Thursday, February 23, 2017
"I can't believe we pulled it off," said Kamandi as he walked down the hall from Luke McKeehan's upper level office in an old Pender Street building, a block west of Cambie. We'd just pitched the Nordic Trax label owner and Chameleon Urban Lounge founder a new DJ night called The Weight, and w/ Luke's essential blessing, got the go ahead to set it off early in the Spring of 1999. All we had to do was change the name. Thanks to Kamo, The Soulcial it became. This was our first collective effort behind the wheels of steel under the Kamandi and Sipreano monikers and our respective crates were getting deeper every day. Still, life wasn't all free and easy. My mother had recently died from breast cancer and there were bills to be paid. Thankfully, music had become a positive outlet to deal with the loss and process the grief. I was 25 years old.
By then, both Kamandi, 26, and I had been collecting vinyl records seriously for a few years. Soul, funk, rock, reggae, rap, jazz, folk, psych, soundtracks, easy listening, and global sounds were all staples, inspired by hip-hop, D.I.T.C. (Digging in the Crates), Jamaican sound systems, and sample-based culture. 7"/12"/LPs were the mediums for the message that we wanted to share. Unity through diversity, reflecting our interests and how we thought about the world in which we lived. Far from a cash grab, we kept the tunes pumping with open minds and hearts, yet another labour of love.
Despite any high ideals, The Soulcial wasn't particularly well attended, but we did have a dedicated following of friends, family, and supporters who would roll through for a drink and or dance on the reg, keeping things afloat. It was never a hip night for Vancouver's movers and shakers, but rather a home for passionate music lovers, heads, misfits, randoms, and the hopelessly romantic. Creative director Jay Gundzik and graphic designer Vincent Cook helped with art direction and a series of flyers were created for promotion. We'd often print these at Budget Printing on Kingsway near Metrotown. As the night progressed into the new millennium, we decided to make a CD to showcase some of our favourite Soulcial spins.
These songs did not fall onto our laps nor were they discovered surfing the Internet. They were found by hitting the pavement and reaching deep into dark and dusty nooks and crannies, talking to people from all walks of life, and shelling out our hard-earned cash. Street level learning. While the process of making and sharing music has been made easier than ever in recent years, one can never substitute hard work or taste for a simple tap or click. F@ck "your" median and algorithms. The Soulcial chose to lead instead of follow, spiritually connected to our brothers and sisters around the world through the floating vibrations of sound and energy, sending hand written letters and hard copy mix tapes along the way, creating substance from discarded culture, limited technology, and few resources. No cookie cutter sound.
The Soulcial Volume 1 CD was recorded on February 8, 2001 and released shortly thereafter. We hope that you enjoy what you hear...
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
December 16, 2006:
Sipreano with Decaf and The Stunt Man represents the culmination of a 17-year Vancouver experience. Although I lived in British Columbia for a spell in the eighties it was this second lengthier go round that opened my ears and mind to different frequencies, let me explore the night, and share countless experiences with so many good folks.
It’s when I first played out records with James Bell (aka Lockjaw, R.I.P.), hosted nuff events, shebeens, and multi-media one-offs with the one and only Kamandi, met the creatively inspiring Decaf, and spent a great deal of energy digging deep and deeper for long forgotten sounds. I also developed a fundamental passion for Canadian music via another deceased pal, For The Record's Ty Scammel, the only vinyl dealer that I’ve met with golden ears and an influence that I truly miss.
When I was lucky, Ty would have me over to his house and we'd just groove on his mind blowing record collection filled to the brim with the heaviest psychedelic records from around the world, long before the Internet opened the floodgates. We'd drink whiskey, smoke weed, and he'd tell me of his late-blooming Vancouver hippie days. For “Edwards/Blake” and “Cousineau,” I thank you.
Another key impact was a 6-year stint at a large UK-chain CD store. It was here where I bonded with "Lunatics" co-conspirator Paul Anderson. This was our musical playground, elementary, high, and post-secondary schools all rolled into one. Andie Maddalozzo also entered my sphere during this period and continues to be a dear friend. It was an honour to have her contribute to “Steal” in a unique way that only she can pull off.
In Vancouver, there is such a dynamic between the street and nature. Over time, I've become immersed in city life, the hustle and bustle, enjoying cheap eateries, bars, and working to get by. It wasn't until recently that I started to appreciate the other aspect–the mountains, lakes, woods, and ocean. The summer of 2006 will go down as a return to these solitudes where the sand and surf of Third Beach washed over my existence. I spent a great many moments like this with 1777rex's Steven Balogh, the one-time bass to my drums in short-lived mid-nineties combo, The Afterglow, as well as with the ever patient Stunt Man on two Powell River (Without End) getaways. Brothers.
