Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Health update, plus Montecristo plug

Updating the update, just writing over the previous post here... I am back out of hospital and home and havin' fun with Erika - trying to make a game out of changing bandages on my varied wounds (see below, but I've had grafts from all of my arms and legs, as part of a process of building a new, cancer-free tongue out of muscle tissue taken from elsewhere - which process actually failed the first time, requiring a complete surgical repeat of my Dec 16 procedure on Dec. 17th; I also had a tracheostomy, as an alternative to the painful and problematic intubations of my September procedure, which is healing up nicely - it should close on its own soon enough, but a little air still escapes when I cough or belch or fart or so forth). I won't be doing much blogging for the time being, but find my Facebook wall for a few updates. I am doing okay - biggest surgical ordeal of my life, but I am now cancer free (and on a liquid diet, and having to train a graft from my arm onto my tongue to speak and swallow. I am making some progress, but it may be slow). 

(actually the *second* grossest of my two graft sites on my wrist - the other one has tendons visible!). 

"Relax, babe, it'll be easier if I do this one by myself. Maybe you could take photos?"

For those of you actually interested in my published writing, meantime, you might want to seek out the newest issue of Montecristo Magazine, a very glossy glitzy publication for an income bracket quite other than mine, who sought out a memoir from me on the early days as a record collector. It's a fun story, mostly focused on Vancouver's old shop Collector's RPM, and touching on a few local characters (Grant, Dale, Phil) who are still active out there, but with a little bit of added reminiscence from Vancouver's vintage Record Row. The context and illustration might speak more to record collecting as it is perceived now, as opposed to how it was for me then, but it should be a fun read (I actually haven't looked at the published version but I trust them - and I've been a little distracted, eh?). I have a few other online-only stories with Montecristo, like this one about the Clash playing soccer with Vancouver punks on the cusp of their first North American tour, or a two-parter on the history of the Cave, which features some familiar faces for those of us on the music scene... part one here, part two here. (You hafta buy the actual magazine to read the record collecting piece, tho' - it ain't online!).

Lots of challenges ahead, mostly involving retraining my throat and tongue to swallow and speak. I'm doing okay, however, am glad to be home, and grateful to have such a caring and playful wife to support me through this rather unusual experience. Might be some time before I blog here again - but I'll post any urgent news.

Meantime, what the hell, the Bowie Ball got its date changed? I was pleasantly surprised to think I might be actually fit to go out in public for a bit! (If you see me, don't expect much in the way of conversation). But what's this, Richard Thompson is coming back to town? (And there's no news about Sparks or EXTC cancellations yet, and Erika got us tickets to see Frazey Ford, and...). It's really not that bad, considering how bad it WAS for a bit there... (The first couple days in hospital were difficult indeed). Of course, COVID counts might make it prudent to skip a bunch of that, and it may be wise to get a booster vax one way or another, but... One thing at a time, folks...! 

And Happy New Year, y'all! This is actually being written Jan. 1, 2022, as I sit on the couch, reading the new Jason Pargin (formerly David Wong) for a bit, before heading back to bed... 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

XTC: Stories from Vancouver, 1980, apropos of the EXTC tour

EXTC gig poster for the Rickshaw show, March 20th, courtesy Mo Tarmohamed

Doug Smith's XTC pin (see his stories of seeing the band below!)

COVID has made for some interesting musical developments. With more time at home and less opportunity to go out to shows, music fans have had to find ways to compensate for a lack of input, which for some of us has meant delving deep into bands we hadn't paid that much attention to previously. For many of us, Sparks were the undisputed winners in this category, with a timely documentary, an immense back catalogue just bursting with ripeness for people to delve into, a high-profile feature (fictional) film based on their libretto, and a delightful, fresh new studio album (A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip) AND an impending tour that will be bringing them to Vancouver for the first time, all of which laid the ground for a deep plunge, which many, many music fans besides me took. Edgar Wright deserves a lot of credit for the huge uptick of interest in the band, but the stage was well-set for him by circumstance; the only thing that could have been better for nascent Sparks fans would have been for more of their back catalogue to have been in print, though for a certain type of music fan [raises hand] having to face slight hardship to acquire a band's music - downloading notwithstanding - only makes seeking it out more rewarding and fun. Incidentally, my interview with Ron and Russell Mael, with guest interviewer David M. in tow, appears in the new Big Takeover (along with Part Two of my talk with Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers; I know Neptoon stocks the mag, locally, though they may not have the new one yet... but you can probably still buy issue 88, with part one of my Leary interview, or issue 87, with my Eric Bloom interview, or issue 86, with... what the hell did I do in issue 86? Oh yeah - David Yow Part Two, which gives you a hint of the content for Big Takeover 85, which also has part two of my Bev Davies interview... and so it goes...). 

A strong second place for me in terms of bands I've plunged into since COVID is XTC. They had long been on my radar, of course - and I've long-loved SOME of their songs, most especially Colin Moulding's "Generals and Majors," which is a kinda top-ten 1980's British pop single for me, way up there with the most creative, fun, and catchy songs of its era, ranking with the very best of Ian Dury, the Clash, the Jam, and the Specials. But much the same as I felt the first time - a few years ago - that I tried to listen to Sparks' Kimono My House, which has that one undeniably great early Sparks tune on it, when I had previously spun Black Sea, the album that my fave XTC song is on, my feeling was - "This bears investigating and is definitely full of riches, but, ummm.... not right now."

The right confluence of circumstances to plunge deep into XTC began for me a few months ago, with the announcement of the EXTC tour - with a show at the Rickshaw just five days after Sparks plays the Vogue. Of course, there's an equally delightful documentary out there (tho' requiring a bit of digging, possibly of the illicit download type, because it isn't on Showtime anymore, isn't on physical media - I don't think - and isn't streaming in Canada that I can see). The doc amply explains why the band, in 1982, stopped touring, and also interviews drummer Terry Chambers about being the member who left the band when they ceased to play live that year. While one also completely understands and sympathizes with Andy Partridge's withdrawal from the concert circuit - which does seem to have been necessary for his well-being - the excitement some of us feel at the prospect of seeing a set of classic XTC songs performed by EXTC, with Terry on kit, underscores just how important live shows can be to getting music fans aligned towards a band; because I probably wouldn't have gotten quite as enthusiastic about burying myself in XTC's back catalogue if it didn't serve as homework for catching this show. I will enjoy a tune like, for example, "Science Friction" (a very early effort, when Barry Andrews, later of Shriekback, was still in the band) if I'm not hearing it for the first time when I see it live - especially since the band interpreting it is not (one member aside) the same band... tho' what a happy coincidence that the period when Terry was in the band, the period most represented in their touring setlist, is also the period of XTC's that I enjoy the most! 

