Wildrid Laurier University

#820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Three)

GETTING MORE TALE #820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Three)

As monumental as 1991 already was terms of massive change, a big one was still to come:  finally learning how to drive!  The time had finally come when I had to, and so I did.  I cut my teeth driving to and from University during the winter.  You can get pretty good pretty quickly that way.  Most importantly, I discovered the pleasures of listening to music alone in the car.

Choosing an album.  Turning it up as loud as I could handle.  Listening to the whole thing from start to finish without complaints.  It was…a revelation.  My parents used to be able to hear me coming home from around the corner, so loud was I blasting it.

It was an ’89 Plymouth Sundance, but all that really mattered to me was that it had a tape deck and I was allowed to drive it.  Upon arriving at school, I can remember putting the tape case on the dash board so the parking control guy could see how cool my music was.

Jesus, I was weird.

Still am?  I guess this website is just me putting my tape cases up on the dashboard of life.  Right?

With new music on the shelves by Europe and Tesla, and a monolithic new slab by Guns N’ Roses to enjoy, I was keeping myself busy.  Then and now I believed in giving new releases multiple listens, and I always played the Guns tapes as a set.  There was no point, I reasoned, in listening to one more than another.  They’re really one album so that’s how I played them, every time.  Late ’91 was a Guns-heavy time.

Although first year of university life was a lonely time, I did make some new friends.  I had two night classes.  One thing I enjoyed about night classes was that there was only one per week — a big three hour chunk.  You could cover a lot of material in one class, and have a week to absorb everything for next class.  My first night class was Sociology, and next to me sat big Rob V, who quickly became one of my Jedi Masters of Rock.  He educated me on Whitesnake, Deep Purple and the Black Sabbath discography.  Then he taped for me a number of rarities, and they were treasured by me for many years.  Those tapes were only replaced when I finally scored original CD or vinyl copies for myself.  We weren’t the cool guys in Sociology class, but we had a lasting friendship.  Rob lived not too far from me, so I was happy to drive him home after school.  He would often have commentary for me regarding my musical selection for the car.

My favourite night class was Thursdays — Anthropology 101.  I hated the professor initially.  He was a ponytail guy.   Our school had a couple ponytail guys.  Also a few socks-and-sandals guys, which blew my mind.  “What the fuck is the point of that?” I asked myself rhetorically.  All psychology professors, those guys.  But ponytail-Anthropology guy (gosh I wish I could remember his name) won me over very quickly with his entertaining, though factually dense, teaching style.  There was a lot to cover each night.

Another quality that night classes had was a higher number of adult students.  I enjoyed speaking to them, but one poor older lady really struggled in Anthro-101.  I’ll never forget her because although she slowed the class down, I just felt badly for her.  She dropped the course by the second semester.

The teacher liked to use examples to illustrate a point.  I can’t remember the exact details, but he was using a current TV ad as his example.

“I don’t know these modern TV commercials!” she said in frustration.

“OK, no problem…here’s an example from your generation.  On the original Star Trek in 1969 there was an episode where they beamed down to this particular planet…”

Then he lost her even further!  He tried though; lord did that professor try.

While I was making interesting new friends in 1991, an old friend became more special.  I took my studying very seriously and because of that I had to stay home for Thanksgiving instead of going to the lake with my parents.  I couldn’t study there.  Too small a space.  So Peter invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family.  That was something that meant a lot to me.  I wasn’t going to be alone and I had a hot meal to look forward to.  I even put on a nice shirt and shaved my peachfuzz.  Peter had an incredible family.  His mom and dad were always welcoming, making me feel at home.  Same with his sister Joanne.  Over the coming months and years, Peter and I would grow closer and hung out every weekend.  Where I had friends that were Jedi Masters of Rock, Peter was more like my Jedi Master of Movies.  He had a huge collection.  I think as a collective, comedy was our thing.  Peter was also my Jedi Master of Comedy.  I might never have seen Slap Shot if it wasn’t for Peter.

At the end of 1991, my Christmas list took care of some of the last new releases in music that I needed.  Poison’s double Swallow This Live was, not surprisingly, a letdown.  I was also underwhelmed by the Operation: LIVEcrime box set by Queensryche.  Too many backing vocal tapes.  But for a long time I had looked forward to Motley Crue’s Decade of Decadence.  Back in the summer of 1990, Vince Neil was talking about this album.  Finally I had the tape in my hands!  (It’s a shame I spent so much time in my collection lingering on the cassette format, but the car tape deck made it a natural choice.)  I loved the new heavier sound of “Primal Scream”.  The new remixes were just added value to me.  I eagerly awaited whatever heaviness Motley Crue were working on, without realising that the band were working on firing Vince Neil!

