Thursday, April 28, 2022

Gigs and life and stuff

As of this spring, the cat's new favourite place to visit me is in-between me and the keyboard. I am spending more time here lately, at the nice new desk setup Erika engineered for me during my stay in hospital, than I am on the couch watchin' movies, so instead of getting pats there, he comes to get them (and lobby for treats) here. I will be deep in a piece of writing when I hear him leap onto the chair on the far side of the table; I will hunch over to get a few more sentences in as hear the clack of his claws (if Erika hasn't trimmed them) across the tabletop as he makes his way towards me (occasionally wiping out on the unstable borders of my incomplete We're Only In It for the Money jigsaw puzzle and sending pieces of it scattering). Once upon the desk, he then either steps down onto my lap, where I sit in my office chair, or more often poses himself to indicate his interest in BEING on my lap, which I then facilitate with a gentle lift-and-placement. We hang out for a few minutes, thus, and after petting him for a bit, I try to type around him - which is easier to do when he is on my lap, as opposed to standing on the keyboard, which is what he was doing previously and began the lap-placements. He seems to have come to enjoy them, so that they have become a thing unto themselves, and not just a reminder that I haven't given him a cookie in a while.  

Anyhow - I write as much as I can under the circumstances. I am a bit overextended on projects, overwhelmed by show options, and back to being afraid of COVID a bit. Also finally getting to talk to people - counsellors, physiotherapists, vocational rehab therapists, an SLP and others - about my recovery from my surgery, still ongoing, and trying to keep up with the things they tell me I should do to prepare for an eventual return to work (not sure what form that will take).  

Oh, and I'm broke (not in a bad way, don't worry, just in a run-of-the-mill I-shouldn't-spend-anything-I-don't-need-to kinda way). So going to gigs where I feel I hafta pay for the space I occupy with a meal or a beverage or such - it's not so exciting; I would rather stay home, eat a home-cooked meal (because that's much nicer for my weird tongue, being able to control the elements I put in my mouth) and watch a movie with Erika on the couch. In fact, we're havin' some great homebody nights lately. Revisited Brad Anderson's fun Poe adaptation, Stonehearst Asylum, last night, and Scott Derrickson's scary, disturbing Sinister the night before, and we totally enjoyed ourselves. (Though Sinister was a bit much for Erika, horror-wise, and the endings of both films get a bit cute for me - I don't care for a cute ending, the kind that winks knowingly at you to declare the film is over - as with Sinister - or that deliberately ends on a celebratory high to leave audiences feeling good after a harrowing film, as with Stonehearst Asylum. But they're both very enjoyable films, overall). Also tried V/H/S/94, and am glad to see that the franchise has found its feet again after the mostly-not-so-great V/H/S/Viral. I had some misgivings about the film - mostly a framing narrative that is nowhere as effective as the ones from the first two films - but the segments I've seen so far - and especially Timo Tjahjanto's one - have been pretty great. 

But I still feel connected to the music scene, still want to support it where I can, and will thus mention a couple of gigs I have no intention of going to (and one I definitely will be at).

Gigs I will not be at over the next while include Beau Wheeler at LanaLou's, tonight and Orchard Pinkish at Central City, tomorrow. I wish you both well, Beau and Orchard! Other people should go. 

Jumping ahead a week, nor will I make it to Ford Pier's Central City gig on May 6th, having other obligations that night. I may write something about it. His most recent album of new material, Gormful in Maya, has proved very rewarding and has supplanted Huzzah! as the Ford Pier album I am most likely to listen to when I am in the mood for Ford Pier, which mood I find myself in quite often lately. I had really wanted to see Ford, to at least once in my life have seen him headlining a show, instead of opening (as I have seen him do for Nomeansno, Mike Watt, Art Bergmann, Bob Mould, and maybe a few others). 

Read my big Ford Pier piece, now a couple years old, here.  

Unlike these shows, I will be at David M.'s gig on Saturday, note. He tells me he is adding a NO FUN song to his setlist that no one ever would dream of requesting, but he will not tell me what it is, or what places it beyond the pale. I cannot begin to guess. (Actually I have a guess but it led me down a horrible colonial rabbithole taking in cannibalism, scalping, and other horrors and I am just deleting that stuff, because... well...).  

Of course, speaking of Central City, Pete Campbell (Pink Steel, Wardells, Sweaters, Coach StrobCam) will likely also be at Central City, upgraded from Tambourine Pete to Guitar Pete. Perhaps he will do an original for us? Fans should note that video Pete himself had never seen, of the Sweaters performing at the Horseshoe in Toronto, was unearthed from Youtube by the intrepid diggings of one Doug Smith. My fave Sweaters song, "Hockey Sucks," starts around the 20 minute mark. Pete sure looks taller in this video than he does in real life. And younger! 

There are a couple of other gigs that I have not fully ruled out, though they are regular stands, for the time being, so which week I go is open to question. I might return to the Red Herring Collective some Monday or check out Petunia and the Vipers on a Wednesday. I have written about both, previously. 

This will have to do for now. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Zander Schloss - part one of two now online at Stereo Embers

Some of this has already seen publication in Germany, in a different form, but I've begun the process of putting out the English-language version of my Zander Schloss interview, weaving through his long and storied career, discussing his experiences working with Alex Cox, the Circle Jerks, Joe Strummer, the Weirdos and many, many other intensely cool people. This is my first publication with Stereo Embers (thanks to the Scenics' Andy Meyers for making introductions!). There is a part two in the works, but not for awhile yet... 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

On reading The Island of Dr. Moreau for the first time: Lost Souls, vivisection, and colonialism

So I've been reading The Island of Dr. Moreau for the first time - in exactly the edition pictured above - and am really enjoying it, but it's very curious on many levels. I don't have an essay in me, but some scattered observations:

1) I had long heard in watching commentaries and featurettes on film adaptations and such that the book was written as an anti-vivisectionist tract. Certainly Moreau uses vivisection on his creatures - there is actually no mention of DNA or chemical changes brought about in his creatures; his primary means of making a puma into a human-like shape is surgical, for example. But there is a lot to the story beyond this - it is not so simple or single minded as being anti-vivisection. Moreau defends his practices; even the narrator, Prendick, seems at times sympathetic to vivisection in the name of science; and there is a real richness to the story that makes it very hard to reduce to one simple, single, didactic polemical intent. 

2) Some scenes in the Stanley/ Frakenheimer adaptation of the book are extremely faithful - like the moment when Prendick first encounters a beast-man. Reading the book gives you a much fuller sense of how much Richard Stanley valued his source when writing his screenplay. This was not the only scene where I noticed parallels between the novel and the film, though it was the most striking. 

3) I have found 19th-and-early-20th century ideas of science sometimes so weird and backward that it has interfered with entering a text - like the idiotic misunderstanding of evolutionary theory in the film The Land that Time Forgot, presumably taken straight from the Burroughs novel; you get distracted from whatever point the story is trying to make by the overwhelming reaction of, "whoa there, this isn't remotely close to accurate science." But in fact - though there's no real way that Wells can explain how his creatures come to have language through primarily surgical or chemical means - the science is fudged enough that it still allows for engagement with the story - suspension of disbelief, or at least no "whoa there, this isn't remotely close to accurate science." It would be much, much harder to enjoy the book if Wells had tried harder to make the science seem more credible, while getting it vastly wrong. 

