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SINGER BILLY NEWTON-DAVIS BRINGS THE CLASSICS TO NEW AUDIENCES DURING COVID PANDEMIC

I’m thrilled to introduce you to the new EP from the oh-so-talented BILLY NEWTON-DAVIS, recording artist, cabaret entertainer and all round musical bon vivant!  The brand new jazz EP “HAVE WE MET?” from the four-time Juno winning vocalist who’s worked with Gloria Gaynor, Sammy Davis Jr., Céline Dion, The Nylons, MelleeFresh, Boomtang Boys, Nino Anthony and deadmau5 is available now from your favourite streaming platforms or directly from Billy’s website: www.billynewtondavismusic.com

This brand new jazz EP from the four-time Juno winning vocalist who’s worked with Gloria Gaynor, Sammy Davis Jr., Céline Dion, The Nylons, MelleeFresh, Boomtang Boys, Nino Anthony and deadmau5, offers a juicy jazzy, bluesy, gospelicious vibe. “Have We Met” features some of Billy’s favourite classics from the great American songbook.  The EP features Juno-winner Mike Downes on bass (and arrangements), Stu Harrison on piano, Ben Ball on drums and was recorded & mixed by Brad Nelson at Cylinder Sound, live-off-the-floor.

I met the incomparable showman nearly 4 decades ago when we were both young and full of showbiz promise – Billy came into the restaurant where I was working (back then, everyone was an actor/waiter so…) and throughout his dinner, he shared stories with me about his moving to Toronto to make a name for himself, work with the big stars, sing, dance….everything. I think I fell a little in love with this joyous ball of energy sitting in my section, and over the years, I’ve proudly followed his rise to fame. Both his dedication to his craft and strong work-ethic have earned him the respect of fellow musicians and artists, and after listening to his latest EP, I thought I should let him tell his story here to my readers. I got the chance to reach out to Billy and ask him a few questions about his career and this new musical offering in the time of Covid.DJoBjC5XkAEcuJQ (2)Billy, congratulations on your new EP “Have We Met?” that’s now available on all streaming platforms or directly from you, via your website. The songs are all classics to which you’ve added your own super cool vibe – how hard was it to whittle down your extensive song catalogue to these five songs?   It was not easy. I love beautiful songs and I chose each of them for the feel or story of the song, or if I had personally had that same experience. I wanted to integrate my own understanding into each song. I also want to sing these songs every night and love doing them…every night!

You’ve enjoyed a lot of media attention for the EP – how gratifying is it to know that the media as well as the public appreciate this gift of music during such a depressing time?  It gives me great joy!  I love what I do and I’m always happy when people are smiling… especially for the love of songs!

In the late 70s, you worked in several hit shows on Broadway, including Stop the World with the incomparable Sammy Davis Jr, arguably one of the greatest entertainers of all time (he sang, danced, played multiple instruments and acted). Did you pick up any nuggets of stage craft or advice from the great man?  Yes I did – Sammy helped me find my confidence and the fact that I really wanted to be there. It was all about being present and never ever letting anyone know that you’re not there… people pay their hard-earned money for a performance so you always give 100% for every show and nothing less. SammyWho were your early influences or inspirations in music and/or theatre?  Oh, Glenda, there were so many. When I was very young, my Dad played lots of music around our house so I was surrounded by all sorts of sounds and singers.  My first solo was in church in Cleveland at age 5.  My parents owned a great record store in the neighborhood, the “Golden Voice Record Shop” in Cleveland, where I used to hangout during my high school years. Thanks to to the store, my parents were able to pay for my university education and I graduated Ohio U. before moving to NYC to take my place in “show biz”.  Aretha was always a great inspiration; I love her because she learned from the great Mahalia Jackson [her life story is soon to be a major motion picture], Clara Ward, Billie, Ella, and Sarah Vaughan, I’m sure.  Sammy Davis Jr. was my inspiration to be a showman….but I still listen to Aretha! And much like Aretha, my mother was a strong successful woman and was one of the first African-American women to own her own business (Glamour World)  in Shaker Heights. I have been surrounded by inspiration all my life.arethaYou made an immediate impact on Canada’s music scene when you moved to Toronto in 1980, winning multiple Juno awards (your first album, Love Is a Contact Sport, was awarded the Juno for best R&B/Soul recording and another for Most Promising Male Vocalist) and you were also in great demand for vocal collaborations with artists as diverse as Celine Dion and deadmou5 (both Juno award winning recordings) before touring with the legendary Nylons in the early 90s. Do you consider the 80s one of Canada’s “golden eras” for popular music?  Yes indeed – the 80s were an incredible time in Canadian music. And the different genres of Black Music became recognized. Reggae was also very prominent, but then R&B rose in popularity and now the popularity of Drake, Jully Black, and the Wknd have arrived and taken over the pop world. Makes me very proud to have been part of that journey.HAVE WE MET ALBUM COVER BILLY NEWTON-DAVISObviously performing at corporate gigs and concerts or touring is off the table until the pandemic is under control, so have you created or participated in any online concerts or have plans to do so?  I’ve been very fortunate to have been invited to do lots of virtual performances. I recently did The 519 Gala for the 519 Community Centre in downtown Toronto.  I performed at a wonderful gala for the Rainbow Railroad charity where we raise money for them to protect LGBTQI individuals and enable them to live in freedom and safety in their own country. And this past Christmas, I appeared in the LOFT Community Services Christmas Concert where we raised upwards of $100,000.00 for street kids, the homeless, the mentally challenged and the elderly here in Toronto. It was such a great cause and it made my Christmas.Billy Newton-Davis Photo By Xander Looking Down To The Side

And finally, Billy, I have to ask: when you and I first met, I was waitressing in between acting gigs at Toronto’s legendary late-night bistro, Bemelmen’s, when you came in and sat in my section. You proudly and excitedly showed me blueprints for a new home – did that ever come to fruition? (By the way, I knew you would become a big star – you had so much energy, it was unmistakable).  There was a house – it was in the Queen St W area – but I met a wonderful guy and moved into his condo. We got rid of that and now have a cool New York style apartment.  I’m very grateful for all the gifts the universe has given me and I celebrate life on a daily basis, even through COVID-19 which has given me new focus – I was recently in the studio recording more new songs. I’m still writing for the next album and making plans for new live performances when we can all come together again. Billy Newton-Davis Photo by Xander cool shoesThank you, Billy, and I’m so pleased you still find so much joy in singing and performing, even under such confined conditions during the pandemic. Hopefully by summer, we’ll all be able to attend concerts where we can sing along with you once again.

