Monday, February 22, 2010


Lisa Pasold looking fab and reading the opening paragraphs of Rats of Las Vegas, at SPOT - Small Press fair of Toronto. The huge bay windows of the Gladstone Hotel look out on Queen St West and framed a wonderful reading series hosted by Sang Kim.

RATS OF LAS VEGAS features Millard Lacouvy, a short, plain, fiercely independent girl who is a prodigy in the male world of poker. Millard learns her craft in Depression-era Vancouver and then graduates to high stakes games on the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the trains fail to satisfy either her ambition or her need for security, she goes to Bugsy Siegels Las Vegas. There, her talent with cards brings her a new kind of family. But she is haunted by the handsome conman she has known all her life, and she learns that love can also be a game of chance. Along the way, Pasold gives us a rich and convincing historical portrait of Vancouver and Vegas in the 1940s.

Buy the book at

Filmed at the Small Press Book Fair in Toronto.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

March 4th at the Cameron

Come along, it'll be half party, half concert, audience participation is threatened but not guaranteed, the ambiance is spiffy, the beer is great and the location is simply historic.

the CD is jazz with a dark, pop twist, pulling in songs from the Velvet Underground and the Talking Heads. I think it sounds like Tom Waits and Frank Sinatra in a fist fight over who gets to sing next in a red velvet lounge in Vegas.

or maybe it's less violent and more romantic to say it sounds like a big old brass bed – you know... a well pounded mattress of bouncy jazz springs, a colourful quilt of pop twang, and a fluffy feather pillow of Sixties soul.

what else should I tell you? Stories??

Should I tell you how the CD was originally meant to be a jagged mix of electropop and jazz, but the producer got a better paying gig and quit days before the recording session?

Should I tell you about my panic as I realized I was faced with four days in the studio, and no idea how to deal with it?

Should I tell you about the day the charmingly stoned guitarist forgot both his guitar and amp, and did the day's recording on what was basically a toy guitar that was kicking around the studio?

Should I tell you about my despair as I listened to the feeble twangings that were recorded from that cheap instrument straight onto the board?

or should I tell you about how those four amazing musicians pulled together without any producer and simply did what I should have had confidence they would do in the first place - use their talents and skill to put down some amazing music, and challenge me to come up with vocals to match.

and should I tell you about the studio engineer who, when he was mixing the CD, heard the guitar sounds and went straight to the back of his cluttered space, pulled out a 1963 fender amp, rerouted the tiny guitar through that amp, added some reverb and rerecorded the whole thing... giving me a sound like it fell out of a gorgeous '60's blues album.

or how my friend Toni Mustra donated his amazing graphic talents to create a gorgeous, mysterious album cover crafted from a shot of a cloud drifing through the Blue Sky over Trinity Bellwoods park in Toronto.

I'm not sure if I should tell those stories... but if you're curious, and want to hear some more gossip... and what it sounds like live... well, come by the Cameron House (the Back Room... the party room!) on March 4th, and we'll show off a bit...

'The Sky Was Blue' was recorded in Paris at Bopcity Studios with Remi Amblard, Benoit Gil, Thierry Tardieu and Tomasso Montagnani.

I'll be accompanied on the 4th by the extraordinary talents of Scott Metcalf on keyboards, Scott Kemp on Bass, Robin Pirson on drums and Joel Schwarz on Guitar.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Splendid Koko

Delighted to have been part of the launch of the new very spiffy venture of my friend Sang Kim - KoKo in Yorkville. Extraordinary space, renovated with 100 year old beams of wood from an ancient Ontario barn. Great mix of antiquity and glowing modernity. Amazing Japanese/Korean cuisine and wow, those cocktails... as yet unnamed creations from behind the bar based on various Asian alcohols...

The first outing of the new group, with Robin Pirson on drums (or drum, as he could only fit a snare and a multitude of little percussion instruments onto the performance space), Scott Metcalf on piano and Scott Kemp on Bass.

We played three eve-more fun sets. Finished the evening with a rap/jazz version of Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark (as my French guitarist Benoit Gil said after our first try at this arrangement "Are we allowed to play this song like thees? What eeef her lawyers hear it....")

Looking forward to taking a 2nd shot at the songs at the Album launch on March 4th at the Cameron House on Queen St.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gil's back

Very excited to hear the extraordinary (and tragic) singer Gil Scott-Heron has a new album. The producer had to hunt down the singer and poet in the Riker's Island Prison in NYC. Gil's been a heroin addict for years, and, though I've deliberately avoided finding out about the details of his fall from grace, it seems that he's been about as damaged and destructive as anyone who has decided to devote themselves to this drug.

His voice is shattered and broken, but the musicality and poetry is still intact. He now sounds like one of those ancient, mythical blues recordings out of the deep south in the twenties and thirties. Singing a hard road.

I saw him play in Toronto in 1983 at the Bamboo Club. I remember being almost the only (incredibly young) white face in a sea of guys who looked like they could have had walk-on roles in the Shaft movies. It was a great gig.

this widget is from the guardian - click on the link to go their page or click 'play all' to hear the whole album

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Holy Reposting Batman

And in an odd turn of events, the National Post picks up the press release I sent out about my last blog and runs it in their blog...

the web is almost as strange as show business

Crazy Corrupt Carnival

In my show Whiskey Bars there's a line I stole from David Mamet; "Show business is a crazy corrupt carnival, and always will be." He's saying that if you want to be part of the business that is what you have to sign up for. I think he's right. The unpredictability of the whole thing is truly astounding.

Ten years ago I did a version of Whiskey Bars at the Toronto Fringe. The first evening was terrifying. I had sold quite a few ticks and I had five reviewers in the audience. The evening probably changed my life. The audience liked the show, a lot, and it began a run of growing numbers in the audience. I actually made money from my own work and creativity! The reviews however showed me how crazy the industry was.

The same show on the same night resulted in five completely different reviews, ranging from four stars and wild enthusiasm in Eye Magazine to 'nice show, could use some work on the script' in Now Magazine (which honestly I think was the most accurate for the state of the show at the time) to a strange almost hysterical attack in the Toronto Star. It was like they had seen five different shows. It cured me forever from taking reviews seriously. I suddenly realized 'oh, it's not about some intrinsic artistic worth of the show, it's totally subjective.' Since that time the show has made a lot of people laugh and cry around the world, and that is what has made it worthwhile for me.

Last week the show got another hysterically negative review, which read more like an attack than an artistic assessment of the work. It was wonderful and awful at the same time. Exhilarating and affirming that a show I wrote (which, if you've seen it, is a fairly simple proposition - I put on a tuxedo and sing a bunch of old songs)can inspire vitriol that seems out of proportion to the event. And a total drag, since I figured with only that one review it would kill the audiences and I'd have to cancel the run.

I turned up for the show last night and told the gang not to set anything up until we knew if we had an audience. I brought cake so we could have a little 'closing night party'. We sat on the stage and waited and chatted and stared at the cake and waited. And then, an hour before the show, Lisa poked her nose out to see if anyone was there. We had two people. Then another. Then another. The stage crew convinced me that since there were more people in the audience than on stage (not hard with a one-man!) I had to do the show. I was not thrilled, but we set up the stage and I retired to the back stage.

To cut a long story short, living up the unpredictable nature of show business, we ended up with the largest crowd we've had for the show. Not a sell out, but a great audience who seemed to love the show and who had come because of the review. That really awful review.

Maybe Oscar Wilde said it best... "The only worst thing than being talked about, is not being talked about"... or, less eloquently, but more to the point, as PT Barnum said, "All Publicity is Good Publicity"

or maybe I'll just never understand this surprising show business carnival...