Thursday, August 31, 2006

Munch's Madonna recovered (and two Screams, too!)

I have an interesting history with this image. I was inspired to buy a poster of it at the peak of my interest in this woman I was seeing awhile back. I framed it and hung it on my wall the very week she and I kissed for the first time. Later that same week, the original painting was stolen from a museum in Norway by armed thugs. It seemed a portent of something, tho' I wasn't sure what... tho' now that I've seen Peter Watkins' Edvard Munch, I realize that none of this should have been taken as a good sign... Grim (but great) film...

In any event: the original has been recovered, along with two copies of Munch's The Scream, stolen with it. Good news for the arts world! ...but who knows what it signifies for my love life...

In other news, apparently old X-rays were used in the Soviet Union to make LPs. Thanks to our intrepid overseas corresponded for the bizarre tip.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Jes' Thinkin'

My digital camera is broken. I wanted to stick an image up, so here's an old pic I took of the surface of some water somewhere en route to Tofino. Pretty, innit? Like the song says, we're all water.

Really, what I wanted to mention deals with the Unabomber Manifesto. I am one of those immensely worried that the path we are on, as a culture, is very, very dangerous; as much of a creature of this culture I am, there is also a Luddite in me, who believes that in a way we might all be better off living in cabins in the woods and practicing a sort of self-sustaining minimalist lifestyle -- maybe even communally. I've at times (mostly when I was a lot younger) thought of that as a possible life for myself; I used to spend time living on an island on Pitt Lake where we would split wood for heat and live in a more direct relationship to nature than most and it all seemed very romantic to me (and tho' I was also stoned and self-destructive and very very confused at that time, the ideal hasn't lost its appeal). It's one of the reasons I greatly enjoyed my previously blogged chat with Maurice Spira, who lives a very self-sustaining life on the Sunshine Coast, in harmony with a sort of anarchist idea; and it's one of the reasons the documentary on the Unabomber, The Net -- to play at the upcoming VIFF -- really fascinated me. I dunno, maybe I just read "I have no Mouth and I must Scream" one too many times when I was a kid, but it seems to me that communications technology, the internet, industrialization, consumer capitalism, the increasingly urban nature of our experience, the complexities of what Desmond Morris called, I think, Super-Tribes... that all o' this places us on a path that leads further and further from anything organic in human experience and culture; we cease to be people who exist in an accountable relationship to the natural world or even to our immediate environs, and instead the ground of our being becomes increasingly fragile, unreal, and dependent on things like, well, this very computer you are reading this on. I'm not about to join an agrarian commune any time soon, but I always kinda feel like maybe I should WANT to; the planet, I think, would breathe a vast sigh of relief if many of us did exactly that.

Anyhow, this is stuff on my mind of late, and I thought if anyone else is following the thread of my thought, they might find this article by Bill Joy quite interesting. I haven't read it in completion myself, but I've read enough to know I'm interested... Joy was/is a friend of David Gelernter, who was injured in one of the Unabomber's attacks, and who, in The Net, impassionately explains that the violence the Unabomber used invalidated any political point he might make... which actually touches on another article I'm perhaps going to be writing soon, but we'll let that slide for the time being... Joy doesn't let his loyalty to his friend stop him from taking certain troubling passages from the Unabomber Manifesto quite seriously, which is what makes the article worth reading.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Nomeansno "Look Here Come the Wormies" sells for $320 US...

...on eBay, to a fan in Poland. (Item #160020162964).

I remember schlepping this around to various record dealers in Vancouver when I had a copy, back in th' day. None of them wanted it (this would have been in the early '90's). "Sure it's rare... but it kinda sucks!" I think the late Ty Scammel of the flea market paid me $5 for it. Or maybe it was Keith at Scratch, back when they used to be downstairs on Cambie. Maybe this is the selfsame copy... Actually, I've always been fond of this song. It pops up on Soulseek every now and then. It has a definite goofy charm to it.

I wonder what Slow's "I Broke the Circle" fetches? It's actually pretty cheap on Gemm. I used to have that too; nice to see it makes some guy's "top 100" Canadian singles list, even if it's only at 40. It really is a great rock song (and it also sometimes pops up on Soulseek, and may even be available for download here, tho' I dunno, I ain't tried it). News flash... Joe Keithley said on the phone the other day (for this complex Pointed Sticks thing I'm working on) that he'd love to release Slow's stuff on CD... Grant, you reading this?

Someone show this to Grant.

