Monthly Archives: January 2021

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CANADA’S LEGENDARY QUEEN OF SCREAM STILL ROCKIN’ OUT WITH HER NEW “DARBY MILLS PROJECT”

Canada’s Queen of Scream, DARBY MILLS, has been earning her living doing what she loves – singing & performing for her loyal fans – since 1978. And as she’s said in a previous interview when asked if she’s feeling a bit too old for rock & roll, “I’ll talk to Mick Jagger then let you know…”  When I arrived in Toronto a few years prior to Darby’s professional debut, it was the height of the disco era and all the clubs pumped out Donna Summer, Barry White, KC and the Sunshine Band, and the Bee Gees. As much as I loved disco, the dancing, the dubious fashions and platform shoes, I also loved to rock and roll but I had to wait until the early 80s to hear that voice, that growling, loud empowered woman’s voice that belonged to Darby Mills, fronting the Headpins band.145_origWhen you mention Darby Mills to anyone who’s a rock fan, you see a smile come across their face and a nod of recognition – this woman has earned her place in Canadian rock history. First working in cover bands, then a jazz/blues group and a funk/soul band in Alberta, finally accepting the invitation to sing with the rock band Steelback and heading back home to BC with them. Darby built a solid reputation on stage, fans flocked to see the band and its rocker chic out front. More gigs, more miles, more exposure to big international acts, both opening for and singing with, established Darby as a leading light in the Canadian music scene. Then came the Headpins…and then came the drama!  I encourage you to visit Darby’s website where you’ll find an in-depth history of her career and, in particular, her years with The Headpins (weblink at end of story).

I recently spoke with Darby from her home in BC and asked her if she’d share a few thoughts on her new Darby Mills Project (sadly sidetracked by Covid that has shut down Canada’s live music venues) and her experience as a woman in a male-dominated music genre….. 49121065_2626607834016328_5956634531585851392_nDarby, your first introduction to “performing” in front of crowds was as a young aspiring figure skater – did the discipline of sports training over a 12-year period affect your life and work ethic as a recording artist and stage performer?   Absolutely, the sacrifices made by myself and family were huge. As a competitive skater (pictured below with trophies almost as big as her) you miss out on many events outside the rink, even holidays, as training was first and foremost. No skiing or girls’ hockey (my Dad coached) and summer escapes where out of the question, but I did attend skating summer camps most of my teen years. As for the actual performance, it gave me the basis for nerve and confidence. Even though to this day there is still a tingle that hits me just before the show.9498496I understand as a youngster you spent many summers at your family’s cabin and your dad would sing as you all sat around the nightly campfires – apart from him, who were your early musical influences or inspirations?   Many many influences I’ve had over my life time. Early on, I listened to all the pre-70’s LP collection of musicals my parents had, then I got into Linda Ronstadt, Tom Jones, The Eagles, Ann Wilson, The Who and of course Led Zeppelin. It was at that point I was introduced to Janis.

