Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Staring at this blank slate, trying to figure out where and how to start to describe the record that is Modes Of Transportation Vol. 1…It won’t be an easy task and I have certainly been procrastinating…

Just a few weeks ago the 20th Anniversary of this wacky masterpiece landed in my mailbox. I was certainly ready, willing and able to consume. Spookey and his music have been a major part of my life for a very long time. I’ll never forget first hearing his sounds. I was sprawled out on the floor doing homework watching Much Music for the short time America had the Canadian music network, which at that point was far superior to MTV and brought a vast many bands into my life. Initially I wasn’t quite sure what the hell I was hearing. It sounded like a cartoon about a boy going through puberty at first. But, it was a genius at work, yodeling like a crazy cat over an almost mechanical sounding bubblegum indie pop apocalypse. The song and video I am referencing is, “These Days Are Old”. This was the lead single off the record. Some years had passed since the release of the album when I first caught wind of it, and I was very lucky to have done so. Shortly after that I had it in hand and played it for everyone, equally perplexed, but who also went on to claim it as one of their favorite recordings. Anyway, enough whimsy, let’s tackle this Anniversary Release!

Spookey, Modes Vol. 1 20th Anniversary Cover

It’s beautiful, dense and very well crafted. This reissue is not some mediocre thing thrown out there to capitalize on an artist’s most successful venture. It’s calculated and lovingly delivered. What you get here is a Remastered “Modes” with 4 bonus tracks and lots of expanded artwork including a very touching and inspirational forward by Canadian songstress, Esthero. After reading her words I found that her story was kind of similar to mine. Accidentally discovering Spookey and being, well, somewhat confused at first. But then…obsessed. Seems textbook.

“We all have records we like – love, even…lots of them…but there are only so many you can KNOW.”

And well, she’s right. There has not been a single thing this guy has put out that I haven’t loved. Not like, but love. That’s pretty rare with a big catalogue and rare still with artists you really dig. To me, Spookey is very consistent.

The nicely remastered “Modes” follows the same track order from the standard release opening up with the few foreboding seconds in “Terra Magnifica” which sounds like your going to get something horrifying but then immediately turns into something beautiful with a cavalcade of instruments and a children’s choir only minutes in. It sets the bar pretty high and the theme only continues throughout. Next up is lead single “These Days Are Old” which I already waxed poetic about earlier and probably includes one of the best and most eloquent nylon string guitar solos you may ever hear. “Crystal Cradle”, colorful, fun, cute…”Running Away”, one of the most straight forward Alt Rock songs on the record. In whole it’s truly an adventure, and presented with more clarity than ever. I’d love to do a track by track, but I gotta leave you with some mystery. Just remember this when you get up to the conceptual “Life Insurance” delivered in 3 parts.

It came out on TVT in 1995 and was hailed as Pet Sounds for a new generation. It’s back and STILL from the future.

I didn’t even get to the bonus tracks! The first of four is “Knife In The Water”. It’s classic Spookey Ruben; it’s the bonus level, the 1-Up…the heart container! An absolutely brilliant contribution and you wonder why it was initially left off of the original record. My only guess is that the lyrical content is somewhat dark; a murder mystery of sorts. That’s followed by “Machine Language” which at first could be likened to a lost Nine Inch Nails tune. Before Spookey went solo he was in a thrashy, experimental math rock kinda band called Transilience. This track leans more to that era of his work. Next up is “This Truth” which has a more cool jazzy on the beach kinda vibe. Finally putting the period on this edition is a live cover version of the Pilot classic, “Magic” which lends itself greatly to Spookey’s diverse vocal range.



I personally cannot say enough about this artist’s installment of aural pleasure other than the fact that it’s thankfully getting another breath of fresh air. If I could complain about one thing, and I use the word complain lightly, is the fact that “The Lonesome Mule” was left off this version, which appeared on the Japanese release from ’96. The fact that it also appears on Ruben’s Rarities collection Welsh Rarebits from a few years back makes it forgivable.

