Tag Archives: Rowan Lipkovits

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.



Joey Only Returns To Vancouver


–for immediate release far and wide–

December 30th, 2014

THE RETURN OF THE JOEY ONLY OUTLAW BAND with special guests PARTY ON HIGH STREET, Thursday January 8th, 8pm, $10, WISE HALL, 1882 Adanac Street.


Canadian outlaw country music personality Joey Only departed Vancouver in 2011 with his life partner and duet specialist Leah Martin to occupy a monstrous lodge they bought in Wells British Columbia.  He got so busy up there he hasn’t been back to the big city since.

For nine years before he left Joey Only was known to Vancouver as the host of Sound Resistance on Co-op Radio, for his regular performances at the Railway Club and his buskers antics on Commercial Drive.  He took his Outlaw Band on a 500 show journey across Canada returning occasionally to work mostly nightshifts in the Downtown Eastside.  Despite an impressive list of personal accomplishments he felt it was time to go back to the country, heal and start a family.

Neither leaving Vancouver or having children would stop his music career.  The Artswells Festival brings some of the top artists in Canada to Joey Only’s bonfires while as many as 60 of them camp on his property.  In 2014 Joey Only shared the stage with Gord Downie and the Sadies, Three Doors Down, worked sound for several Corb Lund shows in the Cariboo Region and was able to briefly meet Blue Rodeo.  His new Outlaw Band line-up has played an average of nine summer festivals a year and his new Stompin Tom Tribute show landed him paying gigs in Casino showrooms.   Nearly every show Joey does in Prince George is sponsored either by CFUR Radio at UNBC or CFIS Community Radio while he’s been a regular host on Shaw Community Cable Television in Quesnel.  In February 2015 the Joey Only Outlaw Band will be playing the mainstage at the Canada Games.

Returning to Vancouver will be a re-union for Joey Only and an ensemble of past Outlaw Band band members.  Many of those former bandmates became smalltime stars in their own right including Kenan Sungur (percussion), Travis Charuk (lead guitar), Brin Porter (double bass), Rowan Lipkovits (accordion), Jeff Andrew (fiddle), Adam Farnsworth (piano) and Mike Zinger with the mandolin and steel guitar.  Of course no show would be complete without the striking vocals of Joey’s wife Leah Martin as the two come together.  The collection of talent and friendship on the Wise Hall stage will leave the audience feeling lucky, there’s magic associated with this show.


For inquiries contact:

Joey Only – 250-994-3343