Great AUXpectations
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Great AUXpectations

AUX TV founder Raja Khanna introduces some of AUX TV’s new personalities. Photo by Andrew Louis/Torontoist

When AUX TV launched online on November 24, 2008, it had an honest, simple mandate to support Canada’s exploding music scene, inclusive of genre and level of exposure. Right out of the gates, their programming included brand new music videos, exclusive interviews and performances, and full-length programs featuring some of new music and media’s foremost aficionados and figureheads. Most of it was produced on modest budgets with the resources, hard work, and the tapped-in creativity of a young group of brains and bodies who were either already part of the scene they were documenting or who were just as eager as AUX to jump headfirst into the momentum. In one week, on October 1, AUX TV will emerge from its nerd cave inside the internet and expand onto basic digital cable, where it will make instant Canadian TV history by being the first network to make a web-to-air transition and where it will deepen its still incalculable—but already promising—impact as it strikes while our country’s music-community iron is so very shit-hot.

AUX TV founder Raja Khanna announces the cable launch’s programming. Photo by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.

“It’s cool to say that lots of our friends have TV shows!” Southern Ontario emo–poster boys Moneen performed for the legitimately eager attendees of AUX’s official programming lineup announcement last night at Supermarket, and frontman Kenny Bridges shared in the room’s enthusiasm. “It’s cool for our band to do this [launch], too. It’s like the light at the end of the tunnel…a new hope!”

‘Sup, 905. Welcome to the land of legit music television. Moneen, photo by Andrew Louis/Torontoist

After the first half of Moneen’s performance and a brief introduction from big-music-brained AUX personality Alan Cross, AUX’s founder (and co-CEO of baby-sized parent company GlassBox TV) Raja Khanna shared the details of the station’s shows, goals, and inspirations—and did so with an endearing modesty and candidness. “I do public speaking at least once a week and have travelled all over the world to speak…but I’m totally nervous. This is my baby.” Speaking with Torontoist earlier in the week, Khanna explained the base impetus for AUX’s beginnings. “I’m a musician. I’m a passionate lover of music, and I’ve just been amazed the last several years at the audible explosion of music culture across Canada, [and] the consumption and community around it. [But] videos were hard to discover online in a way that was coherent in introducing me to new things.” Backed by his perfect-storm combination of experience in digital media and television, Khanna saw a gap in a viable market, and decided to fill it. “It was a great time to launch a music television service that was re-imagined in a way that’s relevant to the new consumer. That’s how it started.”

AUX TV personality and local radio legend Alan Cross. See also: big brains. Photo by Andrew Louis/Torontoist

Expanding upon its initial online programming, the cable version of AUX will feature a total of twenty-four music-based series. A handful of fitting shows—including the BBC’s long-running cult-classic music show Later…With Jools Holland and VH1’s geek-central Classic Albums—have been selected for inclusion, but the original productions are what truly embody the spirit of the station. Along with the standard (but largely abandoned or otherwise abbreviated) video countdown (AUX Chart) and music news (AUX Weekly) formats, programs like Talk Show Night at Juicebox Manor break down the conventions of music journalism and serve them up video style on a no-rules variety platter. Following a preview, in which the show’s hosts blow things up in a microwave with guests Tokyo Police Club, co-host Justin Taylor spewed gratitude over AUX’s commitment to injecting personality and creativity into music journalism. “This is the show every twelve-year-old dreams of making.” Khanna is a huge fan of the Manor‘s antics, which, like all of the station’s content, is vetted four times by an editorial board, and assures Torontoist that each show is part of the stations’ larger model. “I’m very serious about this being a music-journalism-driven channel. Our interviewers are musicians or bonafide music journalists, our content is authentic, everyone gets paid, and we’ve already built a level of trust. The majority of the industry knows what we do, and they like what we do. They believe us.”

Engineer Laurence Currie contemplates music, life on Master Tracks. Photo by Holly Thomas

Master Tracks is a show that pairs a (usually) lesser-experienced band or artist with the honed production skills of Moe Berg and the fine-tuned engineering ear of Laurence Currie. Filmed in the famous (and fancy!) Metalworks studios in Mississauga, Master Tracks‘ motto is “from demo to download in one day,” and, according to Khanna, it was the runaway hit show in its first year. Currie has worked with indie Canadian artists such as Sloan, Holy Fuck, and recently The Diableros on their new EP, and so far his experience has been golden. “AUX has been very open to ideas that Moe and I have had in regards to the show, like attempts to make it more real or accurate, and the bands have been really open to the process and seem to have had a good time.” With the cable launch, there’s a hope that the show will expand to explore and endorse even more of the country’s music pockets. “I would love to see the show head out east and west for a few shows. So many bands from both coasts would jump at the chance to be on this show. There are also so many great studios in this country; it would be great to use some of them and give viewers a different perspective.” Berg’s band, The Pursuit of Happiness, got heavy airplay on former music beacon/now ironically named Muchmusic in the late ’80s, and he knows firsthand the impact that exposure can have on a country’s collective culture consciousness. “It’s bringing attention to bands that actually need the attention, and it’s introducing a lot of great music to fans who might not have easy access to indie bands. So much great music is being performed in small clubs and released on home-made labels, and AUX is providing a way to get that music to a wider audience.”

Track masters Laurence Currie and Moe Berg record Foxfire bassist Joe Elaschuk at Metalworks. Photo by Holly Thomas

One of the bands that recently filmed an episode of Master Tracks is trend-defying Toronto scene-staples, Foxfire. Singer Neil Rankin remembers the not-that-long-ago glory days of discovering music on TV. He sees AUX not only as a return to that, but as an opportunity for new insight into different scenes. “Over the last decade or so almost everybody I know has stopped watching Muchmusic because they rarely seem to play any music videos. What AUX will additionally contribute to our scene today is a visual document to a very unique time in the Toronto scene: a time when artists who have made their own success on their own terms want to help out the younger artists who they see in the same boat as they were in.” He says his band’s experience on Master Tracks was indicative of the very principles that guide AUX. “That’s why I see AUX succeeding. They have a dedicated crew and some very creative minds working toward the same goal: to bring Canada new, exciting music, and programming to go with it.”

Foxfire bassist Joe Elaschuk records at Metalworks Studios for Master Tracks. Photo by Holly Thomas

Raja Khanna wants—and knows he needs—two different kinds of success for AUX. “Like any media company, we will survive only if we can convince advertisers that they should advertise with us,” he says, dryly, almost like a child recalling unintentionally stifling, use-your-indoor-voice parentisms. “But success really is, for me, when we are at the audience level and influence level that we can play a really meaningful role in helping to break new bands and build a bit of a star system around this great music. We’re not trying to build just any popular TV channel; we’re trying to build a credible music authority. That really is what drives every decision we make.”
AUX TV launches on October 1 at 9:00 p.m. on Rogers cable channel 107. The programming will also remain available online. Watch AUX’s website for the full program schedule.