Friday 6 April 2012

CCPS Miscellany - Far, Far Out: Calgary Magazine (1986)

We've included a few of the pages of this feature with various posts about the bands, but we figure we'd put this piece up in its entirety to meet our minimum monthly post count for posterity. 

The January 1986 issue of Calgary magazine devoted six pages to a feature on the Calgary underground music scene. Text by John Portwood, photos by Ellen Brodylo and Mike Morrow.

Far, Far Out
Calgary’s elusive underground rock scene is easy to miss and harder to find. Like, dig it if you can

There is no money and even less attention to be had by an underground rock’n’roll band in a Top-40 town. These uncompromising groups have few venues to play. Ten Foot Henry’s was alternative music’s focal point, but poor attendance and LRT construction put an end to that. At this point, it’s not clear what nightclub might emerge to fill the void. Local musicians are wondering how the underground scene will survive. This sampling of dedicated and unusual bands, however, makes it clear that it will take more than a C-Train to stop the music.Tau Cetileft to right: Barry Calnan, Dan Klauss, Alice Gauthier
Tau Ceti knows you can’t force anyone to think, and approaches its music with that in mind. The group’s front man, guitarist Dan Klauss, writes the lyrics he sings. Alice Gauthier sits on keyboard, alongside drummer Barry Calnan. Together 18 months, Tau Ceti recently released its first single, a love song entitled Radiation. The group’s members agree that there is no way to make a living in Calgary. For the most part, Tau Ceti is a dance band. They’ve made the natural progression from punk-rock cover band (covering material) to composing their own tunes. Upbeat and “pop” one moment, the trio can be dark and bizarre the next. The group takes its name from a Robert Heinlein novel. Tau Ceti is a distant solar system that desperate earthlings mistakenly travel to in search of refuge. By the time they get there, however, earth technology catches up to them in a very literal sense. An album should be ready for release this month. In a symbolic gesture, it will be entitled The Miracle Will Pass: disappearing ink on the record jacket will render the band’s name invisible right before your stereophonic eyes.

Beyond Possession
Beyond Possession is a band of conviction, and its members refuse to have their names published. Their leader fears it would detract from the group’s identity. The group’s name is taken by man to imply an association with Satan and the demonic hype with which heavy-metal bands often flirt. Not so, say the members of Beyond Possession: rather, they claim they are beyond being possessed by ego and material goods. An American and a Soviet flag hang in the band’s house. “We don’t lick anyone’s boots,” says one. A skateboarding tune they wrote and recorded has been distributed on a Skaterock album, a K-Tel-type record for skateboarders. Band members say they oppose both the neo-Nazi sentiments of punk and the blatant commercialism of heavy metal; their music is a hard-core-punk-and-heavy-metal fusion, a compromise that can be appreciated by both the thrashers and the headbangers. Their nameless and energetic leader works hard to keep alternative music alive in community halls around town. They’ve got day jobs and sink all their money back into the band. They travel. They just got back from an 18-state tour on which they peddled a few home-spun records and made a few waves. Insulted by a condescending announcer on a San Francisco radio show—the DJ had had the audacity to ask inane questions about Canadian weather—the band was forced to fill the mike with rude noises. Beyond Possession confide that “he didn’t ask us about our music.”

The Will...left to right: Ducky King, D. Jewel Davidson, Joe McCaffery, Ted Clark Latimer
The Will… are vocalist D. Jewel Davidson, part-time astronaut and bassist Ducky King, guitarist Joe McCaffery, and drummer and U of C student Ted Clark Latimer. The band’s nucleus has been together for years. The band refused to put a label on its music. Their various influences range from Jimi Hendrix to James Brown’s shoe builder. In a moment of weakness, they admit that their music is “everything rock ‘n’ roll was meant to be but isn’t.” The Will… say Calgary doesn’t treat them badly: They just ignore use, so we ignore them.” A CBC-produced EP was released in 1983. One of the tunes, Funky Babylon, made it to No. 1 on the CJSW charts. While they are skeptical about the band’s future, they’d have no objection to making money if a record label came looking for them. Lyricist, poet and short story writer D. Jewel Davidson has another career in mind: he fancies himself a new recruit in the bag lady corps. And one last thing: they’re not happy about the above photo. Firstly, the photographer wouldn’t allow their fifth member, Happy the Clown, to pose. Secondly, they feel the whole concept reeks of “pouring the band into a glass bottle with formaldehyde.” They’re afraid of the “dissecting middle-class gaze,” so have a good look.

