Bison B.C. are a heavy metal band from Vancouver, B.C., currently signed to California label, Metal Blade Records. They are known for their intense live shows and claim that concerts are meant to "leave you soaked in sweat, exhausted and emotionally drained!" Upon the recent release of their fourth album, Lovelessness, a reflection of “the day to day struggles of life, love and loss”, we chatted with guitar / vocalist, Dan and got to know the band. Dan talks about the band taking negative emotions such as anger and frustration and turning those emotions into music. He says, “Despite feeling an unrelenting sense of hopelessness throughout my adolescence, I found music that gave me hope and inspiration” and he hopes his music today can connect emotionally with others in some way. Rolling Stone described Bison B.C. as "Heavy, man. Real heavy. Jean-jacket heavy". Read on to find out how they deal with stress on the road, what shows they like playing and more.
For starters, what does the B.C. in your band name stand for? I've heard it was ‘British Columbia’ to represent where you are from, but I have also heard “Before Christ." Is it one or the other, or both?
The "BC" doesn’t actually stand for any one particular thing. In fact we chose it because it could be interpreted in a few different ways. After a couple years as a band we discovered that there were a few other bands with the same name but of completely different musical styles. After some friends of ours experienced a horror show of legal trouble simply because of a name dispute we decided to cover our asses just in case.
I've read that you are especially known for your ‘intense live shows’. Can you describe some of the things you do while performing? Also, are there any rituals you do as a band to prepare for prior to going on stage?
The main focus of any band, after writing and arranging songs of course, should be an honest and exhausting live show. We don't have any props or explosions or light shows or anything but we try to give every bit of ourselves while playing the songs we've laboured over. As a concert goer there is nothing more disappointing than seeing a distracted band on stage playing an uninspired set. I see live music as the last honest forum for emotional connection to music. You can't download the experience of watching a band live, being soaked in sweat and leaving the venue exhausted and emotionally drained. It's the entire reason we spend hours and hours every day driving from city to city. To get on stage and half ass a performance would not only be a disservice to our fans but also to ourselves.
How have your past experiences throughout life influenced the music that you write and play?
Absolutely. There's a lot of anger and frustration in our music and that comes directly from us. Every single note and chord we play is a reactionary statement to anyone who ever wronged us. We grew up in an era when there were very distinct roles assigned by our education system through which youth could assimilate themselves into society: academics, sports or arts. As a student focused on either academics or sports one would be endlessly encouraged by their superiors. We however were all artistic students. As such, I personally found myself ridiculed by my peers and superiors. Pushed out from the inner circle we all sought refuge among a small, dedicated group of like-minded friends. We were called punks and freaks and with each other's support we learned to strive for a satisfaction that existed beyond the acceptance of the same peers that alienated us in the first place.
You have a new album ‘Lovelessness' coming out this Fall on October 22. What does the title of the album signify? And what are some things we can look forward to from the new album?
James came up with the title "Lovelessness". I'm not too sure where he got it from but I feel like it reflects the day to day struggles of life, love and loss. We could all relate to it and thought it fit the songs that we had collected for the new record. I feel like the songs on this record are more concise than on previous records. They all fit together in some strange way despite their stylistic differences. This album not only sounds dirtier than our last few records but it's emotionally more raw as well. I guess it's been a pretty difficult year for all of us in our personal lives.
How do you hope your music will affect others?
Personally I can only hope that our music will affect people in the same way that I was affected by the music I grew up on. Despite feeling an unrelenting sense of hopelessness throughout my adolescence, I found music that gave me hope and inspiration. I sought out and absorbed any music that, to me, conveyed honesty and sincerity. In a way I became completely obsessed with any music that I could relate to in some way...be it either lyrically or through the emotions evoked by the arrangements and chord structures. It's nearly impossible to attempt to substantiate the emotion that certain music can evoke within oneself but I can only hope that the music I have helped create has the ability to emotionally connect with someone on some level.
How do you deal with stress on the road?
Being on the road is a financially and emotionally exhausting pastime. Certain people seem born to travel endlessly, perform on command and be ready to perpetually socialize at any given moment. Others are slowly driven to madness by the monotony and loneliness. Unfortunately more often than not, the sanctuary sought by band members is by escaping into drugs and alcohol. It is an escape that has claimed the lives of far too many of our friends and nearly even claimed myself. The most important thing to remember on the road is to maintain sight of home and focus on the destination. It's far too easy to become lost and deluded by the praise and adulation of strangers. Conversely, it is equally as likely for one to become jaded, resentful and bitter by the judgement or disapproval of unappreciative audiences.
What would be a dream location to play at?
We have been fortunate to play many venues that were once graced by the presence of some of our heroes. For the most part they were much smaller than one would expect. The size of the venue or quality of the sound is much less important than the attitude of the crowd. We played a show on the floor of a punk house in Buffalo that was easily far better than a show we played in a 2000+ theatre in Manhattan. It all boils down to the connection made with the crowd that will dictate what level of satisfaction will be gained from the show.
What is the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you during a hard time?
We used to have a saying at work: "Nothing I ever do will ever affect the outcome of anything."...that one tends to keep me grounded. Even better than that though, "Dixie" Dave Collins from Weedeater summed up band life the best: "We do what we can't!"
And last but not least, what is one fun and random fact about each of you?
1. Masa is not only a fantastic bass player but also a phenomenal jazz saxophonist. He has performed locally with countless jazz legends and appeared on a large number of local recordings. He is also an accomplished free style and collaborative noise musician. 2. Matt Wood was our initial first choice as drummer when James and I were assembling the band 6 years ago. At the time he was far too busy with his project Pride Tiger to commit so we decided to go with Brad MacKinnon. 5 years later Brad decided to leave the band and so we turned our focus once again to Matt. During the initial years of Bison, Pride Tiger disbanded and Matt was playing in a band called Haggatha that has shared a jam space with Bison for 5 years. Also prior to Bison, Matt and Masa were band mates in the legendary doom band Goatsblood. 3. During the first year of the band (2006/2007) I was in a bit of tough spot and ended up temporarily homeless. Brad and James let me stay in their unfinished basement. It was a dirt floor but there was a concrete slab in front of the washer and dryer that was the exact size of my tiny mattress. We nick named my set up "Hobo Camp in Tarantula Town". 4. Despite James' gruff exterior he actually gives great hugs.