Stuntman finds Success in Stand-up

Stuntman finds Success in Stand-up
September 2nd 2014
By Nicholas M. Pescod 
File From: Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press
http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/entertainment/273265351.html

In 1987, Steve-O was a teenager on a mission in Toronto.

Mötley Crüe was playing at Maple Leaf Gardens and he was determined to find out at what hotel the American superstars were staying.

After endless phone calls to various hotels in the city, Steve-O successfully reached the band’s management, who were so impressed that they invited him to meet the band.Steve_O_WEB

“In my life that was a really big landmark,” Steve-O told the News Bulletin. “I had an attitude that I could accomplish a lot of things, but when I pulled that off I just developed an attitude that I can accomplish anything I damn well want to in my life.”

It was that attitude combined with an insatiable appetite for attention that would help launch Steve-O to fame as a stuntman, prankster and comedian with the hit television and movie franchise, Jackass, which included Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera.

“Everything I have done has been driven by an unreasonable need for attention,” Steve-O said.

On Sunday (Sept. 7) the Jackass star turned standup comedian will be the centre of attention as he performs his routine at the Port Theatre as part of his Entirely Too Much Information tour.

“I would describe it as first and foremost as vigorously honest,” Steve-O said. “I don’t bullshit anybody. My life has been outrageous enough where I don’t have to bend the truth.”

Long before Steve-O was stapling his manhood to his leg and snorting wasabi as a member of Jackass, he was a 15-year-old kid who filmed himself skateboarding and doing various stunts with his father’s video camera. His need for attention and desire to become a serious stuntman led him to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College.

“I figured if I could graduate from there [Clown College] that I would be a trained circus professional and people would be inclined to take me more seriously,” he said. “Really that was why I went to Clown College, was to further my goal of becoming a crazy stunt guy.”

After college, he spent time as a clown in Florida before being noticed by Jeff Tremaine, who would eventually create Jackass.

“It was all really cool,” Steve-O said about his time on Jackass.

Following the conclusion of the Jackass, television series and subsequent movies, Steve-O became involved in a number of projects including the release of an autobiography, Professional Idiot: A Memoir.

He also dealt with a serious substance abuse problem and received treatment after his friend and Jackass co-star Johnny Knoxville encouraged him to get help.

“You know you’ve got a problem when Johnny Knoxville is your interventionist,” Steve-O said about the day he realized he needed to get help.

Four years ago, Steve-O was invited to do a stunt at comedy club.

“When I showed up I couldn’t think of anything crazier for me to do than try standup comedy,” he said. “It was really genuinely terrifying and I just went for it.”

Shortly afterwards, Steve-O decided to take a serious run at standup comedy. He credits Dane Cook for helping him hone his craft as a standup comedian.

“Dane Cook really took me under his wing and served as a mentor to me in a really meaningful way … we would sit down and he would give me notes,” Steve-O explained. “The first note he gave me was I am not sending you back to the drawing board, which was his way of saying my material was funny and that really put the wind in my sails.”

Just recently, Steve-O made headlines after he released a YouTube video, which showed him defacing a freeway sign in southern California in a protest about SeaWorld. The prankster also criticized celebrities who participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Instagram, stating that they weren’t sharing

information about the disease to their fans.

“They weren’t really doing anything. They were just dumping water over their head and that was it,” Steve-O explained. “I never would have imagined that bitching about something like that could be so wellreceived.”

To his credit, Steve-O participated in the challenge and donated $1,000 to the cause.

“I think I am one of the few people who looked it up and got educated about it,” he said.

After being clean and sober for eight years now, Steve-O said he is still the same person that he has always been.

“I didn’t loose anything in the way of my sense of humour and my sensibility,” he said. “I am still a maniac.”

For more information, please visit http://www.portheatre.com or visit http://www.steveo.com.

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Blues Singer Sees Success After Years of Performing

Blues Singer Sees Success After Years of Performing
August 22nd 2014
By Nicholas M. Pescod
File From: Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press
http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/entertainment/272061981.html

It was a relative who got Steve Kozak hooked on the blues.

“I had an older cousin that got me listening to Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter and stuff like that,” Kozak told the News Bulletin.

Eventually, Kozak began going to live blues performances in Vancouver and decided to become a performer himself.

“I got to meet Muddy Waters one time and I got to see Willie Dixon and all those guys and it just seemed like a real magical kind of thing,” Kozak said. “I had the good fortune to see those guys and hear them and that’s when I decided that is what I wanted to do.”

