A D-Sisive Issue

Published at the Toronto Standard

In some ways, Toronto’s D-Sisive (Derek Christoff) is like a rap Joan Didion. No, seriously: both heave words together with devastating insight, forming vivid narratives on the degenerative society around them. In the past decade, both have lost immediate family members in succession—D-Sisive, his parents; Didion, her husband and daughter. They’re each shedding light on, not eschewing, grief and death and depression. Of course, D-Sisive, a Juno and Polaris Prize-nominated artist, isn’t privileged or super-acclaimed. That doesn’t predicate much—except maybe imbuing his work with the kind of dire fury found only in those who haven’t yet made it.

It’s intensity to succeed or escape that’s behind Run With The Creeps, D-Sisive’s sixth album in four years and his second in 2011. D-Sisive is not aiming for Drake dollars; he’s an obsessive craftsman who gets off on his own prolix style. And Creeps could be his best album to date.

I like the idea of referencing “The Message.” Why did you do that?
I just like the phrase. I’m the kind of writer where I need some foundation when I’m working on a record. It’s strange but all of my albums have been titled and the artwork done before I sit down and write. In the case of Jonestown 2: Jimmy Go Bye Bye, the instrumentals were done and the songs were even titled. The lyrics, which most listeners would think are the most important part, have always been last. I don’t think it’s common, but it works for me.

Wait, doesn’t that dictate in some way what you write about?
No, but it helps when trying to create imagery. Painting the picture with my verses is very important to me; it’s the most important part of the song.

What did the Creeps make you think of?
I love the idea of Lady Gaga giving her fans the title, ‘The Monsters.’ I thought it could work, like, ‘My fans could be Creeps! And we can have merchandising and kids will get tattoos!’ And then the more I thought about who my fans are I thought it may not work.

Well, it could. Like, Drake has his whole OVOXO thing…
Oh yeah, that’s true. Well let’s go with it, The Creeps. We’ll be the depressed version of KISS!

This is your sixth album since 2008. Why so much momentum?
After a seven-year hiatus I was getting over my depression and back into writing, and I put out The Book EP (2008). There was no direction or marketing, it was just to have my name surface again. Then it was passed around and I started getting incredible press and the Juno nomination hit and it was just a shock. Then Let The Children Die came out and the critical acclaim tripled, so I guess I got obsessed.

On Creeps you say outright that you want a Juno.
Yes, very badly. And I’m the only one amongst the people around me who feels that way. They’re like “Fuck the Junos!” Nooo, no, no. I want it.

Or a Polaris?
Oh yes, that’s my dream too. This is all fantasy talk, but if my parents could see what’s happening I’d want to win a Juno for them because they’d recognize it. I remember the year I won a SoCan Award (2009). It was cool because it was for writing, but also Carl Wilson was one of the judges. He’s an amazing writer and what he thinks of things means a lot to me.

I like that you’re so not afraid to talk about being bitter or jealous of other people’s success…
Yeah, no one ever puts it out there. If you’re from Canada, Toronto specifically, you cannot look me in the eye or look yourself in the mirror and say you are not jealous of Drake. I am INCREDIBLY jealous of Drake. But at the same time, I think he deserves it. You’re out of your fucking mind if you think otherwise, because this is a talented man who played his cards right. I apply a similar philosophy to myself. The rapping on “Jolly Good Fellow?” Writing-wise that’s one of my best verses ever, and battle rap-wise, nobody from this country is fucking with it. Things like that is why people are still paying attention. With each record there are more people rooting for me. I’m fortunate to have that.

Is there viability to the idea of a Canadian scene anymore?
No. There are two scenes: you’re good or you’re shit. And if you’re shit and from Canada, being shit is not a result of what hospital you were born in. I don’t think there is anyone who is like, ‘Oh shit, Drake sold a bunch of records, let’s see who the sickest rapper in Brampton is.’ I’m not gonna side with you because we’re from the same city, I’m gonna side with you because you’re dope. Maybe that means I’m being a dick, but at least I’m being honest.

Is that dickishness what the GG Allin reference on Creeps is about?
GG Allin was this part courageous, part insane, part maybe-drug-fueled artist who didn’t care and created his own way of thinking. I don’t believe a lot of what he did was calculated, like, ‘Tonight I’m going to smear my body with shit and I think it’ll really work!’ There wasn’t anyone to catch that on a camera phone. There’s a lot to him that I don’t agree with, obviously, but I loved his insanity and what he created for himself. There’s a great interview, which I used a vocal sample of on the album, where he goes, “Rock and roll; it’s not about how you dress or who is hot this week.” I’m the guy who lived my whole life being told I’ll never make it in music because I don’t look like a rapper. And I was like, you might be right but I can rap better than almost everybody. In that sense I felt a connection to GG Allin.

Okay. This was a great and serious discussion but let’s talk about our mutual love for Ryan Gosling.
What turned me on to Ryan Gosling was his music, Dead Man’s Bones. It is a masterpiece. I’ve already sampled him twice. That shit blew me away and I was like, ‘I need to find out more about this man,’ and that was when the man-crush began.

That’s interesting because for most people it’s the acting man-crush.
Well now it’s that too. He totally knocked Johnny Depp out of the running. He is the one “pass” for my girlfriend. When she says nice things about him I can’t really get angry because I agree

Dude, you should get him in a video. Or name a song after him.
I should… I SHOULD! But it might turn into a weird creepy love song and I don’t want him to be creeped out.

Run With The Creeps is out now. Buy it here or at his album release party at the Rivoli, Friday.