Category Archives: history

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 Original Six Outlaws – #1. Zippy Zaenker

The original six at the Ashcroft Opera House (2007)

The original six at the Ashcroft Opera House (2007)

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 the first of the original six members joined the band in 2006.  Even to this day members of the original six have been known to occasionaly back me up for a show.  Some of them have played more than 300 shows in the Outlaw Band.  I owe them much thanks…



Meeting Zippy was one of those life changing flukes that seem so ordinary at the time.  But 10 years later you realize that everything about your life began to change because of this one or two things that innocently came together.  Zippy helped form the vision of the band, helped introduce me to my hometown of Wells BC and even helped me survive a terrible disease that would like to have beaten me.

Nanton Auditorium Hotel with Zippy Zaenker, 2007

Nanton Auditorium Hotel with Zippy Zaenker, 2007

For all these things to happen I first had to become friends with Zippy Zaenker.  In order to befriend Zippy I had to unknowingly set myself up for the occasion by making a series of choices that seemed inconsequential at the time.  A number of things could have happened differently which may have led to us never meeting and never becoming friends at all.  Thankfully things played out how they did because Zippy is still an important friend in my life.



In the summer of 2005 there was this 18 year old named Jesse Matthies who decided to throw some punk shows in his hometown of Quesnel BC.  He invited me up to play with no gaurantee of success but because I had never been to the Cariboo Region I decided it was worth the gamble.  At the very least it would give me another opportunity to road trip to a part of the province I hadn’t seen.  Jesse and I had already met in Vancouver the winter before but it was during this trip Quesnel where Jesse and I became lifelong friends.

Buds On Broadway, Saskatoon, summer 2007

Buds On Broadway, Saskatoon, summer 2007

Hanging out in his parents basement one night we started jamming on a country standard when somewhere out of the blue I started improvising some words with my sore and broken voice.  The two of us were almost laying down because we were so baked and playing our guitars very passively, somehow from this innocent moment a new pathway in my life opened up.

“Hey you know, that’s funny, we should write a song out of this right now.  Ever co-write a song?”

So right then and there we jotted some words down together collaboratively constructing the framework of the song in a matter of 20 minutes.  The song we wrote was called Smells Like Quesnel’s Teen Spirit…but was later shortened to Smells Like Quesnel, was reworked, hooks and solo’s added and then later finalized.

As the evening wore on I said something to the effect of, “it’s a good song, we should do something with it.  I kinda got an idea for half an album already and some tracks recorded, we should do a split record with your band.”

Snowboot Ball, The Alpenhorn, Smithers BC, Nov 2007

Snowboot Ball, The Alpenhorn, Smithers BC, Nov 2007

Jesse thought it was a great idea, before the night was over we had an agreement for a basic framework for the production.  I went back down to Vancouver to get a bunch of gear while Jesse organized another punk show in Quesnel with the intention of helping pay for my trip back to the Cariboo.  That show became the legendary drunkfest of 2005 as swarms of teenagers converged on the Elks Hall to see the Effigy, the Hippiecritz, the Tups and the Taberfucks.

Zippy and Mike Zinger, the Royal Hotel, Fernie BC, 2007

Zippy and Mike Zinger, the Royal Hotel, Fernie BC, 2007

With a weeks work we threw together the album QUESNEL COUNTY COUNTRY PUNK CONSPIRACY at Effigy member David McKillicans house…it just so happened that 15 year old David was already a sensational drummer and his father owned a useful music studio.  Although David’s dad Barry took great care to not get involved and let us figure the whole thing out for ourselves he was still real supportive in other ways.  This was how I first became friends with Quesnel’s infamous music family the McKillicans.

This was my second recording I had released and it wasn’t really selling all that well compared to Radical Folk.  There were also some issues with the sound quality having too much bass due to our lack of understanding on mixing and mastering.  After hearing the final product I thought maybe we should have asked Barry to help us with the recording.  Then there was the fact that a lot of my folk music fans weren’t all that interested in the punk band at the end of the record.

Despite all those draw backs somehow or another Christina Zippy Zaenkers attention was drawn to the song Smells Like Quesnel.  I still don’t know how she first heard it.  It so conveniently happened that she was on the board of directors of a fledgling festival near Quesnel called Artswells Festival of All Things Art.  Zippy thought it was a hilarious song, without being too disrespectful, and showed it to the other members of Artswells board.