Since then Kozak has become a mainstay within the Vancouver blues scene and on Sunday (Aug. 24) he will be performing at the Nanaimo Summertime Blues Festival, which features a number of artists including Canned Heat, The Distributors, Jayden Holman, Ian Perry, The Soul Shakers and Jim Brynes.

“It is a great festival,” said Kozak, who has performed at the festival before. “It’s really nice that they invited me back. It’s a great location and a good bunch of folks over there and so I am really happy to be involved again.”

Kozak, who has been performing regularly since the 1980s, has released albums, Hoot ‘N Holler and Lookin’ At Lucky, and is getting ready to begin working on a new album.

“I am still fairly new at the songwriting thing,” Kozak said. “I am working on it and I hope to get back into that mode soon and start working on another album. I’ve been very busy with playing and getting things organized that way the last little awhile, but now it is time.”

For Kozak and other West Coast blues artists, the live music scene has been feeling a bit of the blues lately, which can be attributed to a number of factors including an aging demographic and economic hardship.

“The hard part is getting younger people to be exposed to it and hear it and come out and enjoy it and when they do come out they enjoy it.” Kozak explained. “The overall crowd is getting older and sort of more settled … a lot of the people have moved out of the suburbs and are not so close to downtown anymore.”

Another factor has also been a lack of venues and increased touring costs.

“Bands used to be able to jump in a van and go out for a couple months and there were lots of places you could play,” Kozak said.

He suggests that because of Vancouver’s geographical location there are fewer places to play than there are in places such as Alberta.

“For us here, you can play the Lower Mainland or we can go to the Island. Then it is basically like one or two venues from here to the Rocky Mountains,” Kozak explained.

Given Vancouver’s close proximity to Washington and Oregon, it would make more sense to tour those states. However, it isn’t as simple as getting in a van and driving across the border.

“That really is a challenge too because of the whole work permit issue,” Kozak said. “If you go down to play a festival then it is not so difficult but you still have to jump through a lot of hoops and there is a lot of paperwork and money that you have put up.”

In fact, Canadian musicians wanting to perform in the U.S. must apply for a visa through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which can cost upwards of $325.

“As far going down and legally trying to play clubs it is really a challenge,” Kozak said.

Fortunately, Kozak has noticed an recent increase in people attending live blues shows in the Vancouver area.

“Just when I thought things were on the downturn, it seems since the new year that things are really starting to pick up,” he said.

Steve Kozak performs at the Nanaimo Summertime Blues Festival on Sunday. For more information on the festival, please visit http://www.nanaimobluesfestival.com.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com
Twitter: @npescod

First Impressions Aren’t Always Right

First Impressions Aren’t Always Right
July 15th 2014
By Nicholas M. Pescod 
File From: Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press
http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/opinion/266829821.html

As humans, we have all done it at one point or another.

Perhaps it is human instinct or a subconscious need to make ourselves feel better, but whatever the reason, we have all, myself included, judged someone without knowing their story and in many cases even knowing them on a personal level.

Earlier this month former NHLer Theo Fleury appeared at the Port Theatre as part of the Coast Salish Hope and Health Evening for Champions event, where he spoke about his battle with drugs, alcohol and experiences as a victim of sexual abuse and fall from grace in the NHL.

As I sat listening to the former Calgary Flames star speak about how he became an alcoholic and began abusing drugs, I started to think back to all the times I had heard about his problems on and off the ice in the sports media. I remember all the times I had heard people lash out at him and criticize him for his behaviour. I also realized that I was, in some ways, one of those people.

10488067_10152525428100365_2644373729589615829_nThere was one sentence that really stuck with me during his incredible speech at the Port Theatre on July 8.

“I was buying vodka by the case,” Fleury said.

That statement for one reason or another, made everything I had ever read or heard about his personal problems make sense. I realized that all his struggles were not simply because he was some spoiled superstar who was out of control, but that they were because he was suffering through hell on a daily basis.

For those who need a refresher, Fleury played over 1,000 games in the NHL between 1988 and 2003. Although he won a Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989 and an Olympic gold medal in 2002, his playing career is often remembered by many as one filled with frequent on and off-ice incidents, including multiple suspensions for violating the NHL’s substance abuse program.

