Monday, February 22, 2016

Bowie Tribute Night at the Rickshaw: interviews!

 David Bowie by bev davies, Coliseum 1983, not to be re-used without permission!

Everyone has their own version of David Bowie, their own associations. A few odd songs aside - "Ashes to Ashes," "Diamond Dogs" - I most enjoy him for his performance in The Man Who Fell To Earth, perhaps the most perfectly-cast rockstar-as-actor in history up until Henry Rollins took on the role of a bingo-playing cannibal (tho' Mick Jagger deserves a nod, too, for Performance). I don't geek out over Bowie's Eno or Iggy collaborations like some people do, don't presently own Heroes or Low or The Lodger (though I do have The Idiot and Lust for Life, of course). I don't presently own The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, either (though I've been meaning to pick up a vinyl reissue for awhile now, since long before he died). As I said before, I always kinda felt that Bowie was for people with pointier shoes than me. Feelin' the pressure, tho', I bought Blackstar a few days after the news broke, listened to it three times through in the following week, and acknowledge that it's a great album even outside of the context, but of course it's particularly interesting that he used his final year this way. It's a helluva thing, kind of (as David M has observed) unprecedented - though the aura of mortality hangs so heavy around the album that it isn't exactly a comfortable listen.

I mean, we're all going to die too, right? Eek.

The Bowie tribute at the Rickshaw this upcoming Friday is another matter entirely, starting at 7:15 and lasting til late. At present count, there's a lucky 23 of local bands gathering, each playing a couple of Bowie songs; it's an excellent way to get a glimpse of the Vancouver music scene, viewed through a particular Bowie-coloured prism (a "Bowie lens," maybe?), and hopefully will be more of a celebration of life than a meditation on death). I interviewed a few people about it via email, asking three questions:

1. What Bowie songs did you choose and why? 
 2. What was your history with his music? Ever see him live? What's the most important Bowie album to you? 
3. Of the other people playing, who are you most excited/ curious to see?

Rather than do something fancy, I'm going to just cut and past their answers below, in the order that I received them. First up (tho' not first at the Rickshaw), we have Tim Chan, who will be fronting China Syndrome, who used to front 64 Funnycars, and who will also be playing guitar with Pill Squad during their set. Tim's a veteran of the Victoria power pop scene, collaborating with people like Tom Holliston (in a band called Hathead) and even popping up on the All Your Ears Can Hear Victoria scene compilation, with his early band the Ryvals. Tim's also worked with Seattle producer Conrad Uno due to his connection with that most under-appreciated of Seattle bands, the (great!) Young Fresh Fellows. China Syndrome has put out two LPs that I have heard, both totally enjoyable (I have not heard their first, from 2007). They will be gigging the very next night at the Princeton, for the first full China Syndrome gig of 2016, also featuring Bubble 11 (who are also on the Bowie roster!).
China Syndrome by lildrammerboy Not to be reused without permission

Here's Tim:

1. What Bowie songs did you choose and why?

China Syndrome is playing "Let's Dance," "Cracked Actor" and "Ashes to Ashes." "Let's Dance" has actually been part of our repertoire for several years -- we learned it to play at a wedding and we like to throw it into a set every once in a while for fun. "Cracked Actor" is just a powerful, rockin' song from Aladdin Sane, one of my favourite Bowie albums; it's a perfect encapsulation of Hollywood decadence in the early 70s. As for "Ashes to Ashes," it's definitely one of his absolute classics: the melody, the lyrics, the chord progression, the video, the sequel to "Space Oddity"... I just hope we can do it justice.

2. What was your history with his music?
I've been a huge fan of Bowie since high school, when a friend gave me The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars LP for Christmas. Before that I was always intrigued, though kinda intimidated by him; when I was younger I listened to AM radio constantly and songs like "Fame" and "Golden Years" were so different from anything else--a bit alien and scary. Seeing the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth on TV around that time added to that mystique--hard to believe they ran it on TV and I was allowed to watch it! But I really got into the Ziggy Stardust LP, with its vague sci-fi concept, amazing songs and fantastic playing. Every album he released has something interesting to offer--I love it all! Though I had many opportunities, sadly, I never saw him live.   

