Saturday, October 19, 2019

Theatre of Hate versus the East Van Opry

So Theatre of Hate plays tonight at the Rickshaw! I did not manage to get anything written in time for the show, but I did interview Kirk Brandon last year, and am really excited to be able to finally see this band, whose song "Legion" has been a favourite of mine since the 1980's, when I first heard it.
They are not the headliners (and should be going on around 9pm, I gather) but (with apologies to Chameleons, Gene Loves Jezebel, and the Gathering, members of all of whom are playing tonight) they are the band I am going for; if things go to plan, I *will* be talking to Kirk at some point tonight.

Also exciting, but not on my schedule for the evening for obvious reasons, is the East Van Opry, which I have enjoyed wholeheartedly on a few occasions. This I *did* manage to do some writing on, focusing on M'Girl - First Nations females who combine "western" vocal harmonies with indigenous themes. I also wrote about Kitty and the Rooster apropos of another show of theirs, and highly recommend them. References to the Khats festival got censored from the start of this piece, which I gather caused some trouble for my editors. Hell, folks, it was all in fun! 

Anyhow, if you're not going to the Opry, go to the Rickshaw, and if you're not going to the Rickshaw, go to the Opry. Or else stay home and watch Netflix, whatever. Fractured was pretty good, actually (the new Brad Anderson, and very much in keeping with films of his like Session 9, The Machinist, and Stonehearst Asylum.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Please vote

EDIT: since he isn't actually known by his usual alias on Facebook, I decided to give one of the two people I singled out a break, and have removed his name from this post. And since I wasn't doing that, I decided to remove the other guy's name, too. I probably won't boycott their bands, either. They should still vote.

There are some people among my Facebook friends who apparently think it's okay not to vote - so much so that they are announcing it publicly.

To be honest, there was a time when I felt similarly: when I felt superior to the process, felt contempt for it. In my 20's, I would rant on about how we are provided with the illusion of participation in how we are governed, asked to choose between a puppet on the left and a puppet on the right, to make us feel like we were being given a meaningful voice in how we are governed. That was, I think, an insight I borrowed from Jello Biafra, who said a similar thing at a 1985 Dead Kennedys' concert (I believe he has come around, since). People would say to me - my father would say to me, even - that if I didn't vote I lost the right to complain, and I would respond that it was, rather, precisely by voting that one lost that right, by virtue of authorizing the process, becoming complicit in it: "If I were with five other people, and they decided that they would take a vote on whether to rob me or not, and I agreed to participate in the vote and lost: then I would have lost the right to complain, because I had ratified the process by participating." (I probably cribbed this from teen-aged readings of Ayn Rand, and give Ayn her due, here: Dad never had a comeback to that).

It was all clever enough on my part - and B******* and B*****  and all the other cynics on my Facebook feed are clever enough with their own arguments, sometimes. But the truth is, it was all just horseshit: I wanted a way out of the process, a way to excuse myself from doing the work required to figure out what the candidates stood for and if, in fact, it did make a difference who got in. ("No matter who you vote for, the government always wins," B******  has said on Facebook; not sure if he knows he's cribbing from the Bonzo Dog Band there, but in any event, he's wrong).

It does make a difference. It probably is good news that Andrew Scheer - the conservative candidate for PM - has been outed as having a dual citizenship with the United States (and selling insurance without a license, to boot, also mentioned above). Neither thing matters much, in reality, but like Trudeau's tasteless/ stupid adventures in brownface,  they look bad. It's more significant that Scheer is pro-life; that - like Harper and Trump - he is fixated on things like stopping illegal border crossings, campaigning on a whiteguy fear of racial otherness; or that, as recently as 2005, he was comparing same-sex marriage to declaring a dog's tail to be one of its legs. Oh, and of course he believes in a magical sky-Daddy that plays a role in human life and affairs: a sky-Daddy in whose name centuries of bigotry, intolerance, and oppression have been enacted. Oh, and depending on which news source you read - he probably believes in re-criminalizing marijuana; and of course you'd get the usual openly pro-business agenda, complete with pipelines sticking out of every orifice and little interest in discussing climate change.  Even though the whole dual citizenship thing has probably sunk his campaign, there is still a moral imperative to make sure Scheer and the conservatives do not get in - unless, of course, you like the idea of a Canadian government similar to those of George W. Bush and Donald Trump, in which case, you probably aren't reading this blog, anyhow.

A similar moral imperative informed my voting for Justin Trudeau in the last election. It was the right choice: even though Trudeau doesn't impress me much (doing a prompt about-face on the idea of electoral reform, for instance), it still beat the hell out of four more years of Harper and his "barbaric cultural practices" (leave it to the sky-Daddy believers to call out barbarism in others). There's plenty that Trudeau has done a decent enough job on; were I gay, I would probably feel more secure under his governance than I ever have before; marijuana is legal (even if the rollout has been a bit of a shitshow); assisted suicide is legal (though again, making it so has not been without complications), and - well, I bet there are plenty of Syrian refugees who appreciate the hell out of him. Trudeau remains a superior choice to Harpe - I mean Scheer; as uninspiring as it is to vote for the lesser of two evils - or to vote "strategically" (blech) to keep the Conservatives out - Trudeau is the better choice, if we only have two prospective leaders to choose from.

