Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut

One of the great misses of horror cinema is Clive Barker's Nightbreed. The film, like the novel Cabal on which it's based, has one of Clive Barker's most idea-rich, archetypally dense storylines; it also boasts some very creative creature effects and a just terrific performance from David Cronenberg, as a murderous psychiatrist. He's perfectly cast, and, I'm told, had some input in writing certain scenes, which makes the film relevant to Cronenberg's own body of work; there's stuff about the mind being made flesh (in the act of murder, it happens) that will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of Cronenberg's themes. That's not the only reason I'm fond of the film, though: Nightbreed is a profoundly punk film, in its attitudes towards authority and monstrosity, and touches on homophobia, racism, and the position of the Other in society. No other film has made the monsters the good guys in quite so interesting or rewarding a way; it's on the level of meaning that the film is at its most interesting. Sadly, these meanings are obscured by an hour long action scene that passes for an ending and various clunky edits that leave you feeling like vast swaths of dialogue are missing from the film; while it wants to leave you cheering (for the monsters!), Nightbreed leaves you weeping, for having so much potential for greatness, and falling so far short.

Imagine my excitement and surprise to discover that a) the film never really was structured according to Clive Barker's wishes, and that the finished product reflected ample meddling to make it more "commercial"; b) that a restoration has taken place, with Barker's participation, drawing from the best sources available to people without access to the negative, and has screened in many cities already; c) that this restoration is substantially LONGER, truer to Barker's original novel, Cabal, and has won the approval of many fans; and d) there is a petition you can sign to urge Morgan Creek to allow the restorers access to the original elements so there can be a full, proper revisitation of the film, for Blu-Ray and DVD purposes. See the Occupy Midian website for more, and please, folks - SIGN THAT PETITION! I haven't seen "The Cabal Cut" of Nightbreed, but I know this - it can only be an improvement on the theatrical version!

John Lurie, Down by Law: Vancity screening Tuesday

Apropos of the upcoming Cinema Salon screening of Down by Law on Tuesday, there's a very interesting, short interview with John Lurie on the Criterion website. One of my old interviews with Mr. Lurie is online here...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Just a thought...

When highly media-oriented, attention seeking madmen go on killing sprees, doesn't it seem kind of contrary to public interest (not to mention antisocial, cynical, and just generally a bad idea) to grant them daily media coverage? Isn't that sort of reinforcing what they've done and thereby encouraging others to do the same? Wouldn't a wiser resort be a sort of "cone of silence" imposed on the offender, such that, save for a brief report on their crime, their presence on cyberspace and in the media sphere would be completely erased?

I actually didn't feel this way about the Unabomber - because at least he wrote a pretty interesting book! - but reading about Breivik generally sickened me, and this Batman kid - I just don't give a fuck about this guy, you know? I'm offended, saddened, and disgusted at having to see his photo every time I go to the news; sorry as I feel for his victims, his is in no way an interesting or useful example of humanity, nothing I need held up in front of me. Plus who the fuck decides to call shit like this news? People are ACTUALLY DOING THINGS IN THE WORLD - accomplishing things, creating things, discovering things, advancing the cause of humanity; shouldn't we be devoting attention to positive things, reinforcing behaviour we actually want to encourage, rather than sloughing through the morbid trough of the lunatic-of-the-month club?

RIP Chris Marker

A confession: the shooting death of a giraffe in Chris Marker's Sans Soleil was so upsetting to watch that I have avoided revisiting the film. I should amend that, but haven't yet; I cannot say that I know Marker's cinema as well as I should. Yet I must acknowledge his passing, at age 91.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Vancouver/ Victoria punk on eBay

Hey, some seller has posted the Spores singles, "Meat BiProduct" and "Narcs In My Pants," on eBay. He's also got Nomeansno, Red Tide, the first Payola$ single, an I, Braineater single... some cool stuff...!

RIP R. G. Armstrong

Who even knew that, at least up until last Friday, R. G. Armstrong was still alive? Since he appeared to be a grouchy fifty year old in films made in 1975, I wouldn't have guessed it. R. G. was one of those character actors who elevated any film he appeared in, with a face full of character, total conviction in his voice, and the capacity to dominate pretty much any scene; perhaps his greatest moment in film is holding the shotgun on Billy (Kris Kristofferson) in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, as immortalized on the back of Bob Dylan's soundtrack album above, but he even brings class to dreck like The Car, where he plays a mean-tempered white trash wife-beater with such style that you end up liking the guy. As noted before, once someone makes it past 90, it seems more appropriate to replace mourning with a "holy shit, man, you had a good long life"-kinda attitude; but my respects to those who knew him.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A cinephile cries: Sorcerer, Phase IV - please restore and re-release!

(This is what happens, I blog one thing, get re-attached to the blog, and then suddenly there's ten other blogposts spring to mind...).

Thanks to Tom Charity for sharing this interview with William Friedkin, about the sorry state of film distribution and the ongoing decline of 35mm as a format. Sorcerer is probably #1 on my list of films I'd like to see a decent restoration and a new, appropriately widescreen DVD/ Blu Ray of (maybe #2 after Saul Bass' Phase IV with the restored ending, recently rediscovered and screened in LA...). Surely both of these films deserve Criterion treatment!

Lamb of God cancelled due to MANSLAUGHTER CHARGE?

Weird and disturbing (and news to me, though not exactly fresh off the press): Lamb of God's upcoming show in Vancouver has been cancelled because the singer, Randy Blythe, is in jail in the Czech Republic for manslaughter, after (apparently) pushing a 19 year old fan off the stage in 2010; the fan fell, developed head injuries, and later died, and when the band returned to perform a Czech show, Blythe was arrested. I have not seen video footage of the act - don't know what the circumstances were - but this sounds like a horrible move, and someone needs to sit Czech authorities down and patiently explain to them that:

a) rock concerts are rowdy, violent things
b) rock fans know this and for the most part like it that way
c) accidents can and do happen
d) holding bandmembers accountable for those accidents can only be bad for rock concerts
e) (...especially if you want bands to continue to tour through the Czech Republic!)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Scratch closeout, Strugglers, Down By Law (the film AND the band)... a few brief things...

