5 Questions with Rags #51 - Craig Northey of The Odds

The Odds have been a staple of Canadian for music for as long as I can remember. (At the time of this writing, I'm nearly 33, so take my memory for what you will.) If you grew up with any kind Canadian radio in the last 20 years you know the Odds, I promise. (This one, or This one, or perhaps This one, or maybe This one.) And if you don't know the Odds, you need to open your ears more because they are fucking awesome. They write witty, silly, intelligent, sometimes bizarre and always absurdly catchy rock tunes. As my life has slowly been draining itself of the more straight-ahead rock parts of my listening diet, the Odds have remained on rotation because they just make good, quality music. In anticipation of the band's return to my beloved Victoria on May 18, I caught up with vocalist and guitar player Craig Northey from Toronto as he prepared to tour, as a dummer (!), with Canadian supergroup The Transcanada Highwaymen to talk about funky ghosts, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and Davey Jones' weight.

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

I remember the first album that I got that was mine, and that was the Beatles' Hey Jude. The first album I bought with my own money could have been The Monkees' one with “99 Pounds” on it, but I can't remember the name. (Upon research, the album Craig is referring to is Changes.) “She was 99 pounds, some kinda dynamite,” which would be an eating disorder now. Davey Jones was a really little guy, so maybe that makes sense. Maybe he was 101 pounds.

2. If you could spend the day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

Oh my, that's a hard one. I think it would be driving around Toronto with Steven Page. Oh wait, I'm doing that! My life is fucking awesome! We're going to get tacos, and that's part of the day.

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5 Questions with Rags #50 - Mike Love

It could be argued that with the rise of dancehall, reggae music has strayed a long way from its roots. Inarguably, a lot of the new reggae that has managed to make it into the popular consciousness has seemingly lost its way, preoccupied with nights on the dancefloor and the amounts of weed one is going to smoke. But this is reggae and there will always be people making compassionate, intelligent reggae music. At the forefront of the new Roots movement is Hawaiian reggae troubadour Mike Love. His music – released entirely independently through his label, Love Not War Records – is rooted in those traditional reggae/Rasta ideals, while doing entirely new things with sound via his looping-station, powerful voice and ever-changing live configuration. His is the reggae of Love, Peace, Justice and an unyielding admiration for the Earth that we all call home. His YouTube videos have garnered him a worldwide audience of peace-seekers looking for something a bit deeper from their music. Rags Music was lucky enough to catch up with the good homie for a chat before he makes his way up to our home on the Canadian west coast for the first time. If you get a chance to see this guy live, make sure you jump on it. Your ears and your soul will thank me.

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

I think every day I try to do something new. It's one of the most important parts of life. Seeing new places, doing new things, experimenting with new things. Even when we're playing music we're always trying to do new stuff. There are some songs that we've played thousands of times and keeping them fresh, being able to keep playing them and be excited to play them, means trying new things all the time. That's life too. If you just do the same thing day in and day out, you become stagnant. Trying and learning new things is so important. I think that's what's what the system tries to get us doing, is having these routines and doing the same things every day.

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

There was a couple. I think it was ...And Justice For All by Metallica and Bad by Michael Jackson. That was the first thing I got on tape. I had a cool older sister was into a lot of different stuff and I just sort of followed her.

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5 Questions with Rags #42 - Gibbz

Like a lot of people I discovered Gibbz from his work with Gramatik. The first time I saw him live I couldn't get over the unprecedented swagger the guy had on stage. Who the fuck did this guy think he was? But more than that, the overwhelming thought of the night was, “This brother can sing the shit out of some songs.” Luckily, since then Gibbz has been on a tear, releasing a constant stream of sexy, fun tremendously dancey synth-pop. Near the end of 2016 he released the stellar Oh My God EP and if you haven't got that into your earholes, you definitely should. I was lucky enough to get ahold of him at home in New York as he prepares for his first-ever residency, at the famous Knitting Factory, before heading off on his first full headline tour – just him and drummer, driving in a van, working the road. If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing the supremely talented singer/producer/gangster of love, do yourself a favour and get out to one of his shows.

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

Yeah. I went to a store that was called The Wiz, way back when that was a store. It was kind of like Best Buy. “Nobody beats the Wiz,' was their catchphrase. I went in with my own money. I bought three records. I bought Busta Rhymes – “Dangerous” single on cassette, Usher - My Way on cassette and I got my first compact disc ever, which was Britney Spears – Hit Me Baby, One More Time.

Of the three, which holds up the best for you?

