Thursday, June 30, 2011

Adstock! DOA! Maple Ridge!

Sad irony: DOA are coming to my hometown, Maple Ridge, where I now reside, to play a free show... and I ain't gonna be here! The Facebook page for Adstock is here; they'll be taking the stage at the Maple Ridge gazebo around 7pm, following Ninja Spy (the listing on the poster is pretty much in reverse order). Music starts at about 1! Yep - it's a whole day of FREE ALL-AGES MUSIC for the 'burbs!

I talked to Joe briefly for the Straight blog about the fest here. I also got to take my first flip-through of his new book today - a pictorial history of DOA, called Talk - Action = 0. I was kind of skeptical, hearing about the project on paper, but am blown away by how cool it looks - it's a really, really beautifully put together book.

By the way, any Vancouver punks hungry for a free DOA show unsure of how to get to Maple Ridge can either catch the 160 down Hastings to Coquitlam Center and change onto the 701 Maple Ridge East - or if it's closer to where you are, get on the Broadway Skytrain line to Lougheed Mall, catch the 97 to Coquitlam, to again get the 701. It only takes about an hour and a half, if you make the right connections...

Joe Keithley by Cindy Metherel, not to be reused without permission

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Someone sticks up for John Lurie

A small part of my conscience has been ill at ease for months. John Lurie, having been, to all appearances, rather viciously betrayed by a highly problematic New Yorker piece last year, focusing on his illness and his experiences of being stalked by a former friend, was counting on people around him to stand up for him after it was published. No one did. I did not, either. In retrospect, I think I did what I believe many people around John did: I kinda blamed him for his troubles, made excuses, and withdrew. I mean, I had troubles of my own, and the situation was not an uncomplicated one, or safe one (since challenging a stalker is an invitation to be stalked oneself), but I've felt kind of ashamed of my performance at that time, and my failure has lingered with me.

So I'm very glad to see that someone - Rick Moody - has finally DONE that work, stepped into the breach and courageously stood by Lurie in the midst of it, taking on not his stalker so much as taking on Tad Friend and the New Yorker, for their very disrespectful, glib, and treacherous handling of an awful, serious, and sensitive situation. My respect to Mr. Moody.

And to John Lurie.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peter Brotzmann, Group Doueh, Dr. Umezu: questions of context, plus mini-interviews

The jazzfest is underway, and I've missed most of what has happened thus far - I've only gotten to see Peter Brotzmann, kicking things off with his unit, Full Blast. That much-anticipated experience was somewhat disappointing, at least compared to the "Brotzmann of the mind" that is invoked when I listen to his music on my headphones. I can't say what his natural environment really is, but the "Brotzmann of the mind" is playing dirty underground clubs and squats - or at least far seedier places than the very clean, very orderly Roundhouse Performance Centre; has a far less-affluent-looking audience in front of him; has one or two other horn players (or a Haino Keiji) to interact with; and overblows like he's channeling some private inner demons through his saxophone, playing like a one-man Borbetomagus, invoking revolutionary, transformational energies - some sort of primal chaos. The Brotzmann of the jazzfest, by contrast, was playing in a polite middleclass context, was alone with his rhythm section (tho' they were an avalanche indeed), and spent a surprising amount of time referencing the blues - rather mournfully, but with much more sentiment and tenderness than I've come to expect of the man's music. That was interesting, actually, and there was still some very exciting and subtle interaction between band members; and in fact, the more tuneful passages - including at least one explicit reference to Albert Ayler - were often in fact more engaging for me than the "full blast" moments, which is a reaction I don't entirely understand... but the performance as a whole simply could not do what the experience of listening to Brotzmann devoid of context does. Maybe I'm learning something about myself: that I like jazz - but I don't always feel comfortable with the context it occurs in...

It will be even stranger seeing Group Doueh in the context of the jazzfest tonight, mind you - because there's some radical recontextualization going on there! We'll be seeing a band that normally performs all night at weddings in the Western Sahara, playing a music that has evolved with very, very little western influence - because contra the impression that you might get reading the Straight article I wrote, there is actually very, very, very little reference to western music going on. Guitarist/bandleader Doueh might tip his hat to James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, or find a kindred spirit in the blues - but you have to listen pretty creatively to actually hear any of that. It's kind of like eating a really rich, really tasty curry and trying to pin down an individual spice - James Brown is the fennel, Jimi is the cardamon, and the blues are, maybe, the turmeric, but mostly what you're getting, listening to a Group Doueh album, is a garam masala unlike anything you've encountered before - something really quite foreign to a western palate, something that you need to have pretty special ears (or a bit of practice) to hook onto. I mean, what about this album cover suggests Vancouver, or jazz festivals, or any western musical styles?:

I will put a larger piece of writing online about Doueh, with more from both Doueh and Hisham Mayet, after the festival, but I had two questions for Mayet that might be of interest to those attending. The first was to ask about how Doueh's western influences might be perceived in the context of Western Saharan culture. "The fact that Doueh is influenced by James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, probably to a western listener, makes his music easier to access," I observed, "but in his cultural context, is there anyone who would disapprove of that sort of thing – the fact that he’s playing traditional music with a kind of western bent? Does anyone care?"

Hisham Mayet answered: "No, no. I don’t think it presents a problem for him.
His wedding repertoire is still traditional – the traditional canon that is his foundation, which is most of what Sahrawi music/ Mauritanian music is. All of it comes from a pretty limited canon. If you’ve heard enough of this music, you realize it’s all coming from the same stock of songs and poetry that are done ad infinitum. One of the best things about Doueh is that he was able, even early on, to branch out beyond that structured canon and incorporate all these sounds, western or otherwise. But I’ve never known an example of other musicians or anyone frowning upon the fact that he’s fusing the two. I mean, it’s music – they’re just going to roll with it. I mean, I don’t think he’d play any of the poppier songs at a wedding, because it’s just not ever requested; they usually tend to go for the formula of the modal system - the modes, the poetry that’s sung at weddings. Because it’s all pretty traditional. But they’re open to whatever. He can incorporate as much as he wants, and nobody’s going to give him any flak for it. It just kind of is what it is."

The next question was whether, playing to western audiences, he ever tries to change his presentation?

"I think so," Mayet responded. "Sometimes. That’s a battle I have to fight with him all the time. I think he tries to acquiesce to what he thinks western audiences will like, and he tends to get away from the foundation of what I know he’s capable of doing, when western eyes aren’t upon him. I think that’s had a lot of impact on him, too – positively and negatively, in a weird kinda way. Y’know, doing these tours, and realizing that he’s released these records, and reading some of the good reviews that he reads, that I send him or translate for him – I think sometimes he tries to craft songs based on what he feels [people are responding to]. All of a sudden it’s like this thing where he’ll play a few live shows and he’ll play a few numbers that I can’t quite negotiate in my head as something that is his true essence. And I know he’s just doing it to maybe please the crowd, and I’m like, 'you know, this can’t be, you’ve kinda gotta stick to your guns and do what you know how to do and don’t feel like you’re trying to please the crowd! The crowd is here to hear what you’re essentially about, not what you think they need to hear because they like you or don’t like you.' I mean, it’s a rare thing, but it’s happened – it’s happened enough that I’m talking about it!"

Bear in mind that this is Group Doueh's first North American tour, as well! The band has just released its third and fourth albums, Beate Harab and Zayna Jumma, on the label Mayet co-owns, Sublime Frequencies; both were recorded in 2010 by Mayet. Pretty damn exciting that we're going to get to see music like this in North America; this is a rare experience indeed.

