Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Jon Card 101: from Suburban Slag to Subhumans Canada, with a few stops in-between (2006 and 2008 interviews)

Jon Card at the Lamplighter, with the Subhumans, October 13th, 2006. Photo by Allan MacInnis

Being a big Subhumans fan, between the recording of New Dark Age Parade (2006) and Same Thoughts Different Day (2010), I interviewed all members of the Subhumans separately on more than one occasion. When my conversations with the band started, I had only been writing for a couple of years, so I didn't really know what I was doing, and I transcribed things I didn't ultimately use (though I skipped a few chunks here and there). Hearing the news that Jon Card had died, I went back through my old files and, lo and behold, I found two interviews with pieces not previously published; not sure where the tapes for these are -- yes, I was using a cassette recorder! -- but the portions that are transcribed should make for interesting reading. You can also read my gig report from the Lamplighter show here (the first time I saw the Subhumans, unless you count Brian and the kids who played the Vancouver Complication gig with him). There are also old features I did, using some of the material with Card here, which is a shortened version of what's below, and (tho' it's really more of a show review, of the final Subhumans gig) here

I didn't actually write all my questions out so, without access to the tapes, some of them have been reconstructed based on the answers ("Now what the hell had I asked him?"). You'll notice that I had no idea about Personality Crisis back in 2006 (I had only heard "Piss On You" off the BYO comp). 

Apologies to Gerry Hannah: we talk about him a bit, dig up some past history that I'm guessing he doesn't need dug up. But I was keen on that stuff back then, and it was interesting to hear Card's stories! 

Jon was a big talent and personality; my condolences to all those missing him now -- 63 is way too young. I really enjoyed these interviews and am glad I got to see Card with most of the bands mentioned below. If you've somehow missed New Dark Age Parade, it's got some amazing songs on it (and a few I am less wild about, but the best songs on it are some of the best songs the Subhumans ever wrote -- "Moving Forward," for instance...). 

AM: So how did you get started in music?

JC: Actually, I started with a junior high school band, if you want the whole story. I started piano then oboe. But I got braces, and they needed a drummer... [I did not transcribe all of Jon's answer]. My first real band was Plasticine; we changed our name to Suburban Slag [soon to be the subject of a Supreme Echo reissue!] then saw Personality Crisis play in Calgary. And they were from Winnipeg and they said from the stage, hey our drummer’s quitting, anyone wanna -- just kinda half-kidding, right? Boom, three weeks later, I show up in Winnipeg. “Here I am.” That was the first real good band I was in. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them. It was a really, really great band, actually 

AM: I don't know them well. I know "Piss On You." [note: along with the Pointed Sticks and the Modernettes, this is one of many Canadian bands reissued on Porterhouse]

JC: We did a record on Risky Records, San Francisco, and we toured – I went down and that’s when I first kinda hooked up first with Jello Biafra, played with – oh hell, it was just like a dream come true, right 20 year old kid down there...! Our first show was playing with FEAR the Elite Club, which is the old Filmore West. Y’know, I’m just goin’ wow... This guy had connections, the record label guy, at that point we got the prime slots right before the headliner. We played with Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, you name it, right.

AM: When was this?

JC: In about 82, 83, it was when our record came out, it was called Creatures for Awhile; it came out in 83.

AM: Around the time the Subs were breaking up.

JC: Yeah. My first band I ever played with, Suburban Slag, we used to rehearse in my parents basement, that whole thing, right? And we got kicked out, so we ended up rehearsing in school parking lots, because like people plug in their block heaters in Calgary – it’s real cold – so we rehearsed outside and that was kinda fun...but we played with the Subhumans at the old Calgarian hotel, that was where I met them. I was a huge fan. So that was my first connection with the Subhumans.

AM: Was Brian your entry point into DOA?

JC: Yeah, we were in the band together, before then and during then and even now. He’s one of my best friends, so that’s kinda cool. DOA is the first time we played music together. We actually played in the Deadcats together, and a few other projects, like Linda McCrae... Brian and I kinda have done a lot of stuff together, uh, the old rhythm section – the Card /Goble rhythm section, we call it.

AM: I didn't know you were in the Deadcats! 

JC: I was in and out of the band a bunch of times and Brian was in for a stint, 'cos I just went, come on, let’s throw a bass in here, the gutbucket’s cool, but... so he did about 15 gigs with us.

AM: Speaking of bass, I just was speaking  with Gerry. Jeez, that guy can talk! 

JC: Tell me about it! At rehearsal – we play a song and then it’s like Gerry’s oratory for 10-15 minutes on whatever, right?... The guy’s got it – the gab! It’s funny.

AM: It's such an extreme contrast with Mike Graham, who is one of most reluctant interviews I've done...

JC: Even getting some volume out of him is tough, but his guitar playing and songwriting is the total opposite, he just rips.

Mike Graham by Allan MacInnis, Lamplighter 2006

AM: You have a take on Warren Kinsella's animosity towards Gerry? 

JC: Yeah, it seems like he’s drawing more attention to himself than anything else. He’s a – I knew him back when he was in the Hot Nasties. I don’t know if I ever played a gig with him in my first punk band, but I saw them play, they saw us play, and even back then there was divisions amongst the punk scene, and no one liked the Hot Nasties and no one liked Warren Kinsella, for obvious reasons. He’s a prick!

AM: One does get that impression. 

JC: Yeah, I saw him perform a couple of times. Actually, one time they played with 999, I think it was, and the Dickies were supposed to open up, which would’ve been awesome. Everyone wanted to see the Dickies and 999, but the Dickies couldn’t get across the border or something like that, and  his band the Hot Nasties they went and played under a different name, and you’ve never seen so much abuse thrown at a band, it was quite something... And he was just like wallowing in it, like YES, I created punk rock kinda attitude kinda thing.

AM: [I ask something about Warren's more slanderous characterizations of Gerry]

JC: Yeah... He had a small little faction – his band and some of his mates... but I didn’t hang out with them much. We talked and stuff like that but he was just a little too condescending, for me – y’know, I’m not gonna sit here and badmouth him or anything like that, he’s never done anything to me, but that’s bullshit.

AM: You had some history with the Five, right?  

JC: Well I was actually – it’s kinda funny. I was living in Vancouver on and off at the time, and I was living in a house at the plaza, the restaurant next door was bugged, the house was probably bugged. I’m probably on tape with the RCMP back then – definitely I am – and, y’know, Ken Lester was living there and a friend of mine was living there and he was making the bumper stickers “REFUSE THE CRUISE” and all that stuff, right, so I was kinda in there hanging out with their staunch supporters, kinda thing...

