I’m super stoked to be recording, producing and engineering bands at Little Red Sounds with my pal Felix Fung. Recently I got to record Viewmaster a new Vancouver band featuring John Johnston of Slow Learners fame. We recorded six songs and here’s a taste of what we did. Enjoy!
It’s been one year since my last post. That’s a whole year of business that hasn’t been documented. Well my dear reader it’s time for me to catch you up with what’s been going on with my life. I’ve been playing and recording music, recording other people’s music and generally having fun. Stay tuned for that and what’s coming up!
Well it’s the New Year. I have so many plans and things to accomplish. Music cues to write, an album to finish and one to start.
On New Years Eve I started feeling feverish and lethargic. I was coming down with something. We were only two weeks into winter and I was getting my second debilitating illness. I already had the flu even though I got a flu shot.
So here’s the problem: We make all these plans for a new year and it’s only really the beginning of Winter: the fallow season. It’s a time to lay low to go to sleep early. Heck it’s dark at 4:30 why would you want to do anything else? But no we tell ourselves and each other this is the time to make new plans and to dig into them. I have always thought “Well there’s nothing going on, this is a good time to accomplish all the things I didn’t get around to during Spring, Summer and Fall. Fall is usually the most productive time of year for me. I’m like a squirrel gathering nuts or a bear getting fat preparing for hibernation. Busy, Busy, Busy! And then the flurry of activity that surrounds the Christmas season. Hell we’re just ramping up for an incredibly productive winter! Heck we can go skiing, fly south to where the weather supports our ambitions of productivity so we can play in the sun and the surf just like we do here in the North.
I was driving the bus out in farm county on the outskirts of Coquitlam a few weeks ago and was talking to a woman in her early sixties. She had moved out there to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I told her that once I had tried to retire at the age of forty and now I had to work to pay that off. She said one of the tricks she had learned in life is to listen to your body and your energy levels. Not just on a day to day basis but for different times in your life. Just because you have low energy doesn’t mean that higher energy times aren’t ahead. It’s just that right now these are low energy times. I’ve been told this over and over again. Part of the flow of life is acknowledging and accepting that we are part of nature that we flow with the seasons. Is my body telling me it’s time to slow down? Is that why i got sick? I read somewhere that you are susceptible to illness when your immune system is weak and your amuse system is weak because there are a lot of week and sick cells in your body that are harming you. If a virus comes along and is able to overwhelm your amuse system its because you need that virus to come in and clean out all of your existing sickness. It kills what is already ailing you. Getting sick is in a way the ultimate cleanse. Your body and immune system recuperate. You get better and stronger. Or it kills you off completely. That’s not happening right now, I count my blessings.
So this year I accept that winter is a time of death and renewal. That I will get better and that my energy and productivity will return as the Crocuses bloom and Spring arrives in a few months. Until then, I’m planning a trip to Southern California!
Goodbye 2014. Another trip around the sun as we hurtle through space towards, another trip around the sun. This is my 50th year living and breathing.
It is my 50th year of consciousness and the biggest revelation to me this year is that I’m probably past the half way mark of experiencing life on earth and to my knowledge the only time I will ever be alive ever in history in this reality. I don’t remember any past lives. I don’t have concrete evidence that there is anything after this or other realities or universes. I don’t believe in heaven or hell. These are ideas that come from the ancients, the same people that told us that thunder meant the Gods were angry. I have my spiritual belief that i will live on. This is loosely based in science in that the molecules in my body have been around for billions of years in other forms, as I slough off skin and sweat and excrete dead cells I am slowly returning to the earth but at the same time I’m being nourished and regrown as I take in air, water and food. Eventually the chemical reactions that animate this organism that is me will cease. I will die. The chemical reactions in my brain will stop and my consciousness that has been labeled Stephen Hamm will stop.
Really that’s it.
I’ve noticed that through movies, books, stories and history we tend to assume that we are some how immortal. We build ourselves a past that reaches back thousands of years before our personal conception and we build a future through our imaginations that may or may not come to fruition after our deaths. I think this is one reason why science fiction is so popular. Hypotheses of great civilizations or dreary grey hell. But somehow we’re able to trick ourselves into believing that we were there in the past and we’ll be around in two hundred years. We won’t. All we have is now and now and now and eventually there won’t be a now.
When one is young this is a cerebral concept that you nod you’re head at and go “Ya man, I hear ya ‘cause I’m gonna be a member of the 27 club”. But this year I began to really feel it more than conceptualize it. So what to do about this? I’ve been working hard the last ten years to overcome developmental and lived trauma and to heal the mental, emotional, mental and physical manifestations of these afflictions: addiction, depression, relationship chaos anxiety and exhaustion.
