American piety: meet the new Boss

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MARK GULLICK sees wrinkles on the Free World’s senior stuffed-shirt

“I confess that in America I saw more than America; I sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope from its progress”           

President Biden is already being granted the status of a deity. Roman Emperors nominated themselves as gods. Biden outsources that troublesome administrative business to the media. The New York Times has claimed the incoming administration is “the return of the adults”. One can only, as Bertie Wooster said, shake one’s head and pass on.

Joe Biden shares one political attribute with Donald Trump; his own party neither like him nor do they want him as president.

Just as many Republicans held their noses when Trump attained the presidency in 2016, so too Biden is not wanted by his own supposed fellow partisans, and he may well be a Trojan horse containing Kamala Harris and her people. Biden looks mentally and, frankly, morally frail, a man both bereft of any real intelligence save that of the rat-like, push-button, food-pellet cunning on which the political class rely, and the possible onset of a condition causing him to stumble through sentences in a way that makes George W. Bush look like Stephen Fry.

After yet another dirty and disputed election (they actually go back to JFK), a question really has to be asked of the USA. In a country acknowledged as the world’s superpower, and containing well over 300 million people, if the best of the best are a pugnacious boor and an old man clearly in the early stages of dementia, what does this say about that country? As the psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men asks of a man he is about to kill: if the rule you followed led you to this, of what use was the rule?

Biden’s appeal, of course, is that he is not Donald Trump, in much the same way that Trump’s USP was that he was not Hillary Clinton. Trump appalled the political and media class with his 2016 victory, coming as he did from outside the ideological training camps of the establishment, or ‘the swamp’ as Trump’s (few genuine) people dubbed it. The legacy of Trump’s presidency will be more or less meaningless on the ground in 2021, as Biden’s people will have the incoming president repeal anything of worth Trump might have done. Trump has, however, distilled a strain of conservatism from a good many Americans, and his next political move will be watched with interest. The formation of the ‘Patriot Party’ is being more than whispered in the corridors of power, although he may end up just throwing rocks over the perimeter wall of Fortress Biden.

This is no mere metaphor. The implication of Biden’s absurd inauguration, which saw more troops in Washington DC than were at that time serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (and who later had to bed down in a car park) was that some redneck army was about to storm Capitol Hill, and this because – to give the media’s supposedly unbiased tone – a gaggle of trailer-trash, tornado-bait, white supremacist wastrels pranced about in the Senate House and sat in Nancy Pelosi’s chair. The Soviet-style optics of Biden’s swearing-in show what the next four years will be like for America. This could well be the power grab, and all under the false flag of healing division and the supposed social unrest ‘caused’ by Trump and his non-existent far-Right Wehrmacht. Watch for the politicisation of the American military. A lot hangs on it. Biden has already ordered that troops serving in Washington DC have their social media backgrounds checked.

As much of a failure as it seems to genuine conservatives, however, The Trump presidency did have its uses. It served to bring the deep state out of the shadows and into the light. The citizenry, the real people, are aware now that there is something going on backstage, and that something is rotten in the state of Washington DC. And, following from this revelation, it finally became obvious that the political divisions in America are genuinely partisan, although not along party lines. These are a mere mummer’s play, to distract and entertain. The significant divide is between the deep state and its operatives – from Nancy Pelosi through CNN Thunderbirds-puppet Anderson Cooper right down to the most raggle-taggle Antifa street-fighter – and ordinary people who want no part in what is taking shape.

One of the marked effects of Trump’s reign was that one part of the USA got to see just how much the other part hates them. It is axiomatic now that while creatures of the political Right may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it, the Left will defend their right to be hurt by it and to do their utmost to see that you go to jail for saying it. Biden will do nothing to discourage this Leninist cultural mood music during his regime.

The hippies were fond of saying that whoever you vote for, the government always gets in. So, meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Hardly. Obama quietly advised Trump to go easy on the executive orders in 2016 but, it goes without saying, no such restriction applies to the incoming President, at least one of whose strings Obama may be pulling, and Biden had his pen out and was signing executive orders on Day 1 (I wonder which of the White House’s many rooms has a few suits of Obama’s in the wardrobe for advisory stopovers).

Obama had set a record for recent presidents – a president precedent, if you will ­– with five executive orders in his first week, trumping Trump’s four, Clinton’s one, and Bush’s zero although, in all fairness, Bush may not have worked out the click function on his biro. Well before the end of Biden’s first week in the Oval Office, he had signed 21 executive orders, with 12 subsidiaries having more or less the same effect. At the time of writing, like a cricketer enjoying his innings, he has passed the half-century mark to 52. America, welcome to Papal governance, by bull and edict, circa the Middle Ages. My apologies for the lapse into Latin, but if you don’t know what a statement ex cathedra is, you had better learn.