I'm in the midst of what may prove a momentary patch of non-enthusiasm for blogging. Working on paid stuff, trying to figure out what the next phase of my life will entail, looking for very light film entertainment for Ma and I to keep the summer heat at bay, and kinda sad about how many cultural institutions about Vancouver are dropping off the map for good.

Scratch Records closeout sale finishes this weekend, 70% off stock on Saturday, 80% Sunday, then that's it, storewise. Scratch have always been my favourite local record store to shop, at least until their ill-fated relocation to crack dealer row. I learned about a lot of great music bugging Keith downstairs at the original Cambie Street location; he was the man who turned me on to Jandek, Daniel Johnston, Borbetomagus (whom he described as music to clean house to), the Sun City Girls, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and who-knows-what-all-else. Haven't been able to shop there much lately - their weird, one-day-a-week hours haven't meshed so well with my suburban relocation - but all the same, I'll miss Li'l Scratchy, the best record store mascot ever.

Carson Books and Records Broadway location closeout persists til the end of August - I gather that stuff is down to 60% off (though you may have to buy a few items to get that rate). Lots of books and records left, though - tons of jazz, blues, folk, rock, reggae, even a couple small punk and metal boxes (ask where they are if you don't know, stuff isn't exactly labelled!). I'll pull a shift there Saturday night for old time's sake, for all you stalkers out there. Feel free to ask me to spin records, if there's stuff you want to hear. My fondness for Carson's has more to do with personal matters (I've done business with Tim as a bookscout for years), but they still are a great little shop, entering their final month of business.

With losses as big as these, we gotta be grateful that there's still stuff happening to feel good about. Mr. Chi Pig was in amazing form at the SNFU show the other night; it was one of the best sets I've heard from the present lineup of the band, and (having written in The Straight that the band couldn't possibly be long for the world) I was happy to stand chastened at how much energy they put out. Truly humbling, and VERY entertaining, as was an insane opening set by The Strugglers, with Bert from the Little Guitar Army seeming truly possessed on vocals (horrible audio, but there's a clip here - the band also did inspired versions of "Sonic Reducer" and "Pay to Cum"). I didn't realize they'd ever released an album, and now I NEED it. GREAT bad cellphone photo:

Punkrockwise, what else is there to say? Y'all are going to see The Meatmen on August 9th, right? (See my plug for the Touch and Go anthology below - if you're at like me, this book is a must-own and will be an endless source of amusement. Plus note that advance tickets for this gig are ridiculously cheap - a mere $6!). Also, I'm going through a huge Gary Floyd phase at the moment, catching up on all those great Sister Double Happiness albums I ignored at the time, so I'm very happy to note that Alternative Tentacles has reissued The Dicks albums on vinyl and CD - something that was long overdue.

Film-wise, one of Jim Jarmusch's most entertaining films, Down By Law, starring Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni, will get a Cinema Salon screening at the Vancity Theatre on Tuesday, August 7th. It occurs to me that I have never seen this film in the proper "church of cinema" environment, with an actual audience to share the experience with. As many times as I've seen this movie - a dry, hip, very funny film, beautifully photographed by Robby Muller - I think I might actually make a trip for the privilege of seeing it with people. There's an amazing John Lurie print viewable upstairs, en route to the balcony, by the way...

More to keep abreast of weird coincidences than because I'm a fan of their music, I must also note that Down by Law, the punk band, will be playing Funky Winkerbeans on August 11th. I personally find that Epitaph/ Vans Warped sound kind of grating - "punk as commodity" - but no doubt a whole generation of people have baby duck fondness for it, as their entry point into the music, and who am I to begrudge them, just because I started with the Sex Pistols, DOA and the Dead Kennedys?
Anyhow, this may be my last blogpost for awhile... just not feeling it. Have a good summer!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time Zones Suck

I'm interviewing a prominent punk figure tomorrow about an upcoming concert in Vancouver, and had been thinking the time zones backwards: I thought he was three hours BEHIND me, but he's three hours AHEAD.   So, idjit that I am, the interview I thought I was doing at 2pm turns out to be at 8am. Fuck! Gotta set my alarm at 7 and hope for the best... I prolly won't even be able to grab a coffee. Grr!  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Scratch Records closing, record store sales ongoing

Looks like Scratch Records will be closing up shop for good - Keith Parry has announced on Facebook that it was the "third last day open" of the Scratch store, with 60% off all stock. Audiopile, on the other hand, are having their 10th anniversary sale this weekend. Somehow, it all kinda reminds me of "The Ballad of Hollis Brown" - Dylan's version doesn't appear to be on Youtube, but this is a faithful cover...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Almost forgot!

Darren Williams Eugene Chadbourne poster!

Eugene Chadbourne Vancouver Return! (Darren Williams interview)

Eugene Chadbourne by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Outside guitar/ banjo virtuoso Eugene Chadbourne returns to Vancouver on Tuesday, July 24th for a set with Darren Williams, Kenton Loewen and Dave Chokroun at the Kozmik Zoo (53 W. Broadway). Eugene recently released Stop Snoring, a House of Chadula CD recorded with Williams and Scott Henderson, recorded at Sea of Shit; it consists mostly of originals, plus a Rascals' song ("Groovin'") and a Sun Ra cover ("Theme of the Stargazers"); you can read the Downtown Music Gallery review of it here. Doc Chad will be returning to Vancouver Island for another recording session this time out - he tells me that he's "got an ambitious plan" that will preclude his talking to Nardwuar or playing side-gigs. (Last year's phone interview with His Nardness can be heard here). Since I've already bugged Eugene numerous times about his music - see here or here, for instance - I threw a few questions at saxophone player Darren Williams, pictured with Doc Chad and Kenton below at one of their past Vancouver gigs... I think that's Poib in the audience...

Photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Q: What are you and Doc Chad discussing playing this time out? The free jazz versus LSDC&W push-pull between you seems to be getting ironed out a bit - you've found a middle ground with Sun Ra and the odd Sonics cover...

A: The last time we played together there was more emphasis on his original tunes than before (and quite right, too!) I have been putting together a list of possible candidates for covers as well as some of the old chestnuts we have played in the past. I would definitely expect some demento Country & Western in there somewhere, that's inevitable, some 1960's garage rock, maybe an Ayler tune, and possibly (hopefully!) a few obscure covers from a couple of long defunct Canadian bands...