A final delightful incentive to plunge: social media, also invaluable as a source of cheerleading for and exposure to Sparks - is rife with people (ESPECIALLY among the demographic I belong to, with many of my Facebook friends being old-school Vancouver punks, now in their 50's and 60's) who actually caught XTC live during their three Vancouver appearances here, in 1980. And best of all - Bev Davies has come through with amazing photos of the band backstage at the Coliseum, when they opened for the Police. (She also has shots of them at the Commodore a few months prior, but didn't think they were anything special). 

Here's some eyewitness testimony of friends of mine on social media, talking about seeing XTC here in Vancouver. 

(L-R: Gerry-Jenn Wilson, Nardwuar, and bev davies, photo provided by Nardwuar... if you know who took this, Bev wants to know!).

1. bev davies (Toronto-to-Vancouver transplant who became one of the documenters of the vintage Vancouver punk scene)

XTC backstage at the Coliseum, Oct 27, 1980, by bev davies, not to be reused without permission
L-to-R (I think): Terry Chambers, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, Andy Partridge

I took my son the the sound check at the Commodore, I could do that in those days. The drummer was checking the drums, pound pound pound for a very long time. My son who was about 11, found me and asked me how much longer was he going to do that. Just at that time the band walked on the stage and broke into "Making Plans for Nigel," one of his favourites at the time. I took no photos of the sound check though.

2. Doug Smith (alumnus of many bands, including the (Vancouver band known as) the Replacements, the Little Guitar Army, the Strugglers, and ad-libbing vocalist on the incredible Vancouver obscurity, "Hell is a Microwave," by the Subterraneans
My friend Richard and I went to the side entrance to the backstage area (we were baked) and, the gentleman watching that area (must've been in his 60s... and, possibly hating it all) asked us for our passes. Richard saw Andy Summers walking up in our direction and whinged it - saying that we were his (pointing to Andy) guests. Andy came up and he actually vouched for us before walking away from us (didn't see him backstage again).

XTC backstage at the Coliseum, Oct 27, 1980, by bev davies, not to be reused without permission

XTC were clowning around and even attempting to make a human pyramid (in the hallway outside of their dressing room near the monitor PA and, numerous guitars on racks). We watched them for a bit, telling them how much we loved them, but didn't stay long as we were 15 and paranoid.
Their set was incredible! It was the second time that I had seen The Police where I reckoned their "support" act upstaged them...and The Police were good. The 1st act was The Specials at The Gardens.

Andy Partridge was moving very angularly, and as if sparks were flying off of him. Almost as if he had no control over his limbs. Richard and I thought that they were on LSD but I later found out that he was having incredibly serious issues with his medications...

They played mostly Black Sea and Drums & Wires songs with a couple of crowd pleasers from their debut and sophomore albums.

Doug Smith on vocals with (the Vancouver) Replacements, 1980 Smilin' Buddha, photo by Mina Shum; not to be reused without permission. L-to-R Darcy (age 19), Doug (16), Casey (15); not pictured - Craig, on drums (15). "Fun fact - Darcy and Craig are brothers a la Bob and Tommy Stinson." Doug also provides a gig poster from that period, a bill that his version of the Replacements are featured on:

3. Gerhard Regier (former co-worker of mine at a Maple Ridge Rogers Video, and member of Mother, EST, Dog Skin Suit and The Pride: "We played in and around Vancouver quite a bit in the 80's. Some people might remember us.") 

Saw them in 80 at the Commodore. Very energetic. I recall that "Battery Brides" had a long hypnotic intro, but don't remember much else except I enjoyed the show.

Also saw them open for The Police. Andy did the goofy walk from "Ministry of Silly Walks" though a lot of the show.

Again very energetic and enjoyable. I even bought an XTC pin from the merch booth which I never do.

I would have been 24. My friends and I were serious music nerds. We followed the punk / new wave scene avidly ( as well as jazz, pretty much any kind of underground music and some contemporary "new music"). We formed a band called EST and played around a bit mostly at gigs at the Abbotsford Airport Armouries that we put on ourselves. We played the Smilin' Buddha once with Tim Ray and AV, who we were friendly with, to a tiny crowd.

We went to shows a couple of times a week. We saw the first Vancouver gigs of The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, The Jam, Wreckless Eric, The Specials, and a million others. I missed The Clash, Tom Petty, and Patti Smith but my bandmates saw them all at the Commodore.

If I gave it some thought I could name some others but there were lots of bands we saw. I am sure we saw DOA. The Pointed Sticks, Subhumans, and Young Canadians a million times and pretty much every local band at least once.

XTC was a favourite of ours for their musicianship, off kilter musical ideas and humour.

XTC poster provided by Rob Frith of Neptoon Records

4. Andy Meyers: guitar/ bass/ songwriter for the legendary Toronto punk band the Scenics, whose comp of studio recordings is currently being distro'd in BC by Jason at Supreme Echo. Note: Andy is now a Salt Spring Island resident and mastered Chris Arnett's solo album)

I saw em... 2-3-4? times in 1979 in a small club (the Edge) in Toronto. Original lineup, sitting up close. The first line up was exactly like the footage you can see from Old Grey Whistle Test on Youtube. The show felt like that it except it was hot and sweaty and an hour+ long. We really appreciated what they were doing. The type of creativity they had and how hard they hit it.

Also saw the Drums and Wires tour in a 500 seat theatre. Sitting ten feet from the stage.. Small, sweaty club... they were energized and intelligent, all those great songs from the first two albums. Not much of a 'show' per se, but givin' er. Preferred their sound with Andrews. His acidic style was a great addition.

L-R: Brad, Andy, and Ken

Note, Scenics fans, that Andy will be "doing their next vintage LP thru RaveUp in May. it covers material from 77 (7 tracks) 1980 (one track) and 2009 (2 tracks.) It's called Scenic Caves." He also has a solo project upcoming, but more on that later, I hope... 
5. Ford Pier: interviewed at length by me here; best known as a solo artist, but also a longtime collaborator with other artists locally, from DOA to Nomeansno (and more to the point, Tom Holliston). And of course he's part of the team at Red Cat Records.

Ford Pier by bev davies, not to be reused without permission

I wasn't there (I was 10) but a good story is about Barry Taylor sitting in behind the kit for XTC's soundcheck in Edmonton at the SUB theatre when YC's toured as support. Seems Terry Chambers was off meeting distant relatives for dinner or something? That's how it was told to me. Fat chance getting BT to recall what songs they played, although I visualize him playing "Helicopter" like he was born to it. Also "Knuckle Down," except it would be another two years before that song existed.

