2017: The Year in World Providing

2017 was the first year that I didn’t do any WP shows since 1999, or in other words, in the entire history of the WP. That feels strange. However, I did stay busy with music.

Working with producer Murray Lightburn for the third time, I recorded five new songs. They sound pretty different than anything I’ve done so far, so I’m curious to see what people will think. Murray and I did most of the music ourselves, Stacey sings on a bunch of tracks, and longtime WP cohorts Chilly Gonzales, Steve Raegele and my brother Nick Fraser all make appearances. These tunes will be released in some form in 2018, and the WP will get back on the road.

For better or worse, the sax track was never added

The other thing that kept me busy was the 30th anniversary tour of the Permanent Stains, the band I’ve been in since junior high school. We released an updated edition of our autobiography, Let’s Get Greasy, and did five shows in Ontario and Quebec. The tour was probably one of my favourite experiences ever. In our heyday we were notorious for being theatrical and confrontational but not very good—but today, with half the band being full-time pro musicians, I knew we could make an impact musically as well as theatrically. Some may be surprised by this, due to my reputation for haphazard sloppiness, but I actually have very high standards both for the WP and the Stains: I want to blow people’s minds. And if I may say so, I think we accomplished that this summer. But don’t take it from me…

Some of the shows were mostly for old friends, which was fun, but when we played in North Bay and Peterborough, the audience was all young people rocking out, which was super energizing. We also got to play with a bunch of really cool bands and artists, including old friends like garbageface, Broken Puppy and Just Like the Movies, but also new (or new to us) artists like Ugly Cry, Eliza Kavtion, Gamma Scum, Like a Girl, Coastal Pigs Worn Robot and Lonely Parade. The tour was full of friendship, hysterical laughter and ridiculous stunts both onstage and off. To be able to spend that time with the band—my brother and a bunch of my closest friends—and to pull off our absurdist spectacle so successfully, was really like an adolescent fantasy come true, and I hope to work with the Stains again before too long.

While I was on the road with the Stains, I was contacted to host a panel discussion at Pop Montreal with recently reunited 90s band Royal Trux. I was familiar, if not intimate, with their music, but I was curious (and flattered) enough to say yes. Starting at that moment and continuing up until minutes before the panel, people from my close friends to the highest ranks of Pop authority warned me that the band were notoriously difficult. I figured I had to get my Nardwuar on and do scrupulous research in order to not be publicly humiliated.

Chatting with the Trux. Photo courtesy of Steven Balogh

In the end, the research paid off and/or the band’s difficulty was greatly exaggerated, but it was a pretty great experience—they were just funny, smart, very candid people. In addition to a nominal fee I got a festival pass out of it, which was great. I saw a number of shows, including nostalgic classic album run-throughs by pals The Dears and Besnard Lakes, a great set by Carodiario which also was apparently Maica’s last under that moniker, and a rager by the Trux themselves. The best was a NYC rapper named Quay Dash. I was on my way home from another show when I ran into my friend Roxanne aka Donzelle, who urged me to join her, and I’m so glad I did. True hip-hop, raw and real, like I hadn’t seen onstage in years.

Anyway, I’m excited to share my new music and to get performing again. Thanks for reading, and I hope to be seeing you soon!

 

 

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.

Post-Pop ponderings

On the home stretch of a 16-hour work day, suddenly the wisdom of staying out past 3am seems questionable. I don’t have the stamina of my younger days. But it was worth it all the same, just to see Big Freedia rapping “Ass everywhere, ass ass everywhere” as hordes of kids literally swung from the rafters, popping their booties as best a white Canadian can.

It was the climax of Pop Montreal. Other highlights for me included the Dears (who never cease to amaze me with the contrast between their “mopey pop” image and the raw, guns-blazing, shredding intensity of their live shows), Deerhoof (who I saw twice, at an official show and an afterparty, and who I like more than ever after realizing they’re basically nerdier than Rush), a windy rooftop set by chilled-out pop ensemble Ensemble (no, that wasn’t a typo, I’m just being lazy), and of course the mighty Corpusse at Barfly, working his usual magic (backed up by ever-demure keyboardist Lorenz Peter) on the crowd of old-timers and puzzled young hipsters who were there for the bill of noise-punk upstarts.

This is the first Pop in many years that I didn’t actually play at, but the fest did start out with the premiere of my Corpusse documentary at Blue Sunshine. I’ll say no more since this is the site for the WP, not my filmmaking alter ego, except that I had a great time.

I hesitate to say any discouraging words about Pop after they provided such pleasures, but I feel that not offering constructive criticism is as bad as the reflexive Pop-bashing that was so popular a couple of years ago. Dan and his ever-rotating crew have helped put the city on the map, brought some amazing shows to town, and made a lot of really bold programming choices, and they deserve credit for that. They’re also notorious for their disorganization and terrible communication. They seem to get away with this as “part of the laid-back Montreal charm,” but this year everyone I spoke to—artists, venue reps, technicians—had some kind of fairly major complaint. So all I have to say to Pop is: when your organization and communication rises to the level of your programming, you’ll have truly accomplished an amazing festival. Just sayin’.

Speaking of excellence, we are playing a show this Friday at Studio Juste pour rire—a benefit show for Galerie DARE-DARE with a hot lineup. Details here. Stay tuned for more news soon!