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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In praise of ….. Nine Inch Nails

I couldn’t live tweet from the NIN show tonight. Not because my phone battery died. Not because my thoughts wouldn’t fit into 140 characters. (It really only needed three: OMG). But because I didn’t want to miss a thing, not even for the time it takes to put your head down and type. I have, by my count in the parking lot, seen Nine Inch Nails live 12 times (recount: 18 times!) before, and each tour is its own unique production, with beautiful, innovative set and lighting design that’s increasingly next-level in terms of theatrics and choreography and conceptually unparalleled amongst the band’s contemporaries. I know Trent constantly rearranges songs into new shapes, and that other than ending with “Hurt” you can never be sure what you’ll get. Hell, the last time they rolled through Toronto they had back-up singers. Most of the time, I am officially reviewing, and taking notes. (Here’s my professional take on the 2005 Koolhaus show and last year at the ACC.) Tonight I was not on duty. So I didn’t tweet. I watched. But sitting here now, hair and body soaked from a walk home in the rain, ears ringing, head spinning, heart and imagination afire, I can remember what was going through my head as they played. Here then, the tweets that never were:

Live photo from Red Rock show by Brandon Fuller
Live photo from Red Rock show by Brandon Fuller

Trent is wearing a skirt!!!!!

So, Trent just walked on stage with the lights up and started playing, alone. Basically, the exact opposite of what anyone expected.

Members join, one-by-one. Kind of like Swans last month. Forcing you to really listen. If it’s a trend, I dig it.

Ah, he’s playing “Copy of a” while standing in front of his shadow. #Lo-fi #High-concept.

Nothing is an accident.

I think he’s learned a lot from Bauhaus. #lightandshadow

Here come the drums. Hmmm. I miss Josh Freese.

Sanctified. Deconstructed. #oldisnew

1 Million kicks so much ass. The Slip is so underrated.

1-0-1-0-1-0-1-0 can be as just authentic as voice and acoustic guitar.

I think this entire show so far is commentary on authenticity in the digital age.

Is March of the Pigs their most metal song? (I’m standing next to my most metal friend.) It’s def more metal than Soundgarden.

So glad Robin Finck is still in this band. He’s like the Blixa/Ellis in Trent’s team.

End Act One.

Still. So. Fucking. Great. #terriblelie #rawpower

What city are they playing next? And how can I get there?

“Closer” is both the best and worst singalong song.

No, I think Gave Up is the most metal.

Dude in front of me is wearing a Jilly’s T-shirt and baseball cap. Grown woman beside me dressed as a goth schoolgirl. #crossover

End Act Two.

Widescreen. Minimalism. #oscarwinnerknowswhathesdoing

Now he’s dancing like Peter Murphy.

NIN was absolutely the best band of the 90s. Radiohead got all the credit. Where are they now?

The Great Destroyer devolves into pure industrial sight/sound. A reminder why I love this genre. And that haters who say NIN is not industrial make me laugh.

If this is the band that becomes my era’s U2/Aerosmith/Stones, I’m OK with that. But this is not yet nostalgia. It’s very much now.

God, what could he do with Bono’s budget?

If he’s not going to play Reptile or The Wretched I sure hope we get Eraser.

Eraser!!

WISH!!!!! #mostmetal #fistfuck

Dance break.

I should perhaps leave early to beat this soaking wet crowd and ensure I can get a cab. #not

Head Like a Hole was never my jam and it still fees silly. Still, not leaving early.

I love having an old favourite band that is still a current favourite band. #elixer

It’s 2014 and raining but the lighters are about to come out en masse.

Hurt is a song for the ages. Like this storm, it washes all the dirt away.

The sky unleashes its thunderous applause.

LIGHTNING.

Exit.

Post show. Soaked.
Post show. Soaked.

In praise of…The Grid (RIP)

I haven’t been writing here much lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I’m always writing. About something, for someone. And for the past three years, the place I wrote for most often was thegridto.com. The Grid is a weekly Toronto paper  and daily online publication that rose from the ashes of Eye Weekly, one of the many free urban alt.weeklies that didn’t survive the digital revolution. Well, it was one. Today, it’s done. Cease publication immediately. I found out yesterday like most people, on Twitter.

