You tell me something wrong; I know I listen too long, but then…one thing leads to another.

Today is a happy day, for several different reasons.

Reason # 1:

I have ink cartridge action. Which means I can print CDs again. Which means I no longer have only limited copies of the new album to go around. Which is good, because I dropped some off at Phog on Saturday, and by Monday they were all gone. I know my stuff moves faster than it used to, but that’s beyond insane. Normally I’ll show up at Phog a week after dropping off CDs to find the little box is still at least a third of the way full. I guess there’s a market for free two-CD sets after all.

Reason # 2:

Take a look at that picture up there. You can click on it for a larger and much more detailed view. On the left is a dude named Mark, smoking what appear to be three joints at a time. On the right is yours truly, looking tired, or stoned, or deep in thought, or all of the above.

Chrisy (who I went to high school with, and who is in a long-term relationship with Andrew, who was a member of Guys with Dicks for a while in 2001) has been posting some old pictures on Facebook over the past few days, and I saw some of them were taken at Gord’s old place on Esdras, in the converted garage that served as his and his brother Cliff’s headquarters for some time. I had a lot of adventures in that room during the Papa Ghostface and GWD days. I saw pictures of Gord, Tyson, Cliff, and others that looked to be from right around that time. All kinds of memories came flooding back.

I wondered if there might be some pictures of me in there somewhere too. It bothers me a little sometimes that there’s so little video and photographic documentation of such an important and formative time in my musical life.

Turns out there’s at least one picture of me in Chrisy’s treasure trove, and she was kind enough to scan it and send it my way.

My first thought, to my surprise, was, “Hey…I wasn’t as bad-looking as I thought I was!” My hair was nowhere near as long as it is now, and I couldn’t grow any facial hair yet, which frustrated me to no end, but I was a pretty cool-looking guy back then, if I’m allowed to say that about myself now. I didn’t feel that way at the time, but there you go. Hindsight is a squirrel wearing way too much eyeliner. I’ve said this before.

The picture was taken sometime in late 2001, right around the time we were making SUBLIMINAL BILE. I know this because of my appearance, the length of my hair, and because I loved that shirt and wore it as much as I could in the colder weather. I actually still have it. I even still have the T-shirt I’m wearing underneath in the picture, though it’s thinning out a bit in its old age. Back then I was as tall as I am now, but I weighed a hundred and forty-five pounds. For years it didn’t seem like I would ever weigh any more than that.

I don’t weigh a hundred and forty-five pounds anymore.

According to BMI measurements, I was a little underweight for a good few years there, but I don’t think I was ever unhealthily skinny. I ate like a horse most of the time. My metabolism just kept me on a very even keel. I used to hate tying my hair back, and I wore it down like that every day. Now I tie it back all the time and I have something you might call a beard.

Seeing that picture almost makes me think I should shave off my facial hair for the hell of it, but I’m not sure I could handle looking like I did when I was eighteen again. Might be a little too weird.

In any case, I really like the picture. It helps to fill in the gap in photographic documentation a little bit. I guess I wouldn’t have wanted a lot of pictures taken of me at the time anyway, since I thought I was a pretty hideous creature, but I’m glad Chrisy snuck that one in.

Reason # 3:

I am very nearly finished repackaging all the old CDs I really want to make love to.

Did I really type that? I meant to type “repackage”.

By the end of next week I should have all the important ones finished. As mentioned before, I’m not planning on circulating many copies of these things, but if you’d like a box set full of about thirty CDs of music no one has ever heard before, let me know and I’ll put one together for you. I can think of about half a dozen people offhand who might be interested in something like this, a few of whom I’ve already talked to about it. I don’t imagine it would extend far beyond that, but I guess you never know.

Just having a good chunk of the back catalogue finally looking real is a really nice feeling. It wasn’t entirely inexpensive to do, and it took a bit of time to put it all together, but I feel like it’s been worth the effort. Putting everything else aside, if I hadn’t messed around with trying to make my own cover art for old CDs I never would have figured out how to “draw” things the way I can now with the program I use to print CDs, and I never would have been able to make the cover art for MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART. So it was worth it for that alone.

