Sunday, October 23, 2016

My Girl Has a Big Muff: a Night at the East Van Opry

Note: all photos from last night, or bad and blurry photos in general, are from Allan MacInnis and his cellphone. All professional photos are credited and/or taken from the artist's websites. 

Last night was my first experience of the East Van Opry, and what a treat it was.

I went for Kitty & the Rooster and Petunia and the Vipers. I've been writing about Petunia for awhile now (see here, here, and here, for starters). He's great, the new album is great, and it was really funny to seee him break down "Lulu" live with a spoken introduction that kindly laid waste to my confusion as to what language it's in (because along with a bit of French and a bit of English, it's mostly just fast-paced scatting - or do you call it scatting when it's not improvised? Heck, I don't even know what you call it, but there's a phrase that comes very close to Nardwuar's "doot doola doot do," though with a different "tune" to it: if you pack in enough phrases like that, bits of more than one language, and do it quickly, and you've got one brain-tickling bit of confusion goin' on). Apparently Petunia has a regular gig right now in the WISE Hall lounge on Mondays, where he looks to be workin' up new material; meanwhile, Jimmy Roy, Ray Condo alum and Petunia's lap steel player is doing something on Sundays at the Revel Room Supper Club with the Do-Rites, featuring (taxidermy aficionado?) Kelly Haigh on vocals (also onstage for a bunch o' stuff last night, including co-hosting). I bet his electric guitarist Stephen Nikleva has a regular gig, too, somewhere in town, but there is so much great music in Vancouver these days it is overwhelming and impossible to keep up.  
Petunia by Ed Araquel

Meantime, I know Kitty & the Rooster from Virgo-a-Go-Go; they're a genuinely funny, smart, and rockin' rockabilly-blues duo made up of (apparent actual couple) Jodie Ponto (drums) and Noah Walker (guitar). Having only caught them in contexts where multiple bands play, I haven't seen a full set from them - just high-energy spice added to a night - but it sure is a tasty spice. I had felt kind of self-conscious down front for Big Top (doing a haunted and haunting country-surf instrumental set), where all the other photographers had real cameras... I shot my Kitty & the Rooster video from the balcony, where, at least for the first part of the evening, was the only place you could get seats (later on, when the lame left and the lively got dancing, it was very easy to head downstairs). Maxed out the space on my phone, so that's all you get from me, besides a few photos. They're really brilliant; that's 2/3rds of their set, minus a bit of their amusingly Daptones-y introduction, plus they also did their song about people bitching about the "damp cold" in Vancouver that will get you grinning. See them ASAP - they have a gig at the Tractorgrease Cafe in Chilliwack on the 29th, if you're out that way.

The Rooster, Noah Walker, also sat in with Fort St. John's visiting female duo Twin Peaks, who themselves came back onstage to accompany Victoria's legendary Caroline Mark - whom I have managed (mea culpa) never to have seen before. She provided funny, rude MC service, along with Kelly, and during her set, surely had the best opening line in a song, "who you gotta fuck to get laid in this town," which kicked off a hand-gesture rich number with a chorus of "get it up, get it in, get it out, don't mess my hairdo."  

In fact, I would have seen Carolyn ages ago if I'd know she was this ribald. Paul Rigby joined them onstage, too, and the woman who I believe is the event organizer, Kathleen Nisbet, who played a mean fiddle with another band of the evening, Viper Central. (Incidentally, do y'all know where the whole "Viper" thing comes from? The reason vipers are so popular in music, to my understanding, has nothing to do with poisonous snakes, cool as they are, but the hissing sound you make when sucking air in to cool the smoke, when you're smoking a joint!). Lotta unruly women in the East Van Opry (also enjoyed a soulful set from Dawn Pemberton, another performer I have not caught previously in any context).

Khari Wendell McLelland, from the artist's website

The other real discovery for me, a guy who I have never heard of before, was Detroit transplant Khari Wendell McLelland, who did country gospel numbers, including a really engaging sing-along called "Leave It There," by Washington Phillips (speaking of misunderstanding lyrics, the first time he sang the chorus I thought he was inviting the audience to "take your bird into the Lord and leave it there" - a song about bird abandonment? No, wait...). Clearly, based on his spoken introductions, Khari has taken a deep plunge into this sort of music (I'm a mere dabbler whose heart remains in punk and metal). I knew none of the songs he sang, but loved them all; and he was probably the best person, last night, at getting everyone to participate in singing along, making it really, really easy for the whole crowd (including me) to join in on choruses, because our parts required no skill - one song our vocal contribution was "mm hmm" - and because he was so warm and inviting in the way he solicited participation. He has a project I'll be glad to be able to write more on someday, about music and slavery, which informed one of his songs last night, though my memory isn't so hot unless I'm taking notes, so I've got nothing on it (something about agitators? All we can remember is his great-grandmother's name - or was it great great - which was Kizzy, and we can only remember that because he got us all to say it. Twice.)

(Carolyn, Kelly and company in raffle mode, because I got no other photo for this space)

Khari also had Noah Walker and the Be Good Tanya's Sam Parton onstage with him (and Dawn Pemberton, too). I missed Sam Parton's sets, otherwise, if she did other stuff - I basically arrived as country-rock band the Great North were finishing, also didn't see Twin Peaks do their thing, and I kind of regret it, because everything last night was fantastic. I sometimes do that, though: I don't get really excited about stuff until I've seen it once, am skeptical about people I've never heard of, and that's the wrong way to approach the East Van Opry. 

Other firsts last night included seeing a washboard played live, by oldtimey artists the Burying Ground (unless the Creaking Planks ever did washboard stuff?); and seeing the Vicious Cycles do an acoustic set - including a tribute to the late Ray Condo, "High and Wild," with Jimmy Roy joining them at the margins of the stage. Yes, that's Neptoon's Ben Frith on drums with the Cycles - who is the guy on theremin, though? (First time seeing the Vicious Cycles with theremin, for that matter). This band just gets better, every time I see them, and will surely eventually persuade me to buy all their albums (tho' it took me something like ten years of seeing the Jolts live before I broke down, so don't hold your breath!).

Then came the raffles! They had some really oddball prizes - Fluevogs, sure, but bicycle crates? TWO of them? They gave a lot of cool stuff away (though you had to buy tickets to participate - my girl bought a big strip). When they announced that they were going to give away a "big muff," I honestly imagined some item of clothing, something like a feather boa (though Erika tells me a muff is actually more like a hand-warmer). Turns out it's a fuzz pedal! So my girl has a Big Muff fuzz pedal now, and no electric guitar to be seen here. 

