and for that we should all be thankful

good things come to those who salivate.

This is what a MiniDV tape looks like after its casing has been disassembled and the guts pulled out.

When I was just getting started importing all these old tapes, one of them decided to jam up on me after being rewound to the beginning. I was able to get it out of the camera, but there was no way to get it to play after that.

Bob at Unique Video Systems took the thing apart, transferred the tape into a new casing, made a splice to fix the part at the beginning that went janky, and all the ideas preserved therein got to live to fight another day.

If you need any video-related work or repairs done in Windsor, Bob is your guy. To say he knows his stuff would be a bit like saying the sun is hot and if you got close enough to touch it you might lose a finger.

Now, this right here…this is the holy grail.

You know how a few posts ago I broke down a list of video footage different people shot of me over the years that I didn’t have in my possession? And you know how I mentioned some early Papa Ghostface footage filmed back in our high school days?

This is that, and a whole lot more.

I’ve been trying here and there for fifteen years now to gain access to this material. A few days ago I thought I’d give it one last shot. I reached out to Amanda, Gord’s high school girlfriend. She’s the one who filmed this stuff.

I wasn’t even sure the tapes still existed. It’s been almost two decades since the earliest of them was filmed. Things get lost or thrown out over that period of time. It just happens.

She sent me a picture so I could see she’d kept the tapes and they were still intact. She said she wasn’t positive which ones we were on, because her camera didn’t work anymore and she never really documented the contents of her tapes, but she was able to narrow it down to seven possibilities. If I was willing to share copies of the digital transfers with her, she’d be glad to let me have them.

As of today, I have those seven tapes. There isn’t just vintage Papa Ghostface footage on them from a time when I had short hair and a beard was nothing but a distant hope in my head. There are house shows Fetal Pulp and ADHD played at. There are candid moments from the times Amanda brought her camera to school. There’s…I don’t even know what, to be honest with you. There could be footage of me and people I went to Walkerville with in here that I didn’t know existed. There probably is.

It goes without saying that I’d love to have the video Tyson shot of the band in late 2001 and early 2002. Knowing how easy it would have been to pop a tape in my VCR and hit record each time he hooked his camera up to my TV so we could watch what he’d filmed makes me want to go back in time and throttle myself for not thinking to do that when it counted.

In a way this is even better. Beyond a few things I’m pretty positive are here, I don’t know what I’m going to see. I get to be surprised.

After spending a good few years getting used to the idea that I’d never get to see any of this again, I get to go see Bob on Monday and talk to him about transferring all the tapes onto DVD (I’d make the transfers myself, but these are 8mm tapes and I don’t have the necessary equipment). I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. I thought I was doomed, and here I am waiting for the weekend to disappear so I can dive even deeper into the past than my own camcorder tapes have allowed me to.

Never underestimate the power of dogged persistence, right?

shred your linen, if you please. we’ll sing you wordless harmonies.


hey, guess what? that O-L west album is done. I CAN STILL FINISH THINGS SOMETIMES.

all that’s left now is the packaging, with all the copying and printing of CDs and the folding of inserts and the putting-together of jewel cases that implies. i handed in the art files yesterday, so there should be a proof pretty soon. if all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to start spreading copies around by the end of next week.

for now, here’s a little tune that didn’t make the cut. we both liked it a lot. just couldn’t find a place for it on the album (which is well over an hour long as it is).

afterthought no. 1 (a seed breaking through concrete)

staff paper.

sometimes i write string parts for songs that aren’t my own, that are being recorded somewhere other than here, by someone other than me. or maybe i just did it this one time.

TO LIVING string arrangement

the top line for the second cello section is missing (printer snafu, i think), so i used the second line as the top, since it turned into that by default in the top line’s absence. not that it really matters, because that part was rewritten as something a violinist could play instead.


i’m sure some of the note values are wrong. probably should have written eighth notes or sixteenth notes at the end there. keeping track of that stuff and knowing how to represent it on paper is beyond me. but the notes themselves are right. there’s a recording with a synthesized placeholder version of the string part so the player can hear what’s meant to happen.

that i’ve even reached a point where i can scratch something like this out in a way that might make some amount of sense to someone who can sight read is a little hilarious.

supper’s ready.

finished stew

so, this thing is finally done. its official release date — though i wasn’t able to get copies to more than one or two people because everything closed early for the holidays — was christmas eve, which has never happened before and will probably never happen again.

