Get the lowdown on a cool record label from Canada and their new compilation, Facts Of War.
When was ICM records formed and what do the three Letters stand for?
ICM (the group) was formed in October of 2002 but ICM Records Inc. (the company), was founded on Feb. 17th, 2004. The letters stand for Island City Monsters.
What's the ultimate purpose of the label and it's main aims/intentions?
The ultimate purpose is to make amazing music and make it available to as many people in the world as possible. One of our first goals is to create a strong awareness in all of North America. Usually when established U.S. rap artists come to Montreal, I ask them how many Canadian rappers they know of. I'm surprised when they know of one. ICM Records hopes to change that forever.
Which part of Canada are you guys based and what artists and labels outside of your own could you recommend?
We are based in Montreal, Quebec. We would recommend a few groups from Montreal, the English ones being: Offsides, Euphrates, Loe Pesci, Velvet Trench Vibes, D-Shade, Bless. The French ones would include Sans Pression, Muzion, FP Crew, BBT Wrekhurds. Outside of Quebec, we also have respect for Rhythmicru from Toronto, D.L. Incognito from Ottawa, and K-OS from Toronto. There are many others, but just too many to name.
Could you give us a roll call of the producers and artists that you currently have on your roster?
Solo MCs: Meta4ce (pronounced: meta-force), Memo.
Group: Eye 2 Eye (MCs: June Sixth & Second Thought, DJ: You Know Who).
DJs/Producers: DJ Mana, DJ Twitch, DJ Fat Sak.
Singer: Belle Humble
What successful releases have you put out so far and what projects are currently in the works?
We have released the following CDs that did very well:
Compilations/Mix CDs: Holiday Fever, Monster Mash, Island City Mix, Got What It Takes. EPs: Met4ce – Beats by Phat B, The Eye EP, Beacons Of Poverty. Vinyl: Eye 2 Eye – Thought Boxin' / Arbak.
Our current release is a concept album titled Facts Of War. Projects in progress include: Memo's solo album titled "Booth Life", Meta4ce's solo album titled "The Opening", Eye 2 Eye's album (no title yet), Belle Humble's Album (no title yet), DJ Mana's solo album titled "City limits".
Where did the inspiration for the current 'Facts of War' album come from?
The project was inspired by the title track The Facts of War by Kale from Rhythmicru. We were so impressed by that track that we decided to build an album around it. We all felt like we had something to say about War and its effect on people.
Could you explain to our readers, a little about its underlining theme and purpose?
The Facts Of War album speaks with the voice of our times, and reflects the feelings that many of us share about the atrocities of war. This compilation CD is loaded with passion, intensity, and raw emotion. I liken it to the type of music that was being made during the late 60's, only our stuff is much tougher to chew. We are far from being a politically charged group of artists… but when this project began, everything seemed to come out quite naturally – nothing was forced. It all just felt right.
What's the political climate in Canada like and where did your government stand on the war on Iraq?
I would describe the climate as calm. Nobody has invaded Canada, so for the average Canadian it doesn't feel like we're at war. It's only the brief reminders that snap us back to reality every so often… and as soon as we remember how fucked up things really are, we just as quickly forget about it. We mention these reminders in the lyrics of the songs. For example, "I watched a man get his head cut off on the internet" That will force anybody who sees it to reconsider the consequences of War.
Most Canadians I know loved the film Fahrenheit 911.
While Jean Chrétien was still in power, the Canadian government did not support the initial invasion of Iraq. But soon after the US moved in, Canada did as it always does and supported our neighbours to the south. When Paul Martin took over as Prime Minister, the reluctance to show support faded, and we seem to be more in line with US policy again.
We rarely hear anything about countries besides from the UK and US…
I'm assuming that's because they send the most troops into combat, and I find that the US and UK public love the NEWS. Canadians don't love the news as much, we pay more attention to hockey and the maple syrup supply.
Can you talk us through some of the tracks and artists on the compilation?
I'll stick to the ICM artist since I know them best.
The first track on the album is "Super Tuesday" which is what they call it when America votes for their president – since it always happens on a Tuesday. 'Lokey from Offsides describes an election in which the average voter is forced to choose between two candidates that are equally bad. He stresses the importance of voting, but shows us the irony of being "forced to endorse the lesser of two evils". Then he makes fun of the fact that George Bush and John Kerry don't get enough sex, and that it's their wives responsibility to correct that. The beat by Fat Sak just kills too.
Then we have "Heckenschutze" by June Sixth from Eye 2 Eye. This is one of the most original tracks on the album. Written from the perspective of a sniper drafted into World War II, it tells of his journey through France and Italy until the point when he encounters an enemy fleet in a small town. The sniper bears down and begins to take out the enemy one at a time from his perch in a clock tower. Only at the end do find out that the shooter was not actually in the war… but a 78 year old veteran having delusions. Goosebumps.