If you’d like to learn more about Billy Newton-Davis and his music, visit his website: www.billynewtondavismusic.com and follow him on social media.  And thank you for supporting Canadian artists!

Bottom 2 photos courtesy of Xander.

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Mystery Road tv series 1 (the making of) courtesy of FilmInk magazine (2016)

Due to issues with a certain social media platform, news links from Aussie media cannot be uploaded in Australia so I’m hoping to help my Down Under friends by circumventing the system (hopefully) with embedded media links in my blog. Let’s see if this works….fingers crossed!  Let’s see if this link works….

https://www.filmink.com.au/rewind-the-making-of-mystery-road/

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Hopefully I’ve now found a solution for news sharing Down Under….and along Mystery Road!

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CHURCH OF TREES/CAROLE POPE SINGLE “WORLD’S A BITCH” GETS WORLDWIDE AIRPLAY

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, Bernard Frazer of Church of Trees gave me the 4-1-1 on the band’s new single, World’s a Bitch, featuring the iconic voice of Canada’s legendary pop diva Carole Pope, along with Rob Preuss. Since then, thanks to Bernard leading the promo charge, the single has been added to radio playlists around the world, including my home country of Australia…yay! Even in a pandemic, talent will triumph…especially with such a great song. (Carole & Bernard, pictured below, made sure they were well masked)2021 Carole Pope & Bernard  FrazerA music video starring Carole is in the works, so watch this space for news of it’s upcoming release.
Below is a partial list of radio stations around the globe where fans are listening….more being added daily:
Artefaktor Radio, Mexico City/London, UK
Banks Radio Australia
Bombshell Radio, Toronto
CBC Radio 2
CFUV FM, Victoria
CHMR, St. John’s Nfld
CFCR FM, Saskatoon
CFRU 93.3 FM, Guelph
CHCR, Killaloe ON
CHUO 89.1 FM, Ottawa
CIUT FM, Toronto
CJLO, Montreal:
CJSW, Calgary
CKCU 93.1, Ottawa:
CKMS 102.7, Waterloo
CKUW, Winnipeg
CKWR 98.5, Kitchener
Flyflew Radio, Laut FM, Germany
Fylde Coast Radio, Blackpool UK
Humble and Fred Radio, Toronto
KOOP FM, Austin Texas
KRAC Radio, Montreal
Live 88.5, Ottawa
LRDR Radio, France/Switzerland
NYthespirit, Toronto
Radio Coolio, Toronto
Radio That Doesn’t Suck, Toronto
Revival Synth, Brazil
WA12 Radio, Manchester UK
WFM 97.2, Manchester UK
Blast The Radio, Ottawa
Valley 89.5 FM, Canberra Australia

AND, Carole has just launched a GoFundMe campaign in support of Attitude: The Art Rock Musical! based on the life of her brother, Howard (pictured below), a New York-based musician who died of AIDS in 1996Donate and be a part of the process!  Here’s the link:  http://bit.ly/2MgUYBp  AttitudejpegBig CONGRATS to Church of Trees and Carole Pope for scoring such universal applause for the new single….you can listen in or buy the single from your favourite streaming platform, or direct from the artists at: http://www.churchoftrees.bandcamp.com/

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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!

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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

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Fabulous funny lady CARLA COLLINS tickles funny bones, meditates on life & laughter, and soothes our souls

I remember the night of the Oscars many years ago when one of Canada’s leading TV networks sent beautiful Toronto comedienne CARLA COLLINS down to L.A. to cover the red carpet arrivals and do interviews with the stars. OMG, I’ll never forget that vision of her in a bizarre, wild orange sparkly frock tossing out bon mots and kudos to the stars, drawing them into her microphone and asking them hysterical questions about their nominated roles, their lives and loves…and whatever else came into her head – a wacky stream of consciousness. She was brilliant! Totally unafraid to meet to BIG named stars head-on, kinder than Joan Rivers but just as “intimate” with her enquiries, Carla charmed everyone that night and I knew it was only a matter of time that she herself would walk among the showbiz giants…on 6″ stilettos and with even bigger hair!

Working her magic in west coast comedy clubs, hosting corporate events & awards nights, special guesting at swanky soirees – years later Carla has forged a successful comedy career as well as becoming a best-selling author, launched a brilliant interactive program that merges laughter with meditation and yoga principles, and now back on home turf in Canada, she’s hosting a brand new webcast series (which should go live with a studio audience once Covid quarantining is over) staged at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub in downtown Toronto.

I recently caught up with my fellow blonde goddess and posed a few scintillating questions I thought my readers would enjoy….th (1)It’s been a long time since your first stand-up gig at The Rivoli in Toronto – do you remember your excitement or fears when you first set foot on the stage? And did you think it would lead to such a successful career in comedy for you?  For the longest time I was absolutely terrified of doing stand-up and had a crushing nerve problem where I couldn’t even eat for days leading up to going on stage. I only dabbled in comedy a couple of times a year when I was working fulltime on TV and radio.  Although comedy was my first love, I was terrified before every show. Now I could jump up and do 45 minutes at a garage sale! I can’t wait to make people laugh and I certainly never imagined it would become my greatest high and healthiest escape. Like every other comedian right now, I’m practically doing a tight 5 in the Whole Foods parking lot against everyone’s will.   The Rivoli was the mecca of comedy – I’m so sad to hear it has closed and so honoured to have had the opportunity to perform there a few times.

