Saturday, June 10, 2023

The Brother variations: finger cuttings, disembowelings, censorship, and hilarious text on two Takeshi Kitano bootlegs

Sometimes there is a respectable cinephilic reason to seek out a Chinese bootleg of a movie. The best case in point I can offer - besides the obvious one of Asian films that aren't even available in North America - is probably Takeshi Kitano's 2000 film Brother: while I haven't consulted the North American version in quite some time, as I recall, it censors the "guts" of a disemboweling and parts of a subsequent finger-cutting that take place starting at about at the 1 hour 16 minute mark. There may be other scenes that are changed - I think a blood spatter is darkened, too, at one point, so it looks a bit less shocking - but chopping out parts of this near-climactic moment always pissed me off. The scene is necessarily bloody, essential to the plot, and very powerful; sanitizing the gore also sanitizes the emotions behind the scene, in which an honorable Yakuza, upset at discussion of betraying his brother, asserts to a thug named Matsumoto not only that Matsumoto is wrong, but that said honorable Yakuza will demonstrate his sincerity by cutting his own belly open (the ultimate "we mean it, maaan" in Japan. You've probably heard it said that "seppuku" is the proper term for this, but I only ever heard it described as hara-kiri - literally, belly cutting - when I lived over there; there's also an idiom, "jibara-o-kirimasu," which literally equates cutting upon your belly with opening your wallet, meaning basically "to pay for dinner!"). I had seen the film theatrically, first-run, in a theatre in the Kabukicho district of Tokyo in 2000, and was startled by how powerful the moment was; coming home, I bought it on DVD, and was very, very disappointed that you only get the briefest glimpse of what is going on in the American version. Screencaps from the original follow...

Intensity is followed by intensity, in the original. As the gangster is carried out, intestines dangling, the oyabun - the clan boss - demands Matsumoto atone for his wrongdoing by chopping off his little finger - a traditional mode of apologizing amongst gangsters over there. In these zombie-gore times, it is hard to imagine how, um, gutless the American distributors of the film must have been to tone down this scene. Sure, it's an intense moment, but it's a Japanese Yakuza movie, for godsake. Nothing says "Yakuza" like this odd cultural practice. Plus the actual finger cutting doesn't even occur onscreen!

So point the first: make sure you get the right version of the film, if you're shopping for it on DVD. The one to avoid has this cover:

Both Chinese versions of the film I've encountered have the whole scene, so presumably any version that looks like this will serve:

There is an added bonus, however, to buying the unofficial versions of the film: in both cases, the English description is mangled. The one on the left is actually pretty accurate in its plot description, and only suffers from a missing verb and a missing article, which is not bad at all for a Chinese boot (it reads, "Abandoned by the brotherhood of his yakuza clan, tough guy Yamamoto is forced to leave Tokyo. He flees to Los Angeles and finds himself quickly back into the routine violence of his old Tokyo life there. Before long, his gang grows in number. Business flourishes, money flows. Soon after he starts an all-out war against Mafia, his brothers betray him again..."). There is, on the front, a bizarre, place-filling "QIWYREI Through AETRAF AIE!" at the bottom, which as far as I know means nothing in any language at all. But the version on the right - the one featuring both French and German on the front cover - gets full-on surreal in its English.

First off - you might have a hard time reading this - the credits for the film are actually for Patton. The top plot description is from a negative review of 3000 Miles to Graceland, with Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell as Elvis impersonators. Like George C. Scott and Karl Malden in the Patton credits below, Costner and Russell have absolutely nothing to do with Brother. The text reads, in complete:

the many gapsin the story -- which certainly looks like it might have been fascinating and provocative in an early script form wo tell us how often Lichtenstein drops the ball on fundamentals yet isn't worried that views will demand their money back. Here is what we know Two career crimnals, pragmatic Michael and psychopathic Murphy (Kevin Costner), meet in prison.

But wait, there's more! See the text box below the credits?  - the place where you might expect to read about standard and widescreen versions on a vintage DVD? ...It's actually a plot description of the film Monkeybone

On the plot level, it's about a cartoonist, Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser), whose comic character Monkeybone is about to make him a rich man. But Stu is a depressive art type; his black-and-white sketches look like storyboards for a Kafka biography. On the night he plans to propose marriage to girlfriend Julie (Bridget Fonda), a car accident puts him in a coma. Naturally, we journey with him to the strange half-world of his mind: Downtown, a loading zone between heaven and hell, where (oddly enough, for the purposes of the film's entertainment value) not a great deal happens.

...which is at least grammatical, but again, has nothing to do with Brother. It appears to have been just randomly cut-and-pasted for the benefit of people who cannot read English, to just give the box art at least the appearance of English, because that somehow validates the product, I guess. It's something I saw often in Japan; I remember buying a lamp, I think it was, that came with a sticker on the bottom with a chunk of random English text taken from a description of a soccer match. As long as the text they insert "looks English," it's enough, even if it's not about the right movie (though one wonders if any Chinese purchasers of Brother who WERE able to read the English were upset to get the film home and discover it doesn't feature George C. Scott, Brendan Fraser, and Kevin Costner in it? The actual cast members are not mentioned, at least not in the English text). 

Fun, eh? Vive le boot, tho' now that I see that there is a Japanese blu of it that might just play over here, maybe I am duty bound to upgrade. Presumably this is the full film! It's not Takeshi's best film, but it was the first of his I ever saw, so I'm pretty fond of it...

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Elvis Costello and the Imposters Vancouver concert review: "We're All Going on a Summer Holiday" tour kickoff at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, featuring Nick Lowe Y Los Straitjackets

All concert photos by Allan MacInnis, not to be reused without permission

Errata Alert: Oops, I somehow got "Girls Talk" confused with "Little Triggers." As commenter Charles notes, "Little Triggers" was not performed. My bad!

I once interviewed the singer of a long-lived rock band who have a few hits that they are pretty much expected to play at every show. I asked him if he ever got sick of being expected to play these songs, and he responded very much in the negative, saying that no, that they're great crowd-pleasing songs that make everyone happy, that he was grateful to be able to play. "Isn't it tough to keep them fresh, as musicians?" I asked, whereupon he went on a wee rant about Van Morrison, whom he had seen not too long ago. Morrison - I had left him out of previous versions of this story, because the singer didn't want to create bad blood, but here I'll do the opposite and leave out the singer's name - had played radically rearranged versions of his hits live, barely recognizable reconfigurations of them. Why the hell would you mess with hits, this singer had wondered aloud, seeming sincerely baffled and frustrated. People want to hear the song like they remember it, to sing along with it. Don't confuse them! Play it like people know it!

