Friday, November 19, 2021

The Spitfires - Live at the Pic and live at the Rickshaw! (plus ARGH!!, GRRL Circus, Bishops Green, and DOA)

1. Introducing the Introduction (by Allan MacInnis)

As I write this, the official word on the DOA Hardcore 81 anniversary show - what I *think* is the first local show, post-Polaris-prize win, for DOA - was that it was sold out, and no, I have no idea if more tickets will be released at the door. DOA themselves are reason enough for the show to be sold out, of course, but the addition of three great local bands to the bill - R.d. Cane's grrl circus (or is it GRRLCircus?)the Spitfires and Bishops Green - hardly helped with ticket availability, as did the fact that the latter two bands performed memorably great live sets at the Rickshaw a couple of years ago, opening for the Black Halos. Both those bands have new albums out - but in the case of the Spitfires, it's a bit of a strange thing, because their new album is a live album recorded nearly 20 years ago at the Piccadilly, in Vancouver, which I think I only ever knew as a strip bar (and not a very good one!). 

The thing is - though I have seen the Spitfires live a couple of times - including a memorable set where singer Jason Solyom nearly toppled off the Buddha stage, in apparently intoxicated exuberance, without it significantly impeding his vocal delivery - and have one of their previous albums, 1999's In Too Deep Again, I know someone who is much more steeped in the band's history and music than I am, who regards them - he keeps sayin' - as the finest rock band in Vancouver. This man can be found on Facebook as Nick Mitchum, also known as the drunk mailman and, for those of us who have been around for awhile, as ARGH!!, and while none of these are his real name (Ken Forster), he's a cartoonist and collagist best remembered by some as the man behind the DOA Colouring Book ("the drawings were just doodles for fun," he tells me, "Jim Cummins suggested putting them all together in a baggie with crayons... presto!...punk rock colouring fun book...sold a few at record stores... maybe made enough money to buy a case of beer...").

So Ken - I mean Nick - I mean the drunk mailman - can speak vastly more authoritatively than I can about the Spitfires. It seemed fitting to ask if he would write an introduction to the piece. What I got back was a poem by the drunk mailman, with instructions to not alter capitals or linebreaks or such, but to treat this in the vein of an e.e. cummings poem (...perhaps by way of Charles Bukowski and Nick Tosches). Fair enough - though short of my retyping the piece, Blogger doesn't allow me to preserve his formatting without making it dark-on-white, just like what happened with Nick's mate Ed Hurrell a few months back...

...but by way of introducing that introduction, I also want to explain one other thing I did here, which in retrospect may have been a mistake. Rather than ask a specific photographer to contribute photos, I asked the whole of Facebook - where half a dozen of my friends are local photographers - if they had anything I might share, particularly involving photogenic guitarist, Rob Matharu - AKA Shockk Mongoose - who also plays in another fantastic rock band in Vancouver, the SLIP~ons, and was my original contact point (this was originally just gonna be a tiny thing with Rob, but then people got excited, so I figured I'd best ask Jay as well). Turns out that people like to take pictures of the bands Rob has been in (also including Mongoose and the Bonitos and who-knows-who else), so within a day I had more than I needed, and within three I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I'm including at least one shot by each contributing photographer, and turning the mic over to Ken/ Nick/ ARGH!!/ the drunk mailman. The interview with Jay and Rob will follow that. 

See you at the Rickshaw!

The Spitfires, by Rob Matharu (Shockk)

