Thursday, 29 May 2014

Who's Tha Posse? pt.1

The days of June 1992 had been scratched off the calendars, our demo was recorded, and we were into July, and a beautiful summer to boot. Y.A.P. (Yet Another Posse) had recently gotten booked to perform on Electric Circus, which was a video dance show that aired on MuchMusic at the time. We were totally stoked for our new friends, so naturally we eagerly tuned in to watch. I must admit it was quite amusing watching the live audiences reactions. These were "beautiful people" who longed to get on television so they could dance to shitty music. Now they were being presented with something new and original, yet they couldn't quite figure out how to dance along to Y.A.P.'s unique blend of rapping, DJing, and shredding guitar.

Y.A.P. performing on Electric Circus
Grasshopper as a band, were absolutely loving Y.A.P. Perhaps because we all loved hip hop so much and listened to that genre mostly above all others. Myself and Mike C, having our own rap project on the side, were intrigued and inspired by the fact that someone else was doing rap music. It was just great to see someone else's approach to the creativity of the art form. We had enjoyed our first gig with the guys tremendously, performance wise and on a personal level. The members of both groups seemed genuinely interested in each other as people and there was an electrifying excitement in the air as we got to know each other. We all collectively agreed that we needed to play more shows together in the future.

Not long after that initial meeting, the Y.A.P. boys booked us a gig with them in Oshawa, which ended up being a smashingly good time. We met and made some cool new friends who were in the opening act, a band called Project 9. These guys were some interesting cats and they definitely had their own unique blend of musical madness going on. We most certainly wanted to play more shows with them in the future as well. 

Grasshopper was rolling on the track like a steam engine on an important delivery. Our name was growing and becoming synonymous with the Indy scene in the city. We were finally starting to get more respect from club owners and promoters all over the GTA (Greater Toronto Area, not Grand Theft Auto) which meant we were getting options to branch out and play different clubs other than the 1150, which had become our home away from home. Derek was obsessed with playing at Lee's Palace, which at the time was the Mecca for larger scale Indy and underground bands. Our hard work and dedication had payed off, and Derek nearly shit ten bricks, when we received a phone call from Lee's Palace asking us to perform there. We had reached another one of our long term goals in a fairly short period of time, and we knew exactly who we wanted to play alongside with us....Y.A.P. of course...

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Easy Riders

I'm taking a moment today to pause from the story at hand, as to pay some respects to some fallen heroes, comrades, and brothers. When I first started writing this blog, it was very exhilarating to me, to unlock fond and forgotten memories and share them with like minded people who can relate to them. The most rewarding part of this entire venture has been the feedback from my readers, more specifically the ones who were apart of these memories and/or the ones who can relate to these memories, wether they grew up in the same time era or they were on a similar path as mine in the journey of life. In the last year now the number of readers has doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 which is humbling and overwhelming to me. People from all four corners of the globe have become apart of my life, and I thank each and every one of you personally for finding interest in my tales.

There has however been one negative aspect during this process that now seems to be an ongoing and unintentional trend, and that is death. Back in the first few months of this blogs inception, I was focused on the music I was discovering that I felt defined me as the person I have became today. Right around the time I was getting to whom I felt to be the most important band in the history of my life, The Beastie Boys, one of their members Adam "MCA" Yauch, passed away. This left me no choice but to pay homage to them and introduce them into the story a little bit prior to the corresponding time line, which I gladly did with great honour and pride.

A few months ago I had briefly mentioned that I had the privilege of seeing GWAR perform in Toronto for the second consecutive year in a row. That same week I posted a picture on Instagram for throwback Thursday of myself, my son who was seven months old at the time, and Oderus Urungus, lead singer of GWAR. The next morning I came to learn that Oderus, real name Dave Brockie, had passed away. I felt extreme guilt over this, almost as if my posting that picture had foreshadowed his untimely death.

