Prozzäk Causes Extreme 90’s Nostalgia

“The politics of nations got me down/Geography and policy have run me out of town” are lyrics that seem timely and relevant today but they come from the far-off decade known as the 1990’s and the first single, "Omobolasire" from Canadian duo Prozzäk’s debut album Hot Show (1998). The 90’s surely had their serious problems but we seem to remember the decade fondly and with nostalgia. Prozzäk, along with other gems from that decade, Aqua and Whitfield have teamed up for THE REWIND TOUR which came to St. John’s last night and brought a Much Music Video Dance with it. Soak in the nostalgia.

In case you forgot, Prozzäk consists of cartoon characters Simon and Milo who helped to define the 90’s with their unique brand of “lovesick cartoon europop”. Hot Show went four times platinum, with two of their music videos, “Sucks To Be You”, and “Strange Disease” topping the Much Music Countdown, another bit of nostalgia for Canadian 90’s kids. Prozzäk has been nominated for a number of Juno awards and made an impact outside of the Great White North with “Sucks To Be You” getting heavy rotation on MTV2 and scoring Top 40 hits in Europe.

Jay Levine and James McCollum are the creative minds behind Prozzäk and the people who bring Simon, Milo and their songs to life. The Racket chatted with Levine just before Prozzäk took the stage at Mile One Centre.

It has been an interesting few years for Levine and McCollum since an article from Noisey reminded us of the duo’s pop music genius lead to a performance at Toronto’s Atomic Lollipop comic convention. “I literally was expecting, like ten people to show up, and 4,000 people were there,” said Levine.

This reunion lead to several singles, a new album Forever 1999 (2017) and THE REWIND TOUR. “[The response to the tour has been] ridiculous; it’s great!” said Levine. “As silly [Prozzäk] is in a way, there’s songs like “Be As” and we get people telling us they came out of the closet because of our song; it’s pretty meaningful.”

“Be As” was released as a single in 2000 and contains the words “be as straight as you want to/be as gay as you want to” and Levine said, while the band’s label was in support, they were a little surprised by the lyrics. “The label was like, Holy Shit! Are you going to really say that?!” Levine recounted. “It’s just the most “be yourself” kind of song, the most no-brainer thing,” he reflected. “I’m always for a gutsy, head-turning lyric anyway, and it just made total sense.”

We were curious to know of Prozzäk who may have been in their very early teens back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s might have a new appreciation for the music, given that they have grown up and likely experienced the heartbreak and relationship trials and tribulations that Simon sings about. “Sucks To Be You” for example sounds like a fun little sing-along dance song but it teaches a lesson that someone can break your heart, and you too have the ability to break someone else’s. “Finally, someone understands!” Levine joked. “I like to think there’s real songs even though we presented it in a sort of semi-comical way because of the accent and the characters and all that stuff. If you break down the songs, they were true to me; that was all based on my real life.”

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Thinking back to Simon’s lamenting of the politics of nations back in 1998, we wondered what he might think of the politics of today. Levine now lives in the US and said people are in “constant shock”. “It’s insane, [it shows] democracy has its ability to fail,” and thinks Simon would feel the same way.

While Levine has visited the province before as a member of the band The Philosopher Kings, he is now officially an honorary Newfoundlander, having been Screeched in at Christian’s, the night before with his wife, Catey Shaw. When asked what Simon might think of the province, Levine said, “Simon would be pretending that he hasn’t been Screeched in like fifty times [already] in order to try and meet girls.”

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With that, we were curious to know how Simon and Milo would navigate dating in the #MeToo era. “Simon’s always been very chivalrous,” said Levine. “But that could be taken as out of date as well.” He said while Simon respects the modern woman, he may need to brush up on a few things. He questioned if a woman today may might it offensive if Simon automatically assumed she should be the first to exit an elevator for example. “His intentions are good,” reassured Levine. “[Simon] would never do anything [ill intended].”

Levine admitted to not being much of a rock star. “I’m not an “on stage” kind of person,” he said. “I’m a producer/writer at heart, even [with Prozzäk] we’re relying more on the screen. I’m doing it, but I’m not a crazy star-type person.” He admitted that McCollum and his wife, who joins them on stage as sort of a backup singer/hype girl hybrid (and does an amazing job), are much more outgoing on stage. This was a sort of strange thing to admit minutes before taking the stage, and yet you could see what Levine meant. It seemed like he preferred to let the songs stand on their own, amongst the cartoons and nostalgia because they came from his heart and they still have meaning for him and so many others.

THE REWIND TOUR rolls back west hitting Halifax, Moncton, and Montreal in the coming days. One eager fan who will be attending the show in Halifax, Lilly Ashdown, told The Racket, “I can’t wait for this! I love [Prozzäk] and have all their albums. The colouring page from their website was re-printed a million times to be put on my walls at various locations!”

If you don’t get to catch THE REWIND TOUR this year, Levine said they are hoping to make this a yearly tradition. The Prozzäk Presents: Rewind Tour will hopefully feature more acts that fit into the world of the ‘90’s rave/dance party era with names like Ace Of Base and The Vengaboys being tossed around. “And because we wrote and produced the B4-4 stuff, I think we should have them on, even if it’s not genre appropriate,” Levine said.

Prozzäk seems to be back, and perhaps more focused than ever with plans for a musical using their songs and featuring new compositions in the works.

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You can learn more about Prozzäk by visiting their website, liking them on Facebook, or following them on Twitter, @ProzzakOfficial and on Instagram @prozzakofficial

You can also look for Catey Shaw on Spotify.