Month: December 2009

Iggy Pop and nipple tassles. Together. That’s right. You heard me.

Today was Adam Peltier’s last show at CJAM.

I’ve known Adam since high school, and he’s been an ardent (always wanted to use that word in a sentence somewhere) supporter of mine for quite some time. He and David Foot were pretty much responsible all on their own for MERRY FUCKIN’ CHRISTMAS becoming the bizarre underground sensation it did at Walkerville (a decade ago!), and Adam was playing my music on CJAM back when not so many people were interested in what I was doing. He’s been playing a lot of great music on his show Fear of Music for a good few years now, but the time has come for him to move on, so I thought I’d pay him a surprise visit during his last broadcast.

Of course, the doors were locked. It didn’t occur to me that the university would be a veritable ghost town, what with everyone off for the holidays. Lucky for me, Josh Kolm (who hosts Trapper Radio, another great music variety show) rescued me from a fate worse than expired barbecue sauce and let me in.

I didn’t plan to alter Adam’s intended program with my presence, and I didn’t bring a stack of CDs with me like I did the last time I was on the show (almost a year ago to the day), but one thing led to your brother, and before long I’d shed my skin like a sunburned onion and we were chatting the way long-haired humans do. I did at least bring an unreleased song with me that will probably be showing up on the next album, in case anyone was interested in a little taste of what’s on the way.

I always feel inarticulate when I’m talking on the radio about anything music-related, only to find that I sort of sound like I make a bit of sense after all when I go back and listen to the show later on. Like last time, we had fun, laughter ensued, and this time Josh got in on it as well, interjecting at key moments from off-mic. I even threw in a sad vocal approximation of a violin and a spur-of-the-moment a cappella tune to sing Adam off into the sunset. Fun times, they were.

You can listen to the whole show right here if you’re so inclined.

Fear of Music last show (12/29/09)

Again, I’d like to thank Adam for all the amazing support he’s given me and my noise over the years. He’s been a true friend in a sea of rubber duckies that sing rousing gospel harmonies at odd moments. Wait, that isn’t a bad thing at all, is it? In any case, my spirit will sag a little without his presence on the radio. But as Celine Dion so memorably sang, my heart will grow moss.

Don’t you tell me that isn’t really what she sang. You know better than that. That woman didn’t win an Oscar for nothing.

While we’re on the subject of shirtless self-promotion, some CJAM peeps seem to be playing my stuff on their shows as they look back at 2009 while it starts to fade in the rear-view mirror. It’s always surprising and flattering to make someone’s “best-of” list, regardless of what you’re considered the best of (“best thirty-second song about sexually adventurous ducks”, anyone?).

The most surreal distinction by far is technically appearing on the CJAM year-end top twelve over here three times. There’s IF I HAD A QUARTER, which is the last album of mine I expected to get as much airplay as it apparently did, and then there are two albums in the top twelve I played a pretty prominent role on as a “session musician”. I’m everywhere. I guess it’s been a pretty busy year.

Thanks, as always, to everyone who’s played my music on the radio, in their home, in their car, in their bedroom, in their meth lab, or in their space suit.

You could own a box of me. Not all of me, but some of me. There ain’t a box big enough for all of me. Or is there?

I think I finally know where to get boxes I can use to make more JohnnyBoxes. They’re pretty nifty, these boxes. No, not those cardboard ones up there — the boxes I can use to make homemade box sets with. Whenever I end up playing a show I’ll make sure to have some available in case anyone wants them. It’ll be good for a laugh, if nothing else. How many concerts do you go to where you can take a fifteen-CD box set home with you for free if you like?

Or you’re welcome to say something here, and I’ll work on making you one right now if you want. I think the default JohnnyBox will probably just be a post-band, post-self-lacerating-Johnny affair, from about OH YOU THIS up to the present. But I can cater the contents to include older/stranger/more unhinged things if anyone wants that. Just keep in mind none of those Papa Ghostface or Guys with Dicks CDs have any proper album art or inserts to speak of, and none of my solo CDs did either up until OH YOU THIS. Hence the go-to box set starting with that album. You see how it is.

