My Songza Playlists

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Do you need to hear some new music? Or some old music? Forever, I’ve loved sharing songs with other people. And for the past while I’ve been able to to that on a mass scale as a guest curator for Songza – the best service for streaming music based on your mood or activity. To see all my playlists, go here. And may I recommend my two favourites: Goths Just Wanna Have Fun and Moonlight Swim in Canada. Thanks for listening!

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The Best New Vampire Movies (Spoiler: They’re not horror)

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Note: I was tempted to title this post: “Five Vampire Movies You Need to See Right now! #5 will shock you!” But then I decided to write like an adult. Enjoy!

There’s a scene in Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch’s stylish 2013 vampire film, where a character decides to drink blood the old-fashioned way — from a live human. The titular undead lovers, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are mortified. They get their blood from clinics, and sip it out of flasks and goblets, mostly in tempered, private moments that Jarmusch plays for all the similarities to junkies getting off on a fix. They do not go around ripping people’s necks open. “It’s the 21st Century!” an annoyed Eve tsks the young vampire, before kicking her to the curb. Because everyone who knows about vampires these days knows that they are not the monsters they used to be.

A-girl-walks-home-posterI was reminded of this while watching A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. The debut feature from Ana Lily Amirpour has been getting a lot of buzz, mostly for the novelty of being the first vampire film from Iran. That’s not why you should see it. (Plus, it’s a fuzzy claim: the dialogue is all Farsi, and it’s made by a woman of Iranian descent, but shot in California and funded by Americans like Elijah Wood and Vice) The striking poster art, a red and black illustration of a seductive yet threatening female figure cloaked in a chador, is a fair representation of what the movie is, which is, above all else, extremely cool.

Shot in black-and-white, Amirpour’s film is as much about a boy and his car as it is about immortality. It is about a hunger, but for belonging and, failing that, for escape. The vampire, credited only as The Girl, could equally have been called The It Girl—29-year-old  Sheila Vand plays her squarely in the Winona Ryder/Emily Strange mold. She lives in a basement apartment decorated with a Madonna poster and is prone to dancing around to vinyl records—in one exquisite scene, with the boy, Arash. In my favourite shot, she skateboards down the middle of an empty street, her chador flapping in the night air behind her. The director has said in interviews that she grew up watching monster movies and is a big fan of Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat, but this isn’t a horror film. And that, despite its exoticness, makes it not unique but rather right in line with all the other great vampire movies that have come out lately.

One of the best things about vampires is their adaptability, how they can be used to tell all kinds of stories, be it horror, comedy, drama, western, fantasy, or anything else. A few years back, I relished the wave of more monstrous nosferatu that popped up as counterpoint to Twilight and the explosion of supernatural romance, in films like 30 Days of Night, Daybreakers and Stakeland. But I’m equally delighted by the ways that vampire films have surprised me since.  I’m working on writing more in detail about why I believe the traditional vampire character — predator, dangerous, unsympathetic — is not as popular in contemporary cinema, and what the recent emphasis on transformation and the morality of serial killing means. For now, I just want to celebrate and push these Five Vampire Films You Need to See Right Now!

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014)

Absolutely hilarious. Dare I say, the best vampire comedy ever made, by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (Flight of the Conchords), comes in the form of a mockumentary about three undead roommates living in New Zealand. Takes aim at every cliché and answers some very important questions, such as how do you go bar-hopping when you have be invited in everywhere and why does it always have to be a virgin? (You’ll never eat a sandwich the same way again.) There have been good funny vampire movies over the years but this is some serious Spinal Tap level comedy. What We Do in the Shadows has done the festival circuit and is trying to make its way to American theatres in February, via a rather bizarre crowd-funding campaign.

 

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

Above-mentioned Jarmusch film is simply divine, and the most seductive vampire movie since The Hunger. Seriously, why wouldn’t you want to watch alabaster Tilda Swinton glide around looking gorgeous for 2 hours? It’s an indie/art movie for sure (i.e., slow) and, as noted, light on the neck biting/hunting, but beautifully explores the malaise of immortality and both the allure and trappings of nostalgia. Hiddleston’s reclusive rock star, with his vintage gear and collection of vinyl records, and bratty attitude, is a fine heir to Lestat. Spend a lazy Sunday with this one, available on Netflix.

 

BYZANTIUM (2012)

Neil Jordan’s last vampire film was Interview with the Vampire, so, you know, no pressure. This one is a gorgeous gothic thriller, adapted from a theatre play about two vampire women trying to hide out in a seaside town from what we eventually learn are nefarious, clandestine authorities. As lady of the night Clara (aka Carmilla), Gemma Arterton brings a legit feminist heroine to the genre, while Saoirse Ronan as Eleanor captures the frustrations of being trapped as the teenager in a mother-daughter relationship for all eternity. It’s plenty bloody and vicious, but not straight up horror. Still, a waterfall of blood, people. Also available on Netflix.

