Bosnian Rainbows: Rifflandia Magazine 2013

Bosian Rainbows

photo credit: http://bosnianrainbows.tumblr.com/

Originally published in Rifflandia Magazine 2013. Rifflandia is an annual world class music festival in Victoria, B.C., Canada and I was fortunate to write a couple articles for them.  Here is my write-up for El Paso, TexasBosnian Rainbows.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez eats guitar for breakfast in much the way that one might indulge a Benny during a hangover. He has a slush fund of solo albums along with innumerable collaborations. After 20 years of captaining various indie darlings and solo projects, Rodriguez-Lopez is ready to be a part of a band.

His first success was with At the Drive-In, a group he views as less of a band and more as a collective of musicians. The experience lead him to desire creative control. Next came The Mars Volta where he became something of a generalissimo, dictating every aspect of the band. The experience left him wanting to be part of a band again.

Now the afro clad Rodriguez-Lopez doesn’t want to be the main attraction, he wants to be the guitarist in the band. Bosnian Rainbows gives Rodriguez-Lopez the chance to reinvent himself and his sound once again, this time as a cog in the machine.

After 2012’s reunion of seminal post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, Rodriguez-Lopez put his current band – progressive rock darlings The Mars Volta – back in the toy chest. His next move was to focus on The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group, a project which has existed off and on again for years. He began to collaborate with singer Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes. Deantoni Park joined on drums along with Mars Volta member Nicci Kasper on synth, and virtually every member taking a crack at keys. The group took solace in collaboration as a band and became more than another Rodriguez-Lopez solo adventure. They evolved into Bosnian Rainbows.

They released their self-titled debut studio album on June 25, 2013 via Sargent House/Rodriguez-Lopez Productions and Clouds Hill in Europe. Their sound eschews the aggressive post-hardcore of At the Drive-In and the psychedelic prog aspects of The Mars Volta in favour of alternative rock. Fans of the Volta shouldn’t fear though as the sound of Rainbows retains many of the art house rock stylings.

The music sounds like a rainbow in Bosnia would look. A prism of light breaking through overcast skies of a war torn land. The impending sense of doom pulses through their songs as they build to peak like a bomb going off. There’s a sultry sweetness though as Teri Gender Bender’s androgynous vocals shed light across the dire soundscape.

Rodriguez-Lopez doesn’t take a back seat now that he’s just a member of a band. His guitar is as innovative as it is exploratory while maintaining elements of the alt rock sound. These are punk rock kids grown up playing art house punk. Rodriguez-Lopez has his name on as many as 30 solo albums, a decade in At the Drive-In, and yet another decade in The Mars Volta, and collaborations with artists ranging from Erykah Badu to Red Hot Chili Peppers. Bosnian Rainbows stands out as some of Rodriguez-Lopez’s best work. Whether or not they span another decade, Rodriguez-Lopez is happy that he’s in a band again.

Bosnian Rainbows

http://rodriguezlopezproductions.com/Bosnian_Rainbows

https://www.facebook.com/BosnianRainbows

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Cease & Desist

ceaseanddesist-slide2

photo credit: wolfsheep.com

-originally published on wolfsheep.com July 2013.

There’s an idea in this world: an idea that one group can tell another how to act, how to think, how to feel. An idea that one group is synonymous with the lesser. This is a world where corporations tell us it’s unlawful to share the intangible. It’s also a world where people think they can tell us who we can and can’t marry. If we are truly to be equal, then the powers that be must Cease & Desist.

On July 5, 2013, Wolf/Sheep Arthouse in conjunction with Lab Salon presented Cease & Desist, a night of art, music, culture, and drag queens at Lucky Bar in Victoria, B.C., as a part of Victoria’s annual Pride celebration. Cease & Desist served as the launching point for new creative movement spearheaded by Wolf/Sheep founder Erik Van Kobra.

“I started playing around with basically what appeared to be public domain resource materials and mixing it with blatantly copyrighted stuff. I started with fashion houses and large well known brands because [they] stood out. I found the contrast of the two things really visually appealing. The ridiculous thing about it, is the design end is so basic, it’s not even fucking funny,” says EVK.

The art of Cease & Desist is a melding of iconic corporate logos of fashion and design with the hedonistic and decidedly non-glamorous world of pornography. The copyrighted logos of brands such as Ferrari, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and others contrast as they lay over images of women and men often in the throes of orgasm and exhibitionism. The point of the art isn’t purely a shock and awe campaign. EVK hopes to play with peoples conceptions about what is art and what is considered offensive.