I think I might number the box sets by hand. You know, scrawl “JohnnyBox #3” on the top or something. It could be kind of neat to know which one you’ve got, and fun for me to keep track of how many of them I’ve put together. And I probably wouldn’t be able to resist writing a note of some sort explaining a bit about the CDs and slipping it inside.

It wouldn’t be a polished, glossy affair, but you’d get the personal touch. So maybe the name “JohnnyBox” is fitting. Didn’t Joni Mitchell write a song called “A Box of You” about me more than a decade before I was born? No?

Keep it clean, Steve McQueen.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and having lots of Christmas sex.

It rained here on Christmas Day. All day long. Not snow. Not sleet. Not hail. Just good old-fashioned cloud piss. Normally we don’t get any snow for most of December, or if we do it’s very hesitant and gone almost as soon as it hits the ground. There have been times I’ve stood at a window on Christmas morning wondering if it’ll snow at all, because it wouldn’t quite feel like Christmas without at least a thin white blanket covering everything. And somehow the snow always shows up.

This year, surprisingly enough, we got some serious snow a good week before Christmas.

Then I wake up Christmas Day to the sound of a pretty heavy rain, which proceeds to slowly melt all the snow away. That’s the first grey and rainy christmas I can ever remember having. Too strange.

The Scene section of the Windsor Star had a readers’ poll 2009-in-review thing over here. I was curious what would happen with the “best local music release” category. Yellow Wood takes the gold (no surprise there, given all the attention their album has been getting), and I take the silver (genuine surprise there, given how I’m kind of the anti-hype — not to be confused with the antichrist), though I’m not sure which of the albums I put out this year the runner-up position is for.

For some reason I find this funny, both of us ending up on the same list, with me trailing behind those guys. The reasons are swimming with complexities too intricate to ever explain. Or maybe I’m just too lazy. But perhaps we should start an entertaining imaginary rivalry of some sort just to drum up more press.

I guess it wouldn’t really ring true, since our goals are very different and we happen to like and respect one another. I like silver better than gold anyway. It looks better in my ear. And it’s difficult for anyone else to be amused by an imaginary rivalry, since it is imaginary and all.

At least you know the thought is there.

Thanks to whoever voted for me. Who are all you people who like my music, and where did you come from all of the sudden? It’s nuts.

Though the holidays can be detrimental to recording time, I’ve found a few moments to chip away a little more at that album I once dreamed of finishing before the New Year. What soothing dreams they were. Right now I think we’re up to about forty minutes of recorded/mixed/CD-ready material, not counting some out-takes (which would nearly double the number of minutes if they were included), so that’s a little more than halfway there. Once it’s finished, I’ll post some of the songs that didn’t make the cut so you can point and laugh at them for being inferior.

I think we’re probably looking at another hour-plus album, with twelve or thirteen tracks. Evidently I’m taking a momentary break from being a “reluctant editor” and making CDs that are crammed with thirty songs, though anyone expecting CREATIVE NIGHTMARES part two will probably find themselves saying, “Hey…this isn’t CREATIVE NIGHTMARES part two at all! Off with your head!”

Never let it be said that I don’t make you a salmon salad sandwich when you ask me for spaghetti.

Ho, etcetera.

I know what you want for Christmas this year. You want to see a video of me playing a Daddy Mojo Chihuahua four-string cigar box guitar into a 1970s Fender Princeton amplifier. And how could I deny you?

Since it’s Christmas Eve, I think this should be the present you get to open before all the others. So here you go. You don’t have to thank me. I know your life has been immeasurably enriched. Just knowing I’ve had an impact is all the thanks I need.

If you want to shed a tear or two, take a look at some of the amps behind me. There’s a 1960 Fender Tremolux, a 1958 Fender Deluxe, a 1966 Vibrolux, and a 1952 Super Reverb, just to name a few Fenders.

And then stop crying at least long enough to celebrate the kissing of some random person while standing beneath random mistletoe. Because that’s what Christmas is all about. Merry Mass of Christ, from one hair guy to you, whoever you happen to be.

Stay warm this holiday season…with a boob scarf.

Yesterday was a day of checking out Mackenzie Hall. Thanks to Emily and Merry Ellen for being so nice and accommodating. I hadn’t been there in quite some time, but the second we walked into the hall it brought back memories of acting in the play The Empty Chair back in 2000. I think I was second or third-billed on the program, and I played against type as a good guy for a change (most of the time I enjoyed being the lead villain too much to take on a heroic role).

