From a songwriting point of view, it has been a productive year for Big Wreck. Led by frontman Ian Thornley, Big Wreck has been one of the cornerstones of Canadian alternative rock for 30 years. Impressively, the band is still reaching new creative peaks. At the end of the summer, they released their seventh studio record, 7. The album is a conglomeration of three five-song EPs the band released between the end of 2021 and the late winter of 2023.
Even with the recent release of 7, Thornley has not stopped to take a break, and the band is now set to release a brand new EP titled Pages. Due on November 24th via Sonic Unyon Records, the recording features six new tracks produced by the great Nick Raskulinecz. After hearing some demos of the songs earlier this year, Raskulinecz became very excited by the new music. He and the group entered the studio this past May, with the band tracking 18 songs in only two weeks. With Pages, you’re hearing the first of those 18 songs, with the rest due out soon in future EPs. Determined not to become just another legacy act, Thornley is approaching Big Wreck with the same level of commitment and enthusiasm as he always did.
Joining us today is bassist Dave McMillan for a conversation about songwriting, the new EP Pages, the band’s creative process, and his feelings on the current state of rock. (Read our song review of “Bail Out” here.)
When you write, do you do so with the live setting in mind, or do you write a song just for the song’s sake?
Dave McMillan: “No, not really. The live approach to a song doesn’t really work its way into the recording of a song for us. When we are in the studio, our main focus is always on doing what we think is best for the song on the record. If that means layering multiple guitar parts, having keyboards or a choir worth of vocal overdubs, that’s cool with us. Then, when it comes time to rehearse for shows, we’ve found it can actually lead to some interesting re-interpretations.”
Which do you enjoy the most: writing, recording, practicing, or playing live?
“For us, it’s all great, and each aspect is leading towards the same goals of making great music and putting on a great show. We are definitely the type of band that likes to nerd out in the studio with sounds. If you listen to any of our records, I think it’s pretty clear that we are really into getting different sounds from song to song. Playing live is a totally different type of rush that you can only get from standing up there and feeling that energy come from the audience.”
Do you have any touring plans in support of Pages?
“We are just gearing up for a seven-week tour which has us crossing Canada and doing the west coast of the U.S. It’s an exciting one for us for lots of reasons. We don’t get to the U.S. nearly enough, and we always love getting down there and seeing all our American fans and friends. Of course, Canada is always great, and we can’t wait to play some rooms that we haven’t been to in a while.”
Do you use the same gear when recording as you do when playing live?
“It’s a mix. Obviously, we all have our favourite pieces of gear that make appearances, but we are also all very open to trying new things. Both Ian (Thornley) and Dave (McMillan) play SUHR guitars and basses, so those are all over the record. Sekou (Lumumba) has played DW drums for years, so those are there as well. Sometimes, someone might have an idea to try something new. Whether it be a different sound or just a way to get someone out of their comfort zone a little. So if that means bringing in a different drum kit or using an amp that’s at the studio or whatever, we are good with it.”
Tell us more about Pages. What was your experience of making it? What went on behind the scenes? Any notable moments that stand out?
“Earlier this year, we went into the studio with Nick Raskulinecz, who was the executive producer on our albums Albatross and Ghosts. Nick has worked with so many bands and has worked on some of our favourite records. It was great to work with him again. He brings such a positive energy into the studio that really made us feel comfortable and pumped. He’s such a musical guy and has a great way of pulling the best out of us.”
If you had an unlimited budget, where and with whom would you record your record? What about production and mastering? And why?
“We are all huge Peter Gabriel fans. I think with an unlimited budget, his studio, Real World Studios in Bath, would be a bit of a dream come true. Obviously Abbey Road, as well. There are so many amazing studios it’s hard to choose. There is something so inspiring about recording in a great studio through great vintage gear that you simply can’t replicate in a home studio.”
What do you think of the current state of rock music?
“I think that it is definitely in a bit of a weird place. I might be inclined to say it’s in a bit of a lull, but that said, I’m pretty excited about some of the new acts coming out. At the risk of sounding like an old man, I’ve noticed a few new acts coming out using actual instruments, which is always nice. As fans of rock music, I think we are all hopeful that it has a bit of a resurgence.”
How would you describe your creative process?
“For us, the creative process starts with Ian. He is always writing and will constantly be sending out ideas to each of us, looking for feedback. Sometimes, we will go back and forth, emailing each other ideas for parts until we land on something that we think is good enough for the song. Sometimes, it can start with an idea at soundcheck, and Ian will take that and run with it. There is no set method or formula which I think helps our variety of songs.”