CRACKPOT & AMERICAN DEVICES AT BARFLY (4062 ST. LAURENT), FRIDAY OCTOBER 10TH! EXCLUSIVE LONGWINDED INTERVIEW WITH RICK TREMBLES BY MONTREAL COMIX JAM COORDINATOR MAXIM DOUGLAS! COLD-BLONDED MURDERS! FLAKE! EXQUISITE CORPSE FRIDGE-MAGNETS AT THE DISTROBOTO MACHINE #2 LAUNCH! JOHNNY RAMONE ON HORROR HOBBIES & HARDCORE! LEAVE THEM TO THEIR OWN DEVICES! INNER WORKINGS OF THE DEVICES: THE FUTURE LOOKS BLIGHT!
All contents © 2000-2003, Rick Trembles
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION STRICTLY FORBIDDEN
October 9, 2003
CRACKPOT & AMERICAN DEVICES AT BARFLY (4062 ST. LAURENT), FRIDAY OCTOBER 10TH!
Here's the official announcement Crackpot's Chris Burns has been sending out to various email recipients:
Hallo, again, everybody! This time, I am pestering you about a Crackpot gig at Barfly (4062 St. Laurent), Friday October 10th, with very special guests, American Devices. Admission is $5.
Aside from the MSO or April Wine, American Devices is probably Montreal's longest running musical group (some of its members don't always appreciate having that pointed out, however). Though it has seen its share of line-up changes over the years, its sound has remained consistent; largely due to the continuing presence of founding members Rick Trembles and Rob Labelle. As guitarists, Rick and Rob are unique and highly original. Their styles contrast from each other quite radically yet compliment each other quite astonishingly. The same can be said of their individualistic song writing. The current line-up is rounded out by two of my Nutsak associates, Andre Asselin on bass and Howard Chacowicz on drums. Andre has the amazing ability to adeptly mesh his jazzy noodlin' into the Trembles/Labelle diaspora while still making sure to keep it rockin' like a mofo. Howard has boundless energy which provides him with the super human stamina required to play drums for The Devices. He is also the smiliest person ever to be an American Device. I am a huge and long time fan and, as a result, have found myself at various times playing bass, guitar, drums, and singing for the band. I would put on a little girl's dress and stand there hitting a tambourine, a la Tracey Partridge, if they asked me to. Of course, I would also do that if April Wine or the MSO asked. The Devices might be one of Montreal's oldest bands but it is important to note that none of them are fat, none of them are bald, and (most surprisingly) none of them are deaf or completely drug damaged.
Speaking of completely drug damaged... Crackpot will, once again, be rockin' out a set of toons that will mix oldies with newbies (which is better than a mix of moldies with nudies). We will also be performing our fat assed era Elvis cover and, therefore, request that you only watch us from the waist up. Hope to see you all there.
Sincerely, Chris Burns
PS: It occurs to me that some of you might not appreciate my wham-bam-here's-some-more-fuggin'-spam-messages. If this is the case, please do not hesitate to reply with something along the lines of "Fuck off, asshole! I only want to read about Crackpot if it's because they've died in a plane crash, or something."
PPS: I bought a new girdle. Thanks for your concern.
May 29, 2003
EXCLUSIVE LONGWINDED INTERVIEW WITH RICK TREMBLES BY MONTREAL COMIX JAM COORDINATOR MAXIM DOUGLAS!
Thought I'd help promote an upcoming show by my band The American Devices by posting an interview that was put together February 2002 for a proposed zine by the current coordinator of The Montreal Comix Jam, Salgood Sam (AKA Maxim Douglas). For whatever reasons, his zine never materialized & he let me rescue our conversations from oblivion. Devices are doing a kickass electric set at Casa Popolo (4873 St-Laurent) early this Friday evening, May 30. We're opening for The Other Thing (who are launching a CD) & The Unireverse. We're also breaking in our new drummer at this show, local cartoonist Howard Chackowicz. Can't believe how well it's been going with him. Learns ultra-fast & can truly rock the fuck out, yo. Yeah!
A PEEK INSIDE RICK TREMBLES' PUPA! by Maxim Douglas (pictured below: "In one eyeball -out the other" ...Rick's pupil)...
Rick Trembles has developed an almost purely iconic style that often either disarms his readers, or repels them as a foreign language of hieroglyphs. Bearing a resemblance to medieval Gothic religious art, when seeing Rick's comix for the first time readers frequently make several passes over it or reject it outright. For those who give it an opportunity, at first glance, Trembles comix will seem surreal, even abstract in places. Filled with small manikin-like people, Dantesque haunted-house creatures engaged in odd activities caught up in the works of simply drawn, but impossibly complex machines, scrambling around in roller-coaster carts and on borrowed limbs. Rape, sodomy and murder figure as well along with orgies of ant-like behavior in surreal factory funhouse-like playgrounds.
In his more traditional narratives Rick's work is autobiographical. If you were to try to place him in the developing cannon of comix autobiography he would fall somewhere near but decidedly on the fringes of the unflinchingly raw & personal works of Joe Matt's early PEEP SHOW strips and Chester Brown's PLAYBOY story. His work lives in the same neighborhood as his Montreal contemporaries, Henriette Valium, Eric Braun, D. Bilos and Mr. Swiz. This is truthfully a class unto itself. Never as much a slave to representationalism as most North American comic artists are, the Montreal scene has fostered a strong if not financially secure group of artists who frequently challenge the expectations and comfort levels of comix readers.
Now in his career's early twenties, Rick has entered a contemplative period. Working towards finishing an animated version of his comix story "How Did I Get So Anal," he's looking forward, debating what kind of path to take. Over a few too many months Rick and I exchanged emails resulting in the following interview. Like his work, it is an unflinchingly honest look inside of Rick Trembles' head at the time.
MAX: Reading the biography of your band The American Devices at snubdom.com, one gets the impression that you traveled a fairly colorful & diverse creative path thus far, comix, film, & punk rock music. What was it that drove you to explore so many venues of self-expression?
TREMBLES: My band's actually been dismissed by purists because of that; taken less seriously for delving into extracurricular activities besides music as if it made us less than 100% "with it." But I never pursued creative endeavors besides music in order to play it safe & have something on the side to fall back on "career-wise." If anything, every other vocation I've ever embarked on was just as volatile. When punk made its first impressions on me a quarter-century ago I thought the same aesthetic could be applied to film & comix. At the risk of spreading myself thin I wanted to live & breathe & cross-pollinate that notion. All these "disciplines" also share avant-garde, underground and/or garage predecessors & counterparts predating punk so it's an endless mine of inspiration tracing back their histories. I wanted it all & as a result, now I'm a walking, talking catastrophe.
MAX: Within the punk scene & its close relatives there are many artists who have pursued multiple mediums, I always thought the multidisciplinary approach was inherent in the DIY philosophy of punk. Do you still get this sort of flack from your colleagues? (Why do you think they reacted that way?)
TREMBLES: Well, we've pretty well run out of "colleagues" by now. The only people left that wanna play with me, whatever the medium, are usually like-minded & becoming fewer & farther between. I didn't mean to bitterly condemn any so-called scene in one fell swoop; I'm just generalizing about specific instances in my band's own past. Just a feeling I'd get from some of the more arrogant musicians I've had the displeasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years who'd rub my nose into whatever little degree of success they might've achieved by telling me I was going about it all wrong. You had to specialize, it wasn't "rock 'n' roll" to have other hobbies. Sometimes the feeling wasn't so general, you know, like being called artsy-fartsy or part-time. I think it was different 20 years or so ago, there was this do-or-die conviction punkers liked to display. Like when Public Image LTD started, for example, they boasted how they wanted to be more of a multimedia operation than just another boring musical outfit & back then that was considered a real departure/novelty. But don't get me started on why my band's such a spectacular failure. Because all I can do is hypothesize & I've got the unfair advantage of having no one left around to care enough to contradict me so you can be sure none of the faults are gonna be my own. Convenient, huh?
MAX: So what sort of positive feedback have you received from your work? I know Robert Crumb has both praised your work & recoiled... though this was a plus in your eyes. What about other peers & critics?
