Much has been made of life on the road. Some people like to play up how hard the road can be, like in Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive" video, but it's hard to feel sorry for Jon and the boys when they're staying in five-star hotels and don't even...
Much ado has been made about Gwen Stefani's lyrical flub while singing "Wild Horses" with the Rolling Stones last Friday night (May 3, 2013). Most of the comments poked fun at her mishap, telling her to rehearse etc. They're exactly the sort of comments you'd expect directed at...
Having done my fair share of interviews over the years, there are three questions I can't stand:
The first two questions are benign queries usually employed...
Growing up I had to abide by my parent's rules. Holed up in my room, I found sanctuary through music and it had to be music they disapproved of in order to feel some sense of autonomy. I found that the louder the music, the more disapproval I received from...
The advent of social media has been both a boon and a blight on the music industry. While bands have been able to easily get their message/songs out to a larger crowd now, their voice just as often lost amongst the hundreds of thousands of other voices clambering for attention. In a way, it's levelled the playing field, but given way to a sea of mediocrity which will inevitably result in complete disinterest.
When it comes to critiquing these entertainers, there's a corresponding surplus of opinions being lobbed through the ether via the world of websites, YouTube channels and blogs. As more self-appointed music critics are able to get their quickly-cobbled thoughts across to a readership/viewership that scrolls and skims more than actually reads, Frank Zappa's famous quote about music journalism becomes ever so appropriate:
"Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read."
In theory, the idea of a free-thinking, unregulated, ongoing exchange of ideas and opinions sounds like a utopian wet dream. Unfortunately, the reality of the Internet is instead a parade of dimwits impatiently falling over themselves to recite their dick jokes, type their racist comebacks and swing their anonymous gavels of uninformed judgement for all to see. No more is this prevalent than in the world of music journalism now that any sad sap can churn out their formulaic viewpoints filled with errors and lack of practical music knowledge.
Frustration of this new online world stems from the lack of any required music journalistic curriculum vitae that other maven sectors demand. For a lot of these "writers," music didn't start before Nirvana or even Arcade Fire, so shallow is the trough from which they cull. Of course, we can't be born with music history ingrained in our psyche, but a little research would go a long way. Of course this would inevitably cut into their tweeting, texting and Game Of Thrones watching.
For example, a recent stop in our hometown of Toronto on our North American tour opening for Volbeat yielded a less-than-lukewarm review of our set by Steve St. Jean. The review was so poorly written I couldn't help but distribute it to friends and colleagues as glaring proof that music journalism has been flushed down the toilet. You'd think St. Jean would've dropped more info to feign awareness of us, a band from his hometown that have been around for 17 years, rather than a slapdash description of the audience in attendance, but such is the state of music journalism in 2013. When I got up onstage with Volbeat later that night to sing "Angelfuck" by The Misfits, it was only referred to as a "cover," twisting the knife of cluelessness even further.
I have nothing against St. Jean's opinion on our band. I've been in the game long enough to know that you can't please everyone and got used to scathing reviews a long time ago, but I do take offence at the lack of research before making his opinion public on a website and in the vaunted position of rock music pundit. If St. Jean had mentioned that we played (insert song titles here) horribly, or we were nothing but a poor man's (insert band name here), or our last album (album title here) was a dismal failure, I would've doffed my cap and uttered a humble touché, but there was nothing of the kind.
In fact, I've even reprimanded other musicians when they try and fire back at music critics, even going so far as writing a letter into Toronto weekly Now magazine to defend writer Jason Richards' review of "Atlantis: Hymns For Disco" by rapper K-os when the sensitive self-described "artist" didn't take kindly to Richards' opinion. If you put it out there publicly you should be thick-skinned enough to take it on the chin as long as the review is intelligently scrutinized and disembowelled. That one was.
On the other hand, the site Steve St. Jean writes for seems to be a long-winded pretext to procure free tickets to shows via ticket giveaways to top shelf acts. In my experience, it seems to be the latest way to get into shows -- spend a couple of hours mocking up a logo, shovel some paragraphs of nonsense on some popular band in order to satiate publicists' concerns and wait for free tickets to come barrelling in. It seems a fair barter, but these sites fail to hold their end of the bargain up when halfway through their effort it's clear they don't actually know what they're talking about.
Still, there are bona fide music journalists out there, dwindling as the years pass, whose opinions I cherish and hold dear. These are the savant writers who've earned the title of authority through their encyclopaedic recall of music history and distinguish themselves further by captivating written words. The rest, however, are just sucking air trying desperately to hold off the truth that they don't know anything past the 2012 Grammy nominees. I guess by reviewing St. Jean's review of us, I have inadvertently thrown myself into this mess too, so suddenly Oscar Wilde's quote is quite apt:
"By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community."...
I will always root for the underdog. Whether it's the Super Bowl or a simple game of Monopoly, whoever's losing will always have my support. It's probably why I got into underground music growing up and quickly realized all the amazing bands were the unheard ones. The same goes for...
Everyone is born with a certain amount of talent. The catch is you have to figure out how to harness it and make it work in your favour. How many people with the talent and potential to become championship tennis players are working in some office cubicle right now because...