Of course, that is not the case. Personally, I have voted in an advanced poll for Jagmeet Singh, who has made it singularly easy to do so, by running in the riding where I live (I might have been tempted to go Green, otherwise). Singh, like Trudeau, may not prove to be the answer to all of Canada's troubles, but he's vastly superior as a choice to Scheer, and probably would do a better job of governing Canada than Trudeau. I don't really know about Singh's own sky-Daddy, of course (or Elizabeth May's! What's with all the fucking Christians here, what are we, Americans?), but I would much rather live in a Canada governed by the NDP (or the Greens, or the Liberals, or a coalition of any/ all three of those parties) than one governed by the Conservatives - WOULDN'T YOU?

I mean, seriously, B******, B******, et alia: do you not think it makes a difference, whether we are going to be governed, ultimately, by a pro-business right wing white xenophobe/ homophobe, on the one extreme, compared to these other options? Are you genuinely indifferent, or are you just, like, lazy and afraid? Even if you do not personally care how you are governed - do you not feel a responsibility to your queer friends, to women, to immigrants and refugees, and to the very environment of the planet we live on?

Would it help you get your asses in gear if I said I would consider boycotting future releases/ concerts by your bands? Because it is bad enough you are personally cynical and apathetic - you're using social media to encourage OTHER PEOPLE to be cynical and apathetic, too! It's like you're proud of your ignorance and indifference: without having read each other's comments, Chris Walter and Robin Bougie both responded on FB when I mentioned how embarrassed I am to have friends who were boasting about not voting, by saying "its like bragging about not reading." Exactly right. You oughta be ashamed of yourselves; the only defense you have is that you obviously don't know better.

But you should, you really should.

Please, folks: get out and vote!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Sorry, VIFF! Plus Assholes: A Theory

I didn't get very far in my intended VIFF blogging this year. Between having very little freetime and a wife keen to watch Season 9 of The Walking Dead; and given some unexpected opportunities to write for pay for the Straight - one interview and the first three record reviews I have done in maybe five years - I saw exactly one and a half films this year: the documentary Assholes: A Theory, which was amusing but underwhelming, and a documentary on Escher, which for some reason Erika and I couldn't finish.

I didn't get to a single film, otherwise. There were several I was curious about, like Blood Quantum, but the time just wasn't there. Here's what I did get written, about Assholes: A Theory. Would have published this on its own, but it just wasn't enthusiastic enough:

The most curious thing about the film Assholes: A Theory is that it chooses to only indirectly implicate Donald Trump from its arguments. With sections devoted to Wall Street, social media haters, sexists, and political leaders like Silvio Berlusconi, the film seems almost an indirect portrait of Trump, calling out his privilege, his egregiously bad behaviour, and his sense of his own righteousness, even though it only occasionally references him (usually somewhat obliquely). The Canadian content in the film involves Sherry Lee Benson Polodchuk, a whistleblower who suffered sexist and demeaning behaviour as a part of her boys-club job with the RCMP, which intensified after she refused to lie to protect a colleague; the section makes the point that assholism is not necessarily just encountered individually. Other figures interviewed about their encounters with assholism include Italian trans public figure Vladimir Luxuria, and of course the author of the book Assholes: A Theory, Aaron James, who seems to have, surprisingly, encountered the idea for his book while surfing. The film is light and entertaining, an engaging look at the bad behaviour of people who consider themselves entitled. It was exactly as enjoyable as I figured it would be from the VIFF description - no more, no less, but worth a look, if the subject matter appeals.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Killing Zoe and Lucky Day

I am excited to see that Roger Avary has a new feature film, Lucky Day, slated for theatrical release next weekend. (I have no idea if it is going to open in Vancouver). The film has not been well received, at least not by the Globe and Mail, but I see on social media that the fanboy contingent is excited by the promise of a meaty new role for Crispin Hellion Glover, who has muscles and can kick, but doesn't get cast in too many major roles these days. There is a trailer; I have not watched it, since I know I am interested in the film, simply because it is written and directed by Avary. Critics who are unfavorably comparing it to Pulp Fiction - which Avary co-wrote - are already missing the point, since Avary's true claim to fame is a charming 1993 black comedy/ heist thriller, Killing Zoe - a flawed film, but a vastly entertaining one, which he wrote and directed, and which boasts no share of charming features, including the following: 

1. Eric Stoltz and Julie Delpy, both very fun to watch in the lead roles, though Stoltz - an actor I like - is a bit subdued and inexpressive at times; he's done better work, but he's still fun to watch. Delpy, however, is at her prettiest, and acts with conviction. Is Stoltz's Black Flag tattoo in that film real, I wonder?

2. The film has a delightful representation of someone being pressured into getting much more stoned than he wants to be, then trying to negotiate that. I have seen this happen in very few films, but it sure does happen in life. No one ever gets more fucked up than they want to be in movies. Especially the night before they're supposed to rob a bank.

3. The film is also a great object lesson in why you never, ever want to rob banks with a hedonistic, terminally ill, drug-addicted French lunatic (played with an unhinged joi de vivre Jean-Jugues Anglade of Betty Blue; he is the real star of the film). The idea of trusting a friend against your better judgment, believing that what might seem like a bad idea could all work out for the best, based on that person's assurances, and then having to live with the consequences when things turn out even worse than you might imagine, is pure film noir.

