Monday, September 30, 2019

A week's worth of concert photos: Crummy, DOA, Grand Magus, At the Gates, Arch Enemy and Amon Amarth

At the tour kickoff gig the other night, as a "congratulations on touring Japan" present, I got Bert Man a gift: I had stumbled across a copy of How to Read Donald Duck, which was written under the Allende government of Chile, to protest the ways imperialist/ capitalist messages in Disney cartoons were being used to undermine the socialist government there, prior to a CIA-staged coup (Bert and I talk a bit about his history in Chile here). The book was co-authored by Ariel Dorfman (now also a Canadian, I believe), whom some of you might know better as the author of the play Death and the Maiden. Anyhow, ironically, Bert had worn his coveted Condorito t-shirt that night, and described Condorito as a scruffy antithesis to Scrooge McDuck. I don't know anything about that, but it was definitely an appropriate gift. Shot some video (alas, my phone and Youtube want to put "Andy Warhol" sideways, but if you're a Bowie fan, FIND THE NEW CRUMMY CD, it's a pretty great reading of the song!). Other highlights of the night included discovering that the multi-pierced and efficient counterwoman was none other than Bloody Betty, last seen on this blog smearing fake shit on me and breaking an (also fake) bottle on my head; I got to issue the delightful sentence, "I didn't recognize you - you weren't in costume!" Also really enjoyed talking with a slightly soused Orchard Pinkish, who offered a really fun anecdote about seeing the Dayglo Abortions the night some NeoNazis came to the show (I will leave this story unquoted, however, since we were just two-guys-in-a-bar, not interviewer-interviewee). Also discovered that LanaLou's have wicked french fries, which they hand cut and blanch themselves - it takes longer, but it's worth it; and that they'll serve you a Guinness in a Bud Light glass (which probably there should be a law against.

I didn't get many good photos at the DOA show, but I shot plenty of clips and had a fun chat with Joe (and another with his son, who was manning the merch table). Not as much speechifying as I would have expected - maybe it took place before I arrived - but DOA played a wicked set, and I got to chat a bit with NDP campaigner and frequent Alienated in Vancouver blog commenter Mr. Beer-n-Hockey (or however he punctuates that) about time he has spent helping Joe... again, some conversation took place that wasn't exactly for print! Highlights were seeing Joe get kids moshing to Johnny Cash and BTO covers and the ebulliant appearance of Ford Pier on "Disco Sucks," which I captured on video (middle song of this triptych).

Also had a great time at the Grand Magus/ At the Gates/ Arch Enemy/ Amon Amarth show. The highlights of the show proper were probably how eagerly the audience (doubtlessly mostly NOT there for Grand Magus) gamely sang WHOA-ohh-whoas during the breaks in their song "Hammer of the North," which they continued to do even after the band had left the stage; and just seeing how many people filled the giant hangar that is the PNE Forum, which seems more like a place you would stash tanks than a venue for a rock show. That was one well-attended show - nice to see Amon Amarth getting a next-level venue (next stop Rogers Arena?). The non-band-related highlight was hanging out with my old buddy Gerhard, a musician who has a longer concert history than I have, and a ton of bragging-rights concerts (Zappa, Beefheart, Iggy Pop with David Bowie on piano, etc). Gerhard and I used to work together at a Rogers Video in Maple Ridge in the early 1990's, and hadn't seen each other since then, losing touch until I ran into him at a Television show at the Commodore a few years ago (then connected with him on Facebook). Nice guy! Otherwise, show-wise, I used inside connections to get a couple things signed (yay!) and bought a Berserker t-shirt (speaking of next-level, I am now buying 3XL shirts, since the 2XL ones are getting snug... Need to get some exercise!).. If I'd realized that Amon Amarth were gonna be using a "Viking horn" helmet for a drum riser, I would have given Hegg a chance to clarify that in fact, Vikings did not WEAR horned helmets - that that was, apparently, a misconception popularized by Wagner (look it up!) - I had seen him mention that it other interviews online but hadn't realized how relevant it was. Anyhow, whatever - "poetic license." Really fun sets from all four bands, with At the Gates really getting thrashy. I was disappointed Arch Enemy skipped "Blood in the Water" but I'm glad I finally got to see them.

 I've run out of time to talk about them, but there's some video here and here; and a note, the sound at the PNE Forum is way better from further back. Trivially, I have seen Amon Amarth three times now, but this was the first time I was able to stay to the end!

All photos by Allan MacInnis, needless to say. Rock on.

Oh: at one point, Hegg told the crowd - before "Raise Your Horns," during which he drank deeply from a Viking drinking horn kept on his hip - to raise their horns whether they had a beer or not. You can imagine the response. Really fun, with plenty of tunes from Twilight of the Thunder God, which was where I first noticed them.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Amon Amarth: my Johan Hegg interview (outtakes)

Note: all images illustrating this article are taken from Northmen: A Viking Saga and/or the promotional material for that film. It's not a bad movie, but Hegg's part is too small!
Ah, for the old days, when I had a 900-word word count (or more) and ambitions to get published in all sorts of cool rock magazines, and I would keep people I was interviewing on the phone for 45 minutes or longer! 

That's how my first interview with Amon Amarth went down: Fredrik and I were able to have a fairly lengthy conversation, all of which ended up transcribed and online here. That's a piece I'm pretty proud of, actually - and last year (or was it the year before?) there were stats that it was one of the most read features on the Big Takeover website, despite being, like, seven or eight years old by that point. 

It was way more developed as a feature, even, than my second Amon Amarth interview, with Johan Söderberg - which was an interesting talk, which I did get paid to do, but was done a bit later in my "career" as a journalist, when I had realized that 90% of "fan" magazines don't pay and that some of the people who edit them are kinda dipshits; I was considerably less enthusiastic about writing, by that point, so I kept it fairly brief.
The good news is - contrary to expectations - I DID finally get to interview Johan Hegg, the vocalist of Amon Amarth, playing Vancouver tonight. Hegg is also an actor, and a spokesperson (and I'm not sure what else) for the super-cool-seeming Viking merch company Grimfrost. And as I kinda expected, Hegg is a very smart, articulate, interesting fella; he sometimes, I think, plays that down - but I've pored over his lyrics and been impressed with how he handles things, made even more impressive by his doing it all in English.