The Grid

I was sad to see Eye go when it folded in 2011, having written for them since 1996 (including two regular music news columns) and worked in their offices as a fill in editor on a regular basis. (Which means I got to enjoy the free donuts brought in by the sex workers who took out adult classifieds, amongst other perks.) But The Grid was the right move, the right paper for a city full of renewned civic activism and a new generation of hipsters, who were no longer too interested in counter-culture and no longer needed printed listings to plan a night out. Maybe it wasn’t really a paper for me and my demographic anymore. I sometimes joked it was Toronto Lite, a place for aspirational young Torontonians who cared more about chic restaurants, real estate and parenting than what art was going on in the galleries being torn down for their new lofty condos. But I read it anyway, because The Grid retained a very important part of Eye Weekly in some of its staff, who really turned the new paper into something. Edward Keenan in particular, a deputy editor and columnist, raised the bar for discussion of city politics. They worked with the best illustrators and graphic artists as well. The Grid was a fine looking paper, one that won multiple awards for its content and design. And still, its parent company couldn’t see a “path to profitability” that justified keeping it it around any longer. Maybe they shouldn’t have considered themselves too classy for sex classifieds. (Imagine the Dating Diaries and Hook-Up columns they could have had sponsored.) Maybe there was no way ever to overcome the headstart competing weekly NOW had for a grip on local ad dollars. (I’ve always found it frustratingly hilarious how the public perceives NOW as the grassroots paper because its independently owned, even while Eye/Grid employed and nurtured more local writers, columnists and artists compared to NOW’s syndicated American ones.) Maybe it was inevitable. But it’s still shitty that an award-winning publication with a big corporate backer can’t make enough money. This does not bode well for anyone in this town who cares about media diversity.

Toronto Goth History

I will really miss writing for The Grid, even if I was rarely in the printed version. I will miss working with my online editor Stuart Berman, a longtime colleague and fellow music obsessive who always found a place for me to write about great bands and do long music industry stories. He always let me say what was on my mind, and that counts for alot. Some of my favourite assignments were oral histories of local landmarks, like Toronto Goth and the 20th anniversary of Molson Amphitheatre (which turned out to be my final piece.) And especially my series The Plus One, where I took a musician with me to review a live concert – like NIN with Brian of Holy Fuck, Christian Death with Wade from Gallows, Beyonce with Odario from Grand Analog and Jay Z with Brendan Canning, because I think readers appreciated a different perspective on arts reviewing. And because it was really fun. (The Grid also published my only sports article, Five Reasons to Love Tennis, Especially if You Hate Sports.) I was always proud to be a contributor.

Mostly I will miss reading The Grid. It didn’t have the spit and sass of Eye Weekly but it was really smart and covered the heart and mind of this city (at least its downtown) better than any other local media. I will miss Denise Benson’s “Then and Now” series of extensive profiles of the defunct Toronto nightclubs that built this city on rock ‘n’ roll…and punk and house and techno and on and on…  (Thankfully it’s going to be a book soon.) Those stories weren’t just good memory lane for forty somethings but an important archiving of Toronto history and culture.  And on subject of nostalgia, I will miss the days when you could make a living reporting about your “scene” – whether that was music or food or city hall or whatever. When people wanted to read more about what was going on in their neighbourhood than you could find out on Twitter. When everyone, reader and writers alike, were dreaming together, about a great city and a space for conversation about how to make it even better. Because less media voices diminishes where we live, and how we live.  I really don’t know how any newspapers are going to survive these next few years. But I do know the great writers will keep on writing, somewhere, for someone.

Thanks everyone for reading me in Eye/Grid, 1996-2014.

 

In praise of…Dark Delicacies

I have found the horror fan’s dream bookstore. I’ve known about Dark Delicacies for years, of course, by reputation. I included it in my Encyclopedia Gothica, after all. But I wanted to visit it first-hand, and that became my excuse for a trip to Los Angeles to promote my new book, How to Kill A Vampire.

