YOUNG GUV & THE SCUZZ with ACTUAL WATER, ODONIS ODONIS, BELIEFS and DJ SLIM TWIG at the Piston (937 Bloor West), tonight (Thursday, January 17), 10 pm. $5. 416-532-3989. See listing.
It might sound strange to say this about a member of the city's most celebrated, ubiquitous punk band, but Ben Cook is an unsung hero of Toronto's music scene.
He's well known as one of the three guitarists in Fucked Up, whose grand statements rarely go unnoticed by the local or international press. But when he's not touring the world or recording hardcore rock operas with them, he's modestly plugging away in his east-end apartment, compulsively (and reclusively) writing, recording and producing for himself and pretty much anyone who asks.
Cook has too many projects on the go to reasonably keep track of (Marvelous Darlings, Roommates, the Bitters, to name just a few), but it's his most enduring band, the solo-ish power-pop act Young Guv, that takes the stage tonight. Their shows are few and far between, but Cook will briefly claim the spotlight as part of Nyte Time At The Piston, the second instalment of his new concert series.
"The concept is pretty fucking simple: I want to create strong lineups and just pack the joint," he says, squatting on an amp in his shared practice space. "When you go to a really killer show in your city with only local bands that aren't necessarily making that much noise anywhere else, and in a venue that sounds amazing, it feels great."
With booker/promoter now ticked off his list, Cook's natural next move was to start his own record label, Bad Actors. Its first two releases are already planned for the spring: a 12-inch "industrial sex-freak loft record" from hotly tipped noise rockers Ell V Gore and the first "studio" EP from Yacht Club, Cook's straight-up pop project with his former hardcore writing partner, Matt DeLong.
Yacht Club's debut, the bedroom-recorded Nonnavera mixtape, so unabashedly embraces a cheesy 80s pop aesthetic that many have assumed it's a joke. But Cook insists it's the opposite - his first band where he can fully revel in his reverence for sugary hooks and polished musicianship without "playing down or hiding behind any lo-fi bullshit." In fact, Yacht Club's next record will be made with a handful of hired guns.
"Session players are the unsung heroes of all the best songs ever recorded," Cook declares. "I find it really interesting the way they just sit back and do their job. Most of them are chain-smoking, Adderall-popping weirdos. But once you get them on their instruments, it's total perfection."