6. John Armstrong (Buck Cherry of the Modernettes, interviewed by me here). 

Saw them, remember only thinking they were some very very good musicians and that the songs made me jealous.

7. Jaime Clay (of Vancouver bands Private School and Warsaw). 

Great show at the Commodore. Andy was in top form and looking so ultra-cool in a shirt with rolled up sleeves, looking like he was getting down to some hard work - which he did. I remember trying the rolled up sleeves the next band practice, and my singer had already beat me to it!

8. Bill Mullan: Jeez, I didn't get a bio of Bill Mullan. He's a friend of my friend Dan Kibke. Nice guy, great taste in music! 

I saw the Coliseum show in 1980. It was the "concert bowl" which meant the stage was moved forward on the floor, making for maybe half the normal capacity. Even so, my takeaway for both bands was that their sound didn't quite fill the room, didn't impress my ears the way "dinosaur" outfits like Yes, Jethro Tull, Queen had in the full Coliseum. As for XTC, I didn't know their material that well going in (didn't own any albums) but I did definitely like what I heard -- emphasis on the noisier, more driven aspect of their sound. The show I was very much looking forward to a year or so later was their English Settlement tour, booked for the Commodore, then cancelled due to Andy Partridge's health problems.

9. Sharon Steele - Vancouver music fan and rock photographer extraordinaire  

(Photo provided by Sharon Steele, taken circa 1980). 

I was at the Commodore show with the Young Canadians opening, and it was one of those iconic performances that I was lucky to have seen.

I remember Andy sweating profusely and Colin not breaking a sweat. I know...and how does this matter? 

"This is Pop" and "Helicopter" were my favourites at the time, and I remember the intense facial expressions from Andy during the show.

I was 17 in 1980 almost 18 by a few days. Back then it seems that because I was tall it was easy for me to pass for 19. I got into them earlier with White Music - fave songs were..."Radios in Motion," "I’m Bugged," "This is Pop."

I somehow never got a hold of Go 2. When I bough Drums and Wires, I liked "Making Plans for Nigel," but "Helicopter," "Scissor Man" and "Complicated Game" were more my faves, probably as they were more in alignment with their first albums stylings.

XTC backstage at the Coliseum, Oct 27, 1980, by bev davies, not to be reused without permission
L-to-R (I think): Terry Chambers, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, Andy Partridge

Thanks to everyone who contributed stories and photographs! Terry Chambers brings EXTC to the Rickshaw Theatre on March 20th. Read my brief email interview with Terry and EXTC vocalist Steve Tilling here. See you at the Rickshaw (I hope!). 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Harmony for All Musical Instrument Donation Drive


It's always fun to get stuff from Joe Keithley on City of Burnaby letterhead... like the following press release Joe sent today (dated last week, but no matter). If you have any working musical instruments you're not using, this Saturday would be a great time to part with them... see below! 

December 6, 2021

City officially launches Harmony for All with instrument drive December 18

Burnaby, BC – Residents are encouraged to dig out any unused musical instruments and donate them at City Hall on December 18, as the City of Burnaby officially launches Harmony for All, a new program to provide instruments and musical instruction free of charge to Burnaby residents.

“Expressing yourself through music is one of life’s greatest joys, but the financial cost of renting an instrument and paying for lessons puts music out of reach for too many people,” said Councillor Joe Keithley. “Harmony for All will ensure that all Burnaby residents have the opportunity to explore their musical talents. Learning music is a wonderful way for our kids to connect, make friends and overcome cultural barriers."

Councillor Keithley and Burnaby firefighters will be at the City Hall main parking lot from 10am to 1pm on Saturday, December 18 to collect instrument donations of gently used instruments in working condition from community members. Residents who donate an instrument will receive a tax receipt.

Donated instruments will support the launch the first phase of Harmony for All, which will be an instrument lending program to provide underserved Burnaby children access to musical instruments. It is expected to start in spring 2022. 

Future phases of the program will include eliminating barriers to musical education, with the City coordinating low or no-cost music programs for people who may not be able to afford lessons. The City also intends to develop grants for Burnaby residents to pay for music programs.

At its November 8, 2021 meeting, City Council agreed to contribute $72,000 to establish Harmony for All as a City-operated program, and on November 18, 2021 the Burnaby Fire Department’s charitable organization pledged $10,000 and committed to contribute a further $10,000 every year for the next 10 years.

Learn More: 

Harmony for All

Early Christmas: punk, puppies, and - Wonder Woman?

Awake at 6am here, with surgery on Thursday. I've remembered to turn my phone on for a nurse to call with pre-surgery instructions, all of which I probably remember from September - there's a soap to wash in, a need to fast, etc - but it will be good to go over again. Erika is asleep, prior to what for her is a work day - and so here I am on the computer again. We just returned from a fast, early Christmas with her parents (and their PUPPIES), because there's some strong likelihood that I'll still be in the hospital on Dec. 25th - tracheotomy in the throat, feeding tube up the nose, muscle grafts removed from parts of me and attached to my tongue, neck dissected to steal some lymph nodes for biopsy... I'll be opiated into a stupour and probably unable to speak or really properly taste the foods that I am able to take in (the muscle from my arm will have no living nerves in it, it seems, let alone taste buds... really not sure how I'm gonna train it to speak if I can't feel it...). Just like my 2017 cancer moved our wedding up by some months, my 2021 cancer has us playin' fast and loose with Christmas (I am hoping Erika will still have SOME sort of family Christmas on the 25th, rather than fretting about me in the hospital, but...).

...But any excuse is a good excuse to exchange gifts and eat turkey. I gave photo albums I'd assembled, based on past family trips, to Erika's parents and her brother and his family, and also varied books among them (Unreconciled, Thinking Fast and Slow, 100 Things We Have Lost to the Internet, The Evil Garden, Factotum) and received on my end copies of Channel 3's Fear of Life (thanks to a well-placed hint with the Full Bug records, my favourite new record store, with the best selection of used punk anywhere in the lower mainland that *I've* seen, unexpectedly located in Duncan!) about my affection for California hardcore and the many holes in my collection... I dropped hints with Matt, the owner, about things I didn't have, like Articles of Faith or Code of Honor, but Erika's parents (who were horrified by the cover and VERY skeptical about giving such a thing to a cancer patient) really knocked it out of the park with the Channel 3 one, since I only have the British version of the album (I've Got a Gun), which is lacking "Manzanar," their most essential song and one of the greatest punk protest songs of the 20th century, in my estimate.... Erika, for her part, got me a deluxe (so-called) White Album with the Esher Demos; I only have the original on CD (in stereo and mono mixes, mind you), but it is the Beatles album I have the deepest affection for and the one that seems most egregiously missing from my collection (I might have to grab Abbey Road on my own). Hadn't known until a couple of weeks ago that that "not when he looked so fierce" line in "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" was actually delivered by Yoko!

