Getting to Know my Neighbour

24 09 2010

Have you ever tried to repair the soles of your dancing shoes with duct tape? Last night, getting ready to go out and catch the first string of this year’s Rifflandia shows, that’s just what I did. I’ve been meaning to take them into the cobbler for months, but I don’t like the idea of not having them around in case I need them. So, at about 8pm, I was eating hotdogs and going all Red Green on my favourite pair of sliders. Not bad—serviceable, perhaps, I thought, wiping  ketchup from my chin. And then I had a better idea:  why not try the stapler?

As you may be guessing, I’d had a couple pre-clubbing warm up drinks. And why not? I was feeling good, knowing as I did that I would be working hard on the dance floor at Lucky Bar in a few hours, grooving to Neighbour’s (aka Matt Dauncey’s) disco-boogie-funk-house-whatever. I had spoken to him on the phone earlier, and we made plans to slip away somewhere before his set for an interview. Very good. In the meantime, I thought I’d stop by the Alix Goolden Hall and see what the scene was like there. I finished off the last of my dog, downed the dregs of a can of Pilsner, and with my dancing shoes in a sorry state, I went out into the rainy night.

Alix Goolden Hall

The smoke had just cleared after DJ Wood’s set, and the Tabla Guy was about to take the stage. I won’t go into detail about his performance—check out Amanda Farrell-Low‘s post for that info—but I gotta say that I fully agree with her regarding the piece he played on the hang drum:  it was magical, and the crowd, me included, swooned. Feeling satisfied and ready to tackle my interview with Neighbour, I hopped on my bike and headed to Lucky Bar. (As an aside, I did eventually return to the Goolden to catch a bit of Aesop Rock, and I have to agree again with Amanda—that venue is not suited to loud, bassy acts; the crowd was jammin’ along quite nicely, but the beats and rhymes were lost in space.)

Lucky Bar

I found Matt Dauncey at the bar, and we decided to zip around the corner for a slice of pizza at The Joint, and talk about, well, him.  That interview will be posted up here in a few hours, along with the rest of my night’s adventures, but right now I have to head off for an interview with Victoria’s alt-country crooner Clay George.  He’s playing tonight at the Alix Goolden, opening up for headliners the Great Lake Swimmers.  Back soon with more . . . .

Interview with Neighbour

Jay Morritt:  (gobbling a slice of cheese pizza) I always forget napkins. But you need them to swab up the grease, yeah? Yeah. Ok, well first question:  tell me about your label, Homebreakin records.

Matt Dauncey:  It’s a great label. It started five years ago, when me and my buddy Cal sent a bunch of music out to a bunch of labels, and there was some interest, but no one who was stepping up to release it.  So we looked into how much it would cost to press vinyl, and it wasn’t that expensive, and we found a distributor who said that if we could give them the next three releases then they could count on us as  a label, and so we got it together, and that’s how it started.  We’re not a label in the sense of like trying to take over the world or anything—it’s more a platform to get the music out there to the people who would enjoy it. By the time the label was really going, I was 23, and I wasn’t even taking my electronic music seriously as a career path—I was playing guitar in Celtic bands and making ends meet, just gigging. But I’ve always had those two paths going, and for me it’s not about one or the other. To make a long story short, I made some records, they were good, and people asked me to make more of them.

JM:  It just kinda happened.

MD:  Yeah, I mean I was in the studio geeking out everyday anyway, and the label was just a reason to start sending it out there. It’s been really natural, and for me that’s what my DJ career is about—I’m not trying to blow it out, visit 9 continents in a year—it’s about playing good gigs for nice people.

JM:  So let’s talk about gigs. You’ve been busy—Shambhala, Soundwave, a bunch of other festivals, what does that circuit mean to you?