Now if someone would only release (or at least rip) the Spores' Schizofungi... I did manage to find MP3s online, ripped from vinyl, of "Meat Bi-Product" and the "Narcs in my Pants" single (great damn song). Had the originals, plus I used to have the Newsweatherandspores cassette, too (with "Expo in BC" on it -- "Is this the PNE?"). And tho' I have not owned it or heard it since probably around 1990, I still remember some of the lyrics from "I'm the Boss" (which also had a video, which, as of this writing, is NOT on Youtube):

It's my economic orgasm
It pays to be alive
Cos I make profit off it
While you work nine to five...

Danny Schmanny (sp?) is my favourite punk vocalist from Vancouver, I think. Here's the cover for their first single, "Meat Biproduct":

I keep telling the guys at Sudden Death that the Spores need to be re-released... Spores, are you out there? SOMEONE remembers.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Working for It

Fuck, what a couple of weeks its been. I'm exhausted.

It starts out well-enough, with a Pointed Sticks interview -- Bill Napier Hemy, Ian Tiles and I sit at the Templeton and talk about the Japan tour, ostensibly for this thing I'm doing for Razorcake, who have the first real taste of my Rob Wright/ Nomeansno interview online right now (I'm hoping I've found a home for the rest of it but it remains up in the air). So far it sounds okay, right? But then it turns out that my recording device craps out and I have to ask them to redo things over the phone. The same happens with a Winks interview -- I'd theorized that the problem with my digital recorder was that the Templeton was too loud, but NO, we record the Winks mostly in a quiet room with them talking right into the mike and it all basically just comes out as noise, even WORSE than the Pointed Sticks, and a whole bunch of it is lost, including Tyr singing one of their new songs, unaccompanied, into the mic. Ah, well. The Winks have high hopes about the upcoming article (and their move to Montreal) so they obligingly re-do the interview over the phone, with me using a tape recorder, but that turns out to be pretty fuckin' awful, too. The machine is nearly brand new, but for some reason, tho' it records MY voice just peachily, it introduces a ton of distortion onto the tape to anything I'm listening to, and if the speaker on the other end goes quiet for even a few seconds, a loud hissing sound results. Todd's voice is loud enough to be heard regardless, but Tyr is drowned out about 25% of the time by a static roar, making the whole process that much more challenging. I mean, this is a fuckin' BRAND NEW TAPE RECORDER, of the ancient shoebox variety, with a plug in feeding DIRECTLY into the internal mike; you'd figure given how long these fuckin' things have been around, they'd make them so they work, eh? Nope. It's like some sorta weird karmic retribution for having everything made in an overseas factory where workers are paid $1 a day, but, I mean, I DON'T OWN ANY SWEATSHOPS, so why should I collect the payback? (The rich assholes who run the sweatshops can afford to buy decent gear, too). At least I get the piece written -- it's not exactly what I'd hoped but it's finished and off to the Discorder, so that's one less stress out of the way.

As for the Pointed Sticks, once I think I've got my equipment SORT of squared away, Bill, Ian Tiles, and Sudden Death man Joe Keithley himself all talk for the tape, but I've just discovered a big chunk of THAT didn't record, either. There's a completely inexplicable ten-minute dropout from one of the interviews: because of the tape? Because of the phone? Because of the tape recorder? Because I have somehow offended God? Who knows, but at least I have enough to piece together SOMETHING. I just want to have done with it.

What else? I gotta vent some of this stuff because I feel toxic inside... The other day, I get to watch a really far gone homeless guy digging for discarded pizza in the trash can INSIDE a pizza by the slice place, a big bloody franchise one; the staff see him and do nothing, and he marches out munching some nice fresh garbage... I attempt to buy books at a thrift store, phoning my boss at the bookstore I work for to make sure he needs them, and the employee behind the counter doesn't know how to operate the phone. She tries several times to get a line out and can't. The next day, the waitress at this ramen place cannot figure out how to make change, when I ask her for $3.50 from a $20 bill; she doesn't understand the concept of "50 cents," and first gives me $3, then $5, making a mockery of my attempts to tip her. My apartment has mice. An XL shirt I buy at the Army and Navy is barely a Medium, and not just because with all the stress and improper sleep and eating I've been subjecting myself to, I've gained weight. A friend turns me on to a source for cheap flights, but we discover that in fact the people he's been dealing with are NOT on the level... Disorder, indifference, dishonesty and amateurism reign supreme in this bloody town. It makes me want to move, to go somewhere with a hatsize, somewhere where I will be loved... Whine. Having recently seen a provocative documentary on the topic (see my September film column in Discorder), I'm turning to the Unabomber Manifesto for consolation... It's scary how lucid it is.

