Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Blind and Proud: Blind Marc on skateboarding, Isolated Earthlings, Mutated Earthlings, Dayglo Abortions and more

"He’s honest to the core, one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever known in my life. Also, because he’s blind, he’s really good at organizing everything, because he’s got to keep things carefully where he knows them. And he remembers his routes: if you take him out for a drive somewhere, he remembers every turn, how far we went approximately, and he can pretty well walk his way back. He’s said, 'If I didn’t figure that out, I would obviously already be gone. I would get lost and I’d die,' or whatever. So he had to figure that out. I’ve led him into things and got him in trouble occasionally, but apart from that, he’s the least handicapped guy in the fuckin’ band. His memory is intact, he’s not like me or Matt, we’re like, 'Woo hoo,' we have our heads in the clouds, maybe would be a polite way to say it… no offense Matt..."

- Murray Acton on Blind Marc, Dayglo Abortions drummer

"Blind and Proud" by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Yay! I'm finally getting around to interviewing Blind Marc.

I've had the Mutated Earthlings CD for quite some time - Blind Marc's first solo project, distro'd by Absolute Underground and not online at present - though there is a clip of Blind Marc on guitar at the Cambie in Nanaimo, fronting the band with Murray on drums, and a studio clip of one song, "Commodore 64," that appeared on a comp (but not the CD). (A bandcamp page for the project is in the works, Marc tells me, but it's going to have to wait awhile - between the current tour and Murray's cancer, the Dayglos have plenty 'nuff to deal with right now). Musically it's straightforward, tuneful punk rock, but the lyrics are funny as hell - especially "Swearwords in Braille," which is a tiny crash course in Braille, with lyrics that describe the position of the dots in a Braille alphabet, which you can compare, as Marc sings, with the chart on the CD insert to spell out words like FUCK. It's the only Braille I've ever learned; I've occasionally worked with blind and visually impaired coworkers and students, but it took a punk drummer with a sense of humour for me to actually learn how to read in that alphabet. Who doesn't want to read FUCK in Braille? 

Plus he's a fellow part-Ukrainian (the closing track on the album is "Ukrainian Christmas." I wonder if David M. - for Matychuk - knows it?). 

Anyhow, I'd wanted to interview Marc for awhile, so I was very happy to learn that he had a new solo album, his lockdown recordings, nicely complimenting Murray's own COVID-19 Nervous Breakdown album, released under the name Isolated Earthlings. It's pretty much all Marc, and unlike that previous CD, is all available on Bandcamp, so I'll let you discover it yourselves; it's even goofier than the Mutated Earthlings CD, has Marc taking spoken word parts that almost approach standup comedy, with an even denser web of pop-culture references. It's also available on vinyl in select record stores (Supreme Echo and Ditch on the island, for example) and will be gracing some Dayglo merch tables sometime soon (as will vinyl of the Dayglo Abortions' fab recent album Hate Speech, though perhaps not for their shows this weekend).

I'm not sure what technology Marc is using to assist him - some sort of text-to-speech/ speech-to-text program, but our email interview worked pretty well! (It works better than the speech-to-text stuff my not-so-visually-impaired friends use, anyhow - mostly I just needed to fix some punctuation and capitalization, whereas some speech-to-text apps seem to be beaming signals from space). I'm in italics, Marc is not. See Marc with the Dayglo Abortions on their current tour!    

Allan: Can I print your last name? Do I assume (from "Ukrainian Christmas") that t's Ukrainian? (I see an Edmonton politician with your name - a relative?). Can you give us a bit of your history?

Hlady is my last name and yeah it is Ukrainian. My dad is half Polish, half Ukrainian and the other Mark Hlady is my dad‘s cousin; he was an MLA in Alberta out of Calgary for years. I don’t think he is doing it anymore though, I think he’s retired.