And that comes to the title and the point of this, really: does anyone want to trade her something cool for it? If you want to know where to aim your arrows, she likes shoes (size ten or eleven, and comfort and condition are very important), needs new tires on her car (badly), and we kinda need to get a bigger bed, we're both killin' our backs trying to share a twin. Other offers will be entertained!

The East Van Opry is a must-see event, folks, if you have any love of roots music. Get tickets early, next year, because there were people being turned away last night; and once you have tickets, believe what they say about an early start, and don't miss a single act. (I'll likely have more to come on both Khari and Kitty & the Rooster, if I can sway any local papers to let me cover them).

Train to Busan was great, too (Phantasm double bill Monday!). Huge thank you to the event organisers and the Rio for making last night truly delightful. Seriously, folks, so seriously I'll put it in capitals: THE EAST VAN OPRY IS NOT TO BE MISSED.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Is music journalism as we know it irrelevant?

What is it with young bands these days?

There are all sorts of reasons to blow off an interview - if the interviewer in question is a jerk; if you're actually worried that the gig might fall through; or, say, if you're a punk rocker, because you were up all night makin' mischief and are too hungover or messed up to be coherent. I understand that, I really do! And if I can, I'll reschedule, with no blame/ no pain.

I can even understand it if there's a communications/ technological failure. Like, for Psych Fest III the other week, a visiting band who I had hoped to interview  were on the road, with limited cellphone service and lots else to do, and between them and me both trying to avoid paying long distance charges, me miscalculating the timezone for one call, and them doing whatever led them to blanking on the other, I don't really hold a grudge. I would still talk to them if the opportunity arose. And I was able to make the article happen anyhow, much to the benefit of a local band. So whatever.

You know what I don't get, though?

A) Band hires publicist
B) Publicist contacts me
C) I find a home for the interview, tell publicist
D) Publicist contacts band management to set up an interview
E) No one hears back from them, despite repeated attempts on my part and the publicist's part
F) I have to scramble to find another article to fill the space that has been devoted to said band, so the paper isn't left high and dry, and me without a needed paycheque.

I will not name names as to what band I'm talking about, but they're going to play Vancouver soon - a band who is:

a) touring from overseas
b) playing a venue with a controversial history and a rep for kinda disrespectful, chatty audiences
c) probably going to draw far less of a crowd than they might expect in bigger cities, because (I strongly suspect) most people here in this not-world-class-by-a-mile burg barely know them.
d) playing a show where tickets are only $15
e) and worse yet, playing a dreaded "early show," which can sometimes mean the suckiest, tiniest crowd imaginable

I don't know where the chain broke down, exactly, but if they were my band - if I were a member or a manager or whoever dropped the ball - I wouldn't snub a press request, with no reason given. By completely ignoring all my requests, all they have succeeded in doing, besides totally wasting the money they spent on the publicist, is alienate someone who was previously excited to talk to them and go to the show, at the same time causing him to have to do work finding a substitute for the article, and pretty much guaranteeing that he will waste no future energy on them. Hell, I probably won't even go to the show, after the above experience, y'know?

Maybe young bands think word of mouth via social media is all they need these days, but I think they're wrong. Call it self-important or self-serving or what-have-you, but I think what music journalists do actually DOES MATTER; I wouldn't do it otherwise. Yet I gather that this is not just me that this kind of thing is happening to, lately. It frustrates the publicist, it frustrates the journalist, and it really does raise the question of WHY BOTHER? It's not like any of us are getting rich doing this, especially with papers shrinking and no one wanting to spend money on ads.

Am I wrong? Is music journalism irrelevant in the age of social media? What do you think?

(Incidentally, a couple of people in my friends list have asked me to write about them, leading me to spend some time researching them and coming up with questions, which they've then totally ignored. Do not do that, please, folks. I'm getting paid NOTHING for a LOT of what I do, these days - maybe a guestlisting is all I get out of it, often for a show I don't make it to. If you ask me to come up with questions, or even if I am the one approaching you, out of my own enthusiasm for this - if you say you want press, and I come up with questions - then please follow through and give me SOMETHING back, so I don't feel like I've TOTALLY WASTED MY TIME).

End rant.

Today at the Rio... East Van Opry, Train to Busan, plus Coming Phantasms!

Hm, Train to Busan, the Korean zombie movie that I missed, is playing at 1pm at the Rio today... Trailer looks great. 

Also... The East Van Opry later tonight, among a stellar lineup, has Kitty and the Rooster, who are hilarious and fun (guy - guitar/ girl - drums rockabilly - humour duo). And headliners are Petunia and the Vipers, whose new album I reviewed here. It's great! Though I actually meant "nothing so much as," not "nothing more than," when comparing one of the tracks to (Viper) Stephen Nikleva's Square Moon. Oops.

Also, Phantasm Remastered and Phantasm Ravager on the 24th! Awesome article here, not by me. 

That's a lot of cool stuff at the Rio in a short time period... I think I'm going to GO to some of it! Yaaah!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Recent work, needed work, plus bad news re Paul Leahy

Had a few things come online recently that I don't think I've pointed anyone towards. See articles on Huckle and Joey Only for BC Musician; Dirty Spells for West Ender; and Jesse LeBourdais and Bert Man for the Straight online-only.

And speaking of work, is anyone looking for someone of my skills? I've been scraping by on freelancing, the odd ESL teaching gig, and selling off chunks of my record collection, but I could use a straight gig, if anyone has something attractive and interesting (and, um, lucrative?). I'm spread too thin trying to get by in the short term to really get my act together to look for something more long-term right now, but folks, I'm takin' offers.

Just putting that out there.

Also, heard some very sad news about Paul Leahy, who has cancer and is not going to be performing anymore. I have no real inside information save what has been announced on the Polly Facebook page, at present, but it's apparently not looking so good. Polly has some great songs - I'm particularly into "Put a Little English On It," and "Change Yourself," on the Polly page, is pretty cool, too. Glad I got to see Polly once, sorry I didn't do anything to promote the second Polly release (I was kind of being distracted by my own difficult year when it arrived). Might be able to amend that, don't know. Wishing Paul and his family and friends the best, there can be a lot of love and positivity that come even in dark times, hope there's plenty of that around for them...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ryszard Bugajski's Blindness (Zaćma) at the Vancouver Polish Film Festival

I have more than a passing interest in the films of Ryszard Bugajski, but really it starts with Clearcut, his remarkable 1990's feature about a pissed off First Nations activist (or perhaps trickster spirit) on a rampage, teaching a well-meaning liberal a lesson in putting your money where your mouth is (AKA Direct Action). It's a refreshing change from white messiah narratives - his white messiah is ineffectual and hypocritical, and receives, rather than giving, the lesson - and Graham Greene's character, Arthur, is one of the most compelling, memorable characters crafted by any actor in the history of Canadian cinema. I'm hard pressed to think of another his equal.