The high point of the month, tho', remains a high point through it all. One afternoon, I call Corwood Industries about a Jandek article I'm writing. I go out, come back, and there's a voicemail from The Man Himself on my phone. See next month's Nerve Magazine for more on that...

At least I'm keeping busy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Zabriskie Point tomorrow!

Wrote about this already, but I'm really excited -- I NEED a night off tomorrow, from a week of hectic writing, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing Zabriskie Point tomorrow night...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Zombiewalk Photos Make Flickr

Working on writing about Zombiewalk, but I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with it. As you may notice, I participated... Thanks to th' relevant parties for their excellent makeup work; I can't find your studios site to link it and I figure you may want it that way...! I'll be in touch. Thanks also to Heather and Dan and the guy at Starbucks who served me, and to the photographer known as Eesmayl for takin' the pic (I helped myself, since I'm the guy in it... I assume we're not going to sue each other. Maybe we could fight over some intestines?)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cassavetes' HUSBANDS: petition online to have it released on DVD

Hey, check this out, it looks like Umberto Eco signed it (he's around number 144 or such). Could be a fake name, who knows... Tom Charity's down there somewhere, too. Ray Carney never did sign it, but he's about as non-joiner as they come. I should send a link to my friend S. in Australia...

The Japan-Vancouver Punk Rock Cultural Interchange Continues (in which I tip my hand as a possible translator and middleman)

D.O.A. / DISCO SUCKS (2005/08/21)
[QUINTESSENCE - CAN] HardZCore 7inch 6800 yen
コンディション ジャケ:EX+ / 盤:EX+

Heh. How about that, "Disco Sucks" is worth almost $70 Canadian in Japan! (I see the yen has continued to fall; how about that). We can probably make some money here, folks...

I'm pestering the Japanese with my hidoi bumpo no nihongo (悪い日本文法, maybe, if you trust Babelfish, which I don't) about the recent Pointed Sticks tour (see below). This leads me to Recordshop BASE and the Big Boss over there, Toshio, whose stories and opinions I really want!

Toshio, if you're reading this, YOROSHIKU ONEGAISHIMASU!!!!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rituals at the Vancouver International Film Centre

Ooh! I've known for awhile that there was going to be a series of Canadian horror films playing over Hallowe'en at the Vancouver International Film Centre, but it never occured to me that they might screen Rituals (that's the link to the Vancity program; read more about the film at IMDB, here). I remember it as a creepy and intense variation on the "urban/rural" horror theme, one neglected in Carol J. Clover's really stimulating look at that genre in Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film -- excerpts of which are found online here. Usually compared to Deliverance, it follows four doctors on an outdoors adventure that goes, um, wrong. The copy from a variant poster reads, "In a world turned suddenly savage, the answers have become -- brutally simple!" It's been a long time since I've seen it, but the genre (with its workings-through of class resentment, guilt, and atonement) fascinates me -- see also, Hunter's Blood, Pumpkinhead, The Hills Have Eyes, or even last year's unpleasant and reactionary, but fascinating Hostel (which substitutes quaint Europeans for crossbred hill people, but plays on similar themes) for more. Clover's look at the genre is largely inspired by her consideration of I Spit on Your Grave, as part of her overall treatment of rape-revenge films. It's worth a look, for background; I have yet to read Caelum Vatnsdal's They Came from Within, which no doubt also deals with the film, but I've just discovered it's considerably cheaper to order it from than; Caelum will be introducing the film. Oh, by the way, the film boasts some terrific performances by Hal Holbrook (who I was always fond of) and Lawrence Dane (the double agent in Cronenberg's Scanners). Mark your calendars now, so you don't get distracted by the film festival...

Friday, August 18, 2006


(Photo of Tyr hard at practice at Castle in the Clouds. Photographer: Dan Kibke)

(Winks dolls by Tyr and Jasa, to be sold at Castle in the Clouds and the Only Magazine Block Party)

I sorta promised Tyr I wouldn't write about tonight's gig at Pat's Pub, but I have to say that, as the fog of time envelops my varied Winks memories, seeing Adrian sprint across the dance floor for the drum kit will surely remain clear... And if Todd had bent that F any further, it would have gone right past G to H. A fun, if anarchic, gig.

