Trevor Abes: Writer

Oh, Just Browsing

Part of my feature at Milton District High School for Mrs. Gleason’s 12th grade writer’s craft class poetry slam.

That cafeteria backdrop though.

Filmed by Michael Abes.

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Family Dinner

A new poem, “Family Dinner,” performed at The Supermarket in Toronto. It’s also forthcoming in print in Rummaging for Words.

When TV Watches Back: Coyote Collective’s Like a Generation

Picture One

The terrifying thing about watching a lot of TV is that most of the damage it causes is both delivered and received with a smile. Understanding this smile is the central concern in Like a Generation, the latest play from Toronto’s Coyote Collective.

Read my review in Sewer Lid Magazine.

Letters to Hip Hop (video)

Spoken Word Takes a Turn for the Outrageous

Outrageous is a new reading series in Toronto that’s turning heads and making friends by breaking all the rules. Read my article about it in Torontoist.

If you’re in the city, come by for Outrageous X on September 29 at 8 p.m.

From Outrageous VIII: Alex Hood on bass and Callum MacKenzie on sax as the Rainbow Jackson Free Jazz Experience. Photo by Maite Jacobson.

From Outrageous VIII: Alex Hood on bass and Callum MacKenzie on sax as the Rainbow Jackson Free Jazz Experience. Photo by Maite Jacobson.

 

The Illustrated Life: An Interview With Writer And Cartoonist Salgood Sam

 Here’s my chat with Salgood Sam on The Rusty Toque

Salgood Sam (photo by Niall Eccles)

Salgood Sam (photo by Niall Eccles).

 

If On A Winter’s Night Michael DeForge: Redefining The Horror Comic In A Kim-Kardashianized World

Here’s my first op-ed for Sequential: Canadian Comix News and Culture. It’s about Toronto-based comics artist Michael DeForge (Ant Colony, Adventure Time) and his very particular use of horror. Have a read.

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A response to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle

Here’s my response to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle of films in today’s LightNews, the Luminato Festival’s daily newspaper. Give the image a click to read it. 

TrevorCremaster1

 

Culture Hawker Chronicles: John Bowker and She Said Boom!

From the Toronto Review of Books.

Photo by Ted Best.

Photo by Ted Best.

In this series, Trevor Abes gets to know the people behind the counter at Toronto’s music stores, book shops, and art galleries.

John Bowker is the owner and operator of She Said Boom! Roncesvalles. For five years he served as board director for the Review Cinema and he is the current  chair of the Beautification Committee at the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area. He shares his thoughts on book selling, community involvement and the future of Toronto record stores.

T: How did you co-found She Said Boom!?

J: I had been “seeking a situation” for quite a while, having graduated from journalism at a time when the government believed it was better for Canada to have a %12 unemployment rate than a %12 inflation rate. Eventually, I ignored all the obvious risks of not ever having run a business in my life. A few months later, me and my equally inexperienced partner Randy had signed a lease.

T: Where did you grow up?

J: I was raised in Scarborough, Birchmount-Finch neighbourhood. I moved downtown in my early 20s.

T: What kind of books are Torontonians buying?

J: Contemporary literature is, and always has been, the bread and butter of the store. Non-fiction books have taken a bit of a hit lately, probably due to e-readers.

T: What are the store’s prized possessions at the moment?

J: We have a first edition Slaughterhouse Five, and some really hard-to-find Yukio Mishima and Nabokov hardcovers. I also have The Fugs’ first record and Jodorowsky’s El Topo.

T: Share with us some of your recommended reads and albums.

J: The documentary Searching for Sugar Man, about the musician Rodriguez, and his 1970 album, Cold Fact. As for books, I highly recommend  A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

T: Where do you see the record store business in Toronto going in the next decade?

J: You’ve heard of the Internet? iPods? Kobos? No book or record store owner can predict what the next 10 years will bring!

T: Has anybody at She Said Boom! ever met Fifth Column?

J: They are friends. Back in 1995, when I was trying to think of a name for my store, I was playing Fifth Column’s amazing second album, All-Time Queen of the World. The first song is called “She Said, Boom” and I loved the title’s fun and energy. I asked the band if I could use the song title for my store name, and they very graciously said, “Sure!”

T: How would you characterize Roncesvalles?

J: In my work on the Roncesvalles BIA, I have always tried to give the community a feeling of ownership of our street, so that it is a public space, not just a commercial space; I believe this philosophy is part of what makes Roncesvalles such a successful main street and neighborhood.  There is perhaps no better illustration of the strong relationship between businesses and the neighborhood than RoncyWorks, our guerrilla clean-up crew.

Visit him here.

Never Mind The Musicians: Toronto’s Bill Wood

Photo by Sean Ryan.

Photo by Sean Ryan.

From the Toronto Review of Books

In this series, Trevor Abes sits down with local lights in the Toronto music scene. 

Since 1986’s hit album Just In Time To Be Late, former Eye Eye vocalist Bill Wood has had a family and started a successful renovation business. Yet his dedication to music has never waned. In 2007, he released a solo record called Take It; in 2012, he formed the folk rock outfit Bill Wood and the Woodies and released an EP; and on May 10, 2013, Wood and his daughter appeared on a MindCare-sponsored compilation record in support of mental health.

Trevor: What about music fulfills you?

Bill: For me, the fuel that keeps it all going is the songs. I need to have a certain amount of time in my life chipping away at writing.

Trevor: How do you approach writing songs?

Bill: I have to sit down with no idea and start doodling on the guitar with different rhythms like a painter swishing paint around until I know what to do next.

Trevor: Where does your relationship with folk and rock and roll begin?

Bill: After the first Eye Eye record, two records landed on my lap, Copperhead Road by Steve Earle and Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys: they established in my heart how I wanted to continue writing for the rest of my career.

