All posts by Kristopher

Contemplating My Irrelevance

It’s been a while. Yes, I’ve popped in now and then with a rant, but I’ve basically been absent.

What have I been up to?

Being a dad, mostly, and working my way through my marriage and trying not to fuck either up too badly. I’m not sure if I’m succeeding yet. I’m not sure if I’ll ever know.

But my littlest angel is starting to figure out bedtime, so I hope to return to you, my dear reader(s)(?) more frequently. I suppose my kids will tell me if I live long enough to see them become adults (don’t worry – I’m not hinting at a scary diagnosis or anything) and if I’m still married in 20 years, I will have done something right, I hope.

Except a lot has happened in the three years since I stepped away to focus on my kids.

Mainly, I have become irrelevant.

Maybe I never was relevant. I was certainly never cool, and am not about to start being a cool kid now.

But really, who am I? I am a fortyish, straight, white male who holds a comfortable position in one of the bastions of privilege – high tech. And my time has passed. History has moved on.

Nowadays the old, straight, white males getting attention are an embarrassment to humanity. They’re the Steve Bannons and Donald Trumps, out there bloviating about how the world isn’t so white anymore, and damn it, women want power and equality and they’re mad as hell and can’t take it anymore!

I mean, what are you going to do when you can’t even use your power to sexually harass and even assault a woman anymore without there being some kind of blowback, public humiliation and possibly the loss of your job and lifestyle, a la Harvey Weinstein and the fallen leader of Ontario’s PC Party? Could the old, straight, white male be any more put upon?

So you see my predicament.  Why should you even want to listen to my voice? What do I even matter anymore, if I ever mattered before?

And the truth is, I do not. In my one rant last year, I said that when justice for women is called for, it’s not going to come from men and it’s not going to come from the church. It’s going to come from women.

And it is. In North America, the #MeToo movement is forcing men to wake up to the fact that it’s not ok to slap a co-worker on the ass as she walks by, or to demand sexual favours for a promotion, or any number of violations and exploitation of the feminine that we men have taken advantage of and taken for granted for far too long.

And it’s happening in the Middle East, too. In Iran, the #WhiteWednesdays movement is women rising up and pushing back against their oppression and abuse. Anna Maria Tremonti had a great piece on it on The Current this week.

So we should listen. It’s the women’s voices that matter and should dominate the conversation for the next millennium or so. Maybe, if we men are smart and listen enough, we may be found worthwhile of conversation. Then no-one needs to dominate. Then we can can engage, and not in an annoying, creepy, marketing kind of way, but in a real, communicative, connecting kind of way.

So where to start? I’m still learning myself, but here’s a few ideas.

Full disclosure: These are friends of mine.

  1. Eating Dirt, by Leah Morningstar. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s brutally honest, and she’s a single mom of 3. Based out of Thunder Bay, she hurtles through life like a star about to go supernova and attracts an army of artists and local businesses  around her.  If this is the future, bring it on!
Leah Morningstar – Eating Dirt

2. Eryn’s Yoga, by Eryn Kirkwood. Eryn is reaching beyond materialism for a deeper, more balanced, inner strength. She is a teacher and a small business owner, and she will help you find your own balance, just by paying attention. (Full Disclosure: I took the cover photo for her book, but I would not be drawing attention to it if Eryn did not speak in a way which rings true to me.) Update: Coincidentally, she wrote a post on #MeToo a few days after I wrote this post. Read it here.

Strong Body, Calm Mind – Worth reading for the philosophy and the humour

3. a little nest of girls, by Cristina Bianchi. To quote Cristina when I told her I want to link to her in this post:

It was always meant as a place to think about my momming (originally as a recently-separated single mom). Rage, of course, comes very quickly when parenting girls and wanting to keep them safe from this horrifying world. But also teaching them to be warriors in their own right.

