Everybody’s In a Big Hurry to Get Nowhere: A Conversation with Tim Cameron of Cameronoise

Tim Cameron has been aspiring to make noise since receiving a Beatles album at the age of four. Hence, it only makes sense that he should adopt a portmanteau of his surname plus “noise” in his stage name, Cameronoise. His latest album, the self-produced Racing to the Next Red Light offers a collection of six instrumental tracks influence by the styles of his classic rock favorites: the Beatles, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, and Booker T. and the MGs, to name just a few.

When did you have the epiphany to join your name with “noise”?

I’ve had the name in the back of my mind for a while, I think I got the idea from George Harrison’s publishing being under the name Harrisongs. I liked that wordplay when I first read that as a kid, so I came up with my own version.

Your new album is called Racing to the Next Red Light. What does it mean to you, and how does it relate to the music on the album?

I got the idea from observing the traffic around my neighbourhood. There’s a school crosswalk near my place, and just a block beyond that is a major intersection, which is always backed up in the mornings at rush hour. I’ve seen so many impatient drivers tear through the crosswalk only to be caught a few seconds later at the red light, so the phrase came to me from that. Everybody’s in a big hurry to get nowhere. As to how it relates to the album, there wasn’t any intentional connection, although maybe I’ll realize there was a subconscious connection later. For now it’s just a catchy phrase, and people have told me similar traffic madness stories about their own neighbourhoods after hearing the title.

How do you come up with titles for instrumentals? What’s the relationship between the music and the name you attach to it?

Some of the Cameronoise songs are re-workings of songs from my singer-songwriter days (as T.C. Folkpunk), so I kept the titles of those for anybody who’s followed me all this time. Other songs that are just melodies that never had lyrics are fair game as far as their titles. There’s an instrumental band called Atomic 7 (which grew out of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet) and they’ve always had such great memorable titles for their songs. ‘You Ain’t Having Fun ’Til You’re Dialling 9-1-1’, or ‘Seven Stranded Castanets’. I have a notebook filled with similar goofy little turns of phrase, so I’ll refer to that when I need a title.

There’s definitely a classic rock sound to your music. What draws you to that style?

It’s not really intentional, I think it’s just what I heard a lot growing up, so it just gets repackaged when I work on a track. The whole “big plan” behind Cameronoise is that it’ll eventually cover all sorts of styles, just whatever I feel like at the time. Prepare yourselves for the birth of “Synth-Polka”!

Your music was featured in the Canadian indie film Love in the Sixth. How did that come about?

I was invited to a party on Easter weekend in 2014, a week before I was going in to the studio to record one of my Folkpunk albums. While I was there I bumped into another songwriting friend who had her guitar out, and she was also heading into the studio with a bunch of new tunes. So we passed her guitar back and forth playing our new songs to each other, and after we’d finished a woman (Jude Klassen, who I’d met earlier that evening) came up to me and said she loved my originals and wondered if I’d be interested in writing for a film she was going to start shooting in a couple of months. I jumped at the chance, of course. It played a few festivals, ended up on Amazon Prime, and Jude’s made another film since then, ‘Stupid For You’, which I also wrote a ton of music for.

You also acted in that film?

Well, I stood in front of a camera and said things that I’d memorized from a script, whether I was good enough to call it acting is another matter…

But yeah, Jude needed somebody to play one of the main characters, so I auditioned and got the part. And when I say auditioned, I mean she said “Can you act?” and I said “I think so”.

You played at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool in 2010. Can you talk a little bit about that experience? Or a lot, as I imagine there’s plenty to say about it!

That was mind blowing, to be standing on sacred ground with my guitar plugged in. The sound man, Jim, had been to Toronto a few times with a band that he was managing, so we had a whole bunch of Toronto friends in common, which was weird. I spent a couple of days walking around Liverpool and seeing landmarks that I’d heard of in biographies about the Beatles. Lime Street Station, the Adelphi Hotel, The Grapes pub… I was there for the International Pop Overthrow festival, which featured a mix of international and local acts, and the Liverpool bands were just incredible! There was a vague air of “This is Liverpool, our lads The Beatles invented powerpop and we’re defending the title” coming from those bands. Definitely something in the water there. Speaking of water, my hotel room was on the first floor and looked out at the Mersey, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I think  expected the river to be full of ships and to be a lot more active, so I spent the first couple of days thinking it was just some anonymous canal.

Your music was also featured in a German high school curriculum in 2007. How was it used? And did you get a chance to interact with the class at all?

I’d written a song called ‘American Dream’ which looked at our neighbours to the south through a Canadian perspective. It was fairly punked up, almost a companion piece to The Clash’s ‘I’m So Bored With The USA’. Somehow a high school teacher in Bonn, Germany found the song and emailed me to ask if she could use it as part of their studies on how American culture influenced the outside world. About two days before she contacted me, I’d become a daddy for the first time, so my world was completely upside down. I quickly emailed her back giving permission, but never found out too much more about the class. I did see a spike in sales of the song on the iTunes Europe store though, so I guess somebody liked it.

You produce your own music. Has this always been the case? How did you get into production?

It’s almost always been the case, yeah. I only got into production incrementally by default, first by recording little projects at home by myself on one of those old cassette 4-track machines, and then dubbing off a few copies for friends. Then going to a small studio in a friend’s living room with slightly better gear, and having 300 copies of that manufactured. And then a bigger studio, and more copies manufactured. Now I’m back to recording at home and not manufacturing anything, all of the releases are digital downloads only, so I’ve come full circle. I’ve worked with a couple of producers, but the results were mixed (no pun intended), so I tend to do it all myself, albeit with an occasional bit of inspiration from books or documentaries about famous recordings or studios that I stumble across.

Are all of the instruments live, or do you program some of them?

It’s a bit of both. Guitars, bass, harmonica and a lot of percussion things are live. The drum tracks are built up from scratch in the computer, partly because when it comes to playing drums, I’m mediocre, and mostly because I’m in an apartment. The keyboards are half-and-half, I play along with the bed tracks, but have to do a lot of editing because I’m pretty “meh” at playing keys too. Remember, I was a guitar toting singer-songwriter for years, that’s my excuse!

Do you have a particular approach to production?

I sort of went into the first Cameronoise album blindfolded and stumbling, but I’m starting to develop a bit of a production line mentality. I’m my own Berry Gordy! I try to put something a bit unique onto each song, like a trumpet riff or a weird jangly guitar in the background, so each song has some little sonic fingerprint to set it apart from the others on the album. I’m so amazed at what George Martin was able to accomplish with just four tracks that I kinda treat my software as if it has similar limitations built in, and I’m not allowed to fill a hundred tracks just because I can.

What’ on the horizon?

I’ve already started recording tracks for the next album, which I hope will be ready for release this July. So far I’m sticking with my plan to release a six song mini-album every six months. I sort of think of it as if I’m releasing side one in January, and side two in July.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Thank you, Marc! I’m really glad we got a chance to do this.