Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mudhoney! And Steve Turner's DOA shirt

Steve of Mudhoney, and his DOA shirt, by bev davies, not to be reused without permission

I had a big long talk with Steve of Mudhoney the other day (the guy pictured above, thanks to bev davies). May I just say, holy shit that's a cool DOA shirt? I sorta tried to hint to Joe when I interviewed him last that the whole "skeletons with guns" motif didn't really work for me, but it's still the design you're most likely to see on a DOA merch table. I should ask if he's got any of THESE in his garage! (The DOA interview where we had that conversation is not online, but you can read Joe and I talking about the image on the shirt Steve is wearing here). Definitely a conversation-piece T-shirt, though hopefully that's not a conversation with the RCMP we're talking about...

I actually ended up only staying for about half of Mudhoney's set last night, but it's no fault of the band's - they were cooking (and I shot a little video to prove it, though it cuts off part way through "Let It Slide." The audio is probably not so great - these guys played it LOUD.) But I was finding it crazy hot; Erika was fallin' asleep; and the Rickshaw was pleasantly quite packed, which I hadn't expected, and which I was very happy for, but which made it tough for me in my ventures around the room, to say hi to bev and Bob Hanham, to check out bands up close, or to look for Furies' bassist John Werner (from whom I was hoping to get a Furies CD, to pass on to Steve; he had brought one to the venue at my request, but I had no idea when I hatched that plan just how many people I'd be trying to pick him out from. Never did find him, despite circling the inside of the venue five or six times).

Fans of last-minute opening act Waingro should see my interview with Brian (note the hilarious self-portrait he sent, apropos of playing Burgerfest); I always enjoy Brian's solos and absolutely LOVE the album cover for Mt Hood, inspired as it is by the art for ant-consciousness science fiction film Phase IV, which is a film I also love... but their music is a bit on the "trog" side for me, to be honest, and definitely too hard for my wife... The Edmonton-based First Nations trio that followed, nêhiyawak, were a bit easier to sit and listen to, had a very interesting visual component (including abstracted video images of bison and elk and such, with characters from an alphabet I do not know... I am realizing that I have no idea how the transcription of First Nations languages generally works, if each language has its own unique alphabet or if there are language groups that have a consensus alphabet. It sure ain't the IPA, in any case). Musically they did a sort of gothy pop that at times seemed very British, and I was sitting there trying to put a finger on the influences - because I don't know my gothy pop at all, really - and thinking "a bit of the Cure, a bit of the Sisters of Mercy, maybe a bit of Joy Division..." and being irritated that I couldn't pin down a specific secret ingredient that seemed obvious and potent but wasn't the music of any band I paid a lot of attention to.... That's when Erika commented that they sounded like U2. (Beth and Bob were discussing their "U2iness" among themselves when I said hi). They probably have interesting places to go, even if they're music is not quite my thing...

...anyhow, we probably could have stayed longer, but I felt physically uncomfortable, didn't want to leave Erika alone in her seat all night (I did enough of that anyhow with my laps of the venue looking for John) and didn't feel like crowding my way into the packed front of the house. It was nice to finally hear Mudhoney do "Touch Me I'm Sick." I did get up a bit close for that video (I don't know the first song but that's a great bassline), and later on for "By Her Own Hand" - an amazing song. Fun running into Luke Meat, too, who had read and enjoyed my interview with Steve. I genuinely like his band storc, whom I shot video of here... He apparently agrees with me 100% that Mudhoney is way better than Nirvana (tho' who knew that was no longer a contrarian point of view to take?).

Yadda yadda. Not saying much here. Looking forward to the release of Digital Garbage. John Werner, if you're reading this, I'll be in touch - I still want to get that Furies CD off you! (Mudhoney needs to know about the Furies!). Too bad there was no Mudhoney merch last night!

Friday, August 31, 2018

From the Original Sins to Brother JT: a John Terlesky interview

(Above: the Original Sins, back in the day. Note: almost all links in the following interview lead you directly to clips of the Original Sins or Brother JT performing; as of this writing, many of the Original Sins' classic LPs are on Youtube in their entirety. DO check this stuff out, because it's pretty GREAT; but if you come to agree, BUY SOMETHING FROM THE GUY, here!). 

I sometimes wonder about choices I made in the early 1990’s – especially (though not exclusively) in regard to music. There were more than a few bands that I loved that I walked away from, albums by bands who I had counted as utter favourites, whose follow-up recordings I didn’t even bother with until ten or more years later. For instance, Tad’s momentous 8 Way Santa was and remains one of my favourite rock records ever. Yet two years later, in 1993, Inhaler came out – and I totally ignored it, having heard not a song. I had no reason to think there would be anything wrong with it, and – though I was teetering on the cusp of getting into free jazz and noise, which dominated my musical tastes for the latter half of the 1990’s – I still liked and owned God’s Balls and Salt Lick and 8 Way Santa, and still sometimes listened to them. So why did I ignore Inhaler? I honestly can’t quite put together what was going through my head.

Maybe it had something to do with overexposure to Seattle grunge, which had peaked the year previously – because there were also Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, and Nirvana albums I ignored from the same period, having been turned off by the crashing hypewave that followed the massive success of Nevermind.

But the so-called “grunge backlash” doesn’t explain why I didn’t buy the Original Sins’ 1992 double LP, Move, until this year. The band, fronted by John Terlesky, who nowadays records as Brother JT – was from Philadelphia, far from Seattle, ostensibly untainted by what was going on there, and (the odd song, like “All In My Head,” aside) never all that grungy, to begin with.

I had followed the Original Sins more or less from the outset, musically. They put out an astonishing debut, Big Soul, which I nabbed via Midnight Mailorder back inn the late 1980’s, while it was still their first and only LP. I quickly and completely fell for it; it remains one of my best-ever blind buys, containing everything from 60’s-punk style rave-ups (Try “Possession” - also on Youtube in a non-LP version; or “My Mother’s Mirror,” “Can’t Feel a Thing”) to depressive dirges (the aforementioned “All in My Head”) to glowing, bouncy garage pop (“Help Yourself”) and relatively gentle, 60’s-ish folk rock (“Why Don’t You Smile, Joan?”). Their next album, The HardestWay, was maybe a bit less inspired, but is true to their '60s garage roots, and has some great songs on it (like “Don’t Fit In,” which is as tough as anything on their debut). Then they’d gone full-on Stooges/ MC5 for Self-Destruct, a meaty, acid-soaked, power-punch of an album that fed my own self-destructive tendencies, particularly with the playful, spiralling, organ-enhanced acid anthem “Alice D,” which accompanied my own late night forays into my neon-synapse’d psyche-scape on more than one occasion.  Everything suggested that the band was poised to become a hugely successful rock contender – except that in 1992, maybe the poisonous hypefog out of Seattle was so extreme that people with an investment in underground music just didn’t WANT any more rock success stories, no matter where they were come, since they were synonymous with bands we’d loved – Soul Asylum,, anyone? - suddenly starting to suck…?

Nothing sucks in the slightest about Move (all of which, like I say, is presently online in a high quality rip, so spend some time with it, eh?). It’s a ballsy, confident, 2-LP feast, co-produced by REM's Peter Buck, that combines all the best elements of the Sins’ three previous records, and has some awe-inspiring, balls-out rockers (“Like an Animal,” say) that show no sign of commercial compromise or down-watering. Wikipedia reports that “the album was intended to be a break into mainstream music for the band,” and you can see why maybe THAT didn’t happen – it’s simply too strong, too creative, too fearless for mainstream success. But the fact that the album sold poorly, that fans like me ignored it, and that even to this day it has no review on the AllMusic  site – which features accurate, respectable reviews of their previous recordings: none of this can I explain.

So can John Terlesky? With the interviewer having recently picked up an armload of his Brother JT solo albums – which are as good as, but vastly more varied than, his Original Sins’ recordings – that question is where we start this email interview (omitting the preamble I sent to him, which more or less replicates the above). People interested in exploring Brother JT’s back catalogue or buying his music should go to his webpage; with little fanfare and absolutely no mainstream success, he’s never stopped putting out fantastic records. Check out “Snakebit” on Tornado Juice, his current release, in particular; a black-humoured look at his own musical career, it’s the high point on the album, for me, and the focal point – along with his reference to “Zabriskie Point” in “Zabriskie” – of an upcoming feature in the next issue Big Takeover magazine, drawn also from the following conversation.

AM: So what happened to rock music in 1992, anyhow? Why didn’t Move sell?

JT: That was an odd period. I seem to recall Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and Nirvana's "Teen Spirit" hitting at around the same time and that they sounded similar to me, like Metal and Punk were sort of coming together. I had no problem with Grunge because it was a lot better than the hair bands that had dominated things and wasn't that removed from what we were doing. But then everyone kind of aped the style and there was no humor or contrast. There was Rock, but not much Roll.

AM: You have a song on the new album, Tornado Juice, called "Back to the 90's." It makes me wonder what you miss about being in the Original Sins? Are there any particularly crazy or chaotic moments, shows that really stand out? Do you have any memories or stories of playing in Vancouver, by the way?). 

JT: I think I mostly miss playing with those particular guys and feeling like no matter what the high energy approach of the set worked. With Brother JT a lot of the songs are much more about improv, so it's not such a sure thing like the Sins' songs. But I went more in the improv direction because I wanted to have deeper means of expression, so I like both. Brother JT sets usually feature several Sins songs these days.

There were many great nights with the Sins. Opened for the Ramones, Replacements, Screaming Trees, Living Colour, Butthole Surfers, etc.

I remember little about playing Vancouver except that the people seemed very friendly and the town seemed very clean. It was almost 30 years ago, so...

AM: I wish I’d gone. I had no idea until recently that the show even happened (the cartoonist and painter known as ARGH!, of DOA colouring Book/ NO FUN cassette cover fame tells me that the band played the Town Pump in the early 1990’s). Do I gather the band opened for the Kinks at one point?

JT: We did open for the Kinks at the Tower Theater in Phila., two nights, set up by our manager at the time who knew the booking person. It was good, but kind of weird because it was a big stage and the audience seemed so far away. I never like playing big places. I'd rather set up on the floor and be eye to eye with the audience.

