Monthly Archives: November 2003

I’m just checking in to

I’m just checking in to see how everyone’s doing in the world wide world of the internet. Everyone all right? You doing all right? OK then.

I’ve been in the studio tracking the new ColourTV record. Sounds great so far. Gotta lay down some more guitar and then do all the vocals.

This Wednesday night I’m performing a set of live electro in Hell’s Kitchen. Probably start around midnight or 1am. I’ve decided to write a whole new set for this show so I’m looking at a busy couple of days.

Christy Wade and I were awarded an artist-in-residence thing for some Canadian arts conference happening in town this weekend. We’ll be documenting the conference and then throwing it back at people Saturday night at the Khyber with some snazzy live video remixing and electronic music.

Fallen behind on answering email. I’m giving priority to letters written with pen and ink. That address again:
Philip Clark
5554 Bloomfield Street
Halifax NS B3K 1S9

Some people hate it when blogs have poetry on them, but I ask you, is your shit as hard as this poem by Ted Hughes:

Do not Pick up the Telephone

That plastic Buddha jars out a Karate screech

Before the soft words with their spores
The cosmetic breath of the gravestone

Death invented the phone it looks like the altar of death
Do not worship the telephone
It drags its worshippers into actual graves
With a variety of devices, through a variety of disguised voices

Sit godless when you hear the religious wail of the telephone

Do not think your house is a hide-out it is a telephone
Do not think you walk your own road, you walk down a telephone
Do not think you sleep in the hand of God you sleep in the mouthpiece of a telephone
Do not think your future is yours it waits upon a telephone
Do not think your thoughts are your own thoughts they are the toys of the telephone
Do not think these days are days they are the sacrificial priests of the telephone

The secret police of the telephone

0 phone get out of my house
You are a bad god
Go and whisper on some other pillow
Do not lift your snake head in my house
Do not bite any more beautiful people

You plastic crab
Why is your oracle always the same in the end?
What rake off for you from the cemeteries?

Your silences are as bad
When you are needed, dumb with the malice of the clairvoyant insane
The stars whisper together in your breathing
World’s emptiness oceans in your mouthpiece
Stupidly your string dangles into the abysses
Plastic you are then stone a broken box of letters
And you cannot utter
Lies or truth, only the evil one
Makes you tremble with sudden appetite to see somebody undone

Blackening electrical connections
To where death bleaches its crystals
You swell and you writhe
You open your Buddha gape
You screech at the root of the house

Do not pick up the detonator of the telephone
A flame from the last day will come lashing out of the telephone
A dead body will fall out of the telephone

Do not pick up the telephone

I showed up for work

I showed up for work at the Marquee one night last week and found out that Carlo Spinazzola had died suddenly at age 33. Carlo was a well-respected local artist and musician. I had recorded his last CD at Soundmarket:

I wanted to write something about Carlo but I couldn’t figure out what to say and I got stuck on it.

Then I went out of town. I spent a couple days in Shelburne, on the former army base where I used to live. I was down there teaching audio to a class of budding young sound engineers.

Not much has changed on the base in the past few years.


A CD turned up of some music I’d taken down there for a similar seminar a couple years ago. I’d scribbled the date on the CD with a Sharpie: “Sept. 10 2001.” (Note the date; I watched the towers collapse on a military issue television.)

Most of the tracks on the CD were my own music, but as it turns out there was also a track on there from the Carlo sessions.

~ slow burner [4.8MB mp3]

This is probably my favourite session from all my time as a studio engineer. I remember Carlo showed up at the studio on a Friday to book time on a Monday. He paid in advance because he said he was afraid he’d spend the cash over the weekend.

Carlo booked eight hours, with the plan that we would try to get two or three songs recorded and possibly mixed. That’s pretty ambitious for a studio day, but if the band is tight it’s not unheard of.

So Carlo showed up with his band on Monday morning. Brian Bourne was playing bass and Jeff Arsenault was on the drums.

Initially, Carlo had forgotten his dobro and had to run home and get it. During the 45 minutes or so that he was gone, I really worked hard with Jeff to get a drum sound. Owing to time constraints, I was going with a minimal mic setup on the drums; mics on the kick and snare, plus a pair of large-diaphragm condensers used as overheads.

I knew the room pretty well and I got Jeff set up in the sweet spot. Most of the time was spent getting the best possible sound from the overheads. We would record a little bit, and then play it back while I listened carefully for phase cancellation. Then I’d move the mics a bit and listen again. All this time definitely paid off in the final drum sound.

When Carlo got back we set up the room for vibe. We got things really cozy in there, with nice dim lighting and a happening headphone mix for the boys. The vibe was very important. We kept turning off lights, the room kept getting darker and darker until it was perfect.

We tracked everything live off the floor, vocals and all. Carlo had this big painting that he’d just finished. He set it up in front of the bass drum and stared at it while he played. The painting helped form part of the insulation between the drums and the guitar.

