Category Archives: Direct Action

Original Six Outlaws…#2: Rick McCallion on Bass

March 3rd 2016 will mark 10 years since the first Outlaw Band pilot show at Spartacus Books in Vancouver BC.  Today’s blog is about how Rick came to be our bassist for the first 2.5 years.



For a couple years Rick was the most dedicated and most important member of the band.  We generally rehearsed at his place, he updated web pages, made sure other members had cheat sheets and owned the fleet of Dodge Caravans that we ran into the ground.  Like everyone else involved it seems to me a real coincidence I got to know Rick so well while its an unlikelyhood that he would have become a bass player in our band.  After all, he wasn’t even a musician when I first met him.

It was during a long rainy spell in February 2003 that I ended up down

Rowan and Rick in Fernie BC, November 2007. This was the last show we did that year, they went to Vancouver and Leah and I moved to Nanton Alberta for six months.

Rowan and Rick in Fernie BC, November 2007.

in Richmond BC to see about this house sitting gig.  I had only been in Vancouver a few months at this point but had already been through a lot settling into life on the coast.  I had been a homeless squatter with pnuemonia, a member of the legendary Woodwards occupation and had basically couched surfed/house sat through three different places afterward.  By this point I was actually sleeping on a bed made of my own clothes in a heatless appartment my friend had which was only made more bearable by my -20 rated down sleeping bag.

I had no idea what I was going to do with myself, or where I was going to go in life so depression was quickly taking over my thoughts.  The weather was so dreary and the dampness seemed colder than I ever could have imagined.  My health wasn’t well and I barely had a dollar to my name.  I had dreams that I felt I was impossibly far away from.  I was still organizing with the Anti-Poverty Committee in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside but I found myself missing the Tenant Action Group comrades back in Belleville Ontario.  I didn’t feel like I had any friends on the coast and in some ways I can say those feelings were justified.

However there were people who I seemed to have affinity with.  One of them was this sorta strange and gentle character I can only describe as a modern day monk.  His name was Sean and he sported a bald head and a long beard.  He was then and still is a perceptive character with very convincing ideas about the nature of government.  I met Sean at Woodsquat and then other left wing events I happened to be at in the city, he was keen to get involved with things as he could.

One way or another Sean knew I had nowhere to go, and was suffering for it, so he told me he might be able to help.  His housemate Rick was going to go to Gautemala for a project that involved computers, coffee and chocolate so the house would have no one in it for several months.  Sean didn’t actually live in the house as he and another fella named Bob lived in vans parked around the property.

I went out and met Rick one night and we instantly got along.  Without

Zippy on cello, Rick on bass. Robson Valley Music Festival August 2008, our last show together as the original lineup.

Zippy on cello, Rick on bass. Robson Valley Music Festival August 2008, our last show together as the original lineup.

further adieu I was able to stay at Rick’s through most of the spring of 2003.  The property was on the edge of a forested section outside of Richmond directly under the flight path of the big jets coming into YVR which would often rattle the windows on their way overhead.

The living room was great for songwriting and I made good use of it those months I was there.  I’m not sure how many songs I wrote there, or which ones, but I do recall making some progress on my fledgling act.  Rick also had an amazing collection of original 1970’s psychadelic rock albums which I spent a lot of time listening to and learning about.  At one point I made sure to record all my favorite records he had on to cassette tapes for further study, in some ways these bands are still a big influence on me.  Knowing what kind of music Rick was into as well played a role in the Outlaws becoming a band that pushed our shows to a psychadelic level.  All this seems fitting seeing as Rick’s living room would become the place where the band became the band just three years later.

Once Rick came back from South America I moved into a Strathcona single room occupancy place called the Bad Manors – which is famous for how many down and out or upcoming musicians had lived there.  My stay there was but a few months before moving around to a number of other places and going through a few years of relative stability in Vancouver.  Besides all that moving around I did Rick and I still kept in touch.



Rick is a genuine environmentalist which is something we held in common.  We had a number of adventures together in the years leading up to the formation of the band.  One July weekend we went up to the Elaho Valley, camped out and hiked around while Rick recounted many of the stories from the big forest protests he had been a part of there.  We ended that weekend by roping up and scaling down a cliff to get my cat Buddy who had decided to sleep on a ledge below our picnic site that seemed to have enough sunlight for him.  That’s right, my cat came camping.

On another occasion in August 2003 we drove out to the Anderson River somewhere outside of Boston Bar and took bicycles over to where Cattermole Timber Company planned to cut an old growth forest stand known to have spotted owls in it.  We biked more than 20km to get to the lookout and biked back spending a great deal of the return trip flying down steep switchbacks and never having to pedal.  For all our efforts we found his car to be sabotaged when we got back to it making our journey back to the city interesting to say the least.

Later in 2003 word got around that Cattermole Timber out of Chilliwack had been granted permission to log an old growth stand on Elk Mountain just outside of Chilliwack.  The next few months became very interesting as we got involved in the only forest action I was ever part of.  First we made friends with native allies from Cheam First Nation such as June and Fred Quipp and later became active in the protest camp itself as supporters.  We brought up provisions and often would go out just to visit, play songs and raise morale.

The cover of an informational zine I made for the Elk Creek Tree Sit.

The cover of an informational zine I made for the Elk Creek Tree Sit. (2003)

One day late in December Rick and I roped up and climbed to the platform at the top of a very large tree.  Swaying around in this giant tree was an amazing experience leaving me feeling so alive afterward.  However that very next day loggers wisely used a distraction tactic to make the activists think they were going to take a new road in, when the activists went there to intercept some other fallers came in and ended the tree sit camp once and for all.  They fell the very tree were in the day before.

As a last ditch effort to stop the logging operation one of the youth at the camp anonymously claimed the trees were spiked.  Although it was never proven to be true, and I have no knowledge that they actually did do this, it didn’t stop Joe Foy and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee from offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the tree spikers.  I never forgave Joe Foy for this personally, most of the kids at the camp were barely over 20.  Another spotted owl habitat was destroyed as was my remaining faith in liberal environmentalist movements.

So as the next two years passed Rick and I stayed buddies, one whom I knew I could trust.  Everything I had seen and experienced at the Elk Creek forest defence camp was because I was there with Rick.



This brings me to February 2006, that month leading up to the formation of the band.  I had returned from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, fresh from my experience of having a real band playing behind me and decided I was going to build my own once and for all.  I’m not entirely sure how it all came about but somehow or another Rick and I got to jamming at his place semi-regularly.  Our friend Luka also joined us frequently and we were starting to visualize the possibilities of a band.

Zippy, Kenan, Rowan and Rick behind the Royal Hotel in Fernie BC...February 2007

Zippy, Kenan, Rowan and Rick behind the Royal Hotel in Fernie BC…February 2007

I had set up the Outlaw Band pilot show at Spartacus Books which would happen on March 3rd.  I already had the services of a professional double bass player handy to me in the name of James Forrest.  When it came time to do the gig I did one set with Rick and two with James backing me up.  Rick had only just started to play bass and quite limited with what he could do, being new to music he especially struggled with song structure which he compensated for by having detailed cheat sheets.

However it was pretty obvious after this first show that James Forrest is the kind of bass player every aspiring country-folk singer would want to have behind him.  I also knew that bass players like him in Vancouver aren’t all that loyal to one particular band, they are hired ringers and if the gig pays well they will be there.  Of course our Spartacus gig paid squat but James was keen to make a try-out of it.  Of course having to commit to a bass player who is a professional and is busy with a number of other acts would make touring as a unit nearly impossible.

Knowing that Rick was going to be more willing I quickly started to think that maybe he was the way to go.  Up to that point I don’t think Rick expected that he had the chops to keep up with the project but I knew something about the electric bass guitar.  When I was a 15 and got my first bass Mike Rose and I immediately started working towards starting a punk band, in six months I went from having no skill on the instrument to being pretty good on the thing.  Maybe Rick wasn’t all that great in March 2006 but I correctly assumed he would be a lot better by the time March 2007 rolled around.