4) Another common thing mentioned in the film adaptations is that the panther-woman was created for The Island of Lost Souls, but that's not entirely right. There is no panther-woman in the novel, to be sure - no female characters to speak of - but the main animal that Moreau is working on through the novel is a puma, who is described as being female, and who in fact kills Moreau and escapes his lab in one of the later key episodes of the novel. So the latent idea of the panther-woman is there; she's just not a woman yet. 

5) The novel, read from a contemporary perspective, seems to be much more about the "white man's burden," elevating savages into civilization, so to speak, with the beast-creatures being described throughout as brown- or black- skinned; described in one scene as wearing turbans; described as practicing pagan rituals; and Moreau seeming very much like a colonizer/ white plantation-owner, cracking his whip (and using religion and "the law") to keep his creations submissive (some commentary seems to be present about Christianity and its role in colonialism - especially when Prendick assures the beast-creatures that Moreau is still very much alive and able to chastise them for their infractions; some passages come very close to being parodies of things from the New Testament, the idea that the "Master" could return at any moment...). The story does not seem reducible to a didactic tract about imperialism or colonialism any more than it seems to be reducible to being about vivisection, but this element seems stronger in the book than any of the subsequent film adaptations that I've seen (tho' I'd like to see that Filipino plagiarism of it, Terror is a Man, to see if this element is upped; apparently, like Lost Soul, it is available through Severin). 

6) Richard Stanley of course has brilliant things to say about the book - especially about the parallels with Conrad's Heart of Darkness - in the Lost Soul film, which I greatly enjoyed (and which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the Frankenheimer film that eventually emerged, which, especially in its director's cut, is much more watchable than I'd expected once you have Lost Soul under your belt, and certainly plays better from a contemporary perspective than it did when I saw it first run, where the chaos of the film and the weirdness of Brando caught me by surprise (incidentally, I also see that Severin has a 3-disc version of Lost Soul on sale! ...featuring an early silent adaptation of the story that I have never seen). Stanley does seem to know minute details of the book - like the idea that the Hyena-man is actually a fusion between a Hyena and a swine, which name/ description survived into his screenplay; so there is no question that he has read the book, and holds it in great esteem. 

All the same, Richard Stanley makes a weirdly glaring error in talking about the story in the doc at one point: he asserts in the doc that Moreau dies at the midway point of the book, after which the beast-people are left to fend for themselves, forming their own quasi-government, which of course falls apart. Now, I don't know if there are different versions of the text, but in the edition I pictured above, the book - which is actually quite slim - has Moreau's death taking place in the final quarter of the novel, well after the halfway point, and if there is any inkling of the post-Moreau beast-people trying to be self-governing, it must be in the last 3 pages, because that's how far I am from the ending (as of this writing - I'm revising a couple of things since last I wrote, when I had 20 pages left to go; but self-government has still not emerged as a theme). Maybe he's talking about his own screenplay, and not the novel, but that wasn't the impression I was left with, since I was very curious about these aspects of the book and was in part prompted to finally read the book on the hopes that something very different awaited me. I really liked the idea of the beast people trying to govern themselves, so am a bit surprised, disappointed and confused that it turns out not to actually be there. How does he get that detail wrong? 

All in all, it's been a fascinating read, and it really holds up as an adventure story. I was worried it would seem dated or stiff, but it's quite compelling, and truly enhances my appreciation for all three film versions of the story that I've seen. I recommend the experience! (The edition I depict above, by the way, has several lengthy scholarly essays included that look very interesting and compelling in their own right.)

One final observation, not related to the book - though it does deal with a character who is much more emphasized in the film adaptations than in the novel itself: how is it that Ron Perlman is no big deal as the Sayer of the Law in the 1997 Moreau? He's PERFECTLY cast, his makeup is great, and he certainly has the actorly chops to do amazing things with a role like this. I'm a big Ron Perlman fan - have been since the days of The Name of the Rose -  and one reason that I was really excited to revisit the film was so I could see him in this part, but his scenes in the Frankenheimer film just sort of fall flat. What went wrong? Did he and Frankenheimer not get along, or...?

Best Sayers of the Law in film history:

1. Bela

2. Basehart (1977 version, below) 

3. Perlman. 

That's just wrong!

Upcoming in New West - live music in Queen's Park


Free shows at Queen's Park this spring/ summer! As David M. notes, "Last year's show was magical, but this year we're bringing mosquito coil." (And y'all should wear bug spray and long sleeves). 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

100 Block Rock 2 - release party at the Red Gate this weekend!

So Noelle of Chaos, Disorder and Panic (interviewed here) tells me that there's a release show Friday and Saturday at the Red Gate for 100 Block Rock 2, a limited-edition vinyl compilation of very varied music united in that it is made by residents of the downtown eastside of Vancouver. I don't know a lot of these bands, but there's some very cool things happening: it begins with what sounds like a land acknowledgement in the First Nations language of Kwak’wala, delivered by Robert Williams, who also sings a song and drums.... that's followed by a scary piece of DTES/ Whalley gangsta hip hop by East Van Hotbox (not quite as fun a bandname as East Van Halen but still very cool), in turn followed by a rappy R&B song by Technition Cardinal, a reggae-meets-avant-classical song by Ion Cardinal, and Noelle's noisy grindcore rant about the 2010 Olympics, "Homes Not Games," which has a pretty catchy little riff at its core and a fiercely convincing choral bellow of "being homeless is a crime"... Then there's a powerful folk tune from Big City, actually the nickname of an ex-con named Freddy, singing about prison (Andromeda Monk, previously mentioned in my Gentle Party article, plays on it)... which is followed by a dark, loping rock song taking in addiction and fentanyl on the DTS by Iceman; a somewhat unquantifiable avant-pop song by Tangent Quo; a rap song about addiction by D'skyz that features Elliot Langford on drums (and Andromeda again); and a blues song by Karen Colville. A couple of the artists playing the release were on the previous volume, like tuneful punk band Cryonic Regeneration,  gangsta rappers L'Chronic, a poet/ guitarist named Terry Robinson, and what is apparently a horrifyingly abrasive noise band DTES GF, who are even MORE aggro than Noelle! The sheer variety of music present is a huge part of the appeal, but also the community spirit of the project.  

Not entirely sure what the deal is with the show - which artists are playing which night or when - but if you have ties to East Van or want to support a very cool community arts project or just want a night of really varied local music, this seems like a cool show to be at. Weekend passes can be purchased here, and you can find out more on the Facebook event page here!

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Petunia at the Trocadero! (Preserving his delightful formatting)

I have interviewed Petunia many times - here, here, here, and here, say (the last is on video!). The last time I saw him, I was walking down 4th Avenue during some special event or other, early enough in the pandemic that there were very few people out and about, despite pleasant weather - but there was a stage set up, and I could hear music and see a cowboy hat and knew blocks away who was going to be on that stage, long before I could make out a single lyric. I stopped and said hi and maybe listened to a bit of a Marty Robbins' cover ("Big Iron") before I continued on whatever my mission was. It's past time to see him again! 

There's no one quite like Petunia in Vancouver, delivering country swing, folk, rockabilly and bluegrass with a tiny hint deadpan wit and dark surrealism; like the Red Herring residency at the Princeton blogged about a few posts back, his shows at the Trocadero, which looks to be a Greek pizza and steakhouse on Nanaimo, are an opportunity to see an unusual lineup of the band, doing songs you might not always hear at bigger gigs - an intimate "behind-the-scenes" peek at the Vipers' inner workings.  

