Nardwuar the Human Serviette grows up?

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      It's a bit surreal sharing a table at the Tomahawk restaurant with Nardwuar the Human Serviette, because there's a picture of him on the wall, right next to a signed promo shot of Terry David Mulligan.

      It quickly becomes obvious that Nardwuar has spent a lot of time at the venerable North Vancouver spot (est. 1926), as evidenced by his easy rapport with the owner and his seemingly endless collection of stories about the Tomahawk's illustrious patrons, from former prime minister Paul Martin to rock 'n' roll royalty like Rod Stewart.

      Mind you, one gets the impression that the guy could hold forth with similar zeal on any number of subjects, digging deep for obscure celebrity connections and, most importantly, a local angle.

      Take the late '80s TV cop show 21 Jump Street, for instance. In its first season, the Vancouver-lensed drama set an episode in the world of disaffected teen punk rockers, doing Johnny Depp's Officer Tom Hanson up in Sid Vicious drag and sending him to slam-dance at an Agent Orange show. Only it wasn't really Agent Orange, it was a phony band featuring members of Vancouver's Death Sentence, miming along to the California skate-punkers' songs.

      After the filming, Death Sentence's singer-guitarist, the late Pete Cleaver (aka Puke or Nipplehead), allegedly stapled his scrotum to a picnic bench and then demanded a kitchen implement to remove the metal fasteners from his bleeding nut-sack. To Nardwuar, this anecdote was so compelling that he turned it into "Where's the Butterknife?", the first song on Gassy Jack and Other Tales, the new CD by his band the Evaporators.

      An obsessive compiler of minutiae, the bespectacled singer is only too happy to fill in the rest of the details. "Now I have learned," he says, a conspiratorial gleam in his eye, "that on that particular episode of 21 Jump Street, it's a different lineup of Death Sentence. Doug Donut, the original drummer of Death Sentence, is not actually in that episode. It's actually Gabe [Mantle] drumming–Gabe, who's now in Gob.

      "And also Pete Puke is not in that episode–he might have been in the crowd or something–because they got an actor to play Pete on-stage. So there's only two original members of Death Sentence in that episode of 21 Jump Street, which you can see on YouTube. It's pretty amazing."

      Arguably, such trivia is only truly interesting to Nardwuar, but such is the guy's fascination with Vancouver punk rock that he titled another song, "Do the Eggbeater", after some between-songs banter once uttered by the Pointed Sticks' Nick Jones. And the cover of Gassy Jack re-creates the front of the Subhumans' Incorrect Thoughts LP, via a Rebecca Blissett photo that originally appeared on the front page of this very publication in January 2004.

      It's not just the region's punk-rock roots that fascinate the plaid-clad garage-rawk belter and celebrity interviewer, however, but B.C. history in general, as proven by numbers such as "E.J. Hughes", "Desolation Sound", "St. Roch", and of course the title track, which was inspired by Gastown pioneer and legendarily verbose saloon proprietor Capt. John Deighton. It's not too great a stretch to suggest that Nardwuar would make a pretty effective cultural ambassador for Western Canada.

      "We have some unique places," he says, between forkfuls of the Tomahawk's signature Yukon-style bacon and eggs. "There's stuff in Vancouver that there is nowhere else. It's really neat that we have such interesting stuff. Maybe if I was in Toronto I'd write a song about Casa Loma, that cool castle that's in Toronto. I'm obsessed with that sort of stuff.

      "Like Gastown—because my mom wrote a book years ago called Gastown's Gassy Jack, I've always been kind of fascinated by Gastown. And also just the name Gassy Jack. We were originally going to call the album Gassy Jack and Other Smells, but I thought that was too offensive towards poor Gassy Jack. He was an interesting character.

      "The city's called Vancouver, and it was called Granville before that, but really, Gastown should be the actual name of the town, because he was the first settler here. Or it should be called Deightonville. If he hadn't set down and opened that saloon, who knows if there would be a Vancouver?"

      Those who share Nardwuar's obsessions have plenty to get excited about this week. On Sunday (November 4), MuchMusic will be airing Welcome to My Special, which features interviews he's done with Snoop Dogg, Slipknot, Michael Moore, and others. Tuesday (November 6) sees the release of both Gassy Jack and Welcome to My Castle, a two–DVD compilation of classic interviews from Nard's public-access-TV days.

      Before all that, though, the Human Serviette will celebrate his two decades on the air at UBC's CiTR-FM by broadcasting for 20 hours straight, from 9 p.m. tonight (November 1) to 5 p.m. on Friday (November 2), after which he'll be taking to the stage at the SUB Ballroom for a free all-ages Evaporators show.

      When he's asked to recall his favourite CiTR moment from the past 20 years, it's typical of Nardwuar that he chooses an incident in which he was an observer rather than a participant. "You know how they have the carol ships that go around Vancouver? Every year the carol ships go around and they need music, so the ships broadcast a radio station. And one year CiTR was set up to be the radio station that would broadcast the carol-ship music.

      "DJ Garnet Timothy Harry was on the air, and he was told, 'Okay, Garnet, at 9 p.m. you are to put on a tape for the carol ships.' He said 'Okay, I'll do that.' But really, he was supposed to put on the tape at 8 p.m. So, at 8 p.m. he was saying stuff like 'Man, fucking carol-ship bullshit. I have to put on this tape.' And it was getting broadcast by all the carol ships throughout Vancouver.

      "Eventually somebody called up and said, 'Put on the carol-ship music,' and he did. I thought it was just incredible how that happened."

      Sounds like good fodder for a future Evaporators song.

      The Evaporators play UBC's SUB Ballroom on Friday (November 2).

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