Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tricks, Bombtracks & Fa$cism

Fall had arrived. The ground was littered with multi colored leaves. Hoodies and toques were making their way back into society, and Derek was gearing up to head to the CMJ music festival in New York. A little birdie had informed him that he would have to pay duty on every copy of our demo he brought across the border, so we came up with a plan. A simple sticker design that said "Grasshopper - Born Loser: promotional copy not for sale" which we hand cut and placed on every demo. Now he would not have to pay duty on the demos, and if need be Derek could remove the stickers in the states and still sell the tapes. Off he went to the Big Apple.

With Derek gone, we actually got a bit of down time, which had become quite rare in the life of being a Grasshopper. I took the opportunity to catch up with my old friends, as well as work on 3 n' Pass material with Mike and Mike. Some of my Brampton boys were complaining about how I was always in the city now, so instead of just lazing about in Brampton with them I suggested we go hit up the city.

Most of them hadn't been to the Record Peddler in years, so we made that our first destination despite the fact I was there on a weekly basis practically. The thing I loved the most about the Peddler was the fact that they always had some awesomely unique music playing, and this day was no exception. There was a very unique song playing in the store that was a melodic mixture of dance, industrial, and spoken word. The lyrics were all about vegetarianism and the message was politically strong and demanded your attention. We asked the clerk exactly what we were hearing and he informed us it was a band called "Consolidated" and the name of the album was "Friendly Fascism" I immediately picked up the cd and Foxy Bano bought it on cassette.

Consolidated were really cool in my books. They supported homosexuality, vegetarianism, and respect for the individual, while voicing their opinions on hate, racism, politics, animal cruelty, and many more negative aspects that we as humans face every day in our existence. It wasn't long before a video popped up on MuchMusic for one of their songs, and naturally I recorded it onto VHS.

When Derek returned from New York, I was very excited to introduce him to Consolidated, and as I suspected he instantly fell in love with it. D had a great trip, had met some great people, and he gave our demo to anyone and everyone he thought could help benefit and further our career as an Indy band. He had also gotten a ton of swag and I was totally stoked with the gifts he brought me, a sweet Cypress Hill t-shirt and a slick House of Pain brass pin. Derek had a bunch of demos from other bands he received while in NY, so the next morning on our commute to the city we decided to check one out. It was a cassette single with only two songs, one on each side, by a new unknown band called "Rage Against The Machine" and the names of the two songs were "Bombtrack" and "Killing In The Name Of"

We had no idea what we were in store for, but we had no idea our minds were about to be blown either. The sound was so unique. Heavy drums but in a hip hop fashion, heavy guitars that also sounded like a DJ scratching records, fat and funky bass lines, and an amazing vocalist who rapped, screamed and growled with the ultimate conviction. I immediately recognized a riff from a Funkadelic song in Bombtrack, which just showed me these guys were well versed in black music. Even though the cassette single only had two songs, we listened to them over and over again for the entire 30 minute drive to Toronto. We just couldn't get enough of this new unknown band.

The next day Derek brought another cassette tape with him he had gotten at CMJ. It was yet another band we had never heard of called "The Goats" and the name of the album was "Tricks Of The Shade" Soon as the first song kicked in entitled "Typical American" we were instantly bobbing our heads in unison. The unique part of this album was the fact that all the songs had a skit between them that told the ongoing story of two parent-less street kids trying to find their biological mother and father at a freak show carnival. Every song on this was a banger and the lyrics were very on point. The band was also highly political, taking numerous pot shots at the government and society in general. It truly brought back that political activist rap attitude that I associated with one of my all time favourite bands, Public Enemy.

It seemed like all we listened to for the next few weeks was Consolidated, Rage, and The Goats. It wasn't long before I had memorized all the lyrics to the songs, which was a task in itself given the abundance of words on The Goats album alone. Thank god, or satan, or whoever, for my uncanny ability to lock down lyrics in my mind. Shortly after all of these events unfolded, I made a startling discovery while reading Now Magazine one morning: Consolidated and The Goats were coming to Toronto to perform at The Opera House.

