Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Bev Davies: Never Too Late for a Punk Rock Calendar!
If you’re like me, two months into 2008, you still have a 2007 calendar tacked somewhere up on the wall. Perhaps it is on the page for November or December. You’re aware that time has moved on – you just haven’t gotten around to turning the page, or replacing the thing. Maybe you’ve completely forgotten it.
There’s no shame in it, really: calendars are more of a decorative phenomenon than a functional one these days. It’s an age where you can check the date anytime you want by clicking on your desktop, where every email arrives dated and where a goodly number of people carry around electronic gadgets that remind them of the time and date as a matter of course. My 2007 Bev Davies-meets-Nardwuar Punk Rock Calendar put out by Mint Records (awarded to me as a trivia prize by Nardwuar at a Pointed Sticks show last year!) is a case in point: not only was it hanging on my wall on the page after December until this very morning – showing a photo of Duff McKeegan, when he was in the Fastbacks, without even an accompanying month to go along with it – but it’s not even in my “office area.” I’ve hung it in my kitchen, where I needed some more decoration, and where, in fact, I don’t have any other electronic gadgets to tell me the date (my microwave is only set to tell me the time, if I could just figure out how to program it). This way, if I’m in my kitchen, and realize I need to know what day it is, I don’t actually have to walk over to the computer, I just have to flip ahead to the correct month. Is it my fault if that only happens about five times a year?
Besides, the calendar looks cool, and that’s the whole point.
Given all the above, I hope y’all will forgive my posting my interview with Bev Davies (Flickr page here) about her 2008 Vancouver Punk Rock Calendar – as originally done for the (now defunct, or at least in long-term hibernation) Nerve Magazine – in mid-February. Bev recently sent out a Myspace reminder that calendars are still available, so take heart and heed, and contact the Jem Gallery ASAP to get yours! The calendars are limited-edition, signed, and very much more DIY-feelin’ than the Mint catalogs; and the pics are glossy detachables, that you can save long after 2008 is a memory. February’s image is of No Exit – a semi-forgotten Vancouver punk band whose membership once, I’m told, included Julie Belmas.
Before we commence, a brief testimonial from Susanne Tabata – currently making a feature documentary about the early Vancouver scene, focusing on “music, politics, innocence, rebellion, life and lessons.:” “Bev was a brunette, quiet, never tawdry. We saw each other at a lot of shows and interviews. Wore the Perryscope backstage pass. Bev was not a member of the mainstream press and was never acknowledged outside a core group. She persisted in recording a narrative photographic document of part of an era. Dare I mention she raised her son at the same time. Our public relationship revolves around work. We're also friends...a lot of it can't get ink but I can say we share ideas, pickles, a cook, and the relevant Keith, RIP.” (Keith Kristmanson, a mutual friend who took this photo of Bev baking tarts shortly before his death in 2007).
Photo by Keith Kristmanson
Allan: So how long have you known Carola of the Jem Gallery?
Bev: We were young, I don’t know. She was one of the first people I met, when I first started going to shows – so probably since 1979. There were large parts of both of our lives where we didn’t see each other for just ever.
Allan: It was a working relationship then?
Bev: Nope – we were just friends!
Allan: When did work with her start?
Bev: I guess when she opened this gallery. She used to work at a store, but I never saw her there, but I used to see her on the bus sometimes. I don’t know – I don’t remember!
Allan: Do your photographs still run in papers like the Vancouver Sun?
Bev: I’ve had some stuff in there this year – Dominic is very kind to me at the Vancouver Sun. He ran some Police photos – old photos; when the Police were here in town, when they opened that whole tour, he ran some of my photographs in there which was really nice. He also ran some Clash photos, of Paul Simenon, when he was doing an article about the Clash. But in context, like, when the article includes something about previous times, or something like that, he thinks often of me. He ran some photos from this current show, a week ago Saturday – he had a little article about it.
Allan: Are many of your images widely shown outside Vancouver? (I know you do work for Razorcake).
Bev: A lot of stuff, when I was doing stuff with Nardwuar. Let’s see – Chunklet, Joe’s book... Buck’s book, Guilty of Everything, has my photos in it. Magazines, no. It’s sort of hard to get it together with a lot of magazines.
Allan: Are you going to be in Susanne Tabata’s film?