Q: What was the high point for you of the last Kozmik Zoo show? What was the weirdest point?

I thought the show was really well attended, and the crowd really dug what we were doing - that's always a rush for sure. I thought Eugene's original tune called "Feather" really came together, it just seemed to lock into place and not just because Kenton's drumming (though that certainly helped!) - definitely the gem of the show, for me anyway. The weirdest moment came when we played "Watusi Zombie" by Jan Davis. Eugene started playing it in the wrong key (or was he just taking me to the Mingus whipping post?) and the resultant harmonic embolism between the two of us ensured a speedy disintegration from there.

Q: What is something you learned about music itself from playing with Doc Chad?

A: Playing with Eugene and musicians like him is always affirming for me in terms of what music I play and how I do it. It hardly needs to be said that the audience for improv/ experimental/ avant garde (whatever you want to call it) music is always smaller compared to other revivalist or "popular" forms, so it's important as an improv/ experimental/ avant garde (etc.) performer to not only have perseverance but support in the form of meaningful collaborations, as well as supportive venues/ festivals. For me to play with someone like Dr. Chad, who has made a career out of playing this kind of music, I find it very inspiring and it makes me work harder.

Q: What is something you learned about being a musician from playing with Doc Chad?

A: That the saxophone can be used in Country & Western tunes. Eugene would appear not to have any instrumental biases and I think that's an approach that should be shared by everyone making music. Dr. Chad is a very generous performer to play with and there is much humour in his playing, not just his lyrics, but in his actual playing. It's reminiscent of how a lot of the Dutch musicians play, this kind of absurdism; so it's no wonder that Han Bennink and Eugene sound amazing together. I feel that it's a lesson and constant reminder to not take oneself too seriously as a performer.

Photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vancouver Noise Fest weekend, plus Bison BC debut new songs!

Addendum: it's my understanding that Ejaculation Death Rattle have been added to the bill for Sunday. And yes, folks, that's Bison BC bassist Masa Anzai making noise Saturday at the Rickshaw! (He'll be making a rather different sort of sound with Bison on Friday, opening for 3 Inches of Blood at the Vogue. I'm told by a Very Reliable Source that Bison will be performing material off their upcoming album!). 

Attention Meatmen Fans!

Those of you eager to see the Meatmen at Fortune Sound Club on August 9th should take note that copies of the awesome Touch and Go hardcore punk fanzine anthology (read more on it on Tesco Vee's homepage) can be ordered in super-quick via Pulp Fiction books, at a substantial discount off the Canadian cover price (the website says "typically 30%," but I thought Chris said 20% today, while giving me, in fact, more than that; don't ask me to do the math, but the bottom line is that it was a damn good deal, with something like a three-day turnaround from when I placed the order and no shipping charges: beat that, Amazon!). The book is some 576 pages long, smells like 'zine ink (not too different from the Crass Records ink smell, actually), and is profusely illustrated (in inimitable 'zine fashion), with tons of punk-related articles by Tesco, Dave Stimson, and contributions from Henry Rollins, Ian Mackaye, and Keith Morris (among others). I'm particularly keen to read the Crucifucks reviews (26 is Tesco's homeboy, looks like)! Note: advance ticket sales for the Meatmen gig are only $6, and will get a lot more expensive come the show, so buy yours now! Meatmen song of the moment: "Pillar of Sodom," off their 1987 masterwork (and my fave Meatmen album) War of the Superbikes...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beyond the Black Rainbow: last two days

Heads up, folks: today and tomorrow are the last two days to catch the theatrical run of one of the most unique, immersive, original SF films to emerge from Canada (certainly the trippiest). Made in Vancouver! For more, see my interviews with the cinematographer, Norm Li; the soundtrack composer, Jeremy Schmidt; and writer/director Panos Cosmatos. If you saw it on opening weekend, you know how rich, weird, and deep a vein this film swims in; it amply rewards repeat viewings, so go check it out again!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chris Walter exclusive interview re: SNFU: What No One Else Wanted to Say

Chris Walter reads at The Cobalt, photos by Femke van Delft; not to be reused without permission

I did a kind of massive interview with Chris Walter for Big Takeover already, but he's willing to make time to give me some exclusive content for my blog... so here it is, another Chris Walter interview, about his newest and best band bio, SNFU: What No One Else Wanted to Say. Visit his website here for more information, and catch the present incarnation of SNFU at Funky Winkerbeans on Saturday the 21st, for Chris' booklaunch; he'll be on hand to sell books, priced at $15 (and the big guy is always more than happy to sign them; make no mistake, as imposing as a figure as he cuts, Chris is a pretty friendly, approachable dude).

Q: What do you love most about the music of SNFU?

A: I loved the whole package: the power, the riffs, the vocals, and the energy they put into live shows. SNFU blew me away when I first saw them at the Doghouse in Winnipeg in ’83, and I wasn’t surprised that they became as popular as they did. I was particularly shocked to see Jimmy Schmitz playing bass with them and jumping around all over the place. He’d been in a band with me just a year earlier, and he certainly wasn’t that good then. Jimmy learned because SNFU practiced like maniacs every day, and Pissed & Broke obviously did not. Still, I was dumbfounded by SNFU and it seemed somewhat surreal that they were from Edmonton. I mean, there were some good punk bands from Edmonton and Calgary, but SNFU were really good.

Q: How do you feel about your new band bio?

I’m sure the book has its flaws, but it must better than my two previous biographies just for the amount of work I put into it. The learning curve is steep with the music bios, and I still have much to learn before I’m truly satisfied. With this one, I realized it was important to interview the roadies, merch guys, and even fans because they remember things the bandmembers tend to forget. For touring musicians, the stories all blend together after a while and become one long, noisy blur. Writing music biographies is much different from writing fiction, and I’m basically just faking it as I go along.

Mr. Chi Pig at Rock'n'Relief, photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission.

Q: Has Ty Stranglehold (who had plans to write an SNFU band bio himself) ordered a copy yet? (Has he said anything about being scooped?).