TREMBLES: My Montreal Mirror strips are seen mostly locally (readership at 287,000) & thank goodness they're not appreciated just by comix geeks, they're movie reviews aimed mostly at film buffs. As far as my weird shit's concerned, the Dernier Cri people in France recently published a few pages of mine in their mindfuck anthology "Hopital Brut." That made my day. I was recently in Danny Hellman's "Legal Action Comix," & that giant "Comix 2000" book also from France, some local books. I have a pile of comix done over the years not many people have seen conveniently burnt on CD so I can send to whoever's interested. They can pick & choose whatever they want from it & when they decide to publish something I guess that's my cue that they like it. Lately, that's as much as I get as far as accolades go 'cause indie self-publishers are usually too swamped with work putting together their anthologies to actually comment any further. Fine by me. Someone like Mister Swiz (local cartoonist) will often tell me how much he digs my stuff & is influenced by me whenever he can, but there's no real clubhouse or anything where you can go & talk shop. I feel pretty much like I'm doing what I'm doing in a vacuum so any comments are appreciated.
MAX: Are you still as excited by the punk esthetic as you were 25 years ago? It has spawned so many subgenres; do any of them interest you? (If so, which?)
TREMBLES: Only on a very local level anymore. Friends' bands, or bands that have splintered off of musical projects I was involved in at one time or another & now they've mutated into something entirely different, still retaining an inkling of what got me excited in the first place. I like seeing stuff evolve like that. We keep tabs on each other. Very incestuous scene. We MUST like what we're doing because the rewards are nil. For example, I'm so broke most of the time I can't keep up with much else from "outside" because I can't buy the merchandise. I can't buy the zines to learn about them. Same goes for comix. Ironically, having exercised my passion for creating music & comix is what's kept me consistently bankrupt (because there's no money to be made & maintaining these passions doesn't come cheap), & helped prohibit me from widening my horizons, imposing an insular lifestyle, necessitating a more regional outlook. It ends up informing my work. It's a chicken & the egg situation. Which came first, the isolation or what brought it on? Self-imposed self-sabotage, or should I invent some mythical powers-that-be scapegoat? But I like the idea of homespun creations so devoid of outside influences they don't resemble anything anyone's ever seen or heard, born out of a necessity to break out. Although without knowing what's out there, you always run the risk of mimicking something unbeknownst. Ever stumble on some comic from out-of-the-blue & go "hey, they stole my idea," when you just know there's no way they've ever seen or heard of you? There's so much crap out there to wade through like you said, I check out what people recommend to me whose opinions I trust or who have an idea what I might like. A certain spark I can relate to that's hard to describe seems to draw me in, whatever the medium. I just recognize it.
MAX: On the local level your work to date seems to fit very clearly in with that of Henriette Valium, Billy Mavreas, D. Bilos, Eric Braun, Quesnel & Mr. Swiz (who am I missing?). On the national & international level where do you see yourself & who excites you?
TREMBLES: I think I'm a pretty muddled package to the average viewer. I guess I have a consistent style of drawing, but I bounce back & forth from experimental, confrontational, stream-of-consciousness type stuff to straight-faced biographical & then there's my illustrated film column. Sometimes I merge them all. Music might get thrown in, like I might illustrate my band's lyrics, or adapt one of our homemade movies my band did a soundtrack to into a comic, or write blatant self-promo about my band. It's all disjointed, a chore to figure out where I'm coming from to the uninitiated I'm sure. Nothing a couple of compilations couldn't straighten out though. I have about 200 movie review strips so far that'd make a nice cult film book. A same-sized retrospective of my weirder stuff is ready to go & wouldn't hurt. But I'm not gonna put 'em out as hand-stapled, hand-folded mini-comix photocopy-zines myself. Those days are over for me. They're too maxi for that & I'm broke, so it'll just have to wait 'til they can come out slick. Any backers out there?
MAX: What personal sources do you mine for inspiration?
TREMBLES: All my petty trivial miseries. You're asking me about the creative process smack dab in the middle of the debilitating winter blahs?!? (February is cabin-fever suicide-season here in Quebec).
MAX: Sorry, OK. You've said in the past that your goal is often to shock and unsettle your audience. Your music is twistingly composed punk-a-delic & political at times, your comix art surrealistically mechanical on one hand yet still dominantly about the wet, gushy taboos of humanity, what is it that you're looking to get, or get AT by pushing your readers & listeners off their comfort zones?
TREMBLES: It all depends who's filing the complaint against my work. People have different thresholds. I draw so unrealistically it baffles me how anyone can fail to see the humor in it, but being taken so literal is fun 'cause it goes to show how cartooning is still a language where the message can bypass the medium. It reassures me that comix are still innate enough in the collective unconscious that they can be secondary to the topics being addressed. It means comix are just as valid a communications medium as any other. But whether in comix, writing songs, or hopeless little movie ideas, what seems to be the common thread at the inception stage of my strongest work, much too my chagrin, is having been in a state of having nothing to lose. Fighting my way out a wet paper bag. It's catch-22, misery keeps me consistent. And once stewing in my own stink reaches a boiling point, that's when auto-suggesting a "solution" is imperative. But although an idea can originate out of fetid wretchedness & take years of decay to complete, the actual stench doesn't necessarily have to be prolonged because once the initial spark is lit, it's mostly grunt work. And the idea being communicated or prolonged isn't really what's miserable; the idea being communicated is the alternative to what's miserable. Nothing uplifts spirits better than finding out someone's more miserable than you, doesn't it? So I'm providing that service to others; generously presenting myself as miserabler than thou. Isn't that the basis of most humor? It's an S&M world out there.
MAX: OK, & I'll get back to what you said here, it's interesting in & of itself... But what are you trying to get AT by pushing some people's thresholds? What do you want your readers to get out of your stories after the initial reaction wears off & they've reset the buttons you've gone & punched? Do you only want to share your moments of "fetid wretchedness" with others who may think they're alone in the world? Not to say you're not a generous person Rick, but what's your personal agenda? Most, if not all of your stories have a political air to them; that punk thing coming through maybe? What makes you choose to take the route you take rather than say, for the sake of absurd juxtaposition, a nice reasoned "civilized" approach?
TREMBLES: If I have a personal agenda it's that no one represents me but me. I don't speak for anyone else so I don't want anyone to speak for me. And any politics in my work are gonna be implicit & not spelled out. I'm a voice of marginality without articulating the grievances of any specific group. It just shows in the inherent quirkiness of my work. I don't have the chops to take a civilized approach. I'm overcompensating. It's an old exploitation trick & I'm doing it self-consciously which means I'm doing it satirically. I'm "selling the sizzle not the steak." There's a great definition of "punk" in this oral history book, "PLEASE KILL ME," about the evolution of the early NYC scene where punk is described as taking whatever you've been dealt with & trying to make the most of it. Trying to make something good out of something bad if need be. Or, you know, not sweeping the bad under the rug, just saying; "fuck it, this is the way things are so I'm gonna make use of it, I don't give a shit what anybody says." Being yourself, whether it's recommended or not, rather than being a hypocrite.
MAX: Is the humor in misery the only thing that inspires you to create? I can understand the attraction to and/or drive from strong emotions as an artist, the "oomph" of a powerful feeling. Do you ever draw out of pure pleasure? Out of sorrow? Nostalgia? Or simply for the amusement of a silly idea?
TREMBLES: Well, don't sorrow & nostalgia kinda-sorta fall under misery? If I catch myself wallowing in self-pity, I'll usually get embarrassed & need to document it just to keep my sanity & remind myself how silly it all is; "note to self: stop wallowing." I'll find humor in it after the fact. That is, that's what I USED to do because I somehow used to envision an audience besides myself in the back of my head, whether it was close pals or total strangers. In retrospect, maybe back when I used to reveal excruciating details more, it was in the GUISE of "commodifying" my problems & opening up to an imagined public only so it wouldn't look like the cry for help aimed at my immediate surroundings that it actually was. There's that chicken & the egg isolation concoction again. But since my immediate surroundings haven't really changed all that much as a result, the experiment must've been a flop. I haven't been doing revelatory stuff as much lately I think because turning forty makes it lose some of its charm. It's not cute anymore. When I was younger, I looked at all my little dilemmas as having a transience to them. I was just passing through them or they were just passing through me. But now I know better; they're here to stay. And worsen. The whole notion of "you'll look back on this & laugh someday" doesn't ripen well. I want to look frontward, not backward anymore. I rather "look FRONT on this & laugh someday." It's such a big world out there & my world is so unbelievably tiny & monotonous. I know that it's up to me to change if I want to but I just don't seem to have the means at my disposal. Believe me; I've tried to transform myself often. But more often than not, when things can't seem to get any worse is when I find myself ready to stare at a blank page & fill it up. It's a cure for the blues.