You don’t want me to pour out my reminiscences about that debacle. Trust me. I’m saying just enough by telling you the lead actress showed up the night of the show still not having learned any of her lines, and even working with the director for a solid hour or two in an effort to do some last minute memorizing didn’t help much. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there weren’t pivotal scenes of dialogue in which only the two of us were onstage. She ended up omitting several lines, mixing up the order of the ones she did remember, and essentially rewriting entire portions of the script onstage because she had no idea what she was doing. I had no choice but to improvise and rewrite most of my own lines on the fly in order to save the sinking ship and try to make things sound somewhat coherent. No one in the audience had any idea, so maybe that’s a testament to my skills of improvisation.

When she came up to me after the show and said, “You were really good, John!” I had to bite my tongue so hard I just about amputated it.

The whole thing was such a crummy experience I never acted in another play again — and acting in plays was just something I did, like making music, ever since I was a kid. The best thing to come out of the whole ordeal was a sound barrier-shattering scream of “MOTHERFUCKERS!” I let out in the parking lot after one rehearsal, fed up with being the only actor who seemed to care about learning their lines and taking their part seriously. One of my greatest regrets in life will always be not recording that scream for posterity. It was one of my best.

See? You don’t want me to go there.

Back to Mackenzie Hall in the present day. The piano is nice, and I’d have no trouble playing it for a show. My guess is it’s a Yamaha C3 or something, but don’t hold me to that. Sadly I didn’t think to bring the little video camera with me until it was too late, so for now you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say the acoustics in that room are pretty nice. I imagine the natural reverb would be cut down quite a bit if there was a decent-sized audience there, but I still think things would sound good.

The piano is pretty loud, which means you really have to project when you’re singing. It would be tempting to amplify the voice to give it a little extra presence, but I’m not sure how good that would sound without mic’ing the piano. I like the idea of no amplification at all. It’s a large enough space where if a lot of people showed up they could be comfortably accommodated, while at the same time if not much of anyone came I wouldn’t feel like I was playing in an empty cavernous space. Best of both worlds.

I think a better idea than “intermission with food” might be “intermission with refreshments”. If the show were to take place at 7:00 or 8:00 pm, you’d think everyone would have eaten dinner already anyway. I also played at a dinner banquet once…and after what happened at that show, I will never play a dinner banquet again. Unless the audience is entirely made up of hamsters and rice balls. Then I might consider it. But otherwise, music and any kind of conventional food together will always feel like a bad omen to me.

If I’m going to do this, I think I’d want to book it for February at the earliest. There’s still quite a bit of work that needs to be done on the next album before it’s finished, and I’d rather have a lot of time to concentrate on putting a show together without feeling rushed. I’d also like to have copies of the new album to share at the show.

I need to stew on it a little more before I come to a decision. Playing a half-hour set is one thing, but playing for about two hours without anyone else to carry any of the musical weight is a lot of work. It could be fun, though, even if only ten people show up. Like I said before, that’s one of the great things about playing a free show. It doesn’t matter how many people show up. You get paid the same amount of money no matter what happens.

I’ll let y’all know either way, as soon as I know what I’m going to do.

After today, consider me famous.

I have just recorded the song that’s going to change my life.

Sometimes you can feel when something is going to be a hit. You know it’s going to speak to people and reach them on some deep, meaningful level. You can hear it being used in a car commercial, or even one of those iPod commercials with primary colours and dancing silhouettes.

You can see the video on MuchMusic. You can hear it on the radio sandwiched between the likes of the Black-Eyed Peas and Britney Spears. You can see scholars discussing its vast intricacies decades from now, trying to pinpoint what it is that makes the song so magical and universally appealing and compelling.

This is one of those songs. It may very well be the finest work I’ve ever done. I feel I’ve pushed past all the weirdness that was holding my music back and found that the only viable means of artistic expression through song is the banal, insipid musical love letter riddled with heart-scorching clichés. I’ve found the direction I must pursue for the rest of my life. And because I’m in a sharing mood, I’m going to put that song up here for all to be amazed by.

