Thursday, December 31, 2015

For those about to YOB, we salute you

So as you may have noticed, I interviewed Mike Scheidt of YOB, playing Dec. 31st at the Rickshaw with Bison and Astrakhan. Alas, I won't be at the show! (What can I say, my girlfriend just isn't a fan of such heavy music, and she wants us to spend New Years Eve together. I'm REALLY glad a band we both like, Red Herring, is playing a show tonight at a house party at Id Guinness', to distract me from my NOT seeing YOB and Bison. I think I'd much rather spend New Year's in an intimate party environment, anyhow, rather than a big metal gig...

But I thought I'd put up a few outtakes from my YOB interview, for those of you who are going. Enjoy the show! The art above is from YOB's magnificent 2014 album, Clearing the Path to Ascend, which kicks off with Alan Watts saying "Time to wake up" and achieves some really blissful (if brooding and heavy) spaces. Quotes are from Mike Scheidt:

On playing live: "it's great, depending on various factors. I often get sick on tour, so that's not always a pleasure, but I love playing live. That's where I feel like we're at our best."

On how tonight's show at the Rickshaw is not actually part of a tour:

"We did a full European tour and two US tours, including Canadian dates, where we didn't get to Vancouver, on those trips. And we did an Australian tour. So we've actually toured out the album quite a bit. It's more just for fun and to have a great time and play with our friends Bison. That's kinda where it's at right now."

On what to expect on the setlist: "We don't write down setlists. We have tended to lean toward certain songs. We haven't not been able to play 'Marrow,' yet, since that album came out. So my guess is it will make an experience, but as far as the rest of it goes, I don't know yet."

On disappearing into his process, when working on songs: "you can't really be there to witness it, in order for it really to be working. That's my feeling, so... I have to keep playing where there are spaces in time where it starts to feel like the outside world is maybe gone, and then I start to feel like maybe we're onto something."

On whether he finds some metal too dark, evil, and so forth.

"Well, some of it is, for sure. Some of it is very dark and nihilistic and any number of things in heavy music, and some of it isn't. You have the Sleeps and the Oms of the world, and you have the Loss(es) and Burning Witches of the world. I think there's room for all of it, provided the group of musicians playing it are there are the way, and feeling it all the way. Then it works, even if no one it likes it, it works."
On Seattle doom pioneers Burning Witch: "I wasn't familiar with them when they were current. I discovered them whenever Southern Lord put out Crippled Lucifer, which I want to say is later 90's. I still think for nihilistic/ heavy, they're unrivaled."
Has YOB played with Bison before?

"We have not, though I did see them and play with them when I came up with Red Fang. And they were amazing."

On his history with Vancouver: "We've played up there a few times. I've played up there with Vohl. We have a long history of playing with bands up there. One of my favourites is Goatsblood. That dude Matt (Wood), who is the drummer for Bison, and also is the drummer for Goatsblood, and played in Pride Tiger - that guy is just insanely talented, and any chance I can get to watch him play is a pleasure."

Yeah, I observe. He's got a really beatific smile sometimes when he plays with Bison. I love to watch him.
"Goatsblood was similar but more evil and a lot more drool."

Enjoy the show, and Happy New Year, folks! (Why do I expect a few Motorhead covers?).

Happy New Year! (Slightly shitty old one)

2015 was not bad, I guess, but there were some really striking low points and a variety of stresses.  The singers of two of my favourite bands, the Rebel Spell and Motorhead, died this year; while Lemmy's mortality was getting pretty obvious, the loss of Todd Serious was a huge shock to the scene here, and came way too early - he was someone with a lot of life left in him, and he had one of those rare lives that actually had a fairly deep impact on a lot of people, so it was a loss felt by many besides me (though I knew him a little offstage and liked him, so it was kind of personal, too). Plus my favourite Vancouver band doesn't exist anymore, which sucks. I sure would have gone to their last show at the WISE had I known it was going to be the last chance I'd ever get to see them play live.

My work situation has had its low points, too. Late in 2013, I'd gone back to my old dayjob for greatly reduced pay compared to what I used to make; this past summer, we went on strike, and ultimately won, sort of, but the upshot of that, added on to some dubious stuff happening at corporate level, was that student enrollment plummeted, and I ultimately lost my classes, which I'd managed to keep through to January of the previous year; my hours have been whittled down to the point where I now actually do need to look for new work. My Mom, meanwhile, isn't in great shape, and getting lonelier in Maple Ridge; but economics made it untenable to maintain a separate apartment out there, since I'm more or less living at my girlfriend's anyhow. That's worked out okay, but a bunch of my stuff is now in storage, and I end up riding buses and trains more than I would like; and I sometimes have felt like I don't really have my own space anymore.

But there were highlights of the year, too. I finally got to show a small but appreciative audience of Vancouverites the film Clearcut. I got to talk to Chris D. of the Flesh Eaters, and got to see that band in Seattle, something I *never* would have imagined would happen. Finally getting Unleash the Archers and David M. into the Georgia Straight was fun, and I'm a lot more keen about the NO FUN back catalogue now that I own something like 22 CD's worth of it (David will be performing a Ukrainian Christmas show January 7th, by the by, though I forget where). There was also a weirdly magical moment with my girlfriend on Bowen Island where a dragonfly allowed me to take pictures of us together; our trip there was definitely a high point, and something that needs to be repeated next summer. Also, I had fun doing articles on the Reverend Horton Heat and Dar Williams, mostly just to get my girl into both shows (which were both terrific). The article on the Rev was the first thing I ever did for the West Ender; I was glad to get another local venue for my writing, doing a few things for them, since the Straight hasn't been taking so many articles these days.

So, okay, there you have it, 2015 in review. I'd like to craft a somewhat different 2016 for myself, shake up my priorities and habits a bit. But I'm presently needing a nap, so I'll think no more on it for the moment... Hope your 2015 was at least no worse than mine. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Random statements about Motörhead and me

My first Motörhead album was Iron Fist, consumed at age 14 in the very year of its release, 1982, played to me by a friend on his bedroom record player in Maple Ridge (same guy who turned me onto the Sex Pistols!). When I decided being a punk meant not listening to metal anymore, I got rid of my Priest and Maiden and AC/DC, but I think I have had a copy of Iron Fist, in one format or another, in my collection since that time.

My favourite songs on that first-ever Motörhead album: "America," "I'm the Doctor," "(Don't Let 'Em) Grind You Down," "Loser," "(Don't Need) Religion," plus the title track. I listened to the album in full on Sunday, in fact - back when Lemmy was still with us - mostly because I momentarily couldn't find Another Perfect Day, which I'd been hankering for, and made do. It was easy, because I still love Iron Fist, all these years later.  Lemmy told me in an interview that he was less fond of this album because there were songs on it that he hadn't wanted to appear on it, that it was kinda taken out of his hands. Foolishly, I didn't ask him which those songs were! I actually love this album way more than Ace of Spades....

Favourite early-period Motörhead song not on the first album of theirs I heard: "Stone Dead Forever." Tho' the live version of "(We Are) The Road Crew" goes a long way, too. And their self-titled theme song, but good luck sorting that out on Youtube.

Favourite Motörhead ballad: "Ain't No Nice Guy" (with Ozzy or without, both have merits).

Last Motörhead album purchased before I stopped following the band,  back in the day: Orgasmatron (1986). It's got a few great songs - "Claw," "Deaf Forever"- but Bill Laswell's production is, I think everyone kind of agreed, at the very least a bit weird, and a bunch of the songs just didn't engage me ("Dr. Rock," say: never really dug that one). I'd liked Another Perfect Day well enough - a contentious album for some, but not me - but Orgasmatron was the one that threw me, and I didn't listen to another Motörhead album (besides the classics already in my collection) until 2008, had no idea what any of them sounded like, since it's not like you stumble across a lot of their music as you go about your business, besides, of course, "Ace of Spades." Dunno why: I think there are still people out there like that, who loved early Motörhead and then for some reason dropped off the train.

The reason I got back into Motörhead in 2008: they were playing Vancouver, I was writing for the Skinny, and I'd heard from Chris Walter that Kiss of Death was really, really good. Which, I soon discovered, it truly is. Causing me to do a "holy shit, what have I missed" double-take and start playing catchup. Thank God I did!

Now that I've heard them all, my top five Motörhead albums from the period I had ignored (1986-2008), favourite first: Inferno (2004), Bastards (1993), Kiss of Death (2006), Motörizer (2008), and... actually it's impossible to choose between Hammered, We Are Motörhead, Overnight Sensation, Sacrifice, 1916, or even March or Die. I like them all but I don't know them all perfectly, and mostly like one or two songs off each (though I probably listen to Hammered more than the others, so if forced to pick...). I actually wasn't that wild on Aftershock, but I liked what I heard of Bad Magic; haven't done it justice, though.

Favourite song on Kiss of Death (also favourite Motörhead song on religious/ existential themes): "God Was Never On Your Side." What a song.