MD: Well it’s pretty much because of doing festivals like Shambhala that I got so pumped up on the whole DJ thing.  It was my ninth year this year, and the first time I went to Shambhala I was 19, so it was an impressionable period. I was in jazz school studying guitar in Calgary, and I would go to BC in the summers. I started going to festivals and meeting people, not really noticing how much of an effect it was having on my perception of music. But after two summers of that it was like “that’s what I want to make; that’s what I want to do.” The festivals started supporting me and booking me, and Shambala led to a lot of gigs locally. Because Calgary’s scene is so competitive, and there’s so few clubs that will play my sort of stuff, I needed the credibility that came with playing larger festivals.  But the festivals themselves, I mean what can you say, they’re pretty fuckin’ sweet. If you like people and you like dancing, they’re good; if you people and you don’t like dancing, they’re probably still good; if you don’t like people, you won’t like it (laughs).

JM:  What’s inspiring you right now?

MD:  I was in Brazil this year, and that’s hands-down the biggest influence in the last six months. As far as what I like in general, I like songwriting—I like to hear elements of actual song craft. People talk about dance music as being tracks, buliding blocks to make something larger, but I also like songs that can stand on their own and are just enjoyable to listen to. So good songwriting and good production—there’s an art to both of those, and to just chase that and get better at it is what inspires me.

JM:  I know you’re into the existentialist writers—Beckett, Camus—do you pull inspiration from that stuff for your music?

MD:  Well the existentialists have something to say about life being absurd, you know, like “what’s it for?”, and so my take is why not be that guy who gets to jam out in the sun and play disco records for people, because I happen to be good at it.  Why not?  I think the people who have the most fun are the ones who decide that, whatever they’re doing, they may-as-well do it to the max because—

JM:  Life is absurd anyway, and what else are you doing with your time?

MD:  Yeah. What else are you doing with your time?

JM:  You know that Albert Camus said “I know nothing more stupid than to die in an automobile accident,” and then died in an automobile accident? Now there’s absurdity for you.

MD:  (laughs) I didn’t know that—that’s totally poetic.

JM:  I have only one other question. I know you like the old British comedy The Young Ones—I love that show, and moreover I think it has one of the best theme songs of all time (I do a short and soul-stirring rendition).

MD:  (big laughs) That’s a rad show! Nobody knows about it.

JM:  I feel the same way—whenver I mention it, people just like blink.  So you’ve never remixed it, the song, eh? Well I’ll leave you with that challenge then, sir.

MD:  I may just have to make you your own personal custom mix. . . .

(Ok Mr. Dauncey—I’ve got it down here in writing.  I’m totally counting on that Young Ones mix. Bring it on!)

–Jay Morritt

The Rest of Thursday Night

After my interview with Neighbour, I disappeared from Lucky for a while, so I could catch a few other acts. I biked down Store St. to Rehab Nightclub—I saw other Rifflandians stumbling down the sidewalks in packs, zombies with a hunger for songs, not brains. Speaking of zombies, I could hear the Dayglo Abortions’ epic-loud set long before I reached the club. Once inside, I have to say I was disappointed—I had seen the Dayglo’s like ten years ago, in London Ontario, and it was one of the wildest performances I’ve ever witnessed. So much reckless energy. But on this night, they could have been any other tired group of older dudes half asleep at their instruments, adrift on a wave of colossally distorted fuzz.  That may be a bit harsh, but compared to their former energy and intensity, it’s an apt description.  Oh well.

That’s when I booked it back toward the Metro Theater, hoping to catch the tail end of Lee Ranaldo’s set.  But folks were all filing out into the streets at that point, and so I popped over to the Goolden again to see Aesop Rock, and then back to Lucky Bar for the rest of the night to party with Neighbour and Kenzie Clarke.  I’ll say more about that later, but right now it’s time for me to have my dinner and head out for another night of music.  More soon,

–Jay Morritt

I’ll Say More About That Later (Now).

Ok, so Friday night is finished—It’s almost 3am, and I’m at my desk looking out the window at a blessedly quiet Cook St.  Some seriously awesome performances I’ve witnessed tonight, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear about it all.  Or like later today. Hey, do you remember that band Silverchair’s big hit with the chorus about waiting till tomorrow?  I’m sorry, I’m so tired that I’m beyond stopping myself from indulging in highschool memories right now.  But really, I still have to sum up Thursday night. Quickly. It goes like this:  Neighbour and Kenzie Clarke rocked a familiar drunken scene at Lucky Bar with steady determination. Neighbour was more house and disco than funk and soul on this night (a bit to my chagrin—but I think his sound suited the atmosphere), and after I left I ran into my good buddy Joey MacDonald, of Olio Artists and Workers Co-op (please appreciate his hard work on Rifflandia show posters—particularly his awesome Gord Downey effort—a portrait of the artist, hand-scored on wood panel! ), and we had a beer together before calling it a night. Love that man.