The guy who is best poised this fest for easy, discord-free recontextualization, tho', is perhaps Kazutoki Umezu (that's a link to the Coastal Jazz page; my Straight article is here. Umezu is second from left in the photo above). Since he's somewhat of a postmodernist, it's hard to assign him any one natural context to begin with - he's used to slipping around between them, anyhow. I have actually seen, and even chatted with, Umezu in what could be called his "natural environment," the Shinjuku Pit Inn in Tokyo, but his music is very much an international one, even played there (especially since only one of the musical influences mentioned in the Straight piece is even native to Japan). The story of the name of his unit, KIKI Band, had to be shortened a bit to fit into the Straight piece, but it's quite revealing. It began - go read the Straight article - when KIKI were going to do their first North American tour, and Umezu asked an African familiar with his music to name them; the fellow came up with KIKIKI, in fact. The first two KI's were based on Swahili words for "bald" and "chameleon" (since Umezu changes colour all the time). But there was actually one more KI referenced, Umezu explained, the word kigeugeu. I couldn't actually track that down in the Swahili-to-English search engines I found, but Umezu's interpretation was that it was "kind of like Ninja – every time they can appear, everywhere, like, sometime in Japan, sometime in America, sometime in Europe, sometime in some Asian country, sometime in Africa. So he says KIKIKI Band, but it’s too long for us – so we make KIKI Band. And KIKI has also double meaning, by Japanese. One is danger" - actually, “crisis,” according to my Japanese-English dictionary - "and one meaning – kikini kiite kudasai - is like, please listen! So many meanings, it has."

Umezu is touring a new KIKI Band CD, A Chrysalis' Dream. Retaining his somewhat Japanized English, what Umezu said, in explaining the title, was, "I’m interesting about chrysalis – also changing from something to something. I don’t what I want to be next. I eat jazz, I eat blues, I eat Japanese enka, I eat klezmer – I eat many kind of music, that is in my body, every material is in my body. But I’m not sure what I want to be yet, so I’m dreaming, like a chrysalis. I don’t know if they have dream or not, but... I’m not worm, but I’m not a butterfly yet."

I'm especially looking forward to hearing Umezu's guitarist, Natsuki Kido, again; he's one hell of a player. Fans of adventurous music from diverse influences are urged to check out Bondage Fruit, online, in addition to KIKI Band. There's lots to be heard!

Unquestionably, however, the most exciting thing for most folks about Dr. Umezu's show in Vancouver is that it's ENTIRELY FREE - he plays Sunday at 5:15 at David Lam Park. The irony of that is, that very Sunday, DOA will be giving a free concert at Adstock in Maple Ridge. With much respect going to Joe, I'm not going to be there for that. It's a bit easier to see DOA in Vancouver than it is KIKI Band!

This is all overlooking that Mats Gustafsson's The Thing plays Saturday, but I've written enough, for now. Whatta cool jazzfest this is this year...! Good work, people!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Movie as metaphor, plus I'm JEALOUS OF SUSANNE TABATA

First (you gotta read this part first to understand what's next), I just woke up from a dream. In the dream, I had talked the Vancity Theatre into programming a film long unseen by anyone - a Canadian exploitation film of profound ambitions, if somewhat unevenly, and not all fully, realized; a sort of Canadian El Topo, if you will.

The film was not actually El Topo - it was supposed to be, in the dream, Rituals, the classic Canuck urban-rural horror film starring Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane. In the way of dreams, the film was not really the film: there were female characters, including a young girl, for one; the only real similarity was that, like the real Rituals, the film was set in the woods. I think dreams do that - change things - as a way of making sure your waking mind realizes, if it remembers the dream at all and thinks about it, that things need to be unpacked a bit, not taken on face-value; to make sure you know that the things in your dream are not JUST signifiers of themselves, but of something deeper, and require interpretation. Or maybe our subconscious minds just aren't very good with details, I dunno, because the Vancity Theatre wasn't quite the Vancity Theatre, either - the snack-and-ticket bar was all wrong, and the auditorium was bigger, with less comfortable seats, in the way of a multiplex.

The thing was - the crowd was not understanding this supposed Rituals they were watching. There were people not paying attention, people talking, people issuing hoots of derision at the screen. (Not exactly your typical Vancity crowd, either, then!). At first, I tried to focus their attention - zipping around the auditorium trying to get people to think about the film in the appropriate terms, to work with it a bit, feeling growing dismay at how this brilliant film was being misunderstood, misperceived, so mistreated by the audience. This was proving an endless task. At some point I gave up and met rudeness with rudeness, throwing a pen at a cluster of talkers and trying to get them to shut up, wondering why, when they saw my angrily mouthing those words, after having been pelted, they TALKED LOUDER. No one takes a hint, I bemoaned to myself - you righteously challenge them on bad behaviour and, rather than realizing they're behaving badly and amending it, they just do whatever they're doing in a bigger, louder, more overt way; everybody wants to be a rockstar these days...

...and finally (perhaps echoing recent events in Vancouver) this actually devolved into a MOVIE RIOT. People were setting the theatre on fire, running around, behaving very badly - I had to race outside the auditorium and find J., the Vancity Theatre manager, to get her to intervene. Nothing was going right, I was saddened and sickened that people neither GOT the movie nor were willing to work with it, and was very nearly getting in fights with people MYSELF over it. Things were in sheer anarchy - when I finally woke up, there was tension throughout my back and shoulders from how upset the dream was making me.

(There was then a weird digression where I discovered that someone had donated Fela Kuti CDs by the crateful to the theatre and they were selling them for $1 each, which completely distracted me from my true moral purpose in the dream - but I'll leave that aside, if you don't mind; it reveals a bit too much of my soft white underbelly).

Cut to: watching Susanne Tabata's Bloodied But Unbowed at Lucky Bar in Victoria last night, with Susanne, Rampage, and Les Wiseman in attendance (and the East Vamps, too, including Gerry-Jenn Wilson, who appears in the film, and Alexa Bardach, whose father is in it). This is a new cut of the film, which has been GREATLY enchanced by the participation of Jello Biafra. If you remember (I had forgotten, until Susanne reminded me), I once ran interference with a rather unusual homeless guy so Susanne could go about her work, when Jello was presenting Terminal City Ricochet and The Widower at Chapel Arts - I wrote about that story on my blog, at the time. Well, the Jello material added to the film is from that time. Not exactly sure what it replaces from the first cut - the film is still only 75 minutes long - but it REALLY adds. There are various tweaks to the movie, as well - including one I (and possibly others) suggested, having a clip of a later-day Subhumans performance (tho' no later-day Art). Some of the stuff that was post-credit in the past theatrical cut is now moved to the pre-credits, too, where it deserved to be, I thought. The ending is STILL a bit bleak, compared to the PUNCH of the TV version - it's still a bit heavier on the "bloodied" end than the "unbowed" - but it hardly matters, because the film is now approaching "Vancouver punk documentary masterpiece" levels - a film that is really (with the inclusion of ample observations from Biafra, Rollins, Keith Morris and others) about the whole fucking west coast of punk in North America, since it's also about how "we" (not that I was really a first-generation Vancouver punk, but regardless...) were perceived by American punks, which also reveals a great deal about how American punks perceived themselves...

...this is actually a staggeringly important punk document, now moreso than ever...

But NONE of that's why I'm jealous of Susanne Tabata. (And it's not that I've got a crush on Rampage or sumfin', either! I mean - I don't!).

Look: I've INTERVIEWED A LOT OF THESE PEOPLE MYSELF. I've spoken to members of the Pointed Sticks, the Subhumans, the Furies and DOA. I've spoken to Art Bergmann, too - tho' not for print; ditto members of the Dishrags, or Zippy Pinhead, or Bev Davies (who gets a wee segment of her own in the film, in her kitchen, which I was happy to see). I've spoken to Tim Ray and I've spoken to Tunnel Canary (who now also briefly appear in the film). I've interviewed Jello and plan to again. I've been working the Vancouver punk journalism thing for awhile now, and at least some small percentage of the stories that are told in the film I have on tape myself. Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue shoot with the Pointed Sticks? Tell me something I don't know about... None of that is why I'm jealous.

