Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Just back in from the most extraordinary piece of theatre. A Chilean troup performing 'Sin Sangre' (Without Blood) based on a book (short story?) by a Chilean writer. The most exquisite mixture of film and theatre. The whole performed behind one transparent movie screen, and in front of another, allowing them to layer amazing effects. And combined with a beautiful, simple, heartbreaking script. Just amazing. I am still in shock from how powerful the whole thing was. Combining video and theatre is hard enough at the best of times, but making a piece based around this combination, and then making it into real theatre.... wow!

I post the trailer for the piece, which does it no justice, and link to a film (of the film) of the whole piece from a festival in France.

and an 'arte' video of the whole show

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

You never stop

The end of the year coming up and I'm trying to wrap up a million projects, while do the admin for a million projects coming up and strangely enough I don't have a million hours in the day to do it. Sometime I curse the fact as an artist you stumble out of bed, wash your face (not compulsory) and then there you are, working. And the day continues until late at night you find yourself... working. And sometimes I bless that fact. Since if you love your work, it means you get to keep on doing it, and doing it, and doing it.

Here's Baryshnikov in his 50's working and working...

If I'm lucky, I'd like to be doing what I do, like he's still doing what he does. That would be amazing.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Most boring, and most documented?

Sometime in the ancient pre-history of the 1980's I had the pleasure of seeing the first North American gig of the band New Order (the reformed Joy Division, after the suicide of their lead singer). The excitement was intense, the crowd was pumped up and we were jammed against the edge of the stage desperate to see what was going to happen.

About half an hour into the gig, I started to notice my attention, along with most of the crowd, start to wander away. Skinny hipster musicians (ok, they weren't called hipsters then, but you know what I mean) staring at the keyboards and synthesizers and pressing buttons. I don't think they even looked up at us or said anything. The rest of the gig was spent at the bar, with the rest of the crowd, occasionally checking over our shoulders to see if they were 'doing anything'.

Not until this iphone concert have I considered that there could be much, much more boring ways of making music.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Amazing review for Lisa's new (first!) novel

Read the whole article here.

a couple of choice quotes

"Toronto-based Lisa Pasold's debut novel is as enticing as the lit-up Las Vegas strip and as satisfying as a winning hand at poker."


"Millard is an exceptionally refreshing heroine -- wonderfully independent and completely unwilling to rely on anyone else for her needs. Millard's first-person account of her story is wonderful. Though she's celebrated for her bluffing skills during games of poker, she's thoughtful and straightforward with the reader."

Mathew Herbert, 1st prize for obsessive and wonderful recording methods

I wish I could say the final result was more amazing. I mean, it ends up being well crafted and listenable ambient dance music, and considering how many crappy versions of that exist, I guess that's already great. But, whatever you think of the final result, the means he uses to get there are amazing and beautiful. In this video he's up in a hot air balloon, or sitting in the ocean waves recording drum tracks.

These days I'm all about process... the means justifying the ends... and what a wonderful process this would be... I'm gonna make sure my next project ends up with me doing research in a hot air balloon!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

books come alive

Thanks New Zealand film board for this extraordinary piece of animation

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Theatre Fails America... Canada too?

Great essay by Monologist Mike Daisey on American theatre. Or perhaps the slow death of the possibility of ever having a paying career in the theatre in America.

"The regional theater movement tried to create great work and make a vibrant American theater tradition flourish.

That dream is dead. The theaters endure, but the repertory companies they stood for have been long disbanded. When regional theaters need artists today, they outsource: They ship the actors, designers, and directors in from New York and slam them together to make the show.

Not everyone lost out with the removal of artists from the premises. Arts administrators flourished as the increasingly complex corporate infrastructure grew. Marketing and fundraising departments in regional theaters have grown hugely, replacing the artists who once worked there, raising millions of dollars from audiences that are growing smaller, older, and wealthier. It's not such a bad time to start a career in the theater, provided you don't want to actually make any theater."

when I think of some of the amazing, huge, beautiful theatres I have performed in all over the world that sit empty most of the time because it is simply too expensive to program theatre in the spaces that were designed to perform theatre, I wonder how true this essay is everywhere right now.

you can find the whole article here

Monday, November 30, 2009

Playing in the sandbox

A few shots of the wonderful production of Hamlet with Forward Theatre. I had the pleasure of playing Hamlet's Father (aka 'the ghost') and the Player King.

It was a great production. Sometimes, when you're doing a show, you just have to put your head down and ignore some choices that the production team are making and just do your best job with your part.

Chris Legacy (the director) managed to pull off a great looking production that was an amazing present for the actors and for the audience. It was smart, challenging, inventive and tragic. A huge sandbox surrounded by tiers of risers with chairs and cushions, and the whole scattered with piles of lovely red and gold autumn leaves that Chris must have been collecting for weeks.

