When you interview musicians every day you hear a lot of funny stories
I’ve been writing freelance articles about rock bands for probably almost a decade now. And when you interview with various musicians of all stripes and colours on a regular basis you hear a few things.
Sometimes it can be boring.
Musicians love to talk about their new albums – they want people to be as interested in what they are doing as they themselves are. That’s not news to anyone. But, of course, it is pretty much a given in every article. It’s rock journalist suicide to not talk about the new album.
But every now and then you get a nugget of pure oratory gold. And those are the moments that make music journalism so fascinating; musicians being human is generally what comprises the best rock writing.
Several years back I devised a plan to illustrate portraits of some of the musicians I had interviewed. The idea was to make postcards and then put a memorable quote on the back and then sell them at the art shows I was haunting in Montreal at the time. Then I got worried that one of the musicians would sue me when they saw my crude illustrations, and the idea got scuttled.
But not before I put in hours and hours of work into the project.
Andrew W.K. told me over the phone that he was going to put me on the guest list to his show. I could hear him shuffling around for a paper and pen. And I remember thinking that he was putting in a lot of effort for something that probably wasn’t going to happen. Amazingly, when I got to the show my name was totally on the list. He is a human dynamo.
Spencer Burton is a master of telling stories. If you haven’t seen him play live – he currently tours under the name Grey Kingdom – you would be doing yourself a big favour to check him out. Concurrently, I have never seen him play for more than 20 people. This needs to change.
According to Mr. Van Gaalen, he conceived his child in Saskatoon after watching beach volleyball on the TV.
Getting a hold of Chi Pig for an interview, at least over the phone, isn’t exactly the easiest thing to accomplish. “Chi is tough to get a hold of but here is what you do: He hangs out at PUB 340 in Vancouver every day from like 2 to 6 pm, so call there and ask for him,” said SNFU’s agent. After several calls yielding awkward and empty-handed results, Mr. Pig was finally persuaded to answer a few questions on the bar’s phone, at least for a few minutes. In the end, it’s still comforting to know that age hasn’t tempered Chi Pig’s punk attitude or his incendiary, larger-than-life persona – despite the rather unnerving conversation.
Every amazing album that Soundgarden ever put out has been completely ruined by Cornell’s electro dance album Scream. The live show was pretty hilarious though – dudes in metal shirts looked completely baffled as they watched Cornell strut around in a belly shirt while singing lines like “that bitch ain’t a part of me.” I wonder if he still believes that Scream is a great record.
One of my favourite memories of a Fucked Up show was watching Damian shit-haul some kid out of the pit and personally eject him outside mid-song and then returning to the stage to finish the set. They finished the evening with a cover of “No Feelings” by the Sex Pistols.
When Dinosaur Jr. first reformed and played at The Odeon at Amigos it may have been one of the most dysfunctional live shows I had ever seen. All three members noodled mindlessly on their instruments in-between songs. There was no energy whatsoever. It was mildly heartbreaking.
Ruyter Suys went to the University of Saskatchewan and graduated in ’92. She had met her husband when his band Nine Pound Hammer played at Amigos. “It was supposed to be a one-night stand but it lasted 17 years,” said Ruyter. Mondo rock romance.
Sunparlour Players always deliver an amazing live performance. Unfortunately, nearly every time I’ve seen them in Saskatoon there was barely anyone there to see it. This literally infuriates me.
Vic Chesnutt is an outspoken, Southern-born songwriter who is partially paralyzed from a car accident when he was 18. His live performances are moody and dramatic, and on his 2009 tour Chesnutt was joined onstage by members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor as well as Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto. Chesnutt described the shows he played during this time as “blowing people’s faces off.” While his live shows were often heightened by his own personal demons, tellingly, speaking to Mr. Chesnutt on the phone evoked a similar response – by the end of the conversation his growly drawl had reduced me to a quivering, sweaty mess. He questioned everything I asked. Unfortunately, the tour would turn out to be his last: On Christmas Day, 2009, Vic Chesnutt died from an overdose of muscle relaxants. He was 45.