Rick at Book and Company in Prince George for the Artswells Fundraiser. June 2007.

Rick at Book and Company in Prince George for the Artswells Fundraiser. June 2007.

He made some immense improvements over the next year becoming a reliable ‘hold the fort’ bass player.  Picking a player who would be dedicated to the concept of a band…a family…a crew…was one of those smart things I did.  I wanted a democratic band of willing participants invested in our success, not hired musicians that you couldn’t rely on from week to week.

Not only did having our own bass player allow us to tour western Canada but I’m not sure we ever could have done so much of that without Rick’s driving efforts.  He also had a handy hippy living on his property named Bob who could fix just about anything wrong with our tour vans.  Rick really brought a lot to the table and is one of the biggest reasons the Outlaws had our first string of successes.

Rick waterproofs the leaky trailer that Todd Serious/Rebel Spell gave us.

Rick waterproofs the leaky trailer that Todd Serious/Rebel Spell gave us.

So in the weeks after the very first Outlaw pilot show I knew that I would somehow try to work with Rick while I had this amazing cello player named Zippy Zaenker who I also knew without a doubt I was going to work with.  I wasn’t sure how to mesh the two sounds together of a bass and a cello.  At this point I figured I was actually building two seperate bands and would figure out how to reconcile this problem later.  What I was doing with Zippy was essentially a continuation of the folk-punk act I had been doing the last few years…whereas what I wanted to do with Rick more represented the direction I wanted to take my music.

I wanted to be a real deal outlaw country singer.

If anyone has ever heard the Joey Only Outlaw Band EP (2006) they will understand what I mean by having two distinct sounds…part of that recording is the trio of Rowan Lipkovits, Zippy and I…while part of it is an example of what the Outlaw Band was going to try to do.  Often I would play one gig with one lineup and another gig with the other lineup depending on what made more sense for the room…and sometimes I’d play with both at the same time.  But by the time 2006 ended both lineups were integrated into one giant band and it pretty much stayed that way for the next two years.

So now I had a cello player…and a dedicated bassist.  I needed someone who could play with a cellist and I needed a drummer to play with the bassist.  I was in luck, a month later (April 2006) I met accordionist Rowan Lipkovits and drummer Kenan Sungur.  Almost all of the principle players would soon be involved.  When all the peices came together we were able to put together an ass-kicking road troupe that never backed down from a chance to go hard….but that’s a blog for another day.

Rick fixes a picnic after fixing the trailer during a breakdown outside Drumheller Alberta, June 2007

Rick fixes a picnic after fixing the trailer during a breakdown outside Drumheller Alberta, June 21st, 2007 on our way to Saskatoon.

Rick played gigs in four provinces with us during multiple tours until the end of the summer of 2008.  I believe he most likely was on stage with me for somewhere around 150-200 shows.  Rick became one of the principle people who helped me get through my recovery from tuberculosis.  He was our tech expert

We worked him hard through stressful trips and if we weren’t getting along at the end his time in the band it didn’t take long for us to admit our parts and stay friends (as we are to this day).  After surviving a few health scares and moving out of the city Rick continues to play music with a number of friends where he now resides on the coast. 

Thank you Rick for helping make the band happen…happy anniversary old friend.


The Early Years – (10 Years of the Outlaw Band)

On March 3rd it will be 10 years since the first official show of the Joey Only Outlaw Band.  The show was a pilot of sorts we put on at Spartacus Bookstore on Hastings Street in Vancouver on March 3rd 2006.  In honor of our 10 years I’m gonna tell you a little about what happened part by part.  If for no other reason just so my stories are preserved somewhere.



To keep this short I’m not going to mention the deep musical roots of my family, my mom’s choirs, my uncle Gary’s insane piano playing or the Madoc Music Store mom ran with her boyfriend when I was a boy.  I won’t talk about my first public performances nor will I mention how I got a bass and a guitar in 1994, relics that were left over from the defunct music store.

I won’t talk about the three year run of our punk band the Persecuted (1996-1998) or all those insane shows held at Spiderland Acres.  I won’t talk about busking in Belleville with Simon Handley and learning the ways of Mickey Hart from him.  I won’t mention being the leader of a church band, learning the blues, becoming a poet, being the singer of our high school jazz band for one year or the countless hours I spent playing guitar alone.

Now that’s out of the way…


The Persecuted…1997

2001:  In 2001, due to certain circumstances, I decided not to return for a fourth year of University.  I came back north of #7 that year and rented a room in a very old farmhouse for $100/month and largely bummed around all summer with my room-mate whose family farm it was.  I began working even harder on writing songs and was now fully moving away from playing the blues on my acoustic. I was deep in study of the history of folks, roots and country music.

I had been in several punk bands already since I was 16 but had also played with a wide variety of talented musicians from different genres.  Through high school I played the blues when home alone.  I was lucky to have had high school friends like Clifton David Broadbridge and Chris Cadell to teach me how to play the blues, they both have had major accomplishments in the blues world since so were well qualified to do so.  But I didn’t sing like them because I was a bass vocalist, I had to develop my own thing.


Singing in a punk band called Bloodthirst (2000-2001)

For lack of a band  I began to develop a sort of one man show where I’d stomp and whistle and hoot and holler.  I would kick the hell out of the floors of the farmhouse trying to get tighter, faster and smoother.  Despite this development my goal was still to play bass in a really good rock or punk band.  In my mind I’d start a good band and soon not have any more time for this folk music hobby.  It was fun pretending to be punk rock Stompin Tom in my spare time but I had no illusions of getting too serious about it.



When I needed money I would hitch hike down to Belleville, grab a milk crate from Mikey Labossiere’s place and stand on it downtown yelling ridiculous poetry at passersby.  I often did alright doing this, people were so surprised to see a busker of any kind in Belleville.  My poetry was political, intelligent and my street antics were hilarious.  It was a hobby that paid my few bills and kept me out of working a real job which would have derailed my artistic development.

Yelling poetry meant I didn’t have to hitch hike to the city with my guitar on my back.  It gave me all the money I needed for my meager rice, lentils, garlic and marijuana lifestyle up at the farmhouse where I mostly read books and smoked bongs.  I spent that year thumbing back and forth from the farmhouse to Belleville whenever I needed food, weed or friends.  I made art for local friends, went on days long solo hikes in the bush, practiced martial arts, read books and played guitar.  I was a punk rock beatnick poet.

That was how I met Sam Kuhn on Belleville’s Front Street.  He stopped with his girls one August afternoon and I yelled ridiculous poetry at them about the end of the world or something.  He looked at me stunned and said, ‘can I take you out for lunch?’

So there we were at the Bohemian Penguin talking at great length.  Sam told me that he was an anarchist who wanted to start a radical tenant advocacy organization to help smash capitalism.  The group would be allied with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and we would fight the ever increasing evictions that were happening.  I immediately jumped on board with Sam and Katherine Davis.  We quickly found enough angry poor people in downtown Belleville to start organizing, we were a force to be reckoned with after just one month.

Tenant Action Group quickly became an inspiration to anti-poverty groups across Ontario by stopping evictions, stopping hydro cut-offs from the newly privatized utility and bringing large contingents of people from Belleville to every major militant protest in the province.  We defended welfare mom’s and made great inroads with people in the local Mohawk Reservation.  It didn’t take long for TAG to become big news and a big controversy in Belleville.  We were maligned in the newspapers and harrassed by the local constabulary.

Through all this I was the entertainer of the group.  At this time I was still a year away from earning the nickname Joey Only but I was playing on the streets and in the bars of Belleville on the side.  I still had no stage name and no ambition.  I was pretty much just Joey (or streetpoet Joey).  If I played somewhere it wasn’t to start a career but to earn a meal, a few beers and whatever tips the bar would offer up.  If there was a major demonstration going on, such as the G20 Meetings in Ottawa of that year, I was sure to be seen singing songs or yelling ridiculous poetry to genuinely interested crowds.  By the time 2001 finished off I had made a lot of friends in the activist world.  It was a very fun time, things had changed a lot for me in just one year.  I saw myself as a poet of the revolution and made no attempt to consolidate my gains or build a reputation, I was doing it for the cause.