Clearcut is also one of the cruellest films ever made in Canada, unless you're going to start talking Uwe Boll (more to come on him later). And it's flat out fascinating to me that the film was made by a Polish filmmaker - one identified with arthouse cinema, not exploitation - during a sort of creative exile in Canada, after pissing off the authorties with his (also remarkable) 1982 feature The Interrogation. How did that come to be, exactly? It's not a short story.

Anyhow, I have a very large interview with Mr. Bugajski that I was hoping to put into the world this week, to promote the Vancouver screening of his new film, Blindness, which I believe is the film he talks about at the end of the one section of it I put on my blog. I haven't managed to do that - too much else going on, including a return of my arthritis, which is making me reluctant to type too much right now.

But all of Bugajski's films that I've seen - The Interrogation, Clearcut, General Nil, and The Closed Circuit are worthy and compelling, although also rather dark, each with emphasis on persecution and torture, shared by his current feature. Along with the early films of Bela Tarr, Bugajski's Polish films are some of the darkest depictions of life in a Communist country (or a post-Communist country), that have been committed to celluloid. So I'm very interested in catching his new film at the VPFF, where it screens this Friday night. As with anything these days, it's uncertain that I will be able to go, but the trailer for the film can be glimpsed here.  The TIFF writeup is here, and a detailed review here (it seems positive, but I hate reading descriptions of films I plan to see anyhow, so you're on your own).

That's about all my wrist can take!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Colin Upton Kicks at the Darkness, plus Holocaust denial vs free speech; and Allan Remembers the Haters

Speaking of (legendary, once-Vancouver-based noise/ performance art band) the Haters - who came up a couple posts ago, in the Destruction Unit interview - I saw them once upon a time, didja know?  It was at (I think) an all-day festival of punk bands at (I think) the York Theatre in the late 1980's or early 1990's. It was the one time (I think) that I saw the Spores, the one time (I think) that I saw vintage Death Sentence - but all I remember about either band was arguing with a friend I was with about how the Spores were better than Death Sentence, which obvious fact she disagreed with (I think the liked the Death Sentence guy's big hair, which was almost as big as hers). There is not a single thing about their actual sets that stuck in memory, however, and no single other band on the bill that I recall, nothing else I can tell you about that day. It's even foggier in my memory than the one time I saw Tad (where all I really recall was my shock and awe when Tad stage dived). There is exactly one performance that I actually remember from that whole day: the Haters. Whom I hated: "I don't know what the hell this is, but it's not music!" Which it wasn't: they had power instruments with microphones attached and were drilling and grinding and cutting and welding onstage, with no other instruments involved. There might have been some smashing, too. Whatever exactly the hell they were doing, they were making sparks fly, because I remember the sparks; and they were making an ungodly ruckus, sonically, and had black hoods, which were quite menacing and anti-social. I remember trying to get as far away to them in the venue as I could, going upstairs, even, but there was no real way to escape. I couldn't wait for it to finish.

So go figure: the one time I think I saw one of my favourite ever Vancouver punk bands, the Spores, and all I remember from the gig was the band on the bill whom I could not stand. (Not that I feel that way now).

Not sure if Vancouver cartoonist, raconteur, and man-(walking)-about town Colin Upton was in the band or not, that day - I believe he has told me that the band never played the York Theatre, but maybe the gig was somewhere else? Regardless, he has been affiliated with the Haters for some time, even has a comic he does, in collaboration with the Haters, called The Happy Hater, "the cartoon mascot of The Haters noise art performance group."

The Haters also pop up now and then in his more autobiographical Self-Indulgent Comics, which I like a great deal - they're rich in psychological detail, show the inner workings of a man every bit as neurotic and eccentric as myself (maybe even moreso!) - sort of akin to Woody Allen or Albert Brooks in his level of self-deprecating, warts-and-all confessional, but in a very engaging and entertaining way; his own best comic creation, it seems, is Colin Upton. I have tried my own hand at cartooning, and freely admit that Colin is wayyyyy better than I am, has developed it to a level of success that I will never aspire to, but which speaks to me in a very personal way ("if I did something like this, I would do something almost exactly like this; this is just great.").

(I chose the above image because Erika just now was complaining about the drainage in our bathroom sink).

And with apologies to the (also phenomenally talented) Robin Bougie, probably my favourite ever Cinema Sewer strip is the one where Colin Upton shares his reactions to Bougie's diet of perverse pornography. (That's in one of the Cinema Sewer anthologies, maybe the first or second?). And, I mean, how can you not love Colin Cthulhu?

Colin was at a Robin Bougie birthday gathering not long ago - the one that set me off on my Bronsonquests, written about below - and told me that he had been commissioned to do some comic work relating to the theme of the Holocaust, to show as part of a Vancouver exhibition. Which is actually (to be totally honest) a side of Colin's I have less enthusiasm for: when buying bundles of his comics off him - I have a few around here somewhere, which have gotten boxed up in one of my several moves - I tend to skip through the ones themed around Canadian history. The ones about his frustrations with the transit system, his struggles with diabetes,  or  the restorative power of kitten farts are all more entertaining to me. But history has never been a passion of mine; I also have no real interest in Colin's meticulously painted historical miniatures, either. I mean, they're cool to look at, and it's educational to hear Colin explain about the uniforms on the armies and the details of the battles whatnot, but - I mean, history is just not my thing. It obviously is Colin's, which I can respect from afar. (It's also the thing of Danny of the Spores, didja know? He's a big WWI enthusiast and shot second unit on Passchendaele, where he got to play a dead soldier. But I digress).

(Colin refereeing a game of the war of the roses at the Trumpeter Club)

The Holocaust is a pretty interesting subject, however, and one of the few historical topics that I have read about, in the form of a book by Deborah Lipstadt on the dangers of Holocaust denial, currently relevant to the film Denial, discussed below. Plus I'm happy for Colin's participation in the event, so what the heck, let's do a Colin Upton interview! The exhibition opens this Sunday - see here, or also the PDF Canada Responds to the Holocaust .

Thanks to Colin Upton for his generous participation in what follows!

Allan: What do I need to tell people about your background, Colin? I know you first and foremost as a comics artist, but I also know you paint historical miniatures, that you are a tea lover, and that you were a member of the Haters... what else should people know about you?