Although worlds seemed to be ending when highschool did, somehow life was still going on.  Many things did come to their natural conclusions, like friendships, rock bands and the Pepsi Power Hour, but other things had started to bloom.  Peter and I were to trek onto many 1990s adventures, for the human adventure always continues.

 

#741: Homework

GETTING MORE TALE #741: Homework

Teachers and counsellors used to tell us it was OK to listen to music when you’re studying, but don’t play things you like so much that you find it distracting.  Nothing you love too much, nor anything you hate.

That was always a problem for me as a kid.  I loved music!  Then and now.

There were always a few albums that hadn’t clicked with me.  In 1992 I was studying for exams, and I chose Mr. Bungle’s debut to do it.  I was also working with the belief that listening to more complex music got your brain juices flowing even better.  I had my method for studying, and I really don’t think music had much impact.  I just remember choosing Mr. Bundgle for the reason that it was complex, and I didn’t get it.

When I was younger, in highschool, I remember listening to a lot of different things while studying.  I had a vinyl phase in early 1988.  I was 30 years ahead of the hipsters.  My sister and I had discovered B-sides in the singles rack at the local Zellers store.  Def Leppard’s “Ride Into the Sun” was playing in store, and my ears perked up.  I knew it was Leppard, but I never heard that song before!  Another single I purchased at that time was Triumph’s “Let The Light (Shine On Me)”.  Rik Emmett played it a few weeks earlier live and acoustic on the Power Hour.  The single got quite a few spins while I was doing my homework that winter.

For some reason, Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind was also on the turntable a lot while studying that year.  I may have purchased the record off Bob, because I am sure I got it from him.  There were a couple songs I played repeatedly.  One was “Still Life” and the other was “Sun and Steel”.  At that age, Bob and I thought we could really sing like Bruce Dickinson if we worked hard enough at it.  Those were two songs I was practising at the time!

Listening to music while studying seemed to work for me, but I will admit to one distraction.

Do you remember when Wayne’s World came out on home video?  The first releases came with a free pair of Wayne’s World drum sticks.  My sister bought the video and got the sticks.  However, I would frequently steal them and claim that I needed them to study.  It wasn’t untrue.  A lot of the time, I would pound out a beat on the bed while I was memorising names, dates and events.  However, other times I was just playing a solo.  Probably most of the time!

One could argue that drumming on the bed eventually led to my degree.

Hey, the teachers and counsellors also told us to take breaks from studying.  Sometimes mine were the length of a song…or several!

 

#688: The Mom Con

Happy birthday mom!

GETTING MORE TALE #688: The Mom Con

Was chatting it up with Superdekes over at Arena Rock the other day.  He mentioned putting his two daughters through university.  What a great dad.  My parents were similarly good to me.  They paid my way.  My mom paid for my textbooks.  Some of them could get really expensive.  You’d be looking at over $100 each for some.  I kept many of them.  My Astronomy texts are still beautiful though outdated.  I am fairly sure I still have my English translation of Herodotus’ The Histories (c. 440 BC) somewhere.

My first year of university, she came with me to the book store to help me find everything.  Good thing she did, as it was an intimidating prospect for a first timer.  One of my history courses had four novels assigned.  I got all four, but only after class started did I learn that you didn’t need all four, you only had to choose one of the four.  Rookie mistake.  In the years that followed, we all learned to wait until class actually began before you bought every single book.  Some might be optional.  It was Russian history, and I chose Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (1880).  Not what you’d call a page turner but I worked my way through it.  It introduced me to the concept of nihilism (which I still don’t really fathom) and that helped me at least understand The Big Lebowski later on.  So I chalk that as a “win”.

The parents took good care of me through school, loaning me the car most of the time.  On Thursday nights I only had an hour and a half between classes so I would go to my grandma’s house in Waterloo for dinner.  Porkchops with mushroom soup.

I worked my way through my history degree, but in my final year I tried to pull one over on my mom.

My buddy Peter introduced me to Beavis and Butt-head a year prior.  In Frankemuth, Michigan he rented a VCR just to tape some MTV broadcasts of the show.  We didn’t get it in Canada (unless you had satellite).  So when I saw the Beavis and Butt-head Ensucklopedia (1994) just sitting there in the actual school bookstore, I had to buy it.  The mere sighting of Beavis and Butt-head sitting there in a school text book store was too hilarious for me to ignore.

