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Back from the dead

Crash Test Dummies, October 2, 2010

24 Hours Vancouver

by Kristin Mckenzie

Crash Test Dummies front man Brad Roberts knows all too well what Frank Sinatra was singing about in “My Way”.

After struggling against creative constraints from major record labels, the Canadian crooner with the unique bass-baritone voice ended up going on a six-year hiatus until he could find an uninhibited (and financially viable) way to make music again.

“I was totally naïve and l didn’t know how things happened and how things happened with other bands,” said the Winnipeg native, referring to the group’s heyday in the 1990s when smash hits “Mmm Mmm Mmm”, “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead” and “God Shuffled His Feet” charted around the world.

“It’s only now that time has changed and the industry has changed … that I can see the much larger machinations. I didn’t expect to get famous, but I didn’t know what to expect really. I don’t think l really understood the magnitude of what happened until it was over.”

“It’s much more enjoyable now because I’m doing what I want to do rather than what I’m being told I must do,” he added. ”I’m not working for others. I’m working for me and that makes it so liberating.”

Not that the road to creative freedom has been an easy one.

Frustrated by the restrictions BMG had put upon the group’s last major album – the label rejected dozens of songs during the creation of1999’s Give Yourself a Hand – in response, Roberts created his own label and released three subsequent albums. Unfortunately, he proved not much of a businessman.

“We quit because I couldn’t make it work financially,” he said frankly. ”I couldn’t make money … it has to make financial sense for me to do it.”

So Roberts took some time off to teach music and throw himself into his other passion – yoga. It wasn’t long, however, before he was itching to make music again.

“I’m not really good at doing anything except for making records and performing. Those are two things I’m really good at.”

Luckily, he soon found a fan in music producer Stewart Lerman, a New York-based recording engineer who’s produced soundtracks for such films as Revolutionary Road and The Aviator. With Lerman’s creative input and financial backing, the Crash Test Dummies were able to release their latest album, Oooh La La, earlier this year.

“He writes and produces fantastically,” Roberts said of his new collaborator. ‘We [wrote] about 40 songs and we picked about 10 songs [for Oooh La La]. There are so many records that I have left waiting.”

And with a little bit of luck, his fans won’t have to wait another six years to hear them.

Fri Oct 1, 2010