Interview by Donald Anderson
Space Age Bachelor 12 (Winter 1998), p. 3
Donald Anderson: Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children Warp label debut (North American release by Matador) comes from two Scots. The group name refers to the strong influence of the 70s documentary movies from the Canadian National Film Board. It seems quite strange to me the way that people expect/demand different levels of weirdness from various mediums. It has occurred to me that a lot of music in commercials is very strange, or documentaries, too, and people have no trouble listening to it. But if you present this music in a pop package, people are almost offended by its weirdness, its indulgence.
Marcus: "That's exactly it. That is such a good point to make because all along we've been more interested in the sort of music you find in that context rather than standard rock and pop. The reason some people might be into our music and other experimental artists' music, is because there's a space for it in the public psyche where the way has been paved by film and tv and so on, so why can't bands produce albums of equally original music?
Donald Anderson: Many of these movies were nature films.
Michael: "Yeah, Banff Springs. the cover for Music Has the Right to Children was taken there. It's funny all these places in Canada have stolen their names from places in Scotland like Banff, Airdrie, Strathmore, etc loads of them around Calgary alone. We're based near a Scottish wildlife reserve now, beside a wildlife sanctuary."
Donald Anderson: Particularly affected by it, cause my earliest memories are revisited in this music. One member is born in 1971, and the other is born in 1973. My two older brothers are born in 1970 and 1972 respectively. My family lived in Calgary around 1974, moved east, I was born in 1976, and then the family moved back to Calgary in 1978. But 1980 was my favorite shit. When I was six, I was nostalgic for when I was four.
Michael: "I suppose we're naturally like that. When I was a fetus I was nostalgic for when I was sperm."
Donald Anderson: Except we come from one sperm, not many sperm. and I wonder if just maybe our early paths ever crossed.
Michael: "It's a small world. I stayed in Braeside for a while and I remember a shoot out near the Trade Winds hotel, when I was told to get down on the floor of the car. I also remember getting ski masks to go trick or treating with my friends, and this old guy thought we were going to mug him."
Donald Anderson: I feel extra close to the final product, though it's easy for me to say that knowing they're from there. I wonder at what unconscious level this music might have affected me, if I didn't know that? Despite being the current toast of electronica, Music Has the Right to Children doesn't necessarily sound cutting edge.
Marcus: "I think the melodies could have been written anytime but the production couldn't have been done without samplers. It's maybe odd when you think about it because we work hard to downgrade the sound to make it seem dated and worn. But the chopped up vocals and beats can only be done with samplers. As musicians we're capable of producing a good album without all the technology so we approach writing from that angle, as though we want to record a traditional rock record with a band and vocals but then we introduce the technology as we go along to achieve all these impossible things that we'd like to hear an ordinary rock album doing."
Donald Anderson: It has a spooky, transcendental. The melodies are simple, yet irresistible. They sound familiar, yet distant. When I was born, what melodies did I hear in my head, what melodies have I forgotten already in that first second of life, tears drowning out the final notes of a booming womb symphony?
Michael: "I believe we're all born with the potential to generate all possible melodies. Babies respond to tunes as though they're recognizing something. Music is maths, no matter how messy or atonal it gets, it can always be described by numbers. And there have been all those experiments playing music to unborn babies where they react to it afterwards when they're older. It's in everybody of course so its a shame when someone claims not to be interested in music, because it's a waste of creative power. If you could combine the efforts of every human being to make a super composer, think of the melodies you'd unlock. I sometimes get sad about the future thinking about all the beautiful music which will be written in years to come, because we won't live long enough to witness it."
Donald Anderson: The implications of electronic music where any sound in the human head can potentially be harnessed by passing the limitations of physical instruments is enormous. It makes me feel so strange, parts of my body I didn't know i had, a funny feeling in my spine, a little tinglebetweenmytoes. [sic] Emotions, in general, I didn't know I had.
Michael: "Definitely. It offers you nearly infinite possible sounds, millions of ways of presenting a melody or a sound. By its very nature it can be the most experimental form of music. That doesn't mean that it always is, because we also believe that most electronic musicians become lazy. It's very easy to make mainstream work like dance music once you have a sampler and a sequencer. The technology lends itself to that style, that's where dance music came from. But it's more of a challenge to write original melodic music. It can bring rare emotions to the surface, especially if you have an ear for fine nuances. It doesn't have to sound electronic at all, and once you accept this you can go anywhere with it."
Donald Anderson: There's something about "Rue the Whirl" I can't explain. It does my head inside out and in.
Marcus: "That's a simple track. It has a predominate woodwind riff, ascending over and over, which puts you in a trance, but there are some evolving textures in there which may or may not be obvious at first, such as birds and water. It has similar hypnotizing effect to something like the melodies you hear from a rusty swing, needed to be oiled or machinery on a journey, or even a windscreen wiper, the noise it makes over and over. The surrounding environment is continuously moving. I think it works well because everybody wants to rue the whirl."
Donald Anderson: Um, one question I forgot to ask, what does it mean to 'rue the whirl.' I've never heard the expression, though admittedly there remains some gaps in my knowledge.