Hello everyone. Sorry no pics. Just text as I blather about comic books! I'm visiting montreal so it's a tad tuff!
Much has been written about pretension towards comic books. I never thought it still existed (see: my last post). I read comic books on the city bus and don't care! Of course, it used to be a bigger deal. There is more of an understanding that much of this bastard medium is crap- just like any other medium: music, art, film, writing, slumber parties, condo development. In other words, there are some very good comic books out there amidst the junk being discovered and rediscovered.
Comic books have a bid for respect. Movies now adapt the super hero genre because CGI can now make Wolverine's claws look like CGI.
Annnnd comic books are pretty much not called comic books. I lectured last year for two graphic novel classes at Emily Carr. The phrase 'graphic novel' has replaced 'comic book.' Is one better than the other? No. Comic books are still essentially leaflets while graphic novels are in book form, usually more pages (tho compare the Ice Haven book to the Eightball comic book from which it was taken: the comic book worked better in flow and structure and was one fifth the price yet the graphic novel sold way more copies) , sometimes trade paperback, sometimes hard cover. it is mostly case of formatting that has allowed comic books to enter the public library system, book stores, and art schools! This has made people realise the freedoms involved in comic books: freedoms outside of genre. That it's not all superheroes.
Last Summer, the shoddily curated KRAZY! exhibition opened at The Vancouver Art Gallery. It was shoddily curated for numerous reasons that I won't go into here but one thing I noticed was that the comic book section was overly conscious of remaining outside of genre. They messed up though. Pages from a Harvey Kurtzman war comic were included. This was war genre. And they were the only pages that had actual dynamism! These pages burst from the walls while the others-as great as they were (Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Justin Green) lay flat. Someone later pointed out to me that the other genre that was included was autobiography: this is not recognised as pulp genre however so it may be perceived as 'above all that doggerel.'
This show had a disdain for mainstream comics, it seemed to poo-poo them.
I was recently on a panel at The Toronto Comic Art Fair. Note the word 'art.' The panel was to discuss the more interesting mainstream comics of the Silver and Bronze Age. We only had an hour time slot that was deftly turned into 45 minutes due to technical difficulties.
We discussed Batman: Year One, Jim Steranko, and Jack Kirby with a focus on his 2001 comic book. The discussion was unfocused but I was there to try to turn people on to stuff that they may have overlooked! I especially wanted to talk about my favourite mainstream writer Steve Gerber as well as the unknown Manny Stallman who did curiously expressionistic super hero tales in the back of the late 60s comic book THUNDER Agents (which combine the super hero and spy genres). However, time was taken up by one audience member insisting that the only thing these mainstream comcis had to offer was visual appeal and zero literary merit! He was adamant and refused to budge. He wouldn't stop talking and we had to defend ourselves as opposed to showing interesting works. And he was a comic book fan.
If my girlfriend wanted to get into comics I would never plop a super hero, war, or western comic in her lap (though she really likes romance comics). I would show her stuff outside of genre as a perfect gateway. That's understood.
That said, to completely dismiss ALL genre comics as drivel is unbelievably pretentious!
I now know why some of these old comic book artists and writers didn't talk so much about what they did to random people.
At this comic art fair I attended an awards ceremony which was mostly moving but the audience was also subjected to the cartoonist Seth (not his real name but a pseudonym) going on for twenty minutes about his book design for a retrospective on legendary Canadian cartoonist Doug Wildey. It was very stuffy with lots of back-patting prattle on using a war memorial building as tribute. And the book? It looks like a box of chocolates.
During the day I had met a couple people from Picture Box, currently one of my favourite comic book- er... graphic novel publishers. This company is pushing the artistic boundaries of the form. Some of their publications are essentially lavish art books. They have also rejected any notion of canon by putting out their "Art Out Of Time" books (note the title) that reprints various overlooked cartoonists' works through the ages. Meeting them at The Toronto Comic Art Fair, I found two of them (one was incredible and candid, I must add) to be incredibly aloof and full of themselves in a 'my shit don't stink' kind of way. Most people at the fair weren't like this but I did find this meeting significant. As comic books establish themselves further as an art form they get more pretentious and as great as respect is, this pretension saddens me.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Done for a Love Letter show at 107 Shaw. The one with the red heart on it was made specifically for my girlfriend and does not utilize ye olde unreliable narrator perspective that the others do- tho I would not hesitate to take my lady to an Art Garfunkel double bill: a dream bill if there ever was one, if you haven't seen these bum trip movies, see them together! I should here mention that two of my best movie dates were to see Peeping Tom and Happiness.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
so drained -in a good way- from the show Friday nite show, people responded really well to it! But gonna need a comedown and Sunday is perfect for it. See the tasteful poster. Yup, Alan Zweig is my special guest! Exciting!
Press release here:
SUNDAY JUNE 7th
THE OSSINGTON (61 OSSINGTON STREET)
NO COVER! 9 PM-Late
Bask in them....
