Monthly Archives: September 2008

New album & my phone conversation with Candy

It’s 11:11pm. I’ve got Dirty Penny’s latest work “Sage Against the Machine” playing as usual. I think it’s a work of genius or maybe higher. Humans cannot intentionally design a work this exquisite without the help of a higher power. It could be divinely inspired. I have listened to it just under three thousand times. It has replaced much of my psyche and I feel better for it, lighter.

If our psyches are a community of voices… there’s the one that helps us rise in the morning, another is for confronting injustice, another helps us walk away from evil. Some are dark. When we are ashamed there is the one that tells you “buddy, to call yourself dogshit is probably an insult to dogshit.” SATM does not have a song for that voice but it has the song that is the voice that follows that one. That song is “Magic Tricks”. It begins with the words sung by JC Penny accompanied by only drums: “I’ll tell you what happens when you die..” and then he does, and it makes sense. It’s not paradise or hell or weird. In Penny’s view, the afterlife is a review of your work (or tricks) and the judge is you. Death, the certainty of it, when presented gently as in this song so that we don’t feel the need to close our eyes, makes us strong. Eyes that wide see all shame as the same: about as big as a chihuahua abortion in a jam jar.

So SATM pretty much covers the human condition better than most art of any form that I know of. It is a community of diverse, fully realized songs. However, like life, it is a crazed bag of sounds.  Check the tracklist:

“Magic Tricks” = ART
“If I Wuz a Cat” = PUNK
“Dick Opportunity” = DISCO
“Sage Against the Machine” = GRUNGE
“Pretty Boy Floyd” = FOLK
“Declined” = SKA
“Hot Cocoa” = FUNK
“Lady Nurse None” = … I don’t know
“Atahualpa” = GOTH
“Just One Finger” = BALLAD
“Maximum Sherpa” = ROCK

And the last song “Maximum Sherpa” reverses the message of the first: fuck karma. If there’s a judge waiting for you at the end of the line fuck him or her, especially if they’re you. Ha ha.

But this is just essayism and this blog is supposed to be news about the great canadian rock band, Dirty Penny. The truth is there’s been little shaking since their gig at Clinton’s Tavern friday before last but I am feeling a need to make an entry here. Rehearsals have been cancelled and I am still a little exiled from the band since the Nidhan interview (see “Nidhan Interview” below). However, last night DP’s drummer, Scott “Candy” Fletcher phoned me up. I was nonplussed and still am. Read on and you’ll see what I mean..

Me: “Hello?”

Candy : “Alex? It’s Scott. The DP drummer.”

M: “Hey, Scott. Of course. How’s it going?”

C: “Good. Ya.”

M: “Ya me too.”

C: “Ya.”

M: “What’s going on?”

C: “Not much. How about you? How’s the DP biography coming along?”

M: “Great. I’m drowning in notes and I’m glad you asked because I was wondering if I could toss you a few questions, you know, by email or whatever?”

C: “What sort of questions?”

M: “The typical shit: background, influences, album work..”

C: “Ya. Okay. You got my email?”

M: “Uh, no. I think you gave it-”

C: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

M: “What?”

C: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

[awkward silence]

C: “Alex?”

M: “Ya.”

C: “Are you ‘Alex’?”

M: “Yes?”

C: “HAHAHA…” [sort of joker maniacal-esque]

M: “Ha ha. That was really… You got me going. What does the ‘birth of java lover’ mean?”

C: “Nevermind. Hey, I’m sorry. I’ve been smoking, you know…”

M: “Ah. Okay.”

C: “Listen, before I decay into more random, I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate the work you’re doing. It’s good. I’ve been reading your blog, too. It’s pretty good. You’re the real thing, you know. A real journalist.”

M: “Hey, thanks ten thousand. I should hope so since I went to school to be one.”

C: “Ya. And the last post about our Clinton’s gig where you were in disguise as a woman – that was hilarious!” [see previous post for why I was in disguise]

M: “Ya. I guess that was funny.”

C: “So you really did, eh?”

M: “What?”

C: “Go to the gig in drag.”

M: “Ya.”

C: “Wow. That must’ve been uncomfortable in more ways than one.”

M: “Ya! The worst part is talking. As soon as you talk, the person listening knows you’re a guy. Unless you’re a seasoned drag queen that’s been practicing for years..”

C: ” I didn’t notice anything at all. Did you stay the whole gig?”

M: “Ya.”

C: “Did you talk to anyone else?”

M: “No. Not really. After your set which was awesome by the way – did you guys take awesome pills just before going on?! Holy shit!”

