5 Questions with Rags #61 - Handsome Tiger

I hadn't heard the name Handsome Tiger before this past summer, and now I can't go long without seeing the name Handsome Tiger. With a slew of one-off shows and festival stops – Including Fest-stealing appearances at those meccas of west coast bass, Bass Coast and Shambahala – the good homie is quickly becoming a fixture in the West Coast bass scene. Consistently delivering a phenomenal blend of smooth, deep bass, hip-hop sensibilities and world-beat flourishes, in a remarkably short time, Handsome Tiger has created a unique and thrilling sound in a world over-saturated with repeats. “It's been about two years that I've been Djing under this moniker and putting out electronic music.,” says Tiger, talking at me from home in Vancouver. “It's really great because shows and opportunities are happening more frequently and I'm very appreciative. All the hard work is starting to pay off.”

Like a lot of my favourite electronic artists, Handsome Tiger's roots lay in instruments, in live music. “I was a vocalist, played guitar and drums and bass. I grew up playing more dancey indie rock/rock 'n' roll/psychadelic kind of stuff. That was where I started. I always had an appreciation for electronic music but it wasn't really in the forefront,” he says of his musical beginnings. “I was trying to pinpoint getting into bass music...You know when your parents tell you something is really cool but you're too young and naive to really get it? I always refer back to that story that I have with my dad. In our household growing up there was always lots of dub and reggae and dancehall and stuff like that – the roots of bass music essentially. I grew up on listening to a lot more of that music and having that around as a kid. Three or four years ago I started heavily listening to pretty much just electronic music, deep bass music, more the UK stuff and I started to wonder, 'Where does this music come from? Oh wait...' This is what my dad was trying to tell me and now I'm 30 and I realize that he's right.” Nothing like realizing your parents were right the whooooole time. Luckily, all his dad's love of low-key legendary bass rubbed off and we get the fine work of Handsome Tiger to enjoy on our dancefloors now. I was fortunate enough to get a bit of the good homie's time in between his rapid takeover of groovy places so we could chat about KoRn, a deep fear and Attempting Vegan.

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1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

I definitely remember being super excited – this is super embarrassing – there was this CD store that was a 10 minute walk from my school when I was in grade 6 or 7. I remember being obsessed with bands like KoRn and Blink-182. I remember being 12 or 13, all excited and needing the new KoRn album really badly.

I have a friend whose jam is to go through bands catalogues in the span of a week or whatever and after listening to KoRn's entire catalogue, he determined that they are the worst band in the history of rock music.

<laughs> They were good in their time and when that was a thing, but it's very depressing music.

They got some jams. I'll always have a soft spot for “Got the Life.”

Yeah, definitely! I love that track. Pretty much anything off that record...that was the one.

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5 Questions with Rags #60 - 2018 Kickoff Spectacular with Jim Vanderhorst (Rebel Cause Films)

A funny thing happened at Tall Tree this year. I was asked by no less than three separate people if I knew Jim from Rebel Cause Films. (The mighty Everyman was effusive in his praise of the good Mr. Vanderhorst.) Apparently, because I like bass music and live in Victoria, I MUST be know and work with Jim. I didn't know who he was, but I was familiar with some of his work – as is pretty much anyone on the west coast who digs bass music and/or attends festivals and parties fuelled by such music. His work capturing the diverse beauty of musical audiences is, frankly, unparalleled. Turns out he's one hell of an interesting cat as well. I figured someone so entrenched in this community that I think I'm becoming a viable part of (?), a guy who has so much experience and so many stories, would be the perfect homie to kick off 2018. So, in an effort to blast off another year of 5 Questions with Rags in style, I dug up a large portion of the guest questions that got asked over the last year and let this incredibly interesting human being tear through them like some kind of fascinating buzzsaw.

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1. Colin from Pigeon Hole – What's the most vegetable and why?

