Monday, 28 November 2011

I Write To Blah Blah Blah

I often get asked, "What do you write to?" This is one of those vague, unfinished questions I usually answer with, "I write to appease the creative demons in my head. I write to entertain. I write to BLAH BLAH BLAH." I am always given a strange look by the questioner before the questioner says, "No. No. What music do you write to?"

As a teenager, I never really associated music with my writing. Of course, I always had something playing when I was writing my teenage drivel, but there was never any thought behind my choice of music. The music never influenced the words, or put me in a specific headspace. It wasn't until I went backpacking through Northern Europe when I was in my early twenties that I began matching music to my writing.

I was in this beautiful town in Ireland called Kilkenny, settling myself into yet another hostel. I had arrived at the hostel a little after one in the afternoon and, to my amazement, I was the only traveller there. The only other people there were a couple of girls who were cleaning the place, readying it for the onslaught of weary bodies that would slowly be stumbling in through the day. It was a perfect opportunity for me to take a few quiet minutes and write in my journal.

The second I flipped my journal open and touched pen to paper (yes, I actually hand wrote in this journal), music began to play from a stereo somewhere down below. The music was filled with deep bass and quiet sadness and a longing hope. I had never heard anything so hypnotic and beautiful in my life. I ran downstairs and asked one of the girls what was playing. She said the song was called "All I Need" by a band called AIR. The album was called MOON SAFARI. I went back upstairs and wrote as the melodic and ambient album moved from one song to the next. And when the album ended I looked down at what I had written and couldn't believe what I was seeing. Where before my journal entries were half a page long and very general, I had now written a five-page tale of my journey from Cork to Kilkenny and it was specific and colourful and even entertaining (which journal entries usually never are). It was unlike anything I had written in my journal before.

I ran downstairs and shuffled through the collection of CDs the girls had with them and I began taking names down. Aphex Twin. Orb. Orbital. Moby. Boards of Canada. Massive Attack. Luke Vibert. DJ Shadow. The list goes on. And as my travels continued on through Ireland and Scotland and England and the Netherlands and Germany and Denmark and Sweden and Finland, I slowly built up my collection of electronic and ambient music. I'm not going to claim the music made me a better writer, but I knew I would need it to get me back to that perfect headspace for future writing.

My love of mid-nineties to mid-2000s' electronic and ambient music continues today. This is the music I write most of my books to. When this music is on in the background, my thoughts and my words become focused. Worlds and situations and conversations suddenly just appear. I wrote my novel THE KING OF ARUGULA while (mostly) listening to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II. I wrote the sequel FOWL, SWINE AND THINGS THAT SEND SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE while (mostly) listening to Boards of Canada's The Campfire Headphase.

Take a listen to this. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the most amazing pieces of music ever composed. It is a source of constant inspiration for me.

And this bit of dark playfulness always makes me smile.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Flombagoo: Hints of Pistachio and Peppermint

Last night I hopped on my wobbly Segway and rolled down Vancouver's busy sidewalks to Ayden Gallery where the opening gala for Kristian Adam's FLOMBAGOO was in full swing. After parking my Segway in a creepy underground lot, I wandered up to the gallery and spent the next three hours experiencing the most beautiful and magical creatures I had ever seen. It was a perfect way to spend a Friday night in Vancouver!

Thank you Kristian Adam, Nomi Chi, Megan Majewski, Kelly Haigh, Russell Alton and Ayden Gallery for sharing a piece of your imagination with me...and with the world.

Here's a little taste of what I saw:

Kristian Adam in front of "Polar Bear"

Megan Majewski painting live at the opening of FLOMBAGOO

Kristian Adam and Nomi Chi in front of their stunning collaboration MEXICAN WOODS

FLOMBAGOO runs until December 4th. So hop on your Segways and head on down to Ayden Gallery. It's not only a great way to spend a night, but a great way to support your local artists.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Wish I Knew Flombagoo... Oh Wait! I Kind Of Do!

In June 2010 Crow Toes Quarterly took a dollop of M.S.T. Company's brilliant head typist Michael Sasi, two tablespoons of surreal children's artist Kristian Adam and one sprinkle of the wonderfully unique Ayden Gallery, and we mixed it all together in a giant bowl. After pouring the mixture into a large pan and baking it for three months at 350 degrees, ANIMALOPOLIS was ready to consume. ANIMALOPOLIS was an art exhibit... a collection of short stories... a completely unique event. The exhibit was also the centerpiece of Crow Toes Quarterly's 14th Issue, which remains the most popular issue of the magazine to date (and can once again be purchased HERE).