I realize I may be lessening the dramatic impact it will have when it’s released as a single, but I’m confident the hype generated by this track will ensure it burns up the charts one way or another. No more pointless, self-indulgent songs that try to say something new or express something real. This is the future. This is now. This tomorrow today. It’s time to jump on the bandwagon everyone else has been straddling.

Big time, here I come!

Every Slightly Angry Love Song Ever Written, in 42 Seconds or Less

On writing.

I’ve been thinking about the creative process a lot lately.

The questions songwriters are asked on the subject of “craft” tend to fall into the “what comes first — music or lyrics?” bag. I don’t think it’s ever that simple, though. Someone ought to make a documentary where they set up a camera and ask a lot of different artists — painters, sculptors, writers/authors/poets, musicians, filmmakers, and creators of all kinds — one question: what is the process of creating like for you? And then let them go on and talk about it for however long they want to, exploring whatever threads it leads to. But the main thing is getting at what happens when you create. How does it happen? What goes through your mind? How do you get from an empty head and a blank canvas to a finished painting? How does a six-word phrase and a half-formed chord progression become a full-blown song?

Maybe something like this already exists, but I’ve yet to hear about it. I know I’d watch it, and if it was done well I’d find it fascinating. I don’t think we often really explore or think about how it happens. We dance around the process without getting intimate with it. And that’s fair enough. It can be a pretty personal thing that’s tough to articulate. But I think getting a good cross-section of people to open up about what it’s like for them would be really interesting.

It’s difficult to explain what the creative process is like for me. It’s gone through a lot of mutations over time. For years I led two creative lives at once. In one of them, I would improvise songs while recording them, making it all up as I went along. In the other, I would write lyrics, usually at school, and then fumble around at home with a keyboard trying to give voice to the music that was in my head. For a long time the songs improvised out of nothing were arguably of much higher quality than most of the ones I spent time constructing in a more conventional way.

My improvisational skills were honed over the years, and it got to the point where I could hit the record button with nothing in my head and end up with an epic song that sounded like I knew what I was doing. It even seemed like there was some structure there. Form would emerge out of formlessness. After a while the two separate lives began to intersect until the written material started to get a nod once in a while, though it was often skewed with a lot of improvisation.

Then I decided I was after something different, and the writing began to dominate. There was still a lot of improvisation involved, but it became integrated into what was premeditated instead of the other way around. Hitting the record button and seeing what toppled out without any preparation or safety net grew less frequent.

Then things began to shift again. And one day it hit me that I no longer wrote songs at all. I caught them with a proverbial net. They were flying around all the time. All I had to do was open my eyes to see them.

These days, when someone asks me how I go about writing songs I have a hard time giving an explanation that I feel really gets across how it happens. A short answer doesn’t cut it, but if I rambled on as long as I felt the need to, I imagine I’d end up losing whoever I was talking to after a while. I’ve used metaphors before, including the radio idea, but never felt like I nailed it. I tried recording video footage of a song being written and posted it here, but knowing I was being filmed changed the way my brain worked and altered the process a little, so that didn’t really get at the truth of it either.

The best way I know how to describe it is like this.

Say you get in your car. Doesn’t matter what kind of car it is. It’s a hunk of metal with wheels and a couple armless chairs inside. They all pretty much look the same now. Not a lot of them have character like cars used to back when they all had their own distinct personalities.

Your car has its own personality. It has a radio. No CD player or cassette deck. Just an old-fashioned radio, from before the time of auto-dial and digital seeking and all those advancements.

I guess that would make your car pretty old. No wonder it has character.

So you’re in your car, driving along. The radio is turned off. Without warning it comes to life. You didn’t turn it on. It just is. The dial has some strange design to it that doesn’t allow you to manipulate it in any way — everyone else says it’s broken, but you know better — so you have no control over it. The dial has a mind of its own. It flies all over the place with no prompting from you until it lands somewhere. And where it lands, there’s a song. It’s you singing, though you’ve never heard this one before. Those are some good words right there. You listen to the song, it ends, the radio turns itself off again. That was nice.

You go home, write down the words, figure out the music, and marvel at this new song that was just gifted to you. You watch some TV, maybe play with the kids if you have kids, maybe toast some bread and eat it if you have bread, maybe just admire how its texture has changed and let the dog investigate. He seems to like bread that’s had a life-changing toaster experience.