4. Dawn Xanklin Comedy. She has toiled in the Communications trenches of the government for years, and now she has focused those skills into something a lot more fun and close to her heart – speaking her truth through comedy! This is something I tried to do once, but Dawn’s only been doing this for a short time and she’s already doing it far better than I ever was, and probably would be now, more than a decade later. Note: You will have to log into Facebook to see this video:

Yuk Yuks New Talent Showcase, December 6 2017

It’s a small list, I know, but that says more about my own lack of knowledge than about the lack of women we should be paying attention to. They’re out there, and they’re speaking now, and it is time to listen. So listen up, guys! The times they are a changing, but this is a good change, a positive change.

As for me, despite everything I said above, I am going to keep writing (provided I can maintain the discipline and energy required to do a passable job at it).

As I acknowledge my own irrelevance, I must also acknowledge that I’m a dad to two wonderful, awesome little girls. And while they are not yet ready to make their own artistic and intellectual pursuits public, the least I can do for them is try to clear a space where they feel comfortable expressing themselves and being who they are.

So is that how this blog becomes relevant again? I don’t know. Probably not. It is just the blatherings of a white, middle-aged, straight male. But, at least I can leave something behind for them so they know who I am, who I was, how I evolved (or devolved) over time, even while I was parenting them.

OK OK, I’m done. See you later.

Update: OK. This woman needs no introduction, but I will introduce her anyways. How did Samantha Bee not even get asked to take over The Daily Show? She is so smart, so sharp, and so funny that it’s downright criminal that they didn’t even consider her.  I mean, come on guys, she was right there! I mean, at the least, the execs at the top who ultimately made the decision should have considered her.  That they didn’t – well, what does that say about them, us, our whole culture? Thankfully, PBS saw what Comedy Central so obviously missed, and the world is much, much better off for their forward thinking.

An open letter to the Ariana Grande bombers

Hey guys:

That was a dick move. A real show of asshole-dom. Bombing little girls at bubblegum pop concerts is not gonna win you any friends or converts. It’s not even going to make us fear you. What it’s going to do is make us hate you and make us more determined than ever to dismantle your ideology.

And don’t go around calling yourselves Muslims. You’re not Muslims. You’re an embarrassment to the religion. And you know what? You’re an embarrassment to those of us who have lived with Muslims, loved Muslims, been best friends with Muslims, but are not Muslim ourselves.

I mean, c’mon, do you know how often I have to defend Muslim refugees from idiotic, borderline (if not explicitly) racist memes on Facebook from well-meaning, undereducated people who, thanks to you, are now fearful of the billions of people who make up the religion you are desecrating?

And you turn your own people into refugees who my people are now afraid to accept? Do you realize what a bastardization of humanity that is?

And let’s say, that underneath the evil, the misogyny (and what is more misogynist than blowing little girls to bits at shows designed especially for them and expressing what they feel?), the rape, the beheadings, the total dominance of all that is good and worthwhile in the world (and that is the females in all of our lives), you have a legitimate cause, a point you’re actually trying to make.

Let’s say that. Let’s pick a cause. Let’s say that, hypothetically, western oil interests and banks have been manipulating your rulers, your elections, your lives so that you end up with, again and again, dictatorial regimes that exploit your people while they live rich and corrupt “western” lifestyles and lay down with Russian prostitutes while you live in poverty and can barely afford to feed your wife and children.

Let’s say that. Let’s try that on for size.  Ok, so now what? So now you bomb a concert put on by a pretty girl singing pretty songs and now a bunch of little girls are dead and wounded? That’s your solution? That draws attention to your issues?

And you know what? You’ve been doing this “terror” thing for a long time now, but never have you said what you want! If you’ve got a problem, you’ve got to start a dialogue! At least say something! Blowing little girls to bits does not say anything!

No, that’s not true. The message you are sending is, “I am a grade-A, misogynist asshole who has nothing but fear and contempt for women and girls and the only way I know how to express my impotence is by abusing and destroying those of the opposite sex.”

And I tell you what. I was born and raised Catholic. I learned the stories, the ethics, the mythology. But I also became disillusioned. There’s only so much hypocrisy and stories about priest-diddling you can put up with before you start to ask questions. And asking questions is what I did.