In behind Chris hung a huge curtain that served a dozen purposes - a backdrop to anchor the set, the closet in which Polonius hangs, a ghostly shade in which the Ghost appears, a red river of blood when Hamlet kills Polonius, the shroud for his body after it falls.... etc etc The Fight Choreographer for the show was remarkable - the various kinds of violence that are so necessary to this piece looked extraordinary.

Jeremy Trite, our technician, took a pic of the end of the Player King's speech... you can recognize me by the top of my head...

I'm not in the final scene of slaughter at the court so I was able to race into the balcony and snap a quick pic of the final scene before racing back down for the bows. Here's a blurry shot of the final kill of Claudius. (Dagger to the throat... ouch!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

The most amazing scat

I think I've posted this before. But couldn't resist again. The scintillating young Louis Armstrong in the prime of his invention...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

hacking at the brazilians

Sick like a dog this weekend, had tickets for the amazing Brazilian singer Gal Costa, so took at taxi down and sat huddled up with a huge smile on my face in the back of the amazing Massey hall. Sadly she didn`t do my favourite, `Baby`written with Caetano Vaeloso, but she was simply wonderful.

now I`m heading to bed with a hot toddy and whole bunch of aspirin and some beautiful bossa nova rhythms dancing in my befuddled brain...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Giving up on the post

Sick at home in bed today. Lisa brings both papers home. The national papers. Not sure why they get that name... An easy read of forgettable articles about... well, I can't really remember. A self serving article by Conrad Black which was supposed to be about how he finds redemption in teaching, but is really about his love of long, pretentious sentences about himself. I go back to Ruskin.

Couple of years ago I wrote a show that I took across Canada that featured the National Post and the Globe and Mail as active participants. I spent the two months on tour cutting up the arts sections. I divided articles written about Canada from articles about (mostly) crap pop culture from the States. Movies, books, computer games. By the end of the run I had an immense clear garbage bag with articles that were advertising for American products that needed to be sold to Canadians, and a small clear kitchen bag of stories that were actually about Canadian culture. I carried those on stage and tried to talk about how strange it was to come from living abroad to a country that seemed to have no offical outlet for its own worldview. A culture that for an outsider would seem to have no interest or respect for itself.

They scream about how terrible the decline in readers is, but will they cure that by creating more empty and uncontroversial articles about ... well, mostly about nothing. I think we're desperate for information that actually connects to the life we are living. And I think on some level we're clear when we're being offered smoke and mirrors, bait and switch. Culture sections that are ads for celebrity movies. Lifestyle sections that are twelve pages of product placement.

I've had the good luck to live in countries where papers were filled with articles that took hours to read. Articles that were challenging and maybe even ( shock, horror!) made me work to understand. Info that made me want to talk about the issues over dinner.... that made me, well, at least remember what they had been about.

I go back to Ruskin. The Nature of Gothic. How to tell good architecture from bad. He says, "First, see if it looks like it had been built by strong men; if it has the sort of toughness, and largeness, and nonchalence, mixed in places with the exquisite tenderness which seems always to be the sign-manual of the broad vision, and massy power of men who can see past the work they are doing, and betray here and there something like disdain for it. If the building has this character it is much in its favour.'

there's some truths to talk about over dinner.

I wish the culture mavens of Can-culture would dare to confront work that has this sort of complexity. The country is full of it. It just seems to scare the shit out of the self proclaimed national reporters and editors of Canadian culture.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Memories of Bonnie Scotland

It rained in Edinburgh. A lot. In fact, it was the rainiest year in over 100 years. Scotland is renowned for its soggy climate, so imagine how wet was. Rain on the castle, rain on the cobblestone streets and rain on the umbrellas of folk waiting in line to buy tickets for my show Whiskey Bars.

It was wet, soggy theatre madness. You think the Canadian Fringes are crazy – they have nothing on this elephant of a festival - over 2000 different theatre shows were performing. Which adds up to 19 000 (that's right - nineteen thousand!) performers wandering the streets trying to get audiences to come to their shows. Over the course of the three week festival around 1.7 million tickets were sold. And for our whole last week I watched the rain fall on my glorious sold-out line-ups… The average size for an audience at a show in Edinburgh is 8 people (that’s right, just Eight warm bodies), so a full house is a dream come true.

We arrived here on August 1st as an unknown Canadian one-man show. When we walked into our tiny venue we didn't expect much – it was seedy, to put it politely. A crumbling door at the end of a dank alleyway beside a gloomy ancient cemetery. The theatre is a 500-year-old vaulted church basement. Right next door is one of Edinburgh's least glamorous massage parlours, and on the other side armored cars bring in criminals to the Law Courts that sit high above. Reviewers have said complimentary things like "the seedy, dank atmosphere of the Vault creeps into every sinew of this performance".