It looked like Christmas was coming early...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Two Chord Bottle Tokes

A mere few weeks after our "din of the week" article was in Eye magazine reviewing our Born Loser demo tape, we were contacted once again by Eye. This time it wasn't our newest entourage member Alex however, it was another writer by the name of Chris O'Connor. Chris showed interest in writing an actual piece on us, and naturally we jumped at the opportunity.

Chris even went as far as to offer to travel to our hometown of Brampton to do the interview, which I thought was very humble of him considering most interactions like this would typically take place down in the city. We decided to meet at one of the local parks we used to hang out at in the wee hours of the night when we partook in our smoking sessions, only this time it would be in broad daylight.

Chris showed up in shades and a smile, looking like someone you might see at a Nine Inch Nails concert. Mike had long been a fan of goth and industrial music, so the two of them hit it off right from the get go, chatting about their favourite bands and what not. Despite looking like someone who'd be a snobby introvert, he was actually very cool and laid back, even sharing some ganja with us as he rolled the tape.

Instead of writing things down, Chris just hit record on a pocket tape recorder and we were rolling. It was a very personal experience, just four guys sitting around talking rock. It ended up being a fairly humorous experience and we were all full of laughs and smiles. We got into some pretty funny conversations, but Sesame Street seemed to be a reoccurring subject matter throughout the interview. Chris did write a few notes down, just to ensure he had the proper spelling of our names and whatnot.

Once he had all the material he needed, he reached into his black bag and pulled out a nice high quality camera to snap some band photos. Since we were at the playground we decided to take some light hearted photos of us on the swings, see saws, monkey bars, and other apparatuses. The money shot ended up being a picture of the three of us going down a slide together, which would end up being the photo he used in the finished article. We exchanged our final pleasantries and called it a day. It was a wrap. 

As the sonic summer was preparing to transition into fall, the issue of Eye was finally published and hit the streets. I clearly remember having breakfast at the village by the grange with Derek early one morning when we saw the newspapers being dropped off by the delivery guy. We quickly rushed the piles of still bundled papers, broke the plastic seals, and grabbed one each. Sure enough after leafing through a few pages we came upon our article. It was practically half of a page and even had a colour photo, we were totally stoked. It was even more of an honour to be in an issue that had Sonic Youth on the cover as well as a large article on them in the pages within.

After we each read the article to ourselves, we headed back over to the piles of newspapers and grabbed a few more copies each. To this present day I still have one pristine copy safely packed away in my art portfolio as a keepsake. It was one thing having a demo review in Eye, but having an actual article on us was simply mind blowing to three young men. Chris came to our next show and of course we had to hang out with him, share some herb, and give him mass amounts of props on a job well done.

The article definitely garnered us some more attention, which was apparent by the growing number of people coming to see us perform live. We had grown accustomed to seeing the same faces at most of our shows, but now we were seeing a lot of new faces, even very important ones, such as band members from Canadian acts like Blue Rodeo and Bare Naked Ladies. It was apparent that the ball was continuing to roll for us in a positive direction. 

We had been in Eye magazine twice now, and it gave us a taste in our mouths that made them water for more. Our next goal was to make big enough waves in hopes of getting to the next level of news...NOW magazine, the big brother of Eye mag. Our hard work and perseverance was definitely paying off and we couldn't of been happier, but Derek still had a bigger picture painted in his mind for us. 

He had decided to goto the CMJ music festival in New York that fall to try and help make Grasshopper an internationally known name, so we had a lot of work ahead of us to help him prepare for his upcoming venturing vacation...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Fine Malt Whut???

As another amazing summer was coming to a close, new beginnings were taking place in the world of music. There was a fresh hit single that was blazing up the music charts worldwide, it was called "Jump Around" and it was released by a white hiphop group called "House of Pain" that consisted of DJ Lethal, Danny Boy, and Everlast. The song was very hype, catchy, and it seemed to pump people up whenever they heard it. I absolutely loved it the first time I heard it, and when I saw the video for the first time I was highly impressed to see cameos from my favourite slept on white rappers "Young Black Teenagers"

Before long HOP were all over the headlines and television. I happened to catch their first interview on MuchMusic, and I was shocked and surprised to learn that Everlast was the same guy who had done some work with Ice-T a few years back. In those days he was a clean cut kid with nice slicked back hair and was dressed to the nines in Armani suits. Now he had a shaved head, goatee, tattoos, and a Boston celtics jersey on.