Sometimes in the studio you just have these magical moments, where the hair stands up on your arms and you know right away that you’re hearing the final take. As soon as I was rolling and everyone started playing together, I remember raising my hands up off the console while a voice inside my head said “Don’t… change… anything.”

It was intense. The guys finished one song and went straight into another, and another. We wound up recording a full-length album, twelve or thirteen songs (eleven made it onto the final release). Carlo overdubbed some extra guitar on a few of the songs. But mostly it was all live, mostly first takes.

An entire album, recorded and mixed in eight hours. Only an outstanding talent is capable of pulling that off.

I love the way the CD sounds. Every time I hear it I’m transported back to the studio on Gottingen Street on that day. I gave me the shivers while we were tracking, and listening back to it the other day, I almost broke down in front of this classroom full of kids.

There are certain moments of the disc that might technically be considered mistakes, that I’m so glad are in there now. It makes the memory so vivid for me.

A tapping foot against the base of a mic stand. Or Carlo’s voice phasing slightly with the guitar mic, as he leans back in his chair and drifts off-axis from the vocal microphone (I chose an AKG-414 to bring out the warmth in Carlo’s voice).

It makes me realize the importance of studio engineering. Carlo left little pieces of himself all over Halifax, in the form of music or artwork or carpentry (he was an accomplished woodworker and I believe he may have contributed a lot to the construction of the Marquee Club).

The music. This silver sliver of digital science, preserving for us the essence of Carlo.

I hope you download the mp3. Take a moment to listen and to think about what we had that is now gone.

~ Remembrance Day 2003. 8:30AM.

~ Remembrance Day 2003. 8:30AM.


thump thump thump thump


thump thump thump thump thump thump thump

I rolled over and thought, “There’s no way in hell.”

Movement around the house. Some kind of ruckus. Someone must’ve gotten the door. I heard voices outside my bedroom window.

“See you later… you asshole.”

Well that was charming.

I got up to see what all the fuss was about. Turns out psycho-boy had shown up at our house again.

“This cannot happen,” was my assessment of the situation; and then I fell asleep on the couch.


“I could get a few guys together and go lay the smack down on this clown,” I said.


Doing sound tonight for Tegan

Doing sound tonight for Tegan and Sara. I’d never heard them before… for some reason, I thought they would be this light, lilting, acoustic folk-pop act. Instead they are loud, and scrappy.

Thought they were going to get into a fistfight at soundcheck. They switched places on stage and Sara wanted some changes in the monitors. Tegan lit into her. “Jesus Sara, it’s not going to fucking work if they have to re-EQ the monitors every time. Next time bring your own monitors if you wanna be fucking around with my shit.” Sara seemed to find this amusing.

Then they launched into a song and I stood back and went “Holy moly. Tegan’s a genius.”

As the full moon emerges

As the full moon emerges from the totality of eclipse, I imagine it becoming a different moon.

The shadow of the earth will recede. And as the shadow recedes, it will tear a layer of skin off the lunar surface. The old dead moon of grey will be gone.

In its place will be a fresh, sparkling moon. A moon of ambition and change; a moon of renewed commitment to old ideals.

And then I will rise from this couch to get ready for a new night.

This will happen twenty-four minutes from now.

It’s been dark and depressing all day. I pretty much spent the day sitting around. Same with my roommates. No urge to leave the house, no urge to call anyone up to hang out, just pure November withdrawal.

The wind whistles outside my windows. I can hear sirens outside. The eclipse is driving the city crazy.

So I sit here typing rubbish, wanting to believe that something is about to happen.

My favourite thing about the

My favourite thing about the Coast Awards is how Point Pleasant won for “Most Underappreciated Park,” and also won awards in like, six other categories.

Oh, and twenty-four hours after winning “Best Kept Secret,” Bella Muse art-space has been shut down by the landlord. I rode by there yesterday and there were all these legal notices on the doors. Something about “Fourteen Thousand Blah Blah Dollars.” Whoa.

I had some pretty good memories from performing at Bella Muse. It was an important part of North End culture, if only because it kept a lot of naked hippies off the streets.

~ Last night the Marquee

~ Last night the Marquee Club played host to Coast Weekly‘s “Best Of Halifax” awards show. I was doing sound for the Mellotones downstairs in Hell.

Victor was downstairs after the awards, having a beer and hanging out with the band.

“Where did the awards go?” said Victor. “Best restaurant, best martini… where’d they go?”

The Marquee only got one of the Coast awards this year–in a new category called “Best Place To Be A Badass.”

“Badass, what does that mean,” mused Victor. He pretended to shove Mike, the Mellotones bassist. “Hey! Are you getting out of line?”

“Aw Victor, I can’t fight you, you own the bar,” said Mike.

“Hey! Are you getting out of line? That’s how fights start,” said Victor. He turned around and gave me a little shove. “Hey! Are you getting out of line?”

I made like I was going to call over a bouncer. “Aw Victor, I can’t get you thrown out, you own the bar,” I said.

After the band started, Victor came up to me at the sound console and said, “That’s the worst lighting I’ve ever seen. Can’t you do anything about that? Turn up some of that red light and fill out the back a little bit.”