AM: Where did the cover idea for Self-Destruct come from? One of the great 1990’s album covers, by me. Did you “grow out of” the self-destructive tendencies of youth?

JT: I had a fairly realistic looking 45-style bb gun and just had some pictures taken with it. Just kind of a knee-jerk reaction image that I thought might go with the music on that record.

AM: Is “Alice D” actually a real slang term for LSD, or is it your own coinage?

JT: I think it came from hearing Merle Haggard's "Okee From Muskogee" where he says "We don't take our trips on LSD" and it sounded like he said "Alice Dee" or something. Many years later (not being a Deadhead at the time) I discovered the Grateful Dead had an early outtake called "Alice D. Millionaire".

AM: More recently, “Head Bizness” is a great psychedelics anthem... it's kinda almost hip-hoppy. Do you listen to hip hop at all? (Ever do New Kingdom's "Mexico or Bust?" It's sorta kinda LIKE "Head Bizness," spiritually speaking). 

JT: Yes, I've listened to some hip hop. Liked the Madvillain and Spank Rock stuff from a few years back. Mainly interested in the grooves and how they could be applied to a rock context, not so much the lyrical content.

AM: Each of your solo albums seems to have a different personality or approach, but be cohesive unto itself... How would you describe the approach on Tornado Juice? I hear a sort of Dylan/ Blonde on Blonde quality (the verses on “Mississippi Somethin’,” for example). But other people on Youtube mention Bowie… What moods or events help you decide a direction for an album? Do you record one song and then decide where to go from there…? 

JT: The songs just kind of spilled out without a lot of conscious planning. If you had the album the dust jacket has a collage of my notebook from when I wrote the songs, and the lyrics are scrawled out furiously, like automatic writing. Sometimes the music came first, and sometimes both came out at once. And they're all filtered through influences of the artists you mentioned as well as many others. Also thinking about how the songs will work in a live context plays a role. I usually try to imagine playing the album in sequence live as a test for balance and diversity.

"Metallized Saran Icicles Made It So," by Brother JT; more of his art here

AM: I’m just listening to a download and I’m not seeing credits on the Bandcamp page, so I have no idea if there’s a band on Tornado Juice, or if you're doing most of everything yourself – who is playing what? Do you play live regularly with a particular group of musicians? (Are you in touch with any former Original Sins?). 

JT: It is largely the band I've been playing with for the last 5 years or so: Jamie Knerr on drums, Ron Kuhn on bass, and Mike Logan on guitar. They also recorded the previous CD, On High, with me. "Back To The 90's" and "Oh Me Oh My" is just me. I am occasionally in touch with the guys from the Sins (Dave Ferrara played drums on the first 2 Drag City albums) and there has been talk of a reunion this fall, but I’m not sure if it's possible.

AM: Whoa! Very cool. Coming back to automatic writing, what are these three books you published under the influence? Are any of your albums more purely the result of an acid experience than others? Are any mostly written or recorded while on acid? (Don’t you find it gets hard on the body as you get older?).  

JT: The books are the result of journaling while on LSD. They're kind of like channeling. I found that under these circumstances I could sort of offer up my pen to...personalities? my consciousness at the time. While the results are at times hard to read, I thought they were worth preserving. I sensed that these personalities appreciated the opportunity to express themselves. Many of the songs I've written in the last 10 years have come out of the same sessions, usually later after the initial flood of thoughts has passed. I feel like this way I am writing in another, more spontaneous voice.
I don't notice any physical stress from these experiences, kind of the opposite.

AM:  What is your life like when you are NOT Brother JT? (Do you have a family? A dayjob? A garden? Horrible non-sequitur hobbies like playing golf? I gather you have a cat…).

JT: I'm pretty solitary, never wanted a family, my main interests are various creative endeavors.  I'm 'avoidant', as they call it these days. I want to take the path of least resistance at all times. Sort of like a Taoist, except I'm not. I just like the 'non action' part of that ethos. Seems to come natural to me. My cat feels the same way.

AM: Going back to your origins – were you raised Catholic? (with a band name like the Original Sins and the occasional Biblical reference – “there’s something wrong with my right eye” – I wonder if you also went to Catechism classes, etc. (Did they ever get you to confess?). What was the milieu you grew up in? How was rock and roll received in your home? Did your parents ever see the Original Sins play?

JT: I was raised Catholic, did confession, communion a few times, but then just kind of stopped in my early teens. My parents wern't sticklers for that.

My folks were both 40 years older than me, so big band was more their preferred musical genre. I remember sitting with my father watching television when I was very young and there was an ad for the late movie double feature that night. One was a horror movie, and the other was for a Herman's Hermits movie, and he said, referring to the latter, "That's what scares me". Guys with long hair was a big thing back then. It's funny that I actually sat in with Peter Noone on guitar for two shows my old drummer Dave Ferrara is still playing with him). It didn't work out.

Anyhow, my involvement with rock music was not a subject of much discussion. I think my parents probably saw video of me playing, but not in person. I wouldn't have wanted them in that environment.

AM:  What was the live music scene in Bethlehem when you were young? Did you have to commute to get to see good bands? What city was closest? What was happening there when you were getting into rock? What made you decide you wanted to be a rock musician?

JT: Bethlehem was where bands were happening, also the home of a college radio station I DJ'd at for a while. Met a lot of music people through that. The Funhouse was the constant, the only place that has consistently let original bands play in an area where it's mostly cover acts. Just played there last month, still pretty much the same experience. Set up on the floor with people two feet away. Very basic engagement. 

My one brother was in a band in the early 70's, so I was exposed in that way. He showed me the basics on guitar, barre chording etc. I think when I first heard the Velvet Underground, I thought, "I could do that." I could grasp it because it was so primitive.

AM: Did you ever, early on, identify as a punk? (Were there punk bands you played in before the Original Sins?). How did you get into the 60’s garage thing? When did you get into, say, the Sonics, or the Dave Clark 5, or…?

JT: I never really got into the punk thing, though I did play bass in a band (Senseless Hate) that did some Angry Samoans covers very early. My cousin lent me his copy of Nuggets when I was 18 or so and that interested me in 60's garage. But as a really young child I grew up with the Beatles albums my brothers would play, so I was already a fan of that basic genre. Read about the Stooges and Velvet Underground in this Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock book and finally tracked down their records (they were hard to find in 1980) and I was off to the races. I was interested in anything that had a dark side but also a pop sensibility.

AM: Your videos are really entertaining. Do you direct most of them yourself? (I gather you did so with “Sweatpants” but I don’t see credits on many). Who is the fortune teller in the “Zabriskie” video? Have you done videos for anyone else?

JT: Yes, I am mostly doing the vids myself, though “Baked Alaska” was shot in a studio at Woodshop films where we did the internet talk show "Trippin' Balls". The person in "Zabriskie" is just a friend who helped me out with it. Have not done any videos for anyone else.

"I Like Things," by Brother JT; more of his art here

AM: If we could touch on a couple favourites from Big Soul, what was the backstory to the song “My Mother’s Mirror,” anyhow? Were any actual mirrors harmed, or was it always figurative? Where did the lyric “my mind’s got a mind” come from?

JT: Lyrics for "Mother's Mirror" about when a friend of mine related a story about him rocking out to Mott the Hoople's version of "Keep A' Knockin'" and inadvertantly knocking over a mirror that belonged to his mother--might account for the Little Richard via MC5 vibe of the music too.

"My mind's got a mind of its own" just kind of popped out. Song about possession, sort of made sense.

AM: What is the furthest afield you tour, nowadays? Do you ever contemplating DOING a major tour again? (Europe? Canada? Japan? Where would you go? Would you do it with a band?). I imagine you  have weird pockets of devoted fans all over North America, but I wonder if it would be economically feasible? (I caught Wreckless Eric last time he was in Vancouver and gathered from his between-song stories that he was simply driving from city to city by himself, a man and his guitar...). 

JT: I really don't tour anymore. I would be happy to, but it's difficult to get an agent and/or find players who'd be willing to take off from work/family etc for the dubious rewards of such a venture (at my level, anyway). Occasionally fly to San Francisco and Austin to play a show or two, sometimes with local friends backing me, but recently took the band. It really wouldn't be feasible unless we were opening for a better known act, and those kind of tours are hard to come by. I'd like to do what Wreckless Eric does, but he's been doing it a long time and has a solid fanbase.

AM: Do you have a source of income other than music? I always wonder how people subsidize their passions (or do you make enough to get by, just on bein’ Brother JT?).

JT: I usually have driving/delivery type jobs so I can make my own hours. Some Uber recently, some odd jobs. I make very little from music.

AM: Damn, I’m sorry to hear that. Thanks for keeping at it. Is there anything I've missed? Future ambitions? Favourite acid trip stories? A Brother JT video everyone should watch?

JT: If anyone wanted any of my music you could order it from my website or if it's something not available there, email me at and we could work something out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Fake Jazz returns!

Got a press release this week with some cool news:

After seven long years, Vancouver's Fake Jazz is returning as a monthly event at the Toast Collective (648 Kingsway) on the last Friday of every month. The theme is the same: noise, drone, psych, free jazz, and outsider jams, with a healthy focus on improv and instant composition. Bill Batt, one of the Fake Jazz founders, is joined by Shaunn Watt (Failing, Big Joy Festival) and Don L'Orange (Stamina Mantis, Softess) in organizing the resurrection. 
The first show of the monthly series is scheduled for August 31st at 9:00 pm, with sets by Wire Mother/Cloth Mother, Waters, Ex-Softess, Objects, and DJ Hxghxs. Interestingly, Objects played the first Fake Jazz set in 2007, and will get things started on this new run. Admission at the door is $8 or pay what you can. 
Let's get free!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8

I was annoyed by the ending of Season 7 of The Walking Dead. I felt like the whole season built to a climax, then denied us a full and satisfying resolution.I felt cheated of this, tricked, blue-balled: promised a satisfying climax, then denied it.

I didn't realize that that's what Season 8 would be: essentially - I say this ten (out of sixteen) episodes in, but am confident that I can make this assertion fairly: it is a season-long climax, and a very long, violent, and character-rich climax, at that, involving protracted and ugly warfare.