Favourite warlike Motörhead song about warfare: tie between "Death or Glory" and "When the Eagle Screams."

Favourite non-warlike song about warfare: "1916," of course.

Favourite Motörhead live moment: I've only seen the band twice, in recent years, but I love that they broke out their acoustic tune, "Whorehouse Blues," as the encore for their 2008, I think it was, Vancouver show. Class act, and what a fun song.

Favourite non-Motörhead Lemmy project is the Sam Gopal album, previously linked. Great psych rock, and the song "Escalator" has a delightful verse that will speak to all the public mourning out there:

And I can feel it
The spring unwinding in my head
And if you think you like me living, baby
You're gonna love me when I'm dead

Favourite Lemmy interview moment that had nothing to do with the interview: I was backstage at the Vogue, and had a bunch of gifts for him. Bottle of Jack Daniels, check. Paperback book about world war II, check. Copy of Chris Walter's East Van, check.  And a stack of movies, mostly home burns: Battle Royale ("Alice Cooper is into this stuff," he said, but the unspoken implication was, "not me"), Brassed Off (about striking coal miners in Northern England who form a brass band; Pete Postlethwaite is in it; he would have liked it, if he saw it). And then, just because, a burn of Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, which is Japanese tentacle porn of the strangest variety. A very, very twisted experience, not in the SLIGHTEST erotic, but utterly fascinating for us undercover Sigmund Freud types as a glimpse into male adolescence. Anyhow, I briefly explained what it was, said, "have you seen any tentacle porn," and he gave what can only be described as a guffaw, and said, "No!" Conveying a real "what the FUCK are you talking about, you crazy bastard?" vibe, but also a smidgen of amusement, which I was quite proud of. I like to think he watched it, but, I mean, even if not, "gave tentacle porn to Lemmy Kilmister" would look good on my resume, wouldn't it?

Okay, maybe not. By the way, on that note, I think I need a new dayjob. Anyone?

Fun discovery re: Grimfrost, Viking ware, and so forth

So my girl and I were checking her Facebook feed to see how many of her friends had posted Lemmy obits independent of their being my friends, too (because we share bev davies as a friend, and of course bev has been posting plenty of Lemmy stuff). The answer ultimately was three - also including Jim Cummins, who is, weirdly enough, her friend but not mine (though I enjoyed chatting with him at a Christmas party recently and might try to write about him at some point, so I might amend that).

Anyhow, along the way, there was a sponsored ad on her page where some guy with a Viking beard is talking about the origins and customs of Jul (Yule), and how Santa Claus is likely based on Odin. We had just been watching Vikings, the TV series, and we're both kind of interested in the pagan sources of Christian tradition (apparently many, and overlapping, so they're hard to keep track of). We were watching the video, and I'm thinking to myself: damn, if that doesn't look like Johan Hegg, the lead singer of (Swedish Viking metal band*) Amon Amarth...!

It is. That's a link to the Grimfrost homepage, where he's listed as one of three partners; there's also their Facebook here. I actually don't need any drinking horns, Viking axes, jewlery, leatherwork, or so forth - and my beard never gets long enough to merit a Viking comb - but I like the idea of Grimfrost plenty. So for those of you shopping for the perfect gift for the Viking in your life...

*Apparently Hegg doesn't like Amon Amarth to be called Viking metal, but, you know, if Amon Amarth isn't a Viking metal band, by me, there are no Viking metal bands (which is also possible; Hegg does have a point that lyrical themes aren't enough to type a band by).  They're working on their tenth album, apparently. I wasn't that keen on Deceiver of the Gods, to be honest - it didn't grab me at the time of its release, anyhow - but I loved Surtur Rising and Twilight of the Thunder God, so I'm keeping a keen ear pitched. In other news, I hadn't realized the guy I interviewed from Amon Amarth, Fredrik Andersson, is no longer with the band!

Monday, December 28, 2015

RIP Lemmy

Only real rockstar I ever met. Got to interview him twice, and liked him! Have lots of stories and even bits of un-transcribed interview somewhere. I have nothing much to say right now, but one must say SOMETHING. Mind you, I'm not particularly sad, since he got to live on his own terms way longer than most folks - but I will direct people who don't know it to his first album as singer/ songwriter, pre-Hawkwind - led by a guy named Sam Gopal, but Lemmy wrote the lyrics and sang them, so, uh, he deserves a bit of credit! RIP, Lemmy, thanks for having been generous and patient and so willing to engage with my sometimes awkward questions. Much respect.

Lee Child's Make Me: Jack Reacher again

So first we have Elizabeth Fischer's assisted suicide, then we have David M's reaction to it ("The New Reindeer 2015," good luck acquiring it). Then, a couple of days before David's Christmas show, I picked up Lee Child's Make Me - the 20th Jack Reacher novel, acquired as a "speed read" from the Burnaby Library. I just burned through it this morning; 400 pages in one week is a speed read indeed, by my standards...

I'm not particularly proud of the fact that I've read every one of the Reacher books. Each of them is so cut-from-the-same-cloth as to make Donald E. Westlake's Parker series seem varied and complex. Reacher comes to town, stumbles into a situation; aids a woman in distress; investigates and confronts an evil; overcomes various obstacles; wins; and leaves town. In about seventeen of twenty of them he has a brief affair with the woman in question. Very occasionally you get titles that distinguish themselves from the others, say by taking us back to Reacher's military days, or having the narrative written in the first person. My favourite of the books, The Hard Way, is fun because at pretty much every turn, Reacher makes crucial errors of deduction or judgment, succeeding in the end largely by accident, and with a great deal of help from outside (including help from women; sisterhood is a big theme of the book, which I like less because it's politically correct than because it is a fresh variant in the usual tough-guy-thriller formula). My least favourites are the odd ones that end up seeming somewhat misogynist (The Affair, say, where the entire plot revolves around the question of whether a woman Reacher is sleeping with is guilty of murder. It's well-written, but the whole point of it is kind of morally suspect, like maybe Child - real name Jim Grant - was channelling some sort of personal frustrations with females. It's his Basic Instinct, more or less). They're a bit of a guilty pleasure - the pulpiest of pulp - but they're perfectly constructed, every one of them, and easy to read as coffee is to drink. So what the hell.

Anyhow, early in the novel, a scenario occurs where people arrive at a mysterious hotel in a farming district, lightly packed; they are met by a luxury sedan; they spend one night in the hotel, and then are driven off into the dawn. Why they have arrived, where they are going is a mystery; we know it connects with murder - someone is killed at the very beginning of the book, to protect the mystery - but no explanation is given, and even Reacher himself doesn't figure it out.

My first thought was, "I bet this is all about assisted suicide."

I'm a clever guy.

Anyhow, I haven't a lot of time to review the book - have to go to work! - and I wouldn't want to spoil it, but I enjoyed this particular novel; it's a little darker than some in the series, though it's every bit a Reacher novel, dependable as McDonalds. I have friends who feel like Child has been slipping a bit, but I haven't noticed it. This is yet another fine, fun read.

(And it IS about assisted suicide... sort of). 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Breaking Scandal re: The Hateful Eight at the Park

(image lifted from Sylvia Soska's Facebook thread)

Where projection is concerned, given the state of current technology, I am no purist about film vs. digital. I would almost always rather see a pristine, top-of-the-line digital projection than a scratchy, faded, pinked or otherwise damaged film print, given a choice, no matter what the movie or context. I do admit that there is a seedy, nostalgic charm to the latter at times, of course; seeing Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City that way at last year's Northwest Horror Show was plenty of fun, and only added to the experience, particularly since, let's face it, it's not a particularly great-looking movie to begin with. But did that added charm actually make it worth the added cost to fly a 35 mm print in? I'm not sure. I know the curator, Shane Burzynski, thinks so - I ran into him on the Skytrain this week and apparently all but one of the upcoming fest's films this year will be film, once again - but I would have been equally happy with a sharp-looking digital projection. Among other things, my eye is simply not that discerning; while I can hear the difference between vinyl and CD, I doubt very much that, shown a simultaneous projection, side-by-side, of digital and film, that I could say unassisted which was which, or find reason to choose between them - unless the film was in some way damaged, in which case I'd probably prefer the digital. I'm more focused on content than image, anyhow. I want to see the colours at least reasonably close to what was originally intended, I want the image to be clear, and I want the correct aspect ratio, if possible - but beyond those few basics, I don't care HOW you project it.  Just show me a good movie, y'know?

But that's me.