Your stand-up comedy has attracted a huge following in the States and whenever you’ve come home to Canada for special appearances you pack the theatres – do you find any difference in the audiences?  Audiences can vary a little from place to place, city to city. If I were to make a general, sweeping, certain to offend someone observation it’s that US audiences tend to be a tad more effusive and more prone to standing ovations and Canadian audiences seem to prefer more intellectual humour at times. Having said that, depending on the town or region, that statement can be totally flipped. At the moment I would kill for any type of audience, even though my Chihuahua, three kittens and UPS driver have been a great crowd during lockdown.15C4588F-D0F0-4D61-B70A-CBE938F0D1FE

Have you had any really weird experiences while doing your shows? Any men’s underwear thrown on stage, mothers claiming you seduced their sons or maybe some ugly streakers?   One time in Long Beach, California, a very drunken woman slurred and heckled throughout my set. That wouldn’t be remotely unusual except for the fact that I was performing at an AA meeting and the Ziplock bag full of vodka that fell out of her purse was frowned upon by the organizers. Last year in Calgary a former hockey player and his girlfriend bought me many, many drinks after I headlined a show. I had to excuse myself and retire to my room as I was beyond tipsy only to find a $1,500 tip in my purse! I was a bit of a legend the following night as the other comedians and wait staff had witnessed the event. Pretty sure I naively escaped an Albertan three-way!headshot2In one of your many film appearances, the diamond heist adventure Bitch Slap, you got to work with both Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and Xena (Lucy Lawless) – how was that experience and did you manage to score any super powers of your own?   Well I was only in one scene so I didn’t get to work with either one on set. I did meet Kevin at the premiere and I already knew Lucy through a mutual friend. She’s absolute perfection and is one of my girl crushes. Pretty sure everyone adores Xena/Lucy. The only super power I emerged with was my ability to overact even in the tiniest of roles and my ability to kill off husbands. Metaphorically.bitchslapA few years ago, you created a fun online chat show, Carla Collins Comes Clean, set in your actual bathtub where you told us about all sorts of hilarious things that happened to you. How did you come up with the crazy concept and did you ever invite any special guests to the tub?   We had so much fun doing that web series and we still have a season 2 that needs to find its way out into the wild. It was directed by Tom Moser who has won multiple Emmys in animation. My then producer, Penny Edminston, and I thought it would be funny for me to just rant away in a bathtub as that is my natural habitat and form of cheap therapy. I would straight up be doing prison time if I wasn’t allowed to take baths. We were tickled by the twist ending of reversing the camera and showing some poor pizza delivery man, nun, B list celebrity, etc… fully-dressed in the tub with me and forced to hear my bullshit. There is interest in remaking the show this coming year so expect to see more of me, as it were. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I’m interested to learn about how you’re exploring your spiritual side by launching the innovative Comedic Meditation program, hosted online now (thanks, Covid you bitch!). Please tell me about the healing effects of humour and how you have merged guided meditations with laughs and smiles.   Currently, Comedic Meditation is my favourite child! I think I have often combined my love of comedy and spirituality including performing stand-up at the Kabbalah Center in LA and my humorous self-help book “Angels, Vampires and Douche Bags”.8179923._UY630_SR1200,630_ (2) I’ve been spiritual all my life and have practiced yoga and meditated for almost 20 years now. Everyone in Los Angeles claims to be a guru and I just wanted to take the intimidation, preciousness and woo woo out of meditation. It’s simply focusing on your breath. The marriage isn’t as unconventional as it may seem at first. Starting off with 20 to 30 minutes of stand-up allows everyone to release endorphins and get out of their own heads and both meditation and laughter produce the same gamma brainwave. People are finding that they are able to relax more deeply and more quickly after some giggles (and sometimes a few drinks) Also, although no one thinks Zoom comedy shows are ideal, the meditation portion may work even better delivered online as people can relax comfortably in their own home without feeling judged and without having to drive home…or wear pants.   I’ve been fortunate to do a few corporate comedic meditations this month for a few organizations which I loved.  Thanks to several sponsors like our title sponsor, The Michael Stuart Webb Team, you can sample a show right now at no cost by visiting www.comedicmeditation.com Figure we all need to chuckle and chill during these mad times.9584DC8C-8DFF-4DBA-8F02-C07769F0FD8D meditationMore recently, you returned to the stage here in Toronto at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub presenting a unique talkshow-style webcast called Carla Collins Rox the Elmo – do tell…how did this happen and who will you be chatting with?  Pretty sure masks and podcasts have both become mandatory! I had a wonderful experience playing the Elmo for two shows in September during that brief but glorious window when venues were quasi-open. I had quarantined with Elmo Owner and former Dragon’s Den star Michael Wekerle and his family and we became fast friends. Michael Stuart Webb (whom I refer to as my gay fiancé!) and I had already partnered on Comedic Meditation and he was launching his new media group so the three of us joined forces to produce a pandemic panacea podcast/web series. Carla Collins Rox the Elmo is the perfect three-way of comedy, music and spirituality where mental health meets metal health with the iconic venue as the beautiful backdrop.logo IMG_5293 with KennyWe just wrapped season one with some exceptional guests partaking in no-holds barred, intimate interviews. Many also treat us to mini concerts you won’t see anywhere else. Season one includes candid chats with actor Dean McDermott, Canadian music icon Gowan, comedian Kenny Robinson (pictured above, with Carla), Olympic skating queen Elizabeth Manley, recording legend Kim Mitchell, singer/songwriter Gordon Deppe, the list goes on.  Naturally there’s a lot of laughter and great music but also a lot of raw emotion and honesty. I’m very proud of this show and hope everyone will check it out on my YouTube channel and/or iTunes and Spotify.IMG_5378The Covid lock-down, isolation and quarantining has not dampened your sense of humour and certainly hasn’t curtailed your creativity. How many webisodes are you planning at the Elmo and then what’s next for Carla Collins? Any more books in the works?  We’re planning more webisodes in the new year when we are able and I’m also going to release a new comedy album from my two shows in the fall at the El Mocambo (maybe even a TV special!).  I am working on a new book: the world’s first motivational/self-help coffee book featuring the beautiful fashion designs and photography of my dear friend Jorge Del Busto called Stairs: A 30 Day Step by Step Guide to being Fab AF.  It features various photos of me on a staircase with some hilarious and hopefully helpful hints of being even more fabulous than you already are 😊 I’ve been billing myself as the world’s most immature mature model. Funny fact: I was just signed to a modelling agency in LA. Now I’ll be spending the entire holiday season phoning up my exes and letting them know that they didn’t know it, but they were bangin’ a model!Facetune_20-11-2020-19-10-45 IMG_4986Carla, is there anything else you’d like to add, any shout-outs or messages to your fans?  Just wanna send everyone lots of love and laughs right now. Stay safe and healthy. If you can, during lockdown, adopt a pet. Or an accent.