Yes, Catholicism has a lot of problems and in many, many ways needs to be pulled out of the Middle Ages. Like, why are there no female priests? Why can’t priests get married? Why the homophobia? Seriously guys, there’s enough of you who are apparently gay, it’s time to get over the self-loathing and just come out with it.

But we’ve made progress. Women are accepted much more as equals (but we’ve still got a ways to go). Women can hold jobs, have their own bank accounts, have their own freakin’ agency!

But before those of us I went to school with get all smug and say, “Well, that’s because we’re more enlightened than those Muslims,” go read your history and find out where that really came from.

That came from the women themselves! The women rose up and, like the mythical Lysistrata before them, said, “Hey men! Listen up! We aren’t putting up with any more of your bullshit! So get your act together and start treating us right or you won’t get to be in our company as your wives, lovers, mothers, sisters, aunts, companions, best friends, etc any more!” And what did the men do?

Well, you could say it was the beginning of their enlightenment. Sure, there is still a long way to go, but men have begun to realize that women are equally as important as them, that what they do affects society as much as what men do.

So Daesh, ISIS, Al Qaeda, whatever you guys choose to call yourselves in some unforeseen future as you desecrate humanity and lose any legitimate message you may once have originally had in some far off recess of history and the mind, here’s my warning to you: It is not the men who you have to watch for. It is the women. One day, the women you oppress, humiliate, desecrate, and destroy will band together and rise up against all you do.

And you know what you will do?  You will capitulate. You will give in. You will learn and be humbled and be better for it. Because these women are the best part of you. They show you how to be better men, real men. Real men do not rape, exploit, blow up little girls. They raise them, defend them, teach them to be strong, teach them that women can do everything men can do and, in some cases, do it much, much better.

You will get with the program because before too long, the program will get with you.

And in case I wasn’t clear enough the first time: Don’t call yourselves Muslims. It’s an embarrassment. Stop. Just stop.

The future of the blog: Not enough time

What to do about the future of this creative endeavour?

I love the blog, I love being able to put my ideas out there, but as a working dad of two who spends much of his time with his family (as it should be), it’s very, very hard to keep steady at this.

I have an interview with Joanne McGregor of Christie Lake Kids – great interview – 37 minutes long. I interviewed her in March of this year. At this time, only 16 minutes have been transcribed, let alone edited.

Would moving to a podcast make more sense for the interviews? Then I can just edit the audio files themselves and post them online, rather than having to transcribe them, too.

Once my younger daughter is a little older, I’ll be able to devote more time to actually writing, but right now and for the immediately foreseeable future, it’s going to continue to be very, very slow…

The foodiePrints Interview: Don Chow on food criticism, publishing, and the media

I first met Don Chow sometime around 1999. Back then, he was working on multiple degrees and tutoring fellow students. He spoke with a kind of stutter that was a sign that his brain was working faster than his mouth and in all that time, his brain has never stopped moving at that speed, as he worked to become an accomplished civil servant in his professional life and food blogger in his personal life. It is tempting to call a blog a “hobby”, but in Don’s case, it is something more — it is a way of life. For Don, cooking and enjoying good food is the spice of life, and documenting it on his widely-read blog, foodiePrints, and through social media is an instinct he cannot ignore. It must be done, and in the process, maybe the discourse and quality surrounding food in Ottawa food will rise to a level it never has before.

Ottawa Food: A Hungry CapitalI met up with Don while exploring the civil service myself, and he was gracious enough as an old friend and a humble man promoting the book he and his wife, Jennifer Lim, published over the course of the summer — Ottawa Food: A Hungry Capital — to answer a few questions for me. The interview was relaxed and conversational, with a few interesting tangents into subjects like the state of the media. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The blog initially started out as an experiment. How did you go from there to here, one of the most recognized bloggers in Ottawa?