Anyhow, I got this pleasantly centred email from Petunia's phone and am presenting Petunia's communications with me more or less as he sent'em, rather than trying to format this, because why deprive you of the pleasure of his formatting?): 

Hey Al 
Pétunia hère 

I'm trying to promo our new weekly (bi-weekly until we fill it up then we move to weekly) 

Next one is April 20th 
We've had two both with roughly 40 ppl. 

If April 20th is 60-80 ppl or more then I think it'll change to weekly then and there or whenever that can happen 

$10...put money in our jug 

3 sets 

7pm dining mellower set (great home cooked food - reserve tables in advance) 

8pm rockin'er set 
9:15 another rockin set I asked Petunia some follow up questions via email. - who is in the band at present? What are the plans for the lineup? What will you be playing? Again, preserving Petunia's formatting: 

The band on 20th will be;
Sky trombone and bass
Patrick elec guitar and bass
Paul drums

Once the Wednesdays become weekly (which I hope will be after we put lots of ppl in the Trocadero on the 20th) then I'll start working in the touring outfit for the summer which will be the same musicians as above except Patrick will also start playing lap steel guitar as well as elec guitar - plus add Joe Abbott on sax/clarinet/elec guitar

That means we'll have a band that can be two horns and a rhythm section a la old time jazz OR steel guitar and elec guitar and rythym section a la old time country rockabilly sound.

Stephen and Jimmy will be with us throughout the spring fall as well on occasion and moving onwards at the Trocadero only when they want. Those nights will be a 7 pc band (or more), like old times. There’ll be old Vipers and new throughout.

We'll be playing new material as well as standards. Same as we did at Wise lounge. Workshop touring material for the summer. I've written a whole double album last two years of decent to pretty good songs.

Plus that - the Trocadero has a patio that will open with nice weather so I expect the Wednesdays there to turn into a real old fashioned happening like the old days.


...All of which sounds great to me. April 20th is a Wednesday, you say? Well! (Even with my weird new tongue, I think I can probably make it through a plate of souvlaki if I smear enough tzatziki on it!). See you there, maybe?

Friday, April 15, 2022

Bob Mould with Vic Bondi, last night at the Rickshaw

Bob on Bob, by Allan MacInnis

Arrived at the Rickshaw to find the floor filled with... seats? But that's so 2021...

But I mean, okay, no one moshes to one man with a guitar, doesn't matter who he is or what he's doing. Bob Hanham and I speculated about just how rowdy it must have been for the Viagra Boys last night, when presumably no such seats were in place - with him pointing out that that big wooden barrier in front of the stage was bent several degrees in, assumedly from the combined weight of people pushing against it. It looked like the metal legs, driven down into the Rickshaw floor, had simply bent - a pretty impressive feat of pressure, if so. 

By contrast, hardly anyone even stood up, last night, which as I've observed before, I did not mind at all - to get a great seat at a gig and have no one stand in front of me is a rare treat for an old, sore meatbag like me. Better yet, Bob (Hanham, not Mould) had arrived before me and staked out the best seats in the house. 

So okay, back to this again, I don't mind. 

There was no merch. There was no one signing things, for the most part. Vic briefly came out - he and I are working on an expansion of my interview below and we had to talk about a couple of things - and while he was out, Gerald got him to sign a gig poster, I got him to sign a record, and maybe uber-Du fan Adam and Huskee Dude Nick got to say hellos... but that was the extent of the direct contact between musicians last night and the audience that I witnessed. 

With shows cancelling (including, locally, Brian Jonestown Massacre and I gather now DRI*) and people like Keith Morris getting sick, I can hardly blame Bob and Vic for being trepidatious.

While I was delighted to hear "Getting Nowhere" live, and shot a clip of it, to boot, the treat for me in Vic's set was the acoustic workup of Articles of Faith's "What We Want is Free." which he closed on (not my clip but you can hear it on acoustic here). I like it more as an acoustic tune than a hardcore one! His strumming was powerful and sometimes his ringing top string sounded like spectral cello accompaniment. 

Vic Bondi by Allan MacInnis 

With Bob I found myself thinking about how maybe one of the reasons I loved Zen Arcade so much was that all the songs spoke to me, seemed totally relevant to my life; it was like they were singing about my experience, not the band members' own. Maybe that was by accident, not design - maybe the experience of all young men is similar enough that it allowed for easier projection of my own needs onto the songs? - but I felt a huge emotional connection to Bob Mould's lyrics back then. As he's has matured, so too have his songs become more specific to his life experience, more individual, more personal, more about him. Even if I understand what Bob is singing about on a song like "Voices in My Head," I still don't connect with the lyrics on the same visceral level as I did with "Something I Learned Today," for example, because I don't really have the same relationship to my self-talk as Bob does, don't experience things quite the same way; it feels like I'm listening to a song that Bob is singing about HIS experience of life, as opposed to something that feels like it could have been about mine

Bob Mould by Allan MacInnis

So I spent some time thinking about that Dylan line about how "I've made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot," and noticing that with so many of his songs last night - even ones I've come to love like "The Descent" - I really don't have a strong sense of what they're about! There are lines in "The Descent" that I think are brilliant (I get a little unquantifiable chill over "I didn't want to play the song/ that gave people so much hope") but have I been there myself? No. Do I know what song he means by that? No (Du never seemed all that hopeful to me, actually!). Do I know what it feels like to be in that position? No. Do I even come close to understanding the rest of the lyrics - even to know what the descent of the title is? Nope. I can enjoy the song - it's one of my very favourite solo Bob Mould tunes - but it isn't something I can put on my own feet and walk around in, y'know? 

To tweak the Dylan line, he isn't making shoes anymore - he's barefoot all the time. I also thought about how Bob's guitar has such an amazingly fullsome, resonant sound, and I closed my eyes and lost myself in the noisy droning swirl of it for various numbers, as Bob stalked the stage. Vic's strumming style had been much more muscular - his right arm got a real workout - but it hadn't produced near as much swirl, just the aforesaid phantom cello (then again, Vic's guitar had been an acoustic. Whatta I know, I am not a guitarist...). 

Anyhow, that's where my head was through many of the songs - they're really about Bob, now; but he sure put passion into his expressing them. The evenings other Bob, Bob Hanham - who had spent much of the time before I arrived chatting with Milo, the singer of Gay Cowboys in Bondage, sitting a row behind us - thought that Mould was even stronger than he had been last time, but to be honest, he's always seemed strong to me, all three times I've seen him. The only thing I did think was an improvement over last show, and a really pleasant surprise to boot, was Du's "Never Talking to You Again," one of their most universal expressions and not a song I'd expected would remain in the set after the last tour; Bob had started covering after his bandmate Grant Hart, who wrote it and sang it, died, and played it last time he was at the Rickshaw, but I didn't think it would still be around, a tour later. It felt less like a Grant Hart song Bob was covering and more like an expression of Bob's own feelings, as delivered last night; maybe it worked better for me this time because the original is an acoustic song, and this was just Bob and his guitar, no band, unlike last show - a more fitting arrangement. In any event, I liked his reading of it better last night.