It has some very interesting character developments, along the way, with particularly interesting trajectories for Carl and Dwight; it features one of the most innovative, Romero-worthy disembowellings in cinema history, and boasts an extended piece of zombie gore unlike anything I have seen. I won't say much, but did you ever wonder why they would write characters who live in a dump into the story? It pays off amply in Season 8, Episode 10.

There is also an episode where women and people of colour (Carol, Ezekiel, and Morgan) battle bad white men, that is also very true to the world of George A. Romero (if you hadn't noticed, the first three of Romero's zombie films all take as central characters women and people of colour; he would have been pleased with this season - one episode of which is explicitly dedicated to him).

You Walking Dead fans have all seen Day of the Dead, right (the original Romero film, not the bizarre fannish reimagining). Greg Nicotero's severed head is in it. (He acts).

Season 8 is a very strong season. It also has a character suffer exactly the same death I once, in a different state of mind, wished upon myself, when I asked myself how I would want to die, given a choice; but I shouldn't say more there. (I no longer wish to die this way).

Season 8 is so good that it makes me forgive Season 7 entirely. There's some nicely quasi-Shakespearean dialogue from Ezekiel, as well, and a nice enrichment of the world of the Saviours. It's out now on DVD and Blu (not on Netflix yet, of course). I'm glad I've stuck this series out. 

Erika says, "Yeah." (And Tybalt meows).

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Smoke and strange dreams

Yesterday actually smelled like woodsmoke around Vancouver. The haze is so thick that it actually seems to be having the effect of cooling things down; it's felt like it might rain for a few days, and maybe put out some of the forest fires around the province, but it is likely just an illusion caused by all the crap in the air. (The news say rain may happen this weekend but I doubt it has much to do with the coolness that comes from being enshrouded by smoke). I gather we have the worst air quality in the world at present - worse than Bangkok, worse than Beijing. Maps of BC show a red province, with so many dots on it from discrete fires. We gather there was even a forest fire in West Vancouver yesterday, hence our being able to smell the trees burning (which I for one had not noticed previously).

I snapped a few photos around sunset last night to illustrate this. The black in a couple of them is our local murder of crows making its way from downtown to its nesting place (rookery, or whatever) on, I think, Burnaby Mountain. They "go to work" each morning, passing my apartment; in the evening they "go back home."

Anyhow, that's what walking around in Vancouver in the evening looks like these days. The new normal, I guess, the last few years running; maybe this is the worst yet? There was some article in my feed - I think maybe by Charles Mudede - about how nothing would be done about global warming until lots of white people started dying because of it. Days like this make it feel like perhaps that's not so far away.

In other news, I slept poorly, having strange dreams in which I was at my childhood home (Richmond Court in Maple Ridge), with my mother (who I think could speak normally, which was not the case the last few years of her life, due to her stroke) fielding a mysterious collect phone call of some sort, supposedly from my father, who was away (he had, in reality, predeceased her by some years, passing in 2009, but both of them were alive in the dream). There seemed to be an elaborate phishing hoax at work - at one point, I thought I heard my father shout something in the background, but then I was transferred to an operator who was going to connect me to someone else entirely (their name sounded oddly like Leon Spinks). I hung up and told Mom it was a scam, then wondered about the shout I thought I'd heard. Maybe I was imagining it?

John Cassavetes' Husbands also entered my dreams last night, but I forget the details. And for some reason, I woke up thinking I should send a Facebook message to Greg Godovitz, to see if he has copies of the last Goddo CD, King of the Broken Hearts, which I don't have (and which was, I gather, poorly received). Maybe he'd sign it for me, if so?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Got nothin'

I have a couple cool pieces percolating but nothin' for now. Sorry. It's all over but the shoutin' for me as a music journalist, but I can shout for awhile yet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

RIP Randy Rampage

Photo by Cindy LeGrier, not to be reused without permission

I've seen DOA fewer times than one might imagine. Never saw the classic lineup. Caught them once circa The Black Spot with Wimpy and, I think, Ford Pier at the SFU pub, back in the 1990's, and have seen them maybe eight times since then. But the best show I ever saw them put on, bar none, was with Randy Rampage and the Great Baldini at Richards on Richards, some ten years ago - which is where the above photo comes from. Randy's ebullient, endless rockstar charisma complimented Joe's so thoroughly that it made it one of the greatest, most dynamic punk shows I've seen; it was the only time I felt like I was seeing SOMETHING like "the Real DOA," not just Joe and whoever he was working with that year (No disrespect to Joe - the new lineup is great, in fact, and his current drummer trumps Jan, by me; but Randy was an original, in more than one sense of the word). I can only imagine what seeing them with Dave Gregg and Chuck Biscuits must have been like.

In fact, no I can't. Jealous of those of you who experienced it.

Actually, come to think of it, my second best experience of DOA was the time Dan Yaremko stepped down at the Complication gig to let Rampage take over bass duties, which was the beginning of Rampage's final tenure of DOA. Later in the night, he put down the bass and took the mike to lead an all-star "big band" jam of the Stooges' "No Fun," with members of the Pointed Sticks, Subhumans, Dishrags, Shades, and others onstage behind him (Zippy Pinhead I think was on drums... maybe Tony Walker or Brian Goble was on bass?). It was pretty magical, actually. I was right up front with a female friend. In all honesty, Rampage's performance of that song was more entertaining and meaningful and engaging, for me anyhow, than Iggy and the Stooges' own version of it in Seattle, a few years later. The Complication gig was like being at a really rockin' family function or something - and even if I wasn't part of the family, it was a privilege to be there.

And "Livin' on Borrowed Time," on his solo LP, is a pretty fantastic song, too. (More for Benny Doro's wiggy endless guitar solo, but Rampage is in great voice and it's the perfect song for him - one he apparently wrote in fifteen minutes, if I recall what he told me when I mentioned it to him).

Anyhow, I didn't really know Randy Rampage. I met him a few times. I saw him perform a few times. I am happy that the last time I interacted with him directly, it was to praise his solo performance at a DOA farewell show at the Rickshaw. (He was out of DOA at that point, but still joined Joe's event). I am under the impression through intermediaries he didn't like some things I wrote - an article on Bloodied But Unbowed for Big Takeover, for example - but I had no ill will towards the guy and totally enjoyed seeing him onstage that night and was glad I got to gush at him one last time, even if it was a little while ago.

Anyhow, the news is out: the Vancouver scene has lost another great, a big part of its spirit. No one as yet has announced how Rampage died, that I've seen, just that he passed at 7pm last night. Rest in peace, Rampage. There never was, and will never be, another like you. 

Randy Rampage and Brad Kent in San Francisco, by bev davies, "the night they tried to kill me with something in a brown paper sack," and the worst hangover of bev's life. she says (the sack is just off to the left of the pic)... Photo is not to be reused without permission - and incidentally that very phrase made its first appearance on this blog at Rampage's request when I ran a photo of him taken by Susanne Tabata here...

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

NO FUN Rich Folk Festival 2

David M., in a Facebook message to me, writes of the previous:
Nice blog piece. You might consider swapping out one of the "B" posters with one of the "A" posters. "B" posters have "Lots of Folking Variety", while "A" posters have "Over 3 Performers from Around the Estate". There will be museum-quality posters given away at the shows...
He adds that there will also be other treats for NO FUN Box Set owners who make one of the shows. I am not, however, sure which poster he means below, and have no time to think about these matters, so I'm just posting this one he sent with that comment. Show is next Monday at the Princeton, and is free! ...and now I must race to work. No rich folk around here....

Thursday, August 09, 2018

David M. rides again! The Rich Folk Festival, August 13th and 20th

Yes, you saw him at the Fight Back festival, doing a solo acoustic rendition of "Mindless Aggression," and a set of songs mostly drawn from the Body Shop Battle of the Bands of some 40 years ago, where DOA, Doug and the Slugs, and NO FUN all competed and lost, to a band now completely forgotten by time (M. declared DOA the real winner of that battle as part of his set at Fight Back, and indeed, should history be the judge, they were).

Maybe you even saw David M. the year before at the Rickshaw, opening for Marshall Crenshaw Y Los Straitjackets (or busking outside for the first David Bowie tribute, also at the Rickshaw; I gather he and Tim Chan did something in front of the Prince tribute, too, though I didn't make it to that). Or maybe you caught his Bowie tribute outside Music Madhouse Records - weirdly, the best-attended David M. solo set I have yet to see, and with added Ozzy (RIP, little guy; we miss you).

Hell, maybe you even saw him at my wedding, performing a song we co-wrote, and doing a clever mash up of Ben E. King and Bruce Springsteen. Maybe you saw one or more of those things, but have you seen a full David M. solo concert? (Or have you seen one LATELY? He hasn't DONE one lately, bear in mind).

Here's a tip, if not: these solo shows aren't, in fact, solo shows. They're much, much weirder and richer than what you've seen him do at the Rickshaw or Music Madhouse or my wedding (which is comparatively stripped down and "professional"); in his own milieu, M's sets are in fact interactive, with members of "the David M. Cult" (including sometimes me) (and also including the odd other guest from outside the cult proper) getting onstage with M, to recite weird beat poetry, sing (if we can), shake percussion instruments, hold up ancient issues of Rolling Stone, serve as a straight man to his gags, serve as a gag to his straight man - nothing gay going on there, folks; move along - or, yes, sometimes to hold his Gorgo. Even notable songwriters like Pete Campbell (who, besides being of Pink Steel and the Wardells, authored my favourite song about being alienated by hockey) sometimes join him!

You also get covers, chosen to reflect  the theme of the evening; a sampling of props and decorations (and sometimes even souvenir posters and such) and a host of David M/ NO FUN originals; plus the odd dry witticism or sarcastic comment or sometimes full-on monologue in-between songs. They're pretty fun, and they're never, uh, crowded, so if you really don't have anything else going on Monday night, WHY NOT CHECK ONE OUT?

It sounds like fun, right? And indeed, it is. So: August 13th, David M. will be doing a free show at the Heritage Grill, in the backroom, out in New Westminster. August 20th, David M. will be doing a free show at the Princeton Pub, in Vancouver. These free shows are free, and mark the return to the Vancouver music scene of the Rich Folk Festival (originally started, we gather, as a sort of poke at the Folk Festival, here happening somewhat out of synch with that).

