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Hurricane Leaves Niagara Women All Wet: An Interview with Danno O'shea of My Son The Hurricane

Joel Barnhart
February 07, 2011

photo by Krysta Leblanc

My Son the Hurricane is a relatively new band that has been taking the local music scene by storm (HAHA GET IT?! STORM?! HURRICANE PUN?! I'm so sorry, I know, my readers deserve better than that). The brainchild of local jobber musicians Danno O'shea and Nelson Beattie, MSTH is a 12 piece band that creates a fusion of New Orleans jazz, funk and hip hop. The band
features Danno on drums, Nelson on baritone sax, with MC Jacob Bergsma supplying the rhymes, and many more.

I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with Danno about the band, and a bit about the Niagara music scene in general.

J: So, how long has MSTH hurricane been a band?

D: Coming on about a year and a half. We'd talked about it for a long time, but actually getting everyone together, it's been about a year and a half.

J: And what's the story behind the band?

D: The story is basically that, uh, most of the guys in the band are 'jobber musicians', basically meaning that we're hired to play for other people's music, which is a good gig, but we all kinda wanted something, um, something to call our own, something where the horns weren't in the background, where the horns were brought out to the forefront, and where we had a little bit more decision over what happened with the group. Nelson, the baritone sax player and I, came up with the idea, and just started, we hand picked the band, so, we kinda had our fantasy draft of musicians, and it worked out pretty good.

J: [MSTH's] style is very much New Orleans style jazz, funk and hip hop, what inspired that combination?

D: Well we, I mean, we really love New Orleans jazz, y'know, we love it. Nelson and I, we're really into it. One of the issues is that it's a predominantly messy style of music, in terms of like, lots of horns and everything, it can be pretty intense, but, whenever we put the band together, we wanted something a little bit different from a traditional New Orleans band, that's why we got Jacob. I'd seen Jacob play a couple times, and I knew that as soon it started that he was the right guy for us.Yeah, I think, y'know, we weren't exactly sure what was gonna happen when everyone got together, but uh, that's kinda what it sounds like.

J: When it's time to write new material, is it like, a lot of other bands everyone gets together to jam, or is it more of a written composition sort of thing?

D: No, no yeah, it's completely different from every other band. Basically Nelson creates some riffs and what not, and makes a midi file and sends them to me, I go through them, decide which ones I like, send them back to him, and then it's created in sheet music. So it's completely different from every other band. And we always say, kinda joking, but not joking, that the band is a complete communism. It has to be, because you cant be democratic with that many people. In fact, anyone who's even been in a four piece band knows what a pain in the ass it is when everyone's trying to have their say. The truth is, we compose the tunes, everyone has,
y'know, a little bit of a word here and there, but at the end of the day, they respect the band leader's choice, and it's turned out really good because of that.

J: You mentioned earlier that you're a jobber musician. What are some of the other bands you've been in?

D:Oh, yeah, man, ok, let's see if I can get 'em all. Marantz Project was one, uh, McKenna, I played a tour with a band called The Rising Tide, um, I filled in here and there the Roger Marin Band, I played with a band called the Downtown Dennis, which is a three piece, I played with another three piece called King Hippo, which is really fun. Um, I know there's a bunch, oh, I played with a country band, calle Lazy Bones, which features Matt Wells from Much Music, um, I know there are more [laughs], I just can't think of them off the top of my head. But that's what I mean, like, and a lot of guys in the band have similar things, some of the horn players played with Down With Webster and Rebel Emergency, and so, people are all over the map, so it makes scheduling interesting.

J: So, in addition to MSTH, there are a lot of other unique bands in the area, bands like Rudy Quazar and We Want Barabbas, what do you think it is about Niagara that makes musicians so unique, not only from eachother, but from everything else that's going on?

D:Y'know I've been thinking about, the music scene here, and what I think is really cool is that you don't need an out of town band here, to have an amazing show. Like Niagara has such strong bands, in all these different genres, and having been in a bunch of the different genres, from country to metal to, um, whatever, you really start to notice that. I'm not sure if it's something in the water that makes it completely fertile creative ground, but. Yeah, uh, I agree, y'know, [Rudy] Quazar has that kind of weird-core, like, I always say, Devo-ish thing going on, there's some awesome metal bands from here, there's some serious hip hop acts from here, that's amazing. And there's some serious folk guys too. So, there's all these different scenes, from the bar scene, to the cafe scene, the L3 scene, to Mikado and all those places. And I'm not sure what has made it, I think it might just be that it started with the promoters, creating great shows, and then when people started to see that there was an avenue for this sort of thing, they started making their own bands. Y'know? Maybe.

J:You guys have an EP out, Check the Barometer, that's available on iTunes right now, um, are you working on any other releases?

D: April the 29th, our new disk will come out, it's called You Can't Do This. We were very fortunate, it features Nigel Williams from Pocket Dwellers, yeah, we'll be releasing it the beginning of spring, it's on Copperspine Records. Check the Barometer was really made out of necessity, y'know, like, as a band you realize that one of the necessary steps you have to take is to create music, so people will know whether you're s**t or not. But,You Can't Do This, um, we were lucky enough to work with Bob Deutsch, who um, and this really doesnt have any bearing on anything, but y'know, he did Johnny Cash albums, and all sorts, and it was really cool to work with this guy who had all these stories and all this history and yes, we had a lot of time. I mean, it's a relatively small album still, it's eight songs, but for us eight songs is not [laughs], easy to create, so yeah, we're pretty happy that we get to release that. We never really pushed [Check the} Barometer, Barometer was just like, 'here's a couple of our songs'. And even, our new album, it features one of the old tracks.

