Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tanked - A Redux

CD in Play: Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians.

I reprinted this post since friends were unable to comment on the initial posting. I also noticed some really glaring erroors and decided to re-write portions..

For some time I have been trying to write the story of a band that went nowhere, that tanked. Two of my friends started a band while we were in school in Saskatchewan in the early 90's as a way to alleviate some of the boredom. They weren't very serious about at first, calling the band Cheesepickles. At first, they did mock covers of The Stones and Eric Clapton ("Toe Jam Action" in place of "Satisfaction" - "Propane" in place of "Cocaine") and they did one pseudo-original called "Socks". (which did a riff at the intro on Helix's "Rock You")The Pickles (the accepted abbreviation) started out as a two piece, Greg Fast (vocals and a Cassio keyboard with a drum machine) and Ken "Zeke" Goudswaard. (vocals and bass) Greg had grade eight in Conservatory piano, so he was quite skilled on the keys. Around this time he had also begun teaching himself the guitar and a had a solid grasp on the fundamentals of music and pop songcraft. Greg had played in bands in high school, including one called Philip Habib. Ken was a more than able bass player and a fountain of odd and creative ideas. The year before he had done a recording project with a tuba player (tubist?) named Dion Wahl called Obnoxious Missionaries. I think they recorded two songs, one of which was a very long, lo-fi piece called "Psycho-Chicken".The more they played together the more serious they became about it. They really clicked as songwriters and began writing music that was moving them beyond being a novelty College act. They rented a Fostex four track (which curiously had no pause button) and began recording the "Mr. O'Riley's Magic Cellar" EP. They pulled in some of their other friends to play drums and fill in guitar parts and add extra vocals. I think it took a week or two weeks. The end result was a muddy sounding, but ear grabbing cassette that they were selling all around campus for $5.00. It was a hit and started a micro recording boom around campus. People were putting together garage bands to play and record. I was in one of those bands - Death Warmed Over, a funny but dreadful hardcore band that did irreverent covers of Church choruses. We didn't last long but the guitarist (Trent, who was/is actually a drummer) and I ended up playing together in two other bands that went nowhere, Mobius and Hypernode. Upon returning to British Columbia, Greg and Ken started the arduous task of auditioning for a drummer. After a deluge of wanna-be's and disgruntled metal drummers, they settled on Ken's cousin - Andrew - who was into the music and actually quite good. Ken and Greg began writing at a pretty steady pace and were piling up a healthy number of songs. They played live shows that were memorable and were beginning to grab a faithful core of listeners from outside their own circles. They weren't for everybody. Greg did a sort sing-speak voice along the lines of Lou Reed and Robbie Robertson, since he wasn't a very good singer. Ken didn't have a particularly strong voice, but I always felt that his earnestness made up for that. The music was pretty solid, though Ken would make mistakes - often very cool ones if they were ever actually noticed by the audience at all. They changed the name to 32toBase so people might take them more seriously.Things began to fall apart as Greg had become very serious about the band and started putting a lot of effort into it. Ken was serious in his own way, but also seemed dead set against working hard to achieve it. Tensions grew from there, as could be expected and got worse as Ken began devouting more time to his girlfriend. (now wife) Ken left the band after a few unfocused performances and Greg tried to carry on without him. Greg auditioned for new band members and tried to unload some of the baggage that the name 32toBase brought with it. He changed the name to Sometimes Y and began a lengthy run trying kick start the music again, but to no avail. Ken went on to play with me and Trent in Mobius and Hypernode. (Greg played on the first Hypernode EP and on a song from our third session) Ken has had other bands since then and records music under the name of The Goat Island Extrapolation. Greg continues to record music in his home studio and has worked under the name Damage. So why do I want to write their story, you ask? They never went anywhere, and unless you were there you will probably never have heard of them. That is the point, the stories of bands like 32toBase (and Mobius) are commonplace, but no one really talks about them. Failure is a very real fact of the music world and one that should be discussed. The people who "make it" or at least do it as a career have their stories out there, but what about the people who try (or not) but never get anywhere? I guess I have always had a thing for the underdog. I also understand a thing a or two about failure and I find it an interesting subject. How do people cope with it? Why do people cope so differently? This was just a brief sum up of 32to Base's story, there is a lot more meat on these bones. Anyhow, I wrote this because I have been thinking about the story again and been angry at my own inability to write it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Dog Days of Summer

CD in Play: Isis - Oceanic.

Over the past month I have been looking after a large dog named Pancho. He' a cross between a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Bloodhound, with a little German Shepherd thrown into the mix. He's a really good looking dog. Been a while since I had to take care of a dog. The last dog I owned was a Beagle named Luke and that was back in 1981. My Mom got rid of him while I was away on vacation.
I had been thinking about getting a dog for some time now. Figured when I am in a position to buy some property I would get a big dog. (with a few exceptions, I dislike small dogs) Probably still will, but I have a better idea what it takes to keep and animal like this.
Pancho, who is currently sleeping at my feet, likes to be walked at least three times a day. Not always possible and it would be better if he had a larger yard to roam around in with a higher fence in the front. He really needs more room to move around. He's domineering and territorial with other dogs, so I have to make sure they can't get at each other. Sometimes he's domineering with me so I push him down and simulate a dogs mouth with my hand and hold him down by his throat to remind him that I am the alpha male, not him. Have to be careful playing games with him, sometimes he forgets the stick and goes for the hand. He also doesn't play fetch per se, more like keep away. YOU have to retrieve the stick, from his snarling jaws.
Not that he is a vicious dog by any stretch, but he can be aggressive. However, Pancho's a slut for attention. He looks for any excuse to be petted and scratched, especially his haunches. He happily submits to people who want to pet and scratch him. He rally reacts to Scooby-Doo impersonations, gets really excited.
Hates his dry food and is always angling to get at either my food or the cats. I cook with a lot of onion and garlic though, which is bad for dogs. Still I manage to slip some buffalo into his dish when he isn't around.
There Trent, there is your fluff piece. Happy?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Blogging for Fun or Profit II

