The Goose Film Premiere

If you happen to be in Rotterdam or thereabouts I suggest you go see Mike Maryniuk’s new feature film The Goose, which is screening three times this week at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The Goose is worth seeing for the bare fact alone that it is a psychedelic thrill ride sure to leave you entranced from the opening shot until the credits roll. But! beyond that, you should also go see it because I play the titular character. The Goose is a mute man-boy who gradually comes to the idea of escaping the dead ends of his close-minded rural Manitoban town and heading south to Arizona before another long harsh winter hits home. Travelling by foot through a tripped-out version of the Interlake, soundtracked by Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers, the Goose meets a deli-platter of uniquely Manitoban caricatures, impeccably dressed by the incomparable Gwen Trutnau and portrayed by the likes of Al Simmons, Washboard Hank and Lee White of the Crumbs (among others).

Getting the chance to work on this film has been a highlight of my stupid life. Not only was it as fun as all hell to drive around the back country roads, from town to village to hamlet, searching for some strange location that Maryniuk has had stored in his mind since childhood; nor was the fun confined to the fact that I got to join the film’s small crew of tight-knit filmmakers coming together with more love than money to see this thing through; not even the fact that I was hanging out with a bunch of Winnipeg Weirdos™ issued the artistic license to act even weirder than usual is what made this experience as enjoyable as it was. Ultimately the most rewarding part of this whole dang thing was the fact that I got to be involved in the realization of a Mike Maryniuk project. I believe so deeply in what he is doing, and it was a great honour to be allowed on set, let alone to play the main character. This film is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I’m overfrickinjoyed that I got to be a part of it.

If you aren’t in Europe this week, don’t worry. You will also be able to catch the film elsewhere sometime soon. I’ll keep you posted.

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The Me and All of My Friends EP is Here!

 

FriendsCoverMy new EP is here for your downloading pleasure. Yay! Here’s some more information about it:

“After releasing three collaborative albums in 2013 (with Birdapres, Sugar Pill Gang and Magnum KI), Rob Crooks returns with his first solo release since 2012’s Hearts. This EP is a continuation of Rob’s exploration into the territory of post-rap and indie-pop, manifesting in two brand new songs that are as equally heartfelt as they are danceable. “Me and All of My Friends” is an ode to Rob’s peers, who just like him, are getting older and are starting to fear that they’ve wasted too much of their youth on quixotic pursuits. But instead of dwelling on what is lost, this song is an uplifting and life-affirming call to re-awaken the potential in each of us. As the final verse says: “it’s not too late.”

“Saturday” is an anthem for a generation whose weekends are vanishing, in one way or another. The vagueness of the lyrics, which refer to each day of the week as another day to “get down,” lends to a pluralistic interpretation of what getting down may actually mean. Some of us are in the twilight of our youth, where every day is a new day to have fun and experience everything we can, while attempting to hold off the realities of adulthood until a never-quite-present tomorrow. For others, every day is another day that we get down to work, grinding through the week towards a weekend that just never seems to come. Either way you interpret it, Saturday has become meaningless. Every day is Saturday, and no day is Saturday. “Saturday is just not real.”

To fill out the EP, Rob has invited some of his friends and contemporaries to remix his songs. Speed Dial 7 offers a remix of “Me and All of My Friends” that slows down the original, which manages to stir up the feeling of giving a toast to all of your friends from the head of a dinner table that you know may never be full again. Nomad’s folky cover of the same song emphasizes an almost painful concern for those same friends to truly find freedom again, freedom from whatever it may be that has come to oppress them. Finally, Winnipeg-based techno producer The Medicine remixes “Saturday” into a song that is ready for those of us who may finally have a weekend free to dance away.

The result of all this is an EP with many different textures, all of which reveal Rob Crooks as an artist who is maturing into something special.”

By the way, the beautiful art work was done by Patrick Skene. Isn’t it gorgeous?

