Jim Bravo & The Beethoven Frieze
WAVELENGTH #26 SUNDAY AUGUST 6, 11PM
IN MANY GUISES
Early last year a
"drummer wanted" ad caught my eye - the influences cited by the band were
Stereolab, Spiritualized and The Orb. Fast forward to 2000:
released their debut CD, Late Night Tea (Mother Superior Records) and
are preparing for an appearance at Wavelength on August 6th. Rob sat down
with me over beer and tunes to provide me with a few launching points.
The band is the creation
of Rob Boak and Denis Dufour, friends that have been creating music together
since October '98. Interstellar make music that instantly registers with
the listener, uncovering a vast, diverse palette of influences. Though
they're not shy about revealing their immediate sources of inspiration,
they see no reason to limit themselves in the exploration of uncharted
"I've been lying on your bed, Pavement in my head..." - "The Ocean Room"
"The Ocean Room" is a lazy, swirly jam reminiscent of early Mercury Rev.
Denis' sweet, spaced-out vocals lend soul to the pop element of Interstellar's
music. '60s psychedelia like The Beach Boys and The 13th Floor Elevators
figure in this particular part of their sound equation. Both Denis and
Rob play guitar, bass and keyboards, allowing them to interchange elements
of the mix with ease. The Interstellar approach to songwriting evolves
out of their rehearsals, which are often nothing more than extended, improvised
jams. They construct songs from a single sound idea, continually layering
and modifying the mix towards a fully-realized composition.
For the Late Night Tea sessions with engineer Jeff McMurrich, some 35
song ideas were on the table prior to recording, but only eight eventually
found their way onto the album. Interstellar's music is minimalist at
its core, but it's the juxtaposition of the song's elements, and the way
the various styles morph into one another that make their music so engaging.
The result is a pleasing head trip; a track called "The Casting Couch"
begins in an ambient-like setting but soon plunges itself into an excursion
that channels a high-speed voyage from France's countryside to the German
autobahn. Each song on Late Night Tea subtly reveals different aspects
of the band's character. Tracks like "Goa" and "Andromeda Galaxy Hotel"
give a nod to more modern influences while preserving classic sound structures.
Elements of jazz, dub, hip-hop and Eno-style ambience all subtly weave
their way into the songs. As 2001 approaches, Interstellar are ascending
towards their own unique, romantic vision of space and all its wonder.
WAVELENGTH #26 SUNDAY AUGUST 6, 10PM
You may know Nilan
Perera from his work with the Excalceolators and such jazz groups as N.O.M.A.
At Wavelength, Nilan
the solo artist will be playing his guitar with an additive/sampling pedal
called the Boomerang. This is what he has to say about his place in the
My name is Nilan.
I play guitar, ghembri and bass and sometimes I sing. It takes a bit of
habit combined with ordinary nastiness to look outside a TV and think
that you have something to say. Habit coming from being in "new jazz/new
music" ensembles since '84 and not watching TV for over two years. Prepared
guitar means that you stick foreign objects into the sound reproduction
characteristics of a guitar in order to create sounds that are not normally
associated with the guitar. I do this as well as regular guitar technique
in order to let you into my musical processes and ideas through the act
of improvisation. Improvisation can be defined as spontaneous composition.
Everybody has done this, from Bach to Thurston Moore, from ancient Afro/Asian
cultures to Ellington/Parker/Ornette/AACM and beyond. You can do it too.
Listen to cool/clever/ consistent/solid music, get an instrument, learn
how to play it, be humble/rigorous, associate with like-minded individuals
and play with no fear. Joy will occur. This is how I did it. Come and
see if it all worked out. Peace.
WAVELENGTH #27 SUNDAY AUGUST 13, 11pm
A couple of solar
cycles back, an odd name would pop up in the local listings: n'door-fin.
Then it stopped popping up. And then in 1999, the name reappeared as the
title of the debut CD by a band named Tetrezene. The same band, playing
the same songs. One of the few Toronto bands that explores the interzone
between the electro/DJ realm and the electric guitar domain, Tetrezene
makes music aimed straight for your pleasure centres. P.M.
Toronto, here we come! No really, here's some questions posed by Jonny
Dovercourt and answered by Shannon du Hasky:
is the chemical formula for bliss?
