John O’Regan is beginning to get his due. The Toronto-bred artist goes under the stage name Diamond Rings, and his latest album Free Dimensional has garnered incredibly favourable reviews. In fact, the feedback has been so positive that O’Regan recently made an appearance on U.S. network television when he played on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Although compared by some to Bowie, Depeche Mode and Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Diamond Rings brings a fresh new look and sound to Canadian music. WHERE Ottawa’s Matías Muñoz speaks with O’Regan in advance of his Dec. 7 concert at Ritual Nightclub about staying levelheaded while on the road and his favourite Ottawa spots.
You’ve had the opportunity to tour with bands such as PS I Love You and Stars. What have your experiences connecting with other artists meant to you?
It’s really nice to be on tour with friends. I’ve had the opportunity to tour with bands that at one point earlier in my career I looked up to a lot, but now we’re friends. To share the stage and to get to know some of them personally is a real honour for me. I consider myself a contemporary rather than just a fan — I feel lucky.
How do you stay grounded when on the road?
I think the nature of touring keeps you pretty grounded. It keeps you on your toes, in the best possible way. A lot of the work that happens on tour isn’t especially glamourous, it’s all that grunt work that goes into making the one hour I get on stage sound and look as close to perfect as possible. I think it’s that aspect of it that adds to the magic of the whole thing. A lot of people work really hard to make it all possible; the stuff that happens on stage doesn’t happen automatically.
Where do you like to go when you’re in Ottawa?
I love eating schwarma at Marroush (now called Three Brothers), which is right down the street from Ritual Nightclub where I’m going to play. You kind of get these habits and traditions when on tour, and you don’t want to change them up. That’s my Ottawa thing.
To what extent do you use your music to speak to gender stereotypes and other issues you see within the industry, and culture in general?
I think at the end of the day I want to connect with people, that’s why I write music and do what I do. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care what people thought about my work, or if I said I didn’t care if people didn’t like what I do. That being said, what I do and what I project sonically and aesthetically has to feel real and different in order to present something to the world that is otherwise lacking. Certainly, in some respect, there is a willingness to transform or push peoples expectations of what is possible in a live or recording context, or a visual context, in relationship to the way they view me.