A Crackpuppy Christmas
(no carols, just rock n’ roll)
Some thoughts as my band Crackpuppy gets ready to rock The Bovine Sex Club on Saturday, December 21, honoured to be in the company of a stellar band like The Mahones.
Patricia Wilson initially seemed to be an unlikely collaborator. She is the quintessential "chick with a guitar" and is rarely seen without her hair in full rock n' roll hugeness and without a bit of leather and skull imagery jewellery. And of course her notorious - and damn heavy - bullet belt. I come from a pop background and the appeal of hard rock was pretty much limited to admiration for the singers' abilities - next to opera, heavy metal is the gold in the singing Olympics. And - besides the hair - my style is whatever happens to be comfortable and at hand, with an affection for clowns and colour that Patricia rues and works tirelessly to eradicate and reduce to basic black.
However Crackpuppy was destined to be born and, as the official - and basically truthful - bio reads:
Guitarist Patricia Wilson and singer Drew met doing shots at one of Toronto’s rare, now-defunct, rock n’ roll club nights. Having honed their chops in various other bands Patricia, after several Jack Daniels, asked if Drew would like to hang out and write some songs. Skeptical but intrigued Drew acquiesced. In a matter of hours, and several beers, three songs were ready to rock. The new collaborators were offered a gig before they even had a band. Two talented Toronto musicians offered to sit in and at that first sold-out showcase Crackpuppy roared to life. By the end of the night the embryonic unit had secured two more shows. Crackpuppy fuses thunderous guitar riffs with soaring melodies to craft a loud, lewd metal-edged roar. “Everything we are and nothing we should be” is the motto of this band who will kick your motherfuckin’ ass and make you like it.
I took a crash course - at Patricia's insistence - and picked what I liked and looked for what I could pilfer and alter to my tastes. The songwriting turned out to be surprisingly easy. Patricia churns out more catchy riffs than any band could ever use, more than she can remember. Layering a melody over top takes some time but is usually a collaborative process that flows. Fortunately Patricia's riffs come from more than a ear-crunching place and they always have an idea or emotion attached. Once the core of the song is revealed the words usually gush out and then just have to be refined. And every second "fuck" that Patricia contributes has to be erased. Though my handy rhyming dictionary has 47 words end with "uck," we try to expand the vocabulary a bit.
Patricia's favourite band is Motorhead - their riffs are truly inspired and catchy - but I prefer songs with more melody and range. I believe that being able to sing along is crucial - vocal hooks are paramount - but then I am the vocalist so my priorities are different. It seems to work. Try not to sing along or bask in the riffs that are "Jesus Mafia."
Adding Mark Crossley, formerly of renowned National Velvet, on bass was a brilliant stroke of fortune. Not only is he a heavy player, he is fiercely intelligent and resolutely musical. Bass lines that intersect with their own melodic integrity added a whole new dimension to Crackpuppy's evolving sound.
Drummers have always been, as they have been historically, a problem of Spinal Tap proportions for Crackpuppy. Cathy Marchese, a highly respected and hard-hitting drummer, had always been on my radar but was always busy with her many other bands. There was one other problem: Patricia was insistent that, after previous bad experiences, the band should be male. "There's only room for one cunt in Crackpuppy," she pronounced. Fortunately she saw the light and Cathy quickly became the driving pelvic core of the Crackpuppy sound.
We've played the Bovine before and had a great time - it is a true rock n' roll bar - but that was before this unit gelled into the machine it is. And being in the company of The Mahones, with their celtic-punk anthems and sing-a-long shout-outs, will be a whole different flavour. And yes, it will be loud (that's how Patricia likes it. Why have a stack of Marshalls if no-one's ears are going to bleed?) so there will be Crackpuppy-branded ear plugs available. But if you don't feel it in your gut, it just ain't rock n' roll.