For Watchmen singer Daniel Greaves, the past few weeks have been the happiest time of his life.
He and his wife Jill have purchased a home in Toronto's Queen St. West neighbourhood (a house once owned by Bruce Cockburn). They welcomed their first daughter, Tennessee, to the world on Sept. 10, and Greaves and his bandmates Joe Serlin and Ken Tizzard are set to drop their first new album in three years, Slomotion, on the public today.
Like most North Americans, though, Greaves' emotions have been tempered by the bold realities of the past two weeks.
"It's tough to know what to say or do at the moment," says the singer/keyboardist. "I mean, last Monday was the happiest day of my life, and then Tuesday came. I suppose that many babies were born Monday and Tuesday, so they were good days for a lot of people but, still ... "
Greaves' voice trails off. He's unsure how to measure the joy in his life against the terror of Sept. 11.
What he can say, when conversation finally turns to Slomotion, is that The Watchmen have been through a rather dramatic transition in the past three years. Longtime drummer Sam Kohn has left the group, opting for a career on the distribution, management and promotion side of the music biz, and the band has drastically changed its sound with Slomotion's eight new songs (plus a remix of the Silent Radar hit Stereo).
Though the group's previous four albums -- McLaren Furnace Room, In the Trees, Brand New Day and Silent Radar -- have chronicled its growth from full-on guitar ravers to textured, melodic rockers, Slomotion is sure to throw older fans for a loop. Literally.
With Kohn gone, the various Watchmen hooked up their Macintosh computers with ProTools software and began experimenting with samples, backbeats and tape loops to create a collection of electronic tracks shot through with the band's trademark melodies.
To those expecting more songs in the vein of Any Day Now, Run and Hide, or Boneyard Tree, Slomotion will be something of a shock. Greaves, though, is enthused by the new direction -- especially the fact that the band worked with producers Rhys Fulber (Fear Factory, Delerium and Frontline Assembly) and DJ Iain to create a finished CD from a disparate collection of home recordings.
"It was a wild thing to do that. I mean, I recorded four of the vocals that are on the album at home in my living room, sitting in my underwear. They weren't intended to be final cuts, but I felt comfortable, you know. I find it interesting that, after singing on a mic in Seattle that cost like $10,000, I was able to do something that easily. I went to the studio every day with my vocals on a CD in my bag," says the 30 year old. "To this day it blows my mind."
Slomotion's first single, Absolutely Anytime -- with its big, Jesus Jones-type chorus -- has already taken off at local radio and Greaves hopes that fans will use the tune as a bridge to the album's other material.
"To me, there's good music and there's bad music, regardless of how a song is recorded or who plays what on it. With our stuff the melody is there and the voice is there, so it really is us.
"We've just used different ideas and subscribed to a different school of thought when it came to putting the music together."
Another bridge for The Watchmen will be a nine-song "greatest hits" package to be included for free with Slomotion. Comprised of tracks from the band's first four albums, the disc is intended to remind listeners of The Watchmen's past.
"That idea came from right at the top of the record company," Greaves explains. "Initially we thought that it would be a greatest-hits album with one or two new songs but we fought, almost song by song, for this to be a new product. If it included just one or two new tunes I wouldn't really be into it, but now it's a comprehensive package and we've shaken things up and reinvented ourselves."
To ensure that live fans get the full Watchmen experience when the group plays live, the band has recruited Winnipeg drummer Ryan Ahoff to fill the empty drum stool. The band unveils the new lineup and material Thursday at 9 p.m. at a promotional gig at the Pyramid for contest winners (fans who show up with a copy of Slomotion will also be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis).
Greaves says the show will offer a mix of old and new.
"We'll be playing to tracks and loops in order to stay as true to the record as possible, but we'll be giving the full treatment to the other songs."