I was born and raised in a small town outside of Edmonton called Fort Saskatchewan. When I finished high school, I moved to Calgary for a year because I was playing in a band called the Boozehounds

[Note, this is the right Boozehounds, but Marc is not on this cassette, he tells me]

Then I moved out to Victoria in 1995 and started a band called Drunktank. [Not a lot online that I can find but Paulina Ortlieb did mention them when I interviewed her about Somewhere To Go, the Victoria punk documentary]. I lived in Victoria until 2016; that’s when I moved out to Sooke. I like it out here, it’s a small town like the one that I grew up in, and if I need to practice or play a show or whatnot I’ll take the bus into Victoria. 

So which came first for you, drumming or punk rock? Who was the first punk band you loved, the first punk album you heard, first punk show you went to? What was the first band you drummed for?

I guess punk rock came first. I had older brothers, so I was introduced to punk/ hardcore when I was nine. I remember hearing a lot of different bands at the same time, the most memorable probably Dead Kennedys' Plastic Surgery Disasters, Black Flag's Damaged and My War, the first Suicidal Tendencies album, the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation with all kinds of good bands like Flipper, DOA, the Subhumans, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, MDC etc. The one song off that album "Isotope Soap" always made me laugh. Also the Dead Milkmen and of course the Dayglo Abortions. But like I said I was only nine so I was still a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons and putting Garbage Pail Kids stickers on my skateboard and what not. A couple years later when I was 11, my brothers took me to my first punk show in Edmonton. It was SNFU and Beyond Possession. It was this club called sSudio 82 on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, there was a video arcade in the front lobby of the building I remember, in between bands, playing Double Dragon, seeing the drummer is playing 100 miles an hour and all the cute little punker girls screaming and yelling, I pretty much started playing the drums the next day. Being an awkward shy blind kid with Coke bottle glasses and a crooked Spock haircut, I figured this might be something I can do. The first band I ever played in was called Malicious Intent; we were a thrash metal band. I was 15 when I joined that band.

Is that online? There seem to be other bands of that name out there, but I can't find recordings of that one.

Malicious Intent pretty much was only around for about a year; we didn’t have any recordings. I think there’s, like, a ghetto blaster basement recording somewhere. I don’t have it though.

Blind Marc with the Dayglo Abortions by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

How do people react to your blindness in band auditions? Are there weird assumptions that have to be overcome? I assume most people actually want to be positive and helpful, but I have heard people say things like, "Wow, thw drummer for the Dayglo Abortions is blind, that is so cool!" - which is pretty positive, but on the other hand, why does it seem unusual or surprising to them? (Tho I guess I don't know of any other blind drummers...)

Well I started playing in bands when I was a teenager and throughout the years pretty much just joined other bands with my friends so it wasn’t like I ever really played in bands with people I didn’t know. I don’t get offended when people are stoked that I am a blind drummer the way the world is these days I guess people need to find inspiration wherever they can. I’m happy to play my part.

Do people ever do things you wish they wouldn't at gigs? Do you have any do's and don't for Dayglos fans?

No I think people can do whatever they want I guess the only thing I would say is stop fucking around with Murray‘s microphone he keeps on getting smashed in the mouth and I know that really pisses him off, so be respectful of his space if you want him to keep on rocking out for you. I’m hiding in the back behind the drums so I’m usually out of harm's way. 

Blind Marc skateboarding (still from a video, courtesy Blind Marc)

I never actually asked Murray about skateboarding. Was that a part of the band culture for the Dayglos? Did you ever actually go "Skateboarding Blind" [a song on the Mutated Earthlings album?] is that really a thing? Did the Jaks or such have a hand in that? Do you take any special precautions? What are your worst wipeouts?

