WARMER MIXTAPES #695 | by David Lester (Horde Of Two) and Jean Smith (2 Foot Flame, Book Of Common Gestures, Transmarquee) of Mecca Normal

SIDE A | by Jean Smith

1. Dr. Feelgood | She Does It Right
Until I watched a recently made BBC documentary on the time just before Punk, the Origins of Punk, I didn’t know what Pub Rock was. Actually, I thought Pub Rock was more of a local term to describe Cover Bands that played in Pubs and Bars. These guys, Dr. Feelgood and bands playing Pubs in England, set Punk into Motion. The Guitar player is still around doing this Great Riff.

2. The Tragically Hip | Ahead By A Century
Events from all the Exciting Things We’ve Done Pop into my Head Without Warning. It can happen at Any Time. They aren’t Always Big, Important Things; Sometimes it’s just a Point on a Long Drive and a Song on the Radio and Other Times, Other Drives, Recalled by however Memory works. When we are Young we think it is a Terrible thing to get Old, to be Focused on Memories, but Really, once I started to Experience Memory from the Vantage Point of an Older Person, it was Significantly Different, Less Lame, than what I’d imagined when I was Young. There was a place on a straight road a year ago, driving from Toronto to Montreal, and this song came on the Radio and it Re-Positioned the Trajectory of What We Attempted To Do when we first started Mecca Normal, which was to Change the World, to Encourage Women to Form Bands with their Friends and Sing About Their Actual Feelings and Observations and this happened and it was called Riot Grrrl and in some ways I feel we were Ahead by a Century and in another way, Sometimes a Get A Good Feeling that the Really Good Years have not even Begun Yet.

3. Bobbie Gentry | Ode To Billie Joe
I Love how she tells the story and her supple, Confident Touch on that Parlour Guitar.

4. Mecca Normal | Attraction Is Ephemeral
This is the First Music Video I made. The images are from my Online Dating profile and the story is a Specific Narrative that, while Entirely Idiosyncratic, Compounded with Similarly Unpleasant Scenarios until I’d had enough of the whole thing. I was seeking a Profundity and, at best, I found Mediocrity in the Form of Deception, Manipulation and Narcissism.

5. Flo Rida | Good Feeling
I first laid eyes on Flo Rida when he was on TV doing a Live Duet with Carly Rae Jepsen who was skipping around the stage like a 5 year old. I had to know the context of this Strange Pairing and so I learned that they both had Hit Songs. I got into the Catchiness of Good Feeling and then, at work (Curves, the gym for women who hate gyms), I made a comment to my 21 year old co-worker about Flo Rida and she couldn’t believe I knew who Flo Rida was (because I’m 53 and therefore, a lot of things are assumed about me).

6. Gang Of Four | Paralysed
In the mid 1980s, David Lester gave me a lot of Great Albums by bands he’d found out about when he squatted in London in the very late 70s. I was introduced to Punk Rock by way of X-Ray Spex, Slits, Poison Girls, Raincoats, Au Pairs and Crass. Most of the bands he listened to had women in them; the exceptions were the Clash, Sex Pistols and Gang Of Four. Often David had stories to tell about seeing these bands Live. I think he saw Gang Of Four on the back of a flatbed truck at a No Nukes rally. Many years later, Mecca Normal was playing an afternoon event at a friend’s house, and a member of Gang Of Four was there, but we didn’t know it until after, when he came up said he liked us. What A Thrill!

7. Public Image Ltd | Public Image
The first time I went to New York City was in the early 1980s. I was in my early 20s. I was Alone, Staying at Hostels and going to lots of Art Museums. I didn’t see any bands. Several years later, when David Lester and I were co-workers at a newspaper in Vancouver, I asked him which bands I should see and he said PiL. I guess he was sort of joking, since it would be unlikely that PiL would be playing while I was there. When I got back from my trip, he was totally shocked that I’d actually gone to see PiL play at the Roseland Ballroom, a venue he and I would play years later when Mecca Normal opened for Fugazi.

