Music

Stay Classy, Nirvana

(Photo: Anton Corjin)

We’ve all been there: rolling through youtube, and you find something worth watching that takes you back to your adolescence.

In my case, I found my self looking at videos on music production – which I’ve been getting into more and more these days – which led me to Pensado’s Place, which led me to Butch Vig, which culminated in the watching of the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of a band that inspired not only my generation, but me. Nirvana.

After imbibing the nostalgia, feeling the all-encompassing goosebumps and shivers that come from reliving some of the most relevant and connected songs to my life’s soundtrack, I took a moment to reflect.

First, the songs are still fucking amazing. Tight, well-constructed, and powerful. Whether Kurt Cobain is the messiah of a generation, as is customary for media to say in hindsight, is not really relevant. His (and Nirvana’s) over the past 25 years are continually standing the test of time. Dave Grohl has continued to produce amazing music, alongside Foo Fighters and oft-cited Nirvana member Pat Smear (who is amazing in his own right). Krist Novoselic (Bog!) has contributed to the political landscape in Washington state.

What struck me about the induction ceremony was not about the music, but all about the music at the same time. It wasn’t the tears that filled my eyes listening to Lorde’s voice hauntingly reawaken All Apologies, or enjoying the hell out of Kim Gordon provide the melancholy polar opposite to Kurt’s amazing range and rasp. It wasn’t even Joan Jett (who I agree, should be in the fucking HOF) and her awesome pickscrapes to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The best part of the induction was that for each performance, the guys chose to represent. They shared the stage with awesome women who in their own right have had, and continue to have great careers in music. Quite simply, it was a very classy move from my teen idols; guys I grew up with, playing along to their songs, memorizing each line and drum and bass note. A fucking class move from some classy guys, straight up.

Watch the collection of videos here:

I thought of my friend and co-conspirator Bandana Singh, and how she would have belonged on that stage. Check out my post on why I play in a female-fronted rock band to learn more.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share with you all out there. What are your thoughts? Classy move? Should they have gone with a male performer? Let me know!

PS – on a related note, this 2012 Kennedy Center Honours performance of Stairway to Heaven by Heart, actually moved me (and Robert Plant) to tears. There are no words. Just watch – if you don’t have 7 minutes, try starting at 5:00 and wait until after the solo. Trust me:

I mean how on her game is Ann Wilson! Incredible!

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10 Songs that Explore What it Means to be a Man

(Photo: Danny Clinch)

The exploration of the question – what makes a good man – cannot be completed without some input from the arts, and in this case, music. Below are several selections that attempt to define the term from multiple perspectives.

1. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy

A timeless blues standard, and a self-affirming pep talk that could be used equally either before a sports event or speaking in public.

2. The Heavy – What Makes a Good Man?

Truly, it’s what I’m trying to discover, too.

3. Raphael Saadiq – Good Man

You might remember Raphael from Tony!Toni!Toné! or Lucy Pearl, but he’s pretty much trumped all of that on his own.

4. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – How do I let a Good Man Down?

Can Sharon Jones please run for president?

5. The Philosopher Kings – I Am the Man

Put Jarvis Church in front of a mic, and you’re usually guaranteed awesomeness. Case in point; we’ve been blessed here with another self-affirming strut-walk of a song.

6. K-OS – Man I Used to Be

“Ya holler and ya holla/ you folla you fall”. Damn, ain’t that the truth. A great introspective account of what can go on inside our heads.

7. Nina Simone – Sinner Man (Felix Da Housecat Remix)

A very literal interpretation of the video, which blends in the 7 deadly sins, and of course, running.

8. Cinematic Orchestra feat. Roots Manuva – All Things to All Men

The line that gets me is “be a man my dad said/ but what the hell did he know?/he lost his dream/lost his flow/and I don’t want to be alone/I’m born KING so where’s my throne/I’m too intense/I’m too deep/I’m too nice for life/so what makes this place so nervous?”

Also, the album Everyday is probably one of the best, ever.

9. Pearl Jam – Better Man

The apparent story here: “before a performance of the song at Pearl Jam’s show on April 3, 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Fox Theatre, Vedder clearly said ‘it’s dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma.’ He was referring to the man who helped raise him and later divorced his mother.”

