Above, the first flaming hot track off 613’s very first release “Out of Ottawa,” Dave Norris & Local Ivan’s “Who Killed Ty Conn?”
Due out in September (2011), the CD includes .22 caliber tracks (over 76 minutes!) by Bytown’s brightest.
Its been a difficult decade, with its few ups and many downs. When I first started collecting material for this compilation, the music, as well as the world, was entirely different. There was a kind of bloated optimism that perpetuated the 1990s, and bled into the 21st century. But Bush and 9/11 changed things, even time itself. And my little local music comp didn’t seem very important. Originally, I had names like “Gammahoochee”, “Machine Gun Kelly”, “Balls Falls”, “The Pop Shove Its” and “The History Making Machine”. But, by 2011, none of these bands existed anymore, and if anything, I wanted the project to be relevant and represent Ottawa as it was now, not as it had been. So, the first of various “standards” would be that it had to have been released (or recorded) in last 5 years. I still wanted to promote music that wasn’t necessarily “new”–but then it couldn’t be too old. Which still gave me a significant window to work with. As the years passed, that window became increasingly smaller. My only real regret is that I wasn’t able to include every track that was meant for the record. A few highly talented, and well regarded acts couldn’t be fit in. No matter how hard we all tried, some pieces just didn’t fit. Especially after I was done writing the rules, which, from a distance might seem slightly “insane.” But if this was going to be my designer baby, it was going to be done according to certain rules. And making some sacrifices was inevitable. There is, after all, only 80 minutes available on a regular CD. And I wanted it released, at least, on one regular CD.
There were a lot of things I wanted to do with this record. Not just for an aesthetic or civic purpose, or one simply of quality, but of quantity. Most compilations seem short, particularly as they are composed of one company or label’s catalogue. And what usually happens is each act has two tracks on the record. That was one of the flaws, I felt, about previous Ottawa music compilations (great, though they were). I still hear people talking about “Plug!” (1993), and how often it was played on the radio. Which wasn’t that hard at the time, with bands like the legendary Black Boot Trio, Furnaceface, Mystic Zealots and Neanderthal Sponge. Another thing I wanted to do was have as diverse an album as possible, without it being chaotic. And so the tracks were all recorded differently, from different studios or basements. Which made the final mixing and mastering an extra challenge. Dean Watson and I spent hours at the Gallery Studio mostly listening, and cautiously taking liberties with other people’s music. Which we did with much love and attention, as two mothers might with other people’s children.
Love, war, peace, consumerism, trees, crime, stars, death, morality, nature and a place called Chinatown; these are the subjects of “Out of Ottawa.” The songs tell a narrative and a choral history. I also planned on going in a certain direction, as far as the record’s cover and the promotion. But, then the election happened. And that broke our yellow hearts, and turned them into black maple leaves. The old conceptions seem too optimistic, too status quo; and not representing the period–which seems especially desperate, and bleak now. We weren’t attacked from the outside, but from an extremist faction inside our country. And they won, “officially,” using our system, as it is. Which, is flawed, to say the least. But Stephen Harper isn’t Ottawa. In fact, the vast majority of Ottawa citizens have nothing to do with government policy! Though, we are effected by it, nonetheless. And so, some of the ‘choral history’ has been replaced by moral history. As artists, as voices we have some responsibility here. Therefore, some levity has been lost, but perhaps will be regained, after the resistance.
Posted at 22:54 on 08 May
The record was produced by James Brummel, and engineered by Dean Watson at the Gallery Studio in Ottawa.
Below, “Lost in Material” by Cold Coffee & Salty Boots, number 9 of the .22.
Its August now, and the cicadas are making their call. As are we. But unlike our insect friends, we must act responsibly. As our actions are not the result of only instinctive drives. We are seemingly more complex; and as reliable as our reason seems to be, it often fails us. Thats why I think some caution, some discretion is required. And the best way to lead, is by example. That is why “Out of Ottawa” is in its current format–mostly for environmental and economic concerns. The record comes with no jacket, no panels, no jewel case or digipak. There is no cover, poster, booklet or liner notes. There is simply a CD in a sleeve. The internet is replete with photographs and biographical information on every player involved. And we pass the savings onto you! One copy of this CD should not be priced for more than six (6) dollars ($, Canadian). If you paid more for this record, let us know! We would love to hear about it. The other thing is, we’re not putting any of it online, at least, not for a while. We want people to actually come out to shows and visit their local independent record stores. As wonderful as the web and downloads are, there is something to be said for getting out now and again. And we are stepping out, or stepping up.