CD in Play: Audio Learning Center - Cope Park

I have just experienced splogging. For those of you who are unaware of what splog is it is spam for blogs. How did I learn about it? It was in a message that someone used to splog me with. I imagine this is not unique to others but this was cyber-stalking at its most pathetic.
I deleted the message and there was a new message right on its heels, and then another and another and another. I imagine that I was being targeted deliberately because I made a comment and referred to people who spam (or splog) as losers. So I deleted the comments section from my blog. Too bad. I didn't get scads of comments on everything I wrote and most of the comments I got were from my friend Trent - but it was communication and other people seemed to have things to say.
If the online community is just that - a community, then spamming and splogging are highly anti-social activities. We are inundated with advertising no matter where we go, it is time to draw a line and keep our online lives ad free. There need to be laws protecting the average citizen from advertising, particularly nuisance adverts like spam and splog. Blog providers like Blogger (aka Google) need to step up to the plate and hit sploggers out of the ballpark. It is their service and they should shoulder the responsibility.
One splogger has destroyed something that I quite enjoyed, and many others are doing the same to many other blogs. Anyone who makes a comment should have to surrender their ISPN to Blogger for reference. Splogging should be regarded as a hostile activity the same as cracking.
Am I ranting? Hell yeah. Am I serious? I am dead serious. Take action. Write Blogger or your other blog providers and make changes. Time to set things straight, that a persons right to try and earn profit cannot infringe on our rights, realized or as yet unrealized.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Old Albums Revisited

After my recent move, I was struck by how much stuff I own. Most of it was in storage and I hadn't seen it in a while. I had books, comic books, cassettes, and personal items that I had long since forgotten about. As I packed I began to pour over old year books, cherry picking graphic novels (like The Killing Joke and Batman: Year One) and cassettes. I found old photos of my friends from when we younger. It was a pretty nostalgic affair. Back in the apartment, I began to organise my everyday items, including a CD case that hold 200 of my CDs. Looking through the case I came to realise that the stuff in the storage room weren't my only belongings I hadn't gone through in recent memory.
I love music, if that wasn't apparent from my blog. I like making new discoveries in music, checking out new styles and different artists. However, in front of me were over a hundred and fiftey CDs that I hadn't listened to in quite a while. Some albums you just can't go back to, they had their day at some point and the expiration date has long since past. Other albums just need more time before they can be appreciated again. Portishead's first album is like this for me. I still like their music, but I'm not in the right frame of mind to listen to them right now. Some albums are perfect for the moment.
The first album I popped on was Tricky's Nearly God, a moody opus that includes the talents of Bjork, Martina Topley-Bird, and Terry Hall. (ex-Specials frontman) Last time I played this album would have been at the club I DJ'd at in Montreal, the Jupiter Room on St. Laurent. It is a very stilted kind of album, consistent in mood and tone, but a little inconsistent stylistically. But that is what makes it such a brilliant album. With some exceptions, albums that just present the same thing all the way through will loose me somewhere along the way. Couple of tracks that tend to lag a bit, but overall the album just slips under the listener's skin and stays there.
The third album I popped on was Mogwai's Happy Music for Happy People. It was released in 2003 and I was initially smitten with the album. The opener, "Hunted By A Freak", is a hauntingly beautiful piece that builds gently and dramatically. After seeing the band perform at the Commodore, (an excellent show, by the way) the album started to loose my attention. Soon I was only listening to to "...Freak" and the sixth track, "Ratts in the Capital". (which is very much like what you will find on their My Father, My King ep) I probably stopped listening to it altogether around November `03. It has been good to rediscover this album again. Songs like "Kids Will Be Skeletons", "Killing All The Flies", "Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep" and "I Know You Are But What Am I?" have taken on a whole new life in their absence from my ears. The beauty and well... majesty of this album absolutely astounds me. Mogwai's songs/compositions are dynamic in every sense - volume, tone, tempo, etc.
The next disc was one I bought back in 1993, Matthew Sweet's Altered Beast. I may not have listened to this since about 2000. Often given a bit of a short shrift and perhaps unfairly compared to his previous album, Girlfriend. That album was a a kind of underground pop/ college radio hit from what I can remember. Girlfriend, as I recall, was very consistent musically and emotionally. Altered Beast was a bit more of an untamed effort, if you'll excuse the pun. Although they appeared on Girlfriend, guitarists Richard Lloyd (Television) and Robert Quine (now deceased. Played with Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Dim Stars and did session work for Lou Reed, John Zorn, Brian Eno and Tom Waits) they really gave Altered Beast the raw edginess that seemed to have dulled the enthusiasm of so many critics. Part pop, part rock, part alt country ...Beast still holds up 12 years after its release. I was listening to it with my friend Elijah and we both agreed that it has aged well and still sound contemporary. Given how poorly some of the albums I bought at the same time have aged, that is quite an accomplishment.
That is it for now. I am tired and must sleep soon. I may post more on some of the albums that I have rediscovered in my collection. I probably won't be ripping anything apart, though. (sorry Trent) I figure that I have done that enough in my past, so it is time to move on.
And yes, I did listen to the above albums while writing this.