The WP turns 20

The WP turns 20 this year.

Yup, it was way back in the final year of the last millenium that I did the first recordings and shows under the name The World Provider.


Early press release

Since then, the WP has wavered from solo act to duo to band and back again, with many personnel and musical changes along the way.

I’m still figuring it out, and in a lot of ways I’m more interested in the next 20 years than the last 20.

But we are doing a couple of things to mark this anniversary.

We’re going to do some shows this fall with new costumes, theatrics, and a strict “greatest hits” set list.

And I’m doing a cassette reissue of the first WP tape, The Elements of Style, featuring new liner notes from Peaches, Taylor Savvy and myself, as well as two cassette-only bonus tracks from deep in the vaults.

Grabbing material from the 4-track master tape

Stay tuned for more news!

2015: The Year in World Providing

stink-snack
Montreal’s finest Police cover band at one of Montreal’s finest venues, Snack n’ Blues. Photo by Richmond Lam.

I only did two WP shows this year (plus one with the Police cover band Stinkronicity, possibly/probably our last). I was mainly occupied with being a parent. Both were old-school solo WP shows: likely to be happening more and more, though I plan to bring Stacey and the guys back onstage when it’s logistically possible.

I enjoyed doing these shows, though I now have to spend some time rethinking the solo act so that I’m not just doing the same thing I was 10-15 years ago. I’m always happy to perform my old songs and routines, but I need to add new ingredients to the broth as well.

Performing with Corpusse (that's me in the background with the silver makeup) at Casa on Halloween. Photo by Simon Lacroix.
Performing with Corpusse (that’s me in the background with the silver makeup) at Casa on Halloween. Photo by Simon Lacroix.

On Halloween I did a show with Corpusse at Casa del popolo. In addition to performing as the WP, I also accompanied Corpusse onstage, which was really fun. Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to me), during my show two guys got in a fight. I was honestly shocked to find out something like this would happen at Casa, which I always thought of as more or less a safe space with like-minded people. But in addition to this other, much more serious, incident, this reminded me that no place is immune to douchery.

Not long after the show, I released a new song called “Autumn Wheels” on the WP Soundcloud page. It’s from the sessions I did last year, which I’m now preparing to release in some kind of “official” way in the spring of 2016.

The Globe and Mail’s Sean Michaels included “Autumn Wheels” in his weekly compendium of “songs you need to hear.” I’m not sure what Sean meant when he said that I’ve written “songs that are smart as border collies and dumb as cuckoos” – that my songs are both smart and dumb? (probably true), or that I have some smart ones and some dumb ones? (also quite possible, though I couldn’t say which is which). At any rate, I appreciated his kind words, and was flattered to be included in such illustrious company.

What else did I do this year? I reissued the WP’s 2008 album Hard Feelings on our Bandcamp page, adding a few previously hard-to-find tracks from the vaults.

I spoke to artist and musician Steve Kado about the demise of the Blocks Recording Club for Weird Canada. This was intended to be part of a longer piece on a bigger topic. Right now that project is on the back burner, we’ll see what happens…

I also wrote about:

the alleged death and mysterious persistence of the CD format,

the mixed feelings brought up when friends move from Montreal to Toronto,

the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit and the issues it raises for all us accidental plagiarists,

and the second installment of my chronicles of the best and worst WP shows of all time.

 

key-change

My favourite records of the year are:

Mocky, Key Change

Peaches, Rub

Chilly Gonzales, Chambers

The Dears, Times Infinity Vol. 1

Violence, Le Théâtre EP

Pecora Pecora, Le satellite perdu

And yes—each and every single one of these is by personal friends of mine. What can I say? I know a lot of talented people… and I have good taste.

I didn’t see nearly as many movies as I used to, but I liked Sicoria, It Follows and Entertainment quite a lot. TV… mostly British crime series that I often fall asleep while watching. Books… I’ve only recently started to be able to read them again. Baby brain is a real thing.

See you in 2016.

Bad times, good reads


I only ever knew the Glen Campbell version of this song, which I love; the Toussaint original is quite beautiful as well.

As Clara-Swan, host of one of my favourite radio shows (Free Kick on CKUT) said on Sunday, “this was a bad week.” Starting with the deaths of Allen Toussaint and Motorhead’s Phil Taylor, and ending with the awful attacks in Beirut and Paris, it’s hard to argue.