I can't argue...but the locale was perfect for a one-man exploration of the music of Kurt Weill--composer of Mack the Knife. Weill basically invented a whole new style of music theatre in the 1920's, working with Bertold Brecht. I've been obsessed with Weill's music for years - I first heard his songs in a cabaret in East Berlin in the 1980's while living in a squat in West Berlin. How could I not fall in love after the glamour of squeaking through Checkpoint Charlie, sitting in a dank bar watching a cabaret show while drinking harsh Eastern Bloc vodka.

I first performed Whiskey Bars at the 2000 Toronto Fringe Festival. It took me years of touring, reworking the show and tweaking the script before I felt like it was good enough to bring to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. At the beginning in Edinburgh we played to audiences of three and four enthusiastic friends. We begged the folk who work in the theatres to come and check out the show, hoping to start some buzz. And amazingly, it worked. Britain's prestigious theatre mag, The Stage, dropped by & gave us a double thumbs-up: "Like Hedwig with far better melodies" they said. We got Five Stars from The Edinburgh Fringe Review, and Five Stars from Edinburgh's Broadway Baby Review. (you can read all the reviews here)

So, amazingly, for once, it worked. A little show wandered into town on a wing and a prayer, our whole gamble paid off (we even covered the cost of getting over there) the glowing reviews kept stacking up. The only question for the summer was, of course, could we handle any more British weather?

Whiskey Bars at Bread and Circus in Kensington Market every Tuesday at 8pm. Tickets $10.00 at the door, or through

yes, that is a tea cozy....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cease and Desist!

The Cease and Desist on “Whiskey Bars” (my cabaret with the songs of Kurt Weill) arrived from the New York lawyers the day before opening night. It was one of those fine spring Canadian mornings—after the rains but before the mosquitoes—and things had been looking pretty good as I wandered into the Festival office. I’d just come from the Hamilton Festival where “Whiskey Bars” had gone famously; they’d even used my crazed miniature piano promo image for the general Festival poster.

But I should have known something was wrong when the festival director leapt up, handed me a fax and pushed me back out the door, obviously wanting nothing to do with anything with the name of a New York law office printed across the top.

I sat on the steps of the building and read: “Cease and Desist.” In accordance with the theatrical and copyright controls over Kurt Weill’s music, I was hereby forbidden from performing his works and would be held liable in court for the unlicensed use of his music to this point. All further performances of the show “Whiskey Bars” with the songs of Kurt Weill, must be cancelled. Period.

But, but, but…I reread. Unlicensed. That wasn’t right—I had a license! I had paid for a standard contract with the Canadian society that deals with music sung live in concert. I’d been warned that the Kurt Weill Foundation was strict about using Weill’s legacy, so I’d tried to do the right thing. And this was a tiny one-man cabaret! Really tiny. Just me, with a bit of pancake makeup and a handful of songs. With the string of legal names on this letter, it felt like swatting a tiny Canadian mosquito with a huge New York Yankees baseball bat.

My first instinct was the one that has carried me boldly forward all my life in this career — I would run and hide. If I headed into the uncharted North, it might be weeks before they tracked me down. I could live off the grid, hunting for my meat, scavenging a few meager crops; I could survive for years, madly singing Weill alone, until their helicopters found me.

But as I headed home to pack my bag, a sense of desperate calm descended. I knew the Foundation forbade any unauthorized theatrical interpretations of Weill’s music theatre. But my show had songs sung pretty much as I’d do them in concert, set in a dramatic throughline. I had tried to follow the rules. Hadn’t I? Perhaps I could reason with them, beg with them, persuade them. Lawyers are people with hearts and emotions, aren’t they?

I changed my route and headed for a new and empowering destination: the local internet café. Several mega-espressos later, my fears seemed ludicrous. I had to confront this team of authoritarians and nit pickers, show them they couldn’t cow me. In a caffeinated frenzy, I drafted faxes, emails, printed up propositions, and by noon I had summed up my strongly worded missives in a couple of brief bullet points:

‘Hi, ummmmm, really, really, sooooooo really sorry about this. Super sorry, in fact. Honest, truly, I thought it was all legal and, in fact, I kind of still think the show is really good, in fact, people seem to like it… could we work something out, that is, just let me know, whenever you can, no hurry, I’ll be waiting. All the best. Hope the weather’s nice in Gotham.’

And attached to that threatening email, I sent them a full script of the show, a list of the songs I was singing, my Hamilton reviews, an explanation of what I was trying to do with the songs. I wanted to add “xo” at the bottom, just for luck.