it looks pretty spiffy, i think. most of that has to do with greg’s artwork and background textures. i kept the rest of the layout very minimal, because i didn’t want anything to detract from the cover, and because i like keeping things pared-down visually. i did dust off the old “treating the CD a little bit like a mini vinyl record and putting all the song titles on it” trick for the first time since CREATIVE NIGHTMARES, though. gotta mix it up.

for once i was able to avoid any soul-destroying typos in the initial run of booklets. there is one line that doesn’t match what’s actually sung in the song, but that’s intentional. the last line of “fly’s hive” before the long instrumental midsection is, “through the blinds of your best window watch the city crumble, and tremble as you see all that you loved learn how to crawl.” i had a momentary brain fart when we were recording the vocals and sang “…as you see all that you loved turn into dust”, instead of what was on the page. i liked the way it sounded, even if it was a weaker line than what was written, so it got to stay.

i’ve always presented the lyrics “as written” — meaning what you see in the booklet doesn’t usually take into account mid-song improvisations where words are sometimes altered or replaced on the fly. i think it’s more interesting that way. it’s a way of honouring the reality that all of this stuff is in a constant state of flux every step of the way.

at the same time, every word in “remorse code” was improvised, and those lyrics are transcribed in the booklet. normally i would leave a thing like that out and let people work out for themselves what they thought i was singing. there is no “as written” when something was never written at all. but gord asked if i could include those words, and i couldn’t think of any good reason not to.

this is the shortest papa ghostface album there’s ever been if you don’t count LIVE AT SILVERS (and you shouldn’t, because that one kind of stinks). but it still feels pretty hefty. it’s just got some actual rhythm and flow to it for a change, instead of being a case of saying, “let’s vomit a whole bunch of stuff onto a CD and see if we can make it fit within the time constraints of the media.” if it’s going to be the first PG album most people have ever heard, that’s kind of fitting, because it feels like something of a new beginning for us.

people who did things:

gord played acoustic, electric, and acoustic archtop guitars, bass, djembe, tenor banjo, pitch-shifted triangle, recorder, bucket and spatula (the simulated river sounds on “movin’ on loon”), tambourine, clapped his hands, and sang a little. that’s also him playing the dramatic cymbal swells on “in the name of the impostor” before the proper drums kick in.

i played acoustic, electric, and classical guitars, piano, lap steel, bass, drums, shaker, african drums, six-string banjo, harmonica, mandolin, ukulele, backwards glockenspiel, casio SK-1 (samples and mangling), acetone combo organ, a little bit of alesis micron and korg monotron delay, clapped my hands, and sang a lot.

greg maxwell made the cover art.

theodore hogan played alto sax.

stu kennedy played violin.

i realize the logical thing here would have been to hold off for another week and make this album a 2016 release, coming straight out of the gate in the new year. but i am not bearded spock. i kind of like the way the thing has automatically been disqualified from being eligible for any best-of lists for 2015 or 2016. take that, lists!

besides, i had the inserts printed with 2015 on them before that mega cold knocked me out for a while and delayed what likely would have been a november release. i didn’t feel like paying a second time to change that one thing if i could get everything ready to go before the end of the year. and i’ve never liked sitting on things. when they’re done, they’re done. this one’s done.

this is the first album to feel the full impact of the “no more free public distribution” thing. so we’ll see how that goes. it’s still free, but the plan is to share it with friends and CJAM allies, a handful of people who are on the kinda-sorta-mailing list, and leave it at that, pretty much. i’m glad to send copies to people i don’t know, but i first need to know there’s some interest there. not really feeling the appeal anymore of throwing several hundred copies of a thing out there blindly and not knowing where most of them end up.

if i have your current address and you acknowledge that i exist once in a purple moon, you can probably consider yourself taken care of. if i don’t know you but you’d like a copy, get in touch with me or gord and we’ll do our best to get one to you.

here’s a little instrumental tune that didn’t make the cut.

pictures of me

i knew you were trouble when you walked in.

I’m not a Taylor Swift fan, though I still say if she wrote an album full of songs like “Safe and Sound” (her contribution to the Hunger Games soundtrack), I would run out to buy it in a second. And that one dream I had in which she appeared as my girlfriend…that wasn’t so bad, either.

This, however, may be her best work yet. There’s an edge there…a kind of raw energy I’ve always felt was missing in most of the rest of her material. It’s all about that chorus. Give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

(Note: Because the music industry is full of capitalist whores lacking any semblance of a sense of humour, every version of this video keeps getting removed from YouTube. Each time the video here goes dead, I’ll find another functioning one, until the end of time.)

we take these gifts when the world shifts.


