WP @ Pop

This year marks the triumphant return of the WP to Pop Montreal.

I’m playing a show opening for Peaches, just like back in the day. I’ll be accompanied by my band, playing the WP’s “greatest hits” as requested by the public, as well as by an amazing light installation designed by Philippe Blanchard.

It’s Thursday September 20 at the Église Pop, at 5035 St-Dominique (the church basement you might recall from Expozine), at 11:30. More details on the event here.

I’ll also be participating in an event on Sunday the 23rd – a performance of “live song-poems,” following the screening of Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story, hosted by the amazing Robert Dayton (Canned Hamm, July Fourth Toilet, The Canadian Romantic).

Hope to see you there!

Trends With Benefits

I went out to a show the other night. A bunch of local bands. I don’t get out to this kind of show as much as I used to. It would be convenient to blame my advancing age, but my interest in whatever is going on at the moment has always gone in waves.

When I do go out, it’s usually to support a friend. A few people I know were involved in this bill, but more than anything there was something about the show that made me curious. As it turned out I was not alone in this; it was the kind of show where “everybody who’s  anybody” was in attendance.

The much-vaunted “Montreal music scene” is very driven by trends. No doubt that’s also true elsewhere, but it’s particularly acute here. With four universities and a very particular culture that isn’t for everyone, it’s a city with a lot of turnover. (For the purposes of this piece, I’m being diplomatic and not addressing the fickle tastes of the local hipsterati).

Clearly this particular night was very of the moment. Last time I checked (there’s a good probability that I missed one or more trends in between), the tendence du jour was towards excessive orchestration and spirited group singalongs. Today, the hot new thing is a kind of dark, lo-fi synth pop, ideally with a singer on a goth/Kate Bush tip, slathered in reverb.

A lot of people are cynical about trends. And that’s understandable. I sometimes feel the same way myself; it’s hard not to. But there’s something that fascinates me about them too. What is it that makes something so virally desirable at a given moment? Obviously if anyone knew, they’d bottle it and sell it—and so much lame and futile effort is put into trying to figure out that elusive formula and take it to the bank.

As I stood at the show, watching the bands doing their thing, I could already imagine the dismissive comments from several of my more cynical friends (and, sometimes, the voices in my own head). At the same time, everyone there was genuinely enjoying themselves. Musically, maybe there was a bit of a conformist impulse going on, but maybe people just found themselves doing a similar thing and joined forces.

I remember the feeling of just going along, doing my thing, then suddenly realizing that I was part of something bigger going on, that suddenly a bunch of people were paying attention—and having fun. Eventually people move on to other things and the moment passes. But when the moment is happening, it’s kind of beautiful.

A few years ago, some music critics on the “poptimist” tip advanced the notion that if certain songs or genres were only relevant to the moment, not destined for immortality, there was nothing wrong with that. At first I found this idea quite provocative and odd. Making art for the ages, not for the fleeting moment, is such an ingrained part of the artistic mentality. (Plus it’s a handy way to justify what you’re doing when you feel unappreciated in your own time).

But the idea has started to grow on me. After all, what is there but the present…


Lion Farm

I’m happy to announce the launch of the debut recordings of my new band, Lion Farm. You can listen to the four tracks on our Bandcamp page, and download them if you so desire.

Lion Farm is the latest chapter in the long collaboration between me and Mike Foxxx, who people from back in the day in Toronto will remember as the mastermind of my old bands Rock ‘n’ Roll Bad Boy XXXpress and Seventy Whore. WP cohorts Stacey DeWolfe and Steve Raegele are also on board.

A few people have asked me whether this means that the WP is no more. For the record, the WP is not finished or even that fashionable, nebulous term “on hiatus.” Obviously, when Lion Farm is active, other projects will have to go on a side burner (especially ones with such a large overlap in band members!). But I am still writing songs and scheming up plans for the WP.

Have a listen at our page, and hope you like it. I am going to avoid cross-marketing with WP fans from here on in, so if you would like to keep up with Lion Farm, you can sign up on our Facebook page or get on our mailing list by emailing lionfarm666 @ gmail.com.