Elvis Costello and the Imposters sure did not do this last night. They didn't depart TOO far from the range of normal, mind you; I'm not sure how messed-up Van Morrison's re-arrangments had been at said show, but the only songs I did not recognize last night were songs I did not, in fact, know (like "Watch Your Step," which Sneaky Dragon podcaster David Dedrick pointed out to me later as having been a deep dive off the album Trust). But faithful replications of the hits they were most definitely NOT, from the very outset, kicking off with a strange, shimmery "Green Shirt," which I didn't even recognize til the chorus; a highly off-kilter take on "The Beat," from which the tour took its name; and a slowed-down, grooved-up, swinging reworking of "Hetty O'Hara Confidential," the night's third tune, which I enjoyed even more than the studio version, I think, and which was the point in the evening where - having had to overcome a few distractions - I really began to enjoy myself, the song that decisively delivered me from the fear that I was not gonna connect with the night (which does sometimes happen), to a happy place of trust, confidence, and frequent joy. We also were treated to a much spacier, stranger, menacingly expanded take on "Watching the Detectives;" a "Newspaper Pane" that I mistook at first for "We're All Cowards Now," and which my wife later did not believe we had heard, when I played her a snippet from Hey Clockface, later on in the car; a song that I would not, without knowing the lyrics, have mistook for "Waiting for the End of the World," which had the most purposive alteration of the night, with Costello hanging up his delivery after "Waiting" for a few seconds before completing the phrase, so that the word "waiting" left us waiting - ha!; and perhaps most entertainingly, a mashup between "Welcome to the Working Week" and Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues," with Costello alternating verses, singing first his song then Haggard's, back and forth through both songs, making the very short original into a satisfying four-minute meal (a fine idea, and the song last night that probably made the best use of Charlie Sexton's twang). Costello even explained the logic of the approach during one of his between-song engagements with the audience, saying "We are not on a Golden Oldy tour, we are on a summer holiday from ourselves," elsewhere quipping about how they were altering the songs in "foolish and fantastic ways." I did not feel like we'd gotten a heads up that that was what a "summer holiday" meant to the band; seeing ads with "We're All Going on a Summer Holiday," I had figured that a summer holiday would entail exactly the opposite, a crowd-pleasing greatest hits package! 

...which means, sorry to say, that I'm pretty sure there were some folks who were lost and alienated by the evening, maybe even pissed-off ("Costello Offers Weird-Ass Revisionist Interpretations and Unfamiliar Tunes to a Polite but Confused Full House," a cranky headline might read; it would indeed be an easy and fair angle on the evening. I'll be looking around to see if anyone wrote that article, in fact - Mike Usinger, perhaps? Surely he was there?).

But (sorry) to heck with those people; if that's as far as they're prepared to go with an artist, they should stick to wax museums. I loved all of the above, loved how playful and creative Costello's reworkings were, how fresh he kept the songs, how much trust he had in his fans. I might not have dug said Van Morrison gig, I dunno - wasn't there - but I recall seeing Bob Dylan in Japan - coincidentally, also with Charlie Sexton, visible to the right of the pic above, as Dylan's guitarist - and actually being disappointed that Dylan played boringly faithful and professional renditions of his songs, contrary to his usual reputation; one highly foreshortened "Desolation Row" aside, you could have just stayed home and listened to the albums. Blech! I LIKE the idea that, say, last night's version of "Girl's Talk" - another tune that it took me awhile to recognize - was maybe the only time I would ever hear the song rendered thus, LIKE that Costello and company kept things fresh and fun for themselves. This tour would make a fantastic live album, at least for fans like me. What's the point of a live album if it's not different from the original? Last night's show (or a show documenting the best performances of the completed tour, which I gather will continue in this vein) would be a must-buy, for me. And if you were the type of person who delighted to hear the Spanish alterations of the songs on This Year's Model that Costello released as Spanish Model (sadly not on the merchtable, which was dominated, in terms of vinyl, with an album of French reworkings of Costello and Lowe songs - not sure what that was - and a big stack of Hey Clockfaces), you probably would dig it too...

"Dial M for Merch": a David M. selfie at the merch table: Allan-Erika-Danielle-David

David M. (of NO FUN) had as much fun as I did, or possibly even MORE, writing afterwards that, while acknowledging that "the 'I-want-the-hits-played-the-way-I-know-them-because-I-paid-big-bucks' people do have a point," last night was his kind of show, with "lots of variables in play. New arrangements, new songs, improvised bits, audio problems, stagecraft issues, etc. Great musicians overcome these things and if you're lucky you get a show unlike any other. That's what I like in a concert. Perfect performances that sound just like the hit recordings are nice too, but I like not knowing what's going to happen before it happens. Once-in-a-lifetime shows are what I'm always hoping for."

Amen! And Costello was also a fine host for the proceedings. While I sadly can't do justice to the very funny anecdote that he told, that yoked listening to Neil Young and David Bowie on Radio Luxembourg after the BBC went to sleep to a story about buying his first Bruce Springsteen album, it was the best bit of between-song business of the night, which also saw him teasing out similarities between "Born to Run" and "Radio Radio," which I certainly hadn't noticed before; that song ("Radio Radio;" no Bruce was covered) got me dancin' in my seat, even if it wasn't exactly like you hear on This Year's Model. Surely moments like that hooked in even the more conservative listeners?

Oh, and we got treated to two new songs - an unreleased ragtime gospel item called "Blood and Hot Sauce" that Costello sang on piano, as the first song of the encore, which has been around since at least 2016, which Costello's intro seemed to suggest was election-trail themed (can't do it justice, but he seemed to be referring to a certain recent US President, whose name I don't even want to write, anymore); and a song called "Clown Around Town," or something like that ("Do you want to hear a new song," he asked us, and got a kind of muttered, lowercase "yaah" in response, to which he responded that we hadn't been enthusiastic enough, and asked us again, to predictably bigger cheers). I can't describe it, really, but it was a good'un, and probably means I'll buy his next album, too. My Youtube research does seem to suggest we were the first full audience EVER to hear that song. How can you not love a treat like that? 