My one hope did not materialize - that Vic and Bob might sing a song together. Ah, well. There were no encores, and if anyone came out to greet the people still milling to the side of the stage when I left, half an hour after the show had ended, I didn't see it. I suspect Gerald's gig poster went unsigned! 

Vic Bondi and Bob Mould play Bellingham tonight - if the Mount Baker Theatre is the place I'm thinking of, it's a great old vintage movie theatre in the bookstore district of Bellingham. I used to love going there, and went a few times, even seeing Patrice Leconte's superb (but maybe slightly misogynistic) Monsieur Hire there when there was no one else in the theatre, just me, front row. 

Should be a bit fuller tonight!

*apparently the DRI cancellation of their Canadian dates has nothing to do with COVID but rather allegations against the band on social media. I just wanted to see the Dayglos at the Rickshaw, personally!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Brian Jonestown Massacre cancelled

 My friend who had tickets for the show got "credit-only" refunds from MRG for BJM today. 

She's kind of hopping mad that they're keeping her money! And bummed the show is cancelled.

I gather that COVID is a factor and that Mercury Rev wouldn't have been opening, either. 

Anyhow, no BJM on Friday, sorry folks. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

On going to see the Red Herring collective

All photos by Allan MacInnis, April 11 2022

So Enrico Renz of Red Herring - interviewed by me at some length here - is a pretty great human being - smart, witty, creative, kind, and appreciative of my attentions; when he saw me sitting at the Princeton on Monday night - about three songs after I'd arrived, which was probably about three songs into their set (I got there for the still-unreleased but very moving "Consuela") - he gave me a big grin from the stage and said on-mike, "Allan MacInnis in the house!" (Kinda fun to have that happen! Gerry Hannah and Jeffrey Lewis have also acknowledged me from the stage, but it's actually not an everyday occurence). 

It was no surprise that Enrico was surprised to see me: I've been uncharacteristically absent from all previous Red Herring-related events this year, including a solo set Enrico did at Central City that I had connected him with. Couldn't be helped - even when I don't  technically have a lot going on right now, with my surgery recovery, weird tongue, weird wrists, and shaky emotional equilibrium, I still have a lot going on. And it's kind of a miracle that I made it out at all on Monday: it had actually been one hell of a day - I got chewed out by my GP for asking her input on something related to my recent surgery, which turned into an ugly confrontation on the phone that I could not ameliorate or extract myself from, after which she actually kinda HUNG UP on me, setting me into a whirlwind of emotions, so that when I phoned the Cancer Agency to pretty much BEG them to schedule me for counselling, which I've been waiting to hear back from them on for a couple weeks, I broke down crying, which I spent much of that night doing (also ended up on the phone with my surgical oncologist, later on, to ask the same questions in more detail that I'd tried to deal with through my GP; I hate to trouble him with smaller matters when he's working so hard to deal with more pressing things like active cases of cancer, people dying, requiring surgery, etc. Me having a hairy tongue-graft that keeps peeling doesn't seem quite on par). He doesn't really know why my tongue would be losing outer layers - it's happening for the fifth or sixth time now.  He thinks it is due to drinking liquids that are too hot, but I had thought I was being pretty careful about that; I'm letting any hot drinks I make sit for a long time before I drink them, but it still keeps happening, every three weeks or so. Also, he doesn't have any advice at all about getting laser treatments or electrolysis to remove the hair from my tongue graft. Will it be covered by my insurance? I'd have to phone them, he doesn't know, but it's probably not covered by MSP. Will the hair removal process damage my apparently-already-imperiled graft? He doesn't know. Some of his patients, he says, just cut the hair off with scissors when it gets too long... he was surprisingly gentle and patient with me, so I'm sure his secretaries told him I was in a bit of a state. Anyhow, I felt a bit better at least having someone to talk to about  it all, even if no useful answers were imparted. It's hard not to freak out a bit when pieces of you are detaching that shouldn't detach and you're growing hair where you should never HAVE hair... or to be on waitlists for help that stretch into months...

Anyhow, somehow the hell day I'd had, with various dams breaking, resolved into a forced choice between "sit around and wallow" and "say fuckit and go see Red Herring!" 

I am so glad I chose the latter option. 

For those who don't know, Red Herring - in the form of "the Red Herring collective" - have been doing a Monday residency at the Princeton, sort of akin to those Petunia and the Vipers gigs at the WISE Hall lounge where the band worked up new songs, experimented with arrangements, and honed their delivery (which I gather Petunia is doing at the Trocadero, now, more on which later; he has a gig there on April 20th). 

...And as with the Vipers (who will be playing without Stephen or Jimmy!), this is an unusual lineup of Red Herring, hence the "collective" in the name; with various members facing personal issues, wanting to work on other projects, or just not able to commit to a weekly show, you never quite know who is going to be with them onstage. Last night there was only Enrico and Tania from Red Herring proper; the rhythm section - Kenan Sungur on drums and Dave Taylor on bass - had also clearly worked with the band for awhile, but keyboardist Adam Farnsworth was hearing these songs, I gather, for the first time, playing from charts, and at some point in the night, one of the other band members introduced Enrico to a trumpet player, Abner, who joined in with them never even having MET Red Herring before...

Now, I don't know about you - maybe some of my readers out there like things tight and polished and "professional" - but I personally love the excitement of seeing musicians find the groove of a song. Abner was the most interesting one to watch (in part because Adam was hidden from view from where I sat): as a song started, he'd hold the trumpet and listen intently, then after a minute or so, would try something, think about it, modify it, try something else... this with often complex songs he had never heard before, from a band he'd never met, but also presented in arrangements very different from even what Red Herring's fans have heard, like a version of their spidery, angular "Taste Tests" that got transmuted into jammy 70's fusion, maybe with a vaguely Latin funk flavour. Yet by the second verse, he almost always was playing like he'd been in the band for a few years, offering solos that fit perfectly into the mix. It was very engaging to observe. If you've ever played music, ever jammed with people - and shitty as I am at playing anything, I have done so myself, in fact, sitting in on bass and guitar with some buddies of mine - there is a real joy to feeling things WORK, to finding the groove then laying into it, expanding on it, embellishing... it's EXCITING - exciting to do, and exciting to witness, in a way that a too-slick, too-polished performance might not be. ("Too much perfection is a mistake," as Jodorowsky has a character quip in El Topo). The odd flaws, the false starts, and hesitations actually only serve to enhance the stuff that does work, all the while inviting the audience to witness something coming to life, our own discovery of the arrangements mirrored onstage. As Enrico observed afterwards, chatting outside the venue as I took my leave, it's akin to his own preference, when it comes to Renaissance painters, to see their sketches over the finished works. There's exploration and experimentation and the Thinking-About-It witnessed, all of which gets hidden in the finished, final work. 

Anyhow, it was a real good time, something I sorely needed - sometimes a man needs people who are glad to see him! (I had a couple friends at the Princeton that night that I didn't expect to see, too). Video evidence is pending the band's approval - I did shoot a few clips - but meantime, note that these shows are FREE TO ATTEND, though you're encouraged to put some money in the hat and to buy beer to keep the Princeton happy. I believe there is a plan for them to continue - watch the Red Herring Collective posts on Facebook for more. You won't know ever what lineups or songs or arrangements you'll encounter, but I am confident that you'll see something fresh and real and exciting happening, whatever form it takes. Once the band gets their next album together, no doubt that there will be a more stable, more rehearsed lineup playing bigger, for-pay shows, so this is actually a really interesting chance to see unusual, never-to-be-repeated versions of some really great songs. You might even get to hear Tania on kazoo! (Her vocals are the high point to "Julia," in particular, which sounded, of all the songs they did, closest to the studio version...). 

