Jerry Snell

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Jerry Snell's singing career is pledged to his activities in theatre and his commitment to left-field sociopolitical ideas. A co-founder of the internationally renown Montreal dance theater company Carbone…
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Artist Biography by

Jerry Snell's singing career is pledged to his activities in theatre and his commitment to left-field sociopolitical ideas. A co-founder of the internationally renown Montreal dance theater company Carbone 14, he played a crucial role as composer, choreographer, and director for many of its productions. He has released two solo albums: Life in the Suicide Riots and Cash: The Album. Snell was born in Vancouver (Canada), but he has been based in Montreal since before the start of his professional career. In 1980, he co-founded Carbone 14 with Gilles Maheu. Productions like Le Rail (1985), Le Dortoir (1988), and Café des Aveugles (1992) took their edge from Snell's social commentary and often experimental music. His primal screams, ferocious and at the same time so profoundly moving, had made him a local reputation even before Le Dortoir propelled the troupe to stardom. That same year (1988), he performed as an actor in Jean-Claude Lauzon's film Un Zoo la Nuit, which became a classic (later filmography includes Vincent Ward's Map of the Human Heart and Pierre Falardeau's 15 Février 1839).

Starting in the late '80s, Snell often collaborated with Michel F. Côté, a drummer and stage music composer. Once Côté became a member of the avant-garde music collective Ambiances Magnétiques, he regularly called in Snell for backup tracks. He appeared on two albums from Côté's project Bruire: the 1989 Le Barman a Tort de Sourire and the 1992 Les Fleurs de Léo. In 1992, Ambiances Magnétiques released Life in the Suicide Riots, on which Snell assumes the role of lead singer, giving voice to his socially conscious lyrics over music by Côté, Claude Vendette, and Francis Grandmont (both of Abbittibbi). The songs on that album were featured in Café des Aveugles.

In 1995, Carbone 14 was at the peak of its success and moving into a brand-new Montreal art space (the Usine C). Snell called it quits, feeling the group had become too bourgeois (and he was right: A few years later, Maheu would direct productions of Luc Plamondon's legitimate hit musical Notre-Dame de Paris). With dancer Nadine Thouin he founded the STP Physical Theatre company. He toured the world, presenting workshops in former communist countries. In 2001, he released a second solo CD, Cash: The Album, a sharp dose of anti-capitalist alternative rock.