And now for the trifecta. Last week I posted an entry entitled "Take One" which told the story of Grasshopper going into the recording studio for the first time with producers Pete Hudson and Marc "Dummy" Demers in control at the helm. 24 hours later I received the news that Marc had passed away due to a massive aneurism while doing the one thing he loved the most...riding his Harley Davidson. Once again I was left feeling like my writings had cursed someone. In the previous weeks Marc had expressed his excitement over the warm weather finally being here and the fact he could ride his bike again, and then within the blink of an eye he was taken from this life much too early. 

Although we weren't what one would consider close friends, I still felt connected to him as he was an important and integral part of my life. I feel the same way about all the people who have entered my life wether I haven't seen them for 20 minutes, 20 hours, 20 days, 20 weeks, 20 months or 20 years. I'd personally like to give my condolences to Marc's family, friends and loved ones. You will truly be missed by many. One can only hope you are riding your hog freely in the heavens...

In closing, I'm starting to feel reluctant to write about people, which would ultimately hinder this story and bring it to a premature end. An end which I'm sure most people, myself included, would not want. Although one would chalk these up as mere coincidences, I still can't help but feel like I'm connected to these deaths or responsible for them in one form or another. That may sound ridiculous or unbelievable to you, but it is what it is, and I'm simply expressing my feelings. Death can be an ugly thing that we don't want to think about or face, but as we get older we know it is inevitable, and ultimately the fate that we all face when our time comes. While we are here let us celebrate life, let us rejoice life, and let us carry on the memories, lives, and legends of our loved ones we have lost...

SIDENOTE: I wanted to thank Marc's sister for the helpful and heartfelt information. There will be a ride to celebrate Marc in the near future. I will share the details. I also overlooked mentioning Jeff Hanneman from Slayer as well. Another musical giant we've lost, and coincidentally another important band I was writing about near the time of his death...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Take One

The big day had arrived and we were off to the city to start the production of our first real studio recording. The van was packed with our gear, the sun was shining, and the tunes were blaring on the radio. We made it to Toronto without incident and pulled over on a sketchy side street close to Bloor street. We met up with Dummy, who instructed us where to park and load our gear in. The studio was called Halla Music and it was ran by a fellow named Pete Hudson, who is somewhat legendary as a producer in the Toronto Indy music scene. 

We parked the van beside a fence on the side of the road and proceeded to lug the gear through a yard area and into the house, which had been converted into a recording facility. The house was in a bit of a shambles. There were organized messes all about and cats wandering around. Pete himself was also a bit disheveled. He looked like he'd just crawled out of bed, hair in a tangled mess and dressed in comfy clothing. Pete was a quiet man and he was hard to get a read on, but when things started rolling there was no denying his production abilities. 

Pete started off by setting the drums up and getting the microphones properly placed around them. The entire first day was practically spent achieving the drum sound he wanted, which in turn meant me sitting there all day hitting one piece over and over until we were ready to move onto the next piece. It was a bit of a grueling experience, but by the end of it my drums sounded larger than life. We still had time left, so Pete got the guitar and bass rigs set up to boot, and we were ready to roll tape the following morning.

When it came time to record I was up first. It was odd to be playing the song alone, but apparently this was how the process worked. I hammered out the first track in a couple of takes, and then it was Mike's turn. Being the pro that he was, he laid his bass track down on the first take. Next up was Derek, the less experienced musician of the group. Derek had a really hard time recording alone and he couldn't quite seem to nail down the feeling he was hoping to achieve. He wasn't happy with the way the first completed song sounded. It felt forced to him and didn't sound natural to his ear. Derek went onto insist that we record the songs collectively, all three of us playing live on the floor. After much debate and discussion Pete agreed, and the three of us headed back into the sound booth. 

