When I was 20, Allan Wigney was a huge deal. I was in a band, and he wrote about music for the local alt-weekly.
This made him doubly awesome to me – he had the power to make or break my band (I thought), and if the band didn’t work out he was doing a job I could see myself doing.
As it turns out, the band didn’t hit huge. But it wasn’t because of anything he did or didn’t write. At least I don’t think so – maybe he wrote some nasty, well-written letters to record labels that he never told us about.
He still writes about music, so that’s what we talked about. And to my credit – I didn’t even ask him to critique the fine rock and roll produced by my very own beloved Snipes. Although, I’ll place an MP3 right under this paragraph just in case someone else wants to listen.
How did you start writing about bands?
Well, I vaguely recall writing a critique of Led Zeppelin’s catalogue when I was about nine or 10. I called them out for stealing too many blues riffs, if I remember correctly.
But the music writing thing really dates to my time at CKCU-FM (I’m still there, at least as a board of directors member). When I joined the station 20-some years ago, they had a wonderful little monthly publication called Trans FM, and I was cajoled into writing reviews and articles for it.
Once X Press was launched, a pal who was looking after the music coverage (Remember music coverage in X Press, kids?) strongarmed me into contributing. That, eventually, developed into my becoming managing editor.
Were you ever a musician yourself? Does that matter?
Define musician. I taught myself guitar, harmonica and rudimentary accordion while in high school, and have mastered enough piano to be able to play The Mexican Hat Dance, The Addams Family Theme and many other fragments popular at hockey games.
I should mention that I used to routinely offer my services as guitarist to local bands recording albums. To date, only The Fiftymen have taken me up on that offer. Good lads, The Fiftymen.
Does it matter? I suppose on one level I can appreciate how songs are put together and how much skill is required to do the music thing properly. Then again, I still think the best guitar solo ever is the pre-thrash workout in Lou Christie’s Lighting Striking. Being a frustrated musician probably does help, though. Those who cannot do, teach.
What’s the worst thing you ever said about a band?
The worst thing? Geez, there are so many. I know I called Joaquin Phoenix the worst singer ever to be captured on disc. That wasn’t very nice, I suppose; though, I stand by it. I also reviewed a pointless Heart live album as an obituary for producer John Paul Jones’s career. I also wrote “Hang The Smiths,” in reference to their final album. But I take that back. Sort of.
Who was the greatest band you followed that never hit?
The greatest? Other than Chickpea? At the risk of sounding too rah-rah for the local scene, I would not hesitate to say that The Dead City Rebels, Wooden Stars, South Pacific, Mystic Zealots, Stand GT, Hilotrons and yes The Fiftymen should all have been household names across this great nation of ours. I could go on. Beyond the 613, though, um, Nada Surf? Ted Leo and the Pharmacists? Buick Mackane?
(ed. note: He’s being nice – Chickpea was the band I was in when I met him. I’ll link to a Chickpea song below.)
What do young bands need to understand about music critics?
I don’t understand music critics. My participation in this annual Polaris Prize thing has made me that much more aware of it. Every year I vote for the best albums, and every year they fail to make even the “long list.” Must be me.