Talking poetry and other turn-ons with Andrew Whiteman

By | April 26th, 2011 | 7 Comments
Andrew Whiteman

Broken Social Scene guitarist, O, Miami poet, and Jewel basher Andrew Whiteman -- photo from brokensocialscene.ca

In my ongoing mission to interview each of the 47 members in Canadian indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene, I spoke to guitarist Andrew Whiteman last month ahead of his two upcoming O, Miami poetry festival events at Purdy Lounge (Literary Death Match Thursday night and Broken Social Spam Friday night).

Besides being in at least three bands — Apostle of Hustle and AroarA in addition to Broken Social Scene — Whiteman is also a dedicated reader and writer of poetry. In our interview, we spoke about his upcoming book of poems, Tourism; Jewel, Billy Corgan, and other “horrible” poet-musicians; and the time he jammed in the Arctic with an experimental Inuit throat singer beneath a 90-foot glacier. (I know, that last one is so banal, but Whiteman insisted we talk about it.)

What can you tell me about Tourism?

It’s largely about being on tour, something people don’t really know about. It’s about my experiences touring [with Broken Social Scene] in 2010 … for Forgiveness Rock Record. We went to Europe three times, we went to Asia twice, North America a few times.

Did that tour stand out to you as good material over previous tours for any reason?

Well, you know, it’s good because it’s contained. It’s a specific time and a specific record. April 2010 to, say, February 2011. It’s nice. People can handle that. Poetry is difficult enough to have people read. You know what I mean? You put a frame on something and it’s kinda easier for people to take it or leave it.

Poetry isn’t exactly popular in our culture, which is something O, Miami is working to change. Do you think a book of poetry based on a touring rock band might reach a broader audience than most books of poetry?

It’s certainly possible. Jewel sold a lot of books [laughs]. I’m in the same camp by doing this as a lot of absolutely horrible musicians and worse poets, like Billy Corgan and Jewel and let’s see — who else? Ryan Adams. That’s not the exact company I’d like to keep. My point in mentioning those books is that they get printed. People do buy them.

I think poetry right now is pathetic. I mean, reading’s place in culture is highly diminished since TV, and poetry goes down with that. But within the reading world, I don’t think poetry has lost any sort of ratio as a piece of the pie.

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Broken Social Scene at Revolution Live

By | February 13th, 2011 | 13 Comments

BSS frontman Kevin Drew and Lisa Lobsinger

Weird show. For me and for them. For me, in part, because circumstances thrust me into the role of professional photographer — which I am not (see photos after the jump). I’ve never had to capture as many as 10 bouncing humans in either low or psychedelic light within a strict Live Nation-mandated time limit (three songs). I also had to deal with the unfamiliar protocol of the press-pass-carrying photographer, which included having to remove my equipment (camera, lenses, bag) from the premises after the three-song time limit or face something akin to extraordinary rendition by Live Nation. If I’d known that, I might not have parked half a mile away in a seedy city parking lot. I ran fast enough by a cop on my way back to the show — which I really didn’t want to miss any part of — that the Gal in Blue definitely thought I’d knocked off the nearby McDonald’s.

Weird for them, Broken Social Scene, because the acclaimed Canadians find themselves in an awkward place for indie rockers (as the following mixed metaphoric terminology suggests): somewhere between underground and mainstream. This weird, interstitial positioning manifested itself architecturally in Revolution Live, the not-so-big, not-at-all-small Ft. Lauderdale venue BSS played last night. In a 2003 interview following the release of the out-of-nowhere, approaching-perfect You Forgot It In People, BSS founding members Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning (who I interviewed on Tuesday) said they wanted to ultimately push past the club and record-store shows to play capacious “soft seaters”. Who could blame them? I mean, the band’s own size (seven to the n members) makes playing big venues a financial imperative. But the kind of crowd a venue like Revolution draws — one die-hard fan for every three foot-tappers, four arm-folders, and five “Who’s playing and when can we dip out to Los Olas?”ers — puts a ceiling on how good the show can be of more or less the same height as the actual height of Revolution’s ceiling.

Breaking through to the heavens is unlikely, is what I’m saying.

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Saturday Night’s Art Dilemma

By | February 9th, 2011 | 2 Comments
Eiko and Koma

A studio shot from Raven, Eiko and Koma's three-year retrospective.

At times, keeping up with the arts in Miami can be overwhelming (e.g., Art Basel). Other times, there’s little for an art lover to do but wash his paint brushes. If “feast or famine” is the most accurate description, one could call this coming Saturday night a buffet, with South Florida serving up an enticing menu of modern dance, indie rock, and the visual arts.

Japanese dance duo Eiko and Koma will be performing their second and final Tigertail Productions performance of Raven at the Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road. Across the bay, Wynwood and Design District galleries will open their doors to one and all for February’s Second Saturday Artwalk. And up in Fort Lauderdale, indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene will blow the paint off the walls at Revolution Live. (Check out our interview with BSS founding member Brendan Canning.)

It’s impossible to do it all!

If you’re hoping to simplify things by catching Eiko and Koma’s first performance, on Friday, be careful: You’d have to miss out on Christo’s lecture at FIU, where the living art-world legend will be discussing two upcoming projects, Over The River and The Mastaba. I, for one, cannot miss Christo (an inspiration of mine since college), so the Saturday dilemma persists.

Having too many amazing art events to choose from is definitely a good problem to have, but choosing isn’t easy. What to do?

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Interview with Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning

By | February 8th, 2011 | No Comments

Broken Social Scene under the El in Chicago, where the band recorded Forgiveness Rock Record.

“I’m not one of those guys who gets excited about things,” Broken Social Scene founding member Brendan Canning told me in response to my question: “Are you as excited to talk to me as I am to talk to you?” Just kidding, but I do think I caught Canning in a moment of understandable distraction. We spoke by phone this morning as he did the dishes and generally prepared to hop on a bus bound for Atlanta, the first stop on BSS’s tour in support of Forgiveness Rock Record, the band’s fourth studio album. On Feb. 12, the tour brings the Canadian indie-rock collective to Revolution in sunny Ft. Lauderdale. Here is my interview with Canning, in which he schools me on a couple of the finer points of cold-weather living, talks forgiveness, and shares his insight on how local music scenes can break past their city limits.

Hey Brendan. Thanks for taking time to talk to me. I’m really looking forward to the show this weekend.

BC: Shit, this weekend. Wow. When you wake up and get the news that it’s minus 27 with the wind chill factor, and you’re going to be in Florida in five days – I haven’t even looked at our itinerary closely. I just know I get on a bus tonight, and I’m dead headed to Atlanta. I still gotta pack. Doing some dishes in the sink. Waiting for my dog sitter. You know, the usual pre-tour stuff.

Is it really negative 27 in Toronto right now?

BC: Yeah, we don’t call it “negative” – we call it “minus”. I know you don’t get that kind of temperature gauge down there [in Miami].

Yeah, you’ll have to forgive me. I can tell you that right now it’s about 70 degrees and gorgeous out.

BC: Yeah? See there’s my little incentive. There’s my glimpse of, yeah, it’s going to be exciting to be on tour, because I’m not going to have to wear my parka, or worry about whether my little dog gets salt in its paws. [BC goes on to explain the concept of sidewalk salting to melt snow. I only wish he had also explained the concept of snow.]

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