“I think people are less quick nowadays to be offended. They’re more apt to be offended privately. I think they want to be thought of as accepting and cool and liberated and enlightened. The reality is, is that they live inside of a shell created for them. I think things like corporations have almost the same attitude.  ‘We’re for people. We have people in our ads. We’re real. We’re making stuff for you. Just behave. Behave by our rules. Don’t steal. Buy our shit and you’re our friend,'” says EVK.

We live in the social networking age. Millions upon millions of users share images online through image sharing sites such as Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and others. Images and memes are shared over, and over, and over, and over.

“On Tumblr, all bets on copyright are off. But how so?  How can you build a business around what is obviously blatantly copyrighted material on their part? The way [corporations] look at it, there’s 1 million or so 14-year-old kids sharing their shit on a platform like that, it’s free advertising.  The minute someone thinks about it, takes it seriously, say me or you or someone else, it’s a problem,” says EVK.

Cease & Desist was born out of the idea of pushing copyright to the limits where EVK might receive actual cease and desist letters from companies for using their intellectual property. Companies such as Napster, Megaupload, and The Pirate Bay have all been taken down by corporate bullies who didn’t agree with people giving away for free what they saw fit to profit from. The fashion industry, the music industry, and the creative industry all appear to be for creativity, when in reality they’re just trying to hold everything back and in line with their profit margins.

“We truly do live in an appropriated world. Our society thrives off of it. But the fact that someone out there owns that appropriated creative drive is stupid. It’s almost redundant. They shut down Napster, they shut down The Pirate Bay, they stop people from sharing things they don’t physically own. What is the point, where does it end, where does it stop, where do you start, how do you regulate it? Let it go, just let it go. Let [same sex couples] get married.  Who fucking cares?” says EVK.

Erik had been working on the art that would become Cease & Desist for quite some time before he was approached by Doug Macneil with the idea to promote a different kind of Pride event.

“When I moved over here I tried to go out, get involved in the scene or get involved in going out, it was done. I saw it so many times over and over again. To me I felt that Victoria – I’m not attacking anybody – because of what I had seen living over in [Vancouver], is that everybody is behind. I felt that if I could find somebody that was willing to bring it up to more of a speed that I enjoy, that’s where I wanted to go with it. That’s why I approached Erik,” says Macneil.

Doug wanted a different kind of Pride event. A far more aggressive event removed from the familiar tropes of Pride. One that freed itself of the labels and preconceived notions within a community. Not a gay event, not a lesbian event, an event that was all inclusive where any and all can celebrate Pride in a non-traditional Pride venue. The result became Cease & Desist.

“The idea right now within the gay community is a real civil liberties discussion. Why are they not entitled to the same rights as straight people? Why are they not entitled to the same happiness and unhappiness as the rest of us, even though it is very touted and explicitly stated in the majority of our society that they’re entitled to equality,” says EVK.

Cease & Desist at its core is about liberation. Be that the liberation of copyrights, sexual liberation, or the liberation of all preconceived notions of what it is to be gay or straight.

“I think that segment of society speaks pretty loud, and the artwork does the same thing. I don’t think that any of us are oblivious to it. It’s a fact. It’s generally in your face. The first knee jerk reaction is that people get offended by it. Beyond what they think, what they truly believe. ‘No, no, no, sure. Let those people be the way they are, until I have to see something I don’t really want to see,’ and I think sex a lot of the time is the first knee jerk icebreaker for that one. You really jump on a line. Either way, I think it’s enticing,” says EVK.

Doug brought in some of the most talented and androgynous drag queens that Vancouver, B.C., has to offer for the July 5 show.  The night was hosted by Kamelle Toe, a stand up comedian who commands attention. Other performers included Raye Sunshine, Mantra MMX, as well as DJs Kasey Riot, and Victoria’s own Monolithium.

“I want to bring a little piece of my home and a little piece of my imagination and to go down the rabbit hole with Erik. It’s been tons of fun with the Wolf/Sheep guys. I have gay friends who have gained a lot of respect for what something serious as this can do,” says Macneil.

The July 5 show was a flurry of androgyny, neon, glitter, and culture. The brick walls of Lucky Bar wore the neon Cease & Desist artwork proudly. Kamelle Toe delighted with her humour, Raye Sunshine exploded on the stage in a spot on Rouge costume from the 90s X-Men, Mantra MMX exuded androgyny, and Kasey Riot and Monlithium provided the beats.