This was before the arrest and during the arrest, actually, it was like when it was all happening and it was – I remember a CBC Helicopter. I was sleepin’ on the couch and I look out the window and there’s a helicopter with a camera and I’m sitting there waving at it, and it was the CBC news! I was kinda there and my opinion of it... I think goin’ as far as taking down a Brinks truck, that’s over the line, y’know, in my opinion, but they were doing what they believed in, and right or wrong, that stands for something. Jeez, I don’t know what I can say. I was hanging out with all their supporters so I was just kinda goin’ along... and I didn’t know anyone with Gerry at the time, and I can’t say I was friends with him or anything like that, and I really didn’t really know a whole lot about what they were doing, I just knew the big things like the Litton bombing, why they did it. At that point I didn’t know that anyone got hurt or anything like that, so I said, if these guys are doing something and taking on the big war machine in pieces, I think that’s kinda cool, but I’m not in for terrorizing other people or hurting other people, and the Brinks truck – that’s over the top...

AM: Were you politically active?  

JC: I was a little bit of an activist, being in DOA ... I expressed my opinions on lots of things, and I wasn’t exactly on the same page as say, Dave Gregg or Joey, but a lot of times we agreed. But I was a bit of an activist, cos I played a lot of benefits for a lot of these things, and that was sort of my part – “I’ll give up my time musically if I believe in what these people are fighting for.” And if I don’t, then count me out, kind of thing, so obviously I played a lot of benefits for a lot of different things, Amnesty, you name it, all the way down the line.

AM: Any causes in particular you remember?

JC: You couldn’t buy really cold beer anywhere in them days... [laughs]. Nah, I just... I wasn’t really prepared for bringing this down, I’d actually have to sit down and think. Like Gerry, he can press a button and boom, he can go, but I’d have to actually sit down and think about it.

Gerry Hannah at the Lamplighter, 2006

AM: Were you writing songs? 

JC: Yeah, I wrote with Personality Crisis, I wrote some with SNFU. With DOA, it’s tough getting in there with Joey’s songwriting. Brian was allowed to write a few songs. But I’m more of an arranger. I help to arrange, accent... I help with dynamics, even introducing a different time signature to DOA, that was kinda fun one time, cos like I say I can read charts and all that stuff – which I throw aside, because I just play by ear and with my heart. So yeah, I’ve written some songs, but with the Subhumans, just music, arranging on this album [New Dark Age Parade].

AM: Did you do any other Subhumans songs besides "Fuck You" with DOA? 

JC: We did "Slave to my Dick," those two.

AM: So you know those two from before.

JC: Oh, yeah. Slightly different arrangements. And actually, we did another Mike Graham song, "Behind the Smile." That was for a movie (Terminal City Ricochet). DOA recorded their version of it, which I think was a pretty good version. We did that and "No Productivity." We were on that soundtrack, so there’s a couple more Subhumans songs. I think we did them live, maybe, a couple of times, but "Slave to my Dick" and "Fuck You" were some of the big closers for DOA at that time, they just happened to be Subhumans songs.

AM: Do you have favourite Subhumans songs? 

JC: Oh, shit, I like a whole bunch of them. I’m really happy to be playing them. Those guys say they’re a little sick of the back catalogue, me I’m just laughin’ it up, I love playin’ this shit, right. I like "Inquisition Day," that’s fun to play, it’s real simple. Some of the new stuff is great to play. It’s my drum part, that’s kind of nice. I tip my hat to Jim Imagawa and Randy Bowman. I play the songs close to what especially Jim did, and then I’ll throw my own little flavour in there, so... I like what he did. “Urban Guerrillas” is actually a fun song to play. “Fuck You’s" always fun, it’s a crowd pleaser. I like ‘em all!

AM: Can we talk about the mix of personalities in the band?

JC:  Well, like I said, Brian, he’s a close friend, so I know Brian very well, we’re tight as friends. You said it. Mike’s really quiet, his sense of humour – he’s got a sense of humour going, he’s got a good sense of humour, and Gerry, you nailed it too, the guy’s a machine. There’s different personalities, and, um, we’re on the same page in a lot of places and in a lot of places we’re not, so it’ll be an interesting tour. It’s not a very long one. We’ve already done a little short stuff and it was fine travelling, no problem. 
Brian bursts from Gerry's chest

AM: Any hopes for future tours?

JC: Obviously with Gerry’s record, he’s not going to be going to the states, I don’t think, ever. He might be able to get a pardon. There’s an opportunity, possibly... The Pointed Sticks just went to Japan, and one of the bands that opened for them, one of the shows, they’re doing cover songs of old Vancouver punk bands – the Subhumans, Tim Ray...

AM: Yeah! Liquid Screen. Where did you hear about this?

JC: I know Nick really well. I’m in Frank Frink with him...

AM: Oh, of course, right. What Subhumans songs were Liquid Screen covering? 

JC: Shit, they told me and I can’t remember, but I thought that was really cool, so I’d like to see Joey on Sudden Death put out the reissue Subhumans stuff, but I think it’s already been promised to G7. So um, I think he had the connection with that. I could be wrong, I don’t know. But that would be fun, but Gerry’s gonna have to go out and get pardoned, if he’s going to go anywhere. We’ve talked about this before and it sucked, but we’re gonna have to get another bass player, if we’re gonna go play the States.

AM: Will we see any alumni at the upcoming Vancouver show? [This question is a hail-mary reconstruction; I'm actually not sure which show we were talking about]. 

JC: Jim I’m not sure about. He was asked to do this, and he wasn’t into it. Randy Bowman, he’s a really good friend of mine as well, he’s been in a ton of bands and he’s working, he’s got a kid, and he’s playing in the BTUs and, uh... he’s in a couple of bands. He’s still drumming, he’s a good pal. We hang out. I went to his birthday party last year, so... I don’t think he was asked. I don’t know, don’t quote me on that. [I didn't, at the time, but we're almost 20 years later, so...]

AM: Any past history with Dimwit we should talk about?

JC: Oh yeah, sure. Great drummer. I’m actually using the old Dimwit drumkit. When he was in DOA he had got another kit, took his kit for sale at drums only. I went in, and it’s a gorgeous Milestone kit, a custom kit, so that’s kind of neat, the original drummer, I’m using his kit. I’m actually friends with his brother, Bob Montgomery, and then I know Biscuits too, of course. Yeah, Dimwit, great drummer. I enjoyed his company. He was in Frank Frink too.

AM: I'm not clear on the timelines -- did you replace him in DOA after he died? Was that when you came on board?

JC: He was actually still alive when he left DOA, he was in the Four Horsemen, and they were doing actually quite well, they had just signed a new record deal and everything looked just awesome, and since then, he passed on and the singer was in a motorcycle accident and I don’t think he’s living either. So Dimwit died. They had a guy named Kerr Belliveau (as drummer) for a very short point, I came out, I left SNFU, and then Kerr was a drummer for a month, maybe three weeks. They were working on True North Strong and Free and they asked me to join, so they let Kerr go. He’s a friend too, he’s a good drummer and stuff, but I guess I would’ve fit the bill cos I was a better hockey player, I dunno.

