Adventures in Poland

 

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Somehow I made it to Kortrijk, Belgium to meet up with my friend Tom aka Speed Dial 7 of Zucchini Drive. I made my first attempt at driving a manual transmission while traveling from Belgium to Hamburg, Germany. There were a couple of life-threatening stalls on the infamous Autobahn, but we made it to the venue and met up with the other member of Zucchini Drive, Marcus, for our first show on our European tour.

 

After a great show at a cool little punk venue called Hafenklang in Hamburg, we were off to play a Hard Rock Cafe styled venue in Catowice, Poland called the Old Timer’s Garage. It was a bit of an adjustment over the border into Poland, where they don’t generally accept Euros, the GPS doesn’t work and most people didn’t speak any language other than Polish. But once we got to the venue and performed we met some incredibly welcoming and generous people.

 

The next day, driving out of Poland we encountered a driver in another car who was flashing his lights at us as we passed him. As we pulled in front of him, he began honking and driving back and forth between lanes. Confused and a little concerned, the three of us began discussing what could it could mean: Maybe he was trying to tell us something was wrong with our car, like a flat tire or a broken headlight; or maybe we were going too fast and he was trying to slow us down, but there are no speed limits on the highway in Poland. Maybe it was he who was in trouble.

 

As we were trying to decide whether or not to pull over and check on the car, another man starting waving at us, and flashing his lights as we passed. At that point we were pretty sure something must be wrong with our car, so we pulled over to inspect. As I got out of the car from the passenger seat to check the tires and lights, the man who waved us down pulled up behind us and approached the car. He was a well dressed man, maybe in his forties with graying black hair, wearing a stylish scarf and jacket with expensive looking leather boots. He began to speak French, but switched to English when Tom responded in the latter.

 

“Hello, hello! How are you? Thank you for stopping. My name is ‘such-and-such.’ Here is my card, with my address. You are from Belgium (our license plate gave that away)? I have family in Brussels. I am trying to get there to visit them, but I have lost my wallet and have no money for gas.”

 

This was something new for all of us: high-speed panhandling. But he was certainly dressed respectably and was driving a BMW with two children in it, so it was difficult to dismiss him right away.

 

“We only have 5 Euros on us” someone responded.

 

“Please I need 250. Give me your address, I will mail the money back to you. Takes these gold rings as collateral.”

 

He hands Marcus a “gold” ring. It seemed a little light for gold.

 

We all shot each other a look, and decided to get the hell out of there.

 

Driving a few kilometres down the highway, a third man in a BMW tried to wave us down again. A little smarter and much more suspicious, we picked up speed and high tailed it out of Poland back to Germany to play Berlin tonight.

 

That was quite an experience. But to be sure, our time in Poland has overall been a great experience. We’ve made some new fans and plan to return to Catowice as soon as we can. Luckily we do get to return to Poland on the fourth of February when we play Poznan.

 

 


 

Happy New Year

76789_10151339554541609_1706108828_nLooking back on 2012 I’d say my overall goal was to make my goals more focused,  realistic and attainable. I’ve noticed myself becoming increasingly more driven as time passes. But drive without focus and direction manifests as angst and frustration.

At the beginning of last year I sincerely felt like I was at a beginning of sorts. I had a new direction musically, which was freeing in so far that I felt like I was dealing with something that was so new and wide open. But when faced with such a wide open space, it’s hard to know where your horizon is; and we all need a horizon to situate ourselves so that our movement makes sense.

I put out the “Hearts” EP in March 2012, and I played some pretty great shows across Canada with some amazing people over the following few months. I had plans of doing a lot more, for sure; more shows, more releases etc. But life seems to swallow you up like a body of water if you don’t know which way land is.

I definitely did not make a resolution this time last year to figure out more precisely what my immediate attainable goals are. It wasn’t something that I set out to do and then achieved. It was something I gradually realized over time. I’d say I wasn’t able to really even start to articulate it until the past couple months of 2012. But in hindshight it seems as though I’ve been meandering towards it for the whole year.

