Monday, July 24, 2017

The odd cult of David M: Lilith for Dudes and more - two free shows!

There is a weird phenomenon around David M. There is a small group of people who seem to turn up at his shows, over and over again. There are newcomers, too - for instance, at the Small Salute to David Bowie at Music Madhouse Records, which I shot footage of here and here, where some thirty or forty people I did not recognize complemented the four or five I did. But go to the Princeton, say (this Monday, July 24th, also known as tonight), or the Heritage Grill (on July 31st), and there's a fair chance you will see, besides performers (Dave Dedrick, Lester Interest, and Pete Campbell), and ignoring the incidental drunks and the newcomers, about ten people you might ALSO have seen there one of the last couple of times David played there - like Erika and I, Tim Chan and his wife Sarah, or Bob Hanham (recently glimpsed at the wiener dog races in a NO FUN shirt) and his wife Beth. There's sometimes a Judith Beeman, of late, and maybe a Pep Kay or Norah Holtby (hope y'all don't mind my naming names). There are a few other semi-regulars whose names I don't know, like "the guy with the impressive 60's beard" who made it across town to the Bowie event, or "the clean-cut bespecacled guy" who sits nearer the main tables than Erika and I do. Everyone probably saw NO FUN at least a few times back in the day, owned a cassette or two, and permanently associates the words "calico gingerbread" with "poo" and "Christmas." We're NO FUN fans, and there's this tiny little core club of us, intimate enough with each other and David, at this point, that once, when David couldn't find a venue for a show he wanted to do, we just met at his home and had the concert in his living room, with Ozzy, his dog, running happily amongst us, being friendly. (Ozzy left us last year, more on which later; the world is a lesser place without him).

It's all kind of strange. Never did I imagine when I got my father to pick up the Snivel box set for me at Track Records in the late 1980's, or when I was watching Gorgo ads on cable-access music TV (Soundproof), and sampling real-honest-to-god Gorgo with a friend at a Maple Ridge 7-11 - it's memorabily vile - that I'd be part of this little weird cult (not saying that we've been brainwashed, note, or that M. is in any way a "cult leader"). Though I'd seen David a few times over the years - including a few shows with Paul Leahy and even once with Pico, opening for Robyn Hitchcock at the Town Pump - the present "phase" of my fandom began around ten years ago when I attended a David M. solo concert at Chapters, and discovered myself the only member of the audience. Since I was writing for The Skinny back then, I did an article on it, riffing on the way that the audience-performer dynamic changes a little bit when the ratio is one to one. For his part, the ever-wry, unflappable David M. quipped that NO FUN was always "underground music," and that Chapters was "the New Underground." He did a full set, most of it just for me, until his then-not-yet-ex wife showed up and joined us.

David M., Dave Dedrick and Pete Campbell, by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Unusual or not, I had a very good time that day. As I remember it, David did Elvis and Beatles medleys, amidst the odd NO FUN original (or as yet unreleased solo songs like "Leonard Cohen Says Love"). He played the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" and a great Phil Ochs tune, "One Way Ticket Home." He also added some surprising covers, like Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl," which someone had requested a few shows before, and which worked surprisingly well, suiting both David's voice and body of work (it's less witty or wry than most of what David writes but it's not entirely dissimilar as popcraft; it's no "I'm Not Taking Suzy to the Be-In" but it can comfortably coexist in the same room). Later, in the context of David's Christmas shows, the song morphed, oddly enough, into "Santa's Girl," which might have made a few people raise their eyebrows. Where did this come from? they wondered - maybe two people, we're talking, but still - and I got to smile smugly and pat myself on the back for knowing the story, having been there to witness it... because those are the sorts of satisfactions you get from being in this elite, marginal group. ("Those who know," we call ourselves).

(No we don't).

David was very friendly about the whole exchange, that first day at Chapters. He asked if I had requests, and I am happy (though I would later suggest other covers that I was curious to hear him do) that the first song I asked him to do was his own, "Ambivalence," off Snivel. It remains one of my favourites of his songs, is as witty and catchy and smart a song to come out of Vancouver as anything written by the Pointed Sticks or Art Bergmann or Gerry Hannah, all of whom get a lot more respect and attention than David does. I'm pleased whenever "Ambivalence" turns up in one of his sets and give myself a little credit for recognizing its merits.

There are also times - often involving interminable and obnoxious Tributes to Elvis, which thankfully mostly remain on the recordings, unrealized in recent live sets - where I am less involved in what David is doing, and, though I own two NO FUN box sets now, I still mostly listen to my old favourite, 1894, when I break out the one, or The Five Wenceslases when I break out the other. I don't go to every show - though I do sometimes feel like I might be letting other members of "Team M" down  (or M. himself) if I skip out.

