Nardwuar the Human Serviette
Love him or hate him, Nardwuar is an original. And while some might accuse the Vancouver based-media personality and musician of serious bouts of self-promotion, there's no denying that his ultimate goal is to share the music he loves ― mostly obscure Canadian punk and garage rock ― with anyone that's willing to listen. So it should come as no surprise that along with featuring a half-dozen tracks from his band the Evaporators, his latest compilation, Busy Doing Nothing, finds international rock stars like Franz Ferdinand and the Cribs covering songs from defunct Vancouver groups like the Pointed Sticks and the Dishrags.
You've done compilations before, but Busy Doing Nothing is a little different in that its half a compilation and half an Evaporators record.
How it started was, with Andrew WK, the Evaporators did a split seven-inch called A Wild Pear, that was in 2009. Andrew WK covered the Leather Uppers from Toronto, because he really loved them, and the Subhumans from Vancouver, and the Evaporators covered Les Hou-Lops, a band from Quebec in the 1960s and an original song. So it was one side Andrew WK and the other side the Evaporators. Then I approached Franz Ferdinand about doing the same idea ― they would cover the Pointed Sticks and the Evaporators would cover the Pointed Sticks. It would be another seven-inch. We were going to call it Another Wild Pear. A few years before the Wild Pear seven-inch, 2007, I put out a punk rock calendar with local Vancouver photographer Bev Davies. It was filled with great punk rock pics as well as an interview with Bev talking about all the photos. It was almost like a zine kind of thing. It was hard to get it out though. I'd phone up record stores and ask if they had a zine rack or a calendar rack and they'd say, "No, we don't stock those anymore." And a calendar is only really hot in November and December. People were hesitant to stock it, even though there were amazing pics in the calendars. I was thinking, "How do I get a calendar out there?" Then I thought, "Why don't we have a seven-inch that comes with a free calendar?" You buy the calendar and it comes with the seven-inch and it will be stored in the seven-inch rack. And nowadays more stores are having seven-inch racks and vinyl racks. Before they weren't. This was going to be a great way to get the calendar into the store. And we made the calendar good from 2012 to 2014. Then going over the costs, it seemed like it was going to be as much to make a seven-inch as it would be to make an LP and it would make more room to shove the calendar inside the LP [sleeve]. Then a couple other bands seemed interested in being on the seven-inch. So I decided to expand it to an LP. So the bands that were originally going to be on the seven-inch were going to be Franz Ferdinand and the Cribs, who said they were interested in covering the Dishrags. The Cribs I met through Franz Ferdinand and Kate Nash, who's dating Ryan from the Cribs, I went to her gig and said, "Would you like to maybe contribute to this seven-inch compilation calendar?" And she's like, "When's the deadline?" I couldn't believe that. How many people say "When's the deadline?" Then we approached Andrew WK again and said "Do you want to add some piano to a song that we recorded by a 1970s truck drive rocker guy called Doug Rutledge?" so he's on board as well. By this point it was too many songs for a seven-inch so I decided to make it an LP and then there was extra space for tracks, so we decided to throw on a few extra Evaporators tracks with special guests and stuff.
The covers that Franz Ferdinand, the Cribs and Kate Nash did were all written by older Vancouver bands. Did you suggest those or did they choose them?
When Franz Ferdinand and the Cribs were in Vancouver and Alex from Franz Ferdinand was producing the Cribs, I took them to Zulu Records and I bought them a copy of the Last Call compilation. And that had a bunch of great Vancouver historic punk rock on it. The theme of the record was covering Vancouver punk rock. So when I approached Kate Nash I said, "Hey, maybe you'd like to cover cub?" What's interesting about this is that out of the blue, Fuad and the Feztones who are the guys from the Gruesomes emailed me a song and were like," Hey, we just covered a song by the Evaporators." Out of the blue. And I said, "Do you want to put it on a compilation?" and they were like, "Yeah, sure." So that's how that came about.
Is it weird having another band cover you?
Well I didn't see it coming. But they did such a radical reworking, it's incredible. It's such a great frat rocker. They also covered "I'm Going to France" too. It was just great timing how everything came together. Then in the calendar we have some pictures of the Pointed Sticks and the Dishrags. I mailed some tracks to the Cribs that they'd consider and they picked the Dishrags. Jade Blade from the Dishrags loves the track too. I sent her a copy of the record. So it's a continuation of the theme. A Wild Pear was based upon the record A Wild Pair by the Guess Who and the Staccatos from the 1960s. So it was a continuation of the Canadian theme that started with taking the idea of A Wild Pair with Andrew WK. So the seven-inch was expanded to a seven-inch with calendar to an LP with a full 42-page calendar.
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