...though most of my gifts to Erika are still wrapped over by the TV, and she has other things for me, too. We discussed the idea of holding off on the exchange until Christmas, but of course, the little worst-case scenario that flickers in my mind is that I am gonna die of some sort of error or infection or my body simply going "fuck you" to me at the indignities it's gonna experience later this week... and who knows if I'll be able to keep my chin up through it all; I might also simply be miserable or distraught at my new Frankentongue and the challenges it poses (because, you know, really, I thought I had speaking and eating down to an art, but...). So we'll have more gifts to exchange before I go into hospital. She got one gift from me to open with her other family presents, and I tapped right back into her childhood love of Wonder Woman, the old Lynda Carter series... we watched the pilot as soon as we got home, which was unexpectedly quite delightful, holding up vastly better than she or I had dreamed, which surprised the hell out of me, since I haven't really been able to get into MY childhood favourite TV shows from back then; both Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Star Trek have aged poorly, not doing any sort of justice to how much I loved them as a kid. But Wonder Woman is quite charming, and even the hokey aspects are a lot of fun, like her invisible plane, which kind of tops the list of delightful things not included in the recent feature films... whyever not...

...plus I see that I've got plenty of treats as a film buff in store with the supporting cast, which includes all sorts of 70's actors I enjoy - like Henry Gibson, last night, whose presence completely sent me down the wrong track when I later read that Carter had been married to someone named Robert Altman.... My head spun a little for awhile, trying to put that together, but it was just a different Robert Altman

I see that tonight's episode will feature Bradford Dillman, of my much-loved 70's fave Bug... and that Roddy McDowall appears a couple of times! 

Anyhow, it was a fine early Christmas, though I got a bit distracted during my brief survey of the town's thrift and record stores by an extremely rare Toxic Reasons single, which I assumed (at $100) was overpriced at the store I saw it at, but which in fact turned out to have been underpriced... spawned some lively social media exchanges, as I kinda feel obliged to let friends know about stuff I find in Duncan, since I kind of serve as a bridge between music communities (for the record, neither that Toxic Reasons single, which was at Soulful Memories, nor the Chris Houston or Jerry Jerry albums from the Full Bug seen below, are available to purchase any more, thanks to me... though you might end up seeing that Toxic Reasons at the Full Bug at some point!). I've also grabbed, in the past, a Dead Boys album at the Full Bug for Billy Hopeless and a couple of things I never expected to see, like that final, posthumous Screaming Trees record... The Full Bug is a great experience for people with my sorta tastes in music... Soulful Memories is a bit more haphazard in their selection, and more likely to overprice than underprice, but it's the standard stuff (oh, look, another used copy of Dark Side of the Moon for $50) that they tend to price high, and the weirdo stuff (like that Gunfight At Carnegie Hall that I paid, what, $15 for?) that they tend to price a bit low, so I'm actually equally excited to shop there - since I'm happy to spot a deal, and frequently DO find things that I didn't expect there (they had the Replacements' Boink! around for awhile, a few months ago, priced fairly, in fact, at $60 or so, tho' it seemed to have sold somewhere in there).  

Anyhow, it's now down to finishing a couple of writing projects (in the chute: Zander Schloss, EXTC/ XTC, and Rob Nesbitt) and figuring out my to-do list. Mail some money to Alex Cox... mail some movies to Michelle... pack for the hospital... sort my finances... what else? 

I should stop writing, because the nurse could call at any moment (Erika pauses in drying her hair to check in: "Hey, babe - you have your ringer on, right?" "Yeah, I do." "Okay." ...resume hairdryer). 

Merry Christmas, I guess, folks! (A couple more music articles coming soon - and check the December issue of Montecristo for my article on my history with record collecting in Vancouver, as a teenager... that one may be print only...). 

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Petunia and the Vipers: of Vipers and Vapours and a Vancouver return

There ended up being a last minute problem with the last Petunia and the Vipers gig here in Vancouver, previously scheduled at the Rickshaw in October, but - having played various venues around the province in the interim, developing his set - he returns to city stages on Monday, December 13th for a gig at the New Amsterdam Cafe, a pot paraphernalia shop on Hastings that brings up a relevant question about the band's name. Being a "viper" actually stems from 1930's American slang, referring to the hissing sound made when one sucks air in around a joint to cool the smoke. While I don't know the details of Petunia's own pot consumption, I have always wondered if calling his band "the Vipers" was revealing of anything? 

"That was part of the whimsey behind the band's name," Petunia explains to me, apropos of the gig. "We were previously called Petunia and the Hillbillies, the Petuniabillies, Petunia and the Hound Dogs...there were 4-5 other names, but Vipers stuck." 

So what country and country swing does one listen to when high, anyways? Petunia has no recommendations, saying that "Everything gets new light under that scope, every time." One wonders what listening to Petunia baked would be like - it's not something I've tried. Were I not booked for surgery next week - and needing to avoid anything that might complicate or delay that surgery - I'd go test it out... because if there were ever a gig to see Petunia stoned at, this is it!

Petunia has other things in the works - a New Years' show, and maybe another residency like the one at the WISE Hall a few years back, neither of which were fully confirmed at press time. We didn't really get into detail about a lot of things in our most recent exchange - I asked him if the band has been affected by the recent floods in the province, or if this would inform the song choices, pointing him to a fun Dylan tune about flooding, but he doesn't really groove on Dylan, only having covered him a couple of times - once here, an ambitious take on "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)." 

The remainder of this interview ran shortly before that cancelled Rickshaw gig, then was taken down. At that point, Petunia had just returned from his usual summer tour back east - "fun and excitement abounded," he quips; but this time, he'd gone without his usual travelling companion, Al Mader (the Minimalist Jug Band). Did he miss him?

"Well, we do love a good card game," Petunia says. "And that didn’t happen many free waking hours, like it usually does when we tour together. I did miss some of that atmosphere. And the fun he brings to life. He is superstar fun, which was missed by many of his fans out in the Maritimes. And missed by me."

I had actually observed Mader - the Minimalist Jug Band - and Petunia at cardplay at a restaurant off Commercial, when I'd interviewed Petunia for the Straight. It's one of those details - like Petunia's cowboy hat or Al's love of the racetrack - that makes both men seem slightly surreal, like supporting characters in The Straight Story rather than flesh-and-blood musician-and-writer types. And of course, Petunia's involvement in twilight-zoned projects like The Musicianer doesn't help ground him in the real very much, either. For a country musician, there's an aura of strangeness to what Petunia does, an unpredictable otherworldly, agreeably surreal element... 