On the other hand, when I first saw trailers for The Hateful Eight, boasting and booming that it was in 70mm, I have to admit to grinning. The whole thing seems basically a joke, but it's actually a funny one, if I'm appreciating it properly. I mean, given that Tarantino had a level of success with Django Unchained that allowed him to write his own ticket, more or less - given a culture that is obviously prepared to indulge his every excess and whim - and given that he's often pretty entertaining in his self-indulgences (cf. the close-ups of Juliette Lewis' toes in From Dusk Til Dawn, say, while his character ogles them; it's a clear and funny reference to his foot fetishism, also encoded into Jackie Brown)... given all that, how else could he better take stock of his own self-importance, his hubris, and his peculiar, maybe-once-in-a-lifetime position of authorial luxury, and encode it grand-scale into the film, than by shooting and distributing it in a grandiose, old-school format that very, very few cinemas are presently equipped to handle? There is on the one hand a sort of "bow down and worship me" arrogance to the gesture - which is kind of how I read PT Anderson's doing the same with The Master a few years ago - but it's also so OBVIOUS, as a signifier of hubris, so clearly a superhero pose that it ends up actually endearing the guy to me all over again; it's a ha, ha, Quentin, I see what you did there moment, a shamelessly overt bit of egomaniacal scheming that actually ends up coming across as self-deprecating, like he's simultaneously celebrating his hero status and making FUN of his hero status, at the same time... if that makes any degree of sense. Maybe I'm reading more into it than is there - maybe it is ONLY egomania, but, well, whatever: good for him for having gotten away with it.

Plus given the nature of Tarantino's project - to resuscitate genres, actors, music, and so forth from cinema history and make them relevant and fresh again; why not do that with technology, too?

So it's a good joke - and less irritating and unwelcome, as excuses to plus-size ticket prices go, than ultra AVX 3-D D-box bells and whistles. It's actually an added amusement for me that apparently most of the film is set indoors anyhow, that it's a typically talky Tarantino movie that really doesn't DO a lot with the 70mm projection. I'm sure 35mm or DCP would do me just fine; but, despite my usual indifference on matters of technology, I'll go see it in 70mm if I can. That's not what my liking or hating the film is going to be based on, but seeing it that way DOES seem to be an important aspect of "indulging Quentin" on this one.

Guess what, though? The Park, now showing the film in Vancouver, seems to be screwing it up. There's been a bit of a scandal on Facebook, as Jen and Sylvia Soska have reported that the screening of the film they saw, starting at 6pm, was interrupted just near the end, and an announcement was made that, due to a techological failure, they'd been watching the film digitally all along. Despite what was on the marquee (pictured above). This blows for any number of reasons, because:

1. If you advertise 70mm, and you can't deliver, TELL people beforehand
2. ...ESPECIALLY if you're charging a premium (I gather tickets are $20)
3. ...And waiting to just before the end of the movie, to stop the film and tell everyone, and then let them finish it, feathers all ruffled, distracted... who exactly made that call? Was the manager proper at home for Christmas, and junior staff filling in? It's a scandalously bad decision, and someone should have to bear the consequences.

Robin Bougie also has weighed in on Facebook: apparently he saw the 2pm screening of the movie today and it WAS 70mm, but they had to stop the film twice for technological issues; he says the projector broke, or such. (Apparently Cineplex have told someone they're working on it but I have no real idea what the story is as of the 26th).

My plan was to see the film at what, as of this edit, is 6pm tonight, but I'm not exactly sure how that's going to play out, at this point. I would LIKE to, in fact, see it as a 70mm film print, but not if it means them stopping the movie for repairs or adjustments. And while I would probably still go see it as a digital projection, I'm sure not going to pay extra for the privilege. I really hope the Park gets this ironed out beforehand, because things are lookin' pretty ugly on Facebook; a lot of people are disappointed and pissed-off, and I really, really cannot blame them.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Alone in NO FUN City 2015: a brief recap

Went to David M's thing last night at the Railway, having shat, sweated, and shivered out the worst of my cold the night before. It was great, as ever, but a smidgen different from what one expects. For one thing, David was running late, so he didn't change into his Scrooge drag, though he contemplated doing so, deciding his  suit was "more dapper." He also ixnayed the intermission. I ended up shooting video of two full songs and a couple of fragments, from about fifteen minutes into the night; I am not sure what the last song is, if it's one of the new Christmas songs David debuted or some particularly witty Brian-Wilson-esque pop tune that only sounds like a David M. original.
One guest not mentioned in the interview, previously posted, was Quebecois ukulele man Robbob, whose one English song, "Night of the Living Bread," I swear I have heard the Creaking Planks do. Other guest-y high points included "Christmas Eve of Destruction" from Ed Hurrell, and "Claus Will Tear Us Apart" from Pete Campbell, who did none of his originals last night, but was in fine form, doing a credible Ian Curtis imitation for the latter, cheat-sheets or no. There was also a brilliant, silly Christmas-ized version of "The Black Plague" by Eric Burdon and the Animals with Lester Interest reading the narrative, and Pete and Dave Dedrick providing percussion, including a bell and a tambourine decorated as a Christmas wreath. David M., meanwhile - onstage with his merry troupe - sang "bring out your gifts" in place of "bring out your dead." Very, very funny stuff. And there were plenty of favourites, from "XTUVVVVV" to the Christmas version of "Be Like Us" to... well, you really kind of have to experience it, hell to PARTICIPATE in it - which no one who attends can resist, in fact - to really understand.
In some ways, tho, the show felt a little less dangerous, a little less unruly, hell even a little more "professional" than some of David M's past Xmas shows, though I'm not quite sure why or how; it did eventually do that thing that Mick Jagger references in that movie - achieve madness - but only after it was very nearly over and it was clear that no one was going to get shut down for walking on tables or harassing audience members.  David delayed, and slightly modified, his usual call-and-response Fezziwig song, making it a little less punishing on his audience (noobs had no idea to be grateful). Plus his uproarious crowd-involving version of "12 Days of Christmas"  - not something one should ever be present for if one has a sore throat - was also delayed to the very end, nearly forgotten, and David didn't venture out into the crowd until the third-and-second-to-last songs (sitting on laps, but not mine, though he did eventually drag me out on the dance floor). At one point he raised a chair over his head to menace. I think, the little train that runs on a rail around the ceiling of the Railway Club, but sadly - a bad tiding - the train wasn't running last night at all.
Of the various songs not heard before at his Christmas shows, David did get one semi-disapproving moan from one corner of the audience (not mine) for his mention of Elizabeth Fischer (who, actually, some people in the audience likely had never heard of; no explanations were proffered). He jested about bringing "gender parity" to "The New Reindeer," since the late Ms. Fischer has the dubious honour of being the first of David's reindeer to be female (the previous replacement for Rudolph was Lou Reed). Probably the single funniest, rudest, most memorable new bit was the hand gesture used for "Christmas is for Children," his Vic Damone-y tune that he says he hopes to get Michael Buble to sing someday. He illustrated the line "the ones got shot from me" with a sudden move (I hesitate to call it a "jerk") that is probably the single most obscene (though in a good, impressive, holy cow that's funny kinda way) thing I have seen onstage this year, or maybe anywhere this year (though I did re-watch the GG Allin documentary in 2015, so maybe not; let us briefly thank David for only singing about poo, not actually flinging it at his audience). It was especially pleasing to see a couple of people who David didn't seem to know, whom I had NOT seen at these shows before, and best, appeared to be UNDER 40 YEARS OLD - maybe even under 30! - get onstage to pose for pictures with David at the end. I'm sure David was as surprised by this as I was.

More people sang along this year, too, than I recall, which was interesting - spontaneously pitching in on the "don't eat us" for his Christmas turkeys song, for instance, but also singing along with parts of songs I myself, veteran of a half dozen of these shows, did not know so well. I wonder if any David M. noobs ever leave one of his shows and go try to buy bars of ("corporate sponsor") Gorgo somewhere? It WAS a real candy bar, once upon a time, folks: I bought and ate some at a 7-11 in Maple Ridge in the 1980's, specifically because of seeing NO FUN ironically plugging it on Soundproof, but it hasn't been available for about thirty years or so, which has become part of the joke.
The "forty goddamn years" clapalong was pretty delightful, too, with slightly changed lyrics to reflect the lineup before us (instead of "me and Paul, sometimes Pico" it became "me and Paul and sometimes Pete," with a gesture at Pete, on second guitar; Pete had his own verse to sing, about how David has been doing Christmas songs (if not shows, which began in 1985) since he was ten, which makes him three years older than me (I did the math).  Dave Dedrick had a verse, too, as I recall, but I'm not sure, a whole night later, what it was.

I wonder if David M. knows Todd Solondz' Happiness? He definitely needs to see it, if somehow he might have missed it; Solondz' sense of humour is very close to some of what David does (though only some of it). Actually, the "Happiness" theme song would make a great cover for him... Happy 30th anniversary of NO FUN Christmas shows, David M.! Thanks for continuing to do this show!

(A couple of copies of The Fezziwig Files remain unspoken for, as of this writing; it's a hell of a package, and can be purchased via Mr. M. himself; see his Facebook page for more.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

(From this page of odd Victorian Christmas cards).

