GETTING AWAY WITH IT – interview with Canadian musician Greg Rekus

Based in Winnipeg, Canada, Greg Rekus plays a brand of folk/punk on an acoustic and a giant stomp box. His band The Inside Job includes musicians Erik Strom (drums) and Tabitha Hemphill (bass/backing vocals).

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Have you played in many towns/countries for the first time? ‘Yes, on this tour I’m doing Greece for the first time. Also Slovakia. Super excited! Greece has so much history and it’s one of those places you only hear about if you are from Canada so I can’t believe I’m actually getting to go there. Slovakia is also awesome and I’ve drove through it a bunch of times so glad I finally get to play’.

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Have you recorded any TV appearences or filmed any music videos? ‘Yeah my friend Randy Frykas did 3 videos for me. I did a few other small internet TV things and just recent Bridge City Sessions based in Portland. I did 2 live recordings of 2 songs off Sibling Cities. It was a lot of fun. My voice was sore so didn’t nail it the first time but Nick and all the guys were great and didn’t make me feel bad about it. No prob just do it again. We ended up getting some rad takes of the songs’.

Who were your influences in music? ‘Moneen and a Winnipeg local band called The Bonaduces are a HUGE!!! reason why I play music today. Those 2 bands are at the centre of why I do this. They were the bands who taught me music can be accessible. Before that every band I knew were big bands. Arena bands. Bands I would never get to play in. These bands were made from normal people. People like me. They taught me to tour, all you need is a van and an email address or some phone numbers to call. Musically bands like Mischief Brew, AJJ, PJ Bond, Jon Creeden are all big reasons I play acoustic’.

How did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘When I was super young I always wanted to play guitar. It just looked soooo cool! My mother insisted the piano was a good starting point and if I really liked it I can have a guitar.  After 5 or 6 years of trying to prove I really liked it I finally saved up my own money and bought a bass guitar. I played it for about a year but it wasn’t till I got an electric guitar and started writing songs and playing in bands that I really embraced music and punk rock. It always feels like I’m getting away with something. Like I should be doing something more responsible but I don’t. Music has taken me to amazing places and brought me together with other like minded people that a young Greg could only have dreamed of meeting or going’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play? ‘The first real gig I organized was at the West End culture centre in Winnipeg. It was an all ages venue where most of the touring bands and a bunch of the local bands I liked played. It was October 1999 if I remember correct. A bunch of people came and we made enough to even pay the bands! The first time I ever went on tour was with my former band High Five Drive. We did a week or so in the west in 2002 after we recorded our first EP.  After that the tours kept getting bigger and bigger. The biggest tour I ever got to do in Europe we supported a band called Rentokill from Austria for 4 weeks. They were an amazing band and amazing people. Since I started doing the solo thing I have done countless shows with amazing friends and have got to play with tons of amazing touring artists that do the same thing I do. Sometimes I think acoustic punk is retirement for old punk dudes who don’t have a punk band anymore but still have a punk heart’.

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Where do the ideas come from and what is the process of writing a song and what are your experiences of recording/studio work?  ‘I write best if I put aside time each day to work on stuff. I have a practice space I share with a few bands in Winniipeg but no one is ever there till after 7pm so I usually get there around 5.30pm and play till 7. When I’m home I work a lot so it can be hard to find the time but on a good week I’m there 5 out of 7 days. The best songs just come all at once. Chords and lyrics and the tune and everything. Sometimes it takes a few tries and I have worked on a song for years and in the end just trash it cuz it’s just no good. There has to be a bit of magic in the air and it’s something you cant force’.

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‘The studio is great! I’ve recorded the majority of my stuff at Private Ear which is an amazing studio in Winnipeg.  JP Peters who runs it has an amazing ear and can make you feel like you are bullet proof and can do anything after he presses record. I love recording but didn’t always. I think the biggest mistake I used to make is just not being ready. Now for recording I schedule 2 weeks of rehearsal just to bash the songs around the jam space again and again. By the time you hit the studio you can play them in your sleep and you can focus on getting amazing takes and not just trying to play all the right notes’.

What are the future plans for Greg Rekus? ‘I’m going to be doing a bunch of USA and Canada dates in the fall and start to focus on writing a new record. Got a lot of great ideas and a friend who plays sax started jamming with us and it adds a lot. So stoked what the new album will be like!

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For more information, releases and tour dates check Greg Rekus facebook page. 

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2018.