I Mother Earth: Revving Up “The Devil’s Engine” – An Interview With Jag Tanna

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(Toronto, ON) – The last couple of weeks have been very busy with interviews and a bit of traveling for I Mother Earth guitarist and co-founding member Jag Tanna. Along with his brother, drummer Christian Tanna, and singer Brian Byrne, the band recently released its latest single to Canadian radio stations. On February 9, 2015 The Devil’s Engine hit the airwaves and for the second week in a row it has become the number one most added rock song across the country.

The Devil’s Engine is the follow-up single to IME’s We Got the Love, released in March 2012. With four albums to their credit (the last being The Quicksilver Meat Dream in 2003) there are no plans to release another album.

I caught up with Jag earlier this week and talked to him about the new single and what the future holds for I Mother Earth.

Joel – Congratulations on your new single, The Devil’s Engine. It’s been almost 3 years since IME released the last single, We Got the Love. Why the gap?

Jag – Well, on one hand we apologize for that of course and wish it could have been faster, but on the other, we don’t like to apologize! LOL! Plainly put, life got in the way. Music isn’t our day to day focus as we all have families, aren’t a part of the ‘business of music’ anymore, and are all involved in our own personal endeavours. Life made it really hard to focus on only one thing. We all live in different cities, have different schedules, etc. and can only come together at very specific moments. I wish it was everyday like before, but in a strange way, this works good for us and keeps everybody positive when we do have a chance to be together. That being said, we don’t want that to happen again! I have too much music currently squeezing out of me… I just want to refine my finishing move!

Joel – What can you tell me about The Devil’s Engine? What is the meaning behind The Devil’s Engine?

Jag – Not sure what to tell you about the song. Just a bruiser of a tune about a bruiser of a person who has finally had a moment of clear self-realization, self-awareness and a real positive path forward. A rebirth if you will…. Symbolic of us in a way. We Got The Love focused, in a very roundabout way, this crazy love affair we have with our fans, and they with us. Chris will say something else with more detail, but this is what I get from it, and from our conversations.

Joel – What did you set out to do differently this time around?

Jag – “Difference” just happens. I never set out to achieve anything other than write a song that doesn’t make me hate myself. Simple. From the first note of Dig, until the last grunt of The Devil’s Engine, each song is made with this approach: I just want to like it. Other people liking it, or digging the band is just gravy, and I feel blessed to have it so, but it starts with not pulling my hair out. It’s also the reason I can’t listen to anything we have ever done, unless I need to learn it for live! The next songs will be done with the same approach… Don’t …. Pull….hair….. Out..!!

Joel – With the ever-changing trends in music, does it ever cross your mind when you write new material if whether or not IME will still “fit in” or if it will be accepted by fans and media?

Jag – Never. I write music because I have to. It is what I do. It happens when it happens and trends be damned, on full display for everybody. I think that all artists have a built in sense of insecurity as to popular acceptance, but when you finally decide to just give up expectations and enjoy, good things happen, and the audience feels it. As a band, we are extremely well known for mixing things up and this is what keeps it interesting for our fans. If they are happy, we are happy. The industry can decide if they want to let us participate if they like, but the fans are with us regardless of that.

Joel – Who is in IME now and how much input did the other band members have in the new single, if any?

Jag – IME is just Christian (Tanna, drums), Brian (Byrne, vocals) and myself. We wish it were otherwise but that’s how things are for now. However, when IME plays live we are much more than that with Chuck (D), Daniel (Mansilla) and Fatty with us too, and this configuration excites us much more than what we are ‘officially’. Shit, Daniel has been with us for almost 20 years! He’s a huge part of our extended family and we can’t think of being without him! We are all about live now anyhow, so the other guys are technically just as important as any one of us. As for input, it’s tough to describe. Basically things start and end with me, but I need the other guys to agree with where I am going or I scrap it. I don’t want anybody playing songs they can’t get into. This process used to be faster as we jammed ideas out, but because we all live apart, it’s just me and Chris throwing things around the room until we can show Brian. Once I know where I’m going melodically, I show Brian to see if he can get behind the idea, then it’s off to Chris for lyrics. Then we put it all together. Finished. It’s always been the same.

Joel – Where was it recorded and who produced it?