You realize (I hear address a particular cellist I know, but anyone who wishes can wear the mantle of "you") that the Winks are leaving for Montreal, right? You are running out of opportunities to see them, at least in the forseeable future. They will be doing an evening of events, with other artists, at their performance space, Castle in the Clouds (152 West Hastings), on September 3rd, which is apparently not yet up on their website. The theme is Twins (duets, to follow the "masturbatory" solos of August), and you are encouraged to bring a twin; Jasa, Tyr's sister and partner in Parlour Treats, will be on hand, so also bring shopping money for clothes, or Winks dolls. It's not just for girls, either. Men can buy special ties. I may. I highly encourage everyone to see the Winks in their natural environment.

The night before, September 2nd, it is also worth notin' that the Winks baritone saxophonist Tim Sars -- who is not leaving for Montreal -- will be playing at the Princeton Pub with his own project, the Orange Monkeys, which he describes as "kind of dirty reggae funk." The lineup sounds special -- sax, marimba, percussion, drums (!) and a bassist... I think I may check it out.

The next night, meanwhile (after the Twins gig on the 3rd, which is to say, September 4th), there will be an Only Magazine release party with the Winks and Jasa in attendance, also featuring the Doers and others... See their live shows page for more. On their email list, the band comments that "It will be sad to leave such a supportive scene," but the band are very excited about the opportunities that await them). They also inform fans that they "will be having a last show September 15th at a to-be-announced venue."

I'm working on a Discorder story on the band but it's been beset by technological flubups, so I dunno exactly what it's going to end up like... It's been a tough month. Things are still percolating and will hopefully become coffee by my deadline. Thanks to the Winks, for their patience! I will miss you, Winks! Godspeed in Montreal!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Come see the Winks Masturbating!

Tonight! Castle in the Clouds!!! 152 W. Hastings!!!! Come see the Winks masturbating in their natural environment!

Pointed Sticks fans take note

That's the Japanese tour poster (y'all know about the Pointed Sticks reunion, right?). You can also find videos of the band on Youtube -- both archival stuff from the early Vancouver punk scene and performance clips of the band in Japan! (Poke around, because there's more -- that's a pretty damned genki audience they're playing to). I'll have more stuff on the Pointed Sticks coming up online or elsewhere at a later date... Meantime, if you missed the news of the tour, check out John Mackie's article here. other news, westernization has been tied to increasing mental illness, higher suicide rates, and a low birth rate in Japan. But don't blame the punks!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Reviews and Interviews: Nomeansno, Rob Wright, Tom Holliston and more

(Note: I do HAVE pictures for this, but Blogger is being stubborn about accepting them today, and I can't seem to work the juju of it. Will keep trying).

The second in a series of Nomeansno articles I'm writing is up at Razorcake, featuring bits of a fascinating interview with the very articulate Rob Wright. (As of this writing there's a bit of a glitch in the title -- it should read "...and the Passion of Slugs." But no big deal, the article is all there!). Of course there's also my Discorder article, while it's up; and in September a very brief item will appear in Canada's This Magazine, featuring brief quotes from Tom Holliston and John Wright. The bulk of my Rob Wright article has not been used, however, and is currently being prepped for publication in a major punk 'zine in the States, whose name I will not mention until such a time as publication is confirmed... Hoping it gets into print in time for the September-October US tour.

In the meantime, if you're drooling to hear the new Nomeansno offering, All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt (to be released in Canada on August 22nd), and want a VERY tasty appetizer, you might want to head on down to Red Cat Records while Tom Holliston's solo CDs are still in stock (mebbe phone ahead and check; if they aren't there, they'll get Tom to bring more in. Mailorder folks may also want to explore Coolforever, where Tom sometimes works -- or so I'm told on the Nomeansno board. I completely concur with Satan Stole My Teddybear's John Chedsey that these are excellent albums -- I can't link to his reviews per se, but search them out for a better idea what these albums are about; they've more to do with classic rock'n'roll, twisted through a goofily humorous and very media-critical sensibility, than they do with punk or the sound of Nomeansno (although Tom was much more heavily involved in writing the music this time out). I must admit, though I'm not that much of a Show Business Giants fan -- finding them to be more of a novelty act than anything -- I absolutely love Tom's three solo CDs (so far my fave tune is "Trophy Wife," mostly for the couplet, "I'm living in limbo/ someone send me a bimbo" -- this is great art, folks).

I don't plan to use it anywhere else, so I figure I'll offer one final Rob Wright quote here, about his tastes in cinema:

"I like the Italian neorealists. I like Antonioni… I’ve gotten into DVDs serious, the quality of restorations in some of these movies is just gorgeous, it’s just amazing. I follow that pretty standard arty sorta thing. I avoid all Hollywood movies."