Well, Dangerous is such a badass song. But I got the Britney Spears because it came with a poster. You could pull out the booklet and it folded out into a poster and I was like, “Sweet!” I wanted Britney Spears on my wall. I didn't really give a fuck about the music, so I bought it just to put a poster of a chick up on my wall. I remember my parents were like, “No, that's not gonna happen.”

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5 Questions with Rags #38 - Katie Nordgren

I met Katie Nordgren a year or two ago, through a mutual friend. I don't know what it was but I was intimidated by her brand of cool right away. (Fun fact: Turns out her cool is a combination of vast intelligence and overwhelming nerdiness.) My friend introduced me by saying, "This is Rags. He had a vasectomy." I'm sure the redness in my face managed to make its way through the darkness. But, rather than be weirded out, Katie turned it into an opportunity to engage me in a rather thoughtful conversation about reproductive responsibility and whatnot. Turns out, that Katie is a comedian too! Quoting the acts of comedians is a tedious - and frankly stupid - process, so you should just get out and check her out. (I saw a set online once, but I cannot seem to find it anymore, so take my word for it and do it!) If you're over in Vancouver, check out Katie's monthly comedy show, Comedy at Big Rock at Big Rock Urban Brewery. 

And, as always, get her on that Twitter ysht

1. When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Hmmm...that isn't gross...I think doing stand-up for the first time last year was the last first time I did something really interesting. Anything else I've done cool was before that. The first time I did stand-up was June 30, last year (2015). It's been a really holding-my-ground year. Oh, you know what! I started a podcast (Sea Hags Podcast). That was something I started more recently.

How's that experience been so far?

It's been awesome. I'm doing it with probably my best friend, I feel like I'm married to her too. She's my creative wife. We've been recording since October, but we didn't release them until the Ides of March. March 15 was when we started releasing them. I've never tried to make something in an audio medium before.

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

Oh my god, I do! It was either Green Day's Dookie or Nirvana's Unplugged in New York. It was one of those but it was a very mid-90s purchase, whatever it was. I think I got them both on CD. We got our first CD player in like '95.

Oooh, on that future tip. We were way behind on the CD player thing.

My parents were yuppies. Lots of bonuses and privileges. Paid-for college education. It's pretty sweet, I recommend it to everybody. Get rich parents!

3. Have you ever seen a ghost or felt a ghost-like presence?

Holy fuck! I made a three-part blog post in 2014, on a really inactive blog, a story of what happened in the summer between grade 6 and 7. I was a very unpopular child. Anytime popular girls wanted to spend time with me, it didn't matter how much they were going to make fun of me or abuse me when were hanging out, I'd be like, “I'm coming with you!” Like Big Ethel from Riverdale High. I just wanna be included. This was 1996, the year “The Craft” came out. It was also the year this really popular movie “Now & Then” came out. Both of those movies heavily feature seances. These two popular girls from my elementary school, Ashley and Darcy, decided we were going to have a seance in the cemetary...

Here's a little bit of background for you. My elementary school shared a land parcel with the cemetary in North Delta. It was just a chain-link fence between the primary playground and, uh, Death. Just tombstones on one side and the slide and swings on the other. It was fucked up but we had that as part of our psyche growing up.

We went in there at 10 o'clock one night, in the summer, so the school's totally closed, there's nobody there and nothing's happening. So we're in the cemetery and we sit around this grave, we've got a candle and shit. We light the candle. I don't know what we said, but it wasn't any kind of “real” spell. It was more like, “Spirits, make your presence known if you're here.” And the candle started growing. It was pretty windy but it wasn't moving, just getting super tall. So the flame got to six or seven inches tall. We started freaking out. Holy fuck, we don't actually want real ghosts, we don't actually want this to be real! So we blow the candle out and go running, do a flying leap over the fence into the school grounds. We go running past where the front door is and then through to this big roundabout out front. Then we realize, “Oh shit, we didn't put the spirit back to rest. We didn't say our goodbyes and it's still oh there.” We have to send it back to the spirit world or whatever. So, we're standing on this roundabout, holding hands, “Okay spirit, we're really sorry we disturbed you but you really need to back to where you came from.” At that point, the front door of the school building opened, then slammed shut. And we took off running and screaming. It was so terrifying. There was nobody there. I don't know what happened. I never saw anything but that was the closest I've had to a ghost encounter in my life. I don't fuck with Oujia boards. I don't believe in any of it, but I believe just enough that I don't fuck with it anymore.

4. Can you think of a book or movie that had a genuine effect on the way you saw the world?

Oh man, everything I've ever seen or read in my life, ever.

Do you remember the first thing that had an effect, then?

