Friday, October 30, 2009

Another night of disturbing dreams

No work today, thank God... I just woke up from a rather twisted dream. I'm a cop, investigating a dangerous case involving, I think, police corruption, with my partner - but there's another case we're involved in, involving a fugitive. After a massive car chase - my dream had a fucking car chase in it - I am called to an abandoned building, where this fugitive has been seen hiding. As I go upstairs to the attic where he is, the narrative perspective shifts to my partner: I am waiting downstairs, listening. The cop who was initially the "first person" subject of the dream is unexpectedly and brutally murdered by the fugitive, some broken child-man whose true evil no one has fully realized. Somehow the new "I" - the partner - is able to force reality to repeat itself to see if another way can be found out of the situation, with the realization that the evil is greater than anticipated; so the dream repeats itself (it's actually only the second version I remember, with the car chase, I assume again, and then the death - but I recall it clearly as the "second death"). Nothing significant changes, except it's even more horrifying to live through the death the second time, anticipating it. Everyone tells me at this point to give up, but I - the partner - will reality to repeat yet again, and this time, when the dream repeats, something changes. Part of my perspective goes upstairs with the cop, while part remains below with the partner, and, with my fragmented identity working together, "I" do something to confuse the killer, making some personal reference to his past that confuses him momentarily, and "I" manage to escape - the upstairs cop leading his partner on a run downhill to a wide river that flows by, where we jump in and float away, safe. The ending of this third dream, which I recall less clearly than the rest, has other cops descend on the killer and brutally beat him to death for attempting to murder one of their own. Jesus: dreams like that make me glad to wake up.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Human Condition

I just finished the first third of "the greatest film ever made" (sayeth David Shipman in The Story of Cinema, and used, of course, for the Cinematheque's advert for the film.) Also recently released on a Criterion DVD - reviewed here - Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition will play in three parts - each designed as a stand-alone movie - through early November at the Pacific Cinematheque. I've been excited about seeing this film for some time, since I greatly admired Kobayashi's Hara Kiri and tend to like any films made by Japanese that dare to criticize their country (the more harshly, the better!); that it is set in occupied Manchuria during World War II makes it even more interesting for me. Alas, I am so fatigued from my week at work and the general state of my life - adjusting to the daily commutes, the sundry chores I'm helping my parents with, and other life changes - that I am unsure of my ability to finish all three segments of the film - the first alone is three hours long - before it screens.

The first third is certainly remarkable cinema. It's visually beautiful, for one - gorgeous widescreen black and white images rooted in the same classic sense of composition that Bergman drew from John Ford and Kurosawa from Bergman (one of the Chinese POW's even puts me in mind at times of John Carradine). It's politically quite startling, too, for a Japanese film made in 1959. It's unafraid to make the Japanese military into brutal, unsympathetic bad guys, and equally condemnatory of cynicism and apathy amongst various corporate higher-ups; it's as uncompromising in its sense of virtue and vice as Kurosawa is in The Bad Sleep Well and Ikiru, though Kobayashi has a much larger canvas to paint on, and is seems more politically committed than Kurosawa ever was. All three films follow Kaji, an idealistic but green young Japanese who wants to avoid military service, and - in the first film - is sent instead, with his new bride, to take control of a mine in Manchuria, where the abuse of Chinese laborers and corruption are widespread. His left-leaning idealism immediately pits him against the crueler of the Japanese foremen, then is sorely tested by the arrival of several hundred POW's - anti-Japanese villagers rounded up by the army, nearly starved to death in packed cattle cars, and shipped to the mines as forced labour. Kaji wants to win their trust, and perhaps worse, their approval - a difficult position to be in for someone supervising slave labour. Though he wins a certain amount of respect from the prisoners, he can't stop them from wanting to escape, which undermines his credibility with his bosses and seems to vindicate the call for harsher measures, which eventually manifest themselves... The first two-thirds of the film establish the conflicts and characters at a somewhat leisurely pace, as Kaji's idealism faces test after test, but the last hour abundantly rewards patience, as various threads come together. This is essential cinema for anyone who values morally ambitous, courageous cinema; I doubt I'll be able to attend the Cinematheque screenings myself, but I hope that Vancouver audiences check them out - with luck, I'll get through all three by the time they start playing at the Cinematheque (Nov. 2nd is the first screening; on November 11th, starting at 12, there will be a ten-hour Rememberance Day marathon of all three films. I strongly advise you to bring a big, comfy pillow). I'll be highly recommending the films to my Japanese students, tho' I'm not sure that they'll like what they see - most Japanese, now as then, are not that willing to look long in the face of history, when the reflection is as unflattering as this.

Joe weighs in

Joe Keithley just emailed me the following: "it was a cruel hoax. Chuck is alive."

(Chuck Biscuits apparently joined DOA at age 14, and has since played for Danzig, Social Distortion and many others. DOA just released a 30th anniversary DVD).

Chuck Biscuits - viral death rumour or...?

Just caught via the Nomeansno discussion forum that there is a story about Chuck Biscuits' death from cancer circulating - a story that, however, may not be true. Read the comments on the thread - if the blogger who posted this is accurately representing himself, he's been maliciously duped by someone, and in turn caused a lot of people grief and worry. Here's hoping he's wrong.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Festival of Vampires (aka Vampyre Weekend)

Cinephiles, are you paying attention? Those of you not wowed by the prospect of seeing Dario Argento's Suspiria on the big screen at the Cinematheque for Hallowe'en should definitely make tracks to the Vancity Theatre for Vampyre Weekend, where there are a dozen vampire movies, all of them unusual and significant and many utterly brilliant, playing over three nights. Capsule comments follow:

Let The Right One In: Alienated? Bullied? Weak? Turn to the dark side! A young male victim of elementary school persecution befriends an equally young female vampire. The novel's disturbing pedophilic elements are mostly excised to lend an elegant circularity to the relationships described; the bleakness of the Swedish suburbs is much emphasized and is quite chilling - and it looks cold, too. I am shocked at how durable this film is - I keep feeling like I'm done with it, but then I see it again and enjoy it even more. I've viewed it four times already and plan to see it again. 'Nuff said.

Near Dark: I saw two really promising films of Kathryn Bigelow's, back in the 1980's: Blue Steel - a female cop genre exploration with Jamie Lee Curtis that seemed stylish and fresh, investigating what it means for a woman to don a uniform and take up the role of authority; and this, a noirish contemporary vampire/western about a band of roving vampires headed by Lance Henriksen - one of whom, a fetching young woman, falls for a virtuous cowboy-type in a small town, who doesn't get along very well with her friends. It was a must-see in my 20's, but I haven't revisited it in a long time, partially because after the success of Blue Steel, Bigelow then went for more commercial fare (Point Break, Strange Days) that rather spoiled my enthusiasm for her work. Her recent arthouse hit, The Hurt Locker, didn't do much for me, though it beat the hell out of watching surfing bankrobbers, and many critics loved it. I'm very curious to see how Near Dark holds up.

