holzkopf tour diary, fall 2010

Part 5: Great Danes and shaggy Vikings

by Jake Hardy

[image] holzkopf

The Living Have No Insight Into The Matters of the Dead

We caught the train to Denmark in the morning, before the party at Trickster had wrapped up. I've played there three times before and have yet to be able to see through the haze all the way 'til daybreak. Trickster is like a family. It's co-operatively run so that its members can throw their own version of the ideal party all the time. The novelty oversized gum packets still hang above the bar, framing the social buzz in glittery pink and silver. The same photocopied record sleeves cover the windows. Coming back to familiar situations is a comfort I never take for granted on tour. These are the necessary anchor points on a long, winding journey: times to let your vices slide and think about any troubles later, when back on a train ride to the unfamiliar.

Thomas greeted us in Aarhus and he, Liv and Kristian played marvelous host for three days and nights. Large, open architecture dominates the city of 300,000, but we also found narrow roads and short streets that looked to my eyes like they were pulled right from a Christmas special on TV. We played on the second night in a sound balanced and insulated room in the school for electronic music. It was a new building. All the staircases and door hinges were rattle and squeak free. A half whale, half helicopter statue stood out front. There were post-show drinks on the rooftop, spat from the spout of a boxed wine held under Thomas' arm. The city at night, beautiful as it was, made me realize that in the dark and from a distance, all cities are the same.

The Danish leg of the journey ended with a walk through the forests outside of Aarhus on a trail past original and replica burial sites. One original from 3000 B.C., complete with a more recent discarded beer bottle inside its doorway. Another in a field of sheep. There are no stones native to Denmark; it is a mass of soft earth. But we did find an imported rock in the form of a meteorite that crashed on the hill above the docks.

[image] holzkopf

The Dead Have No Insight Into The Matters of the Living

Across from Egan and Ellen's house, my hosts in Boston, is the resting place of soldiers from the American Revolution. In the early 20th century, many of the graves were dug up to widen the street. The dead will never know about these kinds of actions. I spent the days exploring Boston and the nights watching hockey with Ellen. I went to Harvard. It's red brick structures guard a grassy common area in the middle while all manner of leftist bookstores and cafes surround the campus. The centre for Marxist Education is close by. I wonder how many Harvard students and faculty see the irony here.

I stopped for lunch at the Middle East Cafe. I had lamb and while I was eating, an old man, maybe a cook, came out the back. He knew all the waiters and waitresses. It was obvious he worked there. He began to talk big about Islam. One school board in Massachusetts just declared an Islamic holiday an official school holiday. This old man, employee at the Middle Eastern Cafe, was pissed. He talked about a slippery slope and when it was all done he thanked God there were still 49 other states.

Egan Budd runs Existence Establishment as an umbrella for all of his reviewing, music and booking actions. He booked us to play at Starlab, a cold basement below a recording studio somewhere in Summerville, just outside Boston. Starlab sits across the street from a Dunkin' Donuts, beside a shop that sells and repairs radiators and in the midst of semi-trucks, parked for their night off. I expected a night of harsh walls of noise. I pictured myself in bed the next morning, the sound of ringing in my ears waking me before the alarm. What I got was delicate, careful and sometimes bold music by Eat Cloud and Double Awake. It was a full moon, and one with a giant halo of light circling it. It turned out to be a special night and a great surprise.

[image] holzkopf

New York City is endless. It's like if they took a small city and surrounded it with mirrors to make it look massive to those that dwell inside its blocky, ubiquitous structures full of small flats lining endless, perfectly straight streets. The Silent Barn was on the other end of the L train line, but it was a straight and easy line to follow. It is a live-in art and party space that has been running for five years.

Bonnie 'B-Side' Wong let us in and showed us to the kitchen, where the bands would play. Her accent was different and soon we discussed hometowns. Hers is a small one between Regina and Winnipeg. She'd lived in Montreal and visited Vancouver. We talked of mutual friends and she showed off a little music sequencer that has now replaced her mp3 player for mobile, commuter entertainment. Matt was another resident of the Silent Barn and was the host of the concert.

We were first hit with a breakcore striptease by a shaggy Viking with a rainbow tattoo from Lincoln, Nebraska calling himself Bad Speler. The music blasted out of a combination of high tech, tiny top end speakers and a grand scale old bass bin which doubled as a shelve for dish soap and kitchen supplies. Sandwiched between jam rock and the free form squall of Brown Wing Overdrive, Freida and I played short sets. Her video overlaid beautifully on a patterned wall. For me, the noise came easy after the first tape was swallowed by my Dictaphone. I hope it always comes easy. Sometimes noise hits a peak that can dissolve your sense of self. In the kitchen of Silent Barn, I came to rely on the real world clatter of rattling dishes to keep me grounded.

