Q+A with the legendary Miss Pamela Des Barres
About 2.5 years ago I was lucky enough to be one of 20 women in Pamela Des Barres first Toronto writing class. My life has never been the same since. Not only did I get to know a legend to the point where I could casually ask her to do a Q+A for my zine. But I also met women in that group who have become close friends and who are some of the funniest and most talented people I know. Here are ten burning questions I had for Miss P.
Q: If I'm With the Band were written today, what 5 rockstars would take the place of the men you wrote about in the 70s?
A: Jack White
Jack White Jack White and Jack White
Q: You hold writing groups across North America where you teach, give tips and allow women to open up and share their stories in a safe environment. What is something you have learned from doing this?
A: I learn as much as my dolls do each week about how women tick! I am so lucky to be able to watch them grow and become more aware of how to deal with all their various difficulties or challenging experiences by writing about them. It's cathartic, rewarding and very surprising a lot of the time. They discover they are a lot more courageous and brilliant, astute and loving that they ever imagined.
Q: What do you do when you have writers block?
Q: Do you have a favourite Frank Zappa story and do you still keep in touch with the family? (I'm a huge Marc Maron fan and got a little jealous when he was dating Moon)
A: I just loved being able to make him laugh. There was nothing better than when you could get Mr Zappa to laugh out loud, and beat his knee with enjoyment at one of your antics! Or a little ditty or a wild outfit! I am close with the whole family, yes...
Q: How does it feel to be such an influential woman for not only pop culture, but also for every day women like myself?
A: Surprising. I was just living my life, still just living my life in the best and most free-spirited way possible. I love that I am kind of a fashion muse. I wore vintage clothing long before it was called that! Haha! I love to deck myself and my dolls out in feminine finery. Don't be afraid to be a dream doll, a muse in every way, a GIRL! a WOMAN!
Q: I'm trying to get my writing published, do you have any tips?
A: It's a tough one. I was turned down by several publishers myself. I believe in self-publishing, blogging, writing for various sites, staring your own website just to write.
Q: What is your favourite kind of ice cream and why?
A: I don't eat sugar any more, and almost no dairy except GOAT! SO my fave now is La-Loo's chocolate ice cream!
Q: What is wrong with Hollywood? It's insane your life hasn't been made into a move (or a mini series like it almost was on HBO)
A: I've sold it numerous times to no avail. I think ultimately the bigwigs are afraid to take a chance on a sexy 60s women's music story. This country is still afraid of a lustful woman unless it comes with bondage, guilt or fear. And they haven't figured out how to get the 60s music scene right!
Q: What is your favourite Disney movie?
A: I love all the earliest, Snow White, Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, Bambi, Peter Pan. Let's have a good cry!
Q: I remember the last time I saw you, you mentioned a new book you are working on, when can we expect it?
A: It's a book called "Let It Bleed" about my women's workshops. I need a good subtitle, help! It should be out next Spring!
Q + A with Nardwuar
Nardwuar is not only a Canadian icon, he is also a lover or punk rock and champion of DIY. From his early roots on radio to his now infamous Much Music interviews he has seen how far doing things your way can take you. I had the opportunity to talk to him a bit about this.
Q: Why do you feel DIY is so important?
A: Because if I can do it, anyone can! It inspires people. I hope!
Q: Do you see much change in the Canadian punk scene from when you started till now, and is so, how?
A: There aren’t as many Mohawk hairstyles on punkers, but people are still ultra punk! When I first saw Death Sentence and Lethal Virus at the New York Theatre I was scared! Many years later I am still scared! So punk seems the same! Ice Cube said it’s good to be scared!
Q: Who are some of your favourite Canadian bands?
A: Canadian 60’s Punk bands like The Painted Ship (Vancouver), Guess Who (Winnipeg) Checkerlads (Regina), Les Lutins (Montreal) and Stoneman (Moncton). Plus I am in awe of the Vancouver Punk Scene of the late 70’s, you want names? The Shades, The Dishrags, The Pointed Sticks, DOA, Private School, The Modernettes, and The Subhumans!
Q: What was the best poutine you have ever had?
A: I think the band The Gruesomes took me for some in Montreal! But I can’t remember the name! It was some food truck that was open 24 hours! I mentioned Les Lutins when u asked me about Canadian Punk! They covered “Je Cherche” by 60s Montreal Punks Les Lutins. That got me turned onto an amazing cache of priceless Quebecois Garage Rock, which inturn led me to Les Hou Lops. I am addicted to cheese but the Gruesomes basically got me addicted to Les Hou Lops! So it was natural I would search out different versions of their song “Oh Non”and thanks to the greatness of YouTube, there suddenly was a cover of “Oh Non” by Les Mousses! However, this time appearing before my eyes, were a bunch of kids wearing sailors outfits in a “Battle of the Bands” playing their asses off. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbZ8S3ZYrDg
Q: You have carved out a wonderful career for yourself with a lot of variety and passion. Any words of encouragement for young Canucks out there dragging their feet?
A: If I can do something, anyone can. I would urge anyone interested in media to get involved with their local campus / community radio station! I joined my local campus / community station when I was a teenager and am still volunteering every week! I learn something everytime I go in! Don't just sit there, do something! Become the media!
Q: What do you wish to see more in modern punk rock?
A: I am really bad at judging other people’s music. I heard a pre-release tape of Green Day’s “Dookie,” and thought it would be a failure. I could not hear one hit on it. Boy was I wrong: it sold millions.
Q: What band from the past do you wish were still around?
A: The Cramps! Cuz they shaped my name! Like I am named “Human” in honour of the Cramps song “Human Fly”!“
Q: Best record shop you have ever been to?
A: Avi Shack, has the best Hip Hop Store in Canada, Beat Street ! http://www.beatstreet.ca Their varied vinyl selection is outstanding: I've scored everything from a Redd Foxx comedy LP to a Guy Lafleur instructional hockey album. As for non hip-hop, Vancouver is blessed with some of the coolest independent record stores around : Red Cat, Zulu, Neptoon, Audiopile, & Dandelion . So can I say all record stores in Vancouver are “the best”?
Q: Is hockey overrated?
A: Well, my great cousin Eric Nesterenko used to play defence for the Chicago Black Hawks and was the “coach” in the movie “Youngblood” with Rob Lowe! So I am biased!
Q + A With Designer Christian Joy
Since Karen O first came onto the scene with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs when I was in high school I have had my eye on her amazing costumes. Though really, how could you not? Bright colours, body suits, sequins, fringe…she was wearing my dreams! It didn’t take long until I became familiar with the name behind these unconventional, jaw dropping designs; that name is, Christian Joy. She has been creating with Karen O from the early days and continues to create for her, though she has added a few more names to her portfolio including Alabama Shakes, Childish Gambino, her own exhibit, an online store and much more. I reached out to the woman who helped keep my creative spark alive all through my teen years and lucky for me she was kind enough to grant me with this fun Q+A. Enjoy!
Q: What pulled you to New York. Why did you choose there over other cities like LA or Chicago?
A: I actually lived in Chicago from around 1995-1998 and it never really felt right to me. Also, I knew NY was the place I really wanted to be. I had dreamt of moving there even as a little kid.
Q: How has the DIY scene in New York changed since you first arrived?
