GREEN VELVET with NICK WARREN, TALL PAUL, JOHN KELLy, DAVE RALPH and DJ DAN at the Guvernment/Kool Haus complex (132 Queen's Quay East) tonight (Thursday, December 20). $25 advance, $35 at the door. 416-631-4324. Rating: NNNNN
The flamboyant, over-the-top image of Green Velvet stands out from the stoic techno scene like a drag queen at a Mennonite wedding.
The alter ego of Cajmere, Green Velvet is a green-haired, costumed freak, a sort of hedonistic techno superhero. "It's definitely a part of me," explains Velvet (aka Curtis A. Jones) from his home in Chicago. "If I had my way I'd be Green Velvet all the time, but because of the way society is set up I have to put on this mask and be Curtis."
Jones ends each thought with maniacal, contagious laughter. It's almost as if he keeps surprising himself with his responses, perhaps because he's allowing himself to let Green Velvet out of his cage more often these days.
His new album, Whatever, is doing well on the strength of the single La La Land, one of the most unlikely cross-over club hits of the year.
"The thing about La La Land is that I think of it as techno, but it's techno in an old-school way, and a lot of the old-school techno is in a grey area between house and techno. Back in the day, it was all played at the same time -- it wasn't as specialized as it is now.
"Now it's like techno is techno and house is house, and they avoid each other like the plague. I don't feel it's necessary to separate Green Velvet and Cajmere, but I think it's necessary for the public at large. It makes it easier for DJs, I think."
The track features his trademark half-spoken, half-sung vocals over a simple but catchy bass line, the lyrics telling humorous tales of those little pills that thrill and the millions of brain cells lost to them.
"To be honest, I think the scene would be better without the drugs, but at the same time I'm not one to be judgmental. I don't know what you should or shouldn't do. I'm definitely not the moral authority on anything."
What really makes Green Velvet stand out is the angry, punk attitude -- this isn't happy music. While there are artists from within punk and indie scenes experimenting with techno sounds, they have little to do with dance music and would never appear at an event like this.
"It has the punk attitude, but it's not really punk rock. I used to listen to Iggy Pop, but his music is a lot more subdued then later punk. His stage performances were crazy, though -- crazier then the music, really. I was more into what they called industrial -- bands like Nitzer Ebb, Front 242. Back then you'd hear that stuff played at clubs with house. It was all mixed up.
"Hiphop is political all the time, rock is political sometimes. A lot of music is political. It just so happens that you don't hear it in the dance genre very often -- but I think it can be done. I mean, I've done it, right?"