Ty hasn’t ordered a copy yet, and he will probably never be the president of the Chris Walter Fan Club, but I gave him two years to get it done, and he’d been talking about it for years before that. Finally, when I learned that Ty still hadn’t interviewed many of the key players, I decided to move forward with my project. In many ways, I was meant to write this book because I personally know many of the people in the story, and I’ve known Ken Chinn for more than thirty years. If Ty ever does get his book finished, I will surely buy a copy.

Q: I remember you actually having to explain to someone at the Cobalt (RIP) that he couldn't buy you a beer, because you don't drink anymore (you'd figure your fans would know this by now...). In lieu of offering you alcohol, then, what should fans of yours do to show appreciation at the book launch? (Besides the obvious "buy my books!"). Is there anything they shouldn't do?

A: Don’t put your drinks on the table with my books because they always spill and wreck my covers. I recently bought book stands so the books won’t be lying flat, but I still hate it when people put drinks on my table. At a launch in Winnipeg once, the legs of the table buckled on two separate occasions when kids in the pit banged into it. Somehow, I managed to sell most of those books, even though they were covered in blood and beer and scratched with broken glass. You can buy me drinks if you want, but I’ll just give them away to broke-ass punk rockers. It still feels weird to do that, but for me, booze opens a door I intend to leave closed.

Q: Anything we haven't covered somewhere already that you want to say?

A: Fuck, probably, but I’m burned out from doing so many interviews and can’t think of anything else. Generally, I don’t put as much work into publicity, but I’m touring with this book and need all the press I can get. I worked for an entire year to get to this point, but now I just wish all the promo and touring was done so I can start for real on the next book. Sometimes I feel like a shark, unable to stop moving lest I drown.

...End interview, this is Allan here. Just a brief testimonial: I read a proof of SNFU: What No One Else Wanted to Say and really enjoyed it. Chris Walter has a gift for getting down to the nuts-and-bolts reality of being in a band; the illusions, lies and hype that surround the music industry disappear completely and he offers a compelling, down-to-earth, non-romanticized story of the rise, fall, and ongoing afterlife of one of the best bands in Canadian punk. It's his thickest bio yet - maybe his thickest book? - but it's about as easy to read as potato chips are easy to eat. Since Goony lives in Japan now, this may be one of the last chances Vancouverites have to see SNFU perform. Come to the show, buy a book, and don't put your drinks on Chris' table, already! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Propaganda: North Korean film comments on the west

Thanks go out to Cinema Sewer's Robin Bougie, who posts some real gems of Facebook (and I don't even particularly care about vintage porn!). He just shared a link to a newly translated critique of Western values circulating online, called Propaganda, which supposedly emerges from North Korea. This segment on the entertainment industry serves as a tantalizing appetizer, but the ambitious may want to start at the beginning... Spread the word on this, folks - this seems well worth the time...

Friday, July 13, 2012

A few more great Kinks songs

In gratitude to Ray Davies for answering a few of my questions, I have to post a few more links to favourite Kinks' songs of mine, while trying to eschew the obvious (I mean, y'all KNOW "David Watts," right? Even if just from the cover by The Jam; and surely you're familiar with "Victoria," with its playful Hanson Brothers variant. And lord knows I'm not going to chase down links for "Lola" or "You Really Got Me" or the other handful of Kinks songs that radio has so overemphasized over the years they've kinda been half-wrecked... EVERYONE knows those songs, eh? And if they don't, they have a pretty good chance of discovering them elsewhere).

No, we're going to share some songs you might NOT know, unless you're a Kinks fan like me. For all you smokers out there - check out "Harry Rag." Drinkers, meanwhile, should spend time with "Alcohol," and tea addicts with "Have a Cuppa Tea" - my parents' favourite Kinks' song, which I used to play on a crappy little cassette player when we went on drives in the car, in between listening to my Dad's Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, and Charley Pride cassettes. I don't remember where I found a cassette of Muswell Hillbillies, as a kid - I was surely no older than ten, and seem to recall picking it out of a discount bin because I'd heard The Kinks on the radio or something - but I'm very glad I did. What a terrific album to start with this band (see also "20th Century Man" or - hell, every song on it is great, though its such a cohesive recording that none stand out as obvious "hits").

For those with a fondness for Calypso and Caribbean music, check out "Apeman" - my favourite Kinks' song in grade nine! (The studio version is a little more overt about the Calypso, as I recall). And for just really amazing songcraft, see "Arthur," off Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).

One of the only things I remember from seeing The Kinks circa 1981-82 on the Give The People What They Want tour was that Ray ran on the spot while shaking up two beer bottles, then spritzed the audience from the stage at the Pacific Coliseum as they started "Low Budget," one of the best songs ever written about being kinda broke. (The other clear memory was that Davies joked that "You Really Got Me" was "a song made famous by Van Halen. I don't remember a single other thing from that concert, much as I enjoyed it.)

Cinephile fans of Wim Wenders' great neo-noir, The American Friend, starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz (an adaptation of a couple of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels) might recognize "Too Much on My Mind" as one of the songs that hapless Ganz sings to himself as the plot thickens around him.

Davies mentions in the interview linked above that Bobcat Goldthwait is working on a project based on Schoolboys in Disgrace - check out "No More Looking Back," off that album, a song that I have often returned to in thinking about people no longer in my life.

I'm pretty sure those are all Ray Davies compositions. Of course, his brother Dave is a songwriter too. Check out his "Death of a Clown." Here's hoping that the two brothers will someday reunite and tour with The Kinks again - I could not bear to put Davies through the mill of having to answer questions about that yet again. (I wonder if the dream Ray mentions at the end of our mini-interview inspired any of "Catch Me Now I'm Falling?" That's actually NOT a favourite Kinks song of mine, but it's relevant, and its so brazen in copping a riff from "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that it does merit a certain admiration).

The song that Davies says was inspired by a dream, meanwhile, is "Waterloo Sunset" - one of the bands' greatest moments ever. A live choral version is here, relating to The Kinks Choral Collection; the song also appears on See My Friends, where he sings it with Jackson Browne, though that one doesn't appear to be on Youtube. Both of those seem sort of biding-time albums from Davies, playing with his back catalogue, but I really can't say I object, since he does do fresh and interesting things with the songs. And I mean, who knew that hearing Jon Bon Jovi sing with Ray on "Celluloid Heroes" could be so much fun?

