15 Minutes with Chad VanGaalen

By Victoria King

While Chad VanGaalen may refer to himself as a “joke” of a singer-songwriter, tour relatively little, and gain the reputation of being a “notorious homebody,” he’s still working with one of the biggest and best record labels in the world. After the success of his 2004 release Infiniheart on Flemish Eye Records, Sub Pop jumped on board the crazy psycho-eclectic and talented musical train of VanGaalen and they’ve been going steady ever since.

“It’s funny. Every time I go there I’m like, ‘Really? You guys still wanna keep doing this?’ And they’re like ‘What are you talking about?’” he explains over the phone, on one special Friday afternoon of Now Sounds, the radio show I host on CKUW with Kyra Leib.
“I feel like the entertainment business in general can get pretty creepy pretty quick,” says VanGaalen. “There are a few labels out there that are still running their businesses properly. And I think Sub Pop is one of those. They still take me out to dinner every once in a while.”
While his own self-entitled discography is stand-alone impressive, his alias projects are equally as enthralling. Black Mold is a CVG alter ego, more electronic and less singer-songwriter.
“The Black Mold record that came out was a pre-ejaculation on my part, and me being really excited to kind of represent myself.” As it turns out, Black Mold isn’t the only thing Chad’s got going on. “Sub Pop and Flemish Eye have agreed to let me have my own sort of cassette label. So this month I’m putting out 13 records of my own stuff. There’s one Black Mold album, but most of it is electronic-kind-of-synth music. There’s one hip-hop record… There’s gonna be a download code for all the cassettes, and they’re gonna be super cheap. You can go get them off the website and it should be up in the next week. I’m just putting on all the finishing touches on the album art.”
“Invention of Science is a hip-hop group that I’ve been in for a long time, and that’s a ‘best of’ record of sorts. It’s funny cuz we’ve never put out a record, but it’s ten years in the making,” VanGaalen explains as Kyra and I try to grapple with the idea of 13 new records.
“We’d let each other fall asleep, and then wake each other up. Someone gets a beat ready and then the person who’s just been woken up has to freestyle about what they were dreaming about. Sometimes it works out really well, and sometimes it’s horrible. It’s a collected work from the past ten years and I’m super excited about it.”
“As we’re speaking I’m finishing up all the track listings for all my delicious new tracks,” VanGaalen informs us, and goes on to list a few: “‘Jumbo Tanto,’ ‘Rebel’s New Hit,’ and ‘Gargantuan Truffle Digestion’ . . . ‘Creepy Circus’ is probably the best one on there. Or ‘Debbie Lindox Trabs Cam’ is pretty good too.”
Kyra asks, “One thing I’ve always wanted to know from listening to your music concerns ‘JC Head on the Cross.’ At the end of the song, it sounds like there are little kids talking to someone. I was always curious as to what or who that was?”
“That was a snippet of stuff from my uncle,” VanGaalen tells. “My uncle lives out in Victoria and used to work at Vic West Elementary School. He used to have the kids over for a pancake breakfast every Monday. One day I was groggily waking up and made my way downstairs. My uncle is like the best uncle in the world by the way, in case you couldn’t tell. He was just entertaining these kids. I had a saxophone there at the time, so we were jamming out on the saxophone and this kid was saying weird stuff about Jesus.”
And when asked about his visuals, Chad admits that art school didn’t do too much for him. “I did go to art school. I went there for printmaking. My dad was really into watercolors. He was also into underground comic books, like all the Zap stuff and Freak Brothers… I taught myself by looking at comics. And bugs and stuff. I really liked bug books. I still like bug books. But yeah, Art College was more like day camp for adults… It was a failure.”
What wasn’t a failure was Chad’s latest tour in Europe, lasting just over two months. “Copenhagen. We had a really awesome show in Copenhagen,” he recalls. “We’d never been there before, and people were singing along. It’s pretty cool to show up to a place you’ve never been to and people were singing your songs. It was weird. But in a good way. It could have been weird. It was a good weird… London was good. I got to get drunk with some friends, and they took me out for dinner. It was a crazy gourmet dinner, and I just ended up getting French fries. Which I thought would be funny, to make them make me French fries at a crazy gourmet restaurant.”
“That’s so North American of you,” Kyra teases.
“No, I love French fries though. It was good times for sure. Oh! We played at a hippy fest in a German forest, and there was, like, a body temperature lake, and like, Germans were getting nude, so everyone was like nude and stuff… ”
Our 15 minutes with VanGaalen has nearly come to it’s close, as he says modestly, “Like, I don’t sell records. You know? They just have me around… I’ve had a lot of good luck.”

Check him out at the West End Cultural Center tonight, January 13. Tickets are $20 at the door or $17 in advance.

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