So I waited. And I waited. I could have phoned New York, but honestly, when dealing with teams of lawyers, I felt like a Neanderthal, all inarticulate grunts. The day went by with no email reply. Opening night was 24 hours away, so I returned to the Festival office to see if I could put off canceling the show till the last minute. They cringed but agreed.

I spent a terrible sleepless night. My whole summer had been planned around doing a Canadian tour of different cities with this show— this would mean months of admin and rehearsal and fees down the drain.

The next morning there was a curt email from New York. “Dear Mr. Duthie. Performances at this festival only can continue. We will review your material. Thank you.”

It was like reading a SMS text message after a first date – Yes, they said 'can'. I love them. And hey, they thanked me! That must mean they love me! Everything is going to be all right. I kicked my heels, said blessings to the gods of theatre and headed out to do the show.

And somehow the deities of theatre did smile on me: my script and letter arrived during the Weill Foundation’s annual directors meeting. Weill experts and scholars, singing stars like the incredible interpreter of Weill’s music Teresa Stratas…all these people were actually meeting when my note arrived. And they liked my script. They sent me a letter from the Foundation saying that the Board had loved my show, loved my reviews and that from henceforth I would receive the enthusiastic support of the Kurt Weill Foundation for my efforts to sing the work of this most amazing composer.

So now I just have to do Weill justice.

Whiskey Bars every Tuesday at Bread and Circus in Kensington Market - tickets at

Monday, October 12, 2009

Opening Whiskey

Played the first night last week of Whiskey Bars in Toronto. Fab! A great house of friends and theatre folk and a great cabaret setting. Bread and Circus in Kensington Market is perfect! The Vampyre paintings (look closely at the above pic) in the trendy little bar up front add to the general decadent cabaret atmosphere.

And the tiny theatre has a nice lighting hang, good sound and puts me in the lap of the audience. Which suits the show perfectly.

I'll be curious to see if the show develops a relationship to the Toronto audiences in the next 5 weeks. It's developed into such a dark story about this obsessed man on some personal road to redemption that I never know now whether it's going to click with the general 'zeitgeist' in a city. The Scottish at the Ed Fringe got it, but they have a dark, dark sense of humour... come to think of it, maybe that's where I got mine...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Creatures from the Id!!!!

A night out at La Villette Park in the north of Paris for their outdoor movie series - with their amazing inflatable full size movie screen. A picnic of fine food, a crowd French movie enthusiasts, a lovely evening and a truly wonderfully shlocky B movie - the Forbidden Planet

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Up in the air

First day back home in Paris. Totally, brutally jet-lagged after long flight from Vancouver. Lisa drags me down to the Ferris Wheel in the Tuileries Gardens... I protest, a little, but find that in fact I still really like being up in the air... maybe its just that the view is better when you're not at 30,000 feet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fire on the Water

Couldn't resist posting some pics from the web of the amazing lightening storm on Saturday night. - and none of these pics are photo-shopped! - I was having a drink with a friend and when we saw the light we jumped up thinking there was a boat on fire in the harbour.

First an incredible Orange sunset, and then an immense lightening storm...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fire down below

I flew to Vancouver to see my Mom yesterday and we went right over the fires in the Okanagan... the smoke had shrouded the whole of the Rockies and then we came to this very impressive blaze... apparently they evacuated another 3000 people today - you can see why...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Footage - the Barker

edited video of latest Cabaret work - The Barker's Spiel. Songs of Tom Waits, Nirvana, Jacques Brel...

first presented at the London Fringe Festival, The Barker's Spiel plays with cliches and stereotypes of cabaret and lounge singers, mixing and matching singers and songs.

the London Free Press says

"Bremner Duthie promises that miracles will happen as he opens his new show The Barker's Spiel at the London Fringe. He also offers a "side order of belief" and a "tiny sliver of hope."From carnival barker to Las Vegas performer to Berlin Cabaret singer, Duthie gives us the scoop on life as an entertainer. Everyone's looking to be entertained -- and Duthie serves up wares such as white-fingered monkeys and red velvet hats, juggling, singing and dancing…..

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Why oh why do they sit there...