This didn't sit very well with me in the beginning. I was being judgemental and assuming he was some type of poseur. The truth of the matter was, the old Everlast was just a young kid trying to get his foot in the door of a black dominated industry. He had done whatever the string pulling record labels had told him too. Now listening to the record for my first time, it was apparent Ev had grown as a man and was making music the way he wanted to make it, not the way the record labels expected him too make it.

The album was entitled "Fine Malt Lyrics" and it was an absolute masterpiece. There was not one weak track on the entire recording. The sound was original, the beats were slamming, and there were some guest spots too. HOP were signed with the "Soul Assassins" in affiliation with Cypress Hill. I'd always been an east coast fan, but this clique was starting to sway my loyalty to the left coast.

Hip hop seemed to be dominating my life at this point more so than metal. Truth of the matter was there just wasn't much metal being released during what I like to call the "grunge phase" I'd long cut my hair and had started dressing less like a thrash hippy and more like a hip hopper. There was an obvious resemblance between myself and Everlast, so I started biting his style a bit, which made sense since the ladies seemed to love him. It definitely worked out for me, as my luck with the honeys started improving. 

One September morning while driving to Toronto with Derek, we were listening to college radio when they announced they were about to play a new single from an up and coming New Jersey rapper who had busted out on the scene. When the song kicked in there was a sample of B-Real from Cypress Hill, which immediately got my attention. The sample in question was also the title of the song, "Time for some action" and the rapper in question went by the name "Redman" 

Derek and I cruised the highway bobbing our heads in unison. This shit was dope, original, and banging. I hit up the record store first chance I could and picked up his new release "Whut?Thee Album" on cassette tape. From there I retreated home for my usual listening ritual. I really enjoyed this album, it was so refreshing to hear someone doing exactly what they wanted. The album was driven by a majority of P-Funk samples, most of which I was familiar with from listening to Parliament and Funkadelic. 

Redman was clearly not your typical hip hopper. His lyrics were sharp, witty, funny, and dark. I thoroughly enjoyed the overall arrangement, composition, structure, and order of the songs. It was very clear Redman was being himself and doing whatever the fuck he wanted to do. Although some production was engineered by Pete Rock as well as Erick Sermon from EPMD, the majority of the music was produced by Redman himself under his birth name Reggie Noble. I found it genius that Reggie and Redman would even converse on certain tracks, it was brilliant.

 It was also highly inspiring to me at the time, so much in fact that my brain began brewing ideas and I started working on my very own solo rap project. If only I knew then that project wouldn't manifest for another 13 years...

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Kings of Wood

Canada's Wonderland, an amusement park that was a mere 30 minutes from me, held concerts at their on site theatre known as "Kingswood" and that was the place I officially saw my first concert ever as a young boy growing up. My parents had taken me to see Gary "U.S." Bonds there when I was about 10-12 years old. The crowd was made up of mostly elderly folk, and I had know idea who this Gary Bonds person even was. I had no interest in the music and I felt somewhat lame being there with my parents, but all in all it was an experience.

English heavy metal rockers Iron Maiden even performed their in the early 80s, and I just so happened to be at the park on that day with my folks and a friend. Maiden were one of my favourite bands at the time, yet my folks still wouldn't let me attend the concert as they felt I was too young. I devised a plan and put it in effect. My friend and I went to the closest roller coaster to Kingswood, and we rode it over and over again. Each time we got to the peak of the coaster track we could catch a glimpse of the band in action. We could also somewhat hear the music, so it was almost as good as actually attending the concert.

A few years later when I was around age 13-14, I finally convinced my mother to allow me to attend a concert with my sister Christine, who is six years older than me. Chris had been going to kick ass heavy metal concerts from around the time I was 10, and I had always pleaded with my mother to let me go with her, but I was always denied permission. Now the day had finally arrived and I was excited, even though we were only going to see Kim Mitchell. I was just happy to finally be attending a concert with my big sis and without my parents. It ended up being a crazy night, and at some point the fans started ripping strips of fresh grass off of the ground and tossing them in the air. When you looked up all you saw was sod and greens flying everywhere above head. By the end of the show the entire lawn of Kingswood had been reduced to dirt. It was quite the spectacle.