3. Of the other people playing, who are you most excited/ curious to see?

I look forward to seeing everyone's Bowie interpretations. There are a lot of interesting choices from his entire career; I'm pleased to see a few bands playing songs from Blackstar

Next up: Eddy D. and the Sex Bombs by Corinne Kuan, not to be reused without permission

No excuses: I don't know Eddy Dutchman's history half as well as I should. I was startled when reading about the early days of Vancouver in Chris Walter's band bio of the Real McKenzies to learn that Eddy D., like Paul McKenzie himself, goes back to the very, very roots of the Vancouver punk scene. I'd only ever seen him singing for the Liquor Kings (RIP). Haven't yet caught an eddyD. and the Sex Bombs performance, either (their Facebook page promises "the sweet and salty sounds of lounge bliss") - which is one of the reasons I'm excited to see them on Friday. Here's Eddy:

1. What Bowie songs did  you choose and why?

We chose 'Sound and Vision'.
we thought this was one of his more passed over tunes which never really got the appreciation and attention it deserved...
we fell in love its hypnotic groove and its contagious feel.
we wanted to make sure this catchy little gem got played...
we also chose 'Golden Years' because it has such a silky smooth vibe and such reflective lyrics.
plus, we saw this song as a personal band challenge because of all the many layers of background vocals.
there is just so much going on with the back ups which just rest so comfortably under the main vocals.
this song sets a very high standard for our singers.
last and not least. we chose 'Stay.'
 have you listened to this song? .
it is insanely funky and has that real 'drugged out' club feel that reflected the times of when it was written..
plus it is such weird tune that we knew no one else would pick it and we felt the song should also be part of this reflection on Bowie.

2-my history?
well other than when Mick Ronson was his guitarist i never really got all that deep into Bowie.
i always kinda viewed him as a 'chick musician' and only kinda heard him when i was with the girls...
ha ha ha.
.no i never saw him live but, i did date a girl once that claimed to have slept with him, but i guess every girl wanted to sleep with him...
he did have it all.
now which album was most important and why...
i did like the later albums he did in Berlin with Iggy..
they were very cool.
and of course..
Ziggy Stardust...
killer album.. and we can't over look its importance as it was early 70's British rock that influenced and inspired an entire generation of fans and musicians.
but the album that was most important to me would have to be Hunky Dory...
of course it stayed true to Bowie's talent and knack to work with the best but it was the first album with Mick Ronson and Tony Visconti...
so not only is it a breakthrough album but has some great history.
like how Ronson was a city worker in Hull and was offered the gig to back up Bowie as he was painting lines on a rugby pitch...
ha ha ha..
or how they all dressed like super heroes...
well done rock stars...

3-the other bands on the bill?
i am eager to see Tony Walker's band Trailerhawk because i heard they have some great female vocals...
and that always catches my interest...
and of course The Pretty's cause i still like the energy and enthusiasm of when kids rock out and because they do it so well...
and Mark with the Vampire Bats and Bloody Betty..
always top notch, thrill seeking entertainment...
but what i am most excited about is the closing number with Space Junk.
i don't want to give to much away but i hear it is going to be a massive, all performer sing along with pyrotechnics and all sorts of visual Bowie insanity.
not to be missed...

Tracy of Pill Squad, by Sharon Steele, not to be reused without permission

Next up: Tracy of Pill Squad

Oh, horrors: now that I've written a decent brief blurb about Tim Chan and at least half of an asses' worth of a bio on eddyD, I feel like I've gotta do one about Pill Squad, and, ummmm, I don't know Tracy from Eve, and I've never seen'm live. I know: I'm supposed to have, by now. Everyone says they're great, and I like their songs on their bandcamp just fine (great riffage from Tim, downbeat/ deadpan vocals from Tracy, witty lyrics: "Mommy was a hostess/ Daddy was a drunk/ 'cause they didn't love me then/ I turned out a punk"). I don't think that I've seen Scott Beadle drum yet, either, tho' of course, we know as a Vancouver punk historian, record geek extraordinaire, and from our arguments on Facebook about the merits of the Chavez regime in Venezuela. We will let you guess which one of us was a fan of Chavez; it's not the one who has met and spoken to several Venezuelans, all of whom thought he was a monster

(Oh, wait, I've gone and given away the answer, haven't I?). 

Here's Tracy, short 'n' sweet (her answers, that is):

1. What Bowie songs are you covering and why?

Tim chose the songs, although I now feel I was born to sing "Queen Bitch." Note: we already had "Diamond Dogs" in our set. 

2. What's your history with Bowie? Ever see him live? What are your favourite albums?

I never saw him live. The first time I saw him was on Don Kirshner or Midnight Special, which I watched religiously. I love Diamond Dogs, it's still subversive, and the Berlin albums.

