Cop Car Bonfire is the busker Grimes called “the coolest live show in Montreal”

09.03.12 Words by: Ruth Saxelby

Tim Lafontaine, aka Cop Car Bonfire, is a Montreal electro-noise improvisational performer. As soon as the snow melts and the cigarette butts start flowing into the sewers, you will find Lafontaine busking day and night on the city’s various corners. With a set up of wires and machines laid out on the ground, Cop Car Bonfire’s act seems more like a futuristic, trance-inducing, urban religious calling than a street performance. I’ve never seen music made to do things like this before. With friend and collaborator Grimes recently shining a light on him during her Gorilla Vs Bear takeover, it seemed high time to say hello.

When did you first move to Montreal and why?

I came to Montreal in September of 2009, with absolutely no plan and maybe $600 to my name. What drew me here was the art history as well as the cheap rent. Coming from Vancouver I figured I had better things to do with my money than drop it on a $1500 shit apartment on Commercial Drive.

You played for a while before starting to use the alias Cop Car Bonfire. How have your performances changed since then?

I never really had much of a plan to be playing shows. I just feel that there are certain sounds that should be shared with everyone. I never understood why people wait around for a show when the entire city is like a big stage. Look at how many people are just wandering around the streets looking at this and that with nothing really connecting them to other people. I figured it was a good way to connect with like-minded individuals. The alias kind of just came along with the reality: constant conflict with police concerning my civil rights. This kind of sparked an interest to fuck with them a bit. The alias never really affected how I preform though. I write pretty basic “song” structures and just try as best as I can to be really in the moment when I play. I don’t like to think too much about how things will go, because you can’t really predict that.

When and where do you like to perform the most?

I like to play outside, in the spring and summer. My favorite place to play is usually surrounded by foliage.

In a city like this one the weather must impact your performances a lot. What do you do during winter?

I just write a lot, make art and work on new material. I still go out and busk in the Metro from time to time, when the moon is right.

Grimes recently mentioned you as being instrumental to her understanding of what live music is. Any comments on this?

It’s cool that she feels that way. It’s feels nice to have inspired someone who’s doing so well for herself, though I would say the same thing about her. Her and I have worked together on a few tracks, and are currently working on a release together under the name Membrain.

What kind of gear do you use?

I use different gear as I go, right now I’m using two drum machines and the infamous 404 with an external delay.

What got you started doing this kind of stuff?

Psychedelia.

What kind of interactions do improvised public performances create? What is the strangest experience you’ve had doing this?

To tell you the truth in Montreal it’s never been all that bad. The worst you will face is a fine, which you can always dispute. It’s just kinda lame to have to go though all the bureaucracy just to share something you’re passionate about with others.

The strangest experience I had was outside of an Aids Wolf show. An officer got out of his car and started talking me down as if I was so crazy to think I could just go ahead and busk noise music. We argued for a long time, and I just kept telling him to look at the history of this city. Oddly enough, he ended up ripping up the ticket. Meanwhile Alex, the guitarist from Aids Wolf, was watching it all go down. He introduced himself and ended up bringing me into the show and letting me stash my busking gear back stage. They were opening for Arab on Radar and it was a really great show.

What stuff do you have out now?

I just released an E.P called ‘Earthquake’ in February of this year. And am currently working on a new album ‘Bad Pharmacie’ it’s inspired by my interest in pharmaceuticals and how to me they resemble modern day black magic. You can hear demos of those tracks on my website.

You’ve also mentioned that people’s mobile phone signals sometimes interfere and interact with your music, can you describe this further? Do similar situations happen with other things?

Well I use a lot of circuit bent gear and broken pedals with sometimes I don’t think they are grounded properly. Sometimes my gear picks up random radio frequencies. I feel that everything in your environment in one way or another adds a new variable to improvised music, and even to composition.

And finally, what acts are you into right now?

Tropical Adventure, Flow Child, “✚◕△☁✖” and Tombs

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