Alright, I feel a bit guilty about sneaking a picture of my neighbours, because they are sweet and charming and pleasant people. But this is becoming a wonder. What are they doing.... in their backyard, just inside their garage, all day, every day. They're such nice neighbours and they have a huge, beautiful house and a huge, beautiful garden. And they sit here, on the concrete, in front of the car. Occasionally she knits, he moves bits of wood around, mostly they doze. Occasionally they have a barbecue and they eat in the garage beside the car... Why? Oh my head hurts. Its not for the shade - they have a 'gazebo' in the garden, and its not for a view - they can only see the back of their house and a sliver of a street... Sigh!... I dunno... I'm not judging - they can sit anywhere they damn well like - its their home....I hope it makes them blissfully happy to sit on the concrete behind the car in the garage... but its very odd

Monday, July 06, 2009

Court and Spark - A song a day

today's song is track 3 on the album - Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell

Court and Spark is the amazing Joni Mitchell album where she begins to seriously indulge her interest in Jazz, weaving jazz chords and harmonies into a pop setting. It went to the #2 spot on billboard in 1974 and stayed there for a month. Its a beautiful album. But, oddly enough, the musicians who I worked with in France, being serious, serious jazz guys, had never heard of it, or heard this track. Which left us free to start afresh, so to speak. The word street rap was thrown around (in a very thick Parisian accent) and the guitarist edited down the chords to a basic blues progression, and then we come up with this arrangement - which, oddly enough, features serious jazz musicians taking a jazz inspired pop song and simplifying it and taking aspects of rap and blues and layering those on top. I'm still not sure what I think of it - one day I love it, since I get to hear the bones of the song anew, and the next day I think - 'what the hell were we thinking...'

you can always hear more from the album, and buy digital downloads of individual tracks at, or pick up a physical version of the CD by emailing me or dropping by

Sunday, July 05, 2009


A couple of pics from our concert last month with the Gamelan I've been playing with in Toronto. Verrrry serious looking I am... It was a lovely event - so relaxing to be playing this wonderful Indonesian instrument in an orchestra of quiet chimes and gongs.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

more me...

Found this video and interview posted on the Free Press site

Ack - always hard to watch yourself - I find myself being very earnest during the interview, but to give myself credit: the journalist walked into my first tech rehearsal when we only had 45 minutes left to set up the show, and so I was being interviewed about the meaning of a show that I had never performed while all I could think about was that we hadn't set the lights for the last half of the piece. You can also click on this link to see the interview and a brief flash of the moment of me singing Some of These Days by Shelton Brooks.....

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Song a Day

today's song is (logically enough) track 2 on the album - Again by Lionel Newman

I fell in love with the song when I heard Mel Torme's version. I love the long and complex melodic lines and the enigmatic, ironic text. We were playing around with this and finally Thierry (who is from Madagascar and has played with Brazilian bands) suggested a slight Samba rhythm on the drums. Benoit joined in and suddenly we had this uptempo lilting version.

Apparently the song comes from a 1937 gangster movie called roadhouse, which is described as a 'noir cabaret'. I have yet to find a copy, but I'd love to see it one day.

you can always hear more from the album, and buy digital downloads of individual tracks at, or pick up a physical version of the CD by emailing me or dropping by

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Song a Day

putting up a song from the new album every day.

This is the lovely 'Lover Come Back to Me'

This slow interpretation was a reaction against the many versions of this song which are upbeat and bouncy, even though the words are totally desperately tragic. We took the first words of the song, 'The Sky Was Blue', as the title of the album - enigmatic, and kind of bittersweet.

you can always hear more from the album, and buy digital downloads of individual tracks at, or pick up a physical version of the CD by emailing me or dropping by

Back at the Ranch,

Just back from the London Fringe Festival - a really great time there. The show did most of what I hoped for it: that is, I was hoping that I was writing an exploration of Cabaret and Performance, and a lot of folks came back to me with the enthusiastic feedback that's what they got out of it. I'll drop the whole review from the Free Press into this blog - since, I think she caught a lot of the show.

"Bremner Duthie promises that miracles will happen as he opens his new show The Barker's Spiel at the London Fringe. He also offers a "side order of belief" and a "tiny sliver of hope."From carnival barker to Las Vegas performer to Berlin Cabaret singer, Duthie gives us the scoop on life as an entertainer. Everyone's looking to be entertained -- and Duthie serves up wares such as white-fingered monkeys and red velvet hats, juggling, singing and dancing….. but his best offering is his astute insight. After the shows are over and the crowds go home, Duthie tells us what it's really like, such as being sick in a hotel room, saying goodbye to an uptight loved one, never really being appreciated and then dying alone. Or what about this ending? You reach stardom, such as Louis Armstrong, and then are mourned by thousands. At Armstrong's funeral, we find out that Ella Fitzgerald, Governor Rockefeller, and Guy Lombardo were among the honourary pallbearers. He calls us neurotics, post-traumatics, introverts, extroverts, . . . ." And then slides into a little Cheap Trick with "Didn't I See You Crying." He sings in a whisper and then belts out a bar tune. He chastises; then caresses. He's sarcastic; then honest. A dreamer and a schemer….. He gets his laughs. He entertains."

