Godspeed You! Black Emperor discuss Polaris Prize win after slamming award

Prize founder responds to band's criticism and clears up 'incorrect information'

Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘s Efrim Menuck has elaborated on the band’s criticism of the Polaris Music Prize.

The Canadian band won the award, which recognises creativity in Canadian recorded music, last year for their album ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ and immediately responded by criticising the event in a lengthy statement, saying it didn’t “serve the cause of righteous music at all”. They later donated their $30,000 prize money to a fund that provides prisoners with musical instruments.

In a new interview with the Kreative Kontrol podcast, Efrim Menuck elaborated on the band’s initial statement, saying: “As a band, we said everything we had to say honestly. The only thing I’d add to it is, it was the strangest thing to go into the day of the award show hoping that we would not win. I don’t know. We knew what we were going to say if we won.

“We said what we had to say and tried to say it as graciously as we could and I feel like some people got that and other people chose not to acknowledge that there was some attempt at graciousness there. It’s not like we wrote a letter like, ‘Fuck you man! Stupid squares!’ We tried to acknowledge, y’know?

“The deal was, to anyone who puts out a new record in a year, Polaris approaches the record label and says, ‘Would you like to put these records up for nomination?’ Then the label can say yes or no. So Constellation said yes to this and didn’t ask Godspeed what they thought about it because they were like, ‘Oh, this will be a nice thing.’ And so it was really late in the game when we realised, ‘Oh shit, we could’ve just pulled out.’ But we were convinced that we were not going to make it onto the shortlist.

“When we did make it onto the short list, the band was convinced we weren’t going to win this thing. It was really towards the end when were like, ‘Oh shit, we might and I guess we need to prepare ourselves for that possibility.’ It was a really strange process. You have to remember that Godspeed’s relationship with the Canadian music industry has been terrible from the beginning. It’s been antagonistic from the beginning so it wasn’t unreasonable for us to be like, ‘We’re not going to get this thing. Why would they give us this thing?’ We said it in our press release: we feel like orphans in our own country. We feel fairly invisible here.”

He went on to say how difficult it had been to get their prize money to the prisoners they intended it for.

“Now, we’re going to enter the nightmare of how we’re going to do that. All prison bureaucracies are difficult to deal with but in Quebec, they’re particularly difficult. Ideally what we’d like to do is find someone to make it happen and make it happen. So we’re going to give ourselves a set amount of time to set up this program. We’re reaching out to people in the States who’ve done work like this and see if they have any insights on just how to deal with bureaucracies like this. It’s a good headache to have. It’ll work out.”

The prize founder, Steve Jordan, has since issued a statement clearing up what he said was “incorrect information” in the band’s post. He wrote: He said: “We have no issue with and no comment on any of the opinions expressed re: Godspeed’s win of the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. However, some statements that were made to Vish Khanna in Efrim’s recent interview need clarification. We’ll add that we don’t think there was an attempt to mislead, but incorrect information was cited and has since been reposted. It’s really technical and likely quite boring but the facts are important.

“Efrim said ‘… to anyone who puts out a new record in a year, Polaris approaches the record label and says, would you like to put these records up for nomination?’ We don’t do this.

“When a jurist recommends a record for consideration via private online discussion we ask the label for permission to upload the album. This procedure is designed to make the record freely available to all of our jury members so they can also consider the work. This does not mean a record is nominated at that time. It does confirm that it is being considered by at least one jury member. Should a label or artist decline this permission, a jurist could still vote for that title. It happens. Should the record then get nominated via jury vote, we ask for permission to use the album art in various ways, which in this case was granted.

“We’ve never had anyone turn down a nomination but if they chose to we’d certainly honour the artist’s wishes. We have no comment on anything else said before or recently except to say that if you haven’t heard the record, you really should.”