[image] holzkopf

Home

The tour is over. One cancellation left me with 19 shows in six countries in 30 days. I am sitting in New York's La Guardia Airport sipping a pop and waiting for my flight. There is a sandwich place here with breakdancing clerks. They shout for customers in the old fashioned manner. I bought french fries from a chatty young woman and looked through handgun magazines at the kiosk.

A man in several layers with a freshly shaved head is asleep a few tables away. He is hunched like he has been walking forever. His three bags of McDonalds goods rest on the table and chair beside him and his cane sits close by. No one is bothering him and no one goes near him. It'll be one and a half hours until I'll be sitting on another airplane.

Time moves quite fast on trips like these. Europe feels like a distant memory, and the Canadian leg even more so. My time around the sharply formed words of Americans has woken me up and I am ready to go home. But home changes shape, both in the physical world and the mind, and I am never certain if it will be familiar or unfamiliar upon return.

Break

holzkopf tour diary, fall 2010

Part 4: A Monster Called Ronson

by Jake Hardy

[image] holzkopf

We had a night off in Berlin. We drank strange herbal liquor from kiosks. Freida stayed with a friend and I crashed at Ron's flat. Ron is the owner of Monster Ronson's Ichiban Karaoke, a venue that had us booked for Monday, November 9. It is a bar that advertises itself as a place with many dark corners where partiers can wear as little clothing as they like. Sleaze is highly promoted. It is not just sleaze though. The bar is a special place. An anything goes place that is wheel chair friendly, and definately queer friendly. The listing for our show read:

"Monday: Fagbar! Featuring Holzkopf, Live! Not just for homosexuals, but it helps!"

We played after a crowd of dolled-up Swedish girls belted out karaoke Spice Girls, making me feel as if I was in an ad for Berlin tourism aimed at young men. When Freida and I played, the Swedish girls cleared the floor, leaving behind 10 fans. The fans were fans though, and we partied together till the wee hours, drinking and singing Cyndie Lauper. Ron himself insisted Freida join him for "She Bop". What was intended to be a quiet Monday gig ended shortly after licking ecstasy off a friend's finger in the backroom, right after getting paid. Rock star holiday.

Chemical Street and the Secret Police

Another day off and an early flight to Lithuania for two shows. We arrived at the Kaunas airport around 10 am. My friend Arma picked us up and took us back to his flat in the town of Janova, on (translated into English) Chemical Street. This was on a hill overlooking a power station and a chemical plant. When Arma was six years old, the chemical plant exploded, causing the evacuation of the entire town of 30,000 people.

[image] holzkopf

Our first Lithuanian date was in Vilnius, the capital. This city is a crossroads. It has been home to one of the largest European Jewish populations, and has an extreme religious diversity for its location. Wandering the city, one will stumble across the unkempt graveyards of Ottoman soldiers who fought there during the First World War.

Now, forests rule the country. Their thick, dark bodies guard the sides of the highways and freeways, and a wild arm of trees intersects Vilnius, cutting it in half. The city has an area equal to Paris but a population less than a quarter the size. The architecture is a schizophrenic mix of medieval, baroque, Polish, Russian Orthodox, Jewish and Soviet. A lot of the buildings, especially some of the early 20th century churches, look like they have been influenced by Spanish styles, like the old dilapidated buildings from Western movies.

Our show was in a bar called Cechas 48, run by Misha, who used to have a bakery in the same place. "With globalization, people don't buy my bread," he told me. He spoke to me seriously, explaining that this club was still his way of giving to the community. It felt good to make food for people, and it feels good to make fun for people. Misha played us his music, and taught us to drink vodka. Four of us finished two bottles in one hour. He toasted, "Vodka Sila!" It meant "Vodka Power!" He showed us his Soviet era ventilation system and bakery equipment, and it was obvious that this place — with its red, black and white tiles and its meticulously planned seating arrangement — was a serious labour of love.

[image] holzkopf

Tobias Faar from Kaunas played first. His was a blend of minimal techno and experimental audio reminiscent of Richard Chartier, Kim Cascone and other microsound initiators. Freida was next. When it came time for me to play I put on a tape of Turkish music to fill the space between live sets. A few began to dance. Two women entered the club, hands in the air. We all thought they were entering in party mode but behind them were two armed police.

Suddenly, people were against the wall. Bags were dumped on the floor. Flashlights lit up the room, with their greedy LED eyes searching everyone's private stash of paper money, credit cards, cigarette packs and cosmetics. There were no drugs to be found. There were no underage kids to be found. The cops should have known that. There had been nine members of the secret service in the room for the entire show. They'd paid cover and had been drinking from the illegal bar. After a tense hour of angry exchanges in Lithuanian, the police left, taking Misha and the money from the till with them. I did not get to play that night. Instead, I gave away all my CDs to those that stayed behind to help pack and translate what the police were asking.