So after the band finished a song, I went and hopped up onstage. I fiddled with the lighting board to try to give some life to the stage lighting.

When I returned to the console Victor said, “It still doesn’t look so good.”

“The red light is turned up all the way,” I said. “I can’t turn up the master any more, or the whole thing starts to flicker and cut out.”

“Is the board bad?” said Victor.

“Yeah, the board’s pretty bad.”

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll buy a new one.” And that’s why Victor should be mayor.

Then he shook my hand and said goodnight, and he went to “cheers” me and bonked his beer bottle against one of my front teeth.

~ There weren’t all that many people there, but the guys were having fun and the vibe was good. The band played so freakin’ loud that I had nothing in the PA except kick drum and vocals.

There’s not much I can do when the band is super loud. I can’t really craft a smooth sounding mix if none of the faders are up to begin with. So I just put in my earplugs and sat back and listened.

A short, blonde, curly-haired woman in a black backless top wandered past and said, “You look like you’re having the time of your life.”

“Worse ways to make a living,” I said.

She came over to speak directly into my ear. “You look like you need to go purchase yourself some kind of stimulant,” she said.

I believe I may have frowned at her.

As she walked away, she looked back at me. She mouthed the word over her shoulder: “Stim-u-lant.”

~ I was awakened at stupid o’clock this morning by the doorbell ringing. Over and over. BING BONG. BIIIING BONNNNG. BINGBONG.

“Daz rat that mump gramble blat tad,” I muttered as I stumbled down the stairs in a pair of long johns.

I unlocked the back door and opened it. My roommate Geoffrey was standing there in his bathrobe, coffee mug in hand, listening to a walkman.

“The cat locked me out,” he said. “It’s all Vickers’s fault.”

“Jeeeezus, Geoffrey,” I said. I tried to push the door closed on him but he elbowed his way in.

“Pleaze! I am zorry!” said Geoffrey in his François Tuti voice. “I am zo zo zo zorry!”

Geoffrey is a comedian and he will be hosting the Burlesque show again in his François character. The show will take place at the Vimy Legion on November 14 & 15. Rumour has it, the finale will feature 28 pairs of naked dancing boobies. I’ll buy that for a dollar!

~ Tonight the band didn’t bother showing up for soundcheck. I rang out the monitors and then basically sat around waiting for 45 minutes. I was hungry and bored.

I went upstairs to where 54-40 were checking. BOOOOMFF. Every time the drummer hit the kick drum, it sounded like an avalanche had landed on the roof of the building.

The Marquee stage resonates at 50 hertz. For the layperson, this is a very low frequency. You probably feel it more than you hear it. 54-40’s sound guy was actually boosting 50Hz, which I’ve never seen anyone do in that room before.


54-40 singer guy said, “No trouble hearing the kick drum on stage, that’s for sure.”

The bass player also commented to the effect that it sounded a little boomy onstage. “Well, you’re standing right behind the bass bin,” said the sound tech.

“Oh yeah,” said the bassist. He looked around and grinned. “It’ll sound so much better when there are people in here.”

That’s a little audio humour for you, folks.

~ I’ll be back.

I studied Modernist poetry

I studied Modernist poetry right up to the graduate level, and at no point did I encounter the name “Adelaide Crapsey.” Certainly, I would’ve remembered a name like that.

The best summary I could find about Crapsey’s career comes from a piece entitled “Tanka and Haiku Come to America”. Crapsey started off studying English prosody in London in 1910 and became one of the earliest English writers to be influenced by Japanese verse forms.

Crapsey developed her own poetic form known as the cinquain. It is related to haiku and tanka, in subject as well as appearance. The cinquain is an unrhymed poem of five lines, featuring two syllables in the first line, four syllables in the second line, six in the third, eight in the fourth, and concluding with a final line of two syallables. (I’ve also seen it broken down in terms of rhythmic stresses–one, two, three, four and one. As with haiku, I’m sure the best ones are rarely the result of obsessive syllable-counting.)

Cinquains are still occasionally written today. The haiku would subsequently become something of a model for the Imagist movement, under the influence of Ezra Pound and especially Amy Lowell.

I’ve been able to come across a few examples of Crapsey’s cinquains. They fascinate me and I’ve been reading them over and over as if they are the fragments of Heraclitus.

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

Just now,
Out of the strange
Still dusk . . . as strange, as still . . .
A white moth flew . . . Why am I grown
So cold?

Adelaide Crapsey’s life was cut short when she died of tuberculosis in 1914. She was 37.

I posed for a couple

I posed for a couple sittings as a life-drawing model on the weekend. That was a new experience for me.

I had to warm up for it by jumping up on the windowsill and waving my noodle down at the street. Exhibitionist, who me?

Exhibitionism is context-sensitive for me. When I was at the Bella Muse Hallowe’en hippy party, there were naked people walking around all over the place and I was like, “Ehhh.”

Part of the reason why I did it is so that if I ever make a resumé, it would be funny to slip that into the middle of my technical credits. “November 2003 — Nude model.”