23 June 2006

Musical Journeys are always less direct

I have been thinking a lot lately about music and how it has the power to define moments in your life. I was also thinking about my life in the stages in which I liked certain types of music and certain genres. I have always had a fairly eclectic taste in music and I think that has a lot to do with how I was raised. My first conscious memories of music or ‘adult music’ are very vivid and clear to me even though I was young at the time.

My first conscious memory of music happened sometime around kindergarten. I was driving with my aunt and uncle in their Colt (yep it was that long ago) along the North Service road in Oakville just past Oakville place. My Uncle Bruce had put on a tape of new romantics music. I distinctly remember this is what he called it. The first song I remember hearing was ‘Modern Love’ by David Bowie. It was an epiphany to me; I had never heard anything like this before.

I suppose a lot of my early taste in music can be traced to Kathleen and Bruce in that way. They had always been more than generous to me as a child and a lot of my most cherished memories of childhood were spent with them. I can recall seeing a lot of movies with them and trips to Centre Island and other places. This was the advantage of being the first nephew, everyone wanted to spend time with me and in this way I was culturally spoiled. Kathleen and Bruce used to take me to the Toronto International Film Festival when I was in the fourth grade. It really did leave its mark. On future car trips with them I was introduced to the Eurythmics and Madonna. Strangely enough the Eurythmics sort of six degrees of separation back into this later.

Through high school I suppose I could have been defined as a Goth. Yep I admit my mistake and to atone for my sins I have destroyed any pictorial evidence of this. Don’t get me wrong a lot of the most fun high school experiences involved sneaking in to Toronto to go dancing at the Catacombs. Granted at the time I was a die hard REM fan and Justin used to joke with some regularity that there was no way I could explain my love for a band who wrote ‘Shiny Happy People’ to the side of me that wore all black and sang along to Bauhaus.

In the end my little Goth phase ended although it had nothing to do with my all abiding love for REM. Matthew you and I still talk about it because it was one of the more defining moments of our early years. April 5, 1999 at the Guvernment in Toronto is a date I’ll most likely never remember. If you’ve never been passionate about music it seems very stupid for one concert to be life altering but it was. Matthew and I went to see the Love and Rockets, which includes all the members of Bauhaus except Peter Murphy. I hadn’t to that point heard much of their music apart from ‘Sweet F A’ so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

They were touring in support of their last album ‘Lift’ which as the concert went on we found to be a mix of trance and dance floor pounding deep grooves. This was our first real introduction to techno. Of course being Goths meant we had listened to a fair amount of Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM so the synth wasn’t a new sound to me. I suppose there was just something about that show and the fates aligned and it was everything in the world to me.


This is the point where Matthew and I joke about leaving the Goth ‘scene’. Something about this show made me intensely interested in techno and electronica, and Matthew got interested in synth pop and industrial. These were the days when The Edge was playing a techno and trance heavy diet for their live to air shows. Crystal Method, The Chemical Brothers, Sneaker Pimps, Prodigy and Underworld were the order of the day.

I was instantly fascinated and began to gravitate towards Underworld. Like everyone else I had heard ‘Born Slippy Nuxx’ in Trainspotting and loved it. I began buying albums in quick succession starting with ‘Beaucoup Fish’ and then ‘dubnobasswithmyheadman’. I just couldn’t get enough.

Now I had always been aware of Underworld on some level. I can recall rumours about Michael Stipe singing on an Underworld track for the Batman and Robin soundtrack. I had obviously heard ‘Born Slippy’ and ‘Push Upstairs’ on different live to air broadcasts.

Underworld opened up a new world for me. I was listening to dj’s like Richie Hawtin, Plastikman, Sven Vath, and Carl Cox etc etc. I was listening to bands like Portishead, Delerium, The Crystal Method, Euphoria, Skindive, Royksopp, Lamb etc etc. It was all a very exciting time for me.

Behind all of this though was Underworld. I began getting interested in new styles of creative design as pioneered by their creative design firm tomato. They did the opening and end credits for Trainspotting as well as a host of new media design. In my estimation they brought about the new era of typography. This was all so new and fascinating. I also became very involved with the dirty list an Underworld mailing list run by dirty.org. As opposed to some of the other fan sites and message boards I had been to this one was very different. The people back then just seemed interested in getting the word out; they were artists and designers as well as dj’s. What really impressed me was that most of them were living the dream and doing what they loved rather than talking about the dream and working at a McDonalds like I had seen rather often on other sites. These people were pretty amazing.

Underworld slowly became the soundtrack to large chunks of my life. I mean even Matthew will tell you it’s not a night of clubbing if it doesn’t end with ‘Dirty Epic/Cowgirl’. I can remember being at Darkrave and hearing ‘Cowgirl’ so Matthew and I went sprinting to grab our mates from the top level to bring them down for it.

I have only seen Underworld once live but even then it was head splittingly amazing. October 16, 2002 at the Kool Haus (which is consequently right next door to the Guvernment where I saw Love and Rockets) I finally had my chance, sure Darren Emerson had left the group but it didn’t matter. The show was amazing the band were electric. If you ever get a chance to see Underworld it is worth it for the visuals alone. Tomato are very slick when it comes to this as witnessed by the display video for Cowgirl.



I’m not sure if there is much point to all of this beyond explaining to my dear readers, both of you, what my musical education was like.

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