...Tho' I'm pretty sure he experiences touring solo as real enough. Sans Mader, Petunia's yearly trip was "a solo, meditative journey for me, which was rewarding in it’s own special way."

A brief email interview follows!

Allan: A lot of people have used COVID to get projects done; have you?

Petunia: Not formally. I put down my guitar at the outset of the weirdness and rarely ever picked it up for almost a year. Which was a small glory in and of itself for me. I haven’t put my guitar down like that in over 20 years. When I finally did pick it up again, I played it and sang for pure enjoyment. Not for work related reasons. This process yielded a whole new double album’s worth of songs. 25 songs or so. All written between January and July! I’m estimating it’ll be out in 2025.

Did you get to do any other "self-work" during the last year and a half?

Eating way better now that I’m not on tour, where one finds oneself eating at truckstops, fast food joints and generally eating for speed and efficiency instead of health. Speed and efficiency are called for on long tours. Exercising way more. I even have a formal calisthenics regime I’m on. First time ever. Feels great! Jogged a bit. Also first time ever. Being in one place as we all were, it was the first time I’ve seen all the seasons in one place since I was a teenager. Rooted like a tree for a year. Pure glory. Camped a ton - I finally understand what all the fuss is about for Canadians who look forward to their two weeks of holiday time camping. I get it now. Saw more of my daughter than I ever have in my life, which is the best part.

Any new musical discoveries, favourite bands that you got to delve into because of COVID? (It seems like almost everyone did that with Sparks this year - including me - but I don't necessarily see you as a Sparks man).

You’re right, I didn’t really do that.

What's the status of 
The Musicianer? Have you recorded further episodes? Is there an approved way people can see the first one?

It’s up for free now on themusicianer.com. A 22 minute episode that won awards across the USA during it’s indie film fest run there. The crazy times stopped its momentum dead in it’s tracks…which may have knocked out the opportunity for more episodes. The idea now is to move forwards with a feature film.

What's your history with Noah Walker? He's filled in for Stephen before - will he be filling in on the 16th, as well? How does playing with Noah change the band dynamic (or the overall sound of things), versus playing with Stephen?

Noah and I have been sharing music, playing sporadic gigs over the last ten years. I first played with Noah when he was playing in Something About Reptiles led by Burcu.

Noah and Stephen rock in different ways and in their own unique styles. Both are all fun and exciting to play and travel with.

The WISE Hall weekly small gigs that you were doing, as I recall, were about working up material for a new album. What is that new album, and when will we hear it? Can you give us the history of any one song on that album that went through the WISE filter, and tell us how it developed over subsequent performances?

That new album has been ready since just before lockdowns. I’m guessing that I’ll be able to dig out of the pit of debt that we’re all in and release it in a couple years, if things go well.

ALL of the songs on that new double album, “went through the WISE filter”. All the songs were heard and experienced and related to by our regular, semi-regular and sporadic fanbase there at the WISE lounge every Monday night. The excitement of these Mondays was one the high points in the history of Petunia and the Vipers as a band. I’m proud of what we’ve built and managed to achieve there with the help of our friends at the WISE lounge. Community, fun, sharing, excitement, exchange, love. The weekly communal exchange of emotion through sharing song with that crowd was felt every time we played ANY song. That vibe and energy exchange absolutely affects and colours the experience of creation.

Looks like you have a few shows lined up in the future, but I'm curious about the "Leonard Cohen Show." Are you going to cover Cohen? Is approaching covering his songs intimidating? Do you have any "paths crossed" stories with Cohen? Favourite periods of his?

Yes, I’m part of a collective that will do a Leonard Cohen tribute in the spring. A tribute to the spirit of his gifts in song. I’m enjoying very much covering his songs in my own way. He has a lot to offer.

See here for varied video clips of Petunia & the Vipers performing. More info on the gig - which has a very small number of seats available - here. 

China Syndrome: of Christmas, covers, COVID, and re-arranged arrangements

There are some bands that just hook me, as a writer. Often it has to do with lyrics, sometimes with the personalities involved. Tim Chan's band, China Syndrome, is one such group; I've been an enthusiast since the first time I saw them, and have written about them at least half a dozen times - including this (a review from 2015 of the first record of theirs I'd heard), this (their first feature in the Straight, done the next year), and this rather huge piece, also from the Straight, put online in 2018. Also talked to the Asian Persuasion All-Stars, featuring Chan, have interviewed him elsewhere on this blog, and dragged the great Bev Davies out to the Railway (the ORIGINAL Railway) to get this snap of Tim and Mike circa 2015:

China Syndrome at the Railway Club, by bev davies, not to be reused without permission

In truth - like with the Pointed Sticks or Unleash the Archers or the Furies or a dozen other bands I've covered a lot - the amount of attention I've publicly paid China Syndrome probably gives a false impression of just how devoted a fan I am, but - also like with the Pointed Sticks or Unleash the Archers or the Furies - sometimes a writer just likes the people in a band, enjoys writing about them, and wants to do what he can to promote their music. And there ARE some fantastic songs in China Syndrome's catalogue, which have become part of my life. Erika and I have practically found an anthem in "Let's Stay at Home and Let It All Hang Out;" I'm a big fan of "My Pal Dan" and the darkest rocker in their catalogue, "One Too Many," both off The Usual Angst, which Tim just gave me on vinyl at that Railway show photographed above - and I definitely got a hook sunk deep in me with "Nowhere to Go," off their last album, Hide in Plain Sight, from 2018 (which feels like a weirdly long time ago, now, though you can still buy vinyl of it on the band's website). And Chan has an uncanny knack for finding great popsongs (often by Squeeze) and improving them with a cover... 

It's not looking like I'll be able to catch the band on Friday at the Princeton, with Ed Hurrell's new unit Rocket #9, but if you haven't seen China Syndrome, they're a very enjoyable, unpretentious, tuneful rock group with winning personalities that might just hook you, too. 

So: here we go again - a Tim Chan interview for 2021!

 What is the lineup of China Syndrome these days, and what's [former second guitarist] Vern Beamish up to? Is there a plan to get a fourth member? How much work was it to re-arrange songs to you being the only guitarist? (Was your experience in Pill Squad helpful?).

The current lineup is the trio of myself, Mike Chang on bass, and Kevin Dubois on drums. Vern moved on just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit (good timing on his part) and is currently pursuing his own musical pursuits. I've been in touch with him a few times over the last little while, he's been hanging out with his wife Shona, playing classical guitar, doing some recording on his own, and adopting two new cats.

