Sunday, June 28, 2009

I almost love this town when I'm by your side

Last night the smell of Toronto's garbage strike and a questionable choice of chemicals danced through my nostrils. I left my own party to wander through the back alley with my hands out making airplane sounds and spinning and laughing to myself. I climbed onto someone's roof deck and they kindly let me swing in their hammock as I preached about communism and other stuff I can't remember. I left right around the time I thought I was going to bite a hole right through my bottom lip. Nine phonecalls, four text messages and three voicemail gems later I fell asleep with pasta sauce in my hair. Today the pictures on my walls are breathing and spinning not so serenly. I would like to sleep, I would like to eat, I would like to press pound for more options.

Monday, June 22, 2009

All my friends are bad kids.

Well another 5 day bender also known as the NXNE music and film festival has come and gone, leaving us with foggy memories, compromising pictures and a few less brain cells.

I was too hungry to go to any shows on Wednesday.

Thursday though, the dream team (consisting of myself, Cailyn, Aurella, Ashley and Ac Slater)headed to Yonge and Dundas to see the Black Lips play a free show with our bellies full of beer. Mid-set I suppose Ashley and I decided it would be a spectacular idea to crowd surf, which lead to a stage invasion, which lead pure chaos:

More Black Lips from NOW Magazine on Vimeo.

Oh and I found this review:

"Five insane Georgians posing as a rock combo then took the stage and proceeded to keep security both busy and infuriated for the next 45 minutes by encouraging the insane young people who decided to jump the barricade and dance onstage. When a security guard tried to remove the first two dancing girls, bassist Jared Swilley and guitarist Ian Saint Pé crossed their instruments to physically block his way..."

And I keep finding these little gems all over various websites:

We keep it classy... After that we headed to Sneeky Dees to see These Are Powers. There's been a lot of buzz around this band lately and I was pretty excited to see them. But after a "What the fuck do you mean my id is fake?!" friendly debate with the bouncer, it was a no-go. After further listening to them however, I feel like this is the kind of noisy shit that my old junkie roomate would blast at 5 a.m. when I was trying to sleep.So no love lost there.
We then found ourselves at The Horseshoe, with our dream team dropping like flies, it was now just Cailyn and I. King Kahn & BBQ show was amazing from what I hear. I could barely see the stage, could taste sweat and just really wanted to go home and eat left over roti.

Friday morning greeted me with a hangover from hell. And a run in with a ghost from the past at the Beer Store sent me into an existential crisis/panic/'what am I doing with my life?' kind of mood. Needless to say, I took Friday night off.

I found my sanity again on Saturday; just in time, well almost, to see our friends Final Flash from Montreal play.
We got to The Drake just after their set finished which was unfortunate. With appearances at Canadian Music Week, SXSW, NXNE and a mini tour in China to their credit all in the past four months, you'd be wise to keep an eye on them.

From there we walked, or stumbled, to The Reverb to catch Grand Analog's set. Some solid hip hop tunes with a little reggae thrown in...nothing mind blowing, but pretty impressive.

Next it was over to The Silver Dollar to catch The Hoa Hoa's. Now I know I'm not supposed to shit talk them, since they are Toronto's undeground psych-pop darlings. But i can say they're music is just not my cup of tea. Live though, they're good shit...except they could afford to lose guest tambourine player Cameron Ingles of The Disraelis (The Disraelis to The Hoa Hoas = foot to shoe) along with his sunglasses and pretentiousness...Alright that was rude, I'm a little bitter ever since he gave me shit for tagging The Velvet Underground a few weeks ago. I'm sure he's a lovely man.

I called it quits after that and woke up Sunday morning, went home to say Happy Father's Day to my dad, and eat a proper meal before heading to Dundas Square to see The Cool Kids. The crowd was dead. I'm talking no energy at all. Perhaps a lack of stage presence and charisma were to blame, or maybe the crowd was all as equally as hungover and too worn out to yell "Kids" when ya'll say "Cool." Plus I couldn't get this memory of me seeing this kid have a seizure on Yonge Street a while ago out of my head for the whole show. Weird...

Well that's all. Goodbye NXNE, it's been a pleasure. See you next year.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

R.I.P. Iz The Wiz

Brick foot, iron lung honour.

Escaped through the night like a disgruntled krylon bomber.


