If there was one moment where Curtis Ross had an illuminated understanding about the power of three-chord rock ‘n’ roll, it was when he taught a group of kids how to slam into “Wild Thing” by the Troggs.
Something of a shredder himself, the one-man force behind electro-funkers Bebop Cortez found himself hypnotized watching his charges at the Centre for Arts & Music entrain, taking pleasure in the basic chord changes.
“They just kept going at it,” he marvels. “They were having so much fun playing it that I couldn’t really get them to pay attention to the fact that they had to eat soon.”
Ross understands such obsessions; he’s got multiple hard drives full of the skewed party jams he records at home under the Bebop monicker, and we only get to hear the ones that escape his finicky aural standards. Bebop albums are few and far between, with a seven-year gap appearing between 2004’s Romantic Panther Commander and 2011’s Who Bangin’. Ross allows that he endlessly frets over his albums, tweaking right up until the moment when he reluctantly releases them.
The careful work has paid off in excellent reviews, though Ross himself admits that it’s awfully hard for some people to place where his music sits. His own taste is literally all over the sonic map, taking in plenty of ’70s funk, occasional dabs of ’80s hair-metal guitar wizardry, hip-hop beats and plenty of filthy movie quotes. Like his students, Ross takes a certain amount of glee in bringing things down to the basics.
“I’ve actually started incorporating pop songs into the set sometimes,” says Ross, who also records as Preyers with long-time collaborator Rosalind Christian. “Some of my students will come in singing a Taylor Swift song, and it starts to work on me, so I’ll add it to the show. I’m not sure how the audience was reacting to that kind of thing, but it was pretty fun to do.”
Ross hastens to add that there will be no Taylor Swift numbers on the set for his show at the Wunderbar, where he’ll be supporting the Backhomes and Betrayers. He’ll be slinging a selection of favourites from his two albums, plus a few from an upcoming EP release, which Ross has rather whimsically decided in the course of this interview will be released for Christmas of this year.
The EP, which he also decided on the spot will be called Yoga Jazz, will come only four years after Who Bangin’, which possibly means that Ross has either found a way to speed up his process or that he’s simply tired of the long waits between albums. Then again, maybe he’s found a pattern of release that suits his non-existent public-relations attempts.
“That’s the funny thing,” he muses. “I’ve noticed that people tend to get into the albums two years after I release them. Because I’m really bad at selling myself they have to be discovered. The idea of going on Facebook or Twitter and trying to make people go to my shows makes me very uncomfortable. I just don’t like that feeling. I guess that means that I’ll be discovered in 2050 or something, when I’m long gone.”
Fri, Oct 24 (9 pm)
With the Backhomes, Betrayers