Misha was released later that night with a 400 euro fine. The next day the Vilnius music web forums were a buzz with the news. Misha decided to see it as low cost advertising. A party was already being planned for the upcoming weekend within a few hours. We woke up slow in the morning, using the police as the butt of all of our jokes, drinking black tea and listening to hardcore classics from the region. "Police Bastard" and "I am an Alcoholic" stood out above the rest.

[image] holzkopf

Since first being booked in Lithuania by Arma, he has opened a club in Kaunas called Insait. Insait is how you would pronounce the English word "insight" with a Lithuanian accent. It was opened on the ideal month, day, hour, minute and second determined by an astrological expert. There I got to play. It went off, and luckily Freida's recorder captured it. It is rough and unmastered, but it caught the feeling of the room.

LIVE Holzkopf in Kaunas by phreeduh

I am now back in Berlin. Last night, November 12, Freida and I played a duet at Madame Claude's, a little French bar in the middle of Turkish Berlin where furniture hangs from the ceiling like the gravity has been reversed. Tonight we play solo sets at Trickster with the X. A. Cute Soundsystem. Last time in Berlin I recorded with Sun Ra Bullock and Wuzi Khan of X. A. Cute and Peter Quistgard, then my touring mate from Amsterdam. The session was in Kindl Cavern, a studio in the basement of an unused brewery. The show tonight will celebrate the release of the EP taken from edits of that recording. It is a free release given to the audience and is available online here.

[image] holzkopf

Skinhead Survival Stories

My very first trip to Europe was a month-long vacation interspersed with five dates in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania alongside Canada's contemporary digital music genius, Nuthre. The best advice I can share is how to avoid trouble with skinheads while still having fun. Number one rule: don't approach kids with shaved heads and undershirts for a light, or directions. There is a reason why no one is hanging out with them but fellow skinheads. There is also a reason why they are the only people slamming vodka in the midst of a field of rubble.

Next rule: if you are stuck somewhere in close proximity to a group of skinheads while obviously different from them, leave as soon as you can. This is a lesson learned from a close call. The time and place was May of 2006 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Nuthre and I had taken shelter from a massive thunderstorm under the entrance way to the gorgeous baroque main library. We parked our (rented) hot pink bikes and shared a beer while electricity scattered itself above the ancient skyline.

The rain came in sheets so thick it was physically oppressive. The force and weight of it made foot and bike travel impossible. A drenched group of Nazi punks ran for cover and flopped down beside us. By punks I mean a bunch of kids and a grizzled old ringleader passing bottles of beer and vodka. Within seconds they spotted the two guys with pink bikes and my pigtails and the stare down began.

They clinked their bottles and did not break their gaze. In an embellished film about my life this would have been a dramatic climax: beaten down on the steps of a library, the pattern from the stained glass windows accented my crooked body. Blood dispersing quickly in the rain. Nuthre crying over top of me. A sad thought, but the weather broke and we got the fuck as far from that spot as possible. Hot pink is a really fast colour for a bicycle.

You must also follow the advice of kind strangers. This was Klub Depo, Riga Latvia. Two days before our own show in that massive dungeon in the old town, the birthplace of Latvian Industrial music, Nuthre and I went there to check out Almysto, our friends from Helsinki. Post-live band, the place exploded into a two-room harsh gabber party with the rubber ball bass drum bouncing off skulls and concrete walls. The dance floor was divided with an arms-length space between a gender-bending goth side (whom I presume were responsible for the "gender is a lie" graff on the walls) and an all male, all skinhead side.

[image] holzkopf

Neither party breached the mid-dancefloor neutral zone. This shit was serious like the Korean War. The beer flowed cheap and I had to piss. Standing in the line, I soon realized I was the only solo act in the bathroom line. In front of me and behind me were several mixed gender groups, sometimes three boys and one girl, or two girls and one boy, or three girls or three boys and a cross dresser. I was the only one actually waiting for a bathroom stall to piss in, but in this context I looked like the one waiting to jerk off. Of course, there is always the alleyway, so I went upstairs where a woman spoke a grim warning: "If you go outside, don't talk. If the skinheads hear your accent they may try to scare you."

"What do you mean by scare?" I said, confident that I'm not easily intimidated.

"Depends on the skinhead."

I stepped outside, and first thing, in deep Latvian accent I am asked in English, "What time is it?" Luckily I was able to point at a clock.