I have a couple of more pieces to put up for 2015. I know I say this often but I'm back around to feeling like I need to pull back a bit from the movies and music and writing about same and focus on life a bit. Nothing much to add for the rest of the year, anyhow, in addition to the Braineater Boxing Day show below, there's the Red Herring house party on Dec. 31st. I'll have some thoughts on David's show up later tonight, and YOB stuff online presently, too - I interviewed them for the West Ender re: the show at the Rickshaw that night. I'm excited to see The Revenant, in part because the trailer looks amazing, but also because I want to see what they do with local actor Brendan Fletcher (of Uwe Boll's Rampage movies, Terry Gilliam's Tideland, the Ginger Snaps sequels, and the filmed-at-the-PNE Rollercoaster; he was also the star of an impressive stage production of Equus in Vancouver awhile back, that I happened to catch). I don't really care about the Tarantino movie much, but I'll likely check that out too; disappointing to read that it's leaked online before its release.

Meantime, have a happy holiday or what-have-you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Open Road is now online!

Hey, check it out - Open Road, seminal Vancouver anarchist newsmagazine of the late 1970's and early 1980's is NOW ONLINE! I used to read this paper as a punk kid on trips to the city, a few years before I got into Ayn Rand (shh).

Braineater Boxing Day!

I got to chat very pleasantly with Jim Cummins at A Christmas party the other week, asking him, among other things, to clear up a memory for me: was he hit in the head with a can or a bottle when I saw him perform in front of the Dead Kennedys at York Theatre, in October 1985? He immediately launched into a story about being hit in the head with a bottle - which somehow touched on a horrible cavity/ filling issue he was having that night, the exploding bottle giving him brief release from tooth pain. I was somewhat drunk, so I couldn't quite keep track of all the details - but the show he was remembering was definitely PAUSED by the flying bottle, which is not what happened at the Dead Kennedys show; he didn't miss a beat, as I recall, so he concluded, "it must have been a can."

Here's wishing I, Braineater a projectile-free gig at LanaLou's this Saturday! I might just be there, if I'm not still sick.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sudden sickness

Yikes. From having a bit of congestion in my chest yesterday, I've suddenly developed a fever, headaches, a general feeling of weakness, and on top of it all, the shits (four bowel movements in one day). And David's concert is tomorrow, and Mom has insisted - lonely and infirm - that I come visit her in Maple Ridge. Whatta mess. But I think I'm gonna try to go to the concert hell or high water.

David M Puts the M back in Christmas: NO FUN singer-songwriter marks 40 years of Christmas irreverence

Casual listeners might get the impression that David M. hates Christmas. Many of the songs in his annual Christmas show take the piss out of the holiday, such as the Hitler-heiling "Let's Put the '-ist' Back into Christmas" or his recent composition, "Christmas is for Children," which, he explains, is sung from the point of view of a Rat Pack wannabee "bragging about how many illegitimate children he has, but in a ring-a-ding way."

Even his Christmas covers, like his mewled take on the Jingle Cats' "Silent Night" or his straight-up rendition of the Star Wars-themed Christmas song, "What Do You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Has a Comb"), from 1980's Christmas in the Stars, are brimming over with ridiculousness, seeming more to poke fun at the holiday than pay loving homage to it. He's also known to whip out live versions of the Residents' creepy "Santa Dog" or Fear's straightforward  "Fuck Christmas," neither of which are exactly brimming with holiday cheer.
Then there are the posters for his show - which is titled NO FUN at Christmas when guitarist Paul Leahy is with him, and Christmas Alone in NO FUN City when he performs with other guests. He updates said posters every year on Facebook, but key motifs are repeated. For example, there's the one of a child sitting on Santa's lap, saying, "Thank you for teaching me to hate."

Or there's the Victorian illustration that shows Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol doing a merry jig under the banner, "Christmas is Killing You," with various descriptors around the illustration showing precisely how and why. 

Probably the darkest poster of all is one from 2013, when David held a private concert, for reasons I'm still not clear on, to an audience of none. "You'll See David M. in Auschwitz Before You See Him in David M.'s Christmas Alone in No Fun City 2013." Cue images of David M. in Auschwitz:
The truth is, however, David M. loves Christmas, in fact is kind of "obsessed" with the holiday. "I listen to Christmas music all year round, for my own purposes," he says, when Alienated in Vancouver visits him at his co-op, girlfriend in tow. "People who know me know I'm Mr. Christmas." After all, you don't do a two and a half-hour show every year for decades about a holiday you disdain.

The physical signifiers back him up. His condo - Mr. M (short for Matychuk) lives off the Drive in the very space where DOA's former manager Ken Lester once lived - has ample Christmas decorations, from Santa ornaments to a giant stuffed tin soldier to items much odder, like a dancing poinsettia toy complete with tiny electric guitar. He puts on a Chris Isaak Christmas DVD he recently picked up, then follows it with some favourites from the Robot Chicken Christmas special. Finally, he happily tours myself and Erika through his collection of Christmas movies. They range from the obvious (A Christmas Story, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, even a special-edition Blu Ray of the Jim Carrey Grinch) to the tastefully classic, like the Alistair Sim A Christmas Carol, or Remember The Night, which re-teams Double Indemnity's Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray for a tale of Christmas crime and redemption.

He's even got the Christmas special for Girls on Trampolines, which he proudly holds up; the cover shows a girl bouncing in a festive brassiere. As he proffers it, his little dog Ozzy embraces and takes a few humps at first his calf, then my girls', then mine.

And David knows his stuff: when I mention that I'd recently heard of an obscure Finnish horror comedy where a group of archaeologists discover that the original Santa was a demon who punished bad children - what the hell was the name of that, again? - he pops the Blu-Ray off the shelf and displays it with a flourish: it's called Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, and, M. assures us, "it's good."

On top of all that, there's The Fezziwig Files, his new limited-edition CD box set, which boasts NO FUN Christmas recordings from 1975 to earlier this December, documenting 40 years of irreverent Christmas enthusiasm.

"A lot of people aren't interested in Christmas music in general," he acknowledges - and those who are may not be fond of M's at times sardonic take on the holiday - "but I think it's a better history of NO FUN than the other box set was, because it goes back forty years. It's got me and Jim Hamelin, who started the group." That album is called NO FUN at Christmas: the 40th Anniversary Edition, "and it's so much like everything that followed. Like, things are usually their most interesting at the start? If they're ever going to be interesting, they'll be interesting at the start..."

Where the packaging for his briefly-released NO FUN box set was minimal at best - plastic baggies, plain CD envelopes, and exactly one sheet of art, with print-them-yourself individual covers on his Wordpress page if you want more - he's gone a bit overboard with the packaging on the Christmas box. It comes in a seasonal green, red, and white tin, for one thing, with a printed cover showing a host of different Fezziwigs. There are some randomly inserted posters from past Christmas shows (either by design or accident, I scored a copy of the Auschwitz one: yes, folks, he actually printed a poster for a show that no one was admitted to). Then there are the eight CDs, each with hand-lettered titles, computer-printed track listings, and a full-colour insert. His biggest expense was for ink, he tells us, unless you count the hours he spent hand-assembling the packages, which recalls his days making Snivel box sets, back in the 1980's.

"It brings it all roaring back to me," David M reminisces. "There's pictures of me working on Snivel in the 1984 holiday season, and there's piles of them, all those cassettes. I was making the cassettes in real time, and, y'know, cutting and folding and going and doing photocopying and assembling and pasting. And Snivel ultimately, I think we sold about 350 sets, something like that. Like, it sold good, so I had to keep making them."

By contrast, he expects - such is the relative obscurity of "the Beatles of Surrey" with the current generation of music fans - that he will be assembling fewer than twenty editions of The Fezziwig Files, which he plans to sell for $80 each. He made sixteen copies of the previous NO FUN box set, earlier in 2015, before declaring a moratorium on their production.
He doesn't seem that concerned that NO FUN is at a relative low ebb in demand. When you get him talking about it, mostly Matychuk seems bemused by Vancouver punk rock nostalgia, which has more or less bypassed his band. "You've got these ancient teenagers onstage and in the audience, this undead youth culture that refuses to lie down. Like, they have these gigs" - he has elsewhere likened them to high school reunions - "at the WISE Hall frequently enough, and I'll be walking Ozzy by there, and we'll see people out front smoking. Everybody gets dressed up and 'we're punk rockers' and stuff. I don't think anyone's paying to get in, because there's so many people playing that the place is packed with just the bands. And there is something I really like about it, it's kind of great, you know? It's funny. This getting old and not being dead yet, it's just fucking great."
Other discs on the set include, in order, NO FUN at Christmas: the 1988 CBC Session, recorded live in studio. "It's a little bit loose," he says, "like I'm doing some talking and there's some back and forth with David Wisdom and stuff, but mostly it's just us steaming through one song after another, in this order, with a play in the middle, and it has this ending to the show - very resolute - where we get killed." That show was previously released on cassette, as was a later 1994 radio performance, which has been considerably augmented for the box set, where it is called NO FUN at Christmas Again. CD four is called The 25th of December 2004, but it was recorded on the 23rd of December, 2004 at the Railway Club - a fitting date, since exactly "eleven years later," next week, "we'll be doing the show again in exactly the same place, probably for the last time, because, let's face it, come on - it's over." (It's unclear if he's referring to the career of NO FUN, the best-buy date for Vancouver punk, or to the dubious survival of the Railway Club as a music venue; perhaps a bit of each?).

