Thursday, August 26, 2010
By the way, I might need to change dayjobs in the next few months, if anyone is hiring. Guess it can't hurt to put that out there.
...oh, and someone told me Scratch Records is movin' and havin' a big sale... For those who care...
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
A piece of writing on Lurie is probably brewing - I've been informally trying to find a gallery in Vancouver interested in showing some of his work - but I have a few other commitments to deal with, so in the meantime, you might want to grab the next New Yorker. I'm not sure how Lurie feels about Friend's article, but it seems like a must-read...
Omar Khadr was a child soldier, aged 15, when Afghanistan was invaded by the United States. Right from the bat, it should be patently obvious that to count ANYTHING he may have done as a "war crime" is absurd. He was a CHILD, for fucksake! His father was Al Qaeda, tight with bin Laden; Omar, at 15, was subject not only to his parents radical politics but their fanatic take on Islam, and hardly capable of making an informed, adult decision about ANYTHING when that invasion happened. In the heat of the US attack, he MAY have fought back - against a fucking INVADING ARMY, note; however righteous the US felt themselves to be, HIS COUNTRY WAS BEING INVADED BY FOREIGNERS, and allow me to say that if foreigners invade MY country, I will most likely fight them, too, regardless of how morally justified these foreigners imagine themselves to be. But did he throw a grenade that killed an American soldier who was attacking his family's compound? Maybe - but even if we stretch things and hold him to be a responsible, rational adult in doing so, and don't grant him the right to resist an invading force, couldn't that particular action be construed as an act of, uh, self-defense?
Not sure about that, actually, but I'll tell you what it sure as hell ain't - IT AIN'T A FUCKING WAR CRIME. George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq? THAT was a war crime. Waterboarding prisoners, attacking them with dogs, using sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, assaulting their religious beliefs, or flat out beating them to death in the course of Gitmo-ized interrogations? THOSE are war crimes. Rendering prisoners to countries where they will be waterboarded or otherwise subjected to these "enhanced interrogation" techniques - or whatever the fucking euphemism is? THAT's a war crime. Setting up a secret military prison off Cuba, bagging people from various nations, disappearing them, and holding them without due process for years at a time, probably torturing them periodically? THAT's a fucking war crime. Holding CHILDREN like Khadr in those facilities, without legal recourse, for YEARS - eight, now, innit? - while possibly subjecting them to torture, as Khadr says he has been - until they can be tried as adults in front of a kangaroo court which is almost certain to convict them? That seems suspiciously like a war crime; it sure as fuck is a miscarriage of justice. Barack Obama, despite campaign promises to close down Guantanamo Bay, continuing to play ball with that system - maintaining troops in Iraq, keeping Gitmo open - is also complicit in war crimes (to say nothing of his willingness to allow the war criminals from the previous administration to go unpunished; will Bush and Cheney and co NEVER see the inside of a prison? Or does Mr. Obama figure getting a couple of shoes thrown at you in public is punishment enough?). I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but in my conception of "war crimes," they are simply NEVER things done by 15 year olds to defend their family or country from violence, period; it's an insult to the concept of war crimes to accuse Omar Khadr of such a thing. The Canadian government's willingness to play along with the US through the process of Khadr's detention and now his pending trial is an embarrassment which can only serve to legitimize "the enemy's" hatred of liberal democracy and give the monsters behind 9-11 a reason to include Canada on their list of future targets. It's a list I'd rather not we not be on, thanks. Aside from that, it's simply morally wrong. Oh, and by the way - it also makes the Canadian government complicit in war crimes. Real ones. Serious ones.
Not that that seems to be anything to be afraid of, these days.