I mean, consider the actual story of Fafner ("Fafnir" on Wikipedia), mined for the song "Fafner's Gold". There is a lot going on in that story - from a shapeshifter who becomes an otter, to a theft of gold by Loki; from a feud between brothers to birds who warn of treachery, when you listen to their song after having eaten the heart of a dragon. There are a ton of odd details that can distract you from getting to the meat of the story. Hegg's telling is much clearer. From our conversation earlier this week, Hegg explains the story thus:

Fafner murders someone and steals a treasure. The treasure is cursed, and he turns into a dragon, and to protect the treasure, he lies on top of it all the time, except he has to go drink from a lake, once a day. So Fafner’s brother, Regin, who is a blacksmith, hires this guy, Sigurd, to go kill the dragon, so Regin can steal the treasure for himself. But Sigurd pretty much realizes that there’s something not right – that there’s treachery here – so he winds up killing Regin as well. If you read the story, it’s a bit like The Hobbit, a story about greed and what it does to people. And I think it’s really very contemporary, in many ways, because this person gets a treasure  and becomes a hideous creature that destroys the earth around him. So he lives in the Gita plains, which is like a wasteland. It’s basically what we as people are doing to the earth right now... I mean, there’s a lot of stuff going into the songs. Some stuff is very personal as well...
When you get a sense of how complex the story is - just compare the Wikipedia entry with Hegg's stripped down version, in his lyrics -- you see that he's really, really carefully thought about the meaning inherent in the story, as well as the meaning he wants to use the story to get at. Bending mythology to your own purposes, while staying true to the facts and the spirit of the original stories, and creating a kickass metal song with swords and dragons and murders and such, AND doing all of that in one song, in a language you didn't grow up speaking -- I mean, it's no small feat. 

So does he constantly consult the Prose Edda, the PoeticEdda, Njal’s Saga and so forth, looking for inspiration? 
Yes and no. Obviously I’ve read and re-read all those books, but a lot of the stuff I already know. I know a topic I’ll want to talk about, but then I’ll go back to the books, maybe, and revisit it, to make sure I get the facts right, and everything. Especially if it’s mythology. I do take a lot of liberties, because I feel sometimes you want to change something – there’s a bit of artistic freedom there. But I want to be at least partially correct when it comes to factual things, relating, especially to the mythology, but also to history, of course. But it’s easier to be a bit little bit more free when it comes to historical things.
As we continue to discuss in the Straight article, Hegg is comfortable creating his own stories about Viking experience, as long as they are true to known facts. "Shield Wall," on their setlist for tonight, I believe, is one such example. "Raven's Flight," which has a fun video, is likely another. That video seems to link the experience of touring, as a metal band with the experience of Vikings travelling the world by ship (Hegg has drawn this parallel elsewhere in interviews). It probably wasn't written about any particular Viking voyage, but Vikings really did use ravens as navigational tools, and there's a relationship between ravens and Odin, so - it's another good example of the ways Hegg allows himself to adapt things to his own purposes, while staying true to the culture and lore of his ancestors.

Still, as engaging as Hegg was, I had a 500 word wordcount and a one-evening turnaround, because I had to interview the band on Monday night for submission Tuesday  morning (and publication late Wednesday!). That's a fair bit of pressure to be under, especially if you want to do a good job. I could have justified keeping Hegg on the phone longer, based on the idea of doing something further with the interview elsewhere (kinda like I'm doing now), but every minute I spent on the phone with him was a minute I wasn't actually transcribing the interview and writing the feature. So even though Hegg was clearly willing to continue, even though I wanted to continue, I HAD to get off the phone and get to work, as soon as I knew I had enough stuff to write the article with (especially since I had to be up for my real job at 7am the next day, and by the time I got off the phone, it was close to 7:30pm). 

Anyhow, it came out pretty great, and I finally got to talk to the guy, and maybe we'll get a chance again some day. There are lots of questions I skipped - like asking about the Odin stuff in Lords of Chaos, though that would have been so interesting to hear his opinion of. We didn't talk much about his relatives in Abbotsford (!), or the plans for the actual show tonight (the band has said there will be some cool pyrotechnics on this tour, though not all venues will get the full force of them; I'm content to be surprised to see whether the PNE Forum will be fully bedecked, tonight!). We didn't even get to Grimfrost. 

I did ask a bit about the Soldiers of Odin, another topic I was curious about, but it ended up being kinda a weird digression from the conversation and I dropped it (for the curious, I had brought up "Guardians of Asgaard," and asked him what it meant, but he said he wanted to leave it for people to interpret themselves; I asked if any groups, like Soldiers of Odin, for example, had ever misused it for political ends - since the song could have a kind of nationalistic aspect, protecting the homeland from outsiders - and he said that his lyrics weren't political, that the band is not racist, that he was aware of no such  misuse, and that the band would likely take legal action if such a thing happened; I finally made some quip about how it would be a fine song to march to war to - that it WOULD make a fine propaganda tool - and that I used it myself on the commute to work, whereupon he replied, "that's kind of going to war, isn't it?" Otherwise, nothing really came of that angle). 

Anyhow, I've got one of my Amon Amarth shirts out and the most recent album of originals by Arch Enemy on my phone and I'm all geared up for the concert tonight. Outtakes follow. See you there!

AM: So talking to you - unlike some bands, this all means something more to you than just heavy metal, right? 

JH: Oh yeah yeah, definitely. It's part of my heritage, of course, but as I said, it has a deeper philosophical meaning, a "lifestyle" meaning. 

Can you give one example where your songs or your music or these stories have empowered you? Is there any particular place or time where you've found you've really learned something from Viking mythology?

