Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ballad-free zone

Local rocker Greg MacPherson showcases his aggressive side on stripped-down seventh album

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It was cut short due to bad weather -- black ice, 1; Toyota Corolla, 0 -- but Greg MacPherson's latest Canadian tour was one of the most successful he's ever been on. And he's been on a few.

"We've had crazy record sales and the shows we did play were the best attended I've ever had," he says with a laugh. "I'm at the stage now where the kids that were coming to my shows when they were 20 are now the booking agents and publicists and journalists in the places I'm going."

The veteran local blue-collar rocker was out on the road in support of his seventh full-length studio album, Fireball. Released at the end of October via his own Disintegration Records imprint, the new disc is a positively combustible collection of fast 'n' loose punk tunes that burn with energy and urgency. Stripped-down and straightforward, the album shows a more aggressive side of the singer/songwriter. (For one thing, it's completely ballad-free.)

"I wanted to put out a record that sounded more like how (drummer) Rob (Gardiner) and I do live," he says.

"I also wanted to make a record that was one thing instead of a bunch of things. All my records have been really varied. I write so much that I end up with a bunch of songs that don't always fit together. Rather than squeeze it all onto one record, I'm focusing on putting out records that are more succinct and consistent. I've always wanted to make a record like (Fireball) but, to be honest, my records are often just a snapshot. I'd pick the best songs I had and put them on a record."

MacPherson once again worked with respected sound engineer Cam Loeppky (The Weakerthans, Cannon Bros.), who runs Disintegration Records with MacPherson and produced 2010's Mr. Invitation and 2011's Disintegration Blues. The pair have developed a seamless working relationship in the studio.

"It helps that Cam and I also have a lot of fun together as friends," MacPherson says. "He's a world-class engineer. You can hear things come together really quickly."

Gardiner, too, has been an important figure in MacPherson's musical trajectory. The duo often tours as such, with MacPherson filling out the sound with a looping station. "It's been great because I get to be a lead guitar player," he says.

Fireball represents the singer/songwriter at the top of his game, but MacPherson isn't what you'd call a careerist. Ever since he made his debut with Balanced on a Pin in 1999, he's always held a day job. These days he's the executive director of the not-for-profit West Broadway Community Organization, a gig he loves.

"My music career is a super slow boil," he says. "I don't have expectations about making music my sole source of income. The way I think about it is, with every release, is this easier or more difficult to do? Chasing some weird dream of being a touring musician is a mistake I think a lot of people make, and I think it takes the fun out of it."

Which isn't to say he doesn't have musical goals and aspirations; in fact, he has a three-album plan all mapped out. It's evident from Fireball that MacPherson is still having fun with the music he's making -- which is why he wants to make more.

"I'm really proud of this record -- it makes me want to do the next one," he says. "Onwards and upwards."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2013 C3


Updated on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 8:20 AM CST: adds video

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