Thursday, 26 June 2014

Din Of The Week

As the proverbial ball kept rolling, things just seemed to keep getting bigger and brighter for us. We were pretty much gigging once or twice a week now and it didn't look like things were going to slow down. Mike C was getting a bit overwhelmed with our busy schedule, as he still had two jobs back in Brampton, and our shows were starting to conflict with his occupations. Mainly at CIAO radio where Mike started around 6am on Sundays. I can't recall how many out of town gigs we played, followed up with a night of partying, and then the hectic rush to get Mike to work on time. It was getting taxing for him and that was becoming apparent as he made no bones about voicing his opinion. 

In fact we were both becoming quite opinionated. Grasshopper was Derek's baby, but Mike and I were clearly the mid-wives, and we had started to speak up about issues we had within the band. It was easy to see that our speaking out was starting to get under Derek's skin and made him uneasy, kind of an uprising of power if you will. Mike and I were on the same page about a lot of stuff which left Derek outvoted two to one. We wanted some changes and we wanted them now. Derek did oblige most times, but reluctantly, and usually after a debate on whatever the matter at hand was.

With our demo out, our over saturation of live shows going down, and our stickers and shirts blanketing the city, the little band that could kept flowing with the momentum. We had played shows with an assortment of bands including: Boris is Back, The Mad, The Morganfields, Satanatras, Y.A.P., Goatdance, Squid, Land of Nod, Full, Groovy Religion, Mudfish, Phleg Camp, Paul Myers(Brother of actor Mike Myers) The Dave Howard Singers, Chicken Milk, hHead, Rocktopus, Snowdogs, Drive Like Jehu, Grim Skunk, Brian Ruryk, and Dinner is Ruined, just to name a few.

Meanwhile in Brampton the legendary Epileptic Brain Surgeons were coming to an end. Their lead singer Steve Waller had decided to pack up and move out west to Brittish Columbia. I was quite saddened by the news, as these guys had been my inspiration for the last 5 years. The guys did however give me the pleasure of jamming with them once after Steve moved, with me filling his vocal duties. It was fun as hell and the EBS boys couldn't get over how much I sounded like Steve. It never went anywhere after that first jam but it was an absolute honour and privilege to have taken part in it. The guys seemed taken back at the fact that I mimicked Steve's voice perfectly. Although for years after I couldn't help but wonder that if I had my own distinct sound and style, then perhaps the band may have carried on with yours truly as the front man. Wishful thinking.

Another Bramptonite entered the picture as well. His name was Alex and he was a journalist for Eye weekly. Alex had recently written a review for our "Born Loser" demo that we were all ecstatic about. We didn't know who this guy was but we appreciated his words. Then one night he showed up at one of our gigs at the 1150. We were surprised to see he was a short, rotund black man wearing flannel and a Philly Blunts hat. We praised his writing as much as he praised our music. Alex was a very genuinely nice person, and he slowly became apart of our entourage. Now he'd show up at practically every gig, whoop it up with us, and then return to Brampton with us in the wee hours of the night. 

We figured having a writer on our side who was apart of the EYE magazine team would only be beneficial towards us, and it definitely seemed that way. As time passed though it seemed like Alex was slipping into a whirlwind of alcohol and pot, which in turn was affecting his writing. I truly feel he liked hanging out with us so he could be in the spotlight and soak up a bit of our fame. Not too mention he overly indulged in all the free benefits that coincided with rolling with the G-Hoppaz. Eventually it got to the point where he came across as a spokesman for us, being very opinionated about things that we disagreed with, which in turn caused friction amongst us. We had our own minds, our own voices, and we were not going to let ourselves look bad because of some stupid drunken comments. It also got to the point where we felt like Alex didn't care about us as a band, he'd merely show up drunk to wherever we were playing just so he could get a ride home at the end of the night.

As much as we liked Alex and appreciated his contributions to helping spread our gospel, we slowly started distancing ourselves after realizing his personal motives. I felt bad, I missed the guy, but we had to focus on ourselves and get our priorities straight. I feared that if Alex carried on with his recreational ways, that they would take over his life and ruin his bright future as a journalist. I could only hope that my fears would not manifest...