We are quite content being a three piece right now, and yes, we've needed to change our parts a little bit on some of our songs -- we've done some slight re-arrangements to songs like "Outta My Head" and "My Pal Dan," and have resurrected some songs from previous albums that we haven't played for a while. It's been hard work for me, though, as I've had to adapt some of my guitar parts to fill up the space where there used to be two and also play solos on songs where I didn't used to. It's good to be challenged, as my guitar style has always been riding that edge of being competent/ not competent, ha ha! For sure we are open to having a fourth member again at some point, and quite possibly it may not be another guitar player.

Are there any new tunes (or new cover tunes?) that you want to tell us about?

We have a handful of new songs, but we have not been incredibly prolific with our writing over the past few years. You'd think the pandemic would free up some time for us, but it's been the opposite - our day jobs have kept us plenty busy. But we can't complain, at least we've remained employed! Our focus on rearranging existing songs and revisiting our older ones has also prevented us from learning new covers. We've been playing "2541" by Grant Hart for a few years now, along with Squeeze's "Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)" -- those are at least two that we will be playing at our gig on Friday. So no big surprises, unless you have a hankering to hear some China Syndrome deep cuts!

What have the musical high points of the last couple of COVID-years been, for you? Seems like at least some people took the opportunity to discover or rediscover bands they haven't done justice to - for me, it was Sparks and XTC. Anything like that for you?

I too have gotten into Sparks during the pandemic. Was a casual listener until fairly recently -- really enjoyed the FFS album they did with Franz Ferdinand a few years ago, and I love their most recent album, A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip! Other than them, I've been regularly listening to re-issues of one of my favourite quirky power pop bands from the 80s, Game Theory - Scott Miller was one of the most brilliant writers ever, his chord progressions are incredible, not to mention his wonderful, oblique lyrics. I've also gotten into the Tuareg/ Niger artist Mdou Moctar -- what a guitar player! Deep Sea Diver's album Impossible Weight has been in rotation a lot over the past year - they're from Seattle. I've also inexplicably watched three Tom Petty documentaries in the past year, so I've been revisiting bits and pieces of his catalog as well - Damn the Torpedoes is still my favourite by him.

Any standout moments from the Asian Persuasion All-Stars shows (all of which I missed?). Any interesting insights attained from participating in that project? (Will there be further live gigs?).

Asian Persuasion All Stars have played two shows so far, our debut gig at LanaLou's in September and the opening event of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival at the swanky D6 Lounge in the Parq Casino in November - we shared the stage with the cast of the new Kung Fu TV series, among others! It's been fun to be involved with my fellow Asian musicians (and supportive non-Asians) - there are 12 or 13 of us, so it's always good to bamboozle sound people, challenge them with the number of mics/ inputs that we need, and keep them guessing as to who the lead singer of a given song is! Anyways, I've really enjoyed getting to know the members of the group, having not played with many of them before. We've been lucky to get some good media coverage for the band and our anti-racism message and I believe we have raised over $1,000 so far for Elimin8hate, the anti-racism advocacy arm of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. And yes, we're keeping it going -- we'll be playing the Bowie Ball on January 8th, and then celebrating the Lunar Year of the Tiger with a gig at LanaLou's on January 29. We're also working on a new recording and video, so keep your eyes out for that as well. [See their cover of "Racist Friend," here]. 

 Any fun plans for Christmas? I assume you will be doing "Footsteps on the Roof" - anything else you care to share, special for the holidays?

Absolutely, we will be playing “Footsteps on the Roof” at the Princeton! We're still trying to establish that as a newish Christmas standard, like Wham's "Last Christmas," Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You," and Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime"... don't understand what's preventing that from happening, ha ha! But what I am missing is the lack of No Fun/David M at Christmas shows this year!

I will go to visit my family in Victoria at Christmas for the first time in two years, so that's special! Otherwise, we will be pretty low key, Sarah and me don’t usually make a big deal about the holidays, our goal is always to try to keep it as low stress as possible.

The listing seemed to suggest that there was some sort of competitiveness between y'all and Rocket #9 - care to elaborate? (Do you have any noteworthy history with members of that band...?).

No, the “battle” is just for fun, as this is the second straight show we’ve played with Rocket #9, so the fight theme just popped up in Scott Beadle’s gig graphic. Rocket #9 is fantastic — think Detroit hard rock like MC5, Alice Cooper, and Stooges! They were a hard act to follow the first time around and I’m sure they’ll be even better this time. A bunch of familiar faces in Rocket #9, it’s basically the Liquor Kings without EddyD — Steve Graf has taken on the lead vocals, with Mike Laviolette on rippin’ lead guitar, Terry Russell on drums, and Ed Hurrell on bass. Lots of connections — of course, I played with Ed in Pill Squad, and Steve played trumpet on “My Pal Dan” on China Syndrome’s 2015 album The Usual Angst. We also did a bunch of gigs with them a while back when they played surf instrumentals as the Surf Messiahs.

China Syndrome and Rocket #9 square off this Friday at the Princeton; FB event listing here

Sunday, December 05, 2021

I want your XTC stories!

 I want your XTC stories!

I am stunned at how many of my friends saw XTC in Vancouver in 1980, and a bit envious.  

I was beyond it. I lived in Maple Ridge. I was 12. I was dimly aware of XTC, having seen the original 1980 release of Black Sea at stores in Maple Ridge - puzzlingly sheathed in black mylar or something, with, as I recall, only the letters XTC on the cover. I think it was actually on display at a Pay'n'Save, of all places! It would be years before I heard the album, or even saw what the cover really looked like, and even longer before I really got into it (it is probably my favourite XTC album all round, now). 

I want to post something more to welcome EXTC into Vancouver, but I can't write about shows I never saw. But I can collect your testimonials - any story you want to tell me about getting to see XTC at the Commodore or opening for the Police a bit later. What songs, or bits of between song stage patter, or so forth do you recall? What epiphenomenon around the gig - the audience, the venue, the openers (why did the Young Canadians not play the second night at the Commodore, anyhow?). Did you interact with the band? Are there high points or low points that aren't lost to the fog of time? Do you have songs in their catalogue that you have interesting opinions about, insights into, experience with covering, etc? Is there a story about how you got into them, or cool things you've noticed over the years about Terry's playing, or... ANYTHING about XTC and you in 1980, with one caveat which I will get to in a moment. 

Bev has agreed to provide photos (though other people are also welcome, if they have shots they want to share). If you saw XTC live - and, I hope, if you are excited about the prospect of welcoming Terry Chambers back to Vancouver with EXTC - I would love to hear your stories. I do reserve the right to edit for grammar and/ or to not publish anything that gets negative or critical about EXTC touring the songs of XTC - I'm not really interested in that angle, and it's not what I'm askin' for. Also need your real name, please. Stories will be published on this blog before the EXTC show (in March). PM me on Facebook, email me if you know my email, or just comment on this post, if we're not Facebook friends or such. Just keep it positive and friendly and welcoming, okay? Because that's the point of the piece. 


