Collector of Jean Smith paintings

Fun story from a Toronto collector of my 16 x 20″ paintings.

“Yesterday was the 25th birthday of [one of my kids’ friends… an artist] and she came for dinner. I showed her the new additions to my “wall of women” [below]. I was explaining to her how amazing you are and everything that you have accomplished. I was telling her about Mecca Normal and she looked at me with crazy eyes and started singing “Man thinks Woman”. She loves that song! She was so excited that the person who painted all the amazing strong woman on my wall was the same person singing a song that she listens to all the time …she wasn’t even born in the eighties.”

“Man Thinks Woman” original

“Man Thinks Woman” live in Montreal, 1996 as part of a feminist medley with “Strong White Male” and “I Walk Alone” recorded for air on CBC’s national radio show Brave New Waves

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David Lester CBC Radio interview

CBC’s North By Northwest radio interview with Mecca Normal guitar player David Lester, author and illustrator of “Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay, a graphic novel” published by Beacon Press. Very compelling to hear David speak about BLM and how the Benjamin Lay story should inspire activists of all ages.

starts at the 1 h 36 min mark

author and illustrator David Lester
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Early reviews of “Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay, a graphic novel”: (Photo: Nate Powell holding his copy).
Starred review: “The inspiring life of Benjamin Lay, history’s ‘first revolutionary abolitionist, gets an impressive, energetic graphic adaptation.” — Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Shelf Awareness
“Lester’s graphic novel does a tremendous job capturing this visual, and the fiery empathy with which the man carried himself despite his stature. And I am grateful for that: Prophet Against Slavery has exposed me to a truly fascinating bit of undertold American history.” — Thom Dunn, Boing Boing. Dunn is also a staff writer for the New York Times’ Wirecutter
“Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay,” out this week from Beacon Press, tells this revolutionary’s life story in moody, evocative, and provocative illustrations. Expressive faces and pained bodies move the action and the atmosphere, in ink, charcoal, paint in austere grays, blacks, and whites.” — Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe
“Moving images, a passionate script, and a compelling narrative in one.” — Adel Franklyn, Broken Pencil
“While the story alone merits reading. Lester’s art gives a flavour that lingers in the reader’s mind…. the deep inks and sharp lines are thoroughly modern in their display of Lay’s aggressive passion for freedom.” — Jeff Provine, BlogCritics Magazine
“Lay embodied inter-sectional resistance centuries before the term was coined. In the 18th century he not only fought against slavery and condemned racism but supported women’s rights, criticized class disparities, and promoted the human treatment of animals.” — Michael G. Vann, New Books Network
“A fascinating read.” — Graphic Policy
“Some of the most memorable scenes occur as Lay disrupts Quaker meetings, where Lester is tasked with illustrating both the shock of the gatherings, and the violence Lay attempted to bring to light. A hard task of simultaneity that Lester works to represent through those dark-lined sketches overlaid on the scenes.” — Sean Alan Cleary, Fifth Estate
“Lester captures the overlooked legacy of a fiery abolitionist who became the most disowned Quaker of his era in this raw graphic biography. . . . In documenting a life rife with cruelty and passion, Lester’s artwork is aptly grim and features rough linework that’s splashed with gray washes and black ink blots that evoke blood, smoke, and shadows…” — Publishers Weekly
“Prophet Against Slavery vividly integrates Lester’s illustrations with profound words that expertly represent Lay. Lester’s graphic novel is a brilliant adaptation that pays tribute to both Lay and Rediker’s biography while providing its audience with a captivating reading experience that they won’t soon forget.” — NEXUS (Camosun College)
“He’s (Lester) got the entire subject of the Quaker dwarf with an outsider’s grasp of the social and moral corruption around him in the economical monochrome of these spreads. Things *are* black-and-white when one reduces them to lines drawn in the sand. Using the palette he chose makes the starkness of Benjamin Lay’s moral universe simply part of the experience of learning about him.” — Richard Derus, Library Thing
“David’s sketchy drawing style is perfectly suited to the subject matter, reminiscent of a notebook or a journal from a past century.” — Jonathon Dalton, Cloudscape Comics Society
“Beautifully drawn work, with emotionally affecting imagery and layouts; I was mostly unaware of the history of Benjamin Lay, and enjoyed learning more about his work and efforts.” — Rotem Anna Diamant, Canada Comics Open Library, Toronto
“The art is beautiful and very original, and I love the spare and poetic quality of the text. It’s a compelling combination, overall, an accessible and edifying text. I teach Kindred, also from Beacon, and I’m already considering ways to pair the two texts!” — Nick DePascal, Santa Fe University of Art and Design

