Archive for the ‘* FEATURED STORIES’ Category

Bringing Saxy Back – The Grid (11.2.11)

January 1, 2012

A socioeconomic-aesthetic analysis of why 2011 was the Year of the Saxophone.

It was something straight out of 1993: Saxophonist Kenny G on Saturday Night Live, unleashing a flurry of smooth-jazz notes from his soprano horn. The scene took place last month, but it could have been a ’90s-era parody: Remember the famous Sinatra duets sketch, in which Phil Hartman (as Ol’ Blue Eyes) castigates Jay Mohr (as Kenny G) for his terrible “screeching”? Except this Kenny G-on-SNL moment was the real deal—he joined musical guests Foster the People onstage for a live indie-pop performance on the show.

It’s understandable why the dudes in Foster the People wanted to partner with the curly-haired hornman—saxophones are everywhere this year. “The sax is back,” proclaimed one post on The Guardian’s website in June; later in the summer, Paste magazine declared 2011 the year of the saxophone. I wholeheartedly agree. From Feist and Bon Iver to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, artists across the musical spectrum are using sax on their latest albums. Montreal-based Colin Stetson even scored a Polaris Prize shortlist nomination with his solo bass-saxophone album.

Read the full story in The Grid.

BNL’s indie-rock triumph – The Grid (10.7.11)

January 1, 2012

1991: The year Barenaked Ladies defined Toronto indie-rock.

Nevermind wasn’t the only game-changing album that made its ascent in the fall of 1991. It’s not even the only one that helped bust open the door for the next two decades of alternative- and indie-rock. Right here in Toronto, an independently released cassette (remember those?) by a jokey-folky group faux-offensively named The Barenaked Ladies was making the rounds. Nevermind may have marked the birth of popular indie-rock, but The Yellow Tape might just be Toronto’s greatest indie-rock record.

Read the full story at The Grid.

A field guide to metal logos – The Grid (7.20.11)

January 1, 2012

An infographic guide to the evolution of heavy metal logos. See the full chart at The Grid.

Danger Mouse – The Grid (5.19.11)

July 21, 2011

My first music column for the newly minted Toronto city magazine, The Grid, in which I explore the Gladwelliean genius of Danger Mouse.

Before he became bona fide pop royalty, New York–based Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, made a name for himself producing albums for indie-bands Sparklehorse and Gorillaz. He also created the legendary Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up The Grey Album in 2004—one of the biggest viral mash-ups in history—which had music critics swooning and EMI’s lawyers shaking their fists. But it’s what he does with his popularity that’s really interesting. Rather than spending time cementing his personal brand, he chooses projects that are challenging and unexpected, and often ultimately very successful. Now, he has teamed up with modern Italian film composer Daniele Luppi to create Rome, a glossy, indie-rock take on the spaghetti western soundtrack, proving that nobody is better at turning obscure artists and/or musical tangents into pop gold.

Read the entire article here.

Slayer interview – Eye Weekly (7.29.10)

July 31, 2010

Geeks, sportos, motorheads, dweebs… everybody loves Slayer. EYE WEEKLY’s Chris Bilton tracks down the band in Quebec to find out why the original masters of thrash are more popular than ever

QUEBEC CITY — It’s never just “Slayer”; it’s always “fuckin’ Slayer!” As an expression, it’s the perfect summation of what it means to be a Slayer fan, especially when yelled in the vicinity of one of their concerts. The name of the band alone carries with it a certain set of images and associations — Satanic pentagrams, combat-helmeted demons, vaguely SS-styled lettering, the most brutalizing thrash metal to come out of the 1980s — and yelling “Slayer” is enough to let any other metal fan know that you mean business. But adding the expletive is a kind of fanatical declaration: both vulgar and impassioned, and thoroughly committed to showing total disregard for societal norms.

Case in point, there’s already an Urban Dictionary1 entry on the phrase, and it’s a phenomenon that, for some, extends past the concert venue into everyday life. (Also, “Fuckin’ Metallica” has far too many syllables and “Fuckin’ Anthrax” too much consonance right in the middle of the phrase — “Fuckin’ Slayer,” on the other hand, just rolls perfectly off the tongue.)
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Flaming Lips interview – Eye Weekly (7.6.10)

July 7, 2010

In conversation with the one and only Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips.

Wayne Coyne doesn’t mind flirting with disaster. When I reach the Flaming Lips singer at his recently-flooded home in the oldest section of downtown Oklahoma City, he’s quick to reassure me that he and his wife are old pros at dealing with Fantasia-like waves of sewage, and they had the place cleaned up in about half a day. Having lived his entire life in the heart of Tornado Alley, he’s very much at the mercy of nature, but, he says, “I kind of embrace that. I suppose everywhere is at the mercy [of nature], but with the tornadoes and the flooding and all that, you kind of get immune to it. It’s only when we go to California and people say there’s an earthquake happening that we think, ‘Oh wow, really?’”

“The danger that you live with all the time isn’t as nearly as interesting as the new danger,” he adds, in his casually philosophical way. That isn’t an entirely surprising remark from someone whose most well-known song hinges on the line “Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?”

Read the rest of the article over at EYE WEEKLY.

G20 coverage compedium – Eye Weekly (6.29.10)

July 6, 2010

Here is a compendium of my dispatches from within the inconvenient nightmare that was the Toronto G20 Summit:

G20: never forget – my final words after the weekend we never wanted..

Diary of a protest – what I encountered on the streets of Toronto during Saturday’s protests.

Super Sunday – in which things seem better, for a very brief period.

Choose your own G20 – a flow chart to help our readers decide if bearing witness is really worth it.

Meet: The G20 – a foreshadowy primer on what to expect.

Fix the TTC – Eye Weekly (2.17.10)

March 2, 2010

Why the TTC should get liquored up: what Toronto’s transit system could learn about customer service from the LCBO. A cover story for EYE WEEKLY in conjunction with Ed Keenan’s Mau Mau-ing the Track Slackers.

Nick Cave interview – Eye Weekly (9.24.09)

September 29, 2009

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A face-to-face chat about the Death of Bunny Munro with the Black Crow King himself.

Bunny Munro, like many of your characters, is effectively doomed — is that part of your worldview or a literary device?
It’s a literary device. One of the most interesting aspects of the Bunny Monro character is that he is an addict, in his own way. And to sustain the kind of energy of addiction you can’t afford to take responsibility for your actions at all. Throughout the book he has those momentary glimpses of what he is really like and they disappear, sink back into the quicksand of his libido. He is the character who will forever make the wrong decisions.

Read the whole interview here.