Every single time my dad popped up for his weekly visit, he’d ask if there were any westerns on. Being children who adored Nickelodeon, we’d say, “NO.” However, upon talking with the man that makes Fraser Wayne come alive, I learned that not every kid went against their parental’s TV favs but instead embraced it. Fraser Wayne loved and loves Westerns so much, the influence is apparent in all that he does. We talked about that, two albums dropped this year, and more in this back and forth.
Kendra: It was apparent on ‘Demonology’ and now on the Fall follow up, ‘Primordial Rage Of The Cowboy,’ that you’re a natural storyteller. Was this a gift you showcased throughout your life, like in school and growing up, or was it sparked when you got into music?
Fraser Wayne: I guess when I was in elementary school I always did pretty well in the speech and poetry competitions. I think it might just be something we did in small-town Ontario, but it happened twice a year: once for poetry and once for speeches. I always managed to win at my school and make it on to the finals against kids from other schools. I actually haven’t thought about it in years, but yeah, maybe there’s a connection there!
I have always been a book nerd and I’ve always maintained a pretty thorough collection. As a kid, I used to love sitting around the fire listening to ghost stories. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, whom I consider a master storyteller, and I feel like I have definitely pumped that influence into my music in recent years. I used to write poetry as a teenager, long before I got into playing music. So yeah, I guess it has all finally come full circle. I wouldn’t consider it a “gift,” but I certainly love the art of storytelling!
Kendra: There are obvious differences when it comes to being part of a band like The Fuzzy Undertones and being a solo artist. When you decided to release music on your own, which of those differences were more like blessings and which presented themselves as hurdles?
Fraser Wayne: Being a solo artist and having full control over what I’m doing has been a lot better for my mental health. I feel like I was trapped when I was playing with The Fuzzy Undertones – like I didn’t have any control over my own art and my own life. We never had a solid band structure; there were always people coming in and out of the band, and I was constantly teaching old songs to new band members. I think there were like 30-40 different people in that band over the course of 5-6 years, which made it very difficult to make any progress and get the proper sound I was looking for.
My mental health started slipping out of control and I wasn’t happy with where the band was going anymore. So I guess that was the original inspiration to go solo; to take my life back into my own hands, instead of trying to rely on other people. I did have tons of fun with The Fuzzy Undertones, and I met a lot of amazing people and got to play music and collaborate with some really great artists. But yeah, I guess the hurdles started outweighing the blessings at some point.
Since I’ve been doing this solo thing I feel like I’ve gone back home. I feel better and more in control of my life. My favourite art form is being alone in a room with a bunch of recording gear and building songs like paintings, so it’s been nice to have my focus turned solely to that, instead of chasing people around all the time.
That being said, I have started to practice with a backing band to get ready for live shows, even though I know it’ll still probably be a while before that will be a reality. The band is called “The Black Petunias” and it has been great to play music with other human beings again, especially after being cooped up in my apartment for months on end. I think this is a really solid group and everyone is dedicated to the project. I’d like to work towards recording a well-produced album with the whole band one day! Going solo has also allowed me to have the choice between playing with The Black Petunias, recording alone, and/or collaborating with other musicians, depending on the album or circumstances. I’m excited, I feel like I’m back on track, and I’m digging where things are going!
Kendra: Not too much time passed between ‘Demonology’ and ‘Primordial Rage Of The Cowboy,’ but you managed to deliver once again with your second release. What growth were you able to see in yourself in between then and now?
Fraser Wayne: The biggest difference for me is that ‘Demonology’ was written while I was going through a very destructive time in my life, where I was dealing with some extreme mental health issues and ruining a lot of relationships. I wasn’t treating myself or the people I love in a healthy manner and my life was spiraling out of control. There is still hope in those songs, but it’ll always remind me of those dark times. ‘Primordial Rage Of The Cowboy’ is a collection of songs that I wrote and recorded after I made it out on the other side of that whole disaster. Most of the writing and production happened during the beginning of quarantine and you can hear that in songs such as ‘Better Daisies.’
