Video for “We Are Not Famous” from my upcoming album The Nothing From Which Nothing Comes out soon on Disintegration Records and Marathon of Dope. The video is directed by the incomparable Mike Marynuik. It was filmed on location at the abandoned Target store in Winnipeg.
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.
Disintegration Records and The Windsor Hotel Presents:
Rob Crooks – Releasing new single
Figure Walking (Rob Gardiner + Greg MacPherson) – releasing new single
Johnny Phantom (members of Haunter)
DJ No Contact
All proceeds going to Bar None Prison Ride Share
Friday December 23
The Windsor Hotel
Tickets $10.00 advance/$12.00 at the door
There is a new Marathon of Dope compilation complete with all new and exclusive songs by some of the great artists I’m proud to be associated with, such as Pip Skid, Bazooka Joe, Nestor Wynrush, Birdapres, Zucchini Drive, Nomad, Mike Ladd and more. Download the whole thing here for free.
Listen to the brand new song I did exlcusively for the compilation:
“Marathon Of Dope is proud to present our second compilation. We have drawn from this community’s diverse pool of talent, and built a collection of new and unreleased tracks as a special thanks for all of your support. Please enjoy this free smorgasbord of M.O.D. exclusives. Whether you’re searching for an old favorite flavor, a glimpse of a secret side-project, a nostalgic melody, an intricately wound instrumental, or just something to dance to, this compilation has something just for you.”
I recently sat down with the homie and Winnipeg hip-hop lover Bruce Lord to record an episode of his podcast Pluganomics. We had a couple beers at the Sherb and talked about rap, Winnipeg hip-hop history, the DIY attitude, punk music and authenticity. And some other stuff too. Then we got kicked out by the bouncer. It was rad. Check it out here.
I was walking home down Westminster, past Deno’s Pawn Shop, grocery bag hanging from my right hand, when I heard the swishing sound of someone in snow-pants rapidly gaining on me from behind. I try to exercise as much street ethics as I can, and so, I edged over to the left side of the sidewalk, allowing room on my right side for someone to pass. However, just as a woman in head-to-toe snow gear drew even with me, a black car came speeding down the lane by the Sherb and screeched to a stop right in front of us. Both the woman and I were a bit startled and stood wide-eyed, looking quizzically at the driver through tinted windows. My fellow pedestrian was visibly more distraught than I was, however, and almost immediately shot out like a rabbit, attempting to go around the front of the car. But as she did that, the car pulled forward into traffic, blocking her way again. Exasperated, she threw up her thinsulate gloves, fingers spread out, and cut to her left in front of me, apologizing in a panicked tone: “Everything is just happening at once.” I watched her for a moment, as she cut diagonally across the Sherb parking lot, wondering what exactly she meant.
This Sunday, I’ll be opening up for Greg MacPherson at the Good Will in Winnipeg. Greg, along with co-owner Cam Loeppky, run Disintegration Records, the label that I am currently recording my new album for. All the songs I’ll be performing at this show will be from this upcoming album.
The album is a continuation of the path I was on with my album Hearts, from 2012. I got sidetracked by putting out a couple rap albums since then, but these new songs are a return to the post-punk/rap hybrid thing I was working on back then. I like these songs, and I’m finally at a point where I feel comfortable performing them. Playing keyboards and triggering samples, all while switching between singing and rapping has been a new challenge for me. But I’m starting to get the hang of it. And this might be the first show I’ve played where that is apparent.
I’m considering calling the album Out of Nothing. It comes from the Latin phrase “nihil fit ex nihilo,” which translates to “nothing comes from nothing,” or “nothing comes out of nothing.” I considered calling the album Ex Nihilo, but that sounds too pretentious. I’ve also considered The Nothing From Which Nothing Comes. But I dunno. I’ll figure it out. It all stems from non-essentialist theories of identity; that our essence is nothingness. A lot of the songs are about that, so it seems appropriate.
Anyways. The show is an early one this Sunday, so come down by 730pm if you want to hear my new songs. I’ll be on not much after that. Then Greg goes on, and then Ted Turner, my partner from Loose Fit will be playing records to close out the night. Cool?
On Saturdays, Dj No Contact and I play records at Bar Italia in Winnipeg. As anyone who knows what Bar I is must be wondering: yes, it was a little strange at first. In fact, it’s a little strange every week. You see, Bar I does have a bit of a reputation. All the salacious rumours aside, it is more or less a Top 40 bar in the body of a lounge. So, when Dj No Contact and I started playing records there, we weren’t sure what to think. We were playing songs by DAF, Cabaret Voltaire, Tuxedo Moon… (or at least, I was) to a crowd of people dressed for Rhianna and Fetty Wap.
However, Bar I is a much different place in the summer than it is in the fall and winter. In the summer Bar I turns from a chill lounge where you can hang out with your friends and talk about literature and film while having some nachos and beer to a mini-nightclub carnival. It has great location, and one of the best patios in the city, so when it gets warm people want to be there. And most of those people have never heard of New Order. So, we spent the summer trying to please people by playing Madonna and the occasional MIA song, while slyly mixing in the post-punk stuff where we could. And we survived. And now that it’s fall again, we get to be a little more experimental with what we play. I’m going to put my Pere Ubu records back in the crates where they belong!
