Three months into the world-wide coronavirus pandemic, as well as the monumental wheels of change in action due to protesting over the injustices to George Floyd and institutionalized racism have got me thinking a lot about it. And from that thinking I reflect back on my own life: what I was doing, what I can do to be a better person, and how I can feel less detached from things — a massive feeling that has grown within in me over the last number of years, mainly due to moving around to new cities a few times and not really feeling integrated anywhere, most of which are related to my own issues.
After moving to the UK in the late noughties I had a severe shift in my life, basically leaving a lot of everything that I was familiar with behind as I left Canada and started almost from scratch again in the UK, having moved here not even having visited before, let alone knowing anybody. I was coming up on 30 years on this earth at this time so I already had a around 15 years of busy activity in Canada before that major life event.
I’m also a bit of an archivist — this probably goes back to my days as a teenager getting very involved in an underground punk/hardcore scene at the time and being heavily into writing and scene literature. I used a be acutely involved in writing zines for a few years at least. This habit carries over to this site, where a lot of times I’m posting about information most people don’t really care about. But it means things to me so I’ve decided to compile all that stuff into a corner of the site called Soft Vault which contains old bits of past, collected all in one place for safe keeping.
Recently I was corresponding with a friend online and we were talking about the Archive.org feature The Wayback Machine. This is an internet tool that archives old web content over the past 20+ years. I was curious to see what old trail of history I could find about my old web activities. Having built websites since the late 90s, I used to run a website for an all-ages show collective called Seven Segment from 1999-2000 — a collective that included my sister and a number of other punk kids on the scene. Around the same time I had started a spin-off of that called The Wax Museum, which was the graphic design offshoot of that collective that eventually became its own thing, long surviving the collective well up until the late noughties when it became my full time job and then dissolved after moving to the UK, morphing into the JJD Works studio that I run even today.
Getting back to The Wayback Machine, a few old interviews I totally forgot about were found, including this one with a California-based webzine called He Would Rather Kill, a strongly titled, short-lived operation run by an acquaintance I had met on an A Luna Red tour in 2001. Here’s the transcription of that interview, done I think in the autumn of 2001.
ABOVE : Poster for a Seven Segment Co-op show that happened in the summer of 1999. Designed by me.
How were you first introduced into the vancouver scene?
JJD: I got involved in hardcore and punk in the early 90’s in my hometown of Courtenay BC. There weren’t that many hardcore/emo bands at the time as there are now so we by default networked ourselves out of Courtenay into Victoria and Vancouver where there were more scenes for that sort of thing already happening. Just from playing shows and getting contacts I met a bunch of people in those respective scenes and still deal with a lot of them as peers and friends to this day. I eventually moved over to Vancouver in early 1997 after high school and was playing in a hardcore/emo sort of band at the time here in Vancouver. I was in that band before I even moved here so I had to commute for rehearsals. That band (Slough of Despond) eventually phased pretty soon after I had moved here. My next band was The Measure which I managed to join through Chris Frey (Radio Berlin) after some discussions at the record store he had running at the time: Washout Records. That pretty much was my introduction into the Vancouver music scene.
You once had a webpage that had information about the Vancouver scene, correct?
JJD: I think at one point I had a webpage to that effect. That was right when the Seven Segment Show Co-op had folded. That co-op was a group of individuals including myself that put on numerous all-ages shows in Vancouver from early 1999 to the summer of 2000 in Vancouver BC, in different venues around town. We did shows for The Need, Vue, The Vogue, Hot Hot Heat, Closed Captioned Radio, Port Radium, Bane, and other bands that came through Vancouver. Information regarding the co-op and the shows were available on the Seven Segment website which had information on the Vancouver scene at the time. Once the co-op folded those contacts were still there. The Wax Museum still retains some of that scene information to some extent, although with not nearly as much focus.
Do you think theVancouver scene has grown positively or negatively since you first started participating in it?
JJD: That’s a really tough question. It’s hard to say as there’s so much going on in the Vancouver scene and there’s so much more musical scope to the scene(s) I participate in now. Maybe like 6 years ago there was the hardcore/punk scene and then everything got sort of hazy and vague beyond that. people are doing so many different spins on music and post-punk now. The boundaries have gotten cloudy as to who is doing what. I think that’s a very good thing though. There’s a lot of good things happening right now in Vancouver and the only three problems I can see right now are A) a lack of venues for the bands to play in: B) the whole border thing. Bands coming into Vancouver to play and Vancouver bands to go south and this leads to the last problem: C) the lack of recognition the Vancouver scene has in the international arena.There’s some rad shit going on here and too bad a lot of people across North America aren’t hearing it.
I agree that there is a major lack in venue areas, especially in the all ages department! And the whole border ordeal. but don’t you think if you’re a band that is touring through the USA from Vancouver it will expose the band and instigate a thought that “Hey, if this band is rad and they are from Vancouver, maybe there are other bands in the same vein, that are equally as good?” thus leading to more exposure to the Vancouver area and the Vancouver bands.