It’s been hard work. I’m a member of a a twelve step program, I’ve worked extensively with a therapist. Two years ago I sought help at a residential treatment facility for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I quit drinking, drugging and smoking. I’ve changed my line of work, a few times and now I’m working on my physical health by loosing weight exercising, getting proper sleep. Over the last few months I’ve implemented a budget and have started getting my financial house in order. These last items on what as I write it down is looking like a really substantial list.
Two years ago my dear friend Terry and I started a podcast called What Are You Gonna Do? The idea was to talk to people who we thought had their shit together and glean knowledge from them as to how to get our shit together. I recently watched a TED talk (yes I watch such things). It was by a woman named Summer Beretsky and she talked about the idea that what drives and fulfills us is Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose.
As I gain control over my life I realized that I am achieving these things.
At the beginning of my journey in recovery I was involved in a program to help you figure out a career path. I was stuck in a job I deemed ‘a Golden Handcuff Job’ because it paid well but it no way helped me achieve any of the above curriculum. In one of the workshops the presenter talked about how we have to fulfill certain things in our live, pass certain road signs if you will to achieve fulfillment in life. One of those was at a certain age one must make the shift from student to teacher. I feel that might be where I am in life. I will always be a life long student. Everything I’ve been working on for the past decade and everything I experience prior to that both positive and negative may be able to help others. I’ve seen in twelve step fellowship how the experience of others has helped me to sort out my story. Maybe that’s where I’m at in life.
I will continue to learn and to build on what I’ve learned and to put into action what I’ve learned. This year I’m gonna keep on keeping on start writing about my experience thus far in life and maybe by the end of it I will feel like I’ve lived a life with purpose. Stay tuned for more.
Of all the significant dates around this time of year the Winter Solstice has become most important to me.
It makes sense. This is the shortest day of the year, a time of dying and of rebirth. The Pagans celebrated Christmas with large feists and bonfires in the long dark nights. They ate as long as the Yule log burned. The Yule log comes from the Norsemen and sometimes it would burn for days!
Now I’m no expert in paganism or such. I get all my info articles posted by my friends on Facebook. But I am starting to get a feeling I may be Pagan.
In Christianity the biggest celebration of the year was Easter until it was decided in the fourth century they needed something to compete with the Roman celebration of Saturnalia which lasted from December seventeenth to the twenty third, right at the end of Winter Solstice. So it was decided Christ’s Birthday would be celebrated on December twenty fifth. An arbitrary day for a mythical deity. But that’s for another blog!
If you dig all our Christmas traditions and rituals come from somewhere else. An amalgam of Pagan, Babylonian, Norse, Egyptian,Wiccan.
For me I feel the solstice. The more in touch with I become with myself, the more I realize the ebb and flow of my energy my emotions and my moods, the more in touch I become with the seasons. The more I become in touch with the seasons the more I come in touch with my inner being the emotional ape that tries to decipher his feelings with the frontal cortex of his brain. Last night after a reinvigorating session of Yin yoga I was walking home. There was an electricity in the air. The skies were dark but alive. I felt in touch and part of the universe. My place on the Earth hurtling around the sun. My connection to the consciousness of others, my environment and the cosmos around me. We are stardust.
So I being the New Year not at the end of the calendar month but today. In the future I want to look more closely at the celebration of Solstice of dying and rebirth but for now I count my blessing to be right here right now. I will use the next couple of weeks to reflect on the year that has passed and to ponder what will happen on our next trip around the sun.
Last week I got to play with the legendary Vancouver psych rock band the Enigmas.
The Enigmas heyday was in the early nineteen eighties; lead by Paul McKenzie on vocals and sax, Mike Davies, guitar, Randy Bowman on drums and Brian Olinek on bass they were for a time THE band to watch in Vancouver. That was until my band Slow came along!
We always held the Enigmas in low regard, mostly because we viewed them as a threat. They were one of the few bands around at the time that weren’t playing lame hardcore music or REM like jangle folk drivel. They rocked and they put on amazing live shows in the vein of the Stooges or the MC5. Paul was a frenetic psychedelic monster in striped pants wielding his sax and he knew how to work a crowd. Mike, Brian and Randy were one of the most solid bands going. At the time Seattle had the Young Fresh Fellows, the Replacements were making waves out of Minneapolis and Slow was executing it’s accelerated crash and burn career. The Enigmas were touring and gaining a following across Canada and down the West Coast to California. They should have been a great cult band but didn’t quite catch on. They put out a couple of EP’s most notably Strangely Wild on Zulu Records and then packed it in.