I never attended another concert at Kingswood until the year I graduated high school. I had been to many live shows by this point, but my musical tastes had changed drastically, and to be quite honest Kingswood never hosted any bands I was interested in, until they finally booked punk rock legends The Ramones in 1991. I went with John McCuish, Mike Chapman, Mike Myers, and Mike Stewart. The Ramones killed it that night, barely ever pausing to acknowledge the audience. As soon as a song ended one of the members would yell out "ONE TWO THREE FOUR" and they'd break right into the next song. They had recently released the album "Brain Drain" which I owned and loved, so it was nice to see them cover that material. John ended up buying a pair of Ramones boxer shorts, that ended up wet from the rain, which resulted in Ramones logos printed all over a friends white couch later that night.

That same summer another big tour was conceived in the vein of lollapalooza, it was called the mix and match tour, and it featured Sisters of Mercy,  Gang of Four, Warrior Soul, Public Enemy, and a new upcoming white New York rap group called Young Black Teenagers. Once again we were at Kingswood to partake in the festivities. It was an all day event that started in the afternoon and would last until the park closed. I wasn't really interested in any of the bands except for YBT and PE. Young Black Teenagers opened the show and I was pumped to see them. They didn't get the greatest reception from the crowd, but the handful of us who actually knew who they were, enjoyed their performance greatly. They also warmed up the audience in general for the long day of festivities that were ahead of us all. I was not shocked to see the Demon Barf crew there marking out for YBT just as I was.

The rest of the day was long and boring to me, having to sit through three bands that I had absolutely no interest in seeing. It would all be worth it to see the legendary Public Enemy perform. PE ended up getting on stage extremely late, as they had issues at the border. So many issues in fact that they would not allow Flava Flav into our beloved country. I was totally pissed that Chuck D did not have his sidekick and trusted hype man to his right. They still belted out the tunes with conviction and got the crowd pumped up. After their fourth song there was a shocking announcement over the PA system stating that it was 10pm and the park was now closing. The plug was pulled on PE and we were all instructed to evacuate the premises.

Rap music was huge at the time, and Public Enemy where at the forefront of political issues, anti-government, and freedom of speech. I for one had been very inspired by Chuck's lyrics over the years, and I assumed the same as others. When we were told leave I expected an uprising, perhaps even a riot, but nobody was on board with me to "Fight The Power" people just complied with what they were told to do like a bunch of mindless sheep.

I was really bummed out that the show had been cut so short, since PE were my favorite rap band at the time, but I was much more disappointed in the audience. With the rise of self awareness through hip hop, I expected an uprising from the crowd. It was the total opposite, and I really started to question how big of fans these people actually were. Nobody wanted to voice their disappointment, stand up for their rights, or fight to be honored with a performance they paid their had earned money to see. I suppose a lot of people just liked the music but never paid attention to the lessons and messages in Chuck's lyrics like I did. One thing was for sure, I was truly let down by these so called "rap fans" I was also very let down by Wonderland for not being the slightest bit lenient in giving us what we paid for. 

I vowed to never attend another concert at Kingswood ever again in my life, and thankfully they didn't book any substantial musical acts I was interested in. That was fine by me, as I didn't have to break my word or my promise to myself, which was much more important than any concert in the world...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Big Fuckin' Bender

In the summer of 92' my buddy Jay who lived in the farmhouse where "Woodstock 91" was held, decided he wanted to throw another epic party. Woodstock 91' was by far the biggest bash anyone had ever seen in Brampton, but Jay wanted to go even bigger this time. Our planning committee was gathered together once again to brainstorm what could potentially be the event of our lifetimes. 

We frequently used the word "bender" in substitute for the word "party" so we collectively came up with the name "BIG FUCKIN' BENDER" for our planned party. Unlike Woodstock 91' that was spawned on the fly a few days before the event, we had started planning this one about a month in advance. I was on flyer detail once again, and i delivered a great piece of art depicting the party with all my friends drawn in cartoon caricatures. The flyer was chock full of details and a map to the old farmhouse on McVean Drive. We did our usual guerrilla marketing techniques and distributed hundreds, possibly thousands of flyers all around town. Parking lots, malls, strip joints, you name it. 