Watch for webisodes of Carla Collins Rox the Elmo now on YouTube!76E97749-7719-4666-A45F-9BB83EF87B94

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CANADA’S ELDER STATESMAN OF TV & FILM, ART HINDLE, DELIVERS GREAT PERFORMANCES WITH MULTIPLE PROJECTS COMING TO OUR SCREENS NEXT YEAR.

When I first arrived in Canada in 1974, one of the first Canadian films I ever saw was Black Christmas, a slasher/horror picture I was taken to on a first date! There was never a second date for that guy…LOL. It was scary and wild, and was filmed in a house that apparently was not far from where I actually lived in Toronto. But it did feature a very handsome young man for whom I developed a mad crush that has lasted decades – his name is ART HINDLE.art-hindle_min225Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, I would see Art appearing on the some of the most popular tv series of all time such as Dallas (he had a nice multi-episode story arc), Baretta, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Starsky & Hutch, McGyver, Murder She Wrote, even Law & Order which was just starting off. Then came E.N.G. in 1989 which ran until ’94 – by then Art had become a major heart-throb with a resume that included feature films as well as TV. Over the past several years, I’ve run into Art many times at the Toronto Int’l Film Fest (TIFF) or ACTRA soirees, even photographing him and his beautiful wife, Brooke, on red carpets and at industry schmooze fests.Art & Brook20150915_1912091-300x251I recently caught up with the Canadian film & TV icon and asked him to share his thoughts on an actor’s life in the time of Covid, his long & successful career, and advice for those wanting to craft a career as impressive as his…..

As a working actor, how are you coping with Covid and the restrictions governing film or TV productions?   I’m using the lockdown as an opportunity to catch up on my reading…including some scripts that have been piling up. I’m also keeping my “instrument” tuned with some online ZOOM acting workshops – a group of us do scenes, usually 2-handers or monologues, every Monday evening. And I’m also Facetiming with all 8 of our children & grandchildren which takes up a lot of our time. I’ve managed to work on a couple of films & a TV series which has been very tricky for this old dog! Yes, I’ve had to learn a few new tricks – it’s a challenge to concentrate on the acting & practice both social distancing & masks on/masks off protocols.  The TV series involved travelling to Newfoundland and that was stressful, both flying and totally isolating in the hotel for days at a time!

Did you have any projects cancelled due to the pandemic? I know you have several projects completed or in post-production – do you foresee 2021 as being the year of Art Hindle with everything that was postponed this year coming to the screen all at once?  Yes, I have a couple of TV movies, a feature film in Montreal and the 2nd season of a TV series coming up. Hopefully the new year will bring the Industry back to normal (although, sadly, I doubt it) but we will all have to do our part, unlike what’s been going on in the general population this year!The Brood  1979Going back to the beginning, you were part of the 1974 iconic Canadian horror film, Black Christmas, one of the first big slasher movies to thrill audiences. What memories do you have of that experience and did you think it would become such a cult hit?  To be honest, it was just another job for this actor with 4 children who desperately needed work all the time which, in Toronto & Canada in the early 70’s, was little to none. In fact, while working with Margot Kidder she found out how little work there was here and told me if I moved to LA I would work all the time. It was then that I decided to do something I had been resisting so for the next few months I gathered as much cash as I could (i.e. selling my vintage Porsche), driving a cab 24/7 and even doing some modelling which I had done when I was starting out in ’68, then in November ’74, my girlfriend & I drove to LA in a delivery car. As for your question about a “cult hit” or cult film, I don’t think the term had been invented at that time, and besides, no one makes a movie thinking it’s a cult film – every day you’re just trying to complete it before they take your money away!Black Xmas Black ChristmasThroughout the 70’s and 80’s, you guest starred on so many big tv series including Cannon, Law & Order, Barretta, Barnaby Jones, Dallas, MacGyver (the original), Murder She Wrote (twice), and LA Law to name just a few before scoring your own tv series here in Canada, E.N.G. – what did you learn from these experiences working with legends like Buddy Ebsen, Robert Blake and Angela Lansbury?  I guess I first learned how to make people happy working on a series – unhappy actors & crews rarely make successful series. I also learned confidence, realizing I was at least as good as most of them; it was refreshing, as well, to be respected – actors rarely were in Canada.  I also worked with some great directors and almost from the beginning that was something that I wanted to do. So it was like being at school; in fact, when I was doing a series called Kingston Confidential at Universal Studios I nicknamed it “University Studios”.  I would poke my head into the various departments – editing, casting, set design, etc. – and asked questions. It paid off when we did E.N.G. (below) – I made sure the cast & crew were very happy & I got a chance to direct some of the episodes.20201223_194527 (2)E.N.G. lasted from 1989 to 1994 and established you as a leading man and you then went on to do other multiple season series such as North of 60, Tom Stone, Paradise Falls and Dot. – did you enjoy the steady long-term work or were you itching to tackle more film roles?  Actually, in between roles on TV I was always working in film. I seemed to gravitate to low budget projects; I did so many, some people pegged me King of the Indies…I didn’t mind. I like to work hard and fast… something you have to do on low budget projects, but if you pull something good off, it’s very satisfying!Return to ParadiseIn recent years, you’ve appeared in popular series such as The Good Witch (a personal favourite of mine) and other more gentle (non horror/slasher…LOL) TV movies – what sort of characters do you look for as far as new challenges or is it strictly based on quality of script?   To tell you the truth, I’ve never been a fan of the horror genre. I never go to the theatre for that and I’ve reached the point in my career…well let’s put it this way, the 4 stages of an actor’s career are: Who’s Art Hindle?  Get me Art Hindle!! Get me a younger Art Hindle!  and finally: Who’s Art Hindle??  Most of the casting directors who knew me, liked me and called me are now retired or dead. A few are still around and a couple of the young ones think I’m swell (!) …so at my age you take what you’re offered and I get offered enough that I can turn down projects I’m not interested in. Like a film I recently did called Robbery (I’m very proud of this one and it’s streaming everywhere!)  I look for stories that connect the young with the old and where, by the end, both have learned something and it’s changed them. 2018Your son, Zeke, was a child actor when you lived in L.A. and he’s now become a successful director & producer – I can only assume you are a real proud poppa.  Did you ever try to deter him from a not-so-secure life in showbiz?  I never ever pushed him in that direction. As a child he only did a couple of things so when he suddenly leapt into the abyss of acting, I had mixed emotions. But he seems to have inherited my gene of working hard and playing hard and caring deeply about the work and the people you’re with. I have to say, Zeke (pictured below) is much more the renaissance man than I was or could ever hope to be! He writes, produces, sometimes directs and stars in everything he shoots – I never had that much drive. He’s also studying on the side to get a Law Degree! What an amazing man…Zeke (2)Moving forward, do you and your wife, Brooke, plan any special getaways in 2021 to make-up for Covid’s travel ban this year, or do you have projects that will keep you close to home in Toronto?  We have a new grandchild with our son who is a professional polo player living in Florida, so when the coast is clear, that will be our 1st destination. Also, we will head to Southern California to visit with Zeke & his beautiful wife and a daughter and her wonderful family. Other than that, we rarely travel – we have a great home with a forest attached…a bit of Paradise., in fact.

