Reconnected lastnight with the inimitable Bartleby J. Budde of Montréal’s Ol’ Savannah. That guy kills me. His blog, I See Stupid People: (https://www.facebook.com/iseestupidpeopleblog)
….Bartles told me they actually wound up keeping some of my percussion performances on their new record Death On the Mountain (track 1, (http://olsavannah.bandcamp.com/) I couldn’t be more delighted. I toured with these guys playing washboard for two summers, but never really made it onto any of the records until this time. You can however see some of our live performances from eastern Canada on youtube. Congrats to Speedy and Bart for their continued growth into what I truly believe is one of the most authentic Americana/roots/beat culture evolutionary projects I ever heard. If you’ve ever heard Calgary’s amazing but largely (sadly) inactive Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir (http://www.theagnostics.com/), these guys are carrying the torch, and then some. They do pretty good job of keepin’ it dirty. Go get it!
In more Canadian indie-Americana news, Kingston/Waterloo’s Brendan “The Vaudvillian” Stephens has released a pretty kick ass ragtime record, Beedle-Am Bam. http://brendanjstephens.bandcamp.com/
Crooner David Simard’s new EP is a must have: http://davidsimard.bandcamp.com/ You can even get it on 7 inch vinyl. Damn you Batman!!!
Also big congrats to the ladies from Scarlett Jane, who are backing up Adam Cohen tonight(!) along with some folks called the Montreal Symphony Orchestra at La Maison Symphonique, in Montréal I’d imagine… These ladies are certainly keeping busy. Check their facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScarlettJaneMusic
Sending out prayers and good vibes to Cam Boyce & Co (https://www.facebook.com/cam.boyce.9?fref=ts), who are rambling around, busking Europe rightnow. Jealous! Scott Cook (https://www.facebook.com/grooverevival?fref=ts) is shipping off to Europe himself I believe, after some last minute passport mixups.
Corin Raymond is putting his old band, The Undesirables back together for a show this weekend in Owen Sound, ON. I’d be there if I had a teleporter. Details: (https://www.facebook.com/corin.raymond.9?fref=ts)
The first band I was ever in, Downfall of Decadence, was with two guys: Michael Vanderlans (now playing with Dead City Scandal in Vancouver (https://www.facebook.com/deadcityscandal) and a certain Dougal Bain McLean, viciously handsome young gaffer. He’s making a stink these days, recording songs on mountaintops. Check it: https://www.facebook.com/DougalBainMcLean
Oh, and the American Government has collapsed. Have a nice day!
October 1, 2013
*This update is going to basically be the album notes of my new record, Fool Become Wise, the first installment of RECORDS-FOR-RENT, to be released online only on my bandcamp site later this week. It’s also a kind of a love letter to all my friends, family and fans.
I’ve spent the month in remote Fort St James in northern BC, just off Highway 16 West, recording a new DIY album(!!) which I’ll be releasing online only in a few days. This is my first recording project since my double album TWO YEARS TO LIVE in January 2010, I’m a little embarrassed to say. I’m just real glad to have my wheels turning again.
Its such beautiful country here, quiet, and with the sky full of stars. I got to see the leaves turn golden and red and the morning fogs of the fall set in. Helped Lionel haul wood and watched him fire up the wood stove for the first time since spring. At night the wind howls and you hear what sounds like a hundred coyotes cay-yaying their crazy song (still hoping for a chance to have them on the record!). Its real close here to where I grew up in Prince George, a place I fled in 2008 to find the bigger, the cultural world; to find and hopefully prove myself in some way. Sure seems like a long time ago now.
I’ve been inactive in some ways for quite awhile. Active in others. I tried to quit music and work a spell last fall. Felt I was losing my mind, trying to take too much on. It came out in the wash, I know what my job is now. I spent this summer doing my thing howling the night away and riding the wave of good times on the highways with all my unsurpassably awesome friends and family here on the BC folk festival circuit. And Hallelujah! To realize that one has come home. To realize I have a home, and that the many things I found myself searching for out there, and not finding, that I only felt the lack of them because I grew to expect them in this place.
I’ve been doing my thing, sure, but as far as writing goes, as far as putting my two cents out there and showing my stripes to the world, I confess I’ve been in a rut. Its strange time we’re living in. Nothing is certain for anybody. Took some muddling around to figure out which direction to head. What identity to assume. Well, I do believe a new season has arrived. RECORDS-FOR-RENT represents what I feel is the first whisper of a brand new bag. It took a long time to figure out I had to find a different way for myself to do things. Playing in the street was it for awhile. The freedom and exhilaration I felt realizing I could support myself with nothing but putting it out there. A pure minstrel. I felt like a king for a time. I coulda died happy, I do declare. But that life became a hardship in the end.
The youtube thing started up, and a mighty smoke machine began to blow its hot air up my ass for a time. I walked around in a dream, pinballing between the things that people were projecting at me. You’re-gonna-make-it. Don’t make too many plans… as though some call from on high would come down. Like in the movies. Cinderella etc.
I looked right through the real people and communities that supported me. I kept being told that my destiny was elsewhere, beyond.
Its hard to think about now, the way that my whole life was revolving around a false idol, so to speak. A media created fairytale that I’d been living since I first started singing songs, the same one my old band believed in, playing shows in Prince George thinking we would get discovered because we were that good(we were pretty fucking good.) I quote from Chuck Palaniuk’s Fight Club: “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” I don’t think this line of thought can be overstated. That movie got under our skin, it spoke to us. It speaks until this very day. My priorities were all confused. I felt extremely isolated. I wanted(want) to support social causes and be connected to communities, but my lifestyle (and performance style) kept me in insolation. People in the street every day told me to keep it up, we believe in you. Keep on, keep on… playing them songs, keep on …digging that grave of yours. It came to be that people’s intended encouragement sounded like encouragement to “Go on and die… for us.” Madness, ridiculous, unimaginable state of self-pity and developmental paralysis. Please friends, don’t ever suppose I’m unaware of how ridiculous I am. But, I feel my own absurdity is only a reflection of the absurdity of our culture, of our state of being, our self awareness that has been smashed into a million fragments by corporate mass media. How do we define ourselves? Find ourselves? What does this even mean??
