WITCHPOLICE RADIO: All right, welcome to Witchpolice Radio. I'm here with someone who has a ...you know, people who listen to the show and have been listening for a long time know that I try to talk to people who are either in Manitoba, from Manitoba, or have a connection to the province.
And a lot of the time that means I'm talking to artists who, you know, grew up here, spent their formative years here, and then have gone on to other parts of the country or other parts of the... onto bigger and better things. And I think that the guest on this episode is someone who has done just that. I mean, you've been sort of quite successful as far as Canadian artists go and as far as someone coming out of this part of the world is concerned. And I think the best way to start this off is if you want to just introduce yourself and give a bit of background about what it is you do as an artist.
TREVOR HURST: Okay. My name is Trevor Hurst. I am the lead singer and songwriter, main songwriter, I guess, for Econoline Crush. I grew up in a hamlet called Cromer, Manitoba. Went to high school in Virden, Manitoba.
And currently I'm working at Canupawakpa Dakota Nation as a home and community care nurse and mental wellness worker. And that is just in the southwest corner of the province of Manitoba, near Pipestone.
WR: That's very cool. Yeah. It's neat to hear that you're back here and you're doing that kind of work. Virden. My first journalism job, actually, out of college was in Virden, I was working for the paper out there and it's a nice little community, but it is very little. And that whole community, there's lots of little smaller communities around there. So before we get into sort of what you're doing now, what was that like, being an aspiring musician, living in that small of a place?
TH: Well, first off, don't you think the newspaper has the best name ever? The Virden Empire-Advance.
WR: It's amazing. Yeah, it sounds like some kind of sci-fi villain or something. It's awesome.
TH: Star wars, right?
TH: I knew that I wanted to get involved in music. I loved music. I loved being a part of that whole artistic scene.
I think it was kind of weird at the beginning when I went out to Vancouver, even going to Winnipeg and working with bigger bands because of the fact that I wasn't culturally exposed to a lot of different genres and different types of music.
But then, you know, maybe that was an advantage because when I got to Vancouver and just sort of started to be exposed to more alternative type music, I was just you know, just so in love with all the different sounds.
WR: That makes sense.
WR: What kind of stuff were you listening to? Sort of in the early days.
TH: I think it was just AM radio, like whatever my mom had on.
WR: Sure. Yeah. I think that's how a lot of people start out. Definitely.
TH: And then, you know, the usual stuff, like the ACDCs and the Zeppelins and all that stuff.
I did get into U2 a little. When I was early into Killing Joke, like I had a punk rock friend. There was one punk rocker in Virden, so he listened to Killing Joke and Black Flag. So I kind of like that stuff. And then when I went to Vancouver, obviously it was just this explosion of music. There was so many bands, so many different styles and genres from everything from The Cure to DOA.
WR: Yeah, definitely. Well, Econoline Crush, I mean, you're a band that I first started listening to in the '90s, and it's sort of cool to see someone from Manitoba fronting a band like this that was getting a lot of buzz across the country and you were playing some huge shows and festivals and things like that.
And it seems like very recently -- and maybe this is just me not paying enough attention, but it seems like very recently the name has come up a lot more. I mean, you played the Corn and Apple Festival in Morden and that was big news. I mean, you're now doing the Manitoba Loud Music Awards in Winnipeg. Has Econoline Crush been sort of steadily going this entire time or has there been a recent resurgence?
TH: Well, we've been steadily kind of going.
When the music industry kind of seemed like in the early 2000s, it changed dramatically. There wasn't that kind of CD sale or whatever product sale vinyl, whatever, it all went to streaming. Streaming doesn't pay as much.
And then just we went through a lot of different kind of phases and then after just before COVID we started to make a record and then COVID hit and it was like, oh my gosh, are we even going to have a music industry anymore? It felt like. So, yeah, I spent that time recording and we finished the record and we got it mixed by Jack Joseph Puig in I think it was April and then April of a year ago and Ziggy, our guitar player, passed away around that time and so that was a big hit for the band. But really we've been always working towards and recording music and trying to keep it going.
For me, music is almost like a religious process or something because it's how I express myself, it's how I vent, it's how I just do everything around my mental health. It sort of keeps me going.
I think it's been a very important part of our career and my life just to continue to make music.
WR: Yeah, well, and I think just from following you on social media, it seems like losing a band member and obviously a friend too, you seem to have put a lot out there about music, serving that role and making you be able to deal with grief and with tragedy and things like that.
