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- Subject: test
- From: Mike Frederick Winter <mfw127\!/cs.usask.ca>
- Date: Wed, 04 Jan 1995 18:53:14 -0600 (CST)
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Tower Of Song Canadian Culture E-zine Issue #3
Editor: Mike Winter
FTP: etext.archive.umich.edu /pub/zines/TowerOfSong
Mailing List: majordomo\!/arts.usask.ca
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Table O' Contents
Introduction <> Mike Winter
Lou 'What, me Canadian!' Barlow <> Blair J. Purda
God (A story) <> Robin Meade
King Cobb Steelie <> Blair J. Purda
Reviews And Stuff <> Mike Winter
Nardwuar does Christmas <> Rock Mononaut
Introduction <> Mike Winter
Yes, I know Lou Barlow is not Canadian, but he has released stuff on Mint
Records and it's my zine and I'll put whatever the damn well I please in it.
So there. Thanks to Blair John Purda for the excellent stuff he sent me,
and to the Rock Mononaut for his cool Nardwuar piece. Sorry for
the delay, but with school things got a bit hectic. I know Internet
literature usually is pretentious annoying shit, but read the story
'God' by Robin Meade, it's actually pretty good. Remember to
get submissions in for the next issue.
From: Blair John Purda
We've been doing this forever but there's many people in the world who
have no idea that people write songs like we do.
Mark Caughlin talks to Lou Barlow
Monday morning, Labour day morning, way too early, I get up and phone a
Massachusetts area code. Why? So that I can interview probably my
favourite songwriter, Lou Barlow. Barlow is one of the members of
Sebadoh, a band loved by many critics and a small but growing group of
fans. They 've just released their fifth album, Bakesale. What follows is
a thirty-minute chat in which I fuel Barlow with just enough
misconceptions and (hopefully) just enough insight about the music to get
him talking about himself, his band, and most importantly, the songs.
Among other things, I ask him about his having hosted MTV 's 120 Minutes
(the night before), with Bob Mould. 'Yeah I played a song with Bob Mould,
one of my songs, and they actually aired it, ' he notes modestly. 'It was
pretty cool, reminding me why I liked Husker Du stuff in the first place.
It was kind of flattering. '
I congratulate him on the new album and begin by asking him if the rumour
that they recorded it on 4 track like many of their previous works was
true. 'Oh no. It 's all 16 and 24 track...It was a very, uh, 'hi-fi '
album ' (sarcasm duly noted).
Keeping with the theme, I ask him: how lo-fi can a songwriter go without
sounding precious? What 's the line between character and self-indulgence?
'That 's up to the listener really. I donUt release anything unless I
think it has character...It 's, you know, I 've thought a lot about this
and I like it and I like what I 'm saying and singing and I like the
texture and I think it 's great. '
'When we first started, we would sell a thousand records and people would
just be like, 'You guys are the most self-indulgent stoners I 've ever
heard in my life '. They wouldn 't hear any of the actual craft involved in
putting the stuff together. We spent a lot of time working on records
that people think sound awful and think that we did in a night, that were
in actuality really collections of songs that had come about over years. '
Many of the earlier stuff included found sounds and tape manipulations
that were sometimes somewhat jarring. Was this just screwing around? 'Oh
no, I thought it was very integral part of the music. I think it 's a very
much part of conveying a message. '
Are these added bits music then, or just an accent to the music?
'Oh well, I would probably call it an accent to the music. You know
because you don 't listen to a tape loop. Your body doesn 't necessarily go
numb when you 're listening to a tape loop...Just something to like help
convey the message and to lead into the next song. To create an
atmosphere. I 've always just really liked that. I only like tape things
that sit in. I 'm not into just using random things. '
Naturally, I broach the subject of the departure of Eric Gaffney, one of
the founders of Sebadoh, and source of much of the noisier, more
experimental/improvisational playing on the records. 'I don't know. My
feelings were I wish he didn 't quit...Eric just decided that he didn't
want to work anymore. For some reason when we started touring for Bubble
and Scrape he just totally - he began to play live more, he played more
of his songs live - but he just stopped really talking to me too much
about the music. He just sort of went into a shell and just never came
back out. And then he finally just kind of resigned. '
I ask Lou about Jason LoewensteinUs songwriting, characterizing him as in
between Gaffney 's noise and Barlow 's 'pop acoustic thing, ' but Lou has
quite a reaction to this.