Any advice for young actors looking to carve out a long-term career such as yours?  Well, I guess I’d tell them it’s a marathon not a sprint. In fact, about a year after Zeke declared he was in da Biz, he had flown me down to LA to be in his first feature film, (Happenstance, streaming everywhere) playing his character in the future. He told me he was worried that he wasn’t getting anywhere; I thought he was stacking his career up against mine so I told him that after a year or two in the business, I had done a couple of commercials and no one was close to calling me an actor or beating down my door. If you look at my IMDb page, you’ll see only about 6 credits in the first 6 years, then maybe more than double that in the next 6.  Finally, I’d tell actors starting out, do as much acting as you can – short films, workshops, readings with other actors like you…I’m not a big fan of expensive headshots (spend $200 max) or expensive acting schools – there are some good books on acting, probably at the library. If you get the chance to be on a set, do it…learn to be observant and learn to listen…listening is the key to acting, in my humble opinion.  And as my wife Brooke advises, do some background/extra work to get used to on-set etiquette and experience the stresses of making movies.1131060ef6438cf3de64b6e968bc72e7--canada-eh-ageless-beautyThank you for those insights, Art.  I know there are lots of young actors who admire you and your work out there feeling a little lost right now so hopefully your advice and assurances will stand them in good stead.  Check out Art’s IMDb page for a full list of his work and if you see any of his films on your tv listings, check ’em out and see what a terrific actor we can claim as our own!696934328420

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THE FLOOD – Australian feature film launches to outstanding reviews, festival awards & audience applause

What an exciting past month and a half it has been for writer/director VICTORIA WHARFE McINTYRE and her cast and team at Wagtail Films.

Down Under has been fortunate to come out from under Covid-19 quarantine & lock-down and Aussies are now able to attend cinema screenings and awards shows. Parts of New South Wales, around Sydney, have had a slight resurgence but the good old digger spirit has kept everyone complying with self-isolation and the virus seems contained – for now. Victoria, her fellow producer Amadeo Marquez-Perez and several cast members have been attending special screenings in key markets across multiple States, presenting post-screening Q&A panels, answering audience questions and chatting with media. THE FLOOD also won Best Australian Film as well as Best Director (for Victoria) and Best Lead Actress (Alexis Lane) at the Sydney Women’s Int’l Film Festival (see below)127534267_388815942561120_4636346088338239138_o128064618_388815692561145_6503339943587915807_o 126527186_388815869227794_5518471104302822974_oAnd at the prestigious AACTA Awards in late November, Aaron Jeffery was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (for playing Wm. “Minto” Minton) shown here with Victoria.128205268_390952799014101_8314221819762701337_nThe latest high-profile kudos come from David Stratton, columnist for The Australian newspaper, who listed The Flood as one of the best films of 2020:StrattonWhat a great way to end this bastard of a year! Bravo to Victoria, her production team and brilliant, talented cast!!   I asked Victoria and some of the cast members to share their experiences and thoughts about working on THE FLOOD now that the public and media have spoken…..
Victoria, congratulations on the success of the special screenings and Q&A panels with yourself and the cast. What has been the audience reaction/feedback to the film so far?
Thanks – it’s been overwhelmingly positive, which is fantastic considering how full on and in your face some scenes in the film are – people say it’s bold and epic and they’ve never seen a film like it and most commonly, people want to watch it again.SWIFF panelTHE FLOOD is a film that stands up to repeat viewing – there is so much going on and so many shocking moments that the subplots and subtleties are easily overlooked in the first viewing, especially the gentle spirituality of the First Nation people and country as witness to humanity. Watch it again from that perspective and you see a very different film again.   It is multilayered in every way – each shot jam packed with visual and aural information and it is just gorgeous to look at.

