London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
One of Canada’s expert outdoorsmen — Les Stroud — will be making the trek to London to share his soulful and sometimes rocking beats at the London Music Club. Fighting the flu and a strict timeline, the Ontario-born Survivorman spoke with London Community News to discuss the inspiration behind his- -music, as well as what residents can expect at his upcoming performance on Friday (Aug. 31).
How long have you been making music?
Oh, gosh since I was 14. I’ve been writing, performing and playing since then. I toured and played with bands in Toronto when I was younger, I wrote for BMG Music, I took music industry arts at Fanshawe College, so music and performance have always been a big part of my life, for sure.
What’s the inspiration behind the songs you write?
A lot of the work that I’m doing now, the inspiration does come from my years travelling as Suvivorman — seeing the world and being in all of these different environments. I will write love songs and the likes, but a lot of my writing comes from the inspiration of the earth itself and, environmentally speaking, just my connection to the planet.
Do you think that message resounds with your fans? They know you as Les Stroud, Survivorman, but do you think fans will connect with Les Stroud, the musician?
Actually they do — it’s been unbelievable, the response. On every (Survivorman) show, I do a little harmonica thing. There was always a little nod at me saying, ‘Just so you know, I’m not a one-trick pony’.” I’ve had kids learning harmonica because of that and then they started buying my CDs, so it’s actually resonated fantastically with the fans.
You’re going to be playing at London -Music Club. Why was that venue chosen?
There are a lot of people who are going to go that are fans of the show. I’m going to honour that by answering their questions and keeping it very intimate. The reason (behind picking London Music Club) is because it is intimate, because I can talk openly with a crowd that’s close to me and show them what I can do. And then next time I’m back when we ramp up the numbers a bit and then rock it out and play a larger stage. But for now, the whole purpose was to have a nice, intimate show.
What is the most bizarre or obscure -question you’ve been asked?
I think probably it’s the deeper questions that surprise me. It’s one thing to get the question about what it’s like to eat a grub or what it was like surviving with Mertua or getting tattooed by them or what kind of camera gear do you carry, but it’s quite something else to go, “How are you affected spiritually when I do the trance dance (a ritual that serves as a direct communion to the spirit world) in the Kalahari desert’?” It’s like, “Wow I’m not going to whip out a sound bite for you here’.”
What was it like eating the grubs, being -tattooed and the spiritual aspects of some of your journeys?
The tattoo was … I’m going to go back. You get a real connectedness to people when you openly partake in something they do regularly and hold important. This was being tattooed by a shaman, actually.
The sago larvae (grub) with the Mertua in Sumatra was the most disgusting thing I ever ate. It was horrid — it was like eating very old rotted, coagulated milk or something. And you ate it alive and it was big; it was four inches long and as fat as your thumb. It was not fun.
Spiritually, the thing is, I felt like I came out of touch with my connectedness to nature through Survivorman, which is a surprise. You’d think I would be so in touch, but I got out of touch because it was such a business. But with Beyond Survival, with that series and the ceremonies and the connecting I did with people who live close to the earth now, I got back in touch and that has become the focus of what I do. Although I do admire him, I’m not David Suzuki, but I’m also not just a musician. I am gentle about the fact that I’m here and I’m doing what I’m doing. There is an underlying message of, after the show, get out there — take your shoes off, walk on the grass, go down to the corner park, smell the flowers. It’s everything from your corner park to the wild and crazy jungles. My message is about getting back out there and reconnecting with the planet, especially young kids right on up to seniors.
There are young kids who really look up to you. How important is it to cater your message to the next generation?
It’s vital. I’m not going to drop a whole line of clichés about them being our future, but the future is now; the reality is now. As Suzuki would say, we’re driving ourselves towards a wall, we’re putting our foot on the accelerator, we’re going to hit that wall and it’s going to hurt, environmentally speaking.
I’ve been able to see all of this stuff, connecting with the kids and it doesn’t have to be complicated. We try to complicate it with programs, initiatives and incentives. How about you just get them out into the forest for the day? How about you just start there because the reality is nature and Mother Earth will do the rest.
We can’t replace nature with our man-made initiatives, we can’t do that; it’s not possible. So if we can just get the kids out there, let them know what it’s like to get dirt under their fingernails and feel the grass under their bare feet, then those small moments build into … a life of more responsible living.
That’s a pretty honest message …
I think there’s an honesty to being a Canadian and one of the things that’s been the success of me with Survivorman, Beyond Survival and even Shark Week is that I fight against the overwhelming tide of dishonest television. Reality TV is one big fat immature, adolescent lie. It’s shows being created by young producers who are trying to be comedic and make up stories.
Reality TV doesn’t care to be high-quality, beautifully well-written fiction TV. I hate when people call Survivorman reality TV because it’s documentary television. But I get lumped in and if I get lumped in, I’m thrown in as the only guy who’s actually telling it like it is and I think that’s part of being Canadian.
Does that honesty translate into the lyrics of your songs and the messages behind your music?
Absolutely. I admire the Eddie Vedders, the John Lennons, the ability of the (Paul) McCartneys to tell stories that aren’t from his direct life. I can do that, I can pull that novelty lyric off, but in reality I much prefer to just tell the truth and speak from my own heart, my own soul. It definitely transfers into my lyrics and I’m very cognizant of the fact that when I write environmentally, I don’t want to write it environmentally like it’s a gimmick, a novelty, like I’m that guy so I’ll write about this. I am that guy and I live that life and that’s why I write about this. There’s a difference.
Why should people come out to your show and pay attention to your message?
It’ll change their lives. Come out, open up and allow your life to be changed by the message of connecting with the earth.
Tickets for the Les Stroud and the Campfire Kings cost $22 and the concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 31). For more information, visit www.londonmusicclub.com.