My friend Adam just released an album, and he’s giving physical copies away for free at Dr. Disc and Ah Some Records. If you like Isn’t Anything-era My Bloody Valentine, Bleach-era Nirvana, and/or “dirty, slippery, visceral, palpable intensity weathered by destruction and delirious lust”, you should check it out. I dig it. You can borrow my shovel and dig it too, if you’d like. But you have to bring it back before April. I’m gonna need that shovel when the spring rain starts to fall.

This is one of my favourite songs on the album. It makes me think of what might have happened if Mark Sandman decided he wanted to write a melodic grunge song.

And hey, my name is in the album credits as a mastering engineer! Mastering music I didn’t record myself isn’t something I’ve ever done before, and not something I consider myself all that adept at, but it was a fun challenge to use the gear I had to try and beef things up and bring up the volume while keeping it musical. Adam was happy, so I must have done okay. Bandcamp makes it sound a little more compressed than it really is, but ain’t no big thing.

wordpress, you sneaky little monkey.

even with the space upgrades i’ve purchased, the music and video content i put up here on the blog has been adding up. a few months ago i sifted through the archives and got rid of some files that weren’t in use to create a bit of breathing room, but i was only able to do so much. after the most recent video progress report was uploaded, i only had a few hundred megabytes left to work with, which meant it would soon be time to pay for another space upgrade, or else i’d find myself unable to post any more video progress reports here — unless i went to the trouble of hosting them elsewhere. and i don’t really feel like doing that. using videopress and having the videos live here on the blog works just fine for me.

in the first few days of the new year, i noticed something odd. on the media-related pages where wordpress tells you how much space you’ve used and how much you have left, instead of a few hundred megabytes and something like 2.3% of my server space remaining, it said i had more than 15 GB available. i thought it must be a glitch, or a joke, and didn’t put much stock in it until just now, when i got an email from wordpress telling me they’ve doubled the amount of server space i have as a way to ring in 2012, free of charge.

thanks for the surprise, wordpress. i never saw that one coming. now i probably won’t need to buy any extra space for at least another year or two. handshakes and half-eaten cookies for everyone!

the dog wags the tail of the man who is pale.

i have a friend named kevin who lives in pennsylvania. he’s one of those people i send mail to who actually sends mail back to me. i guess you call that a penpal. though we’ve never met, i consider him to be a good friend and one of the most fiercely original, creative people i’ve ever been lucky enough to come in contact with. when CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN was new, he made me an insanely intricate collage book that was sort of a review and a response to the album, as well as an exploration of the themes it opened up, all rolled into one. i talked a bit about it in a progress report video some months back.

kevin will usually write his impressions when i send him a new album, and it’s always fascinating to read what he has to say. the guy has a way of writing that just makes your brain split open in wonderment. today i was surprised to find i had mail, and it was from kevin. it was his “review” of the latest album, as a two-sided piece of collage art.

on the front is the main event:

and a cool homage to LOVE SONGS FOR NIHILISTS is on the back:

a transcription of what’s on the front, in case you can’t figure out how to follow the text from the scan (i suggest clicking on the picture to make it bigger):

there is music you play when you need to see. sounds that define vision. johnny west’s new record, “medium fi music for mentally unstable lovers”, is a magic periscope into the brilliance of the present. this is music of the now, peeled back like an orange, full of flavor, succulence, and dripping excess. it is clay in the fingers, a melody running across the electric strings and sprightly piano, imprinting itself into the required form, particles colliding and forming something new.

perfect love casts out fear as we make ourselves willing to love someone for who they are. yet, this by far is the hardest thing anyone has tried to do. it requires communication, the ability to speak the same language and connect through collision and reform, allowing evolution to smooth out a finish over time. this is the soundtrack. these are stories told to drips of water. tales of woe, of heartbreak stolen. these are pictures, smells embracing the one who comes home. a door open. a sun appearing. a night not as long as expected. this is music for the hopeful.

i turn music on in an attempt to understand who i am and what i have to give to someone else. i hear my own narration in these songs, as if i am under my breath contemplating the next step. what is next? it doesn’t really matter as long as i possess vision, motivation, inspiration, and experience. a sound which accompanies the effort is the hidden treasure.

that is so fucking perfect for my life right now, i can’t even put it into words. thanks for that, my friend.

also, on a completely random note, i don’t know if anyone who reads this is at all familiar with male adult film star randy spears…but it occurred to me that he would be the perfect guy to take on the role of charlie sheen, if they ever made a porn film parody of his current bizarre career flame-out.

i can see it so clearly…i think it’s the part randy was born to play, and the legacy charlie wants to leave behind for us all.