Bev: I inspired it! She came to my show at Carola’s gallery the opening night, and she kind of started listening to people talking, and talking to people. She was here much longer ago – she was a student at UBC, and she was at CiTR. She did a lot of interviews – I have photographs of her interviewing the Ramones and – I can’t remember who else, but definitely the Ramones. Oh – Los Popularos, a band from here. She’d done a lot of that, and a lot of work with John Tanner and Night Dreams, that original video show...
Allan: I don’t know that –
Bev: It was this idea that John Tanner and Raoul Casablanca had, of just showing videos of bands, way before Much Music ever happened. They had this late night show on Rogers up on Oak Street at 41st, in the basement there, and it went on live. They’d have guests come in – like, the Specials came on live when they were in town opening for the Police. It was on late night. And then David and Buzzy did that from the North Shore.
Allan: Soundproof. I knew Soundproof, out in Maple Ridge.
Bev: And it kind of splits along those lines. People who didn’t have Rogers Cable didn’t get the one show, and people that had Shaw – Surrey and places like that – got the North Shore, got Buzzy and David. But Buzzy and David were a bit later. Not trememdously, but it was after that. So she’d worked with that. And so she was at the opening of my show of 144 punk rock photographs, and that whole thing started to gel in her mind that she wanted to do this.
Allan: When was that?
Bev: This year – January 5th it opened, 2007. The photographs are still to be seen in albums at the JEM gallery. There’s a few missing ones that have sold, that I haven’t reprinted. I haven’t gotten around to it.
Allan: Was there going to be a book coming out?
Bev: I was hoping that. No news at the moment.
Allan: Anyhow, going back to participation in Susanne’s film -
Bev: She interviewed me. I don’t know a lot about what my content will be in there, but with me that part doesn’t really matter. There’s going to be some of the photographs – photographs that I’ve shot that I’ve given her – Velvet Revolver with Duff who used to be in Guns and Roses, and then was in Seattle bands that came up here, like, the Fastbacks. He was in the 2007 calendar, there’s a picture of him when he was about 15. She interviewed him and I shot the whole show when they were here, so there were a couple of shots where I’ve given her the rights to use them. I didn’t publish them anywhere else, for the movie, if that’s what she wants to do with them.
Allan: If I can ask about money –
Bev: Money, what’s that?
Allan: Heh. No, but seriously. Did you make any from your photography?
Bev: No, of course not. What is that saying about the farmer that’s out in the field? If he won a million dollars, he’d just keep farming til it was all gone? Well, that’s kind of it with photography. If I had an independent source of income, I’d just keep doing photography until the money was all gone. There’s nothing coming in. It all goes out, in supplies. There’s a little bit less of the supply end of it now that I shoot more digital. There really isn’t the same cost incurred in doing the work that there was, shooting film.
Allan: How often did you let your work run for free? You’re somewhat of a celebrity, so do papers that don’t normally pay, pay you?
Bev: No. When they don’t pay, they don’t pay anybody. And I mean, that’s always – you have to sort of weigh it out, sit on your stuff and demand that you get paid (which is a valid way of looking at things), or, what I tend to think is that these photographs, though they’re mine, they actually really belong to a time in history and the music that they went with, and I would hate to think that I would sit on all of these photographs until I pass away, and someone just throws them away, and people never get to see them. Not that that’s going to happen, but you know what I mean – you’re waiting and waiting and waiting, and then the time passes by and the interest wanes. I think it’s more important to me, anyways, that people get to see the photographs and talk about that time and maybe listen to some of the music. I don’t think it’s an accident that a lot of this is happening at the same time – with Carola putting out the records now – the Dishrags coming out with a record on JEM, the Furies... Just a lot of interest in that kind of music. Carola and I just went to see the Black Lips three nights ago now, at Richards on Richards, and their sound, though incredibly contemporary, is based in a whole root of music that they weren’t even there for, earlier punk. They call themselves “flower punk,” psychedelic flower punk... In some ways for Green Day to come up with the music that they came up with, it came out of somewhere. They didn’t just pop out and, you know, go, “Wow, we just invented this.” It all just comes out of one type of music, and it evolves into something else. It seems to go in circles, and it seems like the interest is back, in punk again.
Allan: Okay, so there’s no money in it – did you have any cool perks?