We got to know the guys from Eagles of Death Metal a bit some years ago, when we opened for them and Peaches on two shows of their tour. We always say they were the nicest guys we’ve ever met in the music game, super friendly and supportive. So although the Paris attack would have been horrible no matter who was involved, having a personal connection like that really made it hit closer to home. My heart goes out to all the people who lost their lives, and to their loved ones. (Also, I won’t get into this, but if you’re one of those who think that the attacks in Paris got a disproportionate amount of attention or coverage, I highly recommend you check out this and this.)

But in the midst of all this tragedy, some stuff was published that you might have overlooked if you (like me) were caught up in world events.

First, I would be remiss in not mentioning that our song “Autumn Wheels” was declared a “song you need to hear” by Sean Michaels in the Globe and Mail. Needless to say, I was honoured by the kind words and flattered to be held in the company of the other artists mentioned.

Old friend Louise Philips‘ story “Panygere” was published on Columbia Journal.

Writer (and fellow veteran of the early-2000s synth rock scene in Montreal) Adam Gollner connected the dots between two of my favourite artistic genres, 19th-century French literature and early punk, for the New Yorker blog.

Finally, I was devastated earlier this year when Lee Towndrow, a longtime friend and WP collaborator, and his partner Amber Scorah lost their little son Karl. Amber wrote a powerful piece for the New York Times about the experience and the activism it inspired them to take on.

Here’s wishing the best for you reading this, wherever you are. I don’t have any solutions for the state of the world right now, except to try to be good to each other.

The Elements of Style

cvr-elements

I’ve recently reissued the WP’s earliest release, The Elements of Style, on the WP Bandcamp page.

When I got the tracks remastered (or, truthfully, actually mastered to begin with), I listened to them again for the first time in years. It was a funny experience. This may be hard to believe, but I never got why people thought the WP sound was so “weird” in the early days. Now I can see why very clearly! It also gives me a much clearer sense how much the sound has transformed over the years—again, that might seem obvious to someone else, but that kind of thing is harder to perceive from up close.

Dirty, messy, sloppy and out of tune as well as defiantly lo-fi, these tunes represent the WP in its rawest form. They take me back to the innocent days where it seemed like all I had to do was hang out and make music with my friends, such as Peaches and Taylor Savvy who are responsible for recording and mixing these tunes.

I could go on, but instead I’ll just point you over to the link and let you form your own thoughts. I’m also curious if there is any desire for this to be released in a physical form. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the role of physical vs. digital releases, and I’d be curious to see what WP fans think. So let me know… and in the meantime, hope you enjoy this blast from the WP past!

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!

Checking in with Mocky

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.

Mocky raises the roof at Montreal’s Hotel2Tango with Bassekou Kouyate.

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.

 

 

Summer of Pain Free Download Series, Part 5: Taylor Savvy

Taylor Savvy is perhaps the most mysterious member of the “Canadian jackass crew” that spawned the WP along with Peaches, Feist, Chilly Gonzales and Mocky. You may have seen Savvy onstage with Mocky, Peach or Jamie Lidell (or, if you’re really old school, in Feist’s band with me and Nathan Lawr way back in the day). He hasn’t unleashed any new Savvy music on the world for some years now, but we hold out hope.

He recorded this demo of ours during our visit to Berlin in the spring of 2009, in his basement studio (which has since been torn down and turned into a parking lot – yep, these kinds of things happen even in Berlin). Stacey made the beat on Savvy’s groovebox and played the live drums, Savvy tweaked some knobs on the box and played the tremolo guitar, and I played the keys and the bad indie-rock guitar. This song hasn’t been recorded in “official” form yet, although it has become one of our favourite songs to play live.

Enjoy!

Magic Touch (Berlin Demo)

 

Precious Memories

Going through some files a little while ago, I found this document (undated, or rather re-dated to when I transferred files from an old computer, but judging by its references, seemingly from around 2004) detailing the best and worst WP shows up until that point.

I’ve had a lot of good and bad shows since then, but there’s something unique about these early, ultra-DIY adventures.