I have a plan for 2013. I don’t want to go into too much specifics, since I’m a little scared to share it as a whole from the get-go lest it not come true. But it includes putting out more music, more videos and earning more fans. And maybe going back to school. Oh yea, and more shows, like this European tour that I’m going on with Zucchini Drive:

31st of january: Hafenklang, Hamburg, Germany
1st of february: Old timers garage, Katowice, Poland (PL)
2nd of february: Madame Claude, Berlin, Germany
4th of february: Pod MInogą, Poznan, Poland
5th of february: Cross Club, Prague, Czech
8th of february: Reflex, Kortrijk, Belgium
9th of february: Landbouwbelang, Maastricht, Netherlands
10th of february: Madame Moustache, Brussels, Belgium
11th of february: Le Bateau Ivre, Mons, Belgium
14th of february: Rössli Bar, Bern, Switzerland
15th of february: Helsinki, Zurich, Switzerland
16th of february: Sas-Club, Delémont, Switzerland
18th of february: Chapelier toqué, Clermont-Ferrand, France
19th of february: La dynamo, Toulouse, France
22nd of february: Gazteizko Gaztetxea, Vitoria, Spain
23rd of february: Izar Beltz, Bilbao, Spain

I hope to meet many new friends this year. I think this is a good way to try. See you out there!

 

Marathon of Dope Winter 2012 Sampler

With your head down, caught-up in the every day grind it’s easy to forget to take a breath, look around and see how far you’ve come. When you’re knee deep in it, shoveling it, clawing at it, fiddling with it’s most minute details, and it feels like it’s taking forever to get anywhere it can be draining on your mind and body. When you lose sight of the big picture, struggling with the pixels can seem like a fruitless task.

But every once it a while you get a chance to stand back and take  everything in from a bit of distance. That’s when you realize why you do what you do, and you remember how lucky you are to be a part of something bigger. Today I got one of these chances.

The Marathon of Dope Winter 2012 Sampler became available today for free download. It’s a Dj-style mix of songs from all 29 Marathon of Dope releases. It features some of the most interesting artists that I know of making music today. Listening to the mix for the first time this afternoon made me extremely excited about what my friends and I do again. It also reminded me that despite all the difficulties I’ve faced, I’m still very lucky to be associated with creators of this calibre and to have friends like the ones I have. I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Here’s the track-listing:

1. Pip Skid – Tens of Dollars (Dj Hunnicutt Remix)
2. KaeoFLUX – Bots
3. Birdapres – Toothpaste
4. Zucchini Drive – Jaguar Sky
5. Mike Ladd – High Sea, High Field
6. Nomad – Son, If you don’t Know
7. Pip Skid – Cut me Up into a Thousand Pieces (ft. Nestor Wynrush)
8. Speed Dial 7 – Dog Collar Blues (ft. Rob Sonic & The Infesticons)
9. Rob Crooks – Knows How To
10. Elissa P – Paintbrush
11. The Nestor Wynrush Ensemble – Blood Rock Live
12. Tim Dj Co-op Hoover – Two
13. Passage – Stressanomics
14. The Gumshoe Strut – Redrum (Dj Kutdown Remix)
15. The Gumshoe Strut – Beats (ft. Pip Skid & Yy)
16. Speed Dial 7 & Nomad – Stay Cool
17. Tim Dj Co-op Hoover – Nice Work If you Can Get It
18. Pip Skid – Shirley Temple (ft. B-Flat from The Lytics)
19. Infinite Livez – 4ever Smiley
20. Zucchini Drive – Down to the Spine (ft. M Sayyid from Anti-Pop Consortium)
21. Zucchini Drive – Handclap Handclap (ft. Nomad)
22. John Smith – High Magnificent (ft. Yy)
23. Creature – Embrace the Day
24. Birdapres – Rays and Beams (ft. Cadence Weapon & Nestor Wynrush)
25. The Gumshoe Strut – Never Saw It Coming
26. Speed Dial 7 – Jokes (ft. Yy)
27. Cavemen Speak – Save the Day
28. Zucchini Drive – Howler Than Thou
29. Zucchini Drive & Salvador – Children of the Damned

Download the sampler here. For more Marathon of Dope releases, including my Hearts EP, check out the website here.

 

Thank You to Everyone Who Came Out to Support the MOD Western Canadian Tour!

