Take a Look, It’s in a Book: What to Read on Tour

imagesIt is two weeks now until I leave on tour across Europe with Zucchini Drive, and there are still a number of things that need to be sorted out. First on the agenda: what books to bring.

I always bring books on tour. That’s not to say I always read each of the books I bring, but it’s always comforting to have them with me. In fact, I usually bring books everywhere I go, just in case an opportunity arises to sneak in a few pages. However, I often have a hard time narrowing down which book to give my time to, as is evidenced by my bedside table, on top of which is piled a dozen or so varied texts at any given time. To reign-in this indecisiveness, over the years I’ve developed a system to help me pare down the amount of books I carry with me to three at a time. This system mainly consists of classifying the books that I tend to read into three tiers, then limiting the books I bring with me to one of each of these tiers.

The first tier I could call the “heavy” tier.  This group of books are the most dense and challenging, and literally the heaviest. Even though I always have one of these books with me, they probably aren’t read as often as the others, since they usually require  a confluence of three things that I do not excel at: sobriety, well-restedness and ambition. But despite these limitations, it’s important to bring a “heavy” text with you. Sometimes when I’m in no shape to read at all,  I’ll hold one of these books open and stare blankly at the pages so that I can at least appear smart to people who (like me) are always trying to see what others are reading in public. Some favorite examples of mine from this tier would include the 19th century German Idealist Georg Hegel’s “Science of Logic” or James Joyce’s penultimate English-language novel “Ulysses.”

The second tier of books I might call the “intermediate” tier. These types of books are often novels, but can also be less challenging non-fiction books. The intermediate tier is good for when you’re maybe not in the best reading circumstances, such as in a car (motion sickness) or at sound-check, but you have a little bit of time to kill and are not totally blurry-eyed and scatter-brained from a crippling hangover. Examples of these types of books would be something like a Hemingway or Faulkner novel, or a book I borrowed recently from my friend Sam called “Rip It Up and Start Again,” written by an ex- senior editor of Spin Magazine, Simon Reynolds, about the post-punk movement in Europe and the US from 1978-84.

Finally, there are the “waiting-room” options. This tier of books would include stuff that is a little easier to deal with when you are maybe in rough-shape, which can tend to happen on tour, or when you don’t have much time to sit down and focus. For me, “waiting-room” books would be something like Canadian poetry, for example Al Purdy or bpNichol, or anything else that doesn’t require long intervals of concentration. That being said, I am well aware that some people have no time nor interest in poetry, which I can understand. We tend to live in an information-based culture, where we’d rather read about an influential poet than actually read an influential poet. I get it. In this case, another good option for “waiting-room” reads are magazines, like some of my current favorites Wax Poetics, or the Winnipeg-based mag “Canadian Dimensions.”

So these are the guidelines I have set up for myself. I plan to bring three books with me to Europe, one from each of these tiers that I have sketched out. Now I turn to you, and ask for any suggestions you may have for me in terms of books I should bring. I am looking specifically for books that would enhance my European experience, but that of course is up to interpretation.

For more on the European tour, including dates and venues, you can go here.

 

The Grinch Who Stole Pipmas

The holidays are a two-sided coin.

On the one hand, there’s the fact that winter is still kind of a nice novelty. We still have a little bit of reverence for the beauty of the snow and ice, and a feeling of playfulness that makes the cold much more bearable.  It’s a small window of appreciation before January hits and we swear we’ll never live another year in this stupid city.

There’s also family. For many of us, the season is a chance to re-unite with our loved ones, in cozy living rooms, sharing old jokes and stories with the familiar faces that we may not get a chance to see as often as we age. Of course, some of us hate our families, and this only makes the holidays more stressful. In that case, hopefully there’s at least some good food kicking around.

Finally, the holidays offer parties – and more to the point, booze. You could almost say that no one is an alcoholic in December, because everyone’s an alcoholic in December!

So, there is some good to the holidays. But then, of course, there’s the down side.