Potatoes because to take the amount of time needed to describe everything you can do with potatoes would feel like like the shrimp montage from Forrest Gump. There are just so many things you can with potatoes...scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, french fries, baked potatoes... Potatoes are so goddamned versatile that when there were no potatoes, Ireland collapsed and turned into a joke for hundreds of years.

2. Jennay Badger...What's your go-to album for a good cry/emotional cleaning out?

I would say my go-to is probably Underdogs by Matthew Good Band.

3. Mike Love...What will you do now, to make the world a little better?

I really want to help spread the message that fear doesn't help anyone. I want to figure out ways to help people move beyond listening to fear. I want to make narrative feature films and I want them to share the basic theme of overcoming fear. Fear of useless, of lack of value. Fear is what we needed to save us from jungle cats when we were primitive stone-age animals. Now fear only drives us to bad decisions.

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5 Questions with Rags #59 - Jennay Badger

Earlier this year a friend sent me a message that said “Check out this new, dope Neon Steve mix.” I put it on and it was decidedly awesome. But something didn't sound right. Turns out the fantastical futurefunkydisco mix was the work of one Jennay Badger, the release of her set from the first instalment of the quarterly party “Neon Steve & Friends.” A glaring example of my surprising musical ignorance, I've come to find out that Badger is a fixture in the Vancouver Island bass scene. Her masterful Djing skills have kept her appearing all over the place to deliver her tasty, funky delights and her even more masterful (?) dancing abilities led her to founding INFLUX Dance Troupe, the finest of dance troupes I've come across. “I created Influx after I had tried out for a couple of different dance troupes. I was, reading in between the lines, being called overweight. That really hurt me, really hit home. I decided that that wasn't going to stop me,” says Badger of the formation of my favourite dance crew. “I don't believe that a person's weight really identifies how strong of a dancer they are. I didn't want to sit there and do nothing about it. Jamie Gib and I got to talking, he's also on the bigger spectrum himself and tried dancing with a bunch of different groups himself. I've also noticed that almost no groups at all have taken on any men full time. We got to talking and while Influx started as my vision, Jamie helped me bring it to life.” Influx is the next step in the natural evolution of Badger's ever-growing prominence in the West Coast bass community. With that in mind I decided to eschew our traditional opening question and to just jump right into the heavy stuff.

1. If you could only choose Djing or dancing for the rest of your life, which would you hang onto?

Fuck you. <laughs> Some people might say, “First and foremost, you're a DJ,” but that's just because they don't know my dancing background. I've been dancing ever since I was a child. My mom used to take me to music festivals when I was literally 2 years old. She used to drive me all across Canada in a school bus that she made into a kitchen. So, it was a kitchen, my bedroom and my home, all in one. We did that until I was about 6. I'd go missing and I'd sneak up onto the stage and she'd turn around and I'd be up there. I remember one time I was about 6, I was up there with some big black Louisiana woman and her band. They were holding me in their arms while they were performing. So, I've always been into dancing. I couldn't afford to do dance class, but there was dance teacher in Campbell River who saw that I was really good at dancing, so she offered to have me come to the studio and do hip-hop classes every Sunday for free, which was fucking amazing. I'm super grateful for that.

Around 2007, my mom actually took me to my first rave, in Cowichan. My mom and my uncle lived on this property in Cowichan Bay. It was near a place called The Barn, it was really well-known in the scene here. That's where I started going when I was 11. My mom would keep an eye on me. I had to be home and in bed by 10, but my mom brought me because I loved dancing so much. I was just going for the dancing and eventually, when I was around 14 or 15, I started Djing. I was just around it all the time. I love Djing so much, but I love dancing so much. Through Djing, I get to express my more masculine side. I feel like I'm The Man up there. Dancing brings out a little more femininity in me. I don't love either Djing or dancing more than the other, they're both one for me.