ANIMALOPOLIS was a great success, and it was such an inspiring experience for me that I couldn't wait to do it again. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get another event together before I closed CTQ's doors in early 2011. This, my friends, was a crying shame, because on November 4th, Kristian Adam will be unveiling his new exhibit FLOMBAGOO at Ayden Gallery and it is some kind of special. Had it appeared in Crow Toes Quarterly, our little arts and literature magazine for children would have gone global.

To celebrate FLOMBAGOO, I thought I'd share with you a little information about the artist and about the way his art affects me. Kristian Adam is, in my humble opinion, one of the most creative, inspiring artists in the world. I know this is a big statement, but I base it on how I feel when I view his work. Kristian's surreal, playful paintings and illustrations fill me with childlike wonder and joy. They put me in a world I'd love to live in forever. And I guess that is why I own so many of them. My home looks more like a Kristian Adam gallery than a home. No word of a lie!

I met Kristian in 2007 by way of M.S.T. Company's Michael Sasi (another person who inspires me greatly, who will be talked about in length in a future post and who will probably be mentioned often in this blog). Michael had submitted a story to Crow Toes Quarterly called MARCH OF THE FAT BABIES. A collection of paintings unlike any paintings I had ever seen before accompanied the story. They were exactly the types of paintings I had imagined gracing the pages CTQ when the idea of the magazine came to me. The prints in my hands were filled with strange characters who all had big, revealing eyes. Hooks held up landscapes, babies carried houses on their heads and little girls worshiped slices of cheesecake. When I shared the work with other staff members, I heard the same thing over and over again, "He's like Dali for Kids." It was an easy designation at the time, because it was the only way to describe something so different... something so new.

We published MARCH OF THE FAT BABIES in Crow Toes Quarterly's 3rd Issue and Kristian's painting THE PUMPKIN GANG graced the issue's cover. The art that accompanied FAT BABIES inspired me to write a word from the editor (or what we liked to call A WORD FROM YOUR HUMBLE NARRATOR) about the thin line between fascinating and frightening, and how things we deem strange or outwardly terrifying can actually be quite fascinating when you take the time (and the chance) to learn about them.

When I finally had a chance to meet Kristian, I didn't hesitate for a moment. I met Kristian and Michael at Granville Island in Vancouver and we spent several hours talking about art and writing and life. It was then that I learned that Kristian Adam is so much more than just a "Dali for kids". I learned that Kristian is someone who sees the world differently from the way I see it. And the way that he sees it is beautiful and scary and innocent and thought provoking all at the same time. This view of the world can be seen in every painting and drawing he does.

From that first meeting, Crow Toes Quarterly and Kristian Adam built up a great partnership. His work appeared in seven more issues and on the covers of The Fifth Issue, The Seventh Issue, The Ninth Issue (which was an original piece painted for M.S.T. Company's hilarious story SUPER RUPERT) and, of course, The Fourteenth Issue (ANIMALOPOLIS).

When I had decided in early 2009 that the CTQ Staff needed a new staff portrait, Kristian was my obvious choice for creating such a thing. Using the staff's old head shots, he re-imagined The Narrator, The Staff Villain, Ogilvy the Lackey and Poinsettia Park, and in doing so, gave them new life. His brilliant staff portrait graced the wall of our office and our website for the last two years of our existence, and is still up on the wall in my office. When I think back to my days with CTQ, his staff portrait is the first thing that enters my mind. Powerful.

I may be a little biased now because Kristian has become a friend, but all you have to do is take some time to look at his work and you will understand why I am such a fan. FLOMBAGOO may be his most accessible exhibit to date, which means, there will be something there for everyone. Kristian has incorporated real animals with his surreal characters and the merging of real and surreal is playful, emotional and awe-inspiring. If you've never seen Kristian's art inside a gallery before, FLOMBAGOO really is the perfect place to start.

Opening November 4th, 2011 - 7pm to 11pm

New paintings by KRISTIAN ADAM

Nomi Chi
Russell Alton
Megan Majewski
Kelly Haigh
Bling Squared


Free Admission

Live Music

Live Painting

Artists in Attendance

Licensed Event

Exhibition Closes December 4th, 2011