Quesnel smells like the pulp and paper mills,

the smog lays low between the rolling hills,

you might get brain cancer here, oh well,

we’re alright here in Quesnel, we’re alright here in Quesnel.


I guess the other board of directors liked it too because one day out of the blue I got a myspace message from this Zippy Zaenker saying how much they liked the song.  I guess this is a good reason to be a Canadiana folk singer as opposed to singing those Nashville songs…quite often I’ve opened doors just by singing about this town or that town.  After having been to Wells for a mountain hike the summer before I instantly accepted the festivals offer which would one day lead to the opening of many more doors.

The first two Outlaw Band members Zippy Zaenker and Rick McCallion at Robson Valley Music Festival 2008.

The first two Outlaw Band members Zippy Zaenker and Rick McCallion at Robson Valley Music Festival 2008.

(EDITORS NOTE: Zippy tells me she saw a poster for a show I did with Leela Gilday at the Railway Club and looked up my myspace where she first heard the song).

Of course I said I’d be interested in playing the festival.  I loved it up in the Cariboo and would relish any chance to get back up there again to see the friends I had made.  Through all this correspondence I somehow learned that Zippy played cello rather professionally.  She in turn soon learned how I was thinking of starting some sort of really original country-folk concept band.  One thing led to another and soon enough we got together and started jamming as a duo mostly at David Roy Parsons place.

(In some ways seeing Corbin and Naomi currently playing in Prince George under the name Power Duo reminds me of these times playing with Zippy).

Zippy and I playing Books and Company in Prince George 2007.

Zippy and I playing Books and Company in Prince George 2007.

On March 3rd the first show of the fledgling Joey Only Outlaw Band took place.  It was a pilot show in the sense that this wasn’t the band yet I was going to build and I fully knew that. What I was looking for was try different players out to see what was possible, to see how the audience would respond and to see where I could possibly take these new ideas.  It was a fruitful venture to say the least, I crossed some ideas off the board soon had a direction.

Before the band fully existed the artwork style, logo, name and concept of the wild west anarchist-bank robbin-outlaws was cemented.  The show featured a bit of a haphazard line-up of acoustic players that I wasn’t sure how I could fit into one project.  But there were one thing that worked through that pilot show which affirmed that this was worth the work.  That was the sound and feel of playing with Zippy.

Zippy at Kenan during breakfast in Saskatchewan.

Zippy and Kenan during breakfast in Saskatchewan.

Through this show I found that Zippy added a lot of feeling to those songs and sonically suggested an entirely different direction from what I had in mind.   At this point I deconstructed whatever model I’d imagined for this band and decided that we would play as a duo until I figured out how to build this band.  At this point I couldn’t see how a bassist or a drummer could fit in with an acoustic duo of a folk singer and cellist.  At least for now I had one solid and talented player who could both follow my music with ease, remember all the parts and could sing excellent back ups.  For the next week after the show I went back to the drawing board.

There were some other people who played that first show including future bassist Rick McCallion.  I give Christina credit as the first Outlaw for a number of reasons which I will make more clear when my next blog (about Rick) is ready.  Rick played bass in the first set that night and James Forrest played most of the rest of the night.  After the show I had to make some decisions on how to proceed as I believe bass is the most important part of the band, for reasons I’ll explain later I eventually decided to roll with Rick.  There were other people who played in the group that night including T.Nile, Andy Mason, David Parsons and Luka but none of them ever became members.

The Lamplighter, Vancouver BC

The Lamplighter, Vancouver BC

By a stroke of luck I chose a really good person to start building the foundations of the band with.  By the time June rolled around I was becoming sick with a potentially life threatening disease with neither the family or finances to care for myself properly.  If it weren’t for the kindness of friends like Zippy I don’t know how I would have got through that very scary and difficult time.  Not only that but my first trip to Artswells that summer also started me on a journey that ultimately led to me living here and starting a family…but those are stories waiting for another day to be published.

Zippy and I played a variety of my most thought provoking original songs at the time such as Learn’in To Live, I Dreamed I Saw Dudley George and No Glamrock Country Stars.  We also played some songs that I never published and sometimes wish I had of such as Cooper Road Drunk Drivers, It Rains But It Pours, These Plains and A Vision Of the One.

