Monday, 31 March 2014

Grass Hopping

Mike C agreed to help us out and fill the bass player position for Grasshopper at the zero hour before our next gig. We would be playing with Goat Dance and MudFish, 2 bands from the Pickering area we had met at our first gig. Mike learned the songs in no time and we put on a pretty damn good show, better than our first performance. Mike was intended to be a hired gun, but he ended up staying with us and now Grasshopper was set in stone. We had the itch to play more gigs, but we were still getting turned down by promoters. Derek caught wind of an event called "Elvis Mondays" at a club called 1150 (named after it's address 1150 queen street west) Elvis Monday was a free event that gave up and coming bands a chance to showcase their talents. It was ran by a fellow named William New, a tall lanky white guy with dreads. Rumour had it he was an ex heroine junkie. We set up a meeting with Will and went by the club to meet him. He seemed to enjoy our demo and he was more than happy to give us a spot on the next Elvis Monday. 

The following Monday we played and won the crowd over. Prior to the show Derek had made some stickers up for us using iconic images such as Sesame Street characters and comic book heroes like Spider-Man. We spent an hour or so before the show cutting out the stickers we had printed at Kinkos. The crowd seemed to love our free merch, and everybody wanted to get their hands on some stickers. By springtime we had played many Elvis Mondays and people were now half heartedly joking about how we had became the house band for the 1150.

Everywhere I went in the city now it was common to see Grasshopper stickers. Our name was growing and spreading as was our reputation. Derek and his girlfriend had closed their store down due to financial issues, so now Derek and I spent our days on the corner as vendors, trying to sell off the leftover stock from the shop. You could find us in front of the Black Bull on any given day, peddling our wares with no permit to do such. The streetcar stop at that corner was now littered with Grasshopper stickers. People knew this as our "turf" and everyday we'd meet interesting people, spot the odd celebrity, and catch up with any friends who happened to pass by.

One day the Goat Dance boys were in the city and they asked us if we'd be into playing a gig up in Pickering with them, to which we eagerly agreed. We figured some out of town exposure couldn't hurt. The day of the gig arrived and we packed up the van and headed east. We were a bit taken back when we arrived at the venue to discover it was a community rec centre. We were to play in a gymnasium, which seemed odd to us. The place ended up being packed with kids, and we got great reception. The highlight of the day for us however was one of the acts we played with. They were called Y.A.P. (Yet Another Posse) a white suburban rap group with two MCs, a guitar player, and a DJ. It was really cool to see some other white boys rapping and doing their thing, much like Three And Pass was trying to do.

We chatted the guys up after the show and gave them our respects. We liked their band, they liked our band, so naturally we all clicked really well. We spoke of doing more shows together in the future, until a young lady approached us asking if she could interview us for her fanzine. Our first interview! I was starting to get a taste of what the rockstar lifestyle was all about. After the interview we were approached by the fellow who was the sound man for the gig. He was a tough looking guy with long hair and he was decked out in black. The guy introduced himself as Marc, but people called him "Dummy" Dummy showed great interest in us. He told us of how he recorded the Y.A.P. demo tape, then went onto express how he would like to work with us in the studio. We exchanged numbers and called it a day.

The next week the Y.A.P. boys invited us up to their neck of the woods to party, so we graciously accepted. We painted the town, then retreated to a house party, where we continued on with the pot and booze while listening to a new rap album that had just been released by a new group called Cypress Hill. I instantly fell in love with them. We headed back home in the wee hours of the morning and retreated to bed. A few days passed and we received a phone call from Dummy. He had secured us some studio time in the city with a producer named Pete Hudson, who was somewhat of a high figure in the production world.

We were all quite excited to be heading into a real recording studio for the first time...

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Update 3/30/2014

I just wanted to take a quick minute and apologize for the lack of posts as of late. I came down with some sort of nasty virus and was bed ridden for the week, so needless to say I didn't really have the creative juices flowing to write some entries. Fear not, I'm back to 100% and ready to tackle more stories with a vengeance. 