TH: Yeah, I think there's something kind of unique about music in the way that it affects us as human beings. There's the chord structures and the way that those frequencies hit us and then the singing and that aspect lyrics. Obviously it's very therapeutic and for me, writing and creating music has been such a big part of my life that it was the only way that I could really deal with the loss was to just go back in and write another song and continue to write songs and kind of honor Ziggy's history. So that's sort of the way it works for me.
WR: You know, having been a band for as long as you have, obviously through different eras and I'm sure you've had lineup changes and things like that over that time, but how has the sound changed? I mean, obviously it's going to change regardless of how long you've been around, just from playing shows and rehearsing and writing. But when you started out, the band had very industrial vibes going on along with the alternative rock and that seems like it's sort of been there throughout. How would you say the sound has changed from maybe the early days of the band to now?
TH: I think we used to always make kind of comments sometimes about industrial music and early industrial music and the sprockets, we'd say, oh, it's a sprocket, and so we are less like that sort of machine sound now, I think, but we still employ that artistic vibe.
What I always loved about the genre of music that we tried to create was we were basically a rock band that would utilize anything, samples, whatever, to get across our emotional vibe of the song, whatever it was that we were trying to say. And even still in the new, you know, screaming and yelling and banging and things falling down, and imitating instruments with my voice and imitating instruments with other instruments just to try and create some kind of different sound. Tons of, you know, effects on things to make them just I wanted to be like I always admired David Bowie, and I always wanted to push the limits of what I was doing as an artist. And I feel like he always used to say, if you weren't uncomfortable making a record, you weren't really doing it.
TH: So I follow that sort of feeling. And as a band, we don't really create for our audience or for an audience. We make the music we make, and hopefully people like it. And it sounds sort of selfish, and maybe it is, but I think when you listen to guys like, say, Rick Rubin, he know that's who you have to work for is because that makes your music unique. Right. It makes it unique to you.
WR: Well, in that case, too, you're making sure that it's something that you feel honestly about and sincerely about because you're doing it for yourself first and foremost, right?
TH: Yeah, exactly. I think that that then allows you to perform the music with this authenticity and draw upon the motion that originally inspired the song when you're performing it live, so that people, I think, feel that. And that was the big thing about this record, was that I really had a lot of pent up frustration over the years, and I really wanted to create something that I think could express the joy of life and the frustration of life and how important music was to me and how my relationships were important to me. With know friends that had know I was very good friends with Paul Raven from Killing Joke, Bill Kennedy, who was a producer. I lost my parents, so there's a lot of people, key people in my life and Ziggy that left. And I felt like I wanted to honor them with some music and then honor my family, my kids, my wife, and how important they are to me, too.
WR: Does playing music that's fairly aggressive, especially live, does that help? Is it kind of cathartic to get some of those feelings out on stage?
TH: Yeah, man, it's the best.
Some days I wish I could bottle it up and let's give it to people. Go, this is what it feels like, because it's so cool. There's nothing like that feeling of just slamming out a song and getting it all out. And when you're done the set, you sit in the dressing room for a second, all just sweaty, and it feels so good. It's just like it's the most amazing view.
WR: Has that changed over the years or is that still totally the same?
TH: I don't know. Everybody's different, right? But I feel the same as I did when we started, I feel like, just like that. Absolutely.
WR: Well, it's a good attitude to have, I think, to have that feeling, because that's going to keep you young, I guess, right, and keep you inspired to keep making music.
TH: Yeah, it's interesting, too, this whole journey in life, right.
You would think that it would come with some form of instruction, but there's no handbook, really, and you just got to do it the best you know how and just kind of navigate it. Yeah, definitely.
WR: Obviously, the way that, like you said earlier, the music industry has completely changed since the pandemic. And the way people consume music is drastically different than it was even 15 years ago with streaming and everything else like that.
How much harder is it, I guess, to be a musician now, where sort of that whole infrastructure that was built up when you started out during the first majority of your career to date is gone. And the way you don't necessarily know. People are buying albums, they're maybe streaming 10 seconds of one song and then skipping to the next thing. Does that affect sort of your ability to write and to plan what you're going to be releasing and that kind of stuff?
TH: I think that before you kind of knew that this was your job playing music and that you had the infrastructure of the label with tour support, with whatever that they could do to contribute to help you continue making music. The way that it works now with us is like, you have to fund your art and hopefully eventually your art kind of comes back around and pays for itself and then maybe you make some money with it. And we're doing all right, but we're not at the same place. We were obviously at the height of the that whole scene. But what's interesting is we've never been a band that has fit into a particular slot and been like, oh, they're successful because of A-B-C.