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Rolling Ball

The summer of 92' was quite a high point for Grasshopper as a band. We had recorded and put out our demotape, which was selling very well. In fact so well that in a mere few months we were gearing up to do another run of 500 copies. Stereophonicus Disruptus, the compilation cd we were on was also selling quite decently. I have to admit, I felt like a bit of a big shot being only 21 years of age and walking into HMV superstore to see our demo and the comp on the top 10 Indy chart. The way the momentum was picking up for us, in my young feeble mind I truly believed I'd be a millionaire before my 25th birthday.

Rough sticker design that evolved into our t shirt logo.

We had finally gotten some shirts done up as well using the profits we had made from selling our demos, after paying back the initial start up fee. We had used a lot of Sesame Street imagery over the last while for sticker and flyer designs, so we decided to stick with that theme for our shirt. We settled on the classic Sesame Street road sign logo, but replaced the words with Grasshopper, and where the CTW logo was, we replaced it with THC and a small marijuana leaf. The shirt was a huge success and they sold out really fast, which was great for us as it meant more money to invest in more demo tapes and shirts. Essentially all the money we made profit wise was recycled back into the band. 

Derek was still attending S.E.E.D., an alternative school in Toronto, so I decided to register, even though I had graduated high school the previous year. My main motivation behind this was the fact that students could rifle trough the secretary's files without question. So once I signed up for S.E.E.D. my previous high school had to hand over my school file to them, which I turned around and took from the secretary's filing cabinet. It was quite a trip to be able to look at everything ever entered in a file about ones self over the course of their scholastic career. It was mostly report cards, write ups, and photos, but it was so amazing to me to be able to go back and read all of this stuff. I never actually ever went to classes at S.E.E.D. very often, and when I did I never actually did any work, I just hung out and socialized.

Straight from my school file, evolution of a street wig!

My rap project 3 n' Pass was also coming along quite nicely. We had produced a few more tracks straight out of my bedroom and we had made a few more of our homemade videos with Mike's awesome cam corder. Our videos were improving as well as our music, as the whole thing was a learning process and we were embracing trial and error to improve our game. We had come so far with it now that we actually felt confident enough to play some shows. So we started planning out some future ideas to get that ball rolling. Derek always seemed interested to hear our stuff, but deep down I think he felt threatened by it. Knowing my love of hip hop rivaled aggressive music made him feel uneasy I believe, and in turn I truly felt like he thought we'd lose interest in Grasshopper and leave him high and dry.

I had also performed with Demon Barf a few times now, both as Jimmy the sheepwanker and Satan, my new BWF wrestling gimmick. It was always a fun and exciting time with the DB boys, who once again Derek seemed to have disinterest in due to their wacky hijinks and controversial song contents. Demon Barf hadn't really broken out of Brampton yet, and while Grasshopper made a point of supporting our friends bands and gaining exposure for them, Derek didn't seem at all interested in helping Demon Barf our. It was now a conflict of interest between us as I really wanted to help these guys. Only time would tell how this would all play out... 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Barfing With The Demons

I had hung out with Paul from Demon Barf a few times at club Tremors, and we got along quite well. Then one night he asked if I'd like to come hang out with him and his friends and I agreed. Paul picked me up in the early evening and he had his buddy Eric with him, who was one of the nicest dudes you could ever meet. He was always bright eyed, big smiled, and full of life.

We headed over to Massey Forest, a park in Brampton, where we met up with the rest of the Demon Barf gang, their singers Matt and Kevin, drummer Gregg, guitarist Mike, and accordion player Jay, who I knew previously from the punk scene. They also had a couple of friends with them, Dave McCracken, who's parents should of named him Phil, and a black guy named Mark who I knew from school. 

Mark was a seriously talented artist and your typical scholastic comic book collecting nerd type. I used to give him the business at school quite often, but now here I was having to hang out with him. I hadn't seen Mark in a year or so and he had changed drastically. He'd grown taller and clearly had been hitting the weights. It was somewhat awkward hanging out with someone I had previously bullied, but we were grown men now and I had no issues letting bygones be bygones as long as he didn't, which I was unsure of for awhile as he was hard to get a read on.