She captures a lot of the show, but I feel like a whole chunk of what I was trying to do didn't make it over the footlights, so I'm heading back into the rehearsal hall with the piece to tighten it up and to see if I can make some the links and stories clearer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

London Festival

Fourth day now at the London Fringe Festival. A total delight to be doing new work for new audiences and being in this lovely town. Lisa and I were lucky enough to be billeted in a historic neighbourhood of the town filled with amazing mansions built of gleaming yellow brick. An absolute delight to be walking to and from the theatre past all these amazing buildings covered in ivy and surrounded by extravagant gardens.

We ended up in a wonderful theatre and the tech there fulfilled our every wish in terms of technical lighting and sound for the show. I can definitely say that the show looks amazing! I'll post some pics soon.

the audiences are great, the folk who run the Fringe are super folk, welcoming and interested in community and the well being of the performers. I've done other theatre fringes where you really felt like one more problem rolling into town that had to be dealt with (Hello Saskatoon Fringe!), but here it's like rolling into a friendly family. And I'm delighted to be doing a new piece. Its a thrill ride for me since I wrote it to include a bunch of stuff that challenges me constantly.

no press yet, but a few notes from the fringe patrons. I'll post one that describes the show a bit -

"During one segment of The Barker's Spiel, performer Bremner Duthie's character states 'I wish I had ten lives, but I only have one.' Yet over the course of this highly entertaining cabaret, Duthie manages not only to show us three of his lives but to expose many of our own. From Fairground barker, to Las Vegas Performer, to Berlin Cabaret singer, this show, though full of wonderfully performed musical numbers, is not a skip through the psychological park, so-to-speak. This is a cabaret full of 'sarcasm and criticism.' This is a cabaret about beginnings and endings. This is a cabaret about things that we would rather sometimes ignore.

The Barker's Spiel is a wonderful play. Bremner Duthie is a wonderful performer. Some of London has had the opportunity to see him perform before (at the Oh Solo Mo Festival a few seasons ago); there is no excuse for the rest of London to miss this high a calibre of theatre this time around!"

Thomas Keith

One show at the Ottawa Fringe Festival on the night of the 28th at the Saw Club at the Saw Gallery in the Arts Building downtown. 8:30pm

Monday, June 01, 2009

I'm Big in Japan

Well, last night I googled to see if the album's digital distribution had been set up yet by my distributor - the wonderful indie group cdbaby - and instead found this eye popping page.

bremner duthie

[ 前の作品 | 次の作品 ]
The Sky Was Blue
トラック 試聴 購入 / 価格
01: Lover Come Back to Me
試聴 試聴
02: Again
試聴 試聴
03: Court and Spark
試聴 試聴
04: Chelsea Hotel No. 2
試聴 試聴
05: Secret Heart
試聴 試聴
06: Pale Blue Eyes
試聴 試聴
07: Some of These Days
試聴 試聴
08: Whisper Not
試聴 試聴
09: Angel Eyes
試聴 試聴
10: Love Me or Leave Me
試聴 試聴
11: Sweethearts On Parade
試聴 試聴
12: Heaven
試聴 試聴
13: Court and Spark (Slight Return)
試聴 試聴

I can't really describe how much ridiculous pleasure it gives me to see the first commercial appearance of the album be in Yen and Japanese (see the actual page here )

I know the price because on tour in Japan I only ever figured out a couple of letters, but the sign for Yen ( 円 ) was the obvious one to need to understand. To memorize it I thought of him as a shy little character with one foot turned in awkwardly. I still find him a cute, endearing little guy. The price for one track is about the price for the pair of Japanese socks I'm currently wearing (don't know if that has any existential meaning)

So, I'm now expecting the big phone call from Tokyo. Hopefully the album will go to #1 with the harajuku crowd so I can tour smokey bars filled with folk who look like this:

or this

or even this!

meanwhile the album is now up for sale in a more comprehensible format at itunes and directly from cdbaby (just click on the links to get there), and you can listen directly to all the tracks at Myspace. No physical discs yet... just the ethereal digital realm...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Virtual Album

So The Sky Was Blue is finally incoming... sort of... it currently exists in the warm embrace of Canada Post. Versions of the CD are winging their way towards printers in BC, and electronic distributors in the US. CD Baby (which distributes my first album Bremner Duthie Sings Kurt Weill) will be handing the electronic side of things.

click 'here' to jump over to myspace and hear the songs

Toni Mustra, a friend and a fabulous graphic designer, handled the final step of the design work for the CD cover. I had the privilege of sitting watching him working on Adobe Photoshop, basing the cover on an image of the blue sky he took above Trinity Bellwoods park just outside his door in Toronto. It is a fabulous design - the whole of the front is shadowed and dark apart from the title of album, with wisps of cloud sneaking into the words, and then when you open up the cover you get the blue sweep of the sky. Very nice work and a nice visual metaphor for the album's songs - they're a bit dark and a bit quirky and the title is based on the first line from that bittersweet song 'Lover Come Back to Me' ("the sky was blue, and high above, the moon was new, and so was love")

I should have it in my hands somewhere around mid/late June....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

a new toy

The Casio VL1 (or VL-Tone) was one of those truly bizarre products in musical history.