 

AFFLICTED (2013)

One real horror film about vampires that should be on your radar is this Canadian production, especially if you’re a fan of the found-footage, Paranormal Activity/REC type of film. Unfortunately, I missed its TIFF premiere because they don’t actually advertise it as a vampire film, but it’s definitely a bloodsucker tale. Best friends Clif and Derek set off on an around-the-world adventure, loaded with cameras and gear to document every jackass move on their blog, when Derek gets hit with an unusual bug. Super strength, aversion to sunlight, craving for blood… wanna guess? The filmmakers (who actually are Clif and Derek) are quite clever about making it all believable, and there are some really nasty sequences. Doesn’t break any ground in vampire mythos or anything but well executed and unique in its genre. It’s on Netflix too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9diSfm0BVkM

 

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (2014)

Forget all the buzz. Seek out this film because it’s fun, funny, touching, pretty, moving, sweet and satisfyingly dark. I wanted to know much more about the vampire Girl, her origins and motives for killing. Apparently that’s all coming soon in a comic book. I also wanted her to have more agency, as they say, to be the force that drives the story, and its ending. But I’ll settle for the captivating performances, the long bouts of heavy silence, the scene in which a real vampire meets a boy dressed up as Dracula, then takes him home, the visual poetry, the simple pleasure of watching a young women bare her fangs. Now playing in Toronto at the TIFF Lightbox, coming soon to The Royal.

 

Why I hate #healthgoth

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On several nights over the past few weeks, I’ve sat down and attempted to write out my feelings about Healthgoth. Yeah, that thing. You may have read about it recently, in Globe and Mail, The New York Times, The Guardian, and even Esquire for goth’s sake. And if you know me you probably forwarded me the link saying, “check this out!” and “thought of you” and “heard about this?” Yeah. I heard about it…. sometime in 2013, when I first saw the HealthGoth Facebook page. I thought it was a joke. I still do. Only now, titans of media are anointing it as a legitimate thing. And that Facebook page has, like 20K followers. Every time I saw a new article, which seemed to be popping up daily, I would guffaw. Don’t these reporters realize they are being bamboozled, ala Lamestain scandal of 1992? It’s just a couple of friends obsessed with black athletic wear and some sarcastic goths having a larf with hashtags, non?

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No pain, no…ah, forget it….

Then on December 17 I got an email. Subject: THE OFFICIAL HEALTH GOTH FITNESS MANIFESTO VIDEO RELEASE. Now, apart from the fact that any press release that uses ALL CAPS is generally promoting the worst music/product ever, this one was particular hilarious. To start: the accompanying photo, of a gang of randoms wearing black and posing at the gym. It looks like a spoof, some skit on Portlandia. Then this:

“Black Nike 5.0’s? Check. Black Under Armor long sleeve shirt? Check. Black Mesh crop top? Check. Welcome to Health Goth, a lifestyle trend that combines dark sith lord purveyors and the health conscious into one.”

Lifestyle trend. Riiiiight. I did not click on the video. But a lot of people did, many of whom kept forwarding it to me. I was starting to feel really angry about this. Because to me, this had absolutely nothing to do with Goth, that thing I love. But then I thought, who the hell am I to decide what can and can’t be goth? Sure, I did literally write the book on it, but I’m hardly the St. Peter of gothdom, judging who can get in through the gates. Although, I’m pretty bloody sure most of my Goth pals would agree that hiring a publicist to pimp your work-out video and promoting Nike is most definitely Not Goth.

OK then, deep breath. Let’s spend some time with this. Maybe I have it all wrong. I quickly realized that there were two distinct factions in this Health Goth story: Johnny Love, the Chicago DJ who also uses the name Deathface, is the “tastemaker” and “figurehead” (in the wording of that press release) behind that video. He maintains the site healthgoth.com, where he mostly sells T-shirts that appropriate logos of big corporate brands into more “goth”-friendly messaging (Example: I Just Can’t) and promotes taking back the gym from bros. Then there are three guys from Portland who run that Healthgoth Facebook page. Mike Grabarek, Chris Cantino and Jeremy Scott are artists obsessed not with benchpressing but the aesthetics of sleek, shiny, futuristic fashion, mostly black but sometimes white, sometimes work-out gear but sometimes not, plus some kink I’ve never heard of — wearing your nice new tracksuits/shoes into the shower or pool and filming yourself getting soaking wet for other dudes who are into that. OK. Each camp claims to have invented this Health Goth thing. And they hate each other, of course.