Mom used to tell me, “Just put your books on your credit card, give me the receipt, and I will reimburse you with a cheque.”  It was a sweet deal so why not throw Beavis and Butt-head there in the pile?

Well there was no pulling the wool over mom’s eyes.  Of course she looked at the itemised receipt and questioned me.

“I’m not paying for Beavis and Butt-head!” she said, and true to her word, gave me a cheque for the total minus that book.

I tried!

REVIEW: Stealth – …listen (2015)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20150726STEALTH – …listen (2015 Stealth)

I may not know much about new music (the genre), or much about playing an instrument, but I appreciated the listening instructions enclosed within the liner notes from Stealth’s debut album:

…listen is intended as a moment in time for contemplation.  The listener chooses the length based on various points within the experience.  The album is intended to be heard as one track but can be divided based on your desired length of listening experience.”

It sounds intimidating, but listen is surprisingly accessible.  The title is very apt.  I decided to go all-in.  The album is almost an hour, divided into nine unnamed segments.

Considering that Stealth is composed of percussionist Richard Burrows and bass clarinettist Kathryn Ladano, I was surprised the music was so smooth.  Judging by a previous project both were involved in (a quintet called Digital Prowess), I expected Stealth to be a lot more random and schizophrenic.  Plus, Kathryn Ladano and I share the same last name — she’s my sister.  So I know a little bit about the nutso kind of music she normally liked to perform.  Let’s just say that I saw Digital Prowess play Frank Zappa’s “The Black Page #2” in front of a crowd including a few seniors who may have wondered what the hell was going on.

That’s not to say Stealth isn’t challenging, but I think much instrumental music is challenging by its nature. There are some factors here that take the edges out a little. Richard Burrows performs a dual role: adding steady beats to help keep you up with what’s going on, and using percussion to create melodies and other special moments.   Meanwhile, Kathryn Ladano creates interesting and rarely heard sounds from just a wind instrument, all the while maintaining a balanced accompanying role with the percussion.  At no point do the two instruments interfere with each other.  Sometimes you may have to ask yourself, “Is that sound I just heard percussion, or did she do something crazy with the bass clarinet?”


Improvisation similar to “point f” on the CD

The music evokes scenes in the mind.  At times it’s a jazzy, gripping spy drama, at others a slow moving tour at dawn…you can imagine many images to go with this music, and I think that’s part of the point.  The liner notes state clearly that listen is an interactive experience.  It’s fairly seemless though can hear where the intended breaks take place.  I think most listeners would want to break it down into bits, maybe half an hour at a time.

But like I said, I was fearless and went all-in for the hour. I found the album to be an excellent, always interesting journey.  The duo format works splendidly and I hope Stealth re-convene for a second album.  The percussion and bass clarinet are never up front as feature instruments as they are here.  Lead bass clarinet?  Turns out it’s a pretty versatile instrument once you’ve spent a couple decades squeezing noises out of the beast.  There are noises called squeaks that are not considered “proper” in classically trained circles — they are considered mistakes.  Kathryn Ladano has turned squeaks into music by mastering them, just as Ted Nugent has done the same with guitar feedback.  As for Richard Burrows, my only wish is that the liner notes should have spelled out the different instruments he’s playing because there are a lot of different percussion sounds on the album.  He’s excellent, and I especially like what I call his “jungle drums” on “point i” of the CD.  Really enjoyable.

I’ve stated my bias up front, but I do truly believe that listen is a praise-worthy work.  Sonically it’s deep, and very well recorded.  Check it out and buy your copy by contacting the artists via kathrynladano.com. Coming soon to Amazon and iTunes.

4.5/5 stars

Gallery: Kathryn Ladano – “Evil Kirk” recording session

Use the embedded player below to hear a sample of “EVIL KIRK” by Kathryn Ladano, featuring yours truly

The initial concept was Kathryn’s.  She liked that Star Trek the original series had a lot of audible bass clarinet in the music.  Often just before a red shirt was about to die, you’d hear a bass clarinet melody…and then ZAP!

We decided to add a vocal element.  I compiled some of my favourite Captain James Tiberius Kirk quotations, and Kathryn had a general direction for the music but otherwise she improvised.  We performed it live in four takes at Wildrid Laurier University’s Seminary building.  A couple effects were added in mixing and voila — “Evil Kirk”!

Buy it at kathrynladano.com , amazon.ca or iTunes

Photos:  Martin LePage

Further reading: