SLIM TWIG performing as part of ST. NICK’S MERRY GRINCHMAS PARTY with DEVIL EYES, ANCESTORS, BLUDWASH, ACTION MOB, BURNING and others, hosted by NICK FLANAGAN and DAN BURKE at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), tonight (Thursday, December 20), 9 pm. $6. 416-763-9139. Rating: NNNNN
Providing his annual antidote to all the well-wishing and holiday cheering, Dan Burke, the Silver Dollar’s boss of bah-humbug, is once again teaming with confounding cut-up Nick Flanagan to throw another twisted Merry Grinchmas bash.
To help bring your high spirits down a notch, they’ve enlisted rising scene star Slim Twig and his Mercy Mercinaries, whose darkly demented synth-rockabilly jams like the knife-slashing Brothl Hunting! and the hearse-driven Tormen have made their new White Fantaseee EP into the grim grabber of the season.
But the Twigster wants everyone to know he’s not entirely to blame for most of that deviant badness he whispers about so menacingly. It’s just a bit of role playing. That seems more plausible after seeing his breakout performance as bad-boy rocker Billy Zero in Bruce McDonald’s critically acclaimed The Tracey Fragments, which stars Ellen Page (recently nominated for a Golden Globe) and Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, once known as Max Danger of the Deadly Snakes.
“It’s true that in most of my songs I’m singing in the voice of an evil person who does horrible things,” concedes Slim Twig with a chuckle. “And for some reason I really enjoy being able to step into that sort of persona both in film and in music. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m getting away with something. I don’t know, it’s just very comfortable for me.”
Much has been made in the media of the strangeness of Slim Twig’s music, which brings together elements of hayseed rockabilly and squelchy analog synth twittering. But if you’re familiar with Suicide’s rebellious distortions, Slim Twig’s concoction seems less like a bizarre new hybrid than an extrapolation from the electro-nihilism of Alan Vega and Martin Rev, which itself was just a stepwise refinement of the Silver Apples’ groundbreaking experiments a few years earlier.
“In the few reviews of my stuff that I’ve seen, it really surprised me that no one else has made the Suicide connection. Some writers have tried to draw comparisons to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and electronica – which I don’t listen to at all – but there’s a much more obvious link to Suicide. They really set the precedent for what I do, taking the whole 50s rockabilly aesthetic and doing something modern with it.“I liked that first Suicide record, but there was a bonus disc with the Blast First reissue of their Second Album called The First Rehearsal Tapes (from 1975), and that recording sounds so otherworldly it’s incredible. It’s like it came from Mars – the music isn’t tied to any time or place.
“That was very inspiring. The whole idea of creating music that could leave people wondering, ‘Where did this come from… and when?’ was something I very much took to heart.”When Slim Twig talks about using rockabilly as a jump-off point for his own recordings, he’s not just referring to the superficial hillbilly hiccupping aspect of it, but to the associated scotch tape ’n’ rubber band innovations of those groundbreaking 50s productions, too.
“Since they didn’t have all the high-tech gear you find in studios today, there was always a certain amount of experimentation going on to get what they were after. You’ll hear all these weird sounds on those early records that often happened by accident. I’m really interested in those happy accidents that lead to unexpected variations of sound, and take advantage of them whenever possible.
“I don’t have much cash or access to a real recording studio, so I did everything myself on a computer in my bedroom, just using whatever I could get my hands on. If you listen to the track Brothl Hunting! you can hear some tape manipulation I did on the bridge. That was just messing around with some cassettes I had lying around, running them through a delay pedal to get some interesting effects by speeding them up and slowing them down. You can get very resourceful when you don’t have any money to spend.”
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Slim Twig warns that the influence of hip hop may be heard creeping into the sound of his forthcoming album
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't Slim Twig's dramatic stage presence which got him the part of Billy Zero in Bruce McDonald's critically acclaimed film The Tracey Fragments
Nick’s Top 5 Dan Burke Christmas Memories
1. A profusely sweating, Norwalk-virus-stricken Dan in a Santa suit doing the door at a Deadly Snakes show at the Gladstone in 2002. He looked furious and defeated.
2. The beaming look on his face the night of the first Grinchmas show in 2003, when a glut of acts volunteered to perform and attendance was impressive. Cheered to the bone, he hangs onto his victories so tightly, he practically feeds on them.
3. Most Christmases I check to see what Dan is doing on Christmas Eve. Not that I can picture him chowing down with my family, but I just want to make sure stuff’s okay.
4. His performance of Cracking Up, by the Jesus and Mary Chain, at the 2003 show. It’s inspiring, overly physical and weird/sad all at once.
5. The December 23 L’Afterparty show I did in 2004 at the Dollar. After (yet) an(other) inauspicious comedy set, I watched Dan win round after round of pool in the haunted-feeling back room. It cheered me up more than 10 bags of Special K ever could.