Colin: I collect hats? I like to walk. I don't have a cell phone. I am a great big history nerd. I was interested mostly in military history but also, as an atheist in the history of religion, economics, politics, art, tea... put most anything in an historical context and I get interested. I have been for most of my life a war gamer, which gives me a good excuse to read more history. Even my work as an autobiographical cartoonist is for me leaving an historical record of my life and our times. I've also done comic strips, editorial cartoons, comic reviews of comics, illustration, concept art (for miniatures and a Douglas Coupland sculpture), paint, I've done some 3D sculptures and in the past co-hosted on a radio show about Noise and two about comics. This Northern Crusades image is from a game I put on pitting the Teutonic Knights VS Baltic pagans:

How did your passion for history get underway? When did you start doing comics dealing with Canadian historical themes?

Seriously, I was born into history. My father was a professor of Canadian history at UBC so history is in my DNA. My first mini-comic on Canadian history I did back in the 1990's, A short history of the longest undefended border, about the times the united States has invaded Canada. Canada has a long history of conflicts that nobody knows about because everyone thinks Canadian history is BORING! Actually, it's better now but when I was growing up nobody talked about Canadian history except Pierre Berton. My father was an Englishman, they had to bring him to this country because nobody here was interested in teaching Canadian history. It made me so frustrated because there were stories to tell. I started a series of Canadian history mini-comics about odd moments in Canadian military history, (Papal Zouaves anyone?) and approached the Canada Council about doing an expanded version, only so much information you can pack into a mini-comic, but they turned me down,,,, again...              
(Colin's painted miniatures dealing with the Fenian raids).

How did you end up doing the Holocaust-themed comic, Kick at the Darkness? How were you approached? What exactly will they be showing in the exhibit?

Miriam Libicki was speaking to a class' "The Jew in the Graphic Novel", being taught by Richard at UBC when they approached her about doing a comic to tie in with the exhibit he and Ronnie were putting together for the Holocaust Education Centre on the Canadian Army in WWII and the Holocaust. Knowing I was a BIG HISTORY NERD, she recommended they contact me. We met over tea and scones, they liked my work, I demonstrated a good general knowledge of the subject and the project interested me so I agreed to do it... plus I got paid. The exhibit is primarily photos and text although there might be an audio component, maybe even film... I'm not sure.

How was your family affected by World War II and/ or the Holocaust? Are there any personal resonances in this project for you? Are you tying in any family history, or is this a more objective project?

(The raw art for the Kick at the Darkness cover)

My father was affected by the war, as a boy he was evacuated from the south of England to the Welsh border during the Blitz. His parents stayed, my grandfather was a "fire-watcher" during the Blitz as part of the Home Guard, standing on the Houses of Parliament watching the bombs rain down on London on the lookout for fires started by incendiaries. My mother was safe in rural Wisconsin. I have no family connections with the Holocaust. I'm not Jewish but that hasn't been a problem for the people I've worked with. The focus of the comic is on the Canadian Army, which was overwhelmingly not Jewish  discovering the Holocaust, what they knew and what they discovered, so some objectivity was necessary. There were of course many Jews in the Canadian Army and they are part of the story... Complete objectivity is impossible when dealing with something so abhorrent. Studying military history you come across many atrocities which I view as the terrible things we humans do to ourselves.

I love your more personal comics, but, umm, I've noticed that there's an antipathy to spellchecking, sometimes! (You even remark on it in some of them, as I recall, about grammar Nazis getting your ire). It's interesting, though, because you seem to be a meticulous researcher, and to care about historical accuracy a great deal in your miniatures, - so it doesn't entirely fit. So does a project like this require extra attention to spelling and language (I assume you are hand-lettering your work, as is your norm..?)

Hand lettering, yes. Don't worry, I have editors. The problem I have with spelling is that I am slightly dyslexic and if I spent all my time worrying about spelling I'd never get anything done.

What research did you end up doing for this project, exactly? What are some of the more interesting things you've learned?

I have a massive reference library on military subjects that I was able to draw from and it gave me an excuse to buy MORE BOOKS!!! I did quite a bit of research online but mostly for visuals, the internet is broad but shallow. You can find lots of stuff online but often it lacks context, is inaccurate or someone is flat out lying to you. There are so many conspiracy theory, neo-Nazi Holocaust denying nutjobs out there but they are usually easy to spot. Even more respectable web sites can tell diametrically opposing stories about the same events. There are two mutually contradictory accounts of the liberation of Vugt Camp for example - I went with the one that told the better story. We found six stories of the liberation of Westerbork Camp, three I incorporated into the comic. I don't think people are always lying, but human memory is fallible and plays tricks on the best of us. I was very concerned with getting the uniforms and equipment correct, having glaring historical inaccuracies in comics really takes me out of the comic, and it's amazing how many versions of the Sherman tank there were! I had to find the right Sherman tank the for that time period in North-West Europe and the M5 75MM calibre gun Sherman the Anglo-Canadians used had a different hull structure from the American's 76MM calibre gun! Things nobody but me and similar history nerds would even notice, but I needed it to be as right as I could. I think the parts of the story that I was surprised with was that not all camps were death camps, some were transit camps and one that is part of the story was quite, well, pleasant - at least compared to a camp like Bergen-Belsen. It was the hardest part of the book to write because it dealt with collaboration, not wanting to know and what people will do to save themselves and their families. I imagine it will spark some conversations. It was also interesting to trace the changes in the Canadian Army's tactics, appearance and professionalism over the campaign.

Will you be present at the exhibit? Will you have other art or comics on hand? (It seems like the sort of thing where you might have to restrict yourself, but if fans want to drop by, can they?).

I'll be at the opening Sunday, haven't discussed anything beyond that. I won't have any of my comics for sale there. Fans are welcome. If someone wants to buy a copy there's a suggested $5 donation to the HEC.

I'm very curious about something. Your friend and occasional collaborator Robin Bougie seems to take a strong position on free speech; he doesn't seem to believe that people should be persecuted or arrested for works of art or writing or such, however controversial, seems to believe in absolute artistic freedom. I seem to recall him weighing in quite passionately on the Charlie Hebdo matter, and I believe you've voiced some opinions there yourself (but I'm not sure which box of stuff the comics I've bought off you are in, but you did, didn't you?). So before we get to the next question - what is your opinion on the issue of artistic freedom? Do you feel like artists should ever be censored for controversial or tasteless views? Has the issue of censorship ever affected you? (Were you at all restricted in what you could say or do in this project, by the way?).

I am a believer in free speech. I find attempts to silence, censor and de-platform speakers that are disagreeable that appear to be all the rage on college campuses these days to be despicable. If you disagree with someone by all means voice that disagreement, hopefully with reasoned argument rather than just by shouting them down or banning them. When you start censoring where does it stop? Already you have people feeling threatened if they use the less than current pronoun. The idea seems to be that we must not listen to each other and demonise anyone who threatens consensus of our "tribes". SJW's, AltRight, there is so much acrimony and hate! Which of them am I going to trust to chose what I may or may not read?