You’ve been a part of several ground-breaking Canadian bands (Steelback, Headpins), honing your chops and touring throughout the 80s – what lessons did you learn during that crazy period that now allow you to take the lead with the Darby Mills Project?   In the late 70’s, after graduation I moved to Calgary where LIVE music was everywhere! Jumping back and forth from there to Vancouver many times until 1980 when I was recruited by the Headpins. My early Rock experiences consisted of searching out the correct band for my abilities and interests….and there where many!  And every time I got fired (lol) I learned more about the rights and wrongs as well as the prejudices of those in the industry. To me the answer was to become one of the guys best you could and grow a really tough skin.142662660_702376817098503_808680119311385062_nYou’ve also toured with some of rock’s greatest bands such as KISS, ZZ Top, Whitesnake and Aerosmith – were you treated differently in such a male-dominated environment or were you accorded the respect you had well-and-truly earned?   Each band is different – I’ve seen actions that are kind at heart and supportive, as well as those that are destructive and mean-hearted, meant only to undermine the success of the opening act!  WITH kiss 1982What is the significance of your “Letting Go” tattoo? Did you get that ink after you decided to take a break from your career in the early 90s?   I got the “Letting Go” tat to remind me that there was more to come.  My life was not all about what once was.  Sadly, I had been told that should I leave the Pins, I would never work again. Those people I’m guessing, had forgotten that I had already accomplished such a feat. In fact, I was the only member of the Headpins band except Brian “Too Loud” McLeod to do so!  I have earned 2 solo recording contracts, one to MCA America in 1986, and the second in 2001 with MCA Canada. Then in 2016, 36 years into a revised version of the Headpins, I felt it was past time to step up and bring something new to the table. This was not accepted by the members and I felt trapped in a downward cycle. At 56 years of age, I knew it was NOW OR NEVER. It was time again to take on that challenge.  Proudly I can say that I have now obtained a worldwide distribution deal with True North Records. 142172612_755571281744144_5778864844485981381_nAfter spending time away from the stage and recording studio to raise your family and care for ailing family members, why now, why the Darby Mills Project?   After losing my recording contract with MCA in 2002, I felt it was time to start a family. Married 10 years at that time, my husband a I both agreed. 6 months into making that decision I got a call from a former Pins drummer. He asked if I would sit in with his cover band here and there, but shortly after that I found I was pregnant with our first child. Behind the scenes, I had been dealing with a lawsuit for the past 5 years. The Headpins had acquired substantial debt to the former manager and even though I had been fired from the band, I was personally being held responsible for its repayment. With no record deal on the table and now our first baby on the way, I gave up on all counts and let the government step in.  I felt the health of my unborn child was more important than fighting over money I neither had nor made from the band, so my public defender suggested I declare bankruptcy. Those where the only months I did not work as a singer/performer. I had worked at this profession for 44 years by that time.  And now I will say that Covid-19 has given me the longest break in my life time!

The Darby Mills Project allows you to reach out to long-time fans and play with musicians who had also experienced the highs and lows of the 80s and 90s.  How gratifying is it to find fans so loyal and vocal when you take the stage (pre-Covid days, of course) and have you had younger new fans reach out to you as well?  I guess they see themselves as the ones who where down in the trenches with us all these years. The Rock’n’Roll era of my generation will likely never be experienced in the same way ever again. What a time we had!!Ted VanBoort

Photo courtesy Ted VanBoort

Obviously performing live concerts or touring is off the table until the pandemic is under control, so have you participated in any online concerts or have any plans to do so?   We spent more money than we made this last year doing a new 13 min video – six Headpins tunes mashed up into a medley.  We “The Darby Mills Project” get asked at every show, why aren’t you doing this or that song? My answer was always “because we are not the Headpins”.  It was never my intention to be the Headpins as a solo artist. They have a new singer and have worked steadily since my departure.  But the questions just kept coming, so the guys in DMP suggested we do a medley of Pins tunes so we can make the ticket buyers happy. DONE!  Paid for and ready to watch.  My thoughts for 2021 are that if there are no signs of live shows coming back into play, we’re working on another adventure that I’ll speak about when it happens.    Stan Pietrusik (2)

Photo courtesy of Stan Pietrusik

I was sorry to hear of the tragic loss of your beloved father due to Corona Virus – what advice do you wish to share with your fans about health and safety precautions?   I spoke out publicly a few days after my Dad passed. Global TV news reached out to see if I would be interested in sharing my thoughts and it took some consideration as I know there are still so many who feel we were being lied to and the back lash would be harsh.  My family stayed away from Dad as he was in a long-term care home. We did NOT want to be the ones to inadvertently take the Covid virus into his care home. We followed the rules set by government regulations and called him every single day to stay in touch best we could. For 10 months he stayed safely tucked away from the world.  BUT THE WORLD GOT IN!  Covid landed in our little town with a handful of cases for a month or so but then after Christmas and, I can only surmise those who did not follow the stay home regulations, BOOM, three local care homes were on total lock down.   3 – 4 – 5 cases then 35 then 68 and now we hear about all the deaths. It is REAL and will take out so many more of us before we reach herd immunity.

