SOUNDTRACKING: With The Frontman Of “Psychic Ills” Before Their Electric Owl Gig

February 25, 2013 

by Daniel Colussi | For the past ten years New York’s Psychic Ills have bobbed around the fringes of the modern psych/art/freak-rock scene. Over four albums and more than a half dozen singles and EP’s they’ve covered a lot of ground. Their debut, Dins, was a masterstroke of psychedelic space rock. Universally acclaimed, it placed them way above their contemporaries. Less celebrated were their middle years – an abruptly stark second album and several EPs of throbbing, meandering group jams. During these wilderness years Psychic Ills threatened to drift away from planet earth completely, and the critical response was generally along the lines of, “What the fuck am I supposed to think of this?”. Personally, I dug their commitment to aimlessness; I’d throw on a record and let it waft through my apartment while I puttered around. On their brand new long player, One Track Mind, the band pull out the rug from under us once again. Never have they sounded so reigned in. It’s an album of concise jams – with recognizable choruses and hooks even(!) – recorded by the legendary Neil Michael Hagerty of Royal Trux fame. Currently on a three month tour of North America and Europe, frontman Tres Warren kindly responded by email and helped put Psychic Ills’ career in context for us, in particular their very excellent new album (which you can stream in full here).

What’s it like to transition from long, freeform, almost aimless jam music to the last two albums, which are more concise, direct, classic rock sounding? I’m still a big fan of freeform and aimless stuff, but I’m concerned with expanding the parameters of the music inside me. Sometimes I want it more concise. I don’t spend too much time making sense of it.

Does it feel fresher to be playing more direct music nowadays? I think it just feels fresh when you’re playing your newest stuff – the stuff you’re most interested in at the time.

Do shows feel different? They may be more dynamic. More song-oriented.

Did your approach to writing lyrics change with the last two albums? It just became more about writing a song. Sitting down when the idea is there. I was reluctant to do that before.

Does working in a more classic rock mode change what you want to sing? No. I just sing about simple stuff.

Tell me about working with Neil Michael Hagerty – how’d that come about? I had gotten in touch with him a while back about doing something, but the timing wasn’t right. It’s almost a coincidence that he worked on the stuff from One Track Mind because he got back to me right around the time we were going to start working on it.

I imagine you’re a Pussy Galore/Royal Trux fan. I heard Royal Trux first and worked back. I used to work at a few different record stores and found them that way. They were almost done by the time I got to them.

What did Hagerty bring to to the table? He brought an outside ear to the mixing. That’s what I was looking for. Someone from outside the band to apply their approach to the mixing.

How much was it a collaboration? He played some guitar on I Get By. I didn’t give any direction on that. He did backup vocals on Might Take A While. I had recorded back ups but wanted him to re-do them with him singing, and I think it’s better for that.

Did you record in Colorado, or did he come to NYC? We did it in Brooklyn and Neil’s stuff happened in Denver.

You recently toured China. How was that? It was crazy. That place is one of the last great mysteries. We loved it. The people we met were great.

How did that come about? We were brought over by a label that puts out bands from China and also brings foreign bands over to play. We were lucky. The band has logged extensive tour time over the years. I would tour forever if it was possible. Playing music and seeing different places and meeting new people is pretty cool.

What do you guys do in NYC when you’re not on tour? Play music, hang around and work different jobs to pay the rent.

(photo credit: Samantha Casolari)

Psychic Ills, Follakzoid (from Chile!) and Student Teacher play the Electric Owl Sunday March 3. Tickets at Zulu, Red Cat and Highlife.

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Daniel Colussi is the Music Editor of Scout Magazine and a contributing writer to Ion Magazine. A veteran employee of Zulu Records and tuneage aficionado, he DJs on an infrequent basis (about four times a year) and is a musician around town who plays in several ensembles.

SEEN IN VANCOUVER #428: Hot Art Wet City Interviews Illustrator Alison Woodward

February 22, 2013 

Here’s a charming quickie of an interview with local illustrator/tattoo artist Alison Woodward, via Chris Bentzen over at Hot Art Wet City. Some genuine pearls in here. Fave takeaway: “It’s important to not let art school suck the love of work out of you.”