This snow-flurry of immediate legislation has seen Biden lead with race and its subsidiary industries, and the course of his term can be seen with clarity right from what Americans call the ‘get-go.’ Like an expert bridge player, Biden (by which I will always mean those who prop him up politically) has led with the only suit guaranteed to win any game just at the moment: immigration.

Immigrants and their corporate and moralistic lobbyists will see many things to please them in the new White House team, such as including illegal immigrants in the census, protecting the same from deportation, whatever they might do, and, notably, the possibility of a much-touted amnesty. This remains to be seen as it is a bigger ask than the usual tinkering with green cards, and the potential for problems for the regime lie in wait in the form of a possible crime wave. Always remember, it is far easier for an MS-13 gang member to move to America than it is for you to move to Japan. On a related subject, Biden will be ending what the Regime Media called the ‘Muslim ban’. It was no such thing, of course, and again this is not the best time for a wave of immigrants whose COVID status it will cost you money you don’t have to ascertain.

Now, it would seem obvious that in a time of a pandemic governments across the world have been accused of over-reacting to, accelerated immigration would not be a priority. But that axiom would assume a guiding logic, with the result being favourable for the host country. Biden – and the Democrat Party as a whole – has made it clear that the opposite is the intention. Crippling and wounding America has been the ulterior motive of every move that party has made since Obama (very much America’s Tony Blair) came to power and proceeded to double the national debt, champion Islam, play more race card aces than a saloon-bar card-cheat, and target his enemies (like the Tea Party) with a weaponised tax-auditing system.

Along with an influx of Muslim immigrants – which cannot reduce a country’s chance of terrorist attacks – there are already new ‘refugee caravans’ forming from Honduras and elsewhere. If they make it to the promised land, they will drain that land of resources by virtue of being negative social capital. Trump was right, for all his boorishness, when he pointed out that Latin American countries do not always dispatch their best and brightest to America, and also that some of the countries they are understandably escaping from are indeed, as Trump so eloquently portrayed them, “shitholes”.

Culturally, one of the most meaningful things Trump did was cut out the rot of critical race theory – a non-subject invented for political and cultural power and control – from America’s public sector. Despite occasional muttering to placate the UK’s few remaining Conservatives, Boris Johnson would never do that in the UK because it would spook the horses at The Guardian which, for reasons unknown, Johnson believes most British people read rather than an ever-dwindling number of snub-nosed readers who eat artisan bread and have children called Pandora and Oberon. If Russia carpet-bombed the London boroughs of Islington, Hampstead and Crouch End, it would halve the readership of The Guardian. I digress.

Biden will, of course, reinstate the chippy, joke-woke curriculum that has become the fad, because it does him no harm to do so. It must always be remembered that the credo of every modern politician is almost the same as the first line of the Hippocratic Oath. First do no harm. To myself.

To his credit, Biden (or rather that of his people; he is a stuffed shirt) has distanced himself from the ‘defund the police’ crazies, and would do well to steer clear of Black Lives Matter, who will demand more and more in terms of reparations, affirmative action, lighter sentencing for blacks and so on. I don’t imagine Biden can pronounce ‘anarcho-tyranny’, but I hope his team know what it is, and are against it rather than for it.

Biden has an immediate problem here, or his optics people do. The list of pressure groups and plain-old fashioned ‘political activists’ (aka ‘community organisers’. Obama was one) who will be queuing at the White House door for their quid pro quo in return for their bloc vote will be a long one. Biden had better hope that the media sides with him and not with the crazies and zanies of the hard American Left.

In terms of infrastructure, some of the Biden moves will be yawn-inducingly obvious. He has already started by pulling the plug on the K1 pipeline, and halting fracking. This will make America’s spurious ally Saudi Arabia happy as they had no desire to see an energy-independent North America. Biden will set about dismantling Trump’s wall immediately, shedding American jobs but pleasing the open borders brigade. America has just announced it will return to the jamboree of the Paris Climate Accord, which is bound to cost the taxpayer money. Trump’s tax cuts for the middle class will, it goes without saying, be annulled.