Aaah, completely by accident and fully unintentional.  The blog was created because before the Year 2000 came around, I was employed in IT. I worked on networks. It so happened that my shop had a Christmas party, I baked a batch of cookies, everyone wanted the recipe. Being careful about bandwidth back then because bandwidth was REALLY expensive, I put a website up.

So instead of sharing emails, which everyone wanted, I pointed them to a URL. That’s just less words, less content, less bandwidth, and that’s how the blog started 8 years ago.

How did you come to be as popular as you are? How are you THE Don Chow now?

Umm, I’m not. foodiePrints is a recognized name and I have no idea why. It’s an unfortunate branding, because the word is very difficult to pronounce, and we refuse to make business cards and do the proper branding, and we’re not rebranding now because it’s come too far too long.

It just so happened that the restaurant industry and the food industry has accepted my wife and I, my wife being the editor of foodiePrints. She’s been the editor for 6 years.  It just so happened that for some bizarre reason the industry here saw two people that were writing honestly and critically, and they thought that we did our job well, so they started to trust us and this trust has translated into our being able to report on the industry from their point of view.

You sort of talked about it already, but what was your original intention with the food blog and how has it changed and evolved as you’ve mastered the art and craft of blogging?

I have not mastered the art and craft of blogging. I really don’t care about statistics. I really don’t care about looking at readership numbers every day. I am very grateful that we are read, and what we do do is we judge the readership and our interactions are engaged with through social media.

The blog is just a repository of stories. Food in Ottawa, food around the world is all about people and we just want to report their stories. Why is someone doing food this way? Why is someone, against all odds, with so much risk financially to themselves, to their family, opening up a restaurant? Why is a farmer deciding to continue on three generations down the road to produce Heritage Beef? These are stories that are important to me, and we share them. We have established no direction. There are no plans. It just so happens that we write what we think is important and we try to match that to what our readers want.

So, when it comes to blogging, when it comes to social media, there’s no strategy that we came up with. We just fly by the seat of our pants.

How has your writing evolved?

I think it’s more legible now than before.  [Laughs] In all honesty, I’m not a writer and that’s actually the first line of the book that we recently published.  We’re not writers. We were given an opportunity to participate in a series of books that are published by The History Press, but North American. The History Press was traditionally a UK publisher. When they came to the United States, they wanted to publish a citizen’s history, microhistory of small communities, and so they saw Ottawa, they found Ottawa, they read every piece which is very scary.  So, they emailed us and said, ‘You have enough stories that there’s probably a book here.’

So they told us, ‘Here’s an idea – pitch it to us.’ And so now, Ottawa Food: A Hungry Capital is one of – two dozen books about small community history on subjects like food and stories that are recorded across North America. And when we got the opportunity, we could not turn it down.

Our book isn’t written particularly well. It was done hastily because we had a total of four or five months to get it done. I am proud of the work that was produced. I would have preferred another couple of months of editing, but that’s just me. [Laughs]

OK, but it can’t be denied that your writing is actually quite good.

No, it’s improved, it’s legible now.

I don’t know. I’ve read some of your pieces. You go into essay and thought pieces, you express certain ideas – why people don’t home cook and why they should – things like that. Where do those come from?

Frustration mostly. My writing’s very indulgent. We’ve had guest bloggers and guest writers before on foodiePrints, and we will continue to invite anyone who wants to write about food, although we will edit and we will ask about the ideas and what the flow of thought will be.

But, the blog’s very indulgent. We don’t set limits. Some pieces are 500 words, some pieces are 2000 words, as long as you get the point across, and it just so happens that I care about food thought and food criticism. I care about having a healthy, symbiotic food culture, which we don’t have in this city and, to some extent, we don’t have any more. It has something to do with how social media and how citizen criticism is perverting and making incredibly confrontational the dining out experience, and that’s what’s most important to me right now. It shouldn’t be that way.