I did get messages from the naysayers, such as “It’s a hoax”. There were those who said, “Why should we worry about the likes of him, we should think about all those small businesses that are out of business for the fear of losing the old”. Well, I TOO am part of the OLD! I TOO am out of business!  But I can still find compassion for those trying to be part of the solution rather than those who are looking only for fault and someone to release their frustrations on.  May the Universe find compassion for us all ‘coz boy, are we messed up!

~~~~~

Thanks, Darby, I really appreciate you sharing your personal, painful thoughts on dealing with the frustration and fear of Covid. On a happier note, I strongly recommend clicking thru to watch the 2018 Telus Original documentary on her career “The Queen of Scream”.

…and if you would like to follow Darby for news of upcoming releases and, hopefully, live shows later this year, check out her website where you can also purchase her music: www.darbymills.com111_orig

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LEGENDARY ROCKER CAROLE POPE JOINS CHURCH OF TREES & ROB PREUSS FOR BRAND NEW SINGLE (released JAN 15)

Ottawa synthpop band Church of Trees has hooked up with legendary Rough Trade vocalist, Carole Pope, on a new single WORLD’S A BITCH. The single captures the global angst over the COVID pandemic and the desperate need for vaccine distribution. The JUNO award-winning Pope, who pushed the boundaries of sexuality and sexual politics both in Rough Trade songs and on stage, says “I think the song encapsulates how we’re all feeling about being locked down…and you can dance to it!”2021 Carole Pope & Bernard  FrazerWow! How great is it to see one of Canada’s iconic, game-changing artists stepping up when we need someone, anyone, to kick the collective arses of those national and provincial “leaders” who have been caught napping when it comes to vaccination roll-outs? Thanks to former Spoons/Honeymoon Suite keyboardist Rob Preuss (pictured below) who was working separately with both Pope and Church of Trees, he suggested that Trees’ frontman Bernard Frazer write something that might suit Carole’s voice. Frazer says, “I leapt at the chance. I’ve been a Rough Trade fan since the 70’s, and Carole’s voice has always resonated with me. So, to write for such a legend was a dream come true.”Rob-Preuss promo picI reached out to Bernard to ask him about the new single, hoping that Carole would also add her voice to the interview, and voila! This is what they had to say….

As professional musicians, how has Covid impacted your ability to stay connected with your fans and allow you to showcase/sell your music?
BF: Multi-member projects, like ours, aren’t able to physically get together to play things like Facebook Live events. So, unless you’re willing to compromise Covid protocols (which we’re not), you can’t get together to rehearse no less play a virtual gig. In that respect, it has been a big pain in the rear! However, we have been incredibly active producing new music and making it available digitally. So, we are able to connect with fans in that way. (Bernard Frazer, pictured below)BERNARD FRAZER Promo pic 2021 BCP: It’s difficult, we made a couple of socially distanced videos. One with BNL- I also released a couple of singles and have one more I’m working on. This really impacted my plans for Attitude, a musical I wrote with Kate Rigg which was supposed be workshopped at Buddies In Bad Times theatre. Because of that we’ve gone virtual and I’ve created a GofundMe page so fans can contribute and get involved in the creative process.

Obviously, touring is off the table until the pandemic is under control, so have either of you created or participated in any online concerts or have plans to do so?
BF: When things lifted a bit in the late summer, we were just starting to re-group so we could rehearse, but then the second wave started to rear its ugly head. So, we thought better of it.  If there is an opportunity, say after we get our vaccinations, we will definitely start rehearsing for some type of performance. We are itching to play live again.
CP: I had to cancel and postpone several live dates. We were part of NAC’s Canada Performs series and Tim Welch, my guitar player, and I have done one curated performance for a fan’s wedding and we’d like to do more. Since we couldn’t be inside, we shot a stealth video at the CNE grandstand. Carole1Now the world has access to music without setting foot in a record store (sadly) or having to purchase hardcopy CDs, vinyl, etc. has that opened up new markets/audiences to you as well as creative collaborations with int’l artists?
BF: Definitely. As synthpop artists, we have found a large, worldwide, “family” of synth-based artists who not only promote each other, but collaborate, as well. We’ve done several collaborations with Rob Preuss, who is now in New York City, as well as the electro-band Graflex from Manchester, UK. We are looking at future collaborations with an artist in the Netherlands, another in B.C., and a great electro-duo from Colorado. We have also discovered a fantastic group of internet and terrestrial radio stations and radio shows that solely promote electronic music. We now get played around the world, from the UK, France, and Germany, to the Netherlands, Japan, South Africa and Australia!