It appears that your cast is really invested emotionally in your film – how has this helped shaped the promotional campaign with post-screening Q&A panels, festivals & awards events, and their online (social media) support?
We spent 2 months in a heightened spirit and natured-filled ‘hot house’ together, going into the darkness and the light, traversing our nation’s history and the deeply personal aspects of human experience. We forged bonds in fire, through enormous challenges and are wedded with the time spent with our First Nation people through daily ceremony, artistic creation and loving friendship.cast and crew 130256849_786172415272497_146459325288775464_o 132118349_10158988768527673_2785055598753939783_oWe all believe that the story we’ve told forms part of our nation’s healing and move towards true reconciliation with our First Nation peoples. We are united in our sense of the importance of that, and our cast are brilliantly doing all they can to share our message of truth-telling that leads to redemption and reconciliation and that is universal both socially and personally.

The Flood is now being released to the public in theatres across the country, just in time for Christmas – how has FanForceTV, NAIDOC and Madman Films supported the film during the time of Covid and into 2021?
It has been a very trying time to bring your first feature into the world, and easy to get into impatience and longing for the old cinema going days. But we’ve had great support and now we’re getting some great reviews, sold out sessions and lots of cinema bookings which has been a pretty good end to an annus horribilis for the arts community – although the beauty, strength and character of artists all around the world has shone through the digital realm and touched a lot of people. THE FLOOD has always made its own way in the world – so I trust in the process.SWIFFWhat is your next project…or are you just taking a good long holiday from work until you start thinking of the next production?  Ha! This year has been a holiday away from production so I’m looking forward to getting back in the saddle in 2021. Got a few projects on the go – have a science fiction film in the works with the ultimate message of don’t destroy the Earth – there is no other planet ‘B’, and a film with a dog…will have to see what takes off.

I also posed a few questions to cast members who were kind enough to share their experiences on-set and their future projects:

Shaka, how has this leading role of Waru impacted your career to date, and as you head off to the stage musical “Hamilton”, are you looking forward to the rehearsal process and nightly performances in front of live audiences?
The leading role in THE FLOOD has had a massive impact on my career. It’s given me the chance and experience to be on set almost every day, which gave me the opportunity to learn my craft and have a better understanding of acting for film and tv.  It’s also put me up front for publicity experiences such as radio, tv interviews and public speaking. I’ve become more comfortable in all aspects of the acting industry.
THE FLOOD has only just been released and people are only just seeing it, so the impact it has had on my career when it comes to future work has not yet arrived but I have no doubt it will create many more opportunities in film and tv. To play a strong, beautiful and heroic Indigenous character is something I’m very proud of and grateful to have had the responsibility to portray.eVvxEMXwI’m definitely looking forward to rehearsals for HAMILTON and being surrounded by talent and incredible artists, and then performing with them to the world. HAMILTON is more than just a musical – it is another life changing experience. I’m very proud to be a part of THE FLOOD and HAMILTON which are two very different and powerful life changing experiences

Alexis, you took on the role of the tough, take-no prisoners Jarah – do you see yourself as an action heroine or are you now looking to take on a less exhausting or a more romantic character in your next film?  I had a phenomenal time working on this action-packed, truth revealing film. Victoria is an incredibly giving director, allowing me to constantly grow and explore the depths of Jarah throughout filming. Finding Jarah’s natural resolve which then becomes her weakness…   Jarah is unable to let go and grow in forgiveness. Her journey then circles back around and her determination becomes an asset to her character once again. Just like my favourite line in the film from Waru “you’ll grow and change and when you prove yourself you will be forgiven”.ubGuPazE (3)It is still a rare opportunity in this industry to find a female lead that is a strong force yet a very human woman, and I’d be happy to continue down this path if it means showcasing women are more than just love interests or damsels.

Dean, you played not one but two roles in THE FLOOD – one a nasty cruel guy and the other, his brother, a much nicer character – do you find portraying “bad guys” more interesting or challenging than playing the good guy?
Playing the guy with bad behaviour can be very emotionally challenging, because his behaviour is so far removed from my core values/self, but at the same time that makes him very interesting in terms of being challenged as an actor.
The “good” twin has core values closer to mine but he also has traits very far removed from me, his inability to follow through with his resistance to the children being taken and being passive and weak enough to have a man take his eye out. If someone tried that on me they’d have a fight in their hands I tell ya, ha ha!!
Saying that, playing Paddy was also triggering for me because as a skinny teen I was incredibly shy and passive and somewhat of a coward, and to sit in that after outgrowing it, with attaining confidence over the years, felt like living through flashbacks in a way.
So my long winded answer (ha ha) is that they are equally interesting, but the twin with “bad” behaviours, the homicidal, racist, barbaric thing in ‘Shamus’ makes it more challenging to be in his shoes. Dean Kyrwood is pictured below (R) with Brendan Bacon (L)Brendan and DeanBrendan, you’re playing one of the most heinous evil bastards in The Flood yet I hear you’re a very sweet, kind man – as an actor, where do you find such intensity (and nastiness!) for your characterization of Tick?
The most heinous evil bastard in THE FLOOD….why thank you for your kind words ha ha! Finding intensity and nastiness in a character like ‘Tick’ doesn’t come easy but lucky for me I have over the last 20 yrs of my career played nothing but characters of the same realm.
But ‘Tick’ is by far one of the nastiest I’ve played and I thank Victoria for giving me the opportunity. I grew up in a very small region of north Victoria where, unfortunately, the racism towards native Australians was very much within the community, so given that, I was able to tap into some of what I knew and heard growing up. Also, to when looking at the rest of the gang within the film you see I’m working with some pretty big guys (Dean, Socs and Eddie) so given that I’m the smallest in the group it gave me more of a view to make the tiny bad guy seem the worst.
Also, when reading the script for the first time and working on the character’s name ‘Tick’ I looked at using that as giving him ‘Tourette’s’ and knowing that back in the 1940’s it would have been something that wasn’t known by many, and given that it would be something that most people back then would find quite scary, so that, too, also gave the character some more depth.
Even though ‘Tick’ was a nasty guy, it still took a lot to channel but knowing I had Victoria’s backing with taking him as far into the darkness that I could, he was still a very broken little man and one of the characters that will stay with me for a long time!