C: “Hey thanks. So someone talked to you after the set?”

M: “Oh ya. A drunk middle ager. Computer salesman. He went on and on about Windows Vista. I left as soon-”

C: “That was my father.”

M: “What?”

C: “Were you in a black blouse and brownish hair? Sort of Bettie Page bangs?”

M: “Auburn.”

C: “What?”

M: “My wig was auburn.”

C: “Anyways so that WAS you.”

M: “Oh god, that was your father?”

C: “Ya.”

M: “Oh jeeze…”

C: “Don’t worry about it. It’s all good. I guess you gave him a phony number, eh?”

M: “Yes.”

C: “Of course, I would, too. Ha!”

M: “Ha ha! Ya.”

C: “HAHAHAHA!”

M: “HAHAHAHA!”

C: “HA HA..”

M: “Ha Ha..”

C: “WHOO..”

M: “Whoo..”

C: “Hey, Magnuson?”

M: “What?”

C: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

M: “‘The earth is in a lava lamp this summer’?”

C: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

M: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

C: “Yes.”

M: “Okay.”

C: “Alex?”

M: “Yes?”

C: “Whoa! Am I ever stoned! Sorry, buddy. Listen, I’m not gonna waste another sec of your time. Later, buddy.”

M: “Okay. Bye, Scott!”

C: “Bye.”

So I managed to scrape a little bit of background on Scott “Candy” Fletcher, mostly about his dad. Blech. I am really glad he has a sense of humour about that. This felt like it could have been a Nidhan interview disaster all over again but thankfully no. The lava lamp thing still troubles me. It’s something I’d expect from Penny but not Candy, even stoned.

Clinton’s Tavern – fri sept 5

The night threatened to pour but did not. Approximately 40 souls attended Dirty Penny’s performance last night at Clinton’s Tavern. Some were fans, others had come for the other bands sharing the stage with DP. It was a shame. It was a rare line-up of talent. Most of these shared band nights are mostly borefests of groups that play extremely well but have no sound and no ideas – proficient zombies – and there’s the one band that wows you. Last night, every group had a reason to be there. Tyranny of Love, Halfpast Four, Camel Joe, Jeff Burke w. Pat Kelly, and Dirty Penny.

Lead man JC Penny began by describing the dish for the evening. He announced that their performance would be accompanied by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and was interrupted by a phone call. It was William Eddins, conductor of the ESO, Penny announced. Penny continued the pretend conversation. He counted down over the phone with the ESO in order to get both groups to start at the same time. It was funny and surreal. Half a dozen times during the performance Penny picked up his phone and carried on further pretend conversations with Bill.

Dirty Penny is in top shape these days. They’re practicing regularly. The room was mannequin still, as usual taking it all in. They’ve got SOUND, children. All the groups had something unmatchable actually. Camel Joe had power. Tyranny of Love had romance. Halfpast Four had wizardry ie. seriously tricky rock compositions. Jeff Burke and Pat Kelly had joy. DP had sound, sound, sound. (can you tell I’m a fan?) Their set for the evening:

big rock candy mountain
hot cocoa
hip hoperation
if i wuz a cat
sage against the machine
poutine
declined
space car date

It was a really high class show and given the number of bands, hundreds were probably invited. It’s sad and evidence of the downfall of the world or at least Toronto. 90% of the invites resorted to something safe last night instead of a live rock show. All swear up and down that they love music if cornered, I’m sure. Oh well. Friday nights have become thursday nights it seems, same level of risk spirit. I expect the news to hit the Star’s front page anytime: “The Spirit of Friday Night Murdered by Thursday Night but will keep name!”

Half way through Tyranny’s set, lead singer Nik Beat asked the audience if he could borrow somebody’s guitar. DP’s Louie went up and ponied his own Fender Strat, Lovely Louie (yes relation). The effect it had on the usually contemplative and aloof Louie was more than cute. He smiled and beamed at the stage. It was absolutely clear that Louie considers his guitar to be alive and a friend. He was pointing and talking animatedly to drummer Candy. I caught the transformative moment quite clearly from a few feet away. I was in disguise as a middle aged woman for the evening. It was the only way I could attend. My interview with Nidhan “Grimlock” Grewal, DPs new bassist, has apparently not yet graduated to the water under the bridge folder. I missed the performance 2 days ago at the Horseshoe for this reason. I could not get the red hair wig to look natural and had to trade in for auburn the next day.