Since I've been a big Cassavetes man for a long time now (and since Cassavetes was influence by the neorealists), I asked Wright if he was fan.

"Somewhat, not lately. I sort of liked him a lot when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. But right now it’s mostly the Italians and Werner Herzog, people like that."

Of course, if anyone wants to check out Mr. Wright's tastes, there's an Antonioni retrospective at the Cinematheque. Of the films upcoming I'd recommend Red Desert and Zabriskie Point (see below); I'm also really looking forward to the short documentary's they'll be playing, but I haven't seen any of them previously -- the Cinematheque, as always, are doing a great thing bringing these here. Probably the most timely, politically relevant neorealist work, though, is Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers, which played there last month; you can rent it on DVD, if you missed it.

I'll keep y'all posted when the next Nomeansno news breaks.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

...And a Manatee off Manhattan

A manatee -- not the one pictured above -- has been spotted off Manhattan. Connected to climate change?

I always liked manatees.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Unwanted Homework: Israel and Lebanon

You know, I'm fucking sick of the Middle East? Since a certain day in 2001, every fucking day I feel compelled to follow the news there, often with feelings of great worry, dread, anxiety, even anger. It's gotten so that it's just no goddamn fun anymore. American soldiers rape an Iraqi girl? So what else is new? Why would it be different? The news from Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and so forth basically does nothing but inspire my own personal isolationism. Shia and Sunni civil war in Iraq, predicted by the pundits long before the invasion? FUCK YOU ALL; what's on at the Cinematheque? I'm soooooooooo goddamn tired of all these people killing each other -- I'm tired of Muslim fanaticism, American imperialism, Israel's disporportionate retaliations, the hurt feelings of withdrawn settlers, and the saga of whether Hamas can function as a political party... It's all a bad comedy and I want it to stop. Can't I just have my nice comfy apathy back and fuss about things I have some impact on? Remember the days of Clinton, when all that bad shit happening over there was mostly happening OVER THERE? (Seattle's not that far from Vancouver, I mean, FUCK).

But still I am drawn to read. A supporter of the Lebanon war makes a pretty good case for himself here. Unfortunately, his analogy of “sacrificing a pawn” neglects to acknowledge that one sacrifice’s ones OWN pawns, in chess, not one’s opponents. Still, his call for a complete withdrawal past the 1967 borders seems pretty "grown up" to me. For further background, another pro-Israel piece here, which I thought revealing and helpful -- because anyone who gets his news from Znet, and I sometimes do, needs as many calm and reasonable pro-Israeli pieces as possible to balance things out, since there's a lot of impassioned anti-Israel vitriol on the site. (Generally speaking, the left do a piss poor job of responding to Islamic fundamentalism -- that moderates should end up the de-facto defenders of religious fanatics is one of the great contradictions of our age). That said, there's still a lot of compelling, well-reasoned (idealistic) stuff on Znet. You might want to peek at this useful little article by Stephen R. Shalom -- it's sort of the equivalent of those little "know what you believe and why" pamphlets you see at Christian bookstores, which is not exactly a good thing, but it seems, all told, to be reasonable and unhysterical to me. Up until I stopped reading, that is. I mean, you get to where its conclusions become pretty predictable...

Yeah, yeah, you just want to read about A Silver Mount Zion. Me, too. Scroll down.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Battle Royale at Blim, August 18th

Hey, folks... we'll be playing that most charming of antiauthoritarian dystopian exploitation films, BATTLE ROYALE, followed by it's ridiculously confused (but jaw-dropping) sequel, BATTLE ROYALE 2, at Blim on August 18th, starting at 8PM. The first film was the last completed feature by Japanese action auteur Kinji Fukasaku (also famed for THE YAKUZA PAPERS). See this month's Discorder for the Cinema Aspirant article on Fukasaku and be sure to pass on the news. My Blim events have been attended by next to no one!!! I will perhaps soon abandon ship!!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Carla Bozulich and Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band, August 16th at Richards on Richards

Efrim and Thierry - weird colour distortions are entirely accidental, but kinda cool

A Silver Mount Zion Collage, 2006

Carla and the band relax.

Note: This is intended as a follow up to the cover story in the August Discorder (in which I also have a Nomeansno interview).