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No.

At this point I’m pretty sure this has absolutely nothing to do with Goth culture as I know it. So why does it bug me so much? I went back to this great book I had read a few years ago when I was trying examine my bias against hipsters. Hip: The History by John Leland taught me plenty about black culture in America, and how hip and race are intertwined but not so much about why I got annoyed by the PBR-swilling beardos in my neighbourhood, beyond a reminder that the standard “get off my lawn” posture, which signals nothing if one’s own futile attempt to cling to hipness by dismissing everyone else as fakes, is as old as hip itself.

I try to keep those feelings in check, in general. And in terms of Goth, I’ve never been one of those “Elders” who gets mad at the younger generation for not bowing down to the same records I grew up on, or having the same interests. Take the Goth Lolita girls. On the surface, we have very little in common. They don’t listen to goth rock music at all. I don’t see them out at horror movies.  So they prefer to consume anime and aren’t afraid to wear tutus? I’m cool with that. Because I see in them, in their home-made outfits, in their world of elaborate tea parties and extreme girlieness, a polite resistance to the dominant Western youth culture. (Not to mention I appreciate their obsession with Victoriana, which is Goth Style 101.) They are creative, DIY, outrageous, and committed to making the world a more interesting place. They do more than just sit at home and regram other people’s photos, in other words. Or the GHE20G0TH1 club scene in New York. It’s not my scene, but it is a scene, with real creative people doing something in the real world. I feel less kind towards the crap bands operating under the Goth banner the past 10 years. (You know, that awful synthpop that’s like the power metal of goth – a joke some people take waaaaay to seriously.) But even they don’t make me angry. I just choose to listen to other things. So, again, why are the Health Goths pissing me off?

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Because it’s not punk rock. That’s why. Both Love and the Portland trio are fetishizing products. And that’s it. That’s not culture. That’s not any kind of lifestyle I can get behind. What are they actually creating, or contributing? (Both parties do make music, but it seems unconnected to their HG pursuits.) One guy is just a fitness nut who is promoting himself and his cheap shirts with shockingly bad graphic design under the guise of anti-corporate rebellion. The others are just providing a steady scroll of eye candy on Facebook. Granted, the high-tech, far-out fashions and design they post are pretty drool-worthy (I’m all for more people dressing like we live in the Matrix/the Grid/that awesome Interpol video for reals) but how does posting/liking/sharing photos to corporate brands (however artfully composed) make a “community” worth celebrating in the New York Times? In this interview, they expound on Health Goth as “a hybrid of aesthetics we’re plugged into, including elements of biotechnology, sportswear, fetish culture, extreme cleanliness, dystopian advertisements, and rendered environments.” I should like these guys. They’re promoting clothes that are sexy and far-out and men who shave. But oh, look, Grabarek, Cantino and Scott have had meetings with Adidas. Because you know, that’s for sure about art.

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Yes.

Goth, for all its permutations, was never about buying shit. Certainly not expensive designer shit. Which is why all those tabloid headlines screaming, “Rihanna/Jennifer Lawrence goes goth” are so ridiculous. (I particularly love the Lorde goes goth ones. Lorde IS goth, people.) It’s not a costume. It’s not a commodity. It’s not a trend. It is a subculture. It is a lifestyle. One with dozens of different looks and outlooks. You want to adopt the G-word to sell a product, to promote a business. Go ahead. I’m not the boss of you. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t make me throw up in my mouth a little. As for all those media outlets jumping on Love and his fitness manifesto? Screw you for playing into the idea that Goth by its very nature is somehow opposed to being healthy, making Health Goth such a surprising and titillating topic for you. Goths are just people. Some like to work out. Usually in their ratty Joy Division shirts or ill-advised Converse or maybe even some new Adidas their parents got them for Christmas or, most likely, the same boring work-out clothes everyone else is wearing. Some of them even play team sports! Whatevs. #notnews [Edit: As my friend Stephanie, a goth who runs, put it: “I find the whole health goth thing annoying because it perpetuates the stereotype that goths are so precious and pretentious that we can’t even work out without draping ourselves in lace, rivets and eyeliner.” Exactly!]

When I started running, I certainly wished there were more black shoe options. But after finally watching that “OFFICIAL” goth fitness manifesto video, I think I’m fine with my pink runners, thanks. Gonna lace those up, crank some Nitzer Ebb and go shake this whole HealthGoth thing off. Peace.