Dark Del display

The store regularly hosts authors, filmmakers, and other horror types for signings and they were courteous enough to have me come in, even though I’m not exactly famous. They even put a display in the window and set me up on the same day at the Full Moon event by the lovely folks at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, which allowed me to meet all kinds of people interested in dark and beautiful things.

My girlfriends and I meet True Blood's Carolyn Hennesy
My girlfriends and I meet True Blood’s Carolyn Hennesy

One surprise visitor was actor Carolyn Hennesy. She was wearing blood red contacts and I jokingly asked her if she was a vampire….only to discover that she is! Or was. She played Rosalyn Harris on True Blood, until she was violently dispatched. I apologized for the title of my book and she forgave me. Haha. Then we talked about her animal activism: she hosts a podcast called Animal Magnetism about conservation and preservation. She was full of energy and enthusiasm and I liked her alot.

It was a splendid afternoon and I highly recommend you make Delicacies bookstore a must on your next visit to the L.A. area. The shop is located on a retail strip in Burbank surrounded by great thrift stores, independent clothing shops and more but you’ll be hard-pressed not to spend all your money on their books and horror gifts. I bought myself a gorgeous skull crystal necklace (naturally) and a copy the owner’s book Vampires Don’t Sleep Alone: Your Guide to Meeting, Dating and Seducing a Vampire, because even though I don’t believe vamps are real, it might come in handy someday….

In praise of the Song

“Sing me a song, you’re a singer …….do me a wrong, you’re a bringer of evil….”

Ronnie James Dio wrote that in 1979, for a Black Sabbath album that came out in 1980. It’s called “Heaven and Hell” and it’s one of his favourite songs. Mine too, although I didn’t know it until 2010, when I first heard it. I realize that for many rock and metal fans, that’s weird, like someone telling me they’d somehow not heard “She’s Lost Control” for 30 years. But that’s how I believe people discover music, not all at once on new release day but over time, for different reasons. So why do so many music fans then turn around and get so angry when someone younger, falls in love with a song they have long cherished. Especially when that person is a singer too, and decides to cover a classic. Why so much hate?

This is on my mind because of the Olympic closing ceremony. Poor Jesse J. I don’t really know who she is, but I’m guessing she’s a big star in the UK because she kept popping up like a bad blackhead all over the face of the broadcast. I’m not suggesting she’s a blight, far from it. I thought she was pretty and a perfectly fine pop star – who had the guts to tackle singing Queen’’s “We Will Rock You” in front of millions of people, people who would have been just as happy – neigh, happier! – with a backing track and a hologram of Queen’s late singer Freddie Mercury doing it. Because how blasphemous this was! This girl! This young pop tart! How dare she! Fans of classic rock hurled snark and vitriol through the internet. Many of these same people also freaked out over hearing Pink Floyd and The Who songs sung by young people they don’t know. They weren’t too happy about “Wonderwall” being performed by Liam Gallaghar without Oasis either, but the true horror seems to come when the voice changes. I think they’re being foolish. Hell, I bet many of these whiners regularly destroy the sanctity of their favourite songs at karaoke bars…

Cover versions have brought me to some of my favourite music in the world. In 1984, when perhaps you were listening to Black Sabbath, I was enthralled with the output of 4AD records. And so I bought an album called It’ll End in Tears by something called This Mortal Coil. Not a band, but a collective collaboration between the label’s boss and his various artists. I bought it because it had Elizabeth Frazer on it, one of my favourite singers, she of the Cocteau Twins. And then had my socks knocked off, my mind blown out, my heart exploded by track 2, “Song to the Siren.”  I’m listening to it as a type this and it still gives me the literal shivers. My fingers shake, as does my breath. It’s a perfect song. And it wasn’t hers. I learned from the liner notes it was Tim Buckley’s. It would be years before I heard his original version (on the This Mortal Coil box-set actually). It’s beautiful too. But I didn’t need it. However, it was because of knowing that Tim Buckley wrote “Song to the Siren” that, ten years later, I went to the Supper Club in NYC to see another singer. Jeff Buckley.

