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Giant Hand Q & A with
Giant Hand


Interview by Ren Tomovcik
Photos by Jesse Hildebrand

Last year was full of highlights for Ottawa musician Kirk Ramsay, better known onstage as Giant Hand.  Not only did he release his impressive full-length debut, "Coming Home," to acclaim from music bloggers, critics and fans alike, he played Ottawa's Bluesfest for the second time and was featured on his first magazine cover.  He also fulfilled a personal dream by opening a show for one of his musical heroes, Daniel Johnston.

As Giant Hand's musical fandom grows, there's no doubt we'll see more of him in the coming year.  Ottawafocus catches up with Kirk for a chat about his early inspirations, his musical journey, and what's in store for 2010.

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Kirk, you're relatively new to recording your own tunes, but you've undoubtedly always loved listening to music. Who were your earliest musical inspirations?  Who inspires you now?

I think the first band I remember really getting into was Sum 41. When All Killer No Filler came out, I listened to that CD until it wouldn't play anymore.  It was around then that I started wanting to be in a band.  Now I like listening to Sunset Rubdown and Samamidon.

Where did your stage name come from?

It was an accident.  In one of my first songs, I talked about forming a band with someone, and we would call ourselves "Giant Hand."  And when I played my first show, I didn't have enough songs to fill out my set, so I had to use that song.  I thought if I wasn't called Giant Hand, people would be confused.

Giant Hand Would you ever work with a backing band, or do you now consider yourself a solo performer through and through?

I would love to work with a backing band.  Playing solo is nice, and Giant Hand will probably never be a full band.  But it would be nice to have other people helping out.

Many of your lyrics feature darker themes like death, loneliness and despair.  Is your music expressing a darker side of you?  Are "Giant Hand" and "Kirk Ramsay" two different people?

I would like to say I'm not Giant Hand... but it's coming from somewhere, right?  I don't mean to make it dark, it just sort of comes out that way!

What is your songwriting process like?

I usually think of a verse or a line I like.  I will play something really simple on the guitar and repeat the verse over and over, and sometimes all of a sudden a whole song just comes out.  Sometimes it doesn't and those pieces just get scrapped.  Once I have all my lyrics, then I just figure out how to play the guitar so it makes sense with what I'm trying to say.

Do you think about the possibility of writing and performing music full-time, or would you prefer that it stay a passionate side project while you work in a different job?

If I could do music full time, I would be doing it.  But it's just not feasible to try and put out new music, tour, and pay bills when I have no help from any record labels or booking agents.  Hopefully one day that can happen, but I feel like I'm doing OK on my own for now, doing my own thing.

You've already played your dream show - opening for your idol, Daniel Johnston.  What's your dream venue?

I would love to play a house show in Paris.  Or maybe the Red Rocks Amphitheater.  I wouldn't care if three people showed up for the show! I just think that it's one of the most beautiful venues in the world.

When will your next full-length album will be released? 

The next album probably won't be out until 2011. Coming Home felt a bit rushed to me, because I started recording before I had enough songs to make it a full-length album.  Luckily, I was able to write new songs that I actually thought were good and fit the album during the recording process.  But for the next album, I want to have 20-30 new songs and be able to pick the top 10 or so.  I want to take my time.  If I can't make a better album than the last, then why make it? 

GIANT HAND

Do you intend to record in-studio this time, or will you continue recording DIY-style in your apartment like you did on the last disc?

I've already decided that I will be moving to my cottage for a month or so to record the whole thing myself.  I will have friends come visit and help on the album, but I want to stay there.  I don't want any distractions.

Will the next album have a new sound or a different theme, or will you continue to expand on the style that you are already known and loved for?


So far, the music I've been writing has a new theme.  I feel that Coming Home let me put to rest a lot of things.  I was able to move on.  There are still some of the same themes, but it's in a different light.  I see things differently, and I feel like it shows in the new material. I think it will sound more mature.

Giant Hand Do you ever play any covers?  What's one cover that you'd like to record if you had the chance?

I have yet to play a cover live, but if I could, I'd like to cover "Tightrope" by Yeasayer.  I just remember hearing that song on Dark Was The Night and thinking how great the song was. 
 
Your profile on the Canadian music scene is definitely increasing.  How do you feel knowing that your fandom is growing?


Fans are a weird thing for me.  I still find it weird that anyone would think of me the way that I see other musicians.  I don't really think of myself as a musician yet.  I haven't had time, since everything has happened so quickly.  When I played a show in Montreal, a woman came up to me and said my music really sparked something in her. That made me really happy.

Who are some musical artists and other creative people who inspire you?

I have my main people who inspire me, like Hemingway who always reminds me to keep it simple.  I find Sunset Rubdown will always spark the drive to make new music.  But there are some local artists that inspire me too. I really, really like the John Punch Band.

What are some of your favourite places to play and see live music in Ottawa?

My hands down favourite place in Ottawa is the Raw Sugar Cafe.  It is the perfect venue for me.  People sit and listen.  The lighting is just lamps, and you can sit and play and not seem out of place.  It's perfect for me because I don't like big crowds of loud people.  Raw Sugar is one of the only places I can relax and play or see music.

What advice would you give to an independent artist just getting started?
The only advice I can give anyone is not to second guess yourself. I did for years, and I didn't produce a thing.  When I finally stopped and just did what I wanted, it worked out way beyond what I could have imagined.


MORE FROM GIANT HAND

GiantHand.ca
Giant Hand on Myspace
Facebook Fan Page
Giant Hand on CBC Radio 3

UPCOMING LIVE SHOW

January 13, 2010
Clues with Giant Hand, The Rough Sea and Les Mammographes
Cafe Dekcuf, 221 Rideau Street, Ottawa - 8:00 pm
Facebook event page

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