Now it is sleep time. Friday night has been full of riches, and I look forward to tossing some gold bullion into the realm of the ether-web, after I get some zzz’s.

Your Urban Warrior,

-Jay E. Morritt

Into the Mist

24 09 2010

It was a bit of a soggy start to Rifflandia lastnight, but that didn’t stop the city from coming out to play. Heading into the soggy night to catch a bit of Brasstronaut’s set at Market Square, you could tell something was afoot; in addition to the moisture, there was a great energy in the air as folks wandered the streets, their purple wristbands a tell-tale sign that they were fellow Rifflandians.

First up on my list was a stop at Market Square to check Brasstronaut. I’d heard earlier that the lineup to get in was crazy (tales of 400 folks lining up to see the Sunday Buckets open the square were circulating the Twitterverse) but by the time we got there at around 9 p.m., the wait wasn’t more than a couple of minutes—although when we left half an hour later, there was a sizable line waiting to get in to see Grand Analog and K’naan. The sextet from Vancouver delivered their dreamy brand of jazzy pop to fans huddled under the covered area of Market Square—and the weather couldn’t have been a more perfect match for their atmospheric sound. We stuck around long enough to hear a couple of songs, including “Hearts Trompet,” which is up for the Echo Songwriting Prize, before high-tailing it up to the Alix Goolden Hall to catch the Tabla Guy, Mount Kimbie and Aesop Rock.

We slipped into the Goolden with ease, settling into a pew on the upper level as the Tabla Guy started his set. If Brasstronaut playing in the misty rain was a good fit, then the Tabla Guy, aka Gurpreet Chana, playing in the Goolden was an even better one. Accompanied by  Mason Bach on electric violin and live PA (his laptop had a cute little “I ❤ MB” sticker on it) for a few songs, Chana managed to captivate the crowd in the Goolden—a crowd that, I’m assuming, wasn’t necessarily there to see him. The highlight of the performance was a song called “Raindrops,” which was played on a hang drum. Chana completely captivated the crowd, inspiring a hushed awe at one moment and then a clap-along the next.

After the Tabla guy finished his set, we waited for Mount Kimbie to take the stage. And waited. And waited. It seems the U.K.-based duo was having some equipment issues (there was a wide range of electronic gear sitting on the table and a rat’s nest of cords on the floor) and ended up starting about 40 minutes late. Sadly, it meant they had to play a very abbreviated set, and even that was plagued with some bad feedback. It was disappointing, as the brief set was an interesting one, starting with more ambient mixtures of electronic samples mixed with live drums and guitar before wandering into the more bass-heavy territory that has garnered them the “post-dubstep” label.

Aesop Rock. Photo by Casey Bennett.

Up next was the set many had been waiting for: oddball hip-hop artist Aesop Rock. I find the Goolden to not be the best place for a hip-hop show; sure, it’s an amazingly beautiful space, but it was built without amplification in mind, so really bass-heavy music gets muddled and vocals can be hard to make out. This meant many of the finer nuances of an Aesop Rock show—his wacky rhymes and distinctive voice—were lost. Luckily, Aesop is a very engaging performer; he and co-MC Rob Sonic criss-crossed the Goolden’s stage and kept the crowd amped with a bit of help from DJ Big Whiz, who did some impressive turntablism and even some video mixing and scratching. Another great thing about the show was that, because he wasn’t touring a particular album, Aesop played favourites from his entire discography, including “Lucy,” “None Shall Pass” one of my favourite songs, “Fast Cars.” So yeah, maybe not the optimal venue for a hip-hop gig, but a high-energy and high-quality show nonetheless.

Wandering back on to Quadra Street around 1 a.m., I was filled with the feeling that my excellent Thursday night at Rifflandia was a sign of the weekend ahead. Bring it on!