Anyways, art like Spookey Ruben’s is one of a kind. Much like Prince, Spook is that special, and his return has just begun. Look forward to a monster year from this very special songwriter.

(Also sink your teeth into Modes Of Transportation Vol. 2/What’s A Boy To Do? And Modes III, coming soon)

A little less than two weeks ago, 2 of my absolutely favorite Canadian bands got back in the saddle for a reunion show…together, on the same stage. Those bands were, The Age Of Electric and Zuckerbaby. In my mind I thought, no question, I’ll be there, I’m hopping a plane…it’s that simple. Turns out, it wasn’t. I had previous obligations to my own band back home and it just wasn’t in my budget. I literally thought about the show all night as it was unfolding in another part of the world, Calgary, Alberta Canada. Man, that’s far away from NY. The next morning I was lucky enough to see some awesome video clips and photos throughout other people’s Facebook updates. Its times like this I do love social media. I was lucky enough to discover both bands back in the late 90’s when America had the Much Music channel; basically Canada’s answer to MTV, but in my eyes was much better at the time. I would watch Much for countless hours while I did homework. I discovered so many amazing bands/artists. AOE and Zuckerbaby being 2 of them. As I got a bit older I would take treks back and forth to Toronto and some surrounding cities to take in the culture and music and even play a few solo shows. It’s Heaven on Earth in my eyes. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. Back to social media, and one of the pluses, is that…well; everyone is on one of them. Reed Shimozawa, Zuckerbaby guitarist being one of them. I think about a year ago, maybe, I introduced myself to Reed via Facebook and we connected. No major conversations, just me romanticizing Zuckerbaby to him every once and a while and trying to convince him to give me the “lost” third record, hahaha…Anyways, after said infamous show I wrote to Reed again to see if I could do a piece on him and the band for MUSIC-SURVIVAL-GUIDE. And to make my day, he graciously obliged. And what you are about to read below is our short, semi-personal time in cyber social media land. Reed, you rocked this and I can’t thank you enough. So here ya go friends, please enjoy the below correspondence between myself and Mr. Shimozawa. Awesome stuff.

Reed Live @ the Zuckerbaby Reunion 08-29-15 @ Marquee Beer Market & Stage

Reed Live @ the Zuckerbaby Reunion 08-29-15 @ Marquee Beer Market & Stage

MSG – Hey Reed! I’m absolutely honored to be doing this little interview with you so, thanks so much for this. Let’s start at the present and work our way back. Just last Saturday, August 29th, Zuckerbaby did a reunion show in your Hometown of Calgary Alberta, Canada. Opening for an also freshly reunited Canadian favorite, The Age Of Electric, a band you share a lot of history with. Tell us a bit about that experience, what was it like…how did it come to fruition?

RS – There has been talk, on and off, of an AOE reunion for a while now, but the guys have all been very busy with their respective projects- Todd with Slash, Ryan with Mounties and Limblifter, and until recently, Kurt with The New Pornographers. When this offer came in the timing was as good as it could be. Everyone was available and willing. It’s really as simple as that I think. I have a lot of history with AOE, our friendship dates back to the late 80’s and among other things, Zuckerbaby did an extensive Canadian tour opening for them back in ’97 or ’98. The package works well together, both musically and on a social level so when Todd suggested we open the show it was really a no-brainer. Zuckerbaby had played a couple of low profile shows locally around ’07 to coincide with some music that Andy and I were working on, but other than that we hadn’t done a show since 2000. I’m not gonna lie, it felt great to be playing those songs again, especially in such a great environment. That place was packed with people who actually gave a shit.

MSG – Zuckerbaby and The Age Of Electric both, were big news in the mid/late 90’s in your homeland of Canada. Can you tell us a bit about the early days of Zuckerbaby? Even before that you shared a band with frontman, Andy Eichhorn called Calliope. How did Zuckerbaby get its start?