So, if you find yourself ever wanting to go out on a Saturday for a drink, but are not sure where to go, come to Bar I. The focus is on post-punk, but we like to dip into the stuff that inspired it (funk, disco, Krautrock) as well as the stuff it inspired (hip-hop, electro, indie). So come on down and make a request. We do play vinyl, but maybe we’ll surprise you with what we have.
The meaning of a word depends on how it is used. This is to say that language is essentially contextual, and that a word only has an identity through its relation to its other. A cliché example of this is when one word, in different contexts, holds opposite meanings, as in when “bad” is used to mean “good.” However, it’s not simply that the word means its opposite, as if it’s a case of simple reversal. Rather, the meaning of the word depends entirely on its use, in the context of the system as a whole. “Bad” does not simply mean “good,” but rather signifies a subversive act against the convoluted history of an oppressive language system.
As specialized languages develop, such as the technical languages of the sciences, or the idiosyncratic vernaculars of sport, for example, words take on a multi-layered etymological history. This rich etymological history of a specialized language can often make it difficult for an outsider to penetrate the particular culture that the language belongs to. On the other hand, when said culture, despite its technical language, becomes popularized, through enticing ideas or images, it is often the specialized language that is the first to be appropriated and watered-down. This is because an outsider, who may not understand the etymological history of a certain term, will take it at face value. It is this superficial appropriation of terminology that helps spread the popularity of the culture. Eventually, the outsiders outnumber the specialists, and the culture itself is reduced to its superficialities.
To the people who consume hip-hop on the largest scale, and who have therefore appropriated it’s signifiers, Iggy Azalea is a more definitive representation of what hip-hop is than someone like, say, Marley Marl, to name one example. This type of watering-down of a culture is inevitable. Once a culture comes to be dominated by outsiders, in other words, once the consumers of a culture outnumber its participants, its meaning shifts from the technical usage to the superficial usage. This is an inevitable result of a culture’s “success.” Hip-hop is one of the most “successful” cultural movements in recent history. As a result, hip-hop has become fashion, a costume you wear on the weekends; hip-hop is something you buy at the mall.
But this is all too cynical. In some corners of the world, hip-hop is still controlled by its participants. In these cases, hip-hop continues to develop in a way that confounds the outsider. Thursday, April 23rd at the Cavern in Winnipeg, there will be a showcase of artists who continue to interpret hip-hop in just such a way. I am proud to be performing with soso, Nestor Wynrush and Lonnie Ce. The occasion for this show is soso’s new album Not for Nothing. soso, who will be traveling from his home in Saskatoon for this show, is one of the bravest and most authentic hip-hop artists I have ever encountered. He is a musical hero of mine and I hope you will all come down to watch his performance.
There are three concert memories I have in my mind at all times. One is the memory of some fool in the front row of a Public Enemy concert refusing an offer from Flava Flav to swap his Florida Panthers jersey for the latter’s clock necklace. All these years later, I still ponder from time to time where that shitty Panthers jersey ended up. Gathering dust in some elderly parents’ basement somewhere? Value Village? The landfill? Either way, that guy definitely did not know the time.
The second memory that I always keep with me is the memory of the entire crowd at First Avenue rapping the words to “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” during the Minneapolis stop of the first Wu-Tang tour after the passing of Ol Dirty Bastard. I’ve seen this happen a few times since, at various Wu-Tang affiliated shows. But the fact that, on this particular occasion, every remaining member of the Clan was there (including Cappadonna, Killah Priest and Buddha Monk), along with the proximity in time to the demise of ODB, made this one a little more memorable.
And finally, there was this one time at the Collective in Osborne Village, when I saw Gruf the Druid commanding a room full of people.
Riding the wave of the Druidry album, the Frek Sho Papercuts EP, and a growing reputation in Winnipeg’s slam poetry scene, Gruf the Druid joined with Dj Brace to release the Sound Barriers album in 2005. Although the album had more than a few mind-bending bangers on it, such as “You Ain’t Folk” and “The 464th Lesson,” to me, the most memorable Sound Barriers song has always been “Withdrawal.” As honest a meditation on money and the effect it has on a person’s psyche as you’ll ever hear, the song ends with a simple statement of a universal truth, that through the act of repetition, becomes transformed into the fevered appeal of anyone at the end of their tether: “I want money, I want money, so much money. I want money, I want money, so much money…”
It was the last song of their set. Gruf had the whole crowd, a packed audience at the once go-to venue, chanting along with him: “I want money…” After all, who could deny it? Sure, it may be a little gauche for the bourgeoisie to admit that they want money. But for anyone in that crowd who didn’t know how they were gonna pay their rent that month; or for anyone who had chosen beer over dinner that night; or for anyone who had walked to the village with holes in their shoes just to see that show, it was a low down, dirty truth. And as Dj Brace lowered the volume of the beat on the turntables, and Gruf gently laid the mic down on the stage floor, and facing forward, backed away towards the stage exit, the crowd continued to chant: “I want money, I want money, so much money.” It was a powerful moment, in a movement of many, for a hip-hop scene that once shared a self-same identity with the city’s downtrodden.
On April 4th, at the Good Will in Winnipeg, Gruf the Druid is celebrating the release of a brand new album, Surface Area, produced entirely by the Gumshoe Strut. The party will feature performances from Bazooka Joe (aka John Smith), myself and, of course, Gruf the Druid. Bazooka Joe will be performing some songs off the new record that I am producing for him, so get their early to check that out. Anchoring the night will be the one and only Dj Hunnicutt. Check out the Facebook event page for more details. And download Surface Area for free from Marathon of Dope.