"Unfair" is about a young soldier in Iraq who begins to question his role in the war on Terror. This track is very powerful, and does a good job of explaining itself.
Bailey is joined by Belle on this soft and sad song about a soldier who's guilt has caught up with him. Again this track speaks for itself.
Second Thought from Eye 2 Eye gives listeners a wake-up call with "Sleep", a Fat Sak produced gem that challenges people to be a little more aware of what's going on around them. In the hook, he makes a reference to the movie "The Matrix", when Neo is given the choice to accept his artificial life as it is (the blue pill), or to learn the truth and live in a much more unpleasant reality.
Malicious and Memo discuss the consequences that war can have on our lives here at home, even though there is no immediate threat to our countries. They give us a lot to think about with their colourful imagery and powerful messages.
The posse cut on the album is titled "Business as Usual" and features most of the artists that appear on the rest of the album. Each MC came with their own take on the subject of war, and what you get is an exceptional song and one of them most powerful group collaborations since "We Are The World?
Meta4ce does a tremendous job with his solo track titled "Child Of War". Having been raised in Kuwait during times of war, Meta4ce speaks from experience and you can tell that this track comes from the heart. I personally get chills when I play it.
One of the most inspiring tracks I've heard in years is Memo's "Peace". I like to call it a 2005 version of John Lennon's "Imagine" – it's that good, and it's that simple. The message is clear, and the problems identified are all too obvious to us, we just choose to ignore them. Maybe one day we'll be ready for it.
Was it hard selecting tracks for the final cut which were all focused upon the same subject, without coming up against repetition?
No, not really. We were given about 20 submissions for the project and of those 20, 13 made the cut. It's like I said earlier, everything just seemed to fit perfectly and it all fell into place. The tracks that were cut simply did not fit, and we were not too concerned about having repetitive subject matter, as long as the music and the moods were all different and always changing. When you listen to the album, it takes you on ups and downs.. from intense, to mellow. From angry, to hopeful.
For example, the tracks , "Creep Up, Unfair, and Farewell" are all about the same subject more or less. (modern day soldier, sent to war, has doubts, regrets, questions authority) Yet each of those tracks has a completely different sound, mood, and overall emotion to it.
Bottom line is: every track that was chosen was chosen because it was excellent. If a track was not excellent, it did not make the album.
How has the Canadian hip-hop community reacted to the release and the countrys music industry in general?
We have been getting incredible feedback, and the general consensus is that this is an amazing piece of work. Every music critic who has reviewed the album so far has given it high marks and high praise. Artists alike have called us or emailed us to say how much they're feeling the album. We are very proud of this project and we hope the positive response will continue all around the world.
How strong and significant is the anti-war movement where you are?
It's as strong as we make it I suppose. It seems to come and go. We haven't seen any anti-war demonstrations for the past 4 or 5 months now, and we are far from political activists. ICM is a Record Label, we are entertainers before anything else, so it's tough for us to focus on too much else. However we do stay informed and we don't let the head-lies fool us.
What politically orientated releases from the past and present do you consider to be amongst the best?
I love "The Hurricane" by Bob Dylan. Perfect Circle made a very good album recently called "Emotive". Public Enemy's "Fear of a Black Planet" album. "Rain on The Scarecrow" – John Mellencamp. Neil Young – "Piece Of Crap" Why these? There are far more if I thought about it longer… but these songs or albums have one thing in common: The artist is writing about and singing about what they believe in. In most cases – they're pointing out something they think is wrong.
Hurricane is about legal injustice and racial prejudice. Perfect Circle made an album similar to Facts Of War in it's message – war is bad. Public Enemy wrote about racial prejudice, black on black crime, and inner-city problems. John Mellencamp was watching his farmland being bought up by huge corporations. Neil Young was pissed off about cheap products you buy that break when use them. And they all do it with style. I don't care for Rage Against the Machine – I find them too angry and it makes for too much noise and not enough art. I think the message is more powerful when it's subtle, or just done to good music.
The artwork and packaging of all your releases that I've seen have been tight. Who's handling all that?
Artwork and packaging is all done by Friday & Memo. They make up the ICM art dept.
and I assume the label's running with an emphasis on quality control?
Standardization, quality control, branding, all that good stuff. When people see an ICM product on the shelf – we want them to KNOW it's an ICM product right away.
Do you think your crew will ever be arriving on the UK shores for some live tour dates at some point?
Most definitely. We still have some work to do on our home turf first… but once we have things in order here, we'll be on the first flight to London!
Have you got any shout out's or plugs that you'd like to drop before we wrap this up?
First of all – we send a big shout out to Tee Dubya at Rapnews, U.K… BIGGUP! John A. from audience magazine. Dean & Kurt in South London. Mad love for Susan & Barbara.