Well, I think skateboarding and punk rock was always kinda tied together for sure. Myself I started skateboarding when I was nine. Me and my brothers got into it back then in the mid 80s. I had a bit more vision when I was a kid. I could see really good at night time, I could never see good enough to play team sports or read the chalkboard or drive a car, but riding a skateboard was something that I could do. I used to love bombing hills and me and my buddies would always skate the curbs at 7-Eleven. Nowadays I just skate bowls and half pipes. I pretty much don’t have any vision anymore, just some light perception, so skateboarding down the street is out of the question these days. I prefer bowls because there’s no edge for me to skate off of. Believe me I have launched off the side of half pipes more than once in my day, drop in, do a kick turn and then head down the other side at full speed and then launch off the side of the ramp and catch 10 feet of air and when you’re blind you can’t see where you’re landing so you basically curl up in a ball and hope for the best. Nowadays I wear kneepads a helmet and wrist guards. I can’t afford to be breaking my wrist, won’t be able to play the drums and that’s my livelihood, so I don’t mess around anymore. 

Setting up at the Biltmore by Allan MacInnis

Probably this is in Chris Walter's book somewhere, but what's your early history with the Dayglo Abortions? (The only reference I can find has you filling in for Bonehead, in the last chapter, but I haven't read the whole thing). I've only ever seen you as their drummer, with the first time being the Chris Walter band bio launch at Funkys - was that close to your permanent starting point?

When I moved to Victoria in 95 we started Drunktank and basically just had parties at our house with bands; we would always open up the shows. We got to know the local bands in town and started getting other gigs. By that point Murray quit the Dayglos for a few years and he had a new band called Lummox. Back then every last Wednesday of the month was welfare day, so there was always a gig in town that night. So one month we would open up for Lummox, next month we would open up for the Dayglos. Then I think in around 1998 Murray join back with the Dayglos and they recorded Death Race 2000. In the fall of 2000 they had a tour lined up with Dr. Know down the West Coast. Bonehead couldn’t get across the border so they asked if I would be able to fill in for the trip. Over the next 10 years, I did about three or four trips down south with them. In the fall of 2010, Bonehead retired so I got a full-time job, have been the drummer ever since.

What are the best and worst things about being the drummer for the Dayglo Abortions? Murray makes it sound like YOU are the responsible level-headed one and he and Matt are dazed and confused. Does that ever get frustrating? Or does Murray exaggerate how dazed he and Matt can be? 

I can’t really think of any bad things about being in the band. In fact every night on stage, I pretty much have to pinch myself in between songs. It’s a dream come true playing in this band getting to travel the world meeting new people all the time and playing music. When I was 12 and just learning how to play the drums in my basement, I used to play along to Feed Us a Fetus on my Walkman, so 35 years later still doing what I’ve always wanted to do so I can’t think of anything bad about that. I think we’re pretty much an unstoppable machine we all do our part to keep things rolling.

Dayglo Abortions L-to-R: Murray, Matt, Marc, by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Do you have a dayjob?

No playing the drums is pretty much what I do. I was teaching drum lessons on and off for a few years but COVID pretty much shut that down.

Do you ever have input into Dayglo Abortions' songwriting? Does Murray write drum parts for you? Do you get together to practice or play when you don't have shows? (I gather Matt doesn't).

Murray writes all the lyrics and all the music, but I definitely come up with my own drum parts. He lets me know if I’m playing too fast or too slow that kind of thing. We don’t practice that much because Matt lives in Vancouver and me and Murray are on the island but whenever we have an opportunity to practice we take advantage of it for sure.

Honestly the set list that we play nowadays is pretty awesome all kinds of songs from Fetus mixed in with a bunch of our new ones from the past 10 years. I learned how to do my punk beat playing along to Fetus like I said earlier so I like to keep all those old ones pretty similar to the way Bonehead played them for sure.   

Your favourite drummers are...?

Well I’ve always kind of been a four-on-the-floor rock ‘n’ roll drummer. I respect all the jazz guys but it just was never my style. To this day my favourite drummer is Ringo. Bill Ward, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Tommy and Marky Ramone for that good solid eighth note on the hi hat. Then of course a whole slew of different punk rock and thrash metal drummers that would take me about 10 pages to list all their names. 

Blind Marc black and white by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Murray is just bursting with opinions. Are the two of you mostly in agreement about things, or do you have areas where you differ? (Do his lyrics ever get under your skin? I took a long time coming round to "After this Beer." And I'm not sure that the world needs "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" right now).