I hope young Mr. Khadr continues to resist cooperating with his trial. In a strange way, I'm kind of proud of the guy for having the sense and the guts to do so. I can't see what good cooperating would do, especially when the injustices against this kid are so fucking massive. I hope someone in the Canadian government will read this and take note. Omar Khadr, at the time of his arrest, was a child soldier who needed to be REHABILITATED, not incarcerated illegally, pending a patently unfair trial (because how could a trial predicated by so much blatant criminality and injustice in any way be fair?). Now, he's the victim of a lengthy serious of criminal actions by the Bush regime, and while he is perhaps beyond rehabilitation, he is also beyond reproach. If we really want to be HONEST about the situation, he has been the VICTIM of war crimes, which we have been COMPLICIT in; he is NOT a fucking war criminal, and never was.
If I might briefly beg the Canadian government to get it right, it would kind of be an important issue to do something about. History is watching, and will judge us. Can we please get on the right side of it - the side that values, say, human rights, due process and the rule of law?
Because for SOME Canadians, these are still important ideas...
Friday, August 06, 2010
On some level - the public level - I'm all for social responsibility in the arts. It's a shtick I've plied many times as a music journalist, for instance probing Lemmy's fascination for war and his collection of Nazi memorabilia (some of the best stuff I got from him only ran in Germany, by the way - like the stuff about how Lemmy owns some of Hitler's cutlery...). When talking with Bison BC, I've made a point of delving into the social subtexts of their songs, with the band obligingly helping me show how socially responsible they are - talking about the Wendigo as a model for addiction and powerlessness in the face of inward compulsion, for instance. I've decried albums by Fear, the Bad Brains, and the Descendents for their homophobia, called Antiseen on their racism, and on this blog, I've publicly criticized films like 28 Weeks Later or the recent remake of King Kong for their unacceptable, politically backwards aspects (constructing an argument in defense of collateral damage, in the first case, and toying with a very strange kind of racism in the second). I even found myself at least partially convinced by Robin Wood's rather famous attack on the films of David Cronenberg, in the OOP The Shape Of Rage, in which he argued that many of Cronenberg's films must be cited as sexist, homophobic, and reactionary. I am generally happy to wrap myself, as a writer, in the flag of liberal righteousness and condemn that which offends me...
...yet at no time do I do justice to the fact that I *love* Lemmy's war songs, that I positively revel in Bison BC's tales of backwoods Canadian cannibalism and possession, that I still sometimes listen to Fear, the Descendents, the Bad Brains, and even Antiseen... or indeed that I still own DVDs of 28 Weeks Later and King Kong (and several films by David Cronenberg, including Shivers, high on Wood's hit list). I do have limits, but I have to confess - I'm attracted to violent art. I crave the strong stimulation it affords and the provocative questions it raises (like, "geez, I enjoy this, but... is it okay?" Or perhaps, "Is this morally acceptable, and where can I get more of it?").
Liberal hypocrite that I am, then, now that I've returned to listening to metal, it makes sense that I would eventually find my way to the music of Cannibal Corpse.
Before we proceed, if you're unfamiliar with Cannibal Corpse, you really do need to check out a few of their lyrics. Take, for instance, "Necropedophile" ("Violated after death/ Virgin hole I infest/ Anal pore spewing cess/ The sacred juice I injest/ Your dead child I defile/ Necropedophile"). Kind of clever how lyricist Chris Barnes "softens" any objection to his writing about pedophilia by emphasizing that the kids were dead to begin with - because fucking dead children is a whole different matter if you didn't kill them first; but he goes there, too, for instance in "Gutted," off their very popular second album, Butchered At Birth, with its references to a "little torso ready to be cooked... just another gutted infant/ To satisfy his hunger." "His" hunger? Not "my" hunger? Well...
