Black on Blonde, the latest album from Canadian hip hop veteran k-os, is all about math. The record is his fifth full length in over a decade, it's split into two discs, half featuring rock songs and the other half hip hop tracks, and it includes no fewer than 10 guest appearances by everyone from Metric's Emily Haines to can-rock icon Sam Roberts.
Pique caught up with the artist formally known as Kevin Brereton ahead of his show at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival April 19 to chat about his deep well of Canadian music friends, making his latest record and how 80s heartthrob Corey Hart still calls the shots.
Pique: You're currently on a Canadian tour. How has it been?
Kevin Brereton: Amazing. I think the big adjustment is trying to figure out what songs to play. There are (five) albums now of material and you've got an hour and 20 minutes. That's been the most fun part just trying to put together a cool selection of tunes and now there's a huge rock and roll element to the show, so we're trying to figure out how to do that gracefully and tastefully and not throw anyone off. It's kind of like DJing; you have to keep the crowd involved and not throw too much of a curve. That's been the real fun part, how to present the show of all this music in the most natural way possible so you get the full impact of all the different vibes we're trying to put out there.
Pique: The latest album, Black on Blonde, is packed with a crazy number of guests. How do you deal with that live?
KB: Someone asked me that this morning and it was the best question because most of the (musicians) on the record, I'm a huge fan of. Like Sam Roberts, he's been on my records since the beginning. When his part comes on it's my turn to get into his zone. Because I'm a fan of these guys I just do their part and have fun with it... I do my best to present my version of their (part of the) song. Otherwise you'd just be doing half verses or leaving things blank. It's a challenge to present the full vibe so you don't really notice.
Pique: So, were those collaborations then or did you tell them what you were looking for?
KB: Everyone talks about the magic, the magic, the magic, but a lot of times it's just the timing. You have a sentiment that you're trying to express and then another artist is like, 'I'm in that zone' and they express it for you... They're all collaborations. I think the one that stands out the most is the Corey Hart one. That's the first song on the Black side. He said, 'Send me stuff' and I sent a demo to him. He emailed me back and said, 'What is this? This makes no sense to me.' And he ripped into me on song structure. I was so embarrassed, but it was the best thing for the song because when you listen to it, it's two people. I remember to my engineers he was like, 'Turn it up in this part.' We really, really went back and forth. I'm proud of that song. It's actually the first single in America. It's so good to have a true collaboration in that sense. It's a great question because it's a lot of his ideas. It's just amazing to work with someone like that with so many hit songs.