CP: I’ve been collaborating with people in Canada and the US for the past few years. I’m not great at promoting my work – I just want to make art, but am inspired by the connections Bernard has made. I will try to work my music more this year.Carole2.byLedaResurreccionjpegThere are so many opportunities to stream your music – which platforms do you prefer and where can fans find Church of Trees and Carole Pope?
BF: Church of Trees prefers churchoftrees.bandcamp.com because it enables the artist to recoup a reasonable percentage of sales (downloads and CD sales). But we also respect the fact that so many people prefer on-demand/playlist driven music. So, Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, and Google Play are great too.
CP: I’m on Bandcamp but do better on other streaming sites like iTunes and Spotify etc. I also sell merch on Teespring.com and my own website.

Carole, back in the late 70s & early 80s, you were instrumental in bringing excitement, danger and sexuality to live performance – in your opinion how do today’s music stars measure up with their sexualized performances? Do you think they overuse it to the point that the music/lyrics are only secondary?
CP: Some singers are unconsciously sexy like St Vincent and Billie Eilish, but a lot of artists throw it in your face and it’s like yeah whatever.  There’s some really bad factory manufactured cookie cutter shit out there. And don’t get me started on the lyrics. I find a lot of supposedly sexy songs forgettable and insipid. I’m a huge fan of my gurl Peaches who’s a great lyricist and very sexy performer who pokes fun at sexuality. I know I’m not mentioning any guys but I think they broke the sex mold when George Michael and Bowie (the most beautiful man ever) passed.

And Carole, other than this impressive collaboration with Church of Trees (and Rob Preuss & Jordon Zadorozny), are there any artists with whom you’d like to record/write?
CP:  I’ve worked with Peaches, Nona Hendryx, Dusty Springfield, Alain Johannes, Hawksley Workman and Rufus Wainwright, and tried to collaborate with Dave Gilmore on a Pink Floyd album (which didn’t happen) but would love to work with Bjork, Radiohead and St Vincent. A woman can dream.

Bernard, you’ve been guiding Church of Trees’ musical journey from its formation in 2017 to the upcoming EP “Pause” – can you tell me who were your early music influences? I hear perhaps a little early Brit synth/pop like Howard Jones or Thomas Dolby, and was wondering if you ever listened to Japanese pop/classic genius Ryuichi Sakamoto?
BF: I love Ryuichi Sakamoto. I listened to Yellow Magic Orchestra quite a lot in the 80s, and have followed Sakamoto’s solo career, including his film scores, over the years. I loved his scores for The Last Emperor and The Revenant. David Bowie is, perhaps, my all-time fave artist. I have listened to everything he has release, from the 1960s (Konrads, King Bees, Manish Boys) through to Blackstar. Howard Jones, Thomas Dolby, Duran Duran, OMD, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Soft Cell, Japan, and Gary Numan are all massive influences, as well.

 And finally, Carole, I was intrigued to learn of your upcoming (and very personal) theatrical project “Attitude: The Musical” based on the life of your brother, Howard (pictured below), a New York-based musician who died of AIDS in 1996. Will you be performing in the stage version or on the soundtrack album?  Or will you remain behind the scenes as writer/producer working with the director?
CP: Attitude is ever evolving so I might show up in the stage production but mostly I’m going to work behind the scenes. I haven’t thought about singing on the sound track but thanks for the idea.AttitudejpegWORLD’S A BITCH is available at: www.churchoftrees.bandcamp.com  … and all streaming services.

Follow Carole Pope at  IG: @carole_pope   Twitter: @carolepope   www.carolepope.com
Follow Church of Trees at   IG: @church_of_trees   Twitter: @churchoftrees   www.churchoftrees.com

A note of trivia: Back in the late 70s, Carole was my next door neighbour in Cabbagetown and I would frequently see superstar visitors walking up her path. I’d often sit on my tiny front porch with a cup of tea and wave across the flower beds. She and her Rough Trade partner, Kevin Staples, were the quietest, most polite neighbours you could ask for. Meanwhile, my house was ground zero for wild gatherings that included Second City & SCTV cast members, celebrity photographers, musicians – usually the band Songship which featured Catherine O’Hara’s sister Mary Margaret as lead singer (the band’s drummer Bruce Moffatt was one of my room-mates), and I occasionally played host to legendary skater and artist Toller Cranston who lived a few blocks away.

If you wanna learn (or remember) what it was like in Toronto back in the 70s and early 80s, pick up a copy of Carole’s tell-almost-all autobiography, Anti Diva.book

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GRAMMY-NOMINATED RECORDING ARTIST RON KORB MISSES TOURING & MEETING HIS FANS DURING PANDEMIC