JJD: That is true to some extent on a small scale. I know for a fact that when I am into a band I generally disregard their place of origin unless there is a pattern of consistency that comes out of that particular city. It’s hard to say. There are literally hundreds and thousands of bands out there and it’s hard to keep track of them all and where they come from; the scenes they’re involved in, etc. some scenes have gotten some major notoriety over the course of the past decade: Seattle, Chicago, San Diego, etc.
Why do you think those areas have more exposure than other areas? Is it the style of music or the general attitude of all the people?
JJD: I don’t know, I just figure those particular cities are recognized as more of music communities in the popular culture that is the indie underground and press. Probably based on the somewhat explosive output of bands and music out of those cities at particular times in recent history. I don’t think that those cities have any more credibility than any other city when it comes down to it. They just have that established recognition, that’s all. I’m sure there are countless other cities acrossn North Smerica and the globe that harbour really exciting theatres of music and bands.
I totally agree! I was just wondering whether you knew, why there was a larger attraction to those areas then certain areas. but back to Vancouver, what do you think people can do, to get certain individuals more excited or interested in local bands, than in out-of town bands?
JJD: I think there’s somewhat of a stigma attached to being very focused on bands that are not from Vancouver because i think some people think that there can’t possibly be anything exciting from here as we’re in another country than where most of the music is happening and in an odd location physically. Sure, there’s plenty of music most people in Vancouver are unaware of (take for example the new Liars record! brilliant! But most people here are very open about new music. Even more so i think there’s a lot of brilliant and innovative musicians here in town. A lot of these bands are new or looking for that right record label to release their recordings to unleash onto the rest of the world. I think Vancouver is much like many major cities: a lot of bands, a lot of them not interesting but a steady and impressive amount of bands that are really on it. As for getting these people into local bands I think the bands that do have an audience should mix it up a bit in terms of who they play with. I was talking about that exact subject with a friend the other day: for instance having the New Town Animals play with Radio Berlin or something. Two different crowds for each band but them playing together could gather new interest and fans. Who knows?
What do you think the people of vancouver are like? Do you think they are open minded? Or close minded? If two such opposite bands were to play together, do you think people would stay for one band and leave for the other?
JJD: I can’t really answer that question on the behalf of the scene-supporting public of Vancouver. For the most part I feel that most people are open minded to other things. I would like to think that regardless of the style of music, if the band is strong, talented, and somewhat innovative that people would be interested in what they are doing. Just from my experiences in playing in Radio Berlin and A Luna Red (especially the latter). I feel that playing with bands that sounds unlike your band opens the audience to different styles of music. Both bands have played shows locally and on tour where some kids have talked to us after the show were really into what we were doing although not familiar with it. That is the best part: exposing people to new things.
How do you think Vancouver could get more exposure to an outside crowd?
JJD: Hmmm – that’s really hard to say. I think it already is to some extent amongst those heavily involved in the universal independent music community. There have consistently great bands coming out of here as of lately and with time it will hopefully catch on. That and the implementation of great local record labels such as Ache and Global Symphonic that continue to release awesome local-ish sort of music to the rest of the world it can only get better.
Where do you see the Vancouver music scene in the next couple of years? Do you think there will be tonnes of excellent bands, or a decrease?
JJD: Thinking about that question makes me realize that one’s a hard one to answer because it’s hard to understand where things are going. About 6 years ago i would have never realized the whole rock/sassy thing would have taken off. I played in a band called The Measure that was sort of doing that thing before it really hit big. Now there’s a large variety of bands doing that thing. On top of that the whole new wave thing ended up hitting it big as well. I cannot really say where the scene will be in a couple years. There’s so many factors involved or unseen that can sway it any way.
But right now you are relatively happy, with the way things are going Vancouver, right?
JJD: I think things are going pretty well in terms of people doing things in Vancouver. There are a lot of different bands doing different things. The only thing i see is that there’s not really any strong particular scene but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. People are mainly out there to see their friend’s bands and bands that they like so that always varies the audience somewhat. The only thing that concerns me is this amalgamation of post-punk music and the music industry churn-wheel so to speak. There seems to be a lot of bands working in this sort of mainstream aesthetic which is, in my opinion, a little bit deterrent from the music itself and it’s honesty. I may not be nearly as DIY as i was in my teens as things are different now and the music and the arena that I operate in work differently, but I feel I do what I do honestly without the intentions of modelling to music as a vehicle to achieve superficial success.
Is there anything you would like changed or even have more options, like new venues, etc. for Vancouver, within the next few years?
JJD: There definitely needs to be more venues that operate solely for the music basis and more discerning of what they showcase there. I’m going to give you my ideal for a venue even though it may be biased and overall unfair: a venue that is there for the sole purpose of music (as opposed to most bars which have an additional focus on making bar sales) and is more selective on the music that it showcases in order to have a recognizable quality as to what it presents. I think Whap is doing a pretty good job in that department. the venue is a little bit weird and formal for my tastes but is an amazing effort with all of those involved. I think the shows that have been going on at Video Inn have been pretty rad. Hopefully more shows like that in the future and more venues to house such shows.