Oh, and I figured out, with the help of David M. and Google, a much, much better route to the Princeton for us out-of-town transit users; I had previously been going down Commercial Drive, mostly so I could pitstop at Audiopile and Black Dog, then making my way down to Powell, often walking a few blocks between Hastings and Powell through some fairly depressed neighbourhoods, but in fact - with apologies to Audiopile and Black Dog, I guess - I have discovered that if I get off at Nanaimo Station and catch the #7 Duncan bus, it makes an amazingly efficient, very brief zip down Nanaimo, turns left, and lets me off the next block down from the Princeton, all of which took under 45 minutes, INCLUDING THE TIME IT TAKES TO WALK TO THE SKYTRAIN. I can leave here at 7pm and be at the Princeton for 8, which is when the shows start!

I am not 100% sure if the Monday gigs will continue - but keep an eye out on Facebook. Highly recommended! 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Gentle Party: Of Generosity, Collaboration, and Shaking a Fist at the Patriarchy

Gentle Party by Stewart Campillo

Vancouver-based "avant chamber pop" trio Gentle Party are aptly named, but maybe are not as gentle as you might think on first blush. They make beguilingly soothing music, music that is gorgeous, richly-textured, and tuneful, that fills a room with wonderful little sonic details and colours - especially on their second album, God Complex, launching at the Rio on Thursday, April 14th (the day before the long weekend); but it is actually rather kind to listeners. Based on the music alone, you could see someone turning to it for comfort and relaxation, or listening to it on headphones at the end of a long, difficult day. The language of pop music, with its "target" audiences, "hooks," and "hits," tends to be weirdly aggressive, like audiences are fish or other prey, and the artist the fisher, the hunter; but Gentle Party are a bit subtler than such language befits. They still reel you in, but, well - gently, almost so you don't know that you're being caught. 

At the suggestion of Rob Frith, of Neptoon Records - who is a big fan of the band - I did the following email interview with Gentle Party - initially reaching out to Meredith Bates, who plays violin, viola and provides various effects and occasional vocals, who I believe is the "I" in the first answer; but I have reason to believe that the answers were given collaboratively (one answer, in a separate email, was signed with an "E," for Elisa Thorn, on "harp and FX," piano, and again, other vocals. Jessicka, the vocalist and occasional pianist, may be in there too!). Treat the answers as coming from a collective entity where possible.  I'm in italics, Gentle Party is not. 

Allan: The thing that strikes me most about your music is that it actually is fundamentally gentle. Usually a pop song is kind of, um, "melodically aggressive," trying to sink "hooks" in you, aiming for "ear worms." (like I want hooks or worms in my ears!). The songs on God Complex aren't lacking in tunefulness or rhyme, but they're really quite nuanced about it, not trying to overpower the listener...  How did you arrive at that approach?

Gentle Party: Hmmm...okay. Well, the first thing that happened while I was reading your questions is the hook from "Black Sheep" started running through my head. It's pretty ear wormy and aggressive. But, other than that, you're probably right...our approach kind of lulls you into listening, but then hits you with the message. We're not really trying for earworms; we're writing what comes to us 100% naturally. We just write what makes sense to us, without really any pop formulas in our heads. I think this becomes most evident in our unconventional form/song structure. 

A big thing we center our approach around is generosity - how can we challenge the listener in a way that makes them barely aware they are being taken outside of their boundaries? How can one build a bridge between utilitarian/pop music with avant-garde music without compromising their artistic integrity? Meredith and Elisa are musicians who participate in both of those worlds, our creative efforts centre around trying to push those two worlds closer together with the hope that those two kinds of music (and the listeners) might collide.

There are two specific albums that I reminded of by God Complex - but I bet everyone has their own, "It kind of reminds me of ____."  Mine are Hal Willner's Disney Project, Stay Awake - especially the "April Showers" song, after the Ken Nordine bit in the opening medley; and Laurie Anderson's Mister Heartbreak - less for the lyrics or vocals than the music. (I also thought of Meredith Monk and Petra Haden when listening to Jessicka's vocals, but again, I have no idea if that's relevant). 

Honestly, our music is super-influenced by our geography... The mountain shadows, the air, the feeling of coming home. We live in such a visually dynamic environment it definitely influences the soundscapes we create. Also the Disney reference is an interesting one as on this record especially there were elements of whimsy we didn’t shy away from. "April Showers" is an absolute triumph of composition. 

The three of us span across ten years age wise, and I think had some similarities in influences, and also some big differences! Big influences we all share are Radiohead, Fiona Apple, Debussy, and Satie.

What kinds of classical training do band members have? Are there specific composers that inform your music (I hear different things in different songs - "2 Little 3" seems very Steve Reich in the verses, for example, but most other songs, I don't hear him at all).  

Elisa and Meredith trained classically since they were really young. Jessicka did concert band in high school - her musical journey has been informed by her own songwriting and collaborations in the pop/indie world.

On the classical side, we were super influenced by both impressionist and expressionist music. Debussy, Ravel, Hindemith, Shostakovich, Prokofiev. But as we mentioned earlier, tons of non-classical music too. Our first musical loves were Stevie Wonder, TLC, Radiohead, Fiona Apple, the Beatles...

There's a lot of subtle detail in the album's textures - but there's only the three of you in the official lineup. Do you use recordings or effects to provide extra texture or layering, or do you have to rearrange songs considerably for live presentation?

This album, unlike our first, was largely created first as a recording project in the studio, rather than capturing a performance that had already been developed. Because of that, we were able to build up and explore huge sound worlds in the studio with our producer, Chris Gestrin. It's been a fun project now figuring out how to play everything live! We use tracks and trigger samples for many of the songs in live performances to help round out the sound. We also use a lot of live processing with our instruments, so there's really quite a lot going on at all times! 

I noticed that Chris also plays on the album and is prominent in the credits, even moreso than on Jouska, but isn't a part of the band... how did you connect with him, how important is he in the conception of what you do? Will he be onstage with you? It seems like there are a few overlapping people here, like there is a cluster of other artists who have ties to you - Eva Dominelli also does art for Andromeda Monk, for example. Anyone else who is "almost" a member, who has a particularly close relationship to the band? Do you all have some common background or other connections besides your music?

Chris is our Nigel Godrich. He plays a huge role in developing the sound and is integral to the recording process. He also puts out our albums on his record indie label Phonometrograph. He also works with Elisa and Meredith on many of their other projects, so he has a close relationship with their artistic voice, style and sound. Chris is an integral part of so many artists’ voices here in Vancouver! We are so lucky to have him. 

Vancouver is a tiny 'big' city, so we get to benefit from having a tight knit arts community, with lots of overlap across disciplines. We know Eva from the indie/DIY scene, of which Andromeda Monk is a part, too. We also get to play with Andromeda often through the jazz improv scene here in town. But, basically, after a while, everyone knows everyone (to reference another Vancouver avant-indie band!), or that's how it feels at least! It's really nice to get to build and develop artistic friendships with these people over time.