I’ve always identified with spiritual radicalism. Perhaps its in my grandfather’s genes. Leo Tolstoy, a firebrand philanthropist, is almost single-handedly responsible for the Doukhabors coming to Canada. Stubborn, zealous, pacifist, vegetarian, obsessively hardworking people. Given to marching naked en-masse to protest tax dollars paying for foreign wars. Burning their guns…
Music was always the most remarkable thing on my radar. Mrs Johnson, a schoolmate’s mother was a wizard to me, playing the piano at assemblies in the College Heights Elementary school gymnasium. I couldn’t understand why we weren’t learning how to do that all day long in class. Then along came Rage Against The Machine (I can see my old bandmates rolling their eyes). What-is-up-in-the-world, Chuck Palaniuk, Noam Chomsky, George Orwell, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Howard Zinn, Loose Change, Zeitgeist… it descended upon us all as the twin towers fell, and suddenly music and radicalism became inextricable. Artists, the shamans of the new era. And then another world: Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Ani Difranco, Utah Philips, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Joey Only, the American Anthology of Folk Music, Propagandhi – a whole history, a whole toolkit, one continuous line of singers and artists speaking truth to power. John Steinbeck’s 1939 The Grapes Of Wrath is suddenly the most pertinent thing I ever read. The same struggle, coming from all the way back. All of the music created on this continent since we all collided, all of it telling the same story.
WHAT-THE-FUCK-HAPPENED so that people expect so little of their musicians, of this language, of this currency’s unlimited ability to connect, to convey to tell our stories, to unite the tribes, to protect what is universal???? Making a living be damned, I was going to be a part of it. I’m proud to be a part of it now. But there is so much more to be done.
A Resurrection is in order. Its underway. In the absence of influential enough media systems able to actively oppose mainstream corporate media, it falls upon independent like-minded artists of every stripe to realize that we have a duty to become speak truth to power, not just to sell our wares like any other capitalist. I’m not preaching total anti-capitalism but I am saying there has to be a move to motivate ourselves otherwise. The discussion must be open and active. Russia’s Pussy Riot is the sort of thing I’m talking about. This is evolution we’re talking about. Every country, every city, every scene needs a Pussy Riot. Groups of artists with an agenda to oppose the agenda-set mainstream media. Focussed actions. Nationwide collaborations to create awareness and solidarity for causes. Alright, blahblahblah, this is all very pie in the sky…
But for now, start local, right?
I never liked touring bars. Its lonely, destructive. Unprofitable. Seemingly unescapable. I found myself dreaming about couchsurfing continuously, with the idea to arrive someplace, find the local musicians and artists, set up a house show, collab the show, get to know the scene a bit for real, and then off to the next town. I was getting ready to set up a couchsurfing profile this spring for the purpose, but I hesitated. Later in the summer, after reconnecting with so many rad folks from all over, experiencing the vibe and the connectivity, it occurred to me that there was really no need to resort to couchsurfing the idea. I could just invite my friends and family from the already existing community to cohabitate collab a lifestyle idea. A connective tissue idea.
RECORDS-FOR-RENT was born in a weekend of frenzied conversations. I challenged Lionel and Rosemarie Conant to put me up in their place for one month, and in place of rent, I would produce a brand new record in a month’s time. The record produced would be a document of the time shared. The songs could be collab’d or not, originals or covers we might dig playing together. We release everything online only, because it might be hard to generate the cash to produce actual cds. The idea is to share time, to get juices flowing, to meet minds. Throw together house shows to make my strain on the household minimal, hopefully enjoyable! Other friends were stoked as well… possibilities now abound. This month, I’ve recorded a pile of songs using garageband on my macbook. I’m no sound engineer, maybe you won’t like the quality of the recordings. In a sense I’m writing this right now just to explain that I think this is way more interesting that putting out a ponderous, expensive studio record… to be nervous about every song and every track, about making your money back, about getting maximum impact, publicity, and the rest… This idea is engineered to need almost no money For now this is what I got, and I’m proud of it. As things progress, I promise the quality will improve, as I’m sure sometimes we’ll have real engineers on board, and maybe we’ll get an indiegogo campaign started to help fund the beast.
This is the first breath. Ground zero. I’m just plumb excited to see where its gonna go… after this month I go on hiatus, but RECORDS-FOR-RENT is now a blueprint for future records, for future connectivity and creation… do get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any ideas you think might be pertinent/if you wanna do a RECORD-FOR-RENT. Also check out Doug Koyama’s “the network” on FB. Let’s do this.
Thanks to: Lionel and Rosemarie Conant, my unbelievably supportive parents, Jessica Rampling, Myriam Bernier, Gavin Elder, T-Rav and Brin, Scott Cook, Samantha Scott, Corin Raymond, Bobby Middleton, Paul and Julie Crawford, Doug Koyama, Jesse Herman and Nolan Foster, Wax Mannequin, Jesse Bear, Betty Supple, Mike Rigby, the Fort St James Legion, Ginny, Joey Only and Leah Martin, Bob Blaue, Canadian Waste, Ivan Bruvold, Carl Mattson, Mstry Cowboy, Mel, Janna and Scott at The Soup Wallah, and every single person who ever threw down some change or offered encouragement.
PS I’m also working on revamping this pathetic web-page…