 

2014: A few of my favourite things

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It’s the last night to do this. To make a year-end list. I’ve avoided it because I’ve been busy devouring everyone else’s lists. Media is full of them at this time of year—when fresh content is limited, looking back at the most popular people and moments of the year that was makes good editorial sense. And so with my journalist hat on, I’ve done it (here’s my list of Top Canadian Albums of 2014 for Huffington Post Music). But sitting here tonight, with less than 24 hours to go in this calendar, I think that I’m still not ready. To decide what is The Best. Even just to me. But I do want to document what moved me, what stuck with me. If there’s a theme, it is one of surprises, and of dreams.


The shows.

For as long as I’ve been going to concerts, they have been as important to me as records. In fact, I think a key reason I’m not so into bands that peaked before my time is that I never got to see them play, which is a huge factor in falling in love with artists and their songs. This was the year I got to see Kate Bush perform live. Something I never, ever, believed would happen. I wrote about it at length here. It remains the absolutely highlight of 2014 while at the same time being impossible to compare to anything else. But wait, there was also Nick Cave. At the Sony Centre. On fire. And me, pushing me way up to the front, where he spent a great deal of the show singing from within the crowd, buoyed by hands. When he came close to where we stood I reached out my left hand and placed it over his heart, while he looked over my head and sang to someone out of my view. I placed my right hand around his thigh, holding him up as he leaned forward, grabbing at those around me. I remember every moment of “Push the Sky Away,” title track from his most recent album, one of the best things he’s ever written, and how it hushed the room. I listen to that song on headphones in bed all the time. It’s my lullaby. A totally different trip was seeing Kraftwerk, in “3D”. Which means they give you silly cardboard glasses to watch their high-tech digital video backdrops. But man, what fun. The loudest show I saw was surprisingly not Swans at NXNE (outdoors, so probably not their fault) or even DFA’s very loud pop up show (again, outdoors) but Ben Frost at the Garrison. Punishing, minimal electronic music in the dark with strobes and fog is one of my favourite spaces and states to be in. I also love dancing, and discovery, and I got both at the debut gig for Operators at the Silver Dollar during NXNE. Literally from the very first notes my colleagues and I knew this was going to be our new favourite band. It’s what we chase all the time, that feeling, that you are witnessing something special unfold before you. So many feelings also watching Tanya Tagaq blow all of the minds at the Polaris Music Prize Gala and the return of The Constantines at Field Trip. Canadians have always made, and continue to make, some of the best fucking music in the world.

 

 The songs.

Pretty simple here. The songs I kept playing on repeat, and repeat, and repeat…

Against Me “Black Me Out”

FKA Twigs “Two Weeks”

Beyonce “Flawless”

Future Islands “Seasons”

Death from Above 1979 “Right On, Frankenstein”

Some movies.

It wasn’t one of those years full of cinema I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about. With two exceptions: 20,000 Days on Earth, a documentary about Nick Cave which is nothing like what you expect a documentary about Nick Cave to be and exactly like what you should expect a documentary about Nick Cave to be. Absolutely inspiring. And What We Do in the Shadows, hands-down the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time and the first to get the vampire comedy right in a very long time.

 

I want to put books here, and poems, and lectures and all kinds of cultural thing that made this year interesting. But most seemed to drift in and out of my view and my consciousness. Which is why I’ve started to write a new project all about memories, and how we preserve them. For when there are no more lists.

 

 

 

French vampires and the Art of Goth: new podcast interviews

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Look out! It’s Fabien from Rue Morgue Radio France….

 

While travelling recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Natasha Scharf, author of the excellent subcultural study Worldwide Gothic, and a journalist of high repute working in the goth/alternative music community in England. We met in the studio of her London publishers to record an interview to promote her beautifully exhaustive new book, The Art of Gothic.

To hear our conversation about the history of Goth imagery, the importance of aesthetics to the culture and of course, her take on “what is goth?”,  click here!

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With Natasha Scharf in London

 

I then moved on to Paris, where my friend Fabien of Rue Morgue France took me to the private museum of eccentric vampire historian Jacques Sirgent to record an episode of Rue Morgue Radio France. If you can forgive my rusty French, listen to the three of us muse on the origins and importance of the nosferatu and our favourite films here.

 

Gift Guide for Grown Up Goths 2014

As much as I’d love to just point you to my post below on great books to give a goth at Christmas, not even Goths can live on books alone… so I present to you now my picks for lovely objects I’ve come across that would make wonderful gifts for the Goth in your life. (Or yourself!) As with last year, I’ve generally avoided clothing and other things that need to be sized to fit, and rank them from modestly priced items into more luxurious splurges. And there is definitely a focus on high-quality gifts for adults. Because do we really need more cheap plastic crap?

Merry Christmas and may all your holiday wishes come true….

Vampire NailsTake those pointy stiletto nails to the next level with these silver rings, tipped with tiny red “blood drop” jewels. But don’t wear them to the vampire movies because they’re not very good at picking up popcorn.