I am against child porn or similar that necessarily exploits real people but I am less bothered by drawings even if I do find them distasteful. In my own work I have not had much trouble with censorship but I've never felt the need to be really explicit. If the story needed it I have few qualms about being explicit. Virtually everything worth doing is going to offend somebody and religion should have no special protection from criticism or satire. Taste is in the eye of the beholder. It wasn't that long ago gay erotica was considered "distasteful" and banned. And in the age of the internet, I mean really, who are you fooling? If people want it they have more access to more kinds of porn (really, the variety of fetishes displayed on line is staggering) then at any time in human history and banning a few comics will not make a difference. I do accept content warnings on the cover of comic books to save on the hassle from parents.

On this project (and others that are not my own that I've contributed too) I accept that there will be restrictions because of the age of the intended audience or other factors. Kick at the Darkness had to pass review from a board of educators who didn't change much beyond some minor wording but I dropped a scene in a bar because they didn't like the depiction of men drinking beer! Holocaust is one thing, but beer? It's alright, the comic was better without that scene anyway. We did go through three drafts but that was mostly fitting a complex story into only 24 pages.    
This obviously leads to the question of Holocaust denial, hate speech, and the trial of Ernst Zundel. Is that discussed as part of this exhibit?  

I don't know for sure, I'm not involved in the exhibit myself. I get the impression it's fairly narrowly focussed on the Canadian Army in WWII but I do touch on Holocaust denial in post-war Canada in the comic in that virtually from day one people had a hard time believing or didn't want to believe such things were possible in Europe of the 20th century. People had been so used to wartime propaganda they didn't know who to trust, which is why making a record of the camps was so important. In the comic, I tell the story of Aba Bayefsky, one of several Canadian war artists who went to Bergen Beslsen concentration Camp to record what he saw in drawings and paint.

Does it come into your art? Do you think the Canadian government was right to go after him? (Have you read Deborah Lipstadt's books on the matter, or followed the libel suit by David Irving? Apparently it's the subject of a new film, Denial... haven't seen it yet, myself).

I did see Denial (with a friend who was a spectator for much of the trial) and I do recommend it. I'm a big Timothy Spall fan... did you see Mr. Turner? I have qualms about punishing people severely for their ideas, awful as they might be. If they aren't allowed to speak how will we know who the idiots are? Certainly Jim Keegstra should not have been teaching children. But once again, where does it stop? Anyway, it all seems so last century now that people are free to post any sort of hate-filled insanity online without consequence... particularly now that a certain American presidential candidate has made hate respectable.  

What else you working on these days? Where can people who want to check out your more, um, "entertaining" comics find you next? How should people contact you if they want to buy some of your work?

Right now I'm working on a comic just for fun, an adventure story set in HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos featuring HPL himself. I needed a break from Holocaust. I still put out the occasional mini-comic when the mood fancies and am thinking about a couple graphic novels (having a publisher would help), one an collection of Canadian history stories (the one the Canada Council rejected) and another world wide history of tea. There is one comic shop that stocks my mini-comics, R/X Comics on Main near Broadway, or you can E-mail me directly. I have an almost up to date listing of my comics at There's also Colin Upton Comics on Facebook and on my Youtube channel you can find "Today's Tea" where I review teas and talk about tea history.

Thank you, Mr. Upton! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Farewell, Nomeansno, Huzzah Invasives: Byron Slack and John Chedsey interviews

Nomeansno 2005, provided by John Chedsey, not to be reused without permission

John Wright doesn't much feel like talking about No Means No right now. Understandable, because he has, "with a heavy heart," announced on Facebook the retirement of the long-lived prog-punk band, which formed in Victoria in 1979, released their first album, Mama, in 1982, and attracted a worldwide following over the next three decades, with a particularly ardent fan base in Germany.

Wright's post continued on Facebook, saying that "a hiatus became a long hiatus and a lingering hiatus has become a permanent one. Thirty-five years and countless miles, a couple thousand shows and many more beers, a bunch of tunes and sweaty hoards of great fans, I can't say thanks enough to everyone."

Still, there are a few left lingering, like, is everyone in the band healthy? Is the relationship between brothers/ bandmates John Wright and Rob Wright okay? Will there be no reunion show? (Did DOA, long ridiculed locally for breaking up and then reuniting, playing farewell shows at every juncture, ruin the idea of the farewell show for the band - even though, until recently, that was just a DOA Urban Myth?).

John Chedsey - longtime webmaster at and sometimes Hanson Brothers referee - is willing to fill in a few blanks. There's nothing at all acrimonious about the split, he assures readers. And "everyone in the band is in good health these days," which is good to know (we'd like No Means No to at least be able to enjoy their retirement).

Chedsey continues: "Rob in particular has been taking much better care of himself pretty much since before his son was born in 2009. He started seeing a physical trainer, lost weight and changed his diet. The brothers' relationship is also solid. My guess would be that John is a tad disappointed NMN is retiring but since Rob's reason to leave music is to be a full time dad, it's hard to criticize that decision."

John Wright will  be working on Compressorhead, the all-robot band project he has been writing and singing for; Tom Holliston also has solo projects in the works, and Rob Wright has long been rumoured to be puttering at electronic music, though there is no word as to whether that will ever see the daylight.

Meantime, Chedsey has also opined, on the discussion forum - a relatively disinformation-free source of Nomeansno news - that he has personally chosen Invasives as "the next great Vancouver trio featuring brothers," adding that "Nomeansno was the bass version, Invasives are the treble version." Certainly I've noticed that on one of the so-called, tape-free "mixtapes" on my phone, "Living Your Life Like It's Somebody Else's" - my favourite Invasives song - makes a killer follow up to "The Day Everything Became Nothing" (try it sometime). One of the two brothers mentioned, Byron Slack, did a brief email interview with Alienated in Vancouver to discuss the passing on of the torch, as it were (they must surely get plenty of jokes about "Taking up the Slack" so I'm going to let that opportunity pass).

Invasives play Lanalou's on Wednesday, then continue with a Fraser Valley tour. 
Invasives provided by Byron Slack (Hans, Adam, Byron, I think!). 

Allan: We must begin with a question not about Invasives. Would you share your thoughts about Nomeansno's retirement, any favourite Nomeansno stories, songs, moments...?

Byron: Nomeansno, what can I possibly say? They created absolutely amazing music and are really incredible people. Always encouraging and helping. The focus was always on the DIY ethic and doing things well and smart. They had us open on more than a few tours after which I may have seen them live upwards of 60 or 70 times. I watched every single show and always wondered how they could do some of the things they did, literally in awe. Then after the show we'd go drink beers and giggle. Over time they became good friends even asking me to sit in on the drums for a Hanson Brothers tour and a handful of Nomeansno Clones The Ramones shows. A serious pinch me am I dreaming moment.

