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Next To Know: An Interview with Erik Canzona of The Heavy Guilt

The tireless efforts of the six musicians in The Heavy Guilt have finally come together in a way that is representative of their live shows and the eclectic sound they bring to San Diego’s music scene. Their third album is a collection of twelve diverse songs ranging from somber aching melodies to foot-stomping rock anthems. And what better way to celebrate hard work and a beautiful finished product than by throwing a kick ass party!

In preparation for their CD release show next Saturday (4/6 at The Irenic) I tapped my friend Matt Baldwin to do an album review (read that radness here) and I coerced the Guilt’s singer, Erik Canzona, into doing his first ever interview. The harmonious marriage of Canzona’s voice with Al Howard’s lyrics has always struck me as a unique, fateful collaboration. After two insightful (and hilarious) interviews with Howard I was long overdue to get Mr. C’s side of the story. Enjoy!

Hard at work on THG’s third album – by Rebecca Joelson

Hard at work on THG’s third album – by Rebecca Joelson

1. I’m super excited for the new record– can you tell me what fans can expect and what you’re most excited for other people to hear?

We’re excited to get it out there. Fans can expect dub step, lots of dubs stepping. There isn’t a lot of planning or discussion that goes into into our live shows. It just happens. But with an album, once you make a creative decision, that’s it. The finality and pressure of that can be kind of overwhelming. You have one chance to get it right and I think we did.

2. A lot of your bandmates play in other projects- any desire for you to take on another band?

No side projects for me. It’s cool that they have the ability to do it, but I have tunnel vision when it comes to pretty much everything. Once I’m focused on something it completely consumes me. Which is probably why I lock myself out of my house and misplace my wallet so often. Between the Guilt, my dog walking business and family, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I write songs and record ideas at home, just to keep creating, but nothing I would have time to go out and play. I’d like to at some point, but it may be a while.

3. How did you start singing and have you had any training? Any pre-show prep for your pipes?

I’ve always sung. When I’m at home no matter what I’m doing, I’m singing. Once Al was in his room recording vocals for a delicate acoustic song he was writing and I didn’t know he was home and walked by his room singing Danzig’s “Mother” so obnoxiously loud that it completely derailed what he was trying to do. It may be my favorite recording I’ve ever done. I’ve taken vocal lessons in the past and they were a huge help for me. Learning how to sing without damaging my vocal chords probably saved me. I just don’t like to consider it a skill or a “craft”, so I don’t like dissecting it or anything. I don’t do any kind of warm up or anything, sorry Melody. It’s kind of like flipping a switch though, the energy of everyone in the room and the stage puts me where I need to be pretty quick.

Laying down vox – by Rebecca Joelson

Laying down vox – by Rebecca Joelson

4. What’s something you would want others to know about yourself or The Heavy Guilt that they may not know already?

Yikes. This could get me into trouble. I guess that until I was 29 I didn’t think performing at the Casbah or the Belly Up was an option and had never even considered getting on any stage. As cheesy as it sounds, if there’s something you want you have to just go for it. Also, Al’s pet of choice would be a ferret and Jenny listens to Billy Joel.

5. Tell me about your other job as owner of Paws Play- do you sing to the dogs? Do the pups seem to prefer your rock style or ballads more?

Dogs aren’t into ballads, cats maybe. I sing in the vicinity of dogs constantly, sometimes I even have the unfortunate experience of not knowing the owners are home for the first couple of songs. The dogs seem to tolerate it, but I only really have an audience if I’m holding a tennis ball. Pawsplaysandiego.com. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

6. How do you evoke emotion into singing Al’s lyrics? Do you guys talk about what a song means to him or does he let you run with the words?

When we started we talked about it a lot. I think over the past few years we’ve grown close enough that I don’t really have to ask anymore. Al writes about his life so I usually know where the lyrics are coming from. Also, we have a lot in common and the fact that his lyrics deal with such relatable experiences like love and loss, it’s easy for me to get where he’s going.

7. What singers do you look up to or aspire to be like?

I listen to a lot of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding. I love live performances. There is so much trickery that can happen in the studio, but if someone’s live performance is as good or better than their records, I’m hooked. Tom Waits is a real performer, with a cast of characters and emotions that you can’t look away from. I grew up idolizing Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain, Michael Stipe, Jeff Mangum. I could go on, but I won’t.

8. You do all the design for your band and your company- how did you get into graphic design and how is that creative outlet different or similar to making music?

I’ve always sketched and enjoyed the creative process. I love logos and smart advertising, not like celebrity endorsements, but ads that are creative and can make you stop and pay attention to them. I worked for a large corporation doing graphic design for about five years. It was great being paid to be creative and I learned a lot from the experience, but at the same time it had its limitations. I was tired of having designs watered down to please executives, so I quit and decided that I would only do design work for myself. I think it’s extremely similar to music. You’re taking your creativity and putting it out there for everyone to see, it’s the same nervous excitement. And as long as you can take constructive criticism, but trust yourself enough to disregard all of the other bullshit, it’s incredibly freeing and rewarding.

9. To me this new album is a lot more eclectic and representative of your live shows- is it hard to capture all the nuances of the band on recordings? For example Al’s percussion?

Honestly, that was the easiest thing for us this time around. I think we’ve always treated recording differently than our live shows. This time around we decided that we wanted it to more closely represent our live shows, so we played all of the songs live in the studio and did a lot less overdubbing than our last album had. We just let our producer, Timin Murray, know what we wanted to capture and he made it happen. That pressure was on him, so if he were to answer this he would probably say yes, yes it was extremely difficult.

A pensive moment with Mr. C. – by Rebecca Joelson

A pensive moment with Mr. C. – by Rebecca Joelson

10. What’s the plan for promoting this album? Details on the release show? Any out-of-town trips?

The release show is set. Since we do everything ourselves, putting out a record is a big deal to us. So we want the party to reflect that. This time around we’re doing it at The Irenic in North Park. It’s a beautiful old church just off of 30th and the setting seemed perfect. Similar to the last party at The Glashaus, they were nice enough to just rent us the space and let us do what we want. So we lined up some of our favorite local bands, our friends Trouble in the Wind, Dead Feather Moon and Little Hurricane. Along with The Steelwells from LA.

Trouble in the Wind will be doing acoustic sets throughout the night in the courtyard and there will also be artists showcasing their work (Natassia Nicolau and Ryan Tannascoli) and record dealers. It’s all ages, because there aren’t enough venues in town that do that, but there will also be alcohol, because c’mon. Doors are at 6:30 and the show goes til 11pm. We’ve already started plotting our set and promise to make it memorable.

11. Last but not least, the Five S’s of Sounds in San Diego

Sound You Love: Snow crushing beneath your shoes

Sound You Hate: Fingernails being filed

Spot in San Diego You Have to See: See a show at Spreckels

San Diego Band You’re a Fan Of: Dead Feather Moon, Wild Wild Wets, Trouble in the Wind, Little Hurricane

Song That Makes You Smile: Angeles – Elliott Smith

For more on The Heavy Guilt’s CD release show and to get tickets (BEFORE IT SELLS OUT!) click here.

For more interviews, song obsessions, and musical musings with Sounds in San Diego follow along on Facebook or get tweety with me on Twitter


About Jen Van Tieghem

There aren’t many things I love more than music. While life spins away at a rapid beat I’ve realized it’s important to spend it doing what I love – enjoying music in San Diego. I have a handful of favorite venues, a heart full of favorite bands, and decided to write about it.

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