It also looks like myself and Mach Spitz will be heading into BWC studios ASAP to lay some vocals down for the new Godzilla Monsoon project. I'll be sure to keep you posted!

It looks like winter may finally be over now too after a long six months of sucky ness, I sure as hell hope so! I hope everyone can finally enjoy the weather and get back to comfortable living! Cheers!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bleaching Killer Bees

Before I jump feet first into the year 1992, there are a couple of important musical happenings I've overlooked from 1991. The first being in June of that year, the band Anthrax put out a new release entitled "Attack of the Killer B's" a collection of b sides, singles, and cover songs the band had recorded. There were some pretty cool gems on this record, and a few not so desirable songs, but there were two songs in particular that did it for me. The first was a 91' redux of "I'm The Man" the rap/metal song Anthrax did in 1987... The one song that essentially changed me as a person. The new version was done with actual drum machine beats instead of their singer Joey on drums. The vocals were all re done and they even added in some new extra lyrics. It was pretty exciting hearing a new version of such a beloved classic.

The second song in question really got me excited. It was a cover of Public Enemy's "Bring Tha Noise" and it was heavy! Guitarist Scott Ian did the rapping for the last two verses and Chuck D from P.E. did the first two verses. This song was absolute perfection to me. The proper mixture of rap and metal brought together in harmony. They even ended up putting out a music video for the song, which I watched countless times. It always pumped me up and had me wanting to throw down in the mosh pit.

The second happening didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time, to me it was just another concert. But now looking back, I realize exactly how fortunate I was to have been in attendance. Derek, much like myself, had a knack for discovering new unheard bands before the mass media and public got their hands all over them. He was the first guy who introduced me to grunge music before the scene blew up, and he had also introduced me to all these new bands I had never heard of such as Steel Pole Bathtub, The Melvins, MudHoney, Temple of the Dog and Nirvana, just to name a few.

Nirvana however, was the band Derek liked the most. He played me their first album "Bleach" and I absolutely loved it. I quickly showed it to my friends, and my buddy James and I concluded they were kind of like a Motörhead Jr. Derek told me of how the first time they played Toronto only 7-20 people showed up. That's how low key they were at the time. Now he had informed me they were coming to play Toronto in September, so naturally we went out and got tickets. The Melvin's would be the opening act and the show would take place at The Opera House.

The day of the show I actually had a rehearsal for my Uncle's wedding that I was to be a groomsmen in. It was in Toronto, so as soon as things wrapped up, I hopped on the subway and was off to meet D. We headed to the show and found a comfy spot in the upper balcony area to watch The Melvins. I was somewhat familiar with their music, but on this particular night nothing was recognizable to me. For their entire set it felt like they would hit a note, let it ring on for as long as possible, then repeat the process. It seemed as if the whole performance was just droning noise, but they actually played the entire Eggnog EP. I dug it.

Nirvana finally hit the stage, so D and I hit the floor, positioning ourselves to the right of the stage in front of the speaker stacks.  We had acquired a demo sometime back of their newest album "Nevermind" which had just hit stores, so we were more than familiar with all of the material they played. As we rocked out in the pit things were getting congested and uncomfortable, so Derek started head banging wildly, his chunky dreadlocks smacking  people in the face, causing them to back out of our personal bubble. What a great guy to be at a concert with I thought to myself. Nirvana put on one hell of a performance, and we were right there the whole time giving them all of our energy.

At the end of their last song, their frontman Kurt Cobain dove onto the drums, causing the kit to dismantle. From there the band started trashing all of their gear. Kurt swung his guitar around, smashing it off speakers, the drums, and the stage. I had never seen a band do something like this with the exception of Pete Townshend from The Who, who was famous for smashing his guitar, which I had only ever seen on tv. It was wild to witness such carnage in person, and according to Derek they did this at the end of every gig. I couldn't figure out how an unknown band could afford to wreck their gear every time they performed.