MAX: I believe, off the top of my head, Mel Brooks & Mark Twain have both sported the theory that we don't laugh at nice things. We laugh at other people's misfortune and our own. The disturbing or disturbingly absurd. So would you say you're a sometimes misunderstood humorist?
TREMBLES: Psychiatry embarrasses me. I refuse to get the professional help I'm sure many people over the years might've believed I'm in need of, so I'm foisting it all upon an imaginary public, hoping I'll get a free diagnosis from them. Am I laughing with me or at me? I don't get the joke, so I'm hoping someone sits me down one of these days & explains it to me. But if I'm misunderstood it means I'm not getting across properly & that's not a good sign. It means what I find funny or intriguing isn't universally acknowledged as such. Well, for those that don't get it or DON'T WANNA get it, I try to draw them in with drawings that'll sucker 'em long enough to shove a slice-of-life down their voyeuristic throats that they're not accustomed to. I've created a self-perpetuating narrative for my own little world & persona that feeds off itself with its own internal logic but it's fueled by imaginary viewers I've concocted as my confessional. But anything I'd rather NOT admit to myself, I divert attention away from by sleight of hand, carefully choosing what gets confessed. And what I might find worth withholding I can't tell you because I don't even know myself. It's too buried & suppressed deep down in my psyche. But every once in a while I'm possessed to leak dribs & drabs of "sizzle" I just can't contain anymore.
Money's not the incentive
because there isn't any. Not counting my Montreal Mirror strips
of course (not that they equal much dough). I'm on autopilot when
I do those, a one-man assembly line. Also, they're a hybrid-film-review-column/comic-strip
& often text-heavy so it's not pure comix. Those
In contrast, biographical stories have the convenience of being ready-made, they write themselves. The fact that you can't change the past excuses quality-control because you can just say, "hey, well the quality of my LIFE was iffy then too, so if it's accuracy you want, you got it." Experimental stream-of-consciousness stuff obviously writes itself also. But my film reviews are opinionated "man-on-the-street" essays. Stream-of-consciousness equals no-man's land, biographical equals one-man's land, but I've always been reluctant to write deliberate, calculated fiction because every combination of every kind of plotline's already been done. I find fiction too contrived, manipulative, derivative. They're like mathematical formulas & I've always been lousy at math. The plotline of my life has probably already been done too, but I can't see the forest for the trees, so hey; ignorance is bliss. I get the greatest pleasure doodling absentmindedly in my day-planner while I'm talking over the phone or something. It lets me invent cute barking critters that I sometimes end up reusing elsewhere.
MAX: Getting back to something you said earlier: Recently, both Art Speigelman & Scott McCloud have been advocating the idea that the strength of comix is it's ability to use symbolic icons to trigger deeper associations in the reader, & that because of this, work that is visually more abstract can in fact be far more evocative in conveying ideas on an emotional level than realistic art. Sounds like your experiences/methodology tends to agree with this. How much thought do you give to the meaning behind the iconography found in your work? Any pet theories driving your work that you would care to share with your readers?
TREMBLES: Well, with the Motion Picture Purgatory strips mentioned above, sometimes I'll have either so much applause or so much vitriol for whatever film I'm reviewing that the text can overtake the artwork so I end up having to draw smaller & smaller to accommodate the words until any accompanying art gets reduced into the faintest hint of what has to be represented. They're reduced to hieroglyphics to the point where they may as well be a font I can automatically type in with the keyboard. But then again, those Purgatories aren't pure comix like I was saying. With my other personal & weirder experimental stuff, iconography saves my ass because of my limited drawing abilities.
MAX: But despite all your talk about being limited in skills, I've seen your sketches & your freeform drawings rock! Aren't you feeding yourself baloney telling yourself you're limited?
TREMBLES: But I don't agonize that much over these limitations. I have fun with them. I'm just trying to explain to you how I work. Initially, I actually envision the finished product as much as possible in living, breathing, embossed, 3-D, Technicolor, Smell-O-Vision as I can, but from then on I have to kiss it good-bye & it's all a process of whittling down. I dawdle on & on, dreading the moment when I have to finally decide in what way I'm going to compromise my vision. Time constraints are a factor. If I have plenty of time, sometimes it'll allow me to envision something grand because of the luxury of having time on my side. But the grander I envision, the more intimidated I get, the longer I procrastinate, the more compromise becomes inevitable. The shorter the deadline, the more I have to dive in kamikaze-style, & probably the fresher the original intent remains. I find it fascinating how outside factors you don't particularly see in a finished work interfere/contribute to the final outcome. It's demystifying. Someone should write a book how procrastination plays a role in the creative process. Interview a series of prominent artists how they wrestle with procrastination because I'm sure they all have to deal with it at one time or another in their own different improvised ways & it's a crucial factor. It's like sex; you have to learn about it for yourself all on your own.
MAX: That would be a very interesting book. Given your early exposure to surrealist art (Rick's Father is a former cartoonist & surrealist painter) were you aware of the strength of less literal imagery when you started out? And while I'm asking, how much has the surrealist school of art & your father's painting influenced your own? (Pictured below: 1982 tableaux created by Rick's father, Jack Tremblay, entitled "God's View" [color acrylic on canvas, 122cm X 122cm). It's hard to make out at such a reduced resolution but all those intertwining brushstrokes are multitudes of critters animal & human)
TREMBLES: I was exposed to some strange stuff early on, art books my father had around. Hans Bellmer for instance, which I wish I could emulate. Bellmer did exquisite surrealistic erotic art where, among other things, you could see through people while they were having sex, full-frontal genital & internal organs & all. My father was in advertising so he was open to whatever was gaining popularity at any given time. For instance, he was quite liberal about having underground comix around & I got to see them at a relatively early age. He didn't buy them, but he had no problems with me getting them for myself. He thought Crumb was a great draftsman. But my father didn't share that much about the inner workings of the creative process. I think it was a private thing for him, or maybe it was something he didn't understand enough himself to divulge. He's always had a studio-room at home where he'd spend hours alone tinkering. I guess that carried over to me, along with a tolerance for experimentation.
MAX: Your father drew & got comics of his published around WW2, does he still read comics? What's he make of your work & the stuff coming from the alternative publishers these days? You guys ever talk about working on anything together? (Pictured below: sample unused Jack Tremblay title page circa 1940)
TREMBLES: No, he doesn't read comics. He reads several newspapers a day so sometimes he'll clip stuff of interest out for me about other cartoonists, but he basically grew out of comics as quick as he could. After doing patriotic war comics he considered it nothing more than a stepping stone to professional illustration. When I was a kid though, he turned me on to the stuff he appreciated, like all the early newspaper strips, Krazy Kat, Winsor MacCay, those are the first comics I ever got into & I'm happy about that. He'd have early comics anthologies around just as much for his own enjoyment as mine & he respected the medium. He never really discouraged me from drawing comix, probably because both he & I weren't aware then how impossible a nut it was to crack. It seemed to work well for HIM when he was a kid; he was 16 when his war stuff got published. But he wouldn't in a million years even try to wade through all the crap that's out there today. He likes his reading material ready to go & easy to obtain but finding worthwhile comix unfortunately takes a bit of digging nowadays. I show him what I can; he takes a quick survey & tells me straight off what he likes & dislikes, then just hands it back to me. With my own comix, he'd write notes on the side telling me what I should've done, what's strong, what's weak, as if I was still a kid. I'm always bugging him to get reacquainted with drawing comics but he's not interested. My uncle just wrote his memoirs about being a WW2 bomber tail-gunner & I thought it'd be a great opportunity for my old man to illustrate it as a comic, drawing all that dogfight stuff again like he did in the 40's, but no dice.
