Here is the story of how this album came to be.
In August 2015 I was at the LCBO (local liquor store) getting some fruit beer on a hot day and I looked over at the other till and I saw this colourful character that was wearing loud colours and large glasses and a bucket hat that reminded me of the style of Will Smith on Fresh Prince. He had a flat of Bud Light Limes. I love fruit flavoured beers and I found it funny that he had a flat as most people buy just a tall can or two. I laughed to myself and shouted over "What's Up Man, what is with all the Bud Light Limes?" He said "It's my day off." I said "Where do you work?" He said “L'arche.” I was like, “Cool, I work at Community Living the other support agency in town.” Community Living and L'Arche are agencies that provide supports for people with special needs. I continued, “What is your name?” He said, “Nathaniel.” I said “Me too.” I said, “What are you into?” He said, “Music, rapping, making beats.” While in line I just established we both loved fruit beers, had the same career, same name and musical hobby and passion. I was like, “Let's talk outside!” He agreed. Outside he explained that he was a backpack boom bap rapper known at 'Nat Saturn' and that he had made some tunes out in Altona Manitoba with his crew of friends. He said he had moved to Stratford for a two year work term. I explained that I produced music and used Ableton Live and that we should connect sometime. It took a few months to build our acquaintance, but in November 2015 we started meeting weekly for nearly a year to work on this album. We recorded 17 songs in which 12 you will hear on Nat Saturn's Cracked Sanity. Nat is a work horse. Each week he would come to the studio with 16 bars of verse written and I would make some beats and we would produce together. Occasionally, he would buy beats from Brett Klassen and Steps Necessary and re-arrange them and augment them with additional production including synths and instrumentation. We would invite guests over to the studio and even had collaborations from artists living in western Canada and the US thanks to the power of the internet. Nat would write playful wordplay and intelligent heartfelt themes which intertwine throughout the album. Often after the verses would be done I would record Nat doing ad libs that would often be silly and nonsensical. We kept many of ad libs to use in the intro and outros of songs and to bridge the verses together and give some comic relief amongst the sometimes serious or flexing verses to keep it lighthearted. The album is very melodic and plays to the strengths of my weirdness as a producer and is peppered with break beats and vocal jazz and blues vocal samples and classical orientations, dreamscapes, and synth sound designs. We hope you enjoy the musical journey and enjoy the lyrics ranging from serious to nonsensical escapist flexing. The album features several guests. Facts of Life marks 13 year old rapper Colin Markle aka Azmatik performing his debut original rap. His verse was the 5th take. You can even hear Nat and I celebrating in the background when he nailed is heartfelt vulnerable fierce verse for the first time. Already an accomplished cover artist on Youtube and Facebook, we kept his verse to celebrate a new chapter for Colin into the world of original hip hop. The chorus features folk and rock vocalist Laura Osburn taking her first stab at R&B flavours. She nailed it in her first venture into the urban world. Nat Boom Bap features a vocal sample of Rebecca Hovey's singing from my 2015 album Flavours of Inspiration that worked well in the chorus of Nat's song. Originally the sample was a place holder for the chorus on the demo, but it worked well so we kept it in. Calm Storm introduces Brett Randals the other half of Nat's duo The Pandering Merchants. Brett is an accomplished Rapper/Singer/Producer from Altona Manitoba. Brett returns on Footprints. I crafted this song after hearing a beautiful 4 bar post rock guitar loop. One of the most dense beautiful songs unfolded with this one. Adam Preszcator guests playing cello on this. Adam is an accomplished flautist, didgeridoo, and synth operator. Brett provided lush harmonies and a rap verse on this. This is the only song in which I sing some ambient textures. When producing Leaving Home, we were in need of a guest vocalist. While Nat was on vacation I reached out to Andrew Ohsberg who lived in Stratford in 2010, who appeared on my 2013 album The Crayons and The Mess That Was. Andrew is a super fun rapper and singer that can fly off the dome and improvise. I asked him to write a verse. He delivered. Nat was sitting by a waterfall in Northern Ontario at midnight when I emailed him the finished track with the surprise guest. Nat was floored by Andrew's content that remained on theme and matched the cadence of Nat's verse. It was cool to have the album's first international contribution. Ill Stories features Karim Rushdy of the group Nabil & Karim. Karim is a beat boxer and rapper with deep Barry White/Charlie 2Na kind of voice. I knew he would be perfect on the album's 2nd ballad. Mentally Wholehearted takes an interesting direction. Nat bought a beat from Step Necessary that had a kung fu theme to it. Nat wanted to explore this theme. On his vacation he heard a documentary on the history of inclusion of people with special needs into Canadian society. This gripping documentary provided fuel for the fire of inspiration for a topic near and dear to his heart. Nat cleverly details the history on two 16-bar verses and completes the song with a vulnerable speech for verse 3. I really wanted to take what Steps started and drive the Kung Fu/Chinese theme out of the park. I added Guzheng and Asian percussion and sampled Asian tigers and stereotypical kung fu movie style vocals. To top the song off, the outro features a Chinese translation by John Cossey of an excerpt from a poignant speech on inclusion from my boss Trevor from my day job as a personal support worker, cementing the theme. It was quite the process making this album and a lot of fun to make. I learned so much about arranging songs and recording vocals from the demands of this album. It felt like destiny and I thank God for the timely meeting of Nate aka Nat Saturn that day at the liquor store. It has been a dream of mine for 15 years to make a hip hop album ever since seeing Jurassic 5 at the Warped Tour in 2000. I don't rap. Nat does. He was the missing piece. I produced. He rapped. That's it. Perfect alchemy. Enjoy the album.
Thanks to all of those who donated their time and money to make this project happen. Thanks to Nathan McKay for making this dream come true. To Graham and Brett for being my bros. To Mom & Dad and my sisters. To L'arche Communities Worldwide. To Steve & Jenn, Jordan, Sam and Carly. To the team at Lorne Avenue Salvage Yard for providing the great location for the photo shoot.
Shout-outs to K-Two, Brett Klassen for fostering my desire to be a hip hop artist, Seeds Church, The Pandering Merchants, Locksmith, Vinnie Paz, and the Toronto Blue Jays.
released October 28, 2016
Egg Shells & Mentally Wholehearted produced by Steps Necessary with additional production by Nathan McKay. Acupuncture, Calm Storm, & Leaving Home produced by Brett Klassen with additional production by Nathan McKay. Facts of Life produced by Nathan McKay and Colin Markle. New Scraps, Lonely Mammal, Nat Boom Bap, Footprints, Mad Spoonfuls, & Ill Stories produced by Nathan McKay.
Strings and additional percussion on track 8 performed by Adam Preszcator. Guitar on track 3 performed by Jared Both. Keys, Synths and beats performed by Nathan McKay, Brett Klassen, and Steps Necessary.
Lyrics written by Nathaniel Toews. Additional lyrics written by Colin Markle & Laura Osburn on Track 2, Jared Both on track 3, Rebecca Hovey on track 6, Brett Randals on track 7 & 8, Andrew Oshberg on track 9, and Karim Rushdy on track 11. Speech on track 12 translated and performed by John Cossey.
Mastered by Siegfried Meier @ Beach Road Mastering
Artwork Brett Randals & Jonathan Sippel. Front Photo of Min Chil Gil by Nathaniel Toews. Back Photo by Jonathan Sippel. Back photo shot on location at Lorne Avenue Salvage Yard in Stratford, ON.
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