of karaoke tapes, so I would pick up Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, and I think I had one of Alanis Morisette. I would sing in my basement in this big speaker that you could plug a microphone in to and I had this big reverb knob. During those times in my life I remember having that feeling like this is it for me. This is what I want to do." 
 
She's since returned to her Polish roots, spending significant time in cities such as Warsaw where she has a considerable following. In 2010, Cyzon auditioned for the Eurovision song contest. She placed second and was offered a contract, but turned it down.
 
"I was one foot in and one foot here. I wasn't ready to pack my bags and say I'm going to move to Poland and be a Polish artist," she says. "That's when I came back here and found my sound." 
 
Now, she's "gone full circle" and is re-recording some of her tracks in Polish as well as a slew of originals. She will return to Poland in October to be part of Must Be The Music, an X-Factor like show that she has already qualified for. That said, she has no intention of abandoning things over here. She's currently looking to nail down the business side of things, a drive she admits is partly financial. 
 
"You want to project that you're ballin' and music is making money, but it's not," she says. "And one of the reasons is because I haven't secured proper management or signed to a label. You're getting me at a good place because I'm the first to tell you that I'm ready for that." 
 
Cyzon is sitting on an album that is sexy and fresh, loud and energetic. It bears influences of Gwen Stefani and Blondie and showcases her ability to take risks and persevere. But for now, it's an exercise in patience. She is in no rush to put things out there, instead taking the opportunity to build her team and assure her future.
 
"I'm really a firm believer in working hard and honing your own," she says. "There are no shortcuts to success."
 
Anna Cyzon is performing at HoneyJam on August 15 at the Mod Club. The event supports women's charities and features performances from more than 20 female artists. 
 
Sheena Lyonnais is Toronto Music Scene's Editor in Chief. You can follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

An Evening With Craig Stickland

Sheena Lyonnais September 6, 2012
craig stickland 
Craig Stickland first heard the poem when he was stuck in LA traffic, trying not to think about his brother who was over in Libya with the Canadian Navy. The ship his brother arrived on had been fired upon by artillery from the land, and the Stickland family was consequently living in fear. So when he heard Emily Dickinson’s poem, it resonated.

Surgeons must be very careful

When they take the knife!

Underneath their fine incisions

Stirs the Culprit—Life!

“We were taken back by that poem thought it was beautiful and brilliant,” Stickland tells me over the phone the day after his Farewell Love Songs for Summer show at the Drake. So he did what he does best and turned the poem into a song called “Stirs the Culprit Life,” a song that made the hair on my arms stand when he played it.

Stickland’s ability to tell memorable stories through song is perhaps his greatest asset. I still remember his 2007 Canadian Music Week performance. Then, later, with the now defunct We Are The Take, he began to transform into a showman, something he’s carried through charmingly into his solo work. Though I shouldn’t really say solo, for his performance at the Drake was a nine-piece show that included DeVah, a female sting quartet. They kicked the show off with a Florence and the Machine cover before breaking into an original string track.

It should have been a 10-piece performance, but Stickland’s guitarist was unable to make it. So Stickland did double duty, transitioning between guitars and keys throughout the night. Still, at times nine people crammed on to the tiny Drake Underground stage to deliver a beautiful performance to a pretty packed crowd, especially considering it was a rainy Tuesday night.

He’s an interesting performer to watch on stage in the way he introduces these songs. In one, he explained how sometimes you write songs about someone or something and those things change, but you’re still left with this song as a whole. This song you have created, it remains the same. For Stickland, it becomes obvious that each song is important and impactful, and though this could be said for any songwriter, for him it seems more pertinent. It seems simultaneously fragile and powerful.

His songs are reflective. “The Only Way Is Down,” which he wrote with Justin Nozuka, is a perfect example. It’s about the poor treatment he has witnessed and received as a bartender and server. “When you get to a certain level of wealth or ego you have to come down,” he says.

This very notion of the wealthy and poor is woven quite literally into other tracks, such as “Kings and Beggars,” which he introduced at the Drake as, “not to get too preachy but…” His music, though sweet and romantic, is very much about the working class and his struggles to sustain his music career. And when he’s frustrated, he writes about it. “I’m a happy guy and I need to express my sad moments through song,” he says.

Another track, “See Just Like You Do” was written the day after Jack Layton died. Stickland remembers looking around the city and just seeing nothing but condos.

“It was an introspective day,” he tells me.

When we talk, he’s in Streetsville recording arrangements with James Robertson, keeping in mind pieces for the full 10-piece band. Right now, Stickland has an EP out and is working on a full-length. He’ll be releasing it track by track, each with a complementary music video. He’s already released one for “Fire” and the next will be “The Firing Line.”

Stickland will be performing monthly at the Drake. His next performance is October 10.

Watch the video for “Fire” below.


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Sheena Lyonnais is Toronto Music Scene's Editor. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Don't forget to 'Like' Toronto Music Scene on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @TorontoMusic.

 

The Return of Treble Charger: Bill Priddle talks Broken Social Scene, reunions and regrets

Treble ChargerBy: Sheena Lyonnais
March 20, 2012

“This whole thing has felt like the Hollywood Bromance that Hollywood hasn’t made yet – the professional falling out then the sweet reunion.”

Bill Priddle seems like a really cool guy. He calls me to chat about Treble Charger’s reunion at this week’s Slacker Canadian Music Fest and immediately apologizes for missing our original scheduled time of which he forgot and I forgave. After a decade of prolonged tension between Treble Charger’s two vocalists/guitarists Greig Nori and Priddle, the band is reuniting for two shows: the first at the Phoenix on Wednesday and the second on Saturday at the Royal York as part of the Independent Music Awards, where Treble Charger will be inducted into the 2012 SiriusXM Hall of Fame.

Read more: The Return of Treble Charger: Bill Priddle talks Broken Social Scene, reunions and regrets

Feature: Tiny Danza, Toronto’s not-so-hidden stage commanders

tinydanzaWe chat with Tiny Danza about the music, what’s in store for the year and what life’s been like since their Indie Week win
By: Sheena Lyonnais
February 1, 2012

It’s dark and I’m crammed into a back corner with 2/5 members from Toronto’s Tiny Danza. The room is full of, well, seemingly everyone: photographers, pretty girls, hipster boys, sunglasses, non-participating band members. There are cupcakes on the table with the band members’ names and faces on them, a sentiment from a super fan earned after TD’s 2011 Indie Week win. They offer me one nicely and although I admit the cupcakes look delicious, I decline. Eating the faces of people I’m interviewing seems kinda weird. Plus, there’s more important things to do – like talk about Tiny Danza’s whirlwind of a life since winning a trip to Ireland to also play Indie Week there.

Read more: Feature: Tiny Danza, Toronto’s not-so-hidden stage commanders

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