"Did a couple of throw-ups on the A's."

Monday, June 15, 2009

If you don't hear back from me

I used to wish on stars until I moved to the city.
With empty skies now, I wish on whiskey

Sunday, June 7, 2009

commas are just invitations to breath

The days want to keep each other company. So they crowd together, telling each other that they like their choice of accesories, inviting each other over for lunch and that sort of thing and also hugging each other so much and so tightly, that I can't tell my Tuesdays from my Wednesdays anymore. They blur together into the colours of the clouds we smoked and the dusty trail we left all over this city. Numbers chase us around,but they can't climb fences, and you know I've got a few of those. But i'm waking up atop the city, and that's all you ever wanted to count on me for,right?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We took the roads like a butcher takes his meat

If you missed Toronto’s Dwight Schenk at Sneaky Dees on Sunday, you missed a good one, my friend. Schenk has been playing music for longer than I’ve been alive and been in more bands than you can count on your fingers and toes (think Basement Arms, The Slipper Orchestra, etc.) In early 2009, he released his much anticipated eerie, yet impressive first solo album, Natural Disasters. Here he dishes about his music, fears, graphic novel, and bodily functions.

Nickels & Dames: When did you first start playing music? Was there a day in particular that you remember?

Dwight Schenk: It’s kind of cheesy, actually. I went to see the U2 movie, Rattle and Hum in the theater and up until that point I didn’t have much interest in music, especially not playing it; not even listening to it. I didn’t pay much attention to it. But, all my friends were big U2 fans at the time so we went, and when we got out of the theater we all wanted to be in a band together. So, we snuck into a church that one of my friends lived next to and had a key for. Inside the church we started playing the instruments that were on a stage (laughs). Then, from there it was like, “I need a guitar”. I was 16 at the time.

N&D: You’ve been playing music for almost 20 years. When did you decide it was time to record this album?

DW: Around the time Basement Arms was kind of slowing down. We were really busy for a while then the bass player, because of certain circumstances, had to go back to Sudbury. At that point, I was already thinking that it was time for something different. Up until that point it was just home recording and experimenting. When I started thinking it was time for something different I thought, well, I had all these 4 track recordings and home recordings; what’s stopping me from actually going to a studio and recording these songs and doing it proper?

N&D: How long did it take you to finish the album?

DW: Almost two and a half years. I actually like to work fast, but a lot of it was scheduling, studio availability and coordinating with the other artists’ schedules.

N&D: You said you had over a hundred potential songs for the album, but narrowed them down to these 12 tracks. How did you decide which ones would make the cut?

DS: The hard part about it was that I wanted it to have some flow and still feel like an album even though there was crazy variety in it. So, that usually takes some sort of theme or something that connects them. That took me quite a while to figure out. The theme that wrapped it all up was natural disasters, and figuring that out helped me decide what songs should be on the album.

N&D: At first you were leaning towards a concept album about a fictional character named “Howling Buffalo”, a mysterious man who, abandoned at a young age, raised himself living in the woods of Northern Ontario. What changed your mind?

DS: The hard part of that was that I felt like I would actually need to sell it. So, I kind of felt like if I was gonna do it, it meant that I would be doing the same thing and really have to sell the fact that I went away for a while and met this crazy individual. I didn’t think I could do it (laughs). I kind of chickened out of that one. I also felt like not enough people were going to pay attention to that.

N&D: Do you relate to that character at all?

DS: Yeah. I don’t really underappreciate life experiences with other people, but I’ve found that in my life a lot of the big lessons I’ve learned, I’ve learned on my own. Like how I prioritize, realizing that certain things really don’t matter, and certain things do.

N&D: Did you have any goal for this album? Is there anything you wanted it to accomplish or a certain audience you wanted it to reach?

DS: The main goal I had was that I wanted to be creative with old ideas, or just approach it from a totally fresh point of view. I tend to write songs that don’t sound like anyone else to begin with, but if it does sound like somebody else, I try to do something that adds my personality to it. I just wanted to be as true to myself in music as possible. My other goal was just to wow people. I didn’t want to write a boring album that could be compared to other people. At the same time, I didn’t want it to be so inaccessible that people would think it was just some self indulgent wank album – which it could have been (laughs). I appreciate accessibility and people still having a connection to a new idea.