2002: The first two months of that year were quite exciting.  We hosted a big event in Belleville that brought Jaggi Singh, John Clarke and Judy Rebick to speak.  Once again I played entertainer and was celebrated for it while we as a group were scorned in the Belleville Intelligencer, as was always the case.  We were quite proud of ourselves.

Despite these positive things I was already getting weary from hitch hiking back and forth from old man Spiders property where I was staying through that bitter winter to organize in Belleville.  I had no money to my name and was skinnier than I had ever been.  My cabin wasn’t airtight and the stove wasn’t either while the walk to the road from the back of Spider’s property made sure no one would visit me.  I was tired of busking or collecting the odd welfare cheque while freezing my ass off in the bush and I was lonely for the love of a decent woman.  A wild fisher ate my two cats and that was the final straw, I was going to go away for what I thought would be a few months and have an adventure.  Boy was I wrong, the decision to go west completely changed my life.  I knew I had to become something but it tormented that I had no idea what that was or how to do it.

In March  I took a Greyhound bus to Lake Louise Alberta and got a job with my old punkfest and high school friends Lucas, Mikey and Dylan at Ski Louise.  The mountains blew my mind and there were also lots of great jam sessions to be found there.  There was something about the west that was calling me to stay.  I went back to Ontario at the end of April and got back to my old activist antics pretty quickly.  But I was deeply disatisfied with having nothing in Ontario to my name and didn’t feel like I could turn to my family.

So a few months later I was back in Lake Louise again working a crappy job and climbing mountains on my days off.  That year alone I had already travelled the country back and forth twice entertaining people wherever I went.  I’d be the guy at the back of the bus getting everyone singing including the driver.  I’d be the guy on the park bench entertaining total strangers who couldn’t get enough of the old time music.  I sang around Lake Louise while I was some sort of mountaineering, folk singing, punk rock dharma bum…I was loving it.

When the season ended, on Labor Day, I didn’t go back to Ontario.  My high school friend Lucas and I basically took the greyhound from Lake Louise to Hornby Island where I soon began playing music around the island for the next two months.  We’d jot over to the island to climb a few mountains then jot back to Hornby to play some party or event.  I met a lot of people in those two months.  I met a 14 year old girl who could walk on stilts and yell poetry, her name was Pest…years later we called her Tempest, her story later became a tragedy central to many of our lives.  But that’s a story for another day.  After two months on the island Lucas and I went our seperate ways and I decided I’d head east but make a stop in Vancouver first.



When I landed in Vancouver for the first time that October the first place I went to was the now infamous Woodwards Squat. I had already been a part of numerous squatting actions in Ontario and figured there must be some way I can help out while killing some time before either going to Ontario or back to work in Lake Louise when the season started.

I set up camp there on Hastings Street and played tunes to all the squatters.  I later gave speeches, took part in organizing and joined the Anti-Poverty Committee’s cause of fighting for the poor people of Hastings Street.  Through that I once again found myself playing at fundraisers and protests for any ultra-left cause that would take me.  I only stayed with APC a year but once again I had met many friends that would shape my life for years to come.  When I arrived in town I was without direction in life or even a stage name to advertise.

That soon changed when I got accidently named Joey Only by the Province newspaper in November 2002.  After a rally cry speech to a large crowd at the squat the newspaper people all wanted my name for their pictures.  I refused to give them my full name and I basically had no stage name as of yet to give them either.  I gave speeches at rallies because my moving speeches were effective, not because I wanted to become an activist celebrity.

I probably had no stage name due to some sincere beliefs that no one would really care about my music.  I burried my lack of personal confidence by imbedding myself in a movement.  I thought the only value my talent had was to motivate people on the issues of social change and that there was no place for my personal life in my songs.  I was content to sing at protests to raise morale and still had no delusions of a folk singing career.  I wasn’t trying to become a famous singer songwriter or even known in any capacity and I didn’t believe I had what it took to sell out.  I didn’t have a stage name and I didn’t want to give one.  It wasn’t my concern whether they printed a photo of me or not, I wasn’t staying in Vancouver long (so I thought) and wasn’t trying to attract too much attention to the authorities.

So I told the newspaper people, ‘my name is Joey.’

They demanded a last name and followed me around the Woodwards building till I finally emphatically announced, ‘it’s Joey ONLY!!’

The newspaper article that donned a nickname that donned a stage name.

The newspaper article that donned a nickname that donned a stage name.

What I meant was ‘Joey’ was the only name they were going to get from me.  But instead a color photo of me speaking at the squat was published with the name JOEY ONLY captioned beneath.  As the papers would go around the squat every morning people noticed it right away and instantly believed that was my actual name.  Within half an hour of the paper arriving at the squats desk everyone was calling me JOEY ONLY.  I thought I would abandon the handle as soon as I left Vancouver, but that never happened.

Through some turbulant times which including squatting another abandoned building with some punks, couch surfing, busking, dumpster diving and spending the last of my money waiting to get over my health problem I soon found myself stuck in Vancouver with winter coming on full bore.  The wet weather and harsh life of sleeping on the streets of Vancouver took its toll quickly, I developed pnuemonia and never bought the bus ticket back to Ontario as I was too sick to travel.  I had no money, the climate didn’t suit me and depression was starting to really take its toll.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life.  What was such an optimistic year ended in a profound state of depression and loneliness house sitting an appartment and spending christmas in isolation.

2003:  I had some small successes to start off 2003 including the first big solo show I everWISEFlyingFolk.png played.  It was at the WISE Hall and the headlining band was none other than Flying Folk Army.  The show was huge and it was a lot of fun.  I played really well too.  I was convinced I was on to something.  Pretty much from that point on I decided I was going to become ‘Joey Only’ and start trying to do more with my music.  From this time forward I had something new to work towards and it involved my own art.  I was terribly depressed though and not all that motivated to put myself out there.

Through 2003 things were pretty slow for bookings.  I appeared at Cafe Duex Soliels sometimes and was a constant regular busking in front of the People’s Co-op Bookstore.  The communist bookstore seemed to appreciate my knowledge of Joe Hill, Phil Ochs, Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg…they never moved me along but rather encouraged me to busk there.  I survived in Vancouver at that time by busking every day on Commercial Drive, some days were better than others.  I would sit in my single room occupancy appartment and sing for hours tormented by the fact that I didn’t know how to take myself somewhere with this music.  I hated singing to myself, I was driven to dream of more.

Through that summer I got teamed up with banjo picking punker named Altona.  Soon we added a fiddle, a washboard, spoons and a variety of other instruments and became a full on street band.  We took turns with Boxcar (Blake) hogging the best busking spots and eventually became the feature band of the short lived and controversial anarchist group called the Squeegee Council.  We formed our own branch in the Industrial Workers of the World called the Buskers Union and for a short time were a thorn in city councils side.

We actually walked into a City Council meeting with our instruments blazing to protest the police crackdown on buskers and panhandlers.  Because we disrupted the meeting with music the cops didn’t get us there that day however they began to harrass anyone involved with our street punk political movement.  We called the band the Hotfooted Haints.  We had a great thing going on that eventually fizzled away as many of them punx actually hopped trains once winter came.  Most of them I never saw again and didn’t know their real or full names.

The Hot Footed Haints, our Commercial Drive Busking troupe 2003

The Hot Footed Haints, our Commercial Drive Busking troupe 2003

Due to a series of criminal charges I got slapped with during my time with the Anti-Poverty Committee, and some concern about the breakdown of democracy in the organization, I stepped back from working for them.  I wanted to play music more but was still finding it hard to get real gigs knowing fullwell that having no recording was a big problem.  Thanks to a room-mate, Shane Davis, I had made a great demo disk with Canned Ham.  But someone stole the only copy of the disk from me and Ham never kept the file on his computer.  It was good, but it was lost.