AM: How many times have you toured across Canada?

JC: Lost count. 20. More. I dunno. I like touring, y’know. You gotta get a good vehicle, all right, so you’re not worried about it breakin’ down. I could go on for hours about DOA stories and stuff (laughs). But I enjoy touring. Playing to a different crowd every night, meetin’ new people...Personally I like to play every gig like it’s my last one, which it could be, people drop all the time, right, so I like to go out and put on a really good show and have my fun onstage and get the job done and have some fun offstage too.

AM: It must be fun touring through Calgary. 

JC: Oh yeah. I had a big Jon Card support group there when we played last year. It was great seein’ some old friends and we played a sold out show and I’m sure it’ll be the same this time around, too. I don’t know if Warren’s gonna show up, but I’ll say hi from you.

AM: Speaking of the Pointed Sticks, do you ever tour through Japan, these days, or tour other places?You played Germany with DOA, right? 

JC: I’ve been to Europe with DOA and been through every state several times with DOA and Personality Crisis and SNFU. For awhile there I was coming through town with a new band just about every second year. I felt like a real drum slut or hired gun. But I was really fortunate playing in a lot of good bands.

I was born in Germany, so it was very cool when I went back and played there. It was an air force deal, I was born in Zweibr├╝cken and lived in Kaiserslautern, so yeah, I’ve been to Europe with DOA, haven’t been to Japan.

AM: Any insight into what it would take for Gerry to tour Japan?

JC: Apparently there’s this process to do this, but apparently he has to go to the Japanese embassy, say look, I did my time, I’m very sorry, dadadadah, I don’t know what he has to say, and it’s up to them. Even without Gerry, I’d love to go there and actually I talked to Fat Mike from NOFX and he thought that would be a pretty cool idea, because he was a Subhumans fan back in the day and now, and it’s funny, because he knows the other Subhumans from England and I think they actually have a record on their label, so it’s weird. We might do a gig, Subhumans vs the Subhumans, do a show together sometime. [None of that ever happened, note. END INTERVIEW ONE!]

Jon Card Interview #2: August 17 2008: This interview took place shortly after a North Vancouver gig, which I was at, also featuring the Rebel Spell. After the show, I had a
 conversation with Mike, Brian, and Gerry in the parking lot at Seylynn; at one point, Jon -- who was waiting for the guys in the band's vehicle -- chucked a beer can at us: not in a "trying to hit us" kinda way, but an impatient, "come-on-let's-go" kind of way. He might have had a few? 

The thing was, I would have been HAPPY to have had Jon on tape during that conversation. Maybe one of the other members had asked him to stand down, but it seems more likely that Jon just figured he wasn't welcome -- that maybe he thought I only wanted to talk only to founding members? But I regarded him as a real member of the Subhumans, at that point, even if he wasn't one of the original guys. So the following, chunks of which ran in The Skinny, was meant to compensate for that, in case he had felt like he was being excluded. Chris Walter's book on Personality Crisis was just coming out around then, and there was a booklaunch at the Cobalt (the last time I saw the Subhumans there, I think). 

AM: Tell me about the first time you saw the Subhumans?

JC: I was a huge Subhumans fan, and I’d been going down to the Calgarian to catch punk acts from out of town and locally. We [Suburban Slag] had played there before, but Subhumans were coming, and I made sure I went down and talked to the owner and said, ‘We have to get on this bill.’ I went down during the day and I met Wimpy and Gerry; I don’t know if I hung out with Jim Imagawa much, but I hung out in their hotel room and I got to meet the guys in the Subhumans and I was thrilled, and smoked a bunch of black hash with them, and then we ended up playing... I can’t remember how many nights we played with them, but it was their slot at the Calgarian and we backed them up. That was great. Cable 10 Calgary came down and they were doing punk acts. I don’t know if they did Suburban Slag or not - they didn’t air it, but they aired the Subhumans. I got a copy of that, and it’s actually pretty good sound quality and everything - the original Subhumans playing at the Calgarian. Brian’s got a copy of it, and I’ve got a copy of it somewhere. [Actually someone has put the show on Youtube]

AM: So you joined Personality Crisis after a gig at the Calgarian?

JC: Yep, it was after that. I don’t know what they say in the book. I got there late, and I only ended up seeing Personality Crisis, either half a set, or one and a half sets. I can’t really remember, but they were a great band. They were different from anything I’d seen at the Calgarian. And then from the stage I heard Mitch say, ‘yeah, we’re lookin’ for a drummer!’ At that point, I had real shitty job, and I did not like my job and I wanted to play music. I figured, ‘Hey, I like this band, and if they really need a drummer, I’m willing to pack up my little Mustang, throw my drums in the back, and drive to Winnipeg.' So I gave’em a copy of the Suburban Slag demo tape, talked to them briefly. Later on, I sort of hurt myself at work - I actually semi-blinded myself with some lime. I was mixing plaster, and POOM it shot up into my eye, and I went, ‘This job REALLY sucks, now.’ And then it happens that that night, Mitch phones me and goes, ‘Yeah, we’re still looking for a drummer. And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come out.’ He didn’t think I was gonna come out - I was, like, 19 years old or something like that - so I just said, ‘I’m going out.’ I loaded up my car and drove out there, and lo and behold - I was there, and we rehearsed, and it worked. That was the first real good band I was in. It was a really, really great band, actually. From there, I went on to SNFU, to DOA, and then a bunch of bands, and the Subhumans now.

We actually based ourselves out of Calgary for awhile. Richard left - he was our bass player. He ended up being the guitar player later.

AM: Thoughts on Chris Walter? You knew him from Winnipeg, right?

JC: Yeah, he was totally into the punk scene, and so was I. He was in the Vacant Lot, I think his band was at that time, with his brother Jamie - he’s a good friend, too. So I hung out with Chris back then, experimented with different substances, and drank a lot of beer. I always liked Chris... He hasn’t changed that much, it’s really weird: he’s clean, but some people on/ off drugs are essentially the same person. Unless you’re freaking out trying to get money for drugs; that’s a different story...

AM: It surprises me a little that even though he's clean, Chris seems totally comfortable hanging out around the Cobalt and such. Wouldn’t most people who get off booze and hard drugs want to distance themselves as much as possible from their old habits and haunts? 

