Thursday, 27 November 2014

HMV, Sloan & CHRY

I had mentioned previously that our biggest show was upon us, but before we got to it there were other monumental steps to take. We were guests on the premiere episode of "The Seminal Load" a popular underground radio show on 105.5 CHRY. It was lots of fun as most of our radio appearances had been to date. I may have briefly mentioned this in a previous post but I recently discovered I had a recording of the show on cassette tape, so I decided to try my best to clean it up and I put it online. You can check it out by clicking the link below and hear everything that went down that night as opposed to me having to remember and write about it.

The ultra hip record store "Rotate This" was still holding the odd show in their back room from time to time, and somehow we stumbled upon another opportunity for the band. Sloan were in town for a big gig, but somehow the owners of Rotate got them to agree upon playing an off the record set in the back of the store. So who would get the honours of opening up for them? Yours truly mans company of course. It was another big notch in our belt of credentials.

HMV had recently opened their "Super Store" at 333 Yonge street in Toronto, which had actually been open for some time now, and they decided to start having bands perform live in store. With us being essentially close to our peak we ended up landing a gig with a band we considered our rivals, they were called hHead. I can't remember how we landed it or who pulled the strings, but we hadn't been this excited since we were turned down for Breakfast Television because they felt our music was a bit too loud for the morning. 

From our perspective they (hHead) seemed like upper class suburban kids who's parents had money, as we were all from middle class suburban families with little money, yet we were kids who grew up in more urban environments clearly. The fact that their guitarist/singer used a lot of the same guitars and amplifiers and pedals that Derek used (or wanted) drove him nuts. That bit of envy alone was enough for D to dislike them, so naturally I had his back, there were however other elements about them that were extremely unlikeable. 

They were like... clean cut pretty boys who wanted to be grunge rockers. The way they carried themselves was as if they were better people than anyone around them in the room. An aura of douchey-ness encompassed them and it wasn't hard to see with the naked eye by any means. The few times we exchanged words with them they came across as very smug and pompous, inadvertently saying things that one might take offense to. We were easy going guys and weren't very judge-mental by any means, so naturally we didn't like feeling looked down upon or judged by others. They were talented musicians no doubt, but musically I felt like they were PG-13 and we were XXX.

Beef aside, Grasshopper was excited to play HMV as it just seemed like another great opportunity for us. We were packing clubs on the regular but I was still surprised to see the record store jammed with people in the middle of the afternoon. The coolest part was that the store had a wall on the outer exterior made up of numerous television screens, and they were filming the performance and broadcasting it live on Yonge street at the same time. This drew people into the already crowded store, more importantly people who may have never heard of us and were willing to spend their hard earned cash on our new demo tape.

All in all we killed the show and put on a great performance from what I can remember, I know the crowd loved it so that's all that really matters or ever mattered to me. I always said if I change even just one persons life with my music it makes it all the worthwhile, and worth more than any sum of money. In present time (2014) I ended up finding a few videos from that day at HMV posted on YouTube. The audio is quite horrible but I'm sharing them regardless just for the nostalgia and preservation of memory. I hope you enjoy...

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The "NEW" Music

As the levels of "success" were rising for Grasshopper for all to witness, what people could not see was that tension levels were also rising amongst the three of us behind the scenes in our personal lives. Nirvana was huge now, so of course I didn't like them anymore. Anytime I'm on the cusp of discovering a new and excitingly unknown band I'm all gung-ho, but once said bands make it to the mainstream I generally tend to lose my love for them. I've always been a unique individual and the way I see it if the rest of the world is listening to what I am listening to then it is no longer unique, nor am I for that least that's how I feel. "Nevermind" had now become a trendy pop album to me, and to be quite honest I was sick of it, but Derek was still bumping it religiously. I started shitting on the album as well as dissing Nirvana in general, much to Derek's dismay.