During this year I also began to play songs live on Co-op Radio.  After just a few weeks of doing this I was offered a regular spot on the show Sound Resistance.  Even if I was out of the city for long stretches of time I soon became the main programmer for that show until I left Vancouver for good in 2011.  As the years went by the program became popular and my timeslot was expanded.  Hosting radio is something I will always miss, it was something I was born to do.  I’d play guitar, interview activists, give the lowdown on protests in town and play a wide assortment of interesting music.  Many people tuned in to the show every week for years, they never came to a concert and this was the only way they knew me.

By the end of 2003 I had decided that if I couldn’t get hired by clubs I would put on my own shows.  That’s why I started a run of monthly shows for 6-7 months at the new Palestine Community Center.  It was called the Working Class Cafe and usually featured a musician or two, who was passionate about social change, plus a guest speaker. In a sense it was a live production similar to the format of my radio show.

Tea and coffee were served and the shows were interesting enough that some people did come back every month.  Reem and Khaled were so supportive that they would always invite me to sing at any event the Palestinians put on (which was a big honour).  But the most important thing that came out of that time period for me personally was when David Roy Parsons came out to a show there and introduced himself.  Meeting Dave was one of those important things that had to happen because he helped fast forward my progression.



2004:  Thanx to David Roy Parsons I got invited to play a cool birthday party he was throwing with his old buddy Erik Paullson.  Erik is a great film producer who was soon to have a lot of success with the production he was working on called Eve and the Firehorse.  For their birthdays, which was on pretty much the same day as mine, they rented a theatre, invited a crowd and played video footage of the moon landings.  Later that night David and I played a short set and I also met Andy Mason and his band the Tricksters that day.  My destiny was once again forever altered.

Radical Folk of the Great North, first pressing.  Sold 2500 units.

Radical Folk of the Great North, first pressing. Sold 2500 units.

David and Andy had no trouble convincing they should help me produce a record, so I began to put my mind toward a concept which would become Radical Folk of the Great North.  We developed a small label called Ravenhymn Records (which never really took off).  Before we could produce my album I flew back to Ontario to play some shows with the likes of Rae Spoon and David Rovics…only to find myself landed in a Montreal jail cell due to some ummm misunderstandings that take place at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair.

Being charged and booked for trial in Montreal seemed like a huge obstacle at first.  I was in danger of getting some jail time as my charges were breach of probation, unlawfull assembly and mischeif over $10,000.  But I found that leftists were happy to help me raise money to make the trips across country to my court dates so long as I was playing music for them.

It gave me a good excuse to tour my way to Quebec and back to BC repeatedly.  After my incarceration in Montreal I pretty much stopped organizing openly with activist groups.  I may have showed my support, played benefits, stood at the back of their rallies…but I never again put myself on the line and probably never will.  I had been targetted and I knew it, with such stringent bail conditions it wasn’t safe for me to take part in militant activism anymore as I didn’t have the resources to fight anymore criminal battles.  I intended to come back to activism but I just never really did.  This was a good seperation though as music now took over my life.

We recorded Radical Folk of the Great North in David’s 10th floor appartment at the edge of the downtown eastside entirely on his budget and the donations of friends across Canada.  Andy Mason and Megan Adam from Flying Folk Army were the major guest stars on the album.  I wanted that CD to be a tribute to all the comrades I had organized with knowing that music was soon going to be the only kind of activism I was associated with.  I wrote ‘Fire on Anarchist Mountain’ in 45minutes one morning because there was a certain kind of song the album was lacking.  I couldn’t have guessed it would be my most popular song I ever wrote while my ‘Song For a BC Fightback’ had also become very popular on the left.

We were doing weekly shows at this Ethopian restaurant just up from the Cambie called the Afro-Canadian.  Menasbo would let us do whatever we pretty much wanted so we began to throw elaborate shows there including my first legal defence benefit shows.  There was music upstairs and simultaneously in the basement.  The money raised from tickets and the auctioning off of my art sent me back east to my court dates.  Curtis Clearsky and Kinnie Star were two of the most important names that played the first big show.  David Roy Parsons, Tamara Nile, Rae Spoon, Leela Gilday and Andy Mason also volunteered to play some of my legal defence benefits.

I probably organized 4 or 5 legal defence shows like this in 2004-2005.

I probably organized 4 or 5 legal defence shows like this in 2004-2005.

The show was successful enough that I made it to my next court dates in Montreal and managed to play a dozen shows in Ontario and Quebec while out east.  During this time I played my first shows in Edmonton, Montreal and a host of other places while criss crossing the country on a one month VIA Rail Pass.  I came back to BC and ended that year recording songs like ‘Spiderland Punkfest’ on a portable digital recorder in my basement room. These were the beds for what would be my next big recording project the following year.  I got my first coverage on CBC TV and a number of other really positive things were happening.  I was young, free and rolling.  I was just on TV with Joey Shithead Keithley and stoked about it.

2005:  Now I entered a time where things really clicked for a while.  Everything came easy.  I got flown to Halifax by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to play a convention and then later flown to Calgary to play their prairie convention.  This was the first time I was in a position set a price, ask for certain things, get my travel paid and treated like I really had something to offer.  I was already one of the few qualified folk singers in Canada who knew such an astounding assortment of historic working class folk songs so how could they not hire me.  I did my studying and for a moment it seemed like this niche was going to work for me.  I knew 150 years of protest songs and people loved me for it.

My only problem was I had also been noticed by the BC Federation of Labour who apparently didn’t approve of my antics or my anarchist philosophies regarding activism. 2005 also happened to be the 100th anniversary of the Industrial Workers of the World union, a large conference took place in Vancouver and I was given the task of organizing the party.  Unfortunately it also marked the beginning of my decline in working for the union movement.  The conference and the shows were successful, that had nothing to do with it, I was now being fully scrutinized by the union leadership in BC.

Despite working for unions in other parts of the country I never got taken seriously by the union movement in my own province.  I suspect this was by design as it had been noted that I was heckling President Jim Sinclair from the crowd of a Steelworkers picket line.  What gave away my cover was the next person called up to rile the crowd was none of than me.  Typically I got the crowd pumped but I don’t think Jim Sinclair was impressed after I had already yelled, “bullshit, prepare the general strike,” during his speech.

AnneFeeneyPoster.pngHe was later heard to say, ‘I like that Joey Only, he reminds me of myself when I was young.’

When those words got back to me I wasn’t impressed, I had no intention of ever becoming something like him.  Whether I was intentionally blacklisted or not is something I can’t speculate on anymore.  But what I do know for certain is I never sold myself or anyone else out.  I was not like Jim, I was an artist from a poor and working class family and was proud of my humble roots.  I made friends with union folk singers like Anne Feeney but playing for the unions themselves didn’t pan out as a career option for me like it did her.  Part of it probably was I just could never control my mouth, my mania or my wild ideas.  I would never submit to their authority so they would never hire me again.



I found myself in Ottawa for a third time by late June that year to play a party for one of my CarletonUnivPoster.pngdearest friends.  My beloved comrade Heidi Rimke defended her thesis and to celebrate we took over Irene’s Pub in Ottawa for one hell of a time.  I played relentlessly long shows to enthusiastic audiences across Ontario during that whole trip.  It was around this time I first noticed my throat was always sore and I couldn’t hit my notes as easily as I should.

I thought nothing of my voice though because I was a young ignorant punk.  I kept doing what I was doing.  Staying up late, singing all day, smoking dope, not warming up, not treating my voice right, drinking and making friends till the sun rose.  It was taking it’s toll.  I thought I liked the rasp but soon it took over and I couldn’t control it anymore.  As my vocal range declined the pain naturally increased.