There are some GREAT interviews in the film with people I've NEVER spoken to, mind you - notably Mary Armstrong, AKA Mary Jo Kopechne of the Modernettes. The stuff with her, and her rifle, is brilliant, of course. But I mean, there are cool people *I've* interviewed that Susanne hasn't, so that doesn't make me jealous, either. One of her BEST interviews in the film, with the (still EXTREMELY hard to watch, depressing-as-hell) Art Bergmann, is possibly a greater accomplishment than anything I've ever done in regards to Vancouver punk writing, too - but it's also so sad that I wouldn't WANT to have done it, so it goes by without fazing me. Art seems a challenging guy; I'm more than happy to leave him to others, for now (unless the time should come that I get to speak to him; I mean, it's not like I'm not willing)...

No: I am jealous, I discover, because of ONE CLIP added to this new cut, taken from Susanne's interviews with the Subhumans' Gerry Hannah.

Gerry's a talkative guy, you realize, right? And I have this fascination for his past, and get along pretty well with him, so I've interviewed him at MASSIVE length - for Punk Planet, for Big Takeover, for my blog, for other places; I think I even got a quote from him in the Georgia Straight, when Same Thoughts, Different Day came out. I have spoken to Gerry ON the record about everything from strategic voting to the apocalypse, and have gone so off the record as to get stories about - well, I better not say, but trust me, I have touched on almost every topic with him, many stories of which I have never yet squeezed into a publication. I would guess I have at least five hours of Gerry on tape, more than any other one punk - more than any one person - I have interviewed. And I've done some big interviews.

I was a WEE bit jealous before, after seeing the first cut of BBU, and realizing that Gerry had given Susanne a much more powerful and concise quote about Direct Action than I'd ever gotten from him before - the bit where he talks about left vs. right wing vigilantes, and such. It's a good, concise moment, a piquant observation, a nice line. I thought, watching the film - damn, that's good stuff; why didn't Gerry ever put it quite that way with ME, before - y'know? But I got over it.

But in the new version, Susanne includes what might seem like a throwaway line, where Gerry talks about his job for highway services. Been there, done that too - I have some of THAT on tape, myself, tho' it's never been in print, where he tells me some stories about his work. But NEVER, never does he say what he says in Susanne's new version of the film, where he BRILLIANTLY likens HOW PEOPLE BEHAVE ON THE HIGHWAY with how they behave in society - basically taking his job as a metaphor for life.

It's absolutely brilliant, and watching it, I kinda went subtly green with envy. Five or six hours with Gerry on tape, several thousand words in print, and NEVER have I gotten a line that good from him. I bet Susanne didn't interview him for six hours, but she GOT it, she got this amazing moment, this bit of brilliance that...

Gahh! I am soooo jealous of Susanne Tabata. Fuck.

Anyhow, I think my dream at the Vancity Theatre, above, was kind of a metaphor for life, too.

My compliments to Susanne Tabata - her movie is fucking great. (The Jello interview footage is essential, too). I'll keep y'all posted when there's another Vancouver screening. Those of you who think you've seen this film already (at DOXA, say?) - you better get ready, because YOU HAVE TO SEE IT AGAIN.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bloodied But Unbowed plays Victoria!

Susanne Tabata's history of the first generation of Vancouver punk, Bloodied But Unbowed, screens tonight in Victoria at Lucky Bar as part of a party featuring The East Vamps!

By the way, Randy Rampage recently got onstage with Joe again to sing Gerry Hannah's "Fuck You" at a DOA show! Who'da thought! (DOA play a free outdoor all ages gig at Adstock Maple Ridge next Sunday). Keep your ears peeled (?) about another Sick Ones show this fall, with a slightly different lineup from the last...

Friday, June 24, 2011

*NOW* I'm busy

Okay, okay, really now: that's it for awhile. Have a good jazzfest - I'll try to check in midweek with some more stuff from Kazutoki Umezu, whose KIKI Band plays a free show at David Lam Park next Sunday!

RIP Peter Falk

From the films of John Cassavetes to a film adaptation of Jean Genet's The Balcony to Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire to (yes, even) The In-Laws and Columbo, I have always had a great fondness for Peter Falk, who has just died, at age 83. Anyone who has never seen Falk really ACT, who wishes to really experience Falk at work, is directed to Mikey and Nicky and A Woman Under the Influence, which are certainly his most powerful, demanding roles. Those of you equipped to search out films unavailable on DVD on Torrent sites are further directed to All The Marbles (I'm told The Cheap Detective is good, too, but haven't seen it). My condolences to those he leaves behind; let's all tip our hats to Peter Falk.

Going for the throat with Alxs Ness (Without Mercy interview)

Without Mercy by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

I talked to Without Mercy's frontwoman Alxs Ness for the Straight blog about her Youtube death metal covers, reserving all the gory stuff for that conversation - but there was a lot more to our talk than that. If you haven't heard this band, check out their Myspace - you'll be amazed that the singer is a woman.

Allan: How do you sing like you do?

Alxs: A lot of it has to do with technique. To some people it sounds like you’re just screaming your head off, but you really have to do a technique. For me, because I do death metal grunts, or death growls, some people call it, it’s coming from the diaphragm, or from my stomach, so there’s a certain posture involved. It’s hard do if you’re sitting down. Doing warm-ups is really important, as well, and staying focused. That’s the weird thing about it - if you listen to it, it just sounds like really angry vocalizations, but if you let emotion take over too much, it can result in, like, throat wear and tear.

Allan: Is there a bit of that, anyhow?

Alxs: Yeah, there’s a bit. The style I do - I do different techniques for different sounds. For the low stuff, it is really hard on the throat. I don’t have too many problems, because when I’m doing that vocal technique, I’m really aware that there is potential for hurting my throat, so I just have to stay really focused. But I’m usually pretty good. A lot of the issues you get with vocals has to do with what you’re doing after the performance - for example, being in a bar and talking loudly to people? That’s the worst, because then you’re not mindful of technique, you’re just screaming in a bar, without being focused on how you’re doing it. It’s not as calculated I guess.

Allan: I know you don't smoke - but how bad is smoking for a singer?

Alxs: If someone was asking me if they should smoke if they’re a vocalist, I can’t really say. I mean, look at Lemmy, for instance. He’s the poster child for smoking and drinking and whatnot, and his vocals are doing all right! I think obviously, being a smoker, drinking heavily - it will give you a hoarser voice over time.

Allan: What does your throat feel like, after a performance?

Alxs: Usually it depends. If I’m able to stay focused and do things properly, then it’s fine. And sometimes - you know, you get up there, you get really excited, you get really into it, and I find if I push too hard on my throat, then I might have a little scratchiness after, but it’s nothing too serious. I have two different techniques - the death metal grunts, and then I also use a false chord technique, where that sound is coming mostly from mouth shapes. It sounds weird - but it’s really easy on the throat. The death metal grunts - you know, I live in an apartment; if I were to do it right now, people would probably call the cops - it’s really loud! But the false chords are quieter and not as hard on the throat.

Allan: I gather from your Youtube clips that you also do some inhales?

Alxs: I do inhales sometimes, to get a really low, gurgly sound, but basically, they’re exhales. People ask me all the time, what’s the best way to learn, teach me how to do it, and the easiest way I can say to try to get the feeling for that song is, bark like a dog (laughs). People think I’m shittin’ ‘em, but I’m serious - if you bark like a dog - not like a Chihuahua, a Rottweiler; a large dog - you’ll get the feeling in your stomach, because you really have to push that sound. And that’s the best way to explain it. It’s hard to really talk about it - you have to just try it.

