Friday, August 12, 2011

I can't play a note, and who cares?


Birding is the shit for me but for some, it's flowers, others it's old cars (I'm sort of into them too) and for some it's music. I'm not talking about people like me that collect music. I'm talking about those lucky souls that can make their own. It's something I've ways longed to do. Music has been a huge influence in my life but I can't read a note or play a chord. It started because my mom and dad loved it. They never loved the same music. My dad grew up in nazi Germany. My mom in a tiny town in Saskatchewan. He was into jazz of course. A bit of a Swing kid. My mom maybe a bit more wholesome. But hey, she's 20 years younger than him, she wasn't even alive when he was living through hell on earth. Some of the stories he tells me make me feel like so lucky to have been born when I was. My mom and dad also owned a record store when I was young so I was always surrounded by music. Some of my fondest memories are sitting in the Harwood Place Mall Records on Wheels in Ajax.

1970s me. Music was already in our house.

My dad in Germany with an early iPod prototype.

Anyway, enough about me. This post is actually about other people, and what I can learn from them. The first person I will tell you about is a great friend of mine. We live in the same town, have the same intolerance of fools and both drive cars that were made about the time we were born. His name is Brad Mac Arthur. But musically, he goes by Bradleyboy. He has played in 6 piece, 5 piece, 4 piece, 3 piece and 2 piece bands. There's a lot of stuff that goes with being in a band. Egos, personality clashes, creative differences and so on. Not to mention splitting the pay-check. So one day, he asked himself, why don't I just do the whole thing myself? That way, the whole band will always show up to practice, there's only one ego to deal with and any creative differences can get worked out in thought rather than open arguments that can destroy the foundation of what made the band great.

Brad playing at The Dakota Tavern in Toronto.

Cover of his new record, Salt Gun. Wood burning by Pete Commanda.
Cover design by the stay lucky design.

There's not much Brad doesn't do. He is half of the team that renovated my house in Orono. He's an amazing musician that doing a soundtrack for my film. He makes furniture, or whatever else he needs. He's a firm believer that if you need something done, do it, then it'll be done. That is another quality we share. He played a couple shows Friday and Saturday evening. I went to both. One in Peterborough and the other in Oshawa. He played with 2 other great bands. Catl from Toronto and The Venisons from Peterborough. It was a meat heavy show. Both shows put me to bed after 2am so it was a pretty sleepless weekend. Those kids are up at 7 or earlier no matter what happens.

Then, on Sunday evening we went out to a rather new acquaintances farm for dinner. This guy is living the dream. He owns a company called Green Side Up Environmental Services. They are an ecological contracting company specializing in natural resource management and the environmental science industry. His home is about 30 minutes north of Orono. We arrived and after a short time we were wandering the farm, checking out the chickens that supply their eggs, the garden that supplies all the vegetables and the ponds that will hopefully supply fish dinners someday. There's a great feeling of self-sustenance you feel on a farm. It was the same feeling I got from digging up potatoes with Shep in the morning and eating them as a potato salad made by Rachel later that evening, but on a grand scale. It was like I was looking at my future. Once the advertising world is done with me, I'll need a plan. And I saw things that I might want to apply on Doug's farm. We sat and ate a great meal, talked and listened to Brad and Doug play music. As I sat listening and writing this, I realize that I don't need to make music, I make other things. I write, I make art (the non-commercial stuff) and now I'm making a film. Be it a good, bad or just plain average film, I will have made something from nothing more than an idea I had riding my bike along Harbored Street. Just like the song Doug is playing and singing right now, I'll be proud to share it when I'm done.

Later in August, it's back to birding and tattoos. Shorebirds are coming through and the scientific name changes are released so I can get more inking done. I'm looking forward to a trip on the 28th of August that will net me some new birds for the year, and to having Pete hurt me with his needles.

Paul Riss
Punk Rock Big Year

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