EVERYTHING SEEN IN VANCOUVER

VANCOUVERITES: On Roaring Hood Vents & NOFX With Chef Todd Bright Of Wild Rice

December 7, 2012 

We’ve been fans of Wild Rice since it opened way back in 2001. Over the years it has proven to be one of the most consistent restaurants in town, staying true to owner Andrew Wong’s original concept of a restaurant that was modern and open in design and outlook (both gastronomic and environmental) but true to his Chinese heritage. And as a founding member of Ocean Wise and Green Table, it has been a leader in sustainability since long before it was sexy. Behind the consistency is the chef, Todd Bright, whose passion for local product and unique preparations are deliciously evident on the plate, 7 nights a week. Wild Rice expanded this time last year by opening a new location in the revamped River Market out in New Westminister. Bright came on as a chef/partner in the new enterprise, which is to say we’re very grateful that he took time he couldn’t spare to answer the following questions…

Where did you go to school? Toowoomba, Australia.

If you had a motto, what would it be? Work hard, play harder.

What’s the thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? I love chicken skin! I know lots of people are opposed to eating poultry skin for health reasons these days, but it’s the best part.

What ingredient grosses you out the most: We would never use this at Wild Rice, but you know what natural raspberry flavouring is made of right? Natural raspberry flavor, or castoreum, comes from the anal extracts of a North American beaver.

Default drink of choice: Beer — anything local and cold.

What are you the most proud of: I’m really proud of the team we have built at Wild Rice, and that we get to be part of the River Market renewal process.

What are you the least proud of: I’m the least proud of not being able to answer this question honestly.

Your favourite smells: Roasted chicken stock is pretty awesome.

Your least favourite smells: The smell of something burning. I hate the smell of something burning!

Your chef role models: Neil Perry, Tetsuya, and Marco Pierre White.

Your favourite sound: I really like the sound of a busy restaurant. The roar of the hood vents, sizzling pans, communication from my crew, laughter and chatter from the dining room. It’s music to my ears!

Your least favourite sound: Dropped cutlery. It pings through the entire restaurant. It’s horrible.

The best way to die: Fat, happy and with no regrets. Read more

VANCOUVERITES: Eight Minutes With Local, Sustainable Furniture Craftsman Jeff Martin

by Jenny Bachynski | Jeff Martin is the founder and principle designer behind Jeff Martin Joinery – a small furniture design studio based out of Vancouver. All pieces are handmade and designed locally with a heavy focus on quality materials and traditional crafting techniques. Jeff’s beautiful, sustainable creations have been featured around the globe and his dedication to his work is evident in every piece. I spoke with him to learn more about his process and to hear his views on where furniture design is heading.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how Jeff Martin Joinery came to be? Well, I grew up in Vancouver and at 18 I moved away to school in Quebec to study business. In my first year of school I broke my back in a pretty gnarly accident. I faced the very real threat of paralysis, and it served as an immense wake up call for me. I finished school and once I graduated I immediately knew that I wanted to learn a trade. I wanted to be up on my feet working with my hands. My thinking at the time was that I wanted to learn how to build my own house. I thought carpentry is a very honorable pursuit and the ideals upheld within this trade are of the utmost importance to leading a good life. So I got cracking on it. And I went through a fairly natural transition from wearing the tool belt to donning a shop apron and pursuing furniture design. I just built stuff for my girlfriend and for our house. Then friends would ask me to make them things, and family friends, and so on. I was just happy to do the work – I would simply charge for materials and essentially do the work for free. Really, without the support of my family and friends, and especially my fiancee, I wouldn’t have gotten it off the ground.

Last year I was awarded an opportunity to apprentice underneath celebrated designer, Palo Samko, out of his modest studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. After about a month there, Palo recognized that I could cope in the shop and he started giving me his orders for solid furniture while him and his team worked largely on cabinets and kitchen remodels. If you have experience in the trade you would know what that means. Palo let me go wild – just play with the orders. It was very generous of him. Again, I wouldn’t have learned so much if he wasn’t such a great mentor. It was incredible. Palo is one of my favorite designers in the world and he continues to be my mentor, plus we got along so well. During the apprenticeship Palo asked me which piece I liked the most from his cannon of work and I told him it was this bronze cabinetmaker’s mallet sculpture. You know it’s not furniture, it’s a simple, small sculpture he did – just a trinket for himself. And on the last day of the apprenticeship Palo gave that to me as a parting gift.

