Saskatoon and Cinematheque

11072540_10155342338740029_6883297363913230517_nThis Friday, May 22nd Nestor Wynrush and I will be the guests of Soso and Dj Chaps in Saskatoon. We play at Amigos. I can’t wait. Travis Cole will also be Djing that night. It will be fun.

I can’t wait to leave this city and go to Saskatoon. Bridge city. Paris of the Prairies. Rapskatoon. When Soso joined Nestor Wynrush and I here in Winnipeg last month, I think for the first time it became obvious how well all of our music fits together, in some strange way. This will be another good show, and I am excited for it.

The next day I will be racing back to Winnipeg to perform at the West End Cultural Centre for the annual event Bands Vs. Filmmakers, a fundraiser for my favourite Winnipeg movie theatre, Cinematheque. The concept is a cool one: team a local musical act with a local fimlmaker, and let them collaborate for one night only. I have been paired with Ryan Simmons. Other duos include Pip Skid with Gwen Trutnau, Blunderspublik with Freya Olafson, Attica Riots with Deco Dawson, and  Basic Nature with Forrest Macgregor.Bands-vs-Filmmakers-5-banner-790x511

It’s great to be able to help raise money for such a great place. I’ve seen some amazing films at Cinematheque over the years, and I plan on seeing many more. Tickets are $20 each and are available at the West End Cultural Centre.

 

Video for “Saturday”

Last year I was lucky enough to have the experience of a lifetime: touring across Europe with my friends from Zucchini Drive. I’ve been on many tours before, but never like that one. Twenty-one cities in just under a month’s time. We drove all over Europe from Spain to Germany and (almost) everywhere in between. It was refreshing to play in front of different crowds that I’m used to. They really seemed to get what I was going for over there. Not to say that I haven’t played many great shows in Canada. But sometimes back home people don’t know what to make of me: am I a rapper or a singer of strange indie-pop? In Europe they just didn’t seem to care. If they liked it, they danced.

This video was shot entirely during the European tour. The guy who you keep see popping up in the video is my good friend Tom aka Speed Dial 7 from the aforementioned group Zucchini Drive. Marcus Graap, also of Zucchini Drive, filmed most of the footage. Oh how I miss my European friends! The song from this video is called “Saturday.” It’s called that because its about how everyday is Saturday, which by default means no day is Saturday. This could be interpreted in many different ways. One way you could interpret it is that everyday is Saturday because you are still very young and your lack of responsibilities makes it easy to party every night. The other interpretation is that it’s never Saturday because you work so hard that there are never any days off. This song is about that duality.

This song is from my maxi-single Me and All of My Friends, which is free to download.

2013 Year in Review

Let’s travel back in time to a place far, far away from here. Let’s go all the way back to the end of January 2013. A much younger and handsomer Rob Crooks is getting ready to board an aeroplane in Winnipeg which will fly him away to a far-off land across an entire ocean. There he will meet up with Zucchini Drive for a month long romp across the European continent.

From Speed Dial 7’s home in Kortrijk, Belgium, I drove us to our first show in Hamburg, Germany, learning how to drive manual transmission along the way. It was one of the most stressful and exciting experiences of my life. We almost died several times. And if you haven’t almost died yet, I can’t say I recommend it. But it’s something. That’s for sure.

We spent all of February hitting up cities in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Spain. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to go back.

After returning home from Europe it wasn’t long before I headed on another jet plane. This time I flew to Montreal for the One Man Band Festival. There I was lucky enough to perform with a group of people from all over the world who are crazy just like me. But that wasn’t the only great show I got to play in 2013. From playing with Cadence Weapon to Greg MacPherson’s CD release party, I had some pretty exciting performances over the year. One day I’ll hit the stage on Broadway. And then you’ll all see.

The year was also a busy time for releases. It all started in May when Birdapres and I released our school-themed album Argyle. Rapping with Birdapres was a really a big deal for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to the Alleged Legends record Bird did with Dj Moves. When I think of how Canadian hip-hop helped shape who I am today, he is one of the artists who stands out in my mind.

