THE GERTRUDES/DAVE CLARK'S WOODSHED ORCHESTRA
This week's 50 River Concert will be bursting the seams of The Back Room, Thursday, November 18th as a high-flying and electric affair featuring two powerhouse collectives of musicians, Kingston’s The Gertrudes and Toronto’s Dave Clark’s Woodshed Orchestra. Be sure to drop by The Imperial Pub this Thursday to witness a mind and auditory expanding experience and participate in an amazing event.
Dave Clark's resume is as long as it is impressive and diverse. From award winning composer to poet, skilled drummer to committed educator, it would be limiting to call him a multi-talented man. His group Dave Clark's Woodshed Orchestra’s album, Live Snapshots September 23/05 (available now at Zunior.com) is just as remarkable and varied. (To review this record is to run a gauntlet of styles, sounds, genres and eras.) It is a daring and uncanny record, moments of thrilling experimentation and sonic gymnastics of freewheeling jazz (“Memento”) are weaved amidst boozy blues ballads and spoken word, all brought to life with imagination and dexterity.
Some music lends itself to grand vistas and visions of sunlit open fields, moving clouds in blue skies and stretching lake horizons. The music of Kingston’s The Gertrudes has this power. The emphatic and grand folk of the 12 piece ensemble has a stirring and expansive quality. Their latest LP, Dawn Time Riot, perfects this through rolling drums, lively banjo, calculated, striking crescendos, large, to the rafters vocals, and bright horns - it is at once organic and breathtaking.
BY TIM "BIF" MACKAY
KEEP READING AS 50 RIVER CHATS WITH THIS WEEK'S ARTISTS FOR THE 50 RIVER CONCERT SERIES!
50 River chats with music man extraordinaire, Dave Clark
BY TIM MACKAY
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Hobbies: Adoring my two cats Dani & Sophie
Pet Peeves: Mean folks
Favourite Foods: Cajun food
What instrument(s) do you play? Drums, guitar, piano, tuba, bass...
Full Albums or Mix-tapes? Both.
Favorite piece of music equipment/gear/instrument: "Bill" my super old snare drum. Found him because my dad sent me a cosmic message from beyond to look for it and I found it leaning up against a tree in the rain, abandoned. Now Bill lives with me and on recordings.
Favorite song(s) of all time: Solitude-Duke Ellington, Tom Sawyer-Rush, Rip It Up-Little Richard, Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing-Stevie Wonder, Green Light-NRBQ, Talkin' Loud Ain't Saying Nothing-James Brown, His Eye is On The Sparrow-Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Picture In A Frame-Tom Waits, Mannish Boy-Muddy Waters, I Can't Explain-The Who...I can't name them all, too many.
Last great concert you saw: George Porter Jr. & His Running Partners in New Orleans last spring. Funk from beyond. They were so good that George Porter openly stated during the gig that he was shocked by the band.
Favorite city/venue to play in: Toronto, The Tranzac
First thing you pay attention to when hearing a song for the first time: I pay attention to see if I feel a soul connection from the song to my heart.
What is your songwriting inspiration? Life
Favorite Radio Show: Back To The Sugar Camp -Steve Fruitman-CIUT FM 89.5 Thursday evenings 6pm.
Ultimate music gear/instrument wish list: I've got what I need right now.
Strangest display of affection from a fan: Being bit really hard on my left arm. Man did that hurt.
Favorite New Artist: The Gertrudes (Kingston, Ontario)
Last Great Film I Saw: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger-Woody Allen Oct 2010
Last Great Book I Read: Marcovaldo by Italo Calvino
Current album you can’t get enough of right now: SHED 4 by Shed (Simcoe, Ontario band with super lyrics and a freight train of a rhythm section)
It is worth taking a moment to point out to the folks out there your numerous accomplishments and involvement with such a grand array of musicians and artists:
- Gemini and Porcupine Award winning composer
- Created and played free jazz with Fred Frith
- Heavy metal with the Nihilist Spasm Band
- Malian griot funk with Mansa Sissoko in West Africa
- Space rock with the Dinner is Ruined band
- Bongo fury with Neil Peart of Rush
- Classic Canadian prog-rock with the Rheostatics
- Bata music with master Bata musician Gilberto Morales Chiong in Matanzas, Cuba
- Deconstruction with John Oswald
- Folk-rock with the Mountainside band
- Etherial musings with Jane Siberry
- Free form free styling big band freak out with the WoodChoppers Association
- Classical music Runcible Spoon
- Folk music with Tannis Slimmon and Lewis Melville
- Punk madness with the legendary author Jim Carroll
- Parade jammed with the Sun Ra Arkestra
- Soundtrack work for Martin Scorsese and Nick Deponcier
- And pop music with Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip
First off, in your music, accomplishments, and interviews, there is a certain playfulness, lust for life, a kind of infectious / vibrant engagement with the world. Where does this come from?
My joy was is gift from everyone and everything that was ever kind and/or beautiful to me. I feel it's my job to try to return the same. Sometimes I get it right. I like when I do. Good times ensue.
Second, what advice/words of wisdom/suggestions can you offer artists and musicians just starting out?