Fast forward to 2009. It's June in Vilnius. I am back to play at XI20, a squatted club in the former Soviet Cultural Centre. This trip's lesson for avoiding skinheads: accept the bodyguard services of a gothic warrior woman. I was in Vilnius for a few days after the show, this time alone. Arma, who runs Agharta Booking, gave me the key to his flat but had to leave for family business. Now I had a place to crash and the freedom to wander. The freedom to wander in Vilnius is essential. There is so much undeveloped space and forested areas to the city. Combined with winding, narrow roads, rapidly changing architectural sites from block to block (you can go from baroque palace to 800-year-old castle grounds to Soviet block apartments to towers of glass in one short stroll), two rivers and poor lighting at night, the place is a wonderful labyrinth.

One time in broad daylight a group invited me into their yard. A quick scan of the place and I spotted a young girl of eight or nine playing on a swing. Seemed harmless. This time there were no pink bikes or pigtails, and instead I sported a massive beard. "Viking, look you are like us!" came the praise from the ringleader. Soon, after my shrugs at their broken English, one left and returned with an American high school textbook in hand, opened to the page about Vikings.

"I'm Mennonite," I said. They didn't get it. "White Power!" said the ringleader. He looked like Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings movies and was dressed in military green. He would be the best catch at the end of the night in any Canadian bar, going on appearance alone of course. The next item of show and tell was the writing on his van that stated his leadership in some local chapter of the Hell's Angels.

Turns out this was all to convince me to drink with them, on my money. They thought they found a sympathizer, or a chump. Doesn't matter really. They surrounded me and I pushed my way through. Kept walking and didn't look back. All the while the little girl, the ringleader's daughter, kept swinging. Business as usual.

The next night I had drinks with a powerful woman. She had a serious look about her. We talked politics. She worked with homeless people in Vilnius, and had a disappointing time at art school, so we had some common ground. At the end of the evening, she walked me back to Arma's flat and warded off evildoers with shrill insults.

Break

holzkopf tour diary, fall 2010

Part 3: The Last Train

by Jake Hardy

[image] holzkopf

Musee International Des Ramones De Caen

Fatigue is part of the journey. A handful of hours of sleep tossed across many days is not enough to think straight and clear. We arrived late in the afternoon in Montreal on October 30, thanks to a driver with a unique speed aversion technique: he had covered the numbers of his speedometer with masking tape labelled so that it appeared he was always driving 20 km/h faster than he was. With this technique, he assured us, he would never get a speeding ticket and always feel as though he was going fast.

Freida Abtan was promoting the show, so I helped her carry the PA system down to Cagibi via taxi where I got to see old friends from Saskatoon. Friends that go back to high school and others that go back almost as far. Thankfully many wore costumes. At the last minute, and with help, I pulled together some pseudo-Hello Kitty outfit. There were two PVC wearing nurses present: one black and one white. There was a large purple rabbit and characters from Alice In Wonderland.

We flew overnight to Paris on Halloween. This was our only night off for days. Lovely children in costumes and make-up were scattered throughout the plane. On arrival we went straight for the train to Caen, in the North of France. Caen is the city retaken almost solely by Canadian forces during the D-Day invasion. It is within a short drive of Juno Beach, where, in the 1970s, people unearthed a tank that had been buried and forgotten during the battle. I did not visit the beach this time around, but have been before. It is a surreal site, but only in combination with its history and mythology. The strangest thing is that it is actually just a normal beach. It is the location of such an epic part of European and Canadian history and was the site of so much dirty and cruel death, but it is just a beach. People swim, play soccer and windsurf there. The Nazi bunkers have been penetrated by graffiti artists giving themselves props while writing about peace and love.

[image] holzkopf

We arrived in Caen only two hours before the start of the second day of the annual Dos Dia Los Meurtos party. The walls were covered in gothic art. A man was silkscreening logos of the festival on attendees' clothes and children were running about: one trying to skateboard while wearing roller skates and one who insisted on showing me his skills at the Space Invaders arcade game in the corner. As the evening rolled on, a giant BBQ began on the patio, where one could see the kind of view never talked about in tourist brochures: freeways and old warehouses.

There was a river accross the road. My friend Pascal use to live in his car there. He kept a candle going for light until realizing that a candle in a car by that section of the river spoke to the johns who were looking for prostitutes. I have seen numerous photos of Pascal, busking in the streets of Caen, barefoot and highly animated. He seems to know everyone. Everyone seems to love his parties. Last time in Caen I played a rowdy affair in his flat at the very end of a spiral staircase in a 500 year old stone building. A drunken Rastafarian broke my tape deck that night. I was happy to see that the name I gave his flat stuck, as there is now a sign by the door that reads, "Musee International Des Ramones De Caen." It's a long story.