JC: You can’t understand why, because you haven’t done it, but - I’ve done lots of drugs, too, and I work right in the middle of the downtown eastside. I work the night shift, three nights a week, twelve hour shifts, in a nine-bed care facility, and it’s me and a nurse, and people who are just out of the hospital, but not well enough to go home. They’re being treated with antibiotics, fighting infection. This is ninety five percent of them. I manage the place and do everything the nurses don’t do - serving them, giving them meals, keeping the place clean. If people need housing, we find housing for them. And one hundred percent of the people are there because of drugs, and are using drugs while they’re there. I’m around it all the time. It takes awhile, but once you get past certain urges, and physical and psychological needs, and get your head around what you’re doing, it almost gives you strength, in some ways, to be around it. I’m speaking for myself - I can’t really speak for Chris.

AM: So tell me about your work there; what do you and Brian do? Does it relate to getting people off drugs, or...?

JC: What we do is damage control. The person, if they’re going to get off it, they have to be ready to do it. They can’t be forced to do it, unless they do it like they do in Iran - they throw their army guys who are hooked on it in a hole and make them kick. But someone’s got to be ready to do it, and if they’re they’re ready, there are facilities out there for them. There are detoxes and rehab centers. 

But basically a lot of it is damage control: ‘okay, you’re going to be using, so let’s just try to keep you with clean utensils, so you’re not passing on HIV or whatever, you’re not using rusty needles - keeping you alive. So you you don’t have to shoot up behind a Smithrite, you can go into a clean facility. As far as getting people off it, there are facilities, but people have to make the decision themselves.

AM: What can readers do to help people in that situation?

JC: Have an open mind. Just have an open mind.

AM: There must be a fair bit of burnout in the  job. 

JC: Depending on where I’m working - I’ve worked at the Portland Hotel, the Washington, the Sunrise, the Regal, Jackson, CTCT(?) - it can be stressful. Depending on where you work, and what happens on your shift - you’re getting yelled at and being called all sorts of names by people who you’re actually helping. It gets a little frustrating, at times. You gotta have a sense of humour, and you gotta have some compassion going for you. I’ve felt very stressed out after some shifts, definitely. I used to work a lot, though. Like, right now I’m on fulltime, so I’m only allowed to work X number of hours. That’s to help people not get stressed out, of course. But I haven’t taken any sick days in a year and a half, personally, so it seems to be working for me. But yeah, at the end of three days, I’m ready for a break, definitely.

AM: Do you and Brian compare notes much?

JC: Usually the day before I’m coming in, I’ll phone up and go, ‘hey, what’s happening,’ which is great, because I know Brian really well and he can totally give me ‘the skinny’ on what’s going on: if we’ve got new people in, if people have been discharged, if there’s been a fight. And when we get together, work always comes up... There’s so many people who need help, especially in the mental health area. There’s not enough beds - not even close! It’s insane. There’s just not the money or resources, and the Olympics coming up is a perfect example of money being misused. 

One example: I was with the Frank Frink Five playing a wedding a few weeks ago, and I ended up meeting a woman who works for Strathcona Mental Health. She was interviewing over one hundred people, and there’s only four beds in this facility - four beds for a hundred people! And these are for the people who are actually seeking help; there’s so many who aren’t. Even the safe injection site... a lot of people go, ‘Oh, they’re basically just helping the drug users,’ but they don’t realize what the nurses do down there. People downtown have so many different skin conditions - they have so many different afflictions, and their legs are basically rotting off their bodies. So the nurses do dressing changes on wounds. If they stopped what they were doing, maybe one tenth of the people would get help. These people would have to go to walk-in clinics and wait hours and hours to get help, and possibly get it, possibly not. You get some people that are coming in that are completely abusing the system and they don’t follow the rules and they’re not really being compliant, at all. But generally people are; they’re getting their treatments, and they don’t want to lose their leg or whatever the case may be. Just about every shift, I get a ‘hey man, thanks a lot for what you’re doing.’

AM: Brian talks about it a bit in "People of the Plague." [Note: there's a clip of the band playing this at Pub 340 where I'm clearly visible, in my old Subhumans shirt (see the bald guy on the right, below). This was the gig where Gerry dedicated "Moving Forward" to me (I'd griped that someone should force Brian to learn the lyrics to that one, which are a mouthful]. He calls it the curse of "rotting feet." Chris calls it "street feet." That's an amazing song. 

JC: Great song. I love playing that, and the lyrics are just fantastic.

AM: If we could talk about DOA for a second, any memories from the "Takin' Care of Business" video shoot? 

JC: That was fucking fun, getting to hang out with Randy and hear his stories - who else has Randy Bachman as your hockey coach, and you take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and win the game? [The gig portions of the video shoot were at the old Boy’s Club, where original Subhumans (and later DOA drummer) Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery used to live] then the hockey was at Britannia. We had a guy with a camera skating around in a wheelchair, so we could get some of the follow shots and stuff” [apparently also a technique lifted from the movie Slapshot]. The stick down the team, we definitely lifted that from Slapshot, too. The old milkjug, which represented the Stanley Cup, just happened to be in the room. I picked it up and started shaking it and we passed it around. Beer went flying, and Randy got soaked... He was such a great sport, such a great guy to work with.

AM: Hockey was one of the selling points on getting you to leave SNFU and join DOA, right? 

JC: Yes. I play hockey, and they had a team, the Murder Squad, and we ended up playing lots of games. We played CFOX, and some other radio stations and newspapers, and raised money for the food bank. One time, we had over two hundred people in the crowd, totally supporting us - we were like the home team, playing CFOX, and Bruce Allen was their coach. They were losing this game - we ended up winning all the games except one against CFOX. Anyhow, Bruce had ‘Bruce Allen Talent Agencies,’ right? So the crowd started chanting ‘Bruce Allen - Get Some Talent!’ ...I think it was Art Bergmann who actually started it, and he was with Bruce Allen at the time. Bruce Allen has this little baldspot on the top of his head and someone who was in the stands told me, it started getting redder and redder...

AM: Am I correct that you did a brief return stint with DOA last year? 

JC: The Subhumans weren’t doing anything, and Joe phoned me up. It was a blast. The songs came back really fast, and it brought back a lot of really good memories, and Joey and I had time to - I won’t say kiss and make up, but he actually apologized for the way a few things came out in the book [I, Shithead] and a few other things: it was all water under the bridge, and we shook and had a great time.

AM: I know we've talked about it before, but tell me a bit more about Dimwit's kit?

JC: This is a beautiful kit - it’s a Milestone kit with Rogers and Ludwig hardware, so it’s basically custom-made. Dimwit had several different drumkits, and this one was one of the coolest; he ended up trading this one in at Drums Only. When I joined DOA, I had this Ludwig set. It was a great set of drums, but they were smaller drums; it had a 22” bass drum, and I wanted a 24. Instead of a 16” floor tom, I wanted an 18. I wanted bigger tubs for DOA: big band, big guys, big drums, this is what Joe was saying, and I went along with that. We went into Drums Only, and I see this silver sparkle Milestone kit, and it ends up being Dimwit’s old kit. Boom - I grabbed it. It has a great history, and now it’s been with me for a long time [over twenty years]. Let’s just say it’s seen a lot of blood, sweat and tears!