Vampire's Kiss: I've never seen it, but I've heard many people praise it as a quirky, strange film about a yuppie convinced he is becoming a vampire. Sounds like a perfect vehicle for Nicolas Cage to chaw on some scenery, or maybe some costars.

The Hunger: the pale, bighaired Goth Wiccan object of my affection in my teens and early 20's loved this film and watched it repeatedly. It features Bauhaus performing "Bela Lugosi's Dead" and has a lead role from David Bowie, looking appropriately pale and gaunt - for some, this is enough. Personally, rather than any of the above, I was more into watching Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve make out (see Roger Ebert's rather horny, if unequivocally negative, review of the film). The first film by Tony Scott, it has style in abundance, but not a single carchase or gunfight. For all the blood, I'm really not sure it has much meat to it, but what can I say - Susan Sarandon, sickly and pale with blood on her mouth, making out with Catherine Deneuve? I'll see you at the movies.

Martin: My favourite film in the fest and my vote for the greatest vampire film ever made, it's arguable if Martin is even a vampire - or just a lonely, sexually confused young man carrying around the troubling heritage of old country superstitions (which could easily be paralleled with the sort of sexual guilt that some young Christians inherit - possibly why I like it so much, since I was raised Catholic). The opening murder is one of the most squirm-inducing things I've seen in cinema; it's truly unsettling, and I cannot wait to see how it feels to watch it with an audience. A very intimate, human, and ultimately sad film; and director George A. Romero is hilarious in his cameo as a young hip priest.

Habit: Ain't seen it. Much praised - a vampire-as-addict movie, akin to The Addiction or I Pass For Human. I think Larry Fessenden is the homeless guy who rants and raves at a sleeping Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy; no relation, as I recall, to gay indy horror filmmaker Jamie Fessenden, whom I interviewed here.

Rabid: The late Marilyn Chambers gives a great, non-pornographic performance as a young woman who receives an experimental form of plastic surgery and develops a strange craving for blood, which she gratifies via a tube in her armpit. Her predations lead to a one-woman plague of a rabies-like disease that sweeps Toronto and, I guess, the world. A Cronenberg film I have not seen in some years, I believe it's one that Canadian critic Robin Wood repudiated in his essay ("Cronenberg: A Dissenting View") in The Shape of Rage, and I rather argee with him that this film, as well as The Brood, is probably - if you get right down to it - uncritically anti-female, anti-science, anti-sex and reactionary - tho' contra Wood, that makes it no less interesting for me. As to whether these are textual (that is, intended and authorised) or subtextual tendencies of the film (Cronenberg's vast dark backward asserting itself), I cannot say; I never really understood what Cronenberg thought he was doing with this film. Mostly I just have a great time watching Marilyn Chambers do her thing - my recollection is that she's absolutely terrific in this film.

There are various films in the festival that I have not seen and have little to say on, though they sound promising: Vampyr; the reconstruction of the lost London After Midnight and its remake, Mark Of The Vampire; and a 1970's vampire film starring the black guy from Night Of The Living Dead, called Ganja And Hess, which I'm told is great (Adrian Mack has sung its praises and has been invited to comment on the film; DVD Beaver review with screen captures here). Not sure I'll make Friday, but Saturday and Sunday seem like essential nights for a horror buff to be present.

Now... whose couch can I crash on?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Odd moments of suburban transcendence, more stress dreams

So I missed my train one day this week. I had been trying to catch the 7:14 West Coast Express, and was obliged instead to wait until 7:44 - the last train and the one I need to be on to make it to work by 9. Since I had time to kill, I decided to go down to the Port Haney Wharf, a large concrete structure that juts out into the Fraser River, dotted with benches for sightseers, with a little wooden walkway that leads down to the water where it floats. I don't know if the wharf existed in its current state when I was a kid; I remember going down onto the log booms, where I would sit with friends or alone - the walkway certainly wasn't there. The river used to be a site of great comfort to me, its tranquil indifference to the noise and mess and falsity of the world helping me to calm myself and somehow transcend my own unhappiness: it was soothing, that the river didn't care, and would continue to flow on even if there were no people at all. Other memories: jumping from log to log with friends, eating take out pizza on the logs, watching a hot air balloon land on the far bank, watching seagulls standing on sheets of ice floating by turning to inspect me as they passed. There is a forested clearing nearby where I first kissed one girl I liked - she's a boy, these days, matter of fact - and later went to sit out overnight and "meditate," sort of - visited at one point by a small snuffling mammal that walked across the clearing behind me, a vague shape, unconcerned by my presence. I've seen lots of beavers in the area, even spying on one as it stripped bark off twigs, squatting on the bank of the river. Once, too, when the oolichen (or ooligan or candlefish or such) were running - sleek little fish that come through the river in numbers - I remember, with high school buddies, reaching down from a log boom and scooping one up with my bare hands. Though I've caught the train at Port Haney station many times in the last few years, I haven't visited the wharf once - maybe not since before I was in Japan. (I had an interesting sexual encounter with another friend on a dock off the Fraser during a visit home, mind you - but that's another story altogether).

The other morning, anyhow, I ended up on this walkway, at first thinking I'd find it a grim trip. The river smells not-so-good and on the way down, before you get to the water, you see the muddy banks, the uprooted trees, the logging debris and litter... you smell the creosote or whatever it is they coat the wood with to protect it... The water is brown and muddy and uninviting, too, tho' I gather the Fraser just "is" that way; it's always been a muddy river. Once I got down to water-level, though, it was surprisingly alive. There were big spiderweb-shaped spiderwebs hanging heavy with dew from the wharf, glistening in the misty light. Small (and some not-s0-small) fish were jumping, breaking surface and flipping, briefly visible before the splash - perhaps the same oolichen I once caught by hand. There were car headlights glowing ghostly in the fog on the far bank, and the general blurry greyness was appealing, soft-edged and ethereal. The sound of the water lapping on the wood, the cleanness of the cold morning air in my nostrils, the gentle rocking of the walkway... it was all very appealing. The big dead fish plopped on a logboom nearby was interesting, too, reminding me of the salmon runs I used to see all the time in my youth.

