PAN/TONE , ADAM MARSHALL and ERIC DOWNER at Footwork (425 Adelaide West), Friday (May 20). $5 before midnight, $15 after. firstname.lastname@example.org. Rating: NNNNN
Last time we heard from Sheldon Thompson, he was just about to embark on an American tour with fellow Torontonian-turned-German Jake Fairley. The expedition was to be full of disasters, the worst of them Thompson getting kicked out of the USA and banned from coming back.
No, the pair of techno-punks didn't trash a hotel room. The actual story is much less rock 'n' roll.
"I was a little too honest at the border and confessed to past sins," Thompson explains from his current home in Cologne. "You know when you're a teenager and you do stupid shit like stealing cigarettes from the convenience store when you don't even smoke? The record had been erased since then, so I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to admit to it when they asked if I'd ever committed a crime - it kind of felt good to come clean. But getting kicked out was my reward.
"I hate to say it, but it's totally the brown people they're looking for. You don't want to make assumptions, but you look at who they're pulling and they're all brown."
Little did the border police realize that Sheldon is the other kind of Indian (as in native, not from India). America's loss is the rest of the world's gain, though, since Thompson's persona Sid Le Rock has been signed to a three-album deal through Mute, with an option to do a fourth.
Considering that the rest of the majors seem to have given up on dance music, it's big news that a label like Mute has so much faith in Thompson's quirky marriage of punk and minimal techno.
"I was staying in London with my folks and had nothing to do, so I ended up making this album. I always wanted to be on Mute and just decided to send it out to them cold. They ended up calling me right after they got it, which has been a big help; it's enabled me to stay here a bit longer legally."
Thompson is a man of many names - he's sometimes known as Gringo Grinder, Pan/Tone or Sid Le Rock. The confusion came to a head last year when he ended up releasing albums under all three names almost simultaneously, a strategy that could have backfired badly, but that hasn't happened. Instead, he's garnering praise from the minimal techno scene while being identified as a leading figure in the "rockno" sound, a term Thompson invented as a joke, but that the European press has picked up sans irony.
"It got to a point where I found myself having to ask the promoter who I was supposed to be that night. In Europe they're starting to get wise. They just bill me as all three, which frees me up musically."