 

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Me and All of My Friends

Next Tuesday, Match 25th, I’m going to be making a new EP available called Me and All of My Friends. The EP is kind of like a digital 12″, in that there are two original songs, two remixes and a cover version of one of the songs. I’m pretty excited to let people hear it. To help promote this EP, Me and Some of My Friends made a video for the title track, “Me and All of My Friends.” I hope you like it:

 

 

“The year is 1987. Our hero, Rob Crooks, has just gotten out of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, where he has been convalescing for the past 18 months. To celebrate his return home, he has decided to throw a party and invite all of his friends. There will be snacks and drinks and cards and dancing and everything else you would expect at a welcome home gathering.

But as the party drags on, you begin to wonder: are these friends of Rob real, or are they narcissistic figments of his fragile and over-active imagination? Maybe Rob left Selkirk a little too soon. Or maybe he never left at all….

Thanks to Damian Ferland, Ryan Simmons and Amanda Linden for their help with this video.”

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Anyone Who’s Anyone (Will Die)

Last spring I played a show with a group from Winnipeg called Ghost Twin. The two members and I developed a mutual respect for each other, and ended up becoming friends. Ghost Twin are made up of a married couple, both of whom work in film in Winnipeg. Their dancy goth electronica (for lack of a better explanation) was really unique for this city. And I really value originality over everything.

(NOTE: It’s strange how many film makers I’ve made friends with over the past few years.I hang out with more film people these days than I do musicians. I guess it’s because I really wish I was a film maker. I think film is the supreme art form of our age. It combines visual art, poetry, music and storytelling like nothing else. Although I think film might be dead now too. But what isn’t dead these days? Nothing, that’s what. Everything is dead. And that’s probably why our culture is obsessed with zombies.)

When Jaimz from Ghost Twin asked me to collaborate with him for his solo project, VVINTER RAINBOVV, I thought it would be a cool opportunity to try something different. His goth aesthetic was something I had little experience with; but getting to know him as a person and a musician, I didn’t hesitate to agree to the collaboration. The result came back better than I ever could’ve hoped.

 

 

The only direction Jaimz gave me was to write something dark. Well, I’m no stranger to writing songs about death; so I figured I would write about that. No problem there. But I didn’t want it to be too heavy or depressing. So in the second verse, I rap from the perspective of being dead. After all, the worst part about death is the nothingness of it all, the absolute non-being of it. But if you think of death as a different form of being, then it’s easier to talk about. That’s why I think writing from the perspective of being dead lightens it up a little. I’m basically a rapping zombie on this song. And what else are zombies if not a way to deal with our fear of death.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy it.

 

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CKUW and UMFM present: Factor and the Chandeliers “Woke Up Alone” tour, with Pip Skid, Butter Pretzels and Rob Crooks August 31st in Winnipeg

969995_10151629584013533_869001799_nWhen you you’re living in the Canadian prairies, summer is a mind-fuck. The winter’s are so long, and dark, and cold that the only thing keeping you from falling asleep in the snow and freezing to death is the hope, sometimes surer than others, that summer is coming. But we fantasize about it and idealize it to a point where there’s no way that it could ever live up to our cabin-fever-induced expectations. It’s our version of the Paris syndrome.

In the last days of winter, when the weather warms up a little and we finally put away our parkas, we start sketching out some big plans. “This summer we’re going to do it right,” we tell ourselves. “We’ll spend every weekend at the beach or lake; we’ll go on road trips to the States and catch some shows; we’ll play baseball with our friends; we’ll take advantage of as many festival events as possible!” And as soon as the first puddles begin to form, we’re out on the patios drinking beer in t-shirts, titillated with the excitement of a whole new chance to make this summer the best summer ever!

Of course the first couple weekends of summer are a write-off, since we’re not used to the revved-up partying that goes along with the new found pressure that warm weather brings. The result is that we go too hard on Fridays and end up spending the rest of the weekend in a dark room, locked in the death grips of a vicious hangover. Then, to make up for lost time, we spend too much money on weekday beers, and blow our budget for the weekend road trip to Minneapolis. All of the sudden, it’s July, and we haven’t even started any of the work we vowed to have finished by September, so we spend a couple weekends inside trying to catch up. By the time we even realize it’s August, summer is flying by with such momentum that we barely have enough time to catch one last house party.