It’s begins with the music: an endless loop of those same inane, insidious songs over and over, sung to the glory of God and Jesus Christ. And every year they start earlier and earlier with it. This year they tried to start playing Christmas music the day after Halloween, those conniving, market-pyschologists. After all, the music is just a Pavlovian mechanism to get your proverbial mouth watering, and your actual wallet opening, in the anticipation of the pagan tradition turned capitalist ritual.

And the closer you get to Christmas, the more it intensifies. People become more and more primal, reverting to an almost savage all-against-all mentality, in a quest to get their shopping done before that dreadful moment when all the stores close. And then it’s over with, and we get to breathe for a few days, and get back to what the holidays should really be about: family, food and alcohol.

But then comes the biggest sham of them all: New Year’s Eve! The supposed biggest party of the year, where all the hope and potential of the new year culminate in a feeling of euphoria and common gregariousness.

The reality is that you over-pay to go to a club where some Dj is playing the same ol’ bullshit, and it’s too crowded to use the washroom, but that doesn’t matter too much since it’s too busy to get a drink anyways. And you couldn’t organize all your friends to go to the same place, so you end up talking to the same people that you went to high-school with that you see once a year, every year, on New Year’s, and you have the same boring conversation that you have with them every time.

And the coat-check loses your parka. And it’s minus 40 outside.

Oh all the unnecessary stress that comes with the holidays! What we need is a way out! We need a way to forget about Jesus, to forget about shopping malls, and forget about New Year’s parties! We need a rap-punk show extravaganza!

We need the Grinch Who Stole Pipmas!

 

 

Astronautalis, Busdriver and JEL with Rob Crooks

On Sunday, December 2nd at the Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg, I get to open for the Astronautalis with Busdriver and JEL tour. So, put on your backpacks, your hoodies and white sneakers, and let’s hop in the time machine back to 2002 and watch some serious underground rap!

Astronautalis is not a house-hold name yet, but in a year from now, who knows. He’s come a long way since battle-rapping at Scribble Jam. With all the mainstream press, sold-out shows in Europe and endorsements from people like Tegan and Sara, it shouldn’t be long before he’s playing bigger venues than the Pyramid.

Back in 2010, when Magnum KI played Pop Montreal, we got the chance to share the stage with Astronautalis. You could tell by the atmosphere in the place at that time that this guy was onto something. A sold-out, albeit small-ish venue was teeming with excitement over his specific brand of inide-rock meets underground hip-hop. That show had an energy that I hadn’t experienced many times before, and maybe haven’t since.

Astrontautalis would be a good enough reason to get out of the house and stop getting drunk by yourself; but add to it Busdriver and JEL and you have something pretty special. Last time Busdriver was in town it was criminally under-attended. For someone with such talent and experience it seems strange that Winnipeg didn’t take more notice. Mixing top-notch technical emcee skills along the lines of Myka 9, or even Tech Nine, with art-school sensibilities, Busdriver is an artist that any rap fan would appreciate, no matter how deep their crates are. (Note: I have no idea whether or not Busdriver went to art-school. But his dad did write the movie ​Krush Groove.)

But what I am personally most excited for is JEL. I have been a pretty avid fan of JEL since I first heard Deep Puddle Dynamics over ten years ago. Since then the Themselves albums he’s made with Dose One are some of my favorite pieces of music ever. A beat-smith and sometimes rapper, you could easily call JEL one of my favorite producers. But the term “producer” seems limited considering all the things that I admire JEL for. Sure his beats are incredible; but the fact that he plays them live on his MPC makes it even more exciting. I haven’t had the chance to see Themselves live yet (although I have seen Subtle); but lately their sets seem to be things of legend. The fact that one-half of this duo will be at the Pyramid gives me goosebumps a little bit.

So, I don’t know. What are you gonna do? Not go to this show? Stay home and watch Football? Don’t be dumb.

 

 

 

Marathon of Dope Western Canadian Tour

       Aw yea, aw yea! The headline is true! Later this month Pip Skid, Dj C0-op and I will be bringing our shit-show circus on the road from Winnipeg to Vancouver and back, setting off tornadoes of chaos and terror at every stop along the way. And just to up the ante on this already sanity-threatening week-and-a-half endeavour of liquor, lechery and lawlessness, we are bringing along just the right catalyst we need to bubble us up over the lip of our unattended beaker: Speeddial 7 of Zucchini Drive, all the way from Belgium!