Money. As The O’Jays memorably sang, you can do bad, do bad, do bad things with it. Inflation will be the next problem for the new administration, although the media will be working with all hands on deck to claim that any financial problems encountered by the Biden White House was because of the scoundrel, Hitler-tribute-act Trump, memory-holing the fact that the pre-COVID economy was buoyant under the 45th President. No matter how confident the technocrats are, economics continues to elude them. I have never found a definitive provenance for this gemlike phrase, although noted Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis has been suggested:

Astrology became astronomy. Alchemy became chemistry. I wonder what economics will become

America is playing a dangerous game. ‘Quantitative easing’ may sound technocratically efficient and soothing, but it just effectively means printing money, which tends to mean inflation blooming into hyperinflation, as with Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. In three months in 2020, ostensibly to ease the economy through the somewhat exaggerated melodrama of COVID-19, the Federal Reserve ‘created’ $3 trillion. It does not, of course, literally print money (ordinary people might be able to get hold of actual cash, and that would never do) but buys what are essentially junk bonds and creates an artificial financial ecosystem in a fiscal hothouse many believe is unsustainable.

Add to this the fact that Biden has already effectively signed off another household stimulus check, and that he has a pack of rabid socialists – such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an extraordinary fudge-brained bimbo who inexplicably has slunk in to the corridors of power – baying at him to shake the magic money tree even harder and increase the amount – and even make it a regular, monthly payment, sounding very close to the universal basic income which is in the minds of many on the Left – and the full nature of history’s biggest-ever financial gamble begins to become worryingly clear.

And it won’t just be the money supply that is at issue. It is what happens to the money that already ‘exists’. Cronyism certainly won’t be going anywhere. There is already evidence that Biden wants to reintroduce the so-called ‘Settlement Slush Funds’, an Obama monstrosity whereby corporate offenders pay not the victims of their misdemeanours, nor even the government, but a coterie of Left-wing pressure groups, including as just one example La Raza – ‘the race’ (imagine a Caucasian equivalent!) – the openly racist Latin American hybrid pressure-group of lobbyists and thugs currently attempting a reconquista. This reverses the dedicated and specific – and surely morally upstanding – work against this extraordinary funding hack by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of several Trump hires currently pulling a knife out of his back.

A priority of the Biden administration will be control of the media, particularly online. They don’t need to bother with the MSM who, if they acted any more like cheerleaders for Uncle Joe (where have I heard that name before?), would have ra-ra skirts and pom-poms and a college song. One of the most alarming events of 2020 – an alarming year all round – was the way in which government avoided accusations of censorship, de-platforming and banning various conservative voices by effectively outsourcing the dirty work at the crossroads to big tech in the same way a British bank has its call centre in Delhi. Biden won’t touch any of that. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. (With the economy, on the other hand, it will be more a case of, if it ain’t broke, fix it till it is.)

The Biden administration will be a disaster to everyone save the media, who will be campaigning as though they were the captain of the Titanic saying that the ship hadn’t sunk at all, he was just inventing the submarine. To say that America is becoming a banana republic that can’t even run a free and fair election may be to be unfair to banana republics. After all, they at least have cheap bananas, and what happens next to America is anybody’s guess. May you live in interesting times, said the Chinese sage.

Canadian rock revisited

Derek Turner interviews Canadian rock titan EDGAR BREAU

Q. Canada’s musical heritage is as varied as its landscape – from the Celtic-and French-infused “music of the maritimes”, via Portia White, Oscar Peterson, Paul Anka, Neil Young, Steppenwolf, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, to M.O.R. mega-acts like Rush, Bryan Adams, Céline Dion, Michael Bublé, and Justin Bieber. But your musical roots draw from less familiar soil. Critics have detected influences ranging from English folk to psychedelia and “Krautrock”, and Soft Machine to Stockhausen and Velvet Underground. I assume you don’t ever apply labels to yourself! But do you have a kind of philosophy of music? What attracts you to a song? Does it have to be ‘meaningful’ as well as melodic and rhythmic? How would you describe your writing process?

A. I started out playing Gordon Lightfoot cover songs from his record Back Here on Earth. Well-constructed songs of place, person, and lived experience by one of the best. Next came Scottish songsmith Donovan Leitch, with his bluesy Celtic mix – a very subtle writer, lovely melodies and rich lyrical content. Bob Dylan’s symbolist lyrical experiments were also a big influence on me in my youth. Those two poles pretty well sum up what I look for in a song. When I first recorded in 1974 my songs sounded nothing like the above-mentioned songwriters. Only later would the early folk influences return.

My writing process now – I take various open tuning approaches, finger style. I sometimes will start off with a catchy, promising song title. “That was the Week that Was”, the satirical BBC program furnished me with one such. It suggested word play to me, and the story line developed gradually into a romantic week that was brief and seemingly of little consequence – “the drinks got to me” – but upon reflection something more powerful occurred and reflection fills the mind of the protagonist with poignant memories. I throw out reams of material on the way to something solid that I can work on and develop into a good song. Trial and error and a lot of revision.