A: Hmmm, I don't know actually. I feel like I haven't been a part of that scene is such a long time. I guess maybe the term DIY is what I have noticed has changed. Now i think it's called Sustainable Fashion.
Q: Why did you decide to paint your own prints for your fabrics?
A: I always had this idea of wanting to be a painter but when I would try to paint on a canvas my ideas never went anywhere but once I tried it on clothes my mind just exploded with ideas. I really began doing a lot of screen printing with Karen O's looks for Show Your Bones. It really opened up a whole new world for me and textile design is really what I love most.
Q: Do you see a future where you will mass produce your own fabric designs?
A: I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I would love to begin creating on a larger scale and it's something I've been speaking with my management about. So hopefully it will be happening in the near future!
Q: You recently had an exhibition of your work in San Francisco, how was that for you?
A: I imagine it was a lot of hard work to get to the opening night. It was really fun. I love creating a whole Christian Joy world. Many of the pieces I already had in my archive so I only had to create or rather only had time to create two new looks. But it was basically pieces from the last 5 years.
Q: Were there times you ever felt discouraged in your career and if so, what did you do to keep going?
A: Oh yeah. All of the time!! I try to educate myself like I recently worked on a fashion show with my good friend Hannelore Knuts just so I would have the chance to see how it works. I learned a lot and really realized that I knew more than I thought I did. I'm self taught so I always have this feeling of not knowing how to do things right but the reality is that I do.
Q: I watched an interview with you where you mentioned you are more drawn to men's clothing. Is this just a personal preference or do you feel women can draw a lot of power from being in men's clothing?
A: I grew up with 4 brothers so boys clothing just seemed more realistic to me. I felt like I couldn't do anything I wanted in girls clothes. I still wear men's clothes. For myself I feel more empowered and sexy in men's clothing.
Q: What do you draw inspiration from?
A: Travel, history and friends.
Q: How do you see yourself evolving through out your career?
A: In the beginning I was stapling and taping clothes together so one way that I have evolved is through teaching myself the fashion fundamentals like pattern making and sewing. Another way I keep trying to evolve is by always working and creating projects for myself even if I don't have anything to do. I think it's really important to just keep working no matter what. Try new things.
Q: Do you see yourself ever having a line for average consumers, those of us who shop at H&M and thrift stores?
A: Yes, hopefully!
Q: Is there anything left on your career bucket list you want to check off?
A: I'd like to do a line of clothing again.
Q: Do you have any advice for anyone struggling in the DIY scene?
A: I think so much happens by accident. It's about being in the right place at the right time but it's also important to have the good work to back it up so just keep working and keep trying to put your work out there. I also found it was good to be part of a group of friends working together. It's a great way to be able to promote one another's work.
Interview with Pleasant Gehman
My interview with Pleasant Gehman, the "Princess of Hollywood". We talk zines, The Cramps and belly dancing.
You had a zine detailing the LA punk scene in the late 70s, what made you want to make a zine?
I knew that the music I loved wasn’t being covered in mainstream rock magazines. Since I was about ten, I’d read rock’n’roll and alternative magazines like Cream, Rock Scene, and Andy Warhol’s Interview, but they really didn’t cover punk. Once I got a hold of Sniffin’ Glue from the UK, I realized that I could make my own zine, with my own writing!
So I started getting stuff together, my ideas, some reviews of shows I’d seen or albums and 45’s I’d gotten. My friend Randy Kaye and I startedLobotomy together. We both loved Mad Magazine…the satire and parody it featured about current events was hysterical. So I wanted Lobotomy to have some of that feeling, too…and to take rock ‘n’roll (but not ourselves or Lobotomy) too seriously.
I got a lot of friends and roommates to help out with writing. Kid Congo, later of the Cramps and Gun Club, was living with me and he had a really sick and fun sense of humor- we both laughed all the time! He wrote a lot of stuff for Lobotomy…and he also had a job at Bomp! Records, so he got a lot of import 45’s before anyone else did.
Photographer Theresa Kereakes and I met at The Whisky A Go-Go, in 1976. We both were teenagers; we went out every night, and were obsessed with rock’n’roll and punk rock. I asked Theresa to take photos for Lobotomy, and of course she accepted! At the time, neither of us ever thought that we would be friends for forty years- but we still are… and now, we’re working on a book about Lobotomy for Punk Hostage Press. Featuring my writing and Theresa’s photos, many of them have never been seen! The Lobotomy book will be published in early 2017.
Do you think zines are still relevant now that anyone can easily have a blog with a tenth of the effort it is to make a zine?
Well, I think the original punk ‘zines are totally relevant as an important piece of rock’n’roll history, for sure.
I know there are many people – mostly younger ones who weren’t even alive during the late 70’s and early 80’s making zines and chapbooks. There is something really, really cool about actually having a physical hard copy of someone’s work, it’s like a piece of handmade art.
I see new zines all the time…but in truth, a blog is much easier to set up, and hundreds or thousands of people can see it right away, the moment it’s published. Still, zines have value, and they’re really fun to make…and will be an awesome physical “time capsule” item. Just the same way as when somebody puts an event page on Facebook for a concert or show, but they still make hard copy flyers for the event.
Who was your favourite roommate in Disgraceland?
Ahhh…. I never really thought of that, and can’t decide (and not going to, either!) Between Belinda Carlisle, Iris Berry, or Laura Bennett, who was my bass player in the Screamin’ Sirens. They were all so much fun!
Belinda lived with me before-and right after- The Go-Go’s got famous. We got into tons of trouble together, we had a blast! But eventually, all the fans coming around, and like, kids sticking their faces up at the windows and their hands through the mail-box slot on the door made it a necessity for her to move.
Iris is now my publisher at Punk Hostage Press, and I still see Laura all the time. We all had mad, crazy, wild fun together, we all got into so much trouble!
How was it being in an all female punk band (Screamin' Sirens) in the early 80s? Did you feel like you were paving the way for more women in the scene?
Yes, I did…. But also, my close friends had kind of paved the way for the Sirens, and me too. I’d been a friend with Joan Jett since 1975, right when the Runaways were starting, and with Belinda since 1976. By the time I started the Sirens in the early 1980’s, The Runaways had broken up and Joan had started The Black hearts…and Belinda and The Go-Go’s were getting really famous.
Starting an all-girl band was a no-brainer, cause I loved all the gals I was hanging out with. But even though the punk scene in LA was full of women in bands- or other all-girl bands like The Bangles and The Pandoras, there was still a huge amount of sexism in the mainstream music industry.
Record companies all though we were “novelty acts” and wouldn’t sign us! In those days, going into a music store to buy strings or drumsticks, the clerks would always say, “What does your boyfriend play”? It was insane, no one ever used to take female musicians seriously.
Just a couple of years ago- a good 30 + years after I started the Sirens and twenty years from our last show, I went into Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard to get some batteries. All the clerks in the store were women- there were at least five of them. One was helping a customer with a drumhead, another was recommending a bass to someone. I was blown away…in fact; I (seriously) started to cry! I was so amazed and delighted and proud that every damn clerk in the store was a chick, it was an incredible moment. It proved how far we’ve come, especially in rock’n’roll, which has always been a male-dominated industry.
How was it to be the so called Queen of the LA Scene? Did you feel a sense of authority?