Every tour has a theme song. One tour it was "I Like To Move It", which I first heard as a breakcore mash-up played by Peter Quistgard in Amsterdam and which magically appeared later on in the tape deck of Arma's car in Vilnius as a Russian gabber mix. This tour it has been "Wipeout". First heard in Toronto and also covered that night in Caen in strange, jazz fashion. It was a good theme for Dos Dia Los Meuortos as the fuse blew shortly after that band left the stage, leaving a room of 200 in pitch dark, the only music made by a man with finger cymbals which rung out over the din of drunk conversation. The power came back on in a few minutes with the momentary blackness winding the crowd up further.

My set hit loud after a rushed soundcheck. A confused group of people stood in front. Others in the far back. After my performance, two young hooligans tried to convince me to stay and one played me a song with broken English words about love. After, I told them I had to go, as I could not stay awake. They began to rap at me quite horribly. All I could make out through their drunken slurred words and my poor understanding of French is that they were making fun of me but kept rapping about me being from the UK. I guess they were too drunk to hear my accent. At that moment they embodied the contradiction of the hooligan I have encountered in France. They sing, and sometimes rap, in broken English one moment and diss you for speaking English the next. They are not the norm. I have not met many. However, they are aggressive and persistent; aimless and hedonistic. The kind that sees you have given the last cigarette out of your packet to them, but will follow you for blocks harassing you for another anyways.

[image] holzkopf

The next afternoon I rode in my friend Yannick's car to Nantes, a large city near the West coast. There, Freida, Yannick (who is Princesse Rotative) and I performed at PING, an artist-run centre specializing in digital arts and DIY electronics. I was joined by a man I met on the spot who projected colourful, broken shapes and cartoon figures as a backdrop for my set.

The bar was fantastic. It served wine flavoured with melon and other delicious fruits bought straight from the farmer who made it. There was a table of food (an amazingly normal feature of French shows) with bread, nuts, couscous, vegetables and other sustaining snacks. Despite the great performances, the very friendly people, the lovely crowd and the good food and drink, the best part of shows in this part of the world is the endless post-show hangout. Someone has always got another bottle of wine. Usually they seem to have something special and regional they want you to try. Someone may even have a joint or two. It was harvest season in Nantes.

A Brief Transition Phase

Paris was angry. We arrived via the super-fast train at noon on November 3. After eating lunch in Montmarte, I needed to find a hostel for the night. No concert in Paris and Freida went on to Amsterdam, to meet me later in Germany. This time the city of lights was just a transit point between Nantes and Augsburg.

[image] holzkopf

I wandered the Northern part of the city, on Rue La Fayette, taking photos and looking for my temporary shelter. Crowds of young Frenchmen were gathered in packs: smoking and bragging. Many, if not most, wore track suits. Almost all sported a brush cut. I passed a woman with a bruised cheek. Later, I saw the same woman slapped by a man walking after her yelling, with his open hand in the air, at the ready for another strike. Another woman got in the way and the violence stopped. I spotted a well-dressed Parisian lady in heels, grey skirt and fancy jacket waiting for a friend or a date. One hour later I passed her again, still alone, arguing into her cell phone.

As the evening passed and the packs of young men drank and smoked more they began the game of pushing each other around, bragging even louder than before and chasing their friends and enemies down the street. Lovers by the river treated one another with the kind of aggression that mixes sex and anger. I found a place to stay and paid my fee.

[image] holzkopf

The hostel bar switched from this weepy acoustic tune, "I thought you said you wouldn't do drugs... oooo… oooo... ooooo," to unselfconsciously sleazy techno around 10 pm. It signalled the time for me to sleep. The heat of the city through the open window rendered blankets useless. I slept heavy while endless ambulance and police sirens burned their way into my dreams.

I woke at 6 am to catch a plane to Munich and then a ride to Augsburg. On the way to Paris Orly Airport, staring out the taxi window, the complexity of the city was overwhelming. Thousands of years of history have been cut up and intersected by roadways. I could see the spiral formation of neighbourhoods, endless, tightly compacted buildings, ancient and new architecture and a morning road filled with tiny work trucks caked in graffiti and the scars of graffiti removal chemicals in repeated layers. They were mobile billboards for the continual debate of the urban culture.

Lab 30, Augsburg

I arrived at Abraxas, the venue for the Lab 30 festival, as the crew was completing last minute details for the opening reception. This building, which now houses a cultural and community space was once a Nazi military base. I had some coffee and finished my book on the history of British soccer riots.

Artists from Canada, the USA, Japan and Europe presented instillations, performances and music to the audience for three nights in a row. I befriended Natasha and Marko, Slovanian artists who made moving sculptures out of magnetically reactive liquid guided by industrial magnets. The position of this magic, magnetic liquid then determined, by way of custom computer programming, the sounds that were blasted out of the speakers. Natasha and Marko became my stoner buds that I hung with for the rest of the weekend.