The final four discs in the tin are Christmas on NO FUN Street, highlighting the trio incarnation of the band, with Paul Leahy and chanteuse Pico; NO FUN After NO FUN After Christmas ("a replication of a Christmas show at Chapters on Robson, very specifically"); and Black New Christmas Killer Starman Star. AKA, The Next Christmas Day, which is apparently a collection of uncomfortably intimate solo performances from the last few years.
Finally, there's is a brand new CD, The Five Wenceslases, and 27 Other Contemporary NO FUN Christmas Classics, a solo disc, recorded earlier this month, which is punctuated by several playful re-imaginings of the story of Good King Wenceslas, including some cheerfully vulgar ones. Other songs on it include a Christmas-y reworking of the Subhumans' "Slave to My Dick" ("Slave to My Gifts," with Gerry Hannah receiving a writing credit); and two new versions of "The New Reindeer," which places dead rockstars of note at the front of Santa's sleigh, replacing Rudolph, who has been shot dead by hunters. In the first, Matychuk sings, "pulling Santa's lead is the great Lou Reed," before he commences riffing on "Sister Ray." In the second, "The New Reindeer 2015," he offers a far more local reference; the lyric goes, "Her suicide was painless/ but I'm still gonna mish-er/ helping Santa whiz/ on his sleigh/ Eliz/ -abeth Fischer" ...Which actually ends up being surprisingly touching, given M's general crankiness on the topic of assisted suicide.

Fischer was known to occasionally give Ozzy dog treats in the neighbourhood, so here's betting Ozzy misses her too.
According to Matychuk, it "remains a possiblity" that Paul Leahy will join the show at the Railway Club this year, for the thirtieth anniversary of NO FUN at Christmas live shows. It is unlikely that Pico will be there, though she's been invited. There will, however, be various regular guests of Mr. Matychuk, including Pete Campbell, Dave Dedrick, Ed Hurrell, and Lester Interest (Jim Cummins was briefly on the bill but will not be able to be there, note; he will have his own event on Boxing Day at LanaLou's). Come celebrate "forty goddamn NO FUN Christmas years," as M. puts it in one of his new songs: "That's four decades, ain't that great/ Even if we go for eight/ We won't get the cover of the Georgia Straight/ Forty goddamn NO FUN Christmas years!"

Five copies of the complete Fezziwig Files will be available at the Railway Club on Dec. 23rd.

Keanu X 2, plus Toronto vs. rats

For reasons I cannot fully explain, I feel exhausted, run down, without energy. Maybe it's just a "holiday crash," where your system, given a chance to rest, immediately takes ill to guarantee you DO rest... but I haven't been working many hours, so that's not a very likely explanation... I hope I'm not coming down with something (but I think I am - I have this deep rattle in my chest that suggests a major bronchial event is going to go down, alas).
... but anyhow. Watched a few fun films this week, all better than I expected. Keanu Reeves, it turns out, directed a martial arts film in China a few years ago, called Man of Tai Chi. It somehow passed below my radar; possibly because the majority of it is in Chinese, it didn't seem to get much of a showing over here, but I thought it was pretty great, for what it was - a crisply-directed actioner about an idealistic young tai chi student, Tiger Chen - both the actor and his character have that name - who uses tai chi as an actual fighting skill; he attracts the attention of a very dangerous, even evil man (played to the hilt by a very chilly Reeves), who enlists him in a sort of underground fight club that is far more sinister than he realizes. More than that you need not know, but I enjoyed it just as much as I enjoyed John Wick - indeed, I thought it the more interesting of the two films, since John Wick, when the chips are down, is basically a formula revenge film. There are elements of formula in Man of Tai Chi, too, no doubt, but when it's a formula I haven't had much exposure to - "idealist is seduced and corrupted, must fight back" - that's almost the same as being original, innit?
Also better than I expected: Eli Roth's Knock Knock. As readers of my blog will know, I was disappointed by The Green Inferno, possibly because my expectations were too high; I may have to see it again, to try to evaluate it more objectively - I think I still do care about the film, find it still lodged in my brain somewhere - but surely some of my criticisms of the film were valid, and that it is nowhere on a level with, say, Roth's Hostel films. Knock Knock also wasn't so well received - it made its theatrical debut in Vancouver playing for one week at a Hollywood Three cinema out in Surrey! - but it turns out it's the better film, funny, smart, suspenseful, well-acted by Keanu and its female leads (one of whom, Lorenza Izzo, is apparently Roth's girlfriend or something, and starred in The Green Inferno too. She's not bad!).  It's a less ambitious film, but harder, for that reason, to fuck up. To contextualize it is to spoil it, so be warned - if you understand the next sentence you will know more about the film than you ideally should. It's essentially a sexualized, exploitation-level variant on Haneke's Funny Games, where the intruders are sexy girls and their victim a family man, left alone at home for Father's Day; the punchline, meanwhile, owes just a wee bit to the last line of Panos Cosmatos' unsung Toronto tax shelter rats-versus-homeowner horror classic, Of Unknown Origin, but it's the sort of "theft" that makes me smile to learn that Roth must admire that film. Originality is over-rated, though: the film believes in itself, believes in its story, and tells it reasonably well. People who enjoy Keanu Reeves will doubtlessly find stuff to like in it.
Speaking, finally, of rats.... I was poking around one of HMV Metrotown's "twofer" shelves the other day, and found two Scream Factory releases on it, to my surprise; reading the back of the box of both made them immediate must-buys. The first - ratless, as far as I know, and as yet unseen by me - was Die, Monster, Die!, an adaptation of Lovecraft's "The Colour out of Space," starring Boris Karloff. I shouldn't really be buying new Blu's at all, but that's a three-point combination (sale/ Lovecraft/ Karloff) that I have a very hard time resisting; if I need extra rationalization for picking it up, Mom enjoys Karloff as much as I do, and we will presently have a great night together watching it. A less obvious winning combination applies in the case of Deadly Eyes, also purchased: Toronto/ tax-shelter/ killer rats (and sale, too!). I am partial to any movies where animals attack people, and am willing, even excited, to watch any horror films made in Canada in the 1970's and 1980's as part of the tax-shelter years, when investors could dodge paying taxes (and even make a fairly safe return) by investing it in cheapo exploitation. Deadly Eyes is certainly that, and part of my immediate fondness for it lies in its badness: to make its effects more "real," the filmmakers dressed a horde of Dachshunds in fur coats, to play the rats, intercutting scenes of them running in the sewers and such with close-ups of animatronic rats that look for all the world like evil muppets, maybe something from The Dark Crystal or such. The doggie rats are actually the superior effect, though the filmmakers should have taken more care to excise scenes in which they raise their heads in distinctively Dachshund-like ways, tipping the game. I am not sure why, as a non-Torontonian, I would find myself so charmed by this film, since it's not very good; but it's also better than a few of its kin, and has a small role for Lisa Langlois, who also appeared in a balls-out B-movie classic, Class of 1984, as one of the evil punks (she's in Happy Birthday to Me, too, but I didn't really enjoy that one much. as I recall). The director, Robert Clouse - better known for a couple of key Bruce Lee films - also made another animal-menace film called The Pack, which I thought was pretty great (marauding dogs vs. Joe Don Baker: Clouse does better with dogs when they're not dressed up in fur). 

Nothing else going on. As I finish this, it's 6am, and I'm on the couch, coughing: I'm electing to annoy and awaken the sleeping cat, rather than the sleeping girlfriend.  Merry Christmas...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

David M's Christmas Alone in NO FUN City update

Just a wee update before my big David M. interview surfaces: the Cafe Deux Soleils show originally scheduled for Sunday has been cancelled due to an overdose of Vancouver.

Instead, David M. will be creating a Vancouver-free zone on Wednesday at the Railway Club - truly the classic venue for NO FUN Christmas chicanery. Come for the alcohol, stay for the merriment! And in the event no one cool gets it together to buy the club, be prepared for it to be your final night there, just in case. In my opinion, it couldn't be a finer choice for a farewell show, though of course I hope the Railway continues forever (and David M. too).

Also, about the box set (a truly lovely object): it's fantastic. If you don't get lucky and score one, you should at least try to get a copy of David's most recent Christmas recording, a solo venture called The Five Wenceslases and 27 Other Contemporary NO FUN  Christmas Classics. He was thinking he might make it available at the show, so...

