5 Questions with Rags #49 - The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer (Shawn Hall, The Harpoonist)

The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer have been the most exciting, innovative west coast blues act for awhile now. The need to have my face blasted off overtakes me fairly often, and these two cats have been a go-to since I first got the stellar A Real Fine Mess into my ears a few years ago. A few months ago I caught the video for “Forever Fool,” (Which is amazing and you watch it now) the first single from their latest album, Apocalipstick. That's also when I found out the title for the their new album, Apocalipstick. What was that title?! What was happening to this bad-ass blues band that I loved so much?! Then I listened to the album and sweet Jesus, it's the most perfect title for maybe the duo's most bad-ass record yet.

“I used to fool around with this line that said, 'She kept me up all night in a post-apocalipstick, she held me in her fingers like a chicken in a chopstick.'” says Shawn Hall, the Harpoonist, talking to me from Regina, a brief stop in the band's current tour. “Matt [Rogers, The Axe Murderer] came up with the name for the record. It's like the inescapable grip of road life, the grip of that style of relationship people can have – the toxicity, the skin-deepness of that kind of allure,” explains Hall. “It's open to a lot of interpretation but that was where Apocalipstick stemmed from. You think about what's going on what whores we are for attention on such a minute level of detail, then moving on to the next thing. This vast, vacant consumption of everything.” Apocalipstick is a goddamned burner, their finest album yet. And that's saying a lot.

“We've been working on it forever. It's not a dinner party record. We don't fucking care. I hadn't listened to it for a bit until we got it on vinyl and I was like, 'Holy shit, that sounds wild!' I totally forgot.” With the release of a new record comes a new tour, and this one is unlike anything the band has done. “We're just making sure we can really bring it. Being able to bring these new songs on the road with a second drummer is unreal. People are just used to hearing Matt play the drums with feet and now they can hear Matt with his feet plus the drummer behind him who's also playing bass synth with his left hand, and singing backups. You can't join our band and just play one instrument. You gotta be able to do the whole thing!”

1. What's your best memory of an elementary or high school teacher?

The best memory I have is when I was 19, my grade 8 school teacher sat down next to me at the Alma Combo in Toronto. I was watching Albert Collins, the blues guitar legend. Right after my teacher sat down next to me, the Black Crowes, the fucking Black Crowes at the peek of their heyday, sat down next to me at an empty table. That wasn't a teaching moment, but it was a pretty unique experience.

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

The first album I bought with my own money was the soundtrack to Stayin' Alive. Stayin' Alive was not Saturday Night Fever, but it was the sequel. And it was horrible.

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5 Questions with Rags #46 - Moontricks

If you've been around dance music in Western Canada in the last year at all, you've probably come across Moontricks. The duo, Nog and Sean, are out in these mountains and streets, making downright sexy bass music. They've become festival favourites, pleasing audiences of all stripes. (Anyone else get trapped in the line outside of Lucky Bar during Rifflandia? Goodness gracious.) It's not hard to figure out why their appeal seems so universal - the combination of deep, ultra-silky basslines and live instrumentation (Guitars, banjo, harmonica) is both new and familiar, futuristic and rustic. The fact that this all brought to our ears by two super-nice dudes is just a goddamned treat, really. It took me awhile to get these deservedly busy cats on the phone for a little chat, but I finally managed to do it, as they prepare to hit the road to help the masses thaw out from the winter and start getting ready for the warmer, sexier summer nights ahead. Go out there, see Moontricks on the road and wind up your waists.

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

Sean: It was probably one of those order 10-CD club things, probably. I just remember some of the early stuff was Green Day, Sublime, Rage Against the Machine.

Nog: I tended to have mixtapes for the most parts that were just raided from my parents' collection. I don't think it was any album in particular.

Any particular song on those mixtapes that made you wanna get after it more?

N: Marvin Gaye. There was a tape that had Marvin Gaye's “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” That was a good roadtrip tune.