2. Introduction by the drunk mailman

Nick Mitchum
the drunk mailman digs the spitfires allan has asked me to write something about why i think he thinks I am an authority on the band i really don’t know much about the band beyond the fact that I really like them live that got me wondering how to articulate favourite there was I time when I found it hard to choose between crispy crunch and oh henry! then they put peanut butter in the oh henry! now I have a favourite why? it’s the ingredients i was 9 when the beatles were on ed sullivan for the first time i was more excited to see allen and rossi hello dere i thought the beatles were for little girls i want to hold your hand yuck the rolling stones and the animals changed my mind the kinks and the who were the first to really wow me the troggs were my favourite why sound songs look attitude and especially the sneering vocals proto punk rock over the years some of my favourites have been the stooges alice cooper black sabbath why sound songs look attitude and sneering vocals In the 90s the place to see and hear the best fast and loud rock’roll bands in the city was the piccadilly pub i was a sucker for any band on crypt records and their ilk many of them played the pic so many times the morning after a great 3 band bill at the pic hungover i would think the spitfires were the best band on the bill they always made me smile more than the rest why sound songs look attitude sneering vocals plus an added dose of fun and mayhem and no pretense that always trumped all the rest i guess that’s what makes them the best imho now I have a souvenir the live album and a night to relive the past and see if i’m still right i think I am

[Allan here. Ken/ Nick/ ARGH!!/ the drunk mailman also told me to ask Jay about the connection between the Spitfires, Jay's mom, and Reg Presley of the aforementioned Troggs. I dutifully asked and Jay wrote back: "Reg is my father! Ken is fucking nuts ha ha."]

Spitfires by Gord McCaw, not to be reused without permission

3. Interview with Jay (Jason) and Rob (Shockk) of the Spitfires

I started by asking Jay and Rob if they had any real history with DOA, because this is a DOA show, and I should at least pay lip service to Joe (I did ask if he wanted to do an interview). Jay, it turns out "tried out for them" when he was 18. "I didn’t make the cut but Joe kept asking me if I played hockey," he tells me. (You can imagine the hockey stuff *I* get from the guy, given my name - I could make "Hey, Al, how's your slapshot" in Keithley's distinct growl into a pretty fun ringtone, actually). 

"I think the current music climate owes a lot to what DOA started many years ago," Jay continues, :and it's kinda crazy how Joe still gets up there and goes for it and hasn’t missed a beat. I’ve got two close childhood friends in the DOA rhythm section these days so super excited to see this line up!" Rob has a little less history, though he also has friends who played in DOA at one time or another, and his old band Mongoose "opened for them years ago at Richards - that was a highlight!"

I never caught Mongoose. "We were around for ten years," Rob says, in their time doing "lots of tours including Japan." His bandmates named him Shockk in the 1990's ("I spell it with two K’s 'cause it’s more rock & roll!"). You can still find their old Myspace page, though good luck getting the songs to play...

Rob by Rd Cane, not to be reused without permission

Rob, while not on the Live at the Pic album - except on some of the inner sleeve photo collages - joined the Spitfires over ten years ago. "GG, the guitar player asked me to come down and jam, so I learned some of their songs. then they had a last minute opening spot for Steel Panther. They couldn’t get ahold of their other guitar player on the day of the gig, so I got the call and been in the band since. I guess I stole the other guitar players gig!"

Jay had seen Shockk perform with Mongoose a couple of times. "I was always floored by his playing, thought he was 18 years old turns out he was 45 ha ha … but yes, another great player and even better guy… Shockk learned our set in roughly four hours and knocked it out of the park."  

The Spitfires meet Rob, the night of the Steel Panther gig, lifted off the wall of Ed Hurrell - photographer TBD! 

Both Jay and Rob have history will Billy Hopeless, who had a hand in both gigs I caught them at. Rob "played in a band with Billy for about two minutes - he fired me for wearing a scarf on stage! ...We're all good buds," he adds. 

"Yeah, an old friend, heart of gold kinda guy," Jay writes. "I’ve had the pleasure of recording the Halos and the Bonitos in the past, He’s a dying breed, I guess, goes 100% in what he does, lives it and has seemed to have never lost the passion. Great lyricist and a complete madman, ha ha."  

What of Jay almost falling off the stage at the Buddha that time? Rob: "We start drinking right after soundcheck! You never know if  Jay's gonna fall or if I’ll unplug everyone's amp accidentally! It’s a miracle I never really injured my self on stage maybe I will this Saturday! ...Spitfires are always entertaining." Jay: "If its a Spitfires show, the whole gang will be sauced. We try to have the most fun we can when we get together and it always involves drink, it could always be the last party." 

