Witchpolice Radio


A few years ago, my old friend Sam Thompson and I started a website called Witchpolice. Named after a song by our band Dynamo, the impetus for creating Witchpolice was originally a very simple and practical one: We needed a place to host our new album. Once the website was launched however, it almost immediately became something larger, serving simultaneously as a digital archive for all the music we and our friends had recorded over the years.

This was really nothing novel for us at the time. Sam and I have been friends since junior high, when we started our first band and even produced a (very) short run of a zine together. Since we both share music as our first love, most of our activities since meeting have centred around that passion. We’ve been creating music and music-themed things together and apart since we’ve met, making videos and even participating in one or two websites along the way.

As time went on, Witchpolice.com began to grow into something much larger than either of us had imagined. It has since transformed from a place where only we and our friends contributed content to a place that hosts music, prints interviews and showcases videos by musicians and artists from all over Winnipeg, North America and even the world. Today the website boasts a huge collection of exclusive content available for free download, in addition to the ever growing archive of lost demos, basement recordings and other such cultural waste waiting to be sifted through.

However, these days it’s not quite the joint venture that it was originally meant to be. As we grow older, our priorities switch from hanging out with our friends to focusing on our careers and families. More recently I’ve devoted more and more time to my music while Sam has been devoting more and more time to his family, running Witchpolice from his basement between the hours of putting his kid to bed and going to bed himself.

When we sort-of off the cuff decided to make a Witchpolice podcast, more than anything else it was an excuse for Sam and I, along with our other old friend Jon (the Mouth-Boat, Shoshaku Jushaku) to sit around, play music for each other and just generally hang out. Since then Witchpolice Radio has grown into something we’re all much more proud of and devoted to.

After the first couple of episodes we decided that for the sake of structure it would make more sense to pick a theme every week, rather than playing songs willy-nilly. We decided a random word generator, like anyone that can be found from a quick google search, would be a good way to pick a theme. Past themes have included drugs, trauma and Chicago.

Another way we try to make the show more interesting to potential listeners is by having guests as often as possible. Sam, Jon and I have known each other for almost twenty years, and it’s quite easy for us to slip back into our old inside jokes, which are neither interesting nor funny to most people. So by adding a guest each week it keeps both the conversation and the music choices fresh. Some past guests have included, Nestor Wynrush, Greg Arcade, JD Ormand of Ultra Mega, Birdapres and former editor of Uptown Magazine John Kendle.

Our twentieth episode was made available for download last week and the listenership is steadily growing. Our show has also been picked up by the University of Manitoba’s radio station, CJUM 101.5 for air every Monday night at 11pm. But the best part of it is that Sam, Jon and I have an excuse to make time to hang out each and every week and talk about the things that made us friends in the first place: music.

For more information or to find out about new episodes follow Witchpolice Radio on Twitter, like Witchpolice on Facebook or keep up-to-date straight from the website.

Reviewed in Uptown Magazine

Earlier this month, we learned of another heavy blow coming down on Winnipeg’s music scene. On top of venues closing down at an alarming rate (Negative Space now?), the free arts and entertainment weekly Uptown Magazine published it’s final issue last Thursday. It will apparently re-surface as an insert in the Winnipeg Free Press, replacing the Tab.

As with anything that is meant to represent a scene, we all had our problems with Uptown at one time or another. Sometimes things that were important to us were being overlooked, while things that were important to others were getting all the attention; we’d disagree with the reader’s poll to no end; we’d sometimes question the reviews, and the motivations of the people writing them. But at least there was always something to talk about.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t make a point of picking up the latest issue of the Uptown from the LC, or from Into the Music or wherever else. I could read about people in my city who were doing things that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise; I could read about almost all of the shows that were happening in town; I could read movie reviews and arts reviews; and of course the haiku horoscope always had me checking out the last page.

And everyone else read it too. It served as a sort of reference point for us to have conversations about our city. And the reason we all read it was because it was there. It was a tangible piece of media that we looked through while waiting for the bus, or waiting for a friend, or to avoid eye contact with some creep. It was written by people in our city about our city, for us. You could always say to someone “did you read that article in the Uptown?” What can we say now: “Did you read that blog article”? Which blog? Which of the 5 billion blogs are you referring to? No, I didn’t read that.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s good that some people have taken the initiative to continue writing about our city online, like Nigel Eggnog at Concerted Trash, Sam Z. Thompson at Witchpolice, or the fine writers at the Spectator Tribune. But the Uptown, in the form it existed for so many years, will be missed.

On a bitter-sweet note, here’s a review of my EP “Hearts” from the last issue of Uptown:

“Hearts, the latest solo EP from Magnum K.I. member/veteran rapper Rob Crooks, is an inspired amalgam of indie rock, hip hop and lo-fi electro that buzzes with urgent, nervous energy. Whether he’s rapping or singing, Crooks’ lyrics are raw, personal and bitingly blunt (see: Knows How To, about a girl who “knows how to fuck but doesn’t know much about love,” or the aggressive Not Cool, which calls out posers). Recorded by Greg Arcade, the EP has a cool, cassette-tape indie rock feel; there’s definitely an emphasis on the high end, which sets it apart from traditional hip hop albums. Crooks’ sound is fresh, and Hearts has a strong pulse.”

– Jen Zoratti, Uptown Magazine.

Here’s the link to the review. Check out Jenn Zoratti and some other ex-Uptown people at the Spectator Tribune’s website http://spectatortribune.com/city/winnipeg/. See you in the funny pages.