In September, Speed Dial 7, Pip Skid and I released a self-titled album under the name Sugar Pill Gang. When Speed Dial 7 came to Canada in the summer of 2012 to tour with Pip Skid, Dj Co-op and I, we decided it would be a good idea to put our time off into something useful. We wrote and recorded our verses within a couple of weeks, and after a few months of sitting on it, and a little bit of tweeking, the album was complete. This collection of music really captures our collective mental state at that time. We were all crazy.

And finally, Ismaila Alfa, Rhonda “Fenom” Thompson, Dj Kutdown and I re-united to celebrate our second full length album. Magnum KI released Select in December at a show in Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre. I’m very proud of this album. And although it will be a long time before Magnum KI works together again, I think we left some pretty good music behind us.

So, that was my 2013 in a nutshell. Sitting here at my desk, it sometimes feels like I didn’t do much over the past 12 months. But looking back and actually taking account of it all, I guess I did some pretty cool stuff. In 2014 you can expect to see me continuing along this path, with more of a focus on some solo music.

Thanks for listening.

Happy new year.

 

May Madness

(Click on poster for Facebook event page)
(Click on poster for Facebook event page)

The end of May is turning out to be a cluster bomb of great things.

It all began last fall when I found out that not only is one of my oldest friends getting married to an amazing woman, but also that he wanted me to be the best man! I don’t think I’m putting myself out there too much by saying that I, like all of us, have my share of insecurities. So for me to be named the best man really gives me the boost of confidence I need right now. And to add to the excitement, the wedding happens to be in one of the most fun cities in North America: Montreal!

Fast forward from last fall to February of this year: I’m somewhere in Europe on tour when I find out that I have been asked to perform at Montreal’s 2nd annual One Man Band Festival, on the weekend after my friend’s wedding, Saturday May 25th. I’m not big on astrology, I gotta say, but the stars sure lined up perfectly on that one. I’ll go to a wedding, party it up a little bit with some old friends, spend a week relaxing, eating smoked meat and poutine then I’ll attend an amazing festival as a performer and as a spectator. What could be better?

Then sometime around when February turned to March, I got an email from my good friend Tom aka Speed Dial 7 over there at the Marathon of Dope label. He tells me that he wants to go ahead and put out the record that Birdapres and I made, and he wants to do it sooner than later; May 28th to be exact. At first I was a little skeptical about dropping it so soon, since the direction that my solo music has taken recently has been more towards singing than rapping. And this record I did with Birdapres is a straight-up rap record. “What if people get confused!?” I worried to myself. But then I thought “don’t under-estimate the audience, you idiot!” and we dropped the first single. And so far people have seemed to like it, so hurray for us. (Thank you to everybody who has shared it, listened to it or even simply took notice. Birdapres and I both really appreciate it. We’re currently working on a video!)

By the time April decided to show up, we here in Winnipeg were all getting pretty sick of the unnecessarily long winter. But at least I had escaping to 421826_432167156874682_1532052256_nMontreal at the end of May to look forward to. Then I get an email from Jaimz of Ghost Twin. He asked me if I’d be interested in playing a show back in Winnipeg on May 31st, with his band, A Lion in Your Lap, DJ Beekeeni and DJ Damien Ferland at the historic Albert Arms venue. I said “listen Jaimz, not only am I interested, I’ve been waiting to be asked to play a show like this in my hometown for a long time. Count me in!” This will be a veritable blitzkreig of synth based music at a notorious punk bar. It’ll be just like 1979 all over again.

Finally, just when I thought May couldn’t get any better, I find out that the Thursday before my friend’s wedding, the 16th of May, I’ll be playing another show in Montreal with the one and only Cadence (fucking) Weapon! And just think: I was standing on a bridge ready to throw myself off not all that long ago. My how things change.

Here’s a recap of all the events going down in May:

May 16th: Rob Crooks, Cadence Weapon and Hua Li at Kathy & Kimy in Montreal

May 18th: Rob Crooks is the best man

May 25th: One Man Band Festival presents Rob Crooks, Jesse Dangeroulsy, Matt Dorgan Project, Igor vs. Rogi and Clara Venice at the Playhouse Cabaret in Montreal

May 28th: Birdapres and Rob Crooks drop Argyle, available for free download at marathonofdope.com

May 31st: Rob Crooks, Ghost Twin, A Lion in Your Lap, DJ Beekeeni, DJ Damian Ferland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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