But I have no plans of stopping going to shows, either. It's kind of one of the more entertaining relationships I have with the music scene of Vancouver, and it's become it's own thing. It's not exactly like going over to a friend's house to see him play songs (even on the odd night, as mentioned above, when that's exactly the form it takes). But it's also not exactly like going to a concert, either, since it is absent so many of the features of a "normal" concert (like not knowing the other people in the audience or having to strain to ignore people who aren't there to pay attention to the show, since, the odd loud drunk who staggers through the Princeton aside, we ARE all there to hear the show - and we'll actually start heckling the drunks if they get on our nerves).

With two shows coming up, a happy memory of David performing at my wedding (singing a song we co-wrote!), and sad thoughts of the loss of both Ozzy and David's former longtime collaborator Paul Leahy, it seemed an appropriate time to do another David M. interview, this one by email. Bearing in mind that we're friends now, that the whole thing is driven by conflict of interest and nepotism, and that you may find yourself inexorably drawn into the cult yourself ("one of us! one of us!")... there are still many, many less entertaining things you could do tonight than head to the Princeton to see David M. play. (Or Heritage Grill next week, if you're out in New West).

(David M and Ozzy, by Erika Lax)

Allan: I feel sad and worried for you whenever you post a photo of Ozzy on Facebook, have you adjusted at all to not having him around? How many years was Ozzy your companion? Do you have any favourite Ozzy stories you want to share?

David: Not adjusted AT ALL, and I don't really want to be. I still talk to him as much as usual. He was my constant companion for 14 years, and that is my favourite Ozzy story.

What is the history of Lilith for Dudes? I recall you doing this a few years ago during "the Chapters years" but I don't know when you first did it, if it was originally a NO FUN thing, or...

"Lilith For Dudes" was only done once previously, on August 10, 2010, with Ed Hurrell, Pete Campbell, and Jim Cummins. Pete and Jim each did solo sets, as well as things with me. The 2017 version is different, with a real theme song and more of a through line. But I'm no judge.

Tell us about the Toys cover in the set? Are there other songs of Paul's present?

"Music Of Men," the first song/theme song of the show, is based on a Toys song that Paul wrote, and the band stretched out into something guaranteed to annoy bar audiences. I suggested recording it for "Snivel" ("Direction" was a Toys song that bar audiences loved because they liked The Paul Show) but Paul didn't want to, and I couldn't suggest a way to do it that seemed like an improvement. But thinking about it in terms of "Lilith For Dudes" helped, so it's Paul's basic idea tarted up and amplified in a way I think he'd have wanted to record for "Snivel". It will be on Leahy Stardust.

David M at the January tribute to Paul Leahy at the Rickshaw, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

When is that coming out, by the way? What should we know about it?

Leahy Stardust, which just had three new songs added to it (two of which will be in the show tomorrow night), is a CD/DVD set. It will be available when I stop adding to it (which may have happened). I'll also be playing it as a live "small David Bowie salute" style set.

[As for other Paul Leahy-related songs,] "Cosmic Planet Rock" is in this show, along with "Father To Son/All The Young Dudes", "WDFD 2016", and something called "NO FUN Song", all of which are from Leahy Stardust. Lester and I will also be doing a variation on something that Paul and I used to do as a medley, and beat poems a la Paul are also in the show.

Can you tell the story of "You Need Your Tongue to Stand Up?" This stands as the final collaboration between you and Paul, right? I found it particularly interesting hearing that song during my tongue cancer debacle from last March.

As you might already know, Paul said "actually, it turns out You Need Your Tongue To Stand Up" as his reason for not being able to play back in 1997, a few days before a Friday, November 28th show at Chapters Langley that I ended up doing by myself. It was a striking turn of phrase, turned ominous 19 years later of course, but I played him the chorus of the song just as it ended up within days of him saying what he said. And he liked it.

My favourite recent 'discovery' of yours was "Robert Johnson Box Set." Will that be played at Lilith? Can you recount the history of that song? Did you record the original performance, or did you have to "reconstruct" any of the verses that you might not have remembered... or do you play it pretty much as Paul did?

"Robert Johnson Box Set" is a reconstruction, reconstructed to be as close to the original as possible. Paul's Robert Johnson-style guitar playing was much more accurate than mine, and for my version I came up with some of the words, but we collaborated that way all the time. "Big Boys" was something he played for me on his little keyboard, and when we went to record it, it wasn't as I remembered him playing it, so I played it for him as I remembered it, and that's what we recorded. So what was that? I don't know either, but that's how we did things. People would sometimes be there when we'd be recording guitar parts, and they'd find it odd that we weren't talking much, just recording takes until we'd stop. You could ask Dave Dedrick about that, as he was around for a bunch of that kind of thing.

