What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz Ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6 cubic-foot refrigerators.
On the grill
Who are you
Hello folks, my name is Kevin James Howes (aka Sipreano). I’m a 40-year-old champion of marginalized music and culture who’s been active on the Vancouver music scene since the mid-1990s as a crate digger, vinyl DJ, writer, lover, fighter (as in “Don’t give up the fight!”), drummer, nature sound advocate, and producer. I enjoy eating, walking, swimming, dancing, road trips, and run a blog and cultural umbrella called Voluntary In Nature. Over the last 12 years I’ve collaborated with Seattle and Los Angeles-based Light in the Attic Records, compiling reissues and penning liner notes for over 20 albums including the six album Jamaica-Toronto series and last year’s Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985.
As far as pop princes, kings, and or queens go, I don’t believe there’s ever been a bigger musical artist than Michael Jackson in the mid-1980s. MJ was truly a global superstar, bolstered by the power of music videos, Pepsi adverts, the moonwalk, and likely a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. November 16-18, 1984, saw Michael and his Jackson brothers perform a series of sold-out concerts at B.C. Place stadium. Unfortunately for me, the shows had sold-out weeks prior to the big event and my early indecision resulted in missing the boat. As the dates grew closer, I started to have pangs of regret and pleaded to my parents to get some scalper tickets. My mother Nicole, rest her soul, found a ticket tout in the weekend newspaper selling a pair of floor seats and off we went. Though I was only 10 at the time, I remember that the feeling inside the venue was truly electric, even more so than at a B.C. Lions football game, which I’d been to before. There was screaming fans, bright lights, explosions, and of course, the smooth R&B and funk-pop groove of the Jacksons’ backing band. Michael did a solo set of current hits from 1982’s Thriller and my young mind was blown. Since that fortunate night, I’ve been to hundreds of concerts, but it’s hard to forget the first. I’ll never forget my parents’ support of my interest in music, even when I was being a brat!
After Michael Jackson, the next cataclysmic gig for me was the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head tour stop at the Commodore Ballroom in 1992. There was a bit of a hitch though because the gig was a licensed 19+ show and I was still underage at the time. Knowing very well that we might not get in, my high school pal Dave Hollington and I still bought tickets anyway. On the day of the concert, Dave and I spent the afternoon downtown, hitting all of the now long-closed record stores on Seymour Street and grabbing some cheap dollar-slice pizza. At Collectors R.P.M. on the NE corner of Seymour and Pender, we actually bumped into our heroes Ad-Rock and Mike D. After shooting the shit for a minute, we told them of our precarious position and that we were going to try to get into the show with fake IDs. They said they’d leave our names at the door, which was super rad, but I still had major doubts about getting in. There were a lot of disappointed faces milling about at the base of the Commodore staircase that night, folks who had either been turned away at the door or simply couldn’t get a ticket to the sold-out affair. I started getting nervous at the top of the stairs when a massive bouncer asked for our identification. I pulled out a paper learner’s permit from my wallet and handed it over. “Sign here,” said the bouncer pointing to a book on a small table. My hand was shaking as I scribbled my signature, telling him that I was on the Beastie Boys’ personal list. “Ok, go on in,” he said. “Holy shit,” I thought to myself, and cut straight to the bathroom to splash some water on my flushed face. Moments later, Dave sauntered in with a big smile. We’d both made it in! Before the 1996-1999 Commodore renovation, the club’s dance floor had tires and horsehair underneath it. Depending on where you stood, you could actually get bounced a foot in the air by the weight and motion of the crowd. NYC-based opening act, the Fu-Schnickens, dropped the heaviest bass that I had ever heard in my life. There were also at least three serious fistfights in the audience that and a full-blown mosh pit for the Beasties’ hardcore numbers. The following Thursday, I remember reading Ken Eisner’s Georgia Straight review which stated that even the club’s oldest patrons were having their IDs checked that night. I don’t know if it was Mike D and Ad-Rock’s generosity or sheer luck, but life has never been the same.