Finally, since I talk briefly about punk rock with Davies, check out two of the punkier songs in the Kinks repertoire - "Attitude" and "Add It Up." And since I mention Tom Holliston's fondness for The Village Green Preservation Society - an album I also admire, though not quite as much as Muswell Hillbillies - check out "Village Green" and "Village Green Preservation Society." Can't go wrong there (great live video for that last clip, too).

I'll leave y'all to explore Ray Davies' solo output on your own - look up Other People's Lives or Working Man's Cafe, for starters... And then go buy tickets and see Ray Davies at the Vogue later tonight. This is a rare opportunity to see one of the 20th century's great pop craftsmen performing live; unlike many of his contemporaries, he's a man whose muse is still fully-firing, despite being just shy of spending five decades in the world of rock (The Kinks formed in 1964). How can this not be an epic show?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

No More Beyond the Black Rainbow, plus blog pause

Well, looks like I won't be blogging anything else re: Beyond the Black Rainbow. Other than a Chris Walter piece in the next week to plug the SNFU booklaunch on July 21st, I may be a little too preoccupied in the next while to write much. A friend is visiting, I've got work matters to consider (ie., finding a job), plus I've got to figure out how to live with the pigeons (the poor baby pigeon is huddled in the corner of my balcony while its stressed out parents rebuild the nest I wrecked; I'm going to let them go at it until the baby has flight, then I'm getting rid of the chair, scraping up the pigeon shit, and taking some preventative measures).

No bloody wonder: the pigeons on my balcony

I've been stunned by the tenacity and persistence of pigeons on my balcony this summer. I throw things at them, scream, squirt at them with my plant watering jug, bang coathangers on the window, even get out there and wave my arms and curse - because I've had to scrape up TONS of pigeon shit, and I don't like it at all! At best they fly away for a few minutes, watch me from a powerline, and return as soon as I'm gone. This got particularly ridiculous last week, when I was outside sitting in my black armchair, which I've had out there for months, and had pigeons flying in to land just inches from my head; they seemed quite heedless and startled that I was there. This has gone on for weeks now; today I discovered why.

They're nesting in the chair. They've brought in sticks, torn out parts of the bottom lining, and hatched a baby, who is now fully pigeon-sized, but still incapable of flight. I found him (or her), downy and huddling in terror, after tilting up my chair to investigate. I may have to surrender my balcony to the birds for the rest of the summer; I actually feel kind of bad at having fucked up their home, because I ripped out the lining of the chair before I realized that this baby is flightless. 

Jeezus, I hope I didn't scare its parents' away...

Two New Interviews - Chris Walter on SNFU and... RAY DAVIES?

With apologies to Chris Walter, whom I interviewed for Big Takeover online about his new band bio of SNFU - more on that later - the interview that blows me away at the moment is the mini e-mail interview I just did with Ray Davies, formerly of The Kinks! Davies plays Vancouver tomorrow night; it'll be my first time seeing him since the early 1980's, when The Kinks toured Give the People What They Want through the Pacific Coliseum. I've sent him some obligatory Vancouver microbrewery tips and a request to further speak with the man - one of the Gods of Songwriting, by me - but I suspect this is all I'm going to get. Still - how bloody cool to have interacted with RAY DAVIES! Previous thoughts on The Kinks' catalogue here. See you at the Vogue tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Melvins Lite Sunday!

I saw the Melvins at least three times in the early years, back when they would play the Cruel Elephant on Granville; even saw them with Lorax on bass, once. Can't find footage of those shows on Youtube but here's one from the same time period - a cover of "The Nile Song." They were heavy and memorable live, but I didn't get their albums back then - too slow, too spare, too demanding; it really helped to have them performing their music in front of me, like my jaws were being forced open and the music jammed down deep inside me. Aside from their gig with Jello Biafra a few years ago, though, despite having bought tickets for two of their last Vancouver shows, I haven't caught them since (ended up selling my tickets and doing something else both nights, for various reasons). Kinda feel like I really oughta seize the day and see these guys again, eh? Even if it's the Melvins Lite (ie., without two drummers)...

To monetize or not to monetize

Well, folks. It's been a long run on Blogger for a guy who hasn't elected to post ads. Everything I've done up to now, for eight years, has been done for free (or for the occasional guestlisting or other cadged perk). I have been reluctant to monetize previously because I thought it might change the way I write, or what I choose to write about, or otherwise impinge upon or limit my freedoms on this blog; and I like the idea of there being ad-free zones in the world, especially on the internet. Still, facts is facts: I'm unemployed, broke, and struggling, and I still seem to have things to say on this site, so you may soon start seeing Ads by Google on Alienated in Vancouver (if they approve of me). Who knows, maybe there will actually be some meaningful income generated?

Post-script: hm, I guess I may have made a wrong move. I thought by creating an Ad Sense account everything else would be done for me, and ads (and concomitant cheques) would presently appear, but I'm being told to do a billion things that I don't understand ("implementing ad code," with a how-to appropriate to Youtube: what?). Will there be ads? Will there be no ads? I'm not prepared to actually invest time in placing ads on this site. Plus I've already self-censored a recent post to be in "compliance" with Google's policies... Sigh. I should have stayed true to my instincts...

Post-script the second: whew! After having gotten nervous that my blog would be ruined or compromised by Ad Sense, I am amused and relieved to receive a note refusing my application. I've been rejected for having "insufficient content..."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Bobcat Goldthwait addendum

Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America, which I previously reviewed here, has just come out on DVD and Blu-Ray, and I re-watched it with a friend tonight (from an actual rental copy, from a video store, which I will have to return on Wednesday; already there's a sort of nostalgic quaintness to the practice, with perhaps a smidgen of the feeling of seeing an endangered species while hiking). It holds up to a second viewing quite well, and seems quite a bit more self-aware about its "Lolita" elements than I'd previously acknowledged, but alas, watching it a second time explained why I ended up anticipating the use of The Kinks' song "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" on the soundtrack; it echoes a line of dialogue earlier in the movie, where one character tells another, "You're just like everybody else." While it's still kind of pleasing that I anticipated based on that one line of dialogue that that particular song would pop up, the presence of so obvious a cue makes it seem far less a synchronistic/ psychic phenomenon and more like an accident borne of my sharing certain cultural touchstones with Mr. Goldthwait. Any other Kinks fan in the audience might have had the same song come to mind, so I guess I'm not so special after all (Ray Davies really gives a remarkable vocal performance... I must track down what version it is, find a recording of it somewhere). 