And so, from the vaults, unedited and unexpurged: The Best and Worst WP Shows Ever, circa 2004…


 

BEST

 

1.     Living room show in Kitchener-Waterloo, November 2001

I was doing a weekend excursion with Chris Mills (Just Like The Movies). We had a night off and decided that we should show up in some town and spontaneously play a show. He found out that the Hidden Cameras had a gig in Kitchener-Waterloo, and Chris convinced them that we should play on the bill with them that night. When we got to KW, it became clear that the club was absolutely not into us playing. So we decided to go find ourselves a show.

We drove to the campus of Waterloo University. I got out of the car and walked into what looked like the main building. There were some chicks hanging out, so I went up to them and asked them if they knew someplace where a couple of crazy one-man bands could play that night. One of them says, “Yeah, how about my place!”

So we went to this girl Brenda’s apartment. She invited over a few friends and we did a show in her living room, in front of eight people. There was no PA, we just sang into the air, but we did the whole show with costume changes and everything. It was intimidating but exhilerating to play in front of such a tiny crowd who had no idea what they were getting into.

Afterwards, we headed down the street to the bar where the Hidden Cameras were playing. After their set, Chris and I, still in costume, bum rushed the stage and started singing. After a few songs I declared that we would keep going until we got shut down, at which point the sound guy came and turned off the PA. By popular demand, we headed back to Brenda’s house for an encore.

That night, I crashed at Joel from the Hidden Cameras’ place. I found out much later that he was hoping to get some action, and was all bummed out when he found out that I was not only straight but married. I feel a mixture of guilt and pleasure at having inadvertently cockteased a gay Canadian rock star…sorry Joel!

 

2.     New Orleans, August 2001

I was opening for Peaches on a tour of the Southern U.S. –  in August. The heat and humidity in New Orleans was unreal. The gig was a party at Quintron and Miss Pussycat’s house; they have a lounge set up in the basement. All the people were so friendly and the cliché is true, people in New Orleans have amazing rhythm. For this South tour I had practiced and reworked my set until the pacing was “perfect.” Miss Pussycat told me some time later that some friends of hers had been there, and based on their behaviour she’d assumed they were on acid. Then she saw them a few days later and they said they hadn’t been on acid, they’d just had their minds blown by The World Provider. To be compared to a powerful hallucinogen is one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever been paid…

 

3.     Basement show in Guelph, April 2002

I was playing at a house party with Chris. The Barmitzvah Brothers went on before us and they were amazing. I was drinking malt liquor and getting pretty wasted. So wasted, in fact, that I didn’t think about the fact that I was fiddling with my minidisc player in my pocket. When it was time for my set, I realized that I’d erased half my tracks. I was so annoyed, but somehow the negativity gave me good energy for the set. This show was mostly good because of the Barmitzvahs and the vibe at the house party.

 

4.     Uno-a-Go-Go – Chicago, October 2002

It was a one-man band festival in Chicago. Jake Austen, who puts out Roctober magazine, was putting on the fest. His wife was pregnant and went into premature labour so he had to miss the whole thing! I saw Shary Boyle’s Honkitonkioke the night before my set. She was great.

My show was in a bowling alley. I was playing on the “side stage” which meant in front of the aisles. There were about 15 other people on the bill; Bob Log was headlining. My wife came into town on a different flight which was delayed, and for some reason she had my costumes and my minidisc adaptor. She got in at the last minute and I did the set. It was my last show doing all the Elements of Style tunes, right before going into the studio to record new stuff, and the crowd was great. A chick came and stuck a dollar bill in my pants – I wish people did that more often. The next night we saw Lonesome Organist and he totally blew our minds.

 

5.     Sanchez Bros. Vernissage – Montreal, April 2003

The Sanchez Brothers invited me to play at their vernissage. They had made a film in their grandparents’ living room. One room of the gallery showed the film on a loop and in the other one, they recreated the living room down to the smallest detail. I had been playing a bunch of gigs, so I decided to do a set of tunes I don’t do very often: covers, older stuff, and still-in-progress new songs.

The Brothers invited me to come down early because their living-room set had an organ. I came down and figured out some stuff on it. At the show, their whole family including grandparents showed up and hung out in the living room. When I came and did the tunes on the organ, their grandmother was sitting in a wheelchair right beside me, rocking out. It was so awesome.