We returned to Winnipeg this past Sunday, feeling drained and a little more insane than when we left, but  extremely fulfilled. I personally had one of the most successful tours yet. There were so many great times with old homies and new friends. Driving from Winnipeg to Vancouver and back in a car full of such unique and awesome artists, stopping at as many places as possible along the way and meeting up with such amazing people is a very satisfying way to spend the last days of summer.

Dj Co-op flew out from Vancouver after our show there to join Cadence Weapon in Montreal, for some shows they had lined up together, including the Polaris Prize Gala (or whatever it’s called). It was a little sad to see him go, but it’s great to see our friend be able to fly all the way across the country to do something so cool.

That left Pip Skid, Speed Dial 7 and I to close out the final two dates of the tour in Regina and Pip’s home town, Brandon. Driving all the way from Vancouver to Regina with only one stop is enough to make even the sanest person peek over the edge into the abyss a little. But it just gave the final two shows all the more energy .. like a wobbly top, just before it finally tips over.

Speed Dial 7 left back to Belgium on Monday. He met up with his fellow Zucchini Drive member for the European LP release party of “No Food, But Lots of Weapons.” (After seeing the album performed every night for two weeks, I have to strongly suggest you cop it.) I miss the guy already, but I’ll be over there in Europe early next year to play some shows, make some new music and hang out.I haven’t been outside Canada too much, so I’m looking forward to that.

Pip Skid and I were back to work on Monday, organizing the Freestyle Hip-Hop Festival, which is held annually at the University of Winnipeg. (More on that to come.) No rest for the wicked I guess is what they say.

I had such an amazing time on this tour that I didn’t want it to end. It’s great to sleep in your own bed, and re-connect with friends and family back home, of course; but I really love being on the road, playing shows for new people every night. But I’ll be back out there soon enough. In the meantime thanks to everybody who helped with, supported or happened upon our tour: Chris, Chaps, Factor, Soso, Rewind, Manjito, Touch, Epic, Trevor, Bastien, Lou, Roddy Rod, Port Authority, Jay, Rhek, Josh, Murk, Patricia and all the old homies and new ones too. (Sorry if I missed anyone.) We’ll see you again soon!

FREE SHOW: Two Rocks of Stone and Rob Crooks

      I feel as though Two Rocks of Stone are my true cohorts, as far as Winnipeg’s music scene goes. I consider myself and them to be if not the only, a few of very select musicians in the city to be making no holds barred, experimental hip-hop.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Right around the turn of the millenium, experimental hip-hop was everywhere, or at least it seemed like it to me. It really got to the point, around 2005 or later, where “experimental” was becoming the norm, and thereby not really “experimental” anymore. Eventually, most people got sick of it, and moved on.

Two Rocks of Stone were really out there back then. Way more out there than anyone else in Winnipeg, at the time. When I first saw them, it was a real mindfuck. They had a table set up covered in gear that they played live, making beats on the spot. When a good groove would emerge, one of the members (Ryan or Jordan) would come out from behind the table to rap some crazy shit that must’ve been sent from somewhere on high. It was like seeing a kraut-rock band re-incarnated into a modern day Canadian hip-hop group. Needless to say, I wanted to get to know these two weirdos.

Since then, both members of TROS have been very influential and supportive of what I do, and I try to be the same back to them.  None of us have stopped experimenting, taking music to fringes that people may say isn’t even hip-hop anymore. But no one I know wants to debate what hip-hop is or isn’t. So putting all that aside, why not come and check out some musicians who have been making sampler-based music since before most people knew what a sampler was. This will be the real deal. (Like the real real deal. Really. Or maybe not, I don’t know anymore…Who even cares?)

Anyways, this show will be early. It is the closing party to Ryan (of Two Rocks) J. Carman’s art exhibit at the Zsa Zsa West Gallery, which was not so long ago Ryan’s own gallery, Golden City Fine Arts. It is situated at 211 Pacific, in Winnipeg’s Chinatown. The show is free, but the art is not, so please bring some money in case you see something you like.

Moka Only & Factor Chandelier with Birdapres, Rob Crooks and Dj Co-op at the Green Room

       This coming Wednesday, June 13th, I will be opening up for Canadian Hip-Hop legend Moka Only, who will be performing with my long time homie from Rapskatoon, Factor Chandelier. Also on the bill are some other good friends of mine, but more importantly great artists, Bridapres and Dj Co-op. This is gonna be a good old rap show, like we used to have, and it will all be going down at the Die Maschine … I mean, the Green Room in Osborne Village, Winnipeg.