Ostrich Feather Pen $18.95

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All pens are mighty but this one, combining a ballpoint with feathers and olde tyme brass handle, is perfect for late-night musing.

Studded Kiss Lipstick in Gothica $26

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 11.13.49 PMCall me biased, but I think everyone should have one of these Gothica lipsticks from Kat Von D. The shade is an on-trend metallic bronze and the studded, shiny case is the coolest ever.

Bat NecklaceThe mouth of this bat, carved from walnut wood, is both whimsical and scary. Just like the babybat in your household. (Or in you.)

Edgar Allan Poe Action Figure $12.95

edgar_allan_poe_action_figureI highly suggest you make him fight your Dracula and Alien figurines and let me know who wins.

Spiked Latex Clutch by House of Etiquette $110

HOE Clutch

Latex: it’s not just for fetishists, it’s also for fashionistas who love shiny things. A clutch purse is a one-size-fits-all must-have.

Dragon Cast Iron Teapot $189.95

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 11.05.26 PMWinter is upon us, time for tea. And if you indulge on a regular basis it’s time to own a proper cast iron teapot. This one featuring an imperial dragon design should bring you good fortune.

Nightmare Before Christmas Cuckoo Clock $240.99

nightmare-before-christmas-cuckoo-clock-3Hear “This is Halloween” on the hour with this limited-edition light-up musical clock featuring fave characters from Nightmare Before Christmas. Watch a video of how it lights up here. 

“Mercy” Vampire Doll by Sara Deck $277

Deck DollThere’s just the one of these handmade art dolls, adorable with her bonnet, shawl and bloody fangs. A most unique and special gift.

 

Alexander McQueen Skull Scarf $354

McQueen scarfYou know there’s always a McQueen item on my list every year. This men’s silk scarf is divine soft, full of skulls, and not crazy out of reach.

 

Unicorn Tapestries Throw and Pillow $115

medievalBeauty and warmth. For the Romantic-Goths and medievalists! 

Iron Hourglass $78

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Because the sands of time don’t stop at Christmas. Bring back this classic piece to your desk, den or anywhere in your home you’d like to be reminded that life is short. 2015 is just around the corner – make every moment count.  

Goth Gift Guide 2014 – For the Book Lovers

Who has been naughty? Then you deserve a wicked present.  In years past I have compiled and posted my Goth Girl Gift Guide. Last year I was asked to add one for the Goth Boys and that was fun. But since in my world men proudly wear eyeliner and women buy records too, this year there is no gender split. Instead I’ve added a dedicated Gift Guide post just for books. Because it’s the one thing I’m always happy to get, and I find great pleasure in giving them to others as well. Goths by nature tend to be a bookish lot, so I hope this selection of new titles helps you find something for the avid reader on your list.

 

art of goth

The Art of Gothic: Music, Fashion, Alt Culture 

By Natasha Scharf

$35 from Amazon or an Indie Bookseller near you

British journo’s follow up to WorldWide Gothic is a gorgeous hardcover brimming with essays and images from throughout the history of gothic music and culture. For music aficionados who like to geek out over memorabilia.

 

Death Cocktails

Death and Co. Modern Classic Cocktails

By David Kaplan

$40 from Amazon or an Indie Bookseller near you

You don’t need a secret knock to enjoy specialty cocktails anymore. Just make your own concoctions from 500+ recipes by New York’s celebrated speakeasy Death and Co. Hefty hardcover in fancy matte black. For the budding bartenders and serious drinkers.

heels
Killer Heels: The Art of the High 
Heeled Shoe

By Lisa Small

$55 from Amazon or an Indie Bookseller near you

This companion piece to a travelling art exhibition is full of curator talk about the history and importance of heels in fashion. But you’ll want this hardcover for the drool-worthy big glossy photos. For the shoe fetishists.

 

 

David J

Who Killed Mr. Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction

By David J. Haskins

$19.95 from Amazon or an Indie Bookseller near you

The eternally cool David J strolls down the dark corners of memory lane, covering his career in Bauhaus and beyond. A paperback to curl up with while spinning Bela Lugosi’s Dead. For the babybat who could use a history lesson.

 

 

anne


Prince Lestat

By Anne Rice

$19.95 from Amazon or an Indie Bookseller near you

Perhaps you’ve heard: Anne Rice has resurrected her vampire chronicles. Lestat’s Back. For everyone whose lives were changed by Interview with the Vampire and/or needs their faith in bloodsucker storytelling restored.