Aaron, you’ve enjoyed audience popularity on both the big and small screens – do you prefer the challenge of period dramas (The Flood), romance (McLeod’s Daughters) or comedies (Palm Beach), and why? 
I’m always most attracted to stories with meaning and heart and characters with depth. THE FLOOD speaks of reconciliation and redemption and elevating First Nation people through an action-packed thrill ride that entertains while it tackles a bunch of social issues. It treats the audience with a lot of respect for their intelligence and I love being a part of telling stories that.Aaron Jeffery2

The audiences have had such positive reactions and many shared their thoughts and opinions as they exited the cinemas: 
“Best Australian movie I have seen in a long while I am still getting over how emotional it was. It definitely compelling and am finally glad some of the truth telling of our Aboriginal peoples is out there! We just need to get that treaty happening and acknowledge the Statement from the Heart with Integrity compassion and justice !”

“Definitely need to see this movie again…after absorbing the brutal action…ready to follow the softer spiritual depth of this unique film.”

“Highly recommended – watching this movie felt so many emotions very thought provoking”
“The team from The Flood. An Australian story rarely told. Brilliant cast, amazing bushland setting, and great creative cinematic story telling.”
“Congratulations on an amazing, thought-provoking, beautifully brutal masterpiece!”
“It was amazing. So beautifully shot, creative, confronting, sad, but a comforting end. Will watch again!”
“WOW!!!! We loved the film….photography was amazing, great acting, great everything!!!!!”
THE FLOOD is now being released in cinemas to the general public and should hit North America (US and Canada) sometime early 2021, either in cinemas (Covid permitting) or via online streaming platforms. I highly recommend the film to learn about Australia’s recent history…but I might be slightly biased – I grew up in Australia and cannot wait to get home to celebrate with my Flood friends!
poster for social media

Big thanks to FanForceTV, Madman Films, NAIDOC and everyone at Wagtail Films for allowing me access to THE FLOOD.

https://www.facebook.com/thefloodfilm2020

Russell Yuen_167 (2)

MEET RUSSELL YUEN, ONE OF CANADA’S MOST IN-DEMAND ACTORS!

RUSSELL YUEN has got to be one of the busiest character actors in Canada I know – it seems like he’s on my tv screen nearly every day in some series or film. The charismatic Yuen splits his time between Toronto and Montreal and during the Covid pandemic, has been busy working from home auditioning online for international film and television projects (how difficult is that?), recording voice-overs, as well as coaching other actors.

When he first started acting, Russell applied his early training in Shaolin martial arts skills to roles as Asian gangsters and fighters which he then parlayed into more substantial roles. His “big break” came in the award-winning Canadian film The Red Violin followed by roles in Bulletproof Monk directed by John Woo, Phillip Noyce’s The Bone Collector opposite Denzel Washington, and Pluto Nash opposite comedy legend Eddie Murphy. Fluent in English & French, Yuen is popular with Quebec audiences starring in numerous Quebec feature films and tv series. He has established an on-set reputation for professionalism and good humour which probably accounts for his becoming one of the most popular go-to actors in Canada. I was thrilled watching him in last year’s mini-series 5000 Years of Heroes, and can’t wait to see his numerous upcoming 2021 films and tv shows.MV5BZmQwYmUyOTYtYWZhNC00NjhmLTg3OTYtYTc1ZmU5MDYyZDNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjg2MTMyNTM@._V1_I recently talked with Russell and asked him to share his stories and thoughts about working under these difficult Covid conditions as well as revisiting some of his most memorable performances……

You’ve been working non-stop over the past 3 decades, providing voice-overs as well as acting. How have you managed to sustain your career and create such a diverse resume?  Desperation?! LOL. As a typically struggling Canadian actor, we have to have many tools in our bag of skills. Loosing my father at the age of 11 meant needing to support/helping my mother starting at the age of 13. By the time I graduated theater school, I already had more jobs than most. These skills became very useful in acting. Parlaying these life skills into my acting career was extremely beneficial and allows me to play a large variety of characters. After all, actors always bring a part of themselves into each role we play. The fighting against stereotypes was the hardest part. Growing up as the youngest “accident” of the family and the only Asian around for miles, meant that I had a lot of time to allow my imagination to go wild. Acting is all about playing…I’m just a big/old kid.

Instead of the usual waiter/bartender jobs young actors have to take while they’re establishing themselves, you had a surprisingly exciting range of jobs prior to full-time acting – white water rescues, a rafting guide in Northern Quebec, a Shaolin martial artist, even a fitness trainer. Am I correct in assuming these special skills helped you secure certain roles over the years?  YES! As you can see, I make it a point not to read ahead when doing questionnaires in order to keep the feeling fresh and spontaneous but YES.  When I graduated from theater school with classical training, sadly, there were no speaking roles for Asians back then. So, I found myself doing many action/martial arts/stunt roles for the first 8 years of my career. ALL those physical training and skills allowed me to stay in the job I love despite no speaking roles.Caught a FLY in this Shot LOL #5000yearsofheroes Movie #ActorsLife #BehindTheScenesI remember first being aware of your comedic skills when spotting you in that popular series of TV commercials featuring two wacky fashionista for Reitman’s twelve years ago– did that exposure help boost your career or do you have any regrets about taking that gig?  Comedy has always been an important part of my life. If you can’t laugh at yourself….  I can’t believe it was that long ago LOL!  NO regrets at all doing that series of commercials. I really do not think it helped or hindered my career, although, it did prove to my agents that I can do comedy. Until then, like most people, they saw me in very serious/dramatic roles. Not only was this role fun to do because of the concept, cast and the crew but it also allowed me to travel to many places I would not have normally had the opportunity to go to.

