Outbox: Solvent

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Zimbabwe-born Canadian Jason Amm has long been at the forefront of contemporary synth-pop. With his arsenal of vintage analog gear and drum machines, Amm has crafted four full-length albums under the name Solvent, which have continually explored new realms of electronic pop music over the course of 12 years. After releasing his latest for Ghostly International, Subject to Shift, Amm tells us about his unexpected birthplace, what appendage he'd sacrifice for his music gear, and how he hasn't a clue as to what—gasp!—the Twilight series is...

What were you up to during the six years between Apples & Synthesizers and Subject to Shift?
Well, I did actually release a fair amount of new music during that time, just not a Solvent album. That's not to deny that there's a big unproductive gap there! Mainly, I was busy being the stay-at-home parent to my five-year-old daughter, Iris. And add to that a couple of musical identity crises.

So... Canadian, but born in Zimbabwe, eh?
That's where my father was from. He met my mom in Canada and they moved back for a while and had me. It was called Rhodesia then. They left during the war that lead to the country becoming Zimbabwe. I've been in Canada since I was two or so.

If you were commissioned to score the new Twilight movie, which artist (dead or alive) would you like to collaborate with?
I haven't the faintest idea what Twilight is, except that it's maybe some sort of teen vampire thing? So am I supposed to go for some kind of goth theme then? Well, I'd love to collaborate with Siouxsie Sioux under any circumstances, so let's go with that.

Would you rather have all of your music gear destroyed or have two fingers surgically removed?
Assuming you mean no insurance on the gear, definitely, I'd choose to have the fingers off.

Who is speaking on the phone recordings in "Unknown Caller," from Subject to Shift?
In the intro ("Hello?") it's me, while the stuff in the background is not a phone conversation at all, it's an interview with Siouxsie and Budgie that I processed to sound like a phone recording. Weird that Siouxsie has come up twice in this interview! Maybe I had subliminally looked ahead and that made me think of her.

"My Radio"

What's the worst thing you've heard your music called?
"For all his major-key optimism, Solvent's is an outlook with only a disheartening modicum of stability: a homogeny that, quite simply, gets by." [Ed's note: From a 2008 Pitchfork review.] That, and Italo Disco—which is not bad music, it's just that it comes up pretty often, and I don't get the connection at all.

If you were actually a solvent, which would you be?
To answer this I'd actually have to know something about solvents, and I don't. I just named myself after the Skinny Puppy song.

What's the lamest thing about being a musician in Canada?
It's just a small market with very few cities to support a healthy music scene. I've only played seven cities in the whole country. If I could play shows in the US without having to go through the long, tedious, and expensive process of getting a work visa, I would have a lot less to complain about.

What's the best?
I'm an artist, and I have health insurance.

Name one man and one woman you wish you could sing like.
Man: Gary Numan. Woman: Alison Moyet.

If you could have one of your songs live on as your legacy, which would it be?
Well, "My Radio" is surely the best song I have written, and probably the best I ever will write. But for some sort of insight into me, something more personal, I'd choose "Duckie."

Subject to Shift is out now on Ghostly International.