Then I saw something strange: a large brown shape in the water, heading against the current. At first, I rationalized that it must be an animal, to be going upstream - something propelling itself on its own. It was very clearly and consistently moving from the right to the left, west to east, against what I've long known to be the direction of the river. Surely a log wouldn't do that, even if there were a bit of wind on the water? Based on the shape, I guessed it was a large dog, so I made a bit of noise - a clap, a whistle - to see if I could get it to look around. Nope: and as it passed a bit closer, I did see that it was a chunk of wood or a log after all, and that, indeed - along with various other bits of debris - it was floating the wrong way up the river. So that's one I don't understand: the river can't have changed direction; Maple Ridge is surely too far from the Pacific for some tidal backwash to apply, and there is no way that my memory of the direction of the river is faulty - it MUST flow TOWARDS the ocean, not inland.

That one confusing detail aside, it's nice to have moments of peace like that. I'm not getting them at night. I keep waking up to pee, which doesn't seem to relate to my apnea, since I'm breathing okay with my CPAP; maybe this is the onset of diabetes or something? And my dreams are troubling - violent, ugly things. I had a dream a little while ago where I'd infiltrated some compound run by a religious cult or something, and was in danger of being caught out, so I had to kill one of the members with my bare hands. It was very unsettling - I'll spare y'all the grim details - and woke me up. Which is why, at 5AM, with an hour or so left for me to sleep, I'm sitting at the computer, writing this.

...But I should go back to my air mattress (I'll pee first) and see if there's another hour's rest open to me...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Aja Rose Bond as DJ Tapes; Vicki Bennett as People Like Us: an interview

Aja Rose Bond, centre, with the Her Jazz Noise Collective; photo Femke Van Delft

Okay, folks... The Skinny couldn't get it together to get my article out - and worse, kept me waiting til today to tell me it wouldn't happen. Here is my interview with Aja Rose Bond and Vicki Bennett! (Best I can do under the circumstances - sorry, folks!).

Plundering With Love
an interview with the
Her Jazz Noise Collective’s Aja Rose Bond
And People Like Us’ Vicki Bennett
By Allan MacInnis

Performing at the Vancouver New Music festival under the alias DJ Tapes, Aja Rose Bond is one of the founders of the Her Jazz Noise Collective, a group of aspiring young noisy women (also including Anju Singh of Ahna, Prophecy Sun, Brady Marks and many others) who have been active on the Vancouver experimental music scene these last two years. Through VIVO, they have curated a regular program of improvised music and random weirdness called Women’s Studies, and currently host “a weekly open jam at a secret location - ladies should get in touch if they want more details.” Aja updates me on the status of the collective: “There are currently about ten organizers and the group feels really strong. We still have enthusiasm and inspiration for our work and play. People are always fluxing in and out - it's the nature of the collective - but currently our crew is tight and I am in love with them all. Seven of the core members have just worked their butts off to help make Rock Camp for Girls, both in Vancouver and Portland, totally awesome. Props to them!”

Her Jazzers are also currently working on a double-CD compilation of music made since their inception; one of their debut performances was at the Vancouver New Music 2007 Guitars! Guitars! festival, which spawned the Knight Me! CDr, with delightful homemade packaging and a title that playfully poked at fellow attendee Sir Richard Bishop. This year, the festival’s title is “Copyright/Copyleft,” with performances that challenge archaic notions of copyright law and suggest new models - including appearances by Aja, Plunderphonics pirate John Oswald, Negativland’s Mark Hosler, Scanner, Chris Cutler, and the delightfully strange Vicki “People Like Us” Bennett - also interviewed below.

Aja conceived of the DJ Tapes project as “an homage of sorts. I gather up the cassettes lovingly released by my community, I make mix tapes from my friends’ stunning music collections, and I am always hunting thrift store bins and free boxes. Sometimes I record over and over them as I enjoy the degradation of the sound. I remember a Her Jazz jam that we recorded over a Frank Zappa mix tape, afterwards we could hear both sounds perfectly blended together.” Though for many, audiocassettes are an archaic technology, Aja feels that “tapes are so beautiful - mechanical, magnetic, durable, reusable. They are my favourite format for musical recordings.” She’s a “very lo-tech person,” she explains. “I have never really caught up with the pace or capacity of musical consumption that most young people in this culture function at (which I am neither proud nor ashamed of). I haven't ever downloaded music and I still listen to a Walkman. I like that when I make a mix to play as part of one of my sets, I have to listen to each song as I am dubbing it, there are no shortcuts. I am saddened by what is lost in the digital age of music, namely the beauty of the art object, the tactile experience of handling the artefact. I suppose I am holding on to that which is such a big part of my enjoyment of listening to recordings and I hope it can be a reminder to others. Records are really big again and the contemporary tape movement - though obscure - is very prolific. It's a little nostalgic but also the most practical and simple way for me to perform and release music given that I really don't take to new technology.”

Though as much a pirate and masher-upper as anyone in the fest, Aja has had no personal difficulties with matters of copyright; however, she tells me, she feels “strong opposition” to the current state of the law. “It's indecent that in the name of compensating artists for their creative work - which rarely happens despite the claims - corporations are able to intimidate and sue people who are doing very little harm if any by either sharing files or progressing creative ideas and interacting with their culture. The copyright laws, which originally were created to maintain a balance between progress and ownership have been so manipulated in the last century by capitalist interests that they have the potential to ruin lives, not to mention the development of patenting lifeforms and intellectual property to the result of inhibiting not only artistic progress but scientific and medical as well. All for serving unbridled greed... yuck!” She is “not against laws being in place for the recourse of people who feel they are being exploited or for people whose ideas or values are being grossly misrepresented by imitators or opportunists. But the laws have been changed to serve these opportunist exploiters.” Aja highly recommends the documentary Rip: A Remix Manifesto, about remix culture, creative commons and copyright laws.”

Aja - trained in trumpet, but self-taught in almost all other regards - has experienced her involvement with the improvised music scene in Vancouver as quite liberating. “I don’t think I would have felt comfortable getting into anything other than complete free improvisation, without any reference to time signatures or keys or any of that. It was a complete freedom that I needed, and the idea that there are absolutely no mistakes and everything just is what it is. That was exactly what I needed. And it’s been working for that long, and it’s really rewarding.” She also performs with Diadem, a “multimedia collaboration with my husband, Gabriel Saloman” which draws in part on their own divination cards for composition ideas; and she’s a member of Yesod, with Gabriel and Jamie Abugov (of Tusk of Lighta!). She also tells me she had her “first solo art show at Goonies in July an have been trying to bring together all the various threads of my work and spin them into a stronger more cohesive practice that includes (but is not limited to) sound, installation, sculpture, design, curation and social practice which includes a lot of collaboration. I always have a million things going on but sometimes it feels like they are all happening on different planes... I guess I am trying to unify them.”