I left the show that night in absolute awe and bliss. I chalked it up as another concert ticket stub to add to the collection in my wallet, but I had no idea exactly how special the night was. Nirvana's "Nevermind" would soon blow up, bringing the band into the spotlight of the media, creating stars of the Seattle Boys, one of whom would go on to take his own life and become an icon in the music world...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

3 n' Pass & Hopping Grass

Somewhere along the line, Derek managed to pick up a small four track recorder, so we could now record our own songs and jams. He let me borrow it for awhile and I ended up recording some raps over live jams Mike, Mike, and myself had done. We had recently started writing some rap songs, and now we had an opportunity to try and record some stuff. I used my dads trusted jvc tape deck to loop the opening beat from Led Zeppelin's "immigrant song" and dumped it in the four track. Myers brought his Casio keyboard so we could add some synths, and Mike C provided the scratching via an old 70s turntable I had. It was so cheaply designed that we had to tape a few pennies to the arm so the needle wouldn't jump when Chapman was cutting up the records. 

We spent an afternoon messing around and we had our first official song. We sat down and wrote the lyrics together so we coincided with each other, then we recorded those too. We now had our very first song "The Immigrant Rhyme" and we came up with a band name, "3 n' Pass" which had dual meaning, one referencing joint smoking etiquette, the other meaning 3 guys passing a microphone around all the Beastie Boys, who were clearly our biggest influence. We were all stoked and I immediately designed us a logo based off the new explicit warning labels that were slapped on most rap and metal albums.

Meanwhile on the band front, we had our second gig booked for the end of February at a small club called the Niagara Cafe, which was at Queen street and Niagara st. I can't quite recall if it was before this gig or after it, when Derek thought we needed a name change for the band. Since this band was his baby I left it in his hands. D ended up coming back to me with a list of slang words for a pothead. As we scoured the list together, one name really stuck out to us.... Grasshopper. We both decided it was a great name, so from now on there would be no Slow Poke, just Grasshopper.

A mere week or two before our second gig, we were approached by Nav, who decided he didn't want to be in the band anymore. I think he was still really bummed out about our first sloppy performance and he didn't think we were ready to play live shows. Nav was a pretty talented player, and deep down I honestly believe he felt embarrassed or held back having to dumb down to our level of musicianship. But hell, we were a "grunge" band on the cusp of a new genre, a genre that was basically slowed down punk rock, and in my opinion sloppiness was apart of punk, which carried over into the sloppy, loose grooves of grunge music.

Needless to say we were in a bit of a pickle. The show was coming up, we had no bass player, and even if we found one they would still have to learn all of our songs in a short period of time. We ran an ad, made some calls, networked with our friends, but we kept coming up short. Then one night while hanging in D's basement, I was telling him about our 3 n' Pass project when he had an epiphany "Why don't we ask Chapman?" he blurted out. Mike and Derek had played in The Stiffs together previously, Mike and I were now working on music, so we figured it was worth a shot.

Now our future was in the hands of the one and only Mike C...

Monday, 10 March 2014

On With The Body Count...

1992 had definitely started out with a bang, and I had a feeling this year was going to be even more incredible than 1991 had been, and based on the course of my life it seemed like each year had got better, so naturally this HAD to be an epic year. February was already upon us, and the first big show of the year was days away. Ice T was coming to play the Concert Hall. One of my favourite rappers at one of my favourite venues, I was amped. If that wasn't cool enough, his thrash band Body Count would be opening the show. They had played a few songs at Lollapalooza the previous summer, and one of their songs was featured on the newest Ice T album "O.G.", but I was really curious to see these guys perform a full set.

When the show arrived I was there with Sue and Derek, I can't remember if Derek's girlfriend came with us but that's besides the point, and if I remember correctly Mike Chapman and Mike Myre were there as well. The opening act was a new up and coming band called "Hard Corps" they were also an all black group that played heavy rock/rap type music. They were all decked out in militant camoflauge and their energy was quite high. Nothing about the band was extremely amazing but they were definitely entertaining. The highlight of their performance was a rendition of AC/DC's "Back in Black" which was really cool, but now it was time for Body Count.... Or so I thought!