A 1757 map of French Canada

Q. What music did you hear around you when you were growing up? Were your parents musical? What is your family background? What was 1970s Hamilton like to grow up in? To an outsider, it looks like a city both busy, and with some commitment to culture.

A. There was always music in the home. My father, who was an east coast Acadian from Chatham New Brunswick, played the mouth organ and sang old French songs he learned in his youth. His musical tastes ranged from accordionist Harry Hibbs, a traditional Newfoundlander, country singer Hank Snow, balladeer Jim Reeves, Strauss waltzes and some Italian opera. I have three older sisters who played and danced to Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Jerry Lewis, Ivory Joe Hunter 78s. Later on, the youngest of them, Maureen began buying girl-group 45s by the Chiffons, Supremes, Ronettes, Martha and the Vandellas, and many others. I watched American Bandstand with her. She brought the Rolling Stones’ records into the house as well. My mom loved all our records. My father was mostly contemptuous of it, except for Gordon Lightfoot.

My father came from a French/Catholic Acadian background which reached far back in our country’s history. Our most distant relative, Vincent Breau (Breaux, Brault) arrived in Canada from France in 1661 and became the ‘Adam’ of the entire line of descendants bearing his name. It could be said that the ‘Breaus’ were one of ten or twelve founding families of Acadia, a former French colony established in 1604 in the territory that now includes Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in Canada. My grandfather worked in a saw mill, and built and played violins despite the missing digit caused by an accident at the mill. My great grandmother was said to be Mi’kmaq who are a First Nations people of the Northeastern Woodlands, indigenous to the Atlantic Provinces. I learned this later in life from a relative and have no reason to doubt it. My grandmother was also French Acadian. Dad was a decorated soldier  in the Carlton York regiment and saw action in the Italian campaign after a stay in the U.K. training and – if his stories can be believed – rabble rousing, carousing and having the time of his life. He was shot through the wrist in Italy, ending his active duty as a sniper. On return home he left ‘down east’ as he always called it looking for work in the Toronto/Hamilton area of Ontario. Many others came here from the Atlantic coast. Dad worked at the Westinghouse factory but when layoffs loomed relocated to Guelph Ontario to work in the penitentiary as a guard. His qualifications: he had singlehandedly guarded hundreds of Italian POWs with a machine gun. Certainly he didn’t have much of an education, working in lumberjack camps at age 16.

Ever the soldier, he found it hard to understand his eldest son’s nonchalance towards jobs and education. I considered myself rather as a poet, and a musician destined for great things. We clashed at times, to put it mildly and understandably.

My mother came from Welsh/Irish stock, strict Catholic. Some were clerics, nuns, missionaries, one in Darjeeling, India. Our home was literally full of people. At the height of it, as I entered adolescence there were 15, consisting of myself, six siblings, an aunt (actually my cousin, family secret), two foster children and four cousins. We ate in three shifts. I grew up listening to prison stories, the raw violence that occurred there – stories of prisoners in the ‘hole’ being hosed down after they did unspeakable things with their own excrement, razors in toothbrushes, brawls my dad was involved in, challenges the soldier would never back down from. I believe Blood Sweat and Tears vocalist, David Clayton Thomas, was incarcerated as a young man when my dad worked there. He references a certain guard, ‘the silent tough one’, in his memoirs and I wonder if it’s Mr. Breau. My brother, Michael took after dad but his way was an outlaw, wild and lawless road that ended up behind the bars my father looked at from the other side. Michael was as tough as nails, a legend in the east end of Hamilton, a beloved lone wolf who carved out his own way, and eventually made good in the renovation business.

Things were chaotic at times and I was beginning to come off the rails. In the summer of 1972 after reading Kerouac’s On The Road, I found a hitchhiking buddy, my own Neal Cassady, and thumbed across the country, having many adventures on the road. Like Kerouac, I was a mix of Catholic and bohemian, a conservative in some ways intellectually, but living and moving in more liberal and for a time decadent and – I dare say it – dabbling in the occult and avant-garde circles. He was French Quebeçois, I was part French Acadian. Both of us were anti communist.

My father was a socialist, in early days pro-communist, but later on he became a social conservative. He rejected the labour movement’s drift away from working-class economic issues into social issues and, eventually, identity politics.

Hamilton was a tough steel town when I was growing up there in the east end of the city where the steel mills were located. I hesitate to name the gangs, even today, that divided up the turf. Warfare it was. One learned to be wary and forever looking over your shoulder on the streets for potential menacing action. Later on, I would take karate lessons from two wonderful streetwise African-Canadian black belts originally from Detroit, who taught me respect and honour while honing my fighting skills. Shortly after attaining my brown belt I decided to leave the dojo, worried about breaking a hand or a finger, intent now to be a musician and absorbed in romantic interests. A loss of discipline no doubt…

Hamilton today

Q. How did you meet your bandmates? What was it about Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets that inspired Simply Saucer’s name? After all, your favourite Floyd member, Syd Barrett, had much less to do with that album than its predecessor. Was listening to prog rock and psychedelia a way to imaginatively remove yourself from an unpleasing reality?