 3. What other performances are you most looking forward to?

It's all going to be interesting, except the burley-Q [burlesque]. What the fuck does that have to do with David Bowie? 

EDIT: Scott Beadle adds: "I don't know if you edit blogs after posting, but when you mention you don't think you've seen me drum before -- I was the drummer for Ron Reyes Band at his birthday show at the Rickshaw. It's totally not important, but since Ron's piece comes right after ours, it makes a nice tie-in, and illustrates how so many of the bands in are inter-related. And also on that note, Pill Squad's new bassist is Ed Hurrell, formerly of the Liquor Kings, since they are mentioned too in the EddyD piece."

Thanks, Scott!
Of course, Tracy's last answer would naturally suggest I contact Bloody Betty, but I haven't done, because I only just Googled now what the "Burley Q" was. Frankly, before that, I thought it was some sort of barbeque. Come to think of it, "Bloody Betty's Barbeque" sounds like it COULD be a restaurant name; it's no more disturbing, say, than "House of Ribs," which always makes me think of a chest cavity, y'know? And I'm not even a vegetarian!

Speaking of Ron Reyes, tho' - a man whom I hope needs no introduction in Vancouver - he will be doing something in league, I believe, with the Vampire Bats (though the Facebook page makes it seem like it'll be a separate thing; unclarity prevails as always). I know how fierce Ron's roar can be, having actually seen Ron sing a few Black Flag songs at his birthday party a few years ago (before that ill-fated Black Flag reunion thingy). I also quite like Piggy, however, his current project, for whom he plays guitar, and reviewed their album for the Straight, here (whoever wrote the title for it online almost totally ignored my review and gave a negative spin to the article, but I really enjoyed the album and have liked Piggy every time I've seen them, though, um, Alexa Bardach - Tony's daughter - was the vocalist back then, so you get a sense of how long it's been).

Ron Reyes singing, by Stewart Dean Ebersole, not to be reused without permission

Ron Reyes' answers are a little different, because my question was a bit different. Seeing that he wasn't gigging with Piggy, I was all, like, "has Piggy broken up? Where's Piggy?"). And I asked him the same questions as above. Ron writes:
Piggy was asked to perform but at the time I could not  get confirmation fom all members so we had to pass. I was then asked to sing with the Vampire Bats so I said sure. I've sang with them before and it was fun. By that time most of the songs I would have chosen had been grabbed so I went for a couple that are some of my favorites from the Ziggy album. "5 Years" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide." I have always wanted to sing "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide." I did it for the first time at karaoke not long ago and that was fun so... Of course Bowie and the whole Glam movement in general played a HUGE part in what was Hollywood Punk. So much of what we came to know and love as punk would not have been if not for Bowie so yeah his music means the world to me. I have been wanting to cover Scary Monsters in Piggy for years.

I am excited and nervous about the evening. everyone is taking such a HUGE risk in touching this material. Who will shine through is anyones guess but I am excited about Space Junk as I understand they will be taking "Lazarus". NOW THAT TAKES BALLS!!!! BTW things like this and the occasional Karaoke laughs are the only chance you will ever get to see me sing again as I am FINISHED with fronting a band as vocalist.

BTW. Piggy has NOT broken up. we have a couple shows in Washington (our second home) in March and then we may lie low for a while while we re-tool some things.
Unless Jim Cummins answers my message belatedly, that's all I have for this. Show is Friday, doors are at 7pm. As of today, the lineup (and the number of songs each band is playing):

7:15 The Burnettes (3)
7:30 Pill Squad (3)
7:45 Tarleks (3)
8:00 Martian Flytrap (2)
8:15 China Syndrome (2)
8:30 Eddy D and the Sexbombs (2)
8:45 Bubble 11 (3)
9:00 Crummy (3)
9:15 Toxiks (2)
9:30 Left Spine Down (3)
9:45 Timecopz/Nervous Talk (2)
10:00 Dtrevlon (1)
10:05 Shiloh Lindsey (1)
10:15 Trailerhawk (3)
10:35 Orchard Pinkish and the Old Canadians (3)
10:55 : (TBA)
11:15 I, Braineater (1)
11:20 The Prettys (2)
11:40 rebel valentine
11:45 Vampire Bats/ Bloody Betty (3)
12:05 Ron Reyes (2)
12:25 voodoo pixie
12:30 The Judys (3)
12:50 Space Junk feat. Joseph Blood/Cobra Ramone (2)

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