Finances were definitely another issue that were causing rifts amongst us. We had long paid back our initial investments, yet myself and Mike weren't seeing a dime of the money. We brought this up to Derek, who reluctantly agreed to start giving us a cut of the money after each gig. You could see how painful it was for him to give up some chump change, and it was often causing debates amongst us. Mike and I felt like the backbone of the band yet we were in the shadow of the minimally talented frontman. We both started voicing opinions on a lot of matters, and I don't think Derek liked the fact we had opinions. I will be the first to admit that every band needs a control freak to keep the wheels turning in a productive manner, but we were starting to feel like we had no say in anything and it was time for us to change that. Mike and I were voicing our opinions more and we were definitely becoming more cheeky towards Derek. We both felt like he needed to be more of his own man as his girlfriend and her mother had him on a very short leash. I believe they felt like we were a bad influence on Derek as we could sense their bitter feelings towards us.

We were gigging three times a week on average and it was starting to get to us. There was a lot of traveling, not much sleeping, and it was beginning to feel like a thankless job due to the fact we never saw any money. Mike and myself were not grunge fans by any means but we were happy with the songs we had produced to date. I think one of the main issues was the fact we weren't writing any new music and we were starting to grow tired of our current set list. Our only real salvation was our rap group 3 n' Pass, it gave us a creative outlet of our own to break the monotony we were experiencing. As our passions grew in regards to our rap project it was apparent Derek was feeling more threatened by it and he always seemed uncomfortable whenever we mentioned it in passing or played some of our songs for him.

The creative bug had definitely bitten me. Asides from 3 n' Pass, I was still highly addicted to the premier Redman album, which had inspired me to start my own solo rap record. I was still in possession of Derek's four track, so I had began creating songs and writing lyrics for them. I had a vision and a concept. The songs would tell the story of my life in chronological order with lyrical content regarding all of the mischief and riffraff I had gotten into as my youth progressed. I was really stoked with the project, but I kept it all to myself as it was a work in progress. I figured I'd be working on this for awhile and I wanted it to be complete and perfect before sharing it with anyone. Time would only tell exactly how long the project would take, and I was in no rush to finish it as the big picture was miles down the road.

Speaking of big pictures, as winter turned to spring we ended up being interviewed and featured on an episode of "The New Music" on CityTV. The episode in question was all about the relation between marijuana and music. We were interviewed in a head shop on Yonge Street, where the three of us wore lays of hemp leaves. When it aired we were ecstatic, well most of us excluding my mother, who caught the episode. Her only feedback on the entire thing was "I hope none of my friends saw this." She was clearly embarrassed and disappointed to see her baby boy on national television promoting and supporting "the Devil's weed"

Even though there was disorder amongst our band, I still personally felt like things would just keep getting better for us. I suppose I was young and naive, but I honestly felt like we would be millionaires before my 21st birthday which was another 10 months away. Despite the endless gigging for mere dollars, Grasshopper now had a gig lined up that was surely to be our biggest and most important performance to date...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Da Mob Rulez

Despite missing the Rage Against The Machine concert, 1993 started off with a bang, and the ball of momentum known as Grasshopper was still rolling strong. On average we were gigging 2-3 times a week, and we were landing opening spots for what one might consider bigger underground bands. One band in particular that we would be opening for very soon were known as The Jesus Lizard. I wasn't a fan of them by any means, but Derek was a huge fan, so needless to say this show was going to be a very big deal to him.

The night of the gig arrived and we unloaded our gear into the infamous Opera House. The weather was terrible as it was winter, and there was a heavy snowfall that day. We got our equipment in without incident and it was time to rip shit up. I can't remember who the first opening band was, but they tried their best to warm the fans up who were still piling into the venue from the harsh winter outside.

By the time we hit the stage the place was packed from front to back. This was easily the biggest crowd we had performed in front of to date. Just as we were about to kick into our first song, the promoter came out on stage and informed us that The Jesus Lizard would not be able to make the show due to how bad the snow was in the U.S. We now went from mid-card openers to headliners in the blink of an eye. Not only that, he left it in our hands to inform the audience, who were not pleased at all with the announcement.

I almost felt like a thief, all of these people were here to see a certain band and now that band wasn't coming, which left us with their plethora of fans at our disposal. The promoter also told us we would have to increase the length of our set as to fill time voids. We came out strong and kept punishing the crowd's ear drums with song after song. The reception wasn't the greatest at first since most of the fans were sour about the Lizard not being there,but it seemed like each song we played warmed them up to us a bit more. By the end of our set we had the crowd eating out of the palms of our hands, and we received a great ovation from the audience in attendance. All in all it was a great night filled with great exposure for us. 