J: So what other styles of music are you into, and are there any genres you like that you haven't actually played as a musician, that you'd like to?

D: [laughs] I love everything. And I think people often say they love everything, but I legitimately have very little music I don't like, I mean, uh, I like sh**ty pop music, and uh, I like folk music, a lot of the folk guys around, Bryson Waind and Jesse Reid especially. I love metal, I grew up with metal, and Primus, and y'know, Slayer, Pantera. And so, I like all sorts of things. I think, the one style of music I'd like to get into, I don't know if you've ever heard of it, it's called Klezmer, Klezmer is, uh, kind of like, I don't know how to explain it, it's like, really badass Jewish wedding music more or less. So think Clarinet, think accordion, think fiddle. And y'know, one of the reasons Nelson and I wanted to create Hurricane was that, y'know it's not easy to have a band of a bunch of guys, like, it's really hard.Like, y'know, to, whenever I watch James Brown videos, I think 'it's amazing, but, there's 15 guys on stage, how do you do this?' So it was a learning curve for us to put this together. I'm pretty musically spoiled, y'know, I've played in like, funk bands like Marantz Project, cover bands like McKenna. When ever I find a new genre, I usually find some people out there who wanna put something together.

J: How is playing with 12 members different from playing with like, 4 or 5 members? what are some of the pros and cons?

D: Hmm. Yeah, there are a lot either way. I mean, it can be a logistical nightmare, y'know, if I was completely obsessive compulsive. But luckily, uh, Andrew Harwood, who plays Alto sax, and myself, are both, um, very particular about how things are done. I think we run like a pretty well oiled machine. It's, touring is tricky, but we have been on tour, several times, and we will be on tour starting at the end of April, again to promote the new disk. It just means two vehicles. It also means that you have to run the band at 90%, y'know, you're not gonna have everyone. But that's ok, y'know usually for the bigger shows we get everyone, maybe one or two can't make it, but that's the nature of such a beast. And you have a lot of personalities. Luckily, we were very honest with everyone at the beginning, like, what we thought this was and how we though it was gonna be run and everyone's been great about it. We're really fortunate to have the group of guys we have.

J: I meant to ask this earlier when I asked about writing the music: Does Jacob Bergsma write his own lyrics?

D: Yes, yeah. Jacob, sometimes, we'll give him something like, a theme. Like, Nelson'll give me a MIDI music, I will often say something like 'Jacob, think Mike Tyson's Punch Out', or uh, 'think this', but most of the time, we just let Jacob do his own thing. And that's what we like about him, he's quirky and uh, I can't even imagine anyone else kinda being the front guy, And it's important, because he's got such a big personality. You have that many people on stage, you need someone who has that kind of personality that's not gonna get lost between this wall of horns.

J: You mentioned you have a tour coming up soon, do you have any local shows coming up before that so our reader can check you out?

D: April 29th, we'll be playing L3, that'll be our release show, we're actually working the kinks out right now. It should be a great time. We already have a few bands that we know will be playing.

J: So, I'm actually out of questions, but do you have anything else you'd like add, either about the band or just in general?

D: Just that I think it's worth, whether us or someone else, it's worth getting out and seeing what's around. Like I said, there's all these different genres, there's a strong metal scene, a strong indie scene, and there's all these promoters who are willing to take a chance and put on a show, and even young bands, y'know, it's fantastic. Niagara is full of talent and full of ability, and it's exciting to see people putting themselves out there. People think it's so easy to form a band and write some songs and play some shows, but it's actually a lot harder than you think. And when you have so much of it, and so much of it's good, yknow, we're lucky. Like, Toronto, there are a million more bands, but I mean, there'a ton of s**t. [Laughs].You know, but the bands that are great are great. I guess it's like anything, y'know, just go out and find what you like. It's a lot like S.C.E.N.E Festival. You know, you might not dig something you see at one stage, but walk down the block, and you might find something there you like.

So there you have it: My Son the Hurricane. New album dropping April 29th, with a tour kicking off at L3 the same date, so be there, or, I don't know, do something else, that probably won't be as fun.

As an added bonus, Danno asked me what I was going to call the article. I said I didn't know yet, but that I'd probably think of some lame pun based on the band's name. He said he'd probably heard all of the puns before, from "eye of the storm", to "new band blows Niagara out of the water", and that sometimes they try and guess the name of articles. He told me he'd be interested to see what pun I come with that hasn't been done, and I took this as a personal challenge (who didn't see this coming? I take everything as a personal challenge), so for a bit of fun, here's a list of the other lame jokes and puns (and boy are they lame) that I came up with:

I'm Mother Nature, and this is my son, the hurricane

Storm Progeny: An Interview with Danno O'shea of My Son The Hurricane

Niagara: A Low Pressure Center? An Interview with Danno O'shea of My
Son The Hurricane New Band Will Have You Twisting Like a Tropical Cyclone!

There's a storm a comin'. Or I should see a doctor about my swollen knees.

A new WAVE of New Orleans Jazz: My Son the Hurricane

Flooded with Talent: My Son The Hurricane

Breaking the Levee of Local Music: My Son the Hurricane

A Perfect Storm of Jazz and Hip Hop: My Son The Hurricane

You can check out My Son The Hurricane at, and don't forget, new album and release show at L3 on April 29th.
My Son the Hurricane