Fans become lab rats in Ian Thornley’s record release experiment

Big Wreck frontman Ian Thornley didn’t know he was a touch claustrophobic – that is until he decided to release his brand new solo album at McMaster University’s Live Lab.

Thornley’s newest effort is part record release, part scientific experiment – so prepping for the show included cramming the six foot four musician into an MRI to map the nuances of his brain.

“Turns out I might actually be a little claustrophobic,” Thornley laughed. But that’s par for the course at the University’s $8-million gem of a performance space, which combines 3D motion-capture technology, acoustic controls and brain-monitoring sensors to map the intricacies of how humans respond to music.

The Oct. 30 show is the first ever major album launch at the lab, which has been called one of the world’s finest research facilities. “There are lots of unanswered questions about the scientific effects music has on you,” Thornley said. “As a performer, I was very interested in a selfish way. I wanted to know if an audience would react in the same way I do.”

‘I guess with all of this technology, it’s only a matter of time before major labels start trying to use it as a focus group to see what Bieber single to release next.’- Ian Thornley

Now it would be cheating to solely bring in a crew of die-hard Big Wreck fans who have loved his work since the seminal In Loving Memory Of…. No doubt, their reactions to his new solo album Secrets would be largely positive.

That’s why organizers have split the audience into two groups – Thornley’s existing fans (who can win a spot to get in through a GTA scavenger hunt and Instagram contest) and a control group who aren’t familiar with his music.

Throughout the performance, both groups (and the band itself) will be monitored for things like heart rate and brainwave activity. It’s an exceptionally rare opportunity for an artist to see how his music affects people on a biometric level.

“I’ll know where the parts in the set are that we really reached something,” Thornley said. “I’m just fascinated to see how the audience reacts.”

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