The world needs people like Murray to push the envelope and to talk about things that make people uncomfortable. By the way Murray is the most tolerant accepting person I know, he doesn’t have a racist, homophobic or any-other-phobic bone in his body. I think if he wanted to he could probably get a job writing for South Park those guys are on the ball too. I think the mass awakening is happening. The manipulation, fear and propaganda isn’t working anymore people see through all the lies and deception the politicians and corporate media are trying to push on them. People are sick and tired of all the hatred and outrage amongst each other most people just want to get along and get through life and be happy. It’s the billionaire elites that are in charge and they want us peasants to be fighting with each other distracted and not questioning what’s really going on behind the scenes. They’ve divided us all into different factions, they know if we unite we won’t put up with their bullshit anymore.

There are a bunch of references to movies and TV in your lyrics - slasher movies, SCTV, Spaceballs... What are your favourite comedies and horror movies? Do you "watch" them with descriptive audio? (I've never tried that, actually - have no idea what it's like; but I assume it's not all equal. Are there levels and degrees of descriptive audio - like, what does "good" descriptive audio sound like? What is bad? Do you see movies in theatres? (How does that work?).

Definitely all the movies from the 80s are my favourite, those are the ones I grew up watching. I have a whole bookshelf full of old VHS movies in my garage, unfortunately none of them have audio description though. All the different streaming sites have audio description it is very helpful for sure. I haven’t been to the movies in years but they do have audio description there. Audio description reads the screenplay so it doesn’t talk during the dialogue. You basically just put on a set of headphones that plugs into a little wireless device about the size of a pack of smokes.

On the SCTV track on the bandcamp page for new album, there's a note in the place of the lyrics about how you are not only certified blind, but certified lazy, with some grumbling about transcribing lyrics and carrying drums and such. Do I assume that is Murray?

Yeah that is Murray for sure he helped me put together my bandcamp page. He’s help me do a lot of recordings and anything I need done on the computer over the years.

In regard to the song "Pizza Toppings," what is your favourite KIND of pizza and your favourite pizza chain? (My wife and I, when we are on the island, often go to Ali Baba).

Best pizza shop on the island is Peninsula Pizza out by the airport in Victoria. They got so many different good pizzas there. My favourite one is probably the Maui wowy, it’s a Hawaiian with bacon cheddar and banana peppers added.

I'll try it next time I am on the island! But I have to ask... This seems a high stakes tour for the Dayglos, given Murray's cancer diagnosis. Does it feel different? Are you going to do anything differently, given that it might be your last tour with the band for awhile?

Murray is a trooper if anyone’s gonna make it through it’s gonna be him for sure. We’re gonna play some good shows put out some good vibes and hopefully the universe pays back in tenfold. Humanity was meant to thrive.

Plans for the current tour? 

I guess to close it off here, I’m going to be bringing a box of Isolated Earthlings records on the road to sell at the merch table so come down to the shows and support. You won’t be disappointed. I’m going to be playing some Isolated Earthlings shows in the next few months here so I will keep you all in the loop so check my Isolated Earthlings Facebook page for more details. 

Oh cool! By the way, Murray was telling me about a fellow Mutated Earthling called No Thumbs Dave - is he still around? 

No Thumbs Dave was my bass player in the Mutated Earthlings. In the Isolated Earthlings I’ve got my buddy Big Rick playing the drums and my other buddy Matt on the bass. I am going to play guitar and sing when we play live. Big Rick owns Peninsula Pizza and Matt is a farmer so they’re not really able to leave town, so they are basically my island band. I’ve got a few of my buddies from Edmonton learning all my songs so they are going to be my Prairie band, then I’ve got some other buddies learning all my songs out in Ontario so I’m gonna probably fly out there in the fall and do 10 shows throughout Ontario and Quebec.

That sounds awesome.

And my album is still available digitally on my band camp page, blindmarc.Bandcamp.com

Blind Marc's kit by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

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