In Conversation with Julian Taylor

Julian Taylor.jpg

Submitted by Pat Blythe
Photo Credit: Pat Blythe A Girl With a Camera

During my time working in, and learning about this industry we call the "music business", I have met an incredible number of people, many who have become a very important part of my life, particularly those whom I seek out on the stages of the various clubs and bars in this fair city. So I've decided to take some time to discover the people behind the music.

Last week I sat down to have a chat with Julian Taylor. As I've clearly stated to many people, I don't "do" interviews. So, no specific questions in mind, just a great conversation about his Taylor's new, upcoming album Desert Star, the current club environment, the difficulties and challenges for young bands/artists these days, DJing, writing, genres and in which "box" does Taylor's music "fit". Numerous articles have already been written about Taylor's musical history, a 20-year veteran of the industry, so I don't feel it bears repeating here. If you need background info, look up Staggered Crossing or his last album Tech Noir. There's loads on the internet.

I met Taylor just over a year ago at his Valentine's Day gig at the Horseshoe Tavern. After listening to a few tunes on YouTube, I decided to head to the Horseshoe, particularly after good friend Bob Segarini highly recommended I go. While paying my cover charge, I turned around and literally ran smack into Taylor, whom I immediately recognized from his photos. After many apologies on both sides, I introduced myself and, as instructed, said "hello from Bob". Taylor remembered that "run in" when we met again during CMW where I later photographed him and his band, the Julian Taylor Band (JTB). Then again during TURF I spent some time chatting with him "backstage" in the artists area at Fort York Garrison and photographed JTB at Lee's Palace later that week. At Fort York we had some time to chat and I watched as he played with his daughter Ella, managing to capture some wonderfully playful moments between the two with the camera. Family is extremely important to Taylor as he learns how to raise his daughter (and the energy it takes) as a single dad.

Our discussion began with the currently changing (and changed) performance environment for musicians and how vastly different it is from the 70s and 80s and even the 90s. Musicians now are playing for a pittance or for free and it's become almost impossible to make a living.

JT: When we used to do it, it was 1994, and we actually played for no money. We played for beer and we played at this place that is no longer around called The Corner Cafe and they let us have free rehearsal space, so we figured, that, you know what, if we're going to play in the basement every week and learn how to play music, that playing free upstairs wasn't a big deal. I understand young bands coming in and wanting to just play because they want the exposure.

PB: But how long can you do that for.. and how do you segue from free to not free... because everybody's got to earn a living.

JT: I think as a kid you don't realize that...yet.

PB: No kidding.

JT: I certainly can't play for beer now. It's evident once you have a mortgage and a family. Here's the first thing. Don't you have to pay for your equipment? Upgrades and fixing equipment. That's the first thing. ...that was the first sort of lesson I learned. It's like, oh, I've got to buy new guitar strings 'cause these ones won't last the whole time and playing for free won't actually do that. It's economically kind of bizarre. It's hard because I think when DJs sort of came in, I mean kudos to them for figuring it out....I'll bring in a couple of records and I'll spin 'em, the songs you want and you won't have to pay a whole band.

PB: Yeah, pay me a few hundred bucks and I'll do your whole equipment, no bands, no's almost too easy.

JT: It's almost too easy so I'm kicking myself now, why didn't I think of that?

PB: What, DJing? But then you wouldn't be writing and putting out records.

JT: Right. Exactly. So you have to...there's a juxtaposition to's always brighter on the other side. Always look at the bright side of life. As a DJ I'd probably be miserable in not creating my own music. I guess DJs can now create their own music....

Here I made a comment regarding a conversation I had with my niece on EDM pertaining to sampling, etc. from music that has already been written, feeling that DJs are creating their own sound but not really their own music. Taylor doesn't condone it but neither does he condemn it.

JT: It's still artistic expression...I have to side on that. I'm happy that somebody's out there creating something and that people are enjoying it. And that's what I've decided to do, I certainly don't feel like that the music's my own per say. I feel that the music's for everyone and feel sort of lucky that I have the ability, or curse rather if you want to put it that way, but the ability to sort of grab things out of thin air, and things that I'm hearing in my head and try to paint that sort of portrait in an audio format so that other people may understand what I'm thinking. Which is really weird.

PB: That's a really interesting way of putting it.

JT: It's totally transformative. That's icky and sticky and awesome all at the same time. ...and I've enjoyed that a lot, even when people don't like it. If it provokes an emotion, then I'm happy that something was translated because not everybody's into it, and some people are, and I'm happy some people have liked what I've done and some people haven't. I'm thankful for both actually.

A chilled Julian Taylor during our chatA chilled Julian Taylor during our chatPB: What are you, rock 'n roll?

JT: What am I rock 'n roll? I ummm, sure. I don't know (laughs).

PB: No genre. You see when I was growing up we didn't have genres...but marketing brought out all the genres.

JT: I agree with you there.

PB: Then everybody started to get pigeon-holed to you must be blues, you must be jazz, you must be rock, you must be punk, you must be metal... you can have a flavour of all five, or three...

JT: You know what, as we are working on Desert Star, a double's interesting you bring up the genre thing and asked me if I think I'm rock 'n roll. I think that my personality is rock 'n roll for sure. I grew up on that sort of edge and that sort of spontaneity, the troubles and tribulations and the wonderful times that I've had are all sort of rock 'n roll moments. So yeah, I'm totally rock 'n roll. Is that the genre of music I play? I don't think so and interestingly enough I spent my career accidently unable to fit into any sort of box. I've tried, I've tried hard to do it.

PB: You don't want to.

JT: I don't.

PB: You need to be Julian Taylor. Not to fit into somebody's idea of who Julian Taylor is.

JT:  People have asked me so many times what is the type of music that you play. I've often come back with the answer that I believe that it's soul music whether it's country music, whether it's R&B, hip hop, jazz, rock 'n roll, hard rock, Indie rock, I think that if it has something that touches your soul then it's soul music, and what we set out to do is sort of redefine what that is rather than it be a stylistic thing or something that you look like, that it be something that speaks to your soul instead and that's what I've tried to set out to do ever since the beginning, by accident, because everything that I was writing, I just went okay this is the best possible song I've got and when I presented it, whatever came out happened to be a mixture of all sorts of things that I'd been into...Yeah, it's completely by accident what I've done, and I've tried to fit into the boxes because I've wanted to have some more commercial success....and the only reason why I've actually really wanted to have that commercial success at least now, maybe back in the day it was sort of hunting for fame when I was in my twenties, but now I'm a little bit wiser. It's about sustaining life.

PB: It's a legacy for your daughter.

JT: It is that and sustaining her as well, and my family and my friends. have to be prepared (for the future) have to try....commercial success I believe would help financially, as far as everything else, other than that it doesn't really matter. That's why I've tried to fit some things in some boxes but, you know, Desert Star, you are one of the first people that will get to listen to some of it, is all over the place. It should come with a disclaimer that maybe people won't understand this.

PB: What would be the disclaimer?

JT: I don't know, but it's....

PB: We don't fit inside the box.

JT: I think that's it, we don't fit inside the box it is a great way to put it. Thank you. Maybe we'll use that, because it doesn't fit inside the box.

The conversation isn't over yet. Desert Star, the latest work from the Julian Taylor Band, will be released in the coming months. The album is comprised of 24, totally original tracks. At roughly six songs per "side", each of the four "sides" are completely unique from each other. Although I've only heard a sampling, listeners will experience a wide range of sounds and feel. I love it so far. It's an amazing body of work. It moves my feet, touches my heart and feeds my brain. It is indeed music for the soul.

...and they definitely don't fit inside the box.