Canada also played its part in the creation of this album. In both 2005 and in 2006 (accompanied by Decaf), I hit the road in my trusty Corolla, heading east like CN Rail and on the prowl for vanishing Canadian sound heritage. Apart from finding records that I would have never found in coastal bins, I got to experience the larger than life Rockies, rolling prairie ghosts, and endless big sky. Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and points in between gave me a new perspective on our country and my place in it.
Consequently, it’s been with serious consideration that Heather and I have relocated to the big league of Toronto to pursue both collective and separate goals. Another transition to say the least. My archival work has led me to the source and it feels like my Vancouver love affair will have to wait for a future space. Still, before I left, and with the help of these close friends, I was able to complete a letter to my adopted home. It celebrates all that I cherish.
Please take a toke, lay back, and walk with us...
February 13, 2017:
It’s crazy to think, but 10 years have passed since Vancouver-based 1777rex released Sipreano with Decaf and The Stunt Man. Like the label’s other releases (Anemones, Points Gray, Ice Palace, and Ex-Dead Teenager), each CD-R and cardboard sleeve were personally put together with stitching, stencil/spray paint, cut and pasted photos, as well as hand numbered text by 1777rex mastermind Steven Balogh. Inserts and cover images were cut with scissors and assembled with care. Each title was limited to 100 copies: 50 were distributed to local stores and sold to customers worldwide and 50 were given to the artists, a solid model for a labour of love such as this.
The 1777 in 1777rex was a nod to 1777 Frances, an east Vancouver apartment building that Balogh and I lived in during the middle part of the first decade of the 2000s. We had initially met around ten years prior, as a short-lived rhythm section in a Mod/UK-inspired rock band. Reconnecting with Balogh around a different crew of musicians and friends, I was excited to be asked to contribute to his new imprint. Initially, ODB, as he was sometimes called, wanted a DJ mix as my 1777rex release. I had been active as a selector since the late 1990s, but felt that I wanted to create something more original than simply stringing a few old tunes together. Since 2004, I had been collaborating with Seattle-based Light in the Attic Records and producing the Jamaica-Toronto reissue series, an extension of my record collection and personal history with Jamaican and Canadian music. I had also recently put together a streaming loop-based music project for Tokyo’s Sandinista/2Step clothing brand called Voluntary In Nature, which I performed as a live PA at local art space Blim in the old B.C. Electric Building on Pender Street.
To execute an expanded vision, I immediately asked for help from two good friends: producer/artist/photographer Kelly Claude Nairn (then known as Decaf, now wzrdryAV) as well as The Stunt Man (Suite Sound Labs owner/audio engineer, Greg Mindorff). Two more old pals (Paul “The Driver” Anderson and Andie Maddalozzo) were brought on as guest vocalists. Records, voice, keyboards, and drums were hashed together along with Decaf’s trademark sound processing and the editing, mixing, and mastering touch of The Stunt Man. Two cover songs were attempted, the first, a short edit of a Red Rider song (“Crack The Sky (Breakaway)”) along with re-sung vocals from Tom Cochrane’s Can Con classic “Big League,” the second, a straight recreation of “The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum” by the Fun Boy Three. Additional inspiration was taken from my record collection and reflected my explorations into regional Canadian and global psychedelic sounds. Drum tracks were recorded at a rehearsal space on Hastings where my kit was set up for jamming. The CD-R’s cover image was taken by Kelly at the edge of Victoria Park on Salisbury Drive and the album was promoted prior to its release in an interview given to CiTR’s Discorder Magazine in the fall of 2006 as well as on a 1777rex Myspace page (which hosted the song "CN Rail").
Of all of the fourteen tracks, “Steal,” which features vocal from Gangbang’s Andie Maddalozzo, still resonates with me deeply. In fact, it pointed towards today’s current state of unrest (has anything changed?). The musical backing is meant to reflect and recreate a late afternoon Third Beach session with the sun beginning to set and the surf slowly crashing against the shore in varied repetition. An edit of Decaf’s empathetic sample treatment, it has made me cry on more than one occasion and continues to fill me with emotion, over ten years later. For those who haven’t heard it yet, I hope that you enjoy.