I interviewed Carla Bozulich by cell phone in July, just before she was going onstage at a
Philadelphia church. I asked her how she came to record with members of Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band with Choir (henceforth to be rendered as “A Silver Mount Zion” or perhaps something even briefer). The CD, Evangelista, recorded at Efrim and Thierry’s studio in Montreal, Hotel2Tango, is undoubtedly the strongest album that she’s done, something she herself acknowledges. It sounds like it was rather easily accomplished, though. She explained:

“Jessica, who plays violin in A Silver Mount Zion, was in the Geraldine Fibbers for a short time and that’s how I met all of them, and you know, we just hit it off. The last time I played in
Montreal I played just a little bit of the material that ended up being on the new album, and Efrim said he would like to record it at Hotel2Tango, and I was just totally blown away; then the people who played on it said they would like to play on it, and… I just followed the direction that it took to make it happen. It’s really the easiest thing I ever did, and it’s a good thing that it was, because I was sort of not that organized in my mind at that time… but really, Efrim and Shazad Ismaily and everybody that played on it just kind of made it happen and all I really had to do was just show up and bring the songs and sing and share some of my ideas, and everybody produced the album. It was really a phenomenal experience and Efrim, I dunno, he was just so tuned into it – he was just sort of on fire with the project. It could never be the album it is without what he did. He was tireless, he was working on other things at the same time and he just, he spent every minute that he had to spare on it and just made it into this incredible thing and mixed all these cuts without anybody else even being there, which has like, never happened to me, I’ve never not been there for that, but they ended up being perfect, and I dunno… and Shazad, too, didn’t ask any money, came all the way up from NY, cancelled a bunch of shit, and just… everybody just worked really hard at it. I think they just liked the music.

(Efrim Menuck offers, on the experience of working with Bozulich, that “it was great. It was a complicated and difficult but really good process and I feel touched and honoured to have been a part of it.” More from him below.)

Though Thierry, Sophie, and Efrim (along with multi-instrumentalist and Marc Ribot collaborator Ismaily) were her band on Evangelista, Carla Bozulich’s backup band for the August 16th Vancouver show
will consist primarily of the members of the Seattle based group, Dead Science. Carla says of them, “They’re so fucking good… It’s just a trio, they play this really intense and really beautiful rock music that’s very unusual... it’s just very pretty, it’s kind of almost like Antony from Antony and the Johnsons meets like, something a lot more intense, I don’t know how exactly to explain. There’s also (viola player) Anni Rossi and a woman named Tara Barnes – she’s from a band called Business Lady and a band called Dutchesses – she’s a phenomenal bassist and singer and, um, she’s my right hand man. Actually, she’s with me all the time, all the tours that are coming up, which is quite a lot, we’re going to be touring through the year and into next year. "

Carla describes Evangelista as “the most raw, kind of heart on your sleeve sort of thing” she’s done, but many people are finding it a bit darker than she intended it to be.

“It’s funny because I’ve read a few reviews of the record where they listen to the record, they listen to the title track, the first track, Evangelista, and they
say it’s, you know, torment and like, really, an attack on the senses, and all this, and it’s kinda funny… I mean, I don’t deny that that’s the way it comes off if that’s the way it comes off, but what I MEANT by it was more of like a thing to sort of like appeal to people’s sense of desperation and maybe loneliness and offer this alternative which is like this exaltation achieved through sound and love… but I guess it comes off as witchy…” She talks at greater length in Discorder about sound, love, and her intentions with the new album – which is one of the most emotionally truthful recordings I’ve heard in recent years.

Though it was p
robably unthinkable at the time of her more accessible Willie Nelson project, Red Headed Stranger, with Evangelista, some reviewers are comparing Bozulich with Diamanda Galas. As I mention in Discorder, I also think of NicoThe Marble Index, in particular – and Patti Smith (particularly the texture of some of the “churchier” moments on Easter) when listening to the new disc. Bozulich has written about Patti Smith before; I don’t know how she feels about Nico, but I did get to ask her if she feels any affinity for Galas’ music.

“Yeah, I do, I feel a power inside of myself that’s immense in that I have gift for throwing out of my body into the atmosphere and into the audience and I recognize that in her, too, and I feel really lucky that I can manifest that.”

Since the new album does acknowledge the painfulness of life, in its pursuit of healing, I asked her if she had any political intentions in making it (these seem to be dark times, where there is much in the world that needs to be healed).