Surgery update, plus gobblin' the Batknob

Nothing has much changed since I wrote my cancer update post a couple of weeks ago, but I do now have a firmed up date for my surgery: December 16th. Surgery will probably kick the shit out of Christmas; I may even be in hospital through the holiday. Over the next eleven days, I need to get all my Christmas prep out of the way, shore up a supply of movies to entertain me while I am useless, get another COVID test (a regular feature of surgery), and wrangle all the other instructions they give you (we still have half a bottle of the antiseptic soap that I'll have to wash in, leftover from last surgery. They don't tell you when to arrive - or when to start fasting - until closer to the date). I guess I could lay in some more fluids - Yop yoghurt drinks and Boost for Diabetics and things like that. I wonder if there's a way to ask them to give me my pain meds in liquid form, given how painful swallowing pills will likely be? (They'll be giving me a tracheotomy this time, wonder how THAT will affect my taking in fluids and pills, compared to the throat-ratching intubations of September...? I don't imagine it will improve matters much...). 

I do have a couple of cool pieces in the works for the next week or so, but there's probably gonna be a long pause in blogging after that. If I have more stamina than I anticipate, maybe I'll blog about the movies I see. 

It was fun to have gotten out into the world for a couple of shows this last month. Glad I did it - I am going to go back to the plan of staying around the house, mostly, until the surgery is done. Don't want to pick up anything that causes the operation to get delayed - since delays just mean more time for the cancerous cells on my tongue to spread. I can feel them, I think - there's a sort of tingly, raw, burnt feeling on the surface of my tongue that I don't think is about the recovery from the surgery so much as it's about the squamous cell rebellion picking up steam again.

And of course, if the material they remove this time has the wrong indicators on it - if there is cancer in my lymph nodes, say - then the radiation therapy that they're trying to avoid with one more operation comes back on the table regardless.

Tired of this. Starting to feel some emotional echoes - you get a bit freaked out, and it comes out of you in strange ways. Like, if it wasn't for the impending surgery, I probably wouldn't have followed up this FB post ("the shadow looks like Batman staring at his boner"):

With this one that Erika helped me take ("I have always been fond of Batman"):

...which kind of raises the question of what the hell is going on with me psychologically, eh? ("Last call for oral sex!"). After some reflection, I removed the second image from Facebook. Wonder what other weird little explosions of stress and anxiety will happen before I go under the knife again? 

If I'm well enough, I guess I'll see you at the Bowie Ball. Some friends of mine will be playing who have never played the Bowie Ball before. I got a little stack of Bowie CDs, finally thinking I should get a sense of which of his albums I care about. Low is just boring - still just sounds like bad Eno to me.  Heroes, by contrast, I like a lot. I should get Lodger and Station to Station, still. And XTC's White Music. And...

January might be a bit soon for me concert-wise. I gather LA Witch, who I liked opening for the Black Angels awhile back, are going to play the Fox in January, but it's not likely I'll make that. Then it will be Frazey Ford in February (if I'm up to it). Then Sparks and EXTC in March (Gang of Four and the Circle Jerks, probably I am going to pass on, having seen both before and doubting I'll be in shape; I sure won't be buying advance tickets). My Sparks interview (done with the participation of David M., the most natural stoic I know) will be coming out in the new Big Takeover soon... along with Part Two of my Paul Leary piece...

Wonder if I'll be able to speak a little by March? How awful will it be? How will the new tongue - the armtongue, the Frankentongue - feel in my mouth? Will I have anywhere near the same level of sensation? Will I be able to taste things in even remotely the same way, or swallow solid food? What will the removal of muscle do to my right arm - to my typing, for example? 

Even though it's a bigger, badder operation than any previous, my anxiety is still nowhere near at the level it was in 2017. But it's a little worse than it was in September. And yet still I keep telling myself... buy the ticket, take the ride... just gotta keep on truckin' forward... 

Saturday, December 04, 2021

EXTC: Inside Out and Upside Down (an interview with Terry Chambers and Steve Tilling)

Considering the lasting impact of their legacy, looking back at their near 30-year career, XTC didn't tour all that much. As people who have seen the excellent 2017 documentary XTC: This is Pop will know, though musically active in studio into the start of the 2000's, XTC ceased all touring in 1982, after the band's leader, Andy Partridge, had a breakdown, stoked by his coming off valium, which as a medicated child he'd had a lifelong dependency on. They did do a few live-on-radio shows, and appeared once on TV in 1989 on the David Letterman show, but concerts? No. 

But considering that their touring history only lasted from 1976 to 1982, XTC, during that short window, toured a hell of a lot, including - according to attempts to document every gig the band played - three shows in Vancouver, two shows in March of 1980 at the Commodore (one supported by the Young Canadians) and one in October of that year (opening for the Police at the Pine Bowl). 

Rickshaw proprietor Mo Tarmohamed - not too slammed with the duties of running the Rickshaw to tell me he is a "big XTC fan" - was at one of those Commodore shows. He even saved the review of said concert(s?) for over 40 years, written by one Stanley Westby. Mr. Westby, I am presuming to copy and paste your words here. I am making no money on this, though I might cadge an EXTC ticket. If you object to your words reappearing in public after so long, do get in touch and I will remove them. 

The band coming to the Rickshaw on March 20th of next year is not XTC. It is EXTC - a splinter project driven by one original member, drummer Terry Chambers, performing (mostly) early XTC songs (but also working on new material!). They are not pretending to "be" XTC. They ARE proceeding with the blessings of Andy Partridge. And they'll be playing mostly songs drawn from the vital period of 1976-1982, when they were a live band, after which Terry Chambers left the band (explanations of which can be found in the XTC: This is Pop documentary, so I didn't ask Terry to repeat them here). You can also find the story of the band on their website, and a description of early live shows they played - complete with setlist - here. I did an email interview with Terry and with EXTC vocalist/ guitarist Steve Tilling, who also played with Chambers' previous project with XTC's Colin Moulding, TC&I. My questions are in italics, but Steve and Terry's names remain present so you can tell them apart! 

Allan: I noticed that "Dear God" and "Grass" were on a past setlist but - unless I'm missing something - both of those were recorded without Terry's involvement, originally. Local musician Ford Pier comments that they have drum sounds very unlike Terry. Will those songs remain on the set? Does Terry change up the drums, or follow Prairie Prince's style, or...? (I do think it's a bit of a cheat to include those songs, but then, I love those songs?

Terry Chambers: At this point, both Steves (Steve Tilling and Steve Hampton) are playing "Dear God" acoustically, which gives the set a bit of breathing space. "Grass" is also in the set. I play the drums in a similar fashion to the original recording but with my own touch.

