Solid Post-Punk Prowess: An Interview with Ciggie Tarbox

Brutal Reality Digest blogger A. Forsberg had a chance to chat with Ciggie Tarbox, known to the world as the frontman of the Ottawa punk band Ciggie and the Darts. The meeting was via Skype, the details are what follows.

BRD:

Introduce yourself, the instrument you play and your best talent no matter how unusual it is!


Ciggie:

I'm Ciggie Tarbox. I play the piano, the bass, the guitar, a little bit of banjo a little bit of mandolin and just kind of a couple other little little odds and ends as well. What is my best talent….I'm really good at writing jingles, anything. My partner and I spend most of our life just making up kind of like, stupid goofy songs about whatever it is we're doing. That’s it, that’s my strongest talent.


BRD:

That’s awesome! That's quite an interesting talent. Are you are you self taught?


Ciggie:

Yeah, usually just fun stuff like I'm doing when I'm making tapes. You know, just kind of fun little whatever. But it's just a sort of sing songy style of life that follows.


BRD:

That sounds like a lot of fun! So, on a scale of one to 5342, how weird are you?


Ciggie:

Like a 15.


BRD:

So, you’re not weird at all. I’m off the scale myself! I'm pretty weird.


Ciggie:

Weirdness is in the eye of the beholder. I suppose it is I'm sure. Some people would probably think I'm close to like 50,031. I mean, if I was judging it on my scale, yeah, maybe a 16. You know, I got maybe a little up there.









BRD:

You have released a solo EP recently titled Ciggie Tarbox, Super Pretentious Solo EP. So, I had a listen, and I didn't find it pretentious at all!


Ciggie:

God, I missed the marks!


BRD: That being said, I understand that some others in your band darts are also featured on this EP. Tell us a little bit more about the album and and the band Ciggie and the Darts.


Ciggie:

The super pretentious solo EP, when I started working on it we had a pretty hefty lockdown here during the pandemic. I hate it. So we weren't jamming or anything at all. I was what they consider the disposable….no, they call us a Central worker. I would just go into a job that I absolutely hated every day. And then just coming home and being in my house and miserable. I acquired some recording software on on my computer and I just started screwing around with it and still having regular group texts with the bands and our drummer, Rolls Sugarlumps Royce, he had an idea for a song. It was called Covered to Shame and I thought what the hell's with the shame?


Then we were out partying all night and the next morning the sun's coming up and the birds are tweeting and you just feel a tremendous sense of shame. And I was thinking “Hey, I do know that!” So I was just kind of sitting around one day and I started screwing around with our recording program and I came up with this song called Mocking Birds, and I wasn't stoked with how it sounded. So I sent it to our buddy Chany Pilote who produced and recorded the Dart’s first album, Liquor, Leather, Denim and Darts. I said I was not stoked with how it sounded, and, do you have any pointers for me that I could use for just my home recording stuff? because he really knows his sh*t when it comes to recording.


He said I should come here and record it and why don't we do an EP or something with five or six songs? That was the only song I had at the time. And I thought, I gotta write some more songs. So I cranked up the three others as quick as I could. And I said let's do four songs and I sent those to him as well. I got a bass player from the Darts and Aaron Double Double Steinmann to play drums and he's a very talented, multi instrumentalist. We didn't get a chance to rehearse those together I just sent him the kind of tracks I made at home and then we just got to bang them in the studio, and that was that.


BRD:

Wow, sounds like a fun time though!


Ciggie: Yeah, it was. We recorded it in August and it was really fun. We did that and then a week or two later, we recorded our PILS session with Ciggie and the Darts, it was this new thing going on in Gatineau at Chany’s studio: Nomansland where bands from the local area come in for a weekend to the studio and they they get up to 15 minutes of recorded material. They record it and then they release it for you. That’s a cool thing new thing going on and now they've also expanded that into PILS records which super pretentious solo EP is going to be the first release on PILS records, which is pretty exciting and there should be a cassette coming out pretty soon.


BRD:

That's quite interesting. Ottawa punk is pretty rad! Are there any bands that you're collaborating with?


Ciggie:

Yeah, we're playing a show with a band called Brutal Play December 4, that's our first show since the lockdowns. I'm really excited about it. I actually have stage fright for the first time in years, because it's been so long since we've done that. I've been playing in a band for goddamn, like, almost 20 years now. And we used to just play all the time, and it's been a very long time since we have, so yeah, I'm a little nervous about that, but mostly good, it'll be a blast! It's just gonna be weird to be doing it again after so long but even just when we were able to start getting in the basement together again and jamming together, that was really the biggest thing. We started doing that a few months ago. After not doing it during lockdown here, it was just really nice to be together again, making racket. That’s the purest form of the rock'n'roll I feel is just being together with your buddies and having a swell time!


BRD:

I believe one of your influences is Motorhead….


Ciggie: Big time!


BRD:

So, my question is, if you could go back in time to 1975 What would you say to Lemmy about his influence on your band?


Ciggie:

I'd be really worried that it might be like Back to the Future. And also I'd go back and be like hot God your band was the most important thing that's ever happened to me, kind of deal and I'd lay it on the line but then maybe what if I ruin it, like Marty McFly….And then maybe Motorhead doesn't exist in the same way. So I'd be a little nervous. I'd probably just be saying that was amazing, man! I was fortunate enough to see Motorhead once before before Lemmy died…. I'd probably just want to like stay quiet and but just go see that classic power trio lineup…. but I'm probably too starstruck to say anything if truth be told it. That's not often mortal man stands in the presence of a god, right? So it's hard to say.