I think most people who are of a certain age and who have paid any attention to popular music in Canada over the last ten years are familiar with Moka Only, and likely have had one of his songs stuck in their head. Maybe best known to the populace as a sometimes-member of Swollen Members (during the years when Swollen Members had catchy hooks; coincidence? no), Moka Only has also had ties to Vancouver’s pop sensation Len. But what some people might not know is how prolific Moka Only is as a solo artist. He releases several quality albums a year, that he raps on, sings on, does all the production for and records himself. He is a true artist. This show should be very entertaining and I intend to take some notes of the man while he’s on stage.

Along with Moka, manning the ones-and-twos, will be my main man Factor Chandelier. Speaking of prolific, Factor has put out more albums over the past year than anyone I know. His merch table puts anyone else’s to shame. And his albums move! Probably because it’s great product. He’s worked with artists such as Xzibit, Josh Martinez, Kool Keith, Awol One, Noah 23, Moka Only, Aesop Rock, Gregory Pepper, Buck 65, Living Legends, Ceschi, tha liks, Sadat X and of course two of his main go-to emcees the L.A. legends Awol One and Myka 9. He started making noise back in the late nineties with the Side Road imprint, which he began with another Saskatoon legend, Dj Chaps. They put out records by some of Western Canada’s best rappers, such as Def 3, Ira Lee, Kay the Aquanaut, Cam the Wizard and many, many others. I’ve known Factor for probably ten years now and he’s one of the funnest people I know, so I’m looking forward to chilling with the homie, talking rap and taking shots of tequila with him. Come see us at the bar after the show!

Finally, I’m pretty sure that anyone who would be checking out my website knows all about Birdapres (we’re just finishing up our EP together!) and Dj Co-op. Birdapres has deep roots to Vancouver and has known Moka for years as well. (In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s both of them in the “If You Steal My Sunshine” video). And Co-op is undoubtedly one of the top party rockers in Winnipeg. So this is going to be a crazy night, guaranteed. Tickets are insanely cheap, drinks will be flowing and girls will be dancing. Wednesday, for the next few months, is the new Thursday. So come down to the Green Room on the 13th and have some fun, why don’t cha?!

You can check out the Facebook event page here.

Ok …. Show’s Rescheduled

So, the Buck 65 show that I was supposed to perform at last week has been rescheduled to July 13th. The Facebook even page has been updated and you can check it out here.

Stay tuned for some other great show announcements coming up right away. This summer is going to be busy and I am really looking forward to it!

“Hearts” EP Now Available for Digital Download from Marathon Of Dope (.com)

Rob Crooks - Hearts

After three very fun CD release parties in Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon, my brand new EP Hearts is now available to the masses through the magical wonder of the world wide web. By going to MarathonOfDope.com, you can download Hearts to your computer for free; or for a dollar; or for ten; or for a hundred; the price you pay is entirely up to you! While you’re there, please check out all the other collections of music that are available to you under the pay-what-you-can model from the artists at Marathon of Dope.

At this point, making my music easily available to you is of the highest importance to me. So, if you just spent your last buck on that cheap beer you’re drinking; or you’re already way too far into your overdraft and the collections agencies keep calling; or even if you’re just not sure what you’re going to think about the album that you’re about to download;  feel at ease by paying whatever you can, all the while knowing I’m happy to have you as a listener. And then when I finally get to your city to perform live, hopefully you’ll come out and enjoy the night with me.

NOTE: For anyone who may be wondering, physical copies (i.e. CDs) of Hearts will continue to be made available at some stores in Winnipeg, at my live shows and by emailing me here. The CD as a package looks pretty slick, if I may say so.

Thanks to everyone who has already bought a copy and to everyone who came out to the shows this past weekend. Also, an advanced thank you to everyone who will buy or download Hearts and/or who will come to a Rob Crooks performance one day. I’m not going to stop any time soon and I’ll try my best to keep everyone posted on everything that is upcoming.

For a direct download to the Hearts EP click here.