...But if children just aren't your thing, though, how about some violence against women? Try "Fucked With A Knife" or "Stripped, Raped and Strangled," say - or maybe "She Was Asking For It," all three songs off the same album, The Bleeding - their last with original vocalist and primary lyricist Chris Barnes. After Barnes left/ was ejected, we entered the marginally less revolting George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher period, where I don't think any children get killed; but there are still all sorts of extreme and politically unacceptable images in their songs - check out the video for "Decency Defied," say, about a serial killer with a fetish for skinning tattooed women. Still, violence against women in Cannibal Corpse 2.0 is tempered with more songs about men being mutilated and killed, and sometimes the band even gets cute about it all (as in "Headless," where a man who plans to decapitate a woman ends up finding himself "ironically" decapitated instead). They even start to have a few arguably politically progressive moments, as with "Rotted Body Landslide," a close-up depiction of the horrors of genocide, and write some songs that are actually kinda funny - as with "Dismembered and Molested," which almost has a singsong quality to it that makes it hard to take the band quite so seriously ("Sever the limbs/ Decapitate/ Yank out the teeth/ Then masturbate/ Pounding the face/ Ejaculate/ My darkest needs/ I satiate..."). Most of the lyrics are sung in a buffalo-throated, "death vomit" voice, as goes with the territory of death metal, so you can only pick out the odd word - less so when Barnes was the singer - but it doesn't matter, really: there's not really any point in asking whether the words to Cannibal Corpse songs are "okay," from a liberal point of view. If they were, the band would be doing something wrong.
I'm going to attempt to.
We're standing in the magazine department of Chapters on Robson, where the No Fun founder, singer/songwriter, and wry observer of contemporary life works. It's also where he has been playing free Saturday shows once a month for eight and a half years, sometimes - as I documented in a past Skinny article - to audiences no bigger than this writer himself (but I'm pretty big, so...). His sets, including No Fun classics like "Paisley Brainbolts of the Mind," David M.'s Ironic Acronym tunes like "Leonard Cohen Says Love," Elvis and Beatles medleys, Gorgo ads - still! - and covers of everything from The Cure to Rick Springfield, are always fun and funny, and I've long-enjoyed his asides about music history and his anecdotes about performing on the Vancouver scene since the 1970's. (I should get his Iggy Pop story on tape sometime). It looks like store renovations will be bringing an end to his Saturday shows - Chapters have asked him to do a three-month hiatus, in any case - so Lilith For Dudes, Tuesday at the Railway, may be your only chance to see David do his thing for quite some time.David M. doing a solo version of No Fun At Christmas at the Railway Club, 2008; photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission
With various Chapters staffers passing by, glancing curiously at my tape recorder (and the humble computer mike sticking out of it), I commence to interview Mr. M.
David: This is one of the posters (David hands me a gig poster, similar to the one below). Or - one of the posters is like this, but it doesn't say 'penises,' because I realized - with the kid it looked like... y'know... (he trails off). But that's an actual photo of me looking at M Magazine.
(Lilith For Dudes poster without the penises).
Allan: And it's got Jim Cummins, Ed Hurrell, Pete Campbell, "and their penises." I see. Ed Hurrell is from what bands?
David: Stab'em In the Abdomen and The Stoolies. The Stoolies is his current band. Pete Campbell was in the Wardells, and he still plays around town. Jim Cummins, of course, is Bumeater.
Allan: Okay. So. You're gonna all be performing together or separately?
David: It's the same as the Christmas show I do there - like, I do some stuff, and they come up and do things unique to the show. So it'll be... They can do whatever they want. With me, or by themselves, and with me... so its whatever happens.
Allan: When you say it's the same as the Christmas show, are we to expect No Fun songs modified to bring out a masculine theme?
David: They're all pretty masculine. Well, "Cream For Free" is one of the songs. "Entering Bikini Area." We're very masculine, anyways. It's for men. And the women who love them.
Allan: Anything else I should be telling people?
David: Well. Okay. Shut that thing off.
Allan: Okay, shutting it off.
(David pops into the backroom and finds some papers on his desk, as I peer around the corner, whereupon he changes his mind about the recorder and instructs me to turn it back on).
Allan: Okay, I'm turning it back on. David is going to read something here. This is a Lilith For Dudes manifesto?