See y'all Wednesday!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Trump Tower petitions, plus Arthur Erickson

You know, the more I see Trump Tower - which I hadn't realized is in direct view of the Tim Horton's I sometimes do conversation activities with ESL students - the more I'm impressed with Arthur Erickson's design. As an SFU graduate, I'm not exactly a fan of Erickson's; his designs for that campus may have looked good on paper, but the place was kind of grim to attend, like some futuristic prison or something (one of the urban myths about the old AQ - the academic quadrangle - is that Erickson once designed prisons; another interesting one is that the campus has the highest suicide rate of universities in Canada, due to the depressing architecture). But the tower is another matter; it's one of the most interesting newer buildings in Vancouver, by me. The twist in it is quite compelling; it has a beauty that a lot of the anonymous glass columns this city has been spawning kind of lack.

Anyhow, I'm down for it being renamed. Now that Mayor Gregor Robertson has gotten on board, I'll actually sign a couple of petitions to this effect, here and here. I hadn't much thought it a possibility, but what the hell. Why not re-name it Erickson's Tower, in memory of the architect? 

Wet Dream

Right: so I had a wet dream tonight, and, because I'm now pretty much wide awake at 5am and have nothing else to say (except for a David M. interview that I don't want to transcribe because it might wake my girl), I'm going to tell you all about it. Reading it is not mandatory.

I'm kind of impressed that I had said dream, because, dig, in three months' time, I'll be 48. Wet dreams are MOSTLY the stuff of teenagers; I don't think I've had one in ten years, at the very least. And oddly enough, my dream seemed to be conscious of this fact, since it backdated me: I was a teenager in the dream, hanging out with a male buddy or two, and some girls we wanted to get it on with, people whom I actually remember from my teen years (though their identities are a bit foggy now that I'm awake; I'm a bit foggy on many of the details, in fact, just know the general shape of things). At the, um, climax of the dream, I was standing in the driveway of a suburban house, having failed - as was actually the case through my teens - to have sex, and I was masturbating for all I was worth, to relieve the sexual tension from being with these girls. I'm pretty sure that the guys were still around, cheering me on, which I found kind of distracting, but no less, I ultimately had an explosive, sticky, messy orgasm all over the pavement. There was some discussion of this, then we went inside the house (some place in Maple Ridge, dunno which). And sometime thereafter,  I awoke, thinking to myself: I had a wet dream! ...and reached inside my shorts to confirm it.


So there: my first wet dream in ten years. Sorry to report that my girlfriend, lying beside me, had absolutely nothing to do with it (sorry, babe, I just don't have that much control over what I dream!)... though I did dream a dream the other night that was actually located in the apartment I share with her, which was kind of a first, for me. It had something to do with me taking out the garbage and seeing a rock band zooming around in a truck on the track in back of a nearby school, though in fact, no such track exists.

The cat, lying beside me on the couch, probably wishes I would just go back to bed, but he's woken ME up a bunch of times by jumping on the bed and meowing in my ear, so tough.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Of Until the End of the World

Until the End of the World was sort of the breaking point, for me, with the cinema of Wim Wenders.

Wings of Desire, made only a few years previous (1987, compared to 1991) was a huge influence on me. I caught it almost by chance at the old Royal Centre cinemas on Burrard, which, for awhile, was my favourite place to see movies. (The cinema landscape has changed a lot in Vancouver since those days, when you could also catch indy-arthouse double bills at the Van East or the Ridge, or see movies in a few theatres on Granville Street, all of which are now closed; the Cinematheque was around, but far more important to me was the Royal Centre, which served sort of like International Village did for awhile, as a Cineplex that chose more-interesting than average film fare). Wings of Desire was, really, my first foreign film, unless you count badly dubbed Godzilla movies that I caught on TV; I was aware that there were films from other countries, obviously, and I may have seen one or two, but I hadn't plunged into watching them, hadn't caught the bug yet, until Wings. I was 19 years old at the time - an arty weirdo with a passion for punk rock and an irreconcilable interest in Ayn Rand; it embarrasses me a little now, but her extremity and passion were very inspiring to me as a teenager (though I would soon replace her with Nietzsche; in fact, after I gave up calling myself a Randian, I spent a couple years of my youth calling myself a Nietzschean, which is also kind of embarrassing). I was hungry for unusual artistic experiences. I don't remember why I elected to see Wings of Desire, but I was overwhelmed, unprepared, very very impressed.

So I plunged: in the years that followed, I wanted to see every foreign film I could, after that, wanted to catch up. This meant busing around the lower mainland - often making trips to Videomatica, but also to every other store that rented VHS tapes, looking for films that maybe Videomatica didn't have (!). There was a Save on Foods in Metrotown back then, for example, and like most big grocery stores, it rented VHS, and I remember seeing Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage on the shelf there (tho' I'm not sure I ever rented it). A Safeway in Coquitlam netted me Werner Herzog's Where the Green Ants Dream. I bought second hand copies of Wenders' back catalogue - everything I could find, in those oversized clamshell cases - from a video rental store in Bellingham, when my parents took me down there on shopping trips; I still have Kings of the Road from one such voyage, remember I paid fifteen bucks for it. (As I recall I would later find others of his films at Sam the Record Man on Seymour, also long gone). Part of me was driven by a kind of defective ego, a deep sense of inadquacy: I figured that I could compensate for my bungled, botched, embarrassingly imperfect humanity, elevate my status, or something, by consuming as much arthouse cinema as I could. Acquiring films was more important even than watching them, but even back then, I did a LOT of movie viewing. On weekends when I would do Videomatica runs I would typically rent four or five videos, bring them back, make dubbed copies from VHS to VHS, and usually - since dubbing took place in real time - watch three or four of them that night, seeing as many of the great filmmakers as I could (with Wenders, Bergman, Antonioni, Kurosawa and Tarkovsky being at the top of my list) and a few oddball gems besides (Monika Treut, say, or - for something non-foreign, but definitely unusual and ambitious, the early films of Atom Egoyan). Then I'd take the bus back to Videomatica, all the way from Maple Ridge...

By 1991, by such means, I had seen almost all of Wenders' works, excepting a few of his shorts, which were pretty much impossible to get on home video. I'd devoured a pamphlet-like interview with him that I bought at Granville Book Company (also now gone). I'd read a book of his criticism, Emotion Pictures. I had seen Kings of the Road onscreen at the Cinematheque, had promulgated his cinema to my few geeky friends, had a nice little section on my video shelf for his movies. They were, in more than one way, my education: I used his cinema and writing as a way of branching out into other movies, as a sort of map for my explorations. It was through Wenders that I came to Nicholas Ray and Sam Fuller, for example, because both were cast in his movies. It was because of Tokyo Ga (screening soon at the Cinematheque) that I tried Ozu, though I could never really develop a taste for it. It was probably through Wenders that I felt the need to see John Ford's The Searchers, because he praised the film in his writing, but also because he quoted from Alan LeMay's source novel in The State of Things. I also got very, very interested, for a time, in what gets described as self-reflexive or self-reflecting cinema - films that fold back on themselves, that encode into themselves questions about the making of images, their meaning, their morality; Wenders was the starting point, but soon enough I discovered films like Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch, or even older gems like David Holzmann's Diary or Shirley Clarke's The Connection. Wenders' own cinema was only a part of what he did for me; he became a sort of guide, a cinematic conscience. I took him very seriously. When he described One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as a "fascist" film, I tried to understand it as such, even if it was kind of, um, difficult to do...

Until the End of the World changed all that. It was supposed to have been Wenders' grand-scale, heroic stepping out onto the stage of commercial cinema: a nearly three-hour epic adventure that was to be a writing-large of his previous cinema - with his past most visibly present in the form of his usual alter-ego, Rudiger Vogler, as a noirish gumshoe, and in the film's self-consciousness and querying of image making, with Max von Sydow as a scientist who has created an addictive, image-oriented technology that stands in for our relationship with cinema. It had a world class soundtrack (Talking Heads, U2, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Can, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello... and more, mostly original songs commissioned by Wenders) and international locations - including a trip to Japan to pay homage to Ozu by casting one of his usual actors in a role, Chishu Ryu, but also locations in Australia, Portugal, France, Russia, Italy, and even China, to say nothing of the USA and Germany. It offered lush colours, gorgeous cinematography (Robby Muller), and a world-class cast (including William Hurt, Jeanne Moreau, Soveig Dommartin, and even Sam Neill). It LOOKED like it was going to be an enormous, ambitious, larger-than-life validation of one of the great artists of the cinema, coming out from the foreign-film ghetto, so to speak, and making movies on a global scale. It would turn a cult hero of world cinema into a major Hollywood player - the artist Steven Spielberg wasn't even as yet aspiring to be, at that time.