Rob Matharu by Dballan Tyne, not to be reused without permission

So how does this Live at the Pic album come about? To me it's a curious thing, a local band releasing a live album of a set they did almost 20 years ago... but it's kind of genius. When did you decide to do it? (Was that always the plan, or did you discover live recordings?). Is this your first vinyl release? (This may have been a daft question given the answer that follows, but I don't think I've ever seen a Spitfires record in a store before the current one. CDs yes, vinyl no).

Jay: "No, we have a bunch of vinyl releases under Long Shot, Junk Records, Yeah Right, Estrus Records, Sonic Swirl, Twenty Stone Blat, not sure how many releases... I think four full lengths and a handful of 7” releases during our active years. As for the live record, it was recorded with the intentions of it seeing the light of day. I believe a label based in Australia released it as a bonus to a Spitfire compilation called Illustrious Career, a CD only release many years ago, but yeah myself and the band have always felt that this is the record that captures the band properly. In the studio we have either under-thought some of the recordings and overthought other recordings, but anything where we have got in a room put the mics up, get a buzz on have some laughs is what it takes, all members past and present have all been tight brotherly relationships so its important how we record." 

Jay from the Spitfires FB page - photographer uncredited? (I had too many shots of just Rob!). 

The live album includes one cover: "Muscle of Love" by Alice Cooper. What other covers do they do?

Jay: "In the beginning we did a Pretty Things cover, and 'I Need Lunch' by the Dead Boys and 'What’s This Shit Called Love' by the Pagans were always in the set, and 'Citadel' by the Stones." Jay "loves Alice to death, though: "just a childhood thing thats never stopped. My dad would hook me up to a lot of hard rock stuff when i was a toddler, and Alice stuck."

Anything special planned for the Rickshaw? Will your set include songs off the Spitfires live at the Pic?

Jay: "The set is mostly the songs from that record. We may be sober due to show time 9pm, might actually play ok ha ha."

Rob Matharu by Erik Iversen, not to be reused without permission

Thoughts about Mo's dilemma, having to have seats in the dance floor? Crazy weird, right?

"Yup, stupid weird rules  the common sense of it all is baffling, probably why our society has gone nuts … ban all social media ha ha , hoping we have a dinner table on the stage that we can sit at and play our set at!"

Thanks, Jay! See you and Rob at the Rickshaw! 

SLIP~ons POST~script:
SLIP~ons by Art Perry, not to be reused without permission

Rob tells me, incidentally, that SLIP~ons "just finished 3 songs at Monarch Studios. I bought in some song ideas we wrote as a band (like the old days)I really think it’s our best stuff. Just got a mix from Dave 'Rave' Ogilvie. It sounds killer!" Brock Pytel, the singer of the SLIP~ons, also lets spill that Jay is involved in mixing at least one song, and that there is a gig planned with a delightfully disparate lineup, three great rock bands (or maybe four) playing the Rickshaw that sound nothing alike, other than all of them rocking... but I'll leave that a secret for now. The album is tentatively titled Trash Beach ("for our rehearsal space sidewalk hangout," Brock quips), with plans to put it out on Cursed Blessings, who are also releasing some of the new Black Halos material. Probably won't see the light of day until spring of 2022. 

Finally, for Shockk Mongoose fans, you might also want to know that Rob teaches at Neil Douglas Guitar  Shop in New West ("it’s the last ma and pop music shop left - it’s been there for 50yrs!"

Rob by Dballan Tyne, not to be reused without permission

Post script comment by Nick Mitchum:

re: injury on duty...i remember seeing The Spitfires...maybe the first time...maybe the pic...definitely too many beers...too many beers make all my memories maybes...jay was doing the roger daltrey microphone windmill spin thing and WHAM...guitarist dean o was down for the he dead?...i don't think the band stopped playing...eventually dean got up looking like rocky and carried on rockin'...and the crowd watched his eye swell up and turn black as the band finished their set...rock'n'roll is dangerous business...

Also note: I have had confirmation that there will be NO MORE TICKETS released for this sow, due to the PHO's edict about seats. Sorry, folks! 

1 comment:

Gord McCaw said...

Great post Allen, thanks for all the info and glad to have contributed...