There WERE some things I did not love about last night, mind you, most of which I don't place on Costello, from the overall sound in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre - only really clear up front, shockingly cavernous and concrete-boxy from midway back, with Steve Nieve's keys sometimes seeming very sharp and everyone's vocals sounding a bit too echoey - to the butt-pinching seats (my wife and I were in thigh agony, no one having tipped us to the alternating wide-and-skinny-row aisle seat arrangements, so we got stuck, so to speak, in narrowsville; we ended up having to move back to the accessibility area, facilitated by the Queen E. staff, because, not ourselves narrow, we were in agony. It put a big note-to-self on the night to avoid the venue for any future shows). There's no explaining the sound issues, which I was not the only one who noticed (and don't mesh with what other friends are saying on Facebook about the sound quality of the space on past shows; Bryan Ferry apparently had sounded superb); it doesn't seem to have been the band's fault, since they'd been rehearsing there for a couple of days, we were told. But some of it DOES reflect on the band: considering it is the song that the tour title came from, I thought the electric bass was way too loud on "The Beat," which sounded so wrong that I was terrified that I wasn't going to enjoy the night at all, before being completely seduced and delighted by that aforesaid swingin' "Hetty O' Hara Confidential." Alas, I also thought that three songs near the end of the main set were very weirdly wrong-sounding, especially a godawful "Town Cryer" - feckin' tune yer guitar, mate! - which was appropriate indeed for Costello to include in a Canadian concert, given that the Tragically Hip took their name from it, but which sounded so screwed up I used it as an excuse for a bathroom break; and a main-set-closing version of Costello's Burt Bacharach collaboration "Toledo," which, despite a moving intro from Costello about getting the news that Bacharach had died, was tied with "Town Cryer" for least listenable song of the night, not at all aided, for me, by the fact that I hardly know the original (I still haven't dug into his Bacharach collabs). It does suggest people with only a nodding familiarity with the man's songbook would have a harder time of things. My wife - who doesn't know Costello's catalogue nearly as well as I do - thought Costello's voice was completely off for that one, but I couldn't make sense of any of it either, neither the vocals or what the band was doing musically. "He does do jazzy stuff with his vocals," I said with a shrug, when she remarked upon it. "Maybe he means for it to sound that way?" But I didn't care for it either, nor the song that came between the two, a cover of Cat Stevens' "The First Cut is the Deepest," which Costello also altered a bit for his presentation (which weirdly seemed less welcome, though I can't justify my thinking here: "Mess with your OWN hits, but be faithful to the covers"? Is that even rational?). That song had a really great passage at the end, though, where the band fell away - maybe there was some gentle mallet work from Pete Thomas? - and Costello brooded movingly over the chorus, so it was better than either the song before or after it.

I was also utterly shocked to realize at the end of the night that Costello and company had COMPLETELY DITCHED The Boy Named If, which dominated their last tour; I've fallen in love with that album, and figured it would be amply represented, but unless I'm mis-remembering, there was not a trace of it in the setlist (!!!). Nor was there an "Alison" (which I figured was an obligatory signature tune) or a "Pump It Up," neither of which, I'm guessing, feel like a "holiday" for the band to play at this point. Which is fine with me - I'd rather hear "Waiting for the End of the World" and "Welcome to the Working Week" off the first album, anyhow, than "Alison," and I NEVER want to hear a song that's become a slog (like that bored, hurried, get-this-over-with Lou Reed encore I often mention, also from Japan, where he obligingly trudged out "Walk on the Wild Side," "Perfect Day," and "Sweet Jane," while obviously wishing he was anywhere else); but my wife, in fact, was not the only person I spoke to who wasn't all that thrilled with not recognizing half the songs, either because they were deep dives (another one being "When I Was Cruel No. 2," with expanded "Dancing Queen" quote) or had been radically reworked. If M and I are on one end of the spectrum, as neophiles, there were definitely people I spoke to afterwards who were on the other ("though I DID like that 'Watching the Detectives,'" one friend, who shall go nameless, observed, who otherwise had thought it was a so-so night. My wife liked that one, too!).  

Does this make you all want to go see Elvis Costello on this tour? I hope so, myself, but fair warning, if not. I loved it, and am so happy to have had cause to dig into Costello's recent albums, because I'd been missing out - A Boy Named If and Hey Clockface are now both up there with my very faves of his. But if you don't know your stuff - if you only have one Elvis Costello album, and it's a greatest hits compilation, and if you're like the singer who could not STAND that Van Morrison show I mentioned, you might not want to invest in this tour. Or start doing your homework now, if you already have your tickets! 

...though I think even the most casual fan would have gotten off on seeing Nick Lowe join Costello onstage at the end of the night. Lowe's opening set had been a bit more conventional than his headlining friend's, including some of his biggest, most obvious hits ("Cruel to Be Kind," "Half a Man and Half a Boy," "I Knew the Bride"), a couple of charming Los Straitjackets instrumentals, and a really fun, faithful reading of my favourite recent tune by him, "Tokyo Bay" (that guy who whooped loudly when he announced it was me, btw; sorry if it startled you!). He also had to be polite and charming through the sad spectacle of people navigating their way through the QE's narrow aisles, joking more than once that his role was to get everyone seated (though he was a gentleman, not embittered, about it) Nick, you should know that more than one person was more excited about seeing you than Elvis, and delighted at your own deep dive, "I Live on a Battlefield;" I also really dug his newish song, I think, "Lately I've Let Things Slide." But - tho' the older, kinda boomerific audience had stayed seated for most of the night, Lowe coming out at the very end, for the last two songs of Costello's encore, got most of the floor on its feet (finally), and gave me an excuse to come down the aisle so I could actually DANCE to the big show closer, which, obviously, was an utterly faithful, powerhouse version of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding?" - probably the least re-worked song of the night and a real treat to bounce around to. Even that was preceded, however, by a very reworked duet of "Indoor Fireworks," which is apparently (M. tells me) a song Lowe, Costello, and indeed, M. himself all have versions of, but which I don't know so well. "This version had stretched-out lyrics," M. reports, "so each line was twice the regular length. Fantastic... Nick Lowe clearly wasn't expecting an altered version, be he caught on quick."   