As primarily a visual artist, not having an image to go with the sounds seemed somewhat counter intuitive. But nothing adequately represented all .22 tracks. And attempting to do so would actually limit perspective. Branding may be acceptable for individual projects, even labels, but not for such a diverse group. Even a title can be misleading. “Out of Ottawa” could imply several things. It would be a great name for a gay Ottawa music compilation. And there is about 10 to 20 % queer content (although some may still be in the closet). But not enough to claim any real representation. It could also be argued that there are not enough women, French or First Nations involvement. All true. The record was made too organically for every aspect to be considered. Eventually, we just had to master the album because it looked like we had about eighty minutes.
In September we will be taking “Out of Ottawa” on the road, with shows in Victoria, BC and Toronto, ON. And there are already plans for further releases, either later in the year or 2012. In fact, there are also plans to postpone the apocalypse to 2015 so that Bruce McDonald can film the “Out of Ottawa” movie. I’m still undecided about who should play me. A Canadian actor, of course, definitely not Paul Gross. Oh, I know–Colm Feore! That would be cool.
August 8, 2011
“Out of Ottawa” isn’t even on shelves yet and its already a hit. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. After doing interviews with The Charleton, Ottawa Xpress and Amanda Putz on CBC radio’s Bandwidth; its seems that people–even the media–are interested! Who knew? And at #5 on CJSR’s (Edmonton, AB) top 30 chart of the past week, it seems the rest of the country will likely be humming a similar tune. Yes, our campaign may be starting in Canada’s capital city, but next–the nation! After tonight at The Elmdale, our push begins in Sudbury at The Townehouse, Sunday, September 11. Tara Holloway will be leading the charge (or tour) out West (we trust her, she’s been there before).
I would have liked to dedicate the record to Jack. But, I made a promise to keep politics out of it. It may have also smacked of being exploitive. Particularly if I wasn’t giving any of the proceeds toward cancer research or the NDP. His martyrdom hit me a lot harder than I would have expected–had I even considered his death before. For some reason I was blissfully unaware that Jack Layton would be anything other than our next prime minister. Perhaps that is faith? That Monday night I almost burned the building down, lighting candles, blasting “Out of Ottawa” out my window, almost destroying a painting due for Vancouver, a table, a couch, and passing out (candles unattended). And it was followed undoubtably by one of the worst hangovers I have ever had. It lasted several days. The vigil on the 22nd at noon was well attended. I saw many friends and associates in the music industry. Eugene Haslam was there. As was Jesse Dangerously. When the wind blew a few flowers and cards for Jack to the ground, Jesse and some others gently and immediately put them back up to where they were. There was a profound sadness, and totally bizarre as tourists smiled and posed in front of the Peace Tower and Eternal Flame–totally oblivious to the mourning around them. But since then I’ve met Anil Naidoo, our local provincial candidate for the NDP. And I’m also trying to work with our local police. Since the G20, and the Stacy Bonds case, their image and reputation have been steadily declining. There have been five (5) lawsuits already this year against the OPS–and we still have four (4) months to go! Racism, sexism and corruption seem rampant. So, what do we do? Shall we just bump heads again and again at protest marches? I don’t see an adversarial approach working very well. Particularly as both sides know so little about each other. So, I’ve decided to start figuring out from the inside what the problem really is. Then maybe we can address it. It also seems the police are unlikely to listen to outsiders, and perhaps with an inside view, a dialogue may begin. A volunteer position is available at the Centretown Community Police Centre, and I’m applying for it.
Tonight, a small dream will become a big reality. And I would not have been able to accomplish it without the density of talent in this town. All I had to do was pull a few strings and get a little money together. Not too difficult. No matter what the rich or conservative type people like to say. This is a universe where all things can happen. It just depends on how interested you are in making a difference.
See you on the road!
September 8, 2011
Thanksgiving in Nelson.