Buckley was promoting his debut Grace at CMJ, which is full of glorious originals of his own that immediately had me in their thrall that night. But it was when he opened his mouth and warbled “I first saw you…. you had on blue jeans….”that I fell in love. He was singing “Kanga-Roo,” another song from It’ll End in Tears. I had worn the grooves of my vinyl copy of it out by then, playing that record. And here it was, alive. I remember that I cried. I then saw every Jeff Buckley gig I could get to, until he died. And I still hadn’t bothered to go listen to the original “Kanga-roo,” by Big Star. I didn’t need it.

I’m guessing there are fans of Tim Buckley and Big Star who hate that This Mortal Coil album. And that’s fine. They have their versions of those songs to love. And I have mine. There’s no blasphemy in that.

Next month, at the Toronto International Film Festival, I hope to get a ticket to see Greetings from Tim Buckley, a dramatized telling of Jeff Buckley’s relationship with his father – who had abandoned him as a child then died of a drug overdose—and the emotional journey Jeff took that led him to perform at a Tim Buckley tribute concert in 1991, a public debut that ended up launching his own career. What if he had been too worried about his father’s legacy to stand up and cover his “I Never Asked to be Your Mountain” that night? And if it were today, what would the twitterverse say? Would he have been virtually booed off the stage?

The song is the thing. It is meant to outlast the singer. That’s why Black Sabbath kept playing “Heaven and Hell” after Ronnie James Dio left the band, with other vocalists And it’s OK. More than OK, it’s the right thing to do. The original is still there for all to discover, whenever they need it. The song itself, well, it goes on and on and on…..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-og87crqsCE

In praise of women rock writers (who rock)

I am a girl. I like high heels and red lipstick and being called beautiful and having the umbrella held over my head for me when it rains by someone tall, pale and handsome; I by far prefer wearing dresses to pants. (Not that you can’t be a girl and the opposite of all that, of course.) When I ride, I ride a girl’s frame bike, with flowers on it. But when I write, I am a writer. Period. I don’t think of myself as a female writer, or a feminist writer. I don’t subscribe to the Women in Horror month/movement. I don’t study or cover gender relations. I want my work to be judged on its own merits, against my own work and other work of its kind, whether made by women, men, two-spirited people, or asexual aliens.

As a reader though, I do tend to gravitate towards other women writers. Particularly poets and novelists but also journalists, especially those who, like me, cover arts and culture. Well, for many years that’s what I did, reviewing CDs and concerts and when I was lucky interviewing really interesting people who make music. I work more in film and TV these days, but I still do it whenever I can, and I still care about the art of dancing about architecture. And so I read alot of women reviewers, maybe because I’m proud of them, I appreciate what they are doing on a professional level, and I want to support it. Or maybe because when women write about music, you generally don’t get articles like this profile of Canada’s Metric, by Ben Kaplan, in the National Post, in which he focuses on Metric singer Emily Haines as a smart sex symbol and muse who “attracts boys like free beer” and who he once (OMG!) had the opportunity to give an (unwanted) hug. Not suggesting female writers don’t ever crush on their subjects, or that sexy artists can’t be described as such, but I found the tone of this piece downright creepy, and was deeply confused about why the editors chose to run it as-is. (Besides being overworked and understaffed, but that’s another rant.) I’m guessing they too were men, who would find nothing untoward about it. Same as those who handled a piece that ran the same week in the Globe and Mail about Drake vs. Chris Brown by Brad Wheeler, which put Brown’s assault on Rhianna into parenthesis while referring to the singer as “the mother of all must-haves” and making the useless statement “other highly desired females in history include the widow Jackie Kennedy and Hollywood’s Marilyn Monroe.” As bad-ass heavy metal music writer Natalie Zina Walschots tweeted, can you imagine a paper printing “other highly desired males in history include Beowulf and Mick Jagger“? Ridiculous. These articles ignited a flurry of angry responses from male and female readers, including many other music critics. And they got me thinking about how grateful I am that in moments like that one can turn to read coverage written by women instead. The field of journalism is thankfully pretty open to women. Personally, I’ve never felt any discrimination in my career path because of gender and have worked for plenty of talented women editors and publishers. [Waves to Shirley Halperin and Carrie Borzillo]. I’ve looked around many times over the years and noticed how many of the music sections/publications in my country were being run by ladies. (Nostalgic nods to Mary Dickie, Mary-Lou Zeitoun, Betsey Powell, Denise Sheppard). I’ve never been treated like a groupie on the job. (Granted, I’ve never interviewed Gene Simmons.) However, I do recognize things aren’t in perfect balance. This TedTalk video by Megan Kamerick outlines that women make up under %40 of newsroom staff, and how women are underrepresented as subjects and experts in news stories and how all that spins the news towards victimizing and sexualizing women. It’s not specifically about music, but well worth 10 minutes of your time.