We replayed the first song we had previously recorded individually, and we nailed it on the first go. It totally captured the feel and sound of the band and represented us the way we wanted it to. The second song went just as well, if I remember correctly we nailed it on the second take. When we got to the song "Heshien" that's when the trouble started. Most of my beats were straight up jacks of beats from oldschool rap songs. Most of our tunes were slower, so timing was never an issue. The beat to Heshien however was a bit more complex, as I used a singe kick drum in the fashion of a double bass drum. The song always felt good when we played it live, but due to our loose, sloppy groove, the timing was now an issue for recording purposes. We played the song over and over but I was just slightly lagging behind my two band mates. Ultimately Pete and Dummy instructed me to simplify the beat a bit, and it worked. 

It was a bit humbling to experience this, as I always thought my timing was impeccable. I was slightly embarrassed and obviously getting frustrated at the amount of botched takes we did. The finished product sounded great, but to this day it still doesn't sit right with me, as I feel it wasn't a proper representation of the song.

We brought a camcorder with us to document the process, although we probably wasted more film on me skateboarding in the concrete yard of the property. Whenever I had some downtime I was out in the sun shredding on my deck. Mike C brought his skateboard too and joined me on occasion. After a few days of hard work we had all of our tracks laid down, and it was time for Derek to record his vocals. 

As Mike and I sat in the sound booth with Pete and Dummy, they began to roll tape. Once again Derek found it odd and difficult to be singing by himself, no guitar in hand and no rhythm section to back him up. He did his best and things were coming together. Once in awhile Pete would mute out the music in the sound booth with the exception of Derek's voice. We'd all cringe upon hearing him solo, his voice cracking, screeching, and off key, but when the music became un muted it all sounded great together. Derek eventually made it through the songs, painstakingly as it was, and we were finally finished.

Pete and Dummy wanted to try out a few studio tricks on a few songs and we were open to their suggestions. Some of them we liked and some of them we didn't, but we felt if it improved the overall vibe of the song we should roll with it despite our personal preferences. Derek was a bit more up in arms over this, as he wanted everything to sound natural, and he was worried about having studio tricks on the recording that we couldn't pull off performing live. All in all it was an amazing experience and I learned quite a lot about the inner workings of the studio recurring process. 

We left there with our songs mastered on a DAT tape, smiles on our faces, and a feeling of accomplishment. Now we would just have to come up with the money to have the recording duplicated in mass quantities on proper cassettes with a cover to boot... 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Dread the dreads

Life was peachy, but my head was itchy. I was highly regretting doing my hair in dreadlocks, and now I found myself wishing I hadn't. I loved my long hair, and now it was ruined. The longer I went with the dreads, the more I despised them. I think I lasted maybe a month or two before finally deciding to chop them off. With my hair being as straight and lifeless as it was, the dreads were just not taking properly. When the fateful day finally arrived, I was somewhat excited to see them go.

Jerry came by to help me cut them out, and then shave my head for me. I decided to keep one solitary dreadlock, the one growing from my crown at the top/back of my head. I had always been fascinated with the Hari Krishna culture, due to New York crossover kings The Cro-Mags, so I rolled with that. Later on I took an elastic and bound it tight at the root of the lone dread. Over time it actually turned into a real dreadlock since I had bound it at the base. Had I known this before I could have tied every dread at the root and in turn had some kick ass dreadlocks, but it was too late for that now.

Self portrait entitled "Fucking Hostile" chronicling my new found love for Pantera, my disappointment of not being with Georgina, and my hatred of my dreadlocks. Summer 1992.

Summer had arrived and excitement was in the air. Grasshopper had secured our studio time with Pete & Dummy, and we were ready to get busy and lay some tracks down. All three of us were quit excited to be recording in a legit, professional studio for our first time. Meanwhile 3 n' Pass was still going strong, and we decided to make a music video for our song "The Immigrant Rhyme" I mentioned many posts ago how Mike Myre had a camcorder that allowed you to record audio and video separately, so we recorded the song into the cam, then we began punching in and shooting footage.

