guys with dicks appreciation day.

i once had a band. the name of that band was guys with dicks. our nomenclature was intended as a lame joke so i could call the first album WITHOUT DICKS and laugh about it softly to myself, and i didn’t feel pressed to come up with anything better because i didn’t think we would ever turn into anything serious. ten albums of original material, a few “greatest hits” type compilations and a collection of out-takes later, i couldn’t for the life of me come up with any other name that felt appropriate. we were stuck with our gender, and our genitals.

i’ve covered some of the story/history/herstory throughout the album pages for the cds we recorded, which are easily found on the sidebar off to the right. and it isn’t yet wintertime, so the snow hasn’t made me all nostalgic for gwd days gone by (i’m sure i’ll have a hefty post about all of that when the time is right). it isn’t the one-year anniversary of either our formation or our demise. still, i decree that this day of this year — but not any other year — shall be guys with dicks appreciation day.

really, i just finally have some video to share that i’ve been meaning to put up here for well over a year and-a-half now. tyson has (or at least had, at one time) a ton of footage he shot of us in the “studio” and elsewhere that would make for a fantastic homemade documentary of that time, the music we were making and the people we were, but sadly i never quite managed to get him to dub me a vhs copy of what he had. and now that he’s in prince edward island and we’ll probably never be on speaking terms again, it’s a dead donkey.

as heartbreaking as that is for the three people who would actually want to watch a documentary about the weird not-quite-rock group i once had (and you have no idea how much i’d enjoy putting something like that together if it were possible), i do have this — footage of us playing together for what turned out to be pretty much the last time, for one of our only live gigs of any kind. we broke up just as we were finally going to take what we were doing behind closed doors and bring it out into the world while honing our live chops. maybe the universe was trying to tell me something…like, “don’t play live.”

anyway. huge thanks have to go out to larry girard, not only for helping me to digitize the battered old VHS tape so i could put the video up here, but for filming it in the first place way back in april of 2002 with the tiny bit of film he had left in his camera after the clifton grant award banquet had finally spun itself out. just think — if ken bondy had shut his pie-hole and stopped grandstanding, and things hadn’t dragged on for so long, we might have ended up getting the whole 11-song set on video. alas, it wasn’t to be, and ken is probably still spewing hot air wherever he is now, to anyone who’ll listen. at least we have these two songs on video, and i was able to capture most of the rest of the set on my mixer (though with less than ideal sound quality).

“something about lies” completely destroys the cd version of the song, where for once the fact that we were improvising everything out of thin air while recording led to a performance that didn’t quite cohere. this is about as close as we got to ballad territory back then. rehearsing for the show put us in the strange position of having to re-learn songs we had originally improvised and never really learned or even written in the proper sense, draining some of the surprise out of them in the process, but this was one song that definitely benefited from some tightening.

my voice is a little distorted and the sound quality isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely better than the audio i “professionally” recorded sans-video (and i didn’t think to hit the record button until the second song, so it’s a good thing the camera caught what was probably the best performance of the night). i can’t get over how young i look without any facial hair. based on this evidence, if i shaved it off today, i’d probably look 12 again.

“mean it”, on the other hand, doesn’t stack up to the “studio” recording, and it gets a little muddled at the end. that’s partially due to the fact that we had to try to re-work the end of the song since i couldn’t scream my way to a climax the way i normally would, given the fact that we were playing at a dinner banquet for an audience of people several times our age. i did get to let loose more later on, because before long just about everyone had left and there wasn’t as much of a need to play it safe anymore (the banquet had gone more than an hour and-a-half over-time, so people were tired and in no mood to stick around for the live entertainment). the whole debacle is a long story that i won’t delve into here…i think i might have touched on it very briefly on the CONDOM MINTS page. suffice to say it was not the ideal gig for us, but at least we got this video footage out of it.

for “mean it”, i thought i would synchronize the video with the audio from the cd recording of the show for better sound quality; larry got in closer with the camera for this one to get some better shots, so the sound suffered a bit and the drums kind of overpowered everything else. my audio recording is an improvement, but still deeply flawed. my voice is now terribly distorted, while the overall mix is more balanced than it is on the video’s soundtrack. check out gord’s fingers dancing all over the bass. you even get a full-on guitar solo from me, though it’s far from my most blistering work. there’s some pretty aggressive guitar playing squirreled away on those old gwd cds as i tried to strangle the instrument and let loose as a “lead guitarist” in some ways i haven’t really touched on since.

to give you a better indication of what we were doing around that time when we didn’t need to tone it down (while still not providing you with one of my nastier guitar moments), here is what remains one of my favourite tracks off of STELLAR, our last full-length album. it’s very much an R-rated song, or maybe even NC-17, so be prepared. i’m still not quite sure why i gravitated toward sexual imagery when i was angry back then.

Guys With Dicks – I Feel Great

the whole thing was improvised while recording, as usual, complete with the introductory “interview” bit, though tyson was able to talk me into breaking my usual “no overdubs” rule to add a little bit of vocal harmony after the fact. the sound quality isn’t even close to what it would be within just a few months…the sound is dark and muddy, but that’s always seemed appropriate to me, given what was going on in and around my head at the time. i wasn’t in a happy place, and i wasn’t role-playing.

still, as ugly as some of the music that came out of that time is, somehow i can enjoy listening to it now. i’m glad i was honest about what i was thinking and feeling, and chose to channel it into the music i was making, whatever i happened to be feeling, whenever i happened to be making music…i listen to something like this now and barely even recognize that guy. it almost doesn’t sound like me. it’s definitely a far cry from what i’ve been doing in recent years, musically and vocally. that final build-up at the end kind of raises the hair on the back of my neck. i wonder how people who are only familiar with my recent solo work would react if i reissued some of this stuff…hell, everyone else remasters and reissues their back catalogue. the problem is, my back catalogue is so bloated, if i started that kind of project i might never be finished.

so maybe that’s a task for someone else to tackle posthumously, making at least sixteen dollars off of my music after i’m gone. i can totally hear that song working in a car commercial…can’t you?

6 comments

  1. i was fully expecting a closed casket funeral triple bass drum breakdown in both songs. i guess you guys had to keep it a family show….

    can’t wait for the prehumous gwd box set! (since i’ll be posthumous before you will be….)

    1. I don’t think I could barely drum 4/4 correctly let alone the complex time signatures involved in CCF. Triple bass would be interesting but considering CCF wasn’t an established band yet and you’d be lucky to catch 10 seconds of a breakdown within our progressive music i doubt i would have brought that to the GWD sessions. 😛 This is cool to see again! I just discovered the blog and have been reading nearly everything on this site. Great for looking back Johnny!!

      1. oh no! your eyes! your poor eyes! there’s so much rambling here, it’s insane.

        and you could totally drum in 4/4. hell, you could drum in 5/4 too. i couldn’t do that back then.

  2. oh, the good old pod…what it lacked in tone, it made up for in convenience. it did at least make it easy for me to make drastic changes in guitar sounds from song to song. we never quite got into metal territory, though we did throw a breakdown into one song just for fun. we did get pretty grungy at times, though.

    and you can’t be posthumous before me! that wouldn’t be right. who would eulogize me and put together that years-in-the-making documentary called “johnny west—who the hell is he? a cowboy or something?”?

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