Other game changers: Skavoovie Tour (Special Beat, the Selecter, the Skatalites, the Toasters) at the Commodore (1993), Oasis at the Commodore (1995), the Beta Band at Richard’s On Richards + Sugar Refinery after-party (1999), Shack at the WC2 Astoria (2000), Blood & Fire Sound System (Trinity, Dillinger, Steve Barrow) at Sonar (2000), Arthur Lee at the Sky Church, EMP (2002), Jerk With A Bomb/Black Mountain at Pat’s Pub (2003), Broadcast at Richard’s On Richards (2003), Pink Mountaintops at the ANZA Club (2004), Psychic Ills at the Media Club (2006), Planetarium 2010 at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre (2010), Ten-Year Anniversary of Light in the Attic Records (Rodriguez, Shin Joong Hyun, Michael Chapman, DJ Sipreano) at the El Rey Theatre (2012), and the Stone Roses at the Pepsi Center (2013).
Top three records
People often ask me, “Sip, how many records do you have?” Well, I have thousands and they are all tops in my book. Still, there are a handful of records that I can’t stop spinning year in and year out.
Thin Lizzy Thin Lizzy I’ve been extremely lucky to have some incredible mentors in my life, but Ty Scammell, a local record dealer who passed away in 2004 from cancer, perhaps informed my musical aesthetic more than anyone else. Ty was an old school Vancouver hippie with a heart of gold and curator of one of the world’s most incredible psychedelic record collections. One day I asked Ty what his favourite record was. He pointed over to his handmade wooden cabinet brimming with the holiest of holy grails and told me to grab his British, Decca-label copy of the first Thin Lizzy album. It’s been one of my ultimate jams ever since, the perfect combination of youthful spirit and a sensitive and wise introspection. Needless to say, it was a massive honour to help re-release this record with Light in the Attic in 2012.
The Specials More Specials One of my biggest inspirations is Specials and 2 Tone Records founder Jerry Dammers. Not only was Dammers able to bridge cultures and generations through song, but he birthed a youth movement that actually changed peoples views on race, politics, and sound. Like the Beatles before him, Dammers pushed for musical progression from album to album instead of simply trying to cash in on a winning formula. More Specials was his group’s second album and it saw the multi-racial Coventry seven-piece veer into a lounge, reggae, and jazz direction, while dropping astute societal observations. Copycats are boring. This one’s for the mavericks!
Public Enemy It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back I feel blessed to have been exposed to Public Enemy during their most impactful era in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Call Nation Of Millions the Sgt. Pepper’s of the 1980s if you will, but instead of melodic and nostalgic envelope pushing via lysergic London, we have hardcore black American militancy and densely sampled netherworlds of hard-hitting sound manifested by Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, Terminator X, the S1Ws and producers, the Bomb Squad. Without sounding like an old fuddy duddy (well, too late there I’m afraid), it’s a shame that they don’t make music like this anymore.