Allan: Does the fact that you’re a woman give you disadvantages? I mean - I studied linguistics, so I've actually seen a larynx in a jar...

Alxs: Oh, wow - creepy. You should say that to all vocalists you interview!

Allan: But, like, the physiology is different, between men and women, men have bigger resonating chambers, which is why they have deeper voices. I'm interested in how being a woman affects you, as a vocalist...

Alxs: Well, obviously, I was born a woman, so I can’t really compare, but generally women do have higher voices. When I do the death grunt, I’m able to achieve a low sound. Maybe it’s genetics, or whatnot - I don’t talk in a (drops voice) super low voice, my speaking voice, but it is lower than some women. And it might also be the technique I’m using. I’m able to get that sound when I’m doing death growls… which I’m happy about! I’m glad that’s the case.

Allan: Yeah. I guess I was wondering if your larynx was actually bigger - like, if you’re physically abnormal.

Alxs (laughs): Maybe mentally! Psychologically abnormal, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Allan: So where did the desire to sing death metal come from?

Alxs: I’ve grown up listening to rock’n’roll. And Janis Joplin and… I can’t think of anyone else off the top of my head, but Janis Joplin is one of the biggest influences on me. I just loved that scratchiness she could get, like, those screams she would do? Which to me are almost like the ultimate metal screams, really. Some of the stuff she did really could have influenced metal now. So I grew up always listening to that, and I loved that - I grew up wanting to be a singer, but I didn’t know I could actually do metal vocals until I joined the band.

Allan: How did that happen, by the way?

Alxs: Well, DJ Temple, the guitarist, him and I met in Value Village - like, I used to work there a long time ago. I think we met in 2004. And he asked me, he said, “We’re looking for a vocalist for our band.” And that was before we were called Without Mercy. We were actually called something else. We were called Shinstrike back in the day. Anyways, he said to me, “We’re looking for a vocalist, can you do vocals?” And I was like, yeah, sure - and I never did it in my life! I sucked, it was the worst, it was so bad. But he kept on encouraging me - let’s keep this band going! - and I kept on practicing and working on technique. And went from the stages from causing my throat to bleed inside, and having just horrible, not-really-knowing-what the hell-I-was-doing… that band was together for about two years or so, and then Without Mercy formed in 2007. Or 2006?

Allan: I notice in your cover of Cannibal Corpse's "Maniacal" that there's a lyrical reference to "without mercy." Is that just a coincidence, or did the band name itself from that lyric?

Alxs: It actually is just a coincidence, but when I covered that song, I was like, ‘yes!’ I didn’t even realize that that was in the lyrics. And also it’s in a Slayer song, too: ‘destroying without mercy’ - in the one about the Holocaust, "Angel of Death."

Allan: Another cover I wanted to ask you about - you do an Arch Enemy song, the original of which has Angela Gossow on vocals. Is she a big inspiration for you? Is she useful as a source of technique?

Alxs: Yeah, definitely, on all fronts, it's great, especially when I found out - I listened to Arch Enemy, and I didn't know she was a woman [note: which is true also of this writer's experience of Without Mercy!]. And that was like, the lightbulb moment. It's like - wow, a woman can actually do this with her voice. I didn't know it was possible, so I definitely checked out female fronted bands, to see what they're doing with their voices. Because - like, you're asking me, can women do the same things as men, because they don't have the big larynx, or whatever. And I like to listen to different female vocalists to see where they're going with it, because - not just the low end, but guys can sometimes get these really high, high voices, like high screams, which I haven't heard as much from women. So it's really interesting to see - I think maybe it doesn't have so much to do with gender, it just has to do with the person, and what kind of a voice they have, naturally, and what they can do with it when they're singing.

Allan: A final question - I wondered, seeing Without Mercy live, you got into this chant of "Fuck Pussy Metal." But, I mean, as a woman - uh, isn't that a bit of a loaded term?

Alxs: We take it seriously - but it's also a joke. I mean, it obviously have certain connotations to it, having a woman in the band, fronting the band - "fuck pussy metal," ha-ha, it's kind of funny; but what we really meant by that is, "fuck music that doesn't have passion to it."

Allan: What is "pussy metal," though?

Alxs: Well, every member of the band has a different way that they look at it. Personally, for me, like I said - music that doesn't have guts to it.

Allan: Yeah, but who? Can you name some names?

Alxs: (Laughs): I would rather not! I think it's kind of obvious, there's some bands that go through the motions. I've always idolized frontmen like Iggy Pop or Janis Joplin, people who almost hurt themselves on stage. Well, Iggy Pop, he literally did hurt himself on stage. But that's part of the performance!

Allan: How does it feel when you're performing? The gender aspects of it onstage are really confusing to me, because there's no way for me to describe what you do without having recourse to the word, "masculine." You seem like a tough guy, when you're singing - but you're not. Do you feel like there's something inherently masculine about metal, that you're channeling, or...?

Alxs: Well, I mean, it depends how you think about it. I think of metal - the kind of performances that I like and the kind that I'm trying to do onstage all the time - as aggressive. That's the rage-outward part of it; if I'm onstage, and you're in my face, I'm gonna scream in your face. It's what's gonna happen, you know - the spit's flyin', the hair's flyin', I hate everybody in the room, not literally but that's how it comes out, right, just this rage? And I don't know if that's really masculine. I think women have rage, too. I'm a woman, and I rage. On the stage. [Alxs chuckles and comments as an aside, "oh, there's some lyrics for you."]. Again, that's an ideology - that women are supposed to be feminine and quiet subservient or whatever; it's okay for men to be assertive. I think that's kinda bullshit!

(Go see Without Mercy at the Red Room on Tuesday! Awesome female-fronted Vancouver death metal!).

Major new Swans piece

Swans by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Issue #68 of Big Takeover, out now, is probably the single coolest issue of a magazine that I've appeared in - at least in terms of MY articles: major interviews on Motorhead and Swans, a small piece on the Residents, and a wee review on Vancouver's China Syndrome. The thing about the Swans piece is that only half of it appears in print - the other half is online now at Big Takeover, with some amazingly dramatic photos by Femke van Delft. This is a very, very illuminating Swans piece, I think, getting into Gira's formative experiences and describing in part, at least, what the experience of seeing Swans live was like. I do recommend checking out the print issue, as well, though - I saved some essential stuff, like Gira on Jarboe, for that.

Okay, I'm busy (plus Funky's listings)

Well, folks - there's a lot to do in Vancouver this week. Surrealist cinema at the Vancity Theatre, free jazzfest shows in Gastown this weekend, including a climactic performance by Five Alarm Funk), upcoming gigs by Without Mercy, the Golers, shows by Sublime Frequencies recording artists from the Western Sahara, Group Doueh, as well as a return visit by Mats Gustafsson's power trio The Thing, and, next weekend, a free concert by Kazutoki Umezu's superlative KIKI Band... it's going to be hard to not have fun, though you're welcome to try. I have a couple of pieces of writing pending that I will put links to, but barring a really relevant obituary or something, I think I'm going to disappear from the blog a bit.

Here's the upcoming Punky Thrasherbalt's listings. Dig it, they got a new sign!































604 764 PUNK

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A couple of things I didn't mention... my Georgia Straight review of the Bison BC show at the Rickshaw: Black Wizard's "Mountain Bitch" has a riff - you've got to wait for the bass to kick in on that Youtube clip to hear it - that sounds quite a bit like the one from the Dayglo Abortions' song about acting like Black Sabbath (the second song in the clip here). Considering this was likely entirely unintentional, and considering the debt Black Wizard owe to Black Sabbath, I thought this was pretty darned amusing.

I also really, really like Haggatha's EP, I should mention. I had to, to be honest, note that some people in the audience very noticeably couldn't take their music in a live context (that quote was a real quote!). They divide the men from the boys, let's say. I also thought - and said so, tho' it had to be axed to make the wordcount - that Phil Haggatha had the best facial hair of the evening. As usual.