Ha! I knew so many great people (then and now) and was always backstage or always knew about the best parties, that I think Rodney Bingenheimer was the one who started calling me that… I went over every night for like, almost thirty years…
I never really felt a sense of “authority”, I guess cause I wasn’t interested in, like, having “power”. I was just into going out, having a great time, being creative, hanging out with amazing people!
It’s weird; some people get really nervous when they meet me … they just don’t realize I’m just a goofy chick who had a shit-ton of fun. : )
Do you desire to write another movie?
Well, that’s a possibility, but right now, I’m more into acting in films, and have four books that are started and need to be finished. TheLobotomy book, a book on Disgraceland I’m co-writing with Iris Berry, a book on Tarot reading that I’m collaborating on with my divination partner Crystal Ravenwolf, and my another forthcoming memoir, called (Super) Natural Woman , about all my life-long paranormal experiences. So… that’s gonna take some time! I’mworking on all that stuff now between dance gigs.
How did you transition from punk queen to belly dancing star?
I’m sure it seems insane to people who don’t know me, but for me, it was a logical progression. In 1990, I was on the dance floor at a rock club and a woman asked if I was a belly dancer. She said, “You move like one”.
She was a belly dancer, and I went to see her perform, and then I was hooked. I begged her to teach me. So I started taking lessons, and loved it. Then, a friend gave me a ticket to Greece- you could totally give or sell airline tickets before September 11- it seemed like fate was calling my name, and I needed to take things as far as they would go!
So I added on Cairo, told my family I was going, quit my job and up and left for an adventure that lasted eight weeks in the Greek Islands, Cairo and Upper Egypt.
I learned as much about belly dance as I could in Egypt, and returned several times usually once a year. Right after I came back from that trip, I started working as a belly dancer… and twenty-seven years later, I’m performing and teaching all over the world. Crazy! If anyone had told me in 1990 that belly dancing would take over my life, and I would become a professional, I would’ve laughed him or her out of the dance studio…but here I am!
What were your favourite bands in the late 70s/early 80s?
Oh man, there’s soooo many! The bands I saw most live were, in no particular order: The Cramps, Blondie, The Go-Gos, The Gun Club, The Germs, Tex & The Horseheads, X, The Mumps, The Ramones… I adored The Damned , Siouxsie, The Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistols, and saw them a lot too, in UK as well as in LA, or in the Pistols’ case, their last show in San Francisco. But there are tons and tons more… too many to mention!
Do you listen to much punk today and if so, what?
I listen to mostly older, original punk, still love it!
One more question that I have to ask: what are Jim Jarmusch and Iggy Pop like to hang out with?
I didn’t know Jim Jarmusch that well, just saw him around a lot at gigs and art shows on the scene in New York around 1978-1980, but he was always fun.
Iggy was, of course, wild. Got into a lot of trouble with him on various occasions, from 1975 until the early 1990’s! I met him and we started hanging out when I was fifteen- the whole story is in the book Pamela Des Barres wrote, called Let’s Spend The Night Together: Backstage Secrets Of Rock Muses And Supergroupies. Had a lot of crazy times when he was living in Malibu, in 1977. David Bowie rented the house for him, I stayed there on an off all summer that year. He had the walls covered in butcher paper and would spray paint all over them, and like, dump buckets of house paint over his head so it dripped all over his body, ten run at the walls making body prints. It was beyond. We’d go into town to see punk bands or whoever was at The Whisky play. It was an outrageous way to spend an LA summer!
For more info or to contact Pleasant, go to her website:
Interview with Richard Flohill
I first met Richard about five, maybe even six years ago through a singer/song writer I was closer with at the time, Jadea Kelly. How I know Jadea is a long story that doesn’t need to be told. As most folk artists in Toronto do, Jadea played the legendary Cameron House on Queen West and eventually took up a weekly residency there. This must have been when I first met Richard who was acting as Jadea’s publicist. Though from observing how others would interact with Richard it didn’t take long for me to acknowledge that for this older gentleman, helping young artists was more than a hobby.
At the time I was managing an art gallery and though loved working with visual artists, I was always interested in the music industry. Music has been the main focal point of my life and being a curious brat, I wanted to know everything and everyone. I struck a conversation with Richard and eventually asked him if he were interested in getting a coffee with me to talk more. He suggested brunch instead at the early hour of 8am. A few days had passed when we met at Toronto’s infamous 24-hour diner, Fran’s on College St. This is where our friendship and our brunches began.
Richard is easy to pick out of a crowd, he is always in black, has shoulder length white hair with a matching mustache and (especially if you catch him at a gig) usually has a huge smile on his face and charms the ladies with his British accent that hasn’t left him after residing in Canada for 50+ years. Richard grew up in England, his parents were part of the upper middle class, which allowed him to attend private school. At the age of 16 he began apprenticing at a local paper in hopes of becoming a reporter. While he was learning to become a journalist, he was at the same time growing into what he describes a “music freak” remembers, “By now I’m a big music freak, I’m deeply into music that now hardly exist. Early American jazz and the British attempt to play it which for the most part were pretty awful but there were some pretty fine music to come out of it. That genre of music was popular in the 50s through to the early 60s”.
Richard’s love for American jazz became so strong he was frustrated that there was no way of him to see these acts in England. That is when he started looking to America as a place to reside. As Richard explains, “the blues boom had yet to happen and I left Britain in ’57 or ’58. I tried to go to the states but they were very worried. You know they were having communists freak outs, [asking me] “oh my God, is your grandmother a communist?” … [And I would reply] “I don’t know, I don’t know that” so that’s when I went to the Canadian office.” Toronto as now was the biggest city in Canada and not a long way from Chicago, where Richard initially was hoping to stay. His first time to Toronto was enough to make him stick here. Richard is very nostalgic of the moment he arrived, “Toronto was an amazing town, it was dull, Presbyterian, boring, and the second tallest building was the Royal York hotel. There was a great music scene because black American musicians could come here all the time and not worry about where they could stay, or where they could eat. So there was always an on rush of black jazz and R&B musicians, just general entertainers, whatever and that made Toronto a really good music town.”
Even though he was in the wrong country, Richard never forgot about his goal and why he left England, he wanted to be in Chicago. He was able to see many great jazz and blues musicians in Toronto, people like Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino and Earl Hines, but he still wasn’t at the source. He would make it to Chicago and make a splash when he did, telling me “later on I did go to Chicago and I did meet Muddy Waters and I did meet Howling Wolf, went to recording sessions with musicians, I became friends with the black Buddy Guy and all of this- then I started bringing these people to Toronto”. He continues, “we did Muddy Waters for a week here, in a small venue. We did lesser-known names. Robert Nighthawk, a wonder player who nobody hears of anymore, and I got this rep, like I’m the blues expert. So then I was invited to something called a folk festival, I had no idea what that was but I was asked to host a workshop”
This was the turning point for Richard’s career, having devoted years to American jazz and blues and allowing Toronto fans to enjoy the music live, he was now about to enjoy the same satisfaction with folk music. Richard elaborates on when this career shift happened. “In 1965 I met Leonard Cohen, Gordon Light Foot, Ian and Sylvia, Phil Ochs, all of this was new music to me. And it was like “wow,” like being hit in the head, I discovered gravity. So that sort of sent me off on a path. In 1970 I was editing trade magazines to make a living, wood working, electrical contracting, whatever because I couldn’t get a newspaper job… So I started doing publicity for the Mariposa Folk Festival then I got a job with Cap Act which was one of two organizations at the time who merged and became SOCAN (which is the organization that collects royalties for song writers and music publishers) and I worked for them on a half time basis for 23 years through which time I met and did stories about, you name it, everybody from classical composers to Gordon Lightfoot, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Burton Cummings, did them all, met them all, wrote stories and still got’em”.
