Tranzac Club: an oral history – EYE (11.17.10)

December 12, 2010

Australian expat club, folkie coffeehouse, Caravan site, Fringe Festival venue and a hotbed for Toronto’s punk and avant-garde music community — Tranzac Club has been meant many different things to many different people. These are their stories

Walking past the Tranzac Club, you’d be unlikely to peg it as an iconic hub for Toronto arts and music. The tucked-away building on Brunswick Street just south of Bloor — kitty corner to the uber-rowdy Brunswick House — had previously housed an industrial dry-cleaners in the 1950s. Inside, it boasts all the charm of a basement rec room — mismatched tables and chairs, the odd threadbare sofa and shadowy lighting.

Yet, since 1967, the Tranzac Club has fostered countless notable Toronto artists, actors and musicians — including many who have gone on to international acclaim, like Owen Pallett (a.k.a. Final Fantasy) and Fucked Up. A not-for-profit space that runs on membership fees, meagre beer sales and volunteerism, the Tranzac has a long tradition of celebrating music and art that’s not necessarily commercially viable. When word went out recently that the Tranzac, under threat of closing, was kicking off an “emergency fundraising campaign,” we took it as an opportunity to celebrate the venue’s rich history — before it becomes history.
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John Waters interview – Eye Weekly (10.20.10)

November 17, 2010

Iconic director John Waters talks about his memoirs, Role Models, as well as the appeal of the Jackass franchise.

What surprises you?
I saw Jackass 3D last night and there’s a scene where they put cellophane all over this obese man and drain the sweat from him, including from his butt crack, and drink it and puke into the audience in 3D. And it’s pretty good to me. This is playing in every mall in America — it’s amazing. I mean eating shit became a hit at midnight movies in rich neighbourhoods and art theatres [following the release of Pink Flamingos], but this is playing everywhere. And that’s a good sign. Last night I saw a blue-collar audience, sold out; guys with their kids watching a pig eat an apple out of another man’s asshole. And I thought — huh? How do they get away with it? And they do get away with it, in a great way. It’s really anarchy.

And it’s not a lowering of standards.
No. Are you kidding? There are no standards. And that’s the point.

And maybe these are all natural human impulses?
Maybe. I’ve never had the urge to have a pig eat an apple out of my ass — even on a bad night. I suppress those urges. Maybe I’m not a free enough person, but I’ve never wanted to drain the sweat out of an obese person’s asscrack and drink it. I have never even thought of it.

Read the full interview here.

Interview: Slash – Eye Weekly (9.9.10)

November 7, 2010

An interview with the legendary Guns N’ Roses guitarist, the one and only Slash:

You just got back from Australia, right? How have the shows been going?
Awesome. The guys [in my band] are so good that I can just play and not worry about keeping it all together. They all really carry their own weight and everybody loves what they’re doing. It’s a relief to be in a situation where I don’t have at least one guy in the band who’s a complete basket case.

I assume you’re talking about the Velvet Revolver experience with Scott Weiland.
Uhh, maybe…. [nervous laughter]. There always seems to be one guy who’s just disconnected from the trajectory of the group.

That’s a polite way of putting it. Do you think the improvement is a case of you being in charge of the band?
I wouldn’t go so far as to say all that. I’m not really the in-charge guy. [The musicians know] it’s my gig, and that I put it together and blah blah blah. But everybody’s there to have a good time and I don’t have to be the dictator, so I think it really is just one of those circumstances where I’ve been fortunate this time around.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Land of Talk interview – Eye Weekly (9.15.10)

November 6, 2010

Chatting with Land of Talk’s Liz Powell about the band’s exquisite sophomore album Cloak and Cipher.

Elizabeth Powell is Land of Talk. For a long time, she was their bandleader, frontwoman, songwriter, lead guitarist, what have you, but with the Montreal-based outfit’s latest album, Cloak and Cipher, Powell has taken full command of the project and guided its evolution from the crackling intensity of a seriously impressive power trio to an inclusive group capable of expansive and surprising musical statements. Since Land of Talk’s debut in 2006 with the stunning seven-song EP, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, Powell has had her ups (joining Broken Social Scene) and downs (losing key band members and, for a time, her voice) but remains a singular creative force whose frail voice and shadowy guitar playing make her one of Canadian indie-rock’s genuine treasures. EYE WEEKLY caught up with Powell over the phone during a relaxing afternoon in Montreal.

It goes without saying, but Cloak and Cipher has come a long way from Applause Cheer Boo Hiss.
It’s so different. I think of Cloak and Cipher as where I would naturally go. I mean, with Applause Cheer, I had $750, which kind of determined what we could do in the studio. But I love constraints and I needed that to happen, and I think that’s the sound of my circumstance in 2005 or 2006. I was always hoping to build on that.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Interview : Buzz Osborne – Eye Weekly (8.25.10)

November 6, 2010

A chat with Melvins bandleader Buzz Osborne yields many jokes and occasional insight into the sludge-metal pioneers’ 30 year career.

When it comes to integrity, creativity and dinosaur-heavy riffage, the Melvins have few peers. Born out of woodsy boredom in a Washington state logging town in the early 1980s, the trio, consisting of guitarist/singer Buzz Osborne, drummer Dale Crover and a succession of bass players, grabbed the intensity of hardcore punk and slowed it down — way down. Sludge metal, stoner rock, grunge, whatever you want to call it, the basic idea has provided the band with an opportunity for limitless musical exploration and collaboration (they’ve even expanded to a quartet, joining forces in 2006 with LA duo Big Business). But the Melvins are also rock’s most unintentionally ironic band: critics tend to call each album (including their latest disc, The Bride Screamed Murder) an experimental change in direction, yet they never sound like anyone but the Melvins; “stoner rock” guitar originator Osbourne doesn’t drink or do drugs; and for all the name-dropping by famous fans from Kurt Cobain to Boris, they’re still basically an underground phenomenon. We spoke with Osborne about their place in the lineage of rock history.

Read the rest of the interview 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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Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs – Eye Weekly (7.29.10)

July 29, 2010

A sprawling 16 tracks about suburbia: welcome to album number three for Arcade Fire. Here’s my review of The Suburbs.

The Flaming Lips live – Eye Weekly (7.9.10)

July 10, 2010

The Flaming Lips’ ringleader Wayne Coyne is on stage making last-minute adjustments to the massive half-circle metal structure and other hand-crafted machinery surrounding the band’s instruments when he addresses the Molson Amphitheatre audience to prepare them for his trademark space-bubble crowd crawl that will open the show.

“You’re all going to want to smush together because I’m going to be right on top of you,” he explains. It’s a little like seeing the Wizard pulling the levers behind the curtain before embarking on that crazy journey to Oz — a move that for a lesser band, might threaten to blow the magic act of such a notably magical stage show.

But soon enough, that paint-peeling metal structure is glowing hyper-galactic blue and through a cosmic image of a pulsating vagina that covers its large screen, the other three members of the Flaming Lips emerge, airplane-escape-hatch-style, down a ramp onto the stage. Coyne’s space bubble inflates, and he walks out into the arms of his audience and it’s obvious that we’re not in Kansas (or Oklahoma) anymore.

That’s right, The Flaming Lips (and Spoon) were in Toronto this week. Read the rest of my review at EYE WEEKLY.

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.