I have no idea what a typical set at a NO FUN Rich Folk Festival looks like, but I will be on hand for at least one of these shows to find out (people wishing to avoid me should go to the one in New Westminster, since my attendance there is much less likely). If you have been entertained with any of these David M. appetizers mentioned above, you should consider trying the full meal deal. It's a pretty fun night, I promise.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Thinkin' about Bloodsport for Pride Week

Thinking about Bloodsport. If anyone is curious, it is the martial arts movie I have watched the largest number of times (four, now, I believe), mostly engaging in it from a safely ironic distance, as an example of prime '80's cheese. Its clunkiness and the obvious choreography of its fights only add to the charm, and it's fun to observe what an interesting and effective villain Bolo Yeung makes - a one man walking violation of a dozen stereotypes about Asian men, being huge, muscular, rude, aggressive, prideful, and at times positively murderous, with a massive ego that he revels in fulfilling in the ring. He's very entertaining to watch (as are Van Damme's splits).

I suppose there are other ways to watch Bloodsport, too - say for glimpses into previously unfilmed parts of Hong Kong. I presume there are also plenty of people - Van Damme fans, kickboxing enthusiasts, and so forth, who watch it without a single chuckle, without feeling at all superior to the subject matter. A guy I knew in high school took up kickboxing back in the 1980's, partially inspired by the movie; I suspect he was not watching it with irony back then, nor would he be doing so if he revisited it today.

Tonight, I mostly spent the viewing puzzling on the film's rampant, unavoidable homoeroticism. Even my wife, who thinks I find repressed cinematic homoeroticism in some funny places, and who occasionally is known to glance at me, when men are pounding on each other in some film - in the sense of "engaging in fisticuffs," that is - and ask, "Is this homoerotic?" If nothing else was accomplished by choosing Bloodsport as my evening movie with her, I think she sees what I mean now.  With Van Damme in almost prettyboy make up, about as much flesh-to-flesh male contact as you'd get in a gay porn film, and a steady stream of male significant eye contact, touching, body-slamming and bonding - not to mention a sex scene where only the man is naked, a plot that forces Van Damme to choose between being with the woman who wants him and engaging in full contact sports with men, and a climax where two men look at each other and pledge their love to each other - Bloodsport is about as queer as it could possibly be and still be in denial. But that's puzzling to me, because the 1980's, which it is VERY much a product of, were a time of pretty strong repression of homosexuality. The guy I mentioned who took up kickboxing because of this film - a masculine fella who drove around in a 4X4 truck and had little time for analyzing films - would probably have kicked me in the face for even suggesting Bloodsport was queerish, but then, he's one of those people who would have been shocked to learn Rob Halford was gay, y'know? Some people are kind of innocent in these matters.

Anyhow, a theory percolated to the surface tonight: that it is precisely because of the repression of homosexuality rampant at the time that so much of it  is allowed barely concealed expression in the film. (A similar contradiction occurs in Japanese high schools, where boys - at least when I lived there, some sixteen years ago - could regularly be seen holding hands, despite far greater and more repressive taboos against male homosexuality than we have; they were freer to do it than a Canadian 16 year old boy would be, because OBVIOUSLY they aren't gay: "how can you even ask that?").  It is only because of the normalized repression of homosexuality that you can have THIS much "fraught male contact" in a movie and still be able to say there's nothing queer about it; without denial and repression, you have to call it what it is, and that just ruins everything. In the current, more open and self-aware climate, if you made a film like Bloodsport, you'd either have to openly acknowledge the homoerotic elements (or hide them much, much better) or else you'd be laughed out of the theatre. Maybe we can even go one further, and speculate that the taboos against male homosexuality aren't so much about protecting the species from collapsing - as the more philosophical homophobes will assert - but because they want, themselves, to be able to express their queerer side, without the danger of being called on it. If gays are everywhere and we have to acknowledge their presence and their rights, it can interfere with straight men's "freedom" to slap each other on the ass in the locker room or "roughhouse" with each other and pledge their love and so forth. Maybe the reason (some) straight men want to oppress and marginalize male homosexuality is actually that it interferes with THEM indulging their own queerness a little, makes it harder to get away with and still maintain plausible denial? If we let THEM out of the closet, maybe our own closet walls will be that much weaker...?

Anyhow, that's where I went, watching Bloodsport again. It's a pretty entertaining movie, actually, especially if you start rummaging around in its id. I kinda recommend it.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit

Finally caught up with Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit the other day (popping up as a $5 DVD on the sale racks of some London Drugs, note). There's some very interesting criticism of the film out there, say by Richard Brody (whose likening it to Schindler's List, which he describes as "another film about atrocities that is itself an atrocity," is apt); or Armond White, who doesn't have to work quite as hard as he sometimes does to point out problems with the film. I don't disagree with either writer, but was still impressed by aspects of Bigelow's artistry in Detroit. I haven't loved anything she's done since Blue Steel, but had respect for the film as a confrontational, demanding work - was at times even thinking of Peter Watkins' Punishment Park. It's a problematic film, to be sure, but quite intense and well-crafted; the questions about the movie have more to do with its underlying morality, as both above-linked reviews suggest, than its craft - though note that some scenes are extremely hard to watch. And it's bothersome that the racist white cops are made the more interesting characters in the film, are the ones who command the narrative, especially since there are so many other possibilities in the film...

...anyhow, especially with Spike Lee's The BlacKkKlansman opening (I believe) next week, it makes for interesting, provocative viewing. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Joe steps aside!

Surprised this morning to read that Joe Keithley is stepping aside as Mayoral candidate in Burnaby. Not sure what the full story is - I imagine there's more to it than will be made public - but he's saying that he thinks another candidate, Mike Hurley, has a better chance of beating Mayor Corrigan... I had been looking forward to voting for Joe! 

Meantime protests against the demovictions in Burnaby - posted about below, including photos of graffiti now well-covered by the city - were cut short by the RCMP being called in... Doesn't seem like our charter rights to assembly mean much these days (if they ever did). 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Richard Matheson weekend: Duel and I Am Legend, revisited

I hadn't realized that Steven Spielberg's first film, Duel - based on a Richard Matheson story in which a lone car driver squares off against a giant truck, driven by an unseen madman set on his destruction - was available as a widescreen hi-def Blu-Ray, until stumbling across it at Sunrise Records the other day, for a mere $11.99. I had considered playing it for Erika before, but it would have been my full-frame, standard-defintion DVD. But though the film (shot in 1971, and released theatrically in 1972) was originally shown in a 1:33 aspect ratio, the theatrical cut - which was used as the basis of the Blu - looks superb, was prepared with Spielberg's involvement, and presents much better on a flatscreen than the old DVD ever could. Very nice colours, crisp details. Like every cut of the film, it feels a little padded at 89 minutes, and makes me wonder what the original 74 minute long broadcast version would play like (one scene apparently added to flesh it out for theatrical release, involving a stalled school bus, is perhaps my favourite scene in the film, but some of the filler, like a conversation between Mann and his wife, feels exactly like that: filler). It's a very enjoyable film, though. Keep an eye out for the face of a young Spielberg in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, reflected in the phone booth when Weaver is trying to call the police at the Snake-a-rama. This is definitely a worthy upgrade.

Even more exciting: having gone, prior to sitting down to Duel, on one of my "Mr. Movie Teacher" spiels to Erika - who couldn't care less, but has been now exposed to a few Matheson adaptations, including a couple of Twilight Zones and The Legend of Hell House - I realized that she had never seen I Am Legend, a film that I have come to think of as a disappointment and wasted opportunity (I wrote about it here, giving it a better review than I recall having done, but my dominant impression of the film since has been one of "meh"). The film has a great start, is fresh-looking and engaging and likable for most of its runtime. My concern, as an admirer of Matheson, was that no previous version of the film had really come close to the key idea on which the novel hinges (spoiler alert!): the idea that the vampire-killing hero is in fact himself a monster, presuming his "normalcy" gives him the right to dispense with the infected "Others" around him as he sees fit, since, you know, they aren't really human. That revelation - that he is, in fact, WRONG in what he's been doing - comes to the protagonist at the climax of the book (which I'll say no more about). His "legendary" status is, thus, in the eyes of the monsters, not fellow surviving humans; and he is only a legend in the way that vampires themselves are legendary - as an evil. I can't recall how the old Vincent Price version of the story ends, exactly (The Last Man On Earth, that is); but the Charlton Heston take on it, The Omega Man, is very much a reversal of this; Heston becomes a Christ-figure, sacrificing himself (and his "sacred" blood) for the salvation of humanity. It is to THEM - the survivors, spared the plague - that he is a legend, and his being a legend is a positive thing. He hasn't been WRONG all along, he's been right. Even if The Omega Man doesn't do anything with the original book's title, it betrays the whole point of the original text in favour of a more comforting white-guy-as-hero message. I was really excited for the Will Smith version of the film, and totally engaged by the first three-quarters, because I expected it to be smarter and more sensitive than The Omega Man, and to maybe be truer to the source text.

Then you get to the ending, and blam: it cops out and repeats the basic idea (with some minor variants) of The Omega Man's ending, Neville sacrificing himself for humanity, having been right all along. Like I say, apparently I gave the film a good review back then, but in subsequent years I've come to think of it as a crock of shit, a wasted opportunity, a mere remake of The Omega Man, unworthy of the title of the original novel.