MAX: In both your comix & music there are themes of politics & racism. You addressed some of your experiences with the French vs. English clash in the Montreal comix scene in Deusexmachina. In your song "Decensortized" you address censorship & social taboos, & in many of your stories, as well as getting into social taboos as I mentioned above, you delve into your own anxieties & fetishisms. What other themes interest you? Any stories about them in the works?
TREMBLES: Deusexmachina means "machine of the gods." It's an old Greek theater term for when a play would end abruptly without warning by the hand of god. Like ending a movie with a nuclear explosion or something. Or in vaudeville when someone gets yanked offstage by the curve of a cane I guess. An actual machine would literally come out on stage & pluck actors away mid-sentence or something. In my story, my artwork got plucked off a wall & vandalized, so that was the "machine of the gods" in question cutting things short. Basically, I learned a new big word & I wanted to show it off, so I also titled one of our songs the same thing around that time. I don't really deal with racism much. I don't really see the whole French & English thing as a race issue anymore, it's more of a language issue. All races are equally invited to shun English in favor of French here.
The last biographical epic I had in mind I was gonna title "How Did I Get So Governable?" & document right down to the last penny how I became so ridiculously in debt. I wanted the side of each panel to have the numbers gradually, mathematically add up like a cash register & climax with whatever it was I actually owed at the time of completion. It's something I've been meaning to investigate anyhow just to regain some kind of semblance of order in my life, so I thought if I made it into a comic I'd stop procrastinating on taking that long hard look at my dismal financial history. I haven't quite figured out how that would appeal to anyone else though. I live, breath, eat, & shit comix don't I?
MAX: Do you still seek to provoke & irk in the same ways as you have? Going for that shock, that uncomfortable reaction? -Are you ever tempted to just do a nice little story about a boy and his dog?
TREMBLES: I'm allergic to dogs. Come to think of it, little boys too. I only wanna provoke & irk myself out of my own stupor.
MAX: For the last year you've been working on an animated short film, can you tell us about it?
TREMBLES: I received a small grant a few years ago to complete an ambitious animation/live-action version of one of my biographical comix, which I also showed around town as a slide-show for a while. I'm still working on it & hope to have a rough-cut completed by this year. It started off as an old-school 16MM traditional cel-animation/optical-printer SPFX project, both disciplines I've actually had academic training in (although I'd been dabbling in it on my own since years before). But by the time funding arrived, digital technologies had practically rendered both those disciplines obsolete (as far as practicality's concerned in a low-budget framework). Materials for cel-animation for instance are now scarce & at best prohibitively more expensive than when I originally submitted my proposal. As a result I've had to slowly adapt all the work I'd already done to the computer (when I was a complete newbie to computers). I dropped the ball from time to time because the original money's long gone & I keep getting distracted trying to find ways to pay for such trivial things as utilities, rent & food. The topics explored guarantee that once completed & thrust upon the world I'll most likely never find mainstream work again (not that I ever had much luck in the first place) so the only real monetary incentive for me to finish this project would be that the Canada Council will never even look at another grant proposal of mine until I do. Non-monetary incentive is that I hate all-talk-no-action people who never finish what they start, so I don't wanna become my own worst enemy.
Further complicating things is the specter of death haunting the work. A key player in this biography died a scandalous death not long ago, making drawing that particular incarnation in the sexually compromising manner the story calls for, feel a tad desecrating. It's much more fun to desecrate living beings. Not to mention the fact that the initial idea's over ten years old. I couldn't have asked for a more miserable situation to be in, but unfortunately my recipe for misery-inspired alternatives to miserable situations cancels out when applied to ideas already initiated by miserable situations. Two wrongs don't make a right. The only way to get out of this one is to finish what I started even if it kills me.
MAX: Yikes, why not rework the remaining portion of the project to better reflect you current needs? Are you your art's god or is it yours?
TREMBLES: It's biographical so it's written in stone. I want to see this through to the end & prove my naysayers wrong; I CAN bite off more than I can chew (overcompensating again). It's a pretty delicate relationship I have with my work, once I feel like a slave to my work as you say, I just won't do it. Unless I have a deadline or I'm getting paid. What's the point if you're not enjoying it?
MAX: But aren't you the artist? It's your world, your reality, can't you do with it anything you want. Make it anything you want?
TREMBLES: Well, I already decided long ago how it's supposed to turn out. It's my side of a story that had other people's skewed versions floating around & I wanted the last word, posthumously or not. Also, animation entails mostly reproductions that have to be rigidly abided by & from then on it's all process of elimination 'til it's done. Storyboards too, they follow prerecorded dialog. I can't go back & change the dialog; that would cost money. I can't subtract sections of it, because the story has a proven pace from the original comic-strip version that builds to a climax. Like I said, it's written in stone.
MAX: Without giving too much of the stories away & thus possibly relieving the need to do them, what comix projects are boiling away on your back burners?
TREMBLES: I've got so much accumulated on the back burner that lately I've been getting increasingly phobic about initiating new ideas to the point of paralysis. It's a problem, being creative with no proper outlets, I need aversion therapy or something. Every time I get a cockamamie idea I should get zapped. I used to like to defiantly embark on impossibly ambitious projects without trepidation to fit & parody the whole notion of "bigger is better" braggadocio evoked by the word "American" in front of our band name. It was our shtick, there was a kind of a self-destructive-for-the-sake-of-satire element to it, but now that most of our original cronies are literally or figuratively dead, or long ago caught the mass Anglo exodus outta this one-horse town, it's just not the same anymore doing it for an audience of one (me). I'm flogging a dead horse. There's no one left from those formative years anymore that gets the gag.
So kids, keep your goals relatively simple! And if you take the autobiographical route, make sure those tender little stinky reminiscences are ones you like enough 'cause they're going to be reverberating in your head ad nauseam. I'm so sick of navel-gazing that once I'm finished with my present commitments, I just want to retire from the rat-race & go back to abstract. Topicality kills timelessness. For my own sake, I wanna nurture ideas that can stand MY test of time from now on. I'm over the hill & redundant, I don't represent anything identifiable, I've burrowed my head too far underground. At least that's how I feel & nobody seems to want to prove me wrong, so I may as well cherish this obscurity. I'm certainly not gonna define myself by the present pop culture. It's not aimed at my demographic. It's not catering to my needs & I'm not even necessarily talking about youth culture, although I'm sure a lot of young kids feel the same way. The smart ones anyhow. If my stuff's so irrelevant that nobody's interested, well I might as well go all the way. Abstract music, comix & especially animation (which combines the 2) for the sole purpose of deriving pleasure from it. I have to get reacquainted with the fundamentals. I've been there before, I used to get such a joy from making simple animated flipbooks, the cheapest way to make a movie. You're getting me at a transitional period so I don't have any good news to report to you until I magically lift myself out of this rut/limbo, burst out of my cocoon & flutter away.
Interview © 2003 by Maxim Douglas
April 17, 2003
Just slapped a new banner ad on top of snubdom's front page hyping a movie I worked on in mid-March written by Isabelle "Necrophillia" Stephen (who also stars in it), COLD-BLONDED MURDERS! Managing editor of Fangoria Magazine Michael Gingold & rising New York model/actress Suzi Lorraine are in it too. I was asked at the last minute to contribute some special makeup FX so I dragged out my old corroding kit from ten-fifteen years ago back when I was an aspiring gorehound polluting my lungs with plaster dust from the mountains of crumbling castings piled up in my miniscule apartment. I had to dress up local cartoonist Steve Requin's face to look like he'd been beaten up & held in bondage for an extended period of time (pictured above). I also had to provide a stabbing with blood splattering out the incision. Hidden rubber tubing attached to a corn syrup & red food-coloring concoction-filled oversized syringe hopefully did the trick (I haven't seen the finished footage yet but by all accounts, it seems to have gone over well). Fun. Stay tuned for more info & visit the COLD-BLONDED MURDERS site for production updates.
This weekend, don't miss the Francois Miron Retrospective at Cinema du Parc (the subject of this week's Motion Picture Purgatory strip). I acted & did some animation for some of those films & this is a rare feature-length collection of original prints. The director will be in attendance for you to ask questions to if you want. Here's an interview I did with him for the premiere of Resolving Power (scroll down to the June 12th, 2001 installment).