A Year in Shows

It’s my turn to add to the glut of 2011 musical listing.

As wiser people than me have pointed out, a year is a rather arbitrary marker and the “best” things that happened that year even more so.

My own position is also very subjective. There have been years in which I saw a ton of shows (like when I worked in the music business) and years where I hardly saw any (like for about two years after I stopped working in the biz).

Nonetheless, this is a good opportunity to get down some thoughts about a few shows I saw this year that inspired me.


RUSH, Bell Centre

I grew up as a huge, unabashed Rush nerd. There were a good two or three years where it wasn’t a question of what I was going to listen to that day, but rather which Rush album (or albums). My getting into punk rock in early adolescence handily coincided with the era where Rush started putting out truly terrible records, and I put my fandom aside.

(Note: I am very much aware of the reasons why a lot of people hate Rush. All I can say is, watch the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage and if you still think you can front after that, let’s talk.)

Oddly enough given the band’s notoriously overwhelmingly male audience, it was through my wife that I got back into the band. When she would get excited about hearing “The Spirit of Radio” or “Closer to the Heart” on classic rock radio, I had to admit that there was still a kernel of love deep inside for Canada’s foremost prog power trio. So when they came to Montreal last spring, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Never have I seen a show that was so amazing and terrible in equal proportions. The evening started off with a comedy video starting the members of Rush—the corniest dad humour imaginable. Then they came on with “Spirit of Radio” and all was forgiven. From there they went into “Time Stand Still.” And from there, a good HOUR of their 90s and 00s material, the absolute nadir of their career.

(I will say, though, that the songs from the last record or two are not so bad. They at least have some good riffs and hooks, though in typical Rush fashion they dogmatically avoid repeating these in a catchy way.)

Then there was an intermission, another comedy video, and then the band came back with another hour-plus set of all classic bangers. Suddenly the unspoken bargain with the audience made sense.

Neil Peart had his usual po-face on (plus I’d read his book in which he talks at length about how much he hates touring), and Alex Lifeson kind of looked like he was thinking about something else the whole time (I was reminded of Trent Reznor’s comment on why he quit touring, that he’d be onstage performing while thinking “I should have had the chicken sandwich”). But Geddy Lee was a true entertainer—running around the stage, jumping, smiling the whole time, all while playing songs that in some cases are approaching 40 years old and that he must have played thousands of times. Truly inspiring.



I’ve always been in awe of this band. When I saw them a few years ago at Sala Rossa, I had the same feeling about Rob Wright that I did about my dad as a little boy—he was a supreme figure of paternal authority, benign yet incredibly powerful. The strength of his hands and of his bellowing voice had me trembling like a believer in the church pews before a thundering preacher.

This time around, in a smaller and packed-to-the-rafters venue (and with the members of the band looking up close like the almost 60-year-olds they are), I wasn’t quite as enraptured, but they still put on a hell of a show. I also admired how they, unlike a lot of old-timer bands enslaved to their greatest hits, can reach basically anywhere they want into their catalogue and pull out songs that people will go crazy for. And there’s something about their fashion style that’s so brilliant—Jon Wright’s Bermuda shorts and Rob Wright’s Papa Smurf t-shirt are so nerdy that they go all the way over into being totally punk rock.

I also enjoy the feeling of being one of the youngest people in the room at a show—usually it’s exactly the opposite.


FOXTROTT, Quai des brumes

I knew Marie-Hélène Delorme as a friend, and as a member of Lesbians on Ecstasy and remixer in her own right. So going to this show, I knew it would be cool, and fun, but I wasn’t prepared to be blown away. Aside from her great voice, the cool sounds and melodies, it’s hard to explain what’s so good about what she does—maybe just a certain emotional honesty to her songs and performances.

Those in the know in Montreal are all over her now, and I sincerely hope that she sees great success in the future. To see such a talented artist in a small intimate venue is a truly rare treat.