RS – In the early 90’s, I was searching for something new to do musically as were a lot of people. I strolled into a bar in Calgary to see some friends playing in a cover band. They had this young guy from Saskatchewan singing and his voice really caught my ear. We talked, and long story short I stole him away from my friends’ band (Yes they’re still my friends, more on that later). I was really into funk and blues at the time but I’ve always had a love of pop music so we did our best to mash those together and that was Calliope. That particular fusion of musical styles didn’t have a giant following here in Cowtown and we soon found ourselves drifting more to the pop side of our songwriting… because no one was really begging for that either haha. As soon as we started playing as Zuckerbaby, however, we knew we were on to something. People just started showing up…

MSG – Your Eponymous debut album made you somewhat the faces of Canada’s Pop Rock circuit, having heavy rotation on Much Music with lead Single “Shampoo” and the whimsical and gorgeous “Andromeda”. What was it like to have that kind of success being a band out of Calgary which is known for its cowpokecentric roots if you will.

Zuckerbaby Self-Titled Album Cover

Zuckerbaby Self-Titled Album Cover

RS – Well, it was weird, but really Calgary is not as rednecked as you would think from a casual glance. Especially at that time, there was a thriving community of bands and it was pretty great in retrospect. Outcome aside, I don’t know if there would have been a better place to get our legs. We certainly didn’t feel any pressure to fit into any genre because we were just a part of a scene that embraced a whole bunch of different sounds and creative ventures.

MSG – Being obviously influenced by Pop Rock icons, Jellyfish, you guys were able to secure Jack Joseph Puig who had a big hand in their masterpiece, Spilt Milk to mix the first record. How did you score that? How was that experience?

RS – ZB originally signed to an indie label out of San Francisco. Unfortunately they lost their distribution before we could release anything with them but in the meantime we made some great connections through that relationship. At one of our first meetings they asked us if we had management. We didn’t. They knew that Andy and I were massive Jellyfish fans and suggested Chris Coyle and Victor Ratto who were previously Jellyfish’s managers. We met, liked us and a deal was struck. After signing with Mercury in Canada, our A&R guy asked me, “If you could have anyone mix your record, who would it be?” Without hesitation I said “Jack Joseph Puig”. In addition to his JF pedigree, JJP was involved with at least 2 other albums that still move me today, “Amorica” by the Black Crowes and “Pinkerton” by Weezer. We had a connection through our management obviously and my dream came to fruition. Ironically, I don’t love his Zuckerbaby mixes. I didn’t agree with some of his sonic decisions and was too intimidated and starstruck to say so. Live and learn. He’s still a genius though.

MSG – After the bubblegum pop vibe presented on said record, you guys came back with the very sophisticated and polished Platinum Again some 3 years later. This album too featured new bassist, Ed Tiegs. Can you give some insight on the direction of songwriting for that record?

Zuckerbaby Platinum Again Album Cover

Zuckerbaby Platinum Again Album Cover

RS – Well, when Zuckerbaby signed with Mercury in ’96, we were given carte blanche to do what we wanted. The material was there, we self-produced, were given relatively big budgets for recording and marketing. In short, I really do believe that the label and the people involved at that time believed in our band. Things turned sour pretty quick though. When the album didn’t live up to expectations sales-wise, we quickly learned that we weren’t the pretty girl at the party anymore. The music business is a numbers game just like any other business, and we had turned out to be a bad investment. Sometime around then, Universal bought Polygram, which of course included Mercury. That’s when the shit really hit the fan. Most of the people who we considered “our camp” were either let go or left voluntarily and we were left like dirty little orphans. There was also internal strife in the band, partially brought about by our frustrations with the “failure” of our first album as well as personal issues. Brian Doss, our original bass player was let go, and during the course of recording “Platinum Again” we parted ways with Wayne Stadler our drummer. In general, that record is much more serious and dark, and that’s indicative of where we were at the time. I don’t hate it, there are some things on there that I’m really proud of, but that time was not a bright spot in my existence.