I think - it's really in the Hávamál, which is also in the Edda. That's like, Odin's wisdom to mankind, really, and there are parts of that that I always really connected to. I think my favourite was, "friends die, cattle die, and each will die the same, but one thing I know that will never die: doom over dead man." 
[Allan's note: a fuller representation of the verse reads:
Cattle die and kinsmen die,thyself too soon must die,but one thing never, I ween, will die, --fair fame of one who has earned. 
Cattle die and kinsmen die,thyself too soon must die,but one thing never, I ween, will die, --the doom on each one dead.]

JH: ...So basically it's just saying that everybody dies, but the only thing that will survive is your reputation, the legacy you leave behind. How do you affect people, how do you impact people while you're alive. And I think that's something more people should really think about. Like, how will people remember me, when I go? I think it's something really important, you know? 

But there's another one that I actually - I went back to the Edda quite recently, and this passage, I didn't really understand it. For some reason, it just clicked with me now. Unfortunately, I don't have it in front of me -  I don't remember it by heart - but [the gist of it is] "to some houses, I came too early, and to some I came too late." And I always wondered what that was about, but I realized that it's death. Or at least that's the way I interpreted it. It just struck me the other day when I was reading through it; it's so obvious, but I never understood it until now. I always thought it was Odin! ...but it is Odin, because he's the bringer of death in that case, but not necessarily in a violent way. 

[Again, the full passage, found online:  
At many a feast I was far too late,and much too soon at some;drunk was the ale or yet unserved:never hits he the joint who is hated. 
Here and there to a home I had haply been askedhad I needed no meat at my meals,or were two hams left hanging in the house of that friendwhere I had partaken of one. 
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,most sweet the sight of the sun;good is health if one can but keep it,and to live a life without shame.]

JH: There's a lot of stuff that you can learn from that, and especially when it comes to that part, y'know, life is fragile. You never know when it's going to be your time. You only have one life, so you better make the most of it. That's the way I always felt about the Viking mentality and philosophy: make the most of your life, because we have one, we have one shot at this, and that's what I've always tried to do.

Thanks to Hegg and to everyone who helped make this interview happen! See you at the PNE!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Congratulations, Nardwuar!

Do any of my local readers NOT know that Nardwuar is getting a star and hosting a free show on Sunday at the Commodore?

More here!

Crummy Goes to Japan: tour kickoff gig tonight!

Crummy by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Hey, I have a Straight interview with Bert Man of Crummy! They're about to leave on a Japanese tour! Check it out, and come to LanaLou's tonight for the send off (also featuring Ken Fleming, formerly of SNFU, in his project Soundfucker!).

For Crummy’s previous release, Bitch, go here; for the event page for tonight's show at Lanalou’s, go here.

Monday, September 23, 2019

RIP Sid Haig

Love seeing Sid Haig in anything. Sad that he's gone. Hadda note it.

Has 3 From Hell come and gone from theatres already?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Entering the Fray

A couple of my Facebook posts this evening. One:

You know what? Screw strategic voting. Everyone should just vote NDP. Could someone with musical talent write a riff on the Beatles? "All we are saying / is give Jag a chance?" ...How the hell could it be worse than the last dozen administrations? Has anyone actually LIKED or RESPECTED a singular Liberal or Conservative leader recently... Or ever? Last PM I was even AMUSED by was Jean "Dr. Pepper" Chretien, who at least had an appealing character. I cannot remember a Prime Minister I actually admired - I don't think I have seen one. Why does this idiotic country swing from the frigging Liberals to the frigging Conservatives every few years? Does anyone actually feel represented by either party? SCREW STRATEGIC VOTING, actually go out and vote for someone who MIGHT JUST REPRESENT YOUR INTERESTS, for a change! 
Damn I would like Jagmeet Singh to win this election. I wish I had a sense of more fight in him, more ambition, more, uh, chutzpah. I only just watched the video of his response to the brownface thing, and while it is a very mature reaction, and a very "sincere" one - which I was unaware of previously - it's also just too politician-like, too polished, too quiet, too safe, too kind. It seems like a wasted opportunity. I'm not saying he should be getting all righteous but there is a huge population of voters in Canada, and not just NDP supporters, that he COULD HAVE SPOKEN TO. I bet the most hardened Conservatives and PPC supporters out there felt at least a flicker of curiosity as to how he would react to the brownface thing - how could they not? And while, yes, his reaction is very mature and carefully considered and seems earnest enough, I don't think anything he said here is going to really make an impact on those people or sway anyone to vote for him who wasn't planning to previously. He TALKS about fighting racism, but there should be more fight in him; he should be SHOWING it, not telling it, you know? People aren't going to vote for you because you're SAD about this, dude; being sad is not an attribute that makes people think of someone as a leader. 
There's a phenomenon going on with the Trump administration that politicians need to heed, that people are tired of "mature and carefully considered" statements from politicians, telling us what they think we want them to say; it's taken an imbecilic, Twitter-obsessed sociopathic hustler to reveal this, but the lesson is there no less, y'know...? It seems like it's a time for FRANK SPEECH and PASSION! We've all just gone through the disappointing experience of voting for a nice young man who we thought maybe valued the same things we did, and it didn't work out so well for us or the country. Mr. Singh, stop being so nice - and for chrissake, consider how you play the whole thing with Justin Trudeau wanting to personally apologize to you. This guy has apologized his way through his whole administration, often while CONTINUING TO DO what he was apologizing for in one form or another. DON'T LET HIM TURN APOLOGIZING TO YOU INTO ANOTHER PRESS OPPORTUNITY FOR HIM!

I fucking HATE the thought that the Conservatives are going to win this election, that we're going to be teleported back to the racist homophobic xenophobia of the Harper years (Scheer at least seems like a mammal, compared to Harper's alien reptile vibe, but that's about the best I can say for him). I would sell a testicle if I could stop another Conservative government from happening; I would even take the Liberals again if you forced me to choose between them. But jeezus, there's a THIRD PARTY in this arena, folks! (Actually four or five...). Can we PLEASE try an NDP Federal Government for a change? Please? 

Happy Birthday Paul Pigat!