Rifflandia 3//Night 1 (Photos)

24 09 2010

Rifflandia numero Trois kicked off with a little rain, but that wasn’t enough to wash out some great shows featuring some of musics more original and diverse artists. This is my second year covering Rifflandia for Monday Magazine as a photographer and it’s so exciting not knowing what to expect once you walk through the entrance, past the security and into the venue. It’s one great discovery after another. I had a list of bands I was hoping to see and of course, like last year, I had to compromise due to timing and location, but it didn’t upset me. I ended up photographing some great acts and I walked away brand new fans of Grand Analog and Brasstronaut. This is why I love, love, LOVE this festival. Here are some photographs to kick off this years Rifflandia Music Festival.
From top to bottom: Mike Edel//Sound and Science//Brasstronaut//Grand Analog//Current Swell//Acres of Lions//Aesop Rock

All photographs by Casey Bennett

Rifflandia 3 Opening Night: That Festival You Like is Coming Back, in Style!

23 09 2010

Victoria’s third edition of the Rifflandia music festival kicks off tonight, and there’s a bunch of great shows going down. K’naan, Aesop Rock, Dayglo Abortions (have you seen them live?—you should), Lee Ranaldo—all these guys are set to headline at different venues scattered throughout downtown.  My dream was to hop around and catch a few songs from several of these artists, so I could bring you an overview of opening night, but there’s a hairball clogging my sonic vacuum cleaner’s flow:  no media pass. Rifflandia isn’t providing media passes for anyone this year, which means I’m likely to encounter sold-out performances, and I’ve got no bone to throw to the bouncers. I will just have to see how much leverage a VIP pass and an air of general entitlement can get me, I suppose.

One thing’s for sure—I won’t be missing my chance to shake it unti I get the funk and disco dry-heaves at Lucky Bar tonight. I’ll club my way in with a road cone if I have to—I’m that excited to see Vancouver’s Neighbour (aka Matt Dauncey) blow up the floor. But I hope it won’t come to that, because I would hate to leave a neon-orange spank-mark on any doorman’s cheek. Besides, I’m interviewing Dauncey in a few hours, so I think it will probably all work out. Now, speaking of interviews. . . .

Ballgag n’ Chain Gang

I sat down yesterday with Victoria’s own Ballgag n’ Chain Gang to talk about the gospel of “The Tonk”, the shamefullness of bacon bits, and the importance of practicing playing the guitar behind your head. Adam Zonnis, Steve Craik, and Brendan Pye joined me on the patio at Union Pacific coffee house, and I enjoyed a montreal smoked meat panini while we chatted. Do you remember cafe Vieux Montreal? Now that was a smoked meat sandwich. But I digress.

Jay Morritt:  Um, ok, so tell me about “Ho-Tonk.” Yeah, I wanna hear some proselytizing about the Ho-Tonk.

Steve Craik:  Oh God, should I start from the beginning of it?

JM:  Please sir, start from the Genesis.

SC:  I was in University studying avant-garde composition, and this buddy of mine, a guitar player, the two of us went down to Beacon Hill Park with a didgeridoo and a guitar, and we just started playing honky-tonk tunes. Then we went downtown to play, and people danced, and so we started busking. We did that for a year-and-a-half, and we called it digi-tonk. We developed a language, a vernacular, like we’d say “let’s go and dole out some tonk”, so we can “get some spoils” and go buy “some fixins”.  Then the guitar player got busy, and I started a one man band with a plastic digeridoo and a guitar, and started doing open mics, and that’s where I met Adam, who was doing a banjo and didgeridoo thing—it was kinda like we were separated at birth or something—and then we got asked to do this Fringe play.

JM:  Well that was actually my next question, because I’d read that Ballgag n’ Chain Gang started at the fringe. Tell me about that.

SC:  We formed a three piece band for this play about the worst Dominatrix from Thunder Bay—

JM:  The worst one! how many are there up there?

SC:  Have you ever been to Thunder Bay? (laughs). So anyway we were like the house orchestra for this play, and that’s where the Ball Gag n’ Chain Gang comes from.

JM:  It’s such a great name. People just like to say it.