By the way, those of you who can take it after the Peter Brotzmann show might enjoy seeing the Dayglo Abortions at Funky Winkerbeans tomorrow. The chance to follow up Brotzmann with the Dayglos, in my books, is not to be missed.

James Farwell of Bison BC as photographed with my cellphone...

New on DVD: Rubber

Rubber, directed by Quentin Dupieux, is a very inventive, very smart, and (I thought) very funny film involving a car tire that has been rendered animate, rolling about the US desert, pursuing a mysterious agenda of its own. I would mention its psychokinetic powers, but I don't want to give too much away.

It's also, tho' it's a bit of a spoiler, somewhat gory (hence the tagline used on one British poster, "the best killer tyre movie you'll ever see.") If absurd, surreal metacinema involving an animate tire doesn't sound like your cup of tea, the number of exploding heads in the film might still make it worth your while; they blow up real good. Other things blow up, too.

I suppose the film is a bit smartassed - because who but a smartass would even dream of casting Wings Hauser in it, hoping his name draws a certain stripe of cinephile? (Does everyone out there remember Wings in his greatest role, the evil pimp in Vice Squad? He sings that movie's theme song, too - "Neon Slime," which says a great deal for the content of that film - do check it out). I refuse to believe that Wings' appearance in this film was an accident; somebody somewhere suggested the idea of casting him, to enrich the in-jokiness of the movie. He does a fine job, too!

Smartassed or not, I still found Rubber a delight to watch - and am quite happily surprised that the DVD release has actually made it out to the suburbs, where two copies are present on our Rogers Video New Arrivals wall. Go figure. I'll take such pleasures where I find them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chainsmoking Reacher: the pleasures of pulp

One of the great joys of being semi-unemployed these days is that I have the free time and energy for recreational reading. While I always mean to read more than I do, back when I was teaching ESL in addition to writing, I had pretty much my fill of language and too little room on my inward hard-drive to process novels; if I did find myself hooked on one, it was like it was competing for attention with my need to stay on top of my students' progress, a distraction I couldn't surrender to for long periods. I figure that between 2002 and 2010, I averaged maybe one novel every four months, if that (tho' I did read the odd bit of non-fiction). Now that I'm no longer DOING that job, for the first time in years, I've been plunging joyfully into the pulpiest of pulp - the sort of books that blurbs describe as page turners that keep you up all night - and absolutely loving it; there's nothing quite like the sheer pleasure of plunging into a well-told bit of pulp (and indeed I have lost a bit of sleep to finish a few of these). To be precise, I've been chainsmoking Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, finishing one book and picking up the next immediately thereafter. My, is this series fun.

For those who don't know, Reacher is an ex-MP with a powerful sense of justice that supercedes any sense of obligation to follow rules or laws; he drifts about America, with no fixed address, getting in trouble and having adventures - rather like the idealized "bum" that Pulp Fiction's Jules imagines himself as. People online have suggested that Dwayne Johnson - the Rock - be cast to play him, if that helps give you a sense of his character; serious literature this ain't, though the craft of constructing pulp this compelling still deserves high praise. The novels are completely, shamelessly - as "hero" tales tend to be - male-ego-reinforcing, with common elements to each book: Reacher finds a wrong in the world, often involving helping a woman in trouble; after much investigation and some danger to himself, he rights the wrong. In the course of his adventures, he almost always has sex with a beautiful woman, not usually the same person he's rescuing (I can recall encountering only one Reacher book where he doesn't get laid, Echo Burning); and though he is not always right, he always strives to do the right thing, or make amends when he fails. Along the way, he usually doles out massive punishment on a variety of bad guys. He is, in short, a poster boy for straight masculine identity as it has been dictated, without having the various distasteful sexist/ racist/ homophobic/ fascist attributes that such male heroes often have in popular culture (tho' there is, obviously, a bit of the vigilante to him). All of the tales are told in a fairly stripped down prose, reminiscent of Donald E. Westlake's pseudonymous Parker novels, of which I'm also rather fond.

Crap or not, thus far, I've read ten Reacher books, averaging about three a month. The first two, Killing Floor and Die Trying, seem the least successful, but by the third book, Tripwire - a series high point, for me, in which Reacher goes up against a very dangerous, very corrupt Vietnam vet - Child knows exactly what he's doing, and delivers pretty consistently. I have four Reachers left to read, and hope that by the time I get through them, there will be a new Reacher on the shelves... How delightful not to have a job...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A fragment of the messages left

Saw on the TV news at Ma's tonight that the touching, heartfelt, and often quite beautiful grafitti left on the sheets of plywood in the broken Bay windows, in the aftermath of the riots, and seized upon as something positive to come from last week's chaos, had been vandalized and covered up with a giant "I Love You," either obscuring or erasing the messages that had been left. I only briefly got to examine the windows, on the way to and from a bookstore gig last weekend, but I snapped a photo of a singularly beautiful area. Here's hoping the original work can be salvaged:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Andre the Gypsy not doing well?

Vancouver's most talented street musician (that I've heard, anyhow) apparently is not doing so well - his cancer is kicking into gear, it seems. New comment reporting to this effect on my interview with him (where I believe I misspell his name - it's actually Andre Girard).

RIP Clarence Clemons

Without having checked the obits, I still knew, when both Haggatha and Bison dedicated numbers to Clarence Clemons last night, that the big man must have died. Devoid of context, Haggatha doing it might have just been some sort of weird ironic gesture - because their music has about as much in common with Bruce Springsteen as Springsteen has in common with Whitehouse - but Bison also mentioning Clemons made the significance of the gesture crystal clear. (You gotta feel fond of metal bands that will publicly tip their hats to Clarence!) And say what you will about Bruce Springsteen, but before I even knew, in my suburban pre-teen years, what "jazz" signified, I fell in love with Clemons' saxophone on "Born to Run," and I still carry it around with me, even if it's been some 25 years since I've listened to that song by choice. Rest in peace, big guy, and thanks for the music.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bison tonight!

Funny, innit? - the city will invite a billion suburban jocks and rednecks with Molotov cocktails and a gut full of alcohol to watch a violent sports event in a mass in the downtown core - AFTER the evidence of 1994 has been taken into account - but it's dithering about granting the Rickshaw, a peaceable venue (and a place where ACTUAL anarchists might show up occasionally, as opposed to the fictional scapegoat kind) a liquor license? Is there anything WEIRD about that?

Bison tonight!

A pretty honest editorial (or two) Alex Strachan.

Mack and Miranda Nelson in the Straight are pretty right-on, too. Many good articles linked on Giorgio Magnanensi's website.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How Bev Davies spent the riot, with Black Lips pic

Photograph (of the Black Lips, presumably!) by Bev Davies, not to be used without permission

Bev commented on my thread below and sent in a photo separately; I thought I'd unite them.

Bev writes...:

Well, the game was dreadful. I turned it off somewhere through the 3rd period, knowing if we scored I would hear horns and would turn it on. I had received a dreadful email from a 'friend' earlier in the day and I was in a black place.

A friend from Texas Skyped me and I was mood wise; sad, bitter, and low. While Skyping I went to Twitter and saw and entry from the Black Lips, who were in town for the show I was going to at 10:30 pm. The Tweet said they had never seen a car on fire on a street before.

I thought OMFG there is a riot and turned the tv on. I went from one level in 1 second I was excited, showing my friend CBC coverage. My mood had changed. I was alive, excited and why who knows. Yes I wanted to go and take photos, and I did not. My son called and said not to go the the Black Lips at the Commodore. He said it was bad on Granville Street. He was watching TV also. I told him they had moved the show to the Rickshaw.