Dear Mr. Pigat:

I think it is wonderful that you are sharing your birthday event with Vancouver, and hope you have a successful show. I'm sure it will be massively entertaining. I have plugged it a few times, in a few different places, and am sure I would really enjoy it were I to, um, be there, which (sorry), I won't be.

The thing is, I haven't seen a full DOA show in about six years. Think the last DOA concert I was at til the end was one of their farewell shows at the Rickshaw - what was that, 2013? It was before Todd Serious died, because the Rebel Spell opened; Brian Goble was still alive, too (and Randy Rampage and Brad Kent, tho' I don't know if Brad was there). I checked in at one show at the Rickshaw a couple of years ago just to see the new lineup, but I had to get home for some reason or other and only saw about half the set. I have seen half-sets or so a couple of other times since 2013, too, but it was sorta "show Erika DOA before they call it quits (in Victoria, a few months after the Vancouver gig), but let her get home before she gets too restless, because this isn't really her kinda music," you know? (She likes your stuff a lot more!). 

Then the Fight Back Festival came and I went for my friend David M.'s set and to see Jesse Lebourdais (and get a CD off him), but I hadda be awake to get to work at some ungodly hour out in Surrey the next day (I was teaching a Saturday morning ESL class) and DOA wasn't going on until one, so although I was there, I had to leave before Joe even took the stage. A bummer!

I have been craving a DOA show since. I've been enjoying 1978, and I've actually been taking more of a liking to Joe, who I've come to realize is actually a pretty smart and able guy, whom - nevermind interviewing - I've now had the pleasure, finally, of actually VOTING FOR. (He ran in my riding). And, you know, I wanna see Chain Whip again - I've done recent pieces on both these bands, and I'm just... PRIMED, you know? I can be at no other show tomorrow night. And I NEED a punk show this weekend, I really do!

...But dude, happy 50th birthday! (May I recommend watching John Cassavetes' Husbands if you haven't seen it? I can think of no better movie to celebrate turning 50 with; I would have done it myself a couple of years ago except I had already used it to celebrate my 40th). No doubt I will write about you again some time, and I definitely intend to see you play again sometime (soon!), and I'll bring Erika, and we'll both stay to the end and have a great time. Prolly not as great a time as it's going to be tomorrow night, given the occasion, but, you know, we've never NOT loved one of your shows, so we'll live.

Anyhow, cheers!


PS: for anyone reading this OTHER than Paul (and company), who is looking for a fun show to go to tomorrow night (technically tonight), and who DOESN'T feel like seeing DOA, may I suggest Paul's birthday bash with Cousin Harley tomorrow? I think it really doesn't matter if you like roots and rockabilly as your primary thing or if you like punk and metal: if you like guitar, YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Justin Trudeau versus that time we all Heiled Hitler

Jeez, was anyone still planning to vote for Justin Trudeau?

It's either NDP or Green this time for me. Learned my lesson months ago, having cast my only vote, ever, last election, for the Liberals, in the name of "strategic voting."  This time around, I am relieved to live in the riding of Jagmeet Singh. I wish the NDP were trying harder, wish they had the advertising budget of the Conservatives, wish I felt they had a chance to form the government.... but I fully expect Singh to take this riding, so, uh, "my work here is done." In other ridings, I would also consider voting Green. I sure as hell won't vote for the Conservatives ("evil rich people") or the PPC ("evil rich people with their masks off," plus maybe a few deluded ideologues), so it's not like I've got choices. 

Personally, I was never ever, under any circumstance, going to vote Liberal this time.

Incidentally, re: blackface and brownface, I think I have Justin Trudeau beat. At age 16 or 17, I went with my classmates to our high school gym for a rally that included a Hallowe'en costume contest, I think possibly prior to a basketball game. Attendance, as I recall, was mandatory - class was let out so we could all go. One of the students - I actually am not sure what his name was, so he'll be spared my outing him here - dressed in a pretty damn good Hitler costume: brown uniform, swastika armbands, leather boots, the lot. Maybe we were mocking authority or trying to mortify our teachers or just playin' along with the spirit of things, or maybe we were making some sort of ironic commentary on the quasi-fascist nature of sports events or rallies - we were, after all, in a high school gymnasium, where we came for the purposes of cheering our team - but several hundred of us (including me) took to vigorously Sieg Heiling the kid in the Hitler costume, responding to his salutes with our own stiff right arms and shouts of "Sieg! Heil!" It was entirely stupid, but in no way did we mean anything to be mean-spirited or intend it to be taken seriously (and I do believe the guy in the Hitler costume won the contest, if memory serves, perhaps over the objections of some teachers...). Was our action in poor taste? Sure. Would I do it now? Probably not, no (tho' I can't really imagine a similar circumstance where it would come up). Was it disturbing to any Jewish kids in the gym with us? Possibly, but it's more likely that they participated in it, regardless - it was ALL of us, who did it, teachers aside.

And was it entertaining for us? Yep, at the time, it was really fun. We weren't thinking much beyond that. To me, now, it's an entertaining story, and not much more. Do I feel sorry that I did this? No, not particularly - it was stupid shit I did as a kid, and really not much more than that, and if it upsets you, I think I would try to convince you not to take it seriously. It doesn't actually say anything much about my values or beliefs at all.

Justin Trudeau was a bit older than that when he dawned brownface and blackface, granted, but you know what I find more distasteful than his having done that? His craven apologizing now. I can't quite put my finger on what it speaks to (general gormlessness?) but it starts to feel like, this guy is all about what photos he's in. Me in a gay pride parade! Me in blackface! Me in brownface! Me next to First Nations leaders in the House! Me in India!

And if you end up caught in the wrong photos, just apologize.

Tired of it, tired of him, tired of his government. And the fact that he must have known all through his turn as Prime Minister that these photos were out there... if I were him, I think I would have just released them myself at some point.