One of those incidents occurred while Fleury was playing for the New York Rangers. In 2002 he was fined for making obscene gestures to an opposing team’s fans after a fan taunted him about his substance abuse problems.

“I don’t mind the booing and all that stuff,” Fleury was once quoted as saying in a New York Times article. “But when you get personal, you’re crossing the line.”

Following retirement from professional hockey, Fleury released his autobiography, Playing with Fire, where he revealed that between 1983 and 1985 he had been sexually assaulted multiple times by his former junior hockey coach, Graham James.

I was too young to remember Fleury’s glory days with the Flames, but I was old enough to watch his fall from grace in the public spotlight. I remember thinking ‘This guy doesn’t care about the game. He’s just another spoiled NHLer who makes millions of dollars and has lost touch with his roots.’

Some will argue that athletes deserve the treatment when they’re making the millions of dollars they make. As a sports fan I am all for heckling poor play. To me, that is part of the game. However, to criticize an athlete for being an alcoholic or having a drug addiction without understanding their story is wrong.

When I look back at Fleury’s fall from grace, I realize that this was a man who was able to play hockey at an extremely high level for years, while enduring a personal nightmare every single night. Based on Fleury’s experiences, I can’t say I wouldn’t have gone the same route as him. How am I to say I wouldn’t have done the things he did?

Fleury’s speaking engagement in Nanaimo came on my 25th birthday. After the event was finished I ran into Fleury outside of the theatre, where he was standing with no one around him. I went up and thanked him, not just for sharing his story, but also for inspiring me.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com

Exhibit Deals with Death

Exhibit Deals with Death
July 1st 2014
By Nicholas M. Pescod 
File From: Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press
http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/entertainment/264812621.html

As more and more baby boomers grow older, many of them are coming to terms with their position in society and the prospect of dying.

A group of artists have decided to express their feelings on life, aging and more in an artistic exhibit called Existential Elders which is currently on display at the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s downtown location.

Artistic director Jesse Birch said it was a “no-brainer” to host a unique exhibit.

“It’s such a thoughtful exhibition. Of course there have been group exhibitions of artists who have been working together for a long time and are in their senior years, but never have I ever seen one where they are addressing their position and that’s what makes it strong.”

Existential Elders was curated by Marci Katz and features work from 16 artists including Anna Banana, Famous Empty Sky, Bill Friesen, Tim Haley, Robert Moon, Lynn Orriss and Ed Varney.

“These are artists that have been working for many years. They are very, very established, but maybe, perhaps, some of them haven’t been recognized throughout their careers,” Birch said. “This is the first show I’ve really ever heard of where artists who are of a senior age are working together with such intention to really address their position in society.”

The exhibit features a wide range of different artistic mediums.

Art Gallery artistic director Jesse Birch stands besides Bill Friesen’s Old Man Look At Me Now sculpture, which is part of the downtown gallery’s newest exhibit, Existential Elders. — Image Credit: Nicholas M. Pescod
Art Gallery artistic director Jesse Birch stands besides Bill Friesen’s Old Man Look At Me Now sculpture, which is part of the downtown gallery’s newest exhibit, Existential Elders. — Image Credit: Nicholas M. Pescod

“I was really pleased to see the diversity of medium,” Birch said. “Particularly because this space, I think, is best when there are things in the centre of it.”

It also includes a coffin made by Jeff Hartbower for his partner Jo Swallow.

“They made coffins for each of them to be buried in, so she [Jo Swallow] will be cremated in this coffin,” Birch said.

While the exhibit deals with the topic of death, there are plenty of lighter pieces on display.

“Some of these pieces are quite heavy, dealing with some of the things that happen in the process of aging, such as health issues, confronting death and things like that,” Birch said.

Existential Elders is the second exhibit be held in the newly renovated space. It is also much larger than the last gallery’s previous exhibit, Ekphrasis: Writing the Collection.

“It’s clearly a versatile space,” Birch said about the downtown location. “This is 16 artists. So this space, we now know, can house an exhibition of 16 artists and it doesn’t feel super crowded.”

Since the exhibit re-opened back in May, Birch has received nothing but positive feedback from visitors and currators.

“It was so nice to host a guest curator [Marci Katz] in here and she was so pleased with the space. She kept saying how beautiful it was … That made us feel really good,” Birch said.

Existential Elders runs until Aug. 9, at the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s downtown location, 150 Commerical St.