Later on you go out to buy some milk. You’re driving along and the radio dial goes wild again, landing on a different station, playing a different song you’ve never heard before. This time you just get a verse and some guitar ideas before it cuts out, but they seem to have some promise. You go home and write them down too.

This happens all the time. Sometimes several times a day. Sometimes not at all for a week or more. But it’s a regular thing.

If the radio goes a few days without acting up, you know another spurt of activity is just around the corner and there’s no cause for alarm. All you have to do is wait for it to happen again. It always does, though not always when you’re expecting it to, and not always at the most convenient times.

Sometimes there’s a bit of static and you have to work to hear what’s going on. You have to do your best with what you get, since you can’t just massage the dial to the left or right a little to improve the reception. Sometimes you only get a fragment of a song. But most of the time a piece of music comes more or less intact, fully-formed, in clear, glorious stereo sound.

Sometimes things are a little jumbled and out of order. Maybe you get the middle of the song before the beginning, and the end before that. Maybe you have to wait a few minutes after one part of the song plays for another to come along. Sometimes the words or the music come at different times, on different days.

It can be a lot to keep track of. But your brain figures it out and unscrambles it all pretty fast. You adapt.

Other people sit down in your car and nothing happens. The radio is indifferent to them. This is your radio. It works only for you. Sometimes the songs it plays for you seem out of character, but you’ve learned not to ask questions. If you try to twist the songs in directions they don’t want to go they might fall apart, and if you try too hard to impose your own will the radio will fall silent. It chooses what the music is going to be.

You can exercise some amount of influence, but not to the point of becoming the dominant force. Your job is to do your best to preserve the spontaneous broadcasts you’re privy to, tweak them until they’re assembled as well as they can be (when tweaking is needed), figure out which ones are worth pursuing (because the radio doesn’t edit things or discriminate and will sometimes give you substandard material to work with), and then do with them what you will.

That’s about it. I don’t think i can explain it much better than that, aside from repeating that I don’t really feel like I write songs anymore. I just try to always be open to the songs and ideas when they come, whenever they decide to come, wherever it is they come from. I’m just the guy sitting in the car, furiously jotting down what I hear broadcasting on the ghost-fried radio. It works out well that I don’t drive. My hands are always free, and it’s easier for me to get it all down.

Bringing the metaphor down to earth, I guess I would be the radio, and that would make me the receiver, with my brain the antenna or transistor, and my body the transmitter.

Where the electromagnetic waves originate from, well…that’s a mystery to me. My albums are not only snapshots of wherever I happen to be when they’re recorded, though I still think that’s a pretty good way of starting to understand why there are so many of them and why they don’t all sound the same. They’re also my best attempts at preserving, translating, and making sense of the transmissions sent my way.

If things keep going the way they are, a lifetime probably won’t be enough to get it all down. But trying is half the fun, iddnit?

Also on the subject of writing, that cheap classical guitar I got has decided to inspire new songs with a vengeance, and it’ll probably end up showing its wooden face on the next album a fair bit. The songs I’ve written on it so far don’t really mess with structure like most of the others do, but I think they fit in somehow. Alas, it looks like my plan to have the album finished this month might have been a little too hasty. It might get close, but it won’t quite make it there. Better not to rush it.

Hey, didn’t I say this same thing almost exactly a year ago while working on AN ABSENCE OF SWAY? I think I did. I was pretty close to getting four full-length albums out there this year, too. I guess there’s always next year. In any case, barring Kanye West moving to Windsor and suing me for having the same last name as him, the album should definitely make its way out there sometime in January. I already have the album title and the cover art/font/design stuff figured out, and though there are several songs that still need to be recorded, I have a pretty good idea how many songs there will be, what their names will be, and what they’ll have to say.

It should be interesting. I haven’t played around with form and dynamics this much in a long time. It’s good to be back. As fun as it can be to write songs that follow more conventional and predictable paths, for me it can’t compete with the challenge of constructing a song that keeps changing until it dies and yet still feels like an organic, self-contained thing. Some of these songs might be some of the more drastic things I’ve ever done in terms of how much they mess with structure.