'Yeah I guess. I don 't really see how, if you take all my songs into
consideration, just everything that I 've ever done, I 'd see a lot of
really aggressive songs and aggressive lyrics that I 've done... So when
people try to make this point that I 'm mellow and Eric 's this, it 's
like, not really. '
Here the interviewer backpeddles, mumbles something about Barlow writing
in passive-aggressive terms, and lets out that he thought maybe Gaffney 's
noise had influenced him. Wrong again.
'No, because I played in Dinosaur, you know? When I was in Dinosaur, I was
like the noisy guy. When I played in that band, when the shows would end, I
was theguy that screamed the last
two or three songs. So I 've been kind of through that. I 've been like
where I was the noisy fucked-up songwriter in Dinosaur. People just like
to draw...I mean I totally understand. Like as far as Smash Your Head
on the Punk Rock or Bubble and Scrape, Eric is, his songs are, definitely
a lot wilder than mine. And that 's a total fact. That 's totally true, but
as far as making a generalization... '
I note that whatever contrariety they had was surely beneficial to the
creation of many of the recordings, whose beauty partially resides in the
fact that they are musically all over the place.
'Yeah. Well I 'm glad that we did that for as long as he was in the
band...We really tried to make the records really interesting and we
really did work together...We did the most that we could, really, with
Eric in the band, and I 'm pretty proud of that fact. '
I comment on the high quality of Jason Loewenstein 's songs on Bakesale,
which exhibit many of the skills that I had seen lurking over the years
in the limited number of songs that he 'd released. I prod Barlow for
comments about the partner that hasn 't left.
'People are just really acting so surprised by his songs on this
record...I 've always known that that 's what he was capable of, so it
doesn 't surprise me really that much at all. I 'm just really happy that
he 's comfortable enough finally with the band to just let songs that he
really cares about just come out as Sebadoh...He 's probably the most
talented person I 've ever played with, including J Mascis. '
Back to his own songwriting, I ask Barlow a question that follows from
his very honest, very personal lyrics: When does a song become too
'Well that 's up to the listener. There are some times that I hear
people 's songs that are confessional, and I 'm just like _ahhh_. '
Well Lou, where do you limit yourself?
'I don't. Well I don't mention names, you know. In general I like to
sure that the songs flow poetically. Like within the songs there's a
certain beat and rhythm to the words that make sense to me so I'm not
just simply reading. I'm not going (in lifeless voice)'TODAY I AM VERY
SAD 'I'm not doing that at all...I spend a lot of time having it
internally rhyme, making the meter kind of flow. '
'Some people think that writing a song about masturbation is way too
confessional. But that's just them. I don 't [write songs] to
exploit my feelings, I do it in order to make some sense out of it,
to make something that wasn't there before with it. Something that
personally suits me and personally helps me out of a difficult situation
by feeling as though I can describe it and then somehow hopefully grow
beyond it or rise above it or understand it. '
'I don't think anything can be too confessional as long as it's music
as long as it has a flow, a purity about it. '
What motivates his songwriting? Is it the music, or this need to work
'I like simplicity, it just makes a lot of sense to me. I think the
vocals are the focal point. So I don't spend a lot of time trying to
figure out clever arrangements musically. I just feel that it should
backing, a sympathetic environment for the vocals. But then there are
other songs that I write instrumentally first and then add lyrics
later. So it 's just a real mix. '
And how about Bakesale? It is an album with fewer peaks and valleys than
usual, a little slicker production-wise, standing somewhat apart from
the rest of the Sebadoh catalogue.
'I guess maybe for people who like Sebadoh it may be a little bit
unexpected.It would be great for a lot of people who are really into
[Sebadoh] to just be like 'What the fuck? Why is this so slick? '(In
They dudeU kind of tone) Just being, on first listen, just sort of
shocked and disgusted, I think that would be amazing, because in
actuality it's just as good as anything we've ever done,lyrically and
musically, but we 've just recorded it different. '
I ask him if the album is more coherent than previous works.'Coherent?