Please God, folks, get out and vote. Vote for the Liberals again, if you  must (though if you're shaken up by the brownface thing, may I suggest Jagmeet Singh to you, as the next obvious choice?). Just, whatever you do, do not vote for the Conservatives or the PPC!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

DOA: of 1978 and Punk the Vote: a Joe Keithley interview

Joe Keithley and I took time last weekend for a fast conversation, apropos of the upcoming Federal Election and the September 21st Punk the Vote concert at the WISE Hall. As you'll see from my Straight article, most of the focus was on politics and the environment, with a bit about the experience of being elected to city council, and Joe's experiences on the campaign trail. 

"The thing about me running and getting elected," Keithley explained, was that  "it wasn’t all young people or DOA fans" who'd voted for him: "There were tons of old people, tons of people who don’t like my music, right? They’re like, ‘I like what you’re talkin’ about; I can’t say I’d buy one of your records,’ you know, and when people say that me, I say, ‘that’s great. I’m not trying to sell you records, I’m trying to get you on board with ideas that I’ve got.’”

But DOA does have a new record out – a superb compilation of unreleased tracks, demos and early singles, called 1978, with most songs featuring the classic lineup of Keithley, the late Randy Rampage, and Chuck Biscuits. Biscuits, in particular, makes an interesting showing on the record; also the author of the classic, "Last Night," which appears on Something Better Change, the lightning-fast teenaged drummer also sang“Kill Kill This is Pop,” which appeared on the Vancouver Complication. "Chuck wrote the lyrics and the song and he sang it, and I went, 'what's this about?' He went, 'ah, fuck, nevermind!' I went 'okay, whatever, just sing it' - because I had no idea what he was talking about. It ended up being a funny song..."

That tune pops up up 1978, as do two less-well-known songs, "The Mutant" and “Rip Dis Joint,” which pilfers from a similarly titled Stones song, and also features a lead vocal from Biscuits. We discuss that a bit in the Straight piece, linked above - it was recorded, apparently, during the sessions for this infamous single:

As for "The Mutant," which previously popped up on The Lost Tapes, it is one of the few tracks on the album also previously unknown to me. “We did one demo of it," Keithley remembers of that song. "I can’t remember where we ended up with it, he didn’t like it, or, 'it's not going to go on the record,' but when I listened to it later, it was like, ‘okay, this is really funny!’ And I think that’s the idea – some of the stuff on it is just like, ‘wow, these guys are out of control, really young, and would do anything! Which is kinda like what punk rock was, right; these songs kinda embody that. They weren't overly thought out, and they weren't way underproduced, and it kinda was the spirit of the time."

The main question, of course, is how it came to be that there should be any unreleased DOA material at all. Joe's never been shy of putting out retrospective albums - from singles albums to the Greatest Shits DVD to bonus material included on CD reissues of classic albums, Joe has mined the DOA back catalogue pretty extensively. Quite a bit of 1978 has popped up in one form or another, though it's really kind of hard to keep track. 

"I didn't really think about it too much," Joe told me when we talked. "It's kinda one of those things: it would be kind of have another retro album out with unreleased tracks, and then Randy died, and I thought, let's do something that kind of commemorates him and Dave and Wimpy and Brad and all the gang that passed away. Mostly on that record, it's Randy, Chuck and I playing on everything. And the fun part was, I got a hold of Don Denton. He used to be the photographer for the Straight, and I asked, do you have any photographs that no one has ever seen before, and he dug up a bunch of incredible ones, and we used a few on the record. Every time I look at them, I just laugh."

DOA will be headlining the Punk the Vote Festival at the WISE Hall on September 21st. Event page here. Mike Usinger's review of the album is here... Should be a great show. It's been a few years since I last saw DOA but this is maybe the tightest, fastest trio since the days of Randy and Chuck. Wonder who the "special surprise guests" will be?

Monday, September 16, 2019

On not writing obituaries

It used to be that I would spend a fair bit of time paying respects to people who died on this blog.

I still read obits. My regular routines online involve checking the Wikipedia Recent Deaths page every few hours. It's not some journalistic need to report the news first, it's that for most of my life - lived prior to the phenomenon of the internet - it wasn't all that easy to tell which writers, filmmakers, musicians and such that I cared about were still alive.

But it seems like that sort of "reportage," coming from me, is redundant now. People keep their own tabs, and pay respects on Facebook - I've posted a few Daniel Johnston songs there in recent days (saw him twice, would have gone again, used to buy his cassettes back in the day).  I may still check in about people who mean more than most, to me - as with Ryszard Bugajski, a few months ago - especially if their lives or works are not so well known to the masses. But - you know, even though I did note, say, that Mardik Martin passed last week (a screenwriter who collaborated with Scorsese), I don't know his contributions well enough to say anything meaningful; and as for Ric Ocasek, I was never actually a Cars fan. I've liked some of Fred Herzog's photographs and I've seen part of Robert Frank's Cocksucker Blues, but again, I have nothing to say that really counts, and people pay close enough attention now that they already know...

...though did you notice Theatre of Hate are coming to the Rickshaw in October? Opening for the new version of the Chameleons that is playing. A curious thing that I may ask Kirk if we talk is how Robert Frank ended up taking photos of them! (One of their early singles has a Robert Frank pic on it).

Anyhow, I guess this is sort of a "mass obituary" in a way... people keep dying... It will continue whether I write about it or not...

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Punk the Vote!

