• By: Kat Walcott

Ottawa’s BLAKDENIM talk unique sound and working with hip-hop icon DMC

If you’re active in the city’s club or festival scene, you’ve surely heard of BLAKDENIM. The Ottawa-based ensemble has been rocking audiences for almost a decade now and stands out with their eclectic mix of rock, jazz, soul and hip-hop. They’re probably the only band in the city that has both an emcee and brass players!

The band has an exciting summer ahead – in less than three weeks their latest album, Usual Suspects: Season 3, drops. The album promises to show a maturity in the band’s sound and features a very special collaboration with American music legend DMC of the iconic hip-hop trio Run-DMC.

BLAKDENIM bass player Karl Acelin sat down to chat with us about what keeps the band going, their unique sound and how that once in a lifetime collaboration with DMC came to be.

BLAKDENIM’s emcee Kenny and vocalist Crystalena.


Ottawa Life: BLAKDENIM has been active in the Ottawa music scene for a while now. How have you grown as a group over the years? How have you maintained longevity

Karl Acelin:  Man, we’ve been active in Ottawa for eight years and it has gone so fast! Throughout those years we’ve been through ups and downs but always kept our eyes on the ball. With that, we’ve added some incredible musicians to the band. From Crystalena who is one of the best female vocalists in the city and an awesome human being to Garrett who is a great guitar player to the triple-threat horn section of Gabe (sax), Eric (trumpet) and Andrew (trumpet). Those guys are so good together!

Over the years we’ve been able to modernize our sound and make it our own. I believe longevity comes with a great team of people who believe in the movement because there was a time where people counted us out. People thought the band was dead and over with. What kept us going was great leadership from Kenny, Sacha and myself. We believed in each other and have funny and crazy memories to prove that. We are also very thankful and excited to have our song “James Brown’s Cape” as the soundtrack for a superhero comic book coming out on June 19th. This book and soundtrack is to support kids with sickle cell disease. This disease affects a lot of kids in North America and we’re happy to partner and give back to this great cause.

OL: Your sound is hard to put in a box – it’s a unique mix of hip hop, rock, funk,  jazz and more! Who are your influences?

KA: We’re too big of a band to be put in a box, haha! We all come from different musical backgrounds so the fun and unique part of it is to bring all those sounds together and make the perfect gumbo! Ur influences include Wu-Tang Clan, Earth, Wind and Fire, Rage Against the Machine, Curtis Mayfield, Anderson. Paak, Robert Glasper and many more.

OL: Talking about influential artists, your upcoming album features a collaboration with hip hop icon DMC of legendary RUN DMC. How did that come about?

KA: We still can’t believe we have DMC on our album. We grew up admiring Run-DMC. Those guys are hip-hop royalty and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers!

Our good friend Patrick was able to introduce us to him and DMC loved us and our unique sound right away. We were even more surprised when he sent his verse for the song in less than a week.

OL: What can we expect from the track?

KA: It’s a heavy punk rock song and it’s going to blow people away! We’re so excited about it. In the past, DMC has been known to collaborate with legendary rock acts and we wanted to stay in the same lane. This album is the perfect playlist for the summer. If you’re a music lover in general, this album is for you.

BLAKDENIM’s album Usual Suspects: Season 3 is out on July 3rd. In the meantime, catch up with their previous releases on TIDAL, Spotify and Apple Music.

BLAKDENIM’s horn section.

Photos: Erik Stolpmann