Lastly, a couple of Nik Beat’s comments from the stage standout: “this guitar is 50 times better than mine” and “Cavener is the Rex Harrison of rock”. I will be looking into the last one. Perhaps it is just a reference to Penny’s tuxedo jacket he wore on stage.

Proceeds for the evening went in part to Amnesty International.

You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Rehearsal – sun aug 31

Waiting outside Glenn’s factory rehearsal space, the sounds of derivative grind core bands fall out the second floor windows like sunlight, just as bland. 

First to arrive is drummer Scott “Candy” Fletcher.  He doesn’t see me as I hold open the doors for him and his gear.  He is concentrating.  He resembles that hard prayer you see in the photographs of Pope Jean-Paul II, leaning on his staff, willing kindness and mercy onto a world of 5 billion sinners.  It occurs to me that my notes are few regarding DP’s killer drummer.  He may be the best musician in the band.  He is tattooed on the forearms and wears exclusively black.  I will have to arrange a Q&A session with him soon.  I will let some time pass, though.  The memory of my disastrous interview with Nidhan (see previous post), the new bassist, has hopefully dissipated over the past couple of weeks.  My journalism training kicks in reflexively and I call back to him as he almost disappears around a hallway corner: “Hey, Candy!  How long you been kicking ass on the drums?” a simple flattering question designed to ease my way into a future interview.  “Down this hall, second door on the right,” he replies.  That’s the communal toilet he’s referring to.  Such concentration.  Oh well, next time.

Singer JC Penny arrives next.  He comes to me directly.

JC:  “Alex, wh-?”
AM (me):  “Good.  I’m fine.  How are you?  Oh, sorry, what?” 

Crap.  Also, I could tell right away that the events of my conniption interview with new DP bassist have not dissipated as much as I’d like.

JC:  “Listen, Alex, the thing that happened with you and Nidhan, I think that-”
AM:  “Jay, I am really sorry and embarrassed.  I had a condition when I was a kid.  I wasn’t a strong child and I used to hyperventilate all the time.  It’s never happened to me as an-”
JC:  “Alex, we need to change-”
NG:  “WHAT’S HE DOING HERE!?”

It was Nidhan, the new DP bassist.  He was standing 12 feet away from JC Penny and I, pointing at me with a deep fire in his eyes.  I could feel my lungs starting to seize.  I immediately bit my tongue for a first taste of blood and kept my eyes down.  It was working.  I could feel my childhood blanket again on my legs and began to relax.  Penny was talking to me now and I struggled to keep a controlled appearance.  I urinated a bit in my pants.

JC:  “..until we get comfortable again, okay?”  I had missed what Penny said but I was in no condition to ask for clarification.
AM:  “Okay, no problem.”

That was the easy way out and probably saved my gig with these rock and roll geniuses.  I quickly found out what it was that Penny said, however: as soon as all the members had arrived I was lead to a little wooden school chair outside the space in the hallway.  Louie said “just be cool from here on and Nidhan’ll get more settled into the band, then we’ll see about letting you back in.”  He handed me a beer and a smile and shut the door behind him.  I was expelled from the rehearsal space. 

Fury filled my head, and self-hate.  “I am a journalist, a graduate of the Ryerson school of Journalism.  No, I cannot accept this!  It’s bullshit!  I am a professional!” Was the self-respecting voice.  “A professional would not have hyperventillated during an interview.  A five year old would have given a better interview.  Fuck, fuck, fuck..” was the other.  This chewed on my insides for a while until Dirty Penny started and I recognised Hot Cocoa immediately through the concrete wall.  They haven’t played this one live in a long time.  Being acquainted with their practice patterns, this definitely means they’ll be playing it at the Horseshoe wednesday.  I tipped my seating position back and stuck my ear to the wall and listened, making the best of the situation, letting the music distract me from my professional disgrace. 

A bunch of rocker kids, obviously a metal band, lumbered by with nine thousand pounds of gear.  They we’re all smiling at me as they walked by.  “Hey, rock and roll, man,” one said.  This cheered me a little and l raised my beer and took a swig, smiling back.  A little comaraderie here in the lower intestine of rock and roll.. The swig went down and they were well passed me but still looking back curiously.  I was missing something.  Then it hit me.  The beer had an extra flavour.  I wiped my mouth with my hand and looked.  It was blood.  Rock and roll, indeed.  I went to the bathroom.  It was locked so I knocked.  Then I remembered: It’s always locked.  It’s like that here.  Each tenant has a key.  Glenn has a key.  I waited until I was sure the rocker kids had left the building and then began to cry.