Mother Mother Singer Ryan Guldemond Opens Up About Drugs, Getting Personal

On the addictive single “The Drugs,” Mother Mother frontman Ryan Guldemond sings about someone who is “better than the drugs I used to love.”

So, what exactly are the drugs he used to love?

“I really liked alcohol, cocaine, MDMA, cigarettes, coffee, ketamine,” Guldemond told iHeartRadio.ca, on the phone from the band’s tour stop in Kingston, Ont.

The B.C. singer said he took a year off from these pleasures to write the songs that make up No Culture, the recently-released sixth album from Mother Mother.

“I needed to drastically change my life and unhinge from that culture, and so I did,” he said, adding that he was able to quit everything “cold turkey.”

Guldemond explained: “I have a strong will until I don’t. I don’t know. It’s strange.

“There’s a certain independence and rush you get from self-sabotage. It’s almost like the most awesome act of free will is to choose your own demise, so to speak. It’s the very same fervour that drives someone to change their life for the better, too. Self-destruction and self-betterment are really closely related, I find, in terms of that motivational force.”

Guldemond insisted he is currently sober. “I don’t even like that word,” he said. “I’m choosing to remove certain things from my life right now in order to open it up in different ways.

“That’s what I learned most from my abstinence is that there is a quality of life out there that can be ruled by autonomy and by freedom and by having the willpower and the understanding of self to choose when something should be incorporated into an experience. Whereas before it just got the better of me.”

Guldemond said it feels different to be experiencing a Mother Mother tour with a clear head.

“It’s really nice not to have to worry about falling into a quagmire of debauchery while on the road,” he admitted. “Most tours I would start prim and proper and with good intentions but somewhere along the line I would slip and start indulging.

“So this tour it’s nice not to have to worry about that and know that it’s going to be crystal clear and energized and I’ll sing well and I’ll be able to look the tour in its eye and meet its gaze and never to shield myself from anything.”

On No Culture, “The Drugs” refers to inner demons and the song “Baby Boy” includes the line: “The devil is at my door.” There’s also a track titled “Mouth of the Devil.”

It begs the question: Is Guldemond alright?

“Yeah,” he replied with a laugh. “These days are good days.

“The album did come out of a turbulent time and a transition to a more self-caring methodology in life so those are true tales regarding the battle with the shadow side of life.”

No Culture, he said, is the most personal album he has written.

“I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. I wasn’t really able to look beyond the scope of my own internal situation,” Guldemond explained. “So I guess in order to get back to a place of greater conceptual writing, I needed to work through what I was going through.

“To use a horrible word — every songwriter likes to talk about their cathartic experience — but it’s an apt word. There was an element of having to do it.”

Guldemond described previous Mother Mother albums as “more armoured in cynicism and tongue-in-cheek qualities.” No Culture, he said, has “an autobiographical flair, a greater quality of vulnerability.”

On “Family,” Guldemond sings: “They might be crazy but they is my family. You f**k with them, you f**k with me.”

The song, he explained, “came from negotiating the theme of family from a more acrimonious place and then working through some of those issues and arriving at a version of a song that celebrated the imperfections of family bond rather than criticize them.”

He added: “It started with familial animosity but in working through it and refining the song I wound up at a place celebrating the idiosyncratic nature of a family network, whether that is through blood relationships or just your friend network or even the relationship that you might have with yourself and all of the various versions of self we carry.”

Guldemond’s sister Molly Guldemond is part of Mother Mother, along with Jasmin Parkin, Mike Young, and Ali Siadat.

The band’s March 4th show at L’Astral falls on Nuit Blanche, a highlight of Montréal En Lumière — an arts and culture festival that runs until March 11.

Guldemond said fans at every stop can expect a big show (“on a production scale it’s an elevated version of the band”) as well as songs both new and old.

“We pull from all the records. We love to create this interwoven experience of all the songs, composing segue pieces and disguising the popular songs only to unveil them coming out of a segue piece. And there’s a couple of fun covers that the girls sing.”

The tour wraps up with an impressive five-night run at the Commodore Ballroom at Vancouver.

“I guess it begs the question, why not just get a bigger place?,” Guldemond said.

“At the risk of seeming ostentatious we just wanted to set up shop in that room and see how many we could do.”

Click here for all the Mother Mother tour dates.

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