Other shows I enjoyed, but don’t have quite as verbose a response to, were Mastodon and Red Fang at Metropolis (Dillinger Escape Plan on the same bill, not so much), Judas Priest at Bell Centre (Rob Halford seemed to have recovered his golden pipes since the last time I’d seen them), Katie Moore and her excellent band at Cabaret Mile End, the truly bold genre-mashing of Boris (heavy metal segueing into outright electro-pop and somehow not having their fans riot) at the same venue… and probably a few more that I’m forgetting (and will feel free to add here as they float back into my memory).

WP on the Radio

The WP band is seeing out 2011 with a live performance on Montreal’s CISM this Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. Listen on 89.3 on your radio dial in Montreal or stream it live here from anywhere!

UPDATE: If you missed the show, it’s now archived here. Other than a few vocal warbles, I’m quite happy with the performance. Merci CISM!

Warming Words

Got this comment for my approval today. I’m 99.9% sure it’s spam (especially since the URL provided links to a site offering to help people make money on Facebook) but I still kind of appreciated the sentiment:

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I Got It All Wrong

The new WP video for “I Got It All Wrong,” by Montreal artists, photographers and now filmmakers Jason and Carlos Sanchez, is now available for your viewing pleasure!

The World Provider – I Got It All Wrong from Malcolm Fraser on Vimeo.
As the astute WP fan will note, this is not a new song. The Sanchez Brothers had been pitching an “I Got It All Wrong” video for a while before the funding came through. I tried my damnedest to get them to rethink it for one of the History of Pain tunes, but they had their heart set on this one. In the end I’m fine with it since I do think it’s one of my better songs, and it didn’t get a lot of attention when Hard Feelings came out a few years ago.

It’s a cliché to say that the best songs come easily, and I’m not sure I would agree with that unequivocally, but this one certainly did. It was one of those (for me, very) rare moments when an idea came into my head, I sat down at the keyboard and when I started to play, everything just flowed out. I recorded it with Dave Smith at the Breakglass Studio using just a piano and the drum machine from one of the Breakglass’s vintage organs, then Mike Feuerstack sprinkled his magic steel guitar on top.

Shooting the video was pretty crazy. I spent most of it hanging upside down in a harness, which gave me a whole new respect for action movie stars—the experience left me dizzy and covered with bruises and welts. Two grizzled old experts helped me get up and down with gruff, paternal wisdom (and told me that an actor would normally have a couple days’ training, rather than my hour’s worth). On top of it all, in order to get the “swimming” effect I had to move really fast while being shot in slow motion.

It was kind of a nightmare and I may have had a diva moment or two, for which I hope the Bros and their crew will forgive me. But you gotta suffer for your art sometimes, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out… hope you enjoy it too.

Latest News

As some of you may be aware, the new WP album, History of Pain, was released this September.

CDs and/or digital files can be purchased at our Bandcamp page. We also have a limited number of hand-silkscreened posters by Todd Stewart – 10 bones will get you one of those plus a digital download of the album. They look like this:


We did a few shows for the release, and we have a bit of documentation courtesy of our newest WP band member Gordon Allen.

Here we are onstage at Casa del Popolo in Montreal.


The giant WP sign in all its glory.

I swear I wasn’t inspired by this (photo courtesy Kevin Blechdom):


WP axeman Steve Raegele stands in front of the School House, the very cool music venue in the countryside near Guelph.


Onstage at the School House. As you see, the living room-like atmosphere of the venue was no impediment to the WP’s theatrical demands.

Eve of Construction

I’ve spent much of the past two weeks assisting longtime WP cohort and advisor Bryan “The Brain” Burt on the construction of a secret WP project. What are we building? Well, you’ll have to come to one of our shows to find out!

Brain wielding the brad nailer (which would be a great name for a porn star… just sayin’).


The homoerotics of carpentry: drilling, nailing and screwing.




Summer of Pain Free Download Series, Part 6: Adam Waito

As the summer draws to a close, so too does the Summer of Pain series, with this most enjoyable remix of our song “Gary Sinistre” by Adam Waito–leader of Adam and the Amethysts, remix artist and man-about-town.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tunes, and I hope to see you at our upcoming record release shows! History of Pain comes out on September 13 and will be available for purchase on CD or download on this site or (insh’Allah) wherever you like to make your purchases.

Gary Sinistre (Adam Waito Remix)