What’s In Your Closet is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about what's sitting beside the Armani suits and Gucci shoes in the place where they store their clothes.
Since Bison’s debut, Earthbound, over ten years ago, I have had an unusual relationship with the band’s merch. I still have an original version of a Bison shirt I bought before Bison had been signed to Metal Blade, of a skeletal green sword-wielding figure riding a leaping Bison. It’s a vintage design that Bison reprinted for their Earthbound 10th anniversary show earlier this year, but I still have the original, and can still almost fit in it.
I lost my Quiet Earth t-shirt one drunken night at Funky’s, where I changed out of the sweat soaked thing for a fresh Auroch shirt, placed it safely in a bag by my feet to enjoy the band, and promptly had it swiped (along with a copy of William Goldman’s Marathon Man that I wasn’t finished reading, and a couple of metal CDs), never to be seen again. I still keep an eye out for the shirt when passing through the open air markets of East Hastings. It is the only rock T-shirt I’ve ever had stolen.
My next favourite Bison shirt, the “wizard staff” shirt, ended up the subject of a comic strip I drew, recounting the night Mike Payette – the artist behind the shirt—stumbled across me, after a Golers’ gig, eating pizza on Pender. (Payette was on the way from NOFX and we did a brief interview over our slices).
I wore that shirt one night a couple of years ago to see the Descendents at the Commodore, and was delighted to have Bison co-founder James Farwell—who is a huge Descendents fan—slap me on the back, grin at the shirt, and proceed to use me as leverage as he pogo’d and sang along to “Silly Girl” immediately behind me, which ended up the high point of the evening. Then I lost that shirt too! (Again, I changed out of it after the show, and must have dropped it on the stairs of the Commodore, never to be returned; it’s the only rock T-shirt I have ever lost.)
Bad luck aside, I still have more Bison shirts than shirts by any other single band. So, with Bison playing a gig at the Astoria this Saturday, why not talk shirts with Farwell? He has already been asked what’s in his fridge, so why not find out what’s in his closet?
By his shirts you shall know him.
AM: I thought, at least to get started, maybe we could do a Straight spinoff of "What's In Your Fridge" - "What's In Your Closet?” …Maybe talk about some of your favourite shirts?
JF: …I don’t have a closet. And I’m in the middle of culling my murder of black band T-shirts. I am replacing them with a moderate stock of the same plain black T-shirt I will dutifully buy from the only store I buy clothes, Mark’s Work Warehouse.
I do have a favourite I won’t get rid of. A newly acquired “Homicide Life on the Street” T-shirt bought from NBC studios gift shop in New York by my Sister, Barbara, about 20 ought years ago.
AM: Cool shirt. Let me ask about rock shirts, though. Do you have any that you have from shows 20+ years ago? Any shirts you have worn out? What's your oldest wearable rock shirt?
JF: I had an SNFU that I wore religiously as a 15/16 year old in Winnipeg. I didn’t have money so I wore it until there was a giant hole right in the front—I just wore a shirt underneath. I fucking LOVED that band. Still do.
AM: Do you have any shirts that you are afraid to wear in public? (I don’t wear my Fuck You Pigs shirt out very often).
JF: I have a Kreator shirt that says, “are you ready to kill” on the back. That’s a bit much for me. I still wear it sometimes. Not to meet George’s pre-school teachers.
AM: Any shirts you’ve lost, or worn out and replaced?
JF: I lost my Master of Puppets hoody on tour a while back—that was a real kick in the nuts. I had traded a pack of smokes for that hoody.
AM: How about shirts you have a less-than-obvious sentimental attachment to? Clothes inherited from elsewhere? Clothes you scored from a thrift store?
JF: Not long after I lost my Master of Puppets hoody, I found a Ride the Lightning hoody at a thrift store in small town BC somewhere. Cranbrook? The world is a funny place.
AM: Do you have any T-shirts you particularly like to wear on stage that don't actually have much to do with other bands?