[image] holzkopf

Bavarian John Waters

I also befriended the Bavarian John Waters. He was a history nerd, and so we bonded on that. He also carried a water bong everywhere, offering a hit to any and all people who crossed his path. On the first night, he obliterated my hosts Sascha and Inka, and then we stumbled widely back and forth across the road until we reached their flat: a plain building surrounded on three sides by graveyard.

Bavarian John Waters was there all night, every night. He has attended every night of the Lab 30 festival since it began nine years ago. He danced to almost every beat and listened to almost every sound of the abstract acts. When he spoke, he nodded quickly between words while tapping his feet like I did when I use to stay up all night with pot of coffee in hand. He wore the same pants with vertical black-white-black stripes up the side every day.

The majority of the Lab 30 festival was clean and pristine. The first two nights saw parties in a small room on the far side of the building. This small room had a bar and was the only room at the festival that allowed smoking inside. It reeked of old tobacco. It was the exception. The parties went till the wee hours and facilitated some nice debauchery. Normally this small room was the children's theatre and kids' art adorned the walls.

[image] holzkopf

I performed at the Lab 30 closing night dance party at Kantine, a nearby club with a gay and lesbian bar on the bottom floor and a smaller room for strange music on the second level. I was on first at around 12:30 am and, envisioning the thoughts provoked at the festival as the rough spots on wood, my aim was to create sound like sandpaper to erase those thoughts and cleanse palettes. I wanted to wipe minds.

It is hard to dance when one is consumed by the kind of deep thought provoked at an event like Lab 30. Dancing and thinking seldom go well together. Using the massive sound system of Kantine and the sound tech's love of noise, I was able to reach those soaring, spiritual and psychic peaks of feedback that eliminate the barrier between sound and body. Those are the moments I live for.

Fall 2010 tour dates:

Break

holzkopf tour diary, fall 2010

Part 2: Leave No Mind Unblown

by Jake Hardy

[image] holzkopf [image] holzkopf [image] holzkopf [image] holzkopf

The handle of my bag broke. For the last 24 hours I have been carrying this bag of mixing boards like a heavy rectangular baby. It's heavy enough to make my hands go numb. Last night I stayed in Lego Land: a 200 square foot room in the Parkdale neighborhood of Toronto with two mattresses, a box of records, a decent sound system and furniture made from stolen milk crates.

The room is rented by Eamon McGrath and his friend Peter, who never stay there. The image of Eamon's face in my memory is a motion blur. The result of his state and mine combine whenever we hang out. The life lesson I have learned from having such a friend is to blow my own mind at least once every day. Also, that if you are a walking disaster, you can still depend on luck, willpower and pride.

Eamon wobbled long before he played. In fact, he was swaying like a tree in a summer breeze by the time he arrived at the venue. The show at Rancho Relaxo was a clash of worlds. Freida Abtan's music prompted deep listening with thick layers of atonal, digital insect noises and washes of sound that hit like pure acid. Trashface broke their kick drum pedal during a cover of "Wipeout" and threw it at each other, letting it ricochet off the monitor. I played through bear hugs from the audience.

[image] holzkopf

Eamon somehow never missed a beat, even though he could barely stand and spent considerable time rolling around on a broken beer bottle. Well, he missed at least one beat. There was one moment of panic in his face as he toppled over onto the keyboard, his bandmates trying to keep him on his feet. Not a bad amount of chaos for a rainy, sleepy Sunday.

The real adventure for the night was buying weed. Wandering through the park in Kensington Market with no luck, I went to Teranga, where friends were also playing. Someone, whom I'd only ever met on a speakerphone call from Vancouver when he was phoned by drunken mutual friends for the purpose of harassment, offered to help. He hooked me up, but it took a little drive and I was five minutes late for the start of the Rancho Relaxo gig. I did feel like an ass, but I got myself on a path that had to play out in full.

Touring and weed are funny partners. Music scenes differ from place to place, and it's surprising how many shows are full of people who smoke cigarettes and down pint after pint (not to mention some parking lot whiskey) but never have weed. This is something I don't totally understand. I don't get hung over with weed, and I don't get all the rancid chemicals of a cigarette with it either. Sometimes it appears like magic: a friend shows up and hands you a crumpled bit of plastic wrap with a bud in it, or you play with a weird sex rap band called Vagina Management at the St. Catherine's clothing exchange for $50, three pints of Guinness and a bag of shake.

Once I found myself in the tiny concrete backroom of a club in Latvia, smoking weed out of a modified Nazi revolver. The man who offered it told me two things. The first was that it was his idea to turn an instrument of death (the revolver) into something that made you feel good. The second was about a man who smuggled two pounds of weed, swallowed in condoms, from Lithuania for a party. On the bus ride back, one of the condoms broke and he digested a pound of the stuff. He was high for days. They still smoked the other pound. Personally, I've never knowingly smoked poop weed, but you never can tell.