But having talked about the film with Erika the other day, I glanced at the Blu-Ray at a pawn shop on the off-chance that maybe there was an alternate ending, maybe something more in keeping with Matheson's original intention. It's the first time I'd considered revisiting the film in eleven years - and guess what? There IS an alternate ending, which in fact was the film's ORIGINAL ending, changed because, yep, it scored poorly with test audiences (who obviously hadn't read the book and wanted nothing thought-provoking from their cinema, just more reassurance that they are "right" and always have been). In fact, this alternate ending IS in keeping with the Matheson original, and vastly more interesting than what played theatrically. It changes the film radically from what we previously saw, but in fact makes perfect sense as the climax of the movie. The film still has some Will Smith cutesiness you have to rise above, and it still has CGI monsters instead of human actors as the "vampires," but it is possibly the most faithful adaptation, idea-wise, of the novel yet to be filmed. Turns out it's well worth revisiting the film on Blu-Ray, to see what test audiences were too dumb to appreciate in 2007.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 20th: China Syndrome and the Circus in Flames, plus the Judges, Rogue Fest

I barely get to go out to gigs these days, and I barely get to do any writing. When I am not actually teaching, I am prepping, marking, researching lessons, or tutoring. My hands are sore from typing and/or holding pens. I have a generous backlog of assessments to mark and a mounting heap of administratively-related paperwork that I'm behind on. When the work-work is done, it's enough just getting my share of the housework done so Erika and I can zone out for a couple hours watching a vid (we've been visiting some old Stephen Soderberghs, including ones I thought trivial when I first saw them, and having a fair bit of fun doing so; plus I asserted the blu-ray widescreen edition of Stephen Spielberg's Duel at her last night, which looks bloody great and is a cheap buy, if you've missed it). 90% of the music I get to listen to is on headphones in transit. I don't even have the time for procrastination; there is a constant feeling of having to stay with it, so much so that the anthem of the week is the Angels' "I'm Scared" - "I'm scared of being scared/ tired of being tired." Going to have a bit of a reduction in work hours come August and maaaaan am I looking forward to it.

At least I ain't pissing blood anymore.

All that said, I still do try to keep a toe in the music world. I did something on the Judges for the Straight the other day - the new punk band led by  Jay Raymond, formerly of the Likely Rads. I don't really know Jay, but I've enjoyed chatting with him (and the last time I ran into him it really WAS in front of the Fuller Watson in Maple Ridge, if memory serves). Plus, umm, he's helping install a car stereo for my wife's Accord today (yep, folks, this particular article is PAYOLA-DRIVEN, tho' I've seen the Likely Rads a couple times, and am happy to support Jay's new band - Opening Statements is a fun fast hardcore mini-album, and I think marks the first time I've actually paid something for a download off bandcamp). 

I didn't actually GO to that Judges gig, mind you - gigs that run past 1am in Vancouver are off the menu when you have to commute to Burnaby and be up at 6am the next day - but I think I WILL be making it out to the Byrd pub in Surrey on the 20th for two of my favourite local bands, the Circus in Flames - whom I wrote about here and here - and China Syndrome (whom I've written about in a few places but the best is here). Both bands boast smarter-than-your-average-bear lyrics; they're a bit musically dissimilar, with Circus in Flames - fronted by Doug Andrew, long a member of the Vancouver punk scene - offering a sort of dark, parched-throat Americana (they'd be a great opener for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds or Tom Waits) and China Syndrome, doing guitar driven power pop. It's been too long since I saw either band. I said hi to Doug at the Rickshaw the other night - where I briefly popped in to see David M. and Jesse LeBourdais at the Fight Back festival - but I missed his set by something like ten minutes. The last time I caught China Syndrome, they were doing a set of almost-all-new songs at the Princeton, off the forthcoming album, and I really enjoyed all of them (which is not usually my way; I usually like to get to know a song on album before I hear it live, find it hard to process songs I've never heard before in a live setting; by the time I've figured out what's happening, the song is over, and tends to vanish in the mists of memory, since I have a poor recall of things I've only heard once... Erika thinks it a bit funny that I do - and sometimes assign - "homework" for gigs but I seriously want to be able to make the most out of seeing bands live, which I find is aided greatly by actually knowing their material beforehand; there'll probably be some China Syndrome and Circus in Flames on my commuting playlists this week, to freshen my memories of their material). 

And for the record, I have no idea who the Campfire Shitkickers are, but I like their name.  
It's funny... I think the last time I was at the Flamingo, it was actually to see strippers, maybe around 1995, as part of the run-up to someone's wedding. Strangely enough, given my work schedule, it's actually the most convenient place (along with the Heritage Grill in New West) for me to see gigs at the moment; I can just stay in Surrey after class on the 20th until the bands start. I wonder when the last Skytrain back to Burnaby runs? If I'm lucky enough to find a well-lit corner, I'll be able to get some marking done between bands... "sorry, I spilled a bit of beer on your paper, Akim - but you wrote really well!" 

(I have no students named Akim at the moment, note; this scenario is entirely fictive). 

Oh, and for those of you not otherwise engaged there will be a free festival of roots music - Rogue Fest - on or near Granville Island Sunday the 29th, including Sue Malcom, the Rocket Revellers, Viper Central and Van Django. I don't think I'll be able to make it but the event info is here

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Aum Shinrikyo leadership hanged, plus Nick Jones and the Frank Frink Five!

The Aum Shinrikyo sarin attack on the Tokyo subway happened in 1995. I lived in Japan from 1999 to 2002, during which time Aum - an oddball Japanese religious cult organized around a charismatic leader named Shoko Asahara - was attempting to rebrand itself as Aleph to avoid public scrutiny and distance itself from its more psychotic manifestations (which involved more killings than just the nerve gas attack; you could probably compare them with People's Temple or the Manson family in some of what they did and believed, which included ideas about an impending apocalypse, I gather, and a leader who had sexual relations with many of his members). There were still controversies circling - particularly in neighbourhoods where group compounds remained; who wants to live next door to a murderous doomsday cult? Most interesting, all through the time I lived there, there were cardboard "standee" cutouts in the train stations of three key members, both male and female, who were wanted for their role in the attacks, who remained fugitive. I could read very clearly the word "aum" in hiragana on the cutouts, though the one time I attempted to engage a Japanese - I think a transit security officer, as I recall - in conversation about the cutouts, he denied that that's what they were, maybe to avoid shaming his country in the eyes of a foreigner or something. The standees were similar to this poster (no idea if these folks are still wanted).

Weirdly, seeing these criminals makes me thrum vaguely with nostalgia for my time in Japan, since I saw their images at every train station, everywhere I went in the country. At that point, Asahara was in custody and sentenced to be hanged. It was all reasonably interesting, and when I came home, I actually read a book about the attacks, though I've forgotten much of the content of it.  

All of this came up again on Facebook recently, after I read and posted that Shoko Asahara had been, along with other remaining members of the group, actually executed. It took them 23 years to hang the man, which seems a really long time. To my surprise, one of the people who chimed in was Pointed Sticks vocalist Nick Jones, who was IN Japan at the time of the attacks, long before the Pointed Sticks regrouped to tour there. "I was there with the Stones," Nick told me afterwards. "We were traveling back to the hotel in the morning, then catching a flight to Osaka or Fukuoka, can't remember." When the attack happened, he was four tube stations away. "By the time the plane landed, that was all anyone was talking about," he wrote on Facebook. "The horror and panic in Japan that night was palpable."

Jones wasn't particularly disturbed, in his Facebook posts, to hear that Asahara has been hanged - is more troubled, as am I, that the government spent so long to get around to it. Apparently reaction in Japan to the executions has been mixed, and also includes some disdain for the law's delay. Generally I disagree with capital punishment but some crimes are monstrous enough that it's really, really hard to mourn the perps. 

As for Nick Jones, there are no Pointed Sticks gigs confirmed for the moment, Nick says, but there will be a Frank Frink Five show New Year's Eve at Lanalou's, which actually sounds like a pretty great way to celebrate New Years. I still haven't brought my wife to a Frank Frink Five show; maybe this will be the year. Meantime, happy belated birthday, Nick! 

(And goodbye, Shoko Asahara...). 

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Ingmar Bergman for people who don't like Ingmar Bergman: Sunday at the Cinematheque

There's a real marathon of Ingmar Bergman films this Sunday at the Cinematheque. They're all highly atypical, daring, potent, and under-rated films, which might appeal to people who think they don't like Ingmar Bergman films: The Rite, Hour of the Wolf, and The Shame.

The Rite, as I remember it, is Bergman's kinkiest, and maybe his angriest, film. There are sex toys, censors, and a cruel, expressionist-cum-fascist B&W visual sensibility; the story deals with artists who are brought up on charges of obscenity. It's the only Bergman film that ever made me think of Crass. (Fans of blasphemy - the concept, not the band - should check this out; it was the target of censorship in England back in 1979). I've recommended it on Facebook to Robin Bougie. It is also the only Bergman film that makes think of Robin Bougie. This is not a particularly easy Bergman film to see, which is more than enough reason to check it out; I was stunned when I first saw it at the Cinematheque, at a previous Bergman retrospective, since I'd heard nothing of it previously and expected something minor and forgettable. That it is NOT. And where better to be on a sunny summer Sunday than at an angry black and white Swedish arthouse movie?

Hour of the Wolf - long referred to as Bergman's noir - is better known, but what's not to love about a film about the madness that plagues an artist (the much-loved Max von Sydow), suffering persecution delusions and disturbing sexual thoughts, whose wife (Liv Ullmann) finds herself tormented by the same demons (or are they merely neighbours at a dinner party)? There's not much of a punchline to the film - it ends on a whimper, not a bang - but otherwise it's one of Bergman's most visually striking films: Gothic/ expressionist noir, with a surrealist edge (see below). People who think of Fanny and Alexander as their primary visual reference for Bergman should see this film, to expand their sense of what he was/ did/ could do. I wonder if Kubrick thought of it when making Eyes Wide Shut?

The Shame, meanwhile, also starring von Sydow and Ullmann, shows a couple trying to live during the outbreak of warfare. Their bonds are strained and morality tested (and ultimately compromised) by the need to survive. It touches, also, on what it is to be a refugee, with maybe the bleakest ending of any anti-war film I've seen. Whoever said that it was impossible to make an anti-war film without simultaneously glorifying war never saw this film. It also has the funniest "attempted chicken killing" scene in any movie ever (as I recall, the chicken makes it out just fine). I'm trying to be hyperbolic here, to sell people on this triple bill, but it's still a great film (and a great film to end this very varied but potent triple Bergman bill.)

In short, if you've only tried The Seventh Seal and Persona, say (or Fanny and Alexander, on the other pole) and decided you don't really like Bergman, this is a hell of a day to come out to the cinema. You WILL need to re-evaluate the man, and you'll see three great films to boot. Who needs sunshine and beaches, anyhow? You'll leave the theatre feeling the November of the soul. 