By the way, this is a rather charming recent bit of standup from Bobcat, which contains at least one routine he adapts for the film...

Monday, July 09, 2012

The absence and presence of lightning

Photographing lightning is no easy thing to do. I have no idea how the pros do it. I tried once in Japan to capture one of the intense lightning storms there, using a humble point-and-shoot camera - I'm no photographer - and accomplished nothing more than shooting up a roll of film, walking around the streets of Ageo-shi in the dark; all you could see, when I got the pictures developed, was the night sky, the streetlights, and the odd drop of water on my lens.

Tonight, just before 4am, I was awakened from dreams I do not remember by sounds I did not recognize. I thought someone was dragging my outdoor armchair across my balcony - it was like the rumble of furniture being moved. Since I'm not on the ground floor, this seemed strange enough to cause me to get out of bed, somewhat startled, to see what was going on, but by the time I was staring out my balcony window, it was clear enough what I'd been hearing - a summer storm.

Most of the lightning registered as moving patches of light illuminating the clouds across the Fraser River. It was quite frequent, so I grabbed my cellphone. I stood on my balcony in my crocs (...so as not to step in the pigeon shit), underwear and Adstock t-shirt, cellphone sideways, pointing the lens at the horizon and clicking away, hoping that at some point I would just happen to be taking a photo when lightning struck. I stood for some fifteen minutes like that, trading up my angle now and then. At times it was like the lightning was teasing me - it would flash just before, or just after, my shutter clicked. (My cellphone makes a loud, cameralike sound when taking photos, that may, as some friends were speculating the other day, have nothing to do with the mechanics of the camera and everything to do with making "stealth photography" - upskirts on public transit and the like - impossible). Photo after photo and all I was doing was missing out on seeing the best strikes - including one massive west-to-east arcing, branching bolt - because I was looking at my cellphone camera at the time they happened. I tried shooting with the camera held to my forehead for awhile, so it didn't interfere with my seeing what was happening in the sky, but I fared no better. I shot a hundred or more images of nothing much at all, standing, then sitting there, because several times I had to pause to erase sets of 20 files each, to keep my camera in its high-res mode.

Finally I gave up and resolved to just watch the lightning. I think I must have said "show me the magic" under my breath - props to you if you get the film reference. For awhile I thought that I'd missed out on the best of the storm, wasting the experience by trying to document it. Then a massive bolt struck down at a slight angle, aiming more or less south, in the direction of Langley, from what seemed almost directly overhead. It was absolutely terrifying to see, with rumbling, echoing thunder rolling overhead to reinforce the fear; my body reacted in a quite involuntary way, trembling and shuddering and stepping back, an oath on my lips (if "holy fuck!" counts as an oath). Suddenly I didn't feel so safe out there on the balcony, with its metal railings; even if getting hit was unlikely, the sheer force of the storm was terrifying to behold - was really, really humbling. I didn't need any more dramatic examples of my insignificance. I said "Goodnight, lightning" and stepped back inside, and rearranged the curtains behind me.

Sitting in my office afterwards, going through the last set of pictures on my phone, I saw nothing that I'd missed. No lightning. I saved one photo of the parking lot and night sky just to have something to show as an illustration of the story that I was figuring on writing. I emailed it to myself - that's it above. Then I noticed that the time was 4:20. Well, maybe God's a stoner, eh? Neverminding that it was the wrong 4:20, I figured to walk back to the living room, go out to the window, open it up, and take one last photo of the night. This is that photo:

Sunday, July 08, 2012

RIP Ernest Borgnine

Well, whatever the value of masturbation to human longevity, it is clearly not the key to immortality, however pleasant a thought that might be: I am very saddened to report that Ernest Borgnine has passed on, at age 95. He crafted some very memorable roles in his time; I remember him best from The Devil's Rain and The Wild Bunch, but there's not a character he touched that didn't make a mark. Still, whenever someone makes it well past 90 in good health and good spirits, the fact of their passing somehow isn't as sad, since they're already pretty far ahead of the curve; most of us can only hope to live so long, and be so productive. He completed his final film last year, The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vincente Fernandez.

All the same, Mr. Borgnine, you will be missed...

Adstock 2012: some photos

One wishes that more people in the community would come out to participate in Adstock - it's not like there are many free all-day outdoor festivals of music in Maple Ridge, and there really was a great variety of music on hand today - something for everyone, really. Still, the park wasn't exactly packed - though maybe the blazing sun had a lot to do with that; people tended to cluster in whatever pockets of shade were available. But there were girls hula-hooping, people playing games with balls in the far field, happily yelping dogs, the odd skateboarder taking advantage of the paved surfaces, and more than a few goggle-eyed toddlers running about in time to the music, their parents close by. Those attendees who did come out appeared to have a great time. Even Mom - whom I plied from her chair for the first few bands, to "experience life live," as opposed to through her usual filter of the TV, could appreciate the charm of seeing massively Mowhawk'd punk rockers dancing happily to Cornshed's furious Maritimes-tinted hoedowns - which even got her highly critical toes tapping (she could previously be glimpsed with her hands clamped over her ears during Anchoress' set). She was quite delighted by the bouncing, dancing conga line that Abbotsford band Rags to Radio led around the park and then the stage, and enjoyed the Jen Huangs (who gamely did most of their EP, Rango, despite one member having a busted flipper). I missed the Secondrate Rejects (sorry Jonny - Mom has to eat), and just got in from Nylithia, whose blistering thrash had a happy little moshpit going on the concrete in front of the stage - the first daylight moshpit I've seen since The Rebel Spell played Under the Volcano a few years ago. It's strange to see people moshing in the sun; I felt quite worried for the barefoot girl who decided she wanted to participate, after all the times I've had my own feet stomped on by oblivious moshers. I am now officially skipping our own local ska-kings Los Furios. With yesterday's bit of outdoorsiness and most of today spent in the sun, I'm feeling red and sore and in need of a nice, cold bath to make me feel human again. Thanks to Matt and Adam and Polya and all the people who help sustain the music scene in Maple Ridge! Looking forward to Adstock 2013...