Richard has his own publicity company and keeps very busy working in Toronto with emerging artist with a passion that hasn’t faded over the years. Though as he says “I have a theory and I’ve been doing this from 1965 till, what… are we getting up to 50 years now, nearly? That during this time, during any period for that long, if you don’t have any stories you’ve wasted your time.” So with that I will continue on with my favourite stories as told by Richard from his lasting careers.
When Miles Davis tried to buy Richard’s car after a show at Massy Hall:
“The limo didn’t show up so I had to just run him over to Jarvis street where the hotel was and he got in the car holding a bottle of beer and I just about crapped because there were cops seeing him in my car holding a bottle of beer. But you don’t tell Miles Davis you can’t drink in my car. So along the way he decided he didn’t want to go to Montreal for a sold out show the next night and he said ‘how much is this car worth?’ and I had an old crapper and he said ‘I’ll give you $2000 for it, I’ll drive it to New York tonight’”
Being a teenager and taking The Platters around town:
“Even as a kid as a newspaper reporter I remember doing a story on a group called The Platters. Nobody remembers them now, but they were a 5 piece vocal group who had a lot of hits “The Great Pretender”, “Only You”, very very good black vocal group and they were starting their very first European tour in a town I was working in, a city in the north bay called York. York’s a very historic place, so I called their management and said “why don’t I be your guide and I’ll take the guys around this historic city for a few hours and I’ll write a story blah blah blah good idea. So here is me, and these five black Americans. Me with my short hair and glasses looking particularly nerdy and nebbish-like and one of the places I took them was York Minster. York Minster is this enormous cathedral and I think it’s the second largest one in Europe. It’s huge, bigger than Notre Dame in Paris. And when you walk in, in the far end of the building, which is like a football field away there is this giant 6-story stained glass window with the light shinning through, sunlight shinning through it. And I walked these Americans into the building and the woman in the group gave me the hook, she said ‘we ain’t got one of these in Texas’.”
One of Toronto’s forgotten dive bars, Larry’s Hideaway:
“Well it was the most awful, dismal basement in a basically hooker hotel, um and there’s a couple of memorable stories. I remember a British band I loved called Steeleye Span, it was a folk band but they added drums, David Bowie produced one of their records. And so the lead singer, a women called Maddy Prior, a terribly proper middle class English lady who when the band came back to do their encore said “thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, we’ve really enjoyed our evening with you, but I do have to say that this is the first time our band has played inside an ash tray”. Best story of all, One of the Gary’s told me this, they brought in Allen Toussaint, the New Orleans pianist, composure, song writer, producer, amazing cat. They found out it was his birthday so they went to Loblaws and got a sticky cake, put some candles on it and “happy birthday Allen!” they were going to cut the cake in the hole that they called a dressing room. He said ‘oh no I’m on stage, we’ll do it at intermission’ came back in the intermission and the cake was a brown squiggling mess. Every cockroach in the building was having the feast of a lifetime. Larry’s Hideaway burned down, the whole building burned down, it’s now a part of Allan Gardens and if you go by you’ll see three sides… trees in a square by the sidewalk that marked the hotel. So you got the actual sight where the hotel was, it’s marked by the trees. Larry’s hideaway, I heard some great music there, but what a hole… what a hole.”
The first jazz musician he saw in Toronto:
“On my first day in Canada I walked down Yonge St and I saw this sign “Earl Hines and his all stars” well I went into the bar and I was gobsmacked and I said “Earl Hines, the piano player that worked with Louise Armstrong in the 20s” and all the jazz musicians in his band were all sort of names to me. You know from my addiction to early American jazz and he said “yeah” I said, “Oh, how much is it to get in?” he said it was free but you have to buy 2 drinks. I really thought ‘wow’ and that night I went to go see him and the next night I found a jazz club with a sort of local, Dixie Land-ish band which wasn’t bad and the night after that I found a place on King St. that is no longer there of course. Um and the Stanley cup hockey finals were on. It was on a black and white television set over the stage with the hockey game on, no sound, on stage was this black pianist from Montreal called Oscar Peterson, who I had never heard of, but my jaw was just on the floor.”
Richard Flohil is currently working on a new book that outlines all his wild stories from 50+ years in the music industry. As soon as you’re able, I would highly suggest picking it up. The final part of our interview sums up the flame that Richard still holds for music. As it went when the topic of vinyl came up he explained, “Oh Yeah. I mean I was saying the other day I did a radio interview and I played a Louis Armstrong record from the 20s and I said I rarely play this record because I can play it in my head any time I like. I know every lick of it; I’ve been listening to it since I was 16. And it still talks to me; it’s still a part of my life. If I finish this can I play you a couple of records that you’ve never heard of?” To which I obviously replied, “Yes, of course please” and then he ordered me to, “turn off your machinery”. The rest of the morning was spent listening to records fill the living room of his downtown home.
Q+A with Shannon Shaw
Excerpt from my Burger Revolution zine, Q+A with Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams and Hunx and his Punx
Q: What’s your favourite cartoon to draw?
A: I’ve been cartooning a lot of
Q: What was the name of your first band?
A: Shannon and the Clams
Q: What sports should be included in the party Olympics?
A: Weapon Lord
Q: When is the best time of day?
A: I love twighlight in the summer time
Q: When did you start playing music?
A: age 25 (you’re never too old!)
Q: What piece of cutlery do you prefer most?
A: A really good chefs knife
Q: What’s been your biggest musical influence outside of bands?
A: Disney soundtracks from the 50’s until the 70’s
Q: Who would you rather party with: Aliens or Zombies?
Q: Do you remember the album that made you want to play music?
A: The Strokes Is This It? I heard that bass line from the first song on the album and it made me finally wanna learn bass
Q: What is your favourite food combo?
A: salad ON TOP of pizza is rad
Interview with GWAR's Dave Brockie (RIP)
This interview took place September 2013. Originally published for Aesthetic Magazine
Interstellar metal band, GWAR will release their 13th full-length studio album, Battle Maximus, on September 17th. After losing band member of ten years, lead guitarist Flattus Maximus, portrayed by Cory Smoot in 2011 due to natural causes while the band was touring in support of their last album, Bloody Pit of Horror, GWAR have assembled what they are calling their greatest album to date, a fitting tribute to Flattus.
“The next chapter in GWAR”, lead singer Odeous Maximus, portrayed by Dave Brockie explains, “is fighting Mr. Perfect, who comes through time to steal from GWAR the secret of immortality… the far greater struggle is to move on after losing Flattus Maximus.” Though Flattus does live on in this record. One of his final projects was constructing GWAR’s own recording studio, Slave Pit Studio, the latest album is the first to be recorded in this space. When speaking of recording in GWAR’s own studio, Odeous describes how Flattus influenced the process, “We recorded the new album using the lessons of Flattus, this was going to be his first time recording at the studio, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. Felt like we had to make him proud of us. Flattus was never far away from us during the process.” Odeous does elaborate to admit, “Owning your own studio is so much easier. Everything you need is right there. GWAR being GWAR, in GWAR’s studio. As a result I think we’ve come up with probably our greatest fucking album ever.”
