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Interview with Pinball Sessions and Class of 2015 Showcase

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 Interview with Pinball Sessions and Class of 2015 Showcase

Daniel Cooper, posing like he isn't posing on a warm afternoon

Daniel Cooper, posing like he isn’t posing on a warm afternoon

Daniel Cooper is the head of Pinball Sessions, a Guelph music blog that defies the traditional definition and moves toward being a live project with video production. Daniel has been working with Toronto promoter Dan Burke to bring a winter showcase of acts to look for in 2015. The first Class of 2015 showcase is January 3rd at The Silver Dollar.

I had a phone interview with Daniel Cooper to discuss his involvement in the Class of 2015 showcase, Pinball Sessions and his new company Home Base Publicity.  

… finger on the pulse of local music.  

You are involved in the Class of 2015 showcase series this month at Silver Dollar. How did it come about?  

Dan Burke has done showcases before at the Silver Dollar. The bands that are playing are mostly Toronto bands, with a few from Montreal, eastern Canada, and beyond.

Dan teamed up with 5 promoters, Jonny Dovercourt of Wavelength Music Series, Dan Seligman of Pop Montreal, James Mejia of Hand Drawn Dracula, Aaron Miller of Arts & Crafts, and Scott Waring of Sleepless Records. He looked at people who have their finger on the pulse of local, regional and Canadian music in general.

There are 29 bands in total fit into shows spanning 27 days. There are some new projects from established bands such as Etiquette, a new-ish project from Julie Fader and Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck. There’s a ton of great talent including pinball alumni Bile Sister, Pet Sun, I Smell Blood and Crosss.

Is this the first showcase in Toronto you’ve been involved in? How about Guelph?  

We’ve promoted a lot of shows independently since our inception. We launched Pinball Sessions with shows across Canada in Winnipeg, Guelph, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax. For our first year anniversary, we had shows in Toronto, Guelph and Ottawa. We’ve done a lot of local show promotion in Guelph, which was an extension of what I had been doing independently before. We’ve sponsored showcases in Toronto with 3030 and Kensington Brewery as well. With this round of showcases we’re more involved in getting the artists into our studio and releasing sessions to coincide with the shows. We did something similar with Wavelength’s festival in 2014 where we recorded Hooded Fang, Lido Pimienta, Phedre and OdonisOdonis and released the sessions around the festival.

How did you get involved?  

My business partner, Tyler Belluz at Home Base Publicity, played a show at Silver Dollar and ended up driving Dan Burke home that night. The two started talking about the series and how we could be involved. He told Dan about Home Base Publicity and Pinball Sessions and they got the idea of having including Pinball as a sponsor wherein some of the participating bands would get a Pinball Session. We’re recording some sessions on Saturday with Hush Pup and Most People. They’ll both be released on the Monday and Thursday before their show January 10th with Calvin Love.   

pinball sessions CLASS of 2015 poster

What is Pinball Sessions and what makes it different from a music blog or a label?

All of our content is created in house, literally in our house. We record music and shoot videos live off the floor. We have pinball machines and the studio situated below our bedrooms. Dan Beeson, my roommate, records, mixes and masters all of the sessions and we share filming duties. Music blogs can sometimes be a little impersonal. We like to get bands in, get them comfortable and have some fun with the recordings. We like to have bands come in and do things a little differently or closer to what their live shows might look and sound like.

pinball sessions

How do you choose the bands you record?  

I pay lot of attention to festivals, music blogs, live shows and other promoters and music series. I’m mostly the primary curator for Pinball Sessions, which means I have to search out new talent constantly as well as getting established artists in. I like to look at the indie labels coming up as well, Buzz, Telephone Explosion, Hosehead, Pleasance and Mammoth Cave all have some of the best upcoming garage/punk/noise around. I find music I’m passionate about and that the whole crew can get behind. Sometimes we don’t all agree but that’s OK.

How many Pinball machines are at the studio?  

[Dan walks around house] 3 in one room, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 11 in the house, 3 in the workshop. Dan Beeson refurbishes Pinball machines constantly and we rotate out machines with some pinball aficionados in Guelph and have some at bars in Toronto. Handle Bar and 3030 both have some of our machines. There’s a really cool resurgence in pinball right now and we have some of the best players in Southern Ontario come by to hang out and play regularly.

People are very passionate about pinball.

Does the pinball ever get in the way of the recordings?

Haha no, but B.A. Johnson went straight to the Pinball machines after recording. People are very passionate about pinball, even people who haven’t played before. It’s a physical game and it’s easy to get lost in the lights even if you lose constantly. All our machines are on free play, of course, so it’s cool to see some people come in and get lost in it who wouldn’t have otherwise.