“I see better daisies growing on the other side, isolation baby, see you on the other side.”
During the production of this album, I also got into a new relationship with the love of my life. Falling in love and navigating the early feelings of a relationship also had a big influence on the EP. My partner actually sings backing vocals on “Gone With The Wendigo” and we have been talking about doing some touring together for my folk/country stuff!
I have indeed grown a lot this year and I think the EP reflects that. I started seeing my therapist again and have been working really hard on maintaining healthy relationships, with myself and with the people I love. This whole pandemic also forced me to seek out creativity beyond my own life experiences. I think that’s where the storytelling comes into play. I usually write as a coping mechanism for the emotional turbulence in my life, but being in quarantine, I don’t have much inspiration from my own life to write about.
I’ve been reading a lot of Stephen King, and I’ve been doing a lot of research about Indigenous folklore in North America, and you can hear those influences in the lyrics of the last two songs on the EP. It’s been all about reaching outside of myself and taking inspiration from stories and lore that have nothing to do with my own life. It’s been an interesting experiment, and a wonderful way to look deeper inside myself, and deeper into my favourite authors, movie directors, and the stories and culture of the land I live on.
Kendra: When I started listening to ‘Primordial Rage Of The Cowboy,’ I had visions of a Tarantino title card in my head. Were you inspired at all by the big screen? Because I know the first release this year had Western inspiration throughout, and we can hear it again here.
Fraser Wayne: Western films are definitely a huge inspiration for me! I grew up watching Clint Eastwood movies with my Dad, so it’s something that I have always had somewhat of an obsession with. I find that “spaghetti westerns” and horror films made in the 60s/70s, from Italian directors like Sergio Leone and Dario Argento, have always been my favourite. Those two directors actually collaborated on ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ and Leone is responsible for all those old Clint Eastwood movies like ‘The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly,’ and ‘A Fistful Of Dollars.’ Ennio Morricone is the master behind the soundtracks of these films and is noted as the originator of the “spaghetti western” genre.
He is credited on the soundtracks for countless westerns and he has been such a huge inspiration behind the twangy sound on both ‘Demonology’ and ‘Primordial Rage Of The Cowboy.’ I had the honour of opening for Spindrift at Crystal Lake Festival back in 2017, and they have also been a big influence on me when it comes to all those different flavours of cowboy.
Kendra: How do you feel all the events of 2020 have shaped your creativity and drive moving forward?
Fraser Wayne: Well, I usually work on the side as a stage technician, but I have been out of work for the past nine months due to the pandemic. This has been somewhat of a gift and a curse. It’s been difficult to navigate, but it has forced me to confront some demons and work towards building a healthier life for myself. It has its ups and downs, and I can’t force myself to stay focused on projects as much as I would like to…BUT it has allowed me a lot of free time to channel my creativity into different areas outside of music.
I picked up drawing and painting again; something that is very important to me, yet something I almost gave up on completely while I was dealing with my mental health troubles last year. I’ve been teaching myself graphic design, working on some video projects, watching a lot of films, and soaking up as much inspiration as I can.
When it comes to music in particular, I’ve been able to experiment with a lot of different sounds and styles at home, and I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to make plans for the future. Currently, I’m recording a lot of new country/folk material, which I plan to turn into 2-3 new albums in 2021. I’ve been jamming with The Black Petunias and we’ve been talking about recording a full band album. I have some new music videos in the works. I started a music/arts podcast with my buddy Brock Mattsson, who recently released a single on my label, Fishbum Records. I’m playing drums in Alex Cyprine’s new dream-pop project, Lovers Suicide. My life actually started getting busy lately (in the best way) and I’m full of energy and excitement going into the future!
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are. You can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned but can you also share a song that never fails to get you through when the world around you feels like a mess?
Fraser Wayne: As far as plans go, I’m just gonna be working on new recordings, jamming with The Black Petunias, and mapping out some releases for 2021. The new music I’ve been recording has more of a country influence, rather than the spooky western vibe I’ve been on lately. As for a song that always gets me through weird times, I’d have to go with “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” by Neil Young.