Palo thinks I should set up shop in New York, but Vancouver is my home. I love it here and I’ll fight like an animal to make the business work on the West Coast. Everyday I get to go to the shop I’m as happy as a dog. I wake up with a wagging tail, there’s no down time. And I’ve been doing it for about 4 years now.

What is your favourite and least favourite thing about working with wood? I love everything about wood. I love the botany, the science, the history of different species of wood. I love the grain and structure of wood. I love the smell, weight, and presence of wood. There is nothing I dislike about wood. I dislike what man does with wood and that’s one my main reasons for working with wood. It’s not really expressively stated about my materials – but I source everything from sustainable and responsible companies. My walnut comes from Oregon and California and is only harvested due to rot from orchards and the city streets of Portland, San Fran and the like. I avoid wood that comes from the forest unless it is windfall.

If you could hire anyone to work for you, who it would be? I love working with my friends, and most of them are good with their hands and are pretty bright dudes as well. I’d take friends over a cabinetmaker or a stuck up design school grad any day of the week. Actually, I think working with a sculptor would be really cool. If I could afford it – I would go back and work for Palo for another year, or perhaps down to Joshua Tree to apprentice under sculptor Alma Allen. His work is absolutely incredible.

How important is style to you compared to functionality? Is it hard to find that perfect balance? I’m not sure if style is the right word, I concentrate on building a certain aesthetic. Shape, composition, colour, materials, layout, and execution are elements of the work I take very seriously. So in that sense, I think those factors are what all artists use in their respective tool boxes. The one difference between what we consider fine art and furniture design is that element of functionality. A furniture builder must consider and build to human proportions. An 8 foot tall table or 10000 square foot bed would be fun to make in a sculptural sense, but useless as furniture. We must strive for both, and each cut in a piece of wood is testament to the nature of this duality.

Who or what inspires your work? I really love shapes and playing with different forms. Experimentation is a great inspiration for me, as are the materials themselves. I really love the sculpture from Giuseppe Penone, Constantin Brancusi, JB Blunk, Alma Allen, Harry Bertoia, and Josh Vogel. And the furniture from Tyler Hays, Palo Samko, and George Nakashima. I think there’s lot of other individual pieces from a slew of people that I really like – but these guys – their collections of work are complete and profoundly beautiful. These are the masters, virtuosic in a sense, and their work leaves me shaken.

What do you think Vancouverites are looking for in their furniture? Is that something you take into heavy consideration when designing a piece? People want to relate to their furniture. It may sound stupid, but you live with it, and therefore represents a major decision in your life. You curate an ensemble of design that you live with for many years – and it’s actually quite important. Having a nice setting can make you feel good on the most basic level, and can be something much more profound if you find that special piece. That’s why there will always be a market. The big box guys will never be able to get personal enough to help you relate. And the guys who don’t care about execution and actually controlling the production of their pieces will never make a piece done flawlessly. From material sourcing to design and construction – I build for the upscale Vancouver market, but my work sells to international clientele as well.

Jeff Martin JoineryJeff Martin JoineryJeff Martin JoineryJeff Martin JoineryJeff Martin JoineryJeff Martin JoineryJeff Martin Joinery
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In all of your travels, where have you found the most beautiful wood and what type was it? Portland, Oregon has some of the nicest Claro Walnut in the world. The Willamete Valley produces astoundingly fantastic grapes for Pinot Noir. It has something to do with the humidity, temperature, lack of snow, and the iron rich soils. Fortunately there is an abundance of Western Walnut here which benefits from the same factors. Looking at a piece of Claro Walnut side by side with American Black Walnut is incredible. Black Walnut is monochrome – it is brown. It is beautiful, but it is brown. Claro Walnut is Calexico in colour. From silver to purple, grey orange, black and blue. It is largely considered the most beautiful wood in the world. And it’s right here in the Pacific Northwest, harvested exclusively from responsible sources.