One track begins as ambient mandolin resonance with some distant harmonica and then becomes a skeletal archtop guitar-driven bluesy thing, which mushrooms into a somewhat jazzy groove with a slightly off-kilter rhythm. That goes through several shifts in tone before leading into a more driving rhythm that would be the climax in a different song, only for it to get broken apart. Then rhythm is abandoned altogether as the music and singing become dissonant and free. That dissolves, and then things lock into a new rhythm that accelerates while something that resembles a jagged guitar solo keeps trying to rip it all apart. That splinters and dissolves into more rhythmic freedom and dissonance, and then a free-form piano section with bugle accents closes the song.

In other words, if you enjoy songs with singalong choruses and lyrics about holding hands and learning to understand, you’re gonna dig it! You dig?

Not on the subject of writing, but still sure to thrill you — I showed up here. Thanks, as always, to everyone at CJAM for playing my noise, and thanks to Adam for giving me a nod on his list. There’s nothing quite like hearing yourself on the radio, or someone else telling you they heard you on the radio, or the radio donning a three-piece suit and telling you your stock will rise in the third quarter. New noise is coming soon. IF I HAD A QUARTER… having the distinction of being the highest charting of my CDs in the year-end top thirty is a huge surprise to me, and it cracks me up.

It just goes to show — the bloated quasi-breakup album will never die.

Live from a random outhouse, it’s…some girl! And her dog!

I’ve been thinking about this Mackenzie Hall thing.

Though I was quoted in print saying I was going to be playing a show in January, I never really said that. At all.

The idea of playing a show was suggested to me, with no date mentioned. What I did say was, “I don’t know what I would do if I played a show, but I guess maybe it could be fun.” As in, hypothetically it could happen. Someday. Maybe. I said I would give it some thought.

I’m not sure how, “I’ll give it some thought,” translates to, “Go ahead and try to commit me to a date and venue I never agreed to without asking me if I’m okay with it first, and while you’re at it, why don’t you invent some quotes I never actually said?”

But here we are.

I probably should play some sort of show at some point where I’m not opening for somebody else or just playing one of my songs and then backing up someone else the rest of the time. A lot of people here have given me some pretty amazing support — who knew I would ever have something that could be called an audience, locally or otherwise? — and for some odd reason it seems like some of them would like to see and hear me play my own music live. So maybe I should give it another try while I still have my wits about me.

But I want to do it on my terms. Otherwise I don’t see the point in doing it at all. So this is what I’m thinking.

First of all, I need to get in there at Mac Daddy Hall myself before I make a decision. I need to find a room with acoustics I find comfortable and pleasing. I need to play the piano they have there and decide if it’s something that will work for me (and if not, I’ll probably handpick a piano, rent it for the show, have it moved and tuned, and do it that way).

The soonest I can get in there to check out all the rooms and the piano at one time is about a week from now. So I can’t make a concrete decision until then.

Part of me thinks it would be better to play a show at a place like Taloola, where I like the intimacy and complete lack of a PA system, but some people have told me if I did that there wouldn’t be room enough to accommodate the kind of turnout I should expect to get. Whether that’s true or not, maybe it’s best that the first “proper” solo show I’ve played since something like 2005 happens at a venue that can hold more people if necessary.

Playing at a place like Mackenzie Hall feels like a “big event” to me, which I think is kind of strange. Is me playing live really such a big deal? But the people I’ve talked to so far seem to think a place that isn’t a bar or a cafe would be a better venue for what I’m doing. They also seem to think enough people would come out to justify using a somewhat larger space. I don’t want any amplification going on if I don’t need it, but I would think I’d probably be able to find a room that’s small and intimate enough to get a good unplugged sound.

I’ll find out in about a week, one way or another.

One thing’s for sure: if I play a show at Mackenzie Hall, no one’s paying to get in. I don’t care what that article says. No tickets will be sold by anyone. No one will be “sponsoring” or “curating” anything. If I’m going to play an “event” type show like this, it’s going to be free admission for anyone who wants to come out. And all will be welcome, regardless of age, shoe size, gender, or species.