N&D: What do you think about all the vocal comparisons to Tom Waits?

DS: I don’t mind it. There’s been a period where it got to be too much, but I think it’s a compliment. I don’t think I sound exactly like him. But I realize that the first thing people do is try to make references to what they know. So if they hear a loud growly voice their first reference is “Tom Waits”. Whether I sound exactly like him or not doesn’t matter; that’s just what they relate to.

N&D: The album is said to surprise listeners and scare them. What do you think is so scary about this album?

DS: I actually don’t understand that, but I get told by a lot of people that I scare them (laughs).

N&D: Where does all that so called “scary energy” come from? Any inner demons?

DS: Yeah (laughs). I contain a lot of “scary energy”, I suppose, and a lot of my imagination is very dark. I know on stage I try to get totally lost in whatever’s going on. In some ways, I feel like if you’re gonna give it your all and not hold anything back, then craziness and intensity comes out and that’s what scares people. Honestly, I just don’t think people are used to that and they want to dull their emotions.

N&D: What scares you?

DS: Driving in snow. I’ve had three accidents driving in snow and it’s enough to make me not enjoy driving. I’m pretty white knuckled.

N&D: On the other hand, when and where do you feel most comfortable, musically or personally?

DS: I feel more comfortable alone. It’s something I kind of have to work on because I know being too comfortable alone swallows me; and I think I’m a hermit. I do enjoy being out and social and I sometimes fight that comfort of being alone. Usually when I’m alone I’m doing my own thing, I’m drawing or making music and that’s the stuff I really enjoy doing. It’s fun to do it with others, but that’s my comfort.

N&D: Where do you write most of your lyrics? Are you a napkin scribbler or do you sit down and write in a more structured way?

DS: I wouldn’t say it’s “structured”. I don’t have a certain way I do it and I have done napkin scribbles. Normally, if I find one idea or one phrase that’s strong, I can build off of it. I always write the music first though.

N&D: On this album your songs are all very visual and vivid. Where do those ideas and images come from?

DS: I think that’s one of the consistencies of my writing. If I can see it, then I can write about it. And I’m a video editor so sometimes it goes hand in hand, visual and audio. If I think of one line that paints a big enough picture, or maybe just presents itself as a big enough canvas, then I can fill in the rest of the detail.

N&D: You’ve also got a graphic novel entitled ‘Mother’ in the works. Can you tell me a bit about that?

DS: That one started when I was sitting outside in a lighting storm (laughs). I love lighting storms and I love being out in them. This one was extremely violent and I was sitting across from a church on a bench and no one else was out there; it was just me and I started having these visions. I don’t think I was on acid at the time, but it definitely sounds like it (laughs).I started seeing this demonic character in this tower of the church and it was eating my cousin, who I was living with at the time. Somebody came up to me while I was in this trance sort of thing – it sounds kind of dumb (laughs) but they were like “Dwight, Dwight.” I snapped out of it and was like, “I’m in the darkest place ever right now,” and just started laughing. Based on that one visual of seeing my cousin getting eaten, I thought it was pretty cool; a demon that eats people and shits them out as demons, and starts building up an army. It just grew from there.

N&D: Your album comes with a colouring book. Do you think it’s important for an album to be interactive?

DS: I miss it. It seems to be moving away from that with so much digital downloading. I’m still the kind of guy that really appreciates an album and having the product. I don’t like MP3 quality so I’m kind of holding on for dear life to that. I thought one way of adding to the album was to present it with things like a colouring book or a DVD. And, I like to draw, so it makes sense.

N&D: Now about your live shows, can you describe the feeling you get right before you go on stage?

DS: Yeah, I have to shit (laughs). It’s almost every single show, five to ten minutes before I go on I have to take a shit and I never do. I always hold on to it and use it during the show.

N&D: (laughs) You threw me off guard with that one. Are there any local bands that you’ve got your eye on?

DS: I love Sing Leaf and The Owle Bird. Run With The Kittens is usually one of my favourites, they’re amazing, and Saint Dirt Elementary School.

N&D: After I accomplish something impressive I always run to my mom. Does your mom have any thoughts on your album?

DS: She hasn’t heard it yet. She went away to Indiana for a while to actually do natural disaster relief missions (laughs).

photo by rodrigo pizzaro