Joseph Shabason
Man playing saxophone
Shabason playing with Destroyer in 2011
Background information
OriginToronto, Ontario, Canada
GenresJazz, Ambient, Experimental, Indie rock, Synth-pop
InstrumentsSaxophone, flute, clarinet, keyboard[1]
LabelsWestern Vinyl
Associated actsDIANA, Destroyer, The War on Drugs

Joseph Shabason is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist and composer.[1] He is best known for playing the saxophone.[2][3][4] As a band member and session musician, Shabason has contributed to bands such as DIANA, Destroyer and The War on Drugs.[3]

As a solo project, he has released experimental ambient jazz albums under his own name.[3]

Life and education

Shabason grew up in Brampton, Ontario.[5] He began playing jazz music at 10 years old.[6] After first learning to play the guitar, he took an interest in the saxophone when he enrolled in a jazz program at Humber College as a child.[7] His father was a jazz pianist.[8]

In 2006, he graduated from University of Toronto in jazz performance.[1]

His musical focus shifted from jazz to pop in his twenties.[7]



Shabason is one of three members of DIANA, a Toronto synth-pop band.[4] It formed after another project fell through involving Shabason and Kieran Adams, who met during university.[9]

Its first album, Perpetual Surrender (2013)[10] was longlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. It was followed by Familiar Touch (2016).[4]


The first Destroyer album to feature Shabason was Kaputt (2010), which was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. Having toured with Destroyer in an opening band, Shabason contacted Destroyer front-man Dan Bejar in 2010 while in Vancouver. This led to Shabason improvising a few hours on the saxophone for the album. His involvement "could not have been more casual," according to Shabason.[7]

Shabason went on to play on Poison Season (2015) and ken (2017), Destroyer's next two albums after Kaputt.[1][11]

He has toured as a member of Destroyer.[3]

The War on Drugs

Shabason played an important role in Lost in the Dream (2014) by The War on Drugs.[2]


As a session musician, Shabason has recorded for many singers and bands — including Born Ruffians, Hannah Georgas, Jill Barber, Matt Barber, Dragonette, The Operators, Allie X, Peter Elkas, The Fembots and Fucked Up.[1][3]

In 2019, he released an experimental ambient album titled Muldrew with Ben Gunning.[12]

Around 2008, Shabason and a friend started a rock band, Everything All the Time. He played keyboard and sang backup vocals.[6]

Another band he played in was Bass Groove.[6]

He collaborated with Nicholas Krgovich and Chris Harris on the 2020 album Philadelphia,[13] which was a longlisted nominee for the 2021 Polaris Music Prize.[14]

Solo work


Aytche (2017) — pronounced like the letter "H" — was his first solo album.[15] It was inspired by composers such as Jon Hassel and Gigi Masin.[3]

After the album was finished, Shabason realized that the album reflected the impact that Parkinson's was having in his personal life — his father-in-law was suffering from it and his mother was recently diagnosed.[3]

Only "Westmeath" has vocals. The song features clips from an archival interview from a son of a Holocaust survivor.[3] (Shabason's grandparent were survivors.)[2] A music video of "Westmeath" was directed by Maxwell McCabe-Lokos.[16]

Though Shabason voiced some dissatisfaction with the album, suggesting there was "a lack of vision,"[3] it received positive reviews. On Metacritic, the album rated 82 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim."[17]

The album was funded from a grant by the Ontario Arts Council.[1]

Anne and Anne, EP

Anne (2018), Shabason's second album, is named after his mother. Focusing on his mother's Parkinson's illness, the album includes audio clips from interviews with his mother.[3]

Shabason was determined that the album not be overly sentimental or exploitative; in his own words, "the challenge becomes how do you take that [interview] and weave it into the fabric of the composition and extract the essence of it without beating people over the head with it."[18] His mother was pleased with the result, calling it a "beautiful album."[18]

Critical reception was positive. On Metacritic, the album is rated 77 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[19] Music critic Miles Bowe of Pitchfork "gorgeous and empathetic ambient music."[2]

Anne, EP has five songs and was released May 10, 2019.[20] The record label describes it as an "afterword" to Anne.[21] Its song "I Don't Want to Be Your Love" — previously a bonus track for Anne — features vocals by Destroyer's Dan Bejar.[2]

The Fellowship

Shabason's third album was released April 30, 2021.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "About Joseph Shabason". Joseph Shabason. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bowe, Miles. "Joseph Shabason: Anne". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-02-19.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Beedham, Tom. "Joseph Shabason Makes Peace With His Mother's Parkinson's on 'Anne'". Exclaim!. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  4. ^ a b c Vincent, Melissa. "DIANA Is The Canadian Indie Supergroup Making Healing Pop Music". The FADER. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  5. ^ Monroe, Jazz (August 26, 2013). "DIANA Subvert Familiarity". Exclaim!. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Poliakov, Rita (February 4, 2010). "Pop Rockers Aim for Music that Gets "Stuck in Your Head"" (PDF). The Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Bowe, Miles (2017-11-29). "Destroyer and War On Drugs collaborator Joseph Shabason is an ambient saxophone genius". FACT Magazine. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  8. ^ "Joseph Shabason | The Family Interviews". The Family Reviews. Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  9. ^ "DIANA Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  10. ^ Pagnani, Renato. "DIANA: Perpetual Surrender". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  11. ^ "Destroyer (4) - ken". Discogs. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  12. ^ Mikhaylova, Sofie (July 4, 2019). "Joseph Shabason / Ben Gunning: Muldrew". Exlaim!. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  13. ^ Stuart Berman, "Shabason, Krgovich & Harris: Philadelphia". Pitchfork, November 11, 2020.
  14. ^ David Friend, "Daniel Lanois, Savannah Ré, Charlotte Cardin make long list of Polaris Music Prize". The Globe and Mail, June 16, 2021.
  15. ^ Robertson, Kate (2017-08-10). "Joseph Shabason breaks down jazz for beginners". NOW Magazine. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  16. ^ Flanagan, Andrew (October 25, 2017). "Joseph Shabason's 'Westmeath' Confronts The Hardest Decision". NPR All Songs Considered. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  17. ^ "Aytche by Joseph Shabason". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-02-19.
  18. ^ a b Rayner, Ben (2019-01-04). "Toronto Musician Turns His Mother's Reflection on Her Parkinson's Disease into New Album". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2020-02-19.
  19. ^ "Anne by Joseph Shabason". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-02-19.
  20. ^ "Anne, EP, by Joseph Shabason". Bandcamp. Retrieved 2020-02-19.
  21. ^ "Joseph Shabason Anne EP". Western Vinyl. Retrieved 2020-02-19.
  22. ^ "The Fellowship, by Joseph Shabason". Joseph Shabason. Retrieved 2021-03-08.

External links