When someone leaves, there is always a hole.
When Calgary musician Chris Reimer passed away in his sleep from heart complications in 2012, that hole was shared by many.
Family, friends, bandmates and fans of the 26-year-old artist, who played guitar in acclaimed local act Women as well as other projects including Azeda Booth and San Francisco act The Dodos, all mourned for what they lost — musically and, more importantly, personally.
Even six years later, ask anyone who came in contact with him and that hole becomes apparent.
He left a mark. He has a lasting, living legacy. As an artist. As a human being.
“I think so,” says his partner Rena Kozak. “I think anybody that knew him well enough loved him and knew that he loved them. That’s really all you can ask for in a life.”
His legacy, though, also extends to his music, and on Friday, May 4, a new double-album of Reimer’s songs will be posthumously released by the locally based Flemish Eye label under the title Hello People.
Kozak, who is also an artist who records under the moniker Child Actress, was instrumental in the album’s release, combing through a decade of his work and helping assemble what is, at times, a breathtaking album, and, as a complete work, simply stunning.
From delicate and dreamy ambient compositions to noisier, minimalist fare, it provides a beautifully broad sample of his many gifts and talents.
Proceeds from the album sales will go to the Chris Reimer Legacy Fund Society, which was established by his family and those many friends to support dance bursaries, a music award, the production of his music, and various other projects, many of which involve children.
On Saturday, May 5 at The Palomino, prior to a later ticketed performance by Preoccupations — which features some of his ex-Women friends and which Kozak acts as soundperson for — there will be a special listening party for Hello People, with admission free but donations to the Legacy Fund “welcome and appreciated.”
Prior to the celebration of Reimer’s legacies, Kozak spoke with theYYSCENE.
Q: Why were so driven for people to hear these songs?
A: I know it’s the one thing that he really wanted to do with his life was release music, whether it be his own or music that he made with other people, and at the time of his death he was really working on his own stuff a lot, and was excited about it and wanted people to hear it. Ever since the moment I woke up that morning and he was gone I’ve been compelled to make sure that his music is released … I’m really excited for everyone to get to have them hear what I’ve been listening to for years.
Q: What was your role in the album?
A: My role was just compiling. I was left with his computers and voice memos and hard drives and all of this stuff, so I just started going through it and making sure I could find all of it, everything he made, and to go through it and choose what highlighted his work over the course of his musical career as much as possible. I guess that was my role in putting it together.
Q: When it came down to compiling it and sequencing the songs, were you hoping to come up with a cohesive work? Because it very much is.
A: Oh, I’m glad that it comes across as a cohesive work, yes. You definitely don’t want to release a record that doesn’t sound like a finished product or that it (doesn’t) belong together. So that was the goal, to make things made over approximately 10 years of his life and make them sit them together as a piece that people would be able connect to. We did put a lot of effort into that in terms of sequencing and choosing what would meld as well as giving an example of all of his different levels …
It wasn’t as tough as I thought it was going to be though just because his work all has a specific theme, it all does sit together just because it has his stamp on it no matter what angle he’s working in.
Q: Did you know what was completed or what he wanted out there, or did you just have to go by what you felt and what you thought?
A: I would say I 80 per cent knew — Chris was very open with me and used me as a sounding board for his ideas a lot. So I have a very good sense of what he wanted to complete and I have a bit of a sense of where he would have gone next. He was really pushing in a new direction of writing songs where he was singing as a frontman kind of thing and we were really working on that. None of those made the cut because they were not done in any way. I’m using some of those as my own songs with permission from his parents, but that was the direction he was going in, and through working with him on those I think I understood subconsciously he desired people to hear out of his work. And that definitely made it easier to make decisions.
Q: How tough for you was this? I imagine there was some catharsis, but it’s also got to be difficult?
A: It was exceptionally difficult, yes. I think that it was exceptionally difficult. (Pause) It’s hard to answer that clearly because I also feel like I didn’t have a choice in whether or not to push through the difficulty. Yeah, I think it probably added a lot of stress and trauma, but to say that it was difficult would maybe not be the right way to put it because I just had to do it, there was no other option.
Q: Working through your own grief, was this a helpful step, ultimately?
A: Absolutely. Working on this project was definitely a cathartic way to work through my own grief. When it comes to grief, and I fancy myself a bit of an expert on it now, and I think the more that you can delve into your relationship with the person who has passed in any capacity the better it is for your own development in your grief process. At least for me, personally, I also know about grief that you can’t speak for other people, but to have the opportunity to get extremely deep and personal and intimate with someone who you were close to who has passed away definitely helps you understand your own grief. If there’s one thing I understand it’s my own grief, I really have become very in touch with it and the process of assembling his music definitely gave me an opportunity to understand it deeper and on great levels.
Q: It must also be nice to know that, yes, the music keeps him alive, but the Legacy Fund also is a pretty strong component of this.
A: He would be thrilled that we’re supporting children in music and dance. A lot of people who knew him didn’t know that he danced as a child. It was extremely influential on him and his music, and I think he would be thrilled that we thought of that side of him in supporting him.
Q: Is this it? Have you released all that you’re going to release or is there more?
A: Well, I don’t know. There is definitely more. I’m not sure if we’ve released the best of it and there may be more that could be released down the line, and I would be happy to and I know his family would be happy to continue releasing more. I suspect that probably more will come in varying ways, just based on the reception of this one. I think there’s a lot of potential for more material to be heard again in the future, we just have to figure out how to do that.
Q: Speaking of legacies, how do you want people to hear this and, maybe this is a stupid question, but how do you want people to remember him?
A: Oh, wow. That’s not a stupid question, it’s just a difficult question because there are so many things that I would like people to remember about him, and to sum it up easily would be a challenge. I think overall, I mean I say this all the time now, overall I think I just want people to know what a loving person he was and to feel that love in his music, that was why he made it. He made it because he loved music and he loved people, and wanted to share with them something beautiful. I would like people to remember him as that generous soul. I think that might be a good place to start.
(Photo courtesy Dominick Mastrangelo.)
The listening celebration of Chris Reimer’s posthumous album Hello People takes place Saturday, May 5 at The Palomino. For more information on the record and the Chris Reimer Legacy Fund, please click here.