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Sept. 26, 2020

Interview with Michael C. Duguay

Interview with Michael C. Duguay

We had the pleasure of interviewing Michael C. Duguay over Zoom video!

On The Winter of Our Discotheque, his first album in nearly a decade, Michael C. Duguay immerses listeners in his complex universe through work which is both familiar and...


We had the pleasure of interviewing Michael C. Duguay over Zoom video!

On The Winter of Our Discotheque, his first album in nearly a decade, Michael C. Duguay immerses listeners in his complex universe through work which is both familiar and inventive, equally whimsical and stone-cold stoic. The songs in this collection were composed over ten itinerant and disastrous years, in and about his life lived in hospital beds, shelters, and addiction treatment centres. This quasi-sophomore release finds Michael C. Duguay returned to wellness and rapturously reunited with his craft, writing with startling clarity and remarkable candor, withstanding the conventional singer-songwriter label. The Winter of Our Discotheque is a triumphant reemergence, establishing Michael C. Duguay as an idiosyncratic punk-poet whose mercurial work, while firmly rooted in the vernacular tradition, combines adroit pop and the avant-garde to ecstatic and often devastating effect.

On Summer Fights, a song which morphs from pastoral alt-country ballad to jubilant, psychedelic honky-tonk, Michael sings the album’s central thesis; ‘there’s a time and there’s a place for all variety of grace’. This declaration is one of many which draws attention to the beauty that surfaces, and which so often goes overlooked, in a world of chaos and struggle. Describing his time spent battling addiction and mental illness, which found him drifting from the gulf islands of British Columbia, to Halifax’s north end, to a halfway house west of Thunder Bay, Michael remarks, ‘I completely lost hold of my identity, and as my emotions and thinking became increasingly compromised by substances and trauma, my relationship with my practice dissolved; first my ability, then my desire to try’. Despite the hardship endured, in broken moments of lucidity Michael was able to shape new personal understandings of the varieties of human experience, and his own relationship to privilege. These revelations have resulted in a body of work which neither dwells in the darkness nor trivializes his own experience, but which describe in poetic, naturalistic, and sometimes droll language, the realities of his lived experience “I spent a lot of time in places that others might describe as ‘bottoms’, where I never predicted myself landing, and these songs have helped me make sense of those experiences’.  The narrative spun by The Winter of Our Discotheque is both bildungsroman and poioumenon (a work of art that tells the story of its own making). Revealing its own metfactions as it progresses, his writing draws comparisons to the literary school of Southern Ontario Gothic writers including Munro, Findley, and Urquhart.  The album draws its title from John Steinbeck’s final novel, which in turn references the opening words of Shakespeare’s Richaed III. More than just clever wordplay, the themes on Duguay’s record can be understood as contemporary expressions of both of those writer’s existential anxiety.

On the haunting and vertiginous Tithes, overtop of swirling reeds and reverberating electric piano, Michael sings ‘there’s no cause for your applause.’ First sketched in a hospital bed in Moncton in 2014, these words make clear that Michael is not writing to solicit sympathy and validation, or to abide by convention, but to devoutly recommence his work with a new, refined focus and an unshakeable joie de vivre. Musically, this outsider ethos is also present. Soaring brass parts are unexpectedly paired with layers of synth drones and percussion, and the arrangements feature billowing woodwinds and iridescent piano in lieu of guitar solos and other conventional indie-rock signifiers. Clocking in at just under an hour, the album’s eight songs are meticulous, and the genre-defying arrangements are palatial. Simply put, The Winter of Our Discotheque is an uniquely indulgent album, and audibly the work of an idiosyncratic artist skillfully working out a decade’s worth of pent up creativity. In Michael’s patient

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