Do you ever have issues of the sounds of pinball coming through on the recordings?

No we’ve never had that problem. The studio is in an old convenience store, maybe it’s the layout of the rooms, but it’s pretty sound proof, there’s no bleed.  

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 3.30.24 PM

Have you ever seen the movie Tommy?

Yeah haha not since I was a kid. I remember the scene, uh, what’s it called. There was an iron man with spikes that you put people inside?   

An Iron Maiden.

Yeah and Tina Turner put Roger Daltrey inside. That was a freaky psychedelic acid scene from what I remember. But I guess the whole movie kind of was.   

daltrey iron maiden

Roger Daltrey with Tina Turner’s iron maiden in Tommy (1975)

How did you get started in the music industry?  

Well my mom Shawna Cooper runs Dollartone Records but I moved to Toronto at 16, finished high school then went to Ryerson for photography. I realized pretty soon that I didn’t want to do that. My friend’s band The Creaking Tree String Quartet was looking for an Intern so I worked for them for a while. They were a Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical instrumental string band. At the time I worked in a lot of bars and I worked on promoting some shows as well as interning around.   I started going to Folk Alliance Conference around that time and working on the Beaver Suite, whose mandate was to bring more Canadian talent to the American conference. We would plan it like a festival and schedule bands from 10pm – 4 am Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. That’s when I got a taste for curating. It was fun, you get to see and listen to so many bands, there are about 2000 musicians there over a weekend.

That’s my favorite part of the job. I get to be passionate about music and find people who share that passion.

I read that you received a large grant from the government of Canada to help start Pinball Sessions. In your opinion where would the Canadian music industry be without government grants?  

The funding element is absolutely essential for many smaller bands. In a country as large as Canada it would be impossible for bands to make the, sometimes, 8 hr drives between shows without the help of the funders. We’ve gotten FACTOR grants, which help get bands and labels to make moves to further Canadian music and allows a lot of people to garner more international attention. In a country of 30 million people it’s hard to get anywhere confined to this huge country with so little pople in it.

You recently launched Home Base Publicity.  

I started it with Tyler Belluz of Missed Connection Records. He’s been doing publicity for his bands and label while I’ve been doing publicity for Pinball Sessions and independent artists so it just fit. Publicity is one part of the music industry that hasn’t really been affected by the downward spiral of the last few years.

Who do you represent?  

We are working on filling out our roster for 2015 right now, we’ve got some things in the works that we’re really excited about. We’ll have more information coming out soon.

Someone overseas can listen to your tracks and if they have any clout and are excited about your stuff that’s important to gain fans internationally. 

What do you see for the future of music on the internet and live?  

Posters, print, and physical things will always be important locally. Digital is international and is super important. Someone overseas can listen to your tracks and if they have any clout and are excited about your stuff that’s important to gain fans internationally. Independent musicians make most of their money touring now so it’s important to leverage your online presence to engage more people and excite them about your tours. Album sales are fine and good, the vinyl resurgence is great but it’s expensive to press, so if you can push this mostly free online presence that’s a huge boon to your career and can be great for your tours.

You have anything else you wanted to mention?  

We are starting a new video series partnered with different craft breweries. We interview artists, starting with a beer tasting, sometimes we have a few too many, and then we launch into the interview part. We are currently getting more breweries lined up. We have Amsterdam (Toronto), Wellington (Guelph) and Publican House (Peterborough), on board so far. The first up is Eamon McGrath drinking some Wellington beer, which will be premiering around January 15th.

Class of 2015 Concert Series

The Silver Dollar Room, 486 Spadina Ave, Toronto

Jan 3rd – Wax Atlantic (members of Major Grange, Zeus) / Only Yours (Lowell of Great Bloomers’ new act) / Fever City / Holy Gasp

Jan 9th - Edgewater Hotel / Pistol George Warren / The Dead Projectionists / The Nursery / CHOBO

Jan 10th – Calvin Love / Most People / Mimico / Etiquette (Julie Fader + Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck) / Hush Pup

Jan 16th –  Crosss / WHIMM / I Smell Blood / Dories / Stuka January 17th – Brave Shores / Votiiv (feat. Kontravoid) / Country / Peers / Vallens

Jan 24th – New Fries/ Nancy Pants / BB Guns / Bile Sister

Jan 30th – Pet Sun, Nobro, Champion Lover, Several Futures, Canyun

By: Tyler Brown


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