10. Tom Waits – Little Man

Nothing like the epicness of Tom Waits sharing his take on fatherhood. Some good pieces of advice in here, even for those of us who are no longer ‘little’.

What are some other songs we should have included? Let us know in the comments box below!

Yes, and: Why I Play in a Female-Fronted Rock Band

(Photo: the black umbrella)

LXRY is a successful experiment in gender justice. It is about two people coming from backgrounds where full self-expression was hindered, by the army, by communism, or by society itself. It is about the luxury that we have in the West to be able to say what we want, when we want, how we want. And so we do this.

As many musicians in the city, I have gone through what I call the “craigslist” phase. This is a period of any musician’s life when scouring the classifieds in search of a musical connection seems like the appropriate thing to do. Sure, I had gone to open jams, and connected with folks here and there, but there was something that clicked when I met Bandana, on craigslist.

At no point in the time it took to correspond together did I ask myself whether working with a woman, working towards a collective goal with a woman, or working towards collective artistic fulfillment with a woman was ever worth it. It just seemed normal. We connected through our love for early 90’s grunge, community- and youth-oriented initiatives, and being loud.

We met, and we played. It was that simple. We used the improv principle of yes, and to facilitate our sessions. The yes, and principle is simple: whatever the idea, you treat it with the same approach, no matter what. You work with it until it either doesn’t make sense, makes perfect sense, or is just a moment in time. In this way, we’ve naturally established a safe working space for our collective creative process to thrive, be stifled, and exist.

There is nothing special about me. I simply believe that we should all be treated as equals. This is what LXRY is to me.

(PS: Bandana has this to say about her experience, in music, in uprooting and moving – lots – and in creating safe spaces for self-expression. You’ll be happy that you read it.)

recent article by Derek Clifton suggests that there are 11 rules to consider in being a male feminist – which I wouldn’t go so far as to label myself. It is a timeless article. Yet, while each rule is important – and each on its own merits a discussion – in one regard or the other it’s just too complex to approach this conversation this way. If we truly want to work towards gender justice and a happy-feel-good place where everyone is accepted for who they are, compensated equally for equal work, treated fairly from one situation to the next, etc., we need less rules. The rules, norms, and stereotypes of such a rubric – specifically one that is attempting to war with the pervasive power dynamics of gender – hinder this kind of thing from happening.

We need to rethink what it means to be human, and to coexist with each other without preconceived notions of what that entails.

To do this, it’s much more simple:

1) Open Your Ears, Expand Your Perception – listen to what people are saying while they are saying it. Stop thinking about what you want to say while that is happening. No dialogue happens this way. Use the yes, and principle. Learn to discover, be surprised, and be open to all that is around you.

2) Humility Wins Every Time – Consider (and this may be hard for most of us) that the way you do things could be tweaked. That’s hard, even for me, but 7 billion people makes for a whole lot of perspectives.

That’s it.

Oh, yeah, and the shameless plug for our band, in case you were wondering: lxry.bandcamp.com

Anyone out there have a similar story? Have you worked successfully or unsuccessfully with a member of the opposite sex? What lessons did you learn? Would you add any points on coexisting?

A Guerilla Education: Rage, Isolation, and the Band that Made me a Man

(Photo: AP; Jeff Chiu)

In 2013, I wrote a piece for the Good Men Project, and opened up a little about what the power of experiential education and music had to do with the man I am today.

Ultimately, it is about how arts and culture can be as powerful an educator as anything else, while highlighting that the public education system itself still has a ways to go in terms of either being unable or unwilling to provide the whole picture when it comes to global and local issues, such as NAFTA, indigenous genocide, or big oil.

“To me, the suburbs are like the top 40—easy, apolitical, and blasé. There was, and continues to be, absolutely nothing in the top 40 playlist that I can relate to; not forties and blunts, not bitches and hoes, and not “Britney, bitch”. The content in these songs has nothing to do with me. In scanning this landscape, I wondered where the hell was my voice reflected in all of this nonsense. I am a first-generation Canadian, whose family narrowly escaped the horrors of both the Holocaust and Communism. I had to find my place. It was through this lens that I began my quest into the musical landscape.”

Read the article in its entirety here.