Food is to be enjoyed. In all honesty, the New York Times piece about these kids, 2nd graders, eating, dining out at this incredible restaurant in New York City, the amount of joy that they have, we don’t see any more in the dining room at high-end restaurants, and that’s a problem. Everyone is incredibly critical, everyone has an agenda. It has to stop.

Speaking of being critical [Don laughs], and this is more about media than about food, you told me once of being sniped at by old media, like the Ottawa Citizen. Has any of that changed since your embrace on morning TV and cooking competitions?

The cooking and the cooking competitions are more to establish our legitimacy. I don’t believe you can effectively write about food without having an understanding of food itself. That means if you write about food, you have to cook. You HAVE to cook. If you want to write about farming, you have to grow something. Otherwise, you have no insight, no parallel that you can understand and share. If you’re going to write about food, you have to cook. You have to be involved.

So, it just so happens that some of my cooking has gotten myself onto cooking competitions – one national and some smaller things where we’ve won awards, but the fact is that I believe that if you’re going to write about something, then you need to understand it, so that’s why we do that.

What was the other part of your question? [Laughs]

Being sniped at by old media. Has old media begun to embrace you now that you’ve hopped onto their television shows?

Umm, no. When you look at old and new media, there’s still a legitimacy problem and the problem when it comes to photojournalism is very complex. That is, the companies that produce the news and share information – old school – they’re debasing and devaluing the value of things like good writing, good photography. They’re not hiring the photojournalists, the professionals to do the work…

Why are they doing that?

It’s cheaper to grab stuff off of Twitter. It’s cheaper to make a freelancer do something. It’s cheaper to have your reporters multi-task, and that’s a problem, and that’s causing a great deal of hatred between old and new media because new media – those of us who blog and Tweet and play with cameras and photography for fun. We’re seen as taking jobs and opportunities away from those who do it for a living.

Based on what you’re saying, I’d almost want to say that they sort of created this gap themselves and you just happened to fill it, but you’re filling it for free…

And for fun…

Yeah, out of love. So why do they feel threatened? Why don’t they just give you a full-time job?

Bottom-line is, there’s not enough to produce good journalistic value these days.

I’m sorry, I’m playing devil’s advocate here. That’s the rationalization used, but when you look at, say, the media companies like Bell, and Rogers, and Bell owns CTV and I know Rogers owns a lot, including the NHL now, basically. I mean the broadcast of the NHL. There seems to be no shortage of money. So is it really about there is no money, or do they just want to keep the money going to the highest levels of said organizations who are conglomerating all these media resources to begin with?

The conglomeration of media and information has something to do with profit. If you take a look at the coverage of the unfortunate happenings of last Wednesday, with the shooting of the Honour Guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier… If you look at the quality and the intention of the coverage of CBC, which is a publicly funded entity that covers news, and you look at what CNN does and did, the intentions are different.

One is to make money. The other one is to report the facts and actually to take the time to investigate what is coming out, or what is being heard, or just rumours going around, and the fact that Peter Mansbridge was able to talk for a total of three hours straight and every time he started, it was, ‘These are the facts we know now…’

That difference, that attention – it’s because CBC is publicly funded, whereas CTV has to worry about the bottom line, has to worry about shareholders, has to worry about being solvent, and continuing to provide value to the investors and unfortunately, that isn’t always conducive towards good journalism, and that’s the way it’s always going to be.

The customer needs to demand better. If we don’t, we get what CNN’s doing.

Well, if we’re on the unintentional CBC tangent anyways, it looks like the CBC is on its way to being dismantled and/or bankrupted.

It is…

As someone who is doing quality journalism basically out of love, how do you feel about that?

I am not a journalist. I have the utmost respect for the journalists who work at CBC who are underfunded and they have to work incredible hours, incredibly hard to deliver the quality that they do. I am saddened and I am one of the proponents of finding ways of funding CBC again.

So, I have a great deal of respect for CBC Radio. It’s interesting, in this day and age where everything is push-pull, everything is on-demand, I believe heavily in CBC Radio because of the quality that it delivers and the discourse that it decides to delve into, specifically because it doesn’t have to worry about shareholders.