Finding a new guitarist was no easy feat. In order for Pustulus Maximus, portrayed by Brent Purgason to take the position as lead guitarist, he first had to endure a battle between all the Maximus’ on Earth, once the dust was settled, he was the one left standing, and as it turns out, a perfect fit for GWAR. One can only imagine what barbaric scene would of played out during that battle. GWAR have admitted to many attempts at destroying the human race while stuck on Earth, though have faced numerous difficulties adapting to the technical age, as Odeous expresses with frustration, “We are traditional guys who want to still have fun with medieval devices. We don’t want to resort to using nuclear bombs. It is way more fun to kill people with your hands. More up close and personal.” Odeous’ disgust for the human race is even obvious when talking about popular TV show, Breaking Bad when he describing how unrealistic character of Jesse is portrayed simply because he has gained weight throughout the show, something that would never happen to a true drug addict.
GWAR’s career is nearing the 30-year mark. A tough defeat for most bands, Odeous expresses his motives to keep going, “Being immortal helps, unlike being a normal human where you make a few albums and drop dead. There is a tremendous amount of really horrible music that is out there, that’s another reason we do it so much. There is so much awful shit out there that someone has to revive the human race- something that doesn’t completely fucking suck and to amuse us. There isn’t a lot to do on this planet except heavy metal, devise massive war machines and destroy enemies from outer space. This is what I do for a living and I’ve always been like this.”
Though GWAR have an extensive collection of merchandise including dolls, BBQ sauce and beer, they have no plans to add to this for the next while, at the moment all their focus is on the new album and tour. When asked how it is best to experience GWAR for the first time Odeous replies, “To get the full GWAR experience you have to see it and hear it… not just the sight of GWAR, not just the sound of GWAR, also the smell of GWAR.”
Q+A with METZ
Q+A with Alex from Toronto's METZ who offer up advice to DIY bands.
Q: How long have you officially been a band?
A: Roughly 7 years.
Q: Was there ever a time you all had doubts and wanted to throw in the towel?
A: There has never been an end goal for us. I don't think we would still be going if we didn't all really love it and have a good time. I look at it like this: "Make music with your friends. When it stops being fun, quit". The three of us have been playing music and touring (in bands before METZ) for most of our lives, so if this band ended I think we would probably all start something new. So far, we don't totally hate each other.
Q: What advice would you give bands who are still very diy?
A: I certainly can't claim to know more about this than anyone else. We are all just learning as we go. Don't compromise. Make the music you want to make and don't consider anything/anyone else. I think most people who grew up listening to punk or reading zines or going to shows connect with that sentiment in one way or another.
Q: What have you learned on the road to being signed to Sub Pop?
A: There is no "right" or "wrong" way to do things. Just do what feels good to you. And play shows as much as possible. Bands like Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, Fugazi all took very different paths. What matters to me is the music.
Q: What are the major differences between being DIY vs being on a somewhat-major label?
A: Nowadays I think labels are becoming less and less necessary and I think that can only be a good thing. People can make music and distribute it across the planet without depending on anyone else's approval. In our case, the main thing was that by working with a label, there was a possibility that more people were going to hear our music. Of course there are horror stories of bands being seriously taken advantage of and getting ripped off. Like any industry, there are leeches out there with bad intentions. So its important to be educated on the agreement you are making. Luckily, we really like the people we work with and there is zero influence or pressure on us to change who we are or what we do. We still run the day-to-day decisions of the band and make the music we want, when we want, and with who we want. I'm not saying its the right fit for everyone; it seems to be a good fit for us right now.
Q: Is there any food in this would that is better than poutine?
A: Of course not.
Q: Are there any Canadian punk bands you're cheering for right now?
A: New Fries, Weaves, S.H.I.T.
Q: Is there anything you would like to see different in the Canadian punk rock scene? Any changes for better or worse?
A: I can't make that call. The "punk scene" is totally amorphous and unclassifiable. Everyone thinks it is something else. Ideally, its an open-minded supportive community of people making art.
Interview: Gary Pig Gold
I met Gary through a friend one night at a screening of a documentary at the Bloor Cinema. Our mutual friend left us to grab some popcorn and through making friendly conversation, Gary and I found out we have one vital thing in common: punk rock zines. Gary actually made one of the first punk rock fanzines in Canada while living in Toronto in the ‘70s. He told me in our first conversation that regular newspapers refused to review punk bands, since to them it wasn’t real music. That left Gary and his zine open to interview bands such as The Ramones and The Kinks when they came into town, as he was one of the few who was actually excited to write about them. After meeting we kept in contact and he was nice enough to grant me this interview with him. Enjoy.
Shelby Monita: Where did the idea to do the fanzine, also how did you come up with the name?
Gary Gold: "The Pig Paper" began as snail-mail correspondence between myself and my oldest pal, Rock Serling, who worked summers at a day camp up north. He was Totally out of the loop up there - this was PRE-Internet, remember - so I'd keep him posted on what was happening on CHUM-AM Radio at the time (not much), what good concerts were going on (absolutely None!) and what old records I was finding in the local junk shops (Lots! This was the early 70s, and people were getting rid of all their
45s and LPs from the 50s and 60s. Eventually, those records ended up in
The (in)famous "Pig" name came in high school when a kinda scandalous film I made about my hometown, Port Credit of all places, won an award at a film competition and was picked up by PBS Television in Buffalo, NY to be screened. Beforehand, my school's legal department told me
that, just in case lawsuits started flying, I should indemnify myself -and the school - by crediting the film to someone
fictitious. So the very morning the opening credits had to be reshot, a little plastic Pig stamper fell out of my cereal box, I swear, and "Gary Pig" the director - and soon to be "punk" journalist - was born!
SM: Why do you think there were few other fanzines in Canada at the time?
GG: Good question. Probably because it took a Lot of work back then to type, cut and paste - literally! - everything together, raise the money, find a printer, carry boxes of issues around…you know what it's like, Shelby!
That said, I probably never would have started "The Pig Paper" in the first place had all the Toronto newspapers not refused to print the record reviews I was always sending them (quote, "The Stooges? Ramones? This is a MUSIC column we're running here! When you decide to write about Real Music, we may consider looking at your work").
There was, however, a Great zine called "denim delinquent" which started out of Ottawa in 1971 then moved to L.A., though I wasn't aware of it at the time. I think they only published a few issues, once a year, and were gone by the time "The Pig Paper" got going.
SM: If there were a zine school, what would you think should be taught there?
GG: Well, if it was specifically a p-u-n-k zine school, I'd say only one thing need be stressed:
Don't read, or even Look at, Anyone else's work first, start around 2:30 in the morning tomorrow, put on your favourite music, crank UP, then just write about what you're Feeling, only, and always. But: Don't think too much or too hard first, and Please don't re-write or even edit. And absolutely NO computers allowed either (especially Apples). Simple!
SM: Who is the most memorable person you interviewed and why?
GG: Elvis Costello, Dennis Wilson, Nardwuar or even Jerry Lee Lewis? No.
