Live on CJAM (2003)

This is barely even an EP. There are two tracks from February of 2003, when I played on Chris Hewer’s CJAM show Actual Air for about the third time, with Shawn hosting in Chris’s stead, and then those two songs are repeated but played backwards thanks to Chris messing with them on a computer program.

The plan was to go on the show the day before Valentine’s Day and play a Blue Nile song, but Chris stood me up. So I went back to the drawing board and came up with something else.

There’s an early version of Aura of the Insipid with different bridge lyrics that are a little less interesting than what I ended up singing in their place on the album version, and there’s a cover of Tim Buckley’s Lorca. I’m not normally one to play someone else’s songs on the radio, but it was six days after Tim’s birthday. I wanted to tackle something no one else would be bold enough to attempt. I never felt like I did a great job with it. Not too many people would have heard it at the time anyway. If nothing else, it was a fun challenge to set for myself.

Much more interesting, at least in my opinion, is the stuff that was recorded during my first appearance on Chris’s show (and you’ll have to get the MISFITS compilation to hear it, minus the interview segments).

Gord’s friend Josh was becoming a friend of mine at the time. He seemed to like the music I’d been making with Gord. One Friday Josh paid a visit to his friend Chris at CJAM. He wanted to bring a Guys with Dicks CD with him, but Gord was sleeping and Josh didn’t know where our CDs were. It didn’t help that I wasn’t in the habit of writing titles or anything on the CDs back then, so if a disc wasn’t in its case, you had no way of knowing what it was without listening to it.

He spotted the Mr. Sinister album INCOGNITO IN AUSTIN and grabbed that. He played Chris the title track and told him some hilarious improvised lies about my musical history. Chris liked what he heard and told Josh to get me to come in and play on his show. So the next friday he did, and I did.

I hadn’t yet started working on a follow-up to BEAUTIFULLY STUPID. But I’d just written “Filler” and “Unstable Things” on my new acoustic guitar — the first decent one I ever owned — and I thought they might make for good on-air material, instead of tackling old tunes. Chris ended up making me the “focus group” of the evening, devoting almost an hour to talking to me and playing my music. I had no idea that was going to happen. It was surreal.

I played some tracks from my still-fresh first post-band solo CD, a few band tracks from STELLAR and the posthumous CASTRATED EP, the two new acoustic tracks, and we talked a bit about what I did and how I came to play the guitar in such an odd way. I even somehow got away with playing “Absolutely Manhole Blues”, which features about thirty rapid-fire shouts of a four-letter word that rhymes with “duck” in its final twenty seconds.

When it was time to play the live tracks, the microphone I was speaking into was angled halfway between my face and the guitar. I was nervous as hell, and I botched my guitar-playing on both songs. But even though the proper recordings that ended up on TEMPORARY AMNESIA are better in most of the ways that matter and I hold the climactic high note on “Unstable Things” for much longer there, something about the imperfect first versions has always grabbed me. On “Filler” in particular, my live singing has a kick to it I was never quite able to recapture in the studio. Maybe it was a combination of the thrill of being on the radio for the first time in my life and unveiling these songs when the paint on them was still wet and one of them didn’t even have a title.

Either way, it was pretty cool to have someone give me that kind of attention on their radio show at a time when not many people were interested in what I was doing. Chris may have revealed himself to be flaky later on when I was trying to build an actual friendship with him, but I’ll always think of him when I’m trying to make sweet love to a broken toaster.


Aura of the Insipid
+ both tracks backwards


Aura of the Insipid

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