What has been the most fun project you ever worked on, be it a comedy or drama/thriller, and why?  Oh boy. This answer all depends on your definition of “fun”. For me, ALMOST anytime I get to be on set is fun. Make It Pop was fun, Rising Suns was fun in a different way but if you mean fun as in comedy and laughs on set, the first thing that pops into my mind is Reitmans and Tokens on Call. Reitmans for what I mentioned before…At one-point Martin (who plays opposite to me in the commercial) and I looked at each other on a mountain in Cuba and we actually said to each other just how lucky we are. This was said right after we had a laughing fit on set. Tokens was fun due to the fact that it was the first experience for me being in an Asian driven project that was laughing at what really happens to Asians (and other visible minorities) in our daily lives.#BehindTheScenes Deep in Thought and Finally Hit my Mark LOL with @lilygao1 #ActorsLife #NorthBay #RisingSunsHow has the Covid production lock-down affected you? Have you been able to work remotely, perhaps doing voice-over work or on web-based projects?  My partner said it best regarding Covid-19, “2020 and this pandemic is Beige” LOL. No, I haven’t been able to do much work from home sadly during this pandemic. It has created a very unfair situation for most actors, although I have been one of the fortunate ones. We have been asked to do 99.5% of our auditions as self-tapes while maintaining social distancing and respecting whatever Covid-19 rules are in place at the time. This meant for many actors to spend a small fortune (for Canadian actors) on getting or upgrading all their equipment in order to give a decent self-taped audition to casting. It means for many an upgrade to their internet so that both their reader can Zoom into the audition self-tape or for Zoom call backs. But since I coach people and help with self-tapes, I already had most of the necessary equipment but even I had to upgrade some of my equipment. I have been able to audition and secure voice work on video games but due to quality and production requirements, I have had to go into studio to record. The situation also leaves actors at a disadvantage when auditioning. When you go into a casting place for an audition, you go in with a few ways to do the scene. Once in the audition room, you do the scene(s) with what YOU think is the best fit but that doesn’t mean it is what the production wants. In the audition room, the casting person will often give you a direction or description that could completely change the way you interpreted the character. Then you could do another take of the scene(s) that better fits what they are looking for. When I audition at home, it’s totally a roll of the dice and you just HOPE you got it right. Hence, both auditions and booking roles during this pandemic have been a struggle and few/far between. Although on the positive side, I have had the time to get new headshots (below) and demo together (laughs)!Russell Yuen_75 (2)You have a number of exciting upcoming projects for 2021 as well as your ongoing appearances in the popular Rising Suns tv series. Can you share any news about your upcoming appearances, in particular Dancing Through the Shadow of Mao which looks to be a provocative telling of an artistic life under the tyranny of Mao Tse-tung (Zedong) in communist China?  Yes! Rising Suns is having a lot of interest from multiple platforms in regards to buying it and making it into a full series. We are supposed to go back next year and continue shooting with funding coming from some parties that want to purchase the series. Dancing Through the Shadow (formally know and based on the book “The Swan”) is in its final stages before being released. In fact, I’ll be doing ADR for it this week! It is not so much a ‘provocative’ movie/subject but rather the story of person who struggles to continue her passion of dance no matter the obstacles she faces. This TRUE story just happens to take place during Mao’s reign. However, one of the wonderful parts of this film is the fact that it does take place during this time of history. Not so much for the character(s), I mean it’s just not a fun time in history. This film also shows a time of history many, including myself, just didn’t know about. I thought I knew what happened in China during this time but the book and researching the character taught me much more than I knew. However, the film is about much more: it’s about love, family and dreams. I am currently working on a project going to film next year … but of course I cannot mention it yet. Tokens On Call is supposed to go to season 2. Rising Suns will go for a full 13 episodes. Dancing Through the Shadow will be released next year. But beyond that…..SOMEONE OFFER ME WORK, PLEASE.81OTAvyzecL (2)Are there any directors or fellow actors you dream of working with in the future?  Hmm, this is a hard one. Can I say EVERYONE?! LOL. One could say all the expected names like Spielberg, Bong Joon-ho, Scorsese, Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, Mina Shum etc. Or actors like Hanks, Washington, Sandra Oh, Streep (who scares me a little), Sam Jackson etc. But honestly, I just want to work with people who have passion for what they’re doing and are ready and willing to work together to get the most out of what we are doing. It’s all about collaborating and sharing. However, as I get older, one hopes to do more projects and work with people who understand some element of what it’s like being Asian and incorporate this into the subject matter. It has become more important to me to share my story, my struggles, my path through life (including some very laughable moments) before it’s too late or I am gone. I want to make a difference … Growing up, the only Asians I saw and could identify with were (oh boy this is going to date me) Sulu from Star Trek (dreaming of being on that one day) and Robert Ito from Quincy (below). I want my kids and Asians as a whole to be able to see themselves and their stories. Things are changing but at a glacial pace. I fear I will not be around when people finally stop saying “Oh look, they cast an Asian” but instead say “Oh look, now that’s a great actoritoIs there any advice you’d like to share with up and coming actors who dream about the kind of career you’ve enjoyed – any pitfalls to avoid, dealing with casting people, whose ass to kiss or whose ass to kick? As I say to new actors when I am asked to talk to a class or group “Do not get into acting because you want to be a celebrity, do not get into acting for the money, do not get into acting because you think it will be easy, do not get into acting because you love it either. Only get into acting because you NEED to act. If you get into it because you LOVE it, it (like many partners you will have in life) will only let you down, disappoint you or leave you when you least expect it.”  Never believe anyone or anything until it is in writing but even then, you never know. Develop and trust your instincts both in business and acting – they will serve you well and protect you. Finally, NEVER LIE. The truth will come out and it may haunt you and your career forever. I’ve seen it happen to other actors and it has at times destroyed their credibility. MV5BZDdkNDk0YWUtODhiYi00ODNiLWE5OTMtNTUxMzM5ZjIwMjNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzY0OTUwMTM@._V1_SY1000_SX675_AL_And for news updates on your films or tv shows, can you please share your social media links or website?  Sadly, I do not have a website yet…if anyone wants to build one for me…??!! But if people would like to follow me, here are my social media links:
https://twitter.com/RUSSELLYUEN
https://www.facebook.com/RussellYuenPage
https://www.instagram.com/russell_yuen/