No one talks about Killing Zoe much these days; the only reference to it I've seen since the 1990's is in the documentary about Ron Jeremy, whatever that was called, where his cameo in the film gets talked about. (I challenged my wife, with whom I just shared the film, to a game of "spot the hedgehog," but she aced it easily, even though he's only on screen long enough to put up his hands and get shot). But I'm very fond of the film, always have been, and may have occasion to see it again some ten years from now (I've watched it maybe four times now, each at sizeable intervals; it's become a kind of cinematic comfort food for me). The film is very entertaining, if you can find it. It has some amateurish qualities - like, the drummer in the cabaret scene is noticeably not drumming on anything - but it has charms all its own, which make it a unique, memorable entertainment.

By the by, did you get my Crispin Glover joke? See here, if not. I remember seeing that on TV when it first aired. It was rather startling!

I am down for Lucky Day - screw the critics.

For the time being.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

On removing a post

I don't usually self-censor but have decided that the last thing I posted here had, uh, potential for misuse. I've thought about it and decided to go nowhere with it and that maybe no one else should go anywhere with it, either (?). For those with an interest in precognition, this book comes highly recommended.  See you at Nick Cave!

Monday, September 30, 2019

A week's worth of concert photos: Crummy, DOA, Grand Magus, At the Gates, Arch Enemy and Amon Amarth

At the tour kickoff gig the other night, as a "congratulations on touring Japan" present, I got Bert Man a gift: I had stumbled across a copy of How to Read Donald Duck, which was written under the Allende government of Chile, to protest the ways imperialist/ capitalist messages in Disney cartoons were being used to undermine the socialist government there, prior to a CIA-staged coup (Bert and I talk a bit about his history in Chile here). The book was co-authored by Ariel Dorfman (now also a Canadian, I believe), whom some of you might know better as the author of the play Death and the Maiden. Anyhow, ironically, Bert had worn his coveted Condorito t-shirt that night, and described Condorito as a scruffy antithesis to Scrooge McDuck. I don't know anything about that, but it was definitely an appropriate gift. Shot some video (alas, my phone and Youtube want to put "Andy Warhol" sideways, but if you're a Bowie fan, FIND THE NEW CRUMMY CD, it's a pretty great reading of the song!). Other highlights of the night included discovering that the multi-pierced and efficient counterwoman was none other than Bloody Betty, last seen on this blog smearing fake shit on me and breaking an (also fake) bottle on my head; I got to issue the delightful sentence, "I didn't recognize you - you weren't in costume!" Also really enjoyed talking with a slightly soused Orchard Pinkish, who offered a really fun anecdote about seeing the Dayglo Abortions the night some NeoNazis came to the show (I will leave this story unquoted, however, since we were just two-guys-in-a-bar, not interviewer-interviewee). Also discovered that LanaLou's have wicked french fries, which they hand cut and blanch themselves - it takes longer, but it's worth it; and that they'll serve you a Guinness in a Bud Light glass (which probably there should be a law against.

I didn't get many good photos at the DOA show, but I shot plenty of clips and had a fun chat with Joe (and another with his son, who was manning the merch table). Not as much speechifying as I would have expected - maybe it took place before I arrived - but DOA played a wicked set, and I got to chat a bit with NDP campaigner and frequent Alienated in Vancouver blog commenter Mr. Beer-n-Hockey (or however he punctuates that) about time he has spent helping Joe... again, some conversation took place that wasn't exactly for print! Highlights were seeing Joe get kids moshing to Johnny Cash and BTO covers and the ebulliant appearance of Ford Pier on "Disco Sucks," which I captured on video (middle song of this triptych).

Also had a great time at the Grand Magus/ At the Gates/ Arch Enemy/ Amon Amarth show. The highlights of the show proper were probably how eagerly the audience (doubtlessly mostly NOT there for Grand Magus) gamely sang WHOA-ohh-whoas during the breaks in their song "Hammer of the North," which they continued to do even after the band had left the stage; and just seeing how many people filled the giant hangar that is the PNE Forum, which seems more like a place you would stash tanks than a venue for a rock show. That was one well-attended show - nice to see Amon Amarth getting a next-level venue (next stop Rogers Arena?). The non-band-related highlight was hanging out with my old buddy Gerhard, a musician who has a longer concert history than I have, and a ton of bragging-rights concerts (Zappa, Beefheart, Iggy Pop with David Bowie on piano, etc). Gerhard and I used to work together at a Rogers Video in Maple Ridge in the early 1990's, and hadn't seen each other since then, losing touch until I ran into him at a Television show at the Commodore a few years ago (then connected with him on Facebook). Nice guy! Otherwise, show-wise, I used inside connections to get a couple things signed (yay!) and bought a Berserker t-shirt (speaking of next-level, I am now buying 3XL shirts, since the 2XL ones are getting snug... Need to get some exercise!).. If I'd realized that Amon Amarth were gonna be using a "Viking horn" helmet for a drum riser, I would have given Hegg a chance to clarify that in fact, Vikings did not WEAR horned helmets - that that was, apparently, a misconception popularized by Wagner (look it up!) - I had seen him mention that it other interviews online but hadn't realized how relevant it was. Anyhow, whatever - "poetic license." Really fun sets from all four bands, with At the Gates really getting thrashy. I was disappointed Arch Enemy skipped "Blood in the Water" but I'm glad I finally got to see them.

