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
I see we're getting existential right away, and I like it. I'm a lot of things: MFA-trained actor, voice and movement teacher, freelance motorcycle journalist, third-generation Ukrainian, Gemini, devoted cat-dad, and thoroughly hopeless romantic. But the thing that's landed me here is probably that I'm the frontman for a death metal band called Thirteen Goats.
We have a record out now called Servants of the Outer Dark, and you should definitely check it out here if you like LOUD NOISE.
I used to go to the Calgary Folk Festival with my parents and little brother every summer as a kid, but my first arena-rock show was System of a Down at the Saddledome when I was in grade 10. It was 2005, and Mesmerize had just come out. I'd seen the video for B.Y.O.B on TV a few times and was totally captivated. These guys were making what was essentially dadaist agitprop out of thrash beats and Armenian folk melodies played on downtuned electric guitars—it went against every pop-songwriting convention and every trend in metal at the time, and that made it the most exciting thing teenage Graham had ever seen. I dragged my dad to the show and raved about it for ages afterward.
Gigantour 2008 at the Stampede Corral in Calgary—with Megadeth, In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job for a Cowboy, and High on Fire. I had just finished high school and thought a little brain damage would help me forget all the math they made me learn. So I found the biggest, meanest looking guy in the pit—some 300+-pound bald dude who could have been an enforcer for Hells Angels—and body-slammed him with everything I had during “Wake Up Dead”. He didn't flinch; he just flicked his wrist like he was swatting a mosquito and sent me flying ass-backward into a puddle of stale beer. Then the band kicked into “Ashes In Your Mouth’, and the same dude picked me up to help me crowd surf. I knew in that moment I had found my people.
Top three records
Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral This record has been speaking to me my entire life. It's so ugly on the outside, but the melodies underneath the layers of feedback and static are heartbreakingly beautiful—a reminder to look past the scum that sits on the surface of so many worthwhile things.
For me, Nine Inch Nails has always been the sound of struggling to form meaningful connections with others despite the unavoidable trauma of existence. It's painful and challenging and often downright scary—but those brief moments where you get to experience a sliver of something pure and clear before everything falls back into chaos put the dissonance in context and give it meaning.
Cryptopsy None So Vile Can we get some horns up for Canadian Content? As far as I'm concerned, this record still sets the bar for brutality in music. I had to spin it about six times before I finally started to hear the actual songs—up to that point, you don't listen to it so much as feel it, because the performances and production are so incredibly visceral and raw. The band's energy alone is jaw-dropping—and then, as soon as you realize what's being played, you have to pick your jaw up off the floor just so you can drop it again.
None So Vile captured near-superhuman musicians pushing themselves to the outer limits of their abilities; it sounds like the wheels are going to come off at any second and the whole thing is going to fall apart, but it doesn't. To make something so ambitious and intentional while resisting the temptation to be precious with it deserves to be commended.
So many artists want to serve up their good ideas on a silver platter so they're impossible to miss—but that can come across as a lack of confidence in your work's ability to speak for itself, and it can also insult your audience's intelligence. Creating art that permits multiple interpretations and challenges people is a good thing; it makes the payoff more rewarding for them, and that, in turn, makes what you've created less disposable. I think that's a big part of why death metal still feels like an exciting genre to me after more than three decades—and why this particular death metal album is still the one to beat.
Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Having said all that, music is still almost always better when it has three things: compelling storytelling, catchy hooks, and a flair for the dramatic. So obviously, it was a toss-up between this record and Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water. I went with Elton for two reasons: my mom loves him, and I can't make it through “Love Lies Bleeding” without crying, belting out the lyrics, or both. I want our band to do a death metal cover of that song, and I want all my exes to hear it and realize they miss me. I'm a very healthy person.
All-time favourite video
David Bowie “I'm Afraid of Americans” For those who haven't seen it, it features Bowie being chased through the streets of Manhattan by Trent Reznor, who may or may not be a figment of his paranoid imagination. It's really cool to see Bowie and Reznor on screen together, and both of them are really good actors, so they're able to convey the tension between their characters and conjure an authentic atmosphere of dread with little more than facial expressions and body language. The fact that they're able to make the video so unsettling—even though it has no jump scares and most of it is shot in broad daylight—is a real testament to what you can accomplish when you're committed to the story you're telling.
We took a similar approach when we shot the live-action video for our song, “Servant of the Outer Dark”, which is scheduled to come out later this summer. Rob Fitz-Gerald (our other primary songwriter) and I play two characters in what's basically a minimalist short horror film intercut with shots of the band's performance—so it's part metal video, part A24-style arthouse flick. Our producers, Alysson Hall & Nessa Aref (Freaks, The Mirror, The Autobiography of Jane Eyre), were inspired by everyone from Kurosawa to Ari Aster, and I wouldn't be surprised if this video was an influence on them as well.
What’s in your fridge?
Four unopened cans of chickpeas. I know those don't need to go in the fridge, but I was really depressed this winter and stopped cleaning it out for months. It got really disgusting. When I finally pulled myself together, I scoured the entire refrigerator and threw out everything in it—but then it looked too vacant and desolate. So I grabbed the only unspoiled food in the apartment at the time, which happened to be the chickpeas, and put them right on the top shelf. They're purely symbolic at this point—a reminder that sometimes, filling an empty space with something is more important than filling it with the so-called "right thing". The chickpeas eventually became the right thing. I smile every time I see them now.
A half-empty bottle of Canada Dry ginger ale. It was left there by a friend I haven't seen in a while, and I'm hoping they come back for it.
My cat. He jumped in when I opened up the door just now. Like me, he would like to be cooler.