Friday, April 17, 2009
I've just come back from seeing the Montreal premiere of Anvil - The Story Of Anvil.
I've been waiting over a year to see this.
Back in the 80s, I was in charge of press and promotion at Attic Records, the label that signed Anvil. It was unbelievable timing as they appeared just as Kerrang and Sounds heralded the new wave of metal (Anvil was on the cover of Sounds and Kerrang). As a publicist, they were a gift from the heavens. Everything was over the top; Ross Halfin and Pete Mankowski flying in from Sounds; Paul Suter from Kerrang, etc etc. I wasn't that much older than they were and I can honestly say, of all the bands I have worked with over the countless labels I've worked for; Anvil have always meant a lot to me, in no small part to Lips himself; then, as now, an extremely inspiring character. And the live shows.... the vintage videos barely scrape the full power of a full set. Years of playing 4 sets a night in the Quebec backwoods had made them a killing machine - good luck to any band following them on stage.
I was pretty relentless in those days; in many ways it was all a more innocent time. I could actually phone up Arthur Fogel at CPI and ask if Anvil could open for Dio at Massey Hall and he said, sure! hahahaaa... good luck trying that today.
They had no management so it was all on the fly. Seeing them open for Motorhead at the Hammersmith Apollo was a highlight.
I wasn't really privy to what led to their split from Attic but even when I compiled the posthumous Backwaxed lp, I made sure Lips had full input into the track listing.
Anyway, this movie is fantastic. I am not ashamed to say I was bawling halfway through and I looked over at my wife and she was crying also. Since my Attic days, I have pursued the "dream" as a musician and a record label so I felt every victory and defeat. Sometimes music is the only way to deflect all the shite thrown at you. When the credits rolled, the audience applauded.
I wiped my tears, now tears of joy as Anvil take the stage again in Japan (I won't spoil it).
Take your band to this film. Laugh. Cry. But most of all... learn.... and stay firm to your dream.
I have also attached the original press release I wrote about the Forged in Fire sessions and Chris Tsangerides. I hope you enjoy it. I will put up some vintage promo pix shortly when everybody still had hair.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Caught the Metric show at The Apple Store, Montreal. It was a taping for a future iTunes Store live EP.
First time I've ever seen them live and they were fantastic. Singer Emily Haines never took off her shades.
I've been taking a lot of pix lately with my Blackberry and like the impressionistic results.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
St. Joseph's Oratory looms large over Montreal, the dream of little Brother Andre who persevered in his mission to build a shrine to St. Joseph.
It's an inspiring story and you can learn more here:
The Oratory towers over the city, roughly at the corner of Queen Mary Road and Cotes De Neiges, a short walk from the gargantuan Cotes Des Neiges Cemetery, itself the topic of a future feature here.
What few people realize is that there is a quiet oasis of contemplation to be found in the coffee shop across from the Oratory Gift Shop. The Gift Shop is to the right of the main entrance in a separate nondescript building once you walk up/drive up to the the top level of public parking.
When I visited today, it was full of pilgrims and various brothers and sisters from what looked like South American religious orders. They were all marvelling at the vast array of religious items in every conceivable form and price range. I was particularly intrigued by the life sized mannequin of Brother Andre (it wasn't clear if it was for sale or just for display), keeping watch over the various busts and miniatures of himself.
After purchasing various prayer cards, candles and miniature saints, we discovered the coffee shop.
What a fantastic retreat. And hardly anyone there.
The cafeteria style counter offers up a modest menu of pastries, coffee, and snacks. The space itself looks like an old neglected classroom you've stumbled into after school. But what a view! Large windows frame a splendid panorama of Montreal. At one table, what looked like an old retired clergyman; surrounded by text books as he stared intently into a laptop screen; coffee by his side. Behind us, a soprano and her music director pored over sheet music while she hummed the melody. Calm like the forgotten reading room in a college library... here was a perfect retreat to sit down, read, share some thoughts and contemplate.
Sometimes we're so focused on the BIG picture, we forget to notice the little things right there in front of us, so distracted are we by whatever is new and shiny and temporary. The real reward is the simple pleasures of the forgotten city. There is nothing uniquely charming about the Oratory Coffee Shop or any allure to its bland physical structure but these are precisely the beacons that draw people like me here. I can just sit down with my styrofoam cup coffee and not really be distracted or bugged by anybody and actually clear my head of all the interferences to the creative process. I am simultaneously connected and disconnected. Once I walk down the steps, I'll be headlong into one of the busiest streets in Montreal.
But for the time being, with the sun shining through and the soprano lady still singing quietly... this is exactly what I want right now.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I have only really ever owned three cars in my life; a 76 Ford Granada Ghia (black), traded in for an 87 Honda Accord which carried me to Vancouver and was faithful for 17 years until the repair bills were too much and donated to charity and then came the 1992 white Mercury Topaz, a west coast "beater" with low mileage (under 100k!) that I had shipped to Montreal but the Eastern winter was too much... it made it through to see spring but again, its engine repair would cost double what I paid for it so the dealer gave me some money out of sympathy and now I have a lease on a 2006 Mazda. It's sleek and modern and time will tell on our friendship but having a car without a cassette player is very strange for me.
Love Poem For My Car
we'd end up here
your engine like a second heartbeat
your courage through adversity
all the coffee spills
but at the end of our
you saw summer,
winter, and finally
to lay you to rest
no more tears to old cassettes
to the one I love
no more rides over the mountain
St. Joseph's bright spire
guides you home
RIP, Brave Topaz, 1992-2009
Poeme d'amour pour mon char
Adieu mon char
c'etait bien nos reves
tous les deux
ici a la fin
c'etait un bon job
on a arrive
tu doit partir
RIP, Belle Topaz, 1992-2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Since 2007, I've been a regular performer at The Cavern Club (and Lennon's Pub) in Liverpool as part of the International Pop Overthrow Festival; hosting a Bongo Beat Records night. This year, we'll be back at it and here's what last year's impromptu extended jam of one of my favourite songs (originally on my first album, Coffee Jazz and Poetry), "We're The People That Love Forgot" sounded like; a love letter to Liverpool and forgotten rock'n'roll with Dave Rave and Ari Shine (all those great licks are his) on guitars, and Mark Gruft on drums. I wish I could say I had it all rehearsed beforehand but actually all that stream of consciousness about Liverpool is all improvised on the spot and two nights later in London, it was different yet again, sent into another plane by a full band fueled on the energy of the moment.