Oh not to me, no. ' Oops. Cohesive? 'Yeah, in a commercial sense,
probably. But not to me. Not to me at all. I always consider pretty much
everything to be relatively cohesive, but yeah it is.It-no,definitely
it is - it flows, it flows more than Bubble and Scrape does. '
'It's a little more listener friendly, but that wasn't really the point
behind the record. It just kind of came out that way. It 's just
funny.People would think, they listen to this record like (in a really
anal tone):'Hmm, they really spent some good time on this one, and they
really put it together and they made it more cohesive,'and it's probably
one of the most off-hand records we've ever made.'I like how different
it is from the other records and all the assumptions that people would
make about it. '
Shifting topics somewhat, I ask him about the dilemma of having
large critical acclaim but relatively small listenership.
'That 's just the way it is. I can 't be like,'I deserve this 'The
thing that I know is that we 're doing really well, as far as I 'm
concerned. We sell enough records that we're good for our record
company. We sell enough records that when we go on tour there's pretty
much people in every club to come see us. We 're already more popular
in our own time than the Velvet Underground or Big Star. It's not like
we 're really wallowing in some kind of obscurity. '
Has the media attention to the 'alternative ' music scene made a
'No, it hasn 't at all. We 've pretty much only gotten bigger because
each record has more people listening to it. For us,it's like a grass
roots thing. People are not buying Sebadoh records because it 's cool.'
'Our records are far too difficult for that kind of a thing. '
note: yet another article that came from the manitoban (as you can
doubtless tell from the lack of real punctuation - grrr)
God <> Robin Meade
So God and I were just standing there, smoking. He was
leaning on the bar whistling at the pretty ladies as they walked
by in their togas.
"Hey, baby, what's your religion?"
The Guy was an old burnt out hippie and occasionally I would
bug Him about it. So, in rebellion, one time He showed up drunk
at my apartment dressed in a polyester white leisure suit and
singing "I did it my way" with Elvis Aaron Presley, leaning on
each other like they were old buddies from the war or something,
and not divinities. But now He was wearing His regular
Birkenstocks and Levi's 501's, sipping a cappuccino, and poising
the marijuana cigarette between His fingers.
"Hey, baby, I'm a deity."
He and I go way back. We met in a jail cell in Chicago in
1934; I was busted for vagrancy, He was awaiting arraignment on
bootlegging charges. I wasn't really homeless, I just wanted to
see what it was like for a night. He thought that alcohol helped
people get in touch with Him more easily. He was cleared on a
technicality, and I got out after promising never, ever, to do it
again. We went to the nearest speakeasy and celebrated our good
fortune for the next two days.
"Hey, baby, I'm the answer to your prayers."
I remember the time in Manhattan in the mid-50's when we
were sitting in my basement apartment sniffing bug dust supplied
by my friend the exterminator for fifty cents. He told me that
He just wanted to be a regular Joe. I asked Him why He would
want to be mediocre when, as an omnipotent being, He could do
whatever He wanted. He said " 'cause it's so bloody boring,
"Hey, baby, do you believe in a higher power?"
I didn't see Him for ten years after 1965. Then He just
showed up one night, slouched on the doorstep of my white
suburban house mumbling what sounded like the words to some
Beatles' song. He woke up the next morning, hopped off the couch
onto the shag carpeting and tried to get me up. He never has a
hangover, I really hate that. He lit up a Havana cigar and blew
the smoke in my face. "It's great to be immortal," said He as He
sat back in my Lazyboy and put His feet upon the rising perch.
He told me about how He had gone to Tibet to become a Buddhist
monk in the Himalayas, and how He had never once seen a Yeti. He
had liked the monks and their philosophies, but had decided that
He just didn't have the discipline, or desire, to really do the
Buddhist thing in depth. He'd made it back in time for
Woodstock. He'd hitchhiked to San Francisco, after just
basically exploring the country. Then He had decided to look me
"Hey, baby, wanna go to heaven?"