Like all musicians across Canada, Toronto’s Grammy-nominated flautist and composer, RON KORB, has been dealing with not just the loss of income from live concerts, international touring and recording sessions, but also missing his personal meet-n-greets with fans who flock to his live shows both here in Canada and around the world (pictured below).  His most recent project was playing on the film soundtrack for the historic WWII drama & top grossing film for 2020, The Eight Hundred, which was in the cinemas at the end of 2020 for 2 weeks when half-capacity audience screenings were allowed before we went back into Covid lock-down (watch for it when it’s released on VoD or digitally).fnas 2I recently chatted with Ron online and asked him to share his thoughts and observations on how Covid has impacted his life and career, and to talk about his research project addressing the state of Canadian digital streaming and rights, and how it impacts musicians and fans…wall (2)Ron, as a professional musician, how has Covid impacted your ability to reach your fans and sell your music?  Covid has been devastating to the music community and affected every area of activity. In addition to all live performance being cancelled many other sources of income such as teaching, composition engagements and recording projects have decreased. Now the only way to reach fans is through Social Media which really isn’t the same.

Obviously touring is off the table, have you created or participated in any online concerts or have plans to do so?  Yes, I have participated in some online concerts and events like the MY EARTH SONGS (below) virtual concert in support of UNICEF along with some Grammy winners, The Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Virtual Event, The Beaches Jazz Festival and I guest hosted an online radio show.Earth SOngsHow is your award-winning World Café album doing? Its the perfect listening choice for those stuck at home during quarantine, with energetic danceable tunes as well as smooth relaxing pieces, too.  Thanks for saying that. World Café continues to get enthusiastic feedback. It is time to encourage my fans to listen to my music via streaming sites as that is the main income source for music during the pandemic.  Listen to World Café here:  https://open.spotify.com/album/7F9humDpfXkAuhlLramJzQ b_W1sic2l6ZSIsIm1lZGl1bSJdXQ==For even more joyful and soothing music with unique instrumental accompaniment, your Grammy-nominated Asia Beauty (2016) is still available for purchase via your website, yes? As are all your other albums…?  Yes, all my albums are available through www.ronkorb.com and the Asia Beauty CD has a beautiful reissue. My CD distributer went bankrupt and record stores didn’t pay me. Now with CD Baby closing its store, my own website and Amazon are the only outlets for my physical product. The advantage of ordering from my site is that the albums can be autographed if the customer wishes.  Listen to Asia Beauty here: https://open.spotify.com/album/2UMUxYkRKZcz7sTBR1sv7958thgrammyYou recently formed the CANADIAN DIGITAL MUSIC COLLECTIVE, an organization and research project to help Canadian music creators increase their visibility online. Members are encouraged to post information about music streaming, online music promotion and changes in the music business. How did this come about and why the need?  Streaming is 80% of the music market these days but it’s very difficult to be discovered because 40,000 new songs are being added to the music platforms every day. Many of my fellow Canadian musicians produce great music but they remain largely unnoticed. We are funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the goal of our research is to find methods to help Canada’s music creators get discovered online and receive the royalties they deserve.130006745_10158649074400552_6752103679655064319_oDoes the CDMC offer workshops or webinars?  Yes, since September we have already done 3 webinars and will do a final one in February before submitting our report. The workshops have been great and we have really learned a lot about the ever-changing digital world. It’s interesting that before we started this research project, I had certain suppositions about what were the problems and solutions when it came to streaming. After engaging with the other CDMC members I realize there are a multitude of options, very few easy answers and a lot of hard work and diligence to be successful in the digital sphere.  Any Canadian artist can join at  https://cdmc.mailchimpsites.com/  and our Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/719764478662299

Whats the best way for fans to keep in touch?   Anyone who wants to check out my music can explore these outlets:
YouTube Channel:  Flute Traveller https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Vbx5qQ6qW-LCf8NmGHmHw
Apple Music https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/ron-korb/29541142
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/artist/4Xjxonsw8YU2tX5MR7n0r8
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ronkorb.longdi
Twitter: @ronkorb
Instagram: @ronkorbmusic

Thanks, Ron, and hopefully by end of this year, you’ll be performing live again in front of your legions of fans here and abroad…and doing all those great media interviews (below, Ron with Nancy and Valentino at CIUT-FM’s Howl! radio show)CIUT