That night the Rickshaw on Hastings felt like a bomb shelter to me. The Black Lips may have done the best show I have ever seen them do. I was trapped inside the photo pit so forget the 3 song crap. I was there with stage divers over my head, air full of beer, St Pee the singer spitting into the air and catching it in his mouth. The entire scene was wild, no riot, music does that, takes a crowd to the edge of chaos. That was one of those amazing shows on an amazing nights in Vancouver.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Give me a fuckin' break

The VPD has announced that criminals and "anarchists disguised as hockey fans" were responsible for the riots. Stephen Harper should declare a War on Anarchy!

Hockey riot aftermath - a few images

Did a shift at a used book and record store in the city today, so en route, I took a stroll through some of the damage. Lots of people helping with the cleanup, and even more taking photos. Including me...

Bison BC Saturday at the Rickshaw!

Bison BC at their last gig with Brad, photo by Femke van Delft; note my bald head (I think) peeking out from the crowd, in line with Dan

No advance tickets that I can see, so I guess we're going to have to queue up on East Hastings, but Saturday is the Rickshaw's 2nd anniversary, with Bison BC headlining; it also marks the debut of new Bison drummer Matt Wood. I have a Music Note on this in the Straight (and articles on Group Doueh and Kazutoki Umezu's KIKI Band), which I'm too pooped to even provide links for right now, but I just wanted to add that the one old song James specifically said that Bison BC were practicin' up for the gig, to freshen up their set, is "Earthbound," off their first album. (As you'll see in the Straight piece, he actually said they were adding "songs" to the set, but that was the only one he mentioned by name; I figured it would create more interest among Straight readers NOT to mention the exact song - plus I had already reached my wordcount). Dunno about y'all, I'm grateful for the chance to listen to the song a few dozen times and commit it firmly to memory before the show - I don't listen to their first album nearly as much as their next two, so I need the catch-up time!

Dark Ages in vinyl out now!

A couple of lies about Riot 2011

(Slightly edited to add an observation that wasn't clear to me at the time of writing this, borrowing a wee bit from comments by Dan Kibke and Giorgio Magnanensi).

The denial begins even as the TV is capturing the riots live: "this is the action of a few hooligans" (that from Mayor Gregor Roberston). Looks like a bloody lot of hooligans to me, thanks; in fact, it looks like nothin' so much as the Granville Street Entertainment District cranked up a few notches. It's not too much different qualitatively from your average Friday night on that street, far as I can see - it's just writ a lot bigger: in busting punk clubs and art spaces outside "The Zone," while providing a free pass to those INSIDE it - or in reducing arts funding and cutting back on education and community-building to emphasize giant sports spectacles - the city has been moving INEVITABLY towards the events of last night. The tastes, values and impulses of UFC-watchin', bling-sportin', tribal-warfare-loving drunken young barbarians have been catered to, celebrated and rewarded, while the values of those who care for community, creativity, and compassion have been TRAMPLED ON; we are now reaping what we have sown. In past forays through The Zone on weekends, I've seen everything from guys beating the shit out of each other on the sidewalk to drunk girls squatting in business doorways, pissing shamelessly, giggling, panties around their knees: minor-key examples of run-of-the-mill uncivilized Granville savagery, compared to tonight - people don't normally go so far as to set cop cars on fire - but it's all of a piece. The kids leaping around screaming "woo! I'm on TV" as people looted Sears behind them sounded and looked exactly like the average kid you see on that street on any given weekend. What we've seen tonight was not the action of a “few instigating hooligans” – something to be blamed on some comfortably distant other; this is something that has the potential to erupt any time crowds of our young people gather, and we need to not lie to ourselves about that.

"This has nothing to do with hockey." Oh, so it's just a coincidence that the same things happened the last time the Canucks lost, back in '94? I think not. Hockey is a violent, fast sport, practically designed to get your adrenaline up; no other sport is as quickly paced or as bloody (tho’ soccer has its own charming history of accompanying violence). Hockey provides a stripped down, miniaturized, ritualized example of tribal warfare, which lends itself beautifully to the sorts of emotions and actions visible in the crowds tonight during the riot; the crowd, denied satisfaction of victory, took it out on their surroundings. (Tho’ who knows – this might have happened regardless of whether the Canucks won or lost). We deny such things at our peril. Want to teach people who rioted a lesson? Cancel hockey events in Vancouver next year.

"This is disgraceful, shameful, a blot on our reputation." This is a lie only insofar as it is being uttered by media people who spent the whole night filming it, commenting on it, and pretending to analyze it - or TV viewers glued gawking to their TV. They are inaccurately describing their impulses, concealing their motivations and emotions: because it’s not shame that drives them to watch such events unfold, it’s that it’s fascinating. In part because it defies easy processing: our city, overrun by our thuggish, idiot youth, rioting and looting not because they need to, not because it achieves anything, but simply because they can. It's like something out of JG Ballard, raising huge and valid questions – like where the civilizing forces in our society have gone, and what we can do to get them back. Condemn it all you like, but don’t pretend you’re not totally compelled by the spectacle of it, at least not as long as you’re still gawking – it’s like morally condemning the very porn that you’re masturbating to. At least Rob Brown, I think it was, of CTV, was perceptive and honest enough to realize and mention, as he wandered the streets with a camera crew, that the impulse of some people to stick around, to take pictures, to bear witness and not disperse wasn't fundamentally that different from what he himself was doing, that there was at least a smidgen of hypocrisy to repeating over and over “why don’t they just go home” while wandering the same city blocks as the crowd.

But perhaps the people who speak of shame mean something else – because they somehow find some part of themselves represented in the rioting mob, some part that they do not like and wish to distance themselves from? I find NO part of myself represented by this mob. I feel a bit of contempt and disgust, perhaps - but shame is far, far from my door, keeping company with, say, “surprise.”

Tho’ I guess I am a bit shocked at how ill prepared and ineffectual the police seem to have been… Were they truly not aware, after we got off lucky during the Olympics, that this could happen? Denial is ubiquitous...

Oh, and don't worry about the "blot" shite, either: because this could happen in ANY major North American city, now. And everyone knows it, or should. The only difference that I can see between this riot and any other major one I’ve read about in recent years (in Toronto or Seattle, say) is that it seems in Vancouver we only get out to riot for sports events…

And speaking of Toronto, the black-clad, masked looters tonight were likened by some CTV pundit to "black bloc" anarchists in Toronto, because they were wearing black with covered faces. (The VPD has incorporated this into their official version of events). This is ridiculous, a complete misapprehension of what was going on. However one might feel about them, I have absolutely no doubt that black bloc protestors felt their actions justified by some larger point they were trying to make. By contrast, what happened tonight in Vancouver was completely, utterly pointless, motivated by nothing larger than the impulses of the rioters. People were rioting because they could, because they wanted to, because it felt good to them to do so. There was no cause, no purpose, no rationale beyond that: zero.

In the end, I was glad to be miles away, in Maple Ridge, watching it on TV with my Mom. (We caught the start of it around 8pm, then – because a few downtown fires were no big deal – switched to watching a delightful, John Waters-narrated Animal Planet DVD about “Jessica the Hippo.” But around 10pm, we flipped back to the news and were glued for two hours). Mom was particularly upset by images of burning cop cars. “What’s the point of that?” she said, turning to me, a scornful, puzzled look on her face.

I shrugged, offered a theory: “It’s fun!”

“That’s fun?”


I wonder what downtown will look like tomorrow morning…

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Patricia Highsmith again, plus her Woman's World years

Finally caught up with Ripley's Game the other day, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel (previously adapted as The American Friend, by Wim Wenders); it was made in 2002 by Lilana Cavani, who directed the highly memorable film The Night Porter back in the 1970's. It's a solid, engaging adaptation, more faithful to the book than Wenders'; and I quite liked John Malkovich as Tom Ripley - he is quite convincingly amoral, while still being appealing (as opposed to the tortured interpretation given by Matt Damon in that other Ripley film). Was kind of amused at how much my (80 year old) Mom disliked it - turning to me with a critical sneer and saying things like, "This is sick!" (I did offer several times to turn it off). I guess getting away with murder isn't my Mom's cup of tea...