At Pitt Lake

A peaceful moment at a place I have not visited for some time...

Time for Adstock!

Talked a bit about this year's Adstock - and posted a few cellphone photos of some of the bands - here. For those who missed that post, today - Sunday, July 8th, 2012 - is Adstock, a free all-day festival of bands in Maple Ridge, starting at 12 noon! An awesome, varied lineup again this year, and it's an easy trip from Vancouver; from downtown, catch the 160 Coquitlam express bus to the Coquitlam Centre exchange, transfer onto the 701, and ride straight to Haney Place Mall. It's a one-minute walk west to the park, if you pick the right route between the buildings - but I'll leave that part to you.  

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Credit where it's due: thanks again to Dan (and Kyla!)

Tom Charity was kind enough at last night's very well-attended screening of Beyond the Black Rainbowto direct people to this blog and thank me for having initially called his attention to the film. In the interests of justice, I want to share those acknowledgements - because the film was brought to my attention by local electronic musician Dan Kibke (of G42 and Ejaculation Death Rattle), whom I believe heard about it through Kyla Rose Tremblay, who did the make-up effects for the film (interview with Kyla pending!). Above is a photo of Kyla making Dan a zombie for a past Zombiewalk... not quite sure who took it (though the Soska sisters were in the room at the time, so it might've been one of them...).

...and while I'm at it: thanks to Tom Charity for being adventurous enough to take a chance on such a cool film (booking it for two weeks! - Y'all have plenty of chances to get out to see it, so if you care about keeping exciting and innovative programming at Vancouver cinemas, get out there to check this film out, eh?).

Friday, July 06, 2012

Panos Cosmatos Interview: Beyond the Black Rainbow

Panos Cosmatos wrote back in time for me to blog this, a brief email interview. His debut feature, Beyond the Black Rainbow - view the trailer here- has its Vancouver premiere  tonight at the Vancity Theatre. This is the film that, against the odds, decisively places Vancouver on the cult cinema map, while having almost no visual bearing on Vancouver whatsoever (other than a brief glimpse of our mountains, I didn't recognize a single aspect of our city - which, "Vancouver Sometimes Plays Itself" be damned, is kind of refreshing in its lack of narcissism). It's also, as mentioned previously, one hell of a trip film.

Note: blogger is currently making me want to kill it - it's taken me something like three hours to wrestle with glitches to get this up in a readable format, so if there are still some formatting issues, please do forgive me - the new version of blogger is quite a vexation, and I have places to be!

Allan: Curious about the concept of the black rainbow. I first encountered it in "My Little Town," a somewhat obscure Simon and Garfunkel song that references growing up in the suburbs; the black rainbow signifies the failure of imagination, something I am well familiar with from my many years in Maple Ridge. Since the suburbs factor significantly in the end of Beyond the Black Rainbow, I wonder if that song has any bearing? (I gather there's also a line in a Ted Hughes poem - "to hatch a crow, a black rainbow," which was Paul Simon's source for the image).

Panos: I'd never heard that song before, it's incredibly eerie and depressing and now I want to kill myself... but I think it suits the generation who embraced it and a rejection of that mentality is part of the emotional undercurrent of the film.

"Black Rainbow" are just two words that came to mind one day and I thought they suited the tone of what I wanted to create. I like the old school exploitation mentality of coming up with a title and a poster and then writing the script. I always come up with a title before I write to set the tone of what I'm doing. Sometimes I even make a poster. It's a vibe to go by. A touch stone.

I decided to include the title of the movie in the dialogue as a nod to John Waters who once said he finds it hilarious when the title of a film is spoken within the movie.

Allan: I spent a few years in my early 20's doing psychedelics in the suburbs, so for me, the final images of the film are very profound and resonant: seeing the suburbs through Elena's eyes, how strange and surreal they must be, after what her life has consisted of. In a way, I could imagine this confrontation - Elena meets the suburbs, complete with flickering TV light seen through curtains - being the starting point for the whole film, the image you began with and always planned to arrive at. But I'm just guessing; if not there, where did the project start?

Panos: I had a similar experience. That was not the seed but as soon as I'd locked onto the 80s as the time period for the movie that image came pretty quickly. There's an image that appears after the credits that's kind of a key for one way to interpret the movie.

After my father passed away I became very nostalgic for a while. Yearning for the "simplicity" of an age gone by. I remembered how I had spent hours in the video store as a kid looking at the boxes and reading the descriptions of horror and sci-fi movies I wasn't allowed to watch. I'd come up with my own imaginary versions of these films. That was the starting point, to make an "imaginary movie". I'd had the skeleton of an idea for a movie about a girl in a sinister institute floating around for a few years and it just seemed to resonate with that concept. Everything else kind of bloomed from there.

Allan: I wondered if you could talk a bit about your father's cinema. I actually am a huge admirer of Of Unknown Origin - it's a shame it's so overshadowed by Rambo: First Blood Part II in discussions about your father, because it's one of the most entertaining, wittiest Canadian genre films I know. Since your film feels a lot more like a Toronto tax shelter horror film than anything shot in Vancouver - and since, I believe, that film happens also happens to have been a Toronto tax shelter film - I wonder how much bearing it has on BTBR?

Panos: My favorite of dad's movies is Of Unknown Origin. I can relate to its style and themes more than any of the others. I also associate it fondly with when we first moved to Canada and all my memories of that time. I believe it was indeed a tax shelter film. I didn't make my movie to look like a tax shelter film, at least not intentionally, but I did make a concerted effort to avoid it looking like a Vancouver production. I wanted it to feel ambiguous where and when the movie was made.

Allan: I've taken to describing BTBR as "the great Canadian trip film" - am unaware of anything quite so psychedelic in Canadian cinema before this - but for a trip film, the film seems quite strikingly anti-drug: Barry seems, through his experiences, to have gone beyond human limitations and morality (beyond God, I believe he says, which is, if I'm recalling, essentially what the title means) into a rather dark and only tangentially human realm. Am I reading this right, or am I perhaps reading my own experiences into it? Acid took me to some very strange and not-so-healthy places back then, and seems to lend to a sort of separation from "community values," leading to aberrations like the Manson family... are these sorts of observations relevant to the film?