 I've run out of time to talk about them, but there's some video here and here; and a note, the sound at the PNE Forum is way better from further back. Trivially, I have seen Amon Amarth three times now, but this was the first time I was able to stay to the end!

All photos by Allan MacInnis, needless to say. Rock on.

Oh: at one point, Hegg told the crowd - before "Raise Your Horns," during which he drank deeply from a Viking drinking horn kept on his hip - to raise their horns whether they had a beer or not. You can imagine the response. Really fun, with plenty of tunes from Twilight of the Thunder God, which was where I first noticed them.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Amon Amarth: my Johan Hegg interview (outtakes)

Note: all images illustrating this article are taken from Northmen: A Viking Saga and/or the promotional material for that film. It's not a bad movie, but Hegg's part is too small!
Ah, for the old days, when I had a 900-word word count (or more) and ambitions to get published in all sorts of cool rock magazines, and I would keep people I was interviewing on the phone for 45 minutes or longer! 

That's how my first interview with Amon Amarth went down: Fredrik and I were able to have a fairly lengthy conversation, all of which ended up transcribed and online here. That's a piece I'm pretty proud of, actually - and last year (or was it the year before?) there were stats that it was one of the most read features on the Big Takeover website, despite being, like, seven or eight years old by that point. 

It was way more developed as a feature, even, than my second Amon Amarth interview, with Johan Söderberg - which was an interesting talk, which I did get paid to do, but was done a bit later in my "career" as a journalist, when I had realized that 90% of "fan" magazines don't pay and that some of the people who edit them are kinda dipshits; I was considerably less enthusiastic about writing, by that point, so I kept it fairly brief.
The good news is - contrary to expectations - I DID finally get to interview Johan Hegg, the vocalist of Amon Amarth, playing Vancouver tonight. Hegg is also an actor, and a spokesperson (and I'm not sure what else) for the super-cool-seeming Viking merch company Grimfrost. And as I kinda expected, Hegg is a very smart, articulate, interesting fella; he sometimes, I think, plays that down - but I've pored over his lyrics and been impressed with how he handles things, made even more impressive by his doing it all in English.

I mean, consider the actual story of Fafner ("Fafnir" on Wikipedia), mined for the song "Fafner's Gold". There is a lot going on in that story - from a shapeshifter who becomes an otter, to a theft of gold by Loki; from a feud between brothers to birds who warn of treachery, when you listen to their song after having eaten the heart of a dragon. There are a ton of odd details that can distract you from getting to the meat of the story. Hegg's telling is much clearer. From our conversation earlier this week, Hegg explains the story thus:

Fafner murders someone and steals a treasure. The treasure is cursed, and he turns into a dragon, and to protect the treasure, he lies on top of it all the time, except he has to go drink from a lake, once a day. So Fafner’s brother, Regin, who is a blacksmith, hires this guy, Sigurd, to go kill the dragon, so Regin can steal the treasure for himself. But Sigurd pretty much realizes that there’s something not right – that there’s treachery here – so he winds up killing Regin as well. If you read the story, it’s a bit like The Hobbit, a story about greed and what it does to people. And I think it’s really very contemporary, in many ways, because this person gets a treasure  and becomes a hideous creature that destroys the earth around him. So he lives in the Gita plains, which is like a wasteland. It’s basically what we as people are doing to the earth right now... I mean, there’s a lot of stuff going into the songs. Some stuff is very personal as well...
When you get a sense of how complex the story is - just compare the Wikipedia entry with Hegg's stripped down version, in his lyrics -- you see that he's really, really carefully thought about the meaning inherent in the story, as well as the meaning he wants to use the story to get at. Bending mythology to your own purposes, while staying true to the facts and the spirit of the original stories, and creating a kickass metal song with swords and dragons and murders and such, AND doing all of that in one song, in a language you didn't grow up speaking -- I mean, it's no small feat. 

So does he constantly consult the Prose Edda, the PoeticEdda, Njal’s Saga and so forth, looking for inspiration? 
Yes and no. Obviously I’ve read and re-read all those books, but a lot of the stuff I already know. I know a topic I’ll want to talk about, but then I’ll go back to the books, maybe, and revisit it, to make sure I get the facts right, and everything. Especially if it’s mythology. I do take a lot of liberties, because I feel sometimes you want to change something – there’s a bit of artistic freedom there. But I want to be at least partially correct when it comes to factual things, relating, especially to the mythology, but also to history, of course. But it’s easier to be a bit little bit more free when it comes to historical things.
As we continue to discuss in the Straight article, Hegg is comfortable creating his own stories about Viking experience, as long as they are true to known facts. "Shield Wall," on their setlist for tonight, I believe, is one such example. "Raven's Flight," which has a fun video, is likely another. That video seems to link the experience of touring, as a metal band with the experience of Vikings travelling the world by ship (Hegg has drawn this parallel elsewhere in interviews). It probably wasn't written about any particular Viking voyage, but Vikings really did use ravens as navigational tools, and there's a relationship between ravens and Odin, so - it's another good example of the ways Hegg allows himself to adapt things to his own purposes, while staying true to the culture and lore of his ancestors.