Sugar & Salt
Tartrazine Lake #5
Heapin' Spoonfuls of Sugar
Little Fluffy Clouds
is Tartrazine Lake?
It's in your mouth. Tartrazine is a yellow-orange food additive - it gives
Kraft Dinner it's unappatizing colour. It's what our name is derived from,
a bastardized spelling. I was eating some Misty Mints and discovered I
was eating Tartazine Lake number something or other. I was horrified that
this ingredient had the word Lake tagged on to it - to make people think
it was natural and OK to eat. I've never eaten Misty mints again.
us about the funniest/nastiest Tetrezene band fight. Come on, we want
We've never had a band fight until this question started one! (Way to
go, Dovercourt - foot-munching ed.)
memory serves, you guys used to have a DJ in your midst. What happened
Quick, look behind you - he's in the soundbooth! Yes, Greg Bolton, a.k.a.
DJ Shrimp Tibs, was in our band for about a year and plays on two tracks
on the album. When he left Ben came into our midst. Ryder was our soundguy
until quite recently. We really like Ryder on stage and we really miss
having a sound person. Greg has offered to come out and deal with sound
for our next show. We really think that's grand.
any of you tried those new Arizona - Energy/Health/Memory drinks?
No, we're all tripped out on REV - a crazy new boozy drink that tastes
and looks like lighter fluid. A lot of alcohol and a lot of "gutu nut".
(I'm spelling this wrong - it's a health thing. I'll look at the bottle
again.) Apparently it's going to be taken off the market. It makes you
drunk and speedy and aggressive. Coke in a bottle? My roommate had some.
Tasted like hell.
are like children. You give birth to them, feed them, nurture them, teach
'em how to conduct themselves in the world. Does it hurt when they grow
up and start coming home late, staying up all hours and sassing back at
No, we enjoy giving them free rein for all.
WAVELENGTH #27 SUNDAY AUGUST 13, 10pm
While sifting through
the hundreds of megabytes of data transmitted daily through the Wavelength
mainframe, we began to notice many repeated references to a place called
"New York". Upon further inspection, it seemed that discussion of this so-called
"New York" centered around its status as a world-famous metropolis - which
was strange since we'd never heard it - and apparently, how much "cooler"
it was than our own beloved city of Toronto.
Could it be possible?
Could another place be more interesting and exciting than our own centre
One thing was clear:
we had to send operatives immediately to investigate and neutralize this
potential threat. And only Agent Muth would find out the truth. Yes, Wavelength
put our most skilled and feared undercover saboteur, Julia Muth, on the
It was only later,
and with great sadness, that we realized the timing of Julia's mission
would prevent her from answering any of our pertinent questions regarding
her own musical band, Celestino.
Julia, with her usual
unfathomable stealth, had slipped a cassette into the Wavelength stereophonic
unit one evening while we were distracted by the labyrinthine plot of
one particular episode of Sliders. The song was entitled "Football Romance",
and once we had scraped ourselves up from off the rug, we sheepishly informed
her, "Uh, Julia - that was really good!" I already knew what a voice Julia
possessed; I asked her to sing on the Kid Sniper record after I heard
her sing some Guided By Voices songs on a friend's porch late one night.
It turns out Celestino
is the perfect vehicle for Julia's sweet soul/country pipes. She formed
the group two years ago with drummer Yvan MacKinnon when they were both
cultural studies students at Trent University in Peterborough - it now
also includes bassist and "enigmatic sideman" Craig Dunsmuir. That one
song (the only one the band has recorded to date) conveys lifetimes' worth
of rural loneliness, urban alienation and other lovely, terrible things.
Yes, it's awesome,
and after hearing it, we had no choice but to book them in for August
13th's Wavelength with Tetrezene. Enjoy! or you may not even live to regret
- Jonny Dovercourt
WAVELENGTH #28 SUNDAY AUGUST 20 11pm
Dovercourt enlisted the
aid of noise disciple Buddy Dovercourt for a schooling in the louder spheres.
Buddy took Jonny to the man himself - Knurl.
This Noise is a scary
thing for the uninitiated. One evening in July, Jonny is what Jonny came
away with after his hearing and balance came back:
Knurl: I'm liking
Beethoven lately - shock, quiet, shock - I listen to a lot of classical
where it hits you like that.
