Taking care of business
Wednesday, August 25, 1999
Tal Bachman following nicely in dad's footsteps
By JOSHUA OSTROFF -- Ottawa Sun
Gazing down on the bubblegum boppers dominating the dial, Tal Bachman is -- like the lyrics of his hit song says -- floating so high above them.
"I was so focused on writing the best pop songs I could, I didn't really worry that much about whatever trend was popular at the time," he explains about his recent self-titled debut, offering up a Brian Epstein quote about the new trend being 'a good song.'
"So I thought to myself, maybe one day I'll write a great song and it will bash through the artificial barriers of the latest trend."
Of course, Bachman -- appearing tomorrow tonight at the Ex -- isn't exactly charting a new course so much as reinvestigating an old one, when bands like ELO and Queen wrote pop music for, gasp, adults.
The funny part is, despite being the musically gifted progeny of a Canrock legend and the fact fellow rock offspring such as Adam Cohen, Jakob Dylan and Sean Lennon were all following in their father's footsteps, Bachman didn't want to be Randy Jr.
So after graduating high school, he fled his home in the Vancouver suburb of White Rock and took philosophy at a university in Utah near his mother's home. And he stopped listening to new music.
"The big drought for me was the (early '90s) bands that seemed to be entirely suicidal. Sometimes you feel lousy and you can appreciate a depressing song but an entire album?"
Ironically, it was his chosen detour that led him back to music -- a Plato quote arguing people are ideally suited to certain activities.
Helped by father
"I had a moment of clarity. Graduation was in sight and reading passages in these books had a big influence on me."
So he returned to B.C. and set about writing songs and getting a record deal, a task admittedly facilitated by his famous father.
When his album was finally ready the pop playing field had re-opened. But this being the late '90s, his label hedged its bets and multi-tasked the record, securing high-profile inclusions of his songs (She's So High, If You Sleep) on TV shows such as NYPD Blue and Dawson's Creek.
"When my dad was popular you didn't really have these connections between fashion and pop and TV and movies that you do now. Once you have an album deal and a song on the radio you automatically have a clothing endorsement and a guest spot on TV."
Philosophically speaking, it is a far cry from grunge's art-over-commerce, where bands like Nirvana followed up hits with even less commercial work and Pearl Jam actually stopped making videos.
"It always has been product and consumer," he says pragmatically. "There is a reality to be reckoned with if you want people to hear your CD, these things all add up to the goal of selling or having it available and consumed, for lack of a better word.
"That's what stuns me about these guys. They think they've become larger than reality and they're not. And then they complain when things don't go their way.
"They still want a hundred zillion people to go out and buy their album but they won't do anything to make it happen. The next thing you know (Smashing Pumpkins') Billy Corgan is badmouthing their fan club because their record didn't go multi-platinum like by divine right it should have.
"These guys are so pompous it's unbelievable."