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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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

The Lo is Dead! Long Live the Lo!

      On Saturday, I went to the last ever show at the Lo-Pub. The line-up was great, but that’s really not the reason I was there. I wanted to have one last drink with a terminal friend. I wanted to stay until the end, and see the lights go out; but unfortunately, in my distraught state I drank too much too quickly, and ended up stumbling home alone, a mess. I didn’t want it’s last image of me to of a blubbering, drunken idiot.

I don’t know what the hell is happening to this city. Everyone outside of Winnipeg seems to talk about in one of three ways: the winters are long, cold and bitter; you might get stabbed randomly; and there’s a thriving music scene.

Somehow these three things all went together. The Albert, for instance, wasn’t an outsider friendly venue. It was downtown, where the winds in February seemed to sting even more than anywhere else in the city; and yes, you might run into some trouble that you’ll need to have some street smarts to handle. But if you could brave all of this, there was bands playing there almost every night.

When the Albert shut down, it was a blow to the music community in Winnipeg (maybe even Canada), for sure. But the Lo-Pub, in it’s infancy at the time, was there to take a lot of the burden onto it’s shoulders. It became the new Albert, in some ways. Not because it was really anything like the Albert though; it was a different atmosphere, for sure. But because you could always count on it. There were usually bands playing, and either way, it was always a comfortable place to go for a beer or 15. (And it was certainly an improvement for the city as whole, over the dive bar it was before it became the Lo!)

It started feeling like another home I think, when Dj Kutdown, Cassin Eliott and I started putting on the Mass Appeal Mondays, a weekly show designed to bring the Winnipeg hip-hop community together. Later on, it was the first venue I performed my new style of music at (see “Hey!Hey!“); that was probably the only venue in the city I could even get away with that shit at the time. That’s why I had my Hearts CD release party there earlier this year.

Now it’s gone. The Albert too. And soon, Times Changed. What’s next? I shudder to think of what doom is looming and for whom…

The good news is that it doesn’t sound like Jack (Jonassen, pictured above; the man behind it all) is going to give up. So, hopefully he’ll find a new place, and we will all be able to move on. But until then this is a public thank you to Jack, and all the staff at the Lo-Pub for all the great music, drinks and fuzzy memories!

 

 

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.

Trout! Trout! Trout!

        After a one year hiatus, the Rainbow Trout Music Festival is back in full effect for 2012, and I will be performing! I was scheduled to perform at it last year with Magnum KI, before some unforeseen circumstances shut it down; but everything is going and will continue to go smoothly for this year. And it’s this upcoming weekend!

The festival was started a few years ago by a half-crazed man named Ben Jones (aka the drummer for Winnipeg Indie-Rock outfit and Wu-Tang cover band, Ultra Mega). I shouldn’t speak for Ben, but from what I understand, the festival was started as more or less of an excuse to invite some friends out of town for festival of music, camping and fishing. Fast-forward three years or so, leave behind some inevitable hurdles, and RTMF has blossomed into one of the most anticipated summer events for music-lovers in the Winnipeg region. A blue-collar Folk Fest, you could call it, referring to the incredibly affordable prices and impressive musical line-up.

I’ll be performing on Saturday evening, 7pm. Jon will be accompanying me again. And the rest of the weekend is packed with amazing bands from the region. Even if I wasn’t performing, I’d be looking to hitch a ride out to the site to see some of the great talent booked for this year. But there’s not enough room to list them all here, so check out the official RTMF website here. There you’ll find a complete list of bands, ticket information and details on what the festival is and what it means to the Winnipeg indie music community.

The Facebook page for the festival is here. There is also a Facebook event page here, dedicated to offering or finding rides to the location, which is approximately 45 minutes outside of Winnipeg. Directions to the festival can be found here.

For many of us this could be *gasp* the FINAL HURRAH OF THE SUMMER. So, don’t miss it!!!!

The Assiniboine River Music Armada

       I like French stuff: philosophy, literature, film, music. France is pretty alright in my books. Not to mention they gave us the Golden Boy. I’m proud to live in a place with such a strong French presence and history, even if we do all pronounce Portage as “Poor-tidge.”

St. Boniface is really a nice neighbourhood, too. It’s interesting to be able to cross a bridge into a place where the signs are all in a different language, and they have their own monuments, schools and statues. I mean, I know it’s no Quebec, but that’s kind of why it’s cool: it’s not Quebec; it’s in the middle of the country.

Some of the very first shows I performed at and attended were in St. Boniface, at Le Rendez-Vous. They closed that place down a long time ago, and I haven’t really spent much time in St. Boniface since. I’ve always wanted to play more shows there, though.

Well, now I finally get another chance. Next Saturday, August 11th, I will be performing at the Finale Show of the Assiniboine River Music Armada (ARMA), at the Le Garage Cafe in beautiful St. Boniface, Winnipeg! I’ve particularly wanted to perform at Le Garage for while now, so this is really exciting for me.

ARMA is a unique event, to say the least. It was started in 2010 as an annual traveling festival, by David Fort, formerly of Absent Sound and currently of TWIN. This year’s dates were Brandon (Aug. 2nd), Spruce Woods Provincial Park (Aug. 4th), Fairholme Colony (Aug. 6th), Long Plains (Aug. 7th) Portage La Prairie (Aug. 8th) and finally Winnipeg (Aug. 11th). The craziest part is that the bands who travel with the show CANOE FROM VENUE TO VENUE! Insane, hey? You can read more about it online, as part of the latest issue of Uptown Magazine.