Note: there are other Bergman movies playing this nearly-finished retrospective. I'm sellin' Sunday as a not-to-be-missed event, but for other movies in the Cinematheque's Bergman 100 retrospective, see here

Demovictions in Burnaby: Joe Keithley for Mayor!

Joe Keithley and I talked a bit about the Burnaby housing situation when I visited his place. He has a house - complete with a dog and a garage - but I live in a three-story walk-up, of precisely the sort that are dropping like flies in the Maywood area. I'll be voting for Joe because I believe that he wants to put an end to the current development frenzy here, by which rental units are being replaced with condos for buyers. “We’d put a moratorium on the Maywood/ Metrotown plan,” he said, suggesting that developers create at least one new rental unit for each one they take away. “If developers want to develop, okay, let’s play some hardball with them and get a real deal, so that people who have lived there forever have somewhere to go. There’s people in the area who have been there for forty years, and they don’t have anywhere to go. They don’t have money. What’s going on right now is so heartless, and the mayor [Corrigan] doesn’t care; he’s proved that again and again. I think people might get it this time. So I might be your new mayor!”

To illustrate the point, here are some photos I snapped on the walk home of the newest building slated to fall. I presume at least some of the graffiti here is from previous tenants, now looking for affordable apartments in Surrey or something. This could be my building - it's five minutes from mine (and from ten other similar three-story walk ups to be demolished in the last few years). 

Crossed by a cat!

Monday, July 02, 2018

Of DOA, Bev Davies, No Fun, and the Fight Back Festival, plus a Joe Keithley interview

So the DOA Fight Back festival is next weekend at the Rickshaw. At the request of my German publishers, Ox Fanzine, a few months ago, I went to Joe's house to interview him about the new album, which (the album, that is, but also the talk) I REALLY enjoyed. Thanks in part to Cecil English, Fight Back is the best-sounding DOA album since the Bob Rock-produced Northern Avenger, and is a lot of fun to listen to (especially a VERY catchy, playful cover of the Johnny Cash/ Bob Dylan classic "Wanted Man," which suits Joe's gravelly growl, and Joe's new song about police violence, "Killer Cops," which just smokes, and makes nice companion piece to "Police Brutality"). The new lineup (with former BC/DC members Paddy Duddy and Mike Hodsall) is perhaps the all-round tightest unit I've seen Joe play with (I never got to see the classic Joe-Randy-Chuck version of the band, note; I have gotten to see him with Randy, which was great, but back then, the drummer - the Great Baldini - was more of a metal-influenced heavy hitter than a master of speed and precision, which is kinda what I prefer with DOA). I am starting to kinda actually LIKE Joe as a human being, having spoken to him enough times now that I kinda am getting a feel for him, and I plan to vote for him when he runs for Mayor of Burnaby come October... so, obviously, I wanted to plug the gig - which also includes a whole host of very fine supporting acts, from Doug Andrew to Ford Pier to Jesse Lebourdais (whose new album, Grief Intensity Friendship, takes its title from an article I wrote about him, for what it's worth; first time that's happened, and yes, he did ask if he could use it!). I don't know a lot of the other bands (tho' I believe Sore Points are the band I saw at Neptoon bustin' out a classic cover of the Subhumans' "Behind the Smile" awhile back, which was pretty cool). I realize it is somewhat scandalous that I haven't paid much attention to Roots Roundup, but I guess I'll see them this weekend... There's also going to be a show of classic punk rock photos from Bev Davies at the event, including a couple of pics I'd never seen before, like this one of a young Ron Reyes (my neighbour of late) with that kinda famous band he was in awhile back... what was their name again?

Black Flag at the Smilin' Buddha, by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

That current Joe Keithley interview, alas, has been spoken for now in English as well as in German, and will be running in some form or another in the next issue of Big Takeover magazine (presently running part two of my big Art Bergmann piece, fyi). I will do SOMETHING to support the show in just a second - putting up a patchwork of old DOA interviews with a couple new quotes to disguise the fact that most of it was conducted ten years ago - but before that, let me make an interesting note: the Fight Back festival will serve to reunite TWO of the bands that played a historical 1978 Georgia Straight Battle of the Bands competition at the Body Shop: NO FUN (in the form of David M.; RIP, Paul Leahy) and DOA.

Some notes on that event from the Triumph of the Ignoroids back cover:

You'll note if you read the fine print that "David M. of No Fun lent the 4-track" on which Triumph of the Ignoroids was recorded. (The same 4-track was also used for some Subhumans practice sessions, I believe it was, for the "Oh Canaduh" single; that tape appears to be lost, though David directs you to bug Colin Griffiths if you want updates on its location; David does not have it). I don't have the wherewithal to do justice to M.'s telling of it, but he has frequently recounted the story of playing that battle of the bands, which also featured, besides DOA and No Fun, another local fave of mine, Doug and the Slugs. Three great bands, and none of them won; to hear M. tell it, the band that did win was a forgettable embarrassment who went on to do pretty much nothing in the Vancouver music scene. (He's told me the name a few times and it just doesn't stick, because I never hear about them elsewise). M. has said on Facebook that he will, in honour of the occasion - a couple weeks past being the 40th anniversary of that Battle of the Bands - play MOSTLY songs that No Fun played that night (which I believe include "Snog" and "Paisley Brain Bolts of the Mind," though he might also do some version, I think he's said, of "Mindless Aggression," since it has some relevance to the punk scene in Vancouver, appearing on both the Vancouver Complication compilation and in Bloodied But Unbowed, and thematically fits with the whole idea of "Fighting Back". He has something he wants to say from the stage, too, but has not spilled what that might be ).

And yes, as you see, David M. has grown a beard. I think it makes him look a bit like Rade Serbedzija, don't you?

But anyhow, as promised, here's a sort of "compilation" of interviews that I did with Joe Keithley. Bits of this have appeared in Razorcake, the Georgia Straight, Ox Fanzine, and the Chinese rock mag Painkiller (I think; they never sent me a copy, but some of what follows was designed to be read by Chinese audiences, as you might figure out). I stole a quote or two that will appear in Big Takeover, too, and tweaked it a bit so it feels a bit more current.

 Joe Keithley with DOA, February 7, 2014; photo by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

Allan: So speaking of the Rickshaw, one of your shows there, not so long ago, was released as Welcome to Chinatown. Why pick that as an album title?

Joe: I thought it was a big reflection on Vancouver in one sense, because the town is changing, and there’s a history: Vancouver was founded as much by Chinese labourers as it was by, y’know, white people - English people, Scottish people, Welsh coalminers and that kind of thing. And the shows were recorded there, at the Rickshaw, and we were hunting around for the title. We had other shows recorded, from Calgary and Edmonton, but when we focused on the title, it was, “okay, let’s do the ones from the Rickshaw.” And that’s basically where we grew up playing music, it was all within two blocks: every bit of trouble we could get into was all in that neighbourhood.

The Smilin’ Buddha is the one famous punk club from that area that I know, but are there are any other venues that were in that neighbourhood?

Yeah, there’s Gombado’s, was one. We used to practice at 343 Railway. And that’s actually about a block from the Japanese Hall, which was where our first show was, basically.

If we could talk about the Buddha - I don’t know the backstory. Why was it called the Smilin’ Buddha? It’s such an Asian name!

Yeah, I don’t know how they came up with that. I think the thing was operating since 1947, maybe even before the war, but not much. That was the original “neon” block. There are cafes, the Balmoral Hotel - that still has a neon sign. But I have no idea why they called the Smilin’ Buddha that, other than it was, you know, a block from Chinatown.

My impression is that there’s a bit of a divide between the punk scene and the Chinese community in the neighbourhood, actually. The only time I usually see Chinese people when I’m at a punk  gig in the eastside is when they’re walking around the punks who are smoking on the sidewalk in front of the venue. Did you ever see Chinese coming in to shows back in the day?

Well, I mean, their kids in that area, of course there were Canadian punks of Chinese descent going to shows, right from day one. Maybe they weren’t the majority of people - the majority of people who went to punk shows in the early days were white people. But besides that - I never felt there was hostility or anything. We lived in that area too, like, the late, great Dave Gregg  lived at the other end of the viaduct, the other end of Chinatown. That was our stomping grounds.

Shall we talk about Dave…?

Absolutely. Dave was a wonderful guy, a really creative guy, a super-sharp sense of humour and - if you pissed him off - sarcasm, right? And he was easy to piss off, because he had, a lot of times, a really set idea of how to do things. But usually he would come up with an idea of how to do things the right way. He was a complete trooper. I didn’t see him much anymore, but I’m going to miss him the same way that I miss Dimwit. When he was really together in the early days, when he was in DOA the first six or seven years, you could count on him for anything, he would just get stuff done. And a lot of ideas that DOA came up with were from Dave and I, late at night, travelling back and forth across North America in the van. Usually him driving, eating sunflower seeds… He was a total trooper, a total talent. He was a raw talent when we first got him, he had a penchant for forgetting arrangements, but after awhile he got solid as a rock, and he was great onstage, too, of course.

I was startled when I saw the rock video for “War” [DOA’s cover of the Edwin Starr anti-war anthem] and realized he was singing the lead a lot on that song.

Yeah, that’s right, that one I would do the verse, and then do the backgrounds in the chorus, and he would do the lead singing in the chorus. It was quite a transition for me. And I didn’t play guitar at all on that song, so later on when we became a three piece I had to figure out how to play the guitar and time ALL the vocals for that song. It was a bit of a learning curve! But it’s funny… we were driving along somewhere, and I always loved that single, ever since I was a kid; and Dave also knew the Temptations version, which I wasn’t really familiar with. I just knew Edwin Starr’s, that had been the big radio hit back in 1967-68, when I was about 12. And one time me and Dave were driving along, and we heard it, and it was, “wow, that would be a fantastic song to cover.” And that’s kind of how [DOA’s 1982 EP] War on 45 came about, because we had that and then [DOA manager Ken] Lester said, why don’t we play [the Dils’] “Class War,” as well. And Stars on 45 was a big album at the time, where they amalgamated Beatles songs with a disco beat behind it. So that’s how we said, “well, it’s War on 45.” You won’t believe how many people told me, “Joe, when I got that 12 inch record, I played it on 33, and I thought, ‘DOA’s finished, listen to how slow they’re playing!’ They didn’t realize it was supposed to be played on 45. One guy the other night told me that, and he said, “I know you’ve probably heard this before,” and I said, “no problem, I always enjoy hearing that, it’s just so fuckin’ funny!”

