When a master craftsman refinishes wood furniture, he'll clean it up, strip off the gunk, and, with care and attention, bring out the detail and grain until it glows. You'd never know it had been sitting around for a quarter century, neglected.
That is exactly what Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel has done to Art Bergmann's eponymous 1991 album. Re-titled Remember Her Name, the re-mastered recording glows. There's even a new, old song: Wide On/Hard Body. It has been treated to a proper cleanup and polish. Each track sparkles. Everything seems tighter, punchier, more in your face. There's a clarity to the instrumentation which makes the album sonically fresh. It sounds brand new.
Cover photo by Sharon Steele, courtesy (weewerk)
Just like that furniture, there must be quality underneath, and this is one of the best showcases of Art's ability. Excepting references to Knowlton Nash and East Germany, the album isn't dated at all, neither musically nor lyrically. Remember Her Name is a great opportunity to discover - and re-discover -this master work by one of Canada's greatest talents.
I spoke with Art from his home in Airdrie, Alberta:
JRM: What made you decide to re-release the album?
ART: That was Phil's idea and I just went along with it. We're trying to build up whatever catalogue we can grab to (weewerk) and then shop through the incredible Mr. Phil [Klygo]. Get some cash-flow happening maybe, through ownership of my damn legacy. We were trying to figure out how to get some of my old records back, and that one we figured would be the easiest to grab. Polygram doesn't exist anymore. But the original guys from Duke Street [records] insist on hanging on to my Sexual Roulette and Crawl with Me.
JRM: Most people don't realize that record companies hold the rights, and artists don't own their own work.
ART: Yeah. That one just seemed like the easiest one to grab and put it out, and then Paper Bag Records out of Toronto came on board, so that helped. I suppose I could re-record all of them, but there's kind of a magic to that at the time, with the machinery available at the time, that makes it kinda inimitable.
JRM: What has been the response?
ART: I'm getting a lot more press for this than The Apostate, which I'm really quite pissed off about. It's getting more attention than my last, really great record got.
JRM: I was listening to the political songs on the album yesterday. Twenty six years ago yet it seems like it could be about yesterday's news.
ART: Yeah, you can fit it in with Trump being Putin's... "cock-holster", was it? (Laughs)
JRM: I looked up events of 1991: the first Gulf War was underway, Yugoslavia was about to break up, Rodney King had just been beaten by the cops, and a U.S. Supreme Court judge was in a sexual harassment scandal. Now, there's a war in the Middle East, there's threats of war in Eastern Europe, police brutality and racism are all over the news, and the US president has admitted to sexual harassment. Basically nothing's changed.
ART: Correct-o! Correctamundo! I don't know how to process it all. There's my initial scream, but on the whole, everything just makes me nauseous. The whole... everything. Just the fact that that man has taken over every news feed, and you don't even hear about 3 million starving in South Sudan, Somalia, probably half due to climate change, civil wars, and proxy wars, Congo exploding... you don't hear about any of that.
JRM: In 1994, no one heard about Rwanda until it was over...
ART: Yeah. Somebody better write a song for Mr. Dallaire. He's one of our few heroes, I think.
JRM: The relationship songs for this album: When you wrote these songs you and Sherri were fresh, were new, right? [Sherri Decembrini is Art's wife.]
ART: Brand-spanking-new, yep.
JRM: Twenty-six years later, do these songs still hold true?
ART: Yeah, they're still true. I still love her like crazy.
JRM: And did she turn out to ruin your life?
ART: Not quite in that positive/negative aspect, no. We went here and there together. We both had our own previous lives and amalgamated them. I don't want to get too intimate about it. We went down several dark hallways and came out the other side. Some people wake up and split up at the age of 70, 80... and, ummm, I think we'll do it before then! [laughs] No, I think we're in it until we die.
JRM: Are you gaining new fans or is this for the same long-time fans that have been following you forever?
ART: All thirty of them? Yeah! [laughs] New fans? Yeah, they pop up here and there. And there's the old ones that pop out of the woodwork that I haven't heard from in years and years and years. My biggest mistake was probably giving up for ten years or so. In spite of my other issues, I should have kept going, but things just got extremely frustrating.
JRM: Any new material on the horizon?
ART: Oh sure. Who can ignore the mess that is providing great material? Yeah, I got a bunch of new songs.
JRM: Looking back at the Art Bergmann you were when this album came out, does this senior Art Bergmann have anything to say to that guy?
ART: Ummm, not really. To be that kind of person, you have to be narcissistic for a couple hours a night. And I lost that desire. So I would say: keep at it until a trusted person tells you you're being an asshole, and then stop it! So now I'm becoming a shoe-gazing folkie.
JRM: Can you change the world, Art?
Photo by Lisa MacIntosh, courtesy (weewerk)
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