My compliments, Mr. Costello - M. is a bit on the hard-to-please side, and I can be a cranky SOB as well, especially when my ass is sore from shitty seating and I feel like I'm in a concrete echo chamber. But M and I had the time of our lives last night, and I'm gonna be rushing out to buy Trust and Spanish Model now (no, no songs were sung in Spanish, though Lowe did close "Tokyo Bay" with a domo arigatoo, and someone - Lowe? Costello? - said a few things in French, at some point, though I forget who or what.) I've wanted to see Elvis Costello since I saw him at that Hal Willner Neil Young thing, and while last night's experience was satisfying - hell, WONDERFUL - enough that I feel like I have now scratched that itch, if he played again next month, I'd be there. (Maybe not if it were at the QE, tho').

Thanks, Elvis Costello & the Imposters! Thanks, Nick Lowe! Thanks, David M.! Whatta great night!

PS: complete setlist here - I must have been in the bathroom for "Love in Mind."

Friday, June 02, 2023

Iranian punk rock T-shirt WTF moment!: Dumb things that make me REALLY HAPPY

So I'm coming home from work and, as we disembark from the Skytrain, see a casually-dressed family of three (or four? Were there two kids, or one?) heading for the escalator, and the guy, who looks no more like a punk than I do, these days, is wearing a t-shirt that reads PUNKS...

...and with apologies to the Lewd and Joe Keithley (repped on the shirt with the proto-DOA Skulls and mention of his previous alias, Joey Shithead), my eyes immediately go to the name of one band on it, the Furies - from back in the day when the Furies got bigger billing than Joe! (Not many gigs like that). I have seen the Furies many times and written about them fairly often, too - and I've even seen them share a bill with DOA - but never have I seen a Furies t-shirt before. I think the handwriting may even be that of frontman Chris Arnett. I follow after him, noticing the Lewd, as well.

"Hey, man!" I say happily. He turns to face me on the down escalator. "Cool shirt! I know the main guy in that band" (pointing at the Furies, because like I say, I haven't seen Joe's name yet). "Where did you get that?"

He looks at me, giving the universal not-from-around-here smile-and-head-shake, the one that translates into, "I know you are being friendly, but I have no clue what you just said." (I availed myself of this gesture in Japan many times; it is, blessedly, universal).

I point: "That shirt." I look around theatrically: "Where?" Then I make what I hope isn't a rude hand gesture in whatever country they are from, rubbing my thumb and fingers together: "Buy?"

The woman, who I guess has better English than her husband, says politely, "We are not from here. We buy this in our country."

I can tell she doesn't want to say what her country is, but I must press; I say in as friendly a way as I can, "And your country is..."

"We are from Iran." Kind of apologetically, which I feel bad about. Maybe she thinks we're all Islamophobes over here? In fact, I am predisposed to like Iranians, having enjoyed many films from their country and worked with and/or taught or tutored many immigrants from there. It seems like it is best to leave this unexplained.

...and I do not even try to convey to her that this random encounter and newfound knowledge that THERE ARE IRANIANS BOOTLEGGING LEWD/ FURIES/ SKULLS GIG POSTERS is probably the single most delightful surprise that I have had in months.   

...nor did I gush, seeing Joe's name, which I did at that point, that "That guy is on Burnaby Council now! You can vote for him!").

Anyhow, fuck the whole "name three songs" challenge - I don't think even *I* can name three Skulls songs, unless they became DOA songs later, and if "American Wino" is only an album title and not a song, I can only manage two Lewd songs myself, "Suburban Prodigy" and "Kill Yourself." (I fare a bit better with the Furies - "Suicide Bomber, "Friday Night Date," "The Furies," "Olympic Madness"...). In a way it is almost better if they have no idea, like that old Chinese man I glimpsed once going about his business in a Misfits shirt...

...tho' it would have been equally cool to find out that the guy knows his Vancouver punk a bit - that it wasn't a random buy at all - and then to double-check if he's aware of "Firing Squad;" but I felt I was already asking a lot to take a photo of his shirt. Random strangers with speech impediments raving about punk rock are only so welcome, especially when you've got your kids with you.

(I imagine their conversation, in Farsi, as they walked away: "That guy had a kind of weird voice." "Yeah, but my shirt sure made him happy." "Do you know any of those bands? I guess they may be from around here..." Maybe tonight he will go home and Google "the Furies." This thought makes me even happier. Maybe their kid will get curious: imagine a ten year old Iranian boy groovin' on "Suburban Prodigy"... ha!). 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Dayglos in Ox!

I am very happy to see the Dayglo Abortions coming in second place on the cover of the new Ox Fanzine. This is my interview with Murray (but in German!). There are plenty of punk bands I'd have felt sad to see get the cover shot ahead of the Dayglos, but if you're going to come second to SOMEONE... you can have no complaints. (The Melvins might be a bit bummed tho'). Article features photos by Bob Hanham and Bev Davies. 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Full Bug - an Interview with Matt Hewlett, re: One of the Best Record Stores of Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is pretty special when it comes to record shopping. There are plenty of cool, music-starved people over there, who can easily bring records back with them from the mainland; but there's not as many people competing for those records once they're over there. The end result is that you can find amazing vinyl in shops. The stuff in your shopping basket might be priced a bit higher than you'd find it for at Red Cat or Neptoon or Audiopile or Zulu... but the thing is, the stuff you find on the island, you probably wouldn't find at Red Cat or Neptoon or Audiopile or Zulu. Between Victoria and Nanaimo, there are a half-dozen shops jam-packed with interesting records: Ditch, who have the biggest floorspace and the best selection of CDs, as well as records; Cavity, who have fewer records but a ton of cool memorabilia and ephemera (and books!); that used shop in Fan Tan Alley, the Turntable, where I found Mike Watt's Contemplating the Engine Room (the only time I have seen it in vinyl; sure, they wanted $40 for it, but the cheapest you're going to get it shipped to you via Discogs is $61.17, all-in, so...). Supreme Echo is most frequently acknowledged as a reissue label, over here, but Jason's shop also nets some amazing finds (I bought my Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing off him during the 2019-2020 Sparks frenzy; it's still the only copy of it I've seen; and Jason is the Dale Wiese of the island, a man with personality and a wealth of knowledge who you can talk about the music with). 