Since 1992, Vicki Bennett - under the name People Like Us - has made sample-derived sonic collages that can be quite gleefully perverse. She has her own radio show on WFMU (“DO or DIY”) and has worked in film and animation. Her new live audio-visual set, “Genre Collage,” will debut in Vancouver; she describes it as an examination of the concept of genre made through a combination of “compositing techniques, audio/music collage, and animation... By manipulating patterns, syntax, moods, narrative elements, recurring icons, characters and film stars held within selected movie genres/sub-genres (i.e. action, adventure, comedy, crime/gangster, drama, epics/historical, horror, musicals, science fiction, war and westerns), we are creating a humorous, surrealistic, yet informative take on the content held within. The sound is partially taken from the films and partly from music holding corresponding messages, mood and lyrical content. The moving parts are cut around and collaged into each scene, complete with the source's accompanying audio and added contextual musical collage. This project is supported by Arts Council England,” and will see Ms. Bennett in Vancouver for the first time. She’s excited about the festival: “I know half of the artists performing, they have been well chosen, many (including myself) have been working in the field for decades - I'm really pleased to have been invited.”

Bennett approaches both live and studio work “in the same way,” she tells me. “Both involve found footage being collaged into a playful (and sometimes sinister) composition. I prefer to do studio work although I certainly like to get out there and have an audience and socialising with other artists since otherwise I can only imagine that people are experiencing the work. The live set up is simple (although the output looks and sounds complicated, as making the work is!) - I make video sketches and use the sound outputted from this footage, and then make audio compositions in relation to this - and take them apart again to recreate live.” She tells me “days and days of downloads” of her music and updates can be found at, as well as on WFMU’s website and on Ubu Web. “I've been sharing media for free for 9 years now - much longer than most.”

I asked Vicki to sum up her views on copyrights and sampling. What follows is her statement:

(Vicki Bennett): I believe in the creative's right to reflect upon and comment on culture, in whatever guise/method/format that is necessary within the bounds of their own moral decency, and it is the latter which should decide whether this is OK, not an unworkable and outmoded law which is based around commerce.

In the most recent decades published works which have already been duplicated on mass and had their chance to thrive, and have their own set of connotations and connections which simply cannot be taken away from if sampled/appropriated - they can only be added to.

We will all be in deep trouble if we do not have freedom to interact with public information - the commercial world should have limited rights in relation to limiting freedom of creative expression - our culture has been enriched by a history of risk taking, diversity and law breaking, and the commercial world is utterly dependant upon the artist taking these risks, something that they would never do themselves.

I would like to know of a time when the artist has not been drawing from the past. The only difference now is that format that we use involves duplicating and arranging previous forms... for at least 50 years artists have done this.

It is our own personal and moral obligation to decide for ourselves what is the decent way to act in terms of how and what we reflect upon as artists, and I for one only appropriate content if it is transformative, and also would never steal "private" (ie unpublished) property.

(End Vicki's statement!)

People Like Us and DJ Tapes perform Thursday, October 22nd as part of the four-day Vancouver New Music Copyright/ Copyleft Festival, at the Scotiabank Dance Centre (677 Davie), with free artist chats every night and passes available though Vancouver New Music (604.633.0861). Full festival listings at

People Like Us and DJ Tapes at VNM fest tonight

Vicki Bennett with Ergo Phizmiz
Intrepid Skinny readers will apparently be able to find my interviews with DJ Tapes (the Her Jazz Noise Collective's Aja Rose Bond) and Vicki Bennett (People Like Us) at select locations later today; tonight, you can see both women perform as part of the Vancouver New Music Copyright/ Copyleft festival. (Starts at 7 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre). My crazy life has prevented meaningful blogging to plug the fest - and I missed John Oswald and Jackson 2Bears last night, so I could get a good night's sleep - but it's by far my favourite festival, music or otherwise, in Vancouver, and there are some great performers playing this year. Is Chris Cutler also tonight? You should go, really.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Weird Stress Nightmares

Unable to get a proper sleep. I've been trying to put to bed this big Lemmy thing I'm working on and end up waking up twice - once to pee, and once because I'm having nightmares. I'm at a hospital and this psychotic blonde woman - I think she was supposed to be Cameron Diaz, but gone completely insane - wants to kill me. I had hugged her and praised her before I knew how dangerous she was; when I found out, I backed off and now, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, she's wrathfully, indignantly stalking me - how dare I treat her like she's crazy! - and has attacked me a couple of times, her face a mask of hate and violence, more demon than human. Meanwhile, I'm hanging out with Lemmy at the hospital (whom I've never actually met) and waiting for a surprise guest - because I've arranged with Nomeanswhatever webmaster John Chedsey to have Rob Wright of Nomeansno come over and sign the sole surviving copy of a printed booklet I made of my big interview with Rob. (And maybe I could get Lemmy to sign my paperback of White Line Fever, which I will then give to Rob, thus facilitating an exchange of goodwill between bassists). I'm fretting about setting this up, waitin' for Rob, while looking over my shoulder for the killer blonde...

I have to be up for work in about an hour. I'm fried. I doubt I've had all of four hours of broken sleep...

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Model Army postscript: Nardwuar vs. Justin Sullivan

By the way, if you want to hear Nardwuar's interview with Justin Sullivan, it's on his Sept. 25th radio show, for streaming or download here!

New Model Army in Vancouver, October 8th: Today Is A Good Day

...and it was a damned good night, too, at the Rickshaw on the 8th, as the New Model Army returned in full force to Vancouver after what Justin Sullivan estimated - not counting a solo "Justin Sullivan and friends" acoustic set at the Cobalt awhile back - was a 16 year absence. Beginning with "Here Comes The War" and ending with "Get Me Out" - albeit somewhat annoyed that they'd been told that they had a curfew to observe, when they still had a half hours' worth of music in them - the band played with passion, fire and intensity, and a relatively full house seemed to have a good time indeed - with various folks singing along to the songs from the pit, or at least mouthing the lyrics. Since The Skinny elected not to put it on their website, here's my New Model Army article on their new album, Today Is A Good Day (title track available for download here).

New Model Army: Today Is A Good Day
By Allan MacInnis

Photos by Femke Van Delft

Justin Sullivan by Femke Van Delft. Not to be used without permission.