I don’t use my music to generate any money. Why should a show I’m headlining be any different? I probably wouldn’t end up making that much after expenses anyway, even if people did buy tickets. But that’s irrelevant, because it’s not about any of that. It’s about music. If I play a show, I want to enjoy it as much as I can, and I want the people who come out to be there because they want to hear the music. That’s it. Money doesn’t need to be involved.

CDs would be free as well to anyone who wanted them, and I’d make sure there was a good selection available. There would be copies of at least the last five albums I’ve made, in case anyone was interested and didn’t have them already. Maybe the show could be timed to coincide with the release of the next album. I’m not going to sit on or delay an album for a live show, though the timing could line up if it was planned properly. And it would be more of a CD-giving-away show than a proper CD release show.

Here’s the thing I feel I need some feedback on. It would be a solo show. As in, no band. No accompaniment. No effects or trickery to hide behind or erect false cathedrals around myself with. Just me, a (real) piano, some stringed instruments, maybe a harmonica or two, a melodica, and other odd sound-makers.

And there would be no one else on the bill. If you come out to see me, then you’re going to get a whole lot of me, and I’m going to play a whole lot of songs. Songs you might know, new songs no one has heard yet, old songs from back when I had no audience at all and so no one even heard them back then, obscure covers, and maybe a TV show theme song or two.

I would probably play for an hour or so, take a break, there would be some free stuff to eat and drink (though I’m on the fence about that idea, since it might make the whole thing feel too much like a dinner banquet), and then I would play for another hour or so. Maybe a few friends could come up for a few songs to mix things up a bit, but aside from those potential diversions it would just be me up there alone.

So you wouldn’t get the full “band” sound you hear on the CDs. All the songs would be stripped down to their core, and some of them would probably be rearranged for solo performance.

The show would also start at the time it was advertised to start. Normally when a poster or Facebook event says a show starts at 9:00, it seems to mean you shouldn’t expect the opening act to start playing until about 11:00. I know everyone does this and it’s just kind of accepted as part of the way live shows work, but I find that sort of thing incredibly disrespectful to the audience. Frankly, I think it’s bullshit.

So if I headline a show and it’s advertised as starting at 9:00, I’m going to be onstage and playing the first song by 9:03. If you don’t show up until an hour or two later thinking the normal rules apply, you’re going to miss most or all of the show, because I’m not going to sit around waiting for an hour and-a-half until more people show up. I make the same amount of money (none) whether two hundred people are there or twelve. And if you show up late and miss the show, you’ll probably have to wait another year or so to catch the next one, because even if it goes well I’m not going to start playing weekly gigs or anything.

In some ways I do think a live show should be sort of an event, or at least made special in some way. If you’re out there playing the same stuff all the time, after a while why would anyone want to keep coming out if they’re just going to hear the same songs they heard last week all over again? I realize I’m kind of in the minority here, but I think there’s a case to be made for playing less shows and not doing the same thing every time.

Still, the point of this post isn’t to get into a rant about my feelings on what other people are doing when it comes to live performances. So I’ll just cut that digression off right here and get back to the point.

And the point is this — do you think anyone would want to come out for a show like what I’m describing here? It seems a little against-the-grain to me, though it isn’t meant to be. I mean, the way it seems to work when you decide to put a show together is you get at least one or two other people on the bill for the show, you each play a set that runs thirty or forty-five minutes at the most, the music doesn’t start until two hours after the advertised starting time, you divide up the money, and that’s that. You don’t get up there with no opening act, play a few dozen songs, and then take a bow and the night is over. I’ve never heard of any local artist doing that sort of thing.

It’s not that I’m even trying to do anything radical. It’s not a case of me thinking I’m too important to have anyone else on the bill with me. This is just the only kind of show I can see myself playing where I’m comfortable and where I might end up being happy with the performance and not feel like I’d rather crawl under a throw rug somewhere and hide at the end of it. Shaving a setlist down to half an hour seems to defeat the whole purpose of what I’m trying to do musically, and at this point trying to put an actual band together to play my songs in full-bodied arrangements would probably give me an ulcer.

And I honestly just can’t think of anyone you could put on a bill with me that would make much musical sense. Except for maybe Rihanna, who’s never around when you need her. Besides, once I said, “Oh, by the way, it’s a free show and no one’s getting paid anything, aside from Mackenzie Hall getting their rental fee,” I’m not sure anyone else would even want to be on the bill.