God Complex has a strikingly weird cover (relating to an equally weird video!). What media is Eve's original? Was it a completed work of hers that you asked to use, or was it commissioned for the cover? (If so, did you give her direction or the album title, or...?). Did it come before or after or from the video, and what's going on in it, exactly....? (The black hand at the end seems kind of scary). 

We love Eva's artwork. She also created the cover for our first album, Jouska. We were inspired by a different piece of artwork of Eva's, an amorphous blob with multiple limbs coming out of it, that really resonated with the themes in our album. So when discussing the direction to take with this album's art, we used that as a launching pad to build on. When she made the art for the album, we knew it would be called God Complex and had lots of themes and concepts for her to develop her visual ideas from. She is the one who originally suggested creating some kind of animation based off the album art, and we were lucky enough to get funding to actually create an entire music video that brought to life the album art for the title track, "God Complex." She matched the tone of the song beautifully, and the images she created for the video truly blew our minds. It’s really special to collaborate with her, we feel that she certainly elevates the entire project.

What is "God Complex," the song, about? Both the comment on the "God Complex" video about not separating the artist from his art - a concept I only hear in regard to male artists who have done repugnant things, actually - as well as the video and lyrics for "Unsafe" seem to have a bit of a feminist angle to them...

‘Can you separate the artist from the art?’ has been a question that has come up often in the past few years since the Me Too movement began and the questions of social and moral accountability started developing into what is now called cancel culture. These questions come up a lot on a larger, pop culture scale with artists who have a lot of notoriety, but is just as pertinent on a small scale local level. The song was inspired by a misogynistic person who is celebrated in our arts community, but also refers to the question on a larger scale, as it is all around us.... we believe in art’s ability and function to help people find moments of spirituality, shared humanity, care, and love - therefore, we don’t think it’s morally responsible to separate an artist’s ethics and actions from the art they are creating...

We’re very unabashedly shaking a fist at the patriarchy. We actually strive to smash it entirely. "Unsafe" was inspired by wanting Brock Turner to feel everything Channel Miller must have. But even if he did he still wouldn’t understand the depth of it because he’s a cis white male living with enormous privilege. It also is an ode to witches, women punished in absolutely horrific ways, sometimes over simply a suspicion. God Complex is putting a magnifying glass on certain people in our own music community. We didn't sit down and decide on any overarching themes for the record, but 'smash the patriarchy' is definitely one that emerged naturally from our own life experiences and stories we have to tell. 

I was grateful for the lyrics on the "Unsafe" video, because I'm otherwise inclined just to take them as part of the music.Why no lyric booklet with the albums? 

We would've loved to have printed a lyric booklet with the albums, but it's just too expensive! We're super grateful for the funding we received for the album (thank you Canada Council, FACTOR, and CreativeBC) - but we definitely had to be smart about how to allocate our funds, prioritize the music, and make decisions about what we could and couldn't afford. You’ll find lyrics to both "Unsafe" and "God Complex" accompanying the videos on our YouTube Channel.
Another difference I notice between Jouska and God Complex is that you  have one fewer member. What happened to Shanto Acharia? Will you have a cellist onstage? (perhaps Peggy? (Are you looking for a fulltime cellist?). 

Shanto left the band a few years ago after we came to a consensus that we were moving in different musical directions. Without him, the cello as a consistent backbone for our sound was gone, which led us to experimenting in the studio around how to process and layer the harp and violin to create something really big. 

There were a couple of tunes where we still really wanted the interaction between cello and violin, so it was a no brainer to call up Peggy Lee, who is one of our favourite musicians in town and truly such a gift to have in Vancouver. Peggy is back and forth between Melbourne and Vancouver these days, so we are so excited to have a long-time friend and colleague of Meredith’s, cellist Shin-Jung Nam, joining us at The Rio for our release show!

Rob Frith seems to be a huge fan of your music - how did you connect with him? Any history there?

The first time we met Rob was when we opened Just a Season's album release at The Wise Hall a few years back. It was a really wonderful, special show and we became fast friends! He’s a great guy. It’s really nice how supportive he is, not only to us, but to so many artists across different music scenes in Vancouver! 

He's got pretty good taste in music, too! Anything else we should say about the Rio concert, or other upcoming events? 

Tickets are available for the April 14th album release on The Rio website. We’ve got several shows booked throughout the Summer around BC, so stay tuned!

Garfath Does Parties: falling down a silly anagram rabbithole with an American Werewolf, and emerging with an answer to a mystery

So a buddy of mine has a projection unit and screen, instead of a TV, and occasionally I go over to watch movies with him. Last night, we took in an old favourite of mine, An American Werewolf in London, which I have owned in VHS, on DVD, and on blu-ray, but never seen on 4K. In fact, I haven't seen it as large as it was last night, or as clear, since I saw it projected first run, when I was a young teenager, making my father take me to it in Vancouver (it was restricted, and in fact the only film, in my teen years, that I tried to get into when underage, back at the Starlight cinema in Maple Ridge. My argument that I had already seen it won me no sympathy at the door). 

It was great to see the film again - and great to see a hundred odd details I'd missed previously, from the blurry but very recognizable poster for Cassavetes' Gloria that my friend spotted in the subway scene... shots of punk graffiti scrawled (often in the same handwriting,  suggesting it was deliberate set decoration, not just a coincidence) on both the walls of the underground and the phone booth that David calls home from - you see the name of the UK Subs more than once, and also can spot the Jam, the Sex Pistols, and others, none of which would have meant anything to me at all when I first saw the film at age 13 or so (I was 13 in 1981, the year of the film's release, and didn't learn about punk rock or hear the Sex Pistols until 1982; certainly I had no clue about the Jam or the UK Subs). 

The biggest mystery revealed is one I did not snap a pic of, but involves the glass on the far side of that phone booth. As we close in on it, we see the words "Garfath does parties." I am not the first blogger to speculate as to the significance of that phrase: Cinesthesiac calls it "one of the most mysterious pieces of background graffiti ever filmed... what the hell did that ever mean?" (That was the first link that came up when I Googled "Garfath does parties" - an article explicitly about An American Werewolf in London - so there's no other "Garfath does parties" out there; there's "She's in Parties" by Bauhaus but the film predates that album, so it seems conspicuously irrelevant). Indeed, Cinesthesiac, what could "Garfath does parties" ever mean?

The phrase is unusual enough that at first I thought it might be an anagram. (Note: this is actually a foolish rabbithole - there's a much easier explanation, which we will get to presently - but it will be more fun if you come down the hole with me first). Sometimes when you are doing anagrams, trying to rearrange the letters of a phrase into a new phrase, you can cheat; when no words suggest themselves, you can make up a name. Let's say you have a phrase like "paradise for the stag," for example (actually backformed out of "Garfath does parties," and not particularly meaningful, but it will serve the purpose here as a let's-pretend starting point). You look for the first word that jumps out at you - let's say you see "parties." (This leaves you with "ad for he stag"). "Parties" is a noun, so - if your aim is to produce a sentence, next you want to try for a verb; maybe "forget," as in, "forget parties," for example? You scratch it out on a piece of paper - it's a promising phrase - but it takes away a few too many letters; you are left with a mere "adhsa" to work with, which isn't much if you want another word or two.  

