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25 years of Glee by Bran Van 3000 | When Montreal was a big flower

1989. James Di Salvio sees Jean Leloup on MusiquePlus, dripping with coolness in the music video for spring summer. He met him a few weeks later at the Tam-tams du mont Royal. “My girlfriend Josée told me: go talk to her. I went to see him and said: excuse me sir… Jean replied: fuck, don’t call me sir, tabarnac! »

Posted April 23

Dominic Late

Dominic Late
The Press

This exchange could easily serve as the opening scene in a film that would tell the story of Bran Van 3000, a collective with variable geometry, but constant pleasure, which launched its first album, Glee, 25 years ago, in April 1997, on the Audiogram label. “It was Jean who brought me to the studio first, Jean who brought me to do interviews, Jean who put me on an internship, recalls James Di Salvio. Me, I was an original 514, he came from Quebec, it was the right timing for him and me to be guided. Montreal, in those days, was like a big flower. »

“I owe my career to the Gulf War,” summarizes the self-proclaimed Bran Man. One evening, in front of Di Salvio, James’ father’s club where the son worked as a DJ, Leloup declaims a poem while his friends provide him with a rhythm with their mouths. Ladies and gentlemen, beware: Jean Leclerc made them a song about the ambitious subject entitled 1990. He will insist that his friend James supervise a remix of it, today the canonical version of this tube, which saved many souls (and dance floors).

In 1994, James Di Salvio set sail for New York, where a career as a director in advertising awaited him – he had already signed several notable music videos, notably for Leloup. On a whim, he invests $10,000 in audio equipment, in order to manufacture sounds. “I put all this cash on a credit card and freaked out a bit. Chance offered him an unexpected safety net: the next day he received a royalty check (for 1990), corresponding to the amount wasted on equipment.

EP Bergen, later one of the architects of the Bran Van universe, visits his buddy at the same time. Jean Leloup and his girlfriend Monica Hynes also soon return to the birthplace of punk and rap. The song Johnny Go, created by John the Wolf with Bergen and Di Salvio, hatches somewhere between SoHo and the Lower East Side. In just a few words – “les amis, amici, amigos and friends” – is born James Di Salvio the MC. “After playing at the Spectrum with Jean [comme rappeur et DJ, pendant la tournée de l’album Le dôme]I got the bug. » Back in the United States, Di Salvio gave up his job.

One morning, my girlfriend filmed me while I was going to my boss. When she asked me why I quit, I said: I want to be a rock star. I knew advertising was guaranteed money, but I didn’t give a damn about pitching for Chrysler.

James DiSalvio

ideas first

Back in Montreal, James Di Salvio settles at the corner of Van Horne and de l’Esplanade to imagine what will give shape to Glee. “The DJ in me knew I wasn’t going to sing all the choruses. People who knew the codes of hip-hop, the method was familiar to them: you let the director direct, but at the same time, if you have an idea, you come to the studio and you try it. »

James Di Salvio’s studio was thus quickly taken over by an assembly of rhymers, singers and musicians, a string of inimitable characters from the margins of the proverbial plural Montreal. No less than 26 artists make up the Bran Van Collective as described on the cover of this mythical first album, drawing on hip-hop, trip-hop and alternative rock.

Among these many collaborators: a young Martha Wainwright (“She was at the café next door, I asked her if she would like to come and have a look at the studio”), Lucie Laurier (who could also be heard on 1990) and Jean Leloup, of course, on the move forestwhich forms a sort of diptych with Johnny Go.


James Di Salvio, Jayne Hill, Sara Johnston and EP Bergen in 1997

Nevertheless, it is the female voices that provide Glee its warmth and its light: that, monumental, of Stéphane Moraille, which alone brings Drinking in LA, as well as those of Jayne Hill and Sara Johnston, who will become the faces of the formation. Sara worked with Di Salvio at Yoda Den, her brother’s bar, where he was in charge of the turntables. “Every time I played one of my own beats, she was like, ‘What is that? Its good !” It gave me confidence. »

Thank you Moby

On a mission to Texas during the South by Southwest showcase, James Di Salvio distributes copies of La Llorona of Lhasa de Sela and white cassette tapes of her forthcoming album, which simply had her phone number written on them.

I had one tape left when I ran into Moby. I didn’t think he would like it, it was too hip-hop, but he loved it. He gave it to someone at Geffen, who called to ask if we had a show. I said yes, but it wasn’t true.

James DiSalvio

The leader hastily put together a group, which will welcome representatives of several record companies to Les Foufs. It is finally Capitol Records which will release the international version of Glee. In 1999, thanks to a beer advertisement, Drinking in LA rises to third position in the UK charts.

The successor of Glee, Discosis (2001), will also generate a great radio success (Astounded, carried by the tender voice of Curtis Mayfield). But the closure of Grand Royal, the Capitol subsidiary run by the Beastie Boys on which this second album was released, is slowing down the momentum of the Montreal band.

The rock’n’roll garden

James Di Salvio, 53, remains elusive about what he’s been up to for the past 10 years. He says he recorded a yacht rock album in Malibu and composed a three-part musical (“A kind of Star Wars disco with street people”), which he would like to bring to the big screen, and which would only wait a producer shows up.

“It’s tough sometimes when I’m asked internationally what I’ve done since Discosis, while I did two Bran Van albums that didn’t even travel to Toronto,” he laments about Pink (2007) and The Garden (2010), whose impact did not go beyond the borders of the province.

But never mind, his group hits the road again on May 22 in Toronto, then June 4 in Chicoutimi. Fifteen other dates throughout Quebec – notably at the Festif! and at the FEQ – will follow until September. Key members of the Bran Van 3000 cosmogony will be there.

Are Jean Leloup and James Di Salvio still friends? “The last time I spoke to Jean, he told me that thanks to his comeback, he had been able to buy a home. His friend laughs. “I laugh, but it overwhelms me when I think back to everything Jean has done for me. It was he who opened the door to the rock’n’roll garden for us. »

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