It’s been a long time since I posted on my blog! I admit, I had a bad case of social media burnout after my Indiegogo campaign. But I’m back, although this first post is mostly self-promotion.
A lot has happened since May. I finished my album and launched it with a small tour, I graduated from the MLIS program at McGill, I toured on the west coast for a couple weeks and then had a vacation – and, I had a kid!
I promise I will talk more about being a dad in the future. But in the meantime I’ll just say that I feel lucky to live in a place where paternity leave is available for a freelance musician, it makes an amazing difference. I just wish I could have more time!
But now after a spending an amazing month at home with baby Suki, it’s back to work – and I’m diving right in to a crazy first week (I hope my chops can handle it). Here’s this week’s schedule:
Friday: Vertige en 4 temps
There are only 10 days left in my Indiegogo campaign! Please visit my campaign page, please contribute, please share!
Katie Moore is one of the sweetest people ever, and a great singer. I’ve actually never performed with her, but I’ve heard her many times, either with her own band or with Socalled. And she’s a big fan of the Key-Lites, so she’s heard me play a bunch (both Simon and Dave play in her band).
Katie agreed immediately to make me an endorsement video, but she actually sent me four! I’m not including all of them, but I loved the one above. And the last one was a crazy video by her drummer, Woody, and I couldn’t help but include it as well. Check it out:
I know Mike O’Brien through the guys in the Key-Lites, they’ve been friends for many years. Mike is a fantastic guitarist, and an even more fantastic guy. I first heard him playing with Katie Moore a couple years ago at the Outremont Theatre in Montreal. Every note he played was tasteful and musical. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to play with him a few times (including in an exciting, upcoming country band featuring many of Montreal’s best musicians – stay tuned!), and get to know him a bit. He happens to really know his beer – whenever I’m at Vices & Versa and he’s working, I basically just ask him what I should drink, and it’s always great.
I knew Mike’s voice-over skills from the Key-Lites pitch video, and I was very excited when he agreed to lend his voice for mine, too. I believe he is a huge factor in the success of my Indiegogo campaign to date. So we decided to put together a short film about Mike that was thematically in line with the pitch video. Thanks Mike!
A little Indiegogo update
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to and shared my Indiegogo campaign! There is just under two weeks left, and I still need to raise about $2,000. If you haven’t already, I urge you to contribute, you won’t regret it! If you’ve already contributed, please share the campaign with others.
As an additional incentive, I’ve decided to pad some of the perks. The Book of Sheet Music will now include all the compositions from my first album, Joel Kerr Quintet, as well as my two pieces from Live in Silence. This means there will be eighteen pieces included in the book! This perk is available on its own, or included in others. Order it now!
Most people only know Yoko Ono as the person who “broke up” the Beatles. If they know a little bit more about her, they will know of the experimental music she made with John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. Or they might know about the famous Bed-In at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1969.
What most people don’t know about Yoko is her work as a conceptual artist (or her work as a peace activist, but I won’t get into that now).
In 2002 I took a road trip to San Francisco with my roommate, Blair Fornwald, and her boyfriend at the time, Adam Budd. This was when I had briefly moved back to Regina, after having dropped out of the Artist Diploma program at the Glenn Gould School of Music. Blair, Adam and I drove straight for 30 hours in my family’s trusty Toyota Previa, to spend only three days in San Francisco. The reason we visited the city was that I had a good friend living there, Erik Franden, a fellow Glenn Gould School dropout; Blair and Adam came along for the adventure. Erik, in addition to being a great friend, was responsible for introducing me to an incredible amount of new music, such as Astor Piazzolla, Marc Ribot, and Ali Akbar Khan.
The trip was super fun – we went to the beach, we ate great Mexican food, we went to lots of record stores, and we went to lots of museums. To be honest, I’ve forgotten a lot of the trip, I just have vague images left. But the one thing that is still vivid is our visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where there was a Yoko Ono retrospective. I, like most people, didn’t know the first thing about her. But the exhibit totally blew me away. Her work was powerful in its simplicity, humour, and positivity.