I made two trips up to Quesnel to play shows with the Effigy, Tups, Taberfucks and the Hippiecritz.  It was this first trip that I made friends with many of the people I come to know up here in the Cariboo, I found myself instantly attracted to the area and came back up quickly.  My voice was so sore the whole time but I just didn’t stop staying up all night drinking beer.  I didn’t know how to not have fun and it was killing my show.


Album #2, Quesnel County Country Punk Conspiracy sold 2000 copies.

Before long Jesse Matthies and I were working on an album concept called the QUESNEL COUNTY COUNTRY PUNK CONSPIRACY.  We recorded some tracks with myself and Jesse’s punk band the Effigy out at Barry McKillicans studio.  I met the McKillican family, Murray Boal, Heath Onstine and many more during this time.  We recorded six songs of the Effigy as well so that the album was a mix of punk and folk.  It was brilliant all except for the fact my voice sounded hoarse and awful in the recording.

I couldn’t sing anymore by the time that record was done.  The doctors soon told me I had a vascular vocal polyp (on my right vocal chord) and only surgery would make it go away easily however I would be in danger of doing long term damage to my voice if I didn’t get serious.  I played one last gig and cancelled everything after that.  I made sure the surgery happened after my biggest gig of the year.

Under the Volcano, 2005

Under the Volcano, 2005

It just so happens that this last gig featured a spot on the mainstage of Under the Volcano Festival in North Vancouver.  It didn’t hurt that it was the Subhumans I was opening for.  What did hurt was my voice, it was excruciating trying to sing by the time August rolled around.  My set earlier in the day featured me with Bob Dylanesque Subterranian Homesick Blues placards that the whole audience could read (and so I wouldn’t have to speak).  David Parsons, Andy Mason and Tamara Nile did most of the singing for me during that earlier set.

But later that night was the big stage, I had to do three songs with a blown voice in front of a substantial crowd.  I played the shit out of my harmonica and made an impression but I felt like I had lost a great opportunity to prove myself.  For the first time in years the NorthShoreOutlook2005.pngSubhumans stood on a stage, and they were behind me, I was so proud. Missed opportunity to prove myself or not I got to be part of an amazing moment.

As I ended they kicked it off with attitude, the crowd instantly went nuts.  I was mesmerized standing in the sound booth on stage with none other than Barry McKillican himself.  Real legends in front of me and a real one beside me, how awesome.  Meanwhile singer Brian Goble had a terrible flu, I personally witnessed him walk off stage twice to puke.  But it didn’t stop him.  They absolutely slayed their set.

My appearance at Under the Volcano somehow set me up for a feature article in the Georgia Straight.  By some extradinary luck I got editor Mike Usinger himself to come interview me, his article was brilliant.  I was now in demand, getting coverage, running a good radio show and making friends…only to blow my voice and get surgery.  I was very disheartened at this terrifying setback.

Georgia Straight, 2005

Georgia Straight, 2005

The surgery was quick and all but it left me unable to sing for the next few months.  I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to sing the same again.  One thing that was certain was I needed to change something when I got back on stage.  I needed to sing properly and not shout.  I needed training.  I needed lessons.

Through much of that year I had appeared on Tamara Nile’s monthly show at the Railway Club.  She was the first one I sang Jackson with as a duet.  Although we had a falling out that we never attempted to fix I can still credit her with getting me on track with a more professional approach to being a vocalist.  Her suggestions sent me on a course of relearning how to sing so that I would never go through such intimidating vocal damage again.

I sat in silence for nearly two months after the surgery.  I would go to the Vancouver Canadians baseball games or to the movie theatre at 41st and Cambie and say nothing to no one.  I would sit in my basement room all day in silence writing lyrics I hoped I could one day sing again.  My voice hurt for months after the surgery, it was scratchy and awful to talk.  I figured I would never sing again and was quite depressed to have come so far only to be stopped by my own voice.  But I was wrong, I would soon sing much better than I ever had.  Unfortunately because of those months off I had lost some of that momentum I picked up in the two years previous.  I felt ready to try something new once again to counter this quick decline in my organizing power.



My next real run of gigs didn’t happen until December.  After four months I was ready to sing again and the first place I was gonna go was Whitehorse Yukon Territory.  My old friend and roomate Heather Jones was putting on productions up there so they hired me at the end of December to come up and do this gig.  Rather than fly back I spent the next month in Whitehorse gigging, drinking and making friends.  By the end I was afraid I would never leave, I wasn’t happy in Vancouver on the whole and the north much more suited my personality.

Paddy’s Pub became my Whitehorse haunt where I managed to put on a number of fairly well attended shows.  Paddy asked me when I got there if I wanted a band of ringers to back me.  I told him I never played with one much before…at least not with my folk shtick.  But then I recalled how recording with the Effigy the summer before was so much fun.  I told Paddy I’d be glad to try his guys out, I was due to try something new.  Besides having someone to play solos gave my voice a moment to rest during the show.

Well Paddy Singh couldn’t do better than Ken Hermanson himself along with Micah Smith on the bass!!  Ken ripped the telecaster and lap steel like no one I’d yet played with at that point in my life.  Paddy hired a bartender so that he could take the night off and play drums.  We rocked the place all month.  While I was there we also organized a successful benefit for our friend John Graham in his battle to stop his extradition to the United States.  Meeting John’s family was a pleasure.  All this added up to radio interviews and a full page article in the Yukon News.  My Yukon trip was an extraordinary success.YukonNewsCover.png

I was back…



When I got back to Vancouver I realized I wanted what we had in Whitehorse.  I wanted to build a rockin band to get that sense of comradeship I lacked as playing solo was getting lonely and boring.  I decided I would finally start to build one of my own and tried to find players that would commit.  With a pool of musicians to pick from I started consorting to field a line-up and book a small show to try it all out.  I set it up at Spartacus Books.  There were no drums.  James Forest played double bass and it was the only show we ever did together, later that month Rick McCallion became the bass player of the Outlaw Band.

One of the musicians that were there with me at Spartacus however that night did go on to form this new band with me.

A few months before this took place Christina Zippy Zaenker had heard my Smells Like Quesnel song and showed it to the organizers of Artswells Festival.  They immediately asked if I wanted to play Artswells 2006. My band hadn’t played a show yet and we were booked for a real cool festival, my associations in the Quesnel area were about to become long lasting.  The events were now fully in motion that would later lead me to move to Wells BC and play the next 50 Artswells Festivals.  Through all this Zippy started practicing with me and as an accomplished cellist I quite liked what she could do.  Zippy was the first Outlaw Band member.

Future bassist Rick McCallion played in some that first show too however it wasn’t till a short time after the pilot show where I decided I’d go with him on bass.

10 years already.

10 years already.

March 3rd 2006 was the official birth of the Outlaw Band.  I think only 20 people came to see it and I was fine with that, it was meant to be a pilot show.  It was a work in progress but afterward I felt like we did have something to work with.  The concept of the band had been born.  I had no idea how wild and interesting things were about to get in my life.


…to be continued…

I Am Running Out Of Heroes: RIP Pete Seeger

When you are perpetually jaded and cynical it’s hard to have heroes.  The only heroes now left standing for me now are Willie Nelson and Buffy St.Marie, in the last ten years many of my folk and country music heroes have become old and died.  Johnny Cash, June Carter and Waylon Jennings departed while I sat in the north heartbroken I would never get to meet them, I yearned to show them that I am a new generation doing what they did in my own original way.  I drove by Stompin Tom Connors house, slowing down, fighting myself until I decided not to stop and kept driving till my last chance to meet him was in the rearview mirror.  Again he died and I felt empty inside for it, much the way I feel today.

I should count myself lucky that I been able to meet a couple of my heroes.  I spent several days with Buffy St.Marie in 2010 and got to spend some time with Utah Philips a number of months before he died.  There are other people I can’t put in the category of hero such as Corb Lund.  These are my peers who I respect beyond words for their abilities with their craft such as Geoff Berner Washboard Hank, Andrew Neville and Tim Hus. When it comes to actual heroes there are only so many in my mind.  As of January 27th 2014 I will never get that chance to sit and talk with Pete Seeger and see him as a real person before me.  I have lost one of the few heroes I had left on this earth.

