HAVE NOT BEEN THE SAME book launch and CAMH benefit with WEEPING TILE, KING COBB STEELIE and KEVIN KANE at Lee's Palace (529 Queen West), Friday (June 10), 9:30 pm. $15-$18. HS, RT, SS, TM. See listing.
Ten years ago, music writers Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider published the tome Have Not Been The Same: The Canrock Renaissance 1985-1995, which put the spotlight for the first time on the country's influential underground music scene that exploded during those 10 years.
Engaging and encyclopedic, the book included interviews with lesser-knowns like Slow and the Nils as well as major acts like the Tragically Hip and Barenaked Ladies, with an insightful narrative connecting all the dots.
A lot has changed since then. The internet took over the music industry. Canadian bands became cool. The 700-plus-page reissue reflects all of this and more. Published through ECW Press, it features 25 new interviews, a few trims, more pics, a larger emphasis on the Montreal scene, etc. An appropriately billed launch party at Lee's Palace on Friday (June 10) sees reunions by King Cobb Steelie and Weeping Tile, the band that launched Sarah Harmer, plus Kevin Kane, formerly of the Grapes of Wrath.
Barclay talked to NOW about Have Not Been The Same redux, and it turns out that we had something to do with the book being written in the first place.
What's different about the new edition?
It's actually slightly shorter - kind of like the Coen Brothers' director's cut of Blood Simple and for the same reason: with the boring bits removed. We had a 1:1 ratio in mind of cuts to additions. In some cases, we interviewed people we couldn't last time. Some people had died (the Nils), some bands broke up (Rheostatics), some had a whole other kind of success after the period in the book (Joel Plaskett).
MuchMusic became irrelevant; Brave New Waves went off the air. The successes of the last 10 years demanded a lot more contextual explanation of the time period we talk about. And we had to explain to a younger generation what life was like before the internet, when you'd have to be glued to the radio hoping they'd play the song you wanted.
What prompted you, Jack and Schneider to put together the book in the first place?
We're Gen Xers who felt like boomer culture and punk nostalgia were constantly being shoved down our throats - and frankly, we still feel that way. We all thought that no one was going to take Canadian music of our generation seriously, for two reasons: 1) there isn't that much of a market for books about Canadian culture in general, especially music, and 2) we didn't think anyone else would write a book of this scope that included both mainstream bands like the Tragically Hip and underground heroes like Deja Voodoo.
That late 80s/early 90s era is undergoing a renaissance. Rusty, the Doughboys, Grapes of Wrath, King Cobb Steelie, Martha and the Muffins, to name a few, have all reunited. There have been a number of reissues: Whale Music, Shakespeare My Butt. Having written a book about the original renaissance, what's your take on this trend?
There's still so much music from the time period we're talking about that isn't even available on iTunes, which seems like a no-brainer. The only reissues I'm aware of are Whale Music being pressed on vinyl and Thrush Hermit putting together a limited-edition box set. People I know who are in their 20s have never heard of Weeping Tile or King Cobb Steelie, never mind Change of Heart or the Nils. To me, that all means that this book will hopefully drive interest in this period rather than the other way around.
How did you choose who made it in and who didn't? Did you have any regrets (or complaints) about having left out a band or musician?
We knew there had to be a certain time framework. Bands whose debut album came out in 1995 or later weren't included. Some bands just didn't fit into the narrative, geographically or thematically, of the chapter outline we agreed on. Some bands we just didn't like, frankly. With three or four exceptions - those being artists whose stories we felt we couldn't ignore - at least one of us is a big fan of every artist written about at length in the book. None of us were fans of Skinny Puppy or Voivod, for example, but both were extremely important and have great stories to tell.
Last time I regretted that we didn't devote more space to Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, who are one of my favourite bands ever. This time I had an amazing interview with Don Pyle, and that made it into the book. Other than that, we don't have any regrets. I think there are only a couple of omissions that I would entertain an argument for. Much to Jeff Martin's vocal chagrin, the Tea Party is not one of them.
What were a few of your favourite facts learned during the research process?
There are honestly too many. But going back over this material in light of the collapse of the industry in the last 10 years, I'm amazed by how many records these bands sold. King Cobb Steelie's Junior Relaxer sold 10,000 copies. I can't begin to imagine a band like that doing so well in Canada now. And Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions sold more than a million copies worldwide. I'm not sure even Arcade Fire has done that.
Favourite all-time Canadian band?
Rheostatics. And I think it was Now Magazine's antipathy toward them that in part convinced me that I had to write this book, because I didn't think anyone else - other than Dave Bidini himself, of course - would ever take them seriously enough.
The launch event looks amazing. Was it difficult making a Weeping Tile reunion happen?
All we did was ask. We knew that everyone in Weeping Tile is still close friends and they get together on occasion. I saw them at the Wolfe Island Music Festival three years ago. I've been a huge fan and supporter for 16 years, have several close mutual friends with Sarah Harmer, and Jason Schneider is friendly with Luther Wright, who played our Ottawa book launch 10 years ago. We knew we wanted original acts from the period - ideally reunions to make it more of an event. I was also hoping for an Inbreds reunion but they respectfully declined, as Mike O'Neill is too busy with film work. King Cobb Steelie, of course, reunited a couple of months back to celebrate their 20th anniversary, and Kevin Kane now lives in Toronto.