I really had no idea what was in store for the night, but I was shocked when the guys decided we would play hide and seek. Here I was an adult now, used to participating in adult activities with my friends, now playing kids games? I was skeptical to say the least but I ran with it. Surprisingly it was fun as hell. The DB boys were all straight edge,  but they were high on life and knew how to have fun. This night took me back to a more innocent time, I reconnected with my inner child, and realized I could have fun without the aid of drugs and alcohol. It was just like being back in grade 9 hanging out with the Epileptic Brain Surgeons all over again.

After the park we headed to mega burger for some eats, to which the guys kindly treated me, then we headed back over to Paul's place and watched "Grunt! The Wrestling Movie" which I hadn't seen in years. I was surprised to learn how big of wrestling fans these guys were, little did I know we had so much in common all this time. 

I hung out with the guys quite often after that. We'd usually hang at Paul's and watch movies or wrestling while I would be doodling funny pictures of their band. He also had a pool so there was a lot of wrestling going on in the pool as well. Paul also made the mistake of showing me a video game called "DOOM" on his PC computer, which resulted in me always playing DOOM while the guys did other things. 

Paul had also given me a copy of their demo tape "Huss, air guitars & Vaseline: the motion picture soundtrack" which was growing on me like a fungus, especially the song "Mutton Love" which was about an S&M gimp named "Jimmy the sheep wanker" who was a fictional character that had become somewhat of a mascot for the band. 

The boys had a show coming up at Hot Rocks in Brampton, and I had been spending so much time with them I felt like I had became apart of their band of merry men. I approached the guys and asked them what they thought of the idea of me being the real life "Jimmy" for the show, and they all loved the idea. I put together a makeshift costume and even made a giant penis similar to the singer from GWAR, that attached to a belt so I could wear it. I used a pant leg, clothing for stuffing, masking tape for flesh, some wig hair for pubes, and decorated the details and veins with paint and markers, AND made a pair of giant testes to go with it of course.

When the night of the show arrived I unleashed my creation and everyone was in hysterics. Another friend of theirs named Chris, who had recently started hanging around with them, also joined in the theatrics and dressed in a chicken mask costume, which resulted in an on stage wrestling match between Jimmy and the chicken, while Demon Barf belted out the tunes. All in all it was fun and definitely added a little visual stimulation to the performance.

After that fiasco I was telling the boys about my middle school backyard wrestling fed BWF (Brampton Wrestling Federation) which sparked a resurgence of my old fed via Demon Barf. From that point forward there would be a wrestling match taking place at every DB show if we could manage to swing it. Rock n' Wrestling was back and better than ever... 


Some of my old Demon Barf doodles 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Stereophonicus Disruptus

Grasshopper had been doing a lot of shows with bands from the Pickering area, and we'd sort of formed an alliance of bands. We were all trying whatever we could do to gain exposure for our comrades. Then one day we were approached by Jim, the drummer of Goatdance. Jim was putting together a compilation cd of bands from around the southern Ontario area. Each band would be required to invest a bit of cash and in return they would receive 60 copies of the compilation to do with as they pleased. What made the deal even sweeter was the fact this was going to be on a cd!

We had literally just gotten our demo out. Derek's girlfriend's mother had become somewhat of a financial investor for Grasshopper. She fronted the money for us to have our demo produced and duplicated, and we slowly paid her back with the money we made selling our demo, which was selling quite well I might add. We started off with a run of 500 copies and they were moving fast. When approached about doing the comp, we were more than eager. We were very excited to have a song on an actual cd and not a cassette tape. We were all on board with this idea, so we paid our fee, submitted a song, and patiently waited for our 60 CDs to be manufactured and delivered to us.

One very cool aspect about this compilation was the exposure factor. We would be alongside 15 other bands, who would each have 60 CDs to distribute in any way they seemed fit. This essentially meant great exposure for everyone, as all these bands would be selling their CDs in different stores and areas of Ontario. The whole project was a DIY independent production that we all poured our time, money and effort into, but Jim was the ringleader. He organized and oversaw the entire project and eventually released it under the label name "Input Rage" and the compilation was entitled "Stereophonicus Disruptus".