March 6, 2003
Um... Guess what. I've decided that I'm gonna be updating these periodical blogs whenever I damn well feel like it from now on, thus the new "random" title in front of my "blather" heading instead of the usual "weekly" or recent "monthly." Due to some nerve-wracking technical difficulties lately, my updates have been erratic the last month or so. Now that things are back to normal, I'll continue posting every new weekly Motion Picture Purgatory that I release at snubdom.com, but the blogs will be more sparse. For the first few years they were weekly. Then at the beginning of this year I thought I'd go monthly because I was burning out every week trying to come up with new topics. It became kind of an obsessive-compulsive endurance test. I refused to skip a week out of sheer stubbornness. Sometimes, scrambling for stories at the last minute would leave me stumped & I'd end up with something too silly or mediocre, just because I felt obligated. So I figure the best way to maintain quality from now on is if I write only when something really compels me to do so. I'll let you know when whatever that "something" is slaps me in the face again.
January 30, 2003
EXQUISITE CORPSE FRIDGE-MAGNETS AT THE DISTROBOTO MACHINE #2 LAUNCH! (Pictured below: Run your mouse over the separate images of this handsome custom-made Daniel Clowes exquisite corpse that originally appeared in Rick Trembles' Exquisitely Corpsed Concoction of Cretins #2 to merge body parts with a cute Rupert Bottenberg critter from issue #1).
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO SNUBDOMIZER SUBSCRIBERS: I recently (stupidly) accidentally wiped out all my email addresses while doing some computer maintenance, so if you haven't been receiving your weekly snubdomizer email notices announcing snubdom updates & want to get back on my mailing list, please re-subscribe at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar below or email me with any questions! Additionally, from this date on, Blather Weekly becomes Blather Monthly. Subscribers will continue to receive weekly updates announcing new Motion Picture Purgatory comic-strip movie reviews, but weekly "diary entries" will only be updated per month
EXQUISITE CORPSING W/DISTROBOTO!
Friday night, January 24th, at La Salla Rosa, Fishpiss publisher and co-instigator of Expozine, Louis Rastelli, launched his latest Distroboto machine with a shit-pile o' new items for sale in it. The machines are former cigarette dispensers that he stocks with locally-made artifacts at 2 bucks a pop. All proceeds went towards helping pay for the $600 it cost to set it up & the $350 rental Salla charges for the room. Erroneously billed as our first-ever acoustic show, my band The American Devices did a short set at the launch. It made sense to do it acoustic because not only is it hassle-free as can be (no drums, amps, or vocals), but we were launching Distroboto mini-CDs the same night containing unplugged recordings we could plug during our set.
Since it was gonna be a variety night with tons of acts running on & off the stage posthaste we were asked to keep it snappy, 15 to 20 min tops. That suited me fine. Never played the Salla (it's a nice hall with an actual traditional elevated stage; curtains & all), so that was some more incentive. From the same "dressing room" that I interviewed a drunken Alan Vega falling off his chair a couple of months ago, I could hear Louis Fishpiss MCing our intro utilizing the word "oldest" to describe our sorry asses. So waddling by him across stage, guitar-in-hand, hurrying towards a miked chair for me to park my shit-encrusted pair of "Depends" onto, I sarcastically muttered to him how he's no spring chicken himself. He started feigning some kind apology as if to take me serious but we crossed paths too quick & then it was time for us to entertain the toddlers. We were slapped on first around 10PM-ish but the place already felt packed. Our acoustic set is instrumental so it made plain sense to kick the night off with background muzak such as ours. There were a couple o' false starts on one song (Spacey Seasick) due to some stage jitters on my part but the 4 went OK overall. I could hear most of the audience ignoring us & yammering throughout, which was a novelty because we're used to blasting people's eardrums out. And they applauded. At an especially tricky juncture in one of our arrangements I thought I could even hear someone appreciatively utter "woo."
It was good to get everything out of the way ultra-early so we could kick back the rest of the night & guzzle a couple beers without worrying 'bout getting too tipsy to play. There was so much stuff on & off after us it was hard to keep track, especially once familiar feces started showing up that I wanted to meet & greet. What I could remember was some spoken word stuff I didn't have the attention span for, some comedic hoe-down type music (Dante's Flaming Uterus?) with Joellen Housego on the fiddle (she played once in a while in a mid-nineties improv noise band I sang for called One, Two, Three, Go!). Lisa Gamble did some folk stuff I also had no span for. There was a funny tap dancer that went by in a flash who kept adjusting her bazzooms. Alexis O'Hara spouted sarcastic bimbo lingo while contorting robotic gyrations wired to sci-fi equipment that'd reverberate her words. The sound FX were kinda mesmerizing but bimbospeak's such an easy target. Caustic ain't gonna tackle that shit. You wanna cut the cheese? Get downright misogynistic. Turn into an 80's slasher flick or something.
Les Abdigradationnistes got goofy high-tech. Their cut & paste song-intro/devotions to irrelevant high-profile celebs & such was a chuckle the first couple times around, but they hadda go conceptual with the damn gag & hammer it redundant. Smoke machine & disco-ball provided visual embellishments. Fancy synth & scratch players filled their sound. One of them even got up to go to the can cuz he hadda take a pee mid-song. I bet they smoke pot.
Crackpot rocked out but the sound was muted a touch, making their normally sidesplitting stage banter a chore to make out. The sound overall for them wasn't ideal, you couldn't make out the intricacies like at the tiny shit hole-in-the-walls I usually catch 'em at. I bet they smoke crack. Crack was supposed to close the night late but, by cracky, The Cutoffs went 'n' hijacked the stage last-minute as the audience was starting to thin. They sounded good. The same muting I thought hampered Cracko actually rounded them out. A few times I had to comment, mouth agape, to whoever happened to be next to me how girlish singer/guitarist Jeff carried himself. He was out-girlishing the other 2 girls that complete the band. He should wear mile-high plats. He's got a good early Rolling Stones garage Jaggeresque warble. Kept thinking throughout their set how they'd make the perfect opening act for Royal Trux. There's a Gun Club vibe in there too.
Books & things being launched in the Distrobotos that night were all-new mini-comics by Julie Doucet, Billy Mavreas, Eric Braun, Jesse "Adonis" Bochner, Howard Chackowicz (Howie Action Comics Vol. 2 from Conundrum Press), & fridge-magnet versions of some of the exquisite corpses I published in the mid-nineties in Corpsed Cretins 1 & 2. Some of these issues featured mind-blowing contributions from the likes of Mike Diana, Daniel Clowes, Jim Woodring & Dave Cooper. The batch Louis made available Friday consists of 3 local cartoonists whose names I'm not gonna disclose in order to keep it a surprise so you have to you fork over two bucks you cheap bastard. Tee freakin' hee.
I was at the venue before the machine was even in attendance (I had to help carry it up two flights once the truck finally showed up & it weighed as much as a fridge). Distroboto contributers were in the audience frantically trying to finish off assembling their Distroboto packets on time. I was one of them, chipping in on some last-minute constructions. Each of my band's mini-CDs had to be surrounded by cigarette-pack sized pieces of loose cardboard wrapped in cellophane so they'd be the proper weight to be ejected by Distroboto's mechanisms. Else, the machine ends up ejecting money back. As people started piling in, me, Rob Device, Isabelle "Necrophilia" Stephen & her friend Catherine grabbed a table so we could also put together fridge-magnet boxes. They went inside of actual cig-packs wrapped in cellophane & stuffed with card to give 'em weight. Didn't realize how clunky & temporary they'd be (wrappers are encouraged to be recycled via a box atop every Distroboto), but the loose contents inside check out OK. This last-minute box design's prototypical; I really wanna work on a better custom take-home collectible version for future batches.
Run your mouse over the Daniel Clowes rollover sample pictured at the begining of this article to get an idea how exquisite corpses work. The Distroboto packets contain 9 separate pieces you can slap onto your refrigerator door to mix 'n' match body parts with. Louis plans to periodically restock his machines with new batches often to encourage people to collect the whole set, so hurry on over to the Casa or Salla & start your collection today! And don't ask me for any of the print versions because I ran out long ago. All I have left are a few demo copies for myself, but it'd be great to have them published in a handsome format one day, so stay tuned (I originally had to hand-staple & slice per copy thru every self-pubbed page myself).