Now, it’s not an uncommon tidbit of knowledge that going on the road with a group of people who have such a high average of insanity between them typically means that you really need to prepare. In anticipation of our launch date I’ve stopped taking my meds and I’ve been drinking every day. I think it’s starting to show it’s effects. I feel the dark, pre-rational, self-destructive force more-or-less latent in all of us awakening inside of me. It’s chemical is slowly seeping into my blood stream, assuring me that I’ll be able to fit right in on this rap tour descent into madness.

The last time Pip Skid and Co-op made it out West was when they toured with the Greg MacPherson band earlier this year. The stories I’ve heard from that tour are what legends and mythology are made out of. Flying cannon balls, belly-flops, threats being uttered, heads being kicked clean off the flimsy necks that support them; it’s only going to be more of a violent, thrashing parade of meaninglessness and despair this time around. I’m not sure anything you or I do can truly prepare us for their horrific brand of road show; all we can do is try. My main concern on this tour of duty will be consoling Speeddial 7 as we veer down these twisted highways through Canada’s heart of darkness.

I’ll be doing a full solo set at every show, with a bunch of surprises for the people who haven’t seen me since last time I was out West. I’ll be bringing three samplers and two keyboards along for the ride, as well as some songs to sing and some raps to rap. I’ll also be performing material with the other guys, including songs from our group project, the Sugar Pill Gang. It’s going to be a lot of fun, that’s guaranteed. Here are the dates, come through if you can:

Sept 11 Winnipeg – NGTV Space
https://www.facebook.com/events/510789352280231/
Sept 12 Saskatoon – Vangelis Tavern                                                                                                                                 http://www.facebook.com/events/426633110705288/
Sept 13 Edmonton – Wunderbar
Sept 14 Calgary – The Palomino
Sept 15 Golden – Jita’s Cafe
https://www.facebook.com/events/338345742921743/
Sept 17 Vancouver – Calabash
Sept 21 Regina – Fainting Goat                                                                                                                                             http://www.facebook.com/events/278969952203103/
Sept 22 Brandon – Lady of the Lake

The Lo is Dead! Long Live the Lo!

      On Saturday, I went to the last ever show at the Lo-Pub. The line-up was great, but that’s really not the reason I was there. I wanted to have one last drink with a terminal friend. I wanted to stay until the end, and see the lights go out; but unfortunately, in my distraught state I drank too much too quickly, and ended up stumbling home alone, a mess. I didn’t want it’s last image of me to of a blubbering, drunken idiot.

I don’t know what the hell is happening to this city. Everyone outside of Winnipeg seems to talk about in one of three ways: the winters are long, cold and bitter; you might get stabbed randomly; and there’s a thriving music scene.

Somehow these three things all went together. The Albert, for instance, wasn’t an outsider friendly venue. It was downtown, where the winds in February seemed to sting even more than anywhere else in the city; and yes, you might run into some trouble that you’ll need to have some street smarts to handle. But if you could brave all of this, there was bands playing there almost every night.

When the Albert shut down, it was a blow to the music community in Winnipeg (maybe even Canada), for sure. But the Lo-Pub, in it’s infancy at the time, was there to take a lot of the burden onto it’s shoulders. It became the new Albert, in some ways. Not because it was really anything like the Albert though; it was a different atmosphere, for sure. But because you could always count on it. There were usually bands playing, and either way, it was always a comfortable place to go for a beer or 15. (And it was certainly an improvement for the city as whole, over the dive bar it was before it became the Lo!)

It started feeling like another home I think, when Dj Kutdown, Cassin Eliott and I started putting on the Mass Appeal Mondays, a weekly show designed to bring the Winnipeg hip-hop community together. Later on, it was the first venue I performed my new style of music at (see “Hey!Hey!“); that was probably the only venue in the city I could even get away with that shit at the time. That’s why I had my Hearts CD release party there earlier this year.

