David Bastedo: Carving Canada's Music History from a New Perspective
Updated: Feb 2
David Bastedo and diligence might as well be synonymous. While you may know him as the photographer for The Tragically Hip (and he is that, absolutely), Bastedo’s career is much more rich and vast than that. Far more than a brilliant photographer, Bastedo’s work spans into archiving, digital technology, storytelling, animation, marketing and so much more. Over his young life, Bastedo has worked everywhere from television sets to stages and has told a significant piece of Canada’s musical story from a completely new perspective.
David’s digital career started with an Amiga computer- an Amiga computer nobody else knew how to use to be precise. While working on the set of the Canadian television show Kratt’s Creatures (shout out to my 90s babies!), David took on this beast even though it was his first job out of university. He figured out how to use the computer and allowed for show creators to combine both live action and animation in a brand new way. This was just the start of David’s lifelong journey of paving a way for new technology and advancement.
“That started a journey into the future of television and children’s television. That got me writing…I guess you’d call it a bible...with a friend of mine” Bastedo says. This “bible”, called Inside Out, described the way things would work in the future of technology and children’s television. From here, Inside Out was taken to the Canadian Film Centre where David did a residency in new media.
This was just the beginning but it was already easy to see how David was able to forge a successful career in digital marketing, working for the likes of Think Technology and others for over 20 years.
Then it Happened
Then it happened. David’s digital marketing career brought him into the musical realm. Starting first with musician Hugh Dillon of The Headstones, Bastedo began exploring the virtually unknown world of social media (but not the way we think of it today). Bastedo and Dillon would call up fans and record Dillon talking to them, asking questions and chatting. Just like that, Dillon’s fan base was brought to an inner circle of sorts with the ability to interact with the musician in new ways.
So when David was asked just a short time later to begin doing work for The Tragically Hip it was a smooth transition. Having been asked previously by Johnny Fay and this time being asked by Paul Langlois, David kicked off a career with the band that would be well over a decade long. Just like that, it happened.
The Adventures of MAv
Bastedo started by archiving as much Hip content as he possibly could. Tapping into the Hip Base Fan Forum, he collected a hugely robust timeline of set lists, concert footage, fan stories and more. While that might seem easy today (you’d be wrong), remember this was before Facebook. That type of data mining would have taken an absolutely massive amount of dedication, smarts and work.
From here, Bastedo created a persona named MAv, named after his dog Maverick, the capital A simply done for his pinky finger’s habit to drag on the shift key. The idea was to situate himself between the band and the fans, to create an experience that would bring fans closer to the music and the band they loved. As MAv, Bastedo took video footage and loads of photos, documenting the completely unique story of this iconic Canadian band and the swell of heart that surrounded them. David was able to capture some of the most heartfelt and loving photos of the band ever taken, all with the aim to capture real moments of emotion and make fans feel apart of something bigger than themselves.
Recalling his first visit to Bathouse Studios, where the band played for only him as he snapped away with his camera, David laments that he continued to feel that same way each time he saw the band play. Reflecting on this part of his career has meant digging through thousands of photos, rehashing old memories and feeling the love all over again.
An Artist’s Reflection
As the band came together for one final tour, Bastedo was right there with them and captured some of the most iconic photos of his career. Through David, we were able to see the kisses between Gord Downie and the other members of the band each night. We were able to see the strong embrace between Downie and Trudeau. We saw stills of the hats, the boots and the shiny suits of that final tour. We saw Rob Baker on guitar with his nails painted up, the sly smirks on Paul’s face, the focus on Fay’s and the pure exuberance on Gord Sinclair’s. Just as David’s project had begun with the Hip, fans once again felt part of something bigger than themselves.
Post-tour, David set out on combing through his photos, dealing with a reflection of the last 12 years and finally, creating something to speak to an experience we feel we’ve all had. Through three performances (so far), Bastedo combined photos, video and at times live music in a talk he gave called Through My Lens. It chronicled the times of growth working with the band, choosing a career he was passionate about and beyond.
So what does it all mean for David? What has this peek behind the curtains of the Canadian music scene shown him? For one, he appreciates the warm embrace of a scene unlike any other, where artists genuinely support and nurture one another. He’s been privy to the struggle and hard work that the bands put in, the failures and come uppances and the never ending love for music. So when I probe David about what he thinks the Canadian sound is, he reluctantly answers with one of the best replies I’ve had on this blog:
“The Canadian Sound isn’t a sound, it’s a feeling. It’s the passion and enthusiasm the artists have to go into making it. It’s the sacrifices they put into it. It’s the relationships they build and the engagement that they have with one another and the community and their fans that make everything work. So if there is a Canadian Sound it’s not the sound of music. It’s the sound of everything else that goes into making the music- all the failures, all the successes and trials and tribulations. The Canadian music scene is pretty tight. They do a lot for one another.”
If you want to see music through Bastedo’s unique perspective, you can check out his art and purchase it online at LiveART or catch his next performance of Through My Lens, a talk David gives all about his unique experience capturing the work of Canada’s most beloved band.
Peace, love & history.