Canmore Hotel, Alberta

Canmore Hotel, Alberta.

I was soon to add Rick McCallion to the list of potential members and in a short time meet both Rowan Lipkovits and Kenan Sungur.  The original line-up was about to come together in a very natural way.  Collectively we were about to carve out a new sound, a new shtick and a new attitude towards folk and country music.

But that’s also a story for another day…

What I can tell you without giving away the plot of future blog posts is that Zippy played nearly every show we did from spring 2006 till the end of 2007 when she started to step back.  She still joined us for a lot of shows in 2008 but by then the band was getting louder, faster and crazier.  We were stepping on her parts and making it hard for her bass-mid frequency instrument to be found in the mix.  Our volume caused constant feedback problems for her gear as well.  I doubt it would be a stretch to suggest that Zippy probably played 150-200 shows in my band, no small feat.

But there were no hard feelings when Zippy announced she was going to start stepping back.  Even after Zippy’s time of formally playing on our travelling road show she made appearances on the next two recordings we produced…which were the Fire On Anarchist Mountain (2008) and Transgression Trail (2010) albums.  She’s sat in with me on shows a number of other times and still remains a highly trusted and respected friend….and will always be the very first Outlaw Band, unless you count Rick or myself.  I guess realistically I am actually the first…but I’ll give it to Zippy anyway.



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…



This Christmas Day will mark the 15th anniversary of the moment I decided I would never talk to my douchebag father again. I didn’t know at the time that this would also result in never talking to his other children (my half brothers and sisters) again or any of my other relatives on that side of the family. Given all that I don’t regret it because it was a choice that probably saved my mind and by extension my life.

Some hurts never go away even though the choice was for the better, my heart is admittedly bitter today. The best thing I can do to erase my anger is be a better dad for my children than was done for me, which is conveniently easy seeing as Joe Sr. never gave a fuck. If Joe is alive or not I don’t know, I do my best not to care as a matter of self defense.

Basically this isn’t a happy time of year for everyone despite what TV and commercials and hysteria want you to think. Even though the joy of Christmas is a lie to sell plastic crap to people you can still take a moment to think about how good you’ve had it before you whine and complain about bullshit, take your loved ones for granted and dwell on how little you got under the tree. Try to be thankful, enjoy your time with family otherwise you mock those of us who will never get that chance again.

So now I told you how shitty my one parent was it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say how amazing my mother is…and how much I appreciate everything she ever done for me such as teaching me to write music, think and feel for myself. Surely my ability to argue and question authority comes directly from her. I could never have survived without the tools you instilled in me. Thirteen years a single mom, no one will ever do more for me.

It pains me deeply but I believe this is the 12th year since we had a Christmas dinner together…12 years since I got off a bus in BC and I miss you lots.  Being far away from dad forever was probably part of why I got on that bus in the first place, whatever I had to do to find myself she accepted.  Besides all the other amazing things mom has done she also chose to marry a pretty good guy named the Bluesman aka Tommer…We are not related but Tommer is family. He also has a knack for getting me the kind of presents I would really like…which is good cause he appears to be the only one to get me something this year.

What you have to understand is that Tom often frequents the very last SAM THE RECORD MAN in Canada…it’s in the Quinte Mall…and he got me an official SAM THE RECORD MAN t-shirt, on the back it says “THE LAST SAM STANDING – BELLEVILLE ONTARIO”…..HOW COOL IS THAT!?!?!?!

Wish I could be home with you guys and sit with them and my step-siblings families, wish we could joke while the kids run amok around us. There were many years I had nowhere to go and that was even harder to be away from you all.  Thinking of you all today.


Part 1: How Many Times Should I Have Died?

They say a cat has 9 lives…thank goodness I weigh more than 20 cats.  Here’s part 1 of my series called HOW MANY TIMES I SHOULD HAVE DIED…


Beginning with a bizarre experience as a five year old in which cousin Jeremy (RIP) yelled ‘yelled the deck’ there have been a bizarre amount of close calls with lightning in my life.  People ask me about this a lot so I put this one first on the list.  With the exception of the few summers I was in Vancouver, and didn’t leave, most years a bolt of lightning has come close to me.  Occasionally it has been known to hit the house I am sleeping in.