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5 Questions with Rags #58 - Steph Wisla (The New Groovement)

If you are around the Canadian west coast pay any attention to the music scene around you, you've seen or heard the New Groovement around. The funk/jazz/soul/hip-hop is established a go-to for good time, big-sound live music 'round these parts. As a person who sees these sorts of things, I had seen TNG many times and then I showed up to White Eagle Hall here in Victoria one night and there was a new lady singing! The fuck was going on? Any fears I had of this new person screwing up the chemistry of this band I dig were quickly assuaged when I heard this new voice and saw her quietly commanding stage presence. I also came to learn the person behind this powerhouse voice was Steph Wisla. Since then that stage presence has gone from quietly commanding to powerfully radiant.

Joining an already established band was easier than one might have expected and Wisla just dropped right into the role. “I didn't have to do any of the grunt work from the beginning. They already had an award-winning album and stuff. It was great. I had been such a fan of the band too so it wasn't a completely new band to me. It was like, 'I'm finally living my dream of being in an awesome band.' It was a natural progression,” says Wisla of her easy transition into her role. The partnership seems to have been almost immediately beneficial as both Wisla and TNG seem to have a hard groove in 2017, both as powerful as ever. I sat down with the magnetic Wisla for a chat about the paranormal, people sharing names and that corrupter of youth – Hillary Duff.

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1. What was the first album you bought with your own money?

I was kind of spoiled. I don't know when I really bought something with my own money. <laugh> My first go-to is Avril Lavigne Let Go. That shit was ace.

Was or is?

Is. Always is. The next one, Hillary Duff, Metamorphosis, I think it was called. My parents went through it and listened to it before we were allowed to listen to it so they could censor it. And I clearly remember we weren't allowed to listen to 7 or 11, because they talked about partying. Which, now, 'Sorry mom, do here what I sing about on stage now?! Hillary Duff ain't got nothing on me!”

How did they even enforce that?

I don't know. We were all just scarred shitless to do anything wrong. We all had very guilty consciences. I have an older sister and a younger brother. We were all kind of like, “I don't wanna do anything wrong because I'll feel bad about it forever.” I remember they used a sharpie to scratch out the titles of 7 and 11 so we couldn't even know the names of them.

2. When's the last time you did something for the first time?

Atmosphere Gathering. And I wanna leave the rest blank. Sorry, mom.

What a great festival.

It was insane. I only went up for a day and a half and I don't regret it.

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Forged in Fire - Fresh Memories of Shambhala's 20th Birthday

Hard to believe it's only been a few months since Shambhala's 20th Birthday. Like every year, it went by too quickly and like every year, it left far more than four days worth of memories. After the festival I wrote about how impressed I was with how everyone around me handled the nearby, threatening forest fires. And of all the stories I've been told since leaving the Farm, my favourites continue to be the stories of how people dealt with the entirely bizarre situation they found themselves in while simultaneously sucking every bit of joy and glory out of it. Over the last month a couple of acts who graced the Shambhala stages have been kind enough to share their time and stories of how they dealt with fire in their own way. Shambhala veteran and world-famous party rocker Z-TRIP used every trick he could think of on Saturday to get through to his second set on Sunday. While exploding-like-a-super-nova-right-now 'lean bass' duo CHUURCH had their Sunday set cancelled and rescheduled at the last minute to Saturday – a set that will go down as legendary for all those that were there to commune. As the cold begins to creep back in, it seems like a perfect time to take a look back at a couple magical summer moments from the Salmo River Ranch. 

Z-Trip

Photo courtesy Sound Flash Photography.

Photo courtesy Sound Flash Photography.