BRD:

Right? Makes sense. I know if I met Trent Reznor. I'd probably be tongue tied.


Ciggie: It’s easy to get starstruck, and those kinds of scenarios are you just like, wow, you know, so I'm not sure what I'd say.



BRD:

How is this album different from your non solo albums?


Ciggie: Ah, it's a little more self reflective. The Darts is kind of where I just get to pretend I'm the baddest dude alive….and I'm a big time super cool Rockstar kind of persona. When I was writing the super pretentious solo EP. I was wrestling with my relationship with drugs and alcohol at the time and I was trying to greatly reduce my own use after years of heavy use that kind of put me in a weird mental space. But I also wanted it to be kind of fun and stuff at the same time, not be too serious where I'm just like, I'm a drug addicted loser. where I was still a little fun and a little funny kind of thing.

A little more, I guess kind of Post-Punky. The Darts are pretty much just straightforward Rock and roll we just kind of get together and hammer out sounds really fast. This was me, locked in my house and ruminating over every kind of sound about it even when we're doing like the post production on it after the initial weekend. Chany, God bless him, he sent me a deal - I don't know that needs a little tweak here and that needs a little there and, and whatever else. It’s a much different sound than most stuff, it's more keyboard heavy. And its just a little more post punky. I'd say that probably the biggest difference is just it's a little more self reflective instead of saying “I'm so cool” And it's also maybe “I'm not so cool”.


BRD:

I had a listen to Mocking Birds and I really liked the rhythm and the speed and the tempo you got going you got a lot of good energy. It was really fun to listen to. So I guess that ties into my next question: What is the best in your opinion Ciggie and the Darts track of all time? And which one on Super pretentious solo EP was the most fun to create?


Ciggie:

I'm going to say the best is Struttin’ the first song off of our first release Liquor, Leather, Denim and Darts because it was one of the first songs we started doing. When we first started it was just me and Rolls Sugarlumps Royce. Getting together and more or less an excuse just to crush beers and hang out.

That was my favourite one for sure. Anytime we played together just puts me in a swell mood. And it's basically a song about me walking up the street being like the coolest guy alive, which is how I feel anytime I'm walking down the street with headphones in, playing my Iron Maiden or I'll be listening to Sam and Dave or just whatever I'm listening to and I'm grooving. I mentioned Brownsville Station. That's what I was listening to a lot of at the time when we wrote it, but it's just that feeling I imagine it's like a lesser version of how cool somebody feels with their tunes cranked in their car, but I don't have a car. So that's my closest. My closest approximation is just putting headphones in and walking down the street and grooving. So I'd say that's our best, and if not our best, my favourite.


Ciggie:

And from the Super Pretentious Solo EP I'm gonna say mockingbirds. That was the one that I really had together. I was thinking this is a good song and then my buddy was saying let's do a solo album. And I was thinking I got to write three more. Yeah, I feel like that one was the best put together the most fleshed out I guess the most thought out but I think the other ones still aren't without their charm. I feel like the whole package, it's almost like a concept EP just because I was a little too lazy to write a concept album.


BRD:

I love the intro there with the little birds and then you got the piano going….


Ciggie:

Yeah, it's great. the piano part was recorded on a really old piano from the 1920s.

It’s on a couple of songs on Liquor, Leather, Denim and Darts as well, but we had to auto tune it. So it would fit with the actual songs that we played. So it was fun to do it just for the intro for that it just didn't have to match up there.. it's got that little bit of outta tune Honkytonk kind of touch to it.


BRD:

I noticed you had written on the t shirt on the album cover “Hank Williams quote here” what is that about?


Ciggie:

Yeah, so there's a funny story, I have a Hank Williams lyric tattooed on my chest I got when I was 20. It's from the song “we'll never get out of this world alive” It says “no matter how struggling.” My darling wife did the album cover for me, she’s a really talented artist. And so she originally wrote that it's just a placeholder. When she was working on it. Because she forgot what the exact quote was. And she said Yeah, I wanted to like make sure I got it. I was like, No, that's f**king perfect, just leave it. That's the funniest thing ever. That's my favourite thing about it is that is that it says Hank Williams quote Here and she said Are you sure? And I was like, Oh my God. Yeah, it's f**king hilarious it just is a glorious quote. She really captured my essence. I mean, she's been looking at me for 15 years or thereabouts, she definitely got me down for the cover. It’s awesome!


BRD:

Where can people find your music?


Ciggie:

So right now, it's available on both of my own personal Bandcamp which is just https://ciggietarbox.bandcamp.com It's also available on the the PILS Bandcamp. So just to be safe listeners out there buy twice as you buy it right from me. I get the money. If you buy from PILS you get to support this exciting new record label. So I mean, why wouldn't you want to do both of those things. And you can get music from the Darts at https://ciggieandthedarts.bandcamp.com as well. Those are those the ones to hit up right now.


BRD:

Do you have any plans for more live shows in the future?


Ciggie: We do. We're doing one tomorrow night (December 3) at the Dominion tavern here in Ottawa, and then in another two weeks on December 18 we’re doing another show at the Dominion Tavern in Ottawa. Both should be a banger. It's like an ole Christmas bash type of thing. I guess. Nobody knew how long my hair was when they booked us for that but I will be playing the show And yeah, that should be very fun.







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