It has to worry about taxpayers, but the taxpayers put money into this public broadcaster because they continue to want the quality that is being produced. At least, I hope it is, and I hope the taxpayers continue to demand more.

Would you say the spin and attacks that happen on the CBC in for-profit media like the National Post try to make the taxpayers out as shareholders?

Yes. Yes. It’s a question of return on value. It’s a question of return on investment. If you look at return on investment entirely from a monetary point of view, and you worry about the bottom line as a bell shape, CBC is not profitable. It is not meant to be profitable. It’s a non-profit entity that’s meant to provide information and facts for the public good, whereas for-profit news is a little different.

OK. So let’s head back to our actual interview…[Don laughs] When you started out, did you think, ‘I want to be a book author!’ Has writing and publishing your book fulfilled a lifelong dream?

No. Writing that book is incredibly frightening and it’s incredibly frightening that that book is out because my name is on it, my wife’s name is on it, and I worry about people reading the book.

When we wrote that book, the intention was to provide a snapshot in time of what changed, not why. There is no introspection when it comes to the change in the food culture that occurred over the past 30 years.

Our publisher asked for three decades, they asked for a contemporary history, they asked for a snapshot. We could not dig into a good deal of the changes as we wanted to because in the end, this was a book for print, and they asked for 40 000 words which was the best we could do. This is ALL that we could put in.

So, I’m hoping that the people who read this book will ask the questions, ‘Why?’ They will ask the questions, ‘Why do we have the food scene that we have now? Why are the restos behaving they way they are now? What is the value in having a collaborative food scene of independent chefs and chef-owned and chef-driven restaurants? Why is everyone so bent, and hell-bent, on supporting the 80% rural agrarian landbase here?’

We have a lot of farmers, and that contributes to our identity for food, which is still developing. I want the people who read this book to ask why and to look at what they want because, in the end, it’s the people of Ottawa that will drive how the food scene will develop and mature, and that’s the realization that came out of writing this book and that’s the realization that I hope to share.

One more question. What’s next for Don, Jenn, and foodiePrints? More books? TV? Social media? Movies?

Survive promoting the book. We have to survive promoting the book because publishing has suffered the exact same losses and faces the same difficulties, the same challenges as for-profit print and visual media.

Our publisher has very limited funds for us to promote the book, so we are promoting the book heavily and aggressively with a lot of events and a lot of effort.

So, if we can survive this, we don’t know what’s coming up next because we roll with the punches and it so happens that, the cooking has led to cooking competitions, the writing has led to a book,  and we’re happy to not plan something intentional.

Alright. Thank you for indulging me, Don.

Thank you.

Purchase Ottawa Food: A Hungry Capital Online and in Stores NowOttawa Food: A Hungry Capital, by Don Chow and Jennifer Lim, can be purchased online at and at most bookstores in the National Capital Region.

Greg Kampf, Prog Rock Relayer, pt 3: Prog Rock in the 2010s

Without detracting from the awful events which took place in Ottawa yesterday (October 22, 2014), here is the third and final part of my interview with Greg Kampf, DJ of CHUO FM 89.1’s prog-rock program, La Villa Strangiato.

In part 1, Greg and I went over the history of the program and of prog rock itself, giving you a glimpse into the storied background of the prog-rock universe.

In part 2, Greg and I talked about how the internet has affected the production, distribution, and consumption of prog rock.

Here in part 3, Greg and I explore what prog rock means in the 2010s. How do you define prog rock in the 2010s? What does it mean to be a prog rocker in the 2010s? Can the idea of prog extend beyond rock and into other genres, such as pop? And to what extent has prog rock seeped into pop culture through mediums such as film and sampling? Greg answers all of these questions below.

Part 3: What is prog rock in the 2010s?

Now the thing about prog rock — and especially listening to your show — is to define prog rock. I listen to your show and I hear sections that are jazzy, I hear very metal, kind of Dream Theater-type stuff, although you probably stay out of the way of Dream Theater because they’re a little bit too common at this point…

I used to be a huge Dream Theater fan.