But that's just Victoria... there's also a couple of great shops in Nanaimo (Fascinating Rhythm is my go-to) and probably others that I haven't visited yet. But the shop you would least expect is (for me, very conveniently) located in the town of Duncan (my in-laws live there). In mainland terms, Duncan is kind of like Mission - a bit depressed, a bit of a backwater, far enough away from Victoria that it doesn't really work as a bedroom community, unless you really dig driving the Malahat to-and-fro every day (I imagine some people do that but I wouldn't want to, considering the number of times that road jams up). But hidden on a side-street is a shop that specializes in punk and metal, with an ample collection of punk 7"s, some very unexpected collectibles (my happiest score being Heavens to Murgatroyd It's Thee Headcoats, which I was moments away from just ordering online) and stuff like new copies of Double Nickels on the Dime, which is in print, but getting pretty hard to find on the racks at Red Cat, Neptoon, Audiopile and Zulu. 

They're called the Full Bug, and are run by a guy named Matt Hewlett, who did a brief email interview with me, below. I'm in italics, Matt is not.

Allan: What IS a "Full Bug," anyhow? I have seen a Van Halen tune by that name, but is there an older meaning? Why name the store that?

Matt: I don’t know what a Full Bug actually is. It is a Van Halen song off Diver Down, one of several records I played over and over as a teenager. Not their best album but nevertheless it’s my favourite and "The Full Bug" is my favourite song on it. I wanted a name for the store that didn’t mean anything and had almost zero previous internet presence.

What is your history with selling records? Did your stock begin with your own collection? Were you selling in Vancouver? How did you end up in Duncan?

I don’t have a lot of history selling records, I did a few pop ups in Vancouver prior to moving to Duncan. I do have a long history of buying records, in my late teens and early 20’s I was fortunate to have a fairly high paying job and spent most of my disposable income on records. This was what I started the store with.

My partner and I wanted to get out of the city and decided on Vancouver Island. Duncan seamed like a good enough choice, we were initially going to open a restaurant, that being our previous wheelhouse. As we were looking at spaces to lease I started to feel like Duncan could use a record store, when I found my space it was settled and we moved.

What are the pros and cons of being in Duncan? From a mainalnder's perspective, the pros are pretty striking, because I can find stuff on the island that is long gone on the mainland... But do you find yourself wishing more people from Vancouver would come over? Are there enough local punks to pay the bills?

I definitely don’t get as much traffic as I would in Vancouver or Victoria. Sometimes it frustrating when rad records just sit, but at the same time it’s nice that cool records hang out for a bit. I get a lot of people from all over the island and Vancouver, it’s great to see someone from a bigger city get stoked about something they thought they missed out on. I don’t really need help selling punk and metal collections they always sell, like most stores the bulk of punk and metal records are new or reissued.

Being one of the few places stocking new vinyl, I can cast a pretty wide net and all genres sell. Classic rock and hard rock definitely sell the best which I am happy to sell. There’s an assumption that there aren’t cool records in smaller towns. That just isn’t true, people move to small towns from big cities with their big city collections. Some of us small town folk even make our way to the big city.

In terms of used records, what are the coolest items you have in stock now? Were any of them sourced locally? (Are there island record collectors who bring in cool stuff, or is most of your better used punk stuff from your own collection?).

I have had some surprisingly amazing collections come in from locals. In the first couple of months here I bought a collection of every Nick Cave record from the last three Birthday Party LPs up to The Good Son including the singles, the others in that collection were Gun Club and Cramps. I’ve managed to score a couple of great new wave and post punk collections that disappeared immediately. Right now I have an original mail order copy of Radiohead’s In Rainbows. I am working on convincing myself to sell the original copy of the Germs GI I scored. Both of those were from locals. I’ve also had original Black Flag and D.O.A. sold to me locally.


What are you personally wishing people would sell you, vinyl- wise? Any grails?

I’m always wanting punk and metal records, but good classic rock collections float my boat here and almost anything 80’s moves very quick. Personally, I would love it if someone brought in surge Overkill’s Exit the Dragon, Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium and Diamond Head’s Lightning to the Nations.

Thanks, Matt! Readers wanting more information can check out the Full Bug's Facebook or Instagram pages, or see more photos and such at this webpage.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Gigs of early summer: Asian Persuasion All-Stars, Betty Bathory, Rodney DeCroo, AK-747s, and Me Bats + Circus in Flames

It is too hot to sleep, so I am awake, again, blogging somewhat casually. Various gigs and such are competing for attention over the next while, as summer kicks into gear. 

Asian Persuasion All-Stars have a gig at LanaLou's tonight, which would be great, except I'm going to be at the Cinematheque for a double bill (possibly on far too little sleep!). I interviewed Tim Chan and Eric Lowe of that band here; I've only ever caught them at a Bowie Ball, and would love to hear "Racist Friend" live, in particular - and love that they managed to make maybe the least pandemicky pandemic video ever around it. 

Betty Bathory is also doing a couple of things: Weener Issues, a tribute to Ween by Daddy Issues, is happening at the Lucky Bar in Victoria tonight and at the Railway tomorrow. I am told four songs definitely on the set will be "It's Gonna Be a Long Night," which saw Ween channeling early Motorhead ("we peed on that one first," Betty quipped on Facebook); "Baby Bitch," which apparently is a favourite Ween tune for a few people out there; "You Fucked Up;" and "I'll Be Your Johnny on the Spot." There's a lot more on the setlist, but "I don't wanna give too much away," she says. I don't know if I know my Ween lore enough to feel fully prepared but it'll be a great excuse to check out the Railway again.

Next weekend, meanwhile, Betty will bring BB Allin and the Stabbers back to the stage, after a very long hiatus, with the catch being that both shows are being held on Vancouver Island. I have a soft spot for GG, but it's not uncomplicated, since he was a pretty antisocial, unsavoury wreck, probably operating on a couple of personality disorders (if you haven't read it, check out this Legs McNeil interview with a character named Johnny Puke, who was with GG on his last day). I loved Betty's BB act last time I caught it, but going to the island for a show is not uncomplicated. Read my interview with Betty - my first encounter with her, in fact - about the BB show here

There are other local gigs competing for that weekend, too. Rodney DeCroo will be doing a launch for his new book, Fishing for Leviathan, also featuring CR Avery. "I worked on this book for a little over three years," he mentioned in a message, "so it's been awhile since my last collection. I'm good with that as I'm not a big fan of trying to publish a book every year." Truth is, I have a much better chance of convincing my wife to see Rodney DeCroo in Vancouver than BB Allin in Victoria, though Rodney won't be smearing any shit on anyone, either authentic or ersatz. He tells me, of the event, that:

We're having a poetry book launch celebration and show on Friday, June 02 at Backspace ( Blake Williams art studio/warehouse at 1318 Grant Street, just off the Drive). I'll be reading poems and performing with my band The Metaphors (the band I played with at VIFF). C.R. Avery is kicking things off when a set of his stuff as well. Some of my street photography will be on display too.