Still, as engaging as Hegg was, I had a 500 word wordcount and a one-evening turnaround, because I had to interview the band on Monday night for submission Tuesday  morning (and publication late Wednesday!). That's a fair bit of pressure to be under, especially if you want to do a good job. I could have justified keeping Hegg on the phone longer, based on the idea of doing something further with the interview elsewhere (kinda like I'm doing now), but every minute I spent on the phone with him was a minute I wasn't actually transcribing the interview and writing the feature. So even though Hegg was clearly willing to continue, even though I wanted to continue, I HAD to get off the phone and get to work, as soon as I knew I had enough stuff to write the article with (especially since I had to be up for my real job at 7am the next day, and by the time I got off the phone, it was close to 7:30pm). 

Anyhow, it came out pretty great, and I finally got to talk to the guy, and maybe we'll get a chance again some day. There are lots of questions I skipped - like asking about the Odin stuff in Lords of Chaos, though that would have been so interesting to hear his opinion of. We didn't talk much about his relatives in Abbotsford (!), or the plans for the actual show tonight (the band has said there will be some cool pyrotechnics on this tour, though not all venues will get the full force of them; I'm content to be surprised to see whether the PNE Forum will be fully bedecked, tonight!). We didn't even get to Grimfrost. 

I did ask a bit about the Soldiers of Odin, another topic I was curious about, but it ended up being kinda a weird digression from the conversation and I dropped it (for the curious, I had brought up "Guardians of Asgaard," and asked him what it meant, but he said he wanted to leave it for people to interpret themselves; I asked if any groups, like Soldiers of Odin, for example, had ever misused it for political ends - since the song could have a kind of nationalistic aspect, protecting the homeland from outsiders - and he said that his lyrics weren't political, that the band is not racist, that he was aware of no such  misuse, and that the band would likely take legal action if such a thing happened; I finally made some quip about how it would be a fine song to march to war to - that it WOULD make a fine propaganda tool - and that I used it myself on the commute to work, whereupon he replied, "that's kind of going to war, isn't it?" Otherwise, nothing really came of that angle). 

Anyhow, I've got one of my Amon Amarth shirts out and the most recent album of originals by Arch Enemy on my phone and I'm all geared up for the concert tonight. Outtakes follow. See you there!

AM: So talking to you - unlike some bands, this all means something more to you than just heavy metal, right? 

JH: Oh yeah yeah, definitely. It's part of my heritage, of course, but as I said, it has a deeper philosophical meaning, a "lifestyle" meaning. 

Can you give one example where your songs or your music or these stories have empowered you? Is there any particular place or time where you've found you've really learned something from Viking mythology?

I think - it's really in the Hávamál, which is also in the Edda. That's like, Odin's wisdom to mankind, really, and there are parts of that that I always really connected to. I think my favourite was, "friends die, cattle die, and each will die the same, but one thing I know that will never die: doom over dead man." 
[Allan's note: a fuller representation of the verse reads:
Cattle die and kinsmen die,thyself too soon must die,but one thing never, I ween, will die, --fair fame of one who has earned. 
Cattle die and kinsmen die,thyself too soon must die,but one thing never, I ween, will die, --the doom on each one dead.]

JH: ...So basically it's just saying that everybody dies, but the only thing that will survive is your reputation, the legacy you leave behind. How do you affect people, how do you impact people while you're alive. And I think that's something more people should really think about. Like, how will people remember me, when I go? I think it's something really important, you know? 

But there's another one that I actually - I went back to the Edda quite recently, and this passage, I didn't really understand it. For some reason, it just clicked with me now. Unfortunately, I don't have it in front of me -  I don't remember it by heart - but [the gist of it is] "to some houses, I came too early, and to some I came too late." And I always wondered what that was about, but I realized that it's death. Or at least that's the way I interpreted it. It just struck me the other day when I was reading through it; it's so obvious, but I never understood it until now. I always thought it was Odin! ...but it is Odin, because he's the bringer of death in that case, but not necessarily in a violent way. 

[Again, the full passage, found online:  
At many a feast I was far too late,and much too soon at some;drunk was the ale or yet unserved:never hits he the joint who is hated. 
Here and there to a home I had haply been askedhad I needed no meat at my meals,or were two hams left hanging in the house of that friendwhere I had partaken of one. 
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,most sweet the sight of the sun;good is health if one can but keep it,and to live a life without shame.]

JH: There's a lot of stuff that you can learn from that, and especially when it comes to that part, y'know, life is fragile. You never know when it's going to be your time. You only have one life, so you better make the most of it. That's the way I always felt about the Viking mentality and philosophy: make the most of your life, because we have one, we have one shot at this, and that's what I've always tried to do.

Thanks to Hegg and to everyone who helped make this interview happen! See you at the PNE!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Congratulations, Nardwuar!

Do any of my local readers NOT know that Nardwuar is getting a star and hosting a free show on Sunday at the Commodore?

More here!