AM: A final question. The Subhumans are re-recording a song you wrote for Personality Crisis, "Piss on You," for a BYO compilation, right? Tell me about that? 

JC: We changed the song around a little bit, added a chorus at the end, and everything turned out cool. There’s actually triangle on the song now. It’s to represent the tinkle.

...and that's it. RIP, Jon Card! say hi to Brian if you see him...

Friday, April 05, 2024

Aging Youth Gang, Stiff Middle Finger, and Rocket #9, Friday night at LanaLou's

Tribute acts can be a bittersweet thing: you are neither seeing the original band perform, nor hearing the people who are performing do material of their own, which you might actually want to hear.  So on two levels, no matter how good the tribute act, you might come away vaguely disappointed.

Case in point: Stiff Middle Finger, who began the night last night at LanaLou's. They were great -- check out "Wasted Life" here -- but as a Spores fan, it frustrates me a bit that I keep getting to see Danny sing other people's songs, but never his own. Spread out widely in time, across three different cover bands, I have now seen Danny do a set of Forgotten Rebels songs, a set of Stranglers songs, and as of last night, a set of Stiff Little Fingers songs (with a couple Damned, Clash, and -- was that the Undertones? -- songs thrown in for a bit of variety). Each one was fun in its way, but will I never get to see Danny sing a Spores song again?

Insert sadface emoticon here. I mean, call me a heretic if you must, but I like the Spores better than Forgotten Rebels, the Stranglers, or Stiff Little Fingers. Actually, I think I like the Spores better than the Damned, even (!). Sure, they're nowhere near as epochally or historically important, but I sincerely don't think that any of those bands has lyrics as witty or memorable as what you find in, say, "House of Frankenstein" or "Meat Bi-Product" or "Narcs in My Pants," for example. Sure, "New Rose" is a great song (they covered it last night!), but find me a single lyric from any of those bands as clever as "It's my economic orgasm/ It pays to be alive/ 'Cos I make profit off it/ While you work nine to five," off "Up the Boss," another entertaining vintage video of Danny's. The Spores made good use of the form. 

I mean, "I make profit off it," man; that's some witty wordplay, witty internal rhymin'. I like that! And hey, everyone here knows that Danny was also the cinematographer for Hard Core Logo, right? Undersung guy. He did this recent Bishops Green video, too. His complete filmography is unknown to me (and probably not on IMDB), but there's lots of stuff you'll know, sometimes in terms of his rock video output with him shooting while other people direct (I'm never clear): he did Poisoned's "Yeah I Guess," the Real McKenzie's "Mainland," Corsage's "The Shame I Feel," and much more... And some of his work in horror is just great -- try Incident in a Ghostland, for starters, directed by Martyrs' Pascal Laugier. Great movie, if a bit of a mindfuck (also true of The Tall Man, which Danny worked on, as well, and which I think you can see on Netflix; no, it's not a Phantasm reference).

Anyhow: last night would have been a great opportunity for some Spores action, because two other Spores were in the house, with Sandy singing and playing guitar for Aging Youth Gang and Boom Boom on drums (weirdly, Boom Boom -- whose real name I do not recall at the moment so Boom Boom he shall remain -- was the musician who impressed me most last night; that was some spunky, precise drumming, though Randy Bowman, playing with Stiff Middle Finger, was no slouch either, and it was fun seeing Orchard contribute to Aging Youth Gang). 

Of course, I ended up ducking out early -- staying long enough to see a bit of Rocket #9 and shoot a song they did, which Ed identified as an early Velvet Underground tune, but it's one I did not know, ironically and relevantly titled "I'm Not a Young Man Anymore" -- so maybe after Rocket #9's set, there was a semi-Spores reunion THAT I MISSED, but it really did not seem like that was going to happen (I had deliberately not asked anyone, so it would be a surprise, thinking it might happen at the end of AYG's set, but no; though AYG themselves did a couple of cover tunes, a mashup of Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge" and X's "Los Angeles," which, alas, I heard from the LanaLou's bathroom stall). It seemed really unlikely that Boom Boom would set up his kit again after all three bands had played. But if Ed wants to make me kick myself that I didn't stay for his band's full set, that would be the way to do it: tell me that that wished for Spores set actually happened, after Rocket #9 went off, and I missed it! (Note: I didn't). 

It's sadder still because of all the gigs of my teens and 20s, the one I remember least was the Spores. I did see them at some sort of festival of independent music, I think at the New York Theatre, circa 1986, and I believe Death Sentence and the Haters were also on the bill, with the Haters dressed in menacing dark hoods, using power tools to destroy various bits of metal on mic; there were sparks flying, and the noise they generated was quite overwhelming. I have told the story before, but I remember gawking in horror and then trying to get as far away from the stage as I could, telling people I was with, "It's not music!" It figures that the only band whose performance I actually have memories of from that night is the Haters. All I remember of Death Sentence and the Spores that night was arguing with a female friend which band was better, and having to say something like, "Okay, sure, Death Sentence have the better live presence, I grant you that, but the Spores have better lyrics." 

"In Flames" is okay, I guess (it's actually the drummer, Doug Donut, singing, I gather -- the video lies!). 

So what will I remember about last night? (Hell, what do I remember now?). Before things kicked off, I had chatted a bit with Nick (AKA Gnick, formerly of AYG, but not playing last night, even though he came across from the island to see the show; I actually had assumed while we were talking that he would be taking the stage, but no). I foolishly opined to him at one point that Husker Du, like Neil Young & Crazy Horse, is one of those bands whose songs I really just don't need to hear if its not them doing them (he had been talking about seeing Prong to "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely"). Then I realized, while my mouth was still moving, that Nick is the man behind Huskee Dude, whose set is entirely made up of Husker Du covers. Oops!

I backpedalled a bit there: I really did enjoy the Huskee Dude set I saw, in some cases thinking Nick's delivery (on "Dead Set on Destruction," for instance) was better than Du's -- I never really liked those last two Du studio albums). Oddly, I think I saw Huskee Dude the night that Danny did that Forgotten Rebels thing. Or maybe it was the night of a Gun Club tribute? Or maybe that was the same night? Everything is a blur. 