The goal of every band in every local music scene is to eventually sprout wings big enough to fly the coop and tour the world. The inevitable fallout is a natural disconnect from the scene that spawned you when you return with heightened prodigal son expectations. Our band began touring...
There are two kinds of people in this world -- people who listen to music and people who don't. They think they listen to music, but they really don't. These are people who listen to what's spoon-fed to them by a variety of cursory sources i.e. car radio, magazine cover,...
Since McDonald's fast food restaurants were brought to their knees by Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me" documentary, patronage has dropped quite considerably. Despite people's growing aversion to the golden arches, the collective craving for a hamburger hasn't diminished. What's helped satiate the ground beef patty itch is the recent trend of...
Can all people making music everywhere just agree to never use the word "artist" when describing themselves? It sounds easy enough to do but try telling them that. Everywhere I look in the music world I'm inundated by this suffix affixed to every person like herpes -- "recording artist," "performing artist," or in some cases just "artist," no doubt to suggest that everything they do should be considered "art," including flatulence, watching television, defecation, making a sandwich or expectorating phlegm.
And to immediately eschew any tangled debate on what art is, let's stick to the best definition of art I've ever heard, said by Frank Zappa: "Art is making something out of nothing and selling it." If anyone even attempts to oppose this statement, they're already rambling.
I can see how "artist" can be attractive for people in the music biz because it's a pretentious sounding word, meant to place the user on par with other more esteemed fine arts. However, its overusage by a line-up of people that would put an American Idol open call to shame has rendered it worthless and akin to receiving a doctorate in psychology off the internet.
When it comes to making music, I find it presumptuous to call yourself an "artist." It's akin to opening up a can of Chef Boyardee Beefaroni and calling yourself a cook. It's based on the assumption that anything anyone produces at the end of the creative process is automatically "art." However, when upholding Zappa's definition of "art," the "art" in question needs to be monetized or else you're engaged in nothing but a hobby. Without this distinction, scribbles made by any random four-year-old can and should be put on equal level with whatever the MOMA is showcasing this week.
Unfortunately, when some of these "artists" ascribe to these tenets and do end up finding recognition it merely provides an excuse for them to blather on relentlessly about their process, their feelings and their creative struggle, as if they shoulder the burden of producing their art to save the rest of us (for proof watch any moderately successful Canadian musical act on a press junket). If they could only hear how self-involved and vacuous they sound maybe they'd quiet down a bit but they'd probably only end up yammering further about how self-aware they are about how self-involved they are.
After 17 years playing music, I've been labeled an "artist" by others many times, more out of journalistic automation than any sincere intent. Still, each time I've been tagged with this word I consider it a slur. Truthfully, it's the weight I give the word that makes me renounce it was such vehemence.
To me, it's a word that takes dogged work to earn and achieve and most people in the music biz (and by most I mean 99 per cent) are overgrown children who don't deserve the title. No matter how many of these so called "artists" kick and scream against my assertions, their significance is not for them to decide.
I know naysayers will be quick to tell me I have nothing to worry about because my output is anything but "art" and I'm nowhere close to being considered an "artist." No argument here. You'd be already preaching to the choir, but don't think for a second the critically-acclaimed doleful troubadours you love so much, with their formulaic three-minute songs containing yet another combination of C, G and E chords, are any different. When stripped of their somber delivery and well-directed marketing, we can all be found trudging around in the same trough.
Don't think that this diatribe concludes by me elevating myself above this throng of wannabes either. I'm just as guilty of wanting the acclaim and honour as the next guy. For God's sake, that's the reason why I sing songs in public and wait for applause. But instead of the hackneyed "artist" moniker, I'd prefer more distinguished and less used terms like "Show-Off," "Braggart," "Blowhard" and my personal favourite, "Ham."
At least my title would be...
By now, most people familiar with this year's Grammys are aware of Al Walser's nomination in the Best Dance Recording category for his song "I Can't Live Without You." The controversy surrounding Walser has to do with his unknown status as a dance act but, through a loophole...
Being in a rock 'n' roll band gets you scrutinized by people in the straight-laced world. They immediately assume you're some drug addict and, if you're like me -- a person who doesn't drink or smoke -- assume you're a recovering drug addict. Truth is, I never had much of...
"Natural Selection -- The process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. First expounded by Charles Darwin and now believed to be the main process that brings about evolution." -- New Oxford American Dictionary
Since the late 90s, reality shows have taken over...
Playing in a rock band is a fun way to make a living if you can somehow manage to avoid the traps that the 89 per cent fall prey to. Getting snared by either contractual fine print, bloated egos, or predictable substance abuse is par for the course. It's no...
I love Toronto. I was born and raised in this city. I've lived here all my life and all over it too, from Steeles and Warden to Finch and Don Mills, from King and Dufferin to Spadina and Front. Touring in a rock band for 17 years across six continents, 31 countries, and God knows how many cities has made me realize nowhere comes close to my home city of Toronto.
It's my love of Toronto that's made it a heartbreaking two years, watching our recently (and nearly-removed) mayor Rob Ford take our beautiful city of Toronto and play with it like a toy found at the bottom of a cereal box.