Honourable mentions: The Beatles (Help, Rubber Soul, Revolver, s/t, Abbey Road, Let It Be), Love (Forever Changes), Pink Floyd (The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn), Kinks (The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society), Billy Nicholls (Would You Believe), Zombies (Odyssey And Oracle), Jimi Hendrix Experience (Electric Ladyland), the Band (Music From Big Pink), Led Zeppelin (s/t and Houses of the Holy), Humble Pie (Town And Country), The Kingstonians (Sufferer), Pride (s/t), Lee Dorsey (Yes We Can), the Grateful Dead (American Beauty), Perth County Conspiracy (Does Not Exist), Beverly Copeland (s/t), Nick Drake (Bryter Lyter), George Harrison (All Things Must Pass), Wayne McGhie & The Sounds Of Joy (s/t), Willie Dunn (s/t), Mashmakhan (The Family), Doug Randle (Songs For The New Industrial State), Can (Tago Mago), Paul And Linda McCartney (Ram), Mathieu (s/t), Neil Young (Harvest), Contraction (s/t), James Brown (Black Caesar), Donald Byrd (Blackbyrd), Ronnie Lane & the Band “Slim Chance” (Anymore For Anymore), Gino Vannelli (Brother To Brother), Roger Rodier (Upon Velveatur), Congos (Heart Of The Congos), Earth Roots & Water (Innocent Youths), Hugh Mundell (Africa Must Be Free By 1983), Sun Ra (Lanquidity), Willie Thrasher (Spirit Child), the Sound (From The Lion’s Mouth), the English Beat (Wha’ppen?), Bad Brains (s/t), the Clash (Combat Rock), Laid Back (Keep Smiling), Noel Ellis (s/t), Tears For Fears (Songs From The Big Chair), Fine Young Cannibals (s/t), the La’s (s/t), the Smiths (Louder Than Bombs), Boogie Down Productions (By All Means Necessary), New Order (Technique), the Stone Roses (The Stone Roses), Inner City (Paradise), Pet Shop Boys (Behaviour), Primal Scream (Screamadelica), Main Source (Breaking Atoms), Various Artists (Cold Front), Beastie Boys (Check Your Head), Sabres Of Paradise (Haunted Dancehall), Oasis (Definitely Maybe), Michael Head & the Strands (The Magical World of the Strands), Sizzla (Black Woman & Child), Beta Band (The Three E.P.s), Destroyer (Your Blues), Pink Mountaintops (s/t), Book Of Lists (Red Arrows), Birdapres (Toothpaste), Dada Plan (A Dada Plan Is Free).
All-time favourite video
I was raised in the 1980s music video-era, and thanks to MuchMusic, continued to sit glued to the TV well into the 1990s. Considering the Youtube explosion of the last 10 years, my eyes and ears have been truly treated to an overwhelming abundance of sound and vision. This list could be way longer than it is.
The Stone Roses “Fools Gold” In 1990, my family moved from Ontario back to B.C. where I’d lived for a five-year stretch in the 1980s. Living with my grandparents in Surrey for that transitory summer, I found myself pretty lonely, missing Toronto and my friends something fierce. Drawing, shooting hoops, and music television were definitely comforting, but it wasn’t enough to fully cheer me up. One boring Friday night I happened to catch “Fools Gold” on MuchMusic’s City Limits program and my earth shifted. While l was already a longtime fan of rap music, the song’s mid-tempo hip-hop beat (later rapped over by Run DMC), mystic imagery, and baggy attitude and spirit tapped deep into my teenage soul. I’d finally found my Beatles! The next morning, my mom was kind enough to take me to the Surrey A&B Sound to buy The Stone Roses on cassette and almost 25 years later, I’m still preaching the Manchester group’s gospel to any who will hear.
And you don’t stop (short form): Big Country “In A Big Country” (ATVs, treasure maps, scuba diving and rock climbing set to a ripping tune), General Public “Tenderness” (my love affair with anything English Beat related started here), Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five “The Message” (“It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under,” essential street poetry), The Spoons “Romantic Traffic” (I pretend I’m in this video every time I take the TTC, it makes me smile), the Clash “Rock The Casbah” (Oil and religion were issues back in 1982? Get it together people!), Eurythmics “Here Comes The Rain Again” (acid, this one’s for The Stunt Man), Eddy Grant “Electric Avenue” (“And then we’ll take it higher”), Payolas “Eyes Of A Stranger” (did you know that legendary Vancouver-based artist and musician Rodney Graham shot this edgy video?), Bob Marley & The Wailers “One Love” (spot Madness singer Suggs for a free slice of Jamaican Jerk Pizza, hit me up!), The Specials “Gangsters” (2 Tone forever), Willie Dunn “Ballad of Crowfoot” (from 1968, a trailblazing and devastating example of the music video form by one of Canada’s finest singer-songwriter and poets), the Beatles “Rain” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” (it’s hard to beat the Beatles here, there, or everywhere), Tears For Fears “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” (anthem gives hope to a generation while more ATVs shred by), the Style Council “Long Hot Summer” (monsieurs Weller and Talbot shed any lingering mod revival machismo and get comfy together in a row boat), The Pursuit Of Happiness “I’m An Adult Now” (Toronto rocks), The Box “L’Affaire Dumoutier (Say To Me)” (Montreal rocks), Pet Shop Boys “Being Boring” (live it up, but please don’t forget to wear a latex), Fine Young Cannibals “Suspicious Minds” and “Good Thing” (shiny suits and scooters trump pretty well everything in the music video sweepstakes), INXS “Never Tear Us Apart” (sigh), Madonna “Justify My Love” (sex sells), Jean Leloup “Printemps, été” (bohemia in a Quebecois style), Depeche Mode “Enjoy the Silence” (Dave Gahan was down for the crown and not afraid to carry his own throne), Maestro Fresh Wes “Nothin’ At All” (this song makes me well up with tears with a sentiment that informs much of my cross-cultural work, “Ben Johnson’s still the fastest brother in the world”), Saint Etienne “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (true, Neil Young never lied), Happy Mondays “Wrote For Luck” (for any who want to know, this is what ecstasy does to you), Black Mountain “Druganaut” (beautiful B.C. buds), Fun Boy Three “The End” (while not technically a “music video,” this live television performance/Doors cover is probably my favourite thing on Youtube), Linda McCartney “The Oriental Nightfish” (created by Pink Floyd collaborator Michael Emes, this McCartney trip comes off like a Daft Punk video, but made while the Parisian duo were still toddlers), Dada Plan “Helpless” (if David Cronenberg made a music video, it would look like this).
Keep rolling… (long form): The Beatles Help, Let It Be, and The Compleat Beatles (the greatest rock and roll story ever), the Rutles All You Need Is Cash (the second greatest rock and roll story ever), the Band The Last Waltz (including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, and Neil Diamond, this is an essential live concert film), the Stone Roses Live At Blackpool (documents a band near the height of their mojo), Depeche Mode 101 (possibly the best music documentary of all time, showcasing the behind the scenes mechanics of one the biggest and best alternative acts from the 1980s and 1990s, directed by Bob Dylan documentary maker D.A. Pennebaker), Tears For Fears Scenes From the Big Chair (not quite as good as 101, but killer live performances and illuminating off-stage insights), Various Artists Festival Express (“Driving that train, high on cocaine,” The Grateful Dead, the Band, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, Sylvia Tyson, and Mashmakhan trek across Canada via CN Rail, playing shows along the way), Various Artists Summer Sound In Canada (crucial nearly lost footage of one of the first black-owned reggae recording studios in Canada), Joy Division s/t (director Grant Gee’s effective look at one of Manchester’s finest), New Order New Order Story (a nice companion piece to Joy Division), George Harrison Living In The Material Look (Martin Scorsese tells the tale of “the quiet Beatle”)
What’s in your fridge
Fruits and vegetables. This is a no brainer. Fruits and vegetables are delicious and part of a well-balanced diet, plus they make you feel good! And we all want to feel good, right? Well, we should all count ourselves blessed to have access to affordable and healthy food here in Vancouver, available at any number of old school grocers like Norman’s Fruit & Salad to one of the popular Vancouver Farmers Markets that proudly support small farm production.
Butter. While I prefer fresh natural tastes, from bread to lobster, butter can certainly make things better, well, richer anyway! I’d like to say that I purchase my butter from a local organic source (is there one?), but I’m still buying it from the local Buy-Low Foods. Somebody school me please!
Lao Gan Ma. T&T Supermarkets are one of my ultimate places to hang out at. Walking down the aisles, there’s so much interesting stuff to vibe out to and I always get a kick out of learning about food from different parts of the world. Chili oils are nothing new to folks who eat at Chinese restaurants and the Lao Gan Ma (which translates to “old godmother”) brand from Guiyang, China, makes a wide range of tasty condiments. I dig the version with peanuts and like to add it to rice and stir-fry dishes. Like our old friend Stephen Yan taught us, don’t be afraid to “Wok on the Wild Side.”