The songs of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie have been with me for as long as I can remember and likely before that.  I recall Pete from Sesame Street and I recall being very young singing the Pete and Woody hits in school.  I remember sitting in a school assembly in grade 2 with everyone singing a Canadianized version of This Land Is Your Land as though Woody Guthrie’s politics were exactly what school children needed to be exposed to.

In the year 2000 I decided once and for all that my future was not in punk rock, even if I continued to love and listen to it for the rest of my life.  I decided to start my own solo show not because I thought I was any good but because I didn’t want to have to rebuild bands all the time….if it was my project nobody but me could quit it.  I wanted to play a kind of music that could be accepted in any small prairie town I ended up in.  I wanted to play folk music so that when the appocolypse came and there were no more amplifiers I still had songs to sing.  I wanted to play folk music so that I could tell stories and say something meaningful.  I thought I could make a difference in the movement with my voice.  It was a deliberate and conscious choice to put punk rock and my pentatonic blues style to rest and become a folk singer once and for all.

So I dove back into the stories of all those past folk singers.  I spent many nights reading about Woody and Pete and Ledbelly.  I romanticized them and tried to fathom what it must have been like in the days of Joe Hill.  I listened to Pete’s smooth voice and told myself that it might be okay to actually try singing as opposed to my raspy thing I did out of fear of showing my true voice.  Pete’s positive message and gentle sounds soothed me to sleep.  Soon I was busking on the streets of Vancouver singing Pete and Woody songs while I scoured through the cassette tapes Co-op Radio was tossing to secure every copy of a Pete or Weavers record I could find.  I sang Follow The Drinking Gourd everywhere I went for three years as a regular part of my show, after that I finished many shows with We Shall Overcome.

My stepdad would buy me a Woody Guthrie book every year for my birthday and mom sent it out to me.  They were proud of me because they figured I was in the tradition of real folk singers and that it was not a phase.  We argued about Pete as my step-dad said he was a musical thief but I rebutted that the very essence of three chord folk songs is copying off of the greats who came before us.  My wifes dad recorded a Pete Seeger documentary and sent it to me.  I would be lying if I didn’t say Pete Seeger was one of the top folk music influences on me despite the fact that I have much more in common with Woody personally than Pete.  I am much more abraissive then Pete Seeger was, nonetheless his kindness and love affected me from afar.

When I think of the folk music posers of my time, like Bob Dylan, I shake my head and turn to a Pete Seeger album.  He was never in it for personal glory.  Dylan was a middle class city boy who stole Woody’s radical redneck shtick and used it to serve his own desires and fuel his own arrogance.  Watch a Bob Dylan interview from the 1960’s and watch a Pete Seeger one right after.  I have found Bob’s ego and attitude more than repulsive while Pete’s voice is like a warm fire you wish to cuddle up to for security, it’s obvious when you hear Pete talk that he believed in something.  Pete wasn’t out there to look as cool as he possibly could, he wanted nothing to get in the way of his message.

Pete Seeger maintained his politcs and radical edge until the point of being blacklisted and called a communist by the American government.  He did not waver in his beliefs, he was clear that his politics and message were more important than himself and his financial gain…that he stood for principals that transcended fame and glory.  He didn’t write political songs to ride the social trends that made Dylan a superstar, he did it even at a time that extreme repression came back upon those who dared to voice the truth.  He sang those songs because he believed in their meaning, Bob sang them because he had a vision for his own glory.

When I think of folk singers, like Pete and Utah Philips, I think of people who never got the easy glory…they wrestled through forty and fifty and sixty years of playing music and telling stories.  They didn’t produce one hit for the radio to survive off for the rest of their lives.  They slowly built their alliances and friendships, inspired people, changed people’s attitudes, encouraged others, put on brilliant shows, played brilliant songs, stood for brilliant principals, made time for children and never backed down.  They didn’t become instant celebrities, they slowly built their reputation and fanbases until one day people looked at them and called them legends.

I don’t see that I’ll have a day when suddenly I can say I have had success.  I know that like these people I will be an old man before I ever get the limited appreciation that’s coming to me.  That’s what they taught me, that by staying steadfast in my beliefs and approach and keeping at it for a lifetime I will achieve something in music…perhaps I’ll never get a grammy or a juno but by following their examples I will know that it wasn’t all for nothing.  In fact I know that I can never chase fame because it is morally repugnant in the tradition of the folk singers I follow, we still believe in touching hearts more than we believe in getting rich.

The folk and country singers these days that fight to get to the very top are often self absorbed arseholes more interested in cocaine, hookers, parties, money and glory.  They have nothing in common with the gentle voice and wisdom of Pete Seeger.  They are made by a cookie cutter and their songs are devoid of meaning.  We are quickly losing our radical folk and outlaw country legends.  It breaks my heart that I never was in a position to get to know these people.  I could have learned so much more yet.  94 years on earth was not long enough for a man like Pete Seeger.

Rest in Peace Pete, i love you…joey

A Bobcat In The Wild

When I was younger I lived in much lower elevations and the spring came much earlier.  That’s when you would find me moving through the forest silently in my barefeet.  I never owned good hiking boots till I was over twenty years old and I was proud of my tough feet.  I could walk through snow, on stone, on fire or glass and my feet would not damage easily.

I tiptoed through the forest and stepped not no branches.  My head was up, my eyes were narrow, my ears were open and my mind was void.  I learned to stop thinking while I was alone out there, in turn I started perceiving.  I could hear blue jays in the imperceptable distance, crows further yet and squirells in the distance…their chatter told me a story and I always paid attention to it.  Many times I was aware of the movements of other creatures in the forest because the smaller critters gave them away.

Many times I wandered with an open mind and open heart.  In this way I learned to wander through darkness without fear in the forest.  I could go to any place I desired around our property in the pitch black of night, with no flashlight and no fear.  I would raise my left knee up and step straight down so as to not trip on the unseen tangles of the forest, then shimmy my right foot to catch up.  While doing this my hands were out in front of me sweeping in the darkness for hidden branches and other entanglements.  Perhaps it was a little slower then the average walk through the woods, but like a cat I embraced the darkness.

In the silence of my movements I could hear the other creatures in the forest around me be they raccoons, deer, wolves or whatever.  Because I moved quietly I didn’t disturb the order of things around me, the animals kept their cool and allowed you to pass through like a ghost.  When the moon is full the animals become more brazen in their movements and singing and partying.  They see well with some moonlight and aren’t so pressed to keep themselves hidden, likewise one could walk through the forest and go where they like.

Most people smell like cosmetics to the animals.  Some of them don’t like that kind of smell, they aren’t used to it.  Other animals like to stink really bad, everyone else in the forest smells them and stays out of their way.  Some of those big animals don’t like the smell of cosmetics, they figure it must mean some sort of opposition.  Some of those animals don’t like big noise, some of them think that a big noise in their territory must mean they are being challenged.  Some of them can be calmed down quickly by talking to them like children, some of them you must take charge of.

To be a bobcat in the wild means you must be totally in the moment and entirely present.  Your mind is not wandering with thoughts of yesterday.  You pay attention to every sound, every cloud, every color, every smell and everything that might change the game.  The bobcat sits there, he just is.  Their mind is a void and their senses absorb everything around them.  They are ready to strike on a split seconds notice, they could just as easily yawn, they breathe calmly, their muscles and their minds are relaxed.  To fight and kill means nothing to them.  The only use fear has to them is a thermometer to further gauge the situation.

They have an attitude and they have a strategic mind bent on survival.  They don’t want to be messed, when alerted to the presence of danger they take a different route to go where they will.  They stay quiet, they hide, when found they come out with enough anger that they can buy time and space for an eventual escape.  They are not the hunted and will not allow a hunter to have them without a heroic fight.