S: Classic.

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

S: That's a really good question. Ummm, we played Canmore. <laughs>

N: Yesterday I was out hiking and came across a cougar that had crawled up and died in this cave and was frozen solid in the back of this cave. It has icicles coming from the ceiling of the cave down over it. There's been a cold-snap for the last month and so there's this rock-solid cougar in a cave that we came across. That's the first time I've done that.

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The Big Work - I continue to tell you to listen to Dan Bern Pt. 2 - the EPs

I like EPs. They're always nice quick listens - really good for trying to get a feel for an artist. But the obvious complaint that EPs get is that they are often showcases for one or two really good songs, then a couple tracks of filler, just enough to get a proper release. There are obvious exceptions to the rule but there isn't an artist who releases those exceptions at the rate of Dan Bern. His EPs are mini highlight reels, with song after song after high quality song. Minus one or two minor missteps that we'll discuss here, picking up any of Bern's EPs is sure to reward you with a deep, rich listening experience, inside of a nice compact listening time. For all your feeling needs, on the go!

Dog Boy Van (1997)

Jerusalem is on here. We glossed over it in part 1, but it looms so large in the world of Dan Bern, its inclusion on Dog Boy Van (Released prior to Dan Bern) warrants a little more discussion. It's a beautiful, funny song. It's like the Big Lebowski of songs, rewarding you with something new every time you take it in. I'm sure it's an amazing feeling to have a song that touches so many people, but, Dan Bern fans, I think we should make a pact to stop yelling out requests for it at live shows. In a catalogue of hundreds of songs anyone would be proud to call their own, let us collectively stop asking for the one that the man has undoubtedly played at least two thousand times. *Ahem*

"Hannibal," my second favourite set of Bern lyrics (First belongs to "Fly Away" from Fleeting Days), is thoughtful and vicious. Bern once told me that it's all in the tuning. Some of it might be there in the tuning, but he's hitting the guitar with a very specific kind of righteous violence. I'm desperate to put a sample of the lyrics here but I can't pick a part, so just check the whole thing out. I've heard both "Kurt" and "Live Another Day" countless times and I still feel that lump in my throat every time I hear them. "Oklahoma" is like the great sad movie that you can only watch once or twice. It's the last song and the easiest one to not hear when I put the album on. It's a song of tremendous feeling and power and I skip it every time.

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Good For Grapes - Folk with a bottom-end. (Lucky Bar, December 13, 2013)

Let’s start this off with a little confession: I wasn’t prepared to see Good for Grapes. It had been a busy build-up I hate admitting I don’t know things and this hatred forces me to research, to get my ears ready for any new musical experiences I’m about to take in. I like to have context and maybe a passing knowledge of the lyrical content of the songs. I just wasn’t up to it this week. With the long, drawn-out death of my Grandmother at hand, my mind had been nowhere near music of any kind and the thought of going to see these guys wasn’t particularly exciting. It wasn’t a personal thing, I just wasn’t ready to process new music. No matter where my mind was, I told myself I wasn’t going to pass up seeing a new BC band that I’d heard some rumblings about. This was the only song I’d heard. (Though I didn’t remember it until I saw them play it.)

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I talk to one of my musical heroes, Dan Bern, and can't help gushing with praise.

For over 10 years Dan Bern has been a staple of my listening diet. His music has helped me through more of my life than almost anything else I've heard in my time on this planet. When it became clear that my time as a weekly columnist at the Martlet may be coming to an end (It isn't ending. My column will continue in the fall.) I had to think of someone great to cap off the year with and I'm still so grateful that Dan was so easy to access and willing to talk to me.  The conversation starts a bit slow, but really picks up steam part-way in and we covered some fascinating stuff. There was a lot of fan-boy praise involved and I think it made Bern a tad uncomfortable at times, but it was necessary for me to able to continue with the interview. I've wanted to thank him for years and getting the chance to do it properly is something I will cherish as long as I can remember it. ​

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