Photo: Gabe Kastner

Providing the world with karaoke via his kiddie keyboard

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Decked out in orange hot pants and sneakers, Ryerson film grad Malcolm Fraser can perform 10 songs in 20 minutes thanks to his trusty kiddie keyboard.

By Gabe Kastner

Let’s start with the music: The World Provider’s debut album, Fans of the Elements of Style begins with a whistling happy romp through a sunny jungle called They Will Hunt Skeletons.

The sound quality is so lo-fi that it’s like you’re listening to a mini-band perform in a tin can. Or maybe it’s like a band playing really far off in the distance, no matter how loud you turn it up. His only instrument is a kiddie keyboard with back-up orchestras pre-programmed.

“Usually what I do is speed them up and put them through tons of distortions so the beats sound crazy,” he told me when I asked him about his methods.

If you can get over the original weirdness then you may learn to like these catchy tunes and their extremely passionate deliveries.

The man with the high-pitched voice is Malcolm Fraser, and he graduated from Ryerson’s film program in 1998. His time here definitely had an effect on him: “I think if you take a young man and fill his head with philosophy classes and weed, you’re gonna end up causing an existential crisis.”

He doesn’t smoke pot anymore because he’s too busy rehearsing his stage show, throughout which he strips down layer after layer of clothing, eventually ending up in orange hot pants and sneakers, dancing up a storm.

“I realized that there’s this sort of brotherhood of one man band Casio (keyboard brand) karaoke entertainers,” he says. “A lot of us don’t know about each other but we’re all doing these things.”

Just Like the Movies, Canned Ham, Peaches, and Chilly Gonzales are other Canadian examples.

“I don’t know whether it’s just a fad or if it’s kind of like a next level future trend, but in any case there’s all kinds of stuff like that.”

It may well be more than a fad because Peaches and Chilly Gonzales have moved to Berlin, where they are now quite well known and well respected.

You can still witness the future sensation early here in Toronto, since Just Like the Movies and The World Provider periodically put on team shows in the city, with their next one tentatively set for April 4.

The World Provider’s album is short but sweet. “Ten songs in less than twenty minutes,” he proudly announces, “I like being concise when it comes to songs.”

Some of the ten songs are years old, and he’s planning something new.

“I never really thought of stuff in the long term until recently,” he provides, “Now I try to look to the future and say ‘What are the things I want to accomplish?’”

He’s 28, married and maturing.

“It has to do with getting older probably and being inspired by the success of my friends, and being depressed by other people I know who are really creative but don’t have the motivation to do anything with their creativity. It sounds kind of cheesy and self-helpy but I think it’s good to think about what you want to accomplish and just try to do it, you know?”

Kara Blake, a fellow Ryerson film grad, suggested they make a music video together for his song Last Nights of the Werewithal a pretty song about ‘the idle rich’. The result was a hilarious, yet oddly beautiful bluescreened epic in which the World Provider dances and sings his heart away over a colourful background of textures and sparkle.

“I can’t take any credit for it, except maybe for the performance. Kara put it together, she’s like a really heavy filmmaker.”

He says the reactions to his performances have been mostly good, although in London — where he was performing with Peaches and Gonzales he got mixed reviews:

“My wife said afterwards ‘some people in the crowd were laughing with you and some people were laughing at you, and I thought, you know, if they’re laughing that’s fine, that’s the best I can do. They paid their money at the door.”

He’s a dedicated entertainer, and he is slightly less insulted by a review he got at another show, where someone approached him to say, “We’re tired of seeing music being played well, we wanna see it played with energy.”

The former choir boy’s music is not even close to being inept, but his excitement alone is worth the price of admission.

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