THE POP GROUP

DANNY MICHEL

When I was in high school in Ottawa, I had a social studies teacher named Mr. Michel, who always had chalk in weird places on his pants. Mr. Michel knew I was a huge music buff, and one day recommended that I check out his brother’s band, The Rhinos. Funny enough, after school that day I went over to my friend Chad’s house and when we turned on Much Music (back when Much Music played music) there was a video by The Rhinos. (I don’t remember which one, but we liked it.)

And although Danny doesn’t seem to like to talk about The Rhinos, they really were pretty good, if a tad scattered in their styles. That first album of theirs, Fishing in the Fountain of Youth, had some pretty great songs. (Psychedelic Billy & The Zanies of Sorrow and Jackadandy Babbit are the two that have stuck with me the most.

When I first moved to Toronto I used to frequent a songwriters circle at Ted’s Wrecking Yard, and one night Danny was on the panel, and he was amazing. His own songs were great, of course, but he jumped in and played along to the other singers, adding mostly ambience and flourish to their tunes, and he made them come alive.

If you’ve never seen Danny play solo, it’s something you need to add to your list of things to do before you die. It’s unreal. He plays with an electric guitar and a bank of pedals and builds his songs using loops and effects in a way that doesn’t seem gimmicky; when you watch it you think, this is the best way to hear this song. It’s not an uncommon thing anymore, to loop oneself like this, and I’ve seen others do it, most famously Andrew Bird, but I’ve never seen anyone pull it off before or since.

The other great thing about watching Danny play is how much fun he has on stage. There’s no dour shoe-gazing here; he smiles a lot and gets a kick out of his guitar.

On record, he just keeps getting better and better, sounding more assured with each release, with his first truly great album being 2003’s Tales From the Invisible Man. (Valhalla, Fur & Fin – title track of which was a selected song in David Suzuki’s Playlist for the Planet program- and Sunset Sea have followed since, and Danny is currently working on a new album.)

A frequent visitor to Belize, in 2011 Danny started a fund to provide scholarships to students at The Ocean Academy, the country’s first ever high school. He set the goal at $30,000 (about $25,000 more than he thought he’d be able to raise) and reached it in about three months.

You can still donate to the cause, by going to Danny’s Ocean Academy Fund page HERE.

 

-JODY

 

 

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