I assumed Ice T, being a big name rapper, would headline his own show, but instead Ice T performed first and would be followed by Body Count. I can remember thinking this was so odd, but now as a singer/vocalist looking back, it makes sense. If Ice performed with BC first, he would be blown out physically and he probably wouldn't be able to rap as smooth as he did with that golden voice of his. So here we were watching Ice T open for his own band, and he was killing it! He busted out all the big hits and his performance lasted roughly 60-90 minutes, which in my opinion was amazing for a rapper to perform that long. 

At some point towards the end of the set, the performance transmogrified into Body Count. The BC boys slipped on their instruments, Ice T let his hair out of its ponytail, and they commenced with the thrashing. I found it odd, seeing Ice in a metal shirt with cut off sleeves, his long hair flailing as he head banged... It was almost surreal. I was definitely in heaven. If you've half heartedly followed this story then you are aware of my love affair between rap and metal, and now here I was in the middle of the two as they became one. It was pretty magical seeing Ice work the crowd once again. He had an uncanny knack for demanding your attention and keeping it, as everyone was in his hand and hanging on his every word.

At one point between bands, my girlfriend Sue approached me with a few guys and said "I'd like you to meet a few of my friends" I turned and looked to discover it was those guys from Demon Barf again! Everywhere I went they seemed to be. Clearly we had the same tastes in music. Being your typical jealous, angry, controlling 19 year old angst ridden man, I naturally assumed any guy friend of a girl was merely just trying to get in bed with them, but as I talked with the DB boys for my first time, I quickly discovered such was not the case. The guys were very nice and respectful, and they put in effort to converse despite me having an attitude and being stand off-ish. As much as I didn't like these guys (for no reason) they had earned my respect in the past as a band, and now they had earned my respect as people. I left it at that, although in my mind I figured I'd probably never hang out with them or even talk to them again... Boy was I wrong!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

91' closer, 92' opener

There was no debating that 1991 was a huge year in my life with a lot of happenings that would pave the road to my future. The winter had arrived and it seemed like all the incredible ness of the year was slowly winding down to a finish. Things had quieted down and we just kept on doing our thing, working at the shop and jamming. It was a bit of a bummer having such a great year that was now slightly boring in the last few months, until the phone rang at the shop one day. 

I didn't know who Derek was talking to, or what they were talking about, but he seemed very happy and excited. As soon as he hung up the phone he eagerly blurted out "WE GOT OUR FIRST GIG MAN!" I was shocked. I quickly started questioning him about the details. It was a benefit show for Covenant House, a shelter for battered women. We wouldn't be getting paid to play but that was besides the point, we were just happy to finally have a show to get us some exposure. The concert would be taking place at The Opera House and naturally we were all stoked to be playing our first gig on the stage we had seen some of our favourite bands perform.

The promoter of the show came by the shop the next day to collect some artwork from us to use for advertising. Before long the promoter was back to drop off posters for the show. It was such a great feeling to see our band name and logo on a poster! We hung some in the store and promoted it to every customer who came into Afterlife. 

When the day of the show finally arrived, December 30th I believe, we were at the Opera House and ready to rock. We befriended some of the other bands whose performances we enjoyed, and then it was finally our turn to hit the stage. We played fairly decent but there were definitely some errors, even though the crowd didn't notice them. We did, especially Nav who seemed bummed out by our performance despite the crowd giving us props. A lot of people approached us afterwards with kind words and we networked with as many people as we could in hopes of securing future shows.

A couple of weeks later a very important day was upon me... My 19th birthday! I was very excited to goto a strip joint with my friends. My sister bought me a 24 of Budweiser as a birthday gift, so me and the boys ran through the case and then headed to Runway 66. This wasn't my first time in a strip joint, but it was my first time being in one legally. Much to my dismay the bouncer never even asked me for I.D. We drank all night, got table dances, and had many a laugh. I headed back to Sue's to sleep the night and needless to say I was a bit worked up. Much to my dismay she was not accepting of my advances and being that it was my birthday it bothered me. 

As I laid in bed hot and bothered, staring up at the ceiling, thinking of all the women I had seen earlier in the night, only one thought crossed my mind... I need to be single again...