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The Almighty Inbox

A small arty clip from a vid for a song we like to call Glow Fonder but is actually called The Almighty Inbox from the new Henrys recording.  Its a beautiful song–I think of it as a prayer, but I didn’t write it so you’d have to ask Don Rooke.  Quiet Industry from The Henrys will be available June 11, 2015

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Quiet Industry

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At the end of 2014, I spent some time in a small room recording vocals for 11 songs written by Don Rooke, the man behind The Henrys.

The recording features Don on guitars, baritone uke etc, Andrew Downing on bass, Davide DiRenzo on drums, John Sheard on pump and electric organs, Hugh Marsh on violin, Jonathan Goldsmith on muted piano (plus a string arrangement) and harmony vocals from Tara Dunphy.

It’s an odd thing these days, the making and releasing music: it kind of feels like yelling from behind a waterfall. The task this time was made sweeter by the fact that the songs are inventive, emotive, and accessible; the players are all from the “A” team; and the attention to detail on Quiet Industry is a rare thing these days (the record took more than a year to make and most of that time it was one lonely man spending unending hours in a little room in Toronto on the edge of a forest, toiling and tinkering…thus the title of the recording).

The Henrys are an institution in Toronto and have been critically lauded around the world since their debut in 1994. I’m totally impressed with myself that I got to sneak in and hang with the cool kids for a while.

I’ll keep you posted on how you can check it out, concert dates and what not.  Please let your music loving friends know about this record.

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A man toiling in the quiet of a room in an industrious manner.

 

 

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Taking a run at “When That Far Shore Disappears”. The first song we got a complete take on, top to bottom.

 

 

The Backhand of Fate

Waiting, from the concert DVD “Pleasure & Relief”.  A rare song, written quickly on a Korg piano in the second floor apartment of Lynn Simmons, recorded first with The Stickpeople and then again years later with a beautiful string arrangement by Jon Goldsmith, accompanied by Gary Craig and George Koller, with Jon on piano, and The Beggars String Ensemble in front of a live audience.

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When Will I Dance 2

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I don’t dance.  Which is to say I don’t dance well, so I tend not to dance.  If life or love is on the line I will rise to the occasion but its an entirely self-conscious affair.  Which is why I’ve decided that 2015 is the Year of The Dance— kind of a solemn vow to lubricate whatever psychological joints need loosening, and tend to the physical ones, too.

Truth is, I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  In the summer of last year, Suzette Sherman   ( Senior Artist, Founding Company Member, Associate Artistic Director at Dancetheatre David Earl) choreographed and performed a dance piece to “To Be Open”.  I’d never seen a song of mine interpreted in movement.  It was humbling, moving, and inspiring.  In the early fall of last year, on a whim before heading to the city,  I set up a camera here at the shop and danced around like a fool, to no music, just whatever was in my imagination.  I was curious to see what I’d look like.  I thought of it the same way as I view recording my voice to see what I sound like singing a particular song. To ease the shock, I filmed it in slow motion…much like smothering a voice in reverb and echo to make the performance more palatable.  The pics up at the top are from that video.  In slow mo, it looked…probably better than it did in real time. Everything looks better in slow mo, though.

Then this New Year’s Eve I danced with my daughter after playing a set with The Dogs.  I’d tried to move while playing, but the most I could put together was a pogo of sorts.  Now my daughter, she could move, as several patrons noted.  As for me, a voice in my head tried to assert calm when I realized people might see me dance— “Honestly, Fuckhead: no one cares.”  I’d have preferred a more benign approach, the gentle assurance of a quiet farmer saying, “That’ll do, Pig.  That’ll do.”

So here’s to the Year of The Dance.  It’s a beginning.

When Will I Dance?

A still from the music video for “Let The World Call You Crazy” directed by Tim Hamilton. From The recording “Raids on the Unspeakable”, Gregory Hoskins and The Stickpeople, True North Records, 1993

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I’ve never had a plan, really, when it came to music. The only plan—and this, by definition, is not a plan, per se—was “I’ll just keep going.” This meant write more, record more, try more, dig more…see? Not a plan. I realized I lacked foresight while making Moon Come Up, my first real recording. I had vision, but no foresight. After the first day recording, I stayed alone in the control room while the rest of the band was in the residential part of the studio. I was listening to a song called Neighbourhood, looking around the control room at all the gear, all the lights a flashin’, listening to the song off the two-inch machine, and that’s when it hit me: beyond this point in time, exactly, I had no clue how to proceed.

I was 26 years old and had been quietly working toward the day I could make a real record, with real musicians, in a real studio, for a real record company, with a real producer. I had lived the best life I could, learned the best lessons I could, wrote the best songs I could, played with the best musicians I could, tried the best I could…and here I was doing the thing with no idea about all the other stuff that would come along with putting out a record: what I would dress like; what I would talk like; what I would say, what I wouldn’t say; what my “persona” would be; how I would act…

I thought about this while watching an old music video a friend had reminded me of, cringing my way through it, mocking what I was wearing (except the cool do-it-yourself-superhero outfit), how I was lip-synching, how I moved, how I mugged…how utterly uncool I looked.

CRAZY6_smallLynn Simmons, for the record, looked amazing, like she was beamed down directly from heaven or a very pious spaceship. I’ve never really gotten a grip on feeling comfortable in front of a camera or in an interview and I haven’t quite learned how to just not give a shit. Maybe that’s what the punk band is for.

Its only now, all this time later, that I’m beginning to pay attention to the theater of it all—trying to find that place where humble genuine mingles with off-planet alchemy. I’m looking forward to the next year.

It Took Fifty (50) Years for Me to Become a Passenger

PASSENGER The facts are clear.  So “Passenger” didn’t come out until ’77 and that’d have made me 13.  It still means it took me 37 years to hear that song.  Thirty-seven years!  That is just so…wrong.  While I am ever grateful to The Monks of Weston Priory and the editors of The Greatest Pop Hits of The 40’s, 50’s And 60’s for my musical education,  I have to wonder what might have happened had I not been so afraid of music.  Actually, I wonder what might have happened had I not been so afraid. Period.

Take A Knee: How to Sing Without an Axe

Seeing as most of my stage time down through the years has been spent with a guitar slung across my shoulder, the experience of being free to move about is cool and a little unnerving.  So far, doing the stuff with The Art of Time Ensemble is the only chance I get to eat up some real estate without the distinct possibilty of falling over a monitor wedge or unplugging my guitar. One has an idea in one’s head how cool one might look, only to be confronted with the awkward truth: one has no fucking clue how to feel comfortable with all that freedom, let alone look even remotely cool.

So imagine my surprise when during a song at a recent performance I went down on a knee.  The good thing is that I did it.  The weird thing is that I was almost mime-ing the lyrics: Bewildered by your beauty there/ I knelt to dry your feet.  In the world of dance and movement, I’m just going to assume that mime-ing in a play-by-play fashion the lyrics of a song is just really, really bad form.

I could have stopped myself.  I mean, I remember thinking to myself, wow…you’re really gonna do this.  But I think the response was something like, dont be a pussy and just have some fun, for fuck sakes, and stop thinking or you’ll forget the next line

So I could have stopped myself, but I didn’t.  And here’s the pic to prove it.  It’s a good thing the stage was high because I think I remember having the inclination to remove the shoes of the person in the front row and pretend to attend to his/her feet in a Christ like fashion.  Yeah…I have a ways to go before cool.
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