Now it’s gone. The Albert too. And soon, Times Changed. What’s next? I shudder to think of what doom is looming and for whom…

The good news is that it doesn’t sound like Jack (Jonassen, pictured above; the man behind it all) is going to give up. So, hopefully he’ll find a new place, and we will all be able to move on. But until then this is a public thank you to Jack, and all the staff at the Lo-Pub for all the great music, drinks and fuzzy memories!

 

 

Trout! Trout! Trout!

        After a one year hiatus, the Rainbow Trout Music Festival is back in full effect for 2012, and I will be performing! I was scheduled to perform at it last year with Magnum KI, before some unforeseen circumstances shut it down; but everything is going and will continue to go smoothly for this year. And it’s this upcoming weekend!

The festival was started a few years ago by a half-crazed man named Ben Jones (aka the drummer for Winnipeg Indie-Rock outfit and Wu-Tang cover band, Ultra Mega). I shouldn’t speak for Ben, but from what I understand, the festival was started as more or less of an excuse to invite some friends out of town for festival of music, camping and fishing. Fast-forward three years or so, leave behind some inevitable hurdles, and RTMF has blossomed into one of the most anticipated summer events for music-lovers in the Winnipeg region. A blue-collar Folk Fest, you could call it, referring to the incredibly affordable prices and impressive musical line-up.

I’ll be performing on Saturday evening, 7pm. Jon will be accompanying me again. And the rest of the weekend is packed with amazing bands from the region. Even if I wasn’t performing, I’d be looking to hitch a ride out to the site to see some of the great talent booked for this year. But there’s not enough room to list them all here, so check out the official RTMF website here. There you’ll find a complete list of bands, ticket information and details on what the festival is and what it means to the Winnipeg indie music community.

The Facebook page for the festival is here. There is also a Facebook event page here, dedicated to offering or finding rides to the location, which is approximately 45 minutes outside of Winnipeg. Directions to the festival can be found here.

For many of us this could be *gasp* the FINAL HURRAH OF THE SUMMER. So, don’t miss it!!!!

The Assiniboine River Music Armada

       I like French stuff: philosophy, literature, film, music. France is pretty alright in my books. Not to mention they gave us the Golden Boy. I’m proud to live in a place with such a strong French presence and history, even if we do all pronounce Portage as “Poor-tidge.”

St. Boniface is really a nice neighbourhood, too. It’s interesting to be able to cross a bridge into a place where the signs are all in a different language, and they have their own monuments, schools and statues. I mean, I know it’s no Quebec, but that’s kind of why it’s cool: it’s not Quebec; it’s in the middle of the country.

Some of the very first shows I performed at and attended were in St. Boniface, at Le Rendez-Vous. They closed that place down a long time ago, and I haven’t really spent much time in St. Boniface since. I’ve always wanted to play more shows there, though.

Well, now I finally get another chance. Next Saturday, August 11th, I will be performing at the Finale Show of the Assiniboine River Music Armada (ARMA), at the Le Garage Cafe in beautiful St. Boniface, Winnipeg! I’ve particularly wanted to perform at Le Garage for while now, so this is really exciting for me.

ARMA is a unique event, to say the least. It was started in 2010 as an annual traveling festival, by David Fort, formerly of Absent Sound and currently of TWIN. This year’s dates were Brandon (Aug. 2nd), Spruce Woods Provincial Park (Aug. 4th), Fairholme Colony (Aug. 6th), Long Plains (Aug. 7th) Portage La Prairie (Aug. 8th) and finally Winnipeg (Aug. 11th). The craziest part is that the bands who travel with the show CANOE FROM VENUE TO VENUE! Insane, hey? You can read more about it online, as part of the latest issue of Uptown Magazine.

The Winnipeg show will also feature the music of Wind, Monsieur Coccinel, Young Pixels, Field and of course TWIN (Vampires was originally scheduled to perform as well, but unfortunately, had to bow out). There will also be art and visual installations by Colony Collective, Pretty Grizzly, Greg Hanec and Brian Longfield. Again, I will be playing with Jonothan Askholm. We’re going on last, so we’re going to make the set super dancy. Our shows are always way more fun when people dance to the music! But if you just want to hang back, and take it all in, you’ll also be able to enjoy the trippy visuals of Ryan Simmons during our set.