Also scheduled to be stocked inside the Distrobotos are mini-CD's and cassettes by: 1-Speed Bike, The Electric End, Les Georges Leningrad, Lederhosen Lucil, Chris Burns & Friends Do The Beatles' White Assbum, Unireverse, Les Abdigradationnistes, Dante's Flaming Uterus & Alexis O'Hara. Little books by Andy Brown, MissE, local zine-maker Squirrel Girl & more. New objects & items by Guy Boutin, Marielynne's Raunchy Valentines, silk-screened trading cards, small framed artworks, new finger-puppets, homemade cat-toys & more. For my efforts I got paid 2 free drinks & a kick-ass copy of the custom silk-screened poster for the show by Yannick & Chloe (Electric End, ex-Da Bloody Gashes) of Sérigraphie Populaire which presently hangs on my kitchen wall.
See you next month.
JOHNNY RAMONE ON HORROR HOBBIES & HARDCORE! Since this week's Motion Picture Purgatory review is for brand new Ramones related documentary HEY IS DEE DEE HOME, I thought I'd stay on topic this Blather & post an interview I did with the late Dee Dee's bandmate, Johnny, back when they were touring their Subterranean Jungle LP. It was conducted in the parking lot of the Montreal Spectrum just before they hit the stage & appeared in 1984's Sugar Diet Magazine.
Rick Trembles: Do you think horror movie mania is the fountain of youth, like it makes you stay a kid or something?
Johnny Ramone: Uh, yeah… I guess so, I guess there's a bit of kid in everyone & the more you do certain things… yeah, the horror movies, I mean, like my hobbies are baseball too, baseball does that too, helps you stay as a kid. Watching baseball & collecting stuff like that, & I collect horror film stuff too. Yeah, I think so.
Trembles: So like, it pickles you.
Johnny: Yeah, 'cause there's so much kid in everyone, you know… the more you do that, the more kid there is in some people, than other people.
Trembles: Yeah, like the less kid there is, the less of a punk rocker you are or whatever…
Johnny: Yeah, I'm sure. Yeah probably.
Trembles: According to Fangoria #21, you're on good terms with Rob Bottin (Fangoria calls itself "the USA's leading quality horror/gore/exploitation magazine" & Johnny has collected every single issue. 25-year-old Rob Bottin was responsible for the breathtaking makeup FX in movies such as The Howling, The Thing & Piranha. He created the humanoid punk rock rodent seen in the Ramones' feature film Rock & Roll High School).
Johnny: Well, we met him a few times, right? And he made our pinhead mask, but lately we've been using a different one. But we have the other one with us too.
Trembles: Do you have it tonight?
Johnny: Well, we have the one that he did but lately we've been using a conehead because it's easier to get on & I just notice that the audience reaction is, umm… they find it funnier, the conehead, than the pinhead mask…
Trembles: It's like from the Saturday Night Live show?
Johnny: Yeah, so to them it's funny, while the pinhead, they might think it's just an ugly guy we're bringing out on stage 'cause it looks kinda real, heh heh…
Trembles: It's like Zippy (Bill Griffith's "Zippy The Pedigreed Pinhead" is a wacky underground comic character).
Johnny: Yeah, it looks a lot like Zippy.
Trembles: Any chance you'd ever team up & make a movie with Rob Bottin?
Johnny: Nah, I guess not, you know? At one time I always wanted to get involved with films but now I've worked too hard already.
Trembles: With the group & that?
Johnny: Yeah, & now I just wanna retire.
Trembles: Serious!? Retire & like watch all the horror movies that come out?
Johnny: Right, & just do nothing. Not work. I don't wanna work anymore. Maybe another two more albums or so.
Trembles: But, like I heard in Fangoria that you collect a lot of stuff. That's costly & also time consuming, so how come you don't wanna put that into anything?
Johnny: Because it's like just a hobby & I like keeping it that way. Once you've involved your hobby with any sort of work somehow the fun goes out of it.
Trembles: Like when you have to start making money out of it.
Johnny: Right, or once it becomes a business. You gotta keep it a hobby, it's more fun that way.
Trembles: Instead of spreading yourself thin you wanna just keep it at home or something.
Trembles: What's your favorite kind of horror movie? Explicit gore SPFX or stop-motion animation monsters & stuff…
Johnny: Uh, I like them all. I mean the gore ones are good, if it's a good one. You know, there's like a lot of junk. If it's just gore & there's no suspense involved, that's no good. Some of the best ones, it seemed like there was gore & there wasn't really gore, like you go see Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was great, & there's no blood in it. There's no gore, it's all the thoughts that went into it, the tension that was involved. You know, you have a good filmmaker & he's gonna make a good film. You know, anybody can just do one murder every 6 minutes & just put a lot of gore into each one. It just becomes a separate filmmaker; the SPFX man, right?
Trembles: So you're more into the filmmaking than the SPFX?
Johnny: Well it's good to have good special effects & a good story with it. It gets really boring, I mean you just watch one madman murderer after another. I mean there's a whole bunch of them, you know which ones I'm talking about, there's millions of them. All the rip-offs that came out, like after Halloween, like Bloody Valentine, etc…
Trembles: Like I got the Tom Savini book (Grande Illusions, a learn-by-example guide by gore guru Savini to the art & technique of special makeup effects in films such as Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, Creepshow, & more), I sent away for it, they won't sell it here, I have to send away to the states for it, but the pictures in it, you know, I'd rather just look at the pictures & learn how to do it than watch the actual movies…
Johnny: Well where does David Cronenberg work out of, Montreal? (Canadian writer/director of Shivers, Rabid,. The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome, films known principally for their violence, horrific visceral explicitness, & twisted sexual aggression).
Trembles: Sometimes, but you never hear about it, it's top secret, you know?
Johnny: Well, he's really good.
Trembles: Did you see Videodrome?
Johnny: Yeah I like Videodrome. I like all his films.
Trembles: That's a heavy movie, huh? I saw it three times, fuck.
Johnny: I still feel he can do better, but I like all his films.
Trembles: Yeah, it's like he's going overboard or something…
Johnny: Some things in Videodrome became very confusing, you're not sure what was happening.
Trembles: He's not professional or something?
Johnny: I dunno, maybe he just had holes in his story. You weren't sure whether things were happening or whether they were his fantasy & it became really muddled after a while. Everybody kept reaching into his stomach & everything. You don't know if these things are happening or if it's his imagination.
Trembles: In the new Fangoria, editor Bob Martin says he doesn't even know what to do with his life anymore after seeing Videodrome, all confused or something (for the past couple of issues Fangoria magazine has announced writer/editor "Uncle" Bob Martin missing. In his final article, a preview of Cronenberg's next film Dead Zone, we read much of how Videodrome has affected him & that he's been disillusioned by his profession lately. Videodrome's in-depth responsible action-packed look at an experimental victim of private-media brainwashing & manipulation (the owner of an independent television station specializing in sensational programming with heavy doses of sex & violence), seemed to confirm Uncle Bob's decision to vanish or something. Did he find demoralizing parallels between his profession & that of Videodrome's protagonist? If Fangoria reveals all this as a big hoax it'll only encourage us to think twice about media info, just as Videodrome is a warning).
Johnny: Heh, heh…
Trembles: How many times do you practice a week? Pretty stupid question but I'm curious because…
Johnny: Well, we don't practice, we play all the time.
Trembles: You get to play live all the time.
Johnny: If we don't play for a month, then we'll practice 2 days before our first job & that's it. If we do an album, we take 2 months to get ready & then we rehearse about 4 or 5 times a week.
Trembles: So you write your songs during those 2 months?
Trembles: Do you have a day job?
Trembles: So you're OK with the band & all that…
Johnny: This is how we work every day.
Trembles: Who's you favorite guitarist?
Johnny: I guess James Williamson (Iggy Pop & The Stooges' guitarist, especially on Raw Power).
Trembles: Serious?! Yeah, me too!
Johnny: Yeah, I like his playing a lot. I like Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) a lot. Of the current guitarists, I like Richard Stotts' playing a lot on the first Plasmatics album. I thought he was really good.
Trembles: Did you ever hear The Meat Puppets? (A Phoenix, Arizona three-piece).