Joe Keithley writes, apropos of next weekend's show:

Hi Al
Here's the press release for a show I am putting on at the Wise Hall
Sat. September 21st. It's a drive to get people out to vote for
candidates that care about fighting climate change in our federal
election. it is a non partisan event and it should be a lot of fun!
Joe/ DOA

Also note: I didn't blog about it here, but check out this Chain Whip article I did for the Straight! (Including a link to Josh's review of the DOA 1978 LP, which is, I agree, just bloody great!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Mikey and Nicky and Ishtar: Elaine May double bill at the Cinematheque, plus The Winding Stream

There are two films upcoming at the Cinematheque that make for an inspired double bill: Mikey and Nicky and Ishtar, both written and directed by Elaine May. They're very different movies, but - as other critics have remarked - have a relationship to each other, in terms of themes of friendship and betrayal; they're also both films that didn't really get a fair shake until much later in their lives. They're also remarkably different: Mikey and Nicky, made in 1976, and subject of a recent Criterion release, feels like a John Cassavetes film, and not just because it stars Cassavetes and Peter Falk: it delves into emotionally harrowing waters, is unafraid to torture its audience a little, creating situations that are quite embarrassing to watch unfold; and it has a loose, improvised feel to many scenes, as Cassavetes and Falk play off each other (both getting fairly loud and expressive) . Short of Husbands, there are no other films out there where the two interact in front of the camera to this extent. Ned Beatty co-stars; there's also a fairly early appearance by M. Emmett Walsh. The less you know about the story, the better - if you have a chance to watch it unfold before you, that's the ideal way to see it. It fits in with Gloria and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie as looking at human relationships by way of gangster cinema, and it's unlike anything else Elaine May ever made; for one thing, it's not a comedy.

Some people would say the same of Ishtar: it was one of those films that received an enormous critical drubbing when it first came out. I recently checked it out for the first time on Blu-Ray, and it's definitely not a terrible film - it's long, but it has warmth and humour to it, and some of the songs in it (written, we gather, to be bad, by the Phantom of the Paradise's Paul Williams) are memorable enough that David M. still sometimes covers them (actually, it's only one, "Dangerous Business," but it's a fun tune indeed; he and the late Paul Leahy were fans of the film). I seldom find Hollywood comedies all that funny, but Ishtar is no worse than most, and better than some that people somehow love. Critics of the day seemed not to understand that the various moments when they found themselves wincing - not all that different from the winces garnered later by This is Spinal Tap - were intentionally set up to be winceworthy. Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty give committed peformances, and there is fine support from Elaine May veteran Charles Grodin and the very beautiful Isabelle Adjani. Plus some gags involving a blind camel. The plot is simple enough: two incompetent songwriters travel to the Middle East in hopes that they're advancing their careers, to find themselves embroiled in political intrigue. It's not a favourite film of mine by far, but it is well worth watching. (And one of the critics who writes on the Roger Ebert website since Ebert died apparently prefers it to Mikey and Nicky, so tastes may differ).

Also of note, this time for Petunia fans: Beth Harrington's documentary on the Carter Family, The Winding Stream: the Carters, the Cashes, and the Course of Country Music plays this Thursday, again at the Cinematheque. Harrington directed a pilot for a quirky, roots-music-themed series called The Musicianer, about which I interviewed her a few months ago. She knows her stuff, so this should be a good watch. Did I ever mention seeing Johnny Cash (and no doubt at least one Carter) at the Pacific Coliseum in the 1970's? I barely remember it, but as far as I know, it's the first concert my parents ever took me to, and thus the first I ever actually saw. It is kinda cool, you must admit, that the first time I ever heard "A Boy Named Sue" - the only song I vaguely recall from that night - it was because Johnny Cash was singing it live in front of me!

Lots else upcoming at the Cinematheque, including an Abbas Kiarostami retrospective. See their new, improved website for more!

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Vikings and Pagans and such: Amon Amarth and Arkona

Okay, so: it looks like I will not be talking to Amon Amarth. I have tons of questions for Johann Hegg - whom I've never gotten to speak to, despite having interviewed Amon Amarth twice (best instance is here). Should be a mighty show, but the fun would have been asking Hegg how he feels about groups like Sons of Odin, say, or the scene in Lords of Chaos where the Varg-character makes a pretty potent point of the "disrespectfulness" of building a Christian church over a sacrificial altar to Odin. On safer ground, I'd be curious to see how the Viking worldview has influenced his own life (or asking him about Grimfrost, or his acting experiences). It interests me that Viking/ Pagan culture is an example of an actual, if you'll pardon me, "white culture," that was oppressed and overrun by the forces of Western Civilization; normally when you get white people talking about having pride in their heritage, it's dweeby neofascists who actually are trying to cling, whether they realize it or not, to a long-held position of cultural dominance, but European Pagan culture is actually something quite different, a historically oppressed minority culture, who seem to have a pretty good argument for wanting to take pride in their lost heritage (as long as we keep church-burnings and racism off the menu). I'm an outsider to it all, but it's really, really interesting to contemplate, and raises questions I'd love to get answered.   

Alas, it looks like that interview won't happen. It's not like they really  need the press, at this point, and I don't suppose they necessarily relish the thought of wading into such problematic areas. I can live without it, I suppose. Bye, Hegg!

I also will not be talking to Arkona, the Russian pagan/ blackened folk metal band playing the Rickshaw September 16th, but that is a show I'm even more excited about, since as far as I can see, Arkona actually are involved in Pagan practice (Hegg and company I think are just mining a fertile trove of stories for lyrics; sounds like they're not sacrificing anything to Odin, any more than Slayer are sacrificing to Satan). I have sent questions to the band - who, because of language barriers, only do email interviews, apparently - but as was my experience a few tours ago, they did not get back to their publicist. My questions may have been too many/ too difficult/ too controversial, I don't know. (I almost always send more questions than I need answers to, so the band can pick and choose).

So there's not much that I can offer by way of new information about either of these bands, but if anyone's curious, here are the questions I prepared for Arkona. The openers for this "Pagan Rebellion" tour also sound pretty great - especially Metsatöll, from Estonia, who have been around for some 20 years, without my having noticed them - so I think this is a must-see show, actually. Arkona's official website is here, by the way.

Masha –

Please ignore any questions you don’t want to answer, or skip parts of questions, or such. I have given you a LOT of questions. You don’t need to answer all of them! But I hope you can answer SOME of them. I’ve divided this into questions about the band’s “beliefs” and lyrics, and questions about your music.

Part One: Questions about Your Beliefs

1. I am curious about the kolovrat. Can you explain the meaning to the band? You used the kolovrat in your original logo, then decided to stop using it – did it draw controversy or otherwise cause problems? Why did you change your logo? Does the current logo have any meaning to it?