Crummy Goes to Japan: tour kickoff gig tonight!

Crummy by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Hey, I have a Straight interview with Bert Man of Crummy! They're about to leave on a Japanese tour! Check it out, and come to LanaLou's tonight for the send off (also featuring Ken Fleming, formerly of SNFU, in his project Soundfucker!).

For Crummy’s previous release, Bitch, go here; for the event page for tonight's show at Lanalou’s, go here.

Monday, September 23, 2019

RIP Sid Haig

Love seeing Sid Haig in anything. Sad that he's gone. Hadda note it.

Has 3 From Hell come and gone from theatres already?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Entering the Fray

A couple of my Facebook posts this evening. One:

You know what? Screw strategic voting. Everyone should just vote NDP. Could someone with musical talent write a riff on the Beatles? "All we are saying / is give Jag a chance?" ...How the hell could it be worse than the last dozen administrations? Has anyone actually LIKED or RESPECTED a singular Liberal or Conservative leader recently... Or ever? Last PM I was even AMUSED by was Jean "Dr. Pepper" Chretien, who at least had an appealing character. I cannot remember a Prime Minister I actually admired - I don't think I have seen one. Why does this idiotic country swing from the frigging Liberals to the frigging Conservatives every few years? Does anyone actually feel represented by either party? SCREW STRATEGIC VOTING, actually go out and vote for someone who MIGHT JUST REPRESENT YOUR INTERESTS, for a change! 
Damn I would like Jagmeet Singh to win this election. I wish I had a sense of more fight in him, more ambition, more, uh, chutzpah. I only just watched the video of his response to the brownface thing, and while it is a very mature reaction, and a very "sincere" one - which I was unaware of previously - it's also just too politician-like, too polished, too quiet, too safe, too kind. It seems like a wasted opportunity. I'm not saying he should be getting all righteous but there is a huge population of voters in Canada, and not just NDP supporters, that he COULD HAVE SPOKEN TO. I bet the most hardened Conservatives and PPC supporters out there felt at least a flicker of curiosity as to how he would react to the brownface thing - how could they not? And while, yes, his reaction is very mature and carefully considered and seems earnest enough, I don't think anything he said here is going to really make an impact on those people or sway anyone to vote for him who wasn't planning to previously. He TALKS about fighting racism, but there should be more fight in him; he should be SHOWING it, not telling it, you know? People aren't going to vote for you because you're SAD about this, dude; being sad is not an attribute that makes people think of someone as a leader. 
There's a phenomenon going on with the Trump administration that politicians need to heed, that people are tired of "mature and carefully considered" statements from politicians, telling us what they think we want them to say; it's taken an imbecilic, Twitter-obsessed sociopathic hustler to reveal this, but the lesson is there no less, y'know...? It seems like it's a time for FRANK SPEECH and PASSION! We've all just gone through the disappointing experience of voting for a nice young man who we thought maybe valued the same things we did, and it didn't work out so well for us or the country. Mr. Singh, stop being so nice - and for chrissake, consider how you play the whole thing with Justin Trudeau wanting to personally apologize to you. This guy has apologized his way through his whole administration, often while CONTINUING TO DO what he was apologizing for in one form or another. DON'T LET HIM TURN APOLOGIZING TO YOU INTO ANOTHER PRESS OPPORTUNITY FOR HIM!

I fucking HATE the thought that the Conservatives are going to win this election, that we're going to be teleported back to the racist homophobic xenophobia of the Harper years (Scheer at least seems like a mammal, compared to Harper's alien reptile vibe, but that's about the best I can say for him). I would sell a testicle if I could stop another Conservative government from happening; I would even take the Liberals again if you forced me to choose between them. But jeezus, there's a THIRD PARTY in this arena, folks! (Actually four or five...). Can we PLEASE try an NDP Federal Government for a change? Please? 

Happy Birthday Paul Pigat!

Dear Mr. Pigat:

I think it is wonderful that you are sharing your birthday event with Vancouver, and hope you have a successful show. I'm sure it will be massively entertaining. I have plugged it a few times, in a few different places, and am sure I would really enjoy it were I to, um, be there, which (sorry), I won't be.

The thing is, I haven't seen a full DOA show in about six years. Think the last DOA concert I was at til the end was one of their farewell shows at the Rickshaw - what was that, 2013? It was before Todd Serious died, because the Rebel Spell opened; Brian Goble was still alive, too (and Randy Rampage and Brad Kent, tho' I don't know if Brad was there). I checked in at one show at the Rickshaw a couple of years ago just to see the new lineup, but I had to get home for some reason or other and only saw about half the set. I have seen half-sets or so a couple of other times since 2013, too, but it was sorta "show Erika DOA before they call it quits (in Victoria, a few months after the Vancouver gig), but let her get home before she gets too restless, because this isn't really her kinda music," you know? (She likes your stuff a lot more!). 

Then the Fight Back Festival came and I went for my friend David M.'s set and to see Jesse Lebourdais (and get a CD off him), but I hadda be awake to get to work at some ungodly hour out in Surrey the next day (I was teaching a Saturday morning ESL class) and DOA wasn't going on until one, so although I was there, I had to leave before Joe even took the stage. A bummer!