Trembles: Do you listen to a lot of the current albums, like the hardcore stuff?
Johnny: I listen to some of it.
Trembles: Over here the import prices are really steep.
Johnny: I try & listen to as much as I can of it. If somebody recommends something.
Trembles: Meat Puppets are real neat. Sort of like Jimi Hendrix guitar but with a really, really fast, fast, fast drumbeat. You know, super-fast, sloppy-but-tight…
Johnny: Some of the hardcore's ok, it's just that a lot of them don't have consistently good material.
Trembles: A lot of them sound alike?
Johnny: Right. You need good material. Now you look at the early days of punk rock, like with the early Sex Pistols & The Damned & things like that. These groups had great songs. New Rose, Neat Neat Neat, you know, all that stuff, it's like, great songs, & the trouble is a lot of them aren't producing great songs.
Trembles: But they're sort of replacing the whole heavy metal scene.
Johnny: They're not replacing the heavy metal scene.
Trembles: You don't think so?
Johnny: Well look at how big the heavy metal groups are. Nothing's gonna replace Van Halen & ACDC. You can't see punk rock becoming big like that. It can't happen. Impossible.
Trembles: Yeah, I guess it won't get played on the radio or anything…
Johnny: It won't get played on the radio, They don't play well enough to get those kids who like Van Halen to like them 'cause kids who go see Van Halen go there to be dazzled by this great guitar playing, right?
Trembles: All the scales & stuff…
Johnny: And when you go see the heavy hardcore stuff, you go for a different reason, you just go for the energy level. It's more fun watching the audience at the hardcore shows. Heh, heh…
Trembles: Yeah, jumping off the stage & stuff. Doing somersaults off the stage. You have to be in good shape to do that.
Johnny: Oh yeah, they do it a lot of times at our shows, you know. I don't really like seeing it. It's very annoying when you're trying to play.
Trembles: They bump into you & stuff…
Johnny: Yeah. Also, I'm worried that somebody's gonna get hurt. You dive off the stage, people who do somersaults off the stage, they come down on their back, you're gonna break your back! I see a lot of the shows, everybody tries to get out of the way of them. You know, you put a regular audience in there, & you put 20-30 hardcore kids in there, & the other people, they're gonna get annoyed by it, & you know, the stage, it belongs to the band. I mean, you can't get up on stage, because what happens if everybody got up on stage? You wouldn't have any show left. They don't belong there, it's not their place! They have to know their place is in the audience, our place is on the stage. We don't get in the audience, they don't get on stage, heh, heh… It becomes very confusing, you're out in the audience, you put 10-15 people up there at the same time diving off, the audience won't know what to watch. We're trying to put on our show. They're trying to steal the show, huh? Heh, heh… (pause). But they're fun though.
Trembles: Yeah, it's like pretty desperate stuff I guess?
Johnny: Well, I see what they're doing. It's all right for the hardcore shows to do that. Anything else?
Trembles: I dunno, I guess they're the type of questions that went as far as they could've…
Johnny: Oh, ok… If you think of anything else, you know… are you coming tonight?
Trembles: Yeah, I got a ticket & everything.
Johnny: Oh, ok… Good, so what are you gonna do? Is this gonna be a music magazine or on films?
Trembles: It's gonna be half & half. Like I think there's a big link between the two. You know, horror movies & horror rock or whatever, you know? Scary rock.
© 1984, Rick Trembles
January 9, 2003
LEAVE THEM TO THEIR OWN DEVICES! (pictured right, Robby & Ricky Device)
The following article about my band The American Devices was written by Paul Gott back in '84 for Concordia University's weekly paper The Link (I believe before he'd even started his own everlasting band The Ripcordz). He eventually became editor of Montreal music paper Reargarde....
Leave Them To Their Own Devices
It was a jubilant crowd that left the Forum Saturday night. The Canadiens had just demolished the New Jersey Devils 5-0. As usual, happy hordes of fans roamed down St. Catherine Street, dressed in bright red sweaters & Canadiens tuques, looking to have brew at their favorite night spot. For those who entered Station 10 it was instant culture shock. The American Devices had just hit the stage & the music was just beginning to hit the audience. The Devices know one tempo: accelerated, & play at a volume guaranteed to reach those at the back of the club, & on the other side of the street. Maybe Montreal's longest surviving 'alternative' band, the Devices aren't subtle in anything they do, but that, according to lead singer Louise Burns, is just part of the Devices' experience. "The songs are really ambitious - they're always on the verge at falling apart," says Burns. "But that's part of their appeal." Burns has been with the group for less than a year. But the other Devices - Robert Labelle on guitar (& bass), Rick Trembles (née Tremblay) on bass (& guitar) & Carl Cupcakes (née Helm) on drums - have been together for four years. Burns, a fan of the group before they asked her to do the vocals, says that the Devices have been plagued with bad luck over the years. "At some shows, it's been really bad. Too much beer and drugs, I guess. Basically it all turned into noise because of the equipment - the P.A.," said Burns. "And tonight it could drop into noise easily - but I hope it doesn't." Whether the show actually fell into noise or not on Saturday night, depended on who you talked to. Canadiens sweaters, which could be seen in the shadows at the back of the club during the first set were extinct by the time the second of the Devices' three sets got underway. The Devices received scattered, almost stunned applause from the standing-room-only crowd that remained in the small club. "We have a small group of fans that follows us around," said Burns. "I see new faces here tonight, but the Devices are not necessarily something you like on the first listen. We'll have to see if they come back." The Devices are a hard group to pin down. Cupcakes, with shoulder-length hair, looks like he could just as well have drummed for a late-sixties band, maybe the MC5, Trembles, with dark glasses and piled-up hair radiates punk, while Labelle & Burns could probably camouflage themselves as typical university students. Their stage show really isn't (a show, that is). Burns moves only when she isn't singing and Trembles & Labelle only move just enough to play their guitars. Trembles studies his guitar so intently that it wouldn't be surprising to see it shrivel up in embarrassment. "The playing is getting a lot better, a lot tighter & a lot faster," said Burns. "The newer songs have more & more riffs - the melodies are getting more & more involved." At times the melodies stood out, & at times they didn't - getting lost in the sound system & the warring, discordant guitars. How much of the sound is real anarchy & how much is planned anarchy is hard to tell. Burns says the group is playing more for the music than for the audience, "Basically we don't care (about the crowd's reaction) anymore... we're just in it for ourselves," said Burns. "If we're working on a song & it's sounding good, then we're happy." Labelle, who lists the Buzzcocks, Joy Division & other "heavy punk" music as influences of the band, said the band really hasn't found a niche in Montreal's club scene. "We're caught between audiences," says Labelle, "The hardcore (punk) scene doesn't like us & people who like Men Without Hats & Duran Duran don't like us." But the Devices are trying to expand their audience through studio work. They recently appeared on a compilation album of Montreal alternative bands called Primitive Air Raids & have started work on an album of their own. Meanwhile, the Devices are turning into a multimedia event. Trembles recently masterminded "Sugar Diet," an 80-page magazine devoted to alternative music in Montreal. The band also made a video of its song, "Meaning of Life" entitled "The Abortion that Lived" (the title says it all.) And they are planning a sequel to go with their song "Gory Story." "Louise is pregnant right now & we're thinking of filming the birth for the video," says Labelle. Though the band enjoys making music, Labelle finds the endless tours of bars to be depressing. "Even if we don't make it big, I still enjoy it," says Labelle. "But I can't see it going on forever. Montreal is a really dead city - it's really hard to break the ice."
Paul Gott, November 20, 1984
January 2, 2003
INNER WORKINGS OF THE DEVICES: THE FUTURE LOOKS BLIGHT! (pictured right: fill in the blanks)
I emailed our temp drummer Chris Burns shortly after my band's December 20 gig at Casa Popolo…
Chris, I wanna play again goddamn it. With the Devices. And I wanna get it "right" this time. In other words tight. Or at least get it "fun." I was squirming throughout that last Casa Popolo gig. Know any bands we could open up for anywhere? We'd have to convince Rob though. The fucker wants to go strictly acoustic from now on. The video of the show came out good. The live sound out in the audience was apparently better than what the camera mike picked up though, from what I'm told. I could make you a dub.