With DJ Body Beautiful
And for this brand new night we present our first rotating guest DJ:
Alan Zweig is DJ Mishegoss!
FEELINGS is a special night where we spin music that you probably won’t normally hear. A boutique mix of :
ELUSIVE DREAMINGS/PRIVATE PRESSINGS/FREE FORMS/CAN CON CONCRETE/B SIDE EXCURSIONS/ELECTRONIC PRIMITIVA/EMOTIONS/EURO HORRORS/INTENSELY PERSONAL VISIONS/DEEP PSYCH/UN-EASY LISTENINGS AND BALLADS/PRISON SOUNDTRACKS/FANTASTIC JOURNEYS OF WONDER/
With a midnight candlelight night recitation by Robert Dayton, Junior
This will be ...special.
To Hurting People
Since we are struggling with pain, even at this moment, we have first hand knowledge of what it is like to experience the silence of God. Sometimes the immense loneliness of pain-whether physical, mental or emotional-is completely overwhelming!
As you listen to us spin, let the music wash over your brokenness as great healing waves of God’s merciful love until you hear the music once again.
From our hearts to yours,
D.J. Body Beautiful...and our new special friend DJ Mishegoss
Alan Zweig made three films about being a negative lonely record collector. They were called "Vinyl", "I Curmudgeon" and "Lovable". His latest film "A Hard Name" was his first documentary that wasn't about him and the consensus seems to be that it was his best film yet. He also acted in a number of films including the classic "Ballad of Don Quinn". This evening gives Alan the chance not to concentrate on his usual dance floor fillin’ masterpieces. No. FEELINGS affords him the opportunity to visit the fringes of his remaining collection. He will most certainly play "Down to Visit" by Len Fairchuck, a song about that town in Alberta that made a landing pad for aliens. And oh so much more. Having experienced Alan’s gifts firs thand, we here at FEELINGS are honoured to have such a man that can change the vibe of a room through his insightful choices.
D.J. Body Beautiful is Robert Dayton, a personality of living flesh and blood. Robert regularly contributes illustrations, features, obits, and quips to Roctober, Cinema Sewer, Free Drawings, and Broken Pencil, as well as the books “Lost In The Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed” and “Nog A Dod: Prehistoric Canadian Psychedooolia.” And as an artist he exhibits fully. Robert is a performer and songwriter with: WET DIRT; melodramatic glitter rock act Hallmark; defunct acid downer folk trio Points Gray; legendary longtime lucidly malleable act July Fourth Toilet; modern song and dance duo Canned Hamm. As an actor Robert Dayton starred in the feature “Male Fantasy” , a shelved Hillshire Farms commercial, and appears in the upcoming “Leslie, My Name Is Evil”. Due to his candour he has been a Master of Ceremonies as himself and as other bizarre personae. As D.J. Body Beautiful he will console you.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Isn't it neat?
It's for the very upcoming show by my new band WET DIRT, my post-giving up band. Post-giving up? See,my last project Hallmark
was to be my overtly "serious" group (like the others weren't? Yeeesh...ya want me to write my thoughts on musical comedy and the perceptions of? I will). I decided that if no one put the album out I'd give up. No one put out the album. Wish it would come out (that makes two now: Points Gray my late 90s acid downer folk album with Dan Bejar and Julian Lawrence still remains unreleased). But the music industry is a very conservative place and even when I try to write pop ballads they still come out odd. The music industry is also dying and people scramble. And if one makes music that resides in grey areas, labels have trouble with that. Even so-called "Experimental music" a ghetto/genre with all the trappings and restrictions.
When people ask me to drop one of my interests solely to give the deceptive appearance of focus (as opposed to using these interests to help each other in various projects) I say to them that I'll drop music and then they freak out telling me to drop acting instead- acting which, through a BC Tourism ad, paid for me to leave BC or, through that movie I was a slimy juror in, paid my rent for months! I know I ain't Strasberg-approved brilliance (some actors literally sacrifice everything just to act and only act and many of them rarely get the opportunity) but it's paid my way. Music? It gave me no money, no support, and lots of frustration! Even some people in 'successful' bands still have to have day jobs that are malleable enough to let them go off on tour.
People want me to keep doing making music? I am so DIY it hurts and I don't even want to be!
But the bug bit. I got the urge to play, I can't stop it. I really love writing songs, I love song-craft. I love performing and entertaining and being a showman and making people happy. I love singing and seeing what I can make my voice do for the song. I love making these little pocket universes called albums and pushing to make them to be as great and unique as possible. And touring! I miss touring!
With this band we went in with zero preconceptions-no mission statement- but what came out is distinctive and expressive. It's funny to use such a traditional construct of the 4 piece rock band and still be fresh and exciting! Tho the preconceptions were zero, I'm excited! I'm really happy with this band. It might even be needed as people are so inundated with sluggish collectives nowadays. I wouldn't want to play if I didn't feel it was somewhat needed. God knows, I need a band to entertain me when I'm having a bad week.