Sounds funny, I know, cause I think it is.  I got jolted goddamned hard sittin in a plastic lawn chair at mom’s house in 1999.  That was the one that sent me sliding across the kitchen floor as I burst through the door in a panic after the thunder alone crippled me momentarily.  Mom and Tom couldn’t believe it when I blasted through the doors about three seconds after that blast of thunder, they obviously knew it hit right outside the house.  Fortunately, once again, I was in the area where the energy collects and not where it directly struck!!  Nonetheless it took about three minutes for my breathing and heart rate to calm down so that I could speak the words in between gasps for air, ‘that was fuckin awesome’.

Mom’s house became famous for near lightning strikes.  Something funky is in the ground in that part of the Canadian Shield I am sure because it was always certain that there was no place to hide when the big Ontario storms would come in.  Many times it hit the power lines across the road.  I swear to god I seen it hit the same friggin spot a hundred feet toward the beaver ponds about 8 times in the course of 10 minutes, each time it was so close the hot water tank in the laundry room made a terrifying electrical zolting noise.  And I swear to mother earth that Mom and I seen ball lightning one day beneath those giant 225,000W power lines across the road as a storm was coming in.

Seen the hair on my arms stand up one humid day so I ran into Mom’s house and waited for a minute.  Then….FLAAAAAASHBOOOOOOMMMM!!!  There were actually two close calls that afternoon but the first one was the most exciting.  I actually realized, although it seemed sunny, that my hair was standing on end.  If I had been less perceptive I would not have ran in the house and I would have once again been dangerously exposed outside when it struck at mom’s house.  Lightning can reach 15km or even further, just because the sky was blue directly above us in the forest didn’t mean I wasn’t in danger that day.

You can’t see the trees through the forest at Mom’s, it’s pretty thick there so you just don’t know what’s going on out there in the world of weather unless you walk to the end of the driveway.  That’s where the power lines are and more than once I seen crazy lightning strikes within very close proximity there.  It was my correct opinion that the grounded towers were probably the safest place to stand near in an electrical storm for obvious reason, it would hit the power lines and not me allowing me to watch the storm come in relatively safely.  But to be honest, I was still too chicken shit to stand directly below them but experience showed lightning was more likely to hit the towers than anything else around.

It didn’t take me long to announce my arrival in Wells.  That very September, as we were smoking in the quiet outside, a bolt hit the transformer box that feeds our house.  FLASH, BAMMM!!!!  We were on the ground like a pile of jello cussin and laughing as our ears rang.  Luke Stackhouse, Leah and I immediately walked up to the Pub in shock.  Chance and Randall instantly asked, ‘yo, did you just see that bolt of lightning by your house?’

‘uh, yeah, that’s why we’re here.’

Hilariously there’s a dozen more stories like this!  Got a slight jolt in Quesnel.  Had a close one at Karl Mattson’s ranch this summer.  It never ends.  Bring it on.  I know it’s gonna try to come for me again.


The full story doesn’t matter anymore, but it’s true that me and another folk singer you all see me hanging with lots over the years had to spent some time in quarantine.  Thankfully the miracle of anti-biotics ended our luxuriously aweful visit to the lung ward cutting it short after a mere couple weeks.  Needless to say that took another year of the most ridiculous concoction of super anti-biotics you can dream of and an even longer more regrettable period of not consuming the drink.  That was in 2006, I was 45lbs thinnger and sicker than I am today.  How did we contract it?  No official explanation was ever really given, just happened to us…and goddamn when I see photos from that year I look like I had just escaped death.  My collapsed lung eventually came back after the surgeries and I am once again able to breathe fairly well.


Check, check, check, check…what else you got?  Even survived hypothermia, or at least on three occasions I realized what was happening and took measures before it worsened.  Luckily some Air Cadet training and an understanding of hypothermia made it easy to overcome.  My cousin Jeremy died from hypothermia so that put a good lesson into my head.

Hitch hiking there were several times I felt at risk from exposure to both heat and cold.  On one January occasion near Port Hope Ontario I curled up on the side of the road to warm up.  Nobody stopped to check on me but some Samaritan called an Ambulance who eventually told me the police would come and get me because they wouldn’t take me.  I was frozen!  Bizarrely a strange man picked me up a minute after the Ambulance left and as he took me north from there I seen the cop car that was coming for me.  I had vanished like a ghost on them.