I think the last time we spoke 14 years ago, you asked me about Dream Theater.

I think I probably did. I was a real fanboy of the group at that time and they were an important group on the scene at that time. They were making records that no-one else was making, their sound is so huge, their musicianship was on a scale that hadn’t been seen in a long time, and they were kind of doing things on their own terms. As uncool as they were, that was really great…

They still kind of are, aren’t they? We’re sort of off on a tangent now, but we can still talk.

Well, yeah. I’d say the last five records that they’ve done sound kind of samey, and I’ve lost a little bit of interest in what they’ve done. There are so many other groups doing so many interesting things. But I still have to hand it to Dream Theater. They sparked an entire era/subgenre of bands that were inspired by them and it’s what we call the progressive metal scene. They’re one of the grandfathers of that scene and they’re still doing things on their own terms.

So how do you define progressive rock in 2014?

Well, I think we can make a distinction between progressive rock and prog. We’ve talked a lot about all these early bands making all these classic records and coming up with these sounds and whole universes of uncharted territory from 69 to 74.

Today, I look back on that, on those works, on those bands, and that to me is prog.

A lot of musicians and bands today still draw a lot of influence from those groups, especially Genesis.

Now we’re talking Gabriel-era Genesis…

Genesis - A Trick of the Tail - 1976
The artwork for Genesis’ A Trick of the Tail album
Genesis - Wind & Wuthering 1976
The artwork for Genesis’ Wind & Wuthering album

Gabriel-era Genesis, yes…And two albums that were done after, in the post-Gabriel-era, which would be Wind & Wuthering and A Trick of the Tail, both in 76, when Phil Collins took over the vocals, but Steve Hackett, the guitar great, was still in the band. He had so much to do with the way that they sounded at the time.

So that’s kind of the classic prog sound. A lot of groups and a lot of listeners today, I find, they grew up in that age or, as they say, the music you listened to as a teenager is the music you listen to the rest of your life. So if Steve Hackett comes to play at the Casino du Lac-Leamy, it will be sold out. There will be 1200 people there. If there’s a Genesis cover band that comes to play at the Bluesfest, there will be 800 people standing in the field watching them. If there’s another band that kind of sounds very similar to that early Genesis prog-sound that comes to play in Montréal, people will drive down the highway to see them.

But, in 2014, if there’s a band that is truly progressive doing things that have their own sound, that have a variety of diverse influences, and they’re trying to make something new and unique, we’re lucky if five or six people will come to see them at Café Dekcuf or Presse Café.

Okay, maybe 20 people.

Now is that the definition of progressive – to be doing something truly unique?

I think so.

To be pushing forward?


What kind of pushing forward do you see now that didn’t exist in the 70s, 80s, and 90s?

Well, I think as the planet becomes more globalized and we have access to hearing basically anything that’s ever been recorded and we’re kind of at a time when it’s been so easy for musicians to connect with one another across countries, across continents, you’re seeing the types of collaborations that wouldn’t have been possible 30 or 40 years ago.

I recently received an album by Russian pianist Stanislav Zaslavsky. This project is called Kazhargan World, and he’s basically recruited six musicians from diverse places. They’ve all recorded the music that he’s written. They’ve recorded all their parts, shipped it back to him. He mixed it all together, and it sounds like a full band that was recording in the studio together. They’re totally in sync.

That type of technology did not exist 40 years ago. You’ve got Europeans and Americans and Japanese musicians that have all collaborated together and are bringing their diverse backgrounds and experiences into a project. And anything can happen when you’ve got that type of creativity that comes into a project.

So that is really exciting in terms of the future: the types of collaborations that are happening now and will continue to happen. And the types of traditions that may not be common to progressive rock or progressive jazz that may be brought in.