We always were kind of fighting an uphill battle and we're used to being an underdog. And I think it's something that we thrive in. I know. I personally take a lot of pride in the fact that people would I would take meetings with program directors back in the they would Sparkle and Shine, for example. They'd say, we can't play this song. This is not rock and roll. I don't even know what this is. This is just not a song that is going to last. Dude, you're going to be a footnote. Nobody's even going to know you existed. And here we are, like 25, almost 30 years later, the song still gets played on radio. And I feel so scrappy about that. I feel so, like, prairie hockey player, kind of that's right.
WR: Well, and that might be your best known song, I think, for a lot of people too, at this point. Right. So you definitely subverted expectations there.
TH: Yeah. You Don't Know What It's Like was did pretty well and all you are, but yes, sparkle is one of those ones. I think sparkle also connects because of the fact, like, it's about the drug overdose of Shannon Hoon and being an entertainer and being forced out into the spotlight when you're not. And I think there's some people that connect with that and the message there and that's sort of when we went in to make this new record, I was very conscious of lyrics, more so probably than I've ever been, of just wanting to get them as right as possible and make my point as succinctly as possible.
WR: What's the process like for recording now? Like you said at the outset, you're working a job right now that is not music related. I mean, I'm sure some of the other members of the band are doing the same.
How does it work as far as getting together to record and to write and all of those sort of aspects of putting a record together?
TH: Well, it's a lot more challenging. Music gets shared across the internet and I'll get some pieces of music or some chord progressions, suggest an arrangement. I'll work on a melody and then you take time off to tour, you take time off to go record and you have to find a job or a place that will allow you to do that or else you're not going to be able to. It took quite a bit of time, COVID actually, in a weird way, helped because I was not working at the time, so I was able to go and record.
It's just different technology helps and hurts it at the same time. All the downloads kind of hurt it. But the ability to share music instantly and quickly with each other and have ideas, you can almost do it online together in a Zoom meeting or whatever, just talk about things. But for me, I still kind of am pretty old school. I like to take the music and live with it for a while, work on lyrics, come up with a melody, live with that for a bit in my head, then maybe track it on my own, live with that for a bit, and then I bring it back to the guys. And then we decide. Once we've got enough songs that we believe in, then we go into the studio and work on it that way. So it's a whole process.
WR: So your part of that process seems like it's fairly solitary thing until you all get together. Right. You're doing that all on your own.
TH: Yes. I don't have anybody with me when I'm working on the melodies and the lyrics and stuff, usually.
And then there's the process once you get in with the producer because I always like to have a producer. Somebody to kind of poke me, prod me and question me and test me and make me do things that are outside my comfort zone. So that then you're challenged with every single lyric, every single melody and pushed that way. I don't want somebody to produce the band that's just going to say, oh, that's perfect. Let's just get that down. I want them to challenge me.
WR: Well, you're going to get better end product when that happens, of course.
TH: Yeah, I hope so. Yeah.
WR: So you're playing in Winnipeg, I guess, at the end of November at the Manitoba Loud Music Awards. How did you get involved with that event?
TH: It's interesting, I think. Well, we've always kind of had our we're always looking for stuff to do in Manitoba because of like I have tremendous pride of being from Manitoba and I think our agent was looking around for gigs and spoke to somebody there. Somehow that connection was made and we jumped at it because it was so cool to play this event and get a chance to see some Manitoba bands in action and yeah, that's just sort of how it comes about. We were already doing a run out east and working. We had a bunch of shows that kind of fell off a little bit, but we were playing a bunch of shows with finger eleven. I think we still have two on this run and we played two last year.
We always want to play in Manitoba, so we jump at a chance if there's something cool to do.
WR: Is that sort of what happened with the Corn and Apple Festival, too? Because I was surprised to see you and Sloan on the bill for that show because usually it'll be some country band or something. And this was kind of unexpected.
TH I know, right? Like, I was actually floored. I said, we got an offer to play the what? Corn and Apple Festival? For real. It was such a cool event, though. And, you know, they had this big top kind of vibe with whatever they used as the band shell, and it had stripes going up the back. It looked really Barnum and Bailey. I loved it.
WR: Well, I didn't make it out there. My wife went and I stayed home with the kids. But from what I heard and saw videos of and everything, it did look like a cool venue and a cool opportunity, I guess, for a band like you that maybe wouldn't necessarily fit in with that crowd on paper. But it clearly worked.