Buddy: I know - noise is just a part of classical
Knurl: Trying to strip music of all things you expect from it. When I
started, I was trying to strip away over-production, vocalization, everything
that's been happening in music since jazz and blues. Music got noisier
and noisier through rock'n'roll, the Stooges and punk, so I was thinking
"Fuck it! Just get to the point!"
Buddy: So noise is something to listen to, not just
Knurl: Well it just happens that way. I was putting bits of steel on my
bass guitar, and then I discovered contact mics, using speakers from Sony
Walkman headphones. I put them on a fan and scraped the edges and got
the sound I wanted from punk. I put it directly to tape and boosted the
input levels so that was distorted as well. I used to love it, walking
around in a drugstore listening to those sounds in your headphones, it
puts you in a weird state. Around '93-'94 in Montreal, my wife and I went
to see a dance performance where this guy was testing music, and I gave
him my tape, and he said to send some out. He gave me the names of some
labels: Extreme, Dark Vinyl. I sent them out, packaging them somewhat,
without knowing what major players these labels were. Someone from Extreme
said send it to these guys: one guy in Pittsburgh, one in California,
and the Pittsburgh guy said he'd put it out if I traded for his stuff.
So that's how I heard Aube and the like. I never had time to listen though,
I was too busy making my own stuff. Besides, you can't wash dishes while
listening to noise. It's like you're watching a movie, and you have to
devote all your attention to it. So I started getting letters from Japan
Buddy: Was this before or after meeting Ph?cus?
Knurl: Before, but yeah, they helped me a lot. Brian Damage came to my
first show and took some cassettes down to his radio show. We did this
show where Brian was chained to a wheelchair with a contact mic on the
bottom of the seat. He thrashed around, even fell over at one point, while
I manipulated the noise. It was cool. So the act just happens to come
out like that. For the sound you want, sometimes you have to use a toaster
and two pieces of steel.
Buddy: I love that. Do you ever use the toaster anymore?
Knurl: No, I can't be bothered to go through the motions.
Buddy: The best thing about the toaster was the way
you had complete control over the audience with a household appliance
- some of them would be just pinned to their seats.
Knurl: I don't have control over the audience, I have control over what
I'm doing - the pinning is a bonus. I think it takes control over me.
I get lost in it and forget everything around me unless people are shouting,
"Turn it off!" That's why I have my own amp, so I can crank it up. Sometimes
people say, "Finally it was loud enough, I could hear what you were doing".
You find yourself in this noisesphere...
Buddy: There's one level where you feel it.
Knurl: Because it's a constant. You're not just cringing all the time.
Sometimes when it's a band and they're just loud, not just a constantly
developing thing, it's too much.
Buddy: It's like your eyes adjusting to the dark.
Knurl: Yeah, then the shock wears off.
Buddy: And it invents its own melody.
Knurl: I don't mind starting with a harsh element though - when it continues
too long, the shock wears off. I'm trying to develop sound where I don't
get too used to it, and the shock element can happen again and again.
Buddy: Anything really shocking ever happen?
Knurl: I almost blew out my ear! I was playing, and the sound stopped,
it was silent. I noticed a cord had come out. I bent over and plugged
it back in and everything went GRRRRRRRR! I couldn't hear for three days
and one of my ears is still not as good as the other one.
WAVELENGTH #28 SUNDAY AUGUST 20, 10PM
between Wavelength's Craig Fraid and improv enigma Ryan Driver, regarding
his "quiet music" trio, The Silt:
all else comprises The Silt? Are there any instruments used in this group
people might not be accustomed to seeing you play?
The Silt is Doug Tielli and Marcus Quin and I. Yes, each of us plays several
instruments. Sometimes any one of us sings and plays the guitar, drums
or bass, but Doug also likes to play the trombone, Marcus may play the
clarinet and erhu, and Ryan might like to play the flute now and again,
or his Realistic Concertmateo. But mostly we just play guitars and stuff.
does The Silt differ, if at all, from the typical activities of the free
improv/"20th century" composition circles that its members (well, you
for one) seem to run with?
we like verses and, more rarely, chori, and we very much like bridges
but we don't use them much yet. Mostly it seems The Silt plays songs that
we have written and they really sound like songs. These circles that we
run with tend to seem to make music that does not resemble songs. We have
however played a number of shows opening for Michelle McAdorey's band
(with Eric Chenaux and Martin Arnold) recently. They are playing music
so much like songs and we love it.
by some of the instruments you use (thumb reeds/duck calls, analog synthesizers),
it seems as though you tend to enjoy working with instruments which surprise
even you as you're playing them. Is this a fair assessment?