2. Tell me a bit about Jaromarsburg on Kap Arkona. Besides being a pagan city destroyed by the Christians, what does it mean to you? Do you have any personal associations with the city?

3. Were you raised Christian? Do you have hostility to Christianity? Is that more about the history of the religion, or things you find damaging about the ideology or beliefs of Christianity? (Is there anything you like about Christianity?).

4. Was there much manifestation of the whole black metal church-burning thing in Russia? Who was behind it, if so? How did you feel about it? (I can find stories about some teenaged Satanist named Ignat Sarapov, who burned a church, and about apparent Nazi church burnings in the Ukraine, but the stories I am finding online don’t connect to black metal per se. But you probably know a lot more than I do…).

5. Do you identify as a Rodnover? If so, how did you get interested in Rodnovery? It seems like you have beliefs that you are trying to communicate to the audience and encourage – that it is not just entertainment? Do you practice ritual in your personal life? Do you see concerts as a sort of modern form or ritual? Do you get a lot of support or feedback from other neopagans? (How do you feel about North American manifestations of neopaganism, like Wicca?).

6. A lot of metal bands in North America – like Unleash the Archers, say - are kind of separated from their European ancestry, so you get bands that sort of base their lyrics in fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkein, movies, the Society for Creative Anachronism, or just stories they make up. You actually have tradition to draw on. Do you still enjoy the music of bands that take more from fantasy and fiction?

7. I gather that there is a kind of racial element to the beliefs of some Rodnovers – that some people associated with the movement take pride in their Slavic blood and, for example, don’t believe in intermarriage with non-Slavs. That kinda brings us back to the whole Nazi issue. Do you have any sort of belief about the importance of having pure, Slavic blood?

8. Is the band or its music ever confused with the Polish black metal band – who I believe *are* part of the NSBM movement – also called Arkona? (I enjoy their sound but I suspect if I understood their lyrics I would be horrified).

9. In Communist times, did the government disapprove or in any way try to suppress Russian pagan practice or belief? I’m not quite sure when you were born, but did that affect any of you as children…? Was your heritage something you learned a lot about in school, or was it suppressed or ignored?

10. I know there are songs in your catalogue about nature – like “Bolo Mne” on Slovo, about “the tormented souls of trees,” and what we have done to the planet. But I have also seen you wearing animal furs on stage, and playing instruments presumably made from animal skins and bones. I’m curious if any of that has drawn trouble (from anti-fur activists, for example?). Is anyone in the band vegan? Do you think it is natural and normal for humans to use animals for food and clothes? Would you want to live in a vegan world?

Part Two: Questions About Your Music

1. I know almost nothing about Russian folk music. If I wanted to understand or research the “folk” side of what you do, who or what should I listen to?

2. Personally, I love Slovo, with its really complex orchestration, strings, and abundant folk/pagan elements. It remains my favourite of your albums (and it helps that that was the tour where I first saw you). Do you have plans to make music like that again, or are you always moving/ changing your sound?

3. I don’t know your whole catalogue, but it seems to me that Khram is your most “black metal” record yet – your darkest, heaviest, and most despairing. What emotions went into making it? Is there a theme to the album? How has your fanbase responded?

4. Is there any pressure (from fans, or labels, or so forth) to make music in one particular style or other? Does Khram represent a decision to distance yourself from “folk metal,” or will you return to that style in the future, or…?

5. What performers inspire you? Have you ever gotten to share a stage with any of your heroes?

6. What do you count as the band’s greatest successes to date – the things you are proudest of?

7. You have already toured Khram in Vancouver – a show I missed, so thank you for coming back so soon. Do you have any particular connections with the bands you’re touring with, this time? How do you go about deciding who to tour with? Do you share resources?

8. Does being from Russia an advantage or a disadvantage in terms of touring? ...This question actually comes from Brittney Slayes of Unleash the Archers, who is a fan. Her original wording: “Seeing as we are both from secluded northern wastelands - oops I mean countries - did the band find it hard to get noticed in your early years? Or was it relatively easy being that you are close to Europe and touring opportunities seem endless out there?”

9. Is English much of a challenge for you? Are you studying to improve your English? Do you have people who help with English translations of lyrics? Are you getting help with an interview like this, or are you using Google Translate, or…?

10. Is there anything you want to say to Vancouver audiences, any specific associations with Vancouver, things you like to do here, stories to tell…?

That's all I had for her. I think between two separate tours I have sent questions through their publicist half a dozen times, now, to no avail. So fuggit: I've bought my ticket and will content myself with fandom. Not sure how I feel about everything they do, since I don't always understand it - they sing in Russian, and the sunwheel I ask about - the Kolovrat - on the one Arkona t-shirt I have makes me a little skittish, to be honest - but I am absolutely sure that they're a great live band, and that'll have to be good enough for now!

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Iron Maiden at Rogers Arena: the Legacy of the Beast in Vancouver

"How many times have you seen this show?" the guy asks me, and I tell him, "hell, I haven't seen Maiden since 1983!" He chuckles: he's seen the Legacy of the Beast show - a vast recap of Maiden's greatest hits - fifteen times already, and has, in his life, seen Iron Maiden over 200 times, he figures. He's apparently friends with Steve Harris, which might help, but I suspect he also has a bigger concert budget than I do. "The best places to see them are in Quebec City and Montreal," he tells me, and what can you do but believe him?

We're backstage at Rogers Arena, where my successful ticket-cadging has unexpectedly led to a VIP pass to the hospitality room (I nab a Heineken, Erika a Schweppes) and two free t-shirts (no small thing, since they run $55 a pop). My wife, who is not particularly a metal fan, is very amused by the shirts - her second metal tee, after Unleash the Archers - and we duck together into a washroom to try them on. She gets into the spirit of things, throwing the goats and making a "metal" face worthy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. It's silliness for her, but it's set the mood for a fun night, and she definitely has that. Never did I assume our wardrobe would include two matching Iron Maiden shirts.

