INTERVIEW: CANVAS’ JOHN SUTCLIFFE DISCUSSES REUNION
Returning noisecore berserkers Canvas will take to the stage for the first time in 17 years at next April’s Ritual Festival in Leeds. Calum Harvie catches up with vocalist John Sutcliffe to find out why he feels the time is now right for a reunion.
If Canvas vocalist John Sutcliffe was ever in doubt that news of his band’s reunion would be rapturously received, then the past few weeks will have put that to bed. As soon as their appearance at next year’s Ritual Festival in Leeds been announced, news sites and social media went crazy: ‘highly anticipated’ won’t even come close to describing their performance next year. “I didn’t think that the band would continue to stay relevant in people’s minds,” admits John, reflecting upon the way the news of Canvas’ performance has been received. “I knew it would be fun for me but wasn’t expecting the internet to smash up, so I’m pleasantly surprised.”
By the time Canvas take to the stage in April, 17 years will have passed since the band broke up. “I don’t think we were supposed to split up,” says John. “We were on a break and never hooked back up. We were already drifting apart as a band and then Dan went to Australia for a bit and moved to Manchester when he returned. Karl moved to Holland and it just seemed like it wasn’t worth the effort. The last few gigs were a bit awkward and I think it was probably best to end it at that time. DIY and hardcore music was changing so rapidly that I’m not sure we would have survived much longer anyway.”
“We attempted a reunion a number of years ago when Karl came over while on tour with Born From Pain. We sat around a table in Joseph’s Well and tried to figure out how to do it logistically but it never went anywhere. Then over time I’ve been badgered by various people to make it a thing. This year seemed right even though I have loads of other projects on the go. The guys in this new line up have really inspired a solid version of Canvas and it’s really exciting to be doing it once more.”
Canvas’ live performances were the stuff legends are made of: intense doesn’t really do them justice. As those who were fortunate to seem them live during their initial tenure will attest, the band’s unhinged frenzy on stage would leave audiences gasping for air. But this was 17 years ago. Is the same eviscerating energy still there? John laughs, “Ha ha! I’ve thought about this. I’m still just as angry about the things I was from back then. I can’t speak for the other guys but I’ve always been pretty mellow till I get onstage and then I turn into something else. Jekyll and Hyde I guess. I think I still have a bit of firepower left.”
A return to the stage necessarily means that Canvas are revisiting their back catalogue. How does it feel coming back to play material, some of which was written and recorded nearly 20 years ago? “I’m still really happy with it,” John says. “We might alter bits of what we did to refresh the sounds. Different members will mean a slightly different style of play but that’s a good thing in my book. It concerns me a little that Andy [Sutcliffe, guitar] will have to make peace with the fact that he’s playing riffs that he came up with when he was 15 but other then that I’m actually quite relieved, listening back, that it was all structured well and is still fascinating to play. I can now look at it as an outsider and it’s great to listen back and attempt to improve on what we had. Vocally it’s hard as I’ve not screamed like I did in canvas since the split. My vocal chords have taken a battering, and I’m back to black metal-esque screeching. It’s tricky.”
As for the set at Ritual Fest, John promises, “We are looking at doing a ‘best of’ as it’s for the fans. That’s what’s different. We never did anything for the audience as a band back then, it was always meant to be against the grain and difficult to observe but this time around it will for the people. I won’t give the set list away but it’ll be full of party bangers I promise.”
And will this genuinely be a one-off reunion?
“It’s genuinely one-off… I think! We have so much going on in our lives that it would be difficult to sustain it for much more than that. If it goes well then we might try and do the odd gig here and there but I wouldn’t want to dilute the one-off experience all that much. We will have to see.”
Tickets for next year’s Ritual Festival are now available. It takes place on 8th April 2017 in Leeds. Canvas’ entire discography is available as a pay-what-you-want / free download from their Bandcamp page.
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