When I ask Justin Sullivan, the New Model Army’s singer and primary songwriter, if he agrees that Today Is A Good Day is a singularly dark and apocalyptic album, he replies, “I think they’re all dark and apocalyptic in their own way.” I know what he means: another good example of the bands apocalyptic streak would be “I Love The World” off Thunder And Consolation, which imagines the singer half-dead after a nuclear apocalypse, shouting to “no one left at all,” “I told you so!” as he takes his final stroll. “I don’t know if people are apocalyptic by nature,” he laughs from his home in Bradford. “I loved apocalyptic stuff when I was a kid. I don’t know that I’d like living through the apocalypse any more than anybody else, but I’ve got a couple of friends who like going out into the wilderness and surviving on stuff that they build and can find to eat. There is a part of me that finds that quite appealing,” he says, citing Into The Wild as a film he enjoyed (though the use of that phrase in “Wired,” off 2007’s High, is a coincidence, he tells me).

There still seems something singularly savage to me in the revelry of “Today Is A Good Day,” the title song off the new New Model Army album, dealing with the ongoing global economic meltdown; does he mean it, that the situation is somehow good? “Everybody keeps saying to me about the terrific irony of the song ‘Today Is A Good Day,’ but it’s not, it’s an absolute celebration,” Sullivan assures me. “Complete celebration. The day after Lehman Brothers collapsed” - Lehman Brothers were a global financial services firm that filed for bankruptcy in September 2008 - “you must have had a toast. You must have enjoyed the moment, no? I enjoyed it hugely! Not because - ‘oh, the bankers are going to fall.’ The bankers are going to be fine; they’ve been bailed out by the rest of us. It’s not that. It’s just that you get sick of being lectured - particularly since the fall of communism - that ‘market economics are the only game in town, and bankers have to pay themselves because they’re intelligent people; we have to get the best people to be bankers, because they really are amazing people who create this wealth.’ You got sick of being lectured like this - because we all knew it was a fucking lie! So when the whole thing is exposed as a lie - the whole thing was a big floating Enron; the whole of the western economy was one big Enron - there’s a moment of fucking great joy, because those tosspots can never come and lecture us again!” Cause for celebration, too, that we no longer will be allowed to become “what we despised,” as the song says. “We were all like Stepford Wives running around the supermarket, wondering what we could buy, and now - that’s kind of over, isn’t it? So today is a good day, because that stops us from becoming that horrible creature that we were all becoming. Because in the long run, we’re not going to be able to drift weightless down the supermarket aisles in quite the same way as we could before.”

Sullivan suggests the crash should be particularly educational to the “wannabe-at-the-top” class of people, “who bought into this idea that you could pluck wealth out of the sky, and it’s inevitable that it would go on growing. Your house that was worth 20,000 pounds last year, would be worth 25,000 this year, and et cetera. Well, actually, most common people never bought into this. Most people have an ancestral memory that you have good harvests and bad harvests. And the nature of nature is, some things go well for awhile, and then they don’t - then they fuck up. You have a bit of calm, and then you have a storm. It’s absolutely in the nature of all things.”

Fitting, then, to use natural imagery to comment on the crash, for example, in “Autumn,” which proclaims that “everything is beautiful/ because everything is dying,” which, Sullivan says, is absolutely intended to connect to the meltdown. Makes sense - it was in the autumn of 2008, when the panic was most severe, that the new album was put together.

“It was written very fast,” Justin says. “The whole thing was written in pretty much in three weeks in October,” when the band wasn’t touring. “I don’t write on the road, because I find that songwriting requires even more psychic energy than gigs, to be honest. You’ve gotta be really focused, and when you’re on the road, you’re basically tired all the time. So you don’t write songs. What you do is, you come up with an idea - you’re sitting around playing guitar all day, and you come up with a riff. You think: ‘oh, I like that. I’ll remember that.’ Or Michael” - Michael Dean, the New Model Army’s drummer - “is soundchecking drums and he’s coming up, ‘oh, I’ve got this rhythm - what do you think?’ So we remember all these things, and we put ‘em all in a cupboard called ‘musical ideas’ - bits of bass, bits of melody; we’ve all got Dictaphones on our phones these days. And then, like all writers, I’ve got a notebook and I’m always scrawling bits and pieces - a rant, a nice running couplet or something - lyrical ideas, stuff I want to write about. And then we have to stop; we have to have no gigs coming up, no nothing: ‘It’s writing time, guys.’ And all I need to do is go down to our studio. I like to have Michael around, because I like working with drummers, but basically ideas come from everyone. And I start to pull out all the ideas.” The trick is to make sure the cupboards are very full, Sullivan notes (unlike Strange Brotherhood, he admits, which saw the band writing when the cupboards were half-empty).

Sullivan goes into a bit more detail in talking about his songwriting, in regards another “terrifically apocalyptic” song of his, “Red Earth,” off 2005’s Carnival. “I like ‘Red Earth’ because it was a glorious 24 hours, the way it was put together. We’d been to South Africa, which we all found quite difficult, for obvious reasons. And anyway, basically, Michael had this beat, and I was tired of guitars. So I went over to the piano. ‘There are your chords, love those chords, and I’ll tell you what - I’ve got lots I want to write about Africa - put some percussion it. Oh, I got this little marimba that I got in South Africa; you play that Michael, do you?’ So he played that and I went home for me tea, and came back to find he’d played some marimba and something else, and then he went home for his tea, and I took over and sort of designed a vocal idea, and then this thing of guitars coming in and taking over at the end. And then he came in the next morning and put some drums on it and then we came back together again and went, ‘That’s great! Done, finished.’ We never even re-recorded it.” The song on the CD is the very demo that they “stuck together in 24 hours, pretty much the two of us.”

Coming back to the new album, what about the mention, in “States Radio,” of a tattered Barack Obama flyer, “hanging by the side of the road/ Like a long last prayer?” Obama was elected in November; was the song a late addition? “That was very much a song that I’d been meaning to write for ages. In a way, it’s out of date, because it’s a portrait of Bush’s America. But I think that it still has relevance.” The tattered flyer seems to suggest an “advance cynicism” on Sullivan’s part about Obama, I suggest. “The cynicism is not to do with Obama himself,” he corrects me. “The cynicism has to do with time. I wrote the song in October, then the election comes along, and everything changes, to some extent; I have to acknowledge that there’s been a change, I have to acknowledge Obama, but I also have to acknowledge that it’s a pretty safe bet that when the album comes out nine months on, that everybody’s idea that Obama is going to save the world will be slightly tempered. That doesn’t mean that the hope that went into it is unjustified. I’m not cynical about hope, and I’m not cynical about the election of Obama, either,” he says. “It was Lincoln who said ‘You can fool some of the people some of the time,’ and so forth, right? To me, the election of Obama is absolute proof of that. The right wing religious fundamentalists - the New Right - who thought that they could always use a kind of visceral paranoia across America to get their man in, suddenly found that they couldn’t. And I think that’s a wonderful moment. The right’s only policy is just a sort of paranoia - and people wouldn’t buy it this time. I think it’s a wonderful sign.”