Thanks to ebay I have a new toy - half calculator, half 'synthesiser'... One of the four Kashio brothers who founded the company was a would-be musician as well as an electronics engineer and he had designed a simple and inexpensive LSI (Large Scale Integration) chip that could be used for musical purposes, but executives at the company weren't confident that it had enough features to sell in its own right so some bright spark at Casio had the idea to add a calculator! Obvious really! What else would you add to a small, portable musical instrument?!?? I guess that as one of the world's leaders in calculator manufacture, they had the technology for free.

As well as being a calculator, it can also be powered up in a mode that offers a handful of monophonic sounds played from the two-octave 'keyboard' (an inappropriate term for the row of unplayable and unreliable switches you can see above). Flute, Piano, Guitar and Violin. To describe these sounds as 'realistic' would be highly misleading.

It was something of a novelty gadget and sounds pretty poor through its own small speaker but played through the line output, it can sound fairly reasonable, so much so that it was used by the Human League, Devo, The Cars and others - even Stevie Wonder is alleged to have used one!

However, it was the German band 'Trio' who gave the VL-Tone its finest moment of fame in their record "DaDaDa" which was a huge huge hit (especially in Europe) and which used one of the VL-Tone's preset rhythms as its foundation. The VL-Tone was used in later years by Moby and Goldie and others. And despite its obvious limitations, the VL-Tone sold 1,000,000 units in its five year lifetime (1979-1984).


I’m now officially addicted to this album. Its on at the gym, it makes me laugh out loud on the TTC, I’m listening to it right now on the ipod dock.

Strut Records has put out a 2nd set of Nigerian high life and Afro-Funk and it is amazing. Quirky, beautiful, complicated, so, so rootsy. I remember when highlife first hit the scene and I spent months dancing round the house to ‘Sweet Mother’ by the amazing Prince Nico Mbarga - I’d never heard the jangly high guitar sounds of this afro pop sound before and they just pulled my heart out. But eventually it seemed like that sound was everywhere and I moved on and I felt like I’d been there and done it. But this fab collection breaks the stereotypes about the sound and shows the immense range of sounds and styles that these amazing musicians were exploring. A wonderful mix of acoustic and electric instrumentations and quirky expressive vocals. Even the names of the songs and the bands are thrilling: "Everybody Likes Something Good" by Ify Jerry Krusade, "Yabis" by Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars, "Onyame" by Ashanti Afrika Jah, "Ezuku Buzo" by Bola Johnson & His Eazy Life Top Beats, "African Dialects" by Peter King, "You Are My Heart" by Rex Williams, "Hot Tears" by The Immortals, "Dododo (Ekassa No 1)" by Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestros, "Happy Survival" by Ifeanyi Eddie Okwedy & His Maymores Dance Band, "Tug Of War" by The Faces, "Ire Africa" by Chief Checker, and "Eddie Quansa" by Peacocks Guitar Band. Check them out here and I think that Soundscapes on College St has the CDs.

and man, I love their outfits. I think we should all dress like that in Toronto - it would so cheer up the winter.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

My Current Favouritist Album

Eccentric Soul - the Trager and Note Labels.

Imagine a time when everyone was trying to copy the great songs of Motown and the Soul explosion. When every recording studio across America was filled with wannabe groups and singers and arrangers and producers trying to find the next big thing. Well, some of them made it and some of them 'almost' made it, and sometimes they almost made it in really interesting ways. This series of recordings has been dredging through little known archives and labels to find unknown gems - and I love this particular collection. They all sound so, so, so close to the greatest soul record you ever heard, but then a sound comes slightly out of left field and you think 'what the hell was that'... a riff that would be better in a classical quintet, or a voice that stepped right out of the church pews, or a shout out that sounds like it should be in a modern pop record. Sometimes there is a note out of place, or the singer dips below the pitch, but it doesn't seem to matter at all - the songs are constantly surprising and filled with passion and conviction and they are somehow (in spite of the fact that they are desperately trying to copy the greatest hits of the time) totally original. You can hear them on

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the auditory cloud

This extraordinary site gives you a visual cloud of popularity and associations between music and groups. I like how the names float into place as the site picks up Data. Click on any name in the cloud to continue...

