Tag Archives: Joan Jett

Ep. #88: Vanessa Dunn of Vag Halen

Vanessa Dunn is the lead singer of Vag Halen, one of Toronto’s most exciting and confrontational rock bands. On Facebook, they describe themselves as “Toronto’s feminist art rock band that brings the bad with a dash of ass! Armed with a repertoire of classics, Vag Halen muff dives into the salty cock rock waters, blowing nether regions with their commitment to all things queer and all things rock.” Having seen the band myself, I can verify that that is all totally, totally true. Vag Halen storm Guelph on April 12 for a set at Kazoo! Fest at Van Gogh’s Ear. The band is on at 11:30 PM sharing a bill with Whoop-SZO, Biblical, and Legato Vipers. Here Vanessa and I discuss the pizza in Parkdale, growing up in Scarborough and celebrating the suburbs, where Vag Halen came from and what it might stand for, Katie Ritchie of the Organ, good Van Halen (David) and bad Van Halen (Sammy), how the band covers songs by different cock rock, hair metal bands who are male-centric, as an attempt to assert and understand the role of women and queer culture in such realms, the sexy, revealing attire and stage presence of Vag Halen, the power and cultural contributions of Tawny Kitaen and Miss Elizabeth, Vanessa’s acting background, whether or not we’re well past the era where musicians can get away with blatantly misogynistic and homophobic aesthetic stances, Nirvana’s decision to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with women like Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Lorde, and St. Vincent filling in for Kurt Cobain, why Axl Rose is the worst, most complex person, how personas or behavioural patterns in musical genres can perpetuate problematic lyrics and attitudes, running into Alice Cooper at a restaurant, Vanessa’s love of Depeche Mode and the Jesus and Mary Chain but her passion for hard rock, whether Vag Halen will ever write its own songs, the generally positive reception for the band in Toronto and Vanessa’s place as a role model, what’s new in Vag Halen’s set these days and why things are gonna get heavy at Kazoo! Fest, and nothing more.

Related links: twitter.com/VagHalen kazookazoo.ca vishkhanna.com

vaghalen

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Ep. #71: Alden Penner

Alden Penner is a respected and idiosyncratic singer, songwriter, and musician based in Montreal. Penner was a key figure in the influential bands the Unicorns and Clues and went on to make heartfelt, enigmatic, and questioning music in a project called Hidden Words. On Feb. 11, he quietly released a lovely new album under his own name; it’s called Exegesis and has prompted him to play at the Silver Dollar in Toronto for the Wavelength festival on Thursday Feb. 13, Montreal’s Le Cagibi on Friday Feb. 14, and the Le Pantoum in Quebec City on Feb. 15. Here, Alden and I discuss my issue understanding release dates, the fact that Exegesis is a personal compilation of sorts with at least one song that was partially conceived by Nick Thorburn when the two were in high school, the self-reflexive nature of putting this record together, Penner’s evolution as a songwriter and the distinction between his simpler and more intricate work, his earliest days learning how to play music in his teens and the impact “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” had on him and his guitar playing, jamming with his geography teacher, meeting and collaborating with Thorburn for the first time, the influence that Jimi Hendrix, Reverend Gary Davis, Elizabeth Cotten, and Fugazi had on his guitar playing, interesting guitar teachers and Syd Barrett, playing every instrument on a record yourself, the importance of band chemistry and the Avengers, the multiple meanings of the album’s title, which came to Penner in a dream, how religion has impacted Penner’s ability to find his own voice and feel bolstered by his community, the importance of self-assertion in the face of confrontation, Laura Crapo’s role in producing Penner’s new album, the mysteries of mysticism and psychic surgery, having faith, his upcoming shows, why the Unicorns must reunite to play shows and maybe even reissue Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? in 2014, the song “We Seek,” and more.

Related links: facebook.com/aldenpennermusic vishkhanna.com

alden penner

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