Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Interview: Diamond Rings

Posted by Andrew

John O, under the moniker Diamond Rings, is forever forward thinking. For John, inspiration can and does come from anywhere although it always seems dependent on contradiction and blurring distinctions. The current glam posterboy could just as easily have ended up playing professional basketball. For all of the Bowie comparisons, John seems more often to reference Gordon Lightfoot as a greater influence. He’s got connections with plenty of fellow, yet dissimilar Canadian acts such as PS I Love You and Fucked Up. What makes John so interesting is his ability to draw from such a variety of fields. Read about his influences, artistic philosophy and picks for the ultimate NBA dream team after the jump. Get your glitter on with Diamond Rings this Wednesday, December 1st, at the Empty Bottle and pick up the recently released Special Affections (Secret City) while you’re there. Charlie Deets opens.

WCR: What can we expect from a Diamond Rings show? 

John: Loud…outfits [laughs]. Loud music, loud clothes. The whole project is an attempt on my part to really give people something exciting to see and hopefully different than what they usually see in a live venue.

There was another interview you had where you were quoted as saying “It’s not the role of an artist in my opinion to stagnate or become comfortable ever.” How do you guarantee that you accomplish this?

Just being open to new ideas and then just working on it. Whether that’s in a live setting or in the studio…the role as the artist is to keep that openness to experimentation. At the same time, it’s never something I want to become precious or set as far as what type of method you’re working and going about writing a song or putting on a show. I’m always into listening to new music and trying new things, hearing new sounds and just being open and willing to experiment is the best way. It’s basically the only way I know.

So since pretty much every article written about mentions David Bowie, do you fear being pigeonholed as ‘that David Bowie guy?’

[laughs] Yeah, I guess it’s inevitable that that comparison comes up. It’s a really flattering comparison. He’s an artist that I look up to for sure. He’s tread a lot of ground, tried a lot of things, done a lot of things, he’s kind of like a model or a path that I’m interested in following myself. I really love making music and making art, I’ve been doing this for a long time and it brings me a lot of pleasure. I don’t necessarily try to hide from that comparison. He’s for sure an influence but I think at the same time that hopefully what I’m doing speaks to my own experience and my generation in a way that allows me to bring something new to the table. And at the end of the day, it’s not all glitter and glam and I think the songs and the way that the music is presented sonically offers something new.

There isn’t an article about you either that doesn’t mention fashion. What do you feel is the exact interplay between music and fashion? Do you think one is more important than the other or do they require balance to work?

To me they’re really inseparable. I think for the most part that music is as visual as it is aural. People listen with their eyes a lot of the time. It’s becoming easier and easier to occupy a greater number of senses which is why I like videos so much. It’s a chance to show people a broader and fuller perspective and more insight into what I’m like as a person. Ultimately at the end of the day, I have to be writing good songs. I’m a musician first and foremost, not a model or a designer. Any of those things...as much as I’m interested in taking from and borrowing and dabbling in them, at the end of the day the songs have to be able to stand on their own. You’ve gotta be able to put on that vinyl or mp3 or however you listen to music and be able to be satisfied with what you’re hearing. In my stuff though, I think it contributes greatly to enlivening or enriching the entire experience for people. I think it’s nice to go up on stage and to spend some time, effort and energy considering, you know, I’m here to present myself, I’m not just gonna show up there in street clothes...it’s really an all-encompassing performance.

What has been or favorite or most absurd clothing combination you’ve worn?

I think probably the peacock suit that we put together for the 'Show Me Your Stuff’ video, which I’ve also worn once at the release party for the single here in Toronto…it’s taking things too far, and unfortunately not far enough all the time…it’s really hard to travel with 50 peacock feathers and not get them damaged.


What non-musical interests or influences do you have?

There was in Toronto, before my time here in the city, an artist group called General Idea that did some really interesting things with video and performance-related art that kind of put the city on the map internationally as far as being an arts center and a more cosmopolitan place to create. Their work is really influential. It's three artists working together doing just really creative, really queer kind of art making. They used a lot of modern technology, video and performance and a combination of a bunch of different ways of working. I’m very much into people who aren’t just, like, painters or illustrators or sculptors, but those artists that work in an interdisciplinary sort of way. That’s what I like about music, there’s so many different areas to tackle from album art to video making to costuming for the live show to lighting. There’s so many things that need to be considered that make something unique and exciting. Anyone operating in a number of different fields is really inspiring. But honestly, it kind of comes from anywhere, like walking around my neighborhood listening to music…I can never really know where I’m going to get inspiration from.

Past or present, create the ultimate starting lineup for the NBA Dream Team.

I’d have to pick Michael Jordan. He’s pretty amazing. Maybe Muggsy Bogues for comedic effect because he was so short. He played for the Raptors for a brief while. He’d be point guard. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Sky hook, maybe? Yes, he’d be there. Trying to think of other positions. “Pistol” Pete Maravich was really great; I liked his style. Work socks with the high-top converse shoes, which I thought was awesome. I had never seen another player play with wool work socks before. Maybe Charles Barkley in his prime, you know, before he got fat and Republican.


  1. I like his perspective on how music is as visual as it is aural; it really has become easier to occupy more senses in an audience, and it's always fun to see that at shows. For some reason, Kill Hannah also comes to mind.


  2. I agree with Paul on John O’s perspective. Many artists are as outrageous as their music, but sometimes they don’t quite pull off the effect and end up being such a mismatch between their signature style and sound. Getting it right is not an easy task, but Diamond Rings pulls it off well and always keeps us entertained.