Am I sad that I might never see them command a stage again? Yes. But did they leave me with 30 years worth of crushing tunes? Yes they did! Some of the best in my humble opinion.

 "Living Your Life Like It's Somebody Else's" is such a great song that I worry that the band will burn out on the expectation of playing it and drop it from their set, like Bison finally did with "Wendigo." Am I in danger? Can you tell me about that song? (I realize it is not exactly new!). I don't want to denigrate your other material, but holy hell is that a great song!

Well thank you, It's a pretty new song compared to some of the older tracks we play, I think we all enjoy performing it and it's still challenging. I definitely understand what its like to get tired of playing a song but that one is still fun. That song was one of the last to come together for the Robot Stink album and my concern was that it was going to be too pop. But after recording it we all thought, hey that's pretty good. Sugar sweet darkness.

Are you working on new material? Debuting new songs? Tell me all about them...? When will the next full-on Invasives release be?

We will be doing a mix of our whole catalogue, some old some new, we did our best to mix it up and have some of the music off "Shorts" that came out about a year back. We have been working on a new record and are hoping to get in the studio early next year. We have some really great demos for an albums worth of material, you haven't heard the last of us yet. One new song might pop up in the set on any given night depending on what mood we are in.

Shorts is a weirdo little album! It kinda reminded me of Mike Watt's last opera. I confess to being puzzled by it a bit! There are a few songs I was really getting into, and then as soon as the hook sank, THEY STOPPED. It kinda gave me blue balls, if you know what I mean... I guess liked it best seeing it played live as one thing. Where did the idea come from to do that album, and do you still play it in your set as a unit?

We break it up now and utilize the songs as salt and pepper throughout the set. It was something I always wanted to do and always wished bands that I loved would do, just out of curiosity. There were other things at play at the time and the need to do something completely different was calling. It was really fun to make and it's really fun to play. All Recorded in one day. Someone keeps making the joke that we need to one day re-title the album "Slacks" and rerecord it as a full length. Har Har.

You have some great titles - Robot Stink, Desk Job at Castle Dracula, Embracing Evil... where did they come from?

I write the lyrics and titles for the releases, but Adam and Hans definitely edit me, I just keep bringing stuff to the table until they are like "that's cool". Robot Stink was something that Han's kids were saying that Adam thought was funny, we didn't have a record title at the time and it fit into the over all theme well so we were like lets use it!  

You also have amazing album covers. I think Desk Job at Castle Dracula is one of my favourite local album covers ever. What's going on in that cover? Why is Dracula so fat?

Jordan Bent did the art for our last two full lengths, we always admired his work and he would do our covers working with us on ideas that we had. For Desk Job at Castle Dracula I asked for Count Dracula as the Birth of Venus and that's what Jordan came up with. Old Boss Drac been drinking a load a blood my man, that's why he's so um ...healthy.

How far afield have Invasives toured? What was your most successful live show? What was the best bill you've played on? Any surprising or delightful fan moments?

Invasives have toured all over Canada and toured Europe several times reaching far and wide and dabbled very briefly in the states. Man, there have been so many amazingly surreal moments playing with your hero's or meeting a ripping new band, really its hard to pick. A super memorable night for me was playing in Sarajevo and no one knowing what to expect, our hosts turned out to be so amazing and we all had a wonderful time. The venue was packed, people were curious to here this weird band from Canada that no one had ever heard of. We had to play on borrowed gear because we had some border issue, and the gear that was supplied was very old and very well used. We were kinda like uh oh, but in the end it all worked out. Maybe we'll get to go back someday.

If people want to do homework before coming to the show, what should they listen to, read, or think about? What other bands will help prepare them for an Invasives show?

Listen to our music, we are on all the internet things, get ready to shake your butt in 7/4, and don't expect us to be nice people. (Kidding) we are very nice people who like to exaggerate, I have no idea if we have a song in 7/4.

What are Invasives favourite movies?

Die Hard (all of them)
Is there anything else we should say about your upcoming Lanalou's show and BC tour?

We will be playing some shows in Nov but not in Vancouver so this might be your chance to see us before 2017! Come on out and enjoy a Wednesday at Lanalou's!

Invasives by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. "Hey, wait a sec, where's Byron?"

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bronsonquest III:The Dream Warrior, plus Moe Tucker

Bronsonquest update: since last I wrote, I have acquired enough Charles Bronson DVDs to cease actively pursuing them. The White Buffalo is still ostensibly in the mail, and I was able to scratch my itch more or less by watching all the Death Wish films in order (only part two was nearly unwatchable in its leaden, lifeless directing and unpleasant sleaziness; I'm glad I didn't waste money on the "uncensored" version, electing instead to go for one of the Triple Threat combo packs, with nicely presented widescreen versions of the second through fourth Death Wishes). Three and four are about equal, with three perhaps as the series' most entertaining and improbable entry, a must if you have fondness for Ed Lauter, even if it somewhat squanders Martin Balsam, and reminds one a bit too much of the later, derivative, but superior Harry Brown....

Anyhow, Bronsonquest is officially over for now - with a few titles I am content to grab when they pop up on the cheap. But for reasons unclear, I actually DREAMED of buying (or renting?) a Bronson last night. I was in a very big video store, where BJ of Videomatica worked (not in real life and modelled on no big box-style video store I have been in) and there was a Bronson film, on VHS tape, in a returns cart that I had never heard of, entitled From Paris With Regrets. I contemplated it, but elected not to buy it, or rent it, because it wasn't directed by J. Lee Thompson, or even the less reliable Michael Winner. Then I got to chatting with BJ a bit, changed my mind, and went searching for it, to discover it had been filed, supposedly alphabetically, though I couldn't find it on the shelf. I found a different Bronson, Time to Die, which - tho' it doesn't actually exist - I had seen before. But, with the store closing, I was getting increasingly desperate, noting that right where the Fs were supposed to be, they had a bunch of other shit on their shelves, like pop and chips and popcorn in bags....

Those who know me well will know that the above roughly fits a recurring dream pattern of mine, where I am in an unfamiliar town trying to find someone who I am somehow responsible for, who is somehow in danger - tho' the only dsnger here is that the film has been misfiled and may remain obscure to me. As with the dream where I cannot find the person, it ends in failure and frustration. It is somewhat disturbing to note that my subconscious has switched out a lost person for a lost movie, but fun that I have apparently displaced Bronsonquest onto my sleep.

