Friday, June 05, 2015

Clayton Holmes interview: Eargoggles 7 release gig tonight!

Tonight's the night of the EarGoggles 7 release at Funkys - a scene I no longer feel much connection to, I'm afraid. With a girlfriend in Burnaby who doesn't much care for punk (and who doesn't relish going to the downtown eastside at night), an infirm mother who needs me in Maple Ridge most weekends, and nowhere to sleep that's a quick commute from the place, I almost never go there these days. I think I went twice last year - to see the Zero Boys (an awesome gig that I had to leave early, but clutching a signed, booze-stained, much battered LP the damage of which is a proud badge of its having survived the moshpit with me) and to see the Wett Stilettos and Death Sentence (also had to leave early to get the Skytrain; the late night drunk bus up Main Street to Metrotown is NOT an experience I enjoy). So here I am, writing about another gig that I won't be at, about a DVD release party for EarGoggles 7, happening tonight. If you don't know EarGoggles, it's a video compilation focusing almost entirely on local punk and metal bands, with a couple of visiting bands included (in this case, Death and the Meatmen - I'm going to count the Dayglos and other Victoria bands as local). All of it is shot in Vancouver. 99% of it is stuff shot at gigs I wasn't at - including that last Subhumans gig at the Cobalt, which I spent crying and stressing out in my previous, bedbug-and-mouse-infested apartment in Vancouver, back when my father was dying and I was struggling with getting my belongings safely from Vancouver to Maple Ridge without transporting any bedbugs along with me. It's weird to see it, frankly. I was always curious how that show went down...

Anyhow, tonight, 1990's Saskatechewan punks Scum Element - see also here - join Raised by Apes and the Gnar Gnars to kickoff the EarGoggles 7 release at Funkys, with EarGoggles' Clayton Holmes on hand, no doubt with many, many DVDs for interested parties. Clay has done some heroic documentation of the scene here, and besides seven volumes of Eargoggles, has a DVD of the Rebel Spell live at the Cobalt (which I'm really glad to have and can't really watch again; I still haven't really processed Todd's death - it's kind of impossible to take in). Besides Death and the Meatmen and the Subhumans, bands captured on the new DVD include Alcoholic White Trash, Life Against Death, Bishops Green, ENDPROGRAM, Gross Misconduct, Dayglo Abortions, Tendonitis, Entropia, Archspire, Stamina Mantis, DOA, Mr. Plow, B-Lines, Horde of Anachron, Total War, Aeterna, Golers, Compound Terror, Speckled Jim, Fetal Buchery, Fetus Grinder, SNFU, Ahna, Cumsoc, and the Epitomees (a member of whom is now in Blasphemy, and who told me in a chat at Metrotown - because when you see a guy in a Blasphemy T-shirt at Metrotown, you gotta chat with him for a minute - that the misspelling of the word "Epitomes" was entirely an accident; and here I had always thought it was clever and deliberate!). There are also profiles of skater Ryan Brynelson and photographer Femke van Delft, and a short film by Clay (who is a full-fledged filmmaker, besides being a video documentarian; I have a movie around here by him, Breakup.Com, that I confess I have not sat down to watch yet - it has an IMDB page here, which I'm having to link separately because the .Com title of the movie is confusing Blogger. Presumably you can buy that movie off him at the gig too...?).

The other kind of fraught aspect of the DVD is that almost all of it is from video that Clay (and/or any helpers) shot at the Cobalt, back when it was still "Vancouver's Hardcore Bar," with Wendy Fors... no wait, wendythirteen is her real name, innit? - booking it. It's a venue that doesn't exist anymore, another bit of past damage to the scene. There's a new Cobalt, with new bookers and gigs there, that a few people I've talked to feel too weird about going to now, given the history of the place, though it was six years ago that wendy was driven out... It's kind of strange to have a video reminder of the atmosphere of that place, that time, those people, those shows - a bit of a love letter from beyond the grave. Or to beyond the grave. Or something.

So I asked Clay about that for my first question - why focus the new release almost entirely on a bar that, in its classic incarnation at least, ceased to exist six years ago? 

Clay: EarGoggles was created to pay tribute to the Cobalt that I loved. It was a very significant place for me personally and I took comfort in going back to the footage after it closed. EarGoggles was also a personal project that allowed me to work independently with complete creative control. Its lifespan was determined by the footage I got while working at the Cobalt and issue seven represents the last of that footage. It’s time to let go.

Me: So this is the final EarGoggles?

Clay: Yeah, it’s come to its logical conclusion.

Me: Given the emotional history of the venue, are you ready to go back to the Cobalt, if a band you really liked played there, or would it be weird?

Clay: I don’t think I could ever go back unless the circumstances were extraordinary. I don’t mean if a band I love is playing there or if I got offered a lot of money to play there but if Wendy took it over again I would go. The bottom line is that Wendy got fucked over and going back there would be like stabbing her in the back. No show is worth that.

Me: What IS this CD, exactly? (Clay sent me a disc with a CD cover spoofing' SNFU's And No One Else Wanted to Play).

Clay: I made that cd a year ago and it’s irrelevant to EarGoggles. I just have a bunch left over and thought I would send you one because you like punk rock. It has the production value of a postage stamp and features me on every instrument but half decent writing? I dunno, you put a lot of work into something and you want people to experience it. You’re a learned dude, I was hoping for an opinion.

(Me: That's pending, I haven't had a chance to sit down and listen to a lot of music lately. Maybe I'll put it on my phone. Seems like that's the only way I get to listen to music these days, since I spend so much time commuting...)

Me: Are you going to be doing anything special at the event tomorrow, or...?

Clay: Nah. I’ll put the video on at 9pm and the few people there will kind of watch it. I am excited to see Scum Element for the first time and I’m a big fan of Raised by Apes. The Gnar Gnars are old school Cobalt chums and also a great band. Word is that they’re going to play some Alcoholic White Trash songs too.

Me: I was kind of surprised that there's no footage of the Rebel Spell on the new disc. Was it too emotional, given Todd's death, or do you have something else planned, or...?

Clay: I did film them along with DOA at the Rickshaw but the footage was lacklustre - bad sound, shaky (drunk) camera work and I had made the decision not to use it before Todd’s passing. I thought about it afterwards but it would have been a compromise and Todd wouldn't have approved. There are quite a few pictures of Todd that I included in Femke’s photography profile though. Unfortunately there were many posthumous appearances in this issue which I guess is what happens when you spread a bunch of band footage from 2008-2009 over seven years. I had edited and mentally placed Cum Soc and the Subhumans in the second and last spot respectively before anything happened with Stefan and Wimpy. It’s strange to watch the Subhumans footage now which begins with Brian talking about mourning the passing of the Cobalt. It struck me that no matter how much you love a place, and I loved the Cobalt as much as it’s possible to love a bar, its demise was insignificant in comparison.

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