Under the alias of Zoon, Daniel Monkman is able to travel into the depths of his personal experiences as a member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. Born and raised in Selkirk, Manitoba, he long faced harassment due to his First Nations heritage, dealing with racism, poverty and addiction as he attempted to find his own way in the turbulent world in which he found himself. Eventually, he turned to music as means of coping with these traumas and difficult memories, and along with spiritual guidance he learned through 12-step therapy, he managed to overcome these horrible situations and personal afflictions.
Through his subsequent rhythmic experiments, he created “moccasin-gaze”, a tongue-in-cheek nickname of the sounds he created by blending the density of shoegaze with traditional First Nations music. Taking his cues from artists like My Bloody Valentine and Chapterhouse, Monkman channeled the expressive movements of these bands into a noise both raucous and oddly alluring. He is set to share his debut record, Bleached Wavves, on June 19 via Paper Bag Records.
Recently he took on the responsibility of reworking a song from genre deconstructionists WHOOP-Szo, a band with First Nations lineages as well. And while their work is a blend of folk, metal, pop, and even a bit of classical stylings, Monkman sought to alter the basic DNA of WHOOP-Szo’s “Cut Your Hair” by infusing it with a compelling ambient pulse and pulling apart its roughhewn acoustic framework before casting it out into a gauzy atmosphere of roiling tones and vocal textures. It’s a mesmerizing experience as these subsuming sounds gather around and drown out the chaos of the outside world, letting us revel completely in the beautiful noise that we’re hearing.
About “Cut Your Hair”, Whoop-Szo band leader Adam Sturgeon says:
“Anytime I’m feeling pain, I’ll pick up an instrument and for whatever reason, I’ll find an ease in playing the same thing over and over. Sometimes for just a moment and others the whole day. ‘Cut Your Hair’ is one such song that reaches deep into the core of my being. When we recorded the song for Warrior Down, I had to go into the studio by myself and it was incredibly difficult to even get the words out. This was a huge contrast to the sonically expansive and aggressive tracks we were laying down at that time and so I’ve been really shy about the stripped back and revealing nature of the song.
‘Cut Your Hair’ is a song about my grandpa and me. It’s a dedication to survivors and how our stories are tied to each other through Canada’s Residential School system. This is not something I’ve been able to share in a way that is comfortable. Until working with my brother Daniel from Zoon. Our experiences as Anishinaabe means that a lot can go unsaid between us. Daniel knew how important this song was to me and how lonely and painful it felt. How we wear the weight of our ancestors in every step we take and how those schools tore the culture from our families. Together we’ve been able to pick each other up and navigate these challenging experiences. In his style, Daniel added the missing elements that I had been searching for all along. I’m really proud of how this turned out and so excited for Zoon and all that’s to come for them.”
Monkman describes his personal relationships to the themes of the song:
“I was so honoured when Adam asked if I’d collaborate with him. I remember the first time hearing ‘Cut Your Hair’, it was on the CBC show ‘Q’ and Adam played solo, and there was so much emotion during his performance and I immediately connected with the story. ‘Cut Your Hair’ is the first contemporary song I’ve heard that deals with residential schools.”
“Like Adam’s grandfather, my grandfather, father, aunt and uncle, all attended these schools for many years. I found this song to be very emotional, and I really wanted to capture that on my remix. I ended up isolating Adams vocals and built a wall of sound around it. I swapped bits of the guitar for sound loops to follow the verses and added in piccolos and strings at the end to symbolize a sort of resolution.”