Those three months of summer just seem to vanish into thin air. How can time pass us by so quickly? It seemed like just yesterday we were only twenty years old. Tomorrow we’ll be 40. Then 50. Then we’ll be old persons, looking back on our whole lives like we do the summer.

Before you get the wrong impression, I am by no means on some pseudo-existentialist, seize the day, yolo bullshit. The so-called “moment” that the descendants of Kierkegaard so desperately want us to capture is not real; and having “Faith” in something like that in our accelerated epoch seems like romanticism. Time is the only thing that is real, and the only thing real about time is it’s unceasing flow, which never stops for a “moment.”

So what is left for us to do but accept the passage of time, and the inevitability of death? Accept it, revel in it and make it the companion that holds us up and keeps us going, not like a crutch but like the all consuming hunger that first drives us towards life. Yes, the end is inevitable, but by that same token so is life, and so learning and growth, and so is pleasure and pain.

Factor‘s my old homie from Saskatoon. His new album Woke Up Alone is about accepting death too. He’s coming to Winnipeg on August 31st to release it to us. Do you get it now? Do you see why I wrote this rant about summer ending and tied it in with death??

Hey, by the way, you should come to the Factor show this Saturday, August 31st at the Windsor! Factor will be there with a band, including Evil, Jeans Boots and Kay the Aquanaut. So will Pip Skid and the Butter Pretzels. And me too!

Check out the details at the Facebook event page.

 

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Twitter Can Be a Strange Place

Not too long ago on Twitter there was a tweet on my feed from the legendary Houston rapper Scarface which caught my attention. Scarface had retweeted and replied to a tweet directed at him from a young woman living somewhere in the States:

“Ok RT @xxxx Bieber: @BrotherMob You need to make real rap music like Nicki Minaj”*

(*@BrotherMob is Scarface’s handle. I ‘x’ed out the young woman’s handle. For those of you not on Twitter, RT means “retweet.” The young woman tweeted at Scarface “You need to make real rap music like Nicki Minaj,” which Scarface retweeted with his added reply, “ok.”)

First of all, Scarface’s reply was perfect. How else could he have responded? The fact that he responded at all to this bizarre tweet was funny enough, letting his fans and followers in on the joke. Proving he has a sense of humour, Scarface followed it up with this:

“Naa Nikki is fire she has a point”

But what really peeked my interest was the young woman who originally sent the unprovoked tweet to Scarface. I mean, this young woman is certainly allowed to like Nikki Minaj’s music more than Scarface’s (I guess). But why this out of the blue and unfounded attack against Scarface? What’s going through this girl’s mind? Is she the hilarious author of a “weird Twitter” account? Or is she crazy? I had to investigate.

The first insight into where she was coming from was her Twitter handle, which used “Beiber” after her first name, like a patrynomic. In other words, she is a Belieber. (I am no psychoanalyst, and therefore will not go into her potential “daddy issues.”)

The girl’s Twitter account drew me in even more. Her tweets were almost exclusively hate-filled jabs directed at perceived pop rivals of Justin Bieber and fanatics of different pop stars that currently occupy the top 40 charts. Racist and homophobic slurs are used viciously and without conscience. Some of her other tweets ask her followers to look at her avatar, a picture of her young, smiling, chubby face. “Don’t I look like Miley Cyrus?” she implores.”People tell me I look like Miley Cyrus,” she posts after getting no positive replies to the former. Her pubescent insecurities ooze out of the screen.

Some examples of her tweets:

(In response to Eva Longoria tweeting support for San Antonio’s NBA team) “@EvaLongoria THE SPURS ARE TRASH U UGLY BITCH”

“Drake has more BET awards than Eminem has gotten in his career. So whos the king of Rap?”

@wizkhalifa Your son has a drug addicted father and whore mom. i hope hes fucked up and dies by the age of 20″

“Justin Bieber has 3 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Michael Jackson has 0. Who’s better?”

“Black people are fucking up the ecominee”

Her vicious attacks on other Twitter users are only abated by the love she declares for Justin Beiber, and her online “sister,” another young girl living in a different state. To the young Belieber’s claim that her “sister” is the only one in the world who understands her, and doesn’t hate her, her “sister” replies “we are not sisters, you fat cow.” Other correspondences between the two detail an on-and-off again online friendship between two insecure girls who sometimes find solace in each other, and other times seek distance from each other, so as not to be associated with somebody undesirable.