Throughout it all, I'm carrying a 8X10 glossy of Maiden from 1992, tucked into an Ed McBain paperback for support, so I don't wrinkle it or sweat much on it. Though I've brought nothing of my own to get signed, I've run into Gerald "Rattlehead" Yoshida, with a veritable backpack of stuff he's hoping to get scribbled on, and offered to try, "just in case" the band shows up in the hospitality room. They don't, at least not while Erika and I are there, though I'm not 100% convinced I would recognize anyone other than Bruce or Steve, if they materialized; so I'm left minding Gerald's publicity shot for the rest of the night. Later on I'll be permitted down to the floor to see if I can find him and give him the photo back, but he's not all that tall, and there's a lot of people, so all that comes of it is a glimpse of just how many different Iron Maiden t-shirts there are to be seen. (There are also a few Motorhead and Slayer and Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth and AC/DC shirts to be seen, too, and even one guy wearing a Bad Religion tee; at one point I tap a guy on the shoulder and ask "is that an Arkona hoodie? ...See you at the Rickshaw!"). There are kids younger than I was when I saw Maiden at age 15, and adults in faded shirts from shows that might even predate that 1983 concert, broken out only for special occasions.

But the Raven Age - the metalcore band of the son of Steve, George Harris - starts while we're still in the hospitality area, and Erika and I rush to take our seats. We are opposite the stage, but with an excellent, straight-on view. Truth be known, all metalcore sounds kind of alike to me - it's not a genre that I really have a great fondness for - but the band is appealing enough, and have some inspired audience engagement techniques, asking us, for example, to take out our phones and turn on our flashlights for "Grave of the Fireflies," off their album Conspiracy (like father like son: it's a song named after a movie). The arena lights up in a way I haven't seen since the days of the Bic lighter, which, yes kids, we used to actually hold up in the air in a non-ironic way as tribute to bands onstage.

Prior to the start of Maiden's set - long posted online and followed religiously - there's a brief clip on the video monitors at either side of the stage of an Iron Maiden-themed videogame, where you can "play" Eddie in various scenarios based on Iron Maiden album covers and t-shirts and such. You can kill someone with a hammer, like the Eddie of Killers, for example, or be electroshocked in your straightjacket as with Piece of Mind. There's lots of war-themed stuff, too; one gathers Steve Harris is a history buff.

Once we get to "Aces High," the opening number - introduced, as always, with a clip of Winston Churchill - we see the first bit of amazing stagecraft of the night: a replica Spitfire which flies in place over the band. There's also, in the course of the evening, a surprisingly early visit from Eddie (who trades sword-blows with Bruce Dickinson during "The Trooper," which, I discover from the backdrop, is not in fact a Civil War song - which is what I'd always previously assumed, not having read the lyrics closely. From Eddie's red coat onstage, you might guess it's about the American revolutionary war, except that doesn't explain the mention of Russians. In fact, it's about the Charge of the Light Brigade!).

Other bits of stunning stagecraft include a gigantic stained-glass backdrop (for "Revelations" and "For the Greater Good of God"); a gigantic Icarus with wings that fold when it falls at the song's end, plenty of fire - including flamethrowers wielded by Dickinson; a painting of a "Wicker Eddie" (for "The Wicker Man"); surreal tableaus of religious martydom ("The Sign of the Cross") and a giant horned Eddie-head that rises above the drum riser, red eyes lighting up as it appears to look around. The band has gone to great lengths and expense to make this show impressive and memorable, lavishing spectacle on their fans; at one point, Erika likens it to going to the opera. Photos from afar can't really do it justice, but I try:

The longest bit of stage patter during the night came from Bruce Dickinson, introducing "The Clansman," about William Wallace (which is where he'd first broken out the sword). He poked fun (I think) at bands who don't know what part of Canada is what, greeting us with a "bonjour" (to not-so-serious boos); mused on the different receptions to the word "freedom" in Canada (polite) and the United States (rabid); quipped on how odd it was to cast an Australian as a Scotsman (but no odder, he added, than casting Sean Connery as a Spaniard in "The Highlander"); asked us if any of us had Scottish ancestors, which, indeed, some of us did; and urged us, if we went home to write about the night on the internet, to spell Clansman with a "C." Done! It was nice, in fact, to see that he spelled that out for people, since, you know, these are kinda politically dodgy times we're living in.

Most of the rest of what's said during the course of the evening are variants on "Scream for me Vancouver" or "Scream for me Canada!" The audience, of course, screamed (and at times sang) quite enthusiastically, but no one was more enthusiastic than the fella directly in front of me in a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt, who leapt about and thrust his devil's horns into the air a thousand times during the night. Since the band was tiny, from where we were - and it seems kinda silly to take pictures of the video monitors - I ended up trying to take as many good photos of his thrown goats as I can. Call it "the Goat variations," offered to the guy in row 21, section 112 as a souvenir of his experience:

All told, it's a superb way to tie off the circle, to revisit a band that I loved at 15, but haven't paid all that much attention to since, even for awhile was quite snobbish about ("it's kidstuff," I would have said, during my free jazz years). Their commitment to what they do, and the extent to which they  please their fans, and their apparent total engagement, were all truly outstanding, and they had no less energy or enthusiasm onstage than they did 36 frigging years ago, making me, kinda, feel like I was fifteen again, too. Which doesn't happen often lately!

The last word goes to Vancouver rockabilly whiz Paul Pigat (himself soon to play in Vancouver, for a September 21st birthday gig with Cousin Harley). He writes of the night:
What an awesome show! I literally haven’t seen a stadium show since the early 90s and I’d forgotten about the pageantry of it all. Last time I saw them was '85 in Toronto. I think they still function at the same heightened energy that they did back then. I really liked the lighthearted vibe they had on stage. You gotta admit it looked like they were having almost as much fun as the audience. Not an easy thing to do when you’ve been in a band for over 30 years. And hey, when you have your own Spitfire hanging above u for the start of the show u truly are metal gods!
Couldn't have said it better: awesome show indeed. And to everyone involved in facilitating the great time my wife and I had last night - thank you! (I think I've finally sunk the metal hook in her! Who'da thunk!).