Chris Dadge deftly straddles the border lines of pop and experimental music like a gymnast on parallel bars. Operating from his hometown of Calgary, Alberta, he has earned international acclaim for his simultaneous roles as percussionist, producer, composer, recording engineer, and organizer of the Bug Incision record label/concert series, fostering free improvisation for the past 15 years. “Everything I do scratches different itches,” says Dadge. “I’d be sad if I never played another drum beat again, but I’d also be sad if I never bowed another piece of styrofoam into a microphone.”

As an in-demand collaborator, Dadge is possibly best known for his work with Chad VanGaalen, performing as his live drummer since 2015. Dadge is also celebrated for his contributions to Alvvays’ studio recordings, earning a JUNO Award for ‘Alternative Album of the Year’ for their 2018 release, Antisocialites. During two seasons with the Banff Centre’s Indie Band Residency, Dadge worked with Broken Social Scene members Brendan Canning and Charles Spearin, Tragically Hip producer Nyles Spencer, and six-time Grammy Award-winning producer Shawn Everett.

Dadge’s own skills as a songwriter can be heard on the four albums from Lab Coast, a band hailed for their “short, deceptively simple drops of catchy-as-hell indie rock” (Exclaim!). The group’s last release, a compilation from UK-based label Faux Discx Records, was praised by AllMusic for its “catchy lo-fi pop gems… solid from start to finish.” Lab Coast will return with a new album in 2022. 

During the pandemic, Dadge hunkered down in his home recording space, Child Stone Studios, to create a collection of pop songs built from unfinished fragments dating as far back as a decade. By playing nearly every instrument himself, he followed in the footsteps of one-man wrecking crews such as Richard Swift, Chris Cohen, or early Paul McCartney. With the jangly melodicism of R.E.M. or Teenage Fanclub, and the synthy shimmer of the New Pornographers, this irresistibly hooky release will see the light of day in the near future. “No one was asking me to make a record, so there was no pressure to do anything other than what I wanted,” he says. “It’s a solo album from a solo time.”

Child Stone Studios has also served as the home base for a series of projects with Dadge in the producer and recording engineer seat. Specializing in a combo of analog and digital technologies, unorthodox recording techniques, and diverse instrumentation, his list of collaborators includes the emerging artists Marlaena Moore, Sunglaciers, Crystal Eyes, Jom Comyn, and Chad VanGaalen band member Ryan Bourne. Working as drummer and producer, Dadge has maintained an ongoing collaboration with Samantha Savage Smith, whose upcoming album will be released in April 2022. 

In the field of free improv, Dadge has spent the past 15 years as the founder of Bug Incision, the Calgary-based concert series and record label that has stacked up nearly 100 releases. Performing alone or with various iterations of his group the Bent Spoon Ensemble, Dadge has collaborated with Mats Gustafsson, Eugene Chadbourne, John Oswald, Eric Chenaux, and countless others. He has spent the bulk of his years playing percussion, developing a voice based on an open-ended variety of sound-generating objects including violin and electronics. A review from Volcanic Tongue noted his “fleet, needling style that would transpose Milford Graves’ multi-pulse work to a looser, more thought-paced setting, working in bursts of propulsion and single emphatic sound events.” Future releases from Bug Incision include Dadge’s collaboration with Calgary-based flautist Jiajia Lee.

The upcoming project that Dadge is most keen to share is a meditative solo album of sustained, hanging tones, falling outside of the dual realms of his musical output in its explorations of minimalist repetition. “I’m really excited about it because I don’t know what it is or what listeners should expect,” he says. “It’s the least contrived thing I’ve ever done. Writing pop songs and playing improvised music are existing things that I’m engaging with. This album uses certain improv language and sounds, while the concept behind it was based out of places where improvisation and composition meet. It comes from things that I’m familiar with, but I don’t have a clear context for the final product. I like that!”

- Jesse Locke