But of last night's show, I will also remember the very friendly Randy Bowman, drumming for Stiff Middle Finger, finally laying to rest the mystery of how fast the Subhumans play on No Wishes, No Prayers. (Subhumans vocalist) Brian "Wimpy Roy" Goble (RIP) had said to me, a long time ago, "No way were we playing that fast," and I think (guitarist) Mike Graham may have gone along with that as well, which one early demo, donated to an issue of Mongrel Zine, seemed to confirm, as it is no speedier than what you hear on Incorrect Thoughts, but Ron Allan, the bassist on that record, had insisted that they really had been when I chatted with him at the Khats fest. Randy's answer was definitely off the record -- the part of it that can be published involved the fact that the Subhumans at that point were on a California label for that (SST/ New Alliance) and wanted to keep up with bands like the Circle Jerks -- but it confirmed Ron's take on things and provided a very good reason why Brian and Mike might not have mis-remembered things (and why they might have been playing faster than normal, too). Let's leave it there! The Subhumans REALLY WERE playing that fast! 

Also, it seems like after Jim Imagawa left the Subhumans, before Bowman was recruited, there may have been a brief period where Dimwit was back on drums again. I did not know about this. Did you know that Jon Card, the drummer for the last incarnation, was using Dimwit's kit when the Subhumans did Same Thoughts Different Day

What's that Art Bergmann lyric: "Who will ever know how much we cared?" (You can actually hear that whole album, Lost Art Bergmann, here; that song, "Who Will Ever Know," never actually made it onto Crawl With Me, so that album's the only way to hear it). 

What else will I remember of last night? Orchard Pinkish (whom I gifted a Birthday Party CD I had thrifted for a buck, earlier that night, at a Sally Ann) demanding on mike that Ed Hurrell buy him an imported beer? (Orchard tells me there was a pre-existing arrangement, it wasn't just random demandingness). Eddy Dutchman (Stiff Middle Finger's bassist, whom I gifted a Ramones tribute CD) telling me "The secret to having a good band is, you have Orchard Pinkish in it?" Using Orchard's pink outer coat, draped over a chair, as a landmark for the guy at the bar to let him know what table to bring my poutine to? Offering Ed Hurrell a Monty Python CD and having him say that he had it already, and gifting it instead to Nick? 

Oh, Stiff Middle Finger -- in the tradition of the Spores update of "Anarchy in the UK" -- updated the lyrics for "I'm so Bored with the USA" to include Trump and MAGA and so forth, but I only caught the tail end of that on video. That twofer -- the second song being "Wasted Life" -- was the high point of their set, which was pretty tight, fast, and fun to watch. Aging Youth Gang's most fun song was probably the super-tight, super fast "Money Money," which Sandy quipped was "the best 43 seconds of music you're going to hear tonight," but the song of theirs I'm preserving is, of course, "Maggots" (which sounds quite Sporeslike, you know? You can hear that Sandy was a Spore in the band's songwriting). Oh, and I bugged Sandy and Boom Boom to sign my Spores collection, which I think they had fun doing (got Danny to sign the 7 inches, too, which I hadn't previously done). Apparently that's Sandy's ass on the "Narcs in My Pants" cover ("I'll sign my ass!" he quipped), while it was Boom Boom's face used for the model on the Schizofungi! cover. People seemed awful impressed by my Spores collection last night, like it is somehow an unusual thing to appreciate that band.  

So it was a fun night, well worth doing. In some ways, my biggest regret after there not being *even* *one* *Spores* *cover* (unless it happened after I left) was that I missed out on most of Rocket #9's set, because they're in fact a really great band. It's weird that now the default seems to be to have the headliner as the middle act (Nick: "no one wants to play last, when everyone is going home"). I had actually figured that Rocket #9 would be opening, but Ed's quip that they were the real headliners was in a way to the point, as they could have been. Very solid band, in no way lesser than the rest of the bill.

There's not much else that I've retained, but at one point during Stiff Middle Finger's set, Danny observed that "There's fucking young people in here!" (He'd elsewise described the evening as "curmudgeon rock" or something, since I think the average age of bandmembers was about 60; I would guess Orchard was in fact the youngest person to grace the stage last night and that the majority of folks in the house were my age or older). Some of those young people were actually the children of some of the band members, in fact. At one point, Randy introduced me to his kids, and I quipped that I had a record that their Dad was on "since I was your age."

But actually, they didn't look like they were much older than 40, and No Wishes No Prayers came out in 1983, so the truth is, it might be that the album is actually older than they are.

Oh, and since some people are asking, the Stiff Little Fingers songs covered also included "Suspect Device" (another high point), "Alternative Ulster," "78rpm" (which opened the night) and "When We Were Young." Which is the song that Stiff Middle Finger played when Danny was observing that there were "fucking young people" in here. Makes sense!

Monday, April 01, 2024

Record stores of Nanaimo: the East Van of Vancouver Island?

(main floor of the Vault, Nanaimo BC)

I don't have a great sense of Nanaimo yet, but as a music geek, I'm getting pretty intrigued. 

Vancouver Island has a few places of intrigue, in fact. Of course, Victoria has the biggest density -- record stores like Supreme Echo, Cavity, and Ditch, to start (or even The Turntable, in Fan Tan Alley; it's more tourist-oriented but that didn't stop me finding Contemplating the Engine Room there). Live shows are a bit harder to navigate; unless there's something happening that my wife wants to see, it's not really an option, though I have dragged her to DOA and Bison, and we've taken in the odd show at Hermann's, like that of her friend, jazz vocalist Emily Braden. But we're often on our way up island, and her family lives in Duncan, with two little dogs that we don't want to be waking up when we pull in at 2 in the morning, because little dogs can be noisy, and her parents will be sleeping... so it's a hard sell.

Mind you, Duncan itself has a couple of surprising spaces, like Time and Space Continuum, where I managed to see Selina Martin last tour -- she's touring through the island this very week, so see here for more -- or the Duncan Showroom, which I haven't made it to yet; and two record stores worth checking out (which is two more than you would expect), the Full Bug -- run by a former Vancouver punk, Matt Hewlett, who  knows what he's doing and the kind of customer he's appealing to, and Soulful Memories (who are a bit more varied than Matt in their pricing, and maybe have a slightly more area-appropriate customer in mind, which is to say that they will charge top-end used prices for Dark Side of the Moon and such, and I'm sure do just fine with that, but, for instance, I pointed a friend at a Toxic Reasons 7" at Soulful Memories, once, which I'm sure the owners thought they would never get their ask of $100 for, because who the heck are Toxic Reasons? Put it this way, my friend was very happy. The same 7" would have been twice as much or more in Matt's shop, if he elected to sell it at all).

But Nanaimo... Nanaimo has more going on than you might expect. It's has a bit of DTES vibe in some places -- there are growing pockets of poverty, addiction, and despair all over Vancouver Island, but Nanaimo has a slightly angrier vibe than some areas, and if you're coming in off the highway of late, it makes a bad first impression, with abandoned storefronts and roadwork where several of the barricades feature a very deliberate modification. 