Do you have a favourite piece that you have designed or are most proud of? I have about 20 pieces in my house right now. The collection is awesome. Picking a favourite is tough. I like our bedroom set. It’s a ‘patchwork’ claro walnut bed, matching side tables in bleached Maple, Bastogne Walnut, and leather. And we have a coffee table at the foot of the bed. The top was a reject from the Nakashima studio, and the base is rosewood. It was the first birthday present I made for my lovely girlfriend. I’m also designing a new dining room table for some close friends in North Vancouver. The top is 3″ thick claro Walnut over a cast bronze base. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my new fav!

Working with wood (especially in the way that you do) seems like such an organic experience. Do environmental issues influence the way you source and build your materials? Absolutely. The lumber I use is flagged for removal due to rot or disease by professional arboriculturalists, milled and hauled away by bio-diesel fueled trucks, cured in solar powered kilns, then worked on and finished with all-natural oils. Additionally, the joinery and construction methods I use are guaranteed under warranty for 25 years – but should last for generations. I believe that durability is the grandfather notion behind sustainability.

While in my studio, I can’t live without my….? Dust, eye, and ear protection. It’s a hazardous place and you have to play safe!

Thanks Jeff! To find out more visit www.jeffmartinjoinery.ca.

Also, be sure to check out his awesome wares at Wood Design and Provide Home.

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Jenny Bachynski was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. In her teenage years she packed up her bags and headed to Vancouver to pursue further education in fashion design. In 2009 she started her own small business Jenny Andrews Recycled Leather Goods, as well as her blog Jenny Loves. After starting her blog, Jenny discovered that one of her greatest joys was stumbling upon beautiful and interesting things, and sharing them with anyone who would listen.

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INTERVIEW: Bud Kanke On The Sale Of Joe Fortes And 40 Years In The Restaurant Trade

Bud Kanke is a legend in Vancouver’s restaurant business. In his 40 year career, he founded 11 restaurants, among them The Cannery, Fish House in Stanley Park, Mulvaneys and the venerable Joe Fortes. In those four decades, the always smartly dressed father of three (and grandfather of six) saw his rooms rake in over half a billion dollars in sales, allowing for 20,000 man years of employment. A graduate of Magee High and UBC (Accounting), he has been active in 20 other businesses ranging from real estate development and gold mining to the manufacture of products for Boeing, General Motors, and the Hi-Tech sector. Bud has received a Lifetime Culinary Achievement Award, has twice been nominated for BC Entrepreneur of the Year, and has been inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame.

In the next 48 hours, a little over a month after his sale of Goldfish in Yaletown, Vancouver’s media outlets will receive a press release announcing his sale of Joe Fortes, Bud’s last remaining restaurant property, to David Aisenstat of The Keg (it will remain as Joe Fortes). The legend is retiring, but the show goes on. We’d like to take this opportunity – on behalf of all our readers – to thank Bud for advancing our restaurat scene along and for setting a high standard of leadership in the trade. We wish him and his wife Dotty all the best. What follows, then, is his last interview as an active restaurateur… Read more

Fifteen Minutes With Celebrity Chef And “Fabbrica” Cookbook Author Mark McEwan

November 14, 2011 

photo: James Tse

Mark McEwan is one of Canada’s foremost chefs and restaurateurs. He the host of Fine Living Network show “The Heat with Mark McEwan” and head judge on Food Network Canada’s “Top Chef Canada”. From his home base of Toronto, he owns and operates several restaurants, among them Bymark, North 44, and ONE, as well as his eponymous food store, McEwan. We had a lovely dinner at CinCin with him recently, after putting to him the following questions…

Name the thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? Fatty meats, aka pork belly.

Default drink/cocktail of choice? Dry vodka martini with olives.

Name three drinks/cocktails you’ll never have again? Cosmos, Black Russians and Grasshoppers.

The Canadian that you admire most and why? Paul Martin, because he saved us from a US style banking system.

Your role models? Heather Reisman, Ralph Lauren and Steve Jobs. They are timeless, innovative characters that fight through anything.

Your favourite sound? The surf.

Your least favourite sound? Exhaust fans. Read more

SOUNDTRACKING: An Interview With Sonny Smith Of Frisco’s “Sonny And The Sunsets”

by Danie Colussi | From San Francisco, Sonny and the Sunsets charmed their way into Scout’s heart with their laid-back, West Coast take on the classic Brill Building, doo-wop-and-roll sound.