Joolz Denby - Sullivan’s partner, as well as being a spoken word artist, novelist and tattooist in her own right - designed the cover for the new album, like the art for almost every New Model Army album or EP. At first I think the image - a somewhat bloody-looking flower - is a poppy, but in fact, “it's a Japanese cherry blossom,” she tells me by email. “It symbolises the beauty and fragility of human life - which is why today is a good day, because who knows what tomorrow will bring?” Though she won’t be joining the band on tour, she has a new album of her own out, Spirit Stories, with music provided by Justin and other band members and Joolz reading narratives and poetry. Though she seems a bit less angry than the savage young red-haired Pagan first heard in Vancouver on the cable access show, Soundproof, in the 1980’s, it’s nice to note there’s still a slight snarl in her voice, for example, in “The Wolf Girls of Midnapore,” which tells the story of two feral children found in India with whom the poet seeks a common inhumanity. Joolz dismisses arguments that Amala and Kamala, the wolf-girls of the story, weren’t feral at all, merely mentally disturbed children being exploited, by saying the idea of feral children makes “modern thinkers uncomfortable - better there's a 'scientific' answer than the fact we are really all animals and that the veneer of civilisation is awfully thin.” She finds a similar commonality with the too-loud laughter of “common little bitches acting up” in a later narrative, “Under the Bridge,” with Joolz observing lower class teenage girls at a cafĂ© in Bradford. There’s also “Born Dead,” which is so excessive in its darkness, and set to such a catchy beat, that it borders on funny: a violent, Lynchian cabaret, with Joolz swaggering as she boastfully declaims, “I wasn’t born, I was disinterred;” and “Boy, You Need The Road” - the closest to a full-on song on the disc, with Joolz taking an almost maternal, protective stance over desperate, restless male energy that she would spare the fate of suburban mediocrity. Spirit Stories can be ordered through the band’s website.

The New Model Army by Femke Van Delft. Not to be used without permission.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Return to eBay: Neuromancer PBO for sale!

Hi, folks! So Al's still sleeping on an air mattress and sorely lacking furniture. To raise money, I've listed my PBO true first edition of William Gibson's Neuromancer on eBay. They sure have screwed that site up! It used to take five minutes for me to list something - today it took more like 30, as I had to keep futzing with their "required fields" for shipping; truly annoying, unnecessary, and asinine, to boot (since, even tho' they know the item ships from Canada, I am given a choice of mailing it of about a dozen US shipping services). The front cover, pictured above, looks great. There's a bit of damage to the spine, alas (it also leans slightly). I hope to net at least $60 US for it... we'll see! Note: if you see this edition of Neuromancer out there, it IS worth money (tho' there's a second printing with the same cover).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Final VIFF recommendations for 2009

They didn't make the print edition of the most recent Skinny, but a few more of my VIFF recommendations for this year made it onto their website. Of these, the two I'd underscore as worth checking out, screening over the next few days, are Can Go Through Skin - a harrowing and intimate portrait of a woman fighting her way back from a traumatic experience - and John Rabe, a formula film to be sure (the "reluctant hero" forced to rise to the call) but one that works very well, telling the story of the "good German of Nanking," a German industrialist and Nazi party member who presided over a "safety zone" during the brutal Japanese invasion of China. It's a big-budget international production that has pleased audiences in Germany greatly - Steve Buscemi, in a supporting role, even won an award there usually reserved for Germans. Not an art film, not a mold-breaker, not even entirely historically accurate (they invent a wife for Rabe for dramatic purposes and have a predictably virtuous young Japanese officer who - highly unrealistically - speaks up against the execution of prisoners, following the Hollywood formula of having "one good guy" in the criticized group, to save the filmmakers from accusations of being prejudiced); but it still works as a movie, tells an important story about someone who was sadly forgotten by history; and it's way better than Schindler's List, the obvious point of comparison. "You'll laugh, you'll cry" - but sometimes that's okay.

As you may imagine, given the circumstances of my move and the fact that I now live in the suburbs, there hasn't been much filmgoing going on since the fest started. I managed to see Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, which should really have been titled An Ordinary Guy Without: The Mundane Love Life of Glenn Gould, since the film spends a great deal of time on Gould's relationships, which are about as messy and ordinary as one might expect. One of my Russian friends who loves classical music and greatly esteems Gould was scandalized that there was far too little of his music in the movie, and far too much of his women; by contrast, I rather liked its humanizing touch, and there was a lot I didn't know about Gould before I saw it that I was interested to learn. It remains a rather typical "talking heads praise the dead genius" movie, in the manner of that Cassavetes doc, A Constant Forge, which Ray Carney so reviles; but it will still interest people who have a concern for the subject matter.

Speaking of Cassavetes, the mumblecore proponent most frequently likened to Cassavetes, Andrew Bujalski, has a new film, Beeswax (official site here) that has yet to screen. It deals with two sisters, one of whom, wheelchair bound, runs a vintage clothing boutique. It's true, as the VIFF program says, that it's an ambitious "step forward" for Bujalski - into colour and into ever-more complex human relationships; it has fine (non-professional) performances, and it's a sharply observed film that, one feels, does exactly what the filmmaker intends... but I suspect it's going to be a tough moment in the filmmaker's career, no less, since his intentions remain rather opaque throughout. Unlike some critics who have panned it, I vowed to finish the film before judging it, but the kindest thing I can say is that I didn't get it - had no clue what I was supposed to be making of these people or their relationships, or what Bujalski was saying about them. I suspect that even were I to watch it again, I'd be no more sure. That may end up drawing people back to it in future years, after Bujalski has become a name known across America - or else it might make it very difficult for him to make a fourth film. I'd prefer the former fate, but I still can't get very enthusiastic in recommending the film, since it sidelined me. Maybe if you're a big Eric Rohmer fan (or if you're a woman who runs a clothing boutique...?).

