Nick Thorburn of Islands talks redneck mutants, film school, and Unicorns reunion
Islands are coming back to Canada for shows in Montreal on Thursday and Toronto on Saturday. Before they arrive, we took some time to talk with Nick Thorburn about his most recent album, Ski Mask, his favourite (and least) places to live, antiquated film editing methods, and the possibility of a Unicorns reunion.
Radio Cannon: How would you describe the places you’ve lived in one word?
New York: Anxiety-inducing.
Campbell River: Small.
Prince Rupert: Bleak.
RC: Can you give us the quick plot synopsis of Ozone! Attack of the Redneck Mutants?
NT: Hole in the ozone opens up and turns people into redneck mutants. People get attacked.
RC: What the was the best thing / most useless thing you learned in film school?
NT: Are they supposed to be one and the same? Editing on a flat-bed steenbeck editing bay was the most useless, but it was also the best. You had to take the actual film in your hands, thread it through the steenbeck and make a mark where you wanted to edit your shot. You then spliced the film and taped it together to your next shot. It was the most beautiful, tactile way to see a movie come together. And it’s now completely antiquated technology.
RC: How’s the t-shirt business going? (The Nome Chompsky one is my favourite.)
NT: Thanks. It runs itself. It probably peaked in December, around the holidays, where I would sell upwards of 18 a day. Now I’m lucky if I sell one a week. But it requires no effort, so I just leave it be.
RC: A Sleep & A Forgetting has been described as a collection of “post-love songs.” In what way is that different from break-up songs? Has the album’s birth & release on Feb 14th definitively changed Valentine’s Day for you?
NT: It hasn’t changed it at all! I’m not very sentimental when it comes to V.D. Like most things in my life, I am motivated out of guilt and obligation.
RC: How do you celebrate that holiday these days?
NT: I had someone cook me a beautiful dinner. It was undoubtedly the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had.
RC: I really love the nom de plume Nick Diamonds. What other pseudonyms did you consider before choosing this one?
NT: Nicholas Common was the name I used in high school. I guess I was original “normcore”. I was very much aware of my white, canadian, middle-class origins and at first wanted to highlight that. With Diamonds, I wanted things to be a little more dazzling.
RC: You’ve dabbled in so many genres – hip hop with Th’ Corn Gangg / Reefer; “doom wop” with Mister Heavenly – what other genres are up your sleeve? Is there a country/western singer lying dormant inside you?
NT: Definitely. I think that’s apparent on some of the songs on Human Highway’s record. And the song Volcanoes. I identify strongly with the deep sadness in the songs of Eddy Arnold, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. I like to sing things “sad”.
RC: When you get together with Alden Penner, how do you greet each other? hug …handshake…cheek kiss?
RC: People love rumors about band reunions. The blogosphere has really gotten its hopes up about The Unicorns. Is this amusing or frustrating for you?
NT: It’s neither. If it happens it happens. I would be very open to a Unicorns reunion, provided it’s done correctly. As it stands, it’s fundamentally incapable of that.
RC: If you could start a rumor about Islands, what would it be?
NT: We’re changing our name to Future Islands.
Watch the video for “Becoming the Gunship.”