What's All This Then?! — The Podcast is Back!

Posted in Podcasts, Posts With Audio, The Psychology Of The Individual with tags , , , on November 24, 2009 by Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip

My co-host Guitar Drone XPT101196.4 and I are happy to announce that the What’s All This Then?! Podcast is back! We’re going with a weekly show that’ll come out every Saturday. So if you’ve dropped it from your list of podcasts on iTunes because of the lack of anything new – resubscribe!

What’s All This Then?! on iTunes

As it’s now a weekly show it’ll be a lot shorter: we’re going to try to keep it under 15 minutes. It’ll still include thoughtful interviews with interesting musicians, lots of great music, show listings, and occasional forays into epic intergalactic adventure.

The first show in the new format is available now. It addresses some of Guitar Drone’s deep philosophical concepts. Gigs to check out in the next couple days: Tonight’s Drumheller show @ the Tranzac and the AIMToronto Interface series this weekend with Gino Robair.

What’s All This Then?! No.15 – November 24 2009:

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It Takes Time to Cross the Ocean

Posted in Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra, Reviews, Torture Memos with tags , on November 18, 2009 by Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip

I just stumbled over a link to an article written about my band in a UK online magazine called Dilettante. Apparently it was written early this summer but I suppose it takes a while for things to filter across the ocean. Anyway, half of it is a reprint of an article John Terauds wrote for the Toronto Star a while ago and the other half is really good commentary and some info about the Torture Memos project.

It also includes my new favourite quote (describing our first album):

“The resulting music reminds us of a Danish art installation at the Venice Biennale which consisted of a group of performance artists standing on top of a building, randomly picking up instruments to play for a few minutes before pausing to chuck rubber fish at passers by…”

You can read the rest of the article here.

NOTE: Regardless of what it says in that piece, I’ve never called our string section “mousy”.

The Torture Memos CD Release: December 11 at the Tranzac (Toronto)

Posted in Music, Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra, Torture Memos with tags , , , , on November 16, 2009 by Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip

Everyone who’s been stopping by here knows that my band has been working on recording of the Torture Memos set to music. Now we’ve recorded it and we’re having a big concert to mark the official release of the album:

And we’ve decided to donate a good percentage of the money from sales of this CD to the ACLU. Because they’re working on the right side of this issue.

I’ll be writing a bit about this record here in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, if you’re curious about how it sounds there are excerpts on our website.

And if you’re in Toronto, I’ve just set up a Facebook event for the concert.

The Parkdale Revolutionary Duo @ Celeste's Art Show (the Tranzac, November 7 2009)

Posted in Adventure, Good People, Karl Mohr, Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra, Performing, Posts With Audio, Visual Art with tags , , , , , , , on November 9, 2009 by Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip

Kristin and I played some voice+piano versions of Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra songs (and some covers) at the opening party for Celeste Gillis’ art show at the Tranzac. Our mysterious friend Alan R. took a photo:

Kristin and I playing at the Tranzac

It was a good show – crowded and noisy, but a lot of fun. Since I don’t play the piano very often these days I’m finding that I really enjoy it when I do. Kristin was – as always – a nuisance to rehearse with: always complaining that I don’t know the songs properly. But the problem is that it’s only fun for me to play when I don’t know the material perfectly well… it’s more of an adventure when you know that you’re going to be making a lot of stuff up as you go!

Here’s a few of my favourites from this show:

Only the Sun:

Driving Me Backwards (Brian Eno):

The Day the Planes All Stopped (Chris Warren):

The Stars of Reality TV:

Impostor (Karl Mohr):

Letter From London:

Congratulations on the great art show Celeste – and thanks for inviting us!

Pirate – Party – Propaganda: the Green Party of Canada is Ready For the Big Leagues!