For more information, please visit http://www.nanaimoartgallery.com

arts@nanaimobulletin.com
Twitter: @npescod

From the Army to an Artist

From the Army to an Artist
June 26th 2014
By Nicholas M. Pescod 
File From: Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press
http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/entertainment/264767911.html

Ask anyone who ever grew up in a military family and they will most likely tell you that they moved around a lot.

That was the case for singer-songwriter Camille Miller.

“Military life definitely had me moving a lot,” Miller told the News Bulletin.

Miller, who will be performing at the Queen’s on Friday (June 27), was born on a Canadian military base in Germany and lived there for three years before moving to Canada.

“We then proceeded to move back to the East Coast of Canada, Nova Scotia,” Miller said. “Then every two years we moved West until we got to Victoria.”

Although Miller has been involved with music since an early age, having sung with various choirs, it wasn’t until just after her 21st birthday that she decided to follow her musical aspirations.

“Being from a military family I wanted to be like G.I. Jane. So I spent from the time I was nine until I was 19 in military cadets and I was in full-time reserves until I was 21. I tried to get into the regular force and I wanted to be full-time in the Navy. I had a scholarship to Malaspina Jazz College and I opted not to do that and stay in reserves,” Miller explained. “Shortly after 21 I did a complete turn around and quit that and basically went on the road, quit my job, moved up to Nanaimo and slept in people’s basements and joined Doctor Tongue and was in that band for many years and that’s how it all started.”

Miller originally began writing music when she was a teenager in order to express her feelings toward the military lifestyle.

“Everybody has things they do to get rid of stress and to boycott their parents and that was my way of boycotting my parents. It was sitting in a bathroom writing protest songs,” Miller said. “The ironic thing is the life I live now is very similar and very parallel to the life of a military family, where we move a lot and we don’t know when we are going to move and we have to pack up quickly.”

In fact, Miller who recently relocated to Crofton, B.C. from Mexico, will be moving to Brazil later this year. She has also lived in Colombia, Mexico, Switzerland and Poland.

Since becoming a solo artist in 2002, Miller, has released four albums. Her most recent record, More Than This, was released last November.

“I like to write about things that we feel day-to-day, experiences of my life since having kids, things I see when traveling and so basically it would take through several emotions that you would generally have,” Miller said about her newest record.

Miller has performed in bands in many of the countries she has lived in. She explained that Mexico’s music scene is in many ways similar to Canada’s, but noted that there are major differences with income.

“It’s the same, there are cover bands, there are a original bands but bands get paid a lot less and have to work a lot more. It’s really normal for a band to play in three places in one night to make a 100 bucks.”

However, unlike in North America, in Brazil it is extremely common for musicians to start performing much later in the night.

“The one thing I noticed when I was there is that the gigs started at like 2 a.m. and bands are playing all night,” Miller said.

She still has aspirations of one day enrolling in the jazz program at Vancouver Island University.

“I think a little bit of hard knocks is a great way to learn something but now as I am getting older I have this excitement about refining it and doing it properly,” she said.

Miller performs live at the Queen’s with Murray Atkinson, Hope King and Hummer on Friday at 8 p.m.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com
Twitter: @npescod

Book Touches on Dark Memories

Book Touches on Dark Memories
June 26th 2014
By Nicholas M. Pescod 
File From: Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press
http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/entertainment/264313921.html

When the Second World War ended and the Iron Curtain drew over Eastern Europe many people escaped to the democratic West any way they could and for Giselle Roeder that meant experiencing the sensation of flying for the very first time.

“Most people were put in a train that never stopped to West Germany from East Germany, but I flew,“ Roeder recalled about her 1955 escape to West Germany. “I thought it was incredible to look down over East Germany and know they could shoot you down.”

Roeder’s escape is just one of a handful of memories documented in her newest book, We Don’t Talk About That: An Amazing Story of Survival.

“It reads like a novel,” Roeder said about the book. “It is the life of ordinary families, during the rise of Hitler’s time and how we all learned to shut up because we would be put in concentration camp, it didn’t matter what religion you were. You didn’t need to be a Jew to go to the concentration camp.”

Roeder, who now resides in the Harbour City, will be signing copies of her book at Woodgrove Centre on Friday (June 27).

“We didn’t talk about things because we didn’t know who was an informer and the same thing happened all over again in … in East Germany,” Roeder said.