It was painful to watch, back in 1991. The film was a mess. It was, at times, effective - there were flickers of its potential throughout - but it was undeniably also confusing and boring and inelegant, and overall, it just did not work. I don't really remember the full effect, the frustration, even the anger - because I only saw it one time, in the theatre first run, and never went back - but I remember being totally excited on going into the cinema - rushing out to see it on opening week - and being totally disappointed on coming out. It hadn't even been merely okay. I don't think I ever even owned it on VHS tape, when it came out, thought I never wanted to see the film again. Its failure seemed to have kinship with what a lot of bands were doing around the same time - like X, with their intended commercial debut, Ain't Love Grand, or the Replacements, with their increasingly less lovable Pleased to Meet Me and Don't Tell a Soul, or Husker Du, with Warehouse. These were all supposed to be points at which our heroes - the punks, cinephiles, misfits - became everyone's heroes. But they weren't, and neither was the film: as with those albums, it served only to damage the reputation of the artist responsible with their fan base. I guess he's not a master of cinema after all... so what's Herzog doing?

We gather, now, that what we all saw back then was NOT the film that Wenders intended - that it was meddled with, that a much, much shorter version was imposed upon him. It was, when all is said and done, not his fault. Everyone, including Wenders, says that his five hour director's cut of the film is the vastly superior version of the film.  THAT is the version that is screening, tonight and tomorrow at the Cinematheque, making its theatrical premiere in Vancouver. And really, all things considered, I guess I have no choice: I MUST see it, must see what could have been, should have been - must, out of respect for how much I used to love him, give Wenders his due, and maybe undo some of the damage done by that 1991 bad experience in the cinema... if such a thing is possible.

Wenders made a couple of other films I liked after Until the End of the World - including his underrated sequel to The State of Things, Lisbon Story. But Until the End of the World was the film that marked the loss of a hero, for me, that gave birth to the filmmaker we have now, who I have never really felt I understood, never really been able to engage with (The End of Violence, The Million Dollar Hotel, Land of Plenty: I have tried all of them, even tried to like them, and have in no case really succeeded. Hell, I don't think I managed to even finish Don't Come Knocking). Maybe the damage done to Until the End of the World when it screened in a shortened cut didn't just damage my appreciation for Wenders, but damaged him, too? His fictional features have never really been on a level with his early work, since (tho' of course he's made some good documentaries. It doesn't really count).

Anyhow, cinema lovers kinda owe it to Wenders to see the film he intended Until the End of the World to be, back in 1991. I've been reluctant to commit, but here, I'm doing it. I'll be at the Cinematheque today, at 6:30. Come join me...!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Attention Alex Chilton fans! Judith Beeman's website (featuring Back of a Car) is now online!

All in the title - see here! (And here, if you like).

Weird dreams of Peter Stampfel, plus Christmas Alone in No Fun City

I have just awakened from very intense dreams of going to a (fictional, dreamed-up) Peter Stampfel concert in Vancouver, I think at the Cultch, where I got him to sign a Dr. Seuss book that a bunch of other friends of mine had signed for my birthday the night before. Actually, I accidentally got him to sign a copy of Peter Benchley's Jaws instead, at first, but then ran back into the auditorium to get the right book, explaining to him that I always loved his comment that he "always wanted to be a cartoon character," and then adding to it that *I* always wanted to be a cartoon character from a Dr. Seuss book. He was amused... Erika was there, too, and various friends of mine, for the first part of this dream. Turns out, I was, at this point, living at a co-op off Commercial Drive where, in reality, David M. lives now (more on him below). Anyhow, the next day, by arrangement - after some complications in my apartment, which was a bit disorganized - I was going to take Peter out to lunch (he wanted me to select a place where there was guaranteed to be no terrorism, a weird condition even in the dream, except I think in this dream there had BEEN terrorism in Vancouver at this point). I was trying to take him to Harambe on Commercial Drive - asking him "do you eat meat?" and "have you eaten Ethiopian food?" - but I asked a taxi driver (in a crowded van-taxi filled with Japanese tourists, that was initially too full to give me a ride) about unique musical experiences in the city that Peter might appreciate, and he brought us to Stanley Park to see an acapella concert given mostly by animals of the sort they mostly don't even have there anymore, including owls, monkeys, rattlesnakes, and other creatures, creating a tune out of their natural animal sounds; then, when the vocal part came around, it was sung by a couple of naked girls, including Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter in a washtub. (I don't remember what the song was about). Peter was very pleased, and we were discussing where to go next, while watching the rattlesnakes being fed (they were real, and really scary!). Then I woke up with a crampy spine, an egg burp (which seem to go with food poisoning, with me) and a need to pee.

I do not know what this all means or why Peter Stampfel was in my dreams at all; it's not like I'm going through an obsessive phase of listening to his music lately (though I did interview him a few years ago and greatly admire his music - cf. the Holy Modal Rounders, the Fugs, or his under-sung solo CDs You Must Remember This, Dook of the Beatniks). I also do not remember which songs he may have sung during the evening's concert, though that was part of the dream, too. (Jeffrey Lewis, recent collaborator of Stampfel's, whom I have also interviewed, was not present). But I am going to take this as some sort of omen, sign, advice from the universe to try to set up a Peter Stampfel show in Vancouver, perhaps for my 50th birthday. Who knows? I would like to have an ambitious 50th birthday here in Vancouver.

In other realms, the closest Vancouver's music scene ever came, by me, to producing a Fug or a Rounder, is still David M. and NO FUN. (Nice segue, Al). And David M's Christmas concert has finally been announced, happening Dec. 20th at Cafe Deux Soleils, or however you spell that. The Fezziwig Files - an enormous, lovingly prepared document of NO FUN Christmas music, as yet unheard by me - will be available for only a short time. Act now! And if you value my musical advice, and have not yet been to a NO FUN Christmas show, go see Christmas Alone in No Fun City this year (it may not be an actual NO FUN show but it's the 30th anniversary so I hope so).

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Donald Trump, David M.

I'm actually okay with re-naming Trump towers in Vancouver and Toronto, but, besides being unlikely to happen, it's going to be embarrassing when the dumb twat is elected president. I actually went to check out the Vancouver building today, at 1151 W. Georgia, bringing a couple of my Japanese students with me (who, unsurprisingly, had never heard of Donald Trump; Asian students generally pay very little attention to politics). I hadn't realized until today that it was built according to an Arthur Erickson design. It's actually kind of cool looking, as big glass towers go - it has a funky twist in it, anyhow. Maybe terrorists will blow it up? (One good reason for a name change!).
In other news, David M. (pictured above with his dog Ozzy) has released The Fezziwig Files: an 8 CD set of No Fun at Christmas shows, celebrating the 30th anniversary of said shows. Dates for this year's David M "Christmas Alone in No Fun City" concerts have NOT been announced as of yet. Personally I think David should try to get an opening slot before Robyn Hitchcock, soon coming to town; the first time I ever saw No Fun live was in front of Hitchcock (on the Eye tour, I believe) at the Town Pump... tho' it was NOT a Christmas show...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Catching Up With Tomorrow: Braineater, AKA, Gerry Hannah, Lenore Herb, and more

Fun night the other night at the Pointed Sticks show. Missed Nervous Talk, but I got to see Polly, the Vampire Bats, and at least a few songs from the Pointed Sticks (including an old fave, "True Love," and a new one, "Tsune's Song") before racing off to the Skytrain. Lots of fun, and lots of people I knew in the audience (though Grant forgot to bring me a copy the Monster Stalkers 7"). The next gig of note for those with one foot firmly planted in the past is Friday the 4th at VIVO, where Gerry Hannah's band - the New Questioning Coyote Brigade, quite the mouthful there - will play, among many others. (Gerry promises this time out he WILL do "Sure Looks that Way," absent from the set last time here, plus acoustic reworkings of a couple of his Subhumans songs). Apologies for not laundry-listing the bands (like Dennis Mills' band the Judys, the band without whom none of this would be happening). but you can read the poster!
Of these - unless I caught BAMFF at the Scratch Records Birthday celebrations - I've only seen I, Braineater before. In fact, one of my first experiences of Vancouver punk was seeing Jim open for the Dead Kennedys at the New York Theatre in 1984, wearing a black leather jacket and playing, I *think*, solo on guitar (but maybe there was a drummer? It was very stripped down, in any case; I really do think it was just him). The only detail that stands out from that far back was that at some point he took a beer receptacle to the noggin (it was surely a can, not a bottle or glass, though memory does not serve) and did NOT miss a chord. I was impressed. I actually knew a couple of his songs that night (like his gender-bender classic "Davie Street"), because I used to have his private-press LP (also featuring "You Now Alleyway Quick," which was kind of my favourite), which, as I recall, I dug out of a thrift store for $1.99 (I think there was a Value Village open in Maple Ridge by that time, though I might be wrong). I was 16, and because of my suburban dislocation and the lack of all ages shows, that was really my first ever punk gig, so I had no idea what to really expect, but was most impressed... To my amazement, when I caught him a couple of years ago at a Ron Reyes' birthday event (I think it was!) he performed with even more energy, was veritably Iggylike in the conviction of his delivery. I could stand to see him perform again.
I barely know the other acts, though I've been listening to Dennis Mills and Alex Varty's band, AKA, who were obviously at the cutting edge of the form back when their EP was released in 1980 - it's every bit as adventurous as New York No Wave (which is presumably where it was coming from; No New York had come out in 1978, so Alex had to be aware of/ influenced by Arto Lindsay and such). If I can make it out to my storage locker this week I might be able to dig out a tape of the late Lenore Herb, the Vancouver scene videographer whose work this event will be serving to help digitize, because I did talk to her about her desire to digitize this stuff, shortly before her untimely death. People with a vested interest in preserving her legacy should definitely make it to the show...