But there's actually an interesting music scene happening, which reminds me in more than one way of the vibe around, yes, Vancouver's hardcore bar of yore, the Cobalt (I date myself but I'm speaking here of the Cobalt as "Vancouver's Hardcore Bar," with wendythirteen at the bar, Mr. Chi Pig bussing tables, and the Rebel Spell onstage -- except on Fake Jazz Wednesdays; anytime I speak of the Cobalt, that's the period I'm considering). 

The venues I can't really give a lowdown on, haven't even been to the Queens -- where I gather the Pointed Sticks will be playing this fall; it seems to be Nanaimo's equivalent of the Lucky Bar in Victoria (or maybe the Rickshaw in Vancouver?).  

But record stores... there are a few. The obvious and essential destination is Fascinating Rhythm. If you want a Vancouver equivalent, I guess the only comparable space would be Neptoon, but it's actually, I think, quite a bit bigger, might be older, and the owner isn't generally as sociable as Rob ("that guy's always so grumpy!" a friend observed in an email). And it's not as intuitively subdivided as Neptoon. I personally prefer it if rock is divided into no more than four or five categories: punk and metal (either in one section or two), used rock, and new rock, with a separate space for comps (which can be subdivided in and of themselves). But that's it: Let the alphabet take care of the rest! But Fascinating Rhythm also has separate sections for garage, for current indy, for 80s indy, and maybe a few other sections besides, while -- I think? -- mixing used and new together, so -- like with Vancouver's Beat Street, who have separate sections for 80s and 90s music, and separate sections again for higher end 80s and 90s music -- you may have to check five different places to see if the record you want is there. There are no Cramps records in the punk section, so maybe they're in the 80s indy? General rock? Nope, they're over in garage, next to the lounge music. What?

Add to this that they have more records in the room than any Vancouver store, and it may go a bit towards explaining why the owner is not as inviting, because by the second time you're at Neptoon, you know more or less where to find the stuff you're looking for, while I have yet to go into Fascinating Rhythm without having to ask multiple questions of the "Where do you keep _____?" variety. Steve (said honcho) has a warm and enthusiastic side, especially if you've seen his band, Teenage Tiger (they do a real fun "Goo Goo Muck;" I caught them opening for China Syndrome at the one Nanaimo gig I've been at and found their set delightful, even though, since they dwell far deeper in the garage than I do, there was probably a whole bunch of content I was not accessing, in terms of obscure covers and references). And clearly he's a man of taste, style and talent. So don't be put off:  I mean, which record store owner doesn't have his eccentricities...?

And what a store he has! I snapped only one interior shot, but see their Facebook page; Fascinating Rhythm is the sort of place where, if you're serious about music, you need at least $100 for every hour you plan to spend there. If it's only an hour -- and thank God that's the longest I've been able to stay, sometimes with my wife waiting in the car -- you may emerge with only three records and maybe a couple random movies or CDs, but of those three records, one will be something you didn't know existed, which has probably never even been in a Vancouver shop ("Don Giovanni released a 2LP version of Indian War Whoop with a proper mastering of Live in 1965 as a bonus???! Whaaat?!"); the second will be a re-issue that went out of print eight-to-ten years ago, that you haven't seen in a Vancouver record shop since, and that still has a 2014 pricetag on it (found a green vinyl version of the Cramps' Fiends of Dope Island new there for under $30 on a past trip; next time I saw a copy of that, a couple years later, it was on the wall for $50, used, at Red Cat, which is still cheaper than you'd be able to get it for off Discogs; I've only seen it on vinyl in the flesh those two times). My score of this type, this time, was an Omnivore Big Star Sister Lovers demos release that does appear to still be in print, but that I've never seen, ever, in Vancouver, which wasn't exactly a steal ($34.99 CAD for a 2LP set), but which would have cost twice that to order from the label (where it was $31.99 US before shipping, and probably $55 with, which is just under $75 CAD; meanwhile, the cheapest copy that you can get sent to Canada, with shipping, on Discogs comes to $72.36. So yeah: I wasn't letting it go by).  

As for the third record, maybe it will be an original pressing of a semi-obscure collectible record that was priced when it came in, when not many people were looking for it, that no one has actually bothered to buy, and that has basically been waiting there at that price since it arrived for the right person to look in the right section. It's a phenomenon you sometimes find at Vancouver shops, but not so often, as the customers-to-cool-stuff ratio tips in the wrong direction. This trip out, the record of this sort for me was the True Believers album, with Alejandro Escovedo singing the Modernettes "The Rebel Kind," which I had paid $35 to get shipped via Discogs, and scored at Fascinating Rhythm for a mere $10. Yes, folks, I already have it, but for ten bucks, surely someone I know will want it! I guess it's because it is out of the way that things can be found there that you will not find elsewhere, and even if the things you find are not the things you went in looking for, you're going to emerge happy to have found them (I was looking for Tupelo Chain Sex vinyl when I found the True Believers, Sugarcane Harris when I found the Holy Modal Rounders, and Bach's Bottom when I found the Big Star's Third demos). It's an essential shop, should be a destination for every collector who can get there.  

Up Nanaimo's own Commercial street from Fascinating Rhythm is a punk and metal shop called NoiseAgonyMayhem, which seemed to be actually the shop of two friends, one a punk and one a metal dude, who have competing tills and sections at either side of the store (they should have a small "crossover" bin in the middle). 

They're a small, new-feeling shop with mostly new stock, and there isn't much new stuff I'm hunting these days, but they seemed personable enough; the guy manning the punk half of the store was jawing with customers about the Australian pressings of AC/DC records (having a copy of the original 1975 Albert TNT on the wall, priced below the Discogs median but well above the low). He mentioned Dirty Deeds to them, and I chimed in that the Albert release of that had one of the worst album covers ever, and he retorted that that meant, of course, that it had one of the best album covers ever, so we immediately were on speaking terms. I mean, there aren't many albums with art in the "so-bad-I-want-it" category but: 

As we talked, he got on the theme of awesome Australian bands, and mentioned one I can't for the life of me remember, now, likening them to Radio Birdman. I may have mentioned that I was more of an Angels guy. I did not buy anything, but I will go back to any record shop where the owner knows who I mean when I mention the Angels, eh? (Without having to mention Angel City). I had already shot $86 at Fascinating Rhythm, so I kind of hurried out of NoiseAgonyMayhem, but I'll be back.

I still had a bit of time to kill (my wife was on an emergency errand via Horseshoe Bay to replace a defective CPAP machine so I had a wee spot of time to kill in the town). "Thrift stores near me" wasn't panning out, and Sound Heritage wasn't open (I haven't been in several years, so I can't speak to their selection).