We Don’t Talk About That chronicles life in Germany after the First World War as well as life during and after the Second World War. The book focuses around a little German girl named Gila, who is forced to escape East Germany and struggles to find her footing in West Germany. Although the book details the horrors of war, it also contains moments of innocence.

“I always add innocent childhood memories, not to make it too hard on the reader,” Roeder said. “The reader will laugh, they will chuckle, and maybe at one time they will also cry … especially when the Russians come in and all that rape was going on.”

While writing the book, Roeder experienced frequent nightmares and often found herself re-living the horrific events.

“The worst nightmare I ever had was when we were evicted the first time and we were walking over this field, where they [Russians and Germans] had been fighting the day before and there were bodies lying around,” she said.

Roeder signs copies of her book on Friday at the RBC branch in Woodgrove Centre from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

For more information, please visit http://www.giselleroeder.com.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com
Twitter: @npescod

Scott Weiland Continues to Rock

Scott Weiland Continues to Rock
June 24th 2014
By Nicholas M. Pescod 
File From: Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press
http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/entertainment/264426501.html

65384nanaimoScott_Weiland_WEB
Former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts perform at the Spice Lounge on Friday (June 27) – Photo Contributed.

Scott Weiland has experienced more than his fair share of lows throughout his career as a rockstar and yet he has always managed to pick the microphone back up even in the darkest of times.

“You have moments where you feel like you’re on top of the world and then there are moments when you fall and it is what you do when you pick yourself up,” Weiland said.

The former Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver frontman, whose history of drug use and arrests is well-recorded, has picked himself up once again, this time with his newly formed band Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts.

“It feels a lot like the feeling I had when I made my very first album with STP,” Weiland said about working with the Wildabouts. “It’s just really exciting to work.”

On Friday (June 27), Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts will be taking the stage in the Harbour City.

“[We are] just very excited to play our new songs as well as our versions that we’ve reworked of STP songs and Velvet Revolver songs,” Weiland said about the upcoming performance at the Spice Lounge.

Originally, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts began as a five-piece but recently decided to drop down to a four-piece.

“Now there is so much more space between the notes and that space is really important … it works out a lot better,” Weiland said about the decision to become a quartet.

Weiland and his band are currently working toward their first album, which has yet to be named, that is scheduled to be released around Christmas time.

“It’s definitely a lot more indie sounding than the big riffs that are STP or Velvet Revolver. It’s rock ’n’ roll but it has a modern artistic approach to it,” Weiland explained. “A lot of that is taking a lot of time thinking about what kind of tones to use, what kind of pedals to use. We’re really kinda of leaning towards multi-fuzz boxes and adding octaves to that, like low octaves as far as the riffs go.”

Weiland’s musical career began in 1985 when he helped form what would eventually become Stone Temple Pilots, a band he would stay with on and off for more than 15 years. He also spent time as a member of the supergroup Velvet Revolver.

Weiland explained that as a member of Stone Temple Pilots he was so driven to succeed that he often forgot to stop and enjoy the moment.

“Every time each moment would come up I was always so driven that I would look towards the next marker of success and then I realized at one point after winning the first Grammy that I’d missed a lot of experiences along the way because I was always shooting for the next level,” Weiland said. “I kind of missed a lot of the journey because I was looking ahead. But I got another chance to experience that and relived that with Velvet Revolver.”

The Californian’s departure from Stone Temple Pilots as well as his rifts with Velvet Revolver have been well-documented.

“Until the last part of the last year, we got a long really good. We had a lot in common and it was a lot of fun,” Weiland said about his time with Stone Temple Pilots.

After being a frontman for more than two decades with two hugely successful bands, Weiland, who also has a solo career, knows there is more to being a rock star than meets the eye.

“There is that romanticized version of what being a rock star is and then there is what it really is,” Weiland said. “I felt myself at conflict about that, you know? Holding onto my artistic ideals and yet being pressured by the label and management to deliver hits.”

When Weiland looks back at his career he is more appreciative and grateful for many of the big moments in his career.

“I can honestly say I am very very pleased that I was fortunate enough to win a couple Grammys. That’s a huge thing.”

Weiland also cherishes some of the lighter moments in his career, such as his visit to Walter Reid National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“That was very emotional time for me and very difficult. I had to kind of take a break in between that time,” Weiland said. “Those kind of things come your way and those are the things you really remember.”

Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts perform at the Spice Lounge on June 27.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com
Twitter: @npescod