Juno-winning Metalwood celebrates return to studio with national tour

They're known as Canada's premier electric jazz band — and after a 14 year hiatus, Metalwood is back on the road.

Canada's 'premier electric jazz band' releases a new album for the first time in 14 years

Chris Tarry is the bassist for the Juno Award winning Metalwood, and the author of How to Carry Bigfoot Home. (CBC)

They're known as Canada's premier electric jazz band — and after a 14 year hiatus, Metalwood is back on the road.

The two-time Juno Award winning jazz group just released their new album, Twenty, and it's already enjoyed strong critical reception.

 According to the band's bassist Chris Tarry, Twenty combine's Metalwood's early rawness with the advanced compositions of their later albums.

Tonight, they'll be taking the stage for the third and final time at Frankie's Jazz Club in Vancouver to celebrate the CD release, before moving on to shows in Toronto and the Interior.

Chris Tarry joined Mararet Gallagher on CBC's Hot Air to talk about Metalwood's momentous return, what it feels like to get back on the road, and how he came to be a fiction writer.

You haven't been in the studio for 14 years. Do you feel like the past is before you?

I think maybe the great thing about this record is maybe I forgot a bit about it. When we decided to do the record and I went back and listened to the old records that we did, which I hadn't done it 14 years, I was blown away by the body of work we had done. You know, you forget. you move on you have kids, life takes over.

It's really a cool thing to be part of a band that has a history. And one of the things that we realised when we were in the studio recording the new record was that we have a sound.

We were sitting there, listening back, and Mike [Murley] the saxophone player said "Wow! it sounds just like Metalwood."

And it was funny. We all just took a beat and thought maybe we did create something that's been around for a while now.

What's it like to play together after all these years?

It's been really, really great. It's like a long-distance romance rekindled after all these years.

How did you decide that you also wanted to be a writer?

I have always written since I was a kid, and probably 10 to 15 years ago now, I started submitting short stories to literary journals just as a hobby.

Luckily a couple of them got picked up. I though "Wow,!I could do this!" and then I realized I really needed to do a lot of work to get better at it.

So I started picking OUT authors that I loved who lived in New York and studied privately with them, and working just as I would learning an instrument.

It's been tough, because when you decide to go another way, it brings up all these other sort of questions like "What am I doing? Should I be doing this? Should I just concentrate on writing music?" But the writing bug bit me pretty hard

They're also both careers that are considered romantic, and not necessarily stable.

When I first started, I studied with the great Jim Shepherd, who's one of the best short story writers in the world. He said "Well, welcome to writing. And congratulations, you picked the one thing that pays less than music."

How do you balance the writing and the music? Do they feed a different creative impulse?

They do inform each other in that becoming a better writer has helped me become a better composer.

When I learned writing and developing story — great writing is 85 per cent revision. You have to love revision to become a good writer. And fortunately I'm one of those people that loves writing. I hate doing a first drafts; anything I can do to get through it, but I will spend a year rewriting and rewriting just to make it perfect.

And that started to bleed over into my compositions. My album in 2011 called Rest of the Story was proof of that, and that was one of the reasons that record was so close to my heart.

What's next for you?

One of the things I've been doing lately is developing a podcast for children — for middleschool kids. It's been in development for the last year or so, and that launches October 3rd. And there's been a ton of work in writing, music and doing sound design for it.

And I'll be reading a lot of bed time stories. I go right back into dad mode for a couple weeks too.

With files from CBC's Hot Air

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Bassist Chris Tarry talks Metalwood's triumphant return, and what it's like to write stories about Bigfoot