[image] holzkopf

I spent last night in Hamilton with my sister and her wife and baby. I am returning to Toronto today, October 26, to perform at the long running series, The Ambient Ping. I am returning to a new era in the history of Toronto. Rob Ford was elected mayor on Monday, October 25, while I was eating cake with my family. His fat body emphasized his small, dumb eyes on the television. His wife was at his side in leopard print.

"I always knew one day I'd be mayor. I'm doing it for you, dad."

He spoke the same way my old boss did. The same old boss that spent his days looking up porn while his wife worked at the front end of the business. Rob Ford believes that streetcars and bike lanes cause traffic problems. He believes taxes cause all the rest of the problems. He promises to whip Toronto into shape. The man looks like he stayed sober for the campaign and now really needs his blow.

Turn Up The Ping, Turn Down The Ambient

Jamie and Scott, the folks who book and run The Ambient Ping are gentle, soft-spoken men. They have been running this series since 1999. Our show there was far from ambient. Nick Storring began the night with digitally mutilated beat boxing and heavy disco strings. The Nausea was next. This is Anju Singh's one-woman feedback machine using the resonating body of a violin like a violently sad animal.

Freida made full use of the giant screen with her visual projections of disjointed scenes and bodies. The real controversy began with Worker. Worker is a harsh noise act. One of the best in fact. I missed it. I was outside and when I came in, the sound man was storming out of the room ranting that it was "just down right disrespectful to the audience to do that," while pointing at Worker, who was just leaving the stage. I guess the sound man cut the volume and they exchanged some words. Apologies were given and accepted later on. However, I had to be quite assertive in my own sound check to make my set work.

Military Lockdown

Kingston is a beautiful town with old carriageways, remnants of old walls and buildings that make use of the local limestone. It is a military town and has seven prisons, most of which are federal penitentiaries. Corrections Canada is one of the third biggest employers in the city.

It was, however, friendly to me from the get go, from the chatty cabbie who grabbed me at the bus depot and took me to the venue to all the people I met at the show. I need to express my thanks to Michael and the rest of the Modern Fuel Gallery staff and a big thank you to Kristiana who promoted and organized the show, fed us, let us sleep at her house, set fireworks off in her backyard and let us play with her synthesizer (although I still can't figure out how to make a single sound on a vintage synth; their functioning is as mysterious to me as a reed instrument and I can only marvel at the masters).

[image] holzkopf

Before the show I decided to allow myself to have a shopping spree. I wandered the streets of Kingston, collecting a toque from a military surplus store with a staff all dressed in full uniform and aviator sunglasses, an 8-bit distortion pedal, fireworks and sparklers. At one point on my walk around town, a tank casually rolled down the street to no shock and awe from pedestrians. The sparklers were fired up pre-set and succeeded in setting off the fire alarm. A crowd waving sparklers, smoke everywhere, a strobe light and the wailing siren over top of a pitched down tape of Sufi music is a pretty sweet start to a performance.

The Heart Of Evil

Freida and I arrived in Ottawa at about 4 p.m. on Friday, October 29. We were picked up by James, a computer programmer. His current project on the go is a six-foot cellphone-operated blimp. All I saw of Ottawa was the inside of a couple of old brick houses (James' place and the home that hosted the show), a great Chinese food place and the long walk on Fifth Avenue to the Bank Street beer store. One of the only encounters I had with a local, outside of the concert, was a woman who yelled "party alarm," and made a siren sound with her voice at me out her car window while she drove past. Suffice it to say, I can't write much about this city. It remains, as always in my mind, the dark and mysterious heart of Canadian evil (the government).

Fall 2010 tour dates:

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holzkopf tour diary, fall 2010

Part 1: Pure Demonic Possession

by Jake Hardy

[image] holzkopf

It's October 1st. In 20 days I will be on the road again. I am addicted to travel and I am addicted to playing shows. Almost any show. Cafe, illegal, legal, under bridges, on riverbanks, house parties, bars, galleries. By default I am also addicted to fucked up experiences.

In July, Mind Kontrol Ultra and I took to the road in Alberta. We hit up Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. On a Friday night full of thunderstorms and crackling energy I dropped some old tracks and favourites to a crowd compressed into a basement kitchen in a place called Cat Piss House in Edmonton's old Strathcona neighborhood. Dave Schaefer of Zebra Pulse added bonus noise to the mix.