Have fun finding out what a blast it is to play music or to create any work of art. You'll be making the world a better place because of doing just that. Play with any pal who has the courage to try to make some noise on an instrument or sing. 1 person making music=a solo artist. 2 folks playing music, now that's a band! Find what it is that makes you want to stay at it in your art and mine it for all it has. Go where your fears are, that's where the gold is. Go for it. The world needs to experience your music/art. Creation is a passport to friendship.
Third, looking at your long list of interests and projects, what is your next move? Where do you want to go and what do you want to explore that you have yet to?
I'm going to be running two "nonesense" orchestras in Toronto January of this coming new year, one at Hart House U of T and one through the Parkdale School of Music. No experience needed. No instrument needed. These are going to be two bands making insanely joyous noises. Look out! Also, the Woodshed Orchestra will be putting out our first recording! Good times that. I'm looking to study more music. I'd like to study with Johnny Vidacovich the famed New Orleans drummer who played with such folks as Professor Longhair and Dr. John. I'm continuing to study voice and soul search with Fides Kruker. I'm always up for new collaborations with artists of every stripe. Most importantly, I'm looking to make new friends and to continue to fall in love with the magic of the world over and over again.
Your family seems to play a very important role in your life. How has raising a child affected your music?
I'd like to extend out the scope of this question and say that: My daughter (my wife and I) spent all of her formative years living in an ongoing musical that we created together which extended into written stories, drawings, costumes and recordings. We had a constant narrative, a parallel universe going at all times, on street cars, when we walked together, on the swings, at restaurants, on airplanes, at the zoo, in the bath, you name it. It developed naturally and quickly. We did this because of our collective excitement about being together. The whole thing branched out to our friends and family too. The narrative got very complex and was a great place in which to celebrate and investigate the world. It was infectious and I feel joyous and I get very sentimental when I think about it. It was pure magic indeed, the kind that can't be sullied or diminished with time. It is something that I can eternally carry with me, always knowing that there is a place in my heart that I can visit where love abounds in its most powerful form. Thankfully, my daughter has retained that spark and joie de vive through her creative pursuits and in how she relates to the world. My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. She helped me to see the world through new and excited eyes and allows me to feel love on a such a deep level that I can't imagine how bereft I would be if that weren't the case. My wife and I feel that we are the luckiest folks alive when it comes to being parents. For me, all of this makes it easier to feel the joy and sorrow of life and to catalyze that via creating and participating in music.
Who is the little person singing on Penny & Mousies Antidotal Lullaby? And what were some of your first impressions, feelings, musings getting to record a child’s singing voice?
That voice is the voice of my daughter Miss Hannah. I was deeply moved when I recorded my daughter singing Penny & Mousies Antidotal Lullaby. That song was a love letter (at that time) to two friends who had recently passed away. I find it beautiful to hear her young voice singing that song. The sound is pure and without any agenda whatsoever other than bringing the words to life. That's powerful indeed. I recorded my daughter often throughout her childhood. I still have her singing The Ring of Fire on my answering machine from when she was about 1 1/2 years old. She sang Rocks Off by the Stones too, but sadly it got erased.
Tell us about how The Woodshed Orchestra came to be and what it represents for you in comparison with your other projects?
The Woodshed Orchestra developed out of two bands that I was running at the time around 2005, that being the WoodChoppers Association Improvisers Orchestra and the now defunct Mountainside Band (a rock band). I was writing music that needed a home and I wanted that home to have sign posts, improvisation, lots of group singing and the ability to get folks to shake their asses here and there. So I called up the Runcible Spoon band to be there along with Joe Lapinski guitarist, Lina Allemano trumpeter, Blake Howard drummer and Mike Overton on bass. We had a few rehearsals and learned about 25 of my tunes and went out and played them. It was a really great event and I knew from there that something cool would happen on all of our gigs if I could maintain a high level of enthusiasm, patience and clarity of mission to celebrate life through music. It is in the bands mandate to get as many people singing as possible and to draw out the deep seated soul of each of the players onstage so as to surprise not only the rest of the band, but each of the players themselves while they are doing the surprising. It has worked. We have had different folks come and go, but the spirit of joy and adventure remains on each and every show. The Woodshed follows in the tradition of all of the bands that I lead, that being; that if you are nice and play from your heart, then the music will take care if itself. No questions asked. I demand the same of myself in all musical occasions with whomever I play with.
The bands last album was recorded in 2005. How has the group evolved since then and are there any plans for future recording?
The bands album from 2005 was recorded live at the Tranzac on our very first show. I felt that it was important to catch that moment, because first time efforts are such magical times whether by their crazy great highs or by the trainwrecks that are narrowly or not evaded. The effort of those occasions excites me. The band has evolved heavily since then with a core of the original folks still there and new friends who have joined along the way. We have a songbook of 125 original tunes and play marathon gigs of usually 3 hours straight if time permits, sometimes more. If folks in the band need to get up to use the washroom, get a drink, dance, listen to the band from the audience or get a bit of fresh air, then they are welcome to. The music keeps going. We've maintained the same spirit. The band is full of courageous persons who are willing to learn tunes on the spot in front of the audience and to treat that as part of the entertainment for the evening. I love that. We have a new 15 song CD about to be mastered and released. It sounds heavy duty indeed. I love my pals in the Woodshed. They are all lovely folks. Who could ask for more?