It was a “strange and beautiful” day in the usually rainy Vancouver where Matt Hales, better known for his on-stage alter ego, Aqualung, relaxed on his tour bus before hitting the stage. It would be the third show for his much anticipated North American tour to promote the newly released, sixth studio album, Magnetic North.
“It was kind of a rehab experience,” explains Hales in describing the new record. “We just set up an environment where it could happen. It did happen and this is what we got.”
It was only a few years ago that Hales, unhappy with the commercial imperatives of mainstream success, was ready to retire from the music industry.
“I definitely wondered if I would carry on and make another record,” says Hales. “I was pulled really by the songs and eventually said, ‘alright then, okay damn it, if it will shut you up then I will record you.’
Magnetic North named after the last track of the album is already getting air play on the radio and exposure on television.
“Often that’s not my decision and I don’t mind because it’s an annoying decision to have to make,” replies Hales when asked about picking a single off the new album. Hales jokes that he would prefer to not be known as, “that guy with that song”. He rather have people intrigued enough to hear the whole album.
Being intrigued is not difficult with his peculiarly romantic and adorably fun-loving lyrics. Hales explains that his writing process is really just, “singing whatever comes to the tune, which often times is just weird alien language.” Hales even showed off his lyrical writing abilities that night on stage by improvising a song about his trouble seeing, after struggling to keep his glasses from falling off during the show.
Since being recorded in 2002 and featured in numerous television shows, one of Aqualung’s biggest hits “Strange and Beautiful” gets yet another revival and is once again climbing the UK charts.
“It’s kind of appropriate that the term we use is release because it really is like that,” says Hales. “They’re like little animals born in captivity and you let them out into the world. You just can’t predict what they’re going to do or when they’re going to do it.”
Unpredictable it is indeed, especially today with the internet’s immense role in the dissemination and sharing of music. Aqualung is just one of the many artists using social networking sites to spread the sounds of music all over the world.
“Unless you were trying to make some sort of point, it would be strange to not continue to explore all the ways in which people can find music,” reasons Hales.
“[The internet’s] a kind of world community of music lovers, friends and people sharing stuff. It would be counterproductive to ignore it.
And on the topic of the internet and its disseminating properties, it would be a good time put a rumour to rest once and for all. On where the name Aqualung originated from, Hales explains, “I wanted a name that suggested another world. For me Aqualung is about visiting a mysterious, underwater world. It’s a funny word and it looks strange. For me it was intriguing.” In a nutshell, Hales confirms that the name Aqualung was not named after a song.
“For the record, it wasn’t ‘[Jethro] Tull’. It was underwaterness.”
Next on the agenda for Aqualung this year is to continue playing shows and a few festivals.
“It’s just the beginning of the life of this new batch of songs,” says Hales. “It will be fascinating to see what happens with them. And after that who knows.”