Adam Zonnis:  Yeah, and no matter how bad people mess it up, you still know who they’re talking about.

SC:  We’ve been called some funny things:  Chainball and Gang Bang; Gagball and Chain. . . .

AZ:  So after the fringe thing we got a drummer and a bass player and the band developed into what it is now, and we took Ho-Tonk and made it  into a whole philosophy for living.  And so we’re here to spread the Gospel of The Tonk.

SC:  The way it works is, you can do pretty much whatever you want—if you look at the dancefloor at one of our shows, we encourage everyone to dance like an absolute jackass, and not to take life so seriously.

AZ:  But we do take our songwriting very seriously.

JM:  Well, the reputation of your live show precedes you. That’s why we’re sitting here together, actually, because so many people have told me to check you guys out, that your live show is just fabulous.

AZ:  We have a song called “White Guy Dance Party” and we reward the audience for who can pull the best white guy dance moves. But we usually win.

JM:  I’ve also heard you sometimes feed the audience bacon.

SC: Yeah, we’ve fed strips of pipin’ hot bacon to people on stage, or cold bacon, or bacon bits—that was kinda lame—people got mad at us for that one.

JM:  They were like “posers” (laughs).  On your myspace page I saw a video where one of you is playing guitar behind his head. He was really good at it—I thought, wow, he must practice that!

SC:  That’s Tony. He does practice it—he does that quite a bit actually.

JM:  Ok, so what’s next, what’s on the horizon for the band?

Brendan Pye:  Tour. Rifflandia first, and then tour.

SC:  Well be spending a few weeks doing the old BC/Alberta loop. We’ve been doing that every four or five months.

BP:  This will be our fourth tour to Alberta in thirteen months.

SC:  We’re trying to put together a tour over to Japan for next year, in March or April.

AZ:  And we’re going to step it up on the next album. More production, moving away from the raw sound of the last recordings. The new songs are way better than all the old songs.

BP:  The next album is going to be great—I can’t wait to start recording it.

I thought the interview was over at this point, but as we said our goodbyes outside of Union Pacific, something caught one of the guys’ eyes—a toy in the window of the sex shop next door, something called “The Squeel.”  It looked like an overized mentos mint cracked in half, with a fleshy waterwheel sticking out. We started to walk away, but the woman running the shop came out on the boulevard and wanted to know what we were looking at, and would we like a demonstration? Well this was too good to pass up.

Sex Shop Saleswoman:  This is the Squeel. Feel it—it has little tongues.

The pink paddles protruding from the wheel spin at a disturbingly quick pace, while the machine’s little engine wheezes away in its plastic case. Each of us takes our turn getting “licked.”

BP:  It looks like it was made by apple.

SSS:  The case is really hard to get back on, but I mean, do you really need to close it—you’re gonna use it again soon, right?

BP:  Yeah, it’s like trying to get me to shut my mouth!

Catch Ballgag n’ Chain Gang at Club 9One9 on Sunday, 7:30pm, with Big Muff, Humans, Lazers, and Bucan Bucan.

Jay Morritt

Oh Em Gee, It’s Time for Riff 3!

23 09 2010

Buck 65 at Rifflandia 2. Photo by Casey Bennett.

Your wristbands are strapped on, you’ve scoured the schedule grid to plan your attack, you’ve completed your budgeting to see how much Rifflandibrau you can quaff—Rifflandia is here. Just like last year, we’ll be sending out photographer Casey Bennett as well as bloggers Jay Morritt (who you may remember from our Fringe Fest coverage) and arts editor Amanda Farrell-Low (that’s me!). Expect awesome photos (check out Casey’s work from last year) plus some exclusive interviews and show reviews from myself and Jay, all right here—and we’ll be sure to keep our followers on Twitter and Facebook posted. With a lineup that includes folks like Times Neue Roman, Chali 2na, Aesop Rock, Melissa Auf de Mar, K’Naan and many, many others (157 artists in 10 venues over 4 days, to be exact) it’s sure to be one hell of a weekend.

In the meantime, why not whet your appetite with the Rifflandia coverage in this week’s issue? We’ve got our How-To Guide and interviews with Chali 2na and Kathryn Calder.

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