We spent a fun filled day in Myra's (Mike's girlfriend) backyard. It was quite large and sprawling and it boasted some rather old and large beautiful trees. The video shoot was so much fun. It was challenging trying to punch in and sync our lips to the music, but we did our best and had a barrel of laughs. As cheesy as it was, it felt quite rewarding to sit down and watch the finished product. We were all quite happy with it and we could not wait to show our friends. The whole process was a trial and error experiment, and with the techniques we learned that day it was safe to say our videos would only improve in the future...

SIDENOTE: I've been trying to acquire these homemade music videos from Mike Myre for some time now but he has not made good with the goods. Hopefully in the future I will get my hands on these and will be able to share them in the story for all to see. I do have them on VHS somewhere but I don't have the ability to transfer them to my computer. Perhaps we can start a petition for Mike to release the footage....ha! Cheers - K

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Life Goes On...

After the greatest night of my life, seeing the Beastie Boys in concert, I felt whole, I felt complete, and I felt at one with life and the universe. Their inspiring performance fueled the fire under myself and the two Mikes, and we started taking things a bit more seriously with 3 n' Pass as far as making music was concerned. Grasshopper continued doing our thing. We were still playing shows fairly frequently to save up money to record with Pete Hudson and Dummy come summertime.

Things hadn't worked out so well with Georgina, so I had distanced myself from her. Some point along the way I ended up meeting a buxom young redhead in the store one day who was shopping with her friends. They were playfully displaying vintage lingerie against their bodies. Red jokingly boasted how none of the bras would fit her overly developed chest. I stated that at least one of them had to fit. She said "if you can find a bra that fits me I'll give you my number" Without missing a beat I went into the back room and grabbed a 44DD black lace bra off a rack of items that never sold. I quickly returned and handed it to her. It fit in a way very reminiscent to Cinderella and the glass slipper. Red stayed true to her word and handed me a piece of paper with her phone number on it and her name, "Kelsey" 

For the next few months my life was a whirlwind of productivity. I was making music with the two Mikes whenever I was in Brampton, Grasshopper was now gigging so much that we rarely jammed anymore, and any free time I had I tried to spend with Kelsey. On the band front we we're gigging with the same usual suspects: The Satanatras, Yet Another Posse, Goatdance and Mudfish just to name a few. We were also getting some pretty good gigs opening for bigger Indy bands, and we had the privilege of performing inside of Rotate This Records for their grand opening of the shop. 

Grasshopper @ Rotate This grand opening. The last known photo of my long hair
My hair was now the longest it had ever been and I was loving my locks, I was still sporting the undercut I had started towards the end of high school. Hanging around Derek so much had clearly rubbed off on me, as I decided to dread lock my hair. Derek's girlfriend did it for me one night while we all watched the Arsenio Hall show and puffed some ganj. My hair was so straight and lifeless that even with the aid of beeswax the dreads weren't taking to well. She tried her best to manage, and after a few uncomfortable hours she was done.

I wasn't very thrilled with the overall finished product, so most days I just tied them back and tucked them into my hat. The longer I had the dreads the more I disliked them. They were itchy and uncomfortable, and I did not like the aesthetics of them on myself. I feared I had made a grave mistake. I loved my long hair but I wasn't loving the dreads, in fact my hair was actually getting shorter as the dreads started to bind themselves tighter. I was now facing what felt like an overwhelmingly huge life decision in regards as to what to do next with my lid...

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Best Day Of My Life

So the big day had finally arrived. After 6 or 7 long years of hoping, dreaming, and dare I say praying? I was on my way to see the Beastie Boys live in concert for my very first time. To sweeten the deal even more, the show would take place at The Concert Hall a.k.a. The Masonic Temple....and as if that wasn't enough, my boy Mike C had gotten his hands on some blotters called "Red Rockets" I had never been this pumped up for a show before in my life. I couldn't even begin to describe the feeling, but as we rolled down to the city in Derek's van you couldn't deny the magical energies and auras surrounding us. We had the tunes cranking, beers cracking, an rolling fingers were in motion. 