 

6.     El Mocambo show with Peaches and Mignon – Toronto, September 2001

This was a month or so after the South tour with Peach. It was her first Toronto show in a while. There were about 600 people packed into the Elmo upstairs, and they were really hyped up. I did the “perfect” set from the South tour and people were just going crazy. The Elmo shut down shortly after that. A few days after the show, I was at the Cinematheque and a guy came up to me and told me that my show changed his life.

 

WORST

 

1.     Berlin, July 2001

This was a huge bill, put on by the headlining band. They’re a great band and cool people, but as promoters they didn’t have all the bases covered, shall we say. Among those on the bill were Taylor Savvy, Mocky and myself. The gig was in this huge, cavernous club that seemed to have some bad kind of chemical in the air, asbestos or something. I had really bad allergies so whenever I’d step outside, I’d want to go back in, and then I’d come back in and breathe chemical dust until I had to go back out.

The door was at 9 but the show didn’t start until midnight. Because of the delay, the promoters asked us to cut our set short. We explained to her that Mocky, Taylor Savvy and The World Provider weren’t one band. Her response: “Yes you are!” What can you say to that, so we agreed to shorten each of our sets.

The sound guy had cancelled at the last minute, so they got some other guy to come and do it, who seemed none too pleased. During Savvy’s set, the above-mentioned promoter came up to me and said “When is he going to be done?”

“He just started,” I said.

“Well, someone told me he was going to be done in ten minutes.”

“Who told you that?”

“I don’t know – I’m too pissed,” she said.

Shortly after this exchange, the sound guy got on the mic, ran to the front of the stage, and started angrily berating Savvy in German. During his set. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Despite all this, my set actually went over fairly well with the crowd. And I was excited to be playing in Berlin. But there’s no denying that it was a Murphy’s Law kinda night.

 

2.     Hamilton, April 2002

This was on one of the weekend jaunts with Chris. The show was on a Monday night and it was pouring rain. As we were pulling into town, we realized while listening to the radio that the promoter of our gig was doing a show on the campus radio station. We drove over to the station hoping to do some extra promo. Not only did he not seem particularly happy to see us, and wasn’t into having us appear on the air, but he didn’t even have our CDs to play on his show. That was the first bad sign.

When we got to the club, there was a situation: the sound guy had come and kidnapped the PA because the club hadn’t been paying him. There was some talk of the show being cancelled, but then finally someone came through with another PA.

During the gig, the band we were opening for didn’t even watch our set. They were playing pool in the other room and all their friends stayed with them there. There were five people in the audience during my set: Chris, two guys who’d showed up to DJ (but didn’t because of the PA fiasco), and this couple who’d come from KW after seeing us the night before. I was so tired and out of it that I played a half-assed show. In retrospect, the fact that people came from a whole other town just to see us – and were effectively the only actual audience – should have motivated me to at least put some effort into the show. Giving such a lame performance for those people is one of the biggest regrets of my World Providing career.

 

3.     Atlanta, August 2001

This was the only bad show on the Peaches Dirty South tour. There’s not too much to say about my set; the people of Atlanta just weren’t feeling it. I went on after Har Mar Superstar, who totally slew the audience, and I guess they just weren’t in the mood for my thing. He’s a hard act to follow, I don’t know why I didn’t go on first.

The vibe of the club was really fucked. Everyone seemed to be on coke. They had set aside a VIP room because it was rumoured that Madonna was going to show up, but she never did, so it was just full of all these sketched-out people.

After the gig we went to a crazy strip club. People had recommended that we stay at the adjacent hotel, but our tour manager went to look at a room (for which he had to be accompanied by an armed guard), and he said that the bed was covered in ants, so he took a pass. At 4:00 in the morning at the strip club, a woman went around shining a flashlight in people’s eyes and shouting, “If you ain’t WORKIN’ here, or you ain’t FUCKIN’ someone who’s workin’ here, GET THE FUCK OUT!”

Afterwards we went to this crazy diner with a bunch of hardcore dykes. The waiter had a necklace made of human teeth, and while he was showing us the specials, he pulled out his dick and slapped it against the menu – a sight which both Peach and I later admitted we thought we’d hallucinated. A really creepy guy came and sat beside me, and was telling me stories about how he sold bulk acid and was part of the Aryan Nation.

In retrospect, it may have been a bad show, but so many crazy things happened that night that it kind of balances out.