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Our Barn in Burgundy got beaten by the windstorms in France on Monday. 130 mile an hour winds across the central region. Normally the little town is in a valley and seems to escape the winds, but this time no.

The damage is bad enough, but what the photos don't show is that the roof and those immense timbers are not lying beneath the open hole. They are about 100 meters away. The wind picked them up and threw up up and over our Barn and into the neighbours yard. Thankfully they fell in the yard and not on their house and so no-one was hurt.

I was in a panic driving down from Paris to see the damage, but something about the immensity of it (the entire village is missing rooftops and wood and tiles are scattered across the road) was kind of calming. I can't even pick up one of those roof beams. I can't even move it. Ridiculous amounts of power. Apart from clearing up a bit there was nothing much to do. The roofer came by and shook his head, the insurance is going to slowly work its way to offer us some solutions and by the time we see it again in the summer we hope it'll be looking more like its old self.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Finally truly honest service

On the flight they offered chicken or beef, when I asked how each was done the steward gave me a funny look and said ‘well, they’re both reheated’ … I took the chicken…

Monday, January 19, 2009

Miracle Drug?

Odd... for the last year (probably started by all the physical work on the show in Japan) I've been having a lot of joint pain... A lot of pain! - to the point where I was panicked about having to do the physical work on the cabaret show that I'd been planning! And it's been getting worse and worse as I rehearsed. A week ago I looked up the Sports Medicine facilities in Toronto to start some kind of rehab. I thought they would order me out of the gym and away from physical work and onto anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids or something..

Then, by coincidence, last week I took a dose of the flax seed oil that had been recommended to me for something else and that I'd been avoiding (since it tastes so awful), and overnight all the pain disappeared. All of it. Overnight.

I spent the day wondering what the hell had happened to the pain I'd be dealing with for 6 months and then finally put the two together. Since then I've been on the web and seen that flax seed oil is recommended for joint pain. So that explains it. I guess. But overnight miracle cures. That's weird. Not like I'm complaining or anything... but it's kind of weird.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Slave and Master

I'm off to spend the day in front of a set of 20,000 dollar audio speakers listening to myself - I'll be hanging out while James Paul of Rogue studios, 'masters' my album.

Wikipedia defines this as "a form of audio post-production - the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device (the master); the source from which all copies will be produced (via methods such as pressing, duplication or replication). After the advent of tape it was found that master recordings could be optimized by making fine adjustments to the balance and equalization prior to the cutting of the master disc. Mastering became a highly skilled craft and it was widely recognized that good mastering could make or break a commercial recording"

When pressed for more details James defined it as 'I give him some money, he sits in front of a set of 20,000 dollar speaker for hours, and then he gives me an album that sounds amazing'....

beyond that it seems to be witchcraft and magic...

basically as far as I can see its the process of finding a middle balance for the sound on the album so it rings true on every kind of speaker - the cheapo transistor, or the ultra high end, or the car stereo... cutting some frequencies, adding others...

it should be a fascinating and strange few hours...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Diving in

Now it's back to the Waterlogs.

I wrote the short play, The Waterlogs, just after living in NYC for a couple of years and immediately after 9/11. On March 30'th I'll be having a reading of a new draft of Waterlogs with the First Draft Readings at the Epicure Cafe on Queen St. (so I guess technically this will be a 2nd draft...) and its time for a re-write

I arrived in NYC literally as the smoke was still drifting over the city... my flight was booked for 9/12 and I flew into NYC a few days later on one of the first commercial flights. But re-reading it now I think it was too filled with that event. I had snuck through the police and army barriers just after I arrived to watch the rescue attempts in the burning building. I had sat on the west side highway and watched trucks go by filled with dirty exhausted men and women heading back and forth from downtown. And as I wandered the city everyone was breathing the acrid smoke drifting up across the city. So it wasn't difficult to be overwhelmed with the emotions of the moment. But its nice to have a chance to re-work it and see if there is a chance to step away from that event.

The play explores the hidden geography of cities through the struggles of three people who inhabit the city in very different ways. Once we all believed that sickness and health was caused by upwellings of good or bad airs from the waters and marshes. The strange, stagnant but unkillable streams, creeks and lakes that lie beneath the asphalt and concrete of a city seemed to me to be an good metaphor for how cities affect people.

Now the waterlogs seems to be adapting itself to new places and new times. I've been walking over the lost rivers of Toronto, buried beneath the grid of the city and channeled into sewers and wondering what kind of relationship Torontonians have with their city - just as complicated and fraught as New Yorkers, that I'm sure of, but perhaps less angst ridden (or more?.... still figuring that one out...). Last week I wandered up to Wychwood and walked the length of Taddle Creek that runs through downtown Toronto and comes to the surface in only one place.