“Well, certainly it was meant to reach out in a way… I mean, the voice of the person that is singing the first cut, or preaching, or whatever you want to call it, it’s almost a sermon… it was certainly meant to reach out, it’s like, reaching out to people the way you do in church, the way the preacher does, and there’s no limit to who you’re reaching out to. I mean, only a finite number of people are going to hear it, but there really isn’t any limit to who you’re calling out to, you know…? The album to me is something that is very personal to me, but I don’t think I’m unique in my feelings – do you understand what I mean? … I try to kind of find common ground, I do find common ground all the time… and I like to nurture that in my writing in general, because my writing’s very very very personal, and really, you know… I respond directly to what’s happening in my life, but I also am keenly aware of the fact that I’m not the only person that has these feelings, these are the feelings of human beings and, um, I feel a little bit lucky that maybe I can put some of them into words, maybe in ways that some people haven’t been able to formulate before for themselves, and so I think it’s nice for them to have that, you know, as a present… I like to try to give my music away as a present.”

The next night, I had a slightly longer conver
sation with Efrim Menuck of A Silver Mount Zion, who follow Bozulich on August 16th. You get the feeling that Efrim is a little weary of being jerked around by interviewers (read this rather interesting note from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor days); it took a little while to get him talking. His earlier answers on the phone were brief – asked about the fact that PEOPLE ARE SINGING on their recent albums – a rarity with GY!BE – he responded, “It feels good singing because there’s words involved, y’know, um, and it feels good to be able to use words to try to express stuff after playing in a band for so many years that uh didn’t use any words.” Which is straightforward enough, but compare it to the answer he gives about choral singing in the Discorder piece (from later in that phone call). Part of the problem may have been me, and it may be a problem that other people encounter with the band: they seem more idealistic than your average folks, and it’s hard to feel entirely on an equal footing with them (especially when you go to Starbucks as often as I do; “Forgive me, Efrim, I have had three soy chais since my last confession…”). He started to open up a bit more when we discussed the deliberately cheap ticket prices for the show; the band are charging only $14 to see them (and Carla) play, and this seems outrageously inexpensive to me, given the number of people involved. He says in the Discorder piece that they don’t feel comfortable “fleecing” people, but at $14 a head, I feel almost like I’m fleecing them. This got us talking about whether they earn a living off their music, which they currently do, particularly with Hotel2Tango proceeds added to the pot. It wasn’t always this way.

“The first many many years with Godspeed You! Black Emperor being a band with records out and touring we were all working a variety of jobs and, and doing what we could to make ends meet. I remember between maybe the second and third Godspeed tour I got cut off welfare because I was out of country, yeah? And so I came back and made an appointment with my welfare worker, and assured her even though I was in this band and hopefully, y’know, someday we would earn some sort of living, right now the band wasn’t earning enough money for me to pay my rent, and she actually made me sign this declaration and get is signed by a justice of the peace,
saying that my name was Efrim Menuck and I play in a musical group called GY!BE and that as far as I can tell I will never ever ever earn a living playing music…

“So, y’know, I mean, it took awhile, I mean, we’re lucky. I dunno, I have sort of a skewed perspective on the whole thing. I
will say for sure that most musicians – the bulk of musicians out there pleading poverty or talking about the difficult life of the artist – the bulk of musicians, especially in this thing that popularly gets called indy rock or whatever, are mostly either whining or lying or just have a real, sort of, luxurious understanding of what it is to earn a living in this world. The economics of -- ever since CDs came out, the economics of record sales are completely, completely abhorrent. A CD costs almost nothing to manufacture but sells for what, you know? It’s all a big racket.”

This frustrates Efrim, since A Silver Mount Zion ARE doing things independently; the abuse of the term in our current indy-crazed milieu pisses him off. “I wake up in the morning and turn on CBC radio, yeah? And I have to hear Gian Fucking Gomeshi, right, gushing about what he’s terming as the newest independent genius thing, right, and then he plays some band that’s just released a record on either a major label or a so called independent label that’s owned by a major label. Now, I don’t think it’s like, splitting hairs to like, sort of wonder why, music, like what the hell does the word independent mean in that context, y’know, like, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request that other sort of intelligent or semi-intelligent grown up human beings think twice before they describe something lazily, y’know? Does that sound ridiculous?”

Toward the end of our talk, I asked him about the references to Phil Ochs and Nina Simone in the work of GY!BE and A Silver Mount
Zion. Was the intent to pay respects to people who were destroyed or damaged by the music industry?