The bobcat is smaller than a lion or a lynx, but they size does nothing to soothe their aggression.  The mountain lion and the lynx are more shy, the bobcat is more brazen.  The wolverine is smaller than wolves or bears, but they stink and walk with a swagger to send the message ‘don’t bother messing with me’.  Your fear is an enemy to you, it limits your ability to make a stand.  It turns you into prey.  Some of them hear your heart beating faster and faster, they hear your breathing speed up.  They know you are scared, they know they are in control.  They smell your fear and they feed on it.

Feel nothing, fear nothing.  That is how you walk among them like a bobcat in the wild.  Stay sharp, stay focused, stay mean, stay free….that is how I choose to be.

The Songwriters Revolution: We Want Work and a Fair Payout Too

My anarchist friend turned down a possible double bill with me because he didn’t want to sell his talents at the rate we could have expected to make that night. I was really proud of him for knowing his worth to the bar scene of his city despite wanting to do a show with me.

This is juxtaposed to the way I’ve been criticized by radicals a few times over the years when I stopped doing all their free shows for them. They said ‘we can’t pay you, but you’ll get exposure’ so I replied back ‘I’m dying from exposure.’

I found until I demanded a bottom line price I didn’t get respect from promoters, the kinds of opportunities I got never seemed to improve and I wasn’t being taken seriously enough. It was depressing because I was busy as hell but going nowhere while I got to hear people say I was selling out. They are wrong, in order to sell out you have to have success and I’ve never even been offered a chance to be on a record label of any kind. I didn’t sell out, I just refused to sell cheap anymore. I just got tired of getting poorer to keep playing music while knowing I put on a professional show.

To quote Brandon Isaak:

Calling all musicians for equal rights revolution. Stand up and fight ! We can not play for less than $100.00 per person. If we all stand together and stop delivering music to these cheap f*#K$ we might even be able to do this for a living. I have been honing my craft for more than 25 years. I’m still practising 2 to 3 hours a day. I have a family to feed and bills to pay. I demand better treatment and higher pay scale for these folks who work as hard as doctors and lawyers. If you call a plumber, what will you pay him an hour? NO MORE CHEEP ASS GIGS FOLKS, PLEASE ! If you will join this new revolution click the LIKE button to confirm your pledge of no less than a $100.00 for your musical services, otherwise, walk. I have not played for that little money in a long time, so you can count on me.

My only fear is that if we stand up for ourselves we will be replaced by IPods everywhere.  I say, turn off your computer, put on your boots, spend a few dollars to get into a show and keep good live bands playing!  Support your local songwriters!!


How To Not Get Fucked Over From Bears

wilderness analysis by Joey Only

In my last article How Not To Die in A Motherfuckin Storm I alluded to the fact that 10 people in Canada are killed every year by lightning and 160 seriously wounded.  If I said you are 15x more likely to be killed by lightning than by bears I wouldn’t be lying.  Bears is the last thing you gotta worry about in the bush cause most people drown, or fall down a cliff, or fall down a cliff and drown, or drink beaver water after falling down a cliff and nearly drowning, or freeze after they get out of the water, or get struck by lightning or injuries or avalanches, or indecision or panic or accidents or even worse than all that.  At least we don’t live in Australia where the tiniest spider could bite you and your insides would just turn to jelly as you bleed out of every orifice.

Also please feel free to google any bear aware websites that can tell you about the basics of bear behaviour.  This column is more about how to fight with a bear and win.  One thing we agree on is that running won’t help you, they are faster and will chase a running creature.

All in all not that many people die from bears.  The problem with bear aware campaigns is that their best advice is to either travel in groups or lay down and take it when the animal has your head in its mouth.  I can tell you from my own experience that you don’t have to take shit from anything in the forest if you develop your own power over that environment.  Statistically you are more likely to die driving to the forest than once you are actually in it, but once you are in it and you are alone this blog might have some useful advice for you.

BE THE HUNTER: If you are alone in their territory be the hunter.  You ought to have a buck knife, small axe or machete on your person if not a nice walking stick.  You must consider the merits of listening and paying close attention to every detail.  There should not be a mark on the forest floor or in the trees you do not notice.  Every change of the birds song, every change of the wind, every rustle in the distance, every sight, smell and sound.  Keep your head up, your eyes narrow and stop to listen and look.

OR BE A HIPPIE: Go to the forest and beat all sense out of a giant congo while sitting around naked reading Ginsberg out loud so you can worship nature as most of it is running far away from your racket.  Nothing will want to come near you.  If you do not have the spirit to be the hunter than maybe try something noisy like this.  As for me, I always chose the latter because that is what I am.

Now realize that bears do not hear any better than you and don’t see very well at distance at all.  Compared to most animals those senses are not an advantage for them.  It’s their nose that gives them the edge, but by considering wind direction you can out manuever anything out there.  If you are worried about them smelling your food then you should just bring smarter food with you, simple things like rice and potatoes are not going to attract their nose as you walk nearby.

The most useful way to be when encountering an animal is to show no surprise, pick a clear direction of travel and continue on.  If you feel relaxed enough to talk to the animal without spooking it to much it can be a helpful thing to do.  They say to not look them in the eye but there is a spirit you can walk about with that will allow you to do just that.  You look them in the eye and say ‘hi buddy!’  You show them with your spirit that you are okay with them and you are just passing through.

Don’t let your dog create a problem for you unless you are willing to join your dog and make a stand.  Two dogs is better than one as they can bark at it while you run away.  Bear bells don’t work because bears don’t hear any better than you do, if you ever run into people wearing bear bells in the bush you almost always hear it right as you come upon them.  Bells are just annoying and weenie.  If you are going to use noise to keep safe from bears play a bongo or shoot a rifle.

FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE BLACK:  Black bears are smaller and much more common but have also been known to hunt humans in a way that the Grizzly isn’t famous for.  When you realize a black bear is stalking you it’s time to get mean spirited.  You can’t treat this like all those times you let wankers bully you, you have to be ready to fight for your life and to show them you are not to be fucked with.

Run right at him yelling from your gut “HA HA HA HA HA!!!” like a war cry, take your axe and smash it into his goddamned nose!  Make yourself look big, mean, loud and nasty so that it will know there are consequences to trying to eat you.

I do not advocate the use of bear sprays.  I heard two expert Japanese mountaineers in the Chilcotin sprayed each other thinking it worked like bug spray.  I have never known anyone who has successfully defended themselves with bear spray though I am sure it happens.  I have however met half a dozen people who have accidentally sprayed themselves and others yet who have witnessed it in street violence.  I’ve not met anyone who has actually been mauled by a bear despite tense encounters.  Chances are you’ll see 2,000 of them and never need to smash any of their faces with an axe.

I’ve hit a grizzly with a rock to move it on and smoked a black bear with a piece of fire wood while in my underwear.  Throwing things can help.  If you need to smash one with an axe just enjoy it while it lasts.  That’s the best way to have a winning spirit.

DON’T BE AGGRESSIVE TO GRIZZ:  Grizzly bears aren’t usually out to make a meal of someone, generally they attack because of a territorial misunderstanding.  For example you are trying to pet its cubs or take a picture of this cool dead moose you found…suddenly you got a Grizzly bear who is pissed off.  So apologize and perhaps don’t panic if you can and do what the bear aware pamphlets tell you.  But if that doesn’t work and it charges at you there’s no outrunning it and even climbing a tree might not save you.

So maybe you gotta give your best ‘Mike Tyson’s Punch Out’ swing and ding the bastard on its super sensitive nose and stand your ground.  You can always play dead if that doesn’t work, however it has worked for mountain men in the past.  Of course your buck knife and axe are always handy things because you have to try to convince this animal you are not here to mess with them and you aren’t here to be messed with either.

The best thing to do is always consider where you are, pay attention to every detail, walk the higher ground as often as possible, move quietly through the forest like you belong with the animals and more often then not you will see them before they see you.  Remember, they can’t see worth shit.  Get loud and get mean if you have to get rid of them.

