Wednesday, February 9, 2000

Tal Bachman sober in wonderland


Express Writer

Our guest on Brush With Greatness this week is Tal Bachman.

He plays tomorrow in Red's right here in celebrity-starved Edmonton - but mere weeks ago, he was hobnobbing with superstars and stood inches away from Britney Spears' nearly naked breasts at the American Music Awards!

It was a "surreal" experience for the shy and proper son of Randy Bachman. Tal is a devout Mormon who doesn't cotton to the "sex and drugs" aspect of rock 'n' roll.

On the phone from home in Vancouver, Bachman recalls the AMAs with a laugh, "I showed up and there were all these big fancy stars there and they wanted me to walk down the red carpet where all the paparazzi were, which of course I've never done before. I felt slightly ill at ease.

"Bulbs are popping and guys are thrusting microphones at you: 'Hey, I'm from XYZ-TV, what do you think of that blahblahblah!' And I'm like, 'wahh?' In front of me is Vince Gill and whatshername, Amy Grant. And behind me was like Lenny Kravitz or somebody. It was pretty bizarre.

"Then I got inside and it was like, 'You know you're presenting with Britney and she's wearing very little.' Somebody happened to mention it to me. I'm a pretty modest guy. When we were doing the video, I was like, 'Look, I don't want some half-naked girl running around. I want this to be modest.' I'm sort of conservative, traditional or whatever. So they must've thought it was pretty weird. So the next thing I knew, I was standing next to a half-naked Britney Spears in front of millions of viewers, reading off of a teleprompter. It was like a really insane dream."


Welcome to star treatment - and he'd better get used to it. With such attention from just one hit, She's So High (no, it's not about some drugged-out model), imagine how it would be if (or when) the rest of the songs from his debut album top the charts. It could happen.


"I'm ready for whatever comes," he says. "I just feel like I try my best to write my songs and I just want as many people as possible to hear them. Hopefully they'll mean something."

Bachman has higher aspirations than becoming a mere pop star. Although he admits the "one in trillion" chance, he'd like to be a pop culture "icon." His university studies in philosophy may have something to do with his current train of thought.


"Ultimately, I want to be more than Ed Roland from Collective Soul, more than a guy that churns out hits," he says. "I'm not criticizing him. But I want to be more than just a pop songwriter or performer. That maybe sounds insane, but I just know myself and I think I'm always going to want more and more. You look at people like Mick Jagger and Madonna and they're more than just performers or smart businessmen. They're also symbols and they also mean something which revolves now around popularity. Our culture is now pop culture.


"I want a piece of that so that I can hopefully subvert what I think is bad about it and exaggerate what I think might be good about it. As much as I'm a fan of a lot of their music, I disagree with what a Mick Jagger or a Madonna stand for, what they mean by virtue of who they are. I think when you boil it down, I think in many ways they have a destructive effect on society. I think that for whatever reason, critics and a lot of their fans cut them a break. It's OK to recognize that this guy might be a songwriting genius and then to say that in addition to his genius, I believe he has had a corrosive effect on whatever: on how men and women relate to each other, or whether teenagers are going to be persuaded to take drugs. Not that I would ever hold them singlehandedly responsible, but it's one more guy yanking on the rope. And if I can knock a few guys off the rope, I'll be happy."


Until then, however, Tal Bachman plays at Red's tomorrow night. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.