We went out that night and picked up a couple of damsels at
the local hotel bar. I was with a black chick named Nadine who
liked white boys; I don't remember His date. The four of us
spent the night dancing and drinking at a discotheque called "The
Golden Funk Palace". It was the next day before we were sober
enough to notice the five o'clock shadows our escorts were
"Hey, baby, wanna break some Commandments?"
The only thing I remember about the eighties is punk rock
and pollution. God told me stories about us accidentally burning
Wall Street to the ground during a riot protesting corporate rock
or something, but I think He was just bullshitting. After all,
everytime I turn to the news channel I see a bunch of stock
market listings that mean nothing in particular, or a pack of
Armani clad guys running about in a pit trying to avoid getting
paper cuts from the dead tree parts floating around them, it
always reminds me of some ancient Roman bloodsport on the floor
of a coliseum.
"Hey, baby, God loves you."
So there we were at the coffee bar. He had His hair tied
back in a ponytail, like all good burnt out old hippies. The
ladies weren't reacting to His come-ons, but He didn't really
care. He turned to me.
"You know, all this worshipping and persecution and killing
and everything... d'you think it's My fault? I mean the Crusades
were in My name."
And I said: "Nah. But You shouldn't have let those monks
write the Bible."
"Yeah, man. Guess you got it all figured out," he tossed
his expresso back and lit up a cigar.
From: Blair John Purda <umpurda0\!/cc.umanitoba.ca>
Guelph six-piece explores boundaries of contemporary music
King Cobb Steelie, the much loved Guelph six-piece (at least
by us press types) has just released their second full-length
disc, Project Twinkle, and are currently trekking across the
country. In the 10 months or so since we last interviewed the
band so much had changed we decided to interview them again.
One of the first things to note is that Project Twinkle was
released on the bands own label, lunamoth, established with the
help of EMI. King Cobb Steelie vocalist and guitar player Kevan
Byrne said that although there was interest from other major
labels this deal allowed them the most creative control.
It was the most innovative and progressive (deal), he said,
Even giving us the most control over our finances.
While EMI will handle the distribution end of things,
lunamoth will be responsible for its own promotion and videos
and will even release material from other bands. In lunamoth,
Byrne sees the ^opportunity to establish an indie label which
puts out adventurous music and affords the creative freedom that
artists should have. Another major change in the band was the
departure of sampler/turntable guy Steve Clarkson after the
recording of the new album. Shadowy Men drummer Don Pyle has
since assumed that role in the band. As Pyle worked with the
band on their debut release and as Shadowy Men are currently in
sabbatical, adding him full-time was natural. In another
rhythmic development, this album is the first that has
percussionist Mike Armstrong contributing to each song. Michael
played on the first album and it was an embellishment at that
time, Byrne explained. Eventually our writing changed and it
became inclusive of what he was doing.
In many bands, musicians outside the core of guitar, bass
and drum have minimal input. This isnt the case with King Cobb
Steelie. For us percussion and sampling are far from peripheral,
describes Byrne. They are an integral component of what were
doing and equal emphasis should be placed on each part.
To record the new disc the band enlisted the aid of Bill
Laswell (some big, famous producer guy). His influence is
instantly apparent, especially in the vocals which are quite
forward in the mix when compared to the bands previous material.
Byrne admitted this was a bit of a source of tension as he
doesn't like (the vocals) to sit over and above the music. He
prefers them to be an integrated part of (the music). There was
also some experimentation with recording the vocals on this
album. On one song Byrnes voice was recorded through a distortion
pedal just to give it a more interesting textural quality. lot
of the music was more textured this time, so I wanted the vocals
to be congruent with what was going on musically. Byrne also
attributes the experimentation to a combination of more
confidence, more experience and Laswell being able to give us
more direction, more focus.
The last song on the album, the eight minute Technique shows
King Cobb Steelies ability to warp the boundaries of contemporary
music. Influenced by trance and ambient, the piece is something
the band hasn't explored in the past. Byrne believes it will be
something very prominent for us in the future.