A 30-minute set got me drenched in my own and others' sweat and beer and attracted the cops. Smelly and with a wonderful crew of boys in drag we carried a set of amps under a bridge and restarted the party at 2 a.m. Love was in the air as rain and thunder bombarded the area outside of our troll-like hiding place and a tight crowd of a couple dozen people drank, smoked and danced to our overdriven sounds.

[image] holzkopf

I couldn't stop the beats. In fact I got fed Southern Comfort and had the amp turned back on by a hand from the blackness of night after an attempt to end. Pulling tracks on demand out of my ass is a skill I'm happy to have. As if they tracked the movements of this mobile party, the final burst of delayed bass cross-fed into verbal abuse from two cops on the approach. Many scattered, some stayed. Very serious threats were made. It is likely that somewhere close by in Edmonton some real harm was being done to someone, and what ended up being a crowd of cops spent their energy yelling at people for having fun with each other. I wish I could say this is why I don't pay taxes, but really its because I don't make enough money.

Mind Kontrol Ultra and I took to the road for Lethbridge the next morning. Little did we know that the audience would be seeing their first live electronics show, taking their first dose of Ketamine (brought by an eager partygoer) and the show would be in the living room of a townhouse right on the edge of town, with open prairie just over the fence. No cops but a room full of K-holes post set. Our lovely host, Evangelos doctored some people who got way too high. You can tell someone is nice when they still take care of a stranger who throws up in their bed.

Vancouver, Edmonton and the Vast Expanse

The first show of my fall tour was in Vancouver at the Astoria Pub. It was a night curated by Fake Jazz, a local DIY regular outsider music night. Below is a clip from my set, taken by Chad Tymko. Trevor Rutley joined me on guitar, laying down layers of dissonance over 260 beat per minute gabber kicks, and Carrie Gates projected an ever-evolving tapestry of geometric shapes.

Minutes turned to hours and soon we were over taken by an entire day and night's drive from Vancouver to Edmonton. Trevor drove 13 hours, I drove one or two. In the daylight we stopped in Merrit where, in half empty office supply store, two boys buying iPod accessories shared the story of their friend whose hair was permanently ripped out by the mechanism that raises and lowers a basketball net.

We didn't reach the Rocky Mountains until after dark. Close to Jasper we passed the front half of an elk. Its body from the ribcage on was a paste spread with tire track designs in the passing lane. The car had obviously gone for a wild ride as the tracks were far from straight. The mountains watched us like ghosts on either side of the highway. The rivers glowed in the moonlight.

The day after arriving in Edmonton I played as part of the Ramshackle Day parade series of noise concerts, which doubled this time as a birthday party for myself, Trevor and Parker Thiessen, organizer and feedback maker from Zebra Pulse and Krang. There is a blog, where all performances from the series are uploaded. If you like the outer reaches of music, check out the recording of my set with Trevor as “Italian Husbands”: pure demonic possession pumping raw electrical crackle and fractured two string guitar out of a stack of speakers.

In Edmonton, a party can go for miles. The mad haze overcame the audience and ripped the shirts off half a dozen or more men. The screams of the birthday boy rang out, “I love everyone in this room!” and “I am totally serious!” It is the best when someone says what everyone is already thinking. By the end of the night a dozen sweaty dudes were completely disrobed, wearing only bike tires and leather cowboy hats. Cocks were everywhere. After two hours of hard and fast sleep, my friend Dave drove me to the airport to catch my flight to Kitchener. By 2 p.m. the day after the chaos of Edmonton, I found myself sitting in my sister's house in Ontario, getting to know my 10-month-old niece. My mind and my will are blown wide open.

[image] holzkopf

Old Kanada

Southern Ontario passes by the car window like one big urban sprawl. I couldn't confidently call anything I’ve seen rural around these parts. The windows of the venue looked out onto a crowd of symphony goers, exiting their own spiritual high. Hunched from age and glowing, they embraced to our soundtrack of squelched cello provided by Nick Storring, the opening act of our spiritual high.

I played around midnight, following Freida Abtan. My drunken tape deck spat out a cassette of my cosmic dissonance. I think the spirits were angry that I had pre-planned too much and were letting me know I needed to forget the past. Never argue with the spirits of electricity. I dropped the tempo to 40 beats per minute and let the drum hits sit in the air. Freedom was theirs.

When the spirits and I were friends again, we played a new version of a holzkopf oldie together:

i'm searching for protection to do harm / this government lackie is as good as dead, for his weight is on my shoulders again and again and again / let a thousand flowers bloom / in death alone we'll find our breathing room / let your stomach swallow your sadness, i'll wipe the tears from your eyes / i know this land is hard, so hard / i know this law is killing you because i feel it killing me too / in death alone we'll find our breathing room / let a thousand flowers bloom

[image] holzkopf Vancouver poster [image] holzkopf Kitchener poster [image] holzkopf Edmonton poster

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