I can’t say how excited I am about this show. Hopefully you can make it down.

Check out the Facebook event page here.

 

 

A Fond Farewell…The Dope Joints Last Episode

 

       Last week I posted about the future; sadly, this week I am forced to post about the past. Tonight, Wednesday, July 25th 2012 will be the final episode of “The Dope Joints” show, which has aired on UMFM (the University of Manitoba’s campus radio station) since 1998. The ever-changing landscape of hip-hop will never be the same after tonight.

Like many, many other listeners, I’ve learned a lot from these guys over the years. You could always count on the Dope Joints crew to bring you the newest jams from anywhere and everywhere in the world of hip-hop. Just a bunch of real motherfuckers, who will be sorely missed. It hurts to think of what the next generation of hip-hop heads will look like without guys like these holding it down for the community. I will definitely pour out a little for these guys tonight.

Here’s what they had to say on their Facebook event page:

“Kinetik, @Large and DJ Stress will break you off proper one last time after spinning Hip Hop on UMFM CJUM 101.5 FM since 1998. Kinetik will continue on with his Psychedelic Soul Shack Saturday nights at 11 PM on UMFM (http://www.umfm.com/programming/programgrid/358), @Large will podcast here and there (http://dopespot.podomatic.com/) but it’s now up to you to make yourself dope mixes of the newest and freshest Hip Hop joints each week. Good luck with that.”

Also, check out their group page from Facebook, which includes a bunch of great links to old episodes, old mixes and other great moments from Winnipeg hip-hop history. There really is some great stuff up on there right now. So get it quick, because who knows how long it will be up there for.

Here’s a recording of Mikel Rondeau on I performing live on the Dope Joints show 2 years ago.

To Dj Kinetik, @Large and Dj Stress: We love you! Thank you for everything you’ve given us over the years!

Tune in tonight to 101.5 UMFM or stream live online @ http://www.umfm.com/listen_online.shtml or listen to Channel 718 on MTS.

Introducing… The Future

(Jon and I performing at the Pyramid Cabaret.)

If you’ve had the chance to catch one or more of my past few performances in Winnipeg, you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the great accompanying power of my good friend Jonathan Askholm. Jon is someone who I’ve known for so long I don’t remember meeting him. It was probably in our grade one class, but my memories from that time are a little cloudy since, to quote Damo Suzuki, “I was getting high a lot back then.” (Jokes!)

Although Jon and I were both very much into music during our school days, and we each spent time in bands with the same friends, we never really made music together until recently.

Earlier this year Jon returned from Asia, where he had been teaching English and traveling. Via the wonders of the internet, however, we were able to keep in close contact with each other. The subject of our conversations for the most part centred around music: I would tell him about what I was up to musically in Canada, and he would tell me about the band he started in Korea with some other English teachers. I  told him I was thinking of adding someone like-minded to my live show, to fill out the sound and give it more energy. Jon, who had left behind two bands when he went to Asia, also intimated that he was eager to make music with someone of similar interests when he returned home. We agreed that when he got back to Canada we would start a band.

I had been developing the idea for a different kind of band in my head for a long time. I wanted to have the energy of a punk band, but sonically I wanted something closer to hip-hop and electronica. I wasn’t particularly interested in the typical set-up of a traditional band, nor the idea of having pre-programmed music as part of the set; I wanted to use samplers and drum machines as instruments. Jon was open to the idea, and upon my suggestion and his own research, agreed to pick up an SP-404 sampler and a keyboard, which would be compatible to my own set up of two keyboards, an SP-404 and a 303. It wasn’t long after he got back that we were fully equipped to bring the idea to life.

Since this way of making music was relatively new to Jon, and since I wasn’t exactly sure about how we were going to work out the practical details, we decided that we should start by having Jon learn my songs and accompany me during some shows I had lined up. So far it’s been going better than we could’ve expected. At our last show (which was also our best one yet) we were able to perform four brand new songs that we had written together. It’s been going surprisingly smoothly.

