Back in September of this year, I realized a childhood dream and sat down to interview the two guys behind Prozzak to publish along with a live review of their sold out show for Daily Hive Vancouver.
For the sake of length and context, however, not everything we talked about in the interview was able to make it into the final piece. I thought here would be a nice place to publish the full transcript in case anyone was curious about it, so here it is!
Please introduce yourselves
Jay: Well I am Jay [Levine], and Simon.
James: I’m James [Bryan McCollum] and the creator of Milo.
And your guys’ tour is just across Canada at the moment right?
Jay: Yeah, it’s just Canada.
Do you have any plans to go to the US or anywhere else in the world with the tour?
Jay: Not yet…
James: We’re putting out a new album in the new year and depending on what territories gravitate towards our singles, then we’ll tour there. We do have some fans in the US [though], especially with the “Get A Clue” and Disney stuff that we used to have, so if there’s a need for it, we’ll do it. But you know, Canada’s our spot.
You guys just released a couple singles so far, but there’s definitely an album coming out in the new year then yeah?
Jay: Yeah we actually just finished writing [it]. We spent two weeks in Toronto and just finished most of it and we have two songs out now, “Baby I Need Your Love” and “Love Fools Anonymous.” But there’ll be a full album in the new year.
That’s so exciting as an old school fan. I guess I first heard your guys’ music through Much Music when I was probably like 12.
Do you find that you’re still reaching new audiences as a band? Or do you feel like your fans have grown up with the band, like I have?
Jay: I think right now, the real pleasure of it is meeting people like you who were 12, 13, 14, 15 [when we first started releasing music] and now are like 30, 32-ish.
James: They’ve grown up and they come and say, “You’re the first album I bought!” or, “You defined my childhood!” It’s crazy.
Jay: And we honestly didn’t know that anyone cared until last year. It’s been so great meeting everyone [who started following the band] back when they were kids because now it means so much more to them.
It also became way more meaningful to us than we thought it could, and it also became a lot less stressful because we have other careers, you know. So it’s just about fun and it’s just about the music now, we would not do this unless it was fun.
So would you say that Prozzak is like a side project then?
Jay: I wouldn’t say it’s a side project…
James: It started as a side project!
Jay: As an artist though, I have my own little folk project and then I have Prozzak, I mean…
James: I really have to admit, this is by far the most successful project that I actually have. And it’s the most fun.
Jay: And for me, because I’m hiding behind a character, I get to be hyper honest. Like I’m not thinking about being cool or anything, so I can express everything through Simon. It’s really cathartic. So in that way it’s like a super artistic project.
I also read somewhere that one of your guys’ goals as artists was to have a crazy big arena show for Prozzak with pyrotechnics and everything. And you guys already achieved that right?
James: We did!
So, do you like have a bigger goal for Prozzak now?
Jay: Oh yeah.
James: From day one I think we had bigger dreams. We really saw it as a theatre production and a TV series…
Jay: Which we’re talking about now. We’re also developing an app that’s basically where you have to feed Simon compliments and love and if you don’t, he dies. It’s really simple.
Jay: It doesn’t do anything else. Maybe [we’ll add] a weight lifting thing for Milo.
Just listening back to songs of Prozzak and watching all the videos back again, I really noticed how Simon is such a tortured person who had some crazy stuff going on in his psychosis.
Jay: Well for me as a writer, and I can’t speak for you but maybe you agree, I always love really happy melodies with really sad lyrics. You know, I just thought that worked.
James: I love that about the project too.
Jay: And Simon had a lot of sadness.
I also thought about some of the lyrics in the old songs and how young people now might feel more connected to them now. Just because of how prevalent the internet is, how dating is so terrible now, and how drug abuse and addiction is more prevalent with young people now too compared to back in the 90s.
Jay: That’s it! We’re so grateful for all the people that grew up with us and are back now. So when we release the new songs in the new year hopefully some new people will come to the table as well.
So when you started touring this project again at that festival in Toronto…
James: Atomic Lollypop.
Yes. Did you have any idea what the response was gonna be like?