TH: Yeah, it was great. And it was interesting because, like, I work in Canupawakpa Dakota Nation, they don't get to go do a lot of different things music wise. And so they organized some transportation and a bunch of the community members came and watched us play and that was bizarre. Yeah.
WR: Well, I guess they're seeing you in a very different context day to day. Right. So seeing you on stage has got to be a trip for them.
TH: Yeah, it was unreal.
WR: That's cool.
TH: It was absolutely unreal. Yeah, and the feedback was great.
WR: How much out of the year do you spend touring again with the day jobs and everything else?
TH: Well, right now we've done, I think it was three weeks before, then a week, and now this is another three week section. So what's that, seven weeks? We'll probably do twice that next year or more.
We just have to figure it out and make it work. Hopefully there's a tipping point where we can just work on music for a while. I mean, I love my job and I love working here as well, but I really want to do music while we can and kind of strike while the iron is hot. So if this record has been doing really well at the streaming sites or whatever, we're hearing that there's a lot of positive feedback, so we're going to try and tour as much as we can. I really love playing live. I love that experience and I love talking to fans after the show and learning what your music has meant to them over the years. It's such a cool thing.
I think appreciated what we had done previously and what we're doing now until just the last few years being able to go out and play and talk to people, and they relate the stories of, hey, when I was this age, I listened to this or this song you just wrote. I can relate. And I love those stories.
WR: Well, yeah, because once you put it out in the world, it's kind of out of your hands. Right.
Whatever the song meant to you, it's going to be reinterpreted by every single person who listens to it. And it could be a different interpretation every time.
TH: Yeah, exactly. And it is true. Once you put it out there, it's no longer yours. Even though it feels like your kid, your baby, they could take it and interpret it a million different ways, and you just have to be okay with it.
WR: Yeah, well, it's got to be nice to hear, especially because people go into your shows, obviously, they're fans. They're going to give you positive feedback because your music has meant something to them over the years. So, yeah, it must be cool to hear those interpretations and how the song worked for them, even if it was completely radically different from your intention.
TH: Yeah, it's rare that it gets too far away, but it does. Sometimes people say, well, this is what it reminds me of, and I never really wanted to change that or take that away from people. Because I think that's the power of music. It can change somebody's mood. It could change somebody's situation, make them feel better on a gray day or whatever. And I love that.
WR: So for people who, you know, I'm assuming everyone listening to this knows who you are because the audience is primarily Manitobans. Like you said, you're a proud Manitoban. You have a long history in this province, and your band has been fairly successful. But if people don't know your band or want to find out more, what's the best way to learn more about what you're doing? Hear your new stuff, probably primarily. And then your older records as well.
TH: I mean, any streaming site that's out there, like Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube, Spotify SoundCloud, just look up Econoline Crush, there's a list of records. YouTube has videos. We have all the socials, the usual, know, Facebook, Instagram, so just go there.
And if you check out the videos on YouTube, you'll see videos for Sparkle and Shine, You Don't Know What it's Like. Our latest video for Invincible. Our lyric video for Locked in Your Stone.
Yeah, just check it out, give it a listen and you can hear the evolution of the band and where we've been and where we got to.
WR: And I imagine some of those older songs are still getting a lot of views and listens even today.
TH: Yeah, they are. And I'm so grateful for people to take the chance to go down the rabbit hole and listen to some of that music and be so positive about it. And even the feedback on the new record, which is called When the Devil Drives has been just amazing. And I'm floored, like absolutely floored by how kind and how wonderful the fans have been.
WR: That's awesome. And I guess that's a bonus of the internet started changing things is that you can hear directly from them kind of instantaneously once they've listened to your stuff.
TH: Yeah, that's the thing. As soon as they hear it and they start making comments on your socials and you're like, that's awesome.
WR: That is cool. Yeah. So, in addition to the Manitoba Loud Music Awards, do you have any other shows coming up in the relatively near future?
TH: Yeah, I think we start around the 28th of this month in London, Ontario. And we are doing kind of the Golden Horseshoe, Ottawa and Toronto at Lee's Palace. Bunch of different dates. And then we kind of spin our way back towards the prairies. We play that award show in Winnipeg and then we end up going to I think it is just outside of Calgary. We're playing some show on the 21st and that's the last date so far. And then coming home for a bit and then I don't know what's going on for the Christmas holidays yet.
WR: And then I'm sure the same thing repeats itself going forward. Right. Taking some time back home, going back out on tour. Do you think you'll ever stop this? Is this something that you're set on doing as long as you can?
TH: Yeah, I think so. I don't see myself stopping. They're probably going to have to drag me away from the microphone.