A. I met my bandmate Paul Colilli at high school. He was fascinated by Sixties bands as they emerged and buying all the records he could get his hands on. Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Byrds, the Nazz, Canada’s Kensington Market. We became close friends and talked incessantly about music, literature and film. Paul was taking instructions in classical piano and eventually I began rehearsing with him at his parents’ home. We collaborated in naming the band and began looking for other musical adventurers.

He was of Italian-Canadian background with strict parents and they eventually steered him into post-secondary school education away from the rough bohemian influences. Late in 1973, my best friend left the band to pursue a degree and career as an academic and eventually became a modern renaissance man, the Dean of Italian Studies at Laurentia University. He was a world-renowned scholar known for his writings on Italian literature, culture and philosophy. He released a couple of albums later in life, describing his music as metaphysical ghost music. Sadly, Paul passed away in 2018 but not before recording new music with his old friends in Simply Saucer. A release is due in 2021 under the name Saucer73. See the link for more on Paul Colilli – https://aati.uark.edu/in-memoriam-paul-colilli-1952-2018/

I men another bandmate, David Byers, at a record store. His relatives in Holland had been sending him Dutch underground bands like Savage Rose, Wally Tax and the Outsiders, Supersister, and Group 1840. Dave had caught the Velvet Underground at a Toronto outdoor festival and immediately became a fan. I felt the same way about them and began patterning my vocals and guitar-playing after Lou Reed.

All of us were collecting records voraciously and would vie for bragging rights when we found obscure offerings, most of which would later become part of the rock canon, groups like The Seeds, The Stooges, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, The Thirteenth Floor Elevator, The Can, Faust. We held drunken rituals called Record Spinoffs where we would rate our latest ‘finds’ by criteria of “originality”, “obscurity” and there would be a winner at the end of the drinking bout crowned and celebrated.

Musically we began to jell, mainly playing improvisational pieces – long jams, psychedelic, erratic, angular – using electric guitars, audio generators, mini moogs, electrified flutes and saxophones. We had picked up a drummer by then, an eccentric fellow by the name of Neil de Merchant who had pop-jazz leanings. My foster brother, John, played synth under the moniker, “Ping”, and a high school friend Kevin Christoff rounded out the band.

At the time a coterie of us were engrossed in imaginative, fantasy fiction. The Lord of the Rings I had read in my high school days but now it was Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus, Arthur Edward Waite’s occultist biography of Louis Claude de St. Martin and his novel, The Quest of the Golden Stairs, as well the Rider Tarot deck he designed. There was E.R. Eddison’s Fish Dinner in Memison, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and, most frightening of all, the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Incidentally I hadn’t read Lovecraft since those halcyon days but recently picked up a copy of Michel Houellebecq’s H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life – a penetrating disturbing essay, reassessing his works and was induced again to read The Call of Cthulhu and The Whisperer in Darkness, both stories absolutely terrifying. Houllebecq writes

The twentieth century may come to be recognized as the golden age of epic and fantasy literature, once the morbid mists of feeble avant-gardes dissipate. It has already witnessed the emergence of Howard, Lovecraft and Tolkien – three radically different universes. Three pillars of dream literature, as despised by critics as they are loved by the public.

The fantasy writers filled my young man’s head with dreams of forbidden planets, arcane occult rituals, monster races of humanoids spawned in the mists of times, places sublime ‘at the back of the north wind’. Arthur Machem, Lord Dunsany, Poe, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, with a Catholic mystic or two thrown in for good measure. I lived in a strange enchanting world mentally and it began to spill over into the music of Simply Saucer.

Q. But then you reinvented yourselves as rawer rockers, with ‘She’s A Dog’ – a steel-town sounding, stripped-down song which seems strangely unrepresentative of your earlier, later, and even contemporary careers. Other songs from that period were much more ambitious, with synthesizers and theremins. Why did you choose that song? Was it a simple bid for commercial success? Wasn’t the Hamilton audience ‘ready’ for the other things you’d been doing? Julian Cope implies this, when he says you

conjured up a whole raft of imaginary Canuck ne’er-do-wells to travel with [you on your] extremely idiosyncratic musical travelogue

A. The responses to our live show in the early days of performing could be rather dramatic. We emptied out an arena in Carlton Place, Ontario; they just weren’t ready for our heavy metalloid music. Two fans braved it out to the end, showering us with praise. In Oakville, Ontario we were thrown off the stage, the drummer, literally thrown out of the club. Projectiles were hurled at us in St. Catherines. Professor Colilli, years later, declared that we were ‘deconstructing music’. Either that or just self-destructing!