Sacred Heart of Elvisleft to right: Ali, Bartok Guitarsplat, Tim Campbell
Vocalist Ali came up with the band's name when she saw a black-velvet painting of Elvis Presley on a jean-jacket. She saw it as the "mixing of trash culture with trashier culture." Any connection with the King ends there. Tim Campbell's guitar and Bartok Guitarsplat's lap steel have been on the Calgary music scene for some time. Both musicians' roots are in folk: Tim in Irish folk and Bartok in bluegrass. They like the guts inherent in traditional lyrics and call the sound of Sacred Heart of Elvis, "urban folk." Themes of "turning over rocks of one sort or another" recur throughout their material. Tim discovered that when he dropped all the clichés from his guitar playing, he no longer knew how to play. Tim and Ali are students at the U of C, and Bartok sweats it out with a day job. Tim and Bartok point to the Golden Calgarians as a group that best exemplifies the Calgary underground scene. Currently touring out east, the Golden Calgarians are experiencing success without compromising ideas. Sacred Heart of Elvis has a country drinking song called Walking the Floor that's getting some play on CJSW. A cassette tape produced by the band (complete with lyrics and photos) is available in some record stores. All of their lyrics centre on the "trinity of urban life: sex, violence, and drugs." In reality, they say, they're "happy people" who only think horrible thoughts in their songs. They hope to tour once school is out in the spring.
The Mulesleft to right: Bradley Frank, Clive Mansfield, Duane Douglas
The Mules have been together less than a year, but guitarist Bradley Frank, vocalist and drummer Clive Mansfield, and bass player Duane Douglas have known each other for years. They’ve played everything from pop to punk rock. The Mules often play the university and get considerable airplay on CJSW-FM 91. Other venues include the National Hotel and Slack Jack’s. Their roughed-up country sound has opened for the Good Brothers at the Glenmore Banquet Centre. The band is happy to play anywhere. Old-time country stars influence The Mules’ music. They describe their style as “traditional pepped-up country.” Keeping alive the idea of simple country music is their main goal. As a result, classic country covers make up 50 per cent of their song list. The Mules have recorded a cassette, but have had trouble finding airplay on commercial radio. Some country stations have expressed interest, but they won’t touch anything that’s not on vinyl. Cash flow is their biggest obstacle at the moment, and their musical style makes it difficult to find financial backing. They hope to record an independent album in the spring and, in the meantime, are keeping their collective eyes open for a distributor.

Age of Reasonleft to right: Darren “Meat” Robertson, Michel Dukic, Bernd Kessler, Derek Forman
Vocalist Michel Dukic and drummer Darren Robertson are students at the Alberta College of Art. Guitarist Bernd Kessler and bass player Derek Forman round out the group. They take pride in the fact that they seldom play a piece the same way twice. It’s their assertion that most bands overrehearse. The members of Age of Reason consider themselves individuals and use the group as a vehicle for self-expression. Still, there is melodic interplay between Yugoslavian-born singer Dukic and German-born guitarist Kessler. The band’s members describe their music as total nervous breakdown: “If you didn’t face reality after hearing us, you wasted reality.” They have no money and no recording prospects. However, a number of their tunes, Hollow Smiles and Lady of the Rainbow in particular, are full of potential and emotion. The group’s style can be both chaotically hard-core and poetically stinging. Dukic began his musical career in Germany in 1979 with a church basement group called Rabies. He calls his material “Gothic Christian dance music.” He compares his voice to that of Elvis Presley with a cold, and he avoids writing “stupid love ballads.” Musically, the group hangs on Kessler’s guitar playing. A hairdresser by trade, he detests being a slave to the system: “I don’t smile unless I have to.”

Thanks to Rodney Brent (a.k.a. Bartok Guitarsplat of Sacred Heart of Elvis fame) for sending in these clippings!

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