049 - Joseph Shabason

I’d not heard of Joseph Shabason until just a few months ago when I stumbled across 'Aytche', his debut solo LP on the LA based label Western Vinyl (a label increasingly reliable in the quality of it’s musical output). Better known for his contributions with the critically acclaimed Vancouver based band Destroyer, and having also played and toured with The War On Drugs, Andre Ethier and DIANA, the Toronto based multi-instrumentalist has cut his teeth as a prolific and talented collaborator and band-mate. Yet his solo work, with its substantial shift towards a beautifully textured ambient jazz sound, strikes a deeper emotional chord.

‘Aytche’ has become a staple of my listening schedule over the past few months and each time I go back I find a little more to love. It’s sombre, reflective approach to jazz was in part inspired by Shabason’s personal experiences dealing with relatives suffering from Parkinson’s disease - a fact that whilst perhaps not immediately obvious, gives the records quiet tones a wider and more painful context. It’s a beautifully constructed debut release and one that places Shabason alongside revered peers like Colin Stetson and past Métron collaborator Justin Walter. Usurping the traditional role of his instrument and replacing it with a novel and distinctive sound.

With each track either written or co-written by Joseph, his Métron mix showcases the breadth of his work to date. Flicking between the beautiful aching compositions of ‘Aytche’ to his more pop oriented work with DIANA and Destroyer. It’s a wonderful example of the extraordinarily diverse range of sounds and moods that can be built around the saxophone, but also the depth of songwriting talent at Shabason’s disposal. With work on a follow up solo release already begun, I for one cannot wait to hear where he goes next.

I spoke with Jos about his mix, his debut record and how to pronounce 'Aytche'.You can also find a tracklist at the bottom of the page.

Hey Joseph, thanks so much for your mix, really enjoyed it. Can you tell us a little bit about the tracks you selected - these are all works that you have either written or featured on right?
My pleasure! Glad you liked it. Yeah these are all songs that I’ve performed on and a bunch of them I wrote. I think the tie that binds is that all the music represents the work that I’ve done that I am the most proud of.

I love Aytche, it’s an exquisite record. Having spent a lot of your career playing on other people’s records I imagine it was nice to do your own thing?
Thanks! It really was a much needed switch-up. I love playing on other people’s albums but there were definitely some sonic zones tat I wanted to explore that I really wasn’t getting a chance to do either playing on other people’s albums or making music for Diana. I was craving music that was really sparse, repetitive and formless and most of the other projects that I’m involved with don’t fit that bill…so yeah, it was definitely a welcome change of pace.

Have you found a way to play them live?

Big time! Check it out here

I also opened for Roedelius last weekend and had violin legend Hugh Marsh join the band. It was a pretty amazing show.

Where did the title ‘Aytche’ come from? How do I pronounce it and what does it mean?

It’s pronounced like the letter “H”. It’s just a very stupid Diana band joke…it can basically be whatever you want it to be.

The record for me has this kind of uneasy edge running through it, a sense of grief rather than say, dread, so I was fascinated to read that a significant influence on the record were themes related to degeneration disease, assisted suicide and also Holocaust survivors. Can you share a little about why those themes inspired you?
Sure….I mean, my mother and father in law both have Parkinson’s disease so watching people I love struggle with slowly losing their mobility and health is something I deal with on the regular. It’s not something I really ever thought about until I was forced to think about it…which I guess is pretty typical. Why would anyone want to think about loss and degenerative illness unless they had to? Anyway, once you go down that road it’s pretty all consuming….for me the big thing that I couldn’t stop turning over in my mind was/is doctor assisted dying and whether or not I would chose to end my life on my own terms if I got a similar disease. In Canada people who have Parkinson’s don’t really have the option to do that which is really fucked up considering the amount of pain they are in in the later stages of the disease. By that point you are so ravaged that you’re basically unrecognizable (mentally and physically) from who you used to be. So yeah, when I was making this record that was really on my mind and in some way or another it came out in the music I was making.

Who are your biggest musical influences?
That’s too big of a question! This past year I got deeply into Sinatra and Gigi Masin.

What’s the plan for the rest of 2017?
Tour with Destroyer and finish up my second album which is basically done. Just gotta record a few overdubs. It sounds pretty sick imho.

And lastly, we always ask for some musical recommendations?
The last two weeks I’ve been loving Fascinoma by John Hassell and Into The Heart Of Love by Woo



1. Aytche / Joseph Shabason 3;48
2. Cue 1 / Joseph Shabason 0;49
3. Perpetual Surrender / DIANA 4;47
4. Westmeath / Joseph Shabason 4;57
5. Born Again / DIANA 3;57
6. Kaputt / Destroyer 6;16
7. Cue 3 / Joseph Shabason 0;48
8. Destroyer_06v1_GirlInASling_ISRC-USMRG1... 3;05
9. Tite Cycle / Joseph Shabason 5;20
10. Cry / DIANA 5;00
11. Long Swim / Joseph Shabason 4;55
12. The Easiest Game / Andre Ethier 5;33
13. Neil McCauley / Joseph Shabason 5;15
14. Cue 2 / Joseph Shabason 0;50
15. Miharu / DIANA 5;17
16. Destroyer_02v3_DreamLover_ISRC-USMRG1... 3;49
17. New House / DIANA

Words & interview by Jack Hardwicke.

Métron Records 2018. Hampshire, UK.