The bottom line for me is this: if people really want to see me play live, and that’s what they come out for, then that’s what they should get. End of story. No distractions. You get what you don’t pay for, you get a lot of it, and that’s that.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, by all means fire away.

On a completely unrelated note, whoever put together that “Christmas at the Rehearsal Hall” thing for Bravo (that’s channel thirty-eight on yer cable, y’all) in 2008 must have been smoking some pretty serious crack. You put Hawksley Workman, Serena Ryder, Holly Cole, one of the dudes from the Barenaked Ladies, and Mary Margaret O’Hara all on the same stage…and then you make Mary a glorified backup singer? Are you kidding me? She’s got more talent in one of her toenails than all the other singers on the stage combined.

And I’m sorry to anyone who’s a Holly Cole fan, but I’ve never understood how she could have a career as a “jazz vocalist”. She has one of the most one-note, least compelling voices I’ve ever heard, with a range that never seems to span more than half an octave at any given time. I’d take Norah Jones over her any day, and I’m not even a huge Norah Jones fan. At least if Norah sang me to sleep I might dream of nice things, instead of mailboxes with grotesque metal faces assaulting me with arms that strangely resemble erotic dancers far past their prime.

On second thought, give me some of that crack. Maybe today’s musical climate will suddenly start to make glorious sense after hitting the pipe. Lady Gaga is teh awesomez! LOL OMG forgive Chris Brown already he’s so hot ROFLMAO!

There. That’s better.

Crazy little thing called cholesterol.

It has just come to my attention that the Queen song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is now being used in a McCain French fries commercial.

At first I thought, “Well, maybe John Deacon wrote the song. Maybe it’s his choice to stoop to this level, even though he already has more money than God.” But no. Freddie wrote that one, as I suspected.

Freddie Mercury has been dead for close to twenty years now. I somehow doubt he wrote a rockabilly-flavoured love song with potato grease in mind. If the other members of Queen think putting his song in a fucking French fry commercial is a fitting tribute to his talent, they’re a collective disgrace to the world of music and deserve to be horsewhipped. And if they just did it for a quick buck, then they’re a collective disgrace to the world of music and deserve to be horsewhipped by Keanu Reeves. In a corset. While singing the song they sold to McCain.

What the hell is wrong with people? It’s one thing if you make the decision to sell your song to McDonald’s or something. You’re alive. That’s your choice. From an artistic standpoint I don’t agree with it, but I can sort of understand why it’s done sometimes. But taking someone else’s song when they’re dead and using it to sell running shoes, or French fries, or contraceptives, or whatever, so you can make money off of their work long after they’re gone? I think there should be a law demanding anyone who commits this abomination be shot dead on site. Maybe there’d be a few less stupid assholes in the world that way, and a few less musical corpses being defiled for cash.

Just my two cents.

I’m spreading lint like a taoist now.

A few days after being a cover story in WAMM, I find out I’m in the Windsor Star as well. That’s pretty crazy. I’ve never sent any CDs to the Star for review, and I was surprised to see that particular album get the nod, since it’s easily the most bloated and intentionally messy thing I’ve done in recent memory and perhaps not the best place to start (something like CREATIVE NIGHTMARES or CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN might be a better starting point for the uninitiated).

But I appreciate the kind words. Thanks to Dylan for the writeup. I like this bit: “Attempting to figure out the method of West’s madness would be like trying to figure out how Nickelback has sold over thirty million albums worldwide.” A Nickelback slam! Yes! A man after my own heart. Maybe IF I HAD A QUARTER… being reviewed now when it’s already kind of old hat has something to do with the WAMM article implying it’s the most recent thing I’ve done, which is…not quite right (that would be this thing over HERE), and not really an accurate reflection of where things are headed.

Where are things headed, you ask? Stay tuned for a cohesive thirty-minute, ten-song album with no odd stylistic detours and song titles like “The Girl I Love” and “The Girl I Love More Than That Other Girl I Love”. I shall call it Westicle, and the world will be mine.

But on a note that isn’t so silly, I’m going to try and get some video up here in the next few days that has something to do with the still-in-progress next album. So be prepared for loud electric guitars and perhaps a bottle-opener solo or two.