I’ve been a huge fan of WFMU, the longstanding free-form radio station based in New Jersey, for years.
I first discovered the station when we were researching a documentary on Gordon Thomas, the now 96-year-old singer/songwriter from NYC. Irwin Chusid, a longtime WFMU DJ and fellow GT enthusiast, agreed to be interviewed for our doc, and the station was kind enough to let us film there.
Whenever we were in NYC for the shoot, we’d always listen to the station. Being the technologically challenged person I am, I only realized later that it also broadcasts online, and I could listen to it at home as well.
It’s characterized by a genuinely free-form musical mix, as well as by DJs who really know and care about the music they’re playing. Some of them have been hosting their shows for decades and specialize in rare and obscure music through the ages, although the station also stays current with interesting things going on today across all genres. The Cherry Blossom Clinic with Terre T, Gaylord Fields, Transpacific Sound Paradise and Irwin’s show are some of my favourites. Aside from music, they also have a lot of amazing talk-radio personalities, from Tom Scharpling’s venerable comic extravaganza The Best Show on WFMU to Dave Emory’s weekly hour of conspiracy theorizing. They even play host to Canada’s own beloved Nardwuar.
In the recent Sandy storm, WFMU’s transmittors were knocked out (the station continued to broadcast online, with DJs spinning from their homes, until they were repaired) and their annual record fair, a major source of income, had to be cancelled.
The station has had its own funding drive going on, but I banded together with some sympathetic Montrealers to put on a show to raise a few bucks to pitch in.
It goes down Friday, January 4 – giving you plenty of time to recover from New Year’s Eve shenanigans – at L’Escogriffe (4467 St-Denis, corner Mont-Royal). Confirmed so far are The Pouteens (featuring Bloodshot Bill), Baked Goods, Giselle Numba One, the WP (with secret surprise guest member) and very special guests No Negative (a Montreal noise-punk supergroup featuring members of Holy Cobras, Black Feelings, Thee Nodes, and Total Crush).
If you’re in town, I hope you come out – it’ll be a good show for a good cause, at the unbeatable rockonomic price of $5.
In the summer of 1998, I had just graduated from film school. I was bumming around doing random jobs, and I’d just laid down some tracks of my newly formed solo project at a friend’s bedroom studio. That studio’s owner, my longtime friend and collaborator Dominic Salole (now better known as Mocky) announced that he was leaving Toronto to move to London (he would later ramble on to Amsterdam before settling in Berlin).
He and I had known each other as kids in Ottawa—I saw his first band play at basement parties and talent shows. Later, he and my brother were roommates in Toronto, and that’s how I came to meet Chilly Gonzales, Peaches et al. I have a million great stories about all those years, but I’m saving them for the coffee table book.
His move was the catalyst for an exodus to Europe among our group of friends—Gonzo left a year later, Peach and Taylor Savvy the following year, and Feist not long after. Now, after 10 years in Berlin, Mocky has made another dramatic shift, moving to Los Angeles with his wife, fashion designer Desirée Klein, and their two-year-old son.
During his time in Berlin he produced three solo albums including last year’s amazing Saskamodie and too many collaborations to count, but in the wider music world he’s probably best known as a producer—of Jamie Lidell’s Multiply and Jim and as part of the team behind the Feist albums The Reminder and Metals.
When Mocky was in Montreal recently, working in the studio with Bassekou Kouyate (Malian master of the ngoni, an ancestor to the banjo), we caught up and I thought I’d take the opportunity to find out more about his latest move and where it’s taking him. This interview is based on conversations in person with an email follow-up.
WP: Where did you get the idea to move to LA?
Mocky: Jamie brought me out here in 2007 (and I hadn’t been there since the 90s—a much different time) and I saw so many similarities to Berlin in terms of decaying relics of former magnificence.
WP: Was it hard to leave Berlin? Do you miss it?
Mocky: Not really, I am Canadian after all not German. My Wikipedia page says I’m “Somalian-Canadian,” but that is inaccurate and not how I identify. I have a very mixed ethnic background including British, Italian, Somalian, Ethiopian and more, but I was born and raised in Canada and only identify myself as Canadian. However I lived in Berlin for 10 years—I miss my Berlin friends, I miss the parks and my two Canadian friends who still live there, Peaches and Taylor Savvy. But otherwise LA is so fresh and exciting that I don’t miss Berlin much yet.
WP: What’s the atmosphere like in LA?
Mocky: LA today is like Berlin in ’99. The American dream kind of collapsed in on itself, so there is new space there to create—much like Berlin in the 90s after the wall came down… a new space opening up after the “fall of the wall” of American cultural imperialism. There is TONS going on here, and I started skating again, so it’s the perfect climate. I hit sort of a bohemian glass ceiling in Berlin, and LA seemed like the right answer.
WP: I heard that the new Feist album was largely recorded live off the floor. Can you tell me about that decision?
Mocky: It was an incredible experience! We did it live off the floor because we didn’t want to leave anything to chance—we wanted to KNOW we had something as it was going down.
WP: I saw that you did a soundtrack [to Xiaolu Guo’s festival hit UFO In Her Eyes]. Is that your focus these days, or producing/other work/your own music/all of the above?
Mocky: All of the above—I’m starting a new project TBA.
Though he’s been working and hanging out with underground artists such as Juiceboxxx, The Hawnay Troof and Kevin Blechdom (whose album Gentlemania he’d produced in Berlin), Mocky’s most recent coup de coeur was someone seemingly at the opposite end of the music-business spectrum: superstar producer and songwriter Linda Perry, who he had the occasion to see perform at a club.
“She came out wearing clown makeup,” he recalls, “and said ‘I’ve been depressed for two weeks, so this is how I’m dealing with it.’ She had a record player and she was lifting the needle and putting it back down—real Andy Kaufman shit. Then she sat down at the piano and started singing, and it was just AMAZING. Great songs, a voice like Nina Simone, totally heavy shit.”
Since then, Mocky has actually had the chance to work in proximity to Perry—producing one of her protegés at her Studio B and, as he says hopefully, “soaking up her writing skills through osmosis.”
I am officially intrigued. I hope to report directly from Mocky’s new home at some point—in the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye out on what he’s up to. He has always been one of the most inspiring artists I’ve known, so here’s hoping the move to this cultural hot spot will bring his various projects to more and more ears.
The WP’s fourth album is out today! You can buy it on iTunes or most digital platforms, or (best bang for your buck) on our Bandcamp page. Listen to it there and tell us what you think…
The album was recorded and mixed by our producer and friend Murray Lightburn. It features Stacey DeWolfe on drums, the guitar stylings of Steve Raegele, a guest keyboard spot from the great Nicole Lizée, and some co-writes from Warren Auld, Mocky and our friends in Les yeux fermés.