In other news, a Facebook thread by Wreckless Eric apparently reveals in its comments that Moe Tucker of the Velvets is now a Trump supporter. (She posted some absurdity about how Hilary would let in savage foreign rapists - apparently in the form of Syrian refugees - if elected). What happened to Moe, you gotta wonder. Life in Exile After Abdication and I Spent a Week There the Other Night were such fun albums, and in no way suggest the xenophobic, racist neocon/ Tea Party Moe that seems to have taken over. Is this what working at Walmart does to people? I was shocked at some of what she was sharing on FB when I actually peeked at her page; she had reposted some rubbish about how Obama was going to force or trick Americans into becoming Muslims, and... I just couldn't read it...

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Happy Halloween, gig at the WISE Hall, plus Oscar Brand playlist

I gave a bunch of people an Oscar Brand mixed CD at the WISE Hall last night, where Gerry Hannah, unseen by many, did the Subhumans "In Good Company" and the wicked, original, almost rockabilly arrangement of "World at War," and got a bit of a surprise back-up vocal visit from Jon Card on "I Got Religion" (besides playing many great songs off Coming Home, his under-heard solo CD). I kinda worry about Jon lately, actually - he's had two of his best friends and bandmates in the music scene die in the last couple of years - but I didn't really get to chat with him (did say hi to Petunia, who looked surprisingly like a regular guy, dancin' with his girl, sans bolero hat and string tie...). Joey Only gave a full-energy set, every bit as enthusiastic as his Rickshaw show a few months ago, despite there being a third of the audience (something else must have been going on last night). I did a big Joey Only interview for BC Musician to plug the gig, here, talking about Todd Serious, Tempest Grace Gale, Brian Goble and others... Jeff Andrew was in the audience, Clayton "Eargoggles" Holmes was at the bar, and the girl from Chaos Disorder and Panic was on door most of the night... Calgary roots band Rotary Park gave a terrific opening set including a hayseed reworking of Pink Floyd's "Time" (!). It was a good show!

Anyhow, for those who received my Oscar Brand mix CD, here are the songs on it! (I'm also mailing one to sometimes Holy Modal Rounders songwriter Antonia Stampfel, author of "Bird Song," who could use some Halloween cheer... she's in an assisted living situation, and Peter announced on Facebook that she likes Halloween cards and posted the address, so...). My card for her plays "Tequila" when you open it, and has a message about "Hallowe'en spirits."

Oscar Brand playlist (Antonia's version is slightly different near the end), Titles vary with this folky stuff, so some songs ("Good Ship Venus") are alternate versions of others ("Frigging in the Rigging," but also bits of it appear in "The North Atlantic Squadron," not included and as far as I know not done by Brand). All of these are GREAT! RIP, once again, Mr. Brand.

1. Good Ship Venus
2. Bell Bottom Trousers
3. Blinded by Turds
4. A Study in Anatomy
5. Money Rolls In
6. I've Been a Moonshiner
7. Good Old Mountain Dew
8. A Clean Song
9. Johnny Come Down the Hilo
10. Turalai
11. Guantanamo Bay
12. Backside Rules the Navy
13. Frigging in the Rigging
14. Lulu
15. Hairs on her Dickydido
16. Winnipeg Whore
17. Four-letter Words
18. The More Vulgar-Minded
19. Charlotte the Harlot
20. Seven Old Ladies Locked in the Lavatory
21. Mademoiselle from Armentieres
22. The One Eyed Riley
23. Chased by a Nympho
24. A Gob is a Slob
25. Chris Colombo
26. I'm Afraid of the Dark
27. Blinded by Turds (alternate)
28. Black Eyed Susie
29. We Set Sail
30. Blow the Man Down

Happy Thansgiving and happy Hallowe'en, folks... More to come, but it's just gonna be band interviews for a bit, I think, unless I have a juicy nightmare. (Phantasm Ravager Oct 24 at the Rio!).

Friday, October 07, 2016

Invasives at Lanalou's: a mini interview place marker until Byron gets back to me

Now that Nomeansno is over and done, will the Invasives feel the pressure to fill their shoes? They prolly can't - those are some big, heavy shoes - but as I've said before, I like the Invasives a whole lot more in their new incarnation than their previous, Married to Music, and there are a few of their songs that I think are truly, absolutely, superlatively great ("Living Your Life Like It's Somebody Else's," for instance, which I think I like more than any single song on All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt - though it strangely reminds me of "Heaven Is the Dust Beneath My Shoes").

Anyhow, I've sent off some interview questions to Byron Slack. Until such a time as he gets back to me, you may contemplate their gig poster and know that the Invasives play Lanalou's on October 12th (the kickoff of a small tour of the province, also outlined on the poster). If they're lucky (and if Byron gets back to me in time), I will have a blogpiece up about them before then...

I receive no consideration for this shit, folks, I just do it because I like the music. Hell, I won't even try to cadge a guestlisting, it's fucking Lanalou's, what's it gonna cost, $10? Prolly not even.

Destruction Unit comes to Psych Fest III: a mini-interview

Dirty Spells by Milton Stille

To be honest, my article in the West Ender on Psych Fest III went a bit weird. LA Witch and I were supposed to speak, but the conversation got SNAFU'd to heck. Local violinist Emily Bach, of Dirty Spells and Eric Campbell and the Dirt - pictured above - was an able replacement and a fun interview, but somewhere in there, with my deadline approaching, I also fired off an email to visiting Arizona band Destruction Unit, who I do not know well, but whose noise-meets-punk-meets-psych approach to rock music seems pretty exciting (I've been spinning Deep Trip, in particular, which grabbed me the most of their albums, but they're definitely an exciting, original band). Jes of Destruction Unit got back to me, but only after the article was already finished and submitted. Anyhow, begging your apologies, this is NOT the best interview I've done, but holy cow, check these guys out (and go to Psych Fest III in my place, Saturday at Fortune Sound Club - it starts early, is designed as an all-day experience, so don't just wait for the evening to roll around...!). 

Allan: Have you played Vancouver before? What was it like? Any associations with the city? Bands you like from here? Experiences here?

Jes: We have played Vancouver as Destruction Unit one time before, with our friends Nu Sensae at the Polish Community Center. We have lots of friends in Vancouver, relationships that date years and years back, from booking shows in Phoenix for bands like White Lung, Unlearn, Nu Sensae... I just listened to the Laughing Boy demo and that is great. Spectres are great. Oaf is great. Flowers and Fire is great... lots of nice tunes.

I gather Psych Fest is designed as a very trippy all day festival of visuals, sound, and weirdness, perfect for people on psychedelics.. I imagine this is nothing new to Destruction Unit. What is the trippiest, weirdest show you've played? 

