We're standing in the magazine department of Chapters on Robson, where the No Fun founder, singer/songwriter, and wry observer of contemporary life works. It's also where he has been playing free Saturday shows once a month for eight and a half years, sometimes - as I documented in a past Skinny article - to audiences no bigger than this writer himself (but I'm pretty big, so...). His sets, including No Fun classics like "Paisley Brainbolts of the Mind," David M.'s Ironic Acronym tunes like "Leonard Cohen Says Love," Elvis and Beatles medleys, Gorgo ads - still! - and covers of everything from The Cure to Rick Springfield, are always fun and funny, and I've long-enjoyed his asides about music history and his anecdotes about performing on the Vancouver scene since the 1970's. (I should get his Iggy Pop story on tape sometime). It looks like store renovations will be bringing an end to his Saturday shows - Chapters have asked him to do a three-month hiatus, in any case - so Lilith For Dudes, Tuesday at the Railway, may be your only chance to see David do his thing for quite some time.David M. doing a solo version of No Fun At Christmas at the Railway Club, 2008; photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission
With various Chapters staffers passing by, glancing curiously at my tape recorder (and the humble computer mike sticking out of it), I commence to interview Mr. M.
David: This is one of the posters (David hands me a gig poster, similar to the one below). Or - one of the posters is like this, but it doesn't say 'penises,' because I realized - with the kid it looked like... y'know... (he trails off). But that's an actual photo of me looking at M Magazine.
(Lilith For Dudes poster without the penises).
Allan: And it's got Jim Cummins, Ed Hurrell, Pete Campbell, "and their penises." I see. Ed Hurrell is from what bands?
David: Stab'em In the Abdomen and The Stoolies. The Stoolies is his current band. Pete Campbell was in the Wardells, and he still plays around town. Jim Cummins, of course, is Bumeater.
Allan: Okay. So. You're gonna all be performing together or separately?
David: It's the same as the Christmas show I do there - like, I do some stuff, and they come up and do things unique to the show. So it'll be... They can do whatever they want. With me, or by themselves, and with me... so its whatever happens.
Allan: When you say it's the same as the Christmas show, are we to expect No Fun songs modified to bring out a masculine theme?
David: They're all pretty masculine. Well, "Cream For Free" is one of the songs. "Entering Bikini Area." We're very masculine, anyways. It's for men. And the women who love them.
Allan: Anything else I should be telling people?
David: Well. Okay. Shut that thing off.
Allan: Okay, shutting it off.
(David pops into the backroom and finds some papers on his desk, as I peer around the corner, whereupon he changes his mind about the recorder and instructs me to turn it back on).
Allan: Okay, I'm turning it back on. David is going to read something here. This is a Lilith For Dudes manifesto?
David: Well, kinda. Okay. (Reads): "Bigger is better. Celebrate the sounds of the skin flute with David M. and his meaty friends Jim Cummins, Ed Hurrell, and Pete Campbell. These prominent penis Canadian artists will emerge from the Lilith for Dudes birthing tent to prove that men don't just make great French chefs, they make great music... Our no-gurls-allowed lineup is subject to sex change. Opposite sex music festival: sit your fat asses down, the 'original sex' music festival is coming! PS, as legally mandated by a recent Human Rights Tribunal Ruling, David M's Lilith For Dudes must conclude with a rendition of Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi.' PPS, a more recent Human Rights Tribunal ruling prohibits the use of the word, 'Mandated.'" ...That's all.
Allan: This is your press release?
David (hands me a paper with his handwriting - recognizable from No Fun cassettes of yore - on it): You can just read this, this is pretty much as it will go out.
Allan: This is the press release?
David: Well, it's a statement from a vagina doing a monologue. Are you reading it to yourself?
Allan: (Believing he has GIVEN me this document): Well, I don't need to read it into the tape recorder. I... then I would just have to transcribe it again.
David: Well, you'll get one of these in your email. I've got this new printer that won't scan. I just got it. So I could print the posters, but... I don't know. Computers. So I can't just send the poster from the poster thing, I have to scan it. But take a look at it.
Allan: I can take this? You're giving this to me?
Allan: Oh, okay. (Reads into microphone): "Dark, mysterious and slightly moist, David M. will discharge enough hugely engorging music to deeply satisfy anyone who opens up and lets it in. There won't be a dry G-spot in the house as everyone squirms in their seats to such clit-tickling tunes as 'Cream For Free,' 'Leonard Cohen Says Love,' and 'Entering Bikini Area.'" ...I see.
David: That's exactly the voice I imagined it [being read in.]
For some reason, I turn off the tape at this point, perhaps fearing that a Chapters higher up might swoop down at any minute and accuse me of distracting David from his job. When, determining that the coast was clear, I start the tape again, David is talking about a blurb in, I believe, the Georgia Straight Time Out listings.
David: ...It said "musician/ comedian" - "comedian" is in there. Which I think is just entirely based on the posters and press releases and stuff usually being funny, not because they've seen the shows. I mean, they're not like comedy shows. There's funny stuff, usually, but they're music shows. So.
Allan: And some of your songs are actually depressing.
David: Well, it's meant to be cathartic.
David: You know: you get older, you get depressed.
Allan: Yeah! (Giggles).
David: Things get depressing. If you have any sense at all. So yeah.
(At this point, believing I have enough for a piece of writing, I turn off the tape again, but leave the play button running, resulting in several minutes of silence. When I hit "record" again, David is talking about opening for Alex Chilton at the Town Pump).
