Vor ein paar Jahren haben uns PUP in dieser kleiner Rubrik Toronto vorgestellt. Nun, nahezu genau 4 Jahre später, haben wir mit Eamon McGrath einen weiteren Einwohner,der uns die kanadische Metropole näher bringen will. Beste Venue der Stadt? Was ist der Unterschied zwischen Toronto im Sommer und Toronto im Winter? Eamon hat einiges zu erzählen!
When did you move to Toronto – and what was the reason for your move?
I moved here in summer 2010, following the release of my first record on White Whale, “13 Songs of Whiskey & Light”. “Peace Maker” came out shortly after — I think like a month of me living here. It was a really transitional, important time. I toured nonstop that year as well, constantly playing. Moved into the Bloor and Ossington neighbourhood and haven’t really left. Easily my favourite part of the city, the neighbourhood where I feel most at home.
What should everyone know about Toronto?
For a city its size, it’s incredibly green. Toronto takes on a whole new identity in the summer time. You walk through a park every five minutes it seems. From May-October it’s just overflowing with life and energy. The winter is kind of a different story — everybody sort of hibernates and deals with varying degrees of seasonal depression, like any northern city that gets dark early, and it’s built on the shores of Lake Ontario so the winds coming off the lake can be brutal. But you make up for it with the other eight months of the year.
Is there a thing that you totally hate about this city?
Not so much that I hate anything in particular, but the rising rent and cost of living here has become undeniably difficult. It’s forcing a lot of the smaller business, stores, bars, restaurants, etc. to close shop and they end up being replaced by corporate franchises which I think is disgusting. Toronto’s also had a history of being a bit conservative in some ways, politically the suburbs tend to vote in right wing councillors and politicians and that ends up having a really negative impact on downtown life. It’s been a huge battle to get the opening of a safe injection site approved, for example, and there’s some really courageous activists (like Zoe Dodd in particular) who just went guerilla-style and opened one up themselves in a park. But that’s a classic, typical Toronto thing: the higher-ups don’t provide for you or represent you, so you take the matters into your own hands, and that’s how the city gets so progressive and left-wing on the ground level. So I think that there’s enough of a resistance to the corporate direction that is engulfing the city that there will be a huge struggle, which isn’t always bad: the struggle is happening right now. Culture is disappearing, but I don’t think it will go without a fight.
Do you have a favourite venue to play in Toronto?
I like the Dakota Tavern, it’s the perfect size to play an intimate show that feels special, but can also feel packed and crowded. It always sounds amazing and is a great place to work in new songs. It’s in a great neighbourhood, close to my house, everyone always ends up having the best nights there. Other than that, the Horseshoe Tavern is my favourite venue to see a show, work at a show, and play when it’s packed — it’s a small venue too but can cater to having bigger acts. Some of my favourite shows of all time have been at the Horseshoe. Both those venues are really versatile musically too, you can see any kind of band at either, but they’re the go-to places for songwriters. You feel like songwriting is really celebrated at both those places.
If you could move to any other city in the world, which city would you choose?
Hard to say, because the corporate takeover that Toronto is falling victim to is happening to any other city of 500,000 people everyone in the western world. Capitalism is winning a war against culture right now and it’s difficult for the working classes to feel like we can push back since it seems to all revolve around the ownership of property. I remember the first time I went to Saxony, and remember thinking how cities like Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz, Goerlitz, Cottbus, etc., they’d be almost impervious to that corporate takeover — but it’s even happening in all those places now. People, and tenants, are seen in the eyes of the ruling class as an annoying little hurdle you have to knock down before you can construct your massive, twenty-story condominium that takes up two city blocks, but these are the people that have created the city and the stories and art that has come to give it its identity.
How does Toronto influence you in your creative work?
The constant noise and movement in a city like this serves to always stoke a fire. There’s always some kind of celebration or frustration or madness or peace occurring outside your window, whether it’s noon or 4:00 a.m. You can always eavesdrop on some kind of narrative going on. Living amongst millions of people there is always a story being told. And if you listen in closely you can hear the hum of the city, as though it’s a living thing, and recreate those stories and channel those narratives into your songs or books. There is also something to be said for creating art through some kind of a struggle: not to say that it’s required to be some kind of “tortured artist” type, but I think that trying to figure out, for example, how to do a long tour and keep your apartment and afford to eat and actually rely on the tour for your income, well it forces you to work harder. So having the urban pressure is kind of healthy I think. People can stagnate easily if their art isn’t life or death for them.
Do you have a favourite movie, book, song or record about Toronto?
I really love the songwriting of Simone Schmidt, she fronts the band The Highest Order and records solo material under the name Fiver, and she was the lyricist and songwriter in the now-defunct Toronto band One Hundred Dollars. Her body of work references the city and its landmarks and histories quite often, she’s by far my favourite songwriter from here. That music couldn’t exist the same way coming from another place.
What’s your favourite place in the city?
I find a lot of comfort in Kensington Market, this small district in the city centre that is still a snapshot of how the city was ten or fifteen years ago. It’s the punks’ neighbourhood, there’s a ton of Jamaican shops, dispensaries, bars, great food, loud music in the summer. Everything you hope to find in a city this size you can find in the Market.
PUP said that “home of the CN Tower, Canada’s raging erection” would be the perfect slogan for Toronto – what would you choose?
How about: “Toronto — See you when the bubble bursts!”
Photo Credit: Danny Miles
Eamon McGrath auf Tour:
April 26 – Gent, BE @ Cafe de Loge
April 27 – Bonn, DE @ Namenlos
April 28 – Karlsruhe, DE @ Scruffy Murphy’s
April 29 – Schaan, LI @ Black Pearl
April 30 – Wil, CH @ Buero Lokal
May 1 – Prague, CZ @ (A)Void Floating Gallery
May 2 – Innsbruck, AT @ Die Backerei
May 3 – Kriens, CH @ Barrock Music Bar
May 4 – Geneva, CH @ Urgence Disk Records
May 5 – Zurich, CH @ Obenuse Fest
May 6 – Freiburg, DE @ Slow Club
May 7 – Brussels, BE @ Le Maison de Douche