8. Can | Soul Desert
This album, Can Soundtracks (1970), was introduced to me while Mecca Normal was driving from show to show across Europe in the late 1990s with our Tour Meister Dirk Hugsam. We listened to it a lot as Dirk drove the autobahn Very Fast in whatever car he, a former Race Car Driver, had managed to borrow for our numerous tours. Once it was a Citro├źn, a few tours in an old Mercedesthese were some of the Best Times Ever. Dirk filled the car up with smoke from his Rothandle cigarettes and I noticed I breathed a little bit deeper as we got on the road Each Morning, becoming Slightly Addicted, I suppose. In North America, I do all the Driving on tour, so it was a great treat to be able to sit in the backseat with bottles of champagne, writing the beginning of my second novel Complexity Is The Ghost Of Understanding (later shortened to The Ghost Of Understanding by sales reps) on a borrowed laptop. At that time, in the 90s, there was interest in what Mecca Normal were doing because we were associated with D-I-Y, Grunge and Riot Grrrl.

9. DML & Holger Leger | Subconscious
A guy had made some Interesting (Negative) comments about KickStarter so I went to the SoundCloud page based on his nickname. I ended up using this song as a loop for twelve hours at a time to block out other noises in my apartment building while I was writing a novel called The Black Dot Museum Of Political Art about a Narcissist who attempts to prevent an Environmentally Destructive Coal Mine from opening off British Columbia's Pristine Coast and a Curator of a Political Art Museum who discovers that the Cure for Narcissism is Abstract Expressionist Painting. I like the Background Noise that sounds like Rain in this track, maybe it matched the Rain outside my window as I wrote in the Winter months, getting up at 2 and 3 a.m. to put in 8 hours before going to Work at Curves, the Gym for Women who hate Gyms. I like the Lightness, the Swishing of the Shuffle, the Gallop of the Percussion.

10. The Raincoats | Lola (The Kinks Cover)
I was not yet a Singer in a band when I heard the Raincoats, but I wanted to be. I took a cassette of this song and drove my ‘74 Corolla down towards the waterfront in Vancouver, near the Docks and Industry. I bounced through puddles, stopped in the middle of a Large, Isolated Gravel lot and turned on a secondary tape recorder while this played on the Car Stereo. I recorded as I Sang Along, feeling like a Total Idiot. I also sang along to X-Ray Spex's Warrior In Woolworths and I did not like doing this or how it sounded later, at all. At our first rehearsal, David took me out onto the Tiny Balcony on the back of the Old Wooden House he lived in across the alley from the Value Village on E. Hastings in Vancouver. He handed me a Potted Plant and told me to chuck it onto the Cement Pathway leading from the house to the alley. I did and then we came back inside and he said, Belt it out!!!... He turned on the cassette tape recorder and we did our first song: Conform.

SIDE B | by David Lester

Mix Tape of songs I've listened to while working on Music and Designing and Drawing, including my graphic novel The Listener. Based on a true story, The Listener reveals a Tragic Act that changed the course of History. Complacency, Art and Murder collide in Hitler's rise to Power in 1933, while the parallel Fictional story features Louise Shearing, an artist searching for Meaning in the Art of Europe after the death of a Political activist. In 2012, The Listener was a finalist for Foreword Reviews' Book Of The Year Award (Graphic Novel category).

1. Unwound | December
In September, 2001 Mecca Normal toured with Unwound. Things started off Simply Enough in Toronto, watching their set, thinking I was lucky to get to see Justin Trosper brilliantly play his guitar every night. But as we headed South, the tour careened off the rails as the Twin Towers fell, Killing Thousands, Crashing Onto Civil Liberties, and Leading to Illegal Invasions, Torture, Prisons and Wars, and Hundreds of Thousands More Dead. We finished the tour with a Certain Undefined Trepidation, but I still enjoy Justin's playing.

2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor | Storm
In 2000, Mecca Normal toured the West Coast with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. At one of the San Francisco shows, all 10 members of Godspeed joined Mecca Normal for our final song, Beaten Down. It was a sound fury that matched the lyrics: "Ya, you fight the system, When you’re 22, But we all grow up, To be beaten down. Maybe some of us will, Maybe some of us won't, be beaten down". The song was Relevant when it was written in 1984 and it continues to be Relevant, in part because of the Context of Time and Place when it is played and Re-Invented, as it was with Godspeed that night.

