Christopher Ward is a songwriter and author who currently splits his time between Los Angeles and Toronto. Renowned for writing the hit single “Black Velvet” by Allanah Myles, Ward bears the distinction of being one of the first ever Canadian on-air video jockeys (VJ) when MuchMusic launched on August 31, 1984. The network went on to alter the course of live broadcasting and music media for decades and Ward was an active participant in its early, heady, experimental, and chaotic days. He’s chronicled the experience in a compelling new oral history book called Is This Live? Inside the Wild Early Years of MuchMusic The Nation’s Music Station, which features commentary from musicians, hosts, producers, crew members, and many other firsthand witnesses to the weirdness. Is This Live? was published this past fall by Random House Canada and Christopher and I recently met at his publisher’s office in downtown Toronto to discuss how MuchMusic got started, how and why it became beloved and influential, its rawness and prescience for interactive content and social media, his book, and more. Sponsored by the Bookshelf, Pizza Trokadero, and Planet Bean Coffee.
Fake Limbs are a noisy rock band who hail from the west side of Chicago, Illinois. Known for creating a kind of “social justice street rock” that’s exhilarating and outspoken, the band formed in 2011 and have released three acclaimed full-length albums, including 2016’s Matronly, which is out now via Don Giovanni Records. Fake Limbs have been on the road a bunch of late and, before their recent show at the Silver Dollar in Toronto, lead singer Stephen Sowley and I ate some pizza at Fresca, just west of College and Spadina, and then we talked about his time in Toronto and tour managing, Jenny Hval, Screaming Females don’t really need roadies, driving and sleeping in cars and planes, Brendan Fraser and The Mummy, Danny Brown’s leather sleep mask, flight recliners, Ted, Colin Atrophy’s Slice Harvester, Fresca Pizza in Toronto, Chicago and Montreal, living in upstate New York, Second City and comedy, The Blues Brothers, not from Chicago, the Cubs’ World Series win, loser town, a goat and Steve Bartman, baseball points, a momentary Sowley curse, loving the Cubs and Wrigley Field and Toronto Blue Jays fans, so Grohl, working at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini, studio managing, encountering Iggy and the Stooges within weeks of taking a job at EA, the Breeders, working at Reckless Records, cashing Albini out on his first day at RR, lending Iggy $40, going to see Gimme Danger on election night, how Jim Jarmusch’s film basically overlooked the last Stooges record The Weirdness, which Albini engineered, election night predictions, phones on and off in the movie theatre, no surprise, voter participation, echo chambers, the shock, feeling ill- and misinformed about class-based anger, how Trump did everything he possibly could to willfully lose this election, people steeling themselves for the next four years, people who protest, The Dark Knight Rises, the left and exclusion and intersectionality, Michael Moore’s Facebook Live report during a recent protest in New York City, rationale, the ‘this will be good for comedy/punk rock’ stupidity, hoping for empathy, talking about Fake Limbs and their album Matronly, Black Lives Matter and “An Inconvenience,” Trump’s cabinet, what is punk, dinner with Grace Ambrose, Phleg Camp, the Jesus Lizard, Carla Bozulich, influence projection, idiots, Don Giovanni Records, Moor Mother’s Fetish Bones, more hugs, Bandcamp and Jes Skolnik, the Fugazi Live Archive, the song “Lil Bit,” and that was all from Fresca.
Baroness von Sketch Show is a very funny sketch comedy TV program that airs on CBC. This edgy yet grounded show is written by and stars four very talented and hilarious human beings: Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne, and Jennifer Whalen. They’re just wrapping up their first season on CBC with the finale airing on Tuesday July 19 at 9:30 PM ET and you catch up on past episodes and sketches at cbc.ca/baroness. I recently met up with Carolyn, Meredith, Aurora, and Jennifer at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto to chat about a roll call, Aurora’s action figure name, capes and tools, superhero skills, meeting and working at the Gladstone in Toronto, Junction Triangular or West Bender, different Canadian cities, getting to know Baroness von Sketch and where it came from, better origin stories, the Patton Oswalt George Lucas/prequel bit, spending a chunk of time talking about the Justice League, parenting and childhood nostalgia, questions about robbers, nerd lines, 20 years to BVS, TVO Kids is awesome and is often spearheaded by edgy, Canadian comedians, writing for kids’ cartoons, Odd Squad, local comedy coverage by Canadian publications, brain drain, eh, Canada’s confidence complex, America is much weirder than us, community support, people like Jon Dore who maintain their roots in Canadian comedy, the Mars One sketch Dore’s improv, beards, David Letterman’s beard, positive and negative feedback, a male shipwreck, the Fuck, Marry, Kill sketch, making your parents uncomfortable with your comedy, the fart lighting sketch, my wife, trying to describe the show and its shorter vignettes, relatable and grounded sketch, rich details, learning at Second City, Smack the Pony, The Muppet Show, 9 to 5, Monty Python, The Kids in the Hall, Amy Schumer, The Office UK, Not the Nine O’Clock News, SCTV, Superjail!, Rick and Morty, parameters and working with CBC, not a bucket of jizz, Seinfeld and saying things without actually saying it, an all-female sketch comedy show, perceptions of political undercurrents, a feminist recruitment tool, being women working in comedy, political correctness and privilege, all the stuff have white man have done, the strange responsibility of having to explain what it’s like to be a woman, just wanting to talk about the work, we’re not post-gender, comedy control, the future of BVS and oh the places you can watch the show on Tuesdays at 9:30 PM ET and Sundays at 9:00 PM ET on CBC, BVS hasn’t done it live, the Book Club sketch, and then we said good-bye.
Related links: cbc.ca/baroness vishkhanna.com