MSG – Having a vast history with The Age Of Electric boys who even sang some back-up vocals on Platinum Again and you having worked on Todd Kerns’ first solo record Go Time!, have you always been in touch with them through the many years in which both bands had not been operational. How did this recent reconnection come about?

RS – We are friends, and thus no reconnection was necessary. Todd and I are very close we talk all the time and see each other whenever possible. We’ve done a few little gigs over the years as well, and even made an album together which may yet see the light of day. Actually, we were just talking about how I’m one of very few friends that all the AOE guys have in common haha. Ryan and Kurt are really good friends of mine too, it’s the kind of friendship that doesn’t require a lot of attention or maintenance, we can all just call each other up and pick up the conversation even if the last one was a while ago. Last year I did a couple of shows with Ryan’s band Mounties, just playing some acoustic guitar as needed, and when Kurt was with The New Pornographers I would always see them whenever I could because I’m a huge fan. I’m disappointed that he’s not with them anymore, he was more important to that band than they realize and his playing made those songs even better. Gear is always a favorite topic with all of us, it may be what we talk about the most haha.

MSG – Speaking of reconnections, elusive Zucker frontman, Andy Eichhorn has been pretty much a specter over the years. What was it like to be on stage with him again? Was it difficult to reconnect with him?

RS – Andy and I use to joke about getting matching trucker hats that say “old fart” and “old fart’s wife”. We just couldn’t agree on who would wear what hat. We have occasionally gone for long periods of time without seeing or talking to each other but there is always a connection between us, both on a musical level and as friends. We have a deep understanding of each other, and I’m sure that will never change.

MSG – Aside from Zuckerbaby and your contributions to other musical offerings. What do you do nowadays? You’re known for being a pretty mean guitarist. Is your focus still planted in music?

RS – Other than my family and holding down a job, music is still the main thing I do. I play a lot of guitar, recording, songwriting… I’m just not as focused on who hears it anymore. At the end of Zuckerbaby’s original run, I had a realization: the best part was creating the music. All that other shit was great too, the shows, videos, fans, etc. but it never got any better than the feeling of writing a song like “Andromeda”.

MSG – Is there any kind of future for Zuckerbaby? Some years back you had about 4 new songs featured on your MySpace player. Was there to be a third record? Will we ever be able to hear that record and get those songs? (I drool at the prospect!)

RS – There is a complete Zuckerbaby album sitting on my hard drive. It’s good too, I just listened to it yesterday for the first time in a couple years. It was recorded between ’05 and ’08 I think, just pieced together with no intent but to make some music. I have a modest studio in my house and I started building songs on my own. The logical person to sing was of course Andy and it just slowly morphed into a ZB project. Ed Tiegs played some bass and drums on it, and Ian Grant is on a couple of songs too. It’s all over the map genre-wise, some of the songs are very Brit influenced. I hear some Oasis, Kasabian, The Verve, The Charlatans now when I listen to it. Then there’s some more rootsy stuff, a ballad that’s almost country, some rock songs. Toward the end we recorded a few more band generated things and they are a little more like what you would expect from us. It’s probably a challenging listen for today’s ear, people are so specific with their tastes now. I don’t give a fuck, many of the best records were genre buckers. We are talking about making it available, I suppose that now’s as good a time as any with all this interest being generated by the AOE show.

Zuckerbaby Live @ the Zuckerbaby Reunion 08-29-15 @ Marquee Beer Market & Stage

Zuckerbaby Live @ the Zuckerbaby Reunion 08-29-15 @ Marquee Beer Market & Stage

MSG – And finally, for the many that could not make it to your reunion show, can you give us a rundown of what the setlist looked like? And please give us some info about the rhythm section you chose to back you and Andy on this historical show.