Bev: Oh, like all of them. There’s weird stuff. Years ago, when I worked at the Straight, I remember going to some concert on the bus at the PNE – not when the PNE was open, maybe, but sometime through the year – and sitting not too far away from a bunch of young people who were going, “That’s Bev Davies!” And they weren’t talking to me, they were talking about me, and it was a really strange sensation. And I thought, “Jeez, this is what happens to people all the time,” y’know? Because I’d seen it happen to other people at the Commodore, where they’d be standing on the stairs talking to Drew and there’d be a whole mob of people going, “Look, there they are, standing there!” And not really talking to them, like it was a photograph or whatever... And that was really strange. Yeah, I don’t know...
Photo by Bev Davies
Allan: Let me ask about the Subhumans shot. It looks like there was nearly a riot in the audience.
Bev: Yeah, I’ve always called that photograph “...And the Entire Crowd Tries to Drag Wimpy Off the Stage,” ‘coz it looks like everybody in the audience, except Mike Normal, who is just standing there, looking so calm. But every other person in that audience is trying to drag Wimpy off the stage!
Allan: It’s been fun seeing you at recent DOA and Subhumans shows. The old rivalry between the two bands amuses me... Do you have any stories? As I’ve heard it, it all started as a conflict between the managers, David Spaner and Ken Lester.
Bev: Well, I don’t know that they didn’t like each other, but they were two of the most competitive people on the face of the earth, so they dragged their own sensibility of competitiveness into the arena of the bands they were managing, in a kind of fun sort of way I think. Oh, I remember – after the Subhumans broke up – I don’t think DOA ever broke up, ever –
Allan: They retired for a short period.
Bev: But – the Subhumans stopped playing, and I remember having difficulty getting into some DOA gig, and then mentioning to – I imagine it was Joe – that the Subhumans had put me on the “lifetime guestlist,” and DOA had never done that. And the person – probably Joe, though I keep thinking it was Randy for some reason or other – or maybe even Dave Gregg – turned and said, “Yes, but they broke up, didn’t they!” It was like, “Ahh! What’s good being on the guestlist for a band if they broke up?” That’s quite true.
Allan: What about – I could ask you to go on record and say which gig you preferred.... I thought the Subhumans at Pub 340 were a lot fresher!
Bev: They may have been fresher, but the venue was not! The air was foul and hot! Like, I was late getting there, and so I arrived halfway through their set, and I had driven down there, I had been outdoors for awhile with my camera – it was damp and cold, it was fall in Vancouver – and I walked in there, pulled the camera out of my case, and everything fogged on it. All the mirrors, all the lenses – everything. I looked through it and it was, like, white, and the place was not white, the place was very black-looking. The photographs that I’ve seen, I prefer the Subhumans photographs from that show, because they’re all sort of wild and unpredictable, but I’ve seen one photo Carola has in the current show at the gallery of Randy that’s just unbelievable, from the DOA thing, and also one that Femke has of Randy with his guitar over top of his head. I think there were incredibly good photographs to be taken at the DOA show, I just don’t seem to have gotten any of them. But I enjoyed that show. I enjoyed both shows.
Photo by Bev Davies
Allan: How many times have you seen DOA?
Bev: I don’t know. It’s like the proverbial question of “how many concerts have you gone to?” Phh! I don’t know – this week, last week? I don’t know. I mean, I’ve seen them in England, I’ve seen them in Los Angeles, I’ve seen them in Chicago, I’ve seen them here - I’ve seen them in Surrey at Bumpers! Seen them in New West, seen them on the North Show – I saw them at Kits high in a noon hour concert. The Subhumans did a tour once of Vancouver high schools. Instead of touring the west coast or Canada or whatever – they toured the high schools. It’s called their high school tour.
Allan: Did you follow them on that?
Bev: No, I only went to a few. I don’t think I ever figured out that it was actually a tour. I just was surprised they were playing various high schools.
Allan: A friend of mine at work has a great story about seeing Art Bergmann playing “Hawaii” to a high school gym – I don’t know if it was as the Young Canadians, or the K-tels, but
Bev (softening the profanity): “Let’s go to frigging Hawaii!” (laughs)
Allan: And the vice principal was rushing the stage, saying no, no, no, stop! Art was giving him the finger and singing louder.
Bev: I want to go to frigging Hawaii...