 

 

cold hill

Cold Hillside

By Nancy Baker

$16.99 from Amazon or an Indie Bookseller near you

Enter the world of the Fae. Shadowy Toronto author Nancy Baker’s long-awaited return to novels switches vampires for fairies, but her delicate, devious way with genre storytelling remains a delight. For the dark fantasy fan.

vampira

Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror

By W. Scott Poole
$16.95 from Amazon or an Indie Bookseller near you

The original horror hostess, style icon to goth girls everywhere, is commemorated and her influence on society analyzed by macabrely minded American professor W. Scott. Poole. For the scholarly monster kids.

 

curtus

So This is Permanence

By Ian Curtis with Jon Savage

$40 from Amazon or an Indie Bookseller near you

 

Never-before-seen handwritten lyrics and pages from the Joy Division singer’s own notebooks. For the tortured romantic. (In other words: all of us.)

 

 

IMG_1786Encyclopedia Gothica and How to Kill a Vampire

by Me!

$26.95 and up from my on-line shoppe

Of course I’d be remiss not to remind that my own books are available signed and wax stamped directly from me.  For mail to North American addresses only.

In praise of ….. Anne Rice

December, 1987.

I’m at the back of a Greyhound bus between Barrie and Toronto. It’s winter, so it’s dark. We are four high school kids travelling to see Depeche Mode play Maple Leaf Gardens, and by the tiny bus light I am reading aloud to my friends across the aisle: “‘Evil is a point of view,’ he whispered now. ‘We are immortal. And what we have before us are the rich feasts that conscience cannot appreciate…….’  I have recently discovered this book, Interview with a Vampire, by Anne Rice, in my hometown pubic library, and it is changing my life. Like The Outsiders once did. Like Othello once did. I have not yet read Dracula, or any other vampire novel. But I have seen The Lost Boys, and I have decided I am thirsty for vampire stories. This story, about the oh-so-beautiful Louis and Lestat and Claudia, this story, about magical, mystical New Orleans, of longing to understand one’s place in the universe, of mortality, and morality, and blood. As told to a journalist. This is my new favourite book, Anne Rice my new favourite author.

August, 1988.

I paid $10 to come and see D.O.A. and some band called Death Sentence play the Siboney Club in Kensington Market. All the cheap wooden tables are pushed against the walls to make room for moshing and whathaveyou. It’s a club so it’s dark. I live in Toronto now, with one of my best friends from Barrie. By not enough light I am sitting crossed-legged on top of one of these tables, back against the wall, reading The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. Because I don’t care about Death Sentence nearly as much as I care about vampires. I may have been wearing a cape. My best friend, and our mutual punk rock friends, will make fun of me for this for quite a long time.

 Sometime later….

I stand in line for hours to get my copy of Queen of the Damned signed by Anne Rice at some Toronto bookstore. I remember this not because I have a signed hardcover copy of Queen of the Damned, but because I was captured on the local TV news coverage. I am wearing a black-and-white fun fur motorcycle jacket that used to be my favourite coat. I only remember this because 10+ years later someone I find incredibly annoying pulls out a VHS tape and plays it in front of a bunch of people I’m with. (Thankfully it is dark and noisy and no one pays him any attention.)

 November, 1994

It’s Friday night of not-Halloween weekend and I’m sitting in the front seat of a car wearing fake plastic fangs. I may have been wearing a cape. Four of us are speeding through the city trying to go see the new Interview with a Vampire movie. This is not the era of advance movie ticket buying. This is the first time I have encountered “sold out” at a cinema. We end up somewhere North, like Eglinton maybe? When we finally get seated I realize you cannot eat popcorn with fangs. A lot of people, Anne Rice especially, are angry that Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt are in this movie, playing Lestat and Louis. I think they look fabulous. The film is orange and red, so full of fire and blood, velvet and lace and ashes. I want to live in this world.

March, 2012

“I’ve been reading and enjoying thoroughly a delightful book called “Encyclopedia Gothica” by Liisa Ladouceur, given to me by the author when I was in Toronto. This is too informative and too funny. Am I an ubergoth? I certainly hope so. I’d wear black underwear if they made it in cotton.” —Anne Rice.

Well, that was a pretty awesome day.

October, 2014

Prince Lestat, the first new story in the Vampire Chronicles in 11 years, is released. I got an advance copy in the summer so I could interview Anne for Rue Morgue magazine. In this book, all the characters are swooning over Lestat’s return…much like the readers. The action takes place in several places I’ve been to, and I’ve had a relationship with these characters for more than half my life. If it wasn’t about vampires it might feel like a travel diary written by a friend. (Memo: Vampires are not real.) I had a chance to write about the book, first for Rue Morgue but also to review it for Macleans. It’s difficult to fit into short spaces, my thoughts. What I want people to know is that it’s an important release in genre, that Lestat is second only to Dracula in the vampire kingdom (sorry, Edward), that it’s a easy read (for those who gave up on the Chronicles when they got super dense and detailed) that is clearly designed to bring us all up to speed so that the Chronicles can resume in book and most likely TV series form. That it’s it’s not a great book, but it’s a very good book.