I have been craving a DOA show since. I've been enjoying 1978, and I've actually been taking more of a liking to Joe, who I've come to realize is actually a pretty smart and able guy, whom - nevermind interviewing - I've now had the pleasure, finally, of actually VOTING FOR. (He ran in my riding). And, you know, I wanna see Chain Whip again - I've done recent pieces on both these bands, and I'm just... PRIMED, you know? I can be at no other show tomorrow night. And I NEED a punk show this weekend, I really do!

...But dude, happy 50th birthday! (May I recommend watching John Cassavetes' Husbands if you haven't seen it? I can think of no better movie to celebrate turning 50 with; I would have done it myself a couple of years ago except I had already used it to celebrate my 40th). No doubt I will write about you again some time, and I definitely intend to see you play again sometime (soon!), and I'll bring Erika, and we'll both stay to the end and have a great time. Prolly not as great a time as it's going to be tomorrow night, given the occasion, but, you know, we've never NOT loved one of your shows, so we'll live.

Anyhow, cheers!


PS: for anyone reading this OTHER than Paul (and company), who is looking for a fun show to go to tomorrow night (technically tonight), and who DOESN'T feel like seeing DOA, may I suggest Paul's birthday bash with Cousin Harley tomorrow? I think it really doesn't matter if you like roots and rockabilly as your primary thing or if you like punk and metal: if you like guitar, YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Justin Trudeau versus that time we all Heiled Hitler

Jeez, was anyone still planning to vote for Justin Trudeau?

It's either NDP or Green this time for me. Learned my lesson months ago, having cast my only vote, ever, last election, for the Liberals, in the name of "strategic voting."  This time around, I am relieved to live in the riding of Jagmeet Singh. I wish the NDP were trying harder, wish they had the advertising budget of the Conservatives, wish I felt they had a chance to form the government.... but I fully expect Singh to take this riding, so, uh, "my work here is done." In other ridings, I would also consider voting Green. I sure as hell won't vote for the Conservatives ("evil rich people") or the PPC ("evil rich people with their masks off," plus maybe a few deluded ideologues), so it's not like I've got choices. 

Personally, I was never ever, under any circumstance, going to vote Liberal this time.

Incidentally, re: blackface and brownface, I think I have Justin Trudeau beat. At age 16 or 17, I went with my classmates to our high school gym for a rally that included a Hallowe'en costume contest, I think possibly prior to a basketball game. Attendance, as I recall, was mandatory - class was let out so we could all go. One of the students - I actually am not sure what his name was, so he'll be spared my outing him here - dressed in a pretty damn good Hitler costume: brown uniform, swastika armbands, leather boots, the lot. Maybe we were mocking authority or trying to mortify our teachers or just playin' along with the spirit of things, or maybe we were making some sort of ironic commentary on the quasi-fascist nature of sports events or rallies - we were, after all, in a high school gymnasium, where we came for the purposes of cheering our team - but several hundred of us (including me) took to vigorously Sieg Heiling the kid in the Hitler costume, responding to his salutes with our own stiff right arms and shouts of "Sieg! Heil!" It was entirely stupid, but in no way did we mean anything to be mean-spirited or intend it to be taken seriously (and I do believe the guy in the Hitler costume won the contest, if memory serves, perhaps over the objections of some teachers...). Was our action in poor taste? Sure. Would I do it now? Probably not, no (tho' I can't really imagine a similar circumstance where it would come up). Was it disturbing to any Jewish kids in the gym with us? Possibly, but it's more likely that they participated in it, regardless - it was ALL of us, who did it, teachers aside.

And was it entertaining for us? Yep, at the time, it was really fun. We weren't thinking much beyond that. To me, now, it's an entertaining story, and not much more. Do I feel sorry that I did this? No, not particularly - it was stupid shit I did as a kid, and really not much more than that, and if it upsets you, I think I would try to convince you not to take it seriously. It doesn't actually say anything much about my values or beliefs at all.

Justin Trudeau was a bit older than that when he dawned brownface and blackface, granted, but you know what I find more distasteful than his having done that? His craven apologizing now. I can't quite put my finger on what it speaks to (general gormlessness?) but it starts to feel like, this guy is all about what photos he's in. Me in a gay pride parade! Me in blackface! Me in brownface! Me next to First Nations leaders in the House! Me in India!

And if you end up caught in the wrong photos, just apologize.

Tired of it, tired of him, tired of his government. And the fact that he must have known all through his turn as Prime Minister that these photos were out there... if I were him, I think I would have just released them myself at some point.

Please God, folks, get out and vote. Vote for the Liberals again, if you  must (though if you're shaken up by the brownface thing, may I suggest Jagmeet Singh to you, as the next obvious choice?). Just, whatever you do, do not vote for the Conservatives or the PPC!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

DOA: of 1978 and Punk the Vote: a Joe Keithley interview

Joe Keithley and I took time last weekend for a fast conversation, apropos of the upcoming Federal Election and the September 21st Punk the Vote concert at the WISE Hall. As you'll see from my Straight article, most of the focus was on politics and the environment, with a bit about the experience of being elected to city council, and Joe's experiences on the campaign trail. 

