Sandro Perri has a lean on the bar in the Tranzac Club’s Tiki Room. Photo by Joel Charlebois/Torontoist.
The Tranzac Club still has money woes, though things are looking up for the new year. While the Annex staple is raising money to cover its current operating deficit, Torontoist is conducting a series of interviews with musicians who have close ties to it. Our final interviewee for this series is Sandro Perri, a prolific musician and producer who’s been playing for years at the Tranzac with many different bands, and his own side projects. Perri will join Hooded Fang, The Wilderness of Manitoba, Octoberman, Light Fires, Dr. Ew, Muskox, I Am Robot and Proud, Sister, and DJ Craig Dunsmuir for a special fundraiser edition of the Tranzac’s annual New Years Eve extravaganza. We sat by the fire in the Tranzac’s Tiki Room to chat with him about his experiences at the club.
TORONTOIST: A lot of the other artists in the Tranzac Transcripts have mentioned you—Lisa Bozikovic mentioned she met you here, and how you produced her album. How far back do you go with the Tranzac? What are your earliest memories and experiences here?
SANDRO PERRI: I think the first show I played here would have been 2003; and ironically, it was a fundraiser—for No Beat Radio, on CIUT. It was myself, Picastro, The Silt, and Singing Saw Shadow Show on the bill. So that was the first time I stepped foot in the place.
I’d heard about it for a year or so, as it was starting to become a place where improv was happening, and other weirder, experimental nights. Really, though, the Tranzac was flying under the radar; it was a small scene that started to expand in 2004 and 2005.
TORONTOIST: So at the time, the Tranzac music scene was mostly just folk music?
SP: I think so. There were theatre shows happening, and a bit of jazz, but that was just starting. There was a place before, the Idler Pub, where most of the experimental stuff happened, and then the scene migrated over here.
I was already doing electronic music, but I hadn’t been here before that fundraiser. After that, the first show that I remember was opening for The Silt for their CD release. Yeah, I guess it’s been six or seven years; the Silt were a huge part of my life for the next four or five years, making music, experimenting, playing in different ways. Usually, all three of them were involved in some form or another. They’re a huge part of the Tranzac for me—also, Eric Chenaux, someone I’ve played with a lot around here, particularly from 2004 to 2008.
TORONTOIST: What do you think it is about the Tranzac that made it such a welcoming place for experimental and improv music, which are still very much a part of the Tranzac scene?
SP: Folk music, in this city, is still, weirdly, outsider music. There didn’t use to be a lot of places to go and hear traditional folk, especially downtown. A lot of the improv guys were interested in folk as well, and starting to do things that draw on folk music. So they’re two forms of music that didn’t have a lot of outlets in this city. And those guys wanted to play somewhere low-key that wasn’t a rock club. You could do shows for free in the front room, and just make it a PWYC affair, without having to worry about the financial side of putting on a show; because many of those types of shows, typically, don’t have a financial side [laughs].
Also, the people working here, at that time—and still—were into different kinds of music, and wanted it to not be strictly folk, necessarily. And with experimental and improv music, you eliminate that whole loud rock band problem, with the neighbors complaining about the volume.
TORONTOIST: With the Tranzac in a residential area, that’s very much a concern.
SP: Yeah, and it has been an ongoing problem in the last eight years. Three or four years ago, the complaints were rolling in, when there was a peak in Tranzac activity, and a lot of shows were happening here. And louder shows—Fucked Up were playing here, and all kinds of stuff, in the Main Hall. When the Tranzac was doing really well, that’s when they got hit with those complaints.
I’m not sure the curfew has had anything to do to with with the current issues…
TORONTOIST: It’s an impediment, or challenge, that a lot of the other interviewees have mentioned—if you can’t play past eleven o’clock, rock bands that would draw a lot of people won’t be as keen to play here. So it’s been an adjustment period for the Tranzac in the past couple of years, that shows have to maybe be quieter, and start and end earlier, that sort of thing?
SP: I think so.
TORONTOIST: This is the first interview we’ve conducted since the NOW article came out, talking about how an anonymous donor is matching a City of Toronto renovation grant, which should start next spring, and they’re halfway to their fundraising goal, and their membership has doubled, so there’s a lot of good news. It certainly seems like people are rallying around the Tranzac.
SP: Yeah? That’s good to hear. It’s a unique space—I can’t think of any other space in the city that’s comparable, for the diversity of styles of music played here. Also, you can have a close, intimate show in the Southern Cross; or a big blowout in the Main Hall; it’s really flexible.
There’s an issue with the spaces being so close, but I think people have gotten used to the sound leakage between rooms. When there were louder punk shows here, they were thinking of getting steel doors between the Main Hall and the front rooms. But that [leakage] is a small price to pay for a place as unique as this.
TORONTOIST: It’s part of the appeal, isn’t it—being able to bounce from room to room? You don’t feel like an interloper poking your head into a room to see what’s going on; I don’t think steel doors would have been conducive to that.
So, for your own personal projects—Polmo Polpo, Glissandro 70 [with Craig Dunsmuir], Double Suicide [with Ryan Driver]—has the Tranzac been a particularly supportive place to develop those?
SP: Oh, yeah. From the very beginning. One of the first shows I played where I sang—sang my own songs—was here, in the Main Hall. I was given the opportunity to come back and play more shows, in the Hall, or the Southern Cross. Everyone here is really sweet, and really supportive. People like Cassandra [Rutherford], who used to manage the place (and still helps out here off and on), and Colin [Puffer] and Dave [Lang], the sound guys.
If the Tranzac wasn’t here, I would have gone through an entirely different sort of development. Having a place to play, regularly, that feels like a central space for the musicians I was interested in playing with, made it easier to put things together. When you feel you’ve got a point of focus, it’s easier to put your attention there. So, that’s the case; if I didn’t have a place like this, I’d probably wouldn’t have been able to produce certain projects as well as I did. Not necessarily that I did so well [laughs], but I couldn’t have done so so easily; especially not without the people I’ve met here, and collaborated with. Everyone who comes here is interested in music, it seems to me.
according to one band member, a few hours later than that. But still not an all-nighter.This article originally mistakenly said that the Silt’s final show at the Tranzac, on the same night that we interviewed Perri, was an “all-nighter”; the show actually only went until around midnight. …or,