Bert Man—alum of the Little Guitar Army, frontman for the Strugglers and Crummy—has never been to Japan before. Still, he loves Japanese food (but “not those pickled plums though. Those are messed up,” he tells the Straight). He’s seen and loved Akira and The Seven Samurai and Battle Royale, and he knows bands like Guitar Wolf and the 5678s and Shonen Knife (and the Yellow Magic Orchestra, which is definitely the which-of-these-things-are-not-like-the-others on the list). He also acknowledges that some of his tastes might be a bit on the generic side—I mean, who doesn’t love Battle Royale and Guitar Wolf?—“but I ain't never been to Japan, man.”
Somewhat to his surprise—after a tour kickoff show this Friday at LanaLou’s—his knowledge of Japan is about to increase exponentially. Crummy will be heading to Japan for a nine-gig tour, which begins in Tokyo on October 3, followed by dates in Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and elsewhere.
While we understand that the Japanese are hip to the Pointed Sticks, D.O.A., the Dishrags, and the Modernettes, we’re somewhat surprised that Japan will soon be getting a taste of Crummy. So how did the tour get set up?
“We got hooked up by a friend who used to live there for several years,” Man explains. “He was a fixture on the Canadian rock and music scene forever, Ken Fleming”—a.k.a. Goony, maybe best known locally as the guitarist for the post-Belke version of SNFU, though he’s also been in the Unwanted and Econoline Crush. Fleming’s solo electronic project, Soundfucker, will be on the bill on Friday, along with the Fazools, whom Man describes as “dear friends who play straight-up rock ’n’ roll.”
Fleming’s help setting up the tour was no small thing, because, Man offers, “it's not easy booking an unheard of Canadian band there.” And never mind Japan: “We are unheard of in Canada! We are unheard of in Vancouver!”
It’s a state he reassures Straight readers is “all good” with him. “I one hundred percent do not view life as a popularity contest. I firmly believe in the old saying if nobody hates you, you never stood for anything.”
Not only is the frequently masked, sometimes semi-denuded, and always, um, expressive vocalist bringing Crummy to new shores—his band has a new album out. Crummy’s Even If It Kills Me is a six song EP of five originals—including two surfy instrumentals, “Back 40” and “Godspeed”—and a startlingly fresh cover of David Bowie’s “Andy Warhol,” with Bert’s voice taking an at times Bowie-like edge.
Apparently the song is an old favourite of Man's: “’Andy Warhol’ was a song we used to jam on with my friends when I was 14 or 15 years old. I was playing drums at the time. The riff always stuck with me. I thought of it as a real jackhammer, much different than the actual version.” (Is it heresy to say I prefer the Crummy cover?)
The originals are just as cool, if a bit punkier. The angriest tune on the album, “Apocalypse Blues,” has Man confessing that he’s been waiting for the apocalypse “for such a long time” that he’s been driven out of his mind by it. “My friends are worried they all tell me I'm being so negative,” he screams. “The only problem is that I have no fucks left to give.”
…But wait a second: shouldn’t not having a fuck left to give be liberating? If there’s nothing you can do, personally, to ward off impending doom, why even worry about it?
Man replies thoughtfully, going back into his Cold War childhood. “I was about ten years old when I was told by some kid how between the USA and Russia they could kill every person in the world ten times over. Even as a child it struck me not only as incredibly terrifying but also as an utter waste of time and resources. I basically lived my whole life without fear of consequences because of the fact that this was ‘coming for us.’ Environmental factors only solidified my stance. To my surprise, I did get to be old, but only to get to the point where my childhood premonitions are starting to become reality. I don't live like a madman anymore (in some aspects) but I still live relatively fearlessly because of this ‘liberating" phenomena.”
But that’s not to say he’s without a conscience, and that the shitty state of things doesn’t at times get him down. “I still feel horrible for the animals and the people and mourn the loss of beauty and nature. I am equal parts 'We need to get these humans outta here so the earth can heal' and also 'What can we do to help these people that are suffering'... Nothing infuriates me more than the saying ‘Don't worry, be happy’ even though I may begrudgingly see wisdom in it. Still, apathy is the grease on the apocalyptic rails. I may be many things, and some of those things may be awful, but I am not fucking apathetic.”
“Big Gulp,” meanwhile—the album opener and probably, with its gang-style choruses, the catchiest tune on the EP, is about how when Man “was a teenager in Saskatoon, there was nothing to do there but underage drink. The song is lighthearted in some ways, sentimental even, but also touches on the fact that precious memories may not always be exactly as we remember them.”
Meanwhile, “The Woods”—about an attempt to take a shortcut through the forest that turns into a horror movie—touches on the singer’s primal fears. “Everyone always tells me to go to the woods and go camping but fuck that. I ain't sleeping in a house made of cloth on the middle of some dark-ass trees in a place full of bears and wolves and pumas and murderous drifters. So I wrote a song about getting murdered by a hobo in the woods. I frequently write about shit that is tearing my mind up or has actually happened to me, but this was just a very organic creative-writing process.”
Since Man is actually murdered in one song and faces impending doom in another, why exactly did he call the album Even If It Kills Me?
“The title refers to the fact that I actually had this EP in the can but one day, my inspirational speech caused the entire band to quit on the spot. I ended up missing one show and immediately soldiering on with some hired hands that slowly solidified into the current lineup,” of Dave Affleck, Kevin Houbrechts, and Dieter Piltz. “The fact that I never stopped was a point of pride because this shit is my life. I redid the whole record with the current lineup. The EP that was supposed to be cranked out in two months took 18: so Even If it Kills Me, I am bound and determined to keep putting out these records that nobody listens to. It's my life's work.”
See you at LanaLou’s.