Surprises can be quite wonderful. There are one million kinds of surprises
and they are what might make music or anything exciting. I am not often
unable to expect what the instruments I play will sound like, but it is
true that the synthesizer and the thumb reeds which I tend to play when
I am improvising have the capacity to make large timbral shifts very abruptly.
What is surprising is what some people choose to play at the same time
as others, and that's why I like improvised music. The Silt is not too
much like that because if we play "A Song About A Red Whistle" it's always
going to be "A Song About A Red Whistle" with fixed words, tune, chords,
etc. Some songs are more "open concept" than others but there is always
at least a tune in a Silt song. We think we know almost exactly what some
of our songs sound like.
if in any way, have the somewhat concurrent recent dissolutions of both
the Ulterior series and The Music Gallery's Richmond St. location changed
the way you (and your improvising ilk, if they can be spoken for, that
is) practice your craft?
I think these dissolutions have only changed the frequency with which
the ilk has been publicly crafty and I am certain that soon there will
be new regularly occurring series and different venues to welcome the
sweet sounds. As I understand it Eric Chenaux is starting a series of
improvised music this month and Martin Arnold is curating a series featuring
improvised and composed music, sound installation, etc., to be held at
the Mercer Union Gallery starting in September. Also Martin is trying
to open up the rehearsal space of an existing music company for bi-weekly
inherently paradoxical nature of what could be deemed "silly" sounds in
yr non-idiomatic idiom vs. the sombre capital-A Ahhhht-ness of it all;
Silliness is not something I care much for personally but I do very much
like it when something seems silly. For instance, some of Olivier Messiaen's
pieces seem wacky or ridiculous at first hearing but they are always about
God and you can always feel the underlying seriousness. We have to laugh
at things when they amuse us. However it is a little upsetting to me when
music is definitively silly or humourous. I think the Silt's music is
rarely silly and rarely has the Aaaaht-ness. Sometimes we have haunting
BRAVO & THE BEETHOVEN FRIEZE
WAVELENGTH #29 SUNDAY AUGUST 27 11pm
CHANGES MAKING SENSE
Jim Bravo (let's clear this up once and for all - it's his real name)
is a Toronto artist who's been performing his music for almost four years.
His supporting band has varied from a single guitar to a seven-piece revolving
circus. His most dynamic and cohesive band to date is The Beethoven Frieze
(named after a painting by Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt), featuring
Mandy Mintz and Rocco Signorile. The group will have a new release in
October. Jim and I congregated in the basement to discuss "the creative
THE CORRELATION BETWEEN SONGWRITING AND PAINTING
have a friend who's a painter and a musician - his work reflects his base
minimalism. It's got a minimalist construction with spurts of colour -
so does his bass playing- With me, musically, I've got a couple of tornados
flying around in my head. My paintings used to be about colourful freakouts
with saturated primaries - no mixing. Now they're becoming tighter - pick
a theme and work on it. If there's any correlation, it's that both are
becoming clearer· and it's a conscious effort. Once I find something I'm
comfortable with in music I'll stay there for a long time. I won't notice
that I should be moving on because I've turned to painting, but then the
music's growing mouldy. I dropped "serious" painting for a while and started
expanding my music collection - just getting back into some older stuff
that's always been in my subconscious.
RECENT SONGWRITING AND INFLUENCES
my imagery is less abstract than it was before. Early on as a songwriter
there was a lot of anxious energy; it (lyrics) used to just be whatever
rhymed and now I'm making a conscious effort to tell a story. It's confusing
when someone listens to you playing on your own and tells you, "you should
check these bands out," so you go and buy those albums, take them home
and listen to them and you think, "this person's on my wavelength" (you'll
be hearing from our lawyers - copyright infringement ed.) and you're supposed
to be influenced by it. It's a good thing that there's someone else out
there, but it can make you paranoid - "If I write this song, they'll just
say it's a spin-off of/sounds just like (whatever)". You get self-conscious
as a writer. With Syd Barrett I was in Octopus-land forever! Now, in a
good way this experience can move you in other directions - get you away
When I was at O.C.A.,
a group of us would be painting and listening to music on the fifth floor
of the Stewart building. It was a good cesspool of music and I mean "cesspool"
in the dirtiest, best sense! It's music that's not supposed to collide
at all but collides in your brain and melts - like that album cover by
Guided By Voices (Do the Collapse); just a whole bunch of different cars,
compressed into one.