Speaking of Lilith Fair, for posterity, could you tell the story about NO FUN introducing/ sharing a stage with Sarah McLachlan? Did you or Paul personally interact with her? Have you ever covered one of her songs? (Bear in mind that I have never seen a Lilith for Dudes show and don't quite know what to expect). What songs can we expect at Lilith for Dudes that haven't been at your recent Paul-themed shows?

This should answer most of your Sarah Mac questions. The songs in the "Lilith For Dudes" show are songs by, of, and for men and the women who put up with them. I count 14 previously-unperformed selections on tomorrow night's set list, including the first two new Gorgo ads since "I've Gorgo Bar the Eighth, I 'Ave" a decade or so ago. Keep ragging on Gorgo and see what happens!

While I understand Paul wanting to be known more for his own music than NO FUN, it seems like there's been some real weirdness in writing NO FUN out of his history at times, from some quarters, which must be hurtful to you. Have you ever figured out what was driving that? (Is there someone you need to make peace with, since you seem not to have had a problem with Paul himself...?). You've never mentioned a particular falling out the two of you might have had, so this seems to be coming from somewhere OTHER than Paul, but...

No comment, but I think you know what I'm not commenting on. Three people gave your video of my song at the Paul Rickshaw thing thumbs down within 24 hours of you posting it. What kind of person would do that? I could name them, and you probably could too, but grief is what it is. My own grief is also what it is, so to hell with them. They should get a grip. For what it's worth, I'm very proud of that video and I think it makes an appropriate statement in an impossible situation. Paul would absolutely have appreciated it, and been mortified by it.

A few other things... thoughts on seeing Robyn Hitchcock the other night?
The set was great, and I was surprised and pleased that he did "My Wife And My Dead Wife". Not taking the easy way out, very good. We played with him & the Egyptians twice, and him solo once, and he seemed like a nice man every time. He's based in Nashville now, and the new album (great, thanks again) has Gillian Welch on it. There's a kind of nouveau, ad hoc Fairport Convention thing going on in Nashville, with Alison Krauss, Welch/Rawlings, Jerry Douglas, etc. that you probably want to check out. These are country/bluegrass people who are also fans of 70's rock, and I'm not surprised that Robyn Hitchcock has gravitated to them.

By the way, what's your history with Jim Cummins? I realize he is not on the bill, but since he played the last event in 2010, do you have any favourite stories or interactions with him? (I believe I saw him get hit with a beer bottle when performing at the first ever punk gig I went to, the Dead Kennedys at the York Theatre, and keep on playing without so much as blinking, but when I chatted with him about it he didn't recall the specific moment).

Jim Cummins is a guy from Langley, who I've known casually for a long time, but we became friends at Chapters, where he'd drop in all the time. We had the shared experience of supporting elderly parents because the art weirdos in families stick around while the responsible siblings fuck off. I believe you understand the concept. Jim is a top-quality guy; Ozzy agreed.

How will the sets at the Princeton and the Heritage Grill be different?

They'll start and end the same; everything else is up for grabs, and there's so much stuff that could go into the show that there's bound to be a lot of grabbing.

Anything else I've missed?

It's free.


Allan MacInnis said...

That was exceptionally fun. More Kinks covers in the set than usual (including a new Gorgo ad, "Dedicated Swallower of Gorgo," but also a great take on "Sunny Afternoon"), plus a particularly passionate bit of self-indulgently self-mocking guitaristry from Pete Campbell during the cover of Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" (AKA: "I'm an M... I spell it M."), as well as a ridiculously raucous reading of "Big Yellow Taxi," and a really funny Ramones-referencing poke at Christy Clark, welcoming her to the legions of punk rock losers, complete with a reference to Tod Browning's Freaks, which I referenced above myself. A whole clip of that latter is included in one of these videos, linked below, but I won't tell you which! It's really fun (as is the "Beat/ Blank Generation" mashup, complete with a new beat poem from Lester Interest. I think Dave Dedrick hold's Dave's Gorgo, too, during a cut-off clip where he demonstrates that he really CAN do a great Richard Butler imitation. He'd intimated as much.

Come to the Heritage Grill for more! Free! Next Monday!

David M. said...

"More Richard Butler Than Richard Butler", that's my motto. What a mensch you are, Allan MacInnis! Readers of this blog, I'm sure you have some idea of what a fine human being A-Mac is, but from my point of view, you have NO IDEA. Nothing but the best for my friend!