David: Well, kinda. Okay. (Reads): "Bigger is better. Celebrate the sounds of the skin flute with David M. and his meaty friends Jim Cummins, Ed Hurrell, and Pete Campbell. These prominent penis Canadian artists will emerge from the Lilith for Dudes birthing tent to prove that men don't just make great French chefs, they make great music... Our no-gurls-allowed lineup is subject to sex change. Opposite sex music festival: sit your fat asses down, the 'original sex' music festival is coming! PS, as legally mandated by a recent Human Rights Tribunal Ruling, David M's Lilith For Dudes must conclude with a rendition of Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi.' PPS, a more recent Human Rights Tribunal ruling prohibits the use of the word, 'Mandated.'" ...That's all.
Allan: This is your press release?
David (hands me a paper with his handwriting - recognizable from No Fun cassettes of yore - on it): You can just read this, this is pretty much as it will go out.
Allan: This is the press release?
David: Well, it's a statement from a vagina doing a monologue. Are you reading it to yourself?
Allan: (Believing he has GIVEN me this document): Well, I don't need to read it into the tape recorder. I... then I would just have to transcribe it again.
David: Well, you'll get one of these in your email. I've got this new printer that won't scan. I just got it. So I could print the posters, but... I don't know. Computers. So I can't just send the poster from the poster thing, I have to scan it. But take a look at it.
Allan: I can take this? You're giving this to me?
Allan: Oh, okay. (Reads into microphone): "Dark, mysterious and slightly moist, David M. will discharge enough hugely engorging music to deeply satisfy anyone who opens up and lets it in. There won't be a dry G-spot in the house as everyone squirms in their seats to such clit-tickling tunes as 'Cream For Free,' 'Leonard Cohen Says Love,' and 'Entering Bikini Area.'" ...I see.
David: That's exactly the voice I imagined it [being read in.]
For some reason, I turn off the tape at this point, perhaps fearing that a Chapters higher up might swoop down at any minute and accuse me of distracting David from his job. When, determining that the coast was clear, I start the tape again, David is talking about a blurb in, I believe, the Georgia Straight Time Out listings.
David: ...It said "musician/ comedian" - "comedian" is in there. Which I think is just entirely based on the posters and press releases and stuff usually being funny, not because they've seen the shows. I mean, they're not like comedy shows. There's funny stuff, usually, but they're music shows. So.
Allan: And some of your songs are actually depressing.
David: Well, it's meant to be cathartic.
David: You know: you get older, you get depressed.
Allan: Yeah! (Giggles).
David: Things get depressing. If you have any sense at all. So yeah.
(At this point, believing I have enough for a piece of writing, I turn off the tape again, but leave the play button running, resulting in several minutes of silence. When I hit "record" again, David is talking about opening for Alex Chilton at the Town Pump).
David: It was in the late 80's/ early 90's. He had sort of straightened out, but he was doing more R&B in his show than people really wanted. But anyways, we were playing, and we worked up a Gorgo ad based on "The Letter."
Allan: "My baby, she sent me a Gorgo?"
David (thinks): "My baby, she something me a Gorgo."
Allan: Gave me? Bought me?
David: "Give me a ticket for an air-o-plane/ I've got something sweet on my brain..." Anyways - just short, but right when were doing it - I didn't know this, but John Armstrong told me after, he was interviewing him I guess for the Sun. They're sitting in the upstairs room? And they're talking, and all of a sudden he stops, and goes - "They're doing my song!" And - John told me this - he explained, "Well, this is like a tribute, almost, kinda, because it's an ad for this product..." But that was his reaction.
Allan: Did he have a sense of humour about it?
David: Well, yeah - it was explained to his satisfaction. He seemed like a nice guy, actually.
Allan: I've heard more "he seemed like a cranky bastard" stories...
David: Well, we met him after he'd played. But they don't always seem like nice guys. Like, John Cale was a super-nice guy when he was all doped-up, the first couple times we played with him, but when he straightened up, then he was not very pleasant.
Allan: I liked John Cale better when he was all doped up, too, but just in terms of his musical output. I never met the man.
David: Yeah. His music was better, then. But whatever - I'm glad he straightened up, and he certainly doesn't have to please me. Some of his later stuff's pretty good.
