Home Jason's Jukebox The Chat Room: Mike Boguski

The Chat Room: Mike Boguski

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For the past several years, Blue Rodeo keyboardist Mike Boguski has been exploring a range of sonic avenues with some of Toronto’s finest musicians and producers. The results of the majority of these sessions have been released as digital singles, and Mike has now compiled these tracks into a six-song album entitled Here’s to Tomorrow / Goodbye to Yesterday.

The album’s first three tracks, engineered by Tim Vesely (Rheostatics) and mixed by the legendary Terry Brown (Rush), include newly recorded versions of “Here’s to Tomorrow” and “December,” along with the brand new “Goodbye to Yesterday,” all showing off the skills of Mike’s current band comprised of jazz heavyweights Andy Ballantyne, Lorne Lofsky, Mike Downes, and Ethan Ardelli.

The “Side B” instrumental pieces were recorded by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies—who also contributes guitar—with “Message from Mars” mixed by the late great Peter J. Moore. These songs also feature Mike’s Blue Rodeo cohorts Bazil Donovan and Glenn Milchem, who display their dynamic range in creating a sound that blends modern jazz with experimental funk and electronica, all grounded in Mike’s compositional brilliance. The contrast between the unique groups of musicians is highlighted in two distinct versions of the song “December.”

Here’s to Tomorrow / Goodbye to Yesterday definitively presents Mike Boguski as a musician always striving to push boundaries while never forgetting the beauty he has contributed to the work of other artists. It’s available to order now on vinyl and CD at Bandcamp and on all digital platforms. Mike took some time to speak with us as he geared up for Blue Rodeo’s summer tour, which kicks off July 13 at Quebec City’s Festival d’Été.

This new collection is made up of songs you’ve released separately over the past few years. What made this the right time to put them together?

Truthfully, I reached a point last year where I realized the licensing fees I was paying was far exceeding what I was making in streams. I had quite a few of my jazz albums consisting of other people’s music available online — my album Detour included four Blue Rodeo tunes — and my charity album A Newer Morning (for John) was a jazz interpretation of Suede’s 2002 album A New Morning. When you cover another artist’s music, even instrumentally, you have to pay licensing fees so that the publisher and original songwriter are properly compensated. Given how little revenue streaming actually generates for an independent artist such as myself, it just was not making sense financially for me to have those interpretive albums online, so I asked my admin to remove everything I ever released online, and then re-release only my originals. When I did this, I realized I almost had enough to release a new LP, so I wrote “Goodbye To Yesterday,” and re-recorded some of the other singles I had released a few years back with my new jazz quartet and then put everything out as a new LP with the jazz recordings on side A, and the Mike Timmins-produced singles on side B. I deliberately included two versions of “December” to contrast the two groups of recording musicians present on the album.

The songs also show you experimenting with different musical approaches. Do you look back on this time as kind of a restless period for you musically?

I always struggle with jazz. I have a complicated love/hate relationship with the genre. Or, as Jamie Cullum’s drummer Brad Webb once told me, “I love jazz more than it loves me back.” The culture around jazz is very exclusive; lots of jazz musicians tend to have a, “Oh, you play in a pop/rock band full time so you can never be one of us” attitude, despite the fact that I have devoted my entire life to the study of improvised music—a point that is very much on display to anyone who has come to a Blue Rodeo show and heard some of the long, free form solos I perform during songs like “Diamond Mine” or “Disappear.” That said, I really can’t seem to catch a break with booking gigs in the ultra competitive and tightly controlled Toronto and Canadian jazz scene. Despite that, I still have a deep and abiding love of the music, and recently have put together a quartet of very hip and open minded musicians who embrace my dual rock/jazz aesthetic. So naturally, once the right players were located, a recording seemed imminent.

As you just said, a lot of notable names appear with you on these songs. Would you say there was a collaborative spirit behind these sessions?

To some degree, of course. I have a profound respect for the pedigree of the musicians on this album. Mike Downes is immensely experienced as a bassist and arranger, but again, also has a deep respect for rock music which is why I trust him with his suggestions. Ethan Ardelli is a huge name in the Canadian jazz scene, as is Lorne Lofsky who pretty much is as big as it gets with respect to the names he has played with over the years. So when they suggest something, I take it seriously, even though I’m leading the ship. With Andy Ballantyne, I pretty much said “just improvise” and I knew the result would be brilliant because that’s what happens when you choose the right players.

Do any of these songs provide clues to what you potentially might do next musically?

Regarding my goal of having all of my original material online, I’m currently planning on re-recording Blues For The Penitent with electric instruments, direct to stereo quarter-inch tape. It should be exciting, so keep an eye for that one once it comes out. There’s also two B-sides from the Goodbye to Yesterday/Here’s to Tomorrow sessions featuring Blue Rodeo guitar player Colin Cripps, so those will get a proper release later next year.

Blue Rodeo is still going strong, and the current line-up is probably the most dynamic one the band’s ever had. How would you say your role has evolved over the years?

After playing with Blue Rodeo for 16 years and recording keyboards for their last four LPs, I’ve entered the elder statesman phase of my career. Once [original keyboardist] Bobby Wiseman has decided to finish his 31-year press campaign of talking about Blue Rodeo, I’d love to let the Canadian music media know what has been going on with the band, but it seems that for many, the ’90s are still going strong.

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