Alan Cross interview

When I grew up in Mississauga during the late 80s, I used to listen to 102.1 the Edge all the time. I remember double taping Deadly Headly and Chris Sheppard sets and driving up to Hooterville Station on Friday nights. I recall Saturday nights at the Phoenix and Sunday nights at Whiskey Saigon. So many CFNY distractions. 

Alan’s Cross’s History of New Music on Sundays was another big influence. His insight on music’s inner workings, always left me wondering how the hell did he know any of that stuff? How did he find those demos? Today its simple to download and unearth rarities but this guy was a music encyclopedia at a time when you had to actually leave the house to discover anything new or old.

Alan’s back on the air ways as the new guidance counsellor down at the brand new station Indie 88 and found some spare time to answer a few questions from a fan in an interview we conducted via email.

Are you sick and tired of talking about what happened with you and the Edge?

It was a simple thing, really. They eliminated my position and didn’t offer me anything else in which I’d be interested. We decided to part ways. It’s that simple, really.

With the over-saturation of one-hit wonders and the Internet’s constant flooding of distracting nonsense, there seems to be too many genres and sub-genres that produce an increasing amount of fake idols for kids to follow. Does any of it really matter and how do you actually find good new music these days? How do indie bands get seen/heard through all this noise?

People have been complaining about tsunamis of bad music since the birth of rock, so this is nothing new. What is new is that with the Internet that it’s easier than ever for the bad music to find you. I use a variety of filters–blogs, industry people, streaming music services, trusted reviewers–to find what I consider to be good. I can be done, but it takes a lot of time.

Best thing any normal music fan can do is find a couple of people/sites/services you trust and stick with their recommendations. You don’t have nearly enough time to do it all yourself–nor should you.

The music industry knows what sells and how to sell it. They’ve got the method down to a science (or at least they did before the Internet came along). Was this past decade an industry-generated 80’s revival in the hopes to trigger/spark another 90’s grunge type explosion? And if so is it working?

No. I think the 80s revival was like any other. A new generation independently discovered the best a particular decade had to offer. If you were around in the 80s, you’ll remember that it was also an AWFUL time for music. We tend to forget the bad stuff when we look back years later.

Does Socan and CRTC need an overhaul and if so what would you recommend they do if you were brought in as a consultant?

SOCAN? No. They do their job very well and realize they need to evolve in the Internet age. The problem is that this evolution is extremely complicated and slow moving. The CRTC needs some help when it comes to commercial terrestrial radio. While that’s still a very viable and profitable industry, changes are afoot. They need to look down the tracks and prepare for what’s coming next in the era of the unregulated Internet.

Has David Grohl single handedly saved rock n roll?

Maybe not, but he’s sure restored my faith in it.

When I listen to Biffy Clyro I hear Mystery Machine influences. How important was the 90’s Canadian indie scene to every single band on the big scene? Did labels like Murder Records and Three Gut Records really change/influence the sound of music as we know it today?

I’d like to think Canadian artists and labels had an influence on the world stage, but I don’t think we contributed much overall. We’re only 2% of the world market, which is obviously pretty tiny in the grand scheme of things. But this doesn’t mean it’s not possible that someone somewhere picked up a few tips.

Can you describe the Canadian music scene to an outsider/tourist that doesn’t realize how much “CanCon” there is out there in the radio world? What makes Canadian music unique?

Because we have just 35 million people spread out over the second-largest national territory in the world, there’s no one Canadian sound. Each major centre–Montreal, Toronto, the prairies, Vancouver–all have their own scenes. And because of the huge east-west distances involved, it’s much easier for Canadian bands to work north-south. Vancouver bands tend to tour the US west coast more than they come east. Toronto bands find it easier to tour the US midwest and east to Boston and New York. Same with Montreal bands.

Travelling to the US I’ve been noticing more and more new Canadian bands on the US airwaves, yet in Canada we rarely get to hear new, emerging artists from the US because of our CanCon requirements. Do you see this changing?

Nope. CanCon is WAY too political an issue. But the Internet is unregulated. What happens when more Canadians start getting most of their music online instead of over-the-air?

I’ve noticed an abundance of good looking homeless kids on the streets with guitars. Is Toronto really considered a mecca for bands to make it big in this country? If so, why is it so hard for indie bands in Toronto to get people to venues unlike cities like Montreal or New York?

Whether the rest of Canada wants to hear it, Toronto is the centre of the music universe in Canada. Everything is headquartered here. And competition is extremely fierce not only in Toronto but in every other market.

If possible can you please list your Top 10 favourite indie bands of all time. I know it’s a loaded question but I am curious to see what you really dig.

I can give you a firm five:

  1. Pixies
  2. The Specials
  3. Sloan
  4. Radiohead
  5. Joy Division


Indie 88 is great, glad you’re on board! What was the driving force to starting an independent music station in Toronto? For those who don’t know please describe this brand new much needed local station.

A hole in the market. Much research was done. Turns out that Toronto really needs a station like this.

Indie 88 plays music that is made with an independent spirit. Yes, this means bands that record for indie labels but it also means artists who embody that same attitude when it comes to making adventurous music.

Check out Alan’s WEBSITE  there is (seriously) a ton of information on all things music related and remember to tune in to Indie 88 for his daily vinyl feature Crackle & Pop and we’re all looking forward to The Secret History of Rock coming out later this month! Alan on TWITTER and GEEKS and BEATS PODCASTs on iTunes

The man the myth the legend. Toronto’s behind the scene’s insider. This interview was conducted via emails before his transition back to the Edge 102.1 in 2014

Illustration by Bowman 2013

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