By Joseph Hirabayashi
What can I say about being an artist and the “hustle” of being in a jock-y town that doesn’t really care that much about music or arts during this literal dumpster fire called neo-liberal late capitalism? Of coming to terms with living on stolen land?
Well, I had some good success when I started leaving Vancouver for a bit, that’s for sure. But I love the community here, and I love the music scene in Vancouver. It’s a little isolated, tucked-away place where, for better or worse, folks can get really stuck in their bubble. This has a double effect of making folks pretty chill but also maybe paranoid—and also less pretentious than our Toronto and Montreal counterparts.
Whoa, shots fired.
I don’t know, I don’t have to psychoanalyze the community, but I do love it here and I do think it’s cool and folks are chill. Time takes privilege, for sure, and I am incredibly privileged to be in a place where I can support myself from playing guitar, even when I’m doing the admin work around playing guitar. It’s a gift, and I am so grateful to anyone that has come to any show I’ve played, or to anyone who has ever expressed to me that what I do matters. It’s honestly the only reason I create is to feel like I can contribute, and it’s so nice to hear if it’s contributing to anyone.
As far as being a “starving” artist, real artists don’t starve—the show doesn’t have to go on. People > profits > Artists. Artists are the highest funded poverty group in Canada. ANYONE CAN BE AN ARTIST. Play guitar, dance, sow, talk to ChatGPT—20 minutes a day for three months, try it! Easy!
There is no such thing as a distinctive class of person called “artist.” Sorry, elites. It’s propaganda, a fiction. It’s perpetuated by weird old myths, corporate marketing, and old-style government propagandist programs, monarchs etc...
While we do have a hustle and grind that’s increased drastically since previous generations, we also have smartphones. So come on, artists—is it really that bad to book-keep, especially since we don’t have to do it with typewriters and calculators anymore? Robots do it for us. Key commands people!
While I will say I am a little tired of the starving sad artist meme, I don’t feel obliged to do a self-victim story to get someone to my shows or buy (cassette tapes???), especially when I feel the conversation needs to turn into general living wages, social housing, healthcare, mental healthcare, green new deal overhauls, and so on.
We “artists” still live in the world, even if most don’t seem like it. Why do I deserve more or less than any other person in this city?
But what do I know, I just play guitar. Oh, and come to my show at the Cobalt please on March 20th!
Joseph Kiyoshi Hirabayashi FKA jo passed (he/him/they) is an interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, and musician, born and raised on the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱ wú7mesh (Squamish), and Seḻíḻwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations—otherwise known as Vancouver. As a fourth generation (Yonsei) Japanese Canadian/American, his familial background includes a combination of Quaker German, War Bride British, Quebecois, and Indigenous ancestry.