Allan: I haven't really followed it. Sabotage is the one, for me...
David: Yeah. That's a great album. And there's the 2-CD set that has the three Island albums? And then the extra songs, the B-sides and singles. That's pretty hard to beat, as an entertainment package.
Allan (fondly): "Barracuda." "The ocean will have us all." You know, "Barracuda" would be a good song for you to cover? (Among my past contributions to Vancouver music culture: I convinced David to do versions of Neil Young's "Powderfinger" and Larry Norman's "Six Sixty Six" as part of his Chapters shows. I have also held his Gorgo, which is getting very old and green and even-scarier-looking.)
David: Well, yeah. And when he's yelling, it's always good.
Allan: I like it when he yelled. Okay, well - here's hoping that Tuesday goes well.
David: Yeah. It won't end too late - people can make their buses.
Allan: That's an issue for me.
David: And I'll say one more thing. It's going to be optional for me to do, but it's something I might do at the end which I've never done before, and people who like the original No Fun - the old No Fun - like, "Mindless Aggression" No Fun, because that stuff is so popular now - that classic Vancouver punk rock, 70's punk rock? - if I think people would like it, I'm going to do something that I've never done before, having to do with the original... the sound of the original No Fun, the original trio that did the EPs...
Allan: You're going to bring out a third member?
David: I didn't say that. Something. I can't really explain it.
(A brief pause).
David: Okay, I'll just tell you what it is (laughs). You've heard the EPs, right, with "Paisley Brainbolts of the Mind" and "Fall For Cliche?" ...All that stuff was recorded over a couple of years - a couple of albums worth of material and a double album worth of material, so it's like four albums worth of material. Mostly that's where the two EPs and "Mindless Aggression" (on the Vancouver Complication comp) come from. That's the original trio. Originally it was me and another guy and then I added a guitar player...
(A loud Chapters in-store announcement obliterates David's next sentence).
David: ...but I have all the four-tracks, and its kind of like, it occured to me that because people like that stuff, they might get a kick out of - I've dubbed off the four tracks everything but the lead vocals, so I can do my lead vocals fresh over the backing tracks that sound like No Fun, for people who know the EP's or "Mindless Aggression."
Allan: You could even invite people from the audience to do No Fun karaoke.
David: I'm going to be in the crowd while this is happening, so - climbing on tables - so yeah, that will happen. And there's one song that I don't believe that anyone has ever heard, which was the final song on our double album that we recorded. The song is called "Music By Humans," and this was recorded in like, 1977 - and already, what the song is about is that music by living people is better than... like, even back then, it was seeming like things were going to get a little too technically bent. The way we recorded it, on purpose - because we were super into building tracks and lots and lots of overdubs and stuff - was, each of the four tracks, one had drums, one had bass, and one had guitar, and one had the singing. And that's it. And this is the song, and it's a good song, but I've never been in a version of No Fun that would play it, because it was so deliberately... even the bass part was deliberately Mel Schacher from Grand Funk Railroad. The bass part that Jim the bass player played was a tribute to his incredibly dull bass parts. I remember reading a review of I guess their live album at the time that said that Mel Schacher's bass part "cuts straight from the heart of boredom." When you listen to the bass, it's almost all one note, no variation! He was a great bass player (laughing). Like, he could play whatever he wanted, but him playing that... So people will actually hear the pure, unadulterated, 'classic No Fun' trio sound on that song.
David: Anyways, I've said too much, because if I don't feel like doing it, I'm not going to. But, like. If there's a whole bunch of people who are super into it. Like, I'd rather you didn't tell anyone... "Lilith For Dudes" is a big enough concept.
Allan: Yeah. And I'll try to fit the word "penis" in.
David: You have one. (Points at my pants): I can kind of see it there.
Allan: No, no you can't, David! Goodbye!
Keep an eye out for the upcoming album by David M's Ironic Acronym, Now Is Not The Time. Release date TBA, unless the title is some meta-level joke (since he first told me about it almost a year ago).