Paul went on to do TT Racer and the Scot Rock phenomena The Real McKenzies, Randy the Scramblers and Mike was in a band called the Cane Toads.
He eventually ended up playing guitar in the Vancouver rock band JP5 fronted by Jerry Jenn Wilson. I was playing bass and we became fast friends.
That ran it’s crazy course over a few years in the late nineties before I moved on.
I got a call from Mike a few years ago. Danny Novak an accomplished camera man in the Vancouver film industry and former lead singers of Vancouver Punk Rockers the Spores was turning fifty. His favourite band of all time was the Enigmas and he wanted them to play his party. Only problem was Brian the bass player had disappeared into the Kootenays in Eastern BC and was AWOL. Would I be interested in playing bass? I get a lot of calls to play bass. Some of them I just don’t have time for (I’m always flattered to be asked). This was a little different. See Mike is one of the nicest guys I ever met.
He put up with a lot of shit from us over the years, Slow busting his amp and other shenanigans and he was always calm about it. Besides not being able to say no to Mike there was a buzz in the air about an Enigmas reunion. Songs like Teenage Barnacle and Strangely Wild had become psych rock favourites of mine and others and it just seemed like it would be a good time.
We did the show and it was a roaring success. The crowd was into it and I got paid pretty well. We all had a lot of fun. At the time Paul was moving to Germany so the project was put on the back burner.
This fall I got the call again to do a show at Vancouver’s WISE Hall. I was excited. We started practicing and the magic started happening again. The buzz started building around town again and the show sold out! What a rush. One of my favourite things is playing a packed house, making people happy and putting on a killer show. That’s what happened last Saturday Night at the WISE.
For all those who came out thanks for being such a wonderful audience. I’m looking forward to doing it all again real soon!
“Did you hear? Hamm and Terry are playing in a New York Dolls Tribute band. The catch is Terry is singing and Hamm’s playing guitar!” Yes ladies and gentlemen the semi-legendary rhythm section of Slow and Tankhog are back but this time we ain’t playin’ bass and drums, I’m playing guitar and Terry is fulfilling every drummer’s true dream of fronting a band!
Terry approached me a few months back to play keys but I said “No way! I wanna play guitar!” See I’m not a very good guitar player which I thought would be perfect for a New York Dolls cover band. The good news is Terry is an excellent singer (I’ve known this for decades) he just needed to find the right fit. And his homage to David Johansen (or David Jo Handsome as Terry likes to be called) is just that. We’re been joined by rhythm section par excellence: Scott Beadle as Hairy Nylon and Cowbella Lugosi as Awful Kane. But to me the star of the show is the one and only Seanna Gnaw as Joanie Blunders (Johnny Thunders). Pure badass!
When we were offered the opening slot for Led Zeppelin tribute act Femme Zeppelin we couldn’t say no! So after a few practices (I insisted we keep that nonsense to a minimum) we arrived at the Fairview Pub last night armed with guitars, high heels, mascara, tights and enough bravado to make up for the lack of practice. And it worked! We blasted and swaggered through our set. I yelled at the soundman (he singlehandedly made a mediocre room sound even worse), I yelled at Cowbella, at Terry and at Scott they all yelled back at me (they’re not ones to put up with my bullshit!), Cowbella threatened to leave, Terry threatened to quit and Seanna threatened to nod off during every shreddin’ guitar solo! we managed to rollick and roll our way through nine songs and had the fabulous singing trio Skyrockets In Flight join us for Stranded In The Jungle, Trash and Pills. They saved our asses and the show. Oh by the way so did the audience. They were enthusiastic loving and hell even dancing! So thank you Vancouver for allowing me to have an a lot of fun last night to entertain you and to dress up like an over exuberant, overweight soccer dad in drag. I’m sure you all have fond and slightly damaging memories of our performance. Can’t wait to do it again!
Thanks to Ben, Rob and Vicki Frith of Neptoon Records for hosting us Evaporators and many other excellent local bands and allowing us to play in their store yesterday for Record Store Day 2013!