"The thing about me running and getting elected," Keithley explained, was that  "it wasn’t all young people or DOA fans" who'd voted for him: "There were tons of old people, tons of people who don’t like my music, right? They’re like, ‘I like what you’re talkin’ about; I can’t say I’d buy one of your records,’ you know, and when people say that me, I say, ‘that’s great. I’m not trying to sell you records, I’m trying to get you on board with ideas that I’ve got.’”

But DOA does have a new record out – a superb compilation of unreleased tracks, demos and early singles, called 1978, with most songs featuring the classic lineup of Keithley, the late Randy Rampage, and Chuck Biscuits. Biscuits, in particular, makes an interesting showing on the record; also the author of the classic, "Last Night," which appears on Something Better Change, the lightning-fast teenaged drummer also sang“Kill Kill This is Pop,” which appeared on the Vancouver Complication. "Chuck wrote the lyrics and the song and he sang it, and I went, 'what's this about?' He went, 'ah, fuck, nevermind!' I went 'okay, whatever, just sing it' - because I had no idea what he was talking about. It ended up being a funny song..."

That tune pops up up 1978, as do two less-well-known songs, "The Mutant" and “Rip Dis Joint,” which pilfers from a similarly titled Stones song, and also features a lead vocal from Biscuits. We discuss that a bit in the Straight piece, linked above - it was recorded, apparently, during the sessions for this infamous single:

As for "The Mutant," which previously popped up on The Lost Tapes, it is one of the few tracks on the album also previously unknown to me. “We did one demo of it," Keithley remembers of that song. "I can’t remember where we ended up with it, he didn’t like it, or, 'it's not going to go on the record,' but when I listened to it later, it was like, ‘okay, this is really funny!’ And I think that’s the idea – some of the stuff on it is just like, ‘wow, these guys are out of control, really young, and would do anything! Which is kinda like what punk rock was, right; these songs kinda embody that. They weren't overly thought out, and they weren't way underproduced, and it kinda was the spirit of the time."

The main question, of course, is how it came to be that there should be any unreleased DOA material at all. Joe's never been shy of putting out retrospective albums - from singles albums to the Greatest Shits DVD to bonus material included on CD reissues of classic albums, Joe has mined the DOA back catalogue pretty extensively. Quite a bit of 1978 has popped up in one form or another, though it's really kind of hard to keep track. 

"I didn't really think about it too much," Joe told me when we talked. "It's kinda one of those things: it would be kind of have another retro album out with unreleased tracks, and then Randy died, and I thought, let's do something that kind of commemorates him and Dave and Wimpy and Brad and all the gang that passed away. Mostly on that record, it's Randy, Chuck and I playing on everything. And the fun part was, I got a hold of Don Denton. He used to be the photographer for the Straight, and I asked, do you have any photographs that no one has ever seen before, and he dug up a bunch of incredible ones, and we used a few on the record. Every time I look at them, I just laugh."

DOA will be headlining the Punk the Vote Festival at the WISE Hall on September 21st. Event page here. Mike Usinger's review of the album is here... Should be a great show. It's been a few years since I last saw DOA but this is maybe the tightest, fastest trio since the days of Randy and Chuck. Wonder who the "special surprise guests" will be?

Monday, September 16, 2019

On not writing obituaries

It used to be that I would spend a fair bit of time paying respects to people who died on this blog.

I still read obits. My regular routines online involve checking the Wikipedia Recent Deaths page every few hours. It's not some journalistic need to report the news first, it's that for most of my life - lived prior to the phenomenon of the internet - it wasn't all that easy to tell which writers, filmmakers, musicians and such that I cared about were still alive.

But it seems like that sort of "reportage," coming from me, is redundant now. People keep their own tabs, and pay respects on Facebook - I've posted a few Daniel Johnston songs there in recent days (saw him twice, would have gone again, used to buy his cassettes back in the day).  I may still check in about people who mean more than most, to me - as with Ryszard Bugajski, a few months ago - especially if their lives or works are not so well known to the masses. But - you know, even though I did note, say, that Mardik Martin passed last week (a screenwriter who collaborated with Scorsese), I don't know his contributions well enough to say anything meaningful; and as for Ric Ocasek, I was never actually a Cars fan. I've liked some of Fred Herzog's photographs and I've seen part of Robert Frank's Cocksucker Blues, but again, I have nothing to say that really counts, and people pay close enough attention now that they already know...

...though did you notice Theatre of Hate are coming to the Rickshaw in October? Opening for the new version of the Chameleons that is playing. A curious thing that I may ask Kirk if we talk is how Robert Frank ended up taking photos of them! (One of their early singles has a Robert Frank pic on it).

Anyhow, I guess this is sort of a "mass obituary" in a way... people keep dying... It will continue whether I write about it or not...

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Punk the Vote!

Joe Keithley writes, apropos of next weekend's show:

Hi Al
Here's the press release for a show I am putting on at the Wise Hall
Sat. September 21st. It's a drive to get people out to vote for
candidates that care about fighting climate change in our federal
election. it is a non partisan event and it should be a lot of fun!
Joe/ DOA

Also note: I didn't blog about it here, but check out this Chain Whip article I did for the Straight! (Including a link to Josh's review of the DOA 1978 LP, which is, I agree, just bloody great!

Friday, September 13, 2019