Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Canada Day Tuneage

Here are a few Canadian musical memories that I had connections to back in the day. Sorry no Trooper.

SNFU Western Canada gave the planet something more than oil, cattle and grain. Here's Mr. Chi Pig and the tender, gentle strains of superior fucking Canadian hardcore. I was in a tossed together band that opened for them way back in about 85. They crashed at our place and Mr. Chi was carrying around a green garbage bag full of trinkets and toys. He gave me a little glow in the dark, green skull and a white plastic Jesus on the cross that had missing hands. They were total gentlemen and hilarious company. They loved our little act because we opted to forego rehearsing our set, which included a dirgecore version of Wham!'s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, for a general assault of the audience that included throwing hands full of homefries, wee little firecrackers and the threat that we'd kick out anyone that applauded.

The most under rated musician in Canada is Ian Blurton. He helmed the incredible Change of Heart through the 80s into the mid-90s. My band of the day, Torso Column (hey we were scary, it was the 80s) opened for them a handful of times before we imploded rather than sign a record deal (scary, not clever). Anyway, they were the real shit. All of us little city kids had endless respect for Ian and the guys, nobody worked harder and nobody was more decent to work with. I was out of touch with a lot of folks in the music biz at the beginning of the 90s, writing and dealing with the universe. In 94 I cowrote a song with a friend. He had a great piece of music and no lyrics, so I fired off some words which he promptly recorded and entered the track in the CFNY $100,000 New Music Search. That's the same contest that launched Bare Naked Ladies a few years prior. To our shock and surprise we made the finals.

As a result we jumped into the car to attend a little gathering at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. All the bands met with the reps from the radio station, some A&R characters and people from the industry. Among the finalists were Change of Heart, Treble Charger and the Killjoys, all favourites to win. I hadn't seen Ian in about six years, had totally changed my appearance (no more big, giant hair) and he walked over and not only recognized me but remembered my name. That doesn't sound like such a feat until you consider that the guy toured the country constantly and I've talked to other folks that worked with him, all of whom have similar stories. Anyway, over the course of two nights there was a battle of the bands to determine the winner of the big prize. Since we weren't an actual band, we had little hope against some truly seasoned acts. I don't mind saying we stunk the house down and had a tremendous time doing it. Change of Heart won the contest and this song is from the album that they produced with the prize money (no video, suck it up).

Trivia note, one of the other bands from here in K-W that made the finals was the Groove Daddies. They also wiped the stage with us but Jeff Cowell, a superb drummer from that band has also been kind enough to lay down drum tracks for my impending new release.

More superior Canadian hardcore and another band I was privileged to open for, Toxic Reasons were lightning fast, tight as hell and great cats. Somewhere I have an autographed poster from the gig we did with them. Anyway, the audio on this isn't great but this is Mercenary by one of Canada's unsung punk stalwarts.

Here's a bit of a departure. In 84 I had purchase an Ibanez digital delay capable of a full second of echo. Fuckers. This thing was magical and I was well envied. On occasion I was called to do sound down at the Back Door one of the nation's top punk clubs in the day. Among the gigs I got a call for was to do sound for the Herbie Spanier Band, original jazz cats from Montreal. They were entirely open to the venue and the crazy looking kids that hung out there. I asked Herbie if he wanted some echo on his trumpet during the sound check and he was willing to check it out. I started ramping echo rates up and down and he was in heaven. He had me tweaking the echo and he loved every second of it, he had no fear of going way out on a limb and taking a risk with his sound and his band were happy to back him up the whole way. I learned more about space and experiment in that night's show than I had in years of being a music nerd with a record collection and a band. I've often thought back fondly on that night and the genuine delight that was Herbie Spanier embracing new technology with unbridled glee in a dark and nasty punk club. This track predates my meeting Herbie by about 25 years. Dig it.

A band that I did a lot of shows with was National Velvet. We brought them to town and they booked us in Toronto. We became friends and looked out for one another and I woke up on Maria's floor more than once. Maria Del Mar was Canada's original amazon rock goddess. The music industry packaging didn't do their original power and majesty any justice. Maria was bigger than life and a pretty damned wild gal. I have some vague and fuzzy memories of debauched nights hanging with Maria. Going to see The Look People at the Apocalypse Club Maria had me thrown over her shoulder as we made our entrance, walking down the stairs (she's one strong dame) only to encounter the Great Bob Scott collecting the cover clad in a diaper, a tutu and a bowler hat.

One of the crazy nights that I have a partial memory of included driving through the heart of Toronto at night in a pink, convertible VW bug piloted by Bambi. As I recall, Maria was standing in the passenger seat, towering over traffic and howling like a banshee. Good times.


Sheena said...

Very cool, PSA. As Sheena sits here with her sister on the patio, we are reliving that fateful National Velvet show at Barrymore's in Ottawa oh.. 90? 90ish?

Nothing says I love you like Sex Gorilla.

Frank Frink said...

Nice round-up, PSA. Some similar connections. Won't say much in reference to the close connections with SNFU - I'm trying to remain anon/psuedonymous - but they are legion.

I'll vouch for your Blurton story. Also opened for Change of Heart many moons ago. In a business full of egocentric weasels and snakes with arms, Ian Blurton is truly a gentleman.

Herbie Spanier! (R.I.P.). I was aware of him as a child in Montreal, where he could usually been seen playing with the likes of bassist Charlie Biddle (one of my childhood inspirations) and drummers Claude Ranger and Ti-Guy Nadon (aka Buddy Poor). Herbie was very much what the jazz guys call a 'hep cat'. Never had any fear of trying something new, something outside. Your story makes much sense in that respect. I can also remember Herbie from his brief time in Vancouver playing as a member of Chris Houston's Evil Twang. Houston, a former and once again Hamiltonian, was better known to many at one time as Pogo-A-Gogo, playing bass with The Forgotten Rebels. Also later a member of Toronto's rockabilly peioneers, the One-Eyed Jacks. Chris also wrote the Rebels' immortal Surfin' On Heroin'.

Toxic Reasons? Canadian? Okay, maybe Canadian in a very broad sense. They were originally from Dayton, Ohio, and now based in Indianapolis. Two of the current members are Brits, one is American and my old pal, drummer Jimmy Joe (JJ) Pearson is from Vancouver. I've known various members of the Pearson family for close to 28 years or something. Known Jimmy Joe since he was 12 or 13 years-old. Can still remember when TR, at that time still lead by original singer Ed Pittman, 'kidnappped' JJ and hauled him off to Dayton. 1981 that was, after a gig at Vancouver's original punk palace, the old Smilin' Buddha Cabaret.

National Velvet would be the odd one out for me. No personal connections there, but did see them perform twice or thrice in Vancouver.