There will, however, be no instrumental, ambient album from
the band. I don't want to get to the point where we're just
trying to replicate a particular genre of music. We're still
into that cross-genre shopping business and thatUs what
everything will always be predicated on.
wanky little note: this article originally appeared in the
manitoban and had a nifty pree photo to accompany the cheesy
Bleh, I haven't picked up too much Canadian stuff in the last
while, so I'll just review a couple of singles and make a
heartfelt promise to try and get more Canuck stuff to review next
Forbidden Dimensions -All About Evil- Homo Habilus
Big Black Hearse +2
Vinyl singles are the perfect format for the fuzz doom of this
Calgary based band. It allows them to completely rock out
without making you sick of the few chords they utilize as
happened in 1993's Sin Gallery. I'm still fuming I had to miss
them when they were in town. The b-side is especially good.
P.O. Box 636
Huevos Rancheros -Rockin' In the Henhouse- One Louder
Rockin' in the Henhouse +3
England's One Louder has been putting out a lot of cool stuff
lately, including a Man Or Astroman single and this. Huevos have
definitely assumed the mantle as Canada's premier insturmental
trio, and this single shows why. The title cut is probably the
best track on this 7".
PO Box 1 NW
Fire Rooster S/T LP More Than Music
I feel really bad about slagging this album, since it's the first
(and only) piece of promotional material I have ever gotten. And
this band tries real hard; I heard they were on CBC for their
multimedia effort on the Internet, and they also received some
airtime on Much as well. But if true cock-rock fell dead with
Poison, prehaps Fire Rooster is trying to start some kind of
computer cock rock genre. Sorry guys, this album just isn't
quite my thing, prehaps try to look farther then Bryan Adams for
influences. The CD package is fun to look at though, because this
band is sponsored by about forty corporations and goverment agencies.
Fire Rooster flies Canadian Airlines.
More Than Booking
Wayne O' Connor
Triston Psionic \!/ The Times Club
Gawd, do these guys rock. Playing in front of about 50 or so
absolutely indifferent punk rockers, they slugged in out for over
two hours. A lot of their material seems to be given an extra
vibrancy when played live, something that doesn't quite come through
on the record. Especially good were 'The Nightmare Returns' and
'25 cents' but that was expected. Even the self indulgent noise
freakouts interspersed between the sets sounded great. Be prepared
for several sustained in-jokes if you go see them, but it's worth it.
Eric's Trip -Notes from Stereo Mountain- SubPop\Sappy
The Meeting +3
This is limited edition (500?) single that came with all mail
orders of Forever Again, and it made me pine for the days when this
band couldn't release a bad song. The first tune 'The Meeting' is
cool in a 'screwed up accoustic Rick song' way but the rest of the
stuff is absolute shit. Maybe they figured few would hear this stuff
,so they just released some b-material. I hope so, and it does
come with a comic book sleeve that is meant to be congrous with the
songs that makes this release at least palatible.
Nardwuar and Me The Rock Mononaut
So there i was, hanging out in Vancouver, early December. I was
sitting nonchalantly in the living room of the pad where I was
starying when.. the phone rang! "Hello, is mark around?" Could
it be? Yes, it was! It was the unmistakably frantic voice of Nardwuar
asking for my friend who he often teams up with to do some of his
most stellar work.
"Just who is Nardwuar?", you may be asking. Besdies being the lead
crooner of Vancouver garage gods, the Evaporators, he also does a weekly
interview show on UNBC's campus radio station, CITR, where his
past victims have included everone from Pierre Trudeau to Alice Cooper
to Spike and Joey from Degrassi High. Nardwuar's questions often
reflect his almost unsurpassable knowledge of trivia and have illicted
such responses as: "Your questions are awfully dumb" from Jello Biafra
and "Now that is the dumbest question.. whre do you get these questions?
Do you have committes of monkyes that type them out for you?" from LSD
guru Tim Leary.
Anyhow, Nardwuar remembered meeting me during the summer, when we hung
out in the UBC cafeteria and he shared with everyone the fact that his
snacks include the sea-salt from Mrs. Vickies potato chips and beverage
containers filled exclusively with ice. So, we chatted briefly over the
phone and he revealed that the Evaporators had an upcoming court date in
Victoria (not as defendents, silly! As witnessees to a rotten drunk
driving incident. The Evaps are law-abiding citizens!) and were
playing at a house party the night before. Since I was goig to be in
town that night, he graciouslly invited me to the show.