And thanks should be given. Tara Holloway and I have been treated to some of the best hospitality that this country has to offer. Our first show in the great “TARA TOUR 2011” was at The Townehouse in Sudbury, ON. Paul Loewenberg was as gracious a host as ever, even though he was deeply entrenched in his political campaign for the provincial election. It was nice to see all the orange signs on the road. We stayed for a couple of nights in the Sault with Lisa Allaire’s parents, which was like a licensed b & b with your grandparents. Bill Gowans gave me an easel he made, and Rita insisted on doing our laundry! Then it was Serendipity in Rossport, ON; where an old fat cat greets you with a “meor!” The food is really good, and the walls are covered with local art–paintings on canvas and wood. And from one Lisa’s parents to another Lisa’s parents–Jim and Carol Poushinsky, they have an amazing house on Nicol Island, right across from Rossport. Jim built and designed it with wind and solar energy collectors, keeping him off the grid. Its a sweet place, that looks out over the other nearby islands of Lake Superior. Jim said Tara’s voice reminded him of the jutting rocks of the local shore line. Carol has said with some pride that she thinks of herself, not only as local legend L. Poushinsky’s mother, but as a mother of part of the scene itself. She suggested at the last Roundbarn party that I need not worry about a swim suit, as she remembered Corwin Fox stripping down and jumping into their pool with his usual modesty some years earlier.
Then it was off to Wabigoon–which apparently means “muddy waters.” Which was news to one of the indigenous population. Like Rossport, this was a venue we had never been to before–but unlike Rossport, we did not know anyone that would be there. Regardless, we were well looked after by Green Achers. Another advantage to driving across Canada is seeing how its all connected. Flying to Vancouver, you may as well be traveling to another country (coming from Ottawa). This was the furthest West I had been in my own province, which Tara informed me was actually considered “Northern Ontario.” Then we crossed Manitoba entirely and arrived in Ray Bray and Diane Kotylak’s hood in Regina, SK. We promised Manitoba to drop in for a show on the way back. Tara met Ray and Diane the last time she toured across the country by herself in 2007. Ray has a pool. Diane makes the best banana bread in Saskatchewan. Need I say more? “How’s yer beer?”–we’ve learned is the regional greeting. We did a little house concert at Ray’s place, and have another one booked for Diane’s garage on our way back. Then Banff, AB–Tara opened for Amanda Rheame (Ottawa) and Marc Charron (Ottawa) at Bruno’s. It was a good crowd, there were two cousins from Newfoundland and a couple from Ottawa there. But when you throw in 20 girls in the midst of a bridal shower, look out! We hit Nelson, BC just in time to restock our supply of… oh, what else is BC known for… fruit! We restocked our fresh fruit supply from one of the local vendors–our Ontario reserves were entirely depleted. But we did bring the banana bread. From Nelson we went to The Cliffs in Enderby, BC–another really cool and accommodating venue. Canada is full of them. The show there was early enough that Tara wanted to drive straight on to Richmond. Her mother lives in a swanky retirement facility there. Its very quiet, and there’s a big bathtub in the ensuite. Tara is rather keen on baths. On Friday the 23rd, she opened for Cris Derkson at the Artbank in Vancouver. Then, before heading to the island, I posted something from a protest happening at Parliament Hill, and my father’s cousin, Debi, commented, and asked if I was there. I said I was in Richmond, and she pointed out that she lives on Gabriola Island. So, we seemed destined for Gabriola… Tara’s first show on Vancouver Island was in Courtenay–where we found a welcoming floor to sleep–air mattresses can be essential tour equipment. Then, Victoria! This was my first time to the island, yet there was already an Ottawa invasion. Mark Alexander McIntyre had moved there, and performed at the Fort Cafe for the “Out of Ottawa” CD release with Bill Farrant’s The Lonely Cassandras, Tara and Bonehoof!
Performing at the Fort Cafe is somewhat surreal as there is a video screen at the other end of the bar that transmits the stage camera, showing you yourself–or to those way in the back of the cafe, the show.
The next day we went to Logan’s for the Hootenanny. Another highly recommended place to be in Victoria. Its basically an open-mic, but of some of the best local musicians. Of course few people in BC are actually from here. I met half a dozen people from Ontario at Logan’s alone. Below we see Tara in her natural habitat, enjoying her wine and the Mighty G, as Mark and Rance get drinks at the bar.
That night we drove to Gabriola to meet Debi Brummel. She had a tent warmed and ready for us. The property she and her partner share is really beautiful, and right on the waterfront. Between the cottage and the drop down to the water and rocks is an arbutus tree, that cracks and peels like an old oil painting.