A true storyteller, frontman Sonny Smith’s character-songs abound with bizarro tales of stranded space-men, death creams, teenage thugs and the sweet joys of lovin’ older gals. His songs strike a balance between Jonathan Richman’s aw-shucks whimsy and Lou Reed’s dead-eyed burn out, and that’s some pretty heavy company to keep…

In support of the Fat Possum-released Hit After Hit, Smith and The Sunsets play The Waldorf on Monday June 27th, with Hunx And His Punx and The Sandwitches.  Don’t miss out!

Q. The songs on Tomorrow Is Alright and Hit After Hit often reflect a kind of 50′s rock’n'roll/doo-wop influence, and the recordings themselves recall the sound of that era.  This in a time when so many bands opt for over-the-top, intentionally shitty-sounding recordings.  How important is fidelity to your music? How much of a role does Kelley play in the sound of the albums?


A. Well, regarding fidelity, it’s just important to me that the stuff sounds warm and like a real band, that’s all, but sometimes these days to do that you have to step away from the computers and just play older instruments in a dank basement into a tape machine with no ‘professionals’ around. Kelley has been a big influence on me in that kind of spirit, i.e. just put an old mic up and a cheap tape machine and give it a go, and of course his drum style is my favorite.

Q. There are so, so many bands today. Why bother being in a band? Why do people do it?

A. There’s a lot of journalists out there too, why do you do it? Read more

Q&A With David Suzuki

October 30, 2008 

We don’t believe David Suzuki needs much in the way of an introduction, but should you need a reminder he is the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, the author of 43 books, and an award-winning scientist, environmentalist, and broadcaster with 30 years experience on the mic. He also lives just a few doors from you.

Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: the ocean, Kibune Restaurant, walking distance to my foundation.

The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: Never may be a bit drastic but Cozy Shack tapioca.

The thing we should never tolerate: bigotry.

One thing you’d like to change about Vancouver: too many cars.

Book you’re reading: Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded.

Last place traveled: outside of Canada – Europe (Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal) in July with my daughter, Sarika – we made a film on renewable energy success stories in Europe.

Biggest fear: Tara, my wife, will stop loving me.

Your ancestry: we’re all Africans back 150,000 years ago.

Your paternal grandfather’s personal story: trained as a master carpenter in Japan and emigrated to escape abject poverty.

Person you most admire: Nelson Mandela and my wife, Dr. Tara Cullis.

Most regrettable purchase: a motorcycle when a longterm relationship ended.

The thing you are most proud of: my children who are fine people because I selected their mothers well.

The thing that makes you the angriest: powerful people who are ignorant and don’t even know it.

Saddest thing about Vancouver: Main and Hastings.

Ice cream flavour: strawberry.

Food your mom makes better than anyone: chocolate cake.

Talent you wish you possessed: playing a muscial instrument.

Musical instrument you long to play: recorder.

Sport you gave up: basketball and football.

The game you’re best at: charades.

Mac or PC: PC by default.

A person you’ve never met but you fear: Dick Cheney.

The number of fist fights you’ve been in: one.

The scariest situation you’ve ever been in: filming a standup for a show on drugs at the corner of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King in Harlem, New York City on a Saturday night! And no danger pay from CBC.

Three things of no monetary value that you will keep until you die: memories that are none of your business.

Local person you admire most: my wife and Mel Lehan.

Best concert experience ever: Leonard Cohen June 24, 2008 – in Montreal.

The dish you’re proud of: pumpkin pie.

The thing that makes you the most nervous: global warming.

Town you were born in: Vancouver.

First memory: fishing in Loon Lake with Dad when I was four.

Quality you admire most in yourself: willingness to work hard.

The career path you considered but never followed: ichthyologist.

Biggest hope: that the world will respond to the global eco-crisis on the scale of all out war.

Luckiest moment of your life: when I spotted Tara in a crowd at Carleton University where I was lecturing.

Favourite book as a child: Ivan Terrence Sanderson’s Animal Treasure.

The first three things you do every morning: take a pee, read the first section of the paper, weigh myself.

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Each week, Scout poses 60 questions to an individual who has enriched our lives in some way. Interviewees are asked to pick and answer just 20. David Suzuki gave us 37.