Eventually we ended up in the studio where we recorded the studio side of Cyborgs Revisited (1974) at the home studio of Daniel and Bob Lanois in Ancaster, Ontario. Daniel would become, later on, just about the most famous record producer in the world. His client list is very impressive – U2, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Willy Nelson, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, the Neville Brothers – the list is long. Back then, I remember him sitting cross legged on the studio floor with his hands over his ears bravely enduring our “heavy metalloid music”. The six songs we recorded would not see the light of day for another 15 years, all the major Canadian record labels rejecting our demo. The day would come, though, when critics would outdo themselves in superlatives trying to describe the sounds on Cyborgs Revisited – our posthumous slab of vinyl, mysterious gift of outsider music to the world.

All of the songs were composed in a dreary narrow storefront, with walls painted black. I lived and slept and ate there for a year, amplifiers, guitars and chords on the floor where I slept on a thin piece of sponge, the sounds of the street echoing in the background, hoods pulverizing their latest victim perhaps with a pool cue, knife, or once when the local gang ‘ladies’ stopped by brandishing a plank with nails in at aimed at the head of our cheeky new drummer. It was claustrophobic in there, and so what better to do than compose my songs of dystopic technology running rampage over the fields of fairy?

Such considerations as a job to provide food and clothing, I blithely ignored. My concerned mother sent care packages over to the hovel, concerned that I would starve. The local thieves took advantage of my naivete, stowing stolen Harley Davidsons at the back of the rehearsal space on one occasion… ”Would you mind keeping these here for us for a couple of days? Thanks man…” I had no idea.  

The gangs penetrated the inner sanctum now and again, threatening me with tyre irons, stealing guitars (alas), and demanding the band ‘play some Led Zeppelin’. One of them years later led a phalanx of motorcycle bad boy riders, some Hells Angels included, out of respect for their compatriot, brother Mike, to the graveyard where they hastily constituted an honour guard for my deceased father, the tough old prison guard whom they well respected. Later on in the church hall, George, we’ll call him, who had bitten off a rival’s ear and wore it around his neck as a talisman remarked that he remembered dropping acid outside our rehearsal space and then inspired by our music went out and “busted some heads”. I was flattered …

So yes, She’s A Dog was written for commercial success, and in fact England’s New Musical Express declared it “the pick hit single of the week” – a mix of the Kinks, Who and Velvet Underground, which suited me very well.

Q. Now, of course, Cyborgs Revisited is viewed as one of the great Canadian rock albums. But the songs on it were quite old by the time it was issued in 1989, and you had long ago reinvented yourself as a balladeer. You must have had mixed feelings at hearing those songs again, not to mention being expected to perform them.

A. Yes, absolutely it was difficult. I had abandoned the electric guitar by 1979 and invested in an acoustic guitar made by a soon-to-be internationally celebrated luthier by the name of Grit Laskin. I was enthralled by the American primitive guitar stylings of John Fahey and had crafted new songs with a more mature lyrical content. I was in the studio at the time Cyborgs Revisited was released, recording my first solo album. The critical reaction to Cyborgs Revisited right from the beginning was extremely positive and in some cases ecstatic. I felt very divided. The reviews poured in, and folks were calling Cyborgs Revisited one of the greatest Canadian rock albums ever made. There was shock that this music had come out of Canada. The record collectors salivated over it, stunned that the music had been hidden from the world since 1974.

Meanwhile, back at home my wife was very pregnant with our third child, fearful of my return to playing music, hysterical at the late hours I was keeping and my increasingly outside the mainstream political beliefs and their inclusion in my songs. “Think of your kids”, she would say. “We could be subject to an arson attack. What’s happening to you?” The centerpiece of my album, New Sacred Cow Blues, was rather reactionary in a revolutionary kind of way. The intent was to write a new kind of protest song, one not coming from a liberal progressive outlook but au contraire from a radical traditionalist perspective. The cannon was now on a swivel and pointing directly back at the smug and complacent ‘former’ counter culture that had become ossified, mainstream and as intolerant as the straight culture it had denigrated in the Sixties. My new anthem began with the words  “I’m serving notice, on a wooden door…” casting me as a modern Luther intent on dismantling the smug countercultural ‘verities’ that had gone unchallenged for so long, a reaffirmation of the medieval call to order and hierarchy. In short, it was a clarion call of battle for the soul of the West.