The other films I've seen don't screen again. That Evening Sun has a solid performance by the aging Hal Holbrook, whom I have always liked, but is not a particularly engaging or well-made film; Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo has great bugs, and filled me with fondness at times for Japan, where I lived from 1999 to 2002; but it's over-full of an entirely uncritical brand of Japanese self-mythologizing, and it was strangely missing some of the most prevalent insects one sees there - cockroaches, mantises, and cicadas (of which there is only one that appears). It's true, no one collects them, but cicadas in particular are so omnipresent that I felt like they got cheated a bit; and the mantises are too cool not to merit a nod. Finally, I walked out of Kamui - allegedly "the best ninja movie ever," but it felt like a highly abridged manga adaptation, skipping so briefly from episode to episode that I didn't know who was killing who or why; after about an hour of this, it stopped mattering. But I also shut off Lady Snowblood at the 20 minute mark, so maybe it's just me...

I don't know that there will be any future VIFFing this year, alas. Various cinephile friends have recommended We Live In Public, The One Man Village, Material, and Police, Adjective; these all seem of interest, but chances are I won't be able to catch a-one of them. Maybe next year things will be a bit calmer for me... Here's hoping other folks out there had a good VIFF, though!

My Bison BC interview is up

It's a month since their Commodore show, but I see The Skinny has put my old Bison BC interview online! Check it out - this was a lot of fun to do.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Taqwacore Podcast, New Model Army interview

Basim informs me that he's put together a podcast at:, featuring Afropunk artists, soca, ska and rap.

Also, Nardwuar's interview with Justin Sullivan of the New Model Army can be found at:

New Model Army show tonight! Opening acts are Spectres and Nim Vind! Come down to the Rickshaw around 9:30 to catch the first band - it's a worknight, so it'll be a bit of an early show. See you there!

New digs, plus Baghead

So... this is the first night in my new apartment where it's starting to feel like my apartment. I've got a new office chair and a computer desk and I'm set up and online. I've got my books, DVDs, CDs, and LPs unpacked and mostly put away. I've got a few of my Ultraman monsters out. I have my dragonfly and cicada fridge magnets on my fridge, and a living room chair and dresser coming tomorrow (being delivered by a thrift store), with designs on a futon and some blackout curtains, since there is much too much light flooding this place by day. Best of all: I've hauled out 95% of the garbage that was produced by moving (including a goodly number of cardboard boxes no longer fit for use, since bedbugs can hide in the corrugation). It's almost liveable. If I have to spend a few more nights conked out on my floor on an air mattress, I can live with that; the worst is now behind me (unless we remember why I've moved to the suburbs in the first place).

I think I've gotten away with a clean move, anyhow: my new apartment has been so effectively sprayed against bedbuggery that the odd insects that fly in end up dead in a couple of hours. I watched the death throes of one housefly (and one ladybug, in fact - there appears to be a ladybug issue in the building, which is so much better than a bedbug issue) on my windowsill this evening as I piled packing material into black plastic bags, thinking with some satisfaction that I was glad they were dying, since it meant the poison was working. Ahh, a toxic environment! (But not for me).

But Mom's still in the hospital, father was too sick to get off the couch tonight, and I only have one friend in Maple Ridge, so I had to do something after 12 hours of organizing my stuff, hauling needed items into my space, and making garbage. But what is there to do in this town? (I mean, dig, this place had me singing along to Big Black's "Kerosene" while I cut crucifixes into myself with razorblades, dropped acid, and masturbated while sticking carrots up my ass; it was a difficult youth, here). I know the drill: I walked to the Rogers Video - the same one I used to work at some fifteen years ago and something like a cultural hub, for me at least - and bought a few DVDs (the buy-two-get-one-for-a-dollar special). After an hours' deliberation, I selected Let The Right One In, which I seem to find things to like about every time I see it and can easily imagine myself watching again; Encounters At The End Of The World - to see what Herzog does with Antarctica, a subject I'm passably interested in, even tho' I am suspicious of Herzog lately - and finally, Baghead, by Jay and Mark Duplass, usually known as the Duplass brothers.

This is the film I want to write about, having just finished it. Baghead is totally delightful, a must-rent for fans of mumblecore, Cassavetes, Dogme cinema -- or indy horror buffs! There was every reason to conclude from the cover of the DVD (which bears a non-coincidental similarity to the art for Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice) that the film would be a work of sophisticated metacinema, and indeed it is -- something that goes far beyond its mumblecore homage to The Evil Dead and The Blair Witch Project, also mentioned on the box (tho' without the word mumblecore).

If I had to say it was about anything, I'd say it was about how horror movies assist human communication, mediate complex emotions, and give voice to repressed and often incommunicable hostilities, fears, doubts, and worries on behalf of their audience members, strengthening social bonds and ironing out tensions. Like the best mumblecore films (Aaron Katz's Quiet City, say) there is an exquisite tenderness to its treatment of human emotion; there is also quite a bit of humour and a couple of effectively creepy passages. It's another one of those movies that Roger Ebert gets completely wrong, thus revealing his limited perceptions (which could be the next Ebert anthology of reviews: Films Roger Ebert Didn't Get - like Taste of Cherry, Death Race 2000 or The Good Mother, which he presumes to lecture for not understanding its own subject matter!). No, Rog, it's okay, I like reading your reviews, you just goof up sometimes. Me, too, I'm sure...

In any event, anyone wishing a fresh cinematic experience would appreciate Baghead. It came out last year, and seems to have gotten a decent release - Sony Pictures Classics is distributing it. You can even find it in Maple Ridge, so it shouldn't be too hard to track down...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Last post for awhile: New Model Army!

Remember, folks - the New Model Army play Vancouver on October 8th - their first visit here in a loooong time. I saw them in Seattle the other year and thought they were really powerful, and the new album kicks ass. (Download the title track free here). Hope to see you at the show, and see my new interview with Justin in the next issue of The Skinny.

I have too much to do to re-arrange my life to post anything else for the next while. Again, if anyone who sympathizes with the situation I'm in (poke about below for more), and wishes to help out, Paypal donations can be made to ammacinn-at-hotmail-dot- com. They will go to things like buying me a bed or other sorely needed furniture.

Taqwacore 4: About those photographs

Photograph by James Moreau Drew, not to be used without permission

James Moreau Drew, who took The Kominas photos you see on these past posts, has a Flickr page with much much more, for the record. I asked him to give me a bit of his background re: The Kominas and photography. He writes:

I've been friends with Basim since beginning of 9th grade so I've known him for 11 years now. I've known him throughout his time in other bands and ended up being friends with most of the taq's people through Basim, it's always been the music, punk and being prone to do crazy shit and intellectual mindsets that have kept me hanging around a lot of these guys so really the other side of the music scene a bit. But as someone who is studying social sciences and anthropology and has always been interested in such things learning about this in a cultural sense and learning stuff about my friends life and experiencing a world I would normally not be exposed to naturally keeps my interest.