Allan: Let me ask you about Los Popularos. You have a real knack for catching bands seeming not-posed. Do you do anything special?
Bev: Yeah, I just shoot and talk to them at the same time. And they don’t think I’m really shooting (laughs)! I mean, they were aware they were posing, but I don’t make them stop doing what they’re doing. And another example would be the DOA shot that’s in the calendar. That’s from one roll of film... They came out the back door of the Smilin’ Buddha – they all got cigarettes, they all got a light, they all talked to each other while they were doing that; meanwhile I was photographing the whole thing. And then they said, “Okay, we’re ready now,” and I said, “That’s okay, I’ve finished,” and left. Los Pops’ picture is kind of from the same vein. Of course they know they were being photographed, but they weren’t posing in that kind of sense where you go – stop talking, look at me, whatever. I just don’t do that with people.
Allan: But... are the results fairly unpredictable, then?
Bev: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I really like the feel of that photograph of Los Pops. I looked especially for it. I wanted to put them in the calendar and I wanted that to be the picture, that particular picture. It wasn’t a particularly easy roll of film to find, for me, ‘coz I didn’t have a date when I was sure that it had happened. And I really like the shapes that they make, the dark clothing that they have on, and the outdoor-ness of it – the bright day. And things like that. So I had a hard time. ‘Coz all of the pictures on the calendar have my name on it somewhere, and that one I kept trying it across the bottom of the picture. In varying degrees of greys and blacks and whites and things, and it didn’t work. I had to run it up the side, because it started to interfere with the shapes and things, when I put it across the bottom. Where a lot of other ones look fine with it across the bottom . Some didn’t – I ran it up the side. That’s not the only one I ran up the side. It just didn’t work to have it across the bottom.
Allan: The Buddy Selfish one, too.
Allan: What’s your history with (current Pointed Sticks drummer) Ian Tiles?
Bev: Uhm, known him since, like, 79. Now of course you have to explain that Ian Tiles IS Buddy Selfish. Or Buddy Selfish IS Ian Tiles.
Ian Tiles as Ian Tiles, in Japan. Photo provided by the Pointed Sticks, photographer uncertain (Gord?)
Allan: I never actually heard them. What were they like?
Bev: Buddy? Oh, excellent – he did all that old rock and roll/ rockabilly kinda stuff.
Allan: He was singing.
Bev: Yeah. He was really a band. I think Colin would be in it, and various other people. That would be a question to ask Ian. We’re trying to get him to resurrect Buddy at sometime, but he says, “Buddy’s retired.”
Allan: I’m curious... you’ve deliberately focused on all-Vancouver bands in this calendar, whereas you had photos of Motorhead and whatnot in the last one.
Bev: Right. I think it was the size of the run that Mint was going to do... Nardwuar and I had done a lot of interviews, prior to that, that had ended up in various magazines and things, and they covered a wider scope than just Vancouver music, and so it was a logical thing when looking at the calendar to include some of those interviews that had already happened, and pictures of bands that were not from the local scene. And if you’re looking at the size of the run that they did, and where they were sending calendars, the local scene would not have been exactly what they wanted. They went everywhere. 17 of them went to Rolling Stone magazine, all to individual people – they sent those calendars to everyone that they would normally send CDs to.
Bev: Oh, I’ve got to tell you this. I got this email from Nardwuar one day, forwarded from Cynthia Plaster Caster! She had emailed Nardwuar had told him how much she’d enjoyed the calendar, and how it was up in her kitchen and all her castees when they came in really liked it too! So I got home from work at lunchtime and checked my email and here’s an email from Cynthia Plaster Caster! I was like, “Oh my God!” ...The calendar just went everywhere.
Allan: Nardwuar has a reputation for coming up with really obscure details. Was there anything that really amazed you, that he came up with during the interviews?
Bev: The thing that amazes me about Nardwuar is the fact that every now and again, you have to go – “Whoa: he wasn’t there.” Because you’re talking to this person that you feel – it’s not research, it’s actual stuff that he knows, and it’s not! It’s research, and it’s hard to remember that sometimes! Every now and then you get jarred into it. Sometimes it’s by errors. Other times it’s by questions where he goes, “Of course you know, I wasn’t there...” But I sent him some photos for an article he was doing, and he wanted some of Skinny Puppy; and he said, “That was the first concert I ever went to.” And it was like, “Woo, really? How could that be possible? You must have been at the Buddha...”