Her sometimes-sister uses a One Direction reference as the last name of her Twitter pseudonym. Her bio reveals that her favorite One Direction member is Zayn, but she indeed likes them all. An “0/5” at the end of her bio signifies that she is in the Oh-for-Fivers club, meaning that zero out of five members of One Direction follow her back. Her and other Oh-for-Fivers sometimes find each other on Twitter and discuss their love of One Direction and their aspirations to one day be followed by members of their favourite pop group.  Presumably, once one arrives in the One-for-Fivers club, they would never again have the time of day for a lowly 0/5er.

Most of the Directioner’s tweets are desperate attempts at convincing separate members of One Direction to follow her, barraging them with tweets like “I’ve been studying so hard. You’d be proud of me. If you just follow me, I know I’ll past my test!” and “My life is meaningless without your music.” She even attempts to turn the members of One Direction against each other, hoping that becoming a confidant will lift her up a rung on the ladder. None of these tweets are replied to.

I feel increasingly strange looking at the tweets of these middle-American, teenaged girls. And yet I am mesmerized, spending almost an hour scrolling through them. Maybe not having the most fulfilling lives at home, they turn to seeking some sort of connection with people online, even if only through “trolling.”

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with my decision, but I followed both girls, adding their tweets to my feed. I justified it by telling myself that gaining insights into a social realm I would otherwise have no access to were just too compelling to pass up.

Soon after, the Directioner showed up on my feed. Her tweet was something innocuous enough, like “sitting in class. so bored!” They can’t all be gems. I looked for the Belieber, to see if I had missed anything crazy she had posted. I was surprised to be unable to find her on my feed or in my “followed” list. Where was her account, and her crazy tweets?

“Oh man,” I thought. “She blocked me.” Of course she did. She knew something was up when some random person from Winnipeg (where?) followed her. She wasn’t as ignorant as I took her for. She wasn’t so clueless to the world around her. She was a human being, with a brain and a heart, just like any of us. She gets it. Why would I follow her? She must’ve known that it was so that I could treat her like the lowly object she had been treated like so many times before. Was I just as bad as the bullies I assume she faces in her real life?

I was disgusted with myself. I stayed off Twitter for a couple of days, the whole time thinking about why I allowed myself to be enticed down such a dark social media path. What did I want out of it? To feel superior? Or just a laugh? But I kept telling myself I can’t pass up this experience. This type of phenomenon is only accessible through Twitter. I will never meet crazy people like this in real life.

When time had numbed my self-loathing, I went back on Twitter to find the Belieber girl had somehow began to appear on my feed. As it turned out, the actual reason I couldn’t find her was because she had been banned from Twitter for a short period of time for using hate speech. Ugh. I couldn’t do it anymore. I unfollowed both of them.

Looking back on my motivations for following these girls in the first place, I can’t help but be struck by our digitally detached age. Originally I found their tweets so unbelievably insane that I couldn’t turn away, much like my motivations for watching the Jim Bakker Show. Both that religious program and these girls’ tweets were funny to me on an anti-comedy level. It was like watching an episode of Tim and Eric. But they’re not anti-comedians, and they’re not in on the joke. (I still watch the Jim Bakker Show and laugh though. Because fuck that guy.)

In a lot of ways it was more like watching Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. These two young, insecure, possibly mentally-ill girls were gaining followers on Twitter (the Belieber especially has a significant amount of followers for someone who doesn’t seem to be putting anything positive out into the world) by showcasing the worst possible traits of their personalities. And like Honey Boo-Boo, they want us to watch their train wreck, because it’s the only way they can get the attention that all people crave. But this attention comes from all the wrong places.

By following these two girls on Twitter I was essentially exploiting them. I was playing the role of voyeur, amusing myself with their pathetic, ignorant and sad lives. And all this from a safe enough distance to not be worried about who they really are, and what their lives are actually like.

Be careful on the internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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