WAVELENGTH #29 SUNDAY AUGUST 27 10pm
The mighty Mason Hornet
were unable to play this gig with Jim Bravo and the Beethoven Frieze, so
Doc Pickles' alter ego, "Doc Pickles", offered up the services of Tigerbomb.
As penance for screwing up the schedule, Doc and "Doc" got together for
drinks in the alley behind the El Mocambo to share a bottle of screech.
Doc: How long have
you been here in this alley, Doc?
Doc: You've got to take better care of yourself.
Screech? Are you serious?
What happened to your Lysol habit?
Doc: Habits come and go. Besides, all the stores in the neighbourhood
won't sell me no more of that tasty Lysol. Want some screech?
Doc: Is that all you have?
Doc: I have some St. Ives in my shopping cart if you want me to go get
Doc: Screech is fine. So how have you been keeping? What's new with Tigerbomb?
Heard you were opening for Kittie at the Rivoli last year.
Doc: That was last year? I thought that show was still coming up.
Doc: No, I'm pretty sure you've already played it.
Doc: Oh yeah, now I remember. Sorry for getting Mason Hornet banned.
Doc: That's why they won't return my phone calls? What happened? Did you
make an ass of yourself again?
Doc: Shut the fuck up you fucking fuck.
Doc: Come on buddy, we're losing you, get back on the radar screen. Tell
me what happened at the Kittie show.
Doc: I don't know. Something about me wearing a nightie.
Doc: That's not enough to get banned from the Rivoli.
Doc: Sure it was. You're not playing there are you?
Doc: But that was the Tigerbomb Doc, Doc.
Doc: A Doc is a Doc is a Doc.
Doc: That's enough.
Doc: Hickory Dickory Dock.
Doc: Let's get back on topic.
Doc: A mouse ran up my cock.
Doc: Come on buddy.
Doc: Hickory dickory - uh who are you? Why are you talking to me?
Doc: I'm you buddy. So what do you say, Doc Pickles opening for Jim Bravo?
Doc: We can't both open for Jim Bravo.
Doc: Mason Hornet aren't able to play that gig. I have to go back to the
Cayman Islands to renew my license to prescribe medication.
Doc: So what you're saying is that you want Tigerbomb to open for Jim
Doc: If it's okay with you, it would be an honour.
Doc: You and Jim Bravo can go suck a dick.
Doc: Oh come on, it's just for one night.
Doc: No way dude. I don't hang out with that indie-rock crowd. You guys
suck. You've all got your heads up your assholes.
Doc: Well at least we're not living in an alley.
Doc: Fucking apologist proctologists.
Doc: One show. You can play one show.
Doc: Nope. Can't do it. Too busy. Dave Newfeld is recording me a brand
Doc: You're making an album?
Doc: I think so. What's it to you?
Doc: Newfeld is awesome! What's he doing hanging out with a loser like
Doc: Go eat shit.
Doc: One show. That's all I ask.
Doc: Not on your life.
Doc: Can't you do me just this one favour? The Wavelength scene doesn't
go to Kittie shows, and aside from myself none of them go to the open
mic at the Gladstone either. This is the only chance they'll get to see
you. Maybe they'll even like you.
Doc: Fucking losers hanging out on a Sunday night. Don't they have anything
better to do on a Sunday night? There's never a lineup to get into strip
clubs on Sunday.
Doc: I'll buy you a case of St. Ives malt liquor if you play the show.
Doc: A whole case?
Doc: A big shiny new case, all for you.
Doc: Do I have to wear any clothes?
Doc: Well that's up to you. For 30 minutes, the stage is yours.
Doc: Well. I dunno. What do you say Emmit?
(Emmit gets out of the shopping cart)
Emmit : What did he say about malt liquor?