The month passed by and it was finally time for the BFB, needless to say we were all very excited. A bunch of us packed into Jerry's pickup truck with our alcohol and party favours, and we were on our way. When we arrived, we were quite shocked to see a massive police roadblock stationed in front of Jay's house. When we pulled up the cops simply stated "There is no party. Drive away now or we will confiscate all of your alcohol and fine you" Without saying a word or  skipping a beat we drove off.

We were all dumbfounded, we didn't see this coming, but we weren't going to let the pigs ruin our fun. We drove a block north, then headed one block east until we were fairly parallel with the property. We parked the truck at the side of a country road, collected all of our goods, and started tracking through acres of trees and cornfields until we finally reached the house. A few of our friends had done the same thing, or they were fortunate enough to have arrived earlier than the police did. There only ended up being about 12-20 of us that actually made it to the property. We had been bested by Peel Regions finest, who remained stationed in front of the house scaring off hundreds of party goers for the next few hours to come.

Jay had rented a massive sound system, so we cranked the tunes as loud as possible, while we drank and smoked and partied on. Some LSD managed to find it's way into a few of the guys systems, and things started to get a bit wild. Despite the pigs shutting down the party, the small group of us carried on like it was no big deal, but deep down we were all quite disappointed that the kaybosh had been put on the bender.

The farmhouse was on private property, so every time we got slightly bored we would take a stroll down to the property line and taunt the police. We were name calling, dancing in front of them, and generally being a nuisance towards them. Since they ruined our fun we figured we might as well make their night hell for them too. At some point, one of my friends ended up on the roof of the house in an acid fueled rage. He proceeded to start ripping shingles off the roof of the house and was throwing them at the police like frisbees while screaming obscenities at full volume. The beauty to all of this was the fact the police could do nothing about or words or actions.

The small group of us whooped it up all night. I had the unfortunate ness of learning one of my friends was using needles. I was quite distressed by this as I had always been against the use of hard drugs, but I tried not to think about it too much and focused on enjoying the night, which was slowly turning to morning. As the sun started to rise we gathered our things and started the trek back to Jerry's truck.

It was foggy, it was raining, and the sun hadn't came up yet. We were all clearly very intoxicated as we could not find our way back to the truck. My friend Noel ended up stepping in a hole of some sort and broke his ankle. Now two friends had to support him and help him walk through the wet wastelands. A lot of the guys were still tripping out, and it felt like we were in a war zone like Viet Nam or something, carrying our injured soldier along to safety. At one point James took off one of his shoes, and we broke out into an impromptu game of football using a sneaker for pigskin. It was an absolute riot and we were all having a blast.

We eventually made it to the truck which felt like hours later, but in the quest our group had became divided. There was a debate about which direction was the proper one to take, which resulted in us splitting into two factions and going our separate ways. Thankfully our group was the one to make it to the vehicle. As we started rolling out, we drove about half a mile down the road when suddenly something demanded our attention. The second group of "survivors" jumped out of the woods and onto the road right in front of us to flag us down. Jerry screeched on the brakes and the boys jumped in the back of the truck, which thankfully had a cab on it to protect us from the elements.

We ended up going to McDonalds for breakfast before heading home to bed, and needless to say we were a sight for sore eyes. We were all coming down from the night so we were still pretty wired, and the lot of us were covered in mud from head to toe and were soaked to the bone from the rain. We ate, carried on, had some laughs, reminisced the night, then headed to our respectful dwelling places to sleep it off.

Although the police ruined the whole event, we still didn't let that stop us from having a good time. In retrospect it was of our own doing since we had spammed the city with masses of flyers a month prior to the event. The police had everything they needed to shut it down, and one can't really blame them for doing their jobs. Needless to say the "BIG FUCKIN' BENDER" wasn't so big at all, and it paled in comparison to Woodstock 91', but we made the best of it and filled ourselves with fond memories and bonds of friendship...