Steve Tilling: Terry left XTC in 1983, so we’d be leaving out a lot of great songs from XTC’s catalogue if we only did tracks from his time in the band. Many XTC fans like songs from every era, so we don’t want to deprive anyone from hearing them. Terry interprets them in his own way so that’s another interesting aspect for people. For me, Terry makes the songs sound like they’re from the classic era.

What is Steve's history with XTC? Was he lucky enough to see them live? Does he have favourite songs or albums by the band? (Did he learn anything about them from learning to sing them - surprises about the lyrics, surprises about Andy's voice...?)

Steve Tilling: I’m a Swindonian, so I was always aware of the band. I was 11 when they stopped touring in 1982, so never got the chance to see them live. I’d liked the hits I’d heard on the radio and seen on Top of The Pops.

But I didn’t really get into the band until I was 21. I’d had a car accident and was in hospital. My brother brought in XTC’s Nonsuch CD to play on my Walkman, and I loved what I heard. That was the start of it all.

It's hard to pick favourite songs, but I think "Senses Working Overtime" is about as perfect a song you can get. I love "That Wave" and "Then She Appeared" from Nonsuch, especially the lyrics. "Are You Receiving Me" for the energy and catchiness: it's one of the best from the early years, I think, and I’d love to do that in the set. And "Easter Theatre" from Apple Venus Volume 1, especially the vocal section at the end. Favourite albums are Black Sea, Drums and Wires and Nonsuch. I also like Wasp Star, which is a marmite album for some people, but I love the songs.

Learning XTC songs vocally and instrumentally was quite revealing. Andy Partridge’s voice and guitar parts are unique, and it felt like I was relearning the guitar and rewiring my brain. Vocally, Colin Moulding sings a bit higher than Andy. But it’s impossible to be a clone of either, so don't even try!

How did Steve and Terry first meet? (Had Terry seen any of Steve's bands before?). I gather Steve and Terry toured previously with Colin Moulding; was there any discussion of having him in EXTC?

Terry Chambers: Steve and I met during the auditions for TC&I – the project of Colin Moulding and myself – and Steve was the successful applicant. We did eight gigs in total, all in Swindon.

Steve Tilling: I met Terry when a friend (Stu Rowe - collaborator of Andy Partridge) recommended me to Terry and Colin, as they were looking for a guitarist for their TC&I project. There was no discussion of Colin being in EXTC, because he said he didn't want to tour. That’s why EXTC began. (More info here: https://www.extc.co.uk/story/)

Whose idea was the name EXTC? This is, whatever else one might say, the VERY BEST POSSIBLE NAME for this sort of thing - trumping, for example, "From the Jam" and Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets by a WIDE margin. My compliments - but has it generated confusion? (I've been corrected by people on social media who weren't aware of the project - "don't you mean XTC?"). Has anyone gotten upset about it? (It's VISUALLY different from the band's name, but...)

Terry Chambers: I had a conversation with Andy Partridge regarding this project Steve and I were putting together. Andy said, "you can’t call it anything other than EXTC."

I don't THINK the documentary got into the history of the original name of XTC. Whose idea was that? Did it have evocations other than the word "ecstasy?"

Terry Chambers: XTC became the band name after Andy Partridge saw a film featuring comedian Jimmy Durante in which he says, on listening to a musician play, "I’m in a state of X… T… C… ” Capitalised, the three letters also had the advantage of standing out in print.

Someone in the doc - not Terry - describes the drumming in "Making Plans for Nigel" as "upside down." Terry, would you agree with that?

Terry Chambers: I would say it's more inside out than upside down!

Who are Terry's favourite drummers? (He reminds me at times of Peter Prescott, tho maybe Prescott is a bit more of a tribal troglodyte than Terry - I should note that I love Prescott's drumming).

Terry Chambers: All the greats, too many to mention.

I realize this is probably close to a boilerplate question, but I think we should address the unconvinced and the naysayers. It seems to me that there are three possible camps for XTC fans to belong in: Camp One (which I belong to) is - holy shit, a professional band touring with the blessings of Andy Partridge, doing XTC's early catalogue? COUNT ME IN! Camp Two (who I guess are the target of this article, the unconvinced) is: "Wait, Andy and Colin aren't there? But... what, it's the original DRUMMER, and it's the early catalogue, mostly...? Hmm. Well, maybe." And then Camp Three, the naysayers, are the HOW DARE THEY people - who will never get on board no matter what we say.

Terry Chambers: I don’t know anything about camps. I think the best thing is to come along and listen to EXTC for yourself.

Steve Tilling (re: "Are there camps I'm missing?"): That covers it, I think.

Of the responses you've seen on social media and such, can you give us a breakdown of what PERCENTAGE of XTC fans fall into each camp?

Steve Tilling: I don't really know. But I’d guess, camp one: 33.34%, camp two 33.33%, camp three, 33.33%.

Anything you want to say to the three camps?

Steve Tilling: Great – see you there. Camp two: Great – hope to see you there. Camp three: all the best – maybe we'll see you around.

Have you had any really interesting "Road to Damascus" reactions from people in Camp Two - press or otherwise - who saw you live and were converted?

Steve Tilling: Yes, quite a few people have said how much they enjoyed it. It's always nice to know you've overcome skepticism.

 Do either of you have any history of Vancouver? Terry, have you played here since 1980? Any memories of the city? (For a band who didn't play many live shows, you made it here three times, which is impressive - lots of my friends saw you!)

Terry Chambers: I remember Vancouver's excellent seafood and having a great crowd. XTC gigged constantly for five years – probably more than any of our contemporaries. We went to places others feared to tread.

I'm always curious what people like to do on the road, when they have free time. Ray Davies told me once he likes to see how the Guinness tastes in different cities (ha!). Justin Sullivan was hoping to get in some whale watching (it didn't pan out). Lemmy I think mostly read on the road (he was reading a CJ Sansom novel when I talked to him). How do you entertain yourselves? (Have you earmarked stuff you'd like to do in Vancouver?)

Terry Chambers: The most important thing is to get as much rest as possible on the road.

Steve Tilling: Resting my voice, and trying to sleep mostly – touring’s hard work! A lot of reading too. Not very rock n' roll, I know.

The Dead Kennedys have repeatedly said that they hope that someday Jello Biafra will rejoin them. Is that ever in the back of your mind - that if there's enough interest and excitement, it will somehow lure Andy and Colin and Dave out onto the road again, or is this as close as we're ever going to get?

Terry Chambers: As Andy, Colin and Dave aren't involved in the live performance aspects of EXTC, I think this is the closest anyone will get.

Tickets for March's Rickshaw show are online here