Tuesday, January 14, 2014

RIP Kelly Churko

There seems to be a wave of mortality sweeping the avant-garde/ noise scene, particularly in regards western noise musicians with ties to Japan.

A few weeks ago, I gave my friend Dan Kibke (G42, Ejaculation Death Rattle) a copy of a Zbigniew Karkowski CD. It was a random gift - I was clearing out a few CDs I hadn't listened to in awhile and though I remember thinking the CD an interesting one, that Dan would probably like, I had completely forgotten that Karkowski, a Pole, had played on the same bill as Dan during his trip to Tokyo a few years ago. Karkowski jammed with sometimes Vancouver-based noise artist Kelly Churko that night. I didn't realize this, did not realize when Dan told me about that gig that I actually had a CD by Karkowski on my shelf. The gift was just a coincidence.

Within a week of giving Dan that CD, Karkowski died of pancreatic cancer.

This week, I'm working on transcribing an interview with Zev Asher, an avant-gardist with ties to both Vancouver and Japan, who performed on the same bill with Ejaculation Death Rattle two years ago in Vancouver. There will be a tribute screening to Zev this week at the Cinematheque (Adrian Mack on that, here). He died in August of complications from his leukemia treatment. In writing an introduction to the piece, Kelly Churko's name came up: the first incidence of my hearing Zev's name so it stuck - the first moment I *remember* someone mentioning him to me, though I recall recognizing it at the time - was at a gig around fifteen years ago at the Sugar Refinery, where (present-day Bison bassist) Masa Anzai and, as I recall, Kelly Churko were doing a jazz improv set. That night, I was complaining at random about my difficulties finding interesting gigs to go to in Tokyo; someone turned to me and suggested that I look up Zev Asher. (I believe Asher was still in Japan at that point, and that Churko, who relocated there for a time, hadn't gone to live there yet).

Well, Dan just called me. Kelly Churko, who had also been battling cancer, died this week.

I didn't know Kelly well. I interacted with him a few times, saw him play live here once or twice, but it's been a long time, and I can't say much about him now. I think we sent a few emails back and forth at some point, but I can't find them. My sympathies to those who knew him better. He was, obviously, a creative and unusual human being; any North American who finds himself on the noise/ improv scene in Japan obviously is.

By the way, another noise musician whose name came up in the Zev Asher interview was Nakajima Akifumi, AKA Aube. He died in September. I guess the noise scene is getting to be that age, or something - people in their late 40s and early 50's start to die more frequently.

It's still kind of weird.

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