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Local one-man band Brad Sucks returns with long-awaited new record

Selena Hofmann | Fulcrum Contributor

IN A TIME when music is practically released on a conveyor belt, a long-term project is almost unheard of. But self-described perfectionist Brad Turcotte, a.k.a. Brad Sucks, has been working on his latest album since way back in 2008.

“The concept of the album is that everyone, to a certain extent, is hiding his or her imperfections,” Turcotte says of his third album, Guess Who’s a Mess. The album release party will take place Nov. 2 at Zaphod Beeblebrox in the ByWard Market, one of Turcotte’s favourite venues to play in Ottawa.

Brad Sucks’ fusion of pop, electronic, and ’90s alt-rock is hard to compare to anything else. The mood-altering melodies are dance-inducing while still having lyrical substance. Turcotte’s teenage years had an obvious impact on the types of music he likes performing now; his early work had more of a pop sheen, but more aggressive noises flooded in over the years.

“It’s a harder, dancier record,” says Turcotte. “There’s pop beats, and it’s something teenage me would have liked.”

As many would agree, the decade of adolescence has a profound effect on a person’s musical taste. The needles of our parents’ record players have probably burned through the vinyl of many Led Zeppelin and Supertramp albums. For Turcotte, it was the cassette tapes of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry that were being twisted with a pencil for another play. And with the help of Netflix, he’s been able to soak up the “rockumentaries” of all his favourites.

“There’s that moment in The Last Waltz when everyone knows that cocaine is dribbling down Neil Young’s nostril,” he remarks, referring to the film account of The Band’s final concert appearance in 1976 that featured more than a dozen special guests, including Young along with Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan. Turcotte finds these inside looks at the life of a rock star fascinating. Seeing the other side of fame has led him to question the power of celebrity.

The new album’s title is an ode to celebrity pop stars who are both idolized and ridiculed. While on stage they appear to have it together, but it’s a whole other story in the dressing room. The “mess” could be shaving your head while paparazzi cameras flash, or just the simple struggles of growing up in the suburbs.

Turcotte understands this idea of a secret life all too well; as a teenager, he dropped out of school partially due to bullying. He’s by no means ashamed—a song off his 2008 album Out of It is actually titled “Dropping Out of School”—and with encouraging parents, he was able to continue educating himself in a different environment.

Before music, Turcotte made a living in writing and computer programming. Though he found that editing written work turned out to not be the best task for a person with perfection in mind, he was able to seamlessly transition his love for technology into recording his own music.

“I don’t need to sign a record deal; I have a home recording studio,” says Turcotte, noting that the substantial drop in the price of recording equipment has helped him make music all on his own.

Turcotte’s music career kicked off in the early 2000s at the height of Napster’s popularity. While some were resistant to the open sourcing of their work, Turcotte embraced it. He’s released all his music to date for free, and not only allows but also encourages his fans to remix his music.

“I just thought about giving away my music and seeing what comes back,” Turcotte says. “There have been some cool remixes, and once in a while I’ll even do one of my own.”

But Turcotte is also very particular about what he puts out; he writes, records, and performs virtually all of his work on his own, with a backup band only at live shows. He knows what he wants to make, and flexibility is not a top priority.

His armory includes the guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, recording equipment, and mixing software. Although the list is impressive, Turcotte doesn’t strive to show off in his performances.

“People sometimes ask me if I practice,” he says. “I’ll do something until it’s as good as it needs to be for a song, but I’m not trying to play the most 16th notes I can in one line. It’s not a competition.”

If there’s an obstacle for Turcotte, it’s obscurity.

“Today, the barrier to finding music no longer exists,” he says, “but it’s so saturated that it’s hard for your music to stand out from the crowd.”

However, with a kickass website and the music to match, it’s no surprise the new Brad Sucks album is one that’s highly anticipated.