It would have to be Steven Leckie and Freddy Pompeii of those Viletones, back in everyone's prime (as in 1977/78). Why? Because they were as honest as a three-dollar bill, brutally insightful by the minute, and as if that wasn't enough already were intelligent and even downright charming. Like their music. And all I had to do was pay for the beer first.
SM: Why do you think there is so little
acknowledgement/appreciation/recognition/documentation of Canadian punk roots?
GG: "Treat Me Like Dirt" and "The Last Pogo Jumps Again" are both brave and necessary first steps, yep. But I still can't help but wonder why it took over a quarter of a century for "the media" to catch on and catch up. The mid-70s scenes/sounds of London, New York and even L.A. were pretty well documented - and supported - right from the
get-go, but Toronto (and especially Hamilton!) were not only operating to the same depths right alongside those other people and places, but in many Many ways, especially musically, were FAR ahead of that pack. But I guess back then it was a tragic case of too few people paying too
little attention, and even less money and time being spent nurturing the pioneers. A shame. A pitiful shame.
SM: Why didn't you continue with the punk band you started as a teenager?
GG: Mainly because everyone took off to play in other peoples' bands! Our drummer ended up in the Diodes, our singer eventually got a deal with Capitol Records, and our guitarist joined Simply Saucer. And me? I took off to Southern California and almost - I say Almost - ended up on tour
in Australia with Jan & Dean. But that's Another story...
SM: You made a documentary on your home town of Port Credit when you were still a teen. Have you work on any films since?
GG: Well, I've been IN a few documentaries since. One on Jandek, plus "The Last Pogo Jumps Again" of course, and in fact as we speak I'm getting driven back to Hamilton to appear in another doc!
SM: Your achievements are so vast it's hard to talk about just one thing. Can you speak about Pig Records- Simply Saucer were your first release, how many more did you put out after that and does one stand out above the rest?
GG: Pig Records kept on going right into the 21st Century, with releases by the Ghost Rockets, Dave Rave, The Masticators, two "Unsound" compilations and even an all-star Gene Pitney tribute album. But I'd have to say that first Saucer 45 still holds a very, very special place for me …on the cold concrete floor in my parents' basement to be exact,
gluing together picture sleeves and Jiffy mailers in the middle of the night.
SM: You've been around since almost the beginning of punk rock. What do you think of what it has become?
GG: I think I've been around since Before anyone had even started to use the "p"-word …unless it was to talk about some old Syndicate of Sound B-side from 1966. And now in 2015 you can hear the word "punk" sometimes used in the same sentence as "Green Day" and "Miley Cyrus," so that about tells you what it's become. Oh well...
SM: You have made a living doing what you love. Any advice on how others could do the same?
GG: Sure! The old cliche really is true: Do what you love, and love what you do. That's just about it. And sooner or later you'll start making a living at it; if you have the time to notice, that is!
Interview with Jason Croke - Los Angeles, CA, USA
There I was, standing on the corner of Sunset and Vine in the grime-ridden streets of Hollywood. A place that was once rumoured to be covered in gold had turned to dust, though the hot California sun still shines down upon it. Waiting with my fellow low-income bus dwellers, I stood, anticipating the nerve-racking ride to the neighbourhood of Silver Lake. I was home sick and was told this was where the hipsters rest. Hailing from Toronto where most of the 22-35 year olds can only identify with having over sized non-prescription glasses and predominantly wearing clothing people sweat and fucked in fifty years ago (true hipster fashion), I was curious how this translated in California. On this day, however, I never found out.
The Los Angeles transit system tested my patience, as ten minutes had now passed with out any sign of a bus, while I received a text message from Jason Croke. I wouldn’t say that Jason and I knew each other well at this point. Now a resident of LA, he and his wife, Michelle Calvert, are from my hometown of Toronto. Back when Michelle and Jason lived in the north, Michelle was, for a period of time, my boss. It wasn’t until she held a company Christmas party at the house she shared with Jason, that he and I first met and instantly found our love of music to be common ground. During my visit in LA, I would have loved to see Michelle, but unfortunately she was out of the city. They were the only ones I knew in the Los Angeles area, so Jason and I had made loose plans to hang out. When Jason wrote me that text message, he asked what I was doing. I responded with letting him know about the agonizing long wait for the bus and that I could be persuaded to change my plans. He told me to walk to Amoeba and he would meet me in five minutes.
Five minutes passed, and there was Jason on the corner in front of legendary record store, Amoeba in his air-conditioned, non-public transit vehicle. When I hopped into his car, he was eager to show me one of the many and great musical sites of the historical and wild city. So off we went to the Chateau Marmont. In case you are not aware, this West Hollywood hotel has a colourful life as a haven for celebrities. From being the former address of both Jim Morrison and Neil Young, to having beautiful oriental carpets where Jim Belushi took his last steps, any celeb worth knowing or groupie worth interviewing has walked through these doors. In fact, while Jason and I indulged in our beverages, a very tiny, sour, and elderly Glenn Close was seated just a few tables down from us on the patio. Since this is a very popular hangout for the famous, no photographs of any kind are allowed. Therefore all I have for you is my eyewitness account. Though our time together there wasn’t long, Jason and I did have some great conversations, sharing our stories and musical knowledge. From telling me about all the great Toronto shows I had missed while I was young and learning my ABC’s, to his rough career adjustment after moving to LA. Not to worry, Jason landed on his feet and is now the Director of Sales in the LA office for Vancouver based record label, Nettwerk.
I don’t know many people in the record industry, especially people who work in the industry and are living in LA. Curious to know more, after I arrived back home, Jason and I set up a more-candid-than-usual phone interview. It was during our talk that he alone gave me hope for the major record labels; that there is still passion for the music and it’s not all about dollars and cents for everyone. On a nice summer evening, after I came home from my day job in Toronto, I picked up the phone to reach Jason in LA and we talked about his musical beginnings and his path to the west coast.
Jason grew up in Barrie, Ontario, a suburb north of Toronto. I would give you a reference for how you might know this city, but I can’t think of one. I can tell you there’s an exit on the 401 East to take the 400 North to Barrie. It’s a tricky exit and I have had many close calls with almost, accidentally driving to Barrie, instead of my destination because of it. Coming from a city that has no memorable identity did not seem to bother him; Jason was able to step away from the usual. As he told me, his musical education came in a package with his rebellious youth skateboarding around town: “[Skateboarding] impacted the decision of appearance, attitude and then the music just came along with it.” He continued by saying, “right off the top, right when I can start saying I liked music, it had already become a way that I wasn’t going to go with the grain. I was going to go as far away from it as possible. As much of the time as possible, really.” The music Jason was talking about at this point in his life was mainly grunge, before anyone knew it to be grunge. He confessed that Nirvana was one of the worse things to happen to him. Or at the moment at least it had seemed to be, as he told me, “That underground scene was a great thing until Nirvana came around.” Jason identified with an underground scene whose fate was to be dragged through the mainstream mud.