Panos: I didn't want to make a moralistic movie, I have no interest in that. I tried to present the characters in as straight forward a way as possible and let the audience be judge, jury and executioner. However, there is a dark side to the drug and free love evolution of the 60s and that was something that I wanted to incorporate into the movie.

Allan: A film I've yet to see mentioned in writing on BTBR is Todd Haynes' Safe. Did it have any bearing? In addition to its recreating a very recent past, it has a sort of kindred antipathy for the sort of new ageyness represented by Arboria, though it deals with a later manifestation...

Panos: I love Safe and It's minimalist style definitely made an impression on me. I read an interview with Haynes where he said he came up with the idea as a teenager smoking weed in his parents Mercedes in the garage late at night. That's something I can relate to. The antipathy towards new age religion, wellness centers and homeopathic healing is definitely a theme that strikes a chord with me. You've lived in Vancouver so I'm sure you know Kitsilano, primarily inhabited by aging baby boomers, is lousy with wellness centers.

Allan: I'm a big fan of the insect photography of Ken Middleham, who did the bugs for Phase IV, Bug, and The Hellstrom Chronicle. I know you've acknowledged Saul Bass' Phase IV as informing the film - I assume that's where the "pyramid" comes from - but I was wondering if you brought in the stick insect as a more obvious acknowledgement of Middleham's terrific bug photography. (There's a great little documentaryon him on Youtube, by the way).

Panos: Me too. Absolutely. I'll check out that documentary today. Phase IV was a huge influence on the movie in its sterile tone, stylized framing and somewhat oblique approach to story. I just saw the "lost ending" of Phase IV last week and it was a real eye opener.

Allan: I don't know how much Greek cinema made an impact on the film, but Elena's photo of her mother - in which I've yet to see a trace of a human form - immediately reminded me of the photograph the children are chasing in Angelopoulos' Landscape In the Mist. What is actually in the photograph, and is it significant? (It looks like it might be a BC landscape).

Panos: Her face is visible, but it's sideways. I've never seen Landscape In the Mist. Do you recommend it?

Allan: I'm not sure. I liked it a lot on first viewing, when I was just sort of discovering films by Tarkovsky and such. A few years later I tried it again and thought it was kind of pretentious, strained and obvious. I have yet to return for thirds...

By the way, Adrian Mack pointed out to me after the press screening that melatonin, a hormone released in sleep and sometimes used as a supplement to help people sleep, and which triggers vivid dreams, is prescribed in the film. I don't mean to steal a question from him, but as the film is quite dreamlike, and as Norm Li has mentioned how his own dreams informed his decisions, I wonder if you could share any dreams that might have contributed to the movie. Feel free to ignore this question if Mack already got to it, though!

Panos: I have incredibly vivid dreams on an almost nightly basis. It's almost a medical condition. Some dreams I wish I didn't remember, they can fuck up your whole day. In the past I've written scripts that were drawn entirely from dreams, and sometimes I'll dream watching whole movies that don't exist. Black Rainbow wasn't drawn from a specific dream but I wanted it to have the trance-like, unsafe feeling of one. A bad one.

Thanks to Panos Cosmatos for taking the time to get back to me, and see my interviews with Norm Li (cinematographer) and Jeremy Schmidt (soundtrack) here and here!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Beyond the Black Rainbow on my blog and in the Georgia Straight, 2

...Okay, so that's all I'm going to be able to put online before the Vancouver premiere of Beyond the Black Rainbow, tomorrow, but both makeup artist Kyla Rose Tremblay (pictured above, making me a zombie for zombiewalk) and director Panos Cosmatos are on-board to answer some questions, so hopefully there'll be more to read here next week. See my Norm Li interview (about the cinematography) here, and my Jeremy Schmidt interview (about the music) here; and check out Janet Smith's Straight review of the film here (a most accurate and observant review, tho' I'd add a nod to THX 1138 to th' list of references). The film also got a review in The Village Voice a few months ago, and you can find interviews with Panos Cosmatos online here and here.

Beyond the Black Rainbow in The Georgia Straight

So Adrian Mack's interview with Panos Cosmatos is online now! Pretty fun stretch to get from that particular film to Sylvester Stallone's knife collection - whoever it was that said effective writing begins in places you'd least expect would smile on Herr Mack's craft here. It's a great article, but if you're like me, you'll be left practically screaming, "...WHAT recurring dream?"

 ...because I have this fascination, y'see, with recurring dreams. (See the Norm Li interview, below, to find how one of his dreams had an impact on the film). As a brief aside in my blogging on Beyond the Black Rainbow - I have two more interviews pending that I'm hoping to put up soon, though perhaps not in time for the premiere tomorrow at the Vancity Theatre - let me tell y'all again about my own recurring dream structure. In the dream, I'm travelling to, or have just arrived at, a town. In this town, there is someone I care about or for whom I feel responsible -  a child, a woman, and once - the only time when it was an actual person I knew -  my father, during the last year of his life. This person is in great danger; I don't know how I know this, but I'm very aware of a great menacing evil that is going to descend on them and likely destroy them if I do not find them and protect them. But I can't; I don't know the town, and everyone I ask for help has problems of his or her own that they want to involve me with. Each time, I am moved by their pleas and do help, but am aware as I do that the chances of fulfilling my own mission are growing slimmer and slimmer. Other distractions sometimes surface, as well - like shopping for records and just plain forgetting about what I was supposed to be doing (a telling variant, that). Whatever individual variations the structure brings, in the end, the dream always ends in failure and despair. I'm alone, wandering the town; there is no feeling of hope left in me about finding this person, who is likely already dead or dying, and I am very aware of my failure - though not so acute, since my mind has already begun to move on, to accept, to forget. All I have to come to terms with, to learn to live with, at the end, is that I'm less a man than I'd hoped myself to be. Ah well.

That's where the dream leaves me, every time...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Master Musicians of Bukkake Vancouver return

With apologies to SNFU, on reflection, I think the gig to see after Beyond the Black Rainbow on Friday is the Master Musicians of Bukkake at the Biltmore. Josh Stevenson, the sound mixer for BTBR, will be doing a DJ set!