Take kin care of business

Sunday April 11, 1999


Express Writer

CALGARY -- Tal Bachman is intense and easily distracted. You would be too if you had music running through your brain all the time.

During a recent interview in Calgary to promote his forthcoming debut album, the 29-year-old son of Randy Bachman frequently breaks into song, drums the table and talks music theory as easily as most red-blooded Canadians discuss hockey. At one point, the Muzak wafting into the Holiday Inn cafe sparks his interest.

"Hey, that's Rita Coolidge," he exclaims. "This song's amazing. Talk about chord progressions. Boz Scaggs wrote that."

Bachman doesn't like to listen to music when he's trying to concentrate on something else. He says he's always generating songs in his head as it is. But there is no escape. Most of us ignore the constant backdrop of music in modern society. Bachman grew up immersed in it. He can't ignore it. He's a fascinating example of a generation born and bred entirely within rock 'n' roll - nearly 45 years old itself and well into its mid-life crisis.

As the privileged eldest son of the man who wrote Takin' Care of Business, Tal knew almost nothing but music.

"It wasn't like dad and I went out chopping wood or hunting," he says. "Everything was rock 'n' roll. It's not like, 'go out and get a job at Burger King.' It's like, 'hey, listen to this record' or 'you want to come to the studio?' Everything was music. It's like The Truman Show. I didn't know anything else."

Although Tal learned to play drums, piano and guitar at an early age, he rebelled - by refusing to be a musician and going to university instead.

"I had interests other than music, I guess. Let me try to think of what some of them might have been. Ah ... I played raquetball once in a while. And I liked English lit, but I didn't know how to do anything. I couldn't even flip a burger. I don't want to dwell on how stupid I am, but I wound up at college because I guess maybe I really didn't have a lot of practical skills. I was really good at music, but I didn't know if I wanted to pursue that and I didn't know what else to do. So I just went to college while I worked that out."

It took a passage from Plato's Republic to snap him into action, something about how a person should follow the path nature intended and on and on and on. So Bachman quit school, and at the age of 23 became a songwriter.

Through what has to be a seamless fusion of genetics and conditioning, he turned out to be rather good at it.

His Bob Rock-produced album (in stores Tuesday) is redolent in lush chord changes, catchy hooks and elegant arrangements. The single, She's So High, is racing up the charts. Nearly every other song on the self-titled album is a potential hit, thanks to a classic writing style that owes more to Queen or Paul McCartney than his father's three-chord chunkers. It's a writing style, Tal says, that sadly went out of style.

"It seems like it died. Maybe it was me. I can't even listen to the radio. I hardly ever hear anything I like. I like Radiohead and Beck. I like that Verve song. I liked Don't Speak, the No Doubt song. You like these hits ... but maybe the acts that really have compelling music don't exist any more. Where are they? I go into clubs, I turn on MuchMusic, dudsville.

As for my own stuff, I don't know how compelling that is going to be for any other listener, so let's just take that out of the equation. There's so little music that means anything to me ...

"Maybe in a way my album sounds a little bit old-fashioned. But there was nobody else doing anything that seemed to approach songwriting in and of itself. You get three chords and slam them over and over again and it's anger and attitude and it might be really great, but I always liked the music first. I never got into the punk movement, because it was sort of about attitude and style first and music second. I just liked music that I liked. It didn't matter what they dressed like or who they voted for."

Or whether it was "cool" or not.

He takes a bold stance: "You can print this - Bjorn and Benny from Abba are better than Mozart. I've listened to hours and hours of Mozart and some of it's great. But I put on Abba Gold the other day and it's like one hour of total perfection. There's no difference, really. So you have an electric guitar instead of a viola. Big deal."

Let the debate ensue.