After a few minutes of rearranging "adhsa," you discover that you find nothing you like. ("Parties forget a dash?" Not very evocative, that), so you decide to scrap "forget" and look in the previous combination of letters ("ad for he stag") for a shorter verb than "forget," so you have more letters to play with in making your anagram. Aha, there's "does!" That's a good, simple verb. So you will now try to fill in the blank on "____ does parties."

I hope you are finding my breaking down the process of coming up with a good anagram interesting.

Sadly, once again, working with "___ does parties," you are stuck with an unworkable tangle of letters, "afrhtag," for the sentence's subject. "Fart-hag does parties?" Well, maybe, but what's a fart-hag? The phrase goes beyond the evocative and mysterious into vulgar obscurantist Dadaism or something. You guess that you could cheat by having a single un-worded letter sticking out - pardon my reference to a homophobic slur, but something like "Artf-g H does parties," say - but that also doesn't appeal - because it's a slur, and because of that wordless, meaningless H, which is a cheat. So we still don't have a good phrase.

 This is how we might arrive at the conclusion that it would be best if it were a name: Garfath! "Garfath" does parties. It's enigmatic, but it has a certain ring to it, and Garfath FEELS like it could be a name - maybe the night janitor at Hogwarts, or something? A minor orc, or dwarf warrior? Why not. 

Anyhow, thinking that Garfath might be exactly this - a name arrived at by working with the letters you are stuck with in the process of creating an anagram - I tried coming up with what MIGHT have been the original phrase, and had no luck. I spent about an hour on the bed with a notepad, patiently writing out "Garfath does parties" and crossing out each letter as I used it. I noticed that there's a "spaghetti" available, so tried that word, working with what was left: "Spaghetti rode as far?" "Safe spaghetti ardor?" "Road spaghetti fears?" Nah, none of those seem like phrases that John Landis might have wanted to code into the graffiti. "Grasp at fad theories?" Also not likely, though I did feel like I was grasping at a theory throughout. The best one I came up with was, "So I farted at grapes," but it doesn't mean much. "A short, rapid gorefest" works, too, but the film, concise and gory though it may be, is neither "rapid" nor a "gorefest."  I was stumped.

Then it hit me that maybe the problem was that I was Googling the whole phrase. The three words "Garfath does parties" may ONLY appear in popular culture in An American Werewolf in London, but - if Garfath is actually a real name, maybe there's information on it? 

And so I arrive at David Garfath, a camera operator on, yes, An American Werewolf in London, and Second-Unit Director on Landis' later film, Spies Like Us. I have no information about the specific nature of the teasing was - was Garfath available for hire at this point to film people's parties? Was that a thing back then? But that "most mysterious" piece of graffiti was apparently some in-joke in the film, the set decorator (or Landis himself?) playfully and obscurely referencing a cameraperson. 

Without that 4K projection, I would never have known any of this - and wouldn't have wasted a couple of hours down this silly rabbithole. But let me just say, dear reader, if at some point in the future you have arrived at this blogpost by your own Googling of "Garfath does parties," that a) you are welcome; b) I am pleased that you are also Googling the phrase - that people will still care enough about An American Werewolf in London, perhaps for years to come, that it would be something anyone Google, and that c) I deeply approve of your quests. Have fun. If you have MORE information than I about the specific kinds of parties that Garfath used to do, or can pass this on to John Landis, wherever he may be, to FULLY clarify this matter, I would be most obliged. 

See you next Wednesday.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Vic Bondi: 11 questions on Bob Mould, Articles of Faith, and The Ghost Dance(s)

Vic Bondi on acoustic guitar, courtesy Vic Bondi

NOTE: since this was published, Vic Bondi has put his solo album, The Ghost Dances, onto bandcamp

Did anyone else have the same experience as I did with the film American Hardcore - where you suddenly discovered a half-dozen bands on the soundtrack that you had never heard (or even heard of) before, mostly because their records were ones that you just didn't come across back in your hardcore years? There were a few for me - but the two best songs that I'd had no prior frame of reference for were early west coast hardcore band Middle Class doing "Out of Vogue" and Chicago political punks Articles of Faith doing a song called "Bad Attitude." I would have loved to have stumbled across either band in the mid-1980's. I didn't. But suddenly I discover I have a chance to see Articles of Faith vocalist Vic Bondi - the man who co-wrote "Bad Attitude" back in 1982 - apropos of his upcoming appearance at the Rickshaw, opening for Bob Mould. Bondi lives in Seattle these days, and the two, Bob and Vic, have considerable history together, with Mould having produced the two Articles of Faith LPs, Give Thanks and In This Life). 

Now don't get me wrong: I greatly enjoyed Mould's last two shows at the Rickshaw, even got to talk to him about the last one, when he was touring Sunshine Rock. (I also blogged an expanded discussion with Mould, here, and a few years prior, wrote a review of his previous show, which, like the upcoming show this Thursday, was a true solo venture, just Mould and his guitar). But with apologies to Bob, I am presently much more excited to be playing catchup with Articles of Faith and Vic Bondi, and his various other projects like Dead Ending and Jones Very - the Wikipedia page on him, with a more detailed list of bands he's recorded in, is here - because this is someone I knew nothing about prior to last week, and whose 1988 solo album The Ghost Dances comes as quite a revelation.. 

I *have* sent some questions to Bob Mould, in case he has time for a brief email interview; who knows if he will get back to me. While we wait, though, take a listen to Vic Bondi's The Ghost Dances yourself and check out the email interview below. (As always, italics are me).

Allan: How did you connect with Bob as producer on the two Articles of Faith LPs? Any stories or memories about Bob's contributions, or Husker Du, or...?

Vic:  I've known Bob for forty years. I can't remember our first introduction, but I do remember the first time I saw him and  Hüsker Dü. It was probably late Nov of '81 at this punk rock dive bar in Chicago called O'Banions. They played on a bill with the Replacements opening up, and it was bitterly cold, and the bar had no heat. This was Land Speed Record era HD. I had never heard them before and they came on and it was pure sonic blur. Just a wall of volume and noise. It took me four or five songs to realize the drummer was singing. It was more performance art than rock and roll, and I was hooked. Fantastic band. I felt like I was honest witness to their evolution into a spectacular rock and roll band because, after that, we played with them many, many times, and they were constantly innovating and resetting the goal posts for what hardcore could be. When they recorded Zen Arcade in California, Chicago was a stop on their way back home, and I will never forget Bob playing that on the stereo of the AoF hardcore house, Big Blue. We all knew it was genius.

Where did the name Articles of Faith come from? (It's a Mormon concept, isn't it?). I gather that a later project of yours, Jones Very, was named for the Unitarians? Why the interest in Christian offshoots? Is it a comment on the "religious" aspects of punk, or your upbringing, or...?

I'm not Mormon and didn't get the connection to Articles of Faith as a religious idea until later. The name came from a song we had written called "Articles of Faith," which was more about how social and political indoctrination became faith. At the time, the band AoF was called "Direct Drive," which was the name of the band guitarist Joe Scruderi and I had formed in college. We had played shows under that name when we moved to Chicago, but we were developing a new sound and wanted a new name to go with it. So we picked the name of that song. In retrospect a good choice because as political as AoF was, it was also a very expressive group. Sometimes people will cite our second album In This Life as a progenitor of emo. So the name reflects that, too.