The Winnipeg show will also feature the music of Wind, Monsieur Coccinel, Young Pixels, Field and of course TWIN (Vampires was originally scheduled to perform as well, but unfortunately, had to bow out). There will also be art and visual installations by Colony Collective, Pretty Grizzly, Greg Hanec and Brian Longfield. Again, I will be playing with Jonothan Askholm. We’re going on last, so we’re going to make the set super dancy. Our shows are always way more fun when people dance to the music! But if you just want to hang back, and take it all in, you’ll also be able to enjoy the trippy visuals of Ryan Simmons during our set.

I can’t say how excited I am about this show. Hopefully you can make it down.

Check out the Facebook event page here.

 

 

A Fond Farewell…The Dope Joints Last Episode

 

       Last week I posted about the future; sadly, this week I am forced to post about the past. Tonight, Wednesday, July 25th 2012 will be the final episode of “The Dope Joints” show, which has aired on UMFM (the University of Manitoba’s campus radio station) since 1998. The ever-changing landscape of hip-hop will never be the same after tonight.

Like many, many other listeners, I’ve learned a lot from these guys over the years. You could always count on the Dope Joints crew to bring you the newest jams from anywhere and everywhere in the world of hip-hop. Just a bunch of real motherfuckers, who will be sorely missed. It hurts to think of what the next generation of hip-hop heads will look like without guys like these holding it down for the community. I will definitely pour out a little for these guys tonight.

Here’s what they had to say on their Facebook event page:

“Kinetik, @Large and DJ Stress will break you off proper one last time after spinning Hip Hop on UMFM CJUM 101.5 FM since 1998. Kinetik will continue on with his Psychedelic Soul Shack Saturday nights at 11 PM on UMFM (http://www.umfm.com/programming/programgrid/358), @Large will podcast here and there (http://dopespot.podomatic.com/) but it’s now up to you to make yourself dope mixes of the newest and freshest Hip Hop joints each week. Good luck with that.”

Also, check out their group page from Facebook, which includes a bunch of great links to old episodes, old mixes and other great moments from Winnipeg hip-hop history. There really is some great stuff up on there right now. So get it quick, because who knows how long it will be up there for.

Here’s a recording of Mikel Rondeau on I performing live on the Dope Joints show 2 years ago.

To Dj Kinetik, @Large and Dj Stress: We love you! Thank you for everything you’ve given us over the years!

Tune in tonight to 101.5 UMFM or stream live online @ http://www.umfm.com/listen_online.shtml or listen to Channel 718 on MTS.

Introducing… The Future

(Jon and I performing at the Pyramid Cabaret.)

If you’ve had the chance to catch one or more of my past few performances in Winnipeg, you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the great accompanying power of my good friend Jonathan Askholm. Jon is someone who I’ve known for so long I don’t remember meeting him. It was probably in our grade one class, but my memories from that time are a little cloudy since, to quote Damo Suzuki, “I was getting high a lot back then.” (Jokes!)

Although Jon and I were both very much into music during our school days, and we each spent time in bands with the same friends, we never really made music together until recently.

Earlier this year Jon returned from Asia, where he had been teaching English and traveling. Via the wonders of the internet, however, we were able to keep in close contact with each other. The subject of our conversations for the most part centred around music: I would tell him about what I was up to musically in Canada, and he would tell me about the band he started in Korea with some other English teachers. I  told him I was thinking of adding someone like-minded to my live show, to fill out the sound and give it more energy. Jon, who had left behind two bands when he went to Asia, also intimated that he was eager to make music with someone of similar interests when he returned home. We agreed that when he got back to Canada we would start a band.

I had been developing the idea for a different kind of band in my head for a long time. I wanted to have the energy of a punk band, but sonically I wanted something closer to hip-hop and electronica. I wasn’t particularly interested in the typical set-up of a traditional band, nor the idea of having pre-programmed music as part of the set; I wanted to use samplers and drum machines as instruments. Jon was open to the idea, and upon my suggestion and his own research, agreed to pick up an SP-404 sampler and a keyboard, which would be compatible to my own set up of two keyboards, an SP-404 and a 303. It wasn’t long after he got back that we were fully equipped to bring the idea to life.

Since this way of making music was relatively new to Jon, and since I wasn’t exactly sure about how we were going to work out the practical details, we decided that we should start by having Jon learn my songs and accompany me during some shows I had lined up. So far it’s been going better than we could’ve expected. At our last show (which was also our best one yet) we were able to perform four brand new songs that we had written together. It’s been going surprisingly smoothly.

Jon will continue to accompany me on my songs for the next few shows, but also expect to hear a lot more music that we write together as a group. Our goal is to make our music and live show as fun and danceable as possible, but without simplifying it or staying stagnant. We are both very excited about the future that is beginning to take shape just up ahead of us.

Facts about Jonathan:

– Before Jon left for Asia, he was the bass player for one of my all time favorite Winnipeg bands, The Mouth-Boat. The band has been described (I’d say accurately) as “pre-punk art terror.”

– He also released an experimental album with the drummer from the Mouth-Boat, Goldwyn Miller, under the name Shoshaku Jushaku. I was featured on one of the songs (which is good) and we made a video for it (which is terrible). Check it out here. Dynamo also was featured on one of the songs from that album, which also had a video. I like both. Check the video out here.

– Jon has spent a total of three years in Asia. He’s got a lot of great stories about his travels that you should ask him about if you get the chance.

– Jon has a degree in psychology with a minor in sociology. (Yawn.)

– Jon’s father is a well-respected organist in the city and also a former music teacher. In other words, Jon is a lot more musical than I am. But we balance each other out.

– In high school Jon used to be into punk music, before he started doing drugs, going to raves and dressing like a chav.

– Jon often visits a meditation camp just outside of Montreal where you only eat once a day and you’re not aloud to speak.

– Jon is a strange man. But also cool.

We have a few shows lined up together coming right up in August, so stay tuned!