Festival favourite ends summer with a Royal Rumpus

Smoky Tiger talks new album, being a neo-shaman and more

Cult DJ and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Courtnage — known onstage as Smoky Tiger — released his third album, The Premium Quality Royal Rumpus, Aug. 30.

In addition to Courtnage on guitar, vocals and organ, the album features a crew of guest musicians called the Manitobandits.

This includes Gabriela Ocejo (Juvel), JD Ormond (Ultra Mega), Ben Jones (founder of Rainbow Trout Music Festival), T.J. Blair (Blond(e) Goth) and Megumi Kimata (French Class).

“The Manitobandits is a loose term to describe my friends, so I’ve got a lot of great musicians on there from different bands,” said Courtnage.

The Premium Quality Royal Rumpus showcases Courtnage’s distinct but indefinable sound. His style is difficult to pin down ­— he prioritizes entertainment and the exploration of specific themes rather than striving for a particular sound.

“I have become bored with traditional classifications of genre,” he said.

Courtnage integrates Manitoban history in his music, as well as otherworldly themes drawn from his experiences as a traveller.

“I consider myself to be almost like a neo-shaman, it’s hard to use that word, shaman, but I’m an explorer of altered states of consciousness,” said Courtnage.

“I’ve spent time around the world experimenting with different shamanic traditions in Central and South America, in India, in Thailand, and I try to spread that type of awareness and that type of expanded consciousness in my music as well.”

Courtnage also strives for each performance to be a unique experience.

“I try to entertain people, so I’m trying to entertain myself,” he said.

“I want to put on a performance that surprises people, and I like to shock people, and I like to cause a whole myriad of emotions in people.

“I think that if you can do that in one set, the more emotions you can pull out of people, surprise, laughter, annoyance […] I think the more of an impact you can have.”

Courtnage added that he incorporates theatrical elements into his shows, “especially the one at Rainbow Trout, there’s kind of a ceremonial, ritualized aspect to it as well which is like some kind of pagan, mystery play is going on.”

He has been playing Rainbow Trout Music Festival every year since its first edition, and is known for incorporating ceremonial elements, organ and microphone into his DJ sets.

“I get kind of bored of the traditional DJs […] I like being able to sing and improvise and do things overtop of it. I just find it’s more interesting.”

This year, some Smoky Tiger fans got involved with his Rainbow Trout show, dressed up as cavemen, mermaids and a sorceress.

“This whole Smoky Tiger improvisational dance troupe kind of emerged […] and that was really exciting because it’s like the whole thing is taking on a life of its own completely outside of my control.”

Courtnage felt this elevated his set and allowed him to take a backseat in the performance.

“It really seemed like a life-changing experience for them, and I’m just facilitating this thing to happen.”

Courtnage described his shows as a place for people to connect and feel uninhibited.

“It’s an opportunity for catharsis, for group catharsis.”

Music is an important facet of Courtnage’s life, he said, rather than his full-time job.

“I like having [music] separated from money, so after I’ve done this show on Friday, and done these two festivals, I’m going to relax and move on for a while.”