Rodney and I talked about his VIFF Centre show here. Apparently tickets for that event are almost sold out, so I wouldn't hesitate if you're interested. I had actually thought I would catch the AK-747s at Bullys in New West that night - deets here - because that's a very convenient, cool space, where my wife and I spent last Halloween (watching Betty, in fact, with me in drag and my wife as Frida Kahlo; do look at that post, if you've missed it). But I could see the AKs at Red Gate instead, on June 9th... hmm.

...which brings us to June 3rd, where there's a show I'm very excited about, involving the newest incarnation of Stab'Em in the Abdomen, the Me Bats (more on which below) and Doug Andrew's band the Circus in Flames. I did a very substantial Doug Andrew piece for the Straight, back in 2017 - that being part one; part two is here. One of those parts includes the story of the tour Shanghai Dog did with the Replacements! The Circus in Flames was, in fact, one of the last shows I caught before the COVID lockdown, with Doug inviting the audience at the Fairview to sing "Happy birthday to me." Which was a really sweet thing for him to do!

Since that gig, in no particular order, the couple Erika and I were at the show with separated, the Fairview shut down, and COVID changed everything for a couple of years (not so you'd notice so much now, which makes the whole thing seem that much more unreal). What did Doug do in that time? I fired him an email and asked for an update: 

Although I did some solo and duo gigs during & post-COVID, last Saturday, May 13th at the Princeton was the first Circus In Flames show in a long, long time.  Right around COVID, I needed a change so I got my Telecaster back from Brian Barr and started writing songs with a different format in mind.  I've trimmed the band down to a four-piece electric combo and May 13th was the first show with our new electric bassist, Duncan Chambers.  I was extremely happy with how the new sound and new songs went over on the 13th and we're looking forward to playing again at the Princeton on Saturday, June 3rd with the Me Bats and Li3.  We're going on last and I hope to see you there.  Good to hear from you and thanks for checking in on The Circus!

Now, I have no idea what Li3 is (they have a bandcamp, if you want to check them out), but the Me Bats are Stab'Em in the Abdomen, featuring Ed Hurrell and Eddy Dutchman, last seen by me covering Lou Reed songs adjacent to my Princeton Meat Draw experience. I interviewed Ed about the Stab'Em backstory here; he tells me the band, in its new incarnation as the Me Bats, have "PRODUCT for the first time in 40 years," including free buttons and maybe stickers, if supplies have lasted, because "why even bother to try and make $$ in this stupid environment." The band also has "a video planned about worrisome things in our insane society," like "assault rifles in the hands of maniacs."

Why did Stab'Em change their name, though? Eddy Dutchman explains, "The band Stab 'em kept getting thrown in Facebook jail because of the algorithm searching hot words. So Stab'em kept getting us black balled. So, being old fart rockers that don’t give a shit, we just wrote Stab'em backwards and we end up with Me Bats. So."

Of course, I have a song out there (with the help of David M. and Coach StrobCam) called "If I Was a Bat," so there's a pleasing consonance between their name and the only song being occasionally publicly performed that I have a hand in (there are, in fact three versions of it on Youtube, one actually sung by me, before my tongue got surgically mutilated, which is part of the subtext of the song). So "Me Bats" is a fine band name by me. But anyone needing a different band name can seize on what I think was a typo in EddyD.'s email to me, wherein he wrote "old fart rockets." I fixed that, but not without some regret, because "the Fart Rockets" would be an awesome band name, for the right kind of band. 

Anyhow, a few gigs of note, this weekend and next. Plus Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, June 7th. (There was an only slightly mouldy album by Nick Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit at the Wildlife Thrift on Granville yesterday). And then on June 10th...

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

...awake at 3am: my CPAP mask and The Yakuza Papers

So this is new: I'm having cause to think of Kinji Fukasaku's Yakuza Papers films in light of my CPAP situation. In particular, the first one, Battles without Honour and Humanity. There is a scene where - as I recall, anyhow - Bunta Sugawara's character has to cut off a finger, to present the severed digit to someone he has offended as a token of apology. (For some reason, he and his friends are doing this in a barn or some other rural location where they are hiding out). He does the deed, laying his hand on a piece of wood, setting the knife to one side of it, and bringing the blade down, severing his pinky - a momentarily distracting thing to do to oneself, I'm sure - then sets to looking for his finger, so as to safeguard it for presentation. It's nowhere to be seen. The scene becomes quite comical, as he and his friends search, mystified, for his missing finger. Where the hell did it go?

It eventually turns out that while no one was looking, a chicken ran off with it. 

Now, all my fingers are presently connected, but to sleep, I wear a ridiculous amount of headgear, including a blindfold to keep the light out, a chin strap to keep my jaw shut, and a CPAP mask over my face, which blows air up my nose to keep my airways open at night. The mask means I don't snore, can breathe effectively. Alas, the people who design CPAP masks - a relatively simple thing, you would think - have done nothing but make them more complicated as the technology has developed. My current mask has seven points where it can fall apart. The magnet - you see it lined in blue below my ear - can come detached on either side (this can and does happen). The velcro strap that holds the magnet on can also come detached. There are two velcro straps holding the headbands to the mask on the top, as well. And there's the nosepiece, which clips in place to the hose by a mechanism that also makes it very easy to remove altogether. Not sure why this is considered an asset, because all it means is, periodically my nosepiece comes off. 

This is exactly what happened tonight. The nosepiece is nowhere to be seen. I was trying to re-assemble my mask, having gotten back to bed after my washroom trip. Erika is still asleep in the bed. Half an hour on my knees on the floor, first groping in the dark by the dim light of my cellphone, then with my actual cellphone flashlight on, has netted no nosepiece. All my extra masks are, I guess, on Vancouver Island - there is no other nosepiece to swap out for, or at least none that I can find without making a major production of it. 