I sat down tonight intending to write about Anne Rice. About why I’ve been reading Anne Rice for so long. Forgive me for getting side-tracked. To close, a few practical notes:

  1. My interview with Anne Rice appears in the October 2014 issue of Rue Morgue, which is not on-line but the print issue can be ordered here. Since I could only use a small portion of our conversation for this assignment, I hope to publish the Q&A in full here or elsewhere soon.
  2. My Macleans review.
  3. Anne will appear in Toronto on Saturday, November 15 for the Inspire Toronto International Book Fair. See you there!

Rue Morgue - Rice

In Praise of….Kate Bush Live!

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Prologue.

“If she ever plays live again, anywhere in the world, I’m getting on a plane and going.”

I’ve been saying that for years. And as the years went by, and Kate Bush did not in fact play live again, it seemed like an impossible dream. And then….. March 21, 2014 came the shock: Kate Bush announces concerts, the first since 1979. They would be called Before the Dawn. They would take place in September, and only in London, England, at the Eventim (né Hammersmith) Apollo. There were 15 shows at first, then 22. The tickets would cost 100 British Pounds. For real.

Like a lot of the people excited about this news, for me Kate Bush is more than a favourite singer, she’s a muse. I know that makes me sound like a teenager, but when I first discovered her I was one. Spellbound by her music video for “Running up that Hill,”devouring all the vinyl records and VHS bootleg tapes I could acquire, falling in love with her voice, her lyrics, her mysterious, enthralling persona. I named my self-published zine The Ninth Wave, after side-B of her album Hounds of Love. I’ve danced wildly to “The Dreaming” about a thousand times, and written a glosa based on “Egypt.” Once, when she made a rare appearance in Toronto to promote her album The Red Shoes, I stood outside a radio station where she was being interviewed, which had literally had its glass windows papered up to shield her from view, and cried. Physically, I was the closest I’d ever get to her in my life, but I couldn’t see her. She wasn’t real.

I know at least 10 other Toronto Kate Bush fans who woke up at 5 am EST on the first day of ticket sales. Most did not score. I did, as did my friend Jeff. All of a sudden, I was not just going to  see Kate Bush play live, I was going to see her play live twice!  The dream was real.

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The Show.

“Well I said, ‘Lily, Oh Lily I don’t feel safe / I feel that life has blown a great big hole / Through me’ ”

Before the dawn, there is a theatre abuzz, there is a vast empty stage of possibilities, there are feather charm necklaces for sale, there is a no photography rule, there is a set list I know, there are tissues in my pocket, just in case.

Kate emerges sauntering from stage left, leading a procession of her back-up singers (which includes her 16-year-old son, Bertie). She wears a black dress, no shoes, a huge smile I can see all the way from the balcony. She sings “Lily,” one of my favourites. Tears. I don’t bother with the tissues. Rapturous applause and standing ovation. Boom! “It’s in the trees…it’s coming!” For some reason, the masses sit back down. Even during “Running Up that Hill.” I cannot. There are three of us up here, three lone people up dancing. One lady gets up just to come and tell me I am “ruining it for everyone” behind me. I am not here to fight or be upset, so I sit, but my heart is still dancing.  “King of the Mountain” ends with a storm and a canon firing orange confetti over the crowd.  And then the show starts, for real.

Before the Dawn is musical theatre. Part one is The Ninth Wave, a suite of songs about a woman tossed overboard in the sea. Tonight, Kate will drown (on screen, filmed in a floatation tank which I later learn made her sick), be pulled out from under ice, appear as a ghost, be lost and be found. There are old-school sets and props, sound effects and costumes. A helicopter with search lights whirring loud overhead. A rescue buoy. And Kate. She is not flexing her body in a leotard like it’s 1979. She is not shimmying like Kylie or Beyonce. But she is in total control, and her voice sounds glorious. Her voice. That’s how you know the woman up there is really her. Because it’s still hard to believe.

Part two is The Sky of Honey, another side-B, from Ariel. There is a wooden door sized for giants. There are birds in flight. There is a massive painter’s canvas and trees that descend from the roof/sky. There is Kate at the piano. There is, for some reason I still don’t really get, a life-sized artist’s mannequin, operated by a puppeteer. There is Bertie, singing his own song. This might be annoying if it wasn’t so clear it was Bertie who inspired Kate to do this, to be here with all of us. There is a lovely afternoon brought to life in the dark. There is a black bird who is Kate. There is a most magical surprise climax in which she emerges in flight. There is an encore. It includes “Cloudbusting.” Finally, there is dancing. And for me, there is one more show.