Under the strain of my own grandiose obsessions and my wife’s nervous projections of paranoia (which would eventually lead to a nervous breakdown), with inner divisions running wild in my psyche, I cracked, walked away from the studio and the music world and hunkered down for the next ten years, homeschooling my children and subscribing to radical traditionalist publications like Small Farmer’s Journal, Modern Age, University Bookman, the Chesterton Review, the Dawson Newsletter, Issues and Views (African American conservative entrepreneurs who introduced me to the economist Thomas Sowell’s libertarianism).

Inspired by Chesterton’s and Belloc’s politics of distributism and championing of a new Agrarianism, I made plans to move into the north country and live self-sufficiently, growing my own food, making cheese (I had already made a start on this), homeschooling my children, farming in the three-cows-and-an-acre tradition. I made inquiries about a century-old farmhouse in Tara, Ontario, but on the homefront things were starting to fall apart, and money was running out. I took a woodworking job and left my wife to school the kids. Soon after she completely broke down mentally and ended up at the psyche ward at the local hospital. The plan was put on hold and soon faded into the distance as crisis mounted year after year.

Q. The folk influences you and others have cited seem much more obvious in your modern work – in songs like ‘Patches of Blue’, ‘Martha’s Back’ or ‘Mount Idaho’. Articles about and interviews with you throw up English folk names, like Steeleye Span. But what about other folk traditions? Were you conscious of an Acadian, or more precisely Franco-Ontarian, inheritance, and did you listen to that vein of traditional music?

The Acadian flag

A. My father stressed the nobility of our French heritage, taught us French phrases, extolled the unparalleled military virtues of General de Gaulle (who remains a favourite). The Acadian side of the family were fun loving, uninhibited, opinionated, argumentative.

My father played his music, yes, but it wasn’t until his retirement that he delved deeply into the history of his family and learned in depth the tragedy of the Acadians – their dispersal and deportation from Acadia in 1755 when they refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the English crown. He immersed himself in their history and genealogies, nursing a grudge against the predatory English, drawing Acadian flags, writing poems of his lost homeland and inculcating in his children fervour for our lost heritage.

Q. Folk music is frequently associated with radical or at least liberal politics – probably inevitable given its emphasis on giving voice to the unheard and unlucky. But this is not today’s cultural kind of radicalism, with its abortion, BLM and transgender activism – but more about economic fairness. I ask because of your foray into politics in the late 1990s, when you stood for the Family Coalition Party in the Ontario provincial elections, on a socially conservative and even fiscally conservative platform. What brought that about?

A. I became interested in apologetics in the 1990s. John Henry Newman’s “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” and his “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” were influential as were the high Anglican popular works by C.S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers. George Bernanos, Charles Peguy, Russell Kirk all influenced my thinking – the list is long.. After the band broke up in 1981, I began reading Solzhenityn’s three volume Gulag Archipelago. I’d sit in the corrugated iron shack on the coke oven battery, while my fellow workers got stoned and played cards, absorbed in the tortures, interrogations, the bone-numbing fear and the ever present bureaucracy heartlessly processing the prisoners. My father’s socialist and rosy view of the Soviet Union crumbled. Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ I began to see as symptomatic of our own culture’s dreamy abstractional drift towards totalitarianism. The woke social justice warriors, critical race theory, cancel culture are all modern manifestations of it in our own time.

I gave a talk on apologetics at church one evening, and a couple of the founders of the Family Coalition Party happened to be there. They approached me afterwards urging me to run in the upcoming provincial election. They must have been mightily impressed with my talk! The party was socially conservative, and much of their approach was based on the Catholic principle of subsidiarity – defined as an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Health savings accounts, diverse educational models like charter schools, home schooling were extolled by the party. I was already home schooling at that time. Government encouragement of small family farms and stewardship of the environment were a part of the platform.

My politics are localist, communitarian, distributist, ecology-mindful, freedom-oriented, based on the principle of subsidiarity. They are agrarian-centred, with an emphasis on the common good, the nation state over individual assertions of an atomistic, narrow, idiosyncratic, often times delusional, ‘identity’. I believe a society works best when there is a tension between liberals and conservatives. We need them both – iconoclasts who can smash up the dead ideas and debris of our imperfect past and the conservers of tradition, our lovely countryside, family farms, faith and yes our history.

Q. Why didn’t you carry your politics further? You lost that election, but most politicians lose their first elections. What do you make of Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives – and Canadian politics more generally?