She gave us each an eagle feather, and the next day we drove over to Longevity John’s Duncan Garage Showroom. Tara and I’s performance was live-streamed, and the legendary Longevity John took time to introduce each of us–with stories of Ottawa and Irene’s Pub. Then it was back to Victoria for a night, then back to Richmond for a concert in the lounge of Tara’s mom’s retirement castle, “Queen’s Gate.” Leslie has always been very supportive of her daughter, as has Bill (Tara’s dad). Sammi Morelli opened for us with a really tight set, ending with her song, “Perfect Storm.” Friday we went back to The Cliffs in Enderby because it was too good. Best breakfast I’ve had in a long time. Gregg, the owner/chef gave us a warm pumpkin pie on our way out. “Happy Thanksgiving!”
Now, here we are, back in Nelson. And thanks are given–to all, and our hosts tonight–Gord and Claire. Restocked and ready for the long trip home. Tara, who has done her share of touring, has described it as the “best tour ever,” and I concur. And you know what? We didn’t need any corporate or government support to do it. Just good friends, family, food, music, wine and weather–all above the 49th parallel. Miigwech!
James & Tara
October 8th, 2011
Tara and I don’t pay may much attention to the news when we’re on the road. Our concerns are usually much more immediate and local in nature. So it never occurred to me, after the media black-out, that the occupation of Wall Street would spread to Confederation Park. Not even after I learned about Saint James Park in Toronto. But I was on another planet. After doing a show in Calgary, I convinced Tara we should go to Vulcan. I had heard of this place for years, that they were courting Star Trek tourism and had built (among other things) a replica of the starship Enterprise from the original films.
Unfortunately our time in Vulcan was limited, as we were due that evening in Saskatoon. Then back to Regina; Brandon, MB; Nicol Island again; Sault Ste Marie again; Sudbury again; even went down Grey Road 13, and finally, our big finish in TO. We ‘occupied’ C’est What?, or I did anyway–I went overtime with my protest songs, not recommended for opening acts. But if you’re going to do it, it may as well be at your last show on tour. And it seems Tara and I are still working together. We’ve got another show coming up at The Branch in Kemptville, ON (Nov. 12), and there is much recording to be done…
So, here we are, back in Bytown, amidst a strange revolution. Never in my wildest dreams had I conceived of such things. The day after we arrived I had to check it out. These were my people after all; the dreamers, the true believers, the rebels, punks, bums, hippies, communists, unions, Christians, feminists, environmentalists, anarchists, hackers, queers, artists, lunatics, drug addicts, parents, grandparents and children. All with different reasons. And yet somehow we all share a mutual grievance that unites us, and in some cases, makes us forget our differences. Nothing like it has ever been seen, an international movement against the forces of Mammon (banks, corporations, &c)!
What I’ve found most disturbing is the criticism of the protests from among the 99% themselves. Most seem to sympathize, but disagree with the methods and doubt in its effectiveness. Thats not surprising as most of the 99% won’t agree on anything. We may all agree that there is inequity, but what is to blame and how to fix it are highly debatable issues. Action is effective, especially en masse, as seen in Egypt. The question seems to be, when do we take to the streets? How bad will it have to get? We seem to have it good in Canada. Why complain? The big lie is that we can never change anything, that we must work within the system. Well, what if the system is broken? And it is unlikely to be fixed by those who benefit from it.
Anyway, I’m there. There is no “613 tent,” nor am I selling “Out of Ottawa” CDs there, or looking for future votes or street cred. I want to help make a difference if I can. Seems like a cool thing to do. And I am in town. Perhaps the Occupy Revolution is imperfect, but it is a movement going in the right (or left) direction. And 99% might agree, if they knew better.
November 8th, 2011
Christmas on the streets.
As foretold by the profits, the OPS spared no expense to ‘evict’ the tenants of tent city in Confederation Park. I was there that night, and watched as the cars and rental trucks rolled in, and the park was surrounded. It took over 100 officers to arrest 8 people, and to deny more of their rights to protest, to life, liberty and security of persons. Sparky will be on the street again this Christmas, as will Darren, Phil, Amanda and the rest. And some will still “live” in the park–but unnoticeably now without tents, signs or that community to support them. General Assemblies take place 5 times a week in the park, but most meetings and discussions have had to go “underground.” For some, reoccupation is their main concern. And for others, that part has past, and believe it is time for something new. In Ottawa though, we weren’t evicted because of a health or safety concern. It was because of Winterlude. A festival. I found it ironic that festivals like Jazzfest can fence off the entire park, then charge admission; while OO only focused on one small area and invited people to take part in a free and charitable organization. And that was one common complaint, that the “public” wanted their park back. Though the public have no problem with American Express or Toronto Dominion sponsored festivals taking over the park and charging (or otherwise making) money. Try taking your dog for a walk or going jogging there while Elvis Costello is on stage. And we aren’t reminded by our conservative newspapers about the cost to the tax payers of all these festivals. Not to mention the additional paramedic and OPS price tag. The ultimate irony was watching all the police cars coordinate Laurier so that the Santa Clause Parade could go by. Hundreds of people gathered to watch the brightly illuminated floats, seemingly unaware of the occupation. One woman was woken by the music, and commented from her tent, “It’s November!”