I've been photoing for about 6 or 7 years now but have had times where I haven't really even had a camera. It's been an extension of my memory as I'd want to go to shows and then when thinking back on them look at photos and see if I can really spark some deeper memories and insights into them. Same for as going to shows and being into punk music the bands tend to shift or break up fast, or you end up too drunk and I hate forgetting so I like to recall what was happening. In this sense I've further gotten into trying to be a documentary photographer and taken some photography classes at community college and Harvard in the last few years and feel the within the last year I've gotten a lot more serious about trying to be a really competent photographer and interested in the world around me. naturally I've been documenting the Kominas since the first gig (and Basims band Malice in Leatherland before that, though I didn't always have a camera).

So in sum, I came about photographing the Kominas out of being friends with them and wanting to photograph bands I've seen events I've been to and more so lately because of classes or that I want to apply my knowledge I've learned. Kim Badawi has also been a huge inspiration for me. I also think the Kominas are a very good band to photo and generally gives me something productive to do other than standing around.

Thanks again, James! Great photos!

Taqwacore 3: Basim Checks In!

Basim Usmani of The Kominas, photo by James Moreau-Drew; not to be used without permission

Hey, folks, remember Taqwacore: The Birth Of Punk Islam, that movie I was ranting about and did two interviews on, that plays the VIFF October 3rd and 5th? (One with director Omar Majeed, Kominas bandmember Shahjehan, and Secret Trial Five's Sena Hussain, here; and one with Michael Muhammad Knight, here). Well, Kominas singer Basim has checked in. I've emailed him some fresh questions, and gotten some fresh answers! Go see Taqwacore!

Allan: How did you get into punk rock and metal?

Basim: I moved from Lahore to Boston in 1998, as a freshmen in high school. It was weird, cuz for the kids in Lahore, the best bands have been Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath for the past twenty years. When I came up in the Lahore band scene as a fanboy, my favorite band of all time was Black Sabbath. So much so that in 9th grade in America I was doing book reports on Ozzy Osbourne and Slayer.

I was NOT popular, haha. People said I talked like Apu from the Simpsons, or asked if I was related to Saddam. But one day before school, this girl in all black and pale, bordering transperent skin motioned me to the center of the quad, and took me under her wing.

She made me mixtapes of Bauhaus, Cockney Rejects, even Desmond Dekker and early Clash. I made another friend with this kid we all looked up to in highschool named Alex Hartman. This kid was covered in patches, reading ANTICIMEX, and Assuck (which I kept mispronouncing as Ass Suck). His band, which was consequently my first concert attended in America, was called CLASS ACTION. The band discharged crust over the speakers, and I managed to get behind the mic. The liberty spiked singer let me scream my guts out, and I just went off on nuclear holocaust. I was in Lahore during the nuclear tests, sectarian violence, and guess what? I was still bored and fucking angsty. So it was all natural.

Then those kids graduated, since they were three years my senior and I was left with my Bauhaus tapes. I got into Christian Death, T.S.O.L, 45 Grave, West Coast deathrock, and began carrying a can of aquanet in my backpack.
Basim Usmani of The Kominas, photo by James Moreau-Drew; not to be used without permission

Allan: How does your family feel about you being a singer in a punk band? Did you ever personally feel a conflict between your love of music and your religion?

Basim: Hey man, my religion is barely Islam. It's funny, I'm on some heretical trip. I moved back to Pakistan in 2007, and worked as a journalist there until I was 2009. I became severely godless. My friends were brothel addicts, hash addicts. The band was actually living in an old brothel for a time, complete with nasty straw beds in small small rooms with no bathrooms. At work I would cover bomb blasts and crime. I have no cultural chauvanism. In fact, I think borders, flags, pulpits, are all repulsive to me. Stick your hair up, don't stick up flags.

My family doesn't like the fact that I leave empty bottles in the house, then I hear an earful. But personally, I see a lot of similarities between the Islam I was drawn too, and the music I'm into.

The great Punjabi sufi poet, Bulleh Shah, said "Ishq shara da vera ai" as in, Love is the enemy of the law. That's my Islam.

Allan: Can you explain why for conservative Muslims popular music is "haram?"

Basim: It's considered Haram for cultural reasons. Musicians are considered equivalent to prostitutes for not just South Asian Muslims, but also by South Asian Hindus, Jains, Christians, you name it. Other Muslims think it's haraam by association, because people like to get nice and pissed at concerts. And dictatorships? They stand in stark opposition to all music.

Allan: What's a favourite Kominas' song (what's it about?).

Basim: "Par Desi," because it has a Bhangra beat, and it's about going to see the old UK band Blitz in Boston, and getting jumped by some vaguely racist, political fence-walking Skinheads. The boneheads knocked me out with a punch behind the head, and stomped my shoulder out of its socket. When I came too, I scampered off to my daddy's car and drove home. I got pulled over on the way home, and ticketed by a police man for having no side view mirror. The adrenaline fooled me into thinking it was okay to steer my wheel and reach for my registration, but my distrust of police kept my mouth shut about the beating. And you know what song was playing before I got knocked the fuck out? A cover of the 4skins ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS.

Allan: How did you discover Michael's book? Were you in a band at the time? How did the book affect your music?

Basim: I was in a deathrock band, a goth/punk band called Malice in Leatherland.
Some of our fans were desi (South Asian), and they kept talking about this book. So I emailed him, and then he sent me a book. Rest is history.

The book helped make me brave enough to write about what I wanted to write about without worrying if others will necesarily 'get it'. I write presently for myself.

Allan: What's your favourite part of the movie?

Basim: The doc? The show on the rooftop of Lahore, because that was a highlight of my life man. Seeing all these true blooded Punjabis moshing to Punjabi punk rock reminded me why I moved back. And the punks go marching on...

Allan: What do you hope the effect of the movie will be?

Basim: More kids start bands. More people buy me cider.

Allan: How do I make bhang lassi?

Basim: Grind leaves of bhang down with three glasses of goat milk, half a cup of butter, and strain it through a dupatta (the scarf Pakistani and Indian women wear with Shalwar kameezes). Proceed to down, and play with matches.

Basim Usmani of The Kominas, photo by James Moreau-Drew; not to be used without permission

...And that's the interview! Once again, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam is a must-see movie this VIFF and plays October 3rd and 5th! See you there!

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Tonight! Mikkey on drums! Vogue Theatre! 7PM! Rev. Horton Heat and Nashville Pussy open! It's Motorhead! Yaaaah!

(Apologies for the absence of an umlaut - I am pressed for time, 'cos I have a long commute ahead of me. THIS GIG I AM NOT GOING TO MISS!).