“I remember songs like most people remember smells” — Katie Schaan, Ciseaux
Last year at Raincity Chronicles, Vancouver’s wonderful storytelling event, a woman with a cello took to the stage. We’d reached the musical portion of the night. She introduced herself as Ciseaux and then suddenly, arm poised with bow in hand, the sound of her stringed instrument filled the room. And then she opened her mouth. Who was Ciseaux and why wasn’t she already famous?
Ciseaux’s real name is Katie Schaan, and if you’re a fan of Adele and other women of the golden pipes variety but always wished they played their own instruments, Schaan is a dream come true, and yet she doesn’t even have a full album to her credit. Yet.
Where are you while answering these questions? Set the scene, please.
I’m hanging out in my little house. I’m not going to lie to you, my roommate is out of town and I am therefore not wearing pants. That being said, there's a chance I wouldn't be wearing pants even if he was home. I'd be eating jello either way.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done for money?
I played a gig for a corporate party once where they kept on telling me I was too loud. The only way I could have satisfied them was if my band and I had all just pretended to play our instruments and I just mouthed some words without actually singing. What's stupid about it is it's gigs like that that often pay you the most money.
How does a book get under your skin?
I prefer a book that throws you right in the middle of a story and then give you the background info later. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I have a huge weakness for book series that are not intended for adults and either take place in some crazy dystopian future or a magical castle where you learn how to be a wizard.
The movie scene that gave you nightmares?
I am scared very easily and therefore intentionally don’t watch very many movie scenes that will give me nightmares. I remember one time being at my best friend’s house when he decided it would be amusing to distract me with peanut butter cups and force me to sit through the original Japanese version of the Grudge. Even with subtitles and watching it in the middle of the afternoon with all the lights on I had to leave part way through. I have the heebie jeebies just thinking about it.
Song lyric that still cuts you deep no matter how many times you hear it?
Hmmm. That’s a good one. I remember songs like most people remember smells. I remember them with what seems like my whole body and I forever associate them with a particular person or experience or place. Some lyrics that used to cut really deep I can’t even relate to in a different context than whatever I was living through when I first connected with them. All of that being said, Amy Winehouse sang “I should just be my own best friend, not fuck myself in the head with stupid men.” That rings pretty true and it’s hard to imagine it not cutting deep. Perhaps another song will eventually be sung to change how I feel about that one though.
What’s the best thing about your favourite comedian?
I don’t really have a favorite comedian. However, my friend Dominique Fricot who I toured with a whole bunch in 2012 is one of the funniest dudes I know. I laughed more on those tours than any others I’ve been on. The best things about him are how silly he is and one of his many alter egos, “Becky.” If you run into him you should ask him what the dance move of the day is. If you can get him to demonstrate it either wearing nothing but a towel or with some sort of prop, all the better.
Person you always hoped you’d be like when you grew up.
Bette Midler. She has a killer voice, she’s hilarious and she’s so theatrical. But most importantly to me as a young girl, she was incredibly beautiful in a way that is not typical of Hollywood or the music industry and proof to me that I could also be a success even though I didn’t look like a lot of other women in the spotlight. She's short, has all the right curves in all the right places, and sings her face off. Sounds about right to me.
The best advice you ever received and from who?
There was a period of time when I was a teenager where I stopped playing my cello to focus on singing. Someone in my life encouraged me to sell it for a sum of money too large for my teenaged mind to comprehend. My amazing mum advised me not to and said I would regret it if I did. She was totally right. Turns out a lot of money to a teenager is not worth it to an adult. I’ve had that cello for 18 years and I can’t imagine ever parting with it.
What’s the best love lesson you learned from a relationship between two fictional characters?
Even though Belle was smart enough to see right from the get go that Gaston is a total douche bag, it took her time to realize that the Beast was actually her Prince Charming. Don’t judge a book by its cover or you could miss some magic. But trust your gut if it’s giving you a strong message. And if a talking candlestick and his friend the talking clock want to throw you a party, you better damn well put on a golden gown and roll with it. There’s no way that scenario wouldn’t lead to true love, even if the guy you’re dancing with is particularly hairy. (I'm not sure which two of those characters are the ones I learned the lesson from. Most likely the candlestick and the clock).
The greatest adventure you’ve ever had?
I'm going to have to go with playing in my friend Aidan Knight’s band on his Western Canadian tour in 2011. I’ve never been so in love with music and I was surrounded by some of the most incredible and talented people I’ve ever met. There was a lot of interesting trumpet player underwear dancing, pretending we could speak French and I feel like we ate a lot of cucumbers. All good things.