Posted in Good People, Obnoxious People, Poetry, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on August 13, 2009 by Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip

1: THE PIRATE

I live in an apartment a couple doors down from a very interesting (in every sense of the word) bar called Zemra Lounge. That place gets its ‘interesting’ character directly from its owner: a Croatian pirate. If he’s not actually a pirate, that’s only because the opportunity’s never come up for him. But he embodies all the finest character traits of a pirate (a storybook pirate a la Captain Blood, which is very different from currently-in-vogue Somali pirate type). Qualities:

Complete disregard for authoritarian morality (and any other type of morality); an enormous ego; a suave faux-aristocratic bearing, balanced by frequent episodes of alcoholic depression; …and, most importantly, incredible adaptability and resource in difficult situations. All he’s missing is a parrot and eye patch. But I’m pretty sure he has the requisite sabre and pistol stashed behind the bar.

And this is why, while businesses have been dropping like flies in saki along this street during the past year – which included both the ‘global economic crisis’ and the greatest streetcar track reconstruction fiasco ever attempted by mankind – the Zemra Lounge has thrived.

Our pirate transformed what was a hangout for the upper crust of the local Gino population into an event centre: Music! Magic Acts! Wine Tastings! Birthday Parties! Corporate Events! They all walk the plank at Zemra.

The man’s brilliant and cunning – I admire him. And he’s also a very nice guy. I run into him on the street all the time, typically finding him in furtive conversation with a shady-looking dude parked in a SUV in front of the bar. When he sees me he always breaks off the conversation to pass the time of day and ask how Madeline and Gus are doing, like Robert Frost:

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, “What is it?”
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

This character sketch has gone on way too far. The point is: he’s started hosting events lately. And today it was a Green Party of Canada local meeting.

The Zemra Bar and Pirate Hideout
the Zemra Bar and Pirate Lair

***
2: THE PARTY
As I walked by Zemra Lounge last night a great crowd of hippies, dotted with shiny suits and pinkshirt businessmen, were milling in and around the place. And at each corner of the patio a dissolute-and-untoothed fellow (members of the fanatical paramilitary wing of the Party) – was stationed, handing out bright blue and green pamphlets. Continue reading

Accidental Dignity: Torture Memo no.7 and the Challenge of Maintaining Dishonest Abstraction in the Written Word

Posted in Music, Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra, Posts With Audio, Recording, The Psychology Of The Individual, Torture Memos with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2009 by Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip

Slept too little to attempt very much on the blog today. So I’ll offer up one of my favourite excerpts from the Torture Memos suite in place of the daily personal reflection:

http://www.parkdalerevolutionaryorchestra.com/tm/memo7.mp3%20

Text:

drawing distinctions
between gradations of pain
is not an easy task.
[oh no]
it’s not an easy task.

– John Yoo

This is definitely my favourite lyric from the whole set (and, coincidently, the shortest). It’s such a striking juxtaposition with the cold, technical belligerence of the rest.

Of course it’s lifted from a section in which Mr.Yoo is attempting to establish pseudoscientific divisions between “acceptable” and “severe” levels of suffering. In this case he’s talking about sleep deprivation and how many days it can “legally” go on for.

Extracting this one line and taking it at face-value suggests the hidden possibility of a deep regret and troubled conscience behind the authorship of the torture memos. Of course it’s hard to believe in that possibility as intentional or, looking at in its actual context, genuinely meaningful.

To the contrary, I think it’s more likely that a degree of dignity and sympathy is inevitably built into written language. Regardless of the unlikely context, zooming into the microscopic details of communication brings out these essential qualities.

So I was glad to notice this fragment and include it in the suite. I find it hopeful to see that, with all the ways human beings contrive to fool themselves and manipulate others, the way we’ve constructed our means of communication interferes with completely dishonest abstractions.

Concert Review: ———- @ the — Gallery, Toronto, August 8 2009

Posted in Music, Performing, Poetry, Religion, Reviews, The Psychology Of The Individual with tags , , , , on August 9, 2009 by Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip

Concert Review
———- @ the — Gallery, Toronto
August 8 2009

the problem was my preconcert
discussion a block away;
demonstrating the difficulty of being here
with small stones on heads and tables
for the pleasure of the disenfranchised.

the problem with the guitar
with songs about jesus and boo-hoo
is that it’s also difficult to be there
but there aren’t enough stones or heads
around to properly express your feelings.