RS – Setlist is attached. We never got to play the Cheap Trick songs because we ran out of time. Too bad, Cheap Trick is one place where Ian, Andy and I all love to go! One day we will do a show where we play “Live at Budokan” in it’s entirety. Ian Grant was our drummer for the Platinum Again tour, he’s amazing and proved it again last Saturday. He was also the drummer for the TKO project that Todd Kerns and I did. Jamie Warren played bass, he is one of my best friends and was in the band that I stole Andy from all those years ago, so in a way this was a reunion on several fronts. We had a great time, and IF there are any more shows, this lineup would be our first choice. Great musicians, great people.  Thanks Soda!



(Reed photo: Christy Turner)

The return of LIMBLIFTER

Posted: April 8, 2015 by Soda in Canada, Limblifter

It’s been 11 years since the last record by Canadian cult faves Limblifter, and almost 20 years since the bands eponymous debut which solidified chief singer/songwriter Ryan Dahle as a true leader in that Alt Rock scene of the nineties also being co-leader of Canadian darlings The Age Of Electric who garnered gold record status with their second full length record Make A Pest A Pet from 1996.

Brand new record “Pacific Milk” was just released yesterday on indie label We Are Busy Bodies who also reissued the bands debut on vinyl about 3 years ago when Ryan and Limblifter decided to come out of hiding for NXNE (North By Northeast) in which they played a few choice dates in their native Canada. At that point I traveled north to catch the Toronto date.

Soda & Ryan @ NXNE Toronto 2012

Ryan & Soda @ NXNE Toronto 2012

The band completely delivered, playing favorites from the first record all the way up to Ryan’s solo record, Irrational Anthems from 2009. Around that time a new Limblifter record was being teased to have been in the works and they had even been performing a new song entitled “Hotel Knife” which helped further the rumor of a possible new record…

Limblifter Pacific Milk album cover

Limblifter Pacific Milk album cover

Which brings us to Pacific Milk almost 3 years later and well worth the wait. Ryan’s involvement in successful super group Mounties (Including Hawksley Workman and Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat) I imagine held up the process of this record also, which was fine, as the Mounties album Thrash Rock Legacy was a phenomenal exercise in sound and superb songwriting. “Milk” clocks in at just over 35 minutes long and is predecessor to 2004’s crystal clean and meticulously written and produced I/O. Pacific Milk stands on it’s own as every LL record has since day one. Each being different from the next but having that Limblifter stamp on it, or rather that Ryan Dahle signature sound. Ryan is one of the few artists today who have that special power to pen something and have the listener know he was involved in some fashion, a true pioneer. Whether production, guitar riff or elaborate lyric you just know when he’s behind it.

The album starts with that signature Dahle sound as mentioned above right out of the gate in “Cast A Net” and introduces us to the use of different sounding keyboards which run rampant throughout the course of this record. Up next is lead single “Dopamine” which is probably the closest we get to classic sounding Limblifter on this album. Ian Somers (original bassist and Brundlefly brain child) even makes an appearance on “Key Of Karavana” on guitar, which was a pleasant surprise. Megan Bradfield also remains a staple in the Limblifter camp (some 12 years now) lending her knack and penchant for all things with strings.

Limblifter 2015

Limblifter 2015

Pacific Milk is a true expression in Indie/Alt experimentation, combining fresh sounds with a wicked mix of vintage instrumentation, which Dahle frequently boasts his fondness of. Stand out tracks include first single “Dopamine”, “Hotel Knife” (which has appeared as a staple in the live show for a few years now), “Suspended” and “Position Open”.

At first, this may seem like a bit of an extension to Dahle’s solo record with similar production and songwriting. As that may be the case, present here is the more full band vibe, which overshadows it being just a glorified solo record. As a brilliant musician/producer Ryan is not the type to just put the Limblifter trademark on just anything as a crutch because of the fame associated with a name. We can only hope there won’t be another 11 years before another stunning offering from this outfit.