Slave to the Conversation: Interview with Don Beekeeper

Canadian independent artist Don Beekeeper has just released a full-length album called Slave. This interview is interesting because it represents the music community often misrepresented in the popular culture. There is a lot of musical wealth within the indie community and Don Beekeeper is an avid supporter of his and the works of fellow musicians. He has never performed live in front of an audience but he is very active in youtube and soundcloud. He also loves collaborating with other artists.

Now that Slave is out, what’s your dream about the album?

I never wanted anything more from the album than for people to listen to it. I think that’s mostly what people want, anyway. It’d be nice if it sold a million copies, but that just won’t happen. For now, I would be satisfied if it got more plays.

 I have my own personal favorites and most of them are tracks involving your amazing poetry. Do you have your own personal favorites?

I tend to not think of the songs that way but “Mardi Gras” is a piece of writing that means a lot to me, as is “Free”. I always focus on the words – it’s what I know best. People tend to expect coherent narratives, but that doesn’t appeal to me. I find no narrative in life that isn’t fiction. The movie, play, or novel progresses along its plot through its climax and there’s always the awkwardness of what happens next – because we all know that in real life, that’s the point at which order must be restored. And then it’s much more than just “time to put your toys away” – one also has to do something else.
That answer may seem tangential, but it has a lot to do with the words in “Mardi Gras” and “Free” — as well as “Bound”.

I love the liner notes. Do you still feel that liner notes are very important that one must give a lot of effort in making them in this age of digital media?

I put a lot of effort into making the document that accompanies the album. The recordings are roughly half the whole writing project – the poems included in the document should fill out the idea of the concept for someone interested. That makes this a special case – I had more writing that was recorded. But for any music release, now, I think people crave something that they could hold in their hands. It would always be nice to get the album physically produced, but I’m not in any position to do that or promote it enough to recover losses. The book is meant to be a bonus for people who either want the music or want to support the artist. Most people still will not buy a digital release – most people don’t even consider independent music to be real music deserving of their money. So, any packaging and extra that can be added makes the release more credible.

Are there plans to perform track in front of an audience?

I don’t perform live. So no plans. The closest thing to a live performance I do is on YouTube. And I think if I was to do actual live performances, I would need a band.

You also have collaborations with other artists. Are there plans for a full-length project with other artists?

I have no plans to do that, either – but there’s nothing stopping it from happening. It would depend on the other people, as well.

Who is Don Beekeeper when not writing or performing music.

Unfortunately, the answer to that question just isn’t very interesting. I could supply the standard answer, “I like music and roller skating and dog races and long walks on the beach…”

What’s the story behind the making of Slave?

Slave has to do with relationships between people and also a person’s relationship with himself. The characters in it are all bound together through circumstance and need. But nothing in the writing is literal. There is no actual Slave and there is no actual Brother. It has more to do with the kinds of things that make people do what they do – whether external forces (such as being enslaved) or internalized morality or moralized dogma (the Brother’s charity) or a pure sense of responsibility and love (taking care of the Sister). The whole album is about the idea of what makes someone do something and what makes someone stop doing something.

Is Don Beekeeper your real name? I see that the songwriting credits go to Don H.

My real last name begins with H – but I don’t want anyone who does a search for my real name to come across Don BeeKeeper. So, I keep them separate.

 What do you look forward to this year in terms of music?

I never have any specific expectations. I’m happy when I write something new, because, like every writer, I often feel that I won’t write anything again. But I do write more. It’s a nice surprise to find you’ve written something that’s different from everything else you’ve written – that’s always the hope when writing.

Listen and buy Slave through the following:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/donbeekeeper

 

Don Beekeeper Releases His Full-Length Album Slave

Slave by Don Beekeeper

The Brother found me
in the tall trees
I was finding a way
out through the other side
He asked me my name
I told him I was a slave
and he gave me his bread
and walked away-Slave

Don Beekeeper and the term ‘relaxing’ are never really at home with each other. His songs might not always be comprised with loud instruments and screaming but they aim to provoke. And his lyrics promise to move regardless of the subject. Dramatic, scalding but at the same beautiful. Everything in Slave, his full-length album is filled with emotional complexity and dynamic sounds that defy categorization. It seems like punk but not really. You can say it’s more like folk music but then again it’s not. It is everything and yet neither. “There are characters in the album. They are analogues of one another. It’s probably not gonna be that obvious, really.”

Don is a master story teller sculpting narratives in fluid style that draws you in a punishes you with something you are aware, be it the memory of bad relationships, pathetic personalities or nightmares or existence. Slave comes with a PDF as liner notes. The lyrics are placed along the pictures that Don made himself. I have to say the album design is impressive considering that he never got any help putting everything together.

Slave eleven tracks. It begins with the title track .

Your impulse
like the waves of the ocean
is crossing the world
away from everything..

Don’s poetry shines in every track as exemplified by Slave which is just a taster for what’s to come. The dense poetry and emotional catharsis are all over this album. Coupled that with music that has the dramatic intensity of any Hitchcock movie and what you get is something that flaps, kicks and rolls on your dinner table as you watch open mouthed at such display of something that’s hard to define. And yes very much alive.

Mardi Gras follows. His voice takes an eerie ululation during the chorus following the narrated verses. In The Fall is a bitter-sweet ballad. He paints life’s terrible blows as they are:

” I know the way
Is filled with pain and loss
But life don’t give you tickets
To a ball. “

Answer the Phone Denise is a lover begging for forgiveness in a sarcastic tone:

And I know you’re better – and you know I’m worse.
I pushed you but never made you fall….
So, I’ll try once again, harder than before.
And when I call you, please answer the phone, Denise.

Catch and Release reminds me of the Beat Generation. I don’t know if Don finds this flattering but his narration sounds a bit like Kerouac reading from On the Road or the Dharma Bums.

This street is endless
The naked light breaks through the noise But can’t turn the corner And I have to find a
place to sit for a while……

Solo piano and voice give way to Bound. Don’s voice become deep and reminds of Leonard Cohen. There’s percussion used occasionally to add to the eerie atmosphere of the track. Like the album’s title, there is a recurring theme running all over.  Only A Slave continues the theme which begun with the first track.

Night is Falling Fast is another piano and voice track. This is the side of Don’s songwriting and arrangement that I am getting to love.

And I wait that the day of ascendance
As surely as rain
I’ll knot the hair on your face
And colour your eyes with lavender.”.

……Goes the second to the last verse of Savior.  Brother showcases nice harmonica parts which Don plays well. This is the kind of track you would love to play as you watch the clouds move by above the Canadian prairies. Free closes this album perfectly.

“It’s always gracious
How life can be a nuisance
it’s always making demands of you.”

Slave is a collection of songs that makes you want to listen because of the sentiments that’s universal. It is like a novel apart form the fact that it is a musical effort. Each song is a story that is connected to the rest of the tracks. Slave is a must have if you into intelligent lyrics, interesting arrangements and yes distinctive strong male voices.

You went your own way
Leaving me here with the dogs
And the dishes are broken on the floor

But I know what went wrong
And it won’t take me that long to
Clean this mess and start again
Time can leave the windows open to the rain -Not part of any song but an extra writing.

Slave by Don Beekeeper

Buy the album through:

Buy the album here: www.onebeekeeper.bandcamp.com

CD baby will follow soon.