There are no chickens to have run off with it, but there IS a curious kitten who might have picked it up and batted it elsewhere while I was in the toilet. I've searched the hallways to see if maybe it ended up out there.

I'm really tired, I just want to go back to sleep, but I also would like to breathe while I sleep. More restful that way - for Erika too, because otherwise I will snore. 



5:08 addendum: eventually I wake up my wife, more by accident than design - "What's happening?" she murmurs from the blear of sleep as I root around on the floor again with my flashlight, looking for the nosepiece. She tells me to turn on a light if I have to, and covers her head with her blankets (CPAP is good for that). I look under the bed, under the dresser, in a drawer that was open. I find a Dayglo Abortions' pin I did not know I had - a Two Dogs Fucking pin, probably their best album cover before Hate Speech - but no CPAP nosepiece. 

Finally I figure, fuckit, I'll go back to bed anyhow. I'll snore a bit, but I still can sleep, sort of. Just before turning out the lamp, I look down at the floor...

...and there is the nosepiece. It had rolled under the cedar chest - was down where my knees had been, while I was looking near the head of the bed. Only by virtue of giving up and going back to bed do I find it. There is a cheap Zen koan to be fashioned from this experience, if you like. 

Despite having been able to put my mask on, turns out that I'm still awake, two hours later - my brain got jammed into the "on" mode, and sleep was not much assisted by the kitten (who climbed in bed with us about half an hour ago and is now doing windsprints between the bathroom and the living room). Mostly I just had to pee again. But at least my CPAP mask is intact, so that when I try to sleep next, I can.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

...awake at 4am

Dreamed my father had bought a house out in Maple Ridge and had ambitions to remodel it - put an extension on the property. We were walking in the yard and he was explaining his plans. I hadn't been that impressed with the house but I was impressed with his ambitions for it.

This is very far off any sort of actual experience of my childhood. As I pee, I contemplate how I've gotten off any map involving "having plans," having fallen back into a world of buying records, writing about bands, going to shows. 

It's not really the best world for me - a world of constant distraction and temporary engagement, more the illusion of community than a real one, chatting with people who don't know me, who I don't know, who I have no real personal investment in, who have no real personal investment in me, who nonetheless want me to do things for them, because free press is free press...  

And yet I feel some love for the community, y'know? I feel kinda bad that I missed out on the Dennis Mills thing this weekend - when I finally looked online to get the deets, I saw that it was sold out (Dennis has a cancer in his throat, I gather. I now have five Facebook friends dealing with some sort of cancer or other. As far as I know, I'm still cancer-free...). 

There is some need for a re-set but it's hard to figure the what and how. Do I have no ambitions? I should have ambitions. Not sure if "owning property" really needs to be among them, and I'm not sure if the impulse to be engaged in community in some way needs to be a bad thing... but (awakened at 4am with a frog in my throat and a need to pee - it wasn't even the kitten's fault), I'm back to thinking something ought to change, that *I* ought to change. Drifting, dreaming, floating through life... 

Kitten leans in from his leaning cat-tree pillar to say hello by computer light... he holds my hand to his face without really biting much, though he licks it a little. I should drink a glass of water and go back to bed... I could still get a couple hours before having to wake up for work...

Friday, May 19, 2023

Donnie Darko and Southland Tales at the Rio, with Richard Kelly in attendance (updated and expanded)

1. Southland Tales night (written BEFORE the Donnie Darko screening)

I couldn't resist. I had never seen Southland Tales, and Erika was occupied, so I was present last night for the Rio's screening of it. I must say that I had a lot of fun. A few cineastes were bemusedly chatting in the lobby about how "incoherent" Southland Tales had been - a sort of chuckling, head-scratching, "well-I'm-not-mad-BUT" kind of puzzlement - and I observed that I felt it was PERFECTLY coherent, I was just utterly excluded from that coherency. 

At least one of them laughed! 

But I've never felt excluded from Donnie Darko. It's a very, very weird film in its own right, but somehow it feels less so; the sense at the end of the film that you've completed a perfect circle is somewhat overpowering, so much so that you might not even notice, if you're not of a mind to reflect on it, that it's almost impossible to EXPLAIN what you've just seen. It's a film Erika isn't very fond of, so since I don't get a lot of time for movie-watching on my own (and when I do, generally prefer to look at films I have not seen before), I've bought a ticket to this. I mean, when else will I have the chance to see Donnie Darko with the filmmaker in attendance?

Richard Kelly seems a very pleasant person. Surprisingly young: he's still in his 40s, but registers as much younger than that. He has a sense of humour, and seems actually able to identify with people who don't understand his films (at one point joking about Southland Tales being "incomprehensible;" he acknowledges that the struggle is real). 

I wonder what cut of Donnie Darko they're playing? Has the director's cut won the day, for events like this? I prefer the theatrical, but I've only seen the director's cut one time through, so I'm willing to go with either. 

I guess we don't get to hear any other Rebekah Del Rio songs tomorrow. She's amazing. One of the high points of last night was hearing her perform "Mad World" (partially in Spanish - "Mundo Loco"). Much as I'd have loved to come away with an album that that was on, it is not available on any of her recordings (yet); I asked. Which makes having heard it even more special.

If I'd had cash and if one of the albums on her merch table had been her debut album, not a Twin Peaks soundtrack, I'd have bought it (but I might hold out now until something with "Mundo Loco" comes out - she did say that something was in the works).

2. Donnie Darko night

That's weird: tickets weren't cheap, it was a Friday night - and yet that was the busiest film screening I've been to since the start of COVID, I think. The Rio was packed. The average age of the patrons was maybe 25. And some of them hadn't even seen the film before! 