“Absolutely. It comes again to the idea that we’re, like, y’know, musicians by trade and so that means that… I can’t think of any happy endings in music, in sort of like the personal lives of people who are engaged in this thing of making music, there are no happy endings; there are plenty of cautionary tales and tragically short lives. It’s a train wreck. The history of modern popular music is a train wreck. It’s got all these utopian ideas bubbling everywhere you know, like a song can make you feel like you’re not alone in the world, that there’s purpose to your life, music has that power, but at the
same time, if you did deep and you look at the story behind it, it’ll just break your heart in 20 million places. It’s like a sucker’s game. It’s like the last thing in the world that anyone should believe in or engage in, y’know, so, out of love of music and out of making music, you end up, you know, making your own, sort of like, hall of saints and you write your own little, what’s the word, catechisms, the Catholic thing there, those little books that teach you how to pray proper, you write your own little catechisms, if you’re a certain type of personality....”

I mention that Ochs was one of my
saints, and Albert Ayler.

“Absolutely, I mean, Mingus too, what the hell, there’s so many.”

We went on to talk somewhat inconclusively about “what seems to be the last chapter of Bob Dylan’s life;” Efrim has “no idea what the fuck goes through that man’s brain,” but thinks that Dylan is “acutely aware of how far he’s fallen… I don’t know what he’s self-aware about, but I think he has an awareness that he’s not what he once was. I dunno, he’s like a ghost to me, a ghost with some sort of weird conscience.”)

Efrim really doesn’t give himself credit for how intelligent and articulate he is; he’s certainly one of the most interesting people I’ve interviewed, and the person most comfortable exploring the meaning of what he does. Yet he commented more than once during the interview that he didn’t feel particularly articulate. The contradiction fits, in a way, with his stage presence. Seeing GY!BE at the Liquid Room in Tokyo some years ago, I was shocked how on the one hand Efrim managed to seem extremely self-conscious, hiding behind a vast wad of hair, and on the other, an amazingly charismatic and attractive figure. (I mean, how does that work, exactly?). I’m singularly glad that he’s singing now, and I love the choral aspects of Horses in the Sky, A Silver Mount Zion’s most recent studio venture. We talked about that at some length, most of which made it into Discorder. Here’s a quote that didn’t: “I mean, when Godspeed started playing together, the violence of our society that was like, really pretty buried isn’t buried anymore, it’s on the surface always now, so, I dunno, it just comes down to feeling that now’s the time where you need words, you need ideas, you need talking, you need at least something like that to communicate anything.”

Finally, I asked him about the future of GY!BE, officially on hiatus. Did they have plans to regroup?

“Yeah, there’s no plan, I mean, no, there’s no plan. I’m sure that Godspeed
will play again, but everyone in Godspeed is engaged in other things right now…”

There was a lot more, but the best of it made it into Discorder (I mean, surely more people read Discorder than my blog, right?). As I write, there are still tickets available around town for the show. I haven’t been so excited about seeing a band play in… well, since the jazz festival. Yeah, okay, that was only a month ago. Shut up.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bruce Sweeney's DIRTY and Lynne Stopkewich's KISSED

Did I mention that August 4th, Dirty and Kissed will be playing in a double bill at the Vancouver International Film Centre? They're two of the darkest, strangest, most interesting films to come out of Vancouver -- read the VIFC listings here. Stopkewich and Sweeney were both UBC students together -- I believe Sweeney was part of the Kissed crew, in fact, but I'm too lazy to flip open Dreaming in the Rain to check what he did -- but I'd love these films even if they weren't local (tho' I do feel totally proud that these films represent Vancouver in the world. I used to see Kissed alongside the Cronenberg movies in the Canadian film sections of Japanese video stores and get a quiet chuckle out of it, wondering what the Japanese could possibly conclude about Canada, based on these films)... Anyhow, I'm very excited about this double bill. Y'all should read up on them. Y'all should go.

Truth is, though, I'm getting a little dispirited writing about film here. When an amazing work of film art like Police Beat, despite the fact that even Ken Eisner wrote about it in the Straight, though he was neither very enthusiastic nor perceptive -- gets pretty much ignored (on the two nights I went, anyhow) -- I get to feeling like it's a bit of a lost cause. No one comes to my Blim events, I've received next to no feedback for the Cinema Aspirant stuff I've been doing for Discorder... I'm losing faith.

By the way, Police Beat plays again tomorrow night at 7:30. It's your last chance to see it on screen. I may go a fourth time, I like it THAT MUCH. Since it's in anamorphic widescreen and really visually striking, I suspect it will lose quite a bit on the small screen, so I want to get the full effect as often as I can... Tom Charity just directed me to this interview he did with Police Beat director Devor... It might help sell the unconvinced, give you a sense of what the film offers...