Photo of Nardwuar and Thor by Femke van Delft
Allan: How many copies of the calendar have sold thus far?
Bev: I don’t know. They take over half an hour to assemble the photographs on them, so we’re plugging away at them. I’m heading over to the gallery today with the anticipation of getting more than three done, which is all I got done yesterday. They take at least half an hour to put the pictures in.
Allan: And they’re 20 bucks each.
Bev: 20 plus tax. For the people who are IN the calendar, we’re waiving the tax, or if they want to think of it, as a 13% discount. I tend to like the 13 percent discount, because I like that number.
Allan: Do you have any favourite images?
Bev: Rude Norton – I love that picture of Rude Norton. That’s Wimpy with the glasses on. Whether he needed those glasses or not... Allan: Where have I seen that shot before?
Bev: The Rude Norton record – the famous little 7 inch. And... The one of Carola and I. That was taken by Sid Sick. That’s the other person in the picture of Rude Norton. Carola and I were at the house where Carola lives now. She lived there then, cos her parents owned that house, and she invited a whole bunch of us back to her house after something at the Buddha, and I lived in the neighbourhood near her house, so I headed off to there. And we were drinking – it was back in the day when I actually drank. We were drinking vodka in that picture; now – the process of – we were drinking vodka and orange juice, and then we ran out of orange juice, and Carola suggested that we could use Tang, and we were about to mix up the Tang with that water, and I stupidly suggested that there was absolutely no reason to add the water to the Tang, let’s just put the Tang into the vodka. So we were like, drinking straight vodka, with a bit of orange colouring in it, which was a really bad choice. So I walked home at four in the morning, a few blocks from her house, and I never did make it the house that night. I was afraid to go inside, if the ceilings would all swim around too much and doing all that kind of crap. So I sat for a long time on the front veranda, and I fell asleep, passed out in the front veranda in the chair.
Allan: Was this your place, or were you living with your parents?
Bev: No, no – it was my place. A friend found me in the morning. “What are you doing out here?” “Shh! Don’t yell at me.”
Bev (laughing): If there’s any children reading this, don’t do this! ...I don’t even think they make Tang anymore, but, you know...
Allan: So is the paper for the calendar handmade? It’s really nice.
Bev: It’s parchment, actually. I kind of thought that was cool – there’s a religious overtone to the type of paper. We’re trying not to have it be the same in any way to the Mint Records calendar. That was an awesome calendar with Nardwuar this year. This is the fourth calendar that I’ve done – I did a calendar in 1980, in 1981. I remember getting a list the first year from Ken Lester of all the places where DOA played and the radio stations that played DOA and any clubs that he knew of. He gave me his entire list, and I just sent calendars to all of them. Then there were many many years with no calendar, and Nardwuar, of course, who had seen the other two, kept saying, “Randy at Mint wants to republish one of your calendars!” And it just didn’t make sense to me. I thought, “Oh, that’s nice – why would Randy want to do that?” But it worked out very nicely.
Allan: Are any of the pictures in this year’s from the 1980 or ’81 calendars?
Bev: Probably the Rude Norton one. I would think. I’m not sure, I’ve never compared them. You’d have to look at the years, because anything would have to be 1979-80 to get into those. The thing that’s different between those two calendars and this one was that there were several pages at the back with photographs of all kinds of people from the scene, sort of as a collage. And that was done purposely by me to include everyone; even though they didn’t get a month in the calendar, they got their photo in. There’s pages of it on the Punk History Canada website – someone, it wasn’t me, was scanning and sending them in.
Allan: Are you going to do another one next year?
Bev: I want to do a book. I don’t know about a calendar. I don’t want to get to the point where it feels like I’m trying to flog this stuff. I want there to be a spontaneous desire for people to want it, as opposed to me out there with a little booth on the corner selling punk rock postcards... I really don’t want to get into that!
Limited edition calendars are available via the JEM Gallery; mail to thejemgallery – at – yahoo – dot – com, with “punk rock calendar” in the subject line. Shipping is $6 Cdn within Canada, and $15 Cdn, international. “We also have Smiling Buddha t shirts and magnets available. Please contact the gallery for more info.”
Photo by Keith Kristmanson