Trevor: Tell me about the Woodies’ creative process.

Bill: We tighten up the music live in front of people. We play without rehearsing and pull it together organically over two or three gigs.

Trevor: How do you look back on Eye Eye?

Bill: We were signed through CBC Rock Wars and the buzz was fantastic. We toured with Glass Tiger in the middle of their success, and it was a frenzy opening for Platinum Blonde. We were also constantly reminded that the 80s scene was going to end; the record company ordered songs like pizzas.  When Eye Eye ended, I felt a relief to not have to write songs that were products for a market.

Trevor: How did you get into the renovation business?

Bill: I went from stay-at-home dad/pop-star-guy to needing a job when the second Eye Eye album tanked. I worked as a bike courier, a driver, a dispatcher, then I went into flipping houses with a friend of mine. I learned on properties that I owned until I had enough skills to go independent. Now I do property maintenance at a community housing building.

Trevor: Did fatherhood affect your music?

Bill: Fatherhood enabled me to sit with my guitar and write more songs; it kept me home. If the phone rang from wherever, I didn’t really care because I was happy raising my kids.

Trevor: What are you listening to?

Bill: Rogue’s Gallerya compilation of sea chanteys and pirate songs, and I picked up the new Bowie; it’s a little noisy in parts, but I like the first single.

Bill plays Graffiti’s the third Friday of every month.

Never Mind The Musicians: Toronto’s R. Shelley

shelley

From the Toronto Review of Books

In this series, Trevor Abes sits down with local lights in the Toronto music scene.

Michelle Ronchin is R. Shelley, a 22-year-old singer-songwriter whose Sink or Swim EP dropped last April. She has over five years of live performing under her belt, including a set at Hamilton’s Spring Music Festival 2012. When she isn’t writing or booking gigs, Shelley is booking bands at Oak Recording Studio where she works under industry veteran Damon de Szegheo.

T: When did music enter your life?

S: I taught myself how to play guitar in grade 10; all the boys played, so I thought I could too. I started playing piano and writing poetry many years before that.

T: Why do you make music?

S: For me, I put emotion into a song and that’s where it stays. It’s still a part of me, but it’s a song, removed from me to be presented to an audience. So I love when people relate to my songs, say they like this or that verse and there’s an emotional connection, because then I’m grounded, I’m solid.

T: How do you foster those connections?

S: It’s easy to say “I…I…I…” and sing songs about your sadness and how everything bad happens to you, but people don’t want to hear that. If you say “you,” they hear it about somebody else, and they’re included in the picture.

T: What’s the scene like in Toronto for up-and-coming musicians?

S: It’s tough. In Toronto everyone’s serious about hitting it big. That’s not to say people aren’t friendly; they’re passionate over just having fun.

T: How do you work on your craft?

S: I cross-examine myself about how I feel about a gig, how people reacted, and the energy in the room. If people tell me I did great, but I believe I did mediocre, I’ll think about what I think the most.

T: “Running” is my favorite track off Sink or Swim. Where did it come from?

S: A friend of mine in film school at York asked me to write a song for a documentary she was doing to understand her family’s past through pictures. She told me only that the theme was home. “Running” is my interpretation of home as being at your most comfortable, and it could be anywhere.

T: Who’s on your playlist right now?

S: Right now I’m listening to a lot of Sam Roberts and Serena Ryder. Then there’s the older stuff, your Beatles, The Stones, and Fleetwood Mac. It’s a whole range of things.

T: Why R. Shelley?

S: Shelley is my nickname since high school and Ronchin is my last name. Imagine you’re filling out a form online; your last name comes first, and you don’t want to give your whole identity away.

T: Do you feel ready to make yourself at home wherever you may be?

S: Definitely. I put everything into music, so I hope to get the best out of it.

Visit her here.

 

The Peanut-Butteriness of Sunday Afternoons

Bookcase by Job Koelewijn.

Bookcase by Job Koelewijn.

I don’t know about you, but Sunday afternoons can feel raw, heady, like that moment of pride after plugging in a dying phone for charging, multiplied by a thousand. Teeth are brushed with the care of a kiss, every word of Friday’s leftover mail is read, not skimmed over dinner, and speed limits seem just inventions, the thorns bound to those platonically pristine roses we are sometimes reminded to smell.

Some of my happiest memories as a child happened half asleep on a chair or in the backseat of a car in mid afternoon, a haze of semi-dry heat pressing itself against my cheeks. I’d start to nod off and, instantly, I’d accept my body’s call to shut down, oblivious to the scenery –whether the dutifully green lawns of a Brampton suburb or plastic furniture and extended family, barbecue smoke and the smell of chlorine– and oblivious to the unfinished e-mails that could wait another hour or two. Then, awake and restored to the Earth, maybe by the rush of someone across damp swimming pool cobbles, scanning an article for overused gerunds no longer seemed so apocalyptic. Sunday, for me, is synonymous with this kind of small-time careless abandon.

Yet Sunday is closer to nothing than any other day of the week, not nihilism, but the total availability of space and time. Sunday is when breakups happen, when poems are finished. Sunday is when habits are given up and sons and daughters are disowned for good. It is the best day for first-time experiences, because they will seep into your attention and stain it like turmeric.

Even if your time off or week’s end is frequently found on Mondays, Mondays are your Sundays, those days when you lounge on the couch a little longer than you normally would,  forget the dishes soaking in the sink, and ponder for pleasure because you can without interruption.

The freedom to pick a file from the universe’s library and look at it as a toddler does an ant that doesn’t bite: this is a savory activity, one that merits more than a few minutes before bed. Through it people change, get better at being themselves, and imbue the daily grind with sweet, sexy meaning.

If you are, then let us see. 

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