How could I refuse? On the night in question, I hopped into my Dad's beater
and drove cross-town to Victoria's industrial zone. I peered into the house,
was filled with strange and exotic Victoria scenesters, none of whom I
seen before. Fear not though, for I quickly found Nardwuar. A pleasant
conversation ensued and I then went downstairs to check out the opening bands
(most notable was the Gotham City 7, who hadn't rehearsed in 1/2 a year and
bass player had to reteach all their songs to the guitarist - talk about Rock
Then, at the stroke of 12, all the Evaporators disappeared and not 5 minutes
later, surrounded by a cloud of mystery, Thee Goblins (who are freakish
natural entities clad only in white sheets and genuine U. of Washington
cheerleader sweaters) took to the stage and pounded out their unique brand
of insturmental hijinx.The Goblin hammering the compact,60's original Farfisa
organ kicked off the mini-set with the inquiry"Does anyone here know anything
about elementary organ tuning?" It didn't matter though, the rocking
guitar combo got the living room for about 30 screaming\fainting teens so
hopping that nobody cared.
After only 3 songs, Thee Goblins vapourized into the floorboards as quickly
as they had appeared. Not 5 minutes passed, and out ran the Evaporators
into the adoringcrys of the audience. Nardwuar had undergone a serious
transformation. He hadshed his unassuming "Every-man" plain clothes
and taken on the aura of a flamboyand reck sensation with his U of W marching
band uniform, enormous white bell bottoms and CBC touqe. Of course,
the first song was the classic "Welcome to My Castle", dedicated to the
hostess with the mostess, whose house was having cigarette butss, beer stains
and Evaporator sweat permanently trampled in it.
I was settling in to enjoy the set when Nardwuar said, "Hello everyone
it's nice to be here, and to see some familiar faces in the
audience.. Dan from Saskatchewan is here to enjoy the show.
Does anyone know the Sister Lovers? Well, Dan is the #1 fan,
and when you wre recently in Vancouver, what did Kleinz of Sl
send for you?
In my sheepish, nerdy voice I yelled 'a limo!" over the ruckus of
the amps and then everyone yelled "Hi dan!" Cool, I had been
acknowledged by the Human Serviette at a real live gig.
The rest of th set completely rocked as Nardwuar did it all: he crowd
surfed (3 times!) Once he got all the way into another room), he jumped
up and won, he lay on the audience while spastically convlusing in the fetal
position , he fell on me, he dance with me and others, he impaled his
crotch area with the microphone stand and talked about a growth on his face
that was diagnosed as the facial equivelant of Athlete's Foot (he even rubbed
his growth on some people).
And the songs! We were graced with wonderful classic Evap' rockers, many
of which have yet to be released on vinyl and even a few that have not been
put out on the format of choice for the band: 8 track. The set ended with
Nardwuar getting the wary but ecstatic mob to jump up in time with
"HIggdly Piggdly". On that note, sadly, the night came to an end. They
were going to play one of my personal faves 'Pregnant', as an encore, but
nobody could remember how to, and Nardwuar's marching uniform kept
coming undone to reveal his torso.
As I vital endnote to any Nardwua article, I think it's important to update
everyone on his latest interviewing exploits. Recently, he and Kleinz teamed
up to ask a few questions of Skid Row frontman, Sebastian Bach.
Apparently, Bach became so enraged by a question pertaining to his hair
that he smashed the videotape, physically overpowered Nardwuar and stole
his favourite toque. This tragic event stirred up the emotions of
to thepoint whre a portest march to get the touqe back was organized for an
upcoming Skid Row show. Before it occured, it looked like it was going to
be so huge that the Vancouver Sun wrote an article about it.
The point of the article was to tell you about some bands like the
Evaporators whoalong with the likes of the Sister Lovers and
Porksword among others, haven't yet forgotten the most
important ingredient of rock is fun!!
It was like God said to me 'you fucker, you're not so cool' -W. Reid
Mike Winter | mfw127\!/skdad.usask.ca