As Croke matured into his twenties, it actually was Nirvana that helped him see the light when it came to the music industry, and how an unknown band making it big is actually a beautiful thing. Jason showed his soft side when he admitted, “There is a romantic side to the business of music, with the stories [for example], the day Nirvana got signed and there’s all this drama behind it and I love that shit. I just thought it was incredible. That a small label in Seattle got this shitty Seattle band and virtually changed everything… that started peaking my interest into what record labels are and what they do… It’s kind of hard to do both. Be the business guy as well as the artist. The business side is an art form in its own right… how do you take a band that are not good to some and great to others, market them and create a career for four people. It’s pretty incredible… At a certain point I didn’t know where I was going to end up, but I knew I was going to carve my way into that industry.” That is exactly what Jason was able to do, from working as a reviewer for legendary Toronto record store, Sam the Man, to being in sales for Select Distribution, which allowed him to work closely with the iconic Beggars Group. Jason was on a path that most up and comers in the music industry look to for inspiration. So why did he leave Toronto for LA?
Speaking from my own (biased) experience, Toronto can be frustrating for almost any creative industry. My own background includes working in an art gallery, working for a top fashion designer and in the music industry. When someone wants to try another city for a chance to explore the bigger and better, I do come down with a hint of jealousy. That’s why when Jason and his wife Michelle left town, I couldn’t blame them and didn’t question it. I was, however, still interested in why they made the decision. I know they had both lived there at one point in their twenties, and it seems that after so many years, the Hollywood Hills missed them and seemed to pull them back. Los Angeles looked like a good career choice as Jason started to envision his future in Toronto, and wasn’t sure how much further he would get in a city where the most creative industries have lower ceilings than most creative capitols. It did take some time, but Croke was able to find a position that he loves, and that loves him right back, at Nettwerk in Los Angeles, and his infatuation of the industry has remained true. He told me with hints of joy in his voice, “It’s priceless and can’t get any better. Through all the years of me being in the industry in Canada and now LA, the cast of characters that have come through my life, some of them funnier than others, some of them complete assholes, you learn off of all of them and some of them are lazy and you learn off them too because you think ‘oh, you’re just lingering, man you’re not doing anything’ and those are the guys that you go, ‘great, I’m going to stomp right past you as you’re sitting there doing nothing, so you’re out of my way.’ The there’s the next guys who are really good at what they do, you want to beat them, but you also want to be them.“ On the topic of avoiding the music industry on account of its instability, unpredictability, and slim chance of making the big bucks Jason reassured me, “The dollar itself, sure we all need one to get by. But I think at this rate it’s more the passion that keeps you in this game and I wouldn’t give it up for anything to be honest with you. It would be hard to tell you to start selling cars and make triple the money.”
Bands Jason is recommending to friends these days:
Interview with Erica Lyle
Shelby Monita: Are you noticing a growing curiosity among younger readers discovering your writing and zine, wanting to know what they missed out on?
Erica Lyle: Hmmm…. Maybe. (I’m assuming you mean the Black Flag issue of SCAM with this question). I think there’s been a growing interest in The Old Days of punk for many years. Punk started getting self-conscious about its past, I think, as far back as 1991 when there were a couple pretty important seismic shifts in what was then clearly an underground subculture. Nirvana broke as a huge mainstream rock band and threw open the doors to the major labels for many longtime underground punk bands that had struggled through the long dark 80’s. At the same time, as punk started to appear on MTV and in the mall, there really was also a sort-of underground renaissance taking place. There was lots of new energy in DIY punk in spaces like Gilman Street and ABC NO RIO and a general shift away from the bummer so-called “Crossover” years or the late 80’s NYC hardcore/metal and straight edge stuff that seemed violent and stupid to many of us in the rest of the country. Personal zines became really huge at that time and much of that punk literature in many ways looked for inspiration back to the earliest days of punk before things had got so pro-rock or violent or metal in the late 80’s. Zines like Cometbus were the first to really explore punk – something that was always about “no future” and living in the moment – as something that had a history. But when Nirvana came along, some of that self-consciousness about punk history – about, lets say, that eternal question, what is punk?—was also about maintaining punk identity as oppositional in the face of the cooptation of punk style by major labels.
I think in recent years with the rise of the Internet, the clear line between “mainstream” and “underground” has almost completely disappeared. As my pal, Becca says, what we do is NOT secret! The mainstream has continued to mine subcultures for every last shred of commodifiable authentic spark. Punk is in the museums and the academy. Punks feel free to post what were once punk secrets online for all to see. I mean, here in NYC, many “all ages DIY spaces” more closely resemble for-profit rock bars that happen to be run quasi-illegally in warehouses and the shows are listed in the New Yorker! So the cat’s out of the bag. Folks know all about it. With the Black Flag reunions, we even see the pathetic sight of mainstream publications like Rolling Stone trying to now cover the band with a knowing tone, to make up for all the years they completely ignored the Dark Matter of the US punk underground that was all around them. So there’s a market for books about The Old Days and many of those old days stories are, of course, really quite great so people read them.
Its possible that the current obsession with the Old Days represents punk’s anxiety about its own authenticity in the new place in the culture it suddenly finds itself in. Black Flag once could not play a show without LAPD starting a riot. Now the Black Flag reunions will play at large outdoor festivals this summer in many cities and the reunions are covered in NY Times, LA Times, Rolling Stone – evenForbes.com! Black Flag and punk seems to have partially won the battle with the larger culture. So what happens to punk now? The question seems to me, then, how to take it back from being a commodity or how to make it dangerous again in some way, or is it just time to do something else?
If anything, I’d say, though, that most of the mail I’ve received from younger readers seems to be in agreement with the zine’s postscript that addresses punk and its current increasing retreat into nostalgia for its own glory days. Kids have written me, complaining about what they perceive as a hierarchy of cool where the Old Days are presented as something inherently better than now. They say knowing every detail about the old days or having all these old records is part of some currency that they feel is gross to accrue when punk to them was supposed to be about no rules and doing what you want and challenging the status quo. So there might be a backlash against nostalgia where it really counts – in the young kids who are making and reading zines and making new bands. But, this is hardly scientific. I’m only talking about a handful of letters.
I would also say that “missed out on” is perhaps the wrong way to look at it. While bands like Black Flag and their SST contemporaries seem to me to be among the best bands ever and I can only imagine what it was like to see them in their prime, I DO know what its like to be part of really amazing scenes and communities and to be at really amazing, life changing shows. Everything that is old is new to people who find it for the first time and that spirit of rebirth is part of punk. Look at the Minutemen documentary. In it you see footage of this band that is now considered legendary enough to make a film about, but they were playing live in 1983 to, like, three very puzzled skinheads in a completely empty room! A lot of The Old Days was really like that. Which is to say it’s the same as now: small groups of committed and excited and probably weird people inventing something together out of sight from the rest of the world in remote unknown locations. The Old Days are happening live before your eyes so make the most of it while you’re in it!
SM: In the postscript of SCAM Issue #9, Damaged, the story of Black Flag’s first album, you wrote about what happened, happened and can never be recreated. For what now (through younger naïve eyes) seems to be such a romantic period in music, do you feel that such genuine passion can ever be created again without the same social restraints?
EL: Well, I suppose the aesthetics or formal aspects of punk music have lost their shock value or have come to signify something else in the culture, if that’s the kind of “social restraint” you mean. You’re probably not automatically going to get harassed for having a mohawk in most places these days. But the riot police are still on hand to attack any large group of folks who are inventing together their own autonomous culture that’s against the prevailing social order. Look no further than Occupy Wall Street, which suffered from intense surveillance, infiltration, and violent physical attack – much of it illegal — from US law enforcement in Occupy camps across the country. I was working on the first interviews for the Black Flag zine during the short Occupy era and felt there were obvious parallels between the joy people were finding in Occupy and what it must have been like for kids who were discovering – and creating together – punk in SoCal in that summer of 1981 I was writing about. Everyone was saying how “the energy is like nothing else that’s happened before”, etc. So, yes, I definitely think new, genuinely passionate culture can be created right now!
