Wondering what to expect when the Backburner collective (Wordburglar, Jesse Dangerously, The Extremities and London-based group Toolshed, plus Windom Earle) hit the Seahorse stage on August 8? "The grown-up version of being in grade five and your teacher leaves the classroom. That's right," says Sean Jordan, AKA SJ the Wordburglar. "No teachers. Party time."
Call them rap music superheroes. Call them music nerds, who studied their lessons and came up with their own formula. Inside The Vault, their subterraneous high-tech musical bat cave on Quinpool Road---Backburner is a collective and production company---it is easier to think of them as superheroes. (Though it's doubtful many Marvel heroes had a life-size robot simulator for the video game Steel Battalion in the lounge of their caves.) Nor is it likely that Batman argued with Alfred about the distinction between an LP and an EP. But these boys have made a name for themselves.
Backburner's superhero feats include recording their idol KRS-One; being kidnapped by female fans; touring Europe; fusing comedy and hip-hop, hip-hop and jazz; getting drunk with the creator of G.I. Joe and actually making a living in the music industry.
Between them they own 10,000 to 15,000 records. More than half have degrees in audio engineering or make their living in sound. Founding member Shaun Ryan, AKA Uncle Fester, says the key to success in music is not depending on album sales but finding work elsewhere to support your passion. Ryan makes his living as a sound technician at CBC. Ryan MacKenzie (Dexter Doolittle) is a Halifax go-to sound guy. Andrew Kilgour (Fresh Kils) is one of Toronto's busiest recording technicians. At 34 years old, self-professed old man Dave Richardson does sound design for local television series. The goal of Backburner was to have a crew where everything could be done in-house, from recording to mixing to mastering. After touring The Vault it's apparent they succeeded.
Backburner Records began when founding members Ryan and Mackenzie started DJing in high school, pursuing a love of Halifax hip-hop, which, at the time, meant using broken antennas to listen to Buck 65's radio show The Bassment. In university they met Kilgour, and it was on Oxford Street, in an apartment universally known as Crappy Pad, that things started to take off.
It's been eight years.
"We are all in it for life. Music is the most important thing in my life, in all of our lives," says Ryan. "Expect to see tight routines, every MC with a DJ and Fresh Kils murdering it on the MPC. You are going to want to dance---we are performing with Windom Earle for a reason, because we want crowds who are out to have fun. No mean mugging. Just cute girls dancing to good music."
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