Another surprise was the fact we ended up getting paid five times more than we were supposed to. Since the Lizard couldn't make it that meant they didn't get paid, which in turn left the promoters with extra money, and they weren't too stingy to share the wealth.

Days later I was getting prepared to attend a rap concert at the Concert Hall, Ice Cube would be blessing us with his presence, and his crew Da Lench Mob were to be the opening act. I had seen the Mob once, but I was very excited to see them again, as I was much more familiar with their music now that their debut LP "Guerrillas in tha mist" had been out for about 4-5 months.

I started asking around my circles of friends to see who wanted to attend the show with me. I can remember being excited to tell Mike Myers about it, as I figured he'd be stoked. Surprisingly I was shocked when he replied "No I don't want to go. It's going to be all white people and Ice Cube doing 'throw your hands in the air' type sing-a-longs" I couldn't believe his response, but we laughed about it and I dismissed his theory.

The night of the show arrived and the Concert Hall was rammed full of people, and just like Mike had predicted most of them were white. They weren't white b-boys however, most of the crowd were grunge and alternative type people. I was quite surprised to say the least.

Lench Mob opened up the show and they absolutely killed it. Their sound was a bit rough thanks to the sound man, but their energy was great as they murdered track after track. I was slamming around in the pit, rapping along, and it was apparent that most of the people here weren't familiar with their music. The set was a bit short for my likings, but they still put on one hell of a performance regardless.

Cube was up next, and he came out with a plethora of music from his solo albums. Much to my dismay Mike had been correct in his prediction, as Cube was getting the crowd involved in sing-a-longs quite frequently. There was nothing funnier than watching a bunch of corny white kids trying to join Cube in participation, but it was getting old quick. All in all he put on a decent show, played quite a lot of great songs, and rocked the stage for a good hour or so, but to me Lench Mob were the highlight of the night.

On the way home I felt a bit dumbfounded. What had happened to hip hop? A mere two years ago if a white kid attended a rap show, he or she would be one of the few white folk in attendance. Now there were barely any black people attending rap shows, and the white kids who were attending them weren't even rap kids. They were punks, thrashers, metal heads, goths and grunge kids. 

I could only wonder what the future held for this once all-black art form...

Friday, 7 November 2014

Updates 11/07/2014

Greetings everyone, and welcome to yet another quick update post. First and foremost I just want to apologize for my lack of entries for the month of October. While most people generally celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, I personally celebrate the 31 days of Halloween. Most of the month was spent watching horror movies daily, as well as partaking in the Toronto Zombie Walk and of course Halloween festivities with my son. I've also been spending a lot of time with my significant other, Stacey.

I'm the first to admit I've been a bit sidetracked with my new love interest, yet at the same time she has been very inspiring to me, as she has pulled me out of my creative slump. Granted I haven't been too creative with the blog lately, but musically I'm back on track once again. A couple of weeks ago her and I were out shopping, and somehow we got on the subject of Boney M, which resulted in me singing "Brown girl in the ring" as we did the groceries. I told her I was going to download the album "Night flight to Venus" and see if there were any good samples on it I could use.

Sure enough when I returned home I got my hands on it and scoured through every song looking for ideas that could work. I actually ended up making three new songs with the samples I chopped. I'm really not clear as to what I'm going to do with the first two songs, but I'm pretty sure one of them will be used for the "Street Trash" project. The third song I made which is entitled "Night Flight" is going to appear on my latest full length effort "What's Below Remains Below" which is surprisingly almost complete, ahead of schedule I might add, as the pending release date is January 15, 2015, my 42nd birthday.

Night Flight turned out very interesting. Musically the structure is similar to the Boney M song, but obviously done in more of my anti-rap fashion. Lyrically the song ended up going in the direction of a fictional concept: myself and others are aboard a spaceship that is bringing us to a club on Venus to party down for the weekend, when in reality I am actually daydreaming while taking the bus, which is my "Night flight" to see my girl who is my "Venus"

I am very happy with how the whole idea panned out, and it really brought me back to my childhood, as my parents owned that Boney M record on vinyl. If you're up there in age as I am, I hope you can relate to this and experience the same nostalgic feeling. Needless to say with my new muse in my life you can expect a lot more happenings from me in the months and years to come. Please be sure to check out "Night Flight" via the link below... K