From the sidelines, we've all seen Ford and his acolytes try to turnover, cut, reduce and privatize much-needed programs, social services, plans, agencies and venues ($19 million total) all in the name of reducing taxes in favor of mega-malls, subways and ferris wheel schemes. If anything, Ford's mayorship reminded all of us how much we care for this city and are willing to fight for it.
Since October of 2010, Ford's mayoral post has resembled absurdist theatre. Between his bumbling flubs (stumbling, allegedly drunk off his tits, into the Calgary Stampeders locker room during halftime, giving the finger to passing motorists and spending 12 hours a week coaching high school football) he's managed to capture national interest, dare I say, international interest playing the buffoon. The last time municipal politics and a city mayor were able to do that was when Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry was convicted of crack cocaine possession in 1990.
When Ford was recently ordered to step down as mayor due to conflict of interest issues that stemmed from his high school football coaching, the response was stunned awe followed by cheering and finishing with a collective sigh. His whole stay as Toronto mayor, from his campaign to electoral win, have all played out like a corny '80s teen flick pitting Ford as the jock-antagonist Alpha-Beta fraternity member with the city of Toronto as the pooled Tri-Lams (Revenge Of The Nerds reference). His eventual removal seems to be the final Act 3 in this saga... but maybe not.
You'd think itcouldn't get any more ludicrous, but on January 2 former Blue Jays baseball player Jose Canseco ventured a tweet announcing his interest in the almost-vacant Toronto mayoral seat. Never mind Canseco is American and ineligible, and never mind his steroid past makes him a laughable prospect, what became an easy press field day revealed a scarier state of affairs -- Rob Ford was just bad enough to make ANYONE seem better as mayor. So...
Fuck it, I'm running for mayor.
Don't everyone laugh all at once and don't moan either. Hear me out. I've got ideas:
* I would reinstate David Miller's LRT Transit City plan, but also look into further developing the subway lines (despite it being a Ford mainstay). If we are to be the cosmopolitan city we think we are we have to start looking like it.
* I will never vote against funding for APCIP (AIDS Prevention Community Investment Program) like Ford did (shame, shame). And I would attend the Pride Parade INSISTING I have my own giant float.
* Cyclists are on equal footing with motorists and there will be bike lanes all over the city, including a restored one on Jarvis St. In fact, if you can prove you bike to work, tax rebates and/or rent subsidies will be provided depending on your income.
* Any social services that were threatened with reduction would be fully funded if not increased (Wheel Trans, Heritage Grants, libraries, snow clearing, Police Service, Affordable Housing, Subsidized Child Care Spaces).
Now, if I've got your vote so far, here's where I need your support the most:
* Mandatory Driving Tests Every 2 Years -- Because nobody knows how to fucking drive in Toronto (can't make left turns, yellow lines are not to be crossed, can't signal when changing lanes...).
* Condo Living Dismantled (provisionally until moved to the suburbs like Mississauga, Scarborough). Too many condominiums in Toronto have paved parking lots and put up 650 sq. foot paradises to paraphrase Joni Mitchell.
* Little Mexico -- There's Little India, Chinatown, Little Italy... there needs to be a semi-designated area in Toronto where I can get some real tortillas, enchiladas with mole sauce, tacos doused in Cholula sauce and horchata.
* Entertainment District swapped for Pacific Mall -- The horrendous King & Adelaide club district, where first-time drunks dance the night away until first-time assault charges are pressed, will be dragged off to Steeles & Kennedy Rd., site of the soon-to-be abandoned Pacific Mall while Pacific Malls gets a city-funded $10 million makeover in its place.
* Tim Hortons and Chino Locos -- Instead of the Canadian donut franchise teaming up with the weight-inducing Cold Stone Creamery, all Tim Hortons will be made to team up with Chino Locos. It's the only place where I can get a General Tao or Jerk Chicken burrito and I want one with my coffee.
* No Casinos -- The Metro Toronto Convention Centre won't be the site of a new casino but rather a new music venue bent on featuring the most extreme music like Khanate, Yamantaka Eye, Sunn 0))), Jandek, Keiji Haino and Wolves In The Throne Room. It would be a penance citizens have to pay for electing Ford in the first place and a little reward I would give myself for winning the election.
* Gardiner Expressway -- What to do with the Gardiner? Let's have a city-wide fundraising festival where people can pay a small fee to blow up a little part of the road with dynamite. Rubble removal would create jobs and the end results would leave a beautiful green oasis in the middle of the city.
* Dank-Con -- The regular Canadian content regulations (Cancon) enforced by the CRTC would be amended to only play music of my band. All monies collected will go into the manufacturing of our CDs, merchandise, vinyl, videos, etc. Now I realize this is probably the most polarizing issue of my campaign platform (because I read the Huffington Post comments some of you people leave every week under my columns), and that it's technically a federal one, not municipal, but don't fret, all Toronto citizens will receive a 10 per cent discount.
So Please VOTE FOR ME!!! Or don't... whatever... I gotta go on tour soon.