A. I was asked to run again but declined. The shellacking I took in the polls had been rather bracing but that alone doesn’t account for my reluctance to run again as I’m by nature a strong-willed contrarian accustomed to living outside the mainstream, unbowed by a lack of popular support for my convictions. I ran a respectable campaign and learned much about the intricacies of our democratic process. There were tensions at home by that time that sidelined my nascent political career. Things were beginning to fall apart in my marriage.

Premier Doug Ford has shut down numerous small businesses due to the pandemic while allowing bigger franchises, such as Costco and Walmart, to continue to thrive. He’s promised to give the taxpayer the scientific data in support of his closures but has consistently failed to deliver on that promise. He sold out and betrayed the social conservatives he needed to win the nomination in the first place and since then has demonstrated his incompetence convincingly.

I supported Leslyn Lewis in the recent federal Conservative leadership race; although she lost a close contest, I believe she’s the future of the party. A Jamaican immigrant, she earned degrees from the University of Toronto, York University and Osgoode Hall Law school, and practiced law for 20 years starting her own firm. She specialized in corporate, real estate, immigration and energy law. She has a Masters degree in environmental studies, and would push back against political correctness. She agrees with Jordan Peterson that ‘gender expression’ and ‘gender identity’ should not be grounds for discrimination protection in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act because she believes it would threaten people for using ‘incorrect speech’. A more ecological version of Maggie Thatcher, perhaps?

Right now the federal government under the ‘leadership’ of Justin Trudeau is spending the country into oblivion and pushing every politically correct woke dogma imaginable down the throats of the populace. A kind of soft totalitarianism begins to pervade our institutions, and cancel culture abounds. Our state broadcaster the CBC feels like a mere adjunct of the Liberal Party, while universities demonize views which just a decade ago were perfectly acceptable. Illiberal mover and shaker elites, buttressed by critical race theory, racialize every aspect of life, including mathematics. As identity becomes paramount in divvying out social justice, the poor remain on the sidelines; economic hardship takes a back seat to the latest favored “identity victim’. Trudeau’s election promise to bring safe water to every indigenous reserve has fallen by the wayside, his carbon reduction plans are an empty promise. He cowers before Communist China, failing to speak directly to them about the Canadian hostages they keep. Justin Trudeau is a mere shadow of his father and former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

I applaud James Lindsay, the mathematician/philosopher, whose website, Public Discourses, systematically critiques Critical Race Theory and demonstrates that is not at all about social justice but about Marxist political power and dominance through the destruction of the liberal norms of political discourse. Indeed, it is at heart anti-democratic and totalitarian.

Q. What do you think of the contemporary Canadian musical scene – acts like Arcade Fire, July Talk, Deadmau5, and Drake? Which, if any of these, do you enjoy? If none of them, then who do you listen to mostly?

A. I know little of any of them other than Arcade Fire named one of their albums, Neon Bible, after the novel of the same name by the great Louisiana writer John Kennedy Toole who wrote the masterpiece, A Confederacy of Dunces. (I identify deeply with Ignatius Reilly sans the disgusting bodily functions.)

I find my music in out-of-the-way thrift storesand junk shops, and friends give them to me as gifts. Recent finds – a six record (vinyl) set by celebrated Polish harpsichordist, Wanda Landowska on RCA Victor 1958, called The Well Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach. All of this for Canadian $3.50. Another is Sing Round the Year, 18 carols selected and composed by Welsh born composer, musician, singer and entertainer, Donald Swann – sung by him and the girls of Mayfield School, Putney and the boys of Westminster School. A real find that, for a total of 0.25 cents! One more – a record by the legendary Memphis-born blues singer, Alberta Hunter, an original soundtrack recording from the film Remember My Name. She recorded it at the age of 83 and it is smoking hot great. Picked it up used, for a mere pittance. You get the picture. I collect as always really finding whatever happens to show up. Books the same way. I’m not systematic or organized at all really. Whatever catches my fancy, and currently I’m reading Michel Houllebecq. Bed time reading are the Essays of Graham Greene.

Finally, Simply Saucer continues to thrive. We were a headlining act at the 2019 Goner Fest in Memphis Tennessee and have played NYC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Austin and many other American cities, and much of Canada. We were slated to tour California and much of the American west coast in 2020 but Covid had other plans. We are returning to the studio to record once again. I have wonderful bandmates of spectacular talent including original member Kevin Christoff on bass, Mike Trebilcock, formerly of the popular powerpop band the Killjoys on guitar, Colina Phillips, who as a session singer worked with Bruce Cockburn, Bryan Adams, Alice Cooper and many others, on backing vocals and synth and a youthful drum phenom, Brad Bridges. And finally, I’m an avid member of the Churchill Community Garden Association, a rank amateur amazed each year by the fecundity of my plot at harvest time.