David: It was in the late 80's/ early 90's. He had sort of straightened out, but he was doing more R&B in his show than people really wanted. But anyways, we were playing, and we worked up a Gorgo ad based on "The Letter."
Allan: "My baby, she sent me a Gorgo?"
David (thinks): "My baby, she something me a Gorgo."
Allan: Gave me? Bought me?
David: "Give me a ticket for an air-o-plane/ I've got something sweet on my brain..." Anyways - just short, but right when were doing it - I didn't know this, but John Armstrong told me after, he was interviewing him I guess for the Sun. They're sitting in the upstairs room? And they're talking, and all of a sudden he stops, and goes - "They're doing my song!" And - John told me this - he explained, "Well, this is like a tribute, almost, kinda, because it's an ad for this product..." But that was his reaction.
Allan: Did he have a sense of humour about it?
David: Well, yeah - it was explained to his satisfaction. He seemed like a nice guy, actually.
Allan: I've heard more "he seemed like a cranky bastard" stories...
David: Well, we met him after he'd played. But they don't always seem like nice guys. Like, John Cale was a super-nice guy when he was all doped-up, the first couple times we played with him, but when he straightened up, then he was not very pleasant.
Allan: I liked John Cale better when he was all doped up, too, but just in terms of his musical output. I never met the man.
David: Yeah. His music was better, then. But whatever - I'm glad he straightened up, and he certainly doesn't have to please me. Some of his later stuff's pretty good.
Allan: I haven't really followed it. Sabotage is the one, for me...
David: Yeah. That's a great album. And there's the 2-CD set that has the three Island albums? And then the extra songs, the B-sides and singles. That's pretty hard to beat, as an entertainment package.
Allan (fondly): "Barracuda." "The ocean will have us all." You know, "Barracuda" would be a good song for you to cover? (Among my past contributions to Vancouver music culture: I convinced David to do versions of Neil Young's "Powderfinger" and Larry Norman's "Six Sixty Six" as part of his Chapters shows. I have also held his Gorgo, which is getting very old and green and even-scarier-looking.)
David: Well, yeah. And when he's yelling, it's always good.
Allan: I like it when he yelled. Okay, well - here's hoping that Tuesday goes well.
David: Yeah. It won't end too late - people can make their buses.
Allan: That's an issue for me.
David: And I'll say one more thing. It's going to be optional for me to do, but it's something I might do at the end which I've never done before, and people who like the original No Fun - the old No Fun - like, "Mindless Aggression" No Fun, because that stuff is so popular now - that classic Vancouver punk rock, 70's punk rock? - if I think people would like it, I'm going to do something that I've never done before, having to do with the original... the sound of the original No Fun, the original trio that did the EPs...
Allan: You're going to bring out a third member?
David: I didn't say that. Something. I can't really explain it.
(A brief pause).
David: Okay, I'll just tell you what it is (laughs). You've heard the EPs, right, with "Paisley Brainbolts of the Mind" and "Fall For Cliche?" ...All that stuff was recorded over a couple of years - a couple of albums worth of material and a double album worth of material, so it's like four albums worth of material. Mostly that's where the two EPs and "Mindless Aggression" (on the Vancouver Complication comp) come from. That's the original trio. Originally it was me and another guy and then I added a guitar player...
(A loud Chapters in-store announcement obliterates David's next sentence).
David: ...but I have all the four-tracks, and its kind of like, it occured to me that because people like that stuff, they might get a kick out of - I've dubbed off the four tracks everything but the lead vocals, so I can do my lead vocals fresh over the backing tracks that sound like No Fun, for people who know the EP's or "Mindless Aggression."
Allan: You could even invite people from the audience to do No Fun karaoke.
David: I'm going to be in the crowd while this is happening, so - climbing on tables - so yeah, that will happen. And there's one song that I don't believe that anyone has ever heard, which was the final song on our double album that we recorded. The song is called "Music By Humans," and this was recorded in like, 1977 - and already, what the song is about is that music by living people is better than... like, even back then, it was seeming like things were going to get a little too technically bent. The way we recorded it, on purpose - because we were super into building tracks and lots and lots of overdubs and stuff - was, each of the four tracks, one had drums, one had bass, and one had guitar, and one had the singing. And that's it. And this is the song, and it's a good song, but I've never been in a version of No Fun that would play it, because it was so deliberately... even the bass part was deliberately Mel Schacher from Grand Funk Railroad. The bass part that Jim the bass player played was a tribute to his incredibly dull bass parts. I remember reading a review of I guess their live album at the time that said that Mel Schacher's bass part "cuts straight from the heart of boredom." When you listen to the bass, it's almost all one note, no variation! He was a great bass player (laughing). Like, he could play whatever he wanted, but him playing that... So people will actually hear the pure, unadulterated, 'classic No Fun' trio sound on that song.
David: Anyways, I've said too much, because if I don't feel like doing it, I'm not going to. But, like. If there's a whole bunch of people who are super into it. Like, I'd rather you didn't tell anyone... "Lilith For Dudes" is a big enough concept.
Allan: Yeah. And I'll try to fit the word "penis" in.
David: You have one. (Points at my pants): I can kind of see it there.
Allan: No, no you can't, David! Goodbye!
Keep an eye out for the upcoming album by David M's Ironic Acronym, Now Is Not The Time. Release date TBA, unless the title is some meta-level joke (since he first told me about it almost a year ago).