Craig Silliphant’s book explores the music of Saskatoon – and it’s good
There are cliques, but less divisively than you’d find, in say, Toronto. A whole province will get behind you and put you on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.”
– from Exile Off Main St.
One of my favourite things about Craig Silliphant is his beautifully caustic wit and acidic sense of humour.
Having been engrained within the Saskatoon music scene for probably the past two decades, Silliphant, local music journalist, is known for his liberal use of forked tongue and tirade. But it’s not just slagging off for the hell of it – he’s also a lover. Especially of well-played local music.
Exile Off Main St. is a love letter to all things Saskatoon and music. It’s also a literal brick, filled with Silliphant’s oft-hilarious musings, including a backlog of articles written for Planet S Magazine.
Even so, it’s a love letter that has been a long time coming.
“I think most of the scene didn’t really take itself seriously until the last decade,” he says. “There’s obviously the rise of the Internet and DIY technology, but I’d really credit places like Planet S, CFCR, and Ominocity for bringing legitimacy to the local scene, and in fact, the book talks about that. When Planet S Editor Chris Kirkland and I started planning the local coverage way back when, no one was writing about local music. Maybe the odd blurb in the Star Phoenix.
“I’m not claiming that we created the scene, the bands did that themselves, but we tried to boost it through giving it further legitimacy.”
And the book covers plenty of musical ground, and includes interviews with all sorts of individuals and band members from all genres. Thankfully, several of the more obscure bands are included. After all, Porksword remain one of the best bands that have ever sprang from the loins of Saskatoon. They also provide inspiration for one of the better chapters of the book.
But tackling something like a band that has been long broken up is a tricky subject – for one it instantly dates, and cements, your subject material. But that’s the point. It is giving these brief flickers of brilliant, undiscovered rock ‘n’ roll history a voice that was ultimately the impetus for the book.
“It would be a hell of a thing to research from the ground up, and it’s such a niche subject that no one would do that,” says Silliphant. “I had the virtue of having happened to be there for a good chunk of it, as a musician, then later a writer, so I already had a lot of the contacts you’d need and the research was in my head. Ultimately, documentation is the main reasons for the book. It’s not like anyone is going to make any money off this. I wanted to leave behind some kind of history for others to discover. I wish I could read a book about the music scene in the 50s and 60s in Saskatoon right now. That would be cool!”
But the book isn’t just about the music. It’s where we, the musicians and the audience, come from. The infrastructure of any successful scene is built upon those who support it wholeheartedly – the artists, writers, radio hosts, record store clerks, etc. Silliphant wisely acknowledges this throughout his book, including the thoughts and rambles of other local musicians and journalists, including some stuff from Ominocity. That was nice of him!
But even though Exile Off Main St. very much carries a unique voice throughout, why include other writers in the book?
“Because I’m lazy?” jokes Silliphant. “Though, the joke is on me, because corralling and editing everyone was actually much crazier. So perhaps because I’m stupid? Seriously though, it was about accessing their stories. And I wanted readers to hear from different voices besides my own. I could have written up their stories, but it’s much better coming from them in their own words and in their own writing styles.
“Also, I’m lazy.”
You can catch the launch of Exile Off Main St., as well as the grand reopening of Beaumont Film & Record in its new location, on Saturday, September 28, at 100-220 3rd Avenue South in The Avenue Building. Expect DJ sets from Keef and Laramee from Shooting Guns, Chris Morin from Ominocity, and Scott Gowen from The Moas.