The Constantines were getting back together and I was stoked. I came to the Cons in the middle of their hiatus and fell hard for them like so many before me. I was also working a summer job mowing lawns. Against the advice of my bosses, I wore headphones as I worked, doing double-damage to my eardrums while trying to pretend I was doing anything else. The music on my iPod was feeling stale and combined with the mellow hum of gas-powered leaf blowers, it was giving me a headache. It was during this cosmic crossing of power tool-induced cranial pain, and the purchasing of a Field Trip ticket to see the best band in all the land, that I met Vish Khanna.
I had never listened to a podcast until I listened to Kreative Kontrol, and to say it changed my life is kind of putting mildly. A couple years later, I was in radio school and writing for a Canadian music blog. It wasn’t that I wanted to be Khanna or do exactly what he did, but I wanted and continue to follow by his example.
Kreative Kontrol is a DIY operation, through and through. Khanna takes his interview subjects seriously and has a clear passion and appreciation for the work and love that goes into being an artist, for he is one himself. There is always this small sense that he wishes he was on the other side of the mic, or maybe it’s just that he wishes he was getting paid to ask the questions, which, fair enough. Khanna has had a wide variety of musicians, comedians, writers, and journalists on his show and rarely fails to connect with any given guest.
What really makes Kreative Kontrol unique, at least in my view, is Khanna’s ability to treat Canadian artists with the seriousness and appreciation he would any other artist. His excellent rapport with Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Steve Albini, the members of Fugazi, Stephen Malkmus and others has earned him an international appreciation. However, I suspect in hindsight it will be his trove of interviews with the most exciting generation of Canadian musicians, conducted not out of obligatory adherence to CanCon laws, but out of genuine passion and interest, that will cement his legacy
This week, Khanna released the 400th episode of Kreative Kontrol. Why not wait until 500 to make this list, you ask? Well, to be honest, I can’t be sure he’ll get there. There have been points over the show’s run where it seemed like it would be done for sure. Khanna has been open about his on-and-off reservations about continuing the show, and once again, fair enough! It takes work to put that much thoughtful, well researched free content into the world all while working full-time and raising a family; I assume the guy doesn’t sleep. That said, the show is now part of a podcast network and it features your standard podcast sponsor adds (never in the middle on the episode though) and perhaps that phase has passed. I figure you can never be too cautious, though.
What I’m getting at, is that I don’t want to wait for the show to be over to celebrate it, which is why I have chosen ten episodes that I think really capture what Khanna and Kreative Kontrol can do, all featuring Canadian artists as well as some further listening options.
Kreative Kontrol has gone through many stages, but it has remained a constant well of information for me and many other DOMINIONATED contributors over its existence. Here is our list of ten essential episodes of Kreative Kontrol with Vish Khanna, starting with the most recent of our picks. Thanks, Vish, to one or 400 more.
Khanna is a hip-hop head, but it’s a bit of rare occurrence that he actually gets to talk to rappers and hip-hop artists (that may have something to do with the current state of Canadian hip-hop). When he does, the conversations are often deep and illuminating. Case and point, this recent episode with Cadence Weapon. They go through each track on his 2018 album Cadence Weapon, his career up to now, his new approaches to lyric writing and rapping and his place in the Canadian music landscape.
This episode with Simone TB and Max Turnbull gives excellent insight into the relationship and minds of the two Canadian musicians most likely to be in or involved with your favourite band. A must listen for any Canadian music nerd.
While many forward-thinking Canadian music journos might want to call ‘firsts’ on 2017 Polaris Prize winner, singer, activist, shit-disturber (in the best way) and soon to be international sensation Lido Pimienta, the right may belong to Khanna. Lido first appeared on Kreative Kontrol in January of 2014 nearly two years before the release of La Papessa. Lido has appeared on the show numerous times since, the most notable of which was recorded both before and after her Polaris Prize win, breaking down each track on the record.
If you fancy yourself a true music geek, this is the episode for you. Along with guests Sam T. Herring of Future Islands, Charlotte Day Wilson and Colin Stetson, Khanna leads BADBADNOTGOOD through their 2016 album IV track by track: composition, recording techniques, and more.
It seems there has been a concerted effort to feature independent acts on Kreative Kontrol as often as possible. My favourite find has been Halifax’s Century Egg, who talked to Vish about being and thriving as racialized and underrepresented musicians in Canada and also laugh at all of Khanna’s dad jokes.
At this point, it’s a bit embarrassing how often we feature Daniel Romano on this site, but once again, it’s worth it to shout out his two appearances on Kreative Kontrol. Khanna has an excellent grasp on where Romano is coming from as an artist and is able to get him to open up about his process and his muses. Both are essential but start with his interview that corresponds with the release of our 3rd favourite album of 2016, Mosey.
Khanna has made several essential documentary-style episodes, but this is the only one on a Canadian subject. He chose a worthy one in Idée Fixe. Featuring Simone Schmit of Fiver and the Highest Order, members of Bart and label founders Jeff McMurrich and Alex Durlak, this doc explores the label’s history, ethos, and highlights an institution that above all else, puts music and its artists first.
Similar to his report with Romano, Khanna has a way of getting Destroyer‘s Dan Bejar to open up. Over his three appearances on the show, the two have gone deep on Bejar’s most recent albums, his songwriting, his outlook on life as an artist, Vancouver, and most often, other people’s art. This episode, recorded around the release of Poison Season, goes deep on Springsteen and musicals, but not the Springsteen musical.
An essential listen for any Cons fan and any Vish Khanna fan. The band’s history and legacy are explored with each member of the band as is their personal connection to Khanna (Steven Lambke and Dallas Wherle were both in Captain Co-Pilot with Khanna pre-Cons). I, for one, am looking forward to the next time the Constantines appear on the show, likely promoting a new album that doesn’t yet exist anywhere but in my imagination . . . FOR NOW.
Khanna is an excellent interpreter of instrumental or experimental music. This early episode with a pre-Polaris Tanya Tagaq helped me expand my ears to appreciate not only Tagaq’s music, but the intent, effort, and artistry that can go into saying something without actually saying anything.
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