Anyhow, that, plus a comment on my Cry of the Owl review, about a fine, under-appreciated film adaptation of a Highsmith book, got me poking about online, to see what's new since the last time I trolled about for Highsmith stuff. There's an interesting bit of writing on what I assume is a lesbian blog, AfterEllen, about Highsmith and her little-known comics work, which I've also long been curious about. Also an enjoyable short film on Youtube about Highsmith.

Guess I should put something in the pot myself, then, that has not been so widely remarked upon: fans of hers should be aware that a very early publication of her writing, in a Woman's World from July 1935 (pictured above), can be found on the cheap if one looks about carefully enough (there's a copy on Amazon for $12 at the moment); it hasn't widely been seized upon as a Highsmith collectible, yet, and there's not much information about it online at present, but a chronology of her publications does confirm that the piece, "Girl Campers," on page 25, was definitely by her. I have the magazine here; the piece is described in the margin as "a series of letters written by 12 year old Patricia Highsmith during her stay at a girl's camp, and on the occasion of her first absence from home." It's clearly a young girl's writing, but there are observations in it that have a bearing on her later life, prefiguring her misanthropy and her keen observational powers ("there is a girl named Marie Stanter that easts like a pig at the table. She has thirds at every meal, and takes the biggest bites"), maybe even traces of her nascent sexuality (as can be inferred, perhaps, by her concern about swimming nude with other girls: "We are going in swimming 'Diana' tonight... Diana means without any clothes on at all. Do you think it's all right to go in Diana? It's very dark.") The piece is illustrated, too, perhaps by the young Highsmith herself (it is not impossible, but, not being an expert in recognizing her drawings - particularly her childhood drawings! - I cannot say with certainty; no credits are provided that I can spot). An illustration in a subsequent edition (January 1940) of Woman's World, credited to the name Mary Highsmith, may well have been Pat's work as well, but I haven't tracked it down. Her comic book contributions are hard to pin down, but her Woman's World stuff is findable... at least until more people become aware of it...!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flowers, bees

It's nice to see the bees back at the local flowering bush they favour. Bumblebees, not honeybees, mind you, but it's like this little reassurance that the world isn't ending quite yet.

Margie Gillis vs. Krista Erickson

One of the nice things about living in my own little bubble is that I get to miss things like the existence of Sun News Networks. Hadn't heard of them until today. Thanks to Giorgio Magnanensi for posting that link. Horrifying, horrifying stuff.

More on the Canucks

There was a giant, thick-seeming dude, grinning and dancing on the sidewalk as I made my way to my bus stop on the way to Vancouver, prior to yesterday's game. I think he was waving a big foam rubber finger. He looked directly at me as I passed him and yelled, "Go Canucks go! Whooooo!" at me, and I just glanced up from beneath a downward-tinted brow, Amon Amarth on my headphones, and walked on by; nevermind joining him in rabid cheering, I didn't even crack a fuckin' smile.

Well, maybe a bit of a superior smirk, but... it's not the kinda thing he would have felt reaffirmed by. Maybe that's why the Canucks lost the game, do you think? Maybe it was all my fault. All these people who believe that they can influence the outcome of events by how much merch they buy, how they dress, how loud they yell, where they hang their flags, or how many Canucks icons they paint on their fuckin' faces (or other body parts) - maybe they actually DO generate some sort of positive charge in the universe that the Canucks can draw off, and by glowering at this dude like he was, say, a bloody moron, I counterbalanced this juju just enough that the Canucks didn't have a chance.

I mean, it's an interesting thought - that we are, on some level, still such superstitious, tribal creatures that such thoughts can come to mind. We might as well still be dancing for rain, eh? (Or, uh, sun, as the case may be).

And y'know, even if there's no chance in hell that I'll be in Vancouver for Wednesday - and although I've been humming the Tragically Hip's "Fireworks" to myself, for the line "you said you didn't give a fuck about hockey," all week, I must admit that there is an urge, however tiny, to tune in to Wednesday's game. The pull is there - not because I'm interested in the event per se; the question of which group of men with skates on their feet beats the other in an unnecessary, fundamentally meaningless contest is a billion miles from anything I deem significant - but because I feel some need to have seen this thing that everyone else apparently deems so goddamned important. What if people ask me about a detail from the night? "I'm sorry, I don't give a fuck about hockey" is such a downer thing to say, you know? It pisses all over my interlocutor's parade, just like I did with that beefy moron on the sidewalk yesterday. Because in this context, with the Canucks on the verge of winning a prize that has long eluded them, that's like saying, "I'm sorry, but I think you people are all retards." It amounts to voluntarily EXCLUDING MYSELF from my community, declaring myself superior, indifferent, special (and thus possibly inviting the community's wrath; perhaps they'll come with torches in the night...). God knows our community ties are stretched so weak these days that I wouldn't want to be guilty of damaging them further... If the Canucks LOSE, I should be able to share the pain of my fellows, to be able to extend them sympathy. And if they win, what joys, what bonding experiences, what enthusiastic group hugs will be excluded me?

Giorgio Magnanensi's comments on hockey on that jazzfest discussion I mentioned are well worth reading... ("We have become so individualized and conditioned to experience ourselves as separate, we have an actual fear of community, unless our beloved team wins, no matter what...").

David M. on the Canucks

Last couple of visits to Chapters, David M. has been telling me about his Canucks song. With apologies, I still think the funniest song about hockey, or at least the one with which I most identify, is the Sweaters' "Hockey Sucks," off Johnny Hanson Presents Puck Rock Volume 1, apparently hearable here (tho' it didn't load for me), or maybe buyable here. Still, David's song is pretty darn cute!

I could tell by looking at my fellow commuters on the way home from the screening of The Squamish Five movie that the Canucks had lost, tonight. I'm going to make damn sure to stay away from the city on Wednesday, since apparently whoever wins that game gets the cup. Either way, I don't want to be nearby.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Julie Belmas online interview

Somewhere in Ann Hansen's book, Direct Action, she talks about her puzzlement at seeing Julie Belmas vacillating between being highly doubtful and unsure of her involvement in militancy and being "gung-ho" (see p. 401, for example - "the inconsistency of her commitment was dramatic.") I wonder if I'm experiencing a bit of Hansen's puzzlement now? A few years ago, when I met Julie Belmas to speak to her about a possible interview (which never, ultimately, happened), she seemed to have completely, unequivocally rejected direct action and radicalism. Reading a 2010 online interview with her (which I just blundered into online) - though she talks about many things that she mentioned when she spoke with me - nitrate poisoning, her anger at being labelled a "rat" - she seems to have reversed herself, saying that for her experiences, she now has an even "firmer belief that action speaks louder than words." It's really kind of strange - it's clearly HER in the interview, but her values seem very, very different from those of the person I met and spoke to. I don't know what to make of that...