Friday, November 27, 2015

On being repeatedly photographed by the Pointed Sticks

I now have had two photographs of myself, highly visible in the crowd, taken by members of the Pointed Sticks. Back in 2006 (7?), Nick Jones snapped this from the stage at Richards on Richards, on a disposable camera, then passed the camera into the audience, where I ended up with it. I actually didn't know what to do with it - tried to take more pictures, but the camera was full; it was only afterwards that I clued in and had it developed. As you can see, not even ten years ago, I had significantly more hair:
Meanwhile, the other day Tony Bardach sent me this, from the 2015 Khats fest, presumably taken by him. That's my girl, Erika Lax, beside me in green:
Fans of the band will want to read my interview with Nick Jones, online-only, apropos of tomorrow's (ie., Saturday's) concert at the Rickshaw. Plus I have a print feature on Unleash the Archers and a short review of the new Billy Hopeless single, both in the current issue. I'm still spread a bit thin these days but I'm glad to have gotten a few articles out there; and I'll make sure to get down to the front row when the Pointed Sticks take the stage tomorrow in case they want to continue to document my presence at their gigs. 

Sadly, I will not be at this AKA/ Gerry Hannah/ Judys gig on Dec. 4th at VIVO since I just remembered a very important personal matter I must attend to... Gerry does do a couple of acoustic takes on Subhumans songs, which is a pretty good reason to turn up, if you're free, but I won't be. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ah, David M.

It's almost time for Christmas Alone in No Fun City this year, the 30th anniversary of such shows in Vancouver. Apparently David M. will be doing TWO such shows this year, *and* releasing a (likely fairly limited) CD box (read: baggie) of NO FUN Christmas shows.

Apparently he also likes the band name, NO FUN, all in caps, which I've never realized (until very recently, obviously).

Anyhow, David has a new poster, which may or may not give you a sense of the spirit of a NO FUN Christmas show. Actually, you might infer from David's posters that he really, really hates Christmas, and is determined to take the piss out of it (or piss all over it) at every turn, but in fact, he rather likes it, and has lots of Christmas-themed CDs and movies and such. I know this from firsthand experience of the David M. collection, long may it run.

This is the new poster for the 30th anniversary of Christmas Alone in No Fun City. Brace yourselves! (And click it for a larger version).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Kings of the Road soundtrack change, plus Upcoming at the Vancity Theatre and Cinematheque

Some very interesting films, as always, at the Vancity Theatre. Hoping to see the Haida Gwaii and Fractured Land docs later today - the latter a favourite at the VIFF, though I heard insider whispers that the former is a better-crafted film. Related, for local First Nations content, is the adaptation of The Golden Spruce, called Hadwin's Judgment. There's lots else - a Turkish film festival, say - but I'm mostly excited about the chance to see The Fool again, a Russian film from the festival before last that I'd given up hope of seeing a second time, in part because I'd completely forgotten the title. I found it quite compelling, in a grimly social realist kind of way - or perhaps we should call it "social cynicism," in this case? It's a perfect parable for those who believe that all virtue will be punished.
Meantime, at the Cinematheque... I left the screening of Kings of the Road after 45 minutes because, as I feared, I was having trouble "going home again," as they say; the reality of the film wasn't meshing with my cherished memories of it, I wasn't FEELING it like I used to, very early in my cinema consumption, when it routinely appeared at the top of my favourite films list (vying with Cassavetes' Husbands or Love Streams for the number one slot). After establishing that I was simply less entranced by it than I used to be, it seemed best to just protect my past experiences, though I stuck around for awhile to verify that the soundtrack has been officially and finally tinkered with (and that the poo scene is still intact). As I've said before, Chris Montez' bubblegummy "The More I See You" has been replaced with a song by Improved Sound Limited called "If I Could Read Her Mind." That band does many of the other songs on the film's soundtrack, including the lovely, memorable "Nine Feet Over the Tarmac" - which, okay, sounds a bit too close to "After the Gold Rush" at the start, but it's still a great song. Still, it's clearly a recent change to the film, since when Bruno Winter plugs the 45 into his 45 player, if you look quick and close (on the big screen, anyhow), you will clearly see on the label that it is "The More I See You" that is supposed to play. IMDB pretends that song was never featured. I don't know whether this is a copyright issue or a bit of tinkering on Wenders' part; I must admit, the new song DOES fit pretty seamlessly into the film, whereas "The More I See You" sticks out as a bit of a goofy sore thumb, and probably would attract some giggles from savvy cinemagoers nowadays, since it makes the veiled homosexual tension between the two men a little flippin' overt. There's even a moment between them - a brief glance, as the song plays - that may have gotten a bit of a trimming, to make this all a bit more subtle. In any event, it works, but in general I am against this kind of tinkering and it helped me leave the movie early.

Guess I won't be getting rid of my VHS copy of it!
On the other hand, everyone says Wenders' restored five-hour -long director's cut of Until the End of the World is far superior to that disappointing film we all remember (?) from the 1990's. It's premiering in Vancouver and looks to be a must-see. I mean, I love Max von Sydow in pretty much anything, and there was stuff in the theatrical cut (the only time I've seen it, first run in Vancouver) that I remember really wanting to like. More on the director's cut, from someone who has actually seen it, here.

In terms of other upcoming movies, the big deal double bill for me at the Cinematheque is Dec. 3rd. Local artists of note will be introducing some of their favourite films, as part of the Traces That Resemble Us series. Jeff Wall and Greg Girard have chosen two classic bits of 1970's American cinema. Wall's pick is Straight Time (with Dustin Hoffman and BOTH Harry Dean Stanton and M. Emmet Walsh - see the Stanton-Walsh Rule in Roger Ebert's movie glossary; if no film with either man in it can be all bad, as ol' Rog maintained, than is any film with both of them in it guaranteed to be good?).
I haven't see that film in a long time, so I can't really speak to it, but I do love The Yakuza (with Robert Mitchum and a young Takakura Ken), which will also screen that evening as Greg Girard's pick for the series. It's Sydney Pollack at the height of his powers, with Leonard Schrader, Paul Schrader, and Robert Towne co-authoring the screenplay: can you afford to miss it? I *have* seen this not too long ago, but I may go again, for the rare pleasure of seeing it on the big screen. It's a great, gritty, 70's actioner that even fans of Fukasaku Kinji and Beat Takeshi will be able to appreciate (it beats the living shit out of the Ridley Scott film, Black Rain, too, especially as an American representation of Japanese culture).
As for First Nations content, to bring things full circle, the Cinematheque will be doing a series called Through Indian Eyes, that no doubt has some fine films in it.  I've only seen three of them, so I can't really speak about the series knowingly: Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is amazing, of course - an Inuit folk tale made into an unlikely but wholly successful Northern Canadian epic - but I barely remember Smoke Signals. It's worth a look for a non-Jarmuschian turn from Gary "Nobody" Farmer.

On the other hand, though I acknowledge its ambition and am happy for its success, I thought Rhymes for Young Ghouls was somewhat befouled and cheapened by the influence of Quentin ("fucking") Tarantino, who I guess makes sense as a postmodern code juggler, but who is positively dangerous when his cinema is taken as primary input and his voice mistaken for an original one. (Yes, I will probably still go see The Hateful Eight; hell, I may even brace myself and watch Django Unchained again, the only film of his so far that I have had no respect for or patience with; hell, I even watched Death Proof twice. But generally I think that Tarantino isn't humble enough for a borrower, and isn't audacious enough as an innovator; whatever early talent he showed - and there was a lot of it, peaking with Jackie Brown - he's the sort of person who cannot possibly survive Hollywood success, once he starts believing his reviews and getting Academy Awards and all that poisonous crap that goes along with fame). Rhymes would have been so much stronger if Jeff Barnaby had grown up on a steady diet of British kitchen sink social realism, or even Cassavetean high drama, than Tarantino.

Speaking of Cassavetes, Tom Charity (who should know) tells me that James White (no relation to the no waver) is quite Cassavetean; it opens Nov. 27th. Might just check it out (but not on a fucking Vimeo screener, thanks; how I wish reviewers could still access DVD copies of the films they're asked to review!). Lots of good movies for cold winter days, in any case...

By the by, Nathan Holiday tells me he'll have some cool Thai movie posters similar to the Yakuza poster above at the Flea Market this weekeend. That also might be worth checking out!