Alt Altman, the mind behind suave synth-pop outfit Digits, is a heckuva adventurous guy: In the last few years, he’s called Toronto, Montreal, London, and Berlin home. That restlessness, too, is evident in his creative output. He runs Silentshout.ca—which is, personally speaking, one of my favourite music blogs. Whenever he’s back in Toronto, he forms part of the Silent Shout DJs, a collective known for their impeccable (and wide-reaching) tastes in undiscovered sounds. Then, of course, there’s Digits, his lush, late-night synth act—which we’ve named one of our must-see sets at CMW. We caught up with Altman to discuss Toronto’s best snack spots, CMW’s international comparables, and the less-than-obvious benefits of 4 a.m. last calls.
What’s new with Digits and Silent Shout? Can you tell us what you have planned for the year?
Well Digits is going back to Europe soon, I just spent several months in Canada which was amazing, staying in my hometown of Toronto, followed by a month in the Yukon and I’m now in Montreal. I’m really excited to go back though! I just put out an EP, Only Affection, and a story-album before that (In the City of the Dead), so it’ll be singles and videos for a while. I’m really excited to release a split vinyl 7-inch with Ark Analog (Dan Werb of Woodhands and Maylee Todd), that’s called Say Goodbye and will come out in the summer.
Silent Shout’s blog just went through a major redesign, we’ve got our big CMW show and already planning our NXNE, and can’t wait to announce some of the concerts we have planned in Toronto and Montrea in the coming months. Canadian electronic music keeps getting better and more plentiful. We can post five times a day and still not run out of quality stuff.
Say you’re playing host to an out-of-city band in Toronto for a few days. Where do you take them? What do you do?
Cheap food: burritos at Burro on College, sandwiches at Sky Blue Sky on Bloor, breakfast at Karine’s on McCaul by OCAD. Good times: small bars like 3speed, Holy Oak, Communist Daughter, Get Well, and a ton of others. But I’ll also tell them to come back in the summer! That’s when Toronto really becomes a special place.
Is there anything you’re adamant about seeing this year at CMW?
So much to see this year! Diana on Wednesday the 20th at Mod Club is can’t-miss. They’re a new Toronto supergroup making hazy electro-soft-pop heavy on saxophone and their show is killer. Later that night I’ll be going to check out Make Haste at the Gladstone, an amazing new local electropop artist. Karneef and the Life are playing Thursday at Pop Montreal’s Drake showcase and I’ve been dying to see them. If you feel like going out early on Friday, you’ve got to see Akua play at Silver Dollar–the best electro-R&B in town, unbelievable voice, and you’ll still have time to get down to Wrongbar to see me after. But of course the highlight for me will be seeing Mozart’s Sister play the Silent Shout showcase at Comfort Zone on Saturday. Her new EP is mind-blowing. Sunday I’ll be winding down with Cell Memory and Kool Thing at Austra’s event at the Garrison.
What’s the best and worst thing about a festival like CMW? Does it compare to others you’ve played or attended?
The best thing is extended liquor licenses! Seriously, bars closing at 2:00 is something that needs to be changed permanently, pronto. If there’s anything bad about CMW, it’s that the shows can suffer from a little bit less spontaneity. But everyone’s got to stay on schedule at a festival and there’s a good reason for that—you don’t want people hopping from bar to bar missing the bands they love. So there’s that. But usually bands still deliver killer performances at CMW, and although the crowd might be slightly different and a little more industry-y, it’s still an awesome time. Every festival has its own character but it does still have some resemblance to some of the festivals I’ve played in Europe, like Cologne Pop or Fête de la Musique.
Who are your favourite Toronto musicians or artists—and why?
Too many to list them all so I’ll obviously just choose a few! I’m hugely into the experimental soulful clatter of Tenderness, the pastiche-yet-real-pop of Yacht Club, and the electronic post-punk duo Hot & Cold—all of their albums were among my favourites of last year. As for brand-new artists, the best in town are Petra Glynt, Valerie Dour, Triple Gangers, Me and My Rhythm Box and Diana, all of whom have incredible live shows.
Tell us why your show is the show everyone should make sure to see.
Diamond Rings is DJing and he’s got amazing taste. It’ll be a bit more intimate than his main performance and we can all get a glimpse into how his brain produces the pure pop genius he makes. Nightbox is very damn cool, I highly recommend checking them out. And I will also do my best to “rock the party right”and perhaps that will work out for all concerned.
What else is Digits up to that we should know about? Do you have any other projects on the go?
I also play in a super-slow electronic R&B duo called Bad Passion. We’ve been writing this past year and are really excited to release some of our new stuff. We’re making an EP called Harrison Ford and each song is about one of his movies.
Digits play on Friday, March 22 at Wrongbar.