Skirting around

IAN NATHANSON

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

"Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack!" Click!

If this is Ashley MacIsaac's just-ducky hint for us media hacks to stop the scrutiny into his personal life, he's either (a) made his point, or (b) just added to the curiosity.

Of late, the 25-year-old eclectic Cape Breton fiddler's been clouded in more controversy over his off-stage persona, often at the expense of his musical sensibilities.

Granted, he prefers to explore modern avenues -- blending fiddle music with elements of electronica, hip-hop and alt-rock elements -- and leaves much of the traditional jiggin' and reelin' to his third cousin, Natalie MacMaster.

So when a surprise call came from MacIsaac at his Creignish, N.S., home, yours truly attempted to get his perspective on a number of, shall we say, "events" since the November release of his fourth album Helter's Celtic.

In town for a pair of Zaphod Beeblebrox 2 shows tomorrow and Friday night, MacIsaac offered his take on all that's gone on, with a hint of "hey, watch me skirt around these questions, will ya?"

New Year's Eve, 1999: At a Halifax Y2K-eve rave, MacIsaac reportedly screamed obscenities, sending many in the audience out the door outraged. The performance led to cancellations of concerts across the country and a media frenzy over his perceived downward spiral.

Ashley's response: "That was a tremendous evening. I enjoyed that, everybody there did. And then someone decided to write a story about thinking it was bad."

Early January 2000: MacIsaac's Toronto-based label, Loggerhead Records, denounced his rave behaviour in a press release: "Ashley alone is responsible for his own actions ... We are offended by Ashley's recent behaviour. We signed Ashley for one reason only: His musical talent." An angry MacIsaac then told the Toronto Sun: "I don't want to be with a record company that s--ts all over me in a newspaper. They should have said, 'No comment' if they had any sense about a negative situation. Obviously, they're not a good record company and I don't want to be involved with them."

Ashley's response: "I hope people don't buy (Helter's Celtic). The only time I've ever sacrificed anything for art, let's say, would've been in recording that last album, where I sacrificed certain elements of lifestyle in order to achieve the end product. Which is to say, I've lost friends and spent money to pay for rents when I could've been just going on vacation."

January-May 2000: MacIsaac reportedly told the Halifax Chronicle-Herald that he's broke, only to later claim he made it all up. Come the spring, he filed for bankruptcy, claiming he received poor financial advice that ultimately left his corporation, Ancient Music Ltd., in dire shape.

Ashley's response: "Those types of things aren't so relevant to the end product. I don't usually get into discussing that. (Voice gets louder.) What about when there's a division of a snowman, all of a sudden you get a Frosty The Snowman that shows up?"

(Following that, at the prompting of a friend, were the aforementioned quacks and an abrupt hang-up.)

That leaves only MacIsaac's music and his live performances. Despite the above goings-on, the shows he has managed to perform retain the high-energy and eclecticism he's been known for.

And while he loves sharing his music with his many fans and on-lookers, he admits he only performs for one particular individual: Himself.

"I do any type of music I imagine in order to get paid," MacIsaac says. "I don't tell people what my music is about. There's only one person in the world who knows that I have particular feelings about how my music works. That I keep private. For anyone else, it's just entertainment."


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