Needing It, Getting It, Not Being Satisfied by It, Trying to Learn to Live Without It: An Interview with Brad Sucks

Brad Sucks is a musician from Ottawa, Ontario. His back catalog boasts two full-length albums, I Don’t Know What I’m Doing (2003) and Out of It (2008), and he is hard at work mixing a third, Guess Who’s a Mess. Brad is noted not only for his catchy hooks, but also for his employment of open-source music distribution models (see Magnatune and ccMixter) and his championing various recording technologies. He lives here.

HFR: Excited to see/hear a few demos from the new effort, Guess Who’s a Mess, streaming on your website. Can you elaborate a little of concept behind this “pop concept album”?

BS: I thought it was about something else but now I think the whole record’s about external validation. Needing it, getting it, not being satisfied by it, trying to learn to live without it.

My original idea was a lot more overt. I wanted there to be a story arc through the album that was there if you looked for it, but didn’t get in the way of the individual songs. But I’ve been really struggling with this thing and now I’ll be happy if I get the songs done and they sound okay together.

HFR: Why the moniker Brad Sucks? How did the live band come about? Any upcoming tour plans/shows we might keep an eye out for?

BS: I had been doing stuff under aliases and I wanted to start using my real name. “Brad” was taken by members of Pearl Jam so I couldn’t use that. We were thinking up ideas, a friend of mine suggested “Brad Sucks” as a joke but it stuck.

The live band started because I had never played live before but it seemed like something I had to learn how to do. It’s still a work-in-progress. I’m looking forward to relying less on computers in the future.

As for touring, I had a big plan for shows but then had some brain issues trying to finish the record so all I care about is getting it done. People out there can jam themselves on the map at, though, so I know where I should play.

HFR: I like that you are looking forward to a future outside of computers, if not completely removed, then at least one in which you are a little less reliant upon them. What does DIY music mean to you?

BS: Well, by relying less on computers I meant specifically in my live show. The band’s been slaved to Ableton Live for a couple years so if there’s a technical issue it’s a nightmare. I’d like it to be more flexible. Unfortunately that means I have to learn to play better.

DIY music doesn’t really mean anything to me. I guess I’d assume it’d be music made with not a lot of money. But it seems like a label like “alternative” or “indie.” It can mean anything.

HFR: Who are some of your favorite performers/acts?

BS: We talking all-time or lately? All-time’s tough but lately I’ve been listening to The Warlocks, Lana Del Rey, and Junip. I don’t know why I like them. Catchy songs?

HFR:  Can you describe Brad Sucks’ writing process?

BS: It changes a lot but basically I start with a small idea like a riff, a melody or a song title and build out from there. I like to record a lot of ideas and then go back and finish the ones I still like months later.

Until recently I’ve always started recording before the song was actually written. I’m trying to discipline myself to finish the bones of the song first before I start recording now. I’m hoping that takes some of the frustration out of the process.

HFR: What prompted the usage of micropatronage? Will you continue to use it in coming years?

BS: It just seemed like an obvious thing at the time. When you don’t make the big giant band money you have to figure something else out.

I’ll probably try something similar eventually, I don’t think it’s going away. But I’d feel really bad if I collected money and missed deadlines as I have been known to do from time to time.

HFR: When did you start writing? Why write this way?

BS: I was interested pretty early on. I took some classical guitar lessons from my neighbor when I was a kid and was more interested in making my own songs than learning other people’s. I didn’t get very good at guitar so it wasn’t until computers and MOD/S3M trackers came along that I was able to arrange notes and samples and play with recording a little bit.

I didn’t really make any decisions about how I’d write, I just did what was interesting and available to me. I was really into computers so that’s what I used.

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