We decided to use the song "Heshien" as it was our personal favorite as a band collectively. Each band was also given creative control to design their own page for the cd booklet, which could consist of photos and lyrics. Asides from Grasshopper, the cd featured 15 other bands including: Goatdance, Mudfish, Y.A.P., Stew, Bob Dogdog, Marc Grainge, Full, Demon Barf, Morgan Olden, Two Line Filler, Herbal Scream, Outta Bounds, Rocktopus, Headcramp, and Mr.Nobody. Each band gave forth their best song which made this a pretty kick ass comp. I remember how excited I was to finally get my hands on the cd, and I listened to it over and over. Some of the bands I didn't even like at first, but then they all grew on me.

Each band was selling their CDs by any means necessary, and they were also being sold at Rotate This, Record Peddler, and HMV, where the comp ended up landing on their Indy charts with lightning speed. The comp was also getting quite a bit of press coverage in the local papers, which only increased sales even more so. Most of the press we received was very positive, but my Brampton boys Demon Barf seemed to be getting the brunt of all the negativity. Mainly because of their lyrical content and offensive imagery they contributed to the cd. Regardless of that, it didn't take long for the 1,100 CDs to find their way into the hands of eager listeners and collectors of fine Indy music. We even played a few shows in support of the cd with various bands on the comp, which again greatly helped with sales.

can recall being so curious to hear how we sounded on cd, but much to my surprise our song sounded pretty much exactly the same as it did on cassette. I didn't quite comprehend the fact that the recording methods and quality dictated what the finished product sounded like, despite what form it was released on, be it tape, vinyl, or cd. I was still stoked regardless to be able to hear my band on a cd.

Looking back on this it truly was a magical thing. A bunch of misfit bands coming together for one common cause, to help each other's exposure and fan base growth. There was a true sense of brotherhood and comradery, and each band wanted to help their brothers and see them flourish and grow. I'm not sure if events like this are common in the music scene these days with the whole new age of technology, but I feel blessed and proud to have been apart of such a noble attempt at unifying and solidifying a scene for ourselves at that point in time. It was truly a magical thing...

Monday, 9 June 2014

Looking For Mr.Good pt.1

Things were looking very bright for Grasshopper. We were gigging multiple times per week, meeting and making new friends and connections, and most importantly we were making a name for ourselves within the music scene. I found it fascinating yet somewhat disgusting how certain club owners and promoters didn't have the time of day for us in the beginning, but as soon as we started making a little noise and garnishing some attention, those same people were ringing our phones looking to book gigs for us or help us out in one form or another. Even MCA bigwig Elliot Leftko, the same guy who tossed our demo tape into a sea of cassettes after 30 seconds of listening, was now bending over backwards to book us opening slots for bigger bands. When he wasn't doing that he was constantly filling our hands with merchandise from the trunk of his car or hooking us up on guest lists for any and every MCA promoted concert. Some of these people we embraced, others we turned our backs on, as they had done to us when we desperately needed a helping hand.

My personal life was becoming a ball of chaos that was hard to control. When I wasn't in the city, which was most of the time, I was constantly trying to juggle my various circles of friends and make time for all of them, which wasn't easy. I hadn't seen much of Jerry and the old boys at all, or many of my older thrasher buddies for that matter. Jerry's brother had recently started renting a house and Jerry was living in the basement, so I started hanging out there mostly when I was in Brampton. If I wasn't at Jerry's then you would usually find me at Derek's, or hanging out with Mike and Mike working on our rap project 3 n' Pass.

Down in Toronto I had made some new friends too, mainly guys from other bands we had been playing with. The Satanatras had become my favorite Toronto band, and my favorite friends to hang out with, mainly their guitarist Dallas. The Satanatras were blowing up bigger than we were in the city and for good reason, this was a group of some seriously talented musicians who were bringing a new brand of punk rock to the table. They were gigging just as much if not more than we were, and they were getting a lot of press in the local papers. NOW magazine had just done a spotlight on them, and the guys dressed up like KISS for the photo shoot, as they had recently played a gig where they all dressed up like the members of KISS. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. 