“Cease & Desist isn’t going to be for just Pride only, but this time around we thought this would be the time to push the boundaries of the scene in Victoria and give the masses something they have never seen or heard before. Hopefully that comes to a bigger thing down the road. It doesn’t need to be a Pride event,” says Macneil.

Cease & Desist is series of art by Erik Van Kobra and a clothing line by Wolf/Sheep. What it really is, is a movement, a glittered coated fist of solidarity pumping in a nightclub. It’s a reminder that we need to push boundaries, we need to question norms. If we cannot be counted equally, if we lose the freedom to share information, what are we?

“I as an artist should have the same rights as you as a gay person, and we don’t. There’s inequality there and I think that’s unjust,” says EVK.

The CBC: Money and Apathy VS. Creativity

CBC VS Wolf/Sheep Remixed by Kyle Dark

photo credit: wolfsheep.com

-Originally published by wolfsheep.com May 2013

WHY CANADA’S PUBLIC BROADCASTER HASN’T SEEN INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS

Name an internationally successful Canadian TV program. You can name dozens of great shows, but like Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, they’re only big here. Now name an internationally successful British show. Stop, that’s enough. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) would have us believe that it all comes down to funding. But there is something bigger at work. Is there something rotten in the Canadian dream, in our own apathetic disposition towards ourselves in the global community?

According to the April 2011 Nordicity Report Analysis of Government Support for Public Broadcasting and Other Culture in Canada, in 2009 citizens of the United Kingdom paid $111 per capita towards their public broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In Canada, we paid a paltry $36 for ours. That’s over 60% less than the average $87 paid between the 18 western countries that were analyzed.

Why has the CBC failed to make programming that has transcended Canada and become ubiquitous in homes around the world? The BBC has created programming for decades that live in the global consciousness. Dr. Who, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Sherlock, and Little Britain are all original BBC programs that became international phenomena with massive cult followings. Dr. Who alone has spawned numerous spinoffs in its 50 year history.

In Canada, we have had many, many in-house successes produced by the CBC that are a part of our national identity. The Kids in the Hall, 22 Minutes (formerly This Hour has 22 Minutes), George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (formerly The Hour), The Rick Mercer Report, Royal Canadian Air Farce, and Hockey Night in Canada are just a few to name from my generation.

Are there fan conventions around the world with children dressing in Don Cherry suits, with friends who drew the short straw dressed as Ron MacLean? Are there children across the globe dressed in Dr. Who suits and friends as his various companions? Will there be Who fans for decades to come? Absolute`ly. Are we Canadians, and specifically our public broadcaster, unable to find a way to make our culture palatable and present it in a way to show the world how truly great it is?

John Threlfall is the former Editor-In-Chief of the Victoria, B.C., arts and culture paper Monday Magazine. He has been a listener of the CBC for over 30 years and from 2002 to 2007 he was a recurring guest on CBC Radio One’s Definitely Not the Opera with Sook-Yin Lee where he was referred to as their “walking encyclopedia of pop culture.” He currently serves as the Special Projects and Communications Officer for The Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria in B.C.

“This is where the CBC often missteps, is that they’re trying to give us a unifying Canadian image of, ‘this is what the Canadian experience is.’ Whereas Canada is really founded on regionalism,” says Threlfall.

The CBC adheres to its mandate from the Canadian Broadcasting Act of 1991, which states that, “the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens, and entertains.”

By all means their product does just that. The CBC strives to create a unified image of the Canadian experience on television. Canada is a vast country with many different and varied regions. The experiences of myself on the west coast to someone on the Prairies, to Ontario, to the Quebecois, to the Maritimes will all be radically varied. If we can’t agree on one Canadian image to represent us, how can our programming here be successful enough to go beyond our borders?

“That’s why I think you have regional successes. Like The Beachcombers, not that it’s a brilliant show, but [it] was really successful on the west coast. CODCO was very successful in Newfoundland. King of Kensington was huge in Ontario. I watched King of Kensington when I was growing up and it didn’t really work for me because it wasn’t my world. I think that’s probably part of the problem. You’re trying to go for this unified Canadian image that doesn’t really exist,” says Threlfall.

Look at the images that are put before us as being The Canadian image. Arguably our biggest export to the United States via the CBC has been Bob and Doug McKenzie. We all know ‘hosers’ like Bob and Doug who want to sit around, drink beer, and talk about hockey. Is there anything wrong with that? No. Is that the image that we as Canadians as a whole want to portray on the international stage?

What is it about the British image that is so much more palatable? Is the image of the tea sipping, distinguished accents, foppish attire, watching football and grabbing a pint any better than the maple syrup swilling, slack-jawed and awed (yeah, eh?), plaid sweater clad, watching hockey and drinking a Molson image of a Canadian?