And then there’s album cover art like this, which cracks me up all over the place.

Reason # 4:

I realized long after the point where it was possible to change anything that there’s a tiny bit of a black outline on one of my shoulders on the cover art for the new album. I meant to get rid of that before giving the files to Minuteman Press, but with putting the lyrics together and everything else, it slipped my mind. I forgot all about it until I noticed it again several days after the booklets had been printed and initial copies of the album had been circulated.

Most of the time this sort of thing drives me nuts. This time I reacted in a way that surprised even me. Instead of thinking, “Shit! It’s a mistake! I must reprint the booklets and destroy every existing copy that has that little line most other people won’t even notice!” I thought, “I’m actually kind of glad it’s there.”

It works as a metaphor for my whole way of doing things. If there’s a connecting tissue or a common thread running through all the music I’ve ever made, as stylistically disparate as some things are from one another, it’s the intentional lack of polish. I don’t ever want things to be perfect. I don’t ever want things to be sterile, or too polished, or too predictable. It’s important to me to leave mistakes in the music so the listener is reminded that this is music made by one human being. No using pitch-correction on my voice to fix a wobbly note. No sound-replacing drums to make the snare and toms sound big-studio-slick. No chopping up pieces of different performances and taking the best bits to make one ideal performance that isn’t even a real performance, but a manufactured…thing.

Yes, I get better at a lot of things as I go, I have better equipment than I used to, and I put a bit more effort into making things sound good these days, but not so much that it takes me out of the act of making the music in the first place. Things don’t need to be perfect. I think it would be boring if they were.

So I’m glad the little hint of an outline on my shoulder remains, even if I meant to erase it. A little unintentional symbolism is okay by me.

I’m a little less glad to discover I misspelled the Italian word for “toaster” in the booklet (I missed an s), but that’s a typo I can live with, at least until I need to get the booklets reprinted. Better that than typing too quickly and accidentally misspelling “bliss” as “bilss”.

Those are all the reasons I can think of right now for today being a happy day. I think they’re pretty good ones.

Also, the box of CDs at Phog is full once again. I’ll be checking out the situation at Dr. Disc on the weekend, and if that box is empty I’ll refill it too. If I have your address and I normally send you CDs, you should be getting mail in the next week or two.

Music is a-flyin’.


  1. Ooo, I’m adding in my vote for “facialhairless Johnny” — I’d like to see what you’d look like now without the scruff! MY CURIOSITY IS PIQUED!

  2. Confucius says “Not only should a beard be attached to you, you should be attached to your beard.” Good sir, I dare say! Have you explored pressing onto vinyl?

    1. I’ve given it some thought, and some friends have sent some helpful information my way, but I haven’t looked into it deeply enough to figure out how much it would cost.

      I think in order to make it work, I would either have to make an album that’s only half as long as my albums usually are, or make it a 2 or 3-LP set…and I imagine that would get a bit expensive. I’d also have to get someone to master the music for vinyl and hope they would do a good job with it, because I know things are very different sonically over there than they are on CDs and the EQ needs to be adjusted to compensate.

      I would like to try it at least once, though. I’m a big fan of records, and it would be pretty cool to have one of my own to give to people and to play on my turntable. Choosing an album to give the vinyl treatment would probably be the most difficult part.

  3. What about a “Best of the Best, of the one, but perhaps alphabetically arranged not only, Johnny West” 1LP 180gram Vinyl. I was just handed a record yesterday “Psycho – On the Loose”, and I started to laugh out loud for 15-20 minutes when I saw who engineered and mixed it. The question as to “would the guy who engineered Psycho on Vinyl in the 1980s do a good job to Johnny West in the early turn of the century” is up for Debate Team 2011. I want to be on the side that argues the Knights of Columbus is an insurance scam and I want my money back. The real question about the entire thing delves much deeper, “Does an insurance salesman have a heart of gold?”. His name might just be “Chuck Reynolds”.

    1. Yes I know reviews of Psycho on A Reasonable Guide to Horrible Noise may title “Laughably Amateurish”. But hey, my 2 cents doesn’t have to be worth anything.

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