Practice it, go find a bear and with confidence tell it to fuck off…they do almost every time.  There is a chance that things will always go wrong, but if you consider deeply the notion of walking with a big stick you may be able to defend yourself rather than lay down and die.

If you don’t have the will to fight then simply travel in groups or stay out of the forest altogether.  Remember that there’s a thousand ways to die in the forest and bear attacks are statistically among the lowest percentage of wilderness deaths.  Realize what the real dangers are out there and put it all in perspective!

John Graham Sentenced In South Dakota On January 22nd 2011

(This below is from the Vancouver Sun.  Within a day or two I will be writing a more personalized blog on this whole affair.  I believe and will always believe in John Boy’s innocence and am heartbroken about today’s news…joe)

From the  Vancouver Sun..January 25th 2011

Nearly 35 years after Canadian aboriginal activist Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash was gunned down in an execution-style murder in the South Dakota badlands, Vancouver resident John Graham was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

The sentence comes after the jury at the murder trial convicted him of felony murder Dec. 10.

Still, Graham maintained his innocence until the end, according to the Rapid City Journal, a daily newspaper in the South Dakota city where Graham was being held.

Graham’s lawyer, John Murphy, said he will appeal the conviction and sentence, extending the already lengthy process.

Last year’s highly anticipated trial followed a long extradition battle by Graham in Canada and years of legal wrangling in the U.S. courts.

The entire case rose from one of the most sensational episodes in Native American history.

In the early 1970s, Pictou-Aquash, a young Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia, and Graham, a Southern Tsimshian originally from Yukon, drifted south and joined the American Indian Movement (AIM) and its high-profile occupation of the village of Wounded Knee, S.D.

The village is an important, historic symbol for American aboriginals, the site of a massacre of Sioux tribespeople by the U.S. Cavalry in 1890.

In 1973, armed AIM activists took control of the town to protest a variety of native grievances.

A 71-day standoff ensued, leaving several people dead on both sides and sparking an explosion of violence that lasted several years on the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation.

By 1975, Pictou-Aquash, under suspicion of being an FBI informant, had left AIM and moved to Denver.

According to prosecution documents filed in the Graham case, AIM leaders are alleged to have ordered Graham and two other followers to kidnap Pictou-Aquash and bring her back to Pine Ridge.

Prosecutors say she was tied up, driven north, and raped and interrogated for several days. Finally one morning at sunrise, prosecutors say, three AIM enforcers — Graham, plus Americans Arlo Looking Cloud and Theda Clark — drove Pictou-Aquash to the edge of a ravine on the reservation.

“Aquash begged to go free,” say prosecution documents. “She was crying and praying for her kids, and begging them not to do this. . . . Looking Cloud and Graham marched Aquash up a hill and Graham shot her at the top of a cliff. Her body was either thrown, or it tumbled to the bottom.”

Pictou-Aquash’s partly decomposed body was found by a rancher in 1976.

A sloppy initial autopsy said the unidentified woman had died of exposure, and she was buried in an anonymous grave — but not before FBI agents had cut off her hands and sent them to a lab in Washington.

Fingerprint experts identified the woman as Pictou-Aquash. Her body was exhumed and a second autopsy revealed that the cause of death was a close-range gun shot to the back of the head.

Still, the case lay dormant for years, during which time AIM’s leaders claimed the FBI had murdered Pictou-Aquash.

Then in the late 1990s, a handful of former AIM members began talking about the crime.

In 2001, Looking Cloud and Graham were indicted for first-degree murder. Looking Cloud was convicted in 2004 of “aiding and abetting” Pictou-Aquash’s murder, and is now serving a life sentence.

Paul DeMain, the managing editor of News from Indian Country, a Wisconsin-based native newspaper that has investigated the affair, says Looking Cloud and Graham were not the key figures in the crime.

“They are like the Watergate burglars, breaking into the Democratic committee office to do the dirty work,” he said.

Life sentence for 1975 reservation slaying in US

Posted: Jan 24, 2011 11:50 AM PST Monday, January 24, 2011 2:50 PM EST Updated: Jan 24, 2011 1:51 PM PST Monday, January 24, 2011 4:51 PM EST

John Graham (AP Photo/Carson Walker, File) John Graham (AP Photo/Carson

Associated PressRAPID CITY, South Dakota (AP) – A man convicted in the 1975 slaying of an American Indian Movement activist will serve life in prison without parole, a judge decided Monday, closing a major chapter in an investigation that has spanned more than three decades.

John Graham, a 55-year-old Southern Tutchone Indian from Canada, was found guilty last month of felony murder for participating in a kidnapping that ended in Annie Mae Aquash’s death. He’s the second person convicted in Aquash’s death, which garnered international attention and remains synonymous with the 1970s clashes between AIM activists and federal agents.

State law from the time of the incident, which prescribes a life sentence for felony murder without mentioning parole, requires a sentence of life without parole, state Attorney General Marty Jackley argued Monday. A South Dakota jury found Graham not guilty of premeditated murder.

Judge John Delaney agreed with Jackley but said arguments made by Graham’s attorney, John Murphy, had “some merit.”

“The sentence is preordained at this point,” Delaney said, adding that he expected higher courts to make a final decision on what the law means. “The Supreme Court will decide this issue, not I.”

Authorities believe AIM leaders ordered her death because they thought she was helping the government, which officials have denied. No AIM leader has ever been charged in her slaying, and several people involved with AIM have denied their own involvement.

Federal and state prosecutors have confirmed that they continue to discuss the case, and the investigation remains open. On Monday, Jackley refused to say if more charges are forthcoming.

Aquash, a member of the Mi’kmaq tribe of Nova Scotia, was active in AIM and close to several of its leaders. By late 1975, however, she started to fear for her life due to circulating rumors that she was an informant, witnesses testified.

Graham did not testify at his trial, but spoke Monday before he was sentenced. Graham, wearing a striped jail uniform and chains around his waist and ankles, stood and turned to look at Aquash’s daughters as he spoke. He accused witnesses of speaking in “half-truths.”

“The truth hasn’t come out here,” Graham said. “Anna Mae was never kidnapped, never tied up in my presence, never murdered in my presence.”

Graham said he had taken Aquash from Denver to a safe house on Pine Ridge with her consent. He said he had not taken orders from anyone else. “I would not do that,” he said.

Denise Maloney Pictou, Aquash’s elder daughter, spoke during the hearing about how the decades-long investigation strained her and her family, and accused AIM of bringing about Aquash’s death. “They were no friends of my mother,” she said.

As she finished her statement, Maloney Pictou looked at Graham and held up a page-sized photo of her mother.

“This, John Graham, is what you stole from me,” she said.

Afterward, she was asked about Graham’s statement. “I don’t believe him,” she said.

Her sister, Debbie Maloney Pictou, described exhuming her mother’s remains and reburying them in their native Nova Scotia.

“The images of her remains will stay with me forever,” Debbie Maloney Pictou said. “Because of you, I have held my mother’s skull in my hands.”

Graham’s brother, Harold Johnson, also spoke briefly, and Murphy submitted more than 20 letters on his client’s behalf.

But Delaney said he would not change his mind about the sentence, though he acknowledged it would likely be examined by higher courts. Murphy has said he will appeal the conviction.

“None of that changes what happened 35 years ago,” Delaney said. “There’s no way that Anna Mae comes back to life.”

During five days of testimony last month, witnesses said they saw Grahamand two other AIM activists take Aquash from a house in Denver and eventually to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Arlo Looking Cloud, who was convicted in Aquash’s slaying in 2004, testified that he watched Graham shoot Aquash with a .32-caliber pistol.

Murphy did not call any defense witnesses but questioned the credibility of Looking Cloud and others who said they saw the kidnapping.

AIM was started in the late 1960s to protest the U.S. government’s treatment of American Indians and demand the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes. The movement grabbed headlines in the early 1970s with its takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington and its 71-day occupation of the South Dakota reservation town of Wounded Knee.