Well, every show is something new for us. I think playing with Rick Ross, Travis Scott, Schoolboy Q and Migos was a pretty weird show. I certainly thought I was tripping when I saw Ludacris in our green room. 

There's some real noisiness to your music, that seems as important as the punk and psych aspects. What are your influences/ background when it comes to noise? Are you interested in using noise to have any particular psychological effects on the audience?

Noise is my only influence when it comes to Destruction Unit. Atonality. Interruption. Filth. My only effects pedals for my guitar are three RAT pedals and a box that smashes all incoming signals into two damaged oscillators. It's really not music, what we do.

I actually don't know your music THAT well, but I love what I hear on
Deep Trip, in particular. Is that album atypical, though? The vocals on it remind me weirdly of early Bauhaus, but am I confused? I could see you guys suddenly breaking into the greatest cover of "Dark Entries" that could possibly be imagined.

I think each of our records are atypical. None of them are alike. Maybe a couple of the singles are similar to a couple of the albums, but only because they were recorded in the same session. Why keep making the same records? I think each time we do a record, and it comes time to do the next, all we think is "how can we fuck this up any more than the last time?"

What is a
Negative Feedback Resistor? (On first blush that album actually seemed even more challenging than Deep Trip!)

The title is something you have to take as you will. Negative psychedelia. Blue lives don't matter.

 Do you ever scare people away, live, or inspire hostile or otherwise unexpected reactions? You set the bar for casual listening kind of high.

There is no casual listening of Destruction Unit, at least not live. Hostile opposition is certainly is no uncommon occurrence, its typically the promoters. If you're cool, we're cool. But if you're going to be a rat or a con or a creep then we will probably have problems.

 Are you aware of Vancouver noise band Tunnel Canary, by chance?

Tunnel Canary is nice, kind of akin to Hijokaidan or Incapacitants maybe. I see The Haters and The Mutators mentioned in the interview you referenced, both great. The Rita is from Vancouver too I believe. Plenty of noise being made up here. We're just going to add to it for about 30 minutes.

What is your connection to the prison abolition movement, and have you ever played a prison? (Because you would surely cause a fucking riot, no?). By the way, the late Brian Goble of the (Vancouver) Subhumans was anti-prison, and Erin of the Rebel Spell and now Alien Boys has some connection to righting wrongs faced by prisoners... see "Fight for the Sun" -

The only jails I've ever been in, I've been on the wrong side of the bars. I'd play a prison, but I doubt you'd find a warden who'd have us.

Do you ever play cover tunes? I'm always curious what covers people include in their set.

We've never played a cover, no. Early Destruction Unit did a cover of Warm Leatherette by The Normal, which came out in the early 2000's. That's the closest we get to doing a cover.

Anything else to say to Vancouverites curious about your show?

Test your gear before you dig in, you can always take more. Don't use alone. If something seems wrong or off, it probably is. Be safe.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


The Rebels Sing gig was astonishing. Really fun getting odd comments from Erin ("I feel like I'm standing front row at my own gig"), and intense performances from a bunch of people, especially Jesse LeBourdais, and two people I left out of my article for Westender, Meeka Morgan and Doug Naugler. Plus Soiled Doves and the Royal City Rebels were great. I didn't catch all of ATD, but they seemed holy-shit-intense. Elliott did an amazing cover of "Pride and Prejudice" with his new band Freak Dream, who seem like they're going to be a force to be reckoned with. I'm growing to like the punkier stuff on the comp, too.

As for now, I have stuff up on the BC Musician website... Huckle, and a pending Joey Only feature. And a new West Ender feature on Psych Fest iii this Saturday. But I don't have the energy to track down links. I've had a busy week, helping prepare a Filipina woman for her immigration test, which involves memorizing a lot of Canadian trivia.

I saw The Ornithologist today at VIFF and loved about one third of it, was puzzled but compelled by a third, and frustrated and annoyed by the a third. Mostly I liked the birds (except the white dove).

Anyhow, happy Thanksgiving, etc. More to come here soon.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Rest rudely in Peace, Oscar Brand!

My favourite garage sale finds are almost always things I've never heard about before. In particular, there was a sale in East Van a few years ago where they had a bunch of Oscar Brand LPs, selling for 25 cents each. I had never heard of Oscar Brand at that point - though he was born in Canada, and hosted shows on the CBC - but I bought about five of them, because the covers looked like this:

...and what a find that was, every bit the equal of my other favourite 25 cent find, Spike Jones playing Hank Williams, dug out of a Hospital Auxiliary thrift store in Maple Ridge. I soon fell in love with some of the songs. I had actually heard "Blinded by Turds" as covered live by the Meat Puppets on a DVD, under the title "Wonderful Song," but there's no cover of it to equal Brand's (not sure if it's an original of his or a true folk tune but Brand's version is definitive, by me.) And there are tons of other gems, perfect for singing in the shower, or even worse in public to embarrass your girlfriend, like "Good Ship Venus", which borrows a bit from a song my father taught me as the "North Atlantic Squadron," in the line about circumcising the skipper (tho' I believe father's version went, "the cabin boy, the cabin boy, the dirty little nipper/ he filled his bum with bubble gum and vulcanised the skipper"). In addition to his western songs, Brand has a couple of equally fun albums of rude sea shanties too (if you don't offend easily with comedic references to male-on-male anal sex, check this one out, another favourite of mine to sing to myself, about how "backside rules the navy").

There was even, in that garage sale score, one album I sent to Jello Biafra, by way of apologizing for a fucked up interview I did, because there was a song about "Guantanamo Bay" with a chorus about blowing it up, long before it was used as a site for practising torture on brown folks (61 people STILL are in detention at Gitmo, as of this writing). Hope Jello listened to it!

Rude or not, politically unacceptable or not, I eat this stuff up. When it comes to funny novelty music, given a choice between an Oscar Brand album, a Shel Silverstein, a Tom Lehrer, and a Flanders & Swann, I'll pick Oscar Brand every time. If anyone finds Oscar Brand Goes to College, I need it still! And Bawdy Hootenanny. I have about ten of his albums now, and am particularly pleased that when they come into record stores, they tend to sell for $5 or less, since apparently no one but me loves them, locally. I do not mind that at all, but having about ten of them, I can safely tell other people about how fun these are, now - tho' like I say, you must be able to rise above some stuff that, nevermind being rude and sex-themed, is in no way politically progressive and is occasionally homophobic, racist, or unflattering to women (and men!).

Sadly, I'm writing about this now because Mr. Brand died this week of pneumonia. I never feel bad when people die in their 90's - 96 is a ripe old age for anyone to make it to - so rather than being all mournful, I'll just say "thanks, Oscar, for all the fun music" - always gleeful and cheerful and celebratory, and almost always rude.