Toronto musician Marlon Chaplin is a diverse fellow, not only in terms of his musical style but also his abilities as a performer of multiple instruments. Earlier this year, Chaplin released a video featuring Jessica Speziale titled “Don’t You Fall,” that had a jazz club vibe to it and featured sultry, soulful vocals. Then, this month, he released a punk cover of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.”
In it, he replaces the keyboards and club beats with a straight drum beat, electric guitar shots and slapback induced vocals. And, Chaplin plays every instrument on the recording: electric guitars, bass, drums, vocals and synthesizer. The video, directed by Devon Stewart (The Nursery’s “Lysergically Yours,” Seraphic Lights’ “Breeze”) employs jump cuts and frantic pacing to compliment the vibe and pacing of Chaplin’s bold interpretation of this tune.
I caught up with Chaplin to pick his brain about his music and his thoughts on Lady Gaga.
Stephanie Beatson: Awesome, and original, interpretation of “Telephone.” Why did you choose this song? Is Lady Gaga an inspiration to you or did this song just speak to you?
Marlon Chaplin: I remember hearing it when it first came out and it struck me as a simple, very well put together pop song. The original has a very driving, relentless quality to it and maintains a real dramatic nature. That’s a lot of what rock ‘n’ roll is about. People have told me that it’s such a strange choice for a cover for me, but that it still works. It’s three chords. A lot of people hear the words Lady Gaga and sort of scoff. If any kind of art moves you, it’s important not to let other people’s projections trick you into feeling self conscious in about liking what you like. The truth is it always sounded like an Eagles of Death Metal song to me.
SB: How did you get into writing and performing music?
MC: I got into music at a very young age. I grew up in Toronto and my parents would always take me to the Sunday matinee at the Brunswick House when it was still a rockabilly bar. I was taken with two things: the sheer volume and power of the band – for a seven or eight year old, that kind of atmosphere is pretty monumental – and the drummer. The whole experience was like something from another planet to me. So I eventually got the Tupperware out at home and put together my very own custom kit. That early seed got planted and just never stopped growing. A little later on I’d constantly have these song ideas swimming around in my head. It’s hard to write a song on drums, so naturally I progressed to the guitar and piano.
MC: There are so many. Simply getting heard can be a big challenge.
SB: Tell me about your songwriting process. How do you choose your subject matter, or does it choose you? What are you trying to accomplish or portray with your songs?
MC: It’s important for me to be able to gain perspective on a subject if I feel it’s worth writing about. Sometimes I need to be away from the thickness of whatever it is I’m going through before I can string something together that has meaning or would make sense to someone else. In the midst of a hurricane you’re not going to be seeing that much around you. It might sound odd, but the songs I’m most proud of, that hold the most weight emotionally are usually written from a place of detachment. All I’m ever trying to accomplish in the end is to move people.
SB: When you choose other artists like Jessica Speziale to feature in your songs and videos, how do you choose them? Are you looking for something in particular?
MC: In the case of the video for “Don’t You Fall” I did with Jessica, when I wrote that I envisioned myself duetting with her even though I’d never heard her sing that style before. She’s a very talented performer and it didn’t seem a stretch for her to lay down something that had a little more subtle of dynamics than what she’s known for. I collaborate with a lot with different types of artists and the only things that ever matter to me are if there’s a cohesion between us and if we’re utterly confident in what we’re making.
SB: From what I’ve seen, you have quite a diversity in the songs you write and perform. Is this a conscious choice, and if so, why is diversity so important to you?
MC: It’s extremely important to me. The experiences we go through as human beings are diverse. Situations and emotions we encounter throughout a relationships can be diverse. The people we meet on a daily basis are diverse. Life is diverse! And what is music if not a way of dealing with whatever life throws at us, attempting to express the intangible? As important as it is to establish an identity as an artist, I can’t help but write and be influenced by whatever moves me. That range happens to be pretty wide.
SB: What are your future plans and goals?
MC: I’m in the process of recording a single with a group of outstanding musician friends of mine I want to put to vinyl as soon as possible. I’m also recording an album leaning more toward country and folk with Aaron Comeau. I’ve just finished my first full length as sole producer too for the Ada Dahli & the Pallbearers record that should be coming out before Christmas. She’s a powerhouse vocalist I write and perform with.
SB: Any plans to tour, possibly visit Montreal in the next while?
MC: I love playing Montreal and I’d definitely love to return soon. I’m currently booking a whole slew of dates for the next couple months, so let me get back to you on that!
Photos by Devon Stewart, and Bobby Singh (Front of House).