Upstairs at the Vault

Turns out the most pleasant surprise was something I stumbled across quite unknowingly, a bit further out from the downtown core, above The Vault. The Vault is primarily a coffee shop/ restaurant, and maybe the most obvious art scene nexus, the equivalent of, say, our own much-missed Cafe Deux Soleil or such (but not totally vegetarian). There's a feeling of age and character, with walls full of funky art, records and CDs by locals for sale at the till, and a definite demand for table space among the young, weird creatives of Nanaimo, who appear to make up a good chunk of their clientele). But every seat was full, and it was an hour long wait for food, so I elected to eat at Tandoori Junction next door, who had the most coconutty vindaloo I have ever encountered, and a waitress who was at first unsettled by my speech, then overly inspired by having interacted with me, like it was somehow an honour to have a customer with a surgically altered tongue. I enjoyed the food, though!). But before that, I walked up the hill and saw that there was another Vault upstairs, with a sign promising clothing, books, and records... what?

So I went upstairs, to discover a long hall with rooms on either side, which surely once were apartments; there were vintage-y clothing shops with kind of a Mintage vibe, and weird art spaces that I did not enter, but loved the look of. 

...then at the end of the hall was a shop called Wyrd Wealth, which was where the books and records were. Which is what captured my eyes when I walked in the door, among other cool things on display, so I didn't really notice the guy at the counter until he said "Hey, Allan!"

It was Jeremy of Shearing Pinx, formerly of (Vancouver record store) Audiopile. It's his shop. I had seen Shearing Pinx were playing island shows, and figured that there had been some sort of move from the mainland, because I had not seen him in years, but I had no expectation we'd be running into each other.

I wrote two significant stories about Shearing Pinx, and a couple insignificant ones. One involved my sole article in the Wire, where I focused on the Fake Jazz Wednesdays scene, and talked to said wendythirteen about the future of the Cobalt given 2010 Olympics anxieties. Even though it was her space, I regretted later not getting a quote from Jeremy or Bill Batt, who were the curators of the series, but I did get Shearing Pinx mentioned, and maybe Stamina Mantis too. Sadly, my editors figured that "Shearing Pinx and the Mutators," who I mentioned as exemplars of Vancouver No Wave, were one band, and capitalized my "And The." So it was a mixed blessing: it acknowledged the Fake Jazz scene, which I don't think the Wire had run anything on, but it was not without errors and omissions. 

And yeah, I may have made too much of my friends in Ejaculation Death Rattle, but they were the glue that connected me to Vancouver New Music, so it wasn't JUST nepotism. Did the article criticize the forces of gentrification while participating in them? Were their contradictions? (Was nepotism actually a factor?). Surely it did Fake Jazz Wednesdays some good, anyhow. 

It was a bit stranger how I got the band into Spin, especially given that I have never written for Spin. Back when I was regularly contributing to the Straight, I wrote what I thought was an innocuous, funny piece about an unfortunate mixup that happened involving the Melvins. Somehow the article had some sort of viral appeal and attracted a level of reaction and condemnation far out of proportion to what had happened (it was the band who told me that it had been even earned them mention in Spin; as I recall, they were initially excited to see that they'd gotten a namecheck in such a big magazine, then disappointed to notice that the story was all about that fuckin' chucked cup). I think these were the early days of "internet outrage culture," which would later find more appropriate targets in acts of heinous racism, police brutality, or sexual misdeeds, but which at that point was like a hungry shark swimming in open waters, looking for someone, anyone to bite.  The days when people would show up armed at a pizza shop to bust the Satanic sexual slavery cult they read about on 4Chan, say. I saw no evidence that the band held the story against me when I did a later feature for them for Xtra, but that article really didn't do much good for them at all, I don't think). 

Anyhow, Jeremy's in Nanaimo now, and his shop is fuckin' great, though it is obvious that it is much, much easier with time and effort to put together a killer selection of cultish used books than cool used vinyl -- which is to say, I think someone shopping for cool books would do even better than I did, looking at the vinyl, as Wyrd Wealth boasted the single largest collection of Harry Crews books in one place, for instance, and lots else for readers to get excited about, but there were more new records than used. I was, once again, not as excited about new stuff, since the stuff on my want list is not in print, which is why it's on my want list, but once again, there were unexpected gems: I scored a Neil Young rarity with a live version of "Piece of Crap" on it -- a song I actually heard live the first time I saw Young in Japan. "Did you ever see our Neil Young tribute act?" Jeremy asked. "We only did about three shows, under different names, but one time we were billed as 'Piece of Crap!'" 

There are three shows worth mentioning that came up during our conversation -- because it turns out Jeremy is in another band, now, AND booking performers in the Vault, who I hadn't realized were doing live shows of their own. Two cool shows are happening there at the end of April, Ora Cogan (on April 26th) and Tower of Dudes (April 27th). I've actually neglected Cogan, knowing little more than her name, but I've seen and loved Tower of Dudes, who seemed like a slightly Slavic Camper van Beethoven, by way, perhaps, of the Creaking Planks; but the whole weekend is beckoning to me.  

Jeremy also has a well-received new band, properly called Earthball (if I got this right), but frequently rendered as Earth Ball, with a UK label, Upset the Rhythm, releasing their new album, a UK tour, and a Vancouver gig slated for the upcoming jazz festival. Jeremy seemed a bit startled by the unexpected enthusiasm for the project (saying of one gig, "We almost had Evan Parker sitting in with us -- I was shitting myself!")  but in great form (he's also in another band with one member of Earthball, Isobel Ford, called Behaviours). Was really nice to run into him again -- totally unexpected. And what a funky, fun, carefully-curated shop he's got!

People more interested in my wife's end of the art spectrum -- the making-of side, the paints, pens, pencils, pastels and paper end of things -- should take heart to note that Iron Oxide, Nanaimo's best-loved art supply store, have survived a flood and relocated to a slightly out of the way, but very cool destination, which we explored a little. My wife and Iron Oxide proprietor Willow had just been together in New Orleans for an art-supply-trade show, and when she got back from her CPAP run, we visited and I got to be a fly on the wall for awhile. It's a fine shop and Willow was funny, expressive, smart and clearly devoted to her shop (she'd been gardening and was living proof she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty!). I'm sure there are people in Nanaimo who are both customers at the Vault and at Iron Oxide. 

Anyhow, those are a few good reasons why a mainland arts geek might want to explore Nanaimo. And I was only there for, what, two hours, but I felt every bit as comfortable there as I do on the Drive or on Main Street in Vancouver. If there's ever discussion of a move to the island, I think I know which town I'm going to lobby for. Kinda keen to go back!