Richard Kelly seems like an extraordinarily nice guy. He was a little less forthcoming with the huge audience last night than the smattering of devotees who turned out for Southland Tales, and questions had to be spread out judiciously - because there were plenty of them. They were all interesting, and Rachel Fox did a find job mediating ("questions, not statements!"), but there were tons I didn't get to ask - for instance:

With Southland Tales, Kelly had given a nod to Kiss Me Deadly, but hadn't mentioned Alex Cox or Repo Man, in spite of the flying/ glowing vehicle at the end. Would have been interesting to talk to him about that - about his feelings about Cox's filmography. If Donnie Darko is Kelly's Repo Man, is Southland Tales his Straight to Hell

Or, say... the moment in Donnie Darko when Donnie is first lost in the mirror, communing with Frank, and Samantha interrupts him and asks, "Who are you talking to?" - there's a feeling of a visual effect there, as Donnie "snaps out of it," but while it is very striking in terms of the effect, it's immensely subtle on the eyes; you feel it, are jolted by it, even, more than you actually see it, so much so that I wonder if it's all down to Jake Gyllenhaal's performance. Is there a visual effect there? If so, what?

When Noah Wyle's character, the science prof, says he's not going to be able to continue the conversation lest he lose his job, is it because he wants to tell Donnie that "there is no God?" ...because an American high school teacher sure wouldn't be able to get away with that...

...and so, does Kelly believe in any conception of God? Because there's something quite mystical and profound about the film... Donnie is "following God's path," as he says. So is Donnie Christ? Some questions, you just know will make your fellow audience members groan...

Speaking of which - was Kelly cognizant of Nietzsche's eternal return of the same when he wrote the film? There is something of the eternal return in it: the idea of affirming life so deeply, living in such a way that you can embrace and accept even your most painful moment as something that will repeat itself eternally, of refusing to say no even to this... Donnie is laughing as he goes to bed at the end of the film; I think Nietzsche would have approved. I also think that asking this question would have seemed very, very pretentious, though maybe less so than the "Donnie as Jesus" question, since people wouldn't know what the fuck I was talking about (do kids today even know who Nietzsche was? I somehow doubt it). 

But, like, some people HAVE read Nietzsche. It's not entirely obvious that Kelly is among them, however; it could just be that Nietzsche is on MY back, filtering my read of the ending... who knows... 

Those are the questions I didn't get to ask. The one that I *did* get to ask - I expressed shock to discover that Kelly is, still, a pretty young guy. He was born in 1975 - he's 48, the same age as Drew Barrymore. When the events that happen in Donnie Darko take place, he was barely a teenager. Having had no idea before these events how young he was, I had assumed he had - like I did - grown up fucked up in the suburbs, that Donnie was an analogue for him (in asking the question, I said that I was "almost as fucked up" as Donnie was at the time, but - tempting tho' it was - I did not enumerate how; suffice to say that it would be interesting to know if LSD was a factor in Kelly's youth, since 1988 was about when I began my experimentations with that drug...). His answer was interesting, noting that the difference between 1988 and 2001, when the film came out, was no greater than the difference between the present day and 2011, but the level of cultural change between '88 and '01 was vastly more substantial. He talked about 80's nostalgia films (The Wedding Singer, also with Barrymore, was one of the only other ones around) and about how he'd had an older brother who helped give him a feeling of a connection to the decade. I had figured the lure of the 1980s might have had something to do with his soundtrack choices but, though he mentioned music, it didn't seem to be the overriding factor.

It was interesting to hear, but it wasn't the best question or most interesting answer of the night. The best question came from the back of the house, and involved the whole "kiddie porn" angle. Donnie's reconfiguration of time (spoiler alert? If you haven't seen the film, you have no business in this paragraph, but do what thou wilt, I guess) has mostly net benefits; by virtue of Donnie embracing his own death, Gretchen and Frank aren't killed, and Drew Barrymore's character doesn't lose her job (because the school isn't flooded, etc). Donnie is selflessly setting things right, sacrificing himself... except for one detail, that Jim Cunningham - Patrick Swayze's - kiddie porn ring is NOT busted, if Donnie doesn't burn down his house. So - the questioner asked - does the kiddie porn just continue?

And thus was revealed something that you SENSE in the film, but that isn't by any means explicit: that what you see in the "Mad World" montage, after the now-missing month of October that everyone has lived through then been dragged back to the beginning of, by virtue of Donnie's manipulation of time, is evidence of the "residual effects" of said month (most of this is not verbatim but I believe those last two were the words Kelly used). It's not just Donnie who has travelled in time - he's brought the whole world back with him! We see Kitty waking up troubled and Cunningham crying, and the idea is - though the details are left mysterious - she's somehow realized the truth about him because of these residuals. He's crying because - obscurely, unclearly - he knows he has somehow been busted! 

...So no, the kiddie porn does not continue, though it would have if Frank and Donnie - because it's two of them, really - hadn't manipulated time as they do. Just like it's only by virtue of assenting to his death that Donnie saves Gretchen and Frank, it's only by virtue of Frank and Donnie going through their own journey, beginning in Frank's own death, that Cunningham is busted, in either version of the world. Cunningham wouldn't have been busted if Donnie hadn't lived through October, even though Donnie ends up dying in the... second October? See what I mean about the film being inexplicable...? 

But it really is a happy ending all around! 

The other fun detail of Kelly's Q&A is that apparently, when Kelly was doing post-production of the film, he shared space in an all-night lab with a crew who was working on a Madonna video, and he made her a cappuccino. (He also laid out a meticulously crafted cheese-and-crackers plate, but she didn't touch that - "too many carbs?" he speculated, but noted that she did drink the cappuccino.) 

(A residual effect of that last paragraph is that I discovered I have no idea how to spell cappuccino. I guess I have never tried to write the word before. I mean, I've fixed it now, but I was like, "two Ps one C? One P two Cs?" Took me three tries to lose the red squiggle.)

Also loved Kelly's remark that in choosing to set the film in the 1980s, he dodged certain contemporary phenomenon: "I didn't want him to have a blog," Kelly quipped. I chuckled. I thought of another fucked up 80s kid and his blog. It's probably all-round better for Donnie that he didn't have something like this.

Oh, and it was the theatrical cut. That was nice. Kelly acknowledged fondness for both versions but thought the theatrical cut was better for a first-time audience. I agree, though now I want to see the director's cut again!

Thanks to the Rio Theatre and Rachel Fox for two very entertaining nights with Richard Kelly - one of the most personable filmmakers I've interacted with, ever. If you get a chance to see Southland Tales and Donnie Darko with the director in attendance - if this event, billed as the "Fluid Karma tour," really IS a tour, and it comes to your city - do go to both films (hint: you'll get a much more intimate audience with the former, which means more chances to interact, ask questions, request signings, etc). Sure glad I did both nights!