There’s a record label in New York City called MoonJune RecordsLeonardo Papkovic‘s label. He’s been going to Indonesia a lot and making contact with a lot of rock and jazz musicians in Indonesia that were unknown to most of us, and he’s now actually releasing their records internationally. So now he’s bringing Indonesian musicians to America to play with jazz guys here, and it’s just amazing what they’re coming up with. That’s the future.

With progressive rock necessarily being a niche market, do projects like these eventually trickle into the mainstream consciousness?

They can.

On some level. Do we hear a series of notes in a Beyonce song and say, that actually originated with this project?

I think that happened with a Kanye West tune. Didn’t he sample something off In the Court of the Crimson King a year or two ago? [Ed. Note:  Kanye West’s “Power” features a sample from “21st Century Schizoid Man“.]

There was a Vincent Gallo movie — Buffalo 66 — and the soundtrack featured a whole pile of prog rock, some Yes songs. Mike Oldfield‘s music was used in The Exorcist.

So there are some moments when pop culture kind of takes ownership of some of these moments in progressive rock and kind of turns them on their head and uses them for different means, whether it’s the background music in a film or in a television commercial. Although I’ve yet to see that.

There’s a beautiful moment in Children of Men — do you know that movie?

I haven’t seen it yet. Now I have to see it.

There’s a beautiful moment where they use “In the Court of the Crimson King” as a background against an image of the inflatable pig from Pink Floyd at Battersea Park with a very rich man in this huge mansion in the sky.

And you know why this is happening now, right?

Because the guys that are producing films like that are the guys that came of age listening to prog rock in the 70s and are now in positions of power somewhere up and down the line with creative input in the film industry. They’re now able to take what they loved growing up and deposit it in a kind of mainstream popular film, which appeals very much to me as a prog rock listener, but may be absolutely mystifying to somebody who isn’t familiar with the traditions as much. That’s cool.

On that note, actually, you made me think… I just watched The Lego Movie with my daughter, and Mark Mothersbaugh did the soundtrack. Now, we’re speaking of Devo, and Devo is something else altogether but, could they also be considered progressive, if not rock, then pop in the way they pushed the limits of pop?

Devo, I suppose, was revolutionary in the sense that Devo was out there doing their own thing, a very singular entity in pop music.
In the context of this conversation, and that’s just where this idea’s coming from, I would want to consider them progressive pop.

There’s a lot of progressive pop that’s out there that I hear and go, wow! This is great because it’s more than just the conventional pop song. There’s a lot going on here.

Just like, you know, how a lot of these Pixar films appeal to kids and adults because they work on both levels. They can appeal to the simpler, more innocent side of us, and they can also appeal to the intellectual side of us that stimulates various neurons to go, wow, that’s so cool, that’s so clever, so I totally agree.

OK. As a final note, you’ve talked a lot about how Europe and Japan seem to keep producing progressive rock and also have an appreciation of your podcast. Would you say progressive rock is something of a more European type of music. Is it rooted somewhere in the symphonic music of the last 500 years? Is that why there’s an appeal?

Greg Kampf with Beethoven and Bamboo
Greg contemplates the European background and the Japanese influence on today’s prog rock with a bust of Beethoven and some bamboo

I think if you were to read a lot of essays about where progressive rock came from, you would read a lot of musicologists attempting to make that link between kind of what was happening in the call [?] between psychedelia, pop, and classical music that all converged towards the end of the 60s. Definitely, there was a lot of that, like, classical or contemporary, modernist aesthetic that came into it to make it what it was.

It stands out – it’s not Jimi Hendrix. It’s not The Doors, although there are some very proggy elements of The Doors music. But if you listen to Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick, that is not like listening to Traffic or Chicago.

But yes, musicologists agree there is some degree of the classical aesthetic that fused with what was happening in the 60s with rock, pop, and psychedelia, that kind of created this new form that then was labeled progressive rock.

OK. Thank you very much for your time. It has been a pleasure.

Greg Kampf, Prog Rock Relayer, pt 1: History

Greg Kampf, Prog Rock Relayer, pt 2: The Internet Effect