Shambhala was fucking amazing. I did two sets. I did the Forest and the Village. It was fucked up because of all the fires there. The night I was playing in Forest they were like, “Yeah, it doesn't look like tomorrow is gonna happen.” Fuck. I had sort of crafted sets there that were based around spirit animals. My spirit animal was the Elephant in Fractal and in the Village was the Wolf – wolfpack, bass. As I was doing my Elephant set in the Forest, we got to the end of the set and I said, “We're gonna have a rain dance. We need rain, so tonight's the rain dance.” Basically we did the set and I had this song that I played, I had everyone sit down – which was maybe the first time anyone had done that – not have everyone jump up but just sit down and listen to a song. That was heavy. That was really incredible. We were bummed because I really wanted to that next set. We woke up the next morning and they said, “It rained last night! You brought the rain!” So we went and set up to do the next day. Maybe a quarter of the people had left. It kind of felt like the way-back Shambhala vibe, when there weren't as many people and you had room to dance, from maybe 10 years ago. It had that vibe – the diehards were there. I played my set and did my thing. At the end of my set I played a song called “Feel the Love.” I said, “Can you feel the love out there? We almost didn't have today! Where are my wolves at?” “Ooowwwwwooooo!” Everyone's fucking howling and the rain starts coming down! Right at the very end of the set. It rained so quickly and it was done. It was one of the best sets of all time for me. That place is so fucking magical. That was heavy. I love those guys, I love that place, I love PK Sound. The whole organization, I back it 100%.

Watching you up during the Fractal Jam reminds me of why I like music so much. I go into media areas and backstage areas sometimes as I writer and I get bummed because I see so many people in work mode forgetting how amazing it is to be so close to the music. I see DJs like that sometimes, all serious and shit, and you just look like you're having the most fun ever.

Oh man, thank you so much. That was the best. That was my first Fractal Jam. I've wanted to do it every single time but every time I've had to go somewhere and do some shit. It took me this long. I was so fucking excited, are you kidding me? I finally get to hang with the cool kids! <laugh>

It was awesome, it made me so happy. And the year before when you found your spirit animal, the elephant, I was there alone. I had lost my friends and I was just by myself rocking to your set.

The whole spirit animal thing came from the time before I was there. I played the Forest and somebody handed me this big crafted leather owl mask. I was with Gaff and he said, “Yo, that's your spirit animal, the owl.” I thought, “Uhhhhhh okay? I don't really connect with it at all.” The mask is amazing! It's incredible and I'm super grateful to have it. It sits in my house. That got me thinking about what would my spirit animal would be. That's how that whole thing started. My idea now is to play every stage and do a different animal on every stage.

Chuurch (As told by Makemdef)

Photo courtesy BEEDEE.

Photo courtesy BEEDEE.

I was sitting in a hammock somewhere when I got the news that our set [On Sunday] was cancelled. I immediately shot up out of the hammock, “Well, I'm going to reschedule this thing, right now.” It was really awesome because a lot of the artists...Lazy Syrup Orchestra, that's Dunks from the Funk Hunters and Soren, they cut their time in half on their set to give 45 minutes to someone else. There was a real vibe there. I shouldn't have freaked out so much because everyone there is the most professional in the industry and I should have known they were going to make it work in the face of crisis. It was our second year, this was a big year for us and I wanted to make sure we did it right, twice as good. I got the news about an hour before we actually performed, it was a long day.

So, our show is cancelled and I just wanted to try to make it happen with all my heart. I took all my food vouchers, like $45 worth of vouchers, and bought mini-donuts. And me and my girlfriend walked around handing out mini-donuts trying to raise the spirits. I handed out three buckets of donuts and got my set back. It was magic. People really like donuts. They make people super happy. When it was finally game-time, I went kind of cuckoo. There had been a lot riding on that whole Monday set. We were supposed to debut this new song we'd done with Rezz, right after her set. That would have been cool. But it was such a meant-to-be kind of thing. It was an amazing learning experience. It changed people. I learned a lot about myself through that performance.

The best part of that whole thing, is after that was all said and done, my girlfriend and I walked through Fractal Forest and the first song I hear after my set was Jazzy Jeff playing “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” It was a surreal moment. It was amazing. Definitely, looking back, Shambhala handled that situation pretty good. We brought the rain that night.