One example is the same piece that caused John Lennon to want to meet Yoko. Imagine this: There is what appears to be a blank white canvas in a simple frame hanging on the ceiling, with a ladder below it, and a magnifying glass attached to the frame. You climb the ladder, and inspect the canvas using the magnifying glass. After a few minutes (or more) of searching, you find a single microscopic word printed on the canvas, which simply reads Yes.
The Japanese influence in her work was apparent not necessarily in the content, but in the aesthetic. Much of her work is abstract, a lot is minimalist, and all of it is understated. Sometimes it’s surreal, sometimes disturbing, sometimes absurd, sometimes child-like in its straightforward honesty. It speaks of strength and perseverance, no matter what the hardship.
At the exhibition, there was a video of her performance of Cut Piece, where she sat motionless on a stage with a pair of scissors, and audience members were invited to come up on stage and cut off parts of her clothing. Watch it here, and see how you feel while this is happening.
Yoko’s work has haunted me ever since I saw this exhibition. I bought her book of instructions, entitled Grapefruit (Simon & Schuster, 2000), at the SFMOMA gift shop, and have read it countless times, always finding inspiration within its pages. A few years ago I decided to write a suite of pieces based on poems in this book, two movements of which appear on my upcoming album. This is one of the poems:
you are water
we’re all water in different containers
that’s why it’s so easy to meet
someday we’ll evaporate together
but even after the water’s gone
we’ll probably point out to the containers
and say, “that’s me there, that one.”
we’re container minders
I met Ryan Purchase in grade 9 (we were 15), at Campbell Collegiate, in Regina. We hit it off immediately because we were both really into the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as well as the Lord of the Rings. I remember going over to his house and playing the HHGTTG text-based video game (which you can now play online – for free!! But be warned – it’s INFURIATING!!!), and listening to a lot of music – I’m pretty sure Ryan was the one who introduced me to Dread Zeppelin (oh yeah, we were both big Led Zeppelin fans). Basically, we liked all the same stuff – the only area we ever differed was Dr Who, which I never got into. We acted very silly in class, not exactly tormenting the teachers, but probably annoying and confusing them a lot. Mr Ransom, our French teacher, in particular. For example, a class exercise involving the phrase “j’aime le rosbif” spawned a whole four years of roast-beef-centered conversations, as well as roast beef sandwiches left on his desk as gifts.
We also both played in the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra (Ryan plays the trombone), we both went to the University of Regina for our B.Mus. degrees, we both played in the Regina Symphony Orchestra, and we lived in Toronto at the same time (Ryan for the two years of his M.Mus. at University of Toronto, me only for one year for the first year of an Artist Diploma at the Glenn Gould School of Music). We haven’t lived in the same city since, though – Ryan lived in Edmonton for many years, and eventually moved to Ottawa, while I travelled all over the place working on cruise ships for a few years, lived in Krakow for a year, then Vancouver for two years, and eventually settled in Montreal.
In 2004, we spent most of the month of May backpacking in Iceland. This was a life-changing experience for both of us. It’s imprinted so strongly on my psyche that it still feels like it just happened, even though it was more than a decade ago. We backpacked throughout the southern part of the country, where it was usually quite easy to find rides and places to stay, although we ended up several times at the hostel in Vik (the town at the southernmost point of the country, famous for it’s huge cliff overlooking a black sand beach and the rock figures in the water, which legend tells us are three trolls who were caught in the morning light after struggling to pull a captured ship to shore). We met tons of amazing people, both locals and travellers. There were two Scandinavian women around our age driving the circumference of Iceland who we bumped into several times and in several places throughout our trip!
When we wanted to go to the more remote areas in the north of the country, we rented a car for a week, a Volkswagon Golf which we named after the young woman who worked at the Vik hostel, Aesa. Unfortunately, the car rental used up our accommodations budget, so we slept in the car the whole time (except for one night in Siglufjordur, where we went to a hotel and had the whole place to ourselves). As uncomfortable as it was for the two of us to sleep in such a small car when it was still below freezing at night, we awoke in some pretty amazing places. Although once we woke up to discover we had slept in a school parking lot, that was more funny than amazing.