Here's the Press release:
FRIDAY, JUNE 5th
The Silver Dollar (486 Spadina at College)
Doors: 9 PM
With House Of Lancaster, Husk, and Gettysburg
Have you checked out WET DIRT yet? Experience the fuss! Visceral! Using the traditional structure of a four-piece rock band WET DIRT offer up fresh experiences! WET DIRT is fresh! They got DYNAMICS!!!! Shooting from the GUT/HIP/GROIN/HEART/SOUL/MIND. WET DIRT brings entertainment back to the rock n roll stage with a firm hand on song-craft. Hard rock with just enough roll to make it curdle, throw in some softer songs for the ladeez, and it makes every body feel good! A hook-laden sweaty slab of meat with a third eye fixed on you. SUPER DUPER MELODIES/GRIMY DISTORTION/BIG BOTTOM END/SNAKE CHARMING CHARISMA.
Songs about invalids, redemption, hot beige, hot pink....
Line up: Robert Dayton (Canned Hamm, July Fourth Toilet, Hallmark) on vocals, Robin Fry (Rozasia, The Miniature Pancakes Band, Permafrown) on guitar, Tobey Black (The Gay, MAOW) on drums, and Simon McNally (Simon) on bass
House Of Lancaster are two ladies who play "electro grunge ballads" using keys and laptop and guitar and singing and drums. “We were named by a deadly snake who suggested House of Lancaster or the Toronto Blue Jays, and we thought they were both great but the latter would be harder to Google. It was at a Starbucks. We came together after I saw Laura dance with shakers on her wrists and ankles at a Josh Reichmann show. She has a magic face because she has been dancing/performing since she was a baby. I used to play in a band called city field. the songs are very melodramatic and i write them.
is that enough stuff?”
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
...mannnnn, it is hard sometimes slogging it out as many of you know from your own personal experiences....
My crazee West Coast band July Fourth Toilet was formed in 1994 with a mandate of no 2 shows the same and we're so rag-tag it hurts and it's hard to get things done but I had to make a gorrrrgeous second album happen for us and happen on vinyl (I had done many albums before but only on CD which are more and more simply becoming lil ugly disposable file carriers, as a record collector vinyl seems real, an art object that will outlast civilization) and make it the most amazing disappointing second album ever! An album that combined hard biker psych with G funk keys and astral projection instrumentals and ballad zonk.I busted ass on this album, it took us a year because it had to be perfect.
We played the Vancouver Art Gallery and that was neat:
CLICK TO READ HERE
A Georgia Straight article came out that was good:
CLICK LINK TO READ HERE
And then I sent out tonnes of promos to the US...one terrible terrible and brief review on Dusted that ticked me off so much (do you want me to rant about this? It relates to the concept of musical comedy and lazy journalism/critical dismissal and I will rant...let me know) because I spent 9 bux on postage to get the worst kind of review: a poorly written bad review, if it was at least well written it'd be okay but I really thought they'd be smart and informed but they just played the same weak comparison game of any ill-informed cheap reviewer that sees some band as funny and dismissively compares it to a popular and dismal 'funny' band from the last five years that we don't listen to or enjoy.
And then there was...nothing.
Finally a great Roctober review came out which is awesome!!!!:
If one is willing to use the word "Legendary" to mean "band that's been around a long time and even though no one has ever heard of them, if people in Vancouver had any taste or intelligence they would have long-ago embraced and canonized this ambitious, outrageous bizarrely brilliant performance art rock band that surveys pop history's greatest moments and transmutes them into weird gold", then this is the new album by the legendary July Fourth Toilet. Paying homage to the finest aspects of the 1970s; the weary magic of Kristofferson's voice, hair salon culture (and its cultural brother, the arm wrestling fad), shameless drug use, and ess eee ex (italics)! When I say this record is heavy, I mean some kind of otherwordly heaviness that Jack Kirby would write about in one of his doesn't-quite-make-sense, making you question his ability as a writer Fourth World pseudo-science moments! Seriously heavy! The best record recorded by a band with "Toilet" in their name EVER!
I am affiliated with Roctober so sweet as it was, it felt nepotistic- even tho they've given me bad reviews before (a good reviewer is one who is unafraid to give bad reviews to fellow contributors, friends, family)!
(By the way, Roctober is an incredible mag out of Chicago go to their website here)
But the icing on the cake, what really made my week was a glowing review that just came out by Julian Cope, who I decided to send an album to recently, out of the blue cuz he is the key writer of freeeeeeky rok! A real master of taste. Writer of Krautrock and Japrock books and more! A musician of merit. Yes! And he gets it! It feels validating!!!Maybe I should send all stuff just to Roctober and people like Cope over in Europe from now on...
Here is review:
The album is available in lotsa places around Toronto (Hunter and Cook HQ, Katharine Mulherin, frantic City)and The Couve (Dandelion, Luckys, Audiopile, Zulu, Scratch) or by our website! Act fast:only 500 copies with MP3 download code and art booklet.
Anyways here's some nice viddys live 2000!