Jay: Total shock.
James: [It was an] amazing surprise. Also because that [festival] was really specific kind of a fan expo kind of thing for people that are into Anime and cosplay. It wasn’t until we saw them and met them that we were like, “Oh I understand. These are our fans, we get it ok.”
Jay: And we feel like the people that gravitate towards that, you know that brainy, intellectual stuff, really get what we’re doing [with the band]. There were people dressed up like us and all that stuff!
James: Originally when we did it, we were like, oh who knows [what’s gonna happen]?
Jay: Yeah like, is this cool? Is it not? Are we just insane? But now it makes actually so much more sense.
James: It was so much fun. Like that is a great kick off to the whole [tour]. That really inspired us.
Jay: I expected literally no one to be there and there was 4000 people there. I was like, oh my god.
And two sold out shows in Vancouver
When I first saw the press release come through I was like, “Okay yeah, I’m down for this. But is everyone down for this?”
James: We didn’t know either.
So originally when you started this project, was it something that you were taking serious at the time? Or was it kind of a joke in the beginning?
Jay: Um well, that’s a good question because the original inspiration for the whole project was an impression that I used to do touring with the Philosopher Kings of this like bitter British aging guy which I got from a book called Pinball by Jerzy Kosinski. I wish I was more accurate with that.
James: But really, it was based on…
Jay: No, the [original] impression I mean of this bitter aging, and at the time I was not aging. [But the accent was of], you know some old British rockstar that used to be famous, and now he’s not, and he’s like “uhhh” all the time.
James: I mean it was hilarious to us in the band, that impression, but then when we started writing for it. And it didn’t come out…
Jay: Oh yeah then I was like, wait a second, these lyrics I’m writing are totally about me and I would never write them as me. So our A&R guy for Philosopher Kings at Sony, Mike Roth, he basically heard this impression one day and was like, “You should do a project like that.” And all of a sudden I was like, woah, what can this be? And we had a song called “Europa” which was…
James: We were pitching it to Ace of Base.
James: And when he heard [the song] when we were writing, Roth was like, “Oh let’s put that out.”
Jay: So then we were like, “What’s his name? His name is Simon.” Because that’s like a typical British name.
James: But as far as fun, I think we always have fun. Whenever we write a Prozzak song, we are laughing a lot about it. But the songs come from the heart and even now listening back to the older ones and like some of that stuff I’ve done…
Jay: And you know we’ve both separately produced and wrote for tons of artists and different genres and all that stuff. It’s funny because we had so many songs from our separate careers that we would pitch each other [for Prozzak] but it never usually works. We always end up agreeing that it’s not quite Prozzak unless we write them together from scratch, which is really cool.
If you had started Prozzak now, instead of in the late 90s, how do you think Milo and Simon would be as characters? Do you think they’d be different?
Jay: That’s so interesting. I don’t know, I mean me personally, I don’t have the sadness that I had then to draw on. So I don’t think the project would even happen now.
Although now I can draw on sad times and know who the character is. I can almost write for that character like a TV writer would write for a character, which I love. But would it have inspired it today from ground up, probably not.
James: No! It would never happen the same way twice. It came out of chemistry and started with a violent explosion, just like The Big Bang. Then Simon and Milo were born.
Jay: And we really did have a physical fight, we really did fight and made up through music. It’s corny but it’s true.
I also read that although time has passed, Milo and Simon are still kind of like the same people. Do you feel like they…
James: They don’t age.
Jay: It’s so funny because we’re writing a song called “All The Feels” about phonyness on Facebook and like sitting around wishing that you had other peoples lives but realizing they’re phony lives. You know the phenomenon. It’s like a new disease, but it’s very Simon. That could’ve happened in 2000 for sure, so it’s very similar in that way.
James: I think the world caught up to Simon and Milo.
Jay: That’s true. So maybe it’s not as much about love stuff as it was back then, but sitting around and thinking that everyone is more successful and more beautiful than you are on Facebook is something every single person does. I do that, and so would Simon. It’s perfect for Simon.
Header image by: Alison Boutlier