Musically speaking at least, Greg Michalski has a bit of a split personality. One half of Squamish electro-grunge outfit Significant Insect, the 46-year-old often wrestles with the right balance between guitar and synth when producing a track.
“I’m trying to go for a 50-50 type of sound, because I can’t choose one over the other,” he explains. “If I start writing something on guitar and put distortion on it and it sounds like a good, crunchy rock song, then I’m like, ‘Yeah, but it needs a little dancy beat and maybe some synth.’ And then the other way: I start writing something on a keyboard or a piano or something and I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s really cool. It sounds really dancey-ish and I like the breakbeat aspect of it, but man, it could use some crunchy guitars.’ So I think it’s a 50-50 battle between the two.”
That internal struggle is at the root of Significant Insect’s distinct sound, which blends the scraping guitar riffs of ’90s grunge with industrial-tinged synthesizers and electronic keyboard that wouldn’t feel out of place in an underground club from 1980s West Berlin. In fact, Significant Insect’s broody, foreboding sound has resonated in Germany, where the duo has enjoyed some success on the internet charts and even worked with established acts like Hannover EBM band, Orange Sector.
“When we did our first EP in 2008, 2009, it really caught on, of all places, in Germany,” Michalski says. “The most common thing I get told is I could really hear this being played in Europe.”
Significant Insect’s other half is vocalist Kim Urhahn, the former drummer for Canadian pop rockers Lillix, whose debut album, Falling Uphill, sold more than half a million copies for Madonna’s now-defunct label, Maverick Records. Now married, Urhahn and Michalski first met in the band Sugarblade more than a decade and a half ago—although it took Michalski a while to finally make a move.
“We played together for about two and a half years and finally I was like, ‘So, I like you.’ Lo and behold, 15 years of marriage later and it seems to have worked,” he recalls.
Without the same chances to play live during the pandemic, the husband and wife have put renewed focus into their music videos of late, with Michalski making use of his film-school background. Their latest video, for the song “Rising,” features the couple’s son, Ash, decked in all-black and a skeleton mask in the first instalment of what will eventually be a longer series.
“He came up with the concept of it, so we filmed it,” Michalski says. “As you can see in the video, he wakes up in this small town and rebels by going up a hill and just playing his guitar. So what we want to do is continue his story, so we’ve got a couple more that we’re working on.”
For the 20-year paramedic—including a five-year stint in Whistler—Significant Insect is a way for Michalski to process the darker elements of his job and lends him some much-needed catharsis.
‘The stuff I’ve seen and gone through at work absolutely seeps into the music,” he says. “I always tell people creating music saved my life. It absolutely has. I always worry about going deaf because it would be the worst.”
Check out the video for “Rising” at Significant Insect’s YouTube page, and stay up to date with the band at facebook.com/significantinsect.