Monday, 18 October 2021

Altered Native

 1997 was shaping up to be a monumental year. I was creating art, making music, reuniting with friends, & working my “dream job” at HMV records. In my spare time when I was alone you could find me playing WCW vs. The World on playstation, as that was the newest and hottest wrestling video game to come out at the time.  Wu-Tang Clan had also released their second full length album that year entitled “Wu-Tang Forever” and that was pretty much the soundtrack of 1997 for me. 

Shayne and his family had moved up to Orangeville so I took a trip up there with a friend one day to visit them and catch up. Turns out Shayne was making plans to open a small head shop in the town of Orangeville, and he already had the wheels in motion. It was very cool and exciting to see my friend going out on a limb and taking a leap of faith on what could possibly be a major career for him.

Before I knew it Shayne already had a location and had already started painting the place, acquiring stock, and getting things set up. I spent a day there with him and his mother Amber, and we painted some incense burners that he would be selling. 

Being a stranger in a strange town Shayne did not want to gamble on locals he didn’t know and couldn’t trust to work for him, so I offered to work weekends for him devoid of pay to help him out and give him a bit of a break. Being the stand up guy that he is, he offered to pay me in product as he felt bad about me working for free, and that agreement was absolutely fine with me. 

The shop officially opened in October of 1997, and although I was still working weekdays at HMV in Toronto, my weekends would now be spent in Orangeville. Thankfully my girlfriend Jenny was gracious enough to drive me there and pick me up each weekend, but that soon came to an end as we decided to mutually part ways, as our lives were going in separate directions and we weren’t getting to spend much time together anymore. 

Shayne ended up naming the shop “The Altered Native” which was a nod to our circle of friends, as we always used to pronounce the word “alternative” in two parts, Alter-native. It was merely a simple and funny play on the word that amused us, but he was now taking it to the next level. I helped out and designed a logo for him, which he put on business card sized stickers with the shop’s information, and proceeded to commence “operation guerrilla marketing tactics” which consisted of sticking these things everywhere and anywhere, with fast food drive-throughs  being the main target as they saw so much traffic on a daily basis.  

The shop was small and quaint, and he started off mainly selling incense, burners, smoking accessories, and t-shirts. We had a lot of friends in bands at the time too, so Shayne was gracious enough to let them sell their CDs on consignment there as well. Over time he started to branch out and acquire new products from different companies, thus the store was slowly growing into something bigger and better every passing day. 

Eventually he convinced his cousin Jason to join the crew. Jason lived in Kitchener and had recently started tattooing, so he also took a leap of blind faith, sold most of belongings, and moved to Orangeville. It was a very exciting time and I was more than happy to start getting tattoos from Jason. 

As the months passed by the shop was really starting to pick up momentum. Shayne planted the seed in me that it would only be a matter of time before he would need me there to work full time, and I was totally game for that…

The original location at 85 Broadway as it stands today.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Post Secondary Education

 It felt like it wasn't very long after the "one night only Wiggaz show" when my telephone rang one day and I was surprised to hear Gerg on the other end. Despite my former grudge I was holding it was a pleasant conversation and I can remember being happy to hear from him. Our circle of friends was somewhat divided the last year, and deep down I wanted nothing more than for all of us to be one big happy family again. 

Greg and I caught up on the phone for awhile then he brought up a new musical project he was working on with former Wiggaz drummer Frank, and a fellow named Carlo who was the bass player for the band Fraktured. The trio dubbed themselves "GRIFT" (after the movie "The Grifters") & cooked up a batch of fresh songs that they were looking for various people to sing on. I told him I was definitely interested, and not long after I was in possession of a cassette recording of a few of the songs he thought I might like to work with.

I can still vividly remember listening through the handful of songs a few times and decided on two of which I thought I could do something with. I put the word in to Gerg and it was decided. I can also vividly remember having a puff, then excitingly sitting down on the couch in my apartment on a nice sunny day with pen and paper ready to write some lyrics.

I honestly can't remember the window of time from when I finished writing until I was in a car with Greg on my way back to Rumblefish studios, our old Wiggaz rehearsal space. The owner Dave Caravaggio had since built a recording studio in what was once his oversized office and it was legit! Although I had been playing in bands on and off for 10 years at this point, today was actually my second time ever in a professional facility, the first being the Grasshopper demo 4-5 years prior.

From what I recall we were in and out of there like the wind, myself killing everything in one takes for the most part, and there was an overall buzz of excitement in the air amongst all parties involved. It was nice seeing Dave again, hanging out with Greg again, and re-uniting with Frank who I hadn't seen in some time. I'm pretty sure Carlo was there as well although we weren't close friends by any means at that point in life. 

I was feeling great about how things went and I couldn't wait to hear the final product. I was extra excited to learn that Gerg and the boys were putting this out on CD which was mind blowing to me at the time as it would be my first musical endeavor that was to be captured on compact disc. Recording was said and done then it was back to regular life. 

Eventually our lease was up and myself, Jay & Julie decided to part our separate ways despite still being great friends. I can't remember if I ended up back at my parent's house again or not for a brief window of time, but I did eventually end up living with Jenny and her family. Her oldest sister had gotten married and flew the coop, so her folks decided to sell their house and get an apartment on Lisa street, which was literally a 1 or 2 minute walk from Silver Maple where I had just moved out of.

I wasn't working with Jay at Beak Industries in Woodbridge anymore by this point, but I was still working at HMV in the Eaton's Centre, so it was nice still living across the street from the Bramalea City Centre where I caught my bus to Toronto for work.