We can’t keep presenting stereotypical Canadians and expect different results. Look at more contemporary non-CBC Canadian shows like Corner Gas or The Trailer Park Boys. Canadians are shown as bumbling and entrenched in their stereotypes. We’re expected to enjoy it simply because they are this idea of what a Canadian should be.

The CBC produces quality television that we enjoy at home. In Britain, there was no mandate for the BBC to create programming that would garner success outside of the UK. Nonetheless they have, so why can’t we? Unfortunately, you must look at the money.

The 2012 Federal Budget saw $115 million in cuts coming to the CBC over the course of the next three years. These come on the heels of a history of massive cuts that stem back to the 1990’s. The 10% cut will push the CBC’s budget below $1 billion. Compare that to the BBC’s 2011/2012 Annual report where they are to receive £3.6 billion ($5.5 billion Canadian) from household licensing fees and £279.4 million ($430.5 million) in government grants.

The CBC simply has no room to take risks on programming. If they are to continue to inform, enlighten, and entertain, they must put what little money they have into programming that is guaranteed to see a return. We live in an era where many television shows are taking on cinematic qualities and becoming post-modern television. The runaway success of shows such as Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, and the BBC’s Dr. Who are unparalleled. Imagine if we could create a Canadian program on that level. Not with this government, and not with a history of budget cuts to the CBC.

On April 29, 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet put forward a new budget bill. Bill C-60 would give the Government an unprecedented say in collective bargaining with Crown Corporations. Harper would have a say in who works for CBC and how much they make.

“We shouldn’t be beholding to the Federal Government who hold the purse strings of the CBC, it should be the other way around. CBC should create the best content possible with the best Canadian talent possible and hope that the Federal Government just supports that,” says Threlfall.

To be clear, the CBC is Canada’s public broadcaster, not the state broadcaster as Sun News and Ezra Levant would have you believe. It is the Harper Government’s new budget bill that will see the CBC staffed by government approved personnel and further unable to take risks on programming.

Canada was founded in the spirit of colonialism. Everything is imported, from all citizens that came after the First Nations, to many of our products, to our television. We hardly ever look in to our own national identity. We the voters have the power to change that. Would we not want to put more money into the broadcaster if it meant that we would see returns such as quality programming?

We live in the YouTube era. If YouTube has taught us anything it’s that captivating programming can be made on a shoe string. If CBC continues to not take risks, won’t it just cautiously burrow itself into the ground? Do we want our public broadcaster, the broadcaster of our people, to be overtaken by corporations that will decide which American shows we will watch?

In 2008 the CBC lost the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, The Hockey Theme (not to be confused with the late Stompin’ Tom Connors’ classic The Hockey Song) which served as the theme since 1968. It was the audio cue for generations of Canadians that hockey was on. That theme is now in the hands of a private corporation. It no longer belongs to Canada’s public broadcaster, and therefore the public.

In 2014, the contract for Hockey Night in Canada between the CBC and the NHL will come up. It is a forgone conclusion that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will want to shop the multimillion dollar franchise around to other networks with war chests of cash much, much deeper than the budget of the CBC.

None of this is to say that the CBC does not produce ground breaking and powerful programming for us. Listen to Q with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC, it’s a masterful blend of pop culture, world issues, and philosophy. Watch Rick Mercer, the fact that he’s Canada’s Jon Stewart is a compliment.

Hockey will go on. The CBC may even go on. But unless we Canadians find a way to be less apathetic towards our national identity, unless we put more money back into the arts, we’ll continue to lose ourselves in the swathing sea of international programming and content.

I am Become The Black

I am Become The Black

24 x 36 mixed media on canvas by Joshua James Collis available at Wolf/Sheep Arthouse email we@wolfsheep.com. The poem is a selection from my new chap book The Book of The Black also available at Wolf/Sheep

Dreaming In Black

Dreaming In Black

24 x 36 mixed media on canvas by Joshua James Collis available at Wolf/Sheep Arthouse email we@wolfsheep.com. The poem is a selection from my new chap book The Book of The Black also available at Wolf/Sheep

Orion

The wind shrieks by with a fervour reminiscent

Of a supposed madman coming to terms with society

Striations of clouds running faster than outlaws

After a crime spree

The rain stops temporarily

The drops run off me onto the damp dirty pavement

The clouds part momentarily

And they reveal Orion

The hunter overhead

Perpetually locked in mid-shot

Forever fletched

The hunt will never cull him peace