Let me think...In childhood what really moved me? Because I didn't get into Harry Potter until I was almost 30...Something that really sticks out at me from the reading list in elementary school is this book by Gary Paulson, called Hatchet. It's about a kid who's 13 and his parents have gotten divorced and his mom was sending him off to his dad in basically the equivalent of Fort McMurry, so from the city to the boonies for the summer, and she gives him this gift of a hatchet. He's going to a super remote place and he's taking a charter plane and the plane goes down on the way. He ends up stuck in the wilderness with just that little axe on his belt. He faces natural disasters and animals and confronting mortality. I read it when I was 9, maybe, and it fucked me up realizing there will come a time when my parents won't be there to protect me and I have to fend for myself. Whether that's in a forest with a tiny axe or dealing with crazy social situations. Just realizing that, “You're alone in the world, man.” That's the first thing that comes to mind but I'm totally a big suck for everything and get really into stuff. Like Star Trek: The Next Generation is another one I was really moved by as a child. All very truth and justice and that stuff. It's all good shit.

So, what was was the last thing that got to you?

I've been watching Grace & Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. It's about how their two husbands fall in love with each other and leave them. It's all the fallout. It's a really wonderful show. All these people who were set in their ways at 70, their lives just exploded but they still love all the people around them. They love their ex-husbands and the two women start to love each other and lean on each other. It's a really lovely look at how love can change over time. It's very malleable. You can go from loving someone romantically to just loving them like a sibling or someone you spend time with. It shows that there's life after breaking up and I think it's something very little media every looks at. It's also awesome to watch two 70-year old women star in a show where their relationship is the centre of everything.

5. If you could the spend the day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

Can I travel through time to have an experience with them at a different point in time?

No. They have to come to you, now.

Fuck. I guess that means I can't go back in time to 1993 to have sex with Jeff Goldblum during the Jurassic Park filming. Which makes me very upset because I would do that if I could. I'd love to spend time with David Bowie. It made me so sad when died. I can't even have feelings anymore about all the people dying this year but he really got to me. Actually, our mutual friend Jasta got me into him when I was 13. So it's her fault. But I've been a huge fan of his for 20 years. I would love to just pick his brain about where his creativity comes from and how he gives himself permission to do all this weird shit. I mean, besides drugs.

So much cocaine.

I would not bring cocaine to my meeting with David Bowie. I'd be like, “Hey man, don't do that cocaine.”

Do you have a favourite Bowie era?

I think the 70's is probably the best. I like the really weird, early 70's spacesman shit he was doing. I kinda got love for the weird 90's electronica shit when he was sort of way past the age where people tried new things. Like touring with Reznor and nobody liked but he just did it anyway. I would have liked it, if I wasn't 10.

6. This week's Guest Question comes from, DJ Kwe – When is the last time you listened to an entire album of just spoken word, talking?

It probably would have been a comedy album because that's probably the only thing like that I listen to, other than a book on tape. It was just Josh Gondelmon's “Physical Whisper.” It's excellent. He's the sweetest New York Jew. He's so cute and weird. You can sample it on his website. You can just stream it in the browser. Other than podcasts, that's the last full spoken-word thing I've listened to. 

5 Questions with Rags #37 - DJ Kwe

A few weeks ago, I had no earthly idea who DJ Kwe was. I stumbled upon her music because of an assignment for the Rifflandia festival here in Victoria, at which DJ Kwe will be performing twice (!), but I’m here tell you, this half-breed beat maker is someone you should be watching out for. Her audio story telling is unlike anything you’ve ever heard, full of foraged nature sounds and original ideas with a nod to the past, and from what I’ve heard, her DJ sets are not to be missed. I can’t officially verify that because I won’t be able to catch her until Rifflandia (Sept. 15-18) but egads, I’m ready for this! Until then, enjoy this wonderful installment of the 5 Questions in which we discuss the glory of double cassette collections, the struggles that face female DJs and the premier of the new questions about ghosts!

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

It was in grade 4, I bought a double cassette, album…with my yellow Sony walkman back then with the snap-over part so everyone knew you had a real walkman…So I bought an 80’s greatest hits. It had “Electric Avenue” and “Jenny.” For the money that I had and to buy a double cassette, which was pretty big news back then, that was my first music investment. I actually had to take the time to remember because buying my first music vs. buying my first record vs. buying my first CD, they’re all times in my life that I have to revisit because music represents memories for anyone.

Do you remember the first record you bought specifically for DJing?

Masters at Work – Love and Happiness. That song, I can’t get over it. It should be a world anthem.

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