SM: Do you still feel the same connection to punk rock as you did when you were a teen in South Florida?
EL: Yes and no. In many ways I feel a greater connection because punk rock has been my whole life since then. When I was a kid in South Florida, I was dreaming of starting a band, doing a zine, booking shows, traveling around the country on tour, etc. and now I have done all of that many times over. It has been so much of my focus for so many years and has brought me really deep connection with so many wonderful people and experiences all over the country.
On the other hand, when I was a teen, I saw punk rock as a total universe that could meet all my needs in life. It’s now been years since I felt that way. After a time, I realized that it was too small a world to contain all my interests. First, I started to feel like activism within punk was very limited and that for real change to happen, I would need to connect my activism with people outside of the punk rock world. Later, as a reporter or when I got involved in curating art shows, I started to feel, too, like my curiosity was taking me beyond the bounds of punk.
But I think this is good. You should get inspiration from wherever you can. As the saying goes, punk rock saved my life. I think this is true for many others. But I’ve seen over the years that many people who felt that great promise from punk in the beginning later get bitter when they see punk isn’t perfect and so they leave the scene. In particular, I’ve seen it with kids who become activists and start to find punk to be too apathetic or privileged so they make a sharp break with it and feel condescending toward it. I never wanted to quit punk, though. I think its possible to make a contribution in many areas and not expect one thing to meet all your needs.
SM: What do you feel is the best reward for living a creative life?
EL: Creative satisfaction! That, and living in a way that you can continually discover new things, experiment, find new people to collaborate with or to have conversations with, etc. Also, it can be good for you to not have so much security sometimes, to not know where the next month’s rent is coming from. It keeps you on your toes, puts some spice in the mix… It’s all work but it’s worth it to me, the hustle. It feels good to rely on yourself in life.
SM: I read your interview in Beached Miami where you spoke of the overdevelopment and housing issues in Southern Florida. In Toronto, we are facing similar issues as Miami. People with lower income are not treated with respect, government housing and historical buildings being torn down to make way for dysfunctional condos for the rich and cooperation’s being preferred over small business. Is there anything you witnessed in Miami that could be a cautionary tale for other cities like Toronto?
EL: Ha ha ha… Well, I can’t imagine anything as insane as the completely fucked universe of Miami ever happening in Canada! Also, Toronto’s a much larger and more sophisticated city than Miami and I’ve met a lot of cool activists from Toronto over the years, so I’m sure folks there know what to look for. In Miami, specifically, I was writing about the city’s claims that Art Basel and all the art world money that it brought to Miami were going to at last bring money and jobs to Miami’s poorest neighborhoods, when actually the city and developers are just cynically using art money as an engine to inflate real estate values, grab public lands for private art museums, and to displace low income tenants from huge swaths of Miami’s poorest inner city neighborhoods. I would say, in general, its good to be cynical about pre-fab “arts neighborhoods”. Genuine arts communities tend to form organically in remote corners of cities where there’s abandonment, crime, poor city services, low rent, etc. Not so much in brand new condos on the waterfront – even if they’re now covered in developer-sanctioned “Street Art”!
SM: Any words of advice for the next generation of writers and zine enthusiast, who only want to write and never want a job?
EL: YOU CAN DO IT!
SM: What’s your favourite Iggy Pop album?
EL: Well, I should say first that to my great surprise, the new Stooges record is actually really killer! Even as we’re complaining about nostalgia here, I got to say that its not nostalgia if you’ve still got it! I checked out some live clips online and it was really inspiring to me to see James Williamson and Mike Watt rocking out so insanely hard to these new songs. Those guys are deadly serious. They always really bring it. You hear fans complain and say things like, “A bunch of senior citizens shouldn’t be playing punk rock!” But those folks have it exactly wrong. The truth is, being old is punk! I don’t mean like The Rolling Stones, Inc. Roadshow, which is still just as corporate, louche, and contemptuous of its audience as ever. Or The Who, who really suck. But when you’re like Fred and Toodie Cole or Watt and you’re up there on stage, looking all wild and ragged and you’re rocking out, warts and all, blowing younger bands off the stage…that is seriously cool! Any 20 year old can sing, “I’m going to stay young until I die”, but those oldtimers have been staring it down everyday for a long time and still deliver. These people are true lifers and I’m inspired by their dedication.
I guess if we’re talking about solo records, I’d have to say Lust For Life is still my favorite. I mean, for starters, who can deny that killer cover photo of The Ig and that thousand-watt grin? “I’m worth a million in prizes”… But Kill City is amazing. Even New Values… I’ve been listening to that a lot lately.
I’ve actually been listening to LFL, The Idiot, and New Values a lot lately, though. For some reason those sound so great to me right now. It’s like pulling a warm blanket over my head and burrowing deeper under the covers on a cold Sunday morning. They really capture that It has that glorious empire-in-ruins-pre-Reagan-fascism late 70’s sound… “From Central Park to shanty town… Don’t look down.”Williamson was really hinked on those saxaphones and lush female backing vocals, huh? That big studio 70’s analog sound was what the first music I heard on the radio when I was a tiny child sounded like, so there’s always been something both creepy and thrilling about it. Its like the sound that “Horses”, Fleetwood Mac, “Jailbreak”, “Marquee Moon”, “The E Street Shuffle”, and Dylan’s “Street Legal” record all have in common. Something on the line between luxurious and just bloated. I think Bowie got something like that for Iggy with scrappier production values on those records they made in Berlin together. It makes me wonder, what would a record that captures exactly our current moment sound like? And would we even like it or would it not sound good for another 20 years?!? Of course, Bowie was trying to channel Weimer-era nostalgia with those records for The Ig so they were born already drenched in nostalgia. But why do they sound perfect to me this week?
5 Questions for Dr.Disc
5 questions for the boss man, Mark from Hamilton's Dr. Disc
20 Wilson St, Hamilton, Ontario
Q: What is your favourite record store (besides your own)?
A: In Canada, I love Grooves Records in London, both for the music and the staff! Worldwide I would have to say Rough Trade in London, UK.
Q: What is your favourite venue?
A: I really don’t have a favourite. I think that certain magical things can happen to or at a venue when a particular band is playing and the stars just magically align, so to speak. So I think for me the live music experience can actually make a venue special. For example, one of my favourite concerts in 2012 was Reverend Horton Heat which took place at This Ain’t Hollywood, a gritty Hamilton rock n’ roll club in the north end. The band’s performance and personality; the music; and the crowd all combined for me to make that bar the best place in the world to see live music on that particular night.
Q: Who is your favourite Ontario punk band?
A: Definitely two different kinds of punk rock are represented in this geographically biased answer, but I love The Dirty Nil and TV Freaks (both from the Hamilton area).
Q: What do you love most about Ontario?
Q: Hockey or Curling?
A: Sorry, not a sports fan at all. But my girlfriend just said that if I answered curling that she would leave the room, so I would definitely say hockey!