I have actually fallen through ice a number of times though only one of them would I have been in real danger.  As I felt the ice go I shoved with my feet, which did bust the ice, but it also sent me sprawling out on my belly preventing my upper body from getting wet.  I knew when I got out the key would be to get to mom’s fast, which I did.

Nonetheless, I’ve fought with several snakes.  I stepped on a young rattler at the Black River canyon back home, tussled with a couple of those big bad ass Ontario water snakes and once discovered a six foot long black rat snake in mom’s laundry room.

The same place I stepped on that little rattler I had the misfortune of going over the waterfalls after a heroic rescue of my very naive townie friend.  No names will be mentioned it doesn’t matter anymore to me cause Mom seen the whole thing…she seen me drag his 14 year old ass out of the rapid and get sucked over the falls in the process.  It only be 15 or 20 feet there at what was Barebum Beach (see North of Number 7 song) but it was a fuckin violent experience that could easily have resulted in my head being smashed to peices.

But there are bigger waterfalls.  When I arrived in Niagara Falls at midnight back in 1998 dehydrated and crazy from sun exposure I became engaged in a mental battle with myself to not jump into the falls.  I don’t think I was particularly suicidal that week, the water just looked so refreshing that I had to do it.  Once I realized I was on the verge of killing myself I stepped back and walked away.  I slept in the park that night and was awakened by a lawn mower driving by.

Join me next time for part 2 of this series How Many Times Should I Have Died?  I’m just gettin started here…


Lotsa Thoughts I Gots


Click the link for all the details on my upcoming show in Prince George.  Once again I’m roped into doing the Stompin Tom tribute thing, but it keeps getting easier and more fun all the time.  This show is a fundraiser for CFIS Radio, it’s been promoted well and looks to be a really great evening.  I try to be sensitive to the memory of Stompin Tom in doing this, I don’t want to do a poor job and I want there to be a greater meaning behind it than simply my own financial gain…which don’t get me wrong is often real important for the sake of our family.  More than anything I wanna keep Stompin Tom’s songs alive and burn them into the memory of a whole new generation if possible.  I’d like to see upcoming alt-country bands cover less American songs and start learning the stories and traditions of the north.  I’m not sure I’m nearly as patriotic as Stompin Tom was, but I know I love the north and we don’t need another peoples songs.


There is some speculation that Mamaguroove might’ve just played their last show at the Occidental there in Quesnel this past Hallowee night…of course there could be a Robson Valley Festival reunion during the summer but it’s gonna be pretty hard for them to really gig as a band anymore.  Just the logistics alone determines that…Dave M is in Quesnel, the other Dave is in PG, Chris is in Edmonton and Seth and Shara live in the Robson Valley.  I guess Chris has five other bands in Edmonton he’s playing in too while working full time.  Still, that’s a real shame they didn’t keep writing more music.  When MG was really rockin they put on a totally far and cosmic show, heavy, crazy, trippy, dancy…they were like a hippified Mr.Bungle.

The show was fabulous, Barry wanted them to play his bar for Halloween and it paid off cause people were lined up out the door to get in.  Costumes were creative…except for mine cause I just wore a toque and carried a hockey stick.  I was a hoser.  But my apparent costume was part of a plan innitiated by Tax Free Liqour.  During their set they brought out a Steven Harper pinata and I used that carbon fibre composite hockey stick to drill his body off.

Astrid says ‘you were supposed to knock his head off’

And I says to the crowd ‘I like to torture them for a minute first’

Whammo, off came Harpers head exploding forth with such goodies as band stickers and condoms.  The crowd loved it scrambling for all the good things the Harper pinata had given them.

Tax Free Liqour is a pretty fun band, pretty far out themselves.  Definately punk influenced and they have been improving remarkably since I first seen them Halloween 2013.  They’ve switched some players around and people are playing the songs now like they own them.  Hopefully this will be a phenomenon in the Cariboo Regional District for a while to come.

So the party was hardy, I admit, I woke up at 3:30 the following afternoon.  Haven’t had a bender like that in a while…but it’s my favorite holiday and no family to be responsible with for one night.

Footnote, there were some big Halloween costume winners that took home tickets to a Canucks game.  Was glad to see our friends from Wells win, wasn’t crazy abou the Gene Simmons costume winning though.  I guess the guy wears it every year, and no one has bothered to explain to him that Gene Simmons is real piece of shit.