Anyhow, the film about the Squamish Five is tonight at the Waldorf... see below for more.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Festival in Crisis" - querying Coastal Jazz

Received in my inbox today, an article of relevance to anyone who cares about the improvised/ creative music scene in Vancouver. (One of my attempts to comment got erased by the sumbitch blog program, but at least a surviving portion of my POV is in the comments section...).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Little Guitar Army in the Straight, and tonight at the Biltmore

Little Guitar Army at the Rickshaw by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Hey, the Little Guitar Army apparently got the cover on the Straight today! (Haven't seen it but it's the top article online, written by Mike Usinger). Excellent! And just in time for the Biltmore record release tonight! (I have my own interview in the works - meaning I have a bunch of stuff on tape that I haven't transcribed yet - but it's slated for publication a bit later...). Again, this is an amazing band to see live... most fun you'll have at a rock concert in Vancouver!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Rare screening of The Squamish Five movie next Monday

I'm not sure whether any members of Direct Action, AKA the Squamish Five, actually like the CBC TV movie that was made about their page in Canadian history. I have less invested in their story (since it ain't mine), less firsthand knowledge of what actually went down for it to grate against, and approached it (mostly) as a mere movie viewer, back when I was doing research for my first Subhumans interview, thinking it might be relevant (read my Terry Chikowski interview here - it's about the only substantial piece of writing that I've put on my blog about the Five that I haven't taken down). Given my outsider status - having more in common with the people making the film, as a media-person, on the outside looking in, than I had with any of the people whose lives are depicted - I have to confess that I found the film a fascinating artifact, definitely worth a look; the only thing I really remember being annoyed with was the filmmakers' rather laughable conception of punk (they make the "Gerry" character belch in public a lot, f'rinstance, to signify his punkdom. At least they didn't give him a British accent...). I'm under the impression that the filmmakers follow one former member's version of events kinda closely, too, which may or may not be controversial depending on where you position yourself. (I'm not sure where one WOULD go for an objective telling of this story, but I seem to recall a hint of what might be termed a self-exculpatory, um, agenda in the story presented by this film. Which may or may not be understandable, given the circumstances, but may also, um, colour the telling of certain events, as such agendas tend to do. Um. Pardon me while I waffle here a bit... I wasn't there, I didn't see any of this shit myself, and I don't want to point fingers at muthafuckin' ANYONE, thanks). Still, for a made-for-TV movie put out by a government-sponsored institution, they do extend a rather interesting (- "puzzling?" "Provocative?" "Offensive?" "Courageous?" "Despicable?" "Amusing?" - pick yer own damn adjective) degree of sympathy towards the politics of the people involved - much like the Fifth Estate episode on the Five, you get the feeling that there were a lot of people in the CBC who were at least to some extent on board with what Direct Action did and stood for - moreso than one might expect to find in an AMERICAN telling of a story like this, say. That alone makes it worth a look.

Oh, and it's shot locally, which is also pretty interesting - which is why it's screening Monday as part of the series Vancouver Sometimes Plays Itself, at the Waldorf. It has only had, to my knowledge, one truly public screening, prior to this, when the CBC first aired it. Sorry to all involved that I have been neglecting this series until now - I just didn't get around to plugging it, sorry folks!

Yes, I know - Monday is hockey night... game six, I'm told. Make your choice! (As a kindness for those truly torn, while the film is almost impossible to see in any current format, the VHS tape of it could still be found, last I checked, in certain libraries as part of study kit on terrorism!).

Doors are at 7...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Big Takeover #68 now out

I put a lot of work into this issue of Big Takeover! My new Lemmy and Michael Gira interviews are in it, along with a short Residents piece and a wee review of China Syndrome's new album. More related stuff to get blogged on their site, soon!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

A moment of anxiety

No clue who I am or am supposed to be at the moment. I've been running on inertia, mostly - doing assigned tasks, fulfilling the duties in front of me, being a good robot. Faced with free time I feel singularly, disturbingly blank. Who was it that I'm supposed to be, again? What should I be doing? Why am I living this way?


The Red Gate gallery in peril

Read more here.

Grrr... bitching about Translink; please indulge me

Fuckin' Translink, man... Maybe I wouldn't be so annoyed by a night like tonight if not being periodically subject to "fare inspections" by cops with guns, having to pass through uniformed gauntlets of Taser-totin' fuzz at the Skytrain station, dodging busted teenage female fare evaders who have been reduced to tears as they beg the transit police, dressed in ever more menacingly police-statish uniforms, not to ticket them. Shit like that, increasingly prevalent, puts a bad taste in my mouth, seeing our tax dollars at work protecting the interests of a private corporation from the evils of the occasional kid getting a free ride on a system that his or her fuckin' parents helped pay for... public transit indeed... It makes it harder to accept the bigger fuckups, like tonight. I left Vancouver by Skytrain around 11pm, travelling on a packed transit system (hockey night Saturday) that is radically under-prepared for the increase in commuters, like the concept of putting extra buses on on such nights is never even discussed. Having missed my connection by three minutes at Lougheed Mall, I see that it will take a half an hour - until just after midnight - for the next bus. I opt to hail a taxi instead, spend $30 to get a ride to Coquitlam bus loop, arriving just before midnight, in time to catch the 12:10 bus home, carving about an hour off my travel time - at least in theory, because it never came. No buses were rerouted to fill the gap, either - more than one went out of service, rather than turning into a Maple Ridge bus. By 12:45, there were over 50 people - many drunk, rowdy, and waving Canucks memorabilia - lined up waiting for the 701 Maple Ridge, then 35 minutes late. Some of the kids were getting aggressive with each other, & certainly a few were loud and obnoxious; I didn't relish the long wait in their company, the lack of any security personnel whatsoever, or the prospect of crowding into a sardine-tin with all of them after so long and annoying a wait. I gave up, wandered down the street to a Shell station to hunt out a taxi, stopping en route to warn some kids clustered at a bus stop down the road that if and when a bus did come, it would likely be full and pass them by - by that point it was about 1 AM. Fifteen minutes later, getting into another taxi, to spend another $35 on a ride the rest of the way home, I could see the same kids, still clustered across the street in the bus shelter, waiting for a bus that might never come, or just drive by if it did. Fuck.

Since Translink has the right to fine us for not living up to our end of the commuter service transaction, shouldn't WE have the right to fine them for not providing the service they're paid to provide? Call it $65 for the taxi fare and another $200 for the inconvenience I was subject to and I'd probably feel justice had been done.

Fuckin' Translink. Guess the moral of the story is that I shoulda stayed in town to see the Golers...

Friday, June 03, 2011

Golers and Zuckuss, Saturday night at Thrasherbalts

I did a comic strip awhile back for this blog in which some young punkette I met at the Cobalt (back when it was still the Cobalt) enthusiastically recommended the Golers to me. I have since that time bought all the Golers CDs, and count myself as a fan as well, tho' I have yet to catch them live. For thems what don't know, the band was named for the Goler clan (Wikipedia: "a clan of poor, rural, inbred families from Nova Scotia known for inter-generational poverty and the conviction of a large number of family members for sexual abuse and incest," chronicled in the book On South Mountain); their aesthetic seems to spring from some sort of pseudo-degenerate class-rage, with a rather complex wit to their lyrics (esp. given how outwardly, deliberately brutish they appear). The song "Salt Lick," for example, which tells the tale of a Goler groupie giving out blowjobs in the band room, is actually slyly clever; instead of the band being abusive thugs and dominating the female - a kind of traditional metal stance, cf. AC/DC's "Squealer," still one of the most revolting songs I've encountered - they're painted as horny, grateful goofs, approving of her enthusiasm: "we're lined up down the halls/ sweat's running off our balls/ she's doing us in the stalls/ slut!" You get the sense that the band are genuinely fond of this girl, who in no way appears disempowered or debased for the semen dribbling from her ass (also mentioned in the lyrics). I can't really make out any of the Golers lyrics without consulting a lyric sheet, mind you, but I am consistently amused when I do.

...So this Saturday night, I'm happy to note that there's a twin tour kickoff at Thrasherbalts for Golers and Zuckuss, the Star-Wars-themed porno grindcore (I think) band (named for an insectoid bounty hunter in that franchise - see the Wookieepedia for more). I am unconvinced that I need Star-Wars-themed porno grindcore in my life at the moment, but you'd best check back in with me after Saturday - I reserve the right to be converted!