Petra Glynt on Community, Healing & Visual Art

Petra Glynt (a.k.a. Alexandra Mackenzie) has been taking the DIY music scene by storm since 2006. She’s a prolific musician and visual artist, always integrating politics into her work and experimenting with new mediums. PG isn’t afraid to stand out and she’s always up for a challenge.

Read our conversation with Petra Glynt below, and catch her at this year’s Taverne Tour.

Your career spans from across the Toronto DIY scene to Montreal, and now to scoring a Hollywood film. Can you walk us through what the different DIY scenes in Toronto and Montreal are⁠— and were⁠— like? 

It’s true, I’ve been at it for some time now. I first started playing music in Toronto with a glam-punk band called Machetes in 2006. I met a lot of my community while I was attending OCADU, but also by going to shows and playing in experimental music projects. 

The community has changed so much. It’s a lot more self-aware and inclusive nowadays. Back then, there were more venues and platforms to present music, but there was a lack of inclusivity. Looking back, I kinda bulldozed my way in with blinders on. I was a musician at an early age and identified as one, so I had that going for me. When I was first starting out, there were very few non-men with their own projects, and bands like Machetes weren’t seen as cool because we were loud, confident (+ outrageous) girls. We constantly felt tokenized for being an all-female band but didn’t have the know-how to discern what that meant or was. We would totally rip now! 

I played in some other bands after that, Romo Roto, Dentata, Wet Nurse, and Pachamama. Back then, I was part of an art-punk music scene as well as a more old school rock one. Both were fairly insular in themselves and rarely overlapped. I’ve always been kind of a floater and liked all kinds of music, so that’s not surprising, but people don’t seem to need the same distinctions or divisions as they did then. This may be due to the lack of venues in Toronto, or because people have worked very hard to create safer, more inclusive music spaces. 

I wasn’t familiar with what was going on in Montreal at the time. I kind of lived in a Toronto bubble, especially in the years leading up to the start of PG. I lived in a 3000 sq/ft artist-run music/party venue for two years with 7 other people. You didn’t need much from the outside world because people were always coming over. Still, all that changed pretty fast once I moved out, finished university, and I became more exposed to events of the world at large.

Petra Glynt by Alicia Owen

Did you initially find community in the different scenes? How would you encourage others to get involved and better support their creative scene if they don’t know where to start, or how to help?

For others who want to get involved, find your people and start contacting local venues to book shows. You don’t require much to book and run a show. The biggest stress is hoping people will show up! No matter what, there’s always a silver lining, even to the most poorly attended shows. You meet someone new, you hear a new music project that inspires your own work, you book another show from it— this is why music venues are so important. They provide more than space and a sound system. We need them to grow as artists. 

One tip, never pay to play. Don’t book a venue with a huge rental cost if you’re not sure you can front the cost. Don’t get suckered by anyone pandering to your eagerness to play, either with fees or for the promoters’ own benefit. Your energy is important for the health of your art, as well as your community. You should never have to pay to share your music live. Your music is a gift.

What’s it like scoring a film? What’s your creative process like when you’re scoring for someone else’s vision? 

This is my first time scoring directly to picture, which means my job is to react, enhance, and bring life to the events as they present themselves on screen. It’s a whole new can of worms. In the past, I’ve scored films that didn’t require this. It really depends on the film, so I’m learning daily. I’m so grateful to April Mullen, the director, for taking a chance on me. Right now, everything feels pretty intense… like a big mountain, but I’m starting to see the other side. The film itself is intense. It’s called Wander. It’s a thriller that is equal parts emotion and tension. It doesn’t stop moving forward… every day I wake up and walk one door over to my studio, and I’m so thankful that I can be making music as a job right now because a year ago I was staying afloat with a handful of cleaning clients.

I really respect filmmakers. The collaborative nature of it is really inspiring. I’m really having a blast helping bring this film to life. I do as much as I can in a day and await notes. The more on point I am with tending to those notes, the stronger the film, and that’s all you want at the end of the day.

You’re a huge advocate for a range of political topics, always integrating your values and current topics into your music. How do you transform these topics into words and visuals? How do you extend your advocacy from your artistic practice into direct action to help the issues that you’re raising awareness for?

Since I started composing my own music, the topics involved have always been reactions to the world around me. When you cut out all the bullshit, the important matters are all political. I was so angry and I used that as creative energy. I still do. Making music has given me a channel to transform anger into a meaningful experience. Though I learned, with the passing of my father last year, that I also use music to channel grief. I don’t write lyrics when I don’t have anything to share… I can produce music for weeks without lyrics. It’s kind of annoying because I am a singer! I love to sing, but singing feels the best when it’s attached to lyrics I feel strongly about. Sometimes I can be the poet and sometimes I’m the producer/composer. It really depends on the day or how passionate (or mad) I am about something. 

Petra Glynt by Alicia Owen

When I started PG, politics did not feel okay to engage in the arts community. I was scared to speak up for fear of being dismissed, but this fear may have been tied to being a woman in a male-dominant industry/community. I knew what it felt like to be on thin ice… but politics in music is not new. My fave music as a teenager was punk like Propagandhi— it really all makes sense when you look back to those times. A lot has changed, but also a lot hasn’t! I was a 12-year old vegetarian and I still am. Vegetarian, not a pre-teen. 😉

How do you rest and heal in your creative practice, especially after tackling such intense and often difficult topics? Do you have any personal or creative rituals that you like to do?

Good question. Since I started scoring this film, I’ve taken a break from alcohol. I have no time to feel sad or have my brain fail me for a day. It’s really been a great experience, and it’s made me question my relationship to the substance as well as society’s dependence on it. The whole thing is wild to watch on the sidelines. No judgement because I’ve been a drinker since I became legal, but I can’t help but think alcohol is a very effective way of keeping the population complacent. I feel like I’m part of a secret club!

Healing has been a huge part of my experience living in Montreal. I was very burnt out when I left Toronto. I had no idea how burnt out I was until I got here and went through the emotional and physical effects of it. Yoga is amazing. I don’t go to classes, but I have nothing against them. I use Youtube. I’m partial to the solo athletics. Body drugs rule. I love experiencing the daily progress of yoga, it gives me a big boost. Also, sleep is so key, nurturing plants, loving my animals, friends and partner, drawing, and #1: playing music alone in my studio with a bounty of weed. 😉

Tell us a bit about your visual work. Where do you look for inspiration? Do you experiment with your visual practice as much as you do with your music?

I love to draw. It’s my primary visual medium, but I have a major in printmaking (I’m mostly into screen-printing) from OCADU. I dig painting too, I’m really all over the place. I’ll try anything once to know if I like it. I like working with material and tools of all kinds. Since the start of last summer, I started hand-poked tattooing and I love that too! Lately, film has really piqued my interest. This may come with being a musician and having to default into that mode with music videos. Still, I also have some wonderful filmmaker friends, and my partner is one too, so there may be some influence there. I would like to write and direct a film one day. It really just seems like the ultimate way to convey meaning and tell a story. The world is a lot to process⁠— inspiration is everywhere. 🙂

Where can we find all things Petra Glynt?

My website needs some serious love but you can find links to everything at: / 

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