Jon will continue to accompany me on my songs for the next few shows, but also expect to hear a lot more music that we write together as a group. Our goal is to make our music and live show as fun and danceable as possible, but without simplifying it or staying stagnant. We are both very excited about the future that is beginning to take shape just up ahead of us.

Facts about Jonathan:

– Before Jon left for Asia, he was the bass player for one of my all time favorite Winnipeg bands, The Mouth-Boat. The band has been described (I’d say accurately) as “pre-punk art terror.”

– He also released an experimental album with the drummer from the Mouth-Boat, Goldwyn Miller, under the name Shoshaku Jushaku. I was featured on one of the songs (which is good) and we made a video for it (which is terrible). Check it out here. Dynamo also was featured on one of the songs from that album, which also had a video. I like both. Check the video out here.

– Jon has spent a total of three years in Asia. He’s got a lot of great stories about his travels that you should ask him about if you get the chance.

– Jon has a degree in psychology with a minor in sociology. (Yawn.)

– Jon’s father is a well-respected organist in the city and also a former music teacher. In other words, Jon is a lot more musical than I am. But we balance each other out.

– In high school Jon used to be into punk music, before he started doing drugs, going to raves and dressing like a chav.

– Jon often visits a meditation camp just outside of Montreal where you only eat once a day and you’re not aloud to speak.

– Jon is a strange man. But also cool.

We have a few shows lined up together coming right up in August, so stay tuned!

Buck 65 at the Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg with Rob Crooks

       In less than 2 weeks I will be opening up for one of my all-time favorite artists, Buck 65 at the Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg. When I first heard Buck 65, around ten years ago, he really changed the way I thought about not only music, but so many other things as well (for example what it meant to be a hip-hop artist/fan). This show was originally supposed to happen in May, but due to unforseen circumstances had to be rescheduled to July 13th. Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote about the show that was originally supposed to happen a couple of months ago:

“This show means a lot to me for a number of reasons. Buck 65 has been a huge influence on my musical outlook since I first heard his album Vertex over ten years ago. At the time, I was just getting out of high school and was a major “backpacker”; I listened exclusively to New York underground rap, from Black Star to Mobb Deep, Thirstin Howell III to Gang Starr etc. But with the opening up of the Wax Museum (a now defunct) record shop in Osborne Village, hip-hop fans in Winnipeg like me didn’t have to rely on what HMV had in stock anymore. Thanks to the dedicated people at the Wax Museum our eyes were opened up to a whole other contemporary movement in hip-hop that was happening all over Canada and the States at the time. With the guidance of the people who ran the record shop, all of whom were active in the local scene themselves, I was introduced to so many mind-blowing acts, from locals like Fermented Reptile and Frek Sho, to Canadian artists like Soso and the Goods, to American crews like Living Legends and Anticon.

But out of all of these acts, Buck 65 made an impression on me that was unique and particularly influential. The music he creates is undeniably hip-hop, but unlike any other hip-hop I’d ever heard before. His album Vertex was my first glimpse into a relatively uncharted territory, a completely novel way of thinking about breaks, cuts and rhymes. It wasn’t long after I heard Vertex that I picked up his earlier release Language Arts and the Sebutones album 50/50 Where It Counts (Sixtoo, the other member of the Sebutones has also been a great influence on me). These three albums, along with Man Overboard are without question masterpieces of modern hip-hop music. Their influence on me is still unfolding, even a decade after my first contact with them.”

For the Facebook event page you can click here.

For those of you who only know of Buck 65 through his later videos on Much Music or as Rich Terfry from the CBC radio show The Drive, here are some of my favorite earlier Buck 65 songs from the late 90’s early 00’s, just to give you an idea of how much an influence he had on indie/underground hip-hop culture:

 

Buck 65 – Eye Make-Up Excuses (Language Arts)

Buck 65 – Slow Drama (Vertex)

Sebutones (Buck 65 & Sixtoo) – Tranquilized Tones (50/50 Where It Counts)

Buck 65 – Untitled (Man Overboard)

 

I hope to see you at the show!!!