We finally arrived, parked about a block away, and proceeded on foot to the show. There was a huge line up outside, most of which seemed to be compiled by loud, douchie jock type kids who had probably never even heard the Beasties prior to check your head. I was already perturbed, but there was no way I was going to let this ruin my night. The opening act was the legendary band Firehose, who I was never personally a fan of, but they held their own and gave forth a solid performance. I took this time to go pick myself up a concert tour shirt, that I surprisingly still own to this very day.

The Beasties finally hit the stage and the place went crazy. They opened up with "Jimmy James" the first song off their new album. Pun intended. If you don't get the pun, perhaps you should go listen to the song. The boys energy was off the charts, and they had the entire crowd in the palm of their hands. 3 songs in, the lights went dim for a few minutes. When our vision was restored, the boys were on stage toting instruments, and they broke into some of their new songs. This was the first time the Beasties had songs on their album that were comprised of them playing actual instruments. It was incredibly amazing to see them actually playing said songs. Another 3 songs later, the lights dimmed, then brightened, and the boys were back on the mics. They ended up repeating this process for the entire set, banging out all the new material as well as the classics. The highlight of the show for me was when they played "Hello Brooklyn" my all time favorite song that I never suspected they were going to play. It was a pleasant surprise and it felt like it was just for me. I was going bonkers long before they busted it out, in my own world grooving and singing along to every lyric at the top of my lungs.

Another highlight of the night was when they played "Paul Revere" the boys didn't even spit one word of the lyrics. They simply held the mics into the crowd, and the entire audience sang the song. It was quite magical. I forgot to mention the fact that Mike C. was bootlegging the show. He had a small, hand held tape recorder. I told Mike previously to be "low key" about it, but at some point after the LSD kicked in, I noticed Mike a few feet in front of me in the pit. He was jumping and dancing around like a madman holding the tape recorder straight up in the air. A few minutes later I noticed security guards confronting him, and our dreams were crushed as they confiscated the tape recorder. 

On top of the bootlegging, we had one other mission that night: get a Grasshopper demo to the hands of the Beastie Boys. I had one in my pocket the whole night just waiting for the perfect opportunity. At one point I managed to writhe and wriggle my way to the front of the stage, so I grabbed the demo tape from my pocket and tossed it on the stage. It landed right at the feet of MCA, who picked it up, glanced at it, smiled, and then handed it to one of his entourage at the side of the stage. Mission accomplished. 

I also had a very large 3 paper joint on my person. I had planned to smoke it with the crew, but we all seemed to be doing our own thing and we all had our own agendas. I think it's safe to say the acid had something to do with that. When the Beasties started playing the song "Lighten Up" it seemed like a cue to light I did. None of my friends were in sight, so I just puffed away on this tampon sized doobie. I started noticing people around me  starting to stare at me with puppy dog eyes, in hopes of having a hoot, but my gaze was locked on the stage and I paid them no attention. I was definitely in my own world despite being surrounded by a sea of people. I had tunnel vision kicking, and in my world it was just me and the Beastie Boys.

Once the show was over we regrouped outside and headed home. We all shared our stories and experiences, we went over the set list, and we mourned the loss of our bootleg. I'd been to quite a few concerts prior to this one, and I'd go on to attend countless concerts after this one. To this very day I can still say without question that this was the greatest and most important concert of my life. It was the equivalent of accomplishing something great or fulfilling a childhood dream, and nobody can ever take that away from me...

Friday, 9 May 2014

Current updates 05/09/2014

Hey everyone. I just wanted to take a brief moment to apologize for the lack of posts as of recent. I took a little two week hiatus, as I was overloaded with work and life in general the past couple of weeks. Heavy Ghetto will return on Monday however, and continue to run strong until I've sung my song. Have a great weekend everybody!