In my downtime I was now staying with Dallas a lot instead of actually returning home to shower and put fresh clothes on. It was quite typical for me to stay at his place for days on end. One day Dallas asked me if I'd like to help him paint the new place he had just moved into and of course I agreed. His girlfriend and some of her friends rented a house, and Dallas had just had to move out of his old place, so they let him stay in the basement. When he brought me down there for the first time I was a bit taken back to discover it was an old, musty, unfinished concrete hole in the ground. Dallas made it home regardless, decorating the place with flags and posters. He had picked up some blood red paint that he wanted to paint the ceiling with, which wasn't much higher than the tops of our heads. We got the rollers out, cracked the paint can, and got down to business.

By the time we were done, the two of us were flying high on paint fumes, to the point that I was actually mildly hallucinating. We sat down to relax for the rest of the day and Dallas introduced me to a band called "Angry Samoans" I was familiar with their name, as The Accused had covered their song "Lights Out" but this was actually my first time hearing them, and they were an enjoyable riot to listen to. Later in the day Dallas suggested we watch his favorite movie "Basket Case" again, I was aware of this film, I had seen it in the video stores countless times, but I had never actually seen the film. It was low budget, cheesy, and filled with terrible acting....and I absolutely loved it!

We got into some pretty deep talks as day turned to evening, and I learned that Dallas' father was a musician too. In fact his Dad and Uncle were apart of a fairly large music group known as The Good Brothers. Dallas told me all kinds of cool stories about them and how he got to go on tour with them to amazing places like Amsterdam. As we got deeper and deeper into our convos the telephone suddenly rang. Dallas answered it and had a brief, yet hectic convo with whoever was on the other end, then quickly hung up the phone. A look of panic and excitement instantly took over his facial expressions as he declared: "I TOTALLY FORGOT! WE ARE OPENING FOR WHITE ZOMBIE TONIGHT!!! I GOTTA GO!!!"

I stood there stunned for a minute, then I asked "Well what am I going to do now?" Without a second of thought Dallas responded to my question "You can be our roadie! Lets go..."

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Mix Tapes 101

Hanging out with Derek all the time was definitely very inspiring and influential to me, which led to me dressing differently, listening to new types of music, and re connecting with my artistic side. D also wrote his own form of "poetry" we will call it, which also rubbed off on me. I started writing random rants of thoughts down as well as lyrics. Another creative and inspiring aspect of my friend was mixtapes, which were chock full of various genres of music and samples and sound clips from obscure records. He would also make up odd names for each side of the tape, as well as his own custom covers. I had always made mix tapes in the past, but not with so much enthusiasm and creativity, so I decided to give it a shot.

I borrowed a few records from Derek and dug into my collection as well as my parents vinyl collection. Once again my father's trusted JVC tape deck was a magical instrument with it's precision pausing abilities, allowing me to slickly edit the entire production. I mainly used a Cheech & Chong record that contained audio clips of scenes from their first movie "Up In Smoke" and spliced some of the better ones in between each of the songs I'd selected. The whole process was quite fun, and it was very rewarding to listen to the finished product. 

I decided to make my own custom cover as well, so I rounded up a few random magazines from around the house and started flipping through them. Anytime something interesting caught my eye, I would rip or cut the page out and put it aside. From there I neatly trimmed out whatever images and words I wanted to use from the torn out pages, and delicately arranged them all together in collage type formation. I did all of this right over top of the blank covers that would come with cassette tapes when you bought them. The glue stick had become my new best friend by this point. On the inside of the cover I would usually add even more custom imagery, or I would list all the tracks on the mixtape.

When I first started making these mixed tapes, I was still doing my co-op at the animation studio, which meant I had unlimited access to the xerox machine. I found some nice thicker stock white paper, so I began photocopying my covers onto the paper, rendering them to black and white images. This also covered any trace of image overlaps and whatnot, and generally made the cover look more professional and authentic, as if you had bought it from a store that way. After graduation I did not have access to the copy machine anymore, so the covers were now the actual created piece of art and not a xerox copy.

I had always bugged my folks to let me bring the stereo up to my room but they constantly refused my requests. As I got more deeply involved in my mixtapes it became like a hobby to me, as this was all I was doing with the free time I spent at home. Eventually I had multiple mix tapes on the go, which led to an ever growing pile around the stereo. I'd have numerous piles of records and CDs for each project on the go just laying on the floor awaiting cue, there were stacks of magazines I was using to steal images from, piles of random pages I had ripped out for future usage, and of course pens, markers, scissors and glue sticks. There was also an ever growing pile of scrap paper left over from the images I had previously cut out and used. Day by day these piles kept growing, until there was a sea of stuff encircling the stereo, leaving me barely any room to sit on the floor anymore.