I don’t think I ever had that problem!

Some people listened to it for days before someone else would come around and say “listen, idiot, put it on 45!”

“The Last Beer," on Fight Back - was that written about Wimpy? Or – I mean, there have been a few people in DOA who have died over the years, but lately there’s been Wimpy, Dave Gregg, and now Brad Kent…?

And Dimwit. Those four, and – it was a tough song. I wrote it in about fifteen minutes, and I cried the entire time. I got the riff, I wrote the lyrics, put it down and went to sleep, and came back the next day, listened to the tape, and went “hm, that’s pretty good.” And I honed it up. I have a hard time talking about those guys.

I think the last time I saw Wimpy at all was at the 2013 DOA farewell show at the Rickshaw, where he got on stage with you and sang “Takin’ Care of Business.”

He was a great guy, and Dave, and Dimwit. [And Brad] had gotten straightened out and was going good, working on music again… Brad I hadn’t hung out with in a long time, but he taught me how to play electric guitar. We were like folkies, we lived out in the country, playing Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. And he came along – he was also from Burnaby, and he listened to us jam and said, “What are you playing that shit for, we’re gonna rock! Joe, you play rhythm, we’re going to play a Status Quo song. I’ll play lead!” He taught me all that kind of stuff – he was a great guy.
Yeah. I believe I met him once, but I never got to see him play. I was thinking about going to see his gig with Monster Baby, and then they were off the bill because he was sick. And then...

It was just tragic.

Dave Gregg with DOA, photo by Bev Davies; not to be reused without permission

If we could go back to Dave Gregg, I was hoping that we could go back to that photo that Bev Davies took of him kneeling with the guitar on fire. What’s the story there?

Yeah, that’s a great one, that’s at San Francisco in 1985, I’d say, at a club called On Broadway, which is upstairs from the Mabuhay Gardens, right in North Beach, in the old strip club area of San Francisco. And the funny thing about that is, Dave would douse it with gasoline, and light it on fire, and then people would scream and holler. But the problem was, he’d done this a number of times, and the wood was really drying out. He throws it on the ground, lights it on fire, and it breaks into about six or seven pieces. So the people in the audience go, “great, what a souvenir!” They grab the pickups, they grab part of the body, grab the neck, and - afterwards Wimpy [AKA mid-period DOA bassist Brian Goble, also singer for the Subhumans] was going, “fuck, Dave, you really lost your cool, it would have been cool if you’d just left it, let the fans have it, but you had to beg them for the parts back!” Hahahaha… and he’s going “fuck you,” right. And then he took the guitar, he got most of the parts back, and they put it together with a steel band around the outside of the body, like on the thin edge, to hold it together. It was a Frankenstein! I don’t know what happened to it.

It was playable?

Yeah, he reconstructed it! He put some money into it and rebuilt it, right.

What kind of guitar was it?

It was a Fender Strat - because Dave idolized Hendrix, just like I did. And what I do now, I do the teeth thing and over the head [ie., playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back]? People think, “oh, it’s a Hendrix copy,” but really it’s a tribute to Dave, because that’s what he did in DOA.

If I could ask... I was thinking about the film American Hardcore, and their thesis seemed to be that one of the things that really caused the political energy of punk to dissipate, in the mid-80’s, was Reagan getting elected a second time. I’m not so sure about that, but... Things certainly seem to lack an edge these days.

Yeah. I don’t think the artists are as powerful or as passionate – that was a unique time. But I don’t think that the politics of punk or hardcore punk – whatever you want to call it – dissipated because he got elected a second time. Fuck, the one more term of Reagan was even worse! He became more obnoxious as time went on. It sorta like intensified the thing, right? I think what happened – why the hardcore scene split and changed – is that you started to get a lot of bands like the Cro-Mags, or whatever, that started to get a real skinhead thing. And not the SHARPS, but the dumb ones, right... And so that made for a period where – like, we were playing these shows all over the place where it’s just like, fuck, we had nothing but fighting with these fuckin’ guys, these racists, right? And sometimes they’d hold a mini-racist-type rally in front of the show. And I think at that point that’s when a lot of people didn’t want to go to punk rock shows anymore. Rather than getting pushed around in the pit and having a great time, and somebody would eventually pick you up if you fell, it changed and you’d fall down and somebody would try to put the boots to you. And I think that happened much more so in the United States than it did in Canada, ‘cos I remember we had nothin’ but fuckin’ troubles in San Francisco, in Denver, in Houston... in a half-dozen other towns down there, where the racists would just come and start shit. To us, that was the antithesis of punk rock... I mean, think of the shows we used to do here. It’d be the Pointed Sticks and DOA and U-J3RK5 – that’d be a big variation! That’s a quite a few years before 86-87, but having this variation, and having a kind of fun aspect to it, and also a political liberalizing/ revolutionary nature, that drew in a lot of different elements that made it really really interesting.  When the music kind of hardened, when it crossed over to the hardcore and you got a bit more of the metal influence, and drew this kind of “dumb factor,” shall we say, that made it a lot less interesting and a lot less pleasant to go to these shows. So that’s to me kinda what happened. The whole underground thing about being political never really died, it’s just never quite come to the forefront like it did in those days...


To me, that’s kinda the message for younger artists today, that if you get these kinda pop-punk bands and bands on the Warped Tour and MTV and Much Music – if they got off their ass and really pushed some stuff, if these guys kinda used the power and the energy the way guys like Jimi Hendrix did, when you’re a really popular artist, you can change a lot of things. I think that if you have that ability, fuck, you should use it! 

Joe gets his star on the sidewalk, photo by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

How do you label yourself, politically, anyhow? Do you consider yourself an anarchist?

Basically, I’m just a free thinker that believes in promoting people power. I don’t really nail myself down - I believe in democracy; I’ve got a great deal of respect for anarchist theorists, who have come up with some really unique ways of looking at the world and tried to help people with their lives, and help their towns, and stuff like that, but I definitely am a voting/ democracy guy. That leaves me out of the anarchist bunch. But there’s definitely respect there, depending on what form they come in. The ones that are thinking and have done good things, they’re really misunderstood and castigated in the press, but there’s a great deal of difference between the punk that gets drunk and throws a bottle and calls himself an anarchist and Bakunin or someone like that.

If I can ask a question from the old days, relating to DOA’s old slogan, “Talk – Action = O...” I’m pretty fascinated by the history of the Squamish Five (an activist group responsible for bombings and vandalism, arrested in 1983. Subhumans bassist and songwriter Gerry Hannah, a friend of Joe’s, had gone underground to join the group, after having left the Subhumans some years previously).

It’s pretty interesting, for sure.

And of course, they went by the name Direct Action. I was talking to Glen Sanford, the filmmaker who made the documentary about Gerry, Useless, and he says he saw around town variations on that, reading, “Talk – Direct Action = O.” I was wondering if we could talk about that...  

Well, just to clarify how that came about, “Direct Action” came before our slogan, because it was in 1979 and 1980 that two banks and three government buildings got firebombed, right? The police and CLEU – the Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit, the same people that botched the handling of the Air India case, along with the RCMP – they never really came up with an answer to that, or if they did they made some kind of side deal with whoever was involved and it never came out in public. But this group would send communiqués to the Sun, the Province, and the Straight, and they called themselves Direct Action. And then we saw the slogan, it was on the front of this anarchist magazine called Open Road – a pretty good magazine – and Ken Lester thought this is perfect for DOA, and we kinda just asked them if we can use this slogan, and they went yeah, sure sure, type thing. I guess it was War on 45, when it appeared on the back cover, and then we started using it a lot after that....

How much were you actually a supporter of the Five, though?

Well, if people are being really downtrodden, sometimes they gotta fight back, but to me, the most effective guy ever at fightin’ back was, y’know, Mahatma Gandhi, for example, or a guy who fought back against extreme conditions, and had peaceful protests that sometimes went violent, look at South Africa and apartheid: Nelson Mandela. So – to me, that’s the kind of action where they would just take a strike and try to make the government change the rules, and to me I kind of always envisioned that, as opposed to going and blowing stuff up.

I really admired how DOA and other local bands rallied around Gerry, though. (DOA released the Right To Be Wild benefit single and wrote the songs “Burn It Down” and “Trial By Media” in reaction to the Five’s arrest). I mean, it sucks that people got hurt. But it was good to see the scene supporting its own.

Absolutely, we did lots of fundraisers for him and put out the single... When we got the story we were in Detroit. We were just sittin’ around, “Oh, what’s Gerry doin’”, and about two hours later Ken phoned, “Gerry’s been arrested on this highway in Squamish,” that kinda thing, and then there was all this sensationalist news coverage – they had the cache of weapons they had stashed, or whatever. We didn’t know what was really true, so it seemed at the time that they would have a really hard time getting a fair trial. And that was a lot of the impetus for doing fundraising for them. Now, don’t get me wrong, the points they were making – talking about Litton weapons systems being morally wrong, about people destroying the environment and propagating violence against women – yeah, those were the right causes. They were fighting against things that were totally fucked. And people still are – this is the whole anti-war thing, anti-globalization thing, the degradation of the environment – these are things that, if anything, have gotten worse, not better. But I would not say then that I thought, “this is the way to go fight the man!’ I never really felt that way, but I thought Gerry’s one of my best friends, and we should go support him. And they made some good points.

I actually interviewed Terry Chikowski, the guy who was blown up at Litton.

Yeah, he was in hospital for quite awhile.

I know Gerry wasn’t part of that particular action, but still, it’s heartbreaking, because I mean, I thought this would be moving to you in particular, because one of the main effects is, he can’t play hockey anymore, as the result of his injuries. He used to be a coach. [Joey Shithead is a known hockey enthusiast and sometimes player].

