BRENDAN CANNING performing with COOKIE DUSTER along with spine and dj peace harvest at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Friday (May 4), $7, 416-596-1908; and with BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE along with GOLDFRAPP at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Saturday (May 5), $15, 416-532-1598.
he's played the local scene for
a decade, but it wasn't until he began DJing for a living that Brendan Canning discovered his inner musician.
Tours and recordings with hHead, Len, By Divine Right and with John Critchley honed his bass playing and earned him superior indie rock cred -- which would help explain why hHead once earned the breathtaking (ridiculous?) sum of $100,000 from a local radio station to cut an album. But it was a return to the house music he loved during high school that enhanced his ear, opening the door to two disparate combos he currently plays with -- Cookie Duster and Broken Social Scene.
"I got my first club gig at the beginning of 98," Canning explains, "and I wasn't really playing in any bands at the time. I was just sitting at home practising my house mixes.
"But DJing tuned my ears. All of a sudden you're trying to play two records at the same time, so any variation in speed you notice right away. And that translates into how I hear live instruments. In the studio now, I can hear exactly when a drummer is speeding up too much or falling behind."
In Cookie Duster, Canning, along with one-time Change of Heart keyboardist Bernard Maiezza, positions various guest musicians and vocalists before a spread of angular tunes that lurch between twitchy electronica and bassed-out ambient pop.
Broken Social Scene is another matter entirely. Along with similarly multi-instrumentalist partner Kevin Drew, Canning lets loose on an eight-track, sketching out wispy, hypnotic shape-shifting instrumentals that seem to capture the mostly nighttime hours during which they were recorded.
Broken Social Scene opens Saturday for Goldfrapp, while Cookie Duster -- which predates BSS -- headlines what Canning describes as a huge, guest-heavy and rather theatrical show at the Rivoli Friday.
"The great thing about being in two bands like this is I have my disco outlet and my indie rock outlet. With Cookie Duster, there's elements of cosmic disco, while the Broken Social stuff has indie rock roots to it. That and the fact that I have little to no spare time."