Jag – We recorded this in our crappy little studio at my farmhouse with me producing it, like usual. Same system as always for us, as we get things done in a more efficient manner. Whenever we record it’s usually just me and whoever is tracking as too many opinions can interrupt the way we move so we are always wary of that. Eliminating stress is the key.

Joel – I Mother Earth recently performed at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on January 28, 2015 and debuted The Devil’s Engine. How did that go as far as reception by fans and media? Were you guys pleased?

Jag – I’m not sure about ‘media’ as we didn’t invite any! The fans however, were awesome. It was a real special night and to be able to share new music in this way, was just fantastic. The response to the song was overwhelming and we couldn’t have asked for anything more. Playing the acoustic concert was so much fun and gives people a bit of a deconstructed view of what we do. The people were singing like mad, it was awesome. We want to do this everywhere!

Joel – On February 9, 2015 The Devil’s Engine was released to radio stations all across Canada. How exciting is that? What was it like hearing new IME on the radio again?

Jag – It’s a crazy feeling to have it out there, and a total relief. Radio has embraced it but more importantly, the fans have. I still haven’t heard the whole thing yet but caught a little bit of it at my mom’s. We danced in the kitchen and didn’t have anything bad to say about the song so aces all around! I guess the only real stress is that we become a part of a system again, one that we don’t easily fit into, and one that reminds us that we have the same obstacles we have always faced throughout our careers. Easily disheartening, yet we choose to make it empowering and be proud of where we ‘fit’ in. The people will decide where we fit. WGTL was one of the most requested songs in Canada that year, and The Devil’s Engine is well on its way to achieving the same. It’s strange that this still doesn’t guarantee us anything. We don’t buy ads or have a financial interest in stations so we are at a huge disadvantage: no leverage.

Joel – Any plans for a full-length album?

Jag – No.

Joel – What are the plans for IME this year? So far there is a show on June 13 at the WTFest in Brantford, Ontario. Are there plans to do more festivals or a major tour?

Jag – We want to play all year, but again, we don’t play politics and it’s difficult to get into festivals. We will create our own events and get this beast across the country. This is what we want more than anything but it takes a huge amount of muscle to make it happen. We are currently in the middle of it all. Obviously we don’t love festivals except for the sheer volume of potential fans, but what really can IME realistically do in 40 minutes? It’s like a musical fart for us, and a full set for others… we don’t even sweat! We still make the most of these opportunities even though we get put on before bands that we just shouldn’t be before, but like I said, we don’t play politics… we just play.

Joel – In early 2013 IME did some shows billed as “A Very Long Evening with I Mother Earth”. Any plans to do anything similar or to top that?

Jag – The Absurdly Long Evening With IME is now a staple for us wherever possible. We love the idea of laying it all out there and showing people what we got. You will leave exhausted and feel like you just got the best bang for your buck ever from a band… and we will too. Too many bands just lay out the hits, leave and charge you a fortune. Fans leave unfulfilled and their asses hurt for some reason. Not right. Some bands feel their age differently than us I guess.

Joel – Any plans to release The Devil’s Engine in the U.S. and tour there as well?

Jag – The Devil’s Engine is worldwide, and we will go wherever we are wanted. Tough to make that a reality, but if we keep working hard with people, anything is possible.

Joel – Where can fans purchase The Devil’s Engine?

Jag – Our music is pretty much available anywhere online just like anybody else’s… You just won’t see any big fluffy ads announcing it! Look around though, we’re easy to find. If you can’t afford it, I’ll give it to you. No excuses!!

Joel – Thank you for your time and once again, congratulations to you and all the other band members on your latest release. Anything else you want to add or plug?

Jag – No big statement. Just that you should join our IME community as it’s packed with people doing things for themselves, and who really care about helping artists. Get involved with us and you will not be disappointed… It’s so much more than just music. Good vibes all around….. Or just find me on Facebook and Twitter like everybody else!

Check out I Mother Earth online: www.imotherearth.ca/openmouth/

Thanks to Jag Tanna for taking the time to do this interview!

The following photos were taken from A Very Long Evening with I Mother Earth on April 26, 2013 at the CAW Hall in St. Catharines, ON.

All Photos by Joel Naphin
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