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Local artist Chad VanGaalen talks animation, new album and cybernetic enhancements

By Jarrett Edmund, September 10 —

Calgary’s Chad VanGaalen is a man of many titles: musician, animator, producer, father and cybernetic body modification enthusiast — to name a few. Flanked by a new backing band, the Bleach Wipes, VanGaalen will begin a Western Canadian tour, with his first two stops in Calgary on Sept. 10 and 11.

VanGaalen will be joined on tour by two veterans of the Calgary music scene — Lab Coast’s Chris Dadge will play percussion, and Ryan Bourne will contribute as a multi-instrumentalist. VanGaalen says he’s excited to work alongside the two talented musicians.

“Those guys are badass. They’ve been learning songs and we’ve been trying to muscle up on Shrink Dust and new stuff,” VanGaalen says.

VanGaalen is no stranger to working with incredible musicians — he has previously collaborated with a number of prolific bands, including Twin Peaks, Viet Cong and Alvvays. Despite being credited with producing Alvvay’s Polaris Prize-shortlisted debut album, VanGaalen is modest about his role in the album’s creation.

“The album started out with Molly [Rankin] sending me solo stuff, and then it morphed into a band at the last minute,” VanGaalen says. “They were really amazing songs — it’s really just a matter of setting up mics and pressing record.”

VanGaalen’s creative outlets are more than just music. Citing inspiration from his father’s underground comic collection, he grew up idolizing the works of famed illustrators and began drawing at a young age. And despite his musical accomplishments, VanGaalen finds himself drawing more than ever.

“Probably 80 per cent of what I do these days is animating,” he admits. “I would definitely call myself an animator at this point. All I do is animate.” And to great success — VanGaalen was recently awarded the 2015 Prism Prize for creating the music video for Timber Timbre’s “Beat the Drum Slowly.”

VanGaalen also recently finished his film, Translated Log of Inhabitants, which he wrote, acted and fully animated himself. “It’s done. I’m excited that it didn’t actually kill me,” VanGaalen says. He spent two and a half years on the project.

Like his animation, VanGaalen’s lyrical compositions are often laden with grotesque imagery, a reflection of his whimsical and cartoonish nature. But despite his playful personality, VanGaalen is content with staying at home in Calgary.

“I’m pretty insulated as far as human beings go. I don’t really leave my house,” VanGaalen says. “The mountains are here, I can escape really easily to the middle of nowhere. I started my family here, I was born and raised here. I can pass out in a bush along the bike path and not have to worry about anybody fucking with me.”

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Mark Rimmer

VanGaalen also reveals that he has enough new material for another record. “It’ll definitely be out sometime soon,” he says. VanGaalen was reluctant to set anything in stone though, saying that some songs on the album may change structure as they’re played during this tour.

“Things are going really well with Chris and Ryan, so I wanna get them in the studio
and do some live tracking,” VanGaalen says.

And what’s in store for the future of music? VanGaalen’s imagination is constantly churning.

“Cut off your arm, put on a robot arm, you know, be that guy for a while. Transhumanism is coming, man,” he says. “I want a tail so bad. That would be my first mod. I would just hold a beer with it, you know. And I’d play another instrument with it!”

But until that happens, we’ll have to settle with Chad VanGaalen playing instruments with his original appendages — the way nature intended.

You can catch Chad VanGaalen and the Bleach Wipes Thursday, Sept. 10 at Broken City and Friday, Sept. 11 at Festival Hall. Pre-sale tickets are sold-out, but a limited number are available for $22 at the door.

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