3. Jean Smith | A Little Black Dress
Over the years of drawing and writing The Listener, Mecca Normal wrote songs, recorded and released albums, toured, and developed a lecture called How Art & Music Can Change The World. Yet, during this time it was also possible for me to create a 312 page Graphic Novel. This is the Unique Creative Partnership Jean and I have. There has to be room for each of us to Expand Individually, knowing that this Enhances our Contributions to Mecca Normal. Last year Jean wrote two amazing novels and I was lucky to be the first to read and offer comments on the manuscripts, even if some of this discussion did take place in a Tim Horton's Doughnut Shop. But it is Great to be Able to Go from Talking about Writing to Plugging in the Guitar and Making Music. Does Life get any better? Jean did an Opening Set on the Godspeed You! Black Emperor tour; another example of the Thrill of Seeing a Comrade Blow Minds on her own, Knowing that it makes a Partnership Stronger.

4. Mirah | Jerusalem
In this song, I think Mirah is singing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: So now Jerusalem, you know that it's not right. After all you've been through, you should know better than to become the wicked ones Almighty God once saved you from... Mirah invited Mecca Normal to play a show with her in Portland in 2007, but it wasn't until a few years later that I visited Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Hebron for the kind of Experience where once the Eyes are Open They Can Never Again Be Closed.

5. Fugazi | Suggestion
Mecca Normal has played with Fugazi a number of times. It might seem like an Odd Pairing, and I'm sure this has confounded many Fugazi fans, but I think that's part of the Idea. Mecca Normal is not Afraid of Confronting the Audience, in fact we've made a History of it. Fugazi has always challenged its audiences, and just maybe having a Feminist Punk Rock Duo open the show was part of that challenge.

6. Wendy Atkinson | The Dockyard
Experimental Electric Bassist Wendy Atkinson was the Visual Inspiration for the character of the Artist, Louise, the protagonist in my Graphic Novel, The Listener. Of course it wasn't just that she allowed me to sketch her, but it was also because she is someone who has Integrity as an Artist and an Individual yet has to Deal with the Complexities and Contradictions that Come with these Qualities. This is not unlike my protagonist Louise.

7. Shoplifting | What About A Word?
Mecca Normal went on tour with Shoplifting in 2006, and in Baltimore we played the 4th floor of a Warehouse Space. After the show both bands slept in the space. I bedded down on my Padded Guitar Case and in the Light of the Morning I woke up amid a collection of cigarette butts. As people Slowly Rose and Packed Up I remember telling the lead singer of Shoplifting, Chris, that I was creating a Graphic Novel called The Listener. At this point in a conversation, most people just nod, but Chris asked what the book was actually about. An Unusual Moment, First Thing in the Morning and then it was time to load equipment to Load and Out, find our way to DC for the next show.

8. The Corin Tucker Band & Mecca Normal | 1,000 Years (Live)
I'm currently working on a new Graphic Novel about the last months in the Life of Anarchist and Feminist Emma Goldman. A big part of my book will be Trying to Understand and Explain Emma's Unwavering Activism Despite Society's Changing Political Fashions, her Depression and Old Age. It is a story that I hope resonates with Artists, Musicians, and Activists and those trying to Live in a Non-Asshole way, Creative Forever. In 2011, Corin Tucker invited Mecca Normal to play a few shows with her, as well as play Live on 1,000 Years. It was fun to see Jean sing with Corin and I got to do a Rare Guitar Solo.

9. The Hive Dwellers | The Dignity Of Saint Jude
I filmed The Hive Dwellers doing this song at a House Show in Vancouver. Calvin Johnson just sang into the room, No Mic, No PA, but he had all the Essence needed to make it Art and Community. It is Calvin's Bold Claiming of Space to make Music under any Circumstances that I Admire, and it should give all of us Inspiration in the Fight Against a World Controlled by the Ideology of Corporations.

10. The Hidden Cameras | Throw Silver (Mecca Normal Cover)
When You Make Music You Don't Have The Luxury Of Being Your Own Mirror. It is just Impossible, you are Too Close. When I heard Hidden Cameras version of the Mecca Normal song Throw Silver it was as if for the First Time I could really Experience that Song. This is not Unlike what I think will happen when I complete my Graphic Novel on Emma Goldman. Many books have been written about her and each one contributes a New Portrait by Virtue of Who has Written it. Emma once said, No real Social Change has ever been brought about without a Revolution -- Revolution is but Thought carried into Action.