“I know.” I watched them divert traffic for hours. When I saw all those police cars outside the park I first thought it was for the eviction. Turns out it was for Santa. Apparently we can have all these fucking festivals, we can have parades, planes and prisons; but we can’t adequately feed and shelter our own people. From Attawapiskat to Ottawa, we are left out in the cold.
At any rate, 2012 should be very interesting if 2011 was any indicator. An OO album is being recorded at CKCU and will be released by the 613. Tara Holloway & seven year old poets are also due to finally “officially” release their record early next year. Also The Fays and Mark Alexander McIntyre have promised to have a full length ready before the end of the Mayan calender. In the more immediate future, Dave Norris & Local Ivan’s amazing new record “Alma Mater” was released this month and the party is happening this Saturday at Club Saw (December 17th). Tara Holloway will be sharing the stage with Ken Voita at the Blacksheep on Thursday. And as for me, I doubt wether I’ll be doing any volunteer work with the OPS. First, I doubt I’ll have the time. And I don’t know if the OPS or OO would be happy about it. These are weird days.
December 10, 2011
A war time effort.
Its a terrible cliche to try and sum up the year’s events. But, as in most businesses, it seems mandatory. So its not so much a trend, but a burden. The weight of that burden depends upon what kind of year it was. To a great extent 2011 was shit, rife with tragedy, systematic corruption, brutality and blindness. The examples of which are too many and too repugnant to be listed here. And then came an Arab Spring, which resonated not only in the East, but in the West, on Wall Street, New York. And this year became the one where the protest and international revolution had evolved. Socratic dialogues on the essence of democracy were started in every major city among, for the most part, complete strangers–from all the proverbial “walks of life.” For some of us, it was dream. The reality was also something of a nightmare. Then, that’s life. For those of us that spent evenings in a city square or park, it became our lives. And most accepted the risks; that what’s worth the most, is worth doing the most for. And that this form of activism and change that we pursue is not easy. It requires a war time effort. What that means, is not, as in modern culture, putting a “Support Our Troops” sticker on your bumper. War time, refers more specifically to periods such as WWII, when soldiers and civilians all had to make sacrifices. Resources such as metals and foods were rationed. Many gave without the solicitations of their governments; men, women and children all participated. And why? Because they thought the cause was righteous. And although war itself was never exactly desirable, it was thought to be a necessary evil. Because, that’s what you’re supposed to do when the Nazis invade. And well, when the Nazis are elected, you may have to get your hands dirty. Some form of protest, for example, might be a good idea. Otherwise your state or country might be known more for an antiquated regime, than for its people, or its land.
As for OOO, not to be confused with OO, or OWS for that matter; we’ve done well. Not ‘well’ as in we made a lot of money. But well in that it was well regarded and well listened to. 2 tracks were listed in The Ottawa Citizen’s “10 best local songs of 2011;” Tara Holloway & seven year old poets’ “Stars” and Cold Coffee & Salty Boots’ “Lost in Material.” Earshot and Exclaim! gave the record good reviews. And the CD has been charting on campus/community radio across the country. What I’ve found interesting is that people have different favourites on the record. It wasn’t just the HILOTRONS or Boycrusher that people loved. I remember Dean Watson really digging Mississippi Grover when we were in the studio. Tara loves Corwyn’s “Don’t Hurry.” Personally, I can never hear the first song, Dave Norris’ voice too often. We heard it over and over again on the road. And yet the “reviewers” have never mentioned any of these tracks. Its amazing to me, but proves that things can be hidden in plain sight. Or that longer music reviews aren’t encouraged. Its not easy, really concentrating on all 22 tracks. Its a lot of information, and in different formats.
And as a point of information from December’s entry, Darren, at least, has been relatively well taken care of. Several OO activists (mostly women) have looked after Darren and given him a place to sleep the last few weeks. This is one example of how truly dedicated and honourable activists, friends, women, people can be.
January 6, 2012