JF: For a while, I was wearing plain white T-shirts with messages I would scrawl on with a jiffy marker. Things like “you go away” and “fuck that guy” and “kill me”, etc.
AM: Where do you stand on members of bands wearing their own band's shirts onstage?
JF: Band has to be broken up for 15+ years to wear your own shirt. Unless you were Metallica—wear it from the get go, cuz you ruled.
AM: Do you have any shirts from bands you never, ever saw, or could not have seen?
JF: My pal, Mapee [aka Mike Payette], just made me a U.O.A. shirt. Never saw them, but did see Men’s Recovery Project.
AM: Also: What was your first ever rock T-shirt and what happened to it (fyi for me it was Black Sabbath, Mob Rules tour, wore it to tissue paper and eventually threw it out)?
JF: I’m sure it was a Men At Work shirt. That was the first arena concert I saw—my sister took me. I’d be damned if she didn’t buy me a tee.
AM: Re: "These Are My Dress Clothes," I always wanted to ask if there's a story behind where that phrase came from? It's seriously a great title. What clothes exactly were you thinking of when you got that as an idea for a chorus?
JF: The title is from a beer coozy [aka koozy, cozy—the Straight style guide doesn’t have this word yet]. I bought on our first tour of the US. The meaning is to wear your struggle with pride – no matter where you are, how much money you have or what job you do, from prostitute to priest, own it.
AM: How's your hip? [Farwell posted photos of himself recovering from hip replacement surgery on Facebook earlier this year]. What happened there?
JF: I’ve had bad hips and lower back and knees for a long time. Skateboarding and biking and other spills and such. Developed osteo arthritis—had to get a bionic hip. I’m getting the other one done next year. Rock and fucking roll.
AM: Very curious what happened to Matt...? I loved what he brought to the band.
JF: Matt is currently on a personal journey. This unfortunately meant he had to take time off the band, indefinitely.
AM: Haven't seen the new drummer [Eugene Parkomenko of Black Wizard]. How does his style compare to Brad and Matt's?
JF: He’s fuckin’ loose and ready to fuck you up.
AM: I am totally annoyed I couldn't make the Earthbound anniversary show. How did that go? How was playing with (original drummer) Brad (Mackinnon) again? Was there any discussion of getting him back on a regular basis?
JF: It was great playing with Brad in Bison again. He is a lovely guy and will always be an important part of this band, writing those first songs that got the stoke going. He’s too busy being a restaurateur to be in a band currently. Brad rules.
AM: Do you still have copies of the Earthbound vinyl reissue to sell at the Astoria? Any fun details on that? (Who is the new cover by?).
JF: We will have some for sale. That music deserved a vinyl release and thanks to Lee and NO LIST records, it happened. Our dear friend, Mike Alexander, drew the new cover. He is a fucking dude. There is an insert with the original art work, by the brilliant Michael Mapee Payette.
AM: Speaking of covers... curious, there was a Facebook poll you guys did about songs Bison should cover. Did you ever cover any of them?
JF: That was to figure out songs we ARE NOT going to cover. We have some ideas.
AM: I presume you played "Wendigo pt 2" that night - so did it get back in the set, or was it a one-off? Any songs from Earthbound that have returned to your set (that will be played at the Astoria?).
JF: No “Wendigo II,” that song is retired. We do play a couple songs from Earthbound in our current set. You will have to wait and see which ones.
AM: Out of curiosity, and since we're between albums , do you have a favourite Bison album now? If so, what/ why?
JF: I am particularly proud of Lovelessness, It was our record that separated the posers from the true fans, and also proved our label was not on our team, which was good, as we are now masters of our own universe, er… destiny. Sonically, the new record makes me want to kill everybody.
AM: I haven't seen either of the opening acts—any special connections to them?
JF: Pet Blessing will kill your face off.
AM: Anything I should be saying about the show, the band, or life?
JF: Support the things you love – we are running out of time. And if you don’t well, fuck you.
Bison plays the Astoria Saturday, Dec. 8th, with Pet Blessings and Teeth to Your Throat. More information here.