Yeah. That’s a lousy thing, you’re takin a real chance, right. I mean, they phoned a warning in, but I mean, things like that are always screwed up, right, someone diverts the phone call the wrong way or they don’t call in time or they don’t take it seriously, or whatever, right? You can’t take a chance on blowing somebody up... You gotta get a whole bunch of people to agree with you, to change things. If you can empower people and get them thinking and working together, you can change the fucking world... But there’s gotta be respect for other people and their lives.

I agree, but with songs like “Burn It Down,” I mean... is this what you thought back then, in the time after the Five were arrested?

I don’t know if I totally remember, right? Everything’s just kind of an impression as it goes by... It was like a big event; we never had anything like this happen in Canada for years. It’s hard to say EXACTLY what I thought then, but I don’t think I believed it was right at the time, to blow things up. 

"Burn It Down" doesn't appear on your set very often these days. 

We actually practiced that one. It may come out soon – we haven’t played it in a long time. A lot of people ask for that one. 

Jon Card was telling me that for awhile around that time, the Vancouver police were really targeting punks – he said that they actually kicked Ken Lester’s door in, looking for weapons.

Yeah, when that firebombing stuff happened, like, in ‘79 and ‘80, then mysteriously, you couldn’t play anywhere. All the clubs we used to play at like the Windmill and the Buddha and a few other ones around town, all of a sudden said, ‘no no no, can’t book you, can’t book you.’ So then we started doing shows at little halls out the ‘burbs. It was never completely confirmed, but the police suspected this as being the anarchist gathering place. I guess this is early 1980, late ‘80, or something like that, and what was Richard’s on Richards was called the Laundromat, for about eight, nine months or somethin’ like that. And it got to the point where I know a bunch of people who claim for sure that the police rented a place across the street, like, the CLEU guys, and videotaped everybody goin’ in or out, so they could get a profile of everyone who would go to this kind of anarchistic punk rock gathering. It was like a DOA show, right. But as far as being directly hassled – I kinda only vaguely remember the thing about Ken’s place, but I can see that happening.

DOA by Bev Davies, 10th Street Hall San Francisco, April 11th, 1981; not to be reused without permission (Bev says "Joe is wearing his built like a Mack truck" shirt). 

Did you have any problems with being investigated or such? 

I never got directly hassled. I mean, I wasn’t around town a lot. In those days we toured constantly. We always suspected our phone was tapped, type thing. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.

There was a period right after that when the mood was pretty intense, locally. Where it seemed like shit might actually start happening, around the time of the “General Strike” single and just before...

I still believe that was a good period, when people really expressed themselves, and I was very proud to be part of that – and I still believe if you can upset the apple cart, that’s a good thing.

Do you think that the Squamish Five getting arrested had anything to do with taking the wind out of the sails of political punk? It wasn’t a very inspiring thing to happen. Stand up against the man and go to jail. 

No, to me, because not long after that – that happened in January of ’83 and the potential general strike thing happened in BC in ‘83, and in ‘84 and ‘85 and through the ‘90s, for us personally, as DOA, we started going to Europe a lot, and the places we would play would be these big factories that punks and leftists and anarchists had squatted and turned into their own place and didn’t pay any rent on, right, and they had these fantastic places where they’d have concert halls and workshops and little mini-schools and libraries, and we were goin’ fuck, this is the way to go, if you could do this in North America, right? And it was really confrontational, too. We stayed in this one place in Denmark where you couldn’t get in through the front of the building. You had to walk in through the back alley, and then climb over this wall, and inside the first wall was a big pile of rocks and bricks. I looked and said, “What’s that for?” and the guy said, “That’s our first line of defence, when the police come.” (Laughs). Then we walked across this big open courtyard and climbed up this big steel ladder, and went into the squat, and they could pull the ladder up and bolt the door closed. He said, “That’s the second line of defence, when the police come – then we just rain this shit down on their heads!” Y’know, when they come to try to kick them out. And to me I went wow... And a lot of them were punks, or were slightly sympathetic to it. So in certain areas, it got more confrontational, and it had a real point. And like I said, these guys had a real productive nature to it – it wasn’t just about chuckin’ a brick or somethin’ like that.

Is it still that confrontational?

Not so much anymore. The squat scene is not as big as it used to be. It used to be more fun to play there, cos we’d play these big giant squats, or little ones, or anything in between... The music scene is the same as here. The punk rock scene is still goin’, but is not as volatile. Things are more calm than they used to be, so things are not as much fun. We used to say, with DOA – our template for like a good place to visit was like, we hated anyplace that was really organized, because there was no chance of chaos or anarchy. We always liked Germany, Italy and England, because the punks were always in some sort of confrontation or doing these anti-nuclear demonstrations, and you just kinda got caught up in it, right? You have to have chaos in order to have a good DOA show, is what I’m sayin’. That’s the mathematical formula.

Tell me about the back cover of Something Better Change... What’s the story there? (The cover shows a very pissed off guy charging a falling cop with both fists raised).

I don’t know who took the photo, I don’t know who the guy is, and I don’t know who the cop is, but it’s like... when Charles de Gaulle came to Quebec in 1968 or ‘69 on St. Jean Baptiste Day, and went, “Vive le Quebec liberte,” like, Free Quebec, like, a “fuck you Canada” type thing, a riot broke out and I guess the RCMP tried to bust it up and were unsuccessful, obviously, at least based on that photo, so... It’s a fuckin’ great picture, and Kenny came up and said, hey, it’s a great picture, and it kinda fit in with the theme, ‘cos the photo on the front is pretty cool – let’s stick this black flag up on there, so you got the anarchist flag type thing, so it kinda tied in.

John Armstrong has the joke in his book, Guilty of Everything: “How many punks does it take to change a lightbulb?” And the answer is, “Punks can’t change anything.” Do you feel like DOA has been able to accomplish anything politically?

John’s a really funny guy and he’s got a great wit and sense of humour and stuff like that, right, so, but to me, comin’ from being an activist for half my life or more, you CAN change things – it can be incremental, small changes, right, where you go out and do a kind action to help somebody, or you go out and you raise some shit. As far as things I’ve been directly involved in, I remember goin’ to a bus fare protest with Gerry and I and a bunch of our people, and we sat there and blocked the buses on Burrard Street and stuff like that, and the bus drivers got fuckin’ pissed off, and yelled and swore at us, and then we’d go on the buses and not pay, because of the fuckin’ fare increase, and they’d all be mad... Stuff like that, to me, is really effective, because it got, like, a lot of notoriety. I’m not sure if it slowed down the fare hikes, but it certainly made people a lot more aware that transportation for people without money is a right. How can you get to work if you have no money, type thing, how can you get to school? And stuff like that I thought was really cool... Then there was one show we did – Randy Bachman organized it, I guess this was at the Commodore, I guess about ‘88 or something like that, ‘87, maybe – it was us and Randy Bachman and a couple of other bands, maybe even 54-40, and it raised a bunch of money and the money went to Oxfam, and they used the money to help buy an ambulance to put in Soweto, South Africa. Okay, we didn’t change the world, we didn’t raise ten million dollars like Bob Geldof or something like that, but this is a way of showing people that you care, or if you do a little thing, that can help people along... I can’t think of half the things we did. Another one we really liked – Terry Jacks was doing this thing, like about ’88-‘89, about uh, pollution from pulp and paper mills in British Columbia, and about how cancer rates were higher in the areas with the mills and crustacean life was getting mutated because of the effluence in the water and the air. So we ended up organizing this benefit – (former Quintessence Records employee) Dale Wiese, it was actually his idea - and I contacted Terry, and strangely enough we ended up meeting with Bruce Allen, and we did this show with Bryan Adams, BTO, Terry Jacks and DOA, a REALLY strange combo, and that helped create so much press... I’m not sayin’ we did it alone, I’m not tryin’ to claim this at all, but eventually even the (right-wing) Social Credit government tightened up the rules on the kind of effluence that could come out of the plants, or the amount. And to me, that’s kinda how you change things. People thought, wow, is that ever weird, DOA with Bryan Adams, and yeah, is that ever weird, but it had a very good effect, cause we were able to parlay Adams’ superstar status into a good cause...

One last question – working with Cecil English.

Yeah, good point, thank you. We went through a bunch of choices – we threw around some bigger names we thought we might be able to get to produce the album; it’s for DOA’s 40th anniversary, so let’s make this a good one, right? And one of the guy’s names that came up was Cecil. I hadn’t talked with him for a long time, but he mixed a show for us at the Smilin’ Buddha. And it came up – “let’s do some recording” - and Cecil was into it. I’m real glad, because he’s got a real ear, a real skill level. He did stuff like, for each song, he’d listen to the notes a little bit, we’d play a bit, and we’d have six different snare drums with us. And he’d go, “Paddy, why don’t you try this one here, or try that one.” We’d play the song with that snare drum, and he’d go, “no, that’s not right.” And he’d get us to tune it up again, and he’d go “yeah, it suits the mood of the song.” Like, for “The Last Beer,” let’s get a melancholy-type snare drum, and for “Killer Cops,” we want a super-aggressive, I’m-gonna-rip-your-face-off-type sounding snare drum… And most people not being drummers or musicians wouldn’t pick up on that. But to us it made a lot of sense. He had all sorts of good suggestions about parts – “you guys gotta try this.” We’ve worked together on seven or eight albums, and we don’t always see eye to eye, but we gave everything a go, and tried it. He came to a bunch of pre-rehearsals for the record, too, to see what things would be like.

The album has a really nice cohesion to it.

It took us awhile. We had the first five, which Cecil and I mixed – well, Cecil mixed, and I put in my two cents; I didn’t do the mixing. But we got the first five, we kept going at them for weeks and weeks, going round and round, changing things – changing the order of the songs, or the vocals need to be louder here, or we need to change the sound of the bass. It was an interesting process. We really focused on those five, up to the end of “Just Got Back from the USA,” and when we were finally happy with them, we mixed everything else. It went really quick, because we had our templates. And the one song we kept coming back to was “Killer Cops.” That’s a great mix, that we compared, we A-B’d everything to that. Cecil has made some really wonderful records – Last Scream, Wrong, stuff for the Dayglos. It was really fun to work with him again.