Holy Shad Explain The Legend Of Cy Borg (Watch & Listen)
Contrary to what the “The Legend Of Cy Borg” title may suggest, the two-song Scion Sessions-sponsored seven-inch collaboration between Shad and Holy Fuck is not a story about a dead Detroit police officer brought back to life by an ominous corporation to serve the public trust, protect the innocent and uphold the law.
It is, instead, about tennis.
“The songs are about Cy Borg, the fictional brother of tennis legend, Bjorn Borg,” said Shad, the three-time Polaris Music Prize Short-Listed artist, about the Holy Shad project. “He’s kind of a comic book Don Quixote-esque vigilante ex-tennis prodigy reclusive/rugged rapping mountain man/freedom fighter.
“Who eats dope food.”
Graham Walsh, who’s one of the core members of the past Polaris nominees Holy Fuck along with Brian Borcherdt, says the songs “The Legend of Cy Borg Pt 1” and “The Legend of Cy Borg Pt 2” are built on a foundation of what he calls “sci-fi shit beats.”
Shad simply calls them “weird.”
As weird as the results may have been, the atmosphere in the studio was celebratory.
“I’ve been in the studio a lot,” said Walsh. “And it’s a fascinating process how songs come together. When Shad was laying down his vocal parts for these songs, it was one of the only times I’ve had five or six people in the control room all going nuts! He’d finish a verse and we’d all be cheering and high-fiving each other. It was pretty amazing.”
For Shad a big aspect of the project was doing something different.
“The band jammed and then we all sat down to listen to some stuff and I picked out a couple ideas I felt like I could rap to,” said Shad. “They got some incredible sounds — as they do — so it was hard to choose. From there we just started throwing out random ideas that somehow turned it this cool little loose concept. I would put down my verses and then they would arrange the tracks from there.
“[It’s] very different. I’m not even really rapping as me on this project. I’m kind of going in and out of the Cy Borg character and also a sort of narrator. It’s pretty MF Doom-ish and it’s a true collaboration. I’m usually mining my own ideas and experiences for inspiration, whereas here I’m trying to paint something quite outside of that.”
Holy Shad even encountered an unlikely spirit guide during the recording — Malcolm Mooney, the former lead singer for experimental German rock band Can.
“Man, there was a German band from the ’70s that Matt [McQuaid, bassist], I think, was referencing one day as we were putting together one of the tracks. The next day, I go to the dining hall and start talking to this older man who turns out to be the original lead singer of that German band! Crazy. I still kind of regret not asking him to be on the track.”
To bring Cy Borg to life, Holy Shad retreated to the Banff Centre’s mountainside recording studio this summer as part of the first-ever Banff-Polaris Residency. The results will live on as 500 limited-edition vinyl seven-inch singles, produced in partnership with Scion Sessions. The sessions were also filmed for a related documentary, produced in collaboration with AUX, the Banff Centre and Scion Sessions.
“The Banff Centre facilities are great!” said Shad. “It’s great to be up in the mountains… fireworks on Canada Day going off in front of a sliver of moon, between two mountains, sun not quite set yet, with elk on the grass in front of us. I felt very fortunate to be living this life in this country.”