At some point during this year my dream came true and our circle of friends were once again re-united and in full force. All my former room mates from "The Slayer House" were back in the picture, and it was great hanging out with Mike C. again as well as rekindling my friendship with Shayne, whom I considered my best friend. Him and Jay were talking, and after time we were all "one big happy family" yet again! 

I also did eventually end up back in my Mom & Dad's basement and my mom was now dropping me off to get my Go bus to Toronto in the mornings. When I moved into the Lisa apartment with Jenny and her family, her parents allowed my faithful cat Fritz to come along for the ride even though they weren't thrilled about the idea. When I moved back home they asked me if they could keep Fritz as they had grown so fond of him, I instantly said "YES" as it was the least I could do considering how hospitable they had been to me over the last 2 years.

After some anticipation, the day finally came and I had the Grift CD in my possession. As per usual I instantly headed to the stereo, threw on the headphones & listened through from front to back as I followed along with the lyrics. It was really cool hearing some familiar old voices again including Pat from Fence, Jim from Fraktured, Scott from Viciousphere, Fudd from Dirge, Kenny from Perfectly Normal, and my old BBJ brother Mike Myers. It was also very interesting to hear what had been done with the songs Gerg gave me on the tape way back when.

I can remember being so proud to show my parents I was on a real CD, as they somewhat frowned upon my musical ventures. I think it was out of spite to a degree like "HA! LOOK WHAT I DID! I MADE IT!" but the reality of the fact was I wasn't anywhere even close to making a living off of a musical career. 

In the Grasshopper days I had delusions of becoming a rock star, but at this point of my life I didn't think like that anymore. I just loved making music, being creative, and hopefully giving something to people that they could get something positive out of. My whole philosophy at this point was that even if I can change one person's life that is all the payment I needed.

I was extremely satisfied with how my two songs with Grift turned out and it was a trip to see a photo of myself in a CD. That could of been the end of the chapter and I would have been more than happy, but unbeknownst to myself this was just the beginning of a much bigger chapter...

GRIFT - Post Secondary Education

Monday, 22 February 2021

Dumpster Fire


Well once again I've failed in my promise to bring this blog back to life with some form of legs again.

I attempted to continue the story once again in early 2020 with the free time I'd been granted due to covid, yet I only managed to post twice the entire year. I remember being very excited and motivated at the time as well to get back at it with consistency, but it ended up being a very un-motivating and somewhat depressing year for myself and many others I'm sure. 

It was nice to see tons of other people however reveling in all the free time and having creative explosions in bountiful abundance. For what some might call one of the worst years ever I feel like many people created what they would consider their "best works" to date, and that always kept a light of hope in me to get out of my creative slump.

I did still create some art through drawing, I did still write some lyrics here and there, and I did still create music which has yet to be released, I just let myself down a bit in how little I did of all 3 of those and the above mentioned creative writing slump. 

The most positive and inspiring aspect I personally received from 2020 was all the time I got to spend with my son, and watching him grow in his own musical adventures through his guitar playing (something I could never do) it's just been a drag that him and I can't get out and do the things we enjoy outside of home, but I still cherish every second I have with him regardless of where we are or what we do.

So I guess you could consider this another empty promise to get the story going again? I certainly hope so, but one that finally plays out. 2 months have already passed by in 2021 and I've been struggling to break the chain of 2020 but I'm happy to report I have made some chinks in it. Pushing through with motivation, inspiration, & positive changes moving forward from here. 

If you are reading this, I hope you and yours are well, and I hope the last 12 months haven't been hard on your families and loved ones. 

On that note I'd like to share a posting of mine from Facebook dated January 1,2021:

To the ones we’ve lost in 2020...
Thank you all for the inspiration,
motivation and memories...
Neil Peart (Rush)
Juan ‘Pampero Firpo’ Kachmanian (Pro Wrestler)
Jesús “La Parka” Escoboza (Pro Wrestler)
Kazuo “Kendo Nagasaki” Sakurada (Pro Wrestler)
Wayde “Rocky Johnson” Bowles (Pro Wrestler)
Ruben “Hercules Ayala” Cruz (Pro Wrestler)
Sean Reinert (Death, Cynic)
Christoper “Justice Pain” Wilson (Pro Wrestler)
Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity)
Thomas “Tommy Mac” MacDonald (friend)
Josh Pappe (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles)
Max Von Sydow (Actor)
Jason Rainey (Sacred Reich)
Jeff Grosso (Pro Skateboarder)
Howard Finkel (Ring Announcer)
Lester “Supreme” Perfors (Pro Wrestler)
Steve “Thee Slayer Hippy” Hanford (Poison Idea)
Kenneth Osmond (Actor)
Fred Willard (Actor)
Shad Gaspard (Pro Wrestler)
Hana Kimura (Pro Wrestler)
Kendall “Chi Pig” Chinn (SNFU)
John Saxon (Actor)
Gabriel Theodoropolus (Grandfather)
Annie Theodoropolus (Grandmother)
William Dent (Uncle)
James “Kamala” Harris (Pro Wrestler)
Malik Basit (The Roots)
Joseph “Animal” Laurinatis (Pro Wrestler)
Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen)
Tracy Smothers (Pro Wrestler)
David Prowse (Actor)
Gangsta Ridd (Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.)
Richard Corben (Artist)
Tiny Lister Jr.(Actor)
Jeremy Bulloch (Actor)
John “Ecstasy” Fletcher (Whodini)
Jon “Brodie Lee” Huber (Pro Wrestler)
Daniel “Zev Love X/MF Doom” Dumile (Rapper/Producer)
I know there were numerous other losses in 2020 such as Sean Connery, Kenny Rogers, Pat Patterson and many more, but these are the ones that affected me personally, so please don’t take offense in any names I have omitted. Here’s hoping for much less loss and heart break in 2021!