My response to all this is to praise those girls and women who are going good work reporting on music. Whose words rock my world as much as the sounds they cover. There are so many, but here are just a handful. Read them. They will inspire you, teach you, provoke you. They are unlikely to write about giving musicians unwanted hugs.

LIZ WORTH is the Toronto author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in TO and Beyond and the poetry collection Amphetamine Hearts. I believe our first encounter was her interviewing me for the Goth zine Raven’s Call several years back; our most recent was drinking slushies in the park waiting for an astrological phenomenon. She once gave me the awesome gift of a hardcover copy of Encyclopedia of Rock by Lillian Roxon. She is working on a novel now but I never know just what she’s going to do next. She is mysterious and brave. See what I mean on her Radio Forest blog or her Twitter.

AMY KLEIN is an American musician and writer I discovered when her piece “Tour Diary Day Four: Rock and Roll is Dead”was included in the Best Music Writing 2011.  In it she examines how the lack of images of girls playing guitars or any instruments in Rolling Stone magazine, and what that means for public perception of women making music. I like her blog and when her byline pops up in unexpected places, like this list of Feminist Anthems for Spinner.

JAAN UHELSZKI was a founding editor of America’s legendary Creem magazine and has done more amazing things in her life than I could possibly list here, but much of which is revealed in this interview. When I was working on the TV series Metal Evolution, it was important to me to include female voices; in the world of metal this turned out to be tricky but I am glad we got Jaan in there talking about the Detroit scene in the ’60s and more. If you have an account with Rock’s Back Pages you should read her famed 1975 article “I Dreamed I was on-stage with KISS in my Maidenform Bra.”

ANUPA MISTRY is a hard-working Canadian freelancer and, relative to these others, a new kid on the block, but I find I always learn new things when I read her reviews. She writes mostly about hip-hop, a genre I do need more schooling in, and that can use more smart women commentators, for sure.  Start with her feature on middle-class rap for Toronto Life then follow her on the Twitter.

GILLIAN G. GAAR is the Seattle-based author of She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock, published in 1992 and still my go-to guide for unearthing and understanding overlooked records made by ladies. She worked as a senior editor at the Rocket and was on the scene through the grunge explosion. According to this interview about her relationship/coverage of Nirvana, she got started writing for a Rocky Horror fanzine! Her next book on Nirvana is out this summer.

A must-have for your music reference library

LISA ROBINSON is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and, to me, one of the best magazine writers out there, full stop. For decades now, she’s covered the biggest names in all genres of music for the publications that really matter and is a master of the celebrity interview. Yeah, you might know her for the big Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga profiles now but she was talking to Patti Smith in the 1970s for Hit Parader and her early coverage of  The Ramones helped them land their first management deal.  I aspire to her ability to be a confidante to her subjects without losing her reporter’s instincts. Of anyone, she has consistently inspired me the most. And she does a decent TV interview too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC8-YgnGwTc

I welcome your suggestions for others I should read, below…