Buying records was an integral part of growing up for me. I remember going to Charles Bogle Records on Tenth Avenue. Finding Beatles Records with the Apple logo was a big deal for me, The Beatle’s Yesterday and Today Butcher cover got me excited and then British pressings of The Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks and Great Rock and Roll Swindle were big scores. There were Bootlegs of the New Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones, second hand copies of Elton John and Alice Cooper records. For the more mainstream it was off to A&B Records and Tapes on Seymour for Fleetwood Mac, 10cc and Boston records for five bux. I got a copy of Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedos from the record department at the Bay, taped it and returned it within the week to exchange it for Black Sabbath’s Children Of The Grave (this was kinda my precursor to downloading for free!). But it was the small independent stores that really shaped my musical tastes back then. A trip to Quintessence Records (now Zulu Records) on Fourth Avenue was rewarded with copies of D.O.A.’s Disco Sucks, The Pointed Sticks Real Thing and I Braineater’s first EP. Weekly trips to any of these locations to buy big twelve inch records in all their glory with fold out sleeves with pictures to look at and liner notes while listening to the music on vinyl through my parents stereo was more than a leisure activity, it was my education.
Later on I got to release a seven inch single and an twelve inch Ep on vinyl for Zulu Records with my band Slow. I’m grateful that we got to record to tape, mix and master with analogue equipment and release on vinyl.
I’ve gotten lazy these days. I buy music on Itunes, or download bittorents. CD’s ruined everything. They slowly degraded the esthetic of listening to music and looking at bands.
So it’s great to see people getting excited about buying vinyl again. Vinyl has overtaken CD as the second most popular way to listen to music these days. That’s an improvement. My vinyl collection is starting to make a come back. I lost all my records in the eighties to a transient lifestyle and a game we used to play called Flame That Tune which involved imbibing in substances and listening to records then burning them in the fireplace. Not too smart.
I applaud outfits like Zulu Records, Red Cat Records and Neptoon Records for keeping the dream alive. Also thanks to the Frith family for the hospitality, the refreshments the tasty cheese plates and keeping music buying fun!
Thank you Nick for your swagger, the passion, for the intensity. For the darkness and the light. For the despair and the beauty. For the delicate and the bombast. Thank for bringing us all together for a few moments where we can celebrate the work you and people like Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey, Barry Adamson, Warren Ellis and many other have done over the past forty years. From the time when I first heard Release The Bats during ether induced revelry to the chill and shiver of The Mercy Seat, The Weeping Song and Jubilee Street I’ve been a follower. Thank you for your skinny legs and the flick of your fingers, the jet black hair, the crash of the band breaking with anger and preciscion. Thank you for dissonance and the cadence, your courage and your political incorrectness, the arrogance and the humor. That was a wicked show on Saturday night and I’m glad to be alive on this planet at the same time you are.
It’s been just over a week since my return from South By South West. It took me five days to rest up. I was feeling low. The world seemed a little pale. For five days I lived the high life, playing shows, meeting celebrities, being dogged by Nardwuar’s adoring fans every ten feet as we tried to move about the streets of Austin. Good times with good friends. I am grateful for my life in Vancouver. I have a great apartment in a lovely building with fantastic neighbours, I’m living off the procedes of my composing career, I’m working on some fantastic new projects that I’m excited to tell you about in coming blog entries. I have fantastic, creative and supportive friends here in Vancouver. I also have to clean the cat box, chop wood and carry water so to speak (The cat box is not a figure of speech it’s just plain disgusting). It’s all part of living the dream but it can be a real come down.
I’ve also been through some personal trials and the end of my primary relationship in the last couple months. With joy there comes sadness and if you don’t feel the sadness and process it there will be no room for joy. Joy is what makes me tick.
I decided this week to look back and see what used to bring me joy before I played rock’n’roll music and did all the things that make me happy these days.
The sun came out earlier this week and I decided to head on up to Cypress Bowl and go skiing. I’ve skied twice in the last twenty years, last time I did it I was smoking two packs a day and almost died on the hill. It’s been eight years since I gave up the lung darts so I figure maybe just maybe I can hack it now. I drove up there, by myself, rented some boards (I’m old school, I like two of them), got me a lift ticket and got on the chairlift. That was the first hurdle. Now I have to get off the lift. I was a little shaky but managed to with out much trouble. After one run on an easy slope I was ready for intermediate. This was like riding a bike! My legs burned but I was doing okay. The blood coursing through my veins the brisk mountain air, the serenity of being at the top of the world is a rush! From the top of Cypress you can see all of Vancouver on one side, all the way up to Gibson’s on the other. It’s breath taking. I felt a sense of joy and wonder returning.
I managed to get four hours in. Turns out I’m in better shape that I was ten years ago and I’m actually a pretty damn good skier. Most of all it was a ton of fun. Can’t wait to pick up some cheap skis and return to the slopes next year.
I made it through another Vancouver winter and I gotta say I’m excited about this up coming year. I like writing these little blogs. I look forward to sharing some new adventures with you and also revisiting some stories from the past. It helps me to feel grateful for my life and hopefully we’ll get in a few laughs along the way.