Jones Very was an actual person, a poet in Emerson's circle, touched with madness. At the time I formed that band I was reading a lot of Transcendentalism and had a completely ridiculous conceit that I could create "transcendentalist rock" - which in retrospect is one of the silliest propositions I've ever come up with. But the name is kind of a good fit for the post-punk sound of that band. There were a bunch of "Jones" bands around that time, though, so I guess I wasn't as clever as I thought.

Have to ask about "Bad Attitude," which is the first song I heard of yours, on the soundtrack to American Hardcore. You repeat the single phrase "bad attitude" so many times that it becomes delightful and kind of ridiculous. I don't recall any other songs that hammer home a two-word chorus as often as that (tho' surely there must have been Ramones songs that did that). Was there a specific inspiration for it?

Growing up, I was told I had a bad attitude enough that it became a mantra for me. Since that is easily the most popular AoF song, I guess it did for a lot of other people, too.

What did you specialize in as a history teacher? Is there an overlap between your career as a professor and your writing an album titled after the Ghost Dance...? Why did you pluralize it to The Ghost Dances...? (Wasn't it one thing, a singular ill-fated religious movement to wish away the white man? I haven't read Bury My Heart in a long time...). 

I took a doctorate in intellectual history from Boston University in 1993. I taught a lot of American history, culture and philosophy for around eight years in Boston and New Hampshire, and yes, the Ghost Dances is deliberately a play on that movement, which in a lot of ways closes an epoch of indigenous culture on the Plains that began with the introduction of horses. It's a sad moment in history, almost an elegy for a world in passing. I had written a cycle of songs on the AoF 1985 tour going through Montana and Wyoming, as the band was ending, I was breaking up with my girlfriend and moving to Boston. I had never been to the Plains before I toured in AoF, and the sky and depth of that place really affected me. So much sky that it crushes you. I recorded the album that winter, at Inner Ear studios in DC with Don Zientara. Since the songs were written and fixed in the Plains, and my personal situation was also changing radically, I borrowed the term.

The record actually came out by happenstance. In the beginning, I just made a cassette of those songs and gave it to friends. But people started copying it and circulated widely with people and eventually Pat Dubar from Uniform Choice--who I didn't know--contacted me and asked if he could put it out as a vinyl record, which he did in 1988. It was probably the first acoustic record that came out of that hardcore scene. There weren't many copies made, but for the people who have that record... a lot of them really take it to heart. It's probably the most deeply felt work I've done, and seems to resonate with people that way. I'll be playing of lot of these songs opening for Bob.

There are a lot of effects on the album- was there a specific inspiration or reason for that? Are you playing everything? The songs & your delivery remind me a bit of Bill Fay, but he's not so well known, so... 

I was trying to write something like Blood on the Tracks or Nebraska with The Ghost Dances--not that it's in that league. It was a great record to record, because Inner Ear was at that time still in Don's basement, and it was just him and me working together. There's actually almost no effects on that record other than us messing with reverb--there was a little synthesizer in the studio, so I threw some ambient stuff in there. But most of the ambient sounds you hear is just my voice or guitar with a lot of reverb.

How old were you when you wrote "Getting Nowhere?" It seems like the sentiment of a younger man, not someone who was fairly accomplished (which you seem to have been by 1988). I can only make out some of the lyrics - is it just about being frustrated with where you were, personally? (Do you actually sing "the chorus just repeats?" That's pretty great. Can you give us the full lyrics to that song?)

 I was 25 when I wrote "Getting Nowhere":

Outside looking in again
Cold northeastern wind
Getting nowhere
Hope beside the iron skin
nothing getting in
Getting nowhere

All my life is waiting by the door...

Nothing gained and nothing spent
returning what was sent
Getting nowhere
Arcs and circles
daisy chains
back to where we came
Getting nowhere

All my life is waiting by the door...

All the days in numbered line
The past that haunts the life
Getting nowhere
All the days in numbered chain
The past that haunts the dream
Getting nowhere
The chorus just repeats
The chorus repeats.

Thanks. It's an amazing song. Um, do I gather you have an unreleased acoustic album - a follow up to this, or precursor? What happened to it? Will we hear any of that...?

I actually have two unreleased acoustic records--In Hope and Fear, which I recorded in Beverly, Mass in 1991, and Across the Bridge, which I recorded in Seattle in 2010. There are also two albums that I recorded with Tom Morello in 1996-97 that have never been released and probably won't be, since Tom reused a lot of the songs he wrote for that project, which he called Weatherman, for Audioslave. 

Vic Bondi with Teenage Time Killers, courtesy Vic Bondi

What else do you play during a live set? Are there any Articles of Faith songs, or songs from your career in punk?. I see that you've recorded a couple of cover tunes - "Fortunate Son" and "Complete Control" - do you include them - or any Dead Ending covers?

 I've worked up acoustic versions of songs by all the bands I've been in: AoF, Jones Very, Alloy, Report Suspicious Activity, Dead Ending and my current band Redshift. And Ghost Dances and a couple of new ones. What I play is whatever I feel, and can fit into thirty five minutes each night.

It sounds like you've changed "Complete Control" into a protest song about COVID measures...? (Please feel free to share your point of view on COVID, whatever it may be. I myself am doubly vaxxed, but have good friends who have remained unvaccinated). How have you weathered COVID? 

I'm triple vaxxed and spent the pandemic at the house, like everyone. DE's version of "Complete Control" wasn't specifically about the politics of COVID and definitely wasn't anti-mandates. I recorded it remotely from the rest of the guys, so I thought I would update the lyrics to reflect what we were all going through. I was shooting for a more general "this sucks" and not "mandates suck." God forbid those idiot Truckers would pick it up like that. But you can't control how people interpret songs. Aof was playing a show in Germany, and during "Remain in Memory," which is a break-up song, this guy was in front of me seig-heiling every time I sang the lyrics, "Remember Me!" -- No one could have ever got the intent of a song more wrong.

Any history with Vancouver? When did you move to Seattle, and do you ever come up here? (I hadn't noticed before - sorry!).

AoF played Vancouver once, in 1983, at some bar in Gastown--I don't remember the name. We played for about three people. Ron Reyes from Black Flag had set up that show, and hung out with us at this squat where we stayed. We went out to get beer the night before the show at some bar and on the way back, we got jumped by these three geezers. They were stalking us from behind and keyed on Ron because he was a small guy and they thought he was an easy target. They were wrong--he hauled off and decked the first guy and then it was on, and we put down the beer and started chasing these guys down the street. Halfway down, we looked back, and this other geezer was taking off with the beer. Which is how I learned that Canadians love beer so much they'll take a broken nose in return for a six pack.

Maybe the story will jog Ron's memory - he's still around, though he's been quiet through COVID - I don't think I've seen him take the stage since Chip Kinman played the Rickshaw with the Three O'Clock Train in the spring of 2019. But to come back to it - will you collaborate with Bob at all at the Rickshaw - join him for a song? (Have you shared a bill before, or is this a special event for you?).

Bob asked me to open for him a few times, back in the day, and before the pandemic in Seattle. This is the first time I've been on an extended run with him, and I'm really honored that he would ask. I will say one of the best nights of my life was in 1985 when Hüsker Dü called me onstage at the Paradise in Boston for an encore of "Ticket to Ride."

Rickshaw event page here - still tickets available!