Chris answered back…
Dear guitaristic loonatic. Would you like a copy of my audio cassette of the caca set? I'll trade you for a dub of the video. Or if you prefer, I could just give you a blank video for you to dump it on & I could dump the audio on whatever tape you might want it on. Keep in mind, it is over an hour long. As far as doing another gig goes, I'm not too keen on pressuring someone (Rob) into doing something they don't really wanna do. Also, when you say you wanna do another one to "get it right," I think you're missing the big picture. We did get it right... in that there was a room full of people who were very happy indeed to get their faces rocked off by The American Devices. As I've said before, people don't give a shit about little tiny glitches, if they notice them at all. They appreciate the excellent toons played, for the most part, excellently. I think you sometimes might lose sight of just how great & totally unique your band is. As you know, I have long been a huge fan & am totally addicted to your incredibly individualistic, warped, loopy-doopy guitar style. The interplay between you and Rob; the way you compliment & contrast each other has long been the drawing point for me & I think it would be awfully difficult to find a rhythm section capable of doing a better job of keeping up with you two. I honestly don't think it's possible to ever get it right, the way you seem to envision things, in a live situation. Fuck-ups, technical or otherwise, are simply part & parcel of every rock & roll gig I've ever experienced. Sometimes I think the only way you would be happy is if we got through every song without a single boo boo (which is probably damn near impossible) regardless of whether the audience was even hearing it properly or enjoying it, for that matter. If you're seeking note-for-note perfection, the studio is clearly your environment. You can do other takes, punch in overdubs, or even the good ol' fashioned fix-it-in-the-mix method (that covering up of screw-ups in "Party Pooper" is one of my favorite moments on your LP). This brings up another element of your attitude I find puzzling. How come you are such a perfectionist when it comes to the live, electric rock show where things go blurring by & any mistakes that might actually get noticed are quickly forgotten if not immediately afterwards, then by the next tune (or surely by the time they get home), yet you chose to release something acoustic (a horribly unforgiving genre) in a medium that can be scrutinized by the listener over & over again? That thing seems to have quite a few mistakes on it. Some of the time, it's not even in tune, fer chrissakes! Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that it's out there & I can totally see the interest & merit to it but, the fact that it doesn't seem to match your usual modus operandi is somewhat baffling. The other thing is, I think you should be in a band that is more like a real band. That is, a group that gets together once or twice a week (or even once or twice a month) to not only work on new things but to keep the repertoire in shape & readily available for gigs. I know you feel this way too & I sympathize with how unbelievably frustrating it must be to always feel like you have to take 20 steps back to re-learn or re-teach everything to new members before you can move forward. The problem is, I obviously cannot join another band. I'm in too many as it is. Putting aside the occasional time to cram for a gig is one thing (a thing you really don't wanna be doing anymore) but committing to actually being in the band is just not realistically feasible for me right now. As much as I love playing the drums & as much as I crave hearing & being a part of those amazing, amazing, amazing american devices tunes. If you ever did get the band rolling properly, I would still love to get on board as a third guitarist. That's something I can do easily, if the band has already got it's shit together, with not very much time needed. Also, if everyone's into doing another gig, I would be happy to drum for it as well, I just can't promise you the kind of time you seem to think would be needed to pull it off. I'm sorry if this depresses you but I figure you oughtta know where I'm at so you can plan accordingly. Again, everyone I talked to thought it was a great fuckin' show (I know, you're thinkin' what else are they gonna say? But, trust me, they could've said a lot or nothing at all -not to mention the people who don't even know me who felt compelled to compliment us). People really had a hoot over the Yummy Yummy bubblegum cover as well. So did I, for that matter. I had never really heard how we were doin' with it until I listened to the tape of the gig. Again, we fucked it up a little (maybe a lot) but it really was a great idea to include it in the set. Your vocal was terrific. I laughed my ass off when I finally heard it properly.
So I answered Chris back…
Chris, can I reprint your email as the next snubdomizer installment? I wanted to eventually "review" our show anyhow & this would give it a fun personal touch. I'd show you preliminaries for approval before I post anything. Hey, I wasn't asking you to join the band officially, I know you're too busy. I just wanted to do another gig before we lose the tunes from our noggins. And it's more so I can get it right. ME mostly. Whether getting it right means loosening up enough to enjoy myself no matter what the glitches. I just wanna leave a fond memory for myself rather than otherwise, especially considering how I gotta sustain my recollection for years the way the band plays so rarely nowadays. The acoustic CD was an aberration, that's how I looked at it. It was recorded for free one weekend, so that meant no overdubs or corrections. We knew that going in. I was happy with the "flavor" we achieved. It didn't need to be perfect because we were aiming for an overall tone, although I would've been happier with perfection as usual. It was a gimmick, I.E.: The songs weren't done the way they were envisioned. They were envisioned electric. The song 50/50 motivated me most to record acoustic because I wanted a clear drumless model for a drummer to follow when learning it if need be (however, as good a job as you did, I'm starting to believe drums are an impossibility for that song). Rob wants the Devices to remain acoustic. Rob wants the Devices to become a gimmick I guess. The next thing I'm looking towards is recording anything we haven't recorded yet with Howard Chackowicz on drums (& hopefully you on extra guitar), but not necessarily teaching him the whole set for live shows. That'd be 50/50 with vocals, our newest one BUNCO UNCTION, Rob's relatively new tunes TWO, & BIG BROWN WORLD, & whatever else we can dig up from the vaults for fun, like maybe FAT GIRL, that Alice Cooper cover LOONY TUNE, Nico's THESE DAYS, Andrea True's MORE MORE MORE, RED WHITE & BLUE. Interpret the covers wacky as can be of course. For recording we'd need to save some dough though, so it might be a while before it ever comes together, unfortunately. I'll dub you a video, just give me a blank when we exchange.
So Chris answered back…
Dear Jimminy Rickets. Go ahead & use what you like from that message. It would be nice to preview the content/context of it, however. I've been disappointed with that kind of thing before. I'm sure you can relate. As to doing another gig; are you sure you wanna put yourself through it, again? What makes you think the next time will go any smoother? By the time the gig gets booked & we get to practicing for it, we'll probably be just as rusty. Well, maybe not as rusty, but still. I'm sure you're gonna end up wishing we had more time to prepare for it again. I'm not tryin' to wuss out so much as I'm trying to spare you some anguish. The point I was trying to make is that you don't seem to enjoy the live situation under these circumstances. You seem to be saying you might enjoy it if you did it more often & could relax about it a bit more, but would one more time accomplish that? It seems to me like you might be setting yourself up for more punishment. This is why I think you should divert your energies into getting a solid band together so that you can rehearse regularly & play out more frequently. I know you weren't asking me to join the band, I was just saying you should think about getting one going with someone else. That being said, you know I'm always there to help out the American Devices in any capacity that I can. I mean, I probably should've said no to the last gig, given how overbooked I am musically these days, but I just can't seem to say no to it. It's like Al Pacino in The Godfather, "they keep sucking me back." I'm pretty sure Andre (bass) is still very keen on it. He is also quite smitten by the rockin' rifforama & often mentions how, if it weren't for the Devices, he wouldn't really have a rock 'n' roll band (I guess Nutsak doesn't really count). Anyway, like I said initially, I'm not so keen on forcing anybody (Rob) to do something he's not really into. Do you know that he only wants to do acoustic for sure? I remember you mentioning that that was his attitude before we got this last gig but, does he still feel that way? I thought he seemed to be enjoying himself at the gig. I also think he had some fun at the practices. He once mentioned to me something about how he likes the aspect of it that involves doing something with other people; how he doesn't really do anything else, especially creatively, with a group. I guess that would still be the case if it were unplugged, but I'm pretty sure he meant in the full-on band mode. If you remember, at a few rehearsals, I brought up the idea of doing a few more shows after this one, seeing as we were putting the work into getting it together. The only place I could really think of was The Barfly. But he didn't seem too keen on that notion, so I let it drop. Another gig at Casa might not depress him so much, however. The only problem is, if you book at Casa we're probably looking at a couple of months from now because they're always booked solid ahead of time; not exactly the keeping the ball rolling for us I was thinking of. I sincerely hope you can figure out some way of keeping all that great material alive. I've always felt it needs to get out there more.