My second night at Before the Dawn was actually the final show of the run. I wondered if it would be  “special” in any way, different from the 21 that had come before. I wondered if this crowd might rise to their feet. I wondered if I could get some of that confetti, now that I was seated on the floor. And then “Lily” and there were no questions left for I was strapped in now and immersed in the experience, oh. It was the same show, but different in that I could really see and appreciate the band, I could make out more of Kate’s face, I could share it with my friend Sharon. There were four young men seated in front of us who talked through the first half for some confounding fucking reason but I tried hard to keep focused on every moment on stage, knowing the clock to when I’d never see Kate Bush sing live again was counting down. During the intermission, I climbed over seats to collect some confetti, printed with the section of Tennyson’s poem I knew well from the Hounds of Love liner notes. Wave after wave, indeed. In the end, we all sang “Cloudbusting” together, the “yeah-ay-ay-ay-ee-ohs!” bursting from our hearts and chests out through our lips and into the rafters.  There were many flowers. There were hints that it would not be the last time, as Bertie lingered after the cast bow, taking in the adulation until the final step into the shadows. If he wants to return, I feel Kate will come back. And even if she doesn’t, there will always be “Cloudbusting,” that black bird, and a shoeless, smiling muse made flesh. As I tweeted that night, for all the things in my life I wanted to happen that didn’t, I shall hold this night close to my heart and call it even.

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Epilogue.

Kate Bush doesn’t tour. That hasn’t changed. This show will not go on the road. Kate Bush doesn’t do greatest hits. Thank heavens for that. As much as it might have disappointed some people not to hear “Wuthering Heights” or “This Woman’s Work” or “Don’t Give Up” (in the months lead up to the show how many secretly hoped Peter Gabriel would be a special guest at some point?), what we got instead was pure Kate — all imagination, all passion — and a wholly conceived new work of art. I felt like I was seeing her in 1985, 2005 and 2014 all at once. It’s been over a week since the shows and I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe it. It’s easy to think words like marvellous and extraordinary and amazing, or to simply say “best concert of my life!” except you just can’t compare it to other concerts. It was as if a person you long thought dead returned from the grave, it was like as if someone wrote a musical about Kate Bush and Kate Bush showed up to star in it, it was as if a genie had granted you all your wishes at once. It was a magic show. It was unreal.
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New Music Writing: DFA and David J

I have been remiss. In posting my music writing here. Of course I want you to read it, but it’s like a hamster wheel sometimes, running around just getting assignments done…that I forget. Forgive me. I shall be better. Starting with these two articles, recently published, of which I am proud.

Death From AboDFA Exclaimve 1979: Friends Fatale. Exclaim! Magazine, September 2014
This was my second time interviewing Jesse Keeler and Sebastien Grainger. Way back in 2004 I talked to them for a magazine called Gasoline, which was put out by the folks behind the Bovine Sex Club. It wasn’t a great interview. Not their fault-mine. I remember feeling unprepared, and blindsided a bit by their interview tactic, which was to act like they didn’t give a shit about being interviewed. Not surprisingly perhaps, my story wasn’t great. I somehow thought it important to talk about their height (“they’re as loud as they are all tall!” or some such ridiculousness.) But I’ve always really dug their music, thought they were underrated in terms our country’s music history (I would argue they had as much influence on the world as any Canadian rock band since, oh I don’t know, Loverboy) and have been as excited as anyone to hear their first record in 10 years, The Physical World. This time, the interview went quite smoothly. We talked about their break-up, their make-up, and why they turned down an offer to open for Daft Punk on that pyramid tour. This is my second feature article for Exclaim! It appears in print in the September issue (on streets now) and on-line at Exclaim.ca. They’re also touring, and you should go. Bring earplugs.

Aux34_DavidJTeaserDavid J, Auxiliary Magazine, June/July 2014
When I’m asked to interview a member of Bauhaus, the answer is always yes. This is for Auxliary, a high-quality goth fashion and lifestyle magazine out of, of all places, Buffalo. I’ve spoken to David J before, and he’s always been kind. He even gave me a lovely blurb for Encyclopedia Gothica. He has a new solo album out, inspired by and dedicated to the many female muses in his life. I talked to him about that, as well as his upcoming memoir. He then supplied us with a promo photo of him looking rather cool, with a naked lady. The article is not available on-line but you can purchase a digital download or printed magazine from the Auxiliary shoppe.

Coming soon: an interview with Anne Rice for Rue Morgue Magazine and Fucked Up for SOCAN’s Words and Music magazine.