Speaking of punk rock bands…have you gone to see the Rebel Spell on their tour across Canada.  Their latest album Last Run is so goddamned good I can’t stop listening to it.  I can’t even tell you anything yet, I have too many things to say about that record, I could write 1000 words!  Trust me, it’s good, if you like punk go get one on line today.  Google it, won’t be hard to find.


He’s a goof, get it folks!  If you don’t believe 10 women don’t tell me you would have believed 1 if she’s come forward all those years ago.  That’s totally unfair.  There’s a lot of people in showbizz, politics, positions of power, sports teams etc who are parasites and vampires.  They spend most of the time trying to live out their crazy desires…they don’t care about anyone else but themselves.  You think Jian Gomeshi is an anomaly then you are sadly mistaken.  Republican House members are found guilty of rape, RCMP officers are found guilty of rape, Rob Ford is a douchebag, Justin Beiber is a spoiled fucking brat.  Oh yeah, turns out Bill Cosby is probably a rapist too, must be that brain damage he never quite recovered from…he seemed to insinuate only children had this condition but it was obvious when he opposed the Simpsons back in 1991 that he suffered from a condition much worse.  Gene Simmons thinks the poor owe him a debt of grattitude, he’s obviously a douchebag…him and Ted Nugent have been competing for the title of Biggest Piece of Shit in Rock and Roll History for a long friggin time.

….I mean, what, do you really think all them stars you love on TV are as nice as the characters they portray.

News flash!!!

Despite the overwhelming ability of vampires to suck up everything around them in the process of stepping on others to launch themselves to the top…there are some people who just through sheer intelligence and charm arrive where they belong and live successful lives and rewarding careers.  When I think of the artists I like I remember how magical Buffy St.Marie was to be around all weekend, or Geoff Berners righteous and scathing criticism of the insanity that surrounds us.  I think of Tanya Tagak and the positive role she plays in our country.  I have met many lovely famous people…but there are some real vultures circling around looking for whatever they can grab.


One Year With Sean Scallion on Drums!!

Telefest 2014, Troll Ski Resort, Sat.March 1st, 4pm!!

Next weekends show at Telefest marks ONE YEAR since Sean joined the Outlaw Band.  We had Bob Campbell playing with us at that time but he wasn’t overly interested in doing gigs outside of Wells.

In January of 2013 I got a facebook message from some dude I never heard of before sayin he heard I play music and was looking to jam with someone.  I thought to myself ‘what kinda drummer in Quesnel has no one to play with, he must not be very good – or if he is he must be uncool’.  But I was wrong, he was just new to town and soon I realized that we had lots of the same friends!  We got talking a little but more and a little more until Sean called me and said that they were coming out to Wells and we should get together and pick some tunes.

The day before that happened I was asked if I wanted to play some music at Troll Ski Resort’s Telefest….next thing we knew we were at Troll playing a show without really having rehearsed and without even knowing each other a whole lot.  I soon learned that Sean was an amazing dude with a great young family, but most importantly he could play the drums like crazy.  Joel and Sean soon got the rhythm section moving like a machine and sounding good was never so much fun.  We already did lots of great shows in the last year and we’re sporting the best sound I ever had behind my songs.  What a crazy change of events.

I like to add to all this how excited we are to be partnered up with Troll Ski Resort.  It’s a family run operation with lots of terrain.  Many of the runs are excellent and we have some of the best snow in BC this year with our 300cm base.  You can catch us out there on any given day shreddin in the powder as Troll is a place I like to be seen.  On top of all that our Telefest show will be one of the rare occasions where we are playing a show that kids are allowed to be at…so we really look forward to seeing all our friends and their families!

We have some other events coming up too in the next few weeks I should tell you all about:

Feb 26th, Barefoot Caravan at the Wells Hotel, 9pm, w/Joey Only

Mar 7th, Lindsays Cabaret, Sunset Theatre, Wells BC, 7pm.  Fundraiser for young mom in town here recently diagnosed with Luekemia

Mar 15th, Fort St.James Legion, St.Paddy’s Day Piss-up, 9pm, $20

Apr 4th, Riley’s Pub, Prince George, 9pm, $10, encore Outlaw performance.