Eventually my mother could not handle the mess in her 2nd living room (you know those rooms no one ever actually sits in or lives in) so she cracked down and demanded that I move the stereo up to my rec room. Finally! I had been waiting for this day to come for a very long time. The family stereo was now under my possession, and it would remain that way until the day I moved out...

A few examples of my mixtapes. The two tapes with black & white covers are xeroxed versions, "working the cops" is a straight up cut & paste job, and "Do You Hate Everything?" is a combination of xeroxing and layering images with glue. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Who's Tha Posse? pt.2

The morning of the gig I was in Brampton. For one reason or another I decided to check the mail, which was odd as I never got any mail, except for my Columbia house orders. I collected a handful of envelopes and went back in the house. I noticed one in particular that was quite odd. It was addressed to my house but the family name was Asian. There was no return address on the envelope, and judging by the unique postage it was safe to say it had traveled a long way. 

When I opened the envelope I was in suspense.... A white lined piece of paper folded three times with nothing written on it. I unfolded the paper and my jaw nearly hit the ground when I saw four U.S. one hundred dollar bills and two U.S. fifty dollar bills! $500 U.S. in a time when their dollar was much greater than ours meant I had found even more money. I assumed this cash was wired to someone but it ended up in my mailbox. My only theory was the sender got the address wrong, as there was a few different Asian families on my street at the time. Being 19, naive and greedy, I decided to keep the money and deal with the repercussions should they happen to arise at a later time. 

Derek picked me up before noon and we were on our way to the city. The first thing I did was I went to a new tattoo shop that had just opened on Queen street. It was called "Way Cool" and the owner Crazy Ace, had no qualms about taking me as his first customer of the day. I added on to my one tattoo that I had, and was out the door 30 minutes and $60 later. I spent the rest of the day on my own personal shopping spree of the city. The HMV superstore had just opened at 333 Yonge street, so I popped in there and spent quite a bit of money on records, CDs, and some video cassettes, mainly Gwar's latest film "Phallus in Wonderland"

By the time sundown started approaching, we were at Lee's Palace meeting up with Y.A.P. We got all of our gear unpacked and set up as we ironed out the details of the evening to come. I decided to treat some folks to pizza and ice cream with my new found wealth. I also ended up buying quite a few drinks for folks too. The turn out ended up being amazing, as both bands drew fairly decent sized amounts of people. One of the Y.A.P. entourage, a fellow named Bryce, had shown up with some photos he had taken of us performing in Oshawa. We were quite stoked to have our own professionally photographed images and we couldn't thank him enough. Bryce took more photos of us that night, and one in particular that would end up being the cover of our new recording.

Photo of myself taken that night by Bryce
As far as the show goes, I honestly don't have much memory of the actual performances. I suppose that's what happens when you run a bar tab on someone else's dime. I do recall an overall awesomeness in the air that night and a lot of positive vibes were shared by all in attendance. After the gig I ended up going back to Oshawa to party with the Y.A.P. crew, and I spent the night with a very hospitable young lady. Since she had a VCR I got to watch my new GWAR movie too, which was ridiculously over the top....and I loved it!  I ended up eventually taking the train back to Union station, then grabbed the GO back to Brampton. By the time I got home in the early afternoon I was a write off. Tired, sore, hungover, and running on barely any sleep, and to boot my pockets were pretty much empty. The cash had come and gone in the span of 24 hours. All I had on my mind now was lying down and flaking out while listening to the new music I bought, and that's exactly what I did. 

Having been in my fair share of trouble prior to this day, I had a feeling in my gut that this was going to come back to haunt me at some point. I'd learned in the past that when the storm seems like it's clear that's when lighting strikes you in the ass. Days passed... Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years, yet nobody ever came looking for that envelope of money. Eventually I realized I was in the clear and it was apparent nobody was ever going to come looking for the money. I never shared this information with many people back then in fear of getting busted, but I knew in my mind that one day I'd be telling someone about "The day I found five hundred dollars" 

Thanks for being that someone...