As you can probably imagine, Ryan and I have musically collaborated many times over the years. We’ve both attended KlezKanada many times, which is where I met a lot of musicians I play with regularly. We’re both into improvised music, and even though we’ve explored it in different ways, we have performed many times together, often through the IMOO series in Ottawa. Ryan recently released an album, Morphology of a Lover, which is pretty amazing, as was the entire process. He assembled a bunch of great improvisers (me, Mike Essoudry, Amy Horvey, Megan Jerome, Christian Dawid, and Ryan), and recorded us individually but in sequence, having either just an idea in our minds to explore, or sometimes a recording of only the previous person, which we reacted to. He then took all these separate improvised elements, and edited them together to create an incredibly cohesive and musical album.
Morphology of a Lover is one of the albums included in my “Complete Works of Joel Kerr” Indiegogo perk. Thanks Ryan!
I mentioned Dave Cooper in my post about Craig Pedersen; he illustrated the cover of our duo album, It’s A Free Country. He recently took some time out of his incredibly hectic schedule working on the upcoming Nickelodeon show Pig Goat Banana Cricket (see the promo video for the show here) to send me a quick endorsement video for my Indiegogo camapign (music by yours truly).
I met Dave through Craig, at an IMOO concert in Ottawa a couple of years ago. I had known of him previously, partly through Craig, partly because of my interest in certain types of counter-culture illustration and animation (not an interest I’ve pursued deeply, but an interest nonetheless). I won’t attempt to describe his style, I won’t do it justice, but I highly suggest you check out his work! Anyways, in addition to being an incredibly talented artist, he’s a strong supporter of the Ottawa experimental music scene, AND he’s a super nice guy: the first time I met him, I mentioned I was going back to Montreal that night, and he offered me a ride! And I’m pretty sure he would have actually done it, if I had accepted.
Thanks for the support, Dave!!
Siach Hasadeh is the most spiritually rejuvenating group I play in. We take ancient Chassidic hymns and give them a modern interpretation, using various arranging techniques and a lot of improvisation. It’s very meditative and introspective music, but because of the element of improvisation, very expressive at the same time. Often, everyday life can be exhausting and spiritually draining. One of the reasons I play music is that a great musical experience will refresh me and uplift me. But some music does this more than others, and more consistently. Any time Siach Hasadeh performs, I feel revitalized – about music, life, and humanity in general.
The group is, at its core, a duo of myself on double bass and Yoni Kaston on clarinet. But we frequently collaborate with other musicians – and our collaboration with violinist Daniel Fuchs and cellist Gaël Huard has turned into another full-fledged iteration of the band, one where we have been working a lot with different improvisation exercises and techniques, searching for a larger vocabulary with which to interpret the melodies of the material we perform. We have also worked a lot with harmonica virtuoso Jason Rosenblatt and Turkish Oud player and maker Ismail Fencioglu, both on stage and in the studio. In the past we have also worked with Oud player Nicolas Royer-Artuso, cellist Jackie Fay, and percussionist Francois Landry.
I first met Yoni at KlezKanada, an annual Jewish culture and music retreat/camp in the Laurentian mountains just north of Montreal. We played a tune together at an open mic at about 4am, and the musical connection was immediately apparent. We discovered we both lived in Montreal, and the project developed from there.
This year we released our second album, Song of the Grasses. It was recorded, mixed and mastered by Adam Tiller, who was in the McGill sound recording program while I was doing my masters degree, so we worked together a lot then. He did an incredible job with the sound of this album, I’m very happy with it. Adam is now working as a sound designer at Ubisoft.
In March 2014, we did a small tour of the North-East US, playing in New York, New Jersey, Vermont and Connecticut. Because of that tour, we were recently included in some “Best of 2014” lists on the New York Music Daily blog. Our show at the Stephen Wise Synagogue on the Upper West Side was among the Best New York Concerts of 2014, Our album Song of the Grasses was among the 50 Best Albums of 2014, and the song Kumi Roni from the same album was among the 100 Best Songs of 2014.
I, for one, am excited to see where this group goes!!