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Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay

David Lester’s new graphic novel about Benjamin Lay arrives! Official publication date is Nov 2 with the official, virtual book launch on Nov 4.

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Seattle 2016

Opening for The Julie Ruin at the Showbox in Seattle, October 8, 2016. photo: Sunny Martini

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Pamela Make Waves – live 1994

August 19, 1994
San Francisco
Thirsty Swede

Back when we were headliners and clubs regularly sold out. People in the audience actually call out our names at various points between songs. Pretty sure I can hear Kenny Mellman (The Julie Ruin) out there!

Not great sound, but it’s got other attributes.

“Pamela Makes Waves” features me on guitar including my (TM) yarding on the headstock instead of using a whammy bar. I kept the neck loose to enable a wider range of notes in the yarding.

I also play it on my back — in a dress! I broke a neck once in Pomona. Probably during the bashing it on the stage part of the program. I remember KSPC Nathan driving me somewhere to buy another neck.

Playing with my feet worked fairly well. At one point I carved tread into the bottom of otherwise smooth, right Hush Puppy so I could pick the strings. Leaving the left shoe smooth for sliding on the neck.

After the guitar finally cans out, I go in for a few strums on Dave’s guitar.

During that era, I had a buncha spare parts and tools on tour including a soldering iron.

The guy sitting on the side of the stage had his mouth closed for the previous songs.

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David Lester Illustration Award

David Lester (illustrator) saying a few words in acceptance.

1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike (Between the Lines Publishing) has jointly won the CAWLS ACETS (Canadian Association for Work & Labour Studies // Association) Book Prize (best book in work and labour studies). The book is a collaboration between the Graphic History Collective illustrated by David Lester.

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David Lester guitar photo

1999, David Lester playing the Vancouver Folk Music Festival with poet Bud Osborn and bassist Wendy Atkinson. Published in The Georgia Straight (Vancouver), the caption read: “David Lester underscored the dark, edgy tone of Vancouver poet Bud Osborn’s words by playing his guitar with a knife.” Photo by Kevin Stratham.


Family Swan

Journalist Kate Crane tweets:

The first time I heard Jean Smith’s ‘Family Swan’ I was out of commission for the better part of a day. No poem has ever slammed my family button harder. ‘I wish he’d make up his mind / Either I’m killing her or she’s never gonna die.’


Califone covers Family Swan

KEXP write-up for Califone’s cover of “Family Swan” for Kill Rock Stars’ 30th anniversary.

Tum Rutili of Califone
photo: Federicco Pedrotti

Rutili had this to say about the cover:

“I first saw Mecca Normal with the Go Team and Some Velvet Sidewalk in Chicago many years ago. I had my little mind blown and spent all the money I had on 7inch records at the merch table.

That show was one of those experiences that changed the way I looked at music and everything – It was microscopic, personal and massive all at the same time.

There is truth and heart, existential frustration and self-acceptance in this music that made me feel like I wasn’t so alone in the world.

It made want to move to the Northwest. I still want to move to the Northwest… Maybe someday.

anyway.. This song is a classic movie that is beautiful, sad, funny and bleak all at the same time.

This song is a really good book that breaks your heart with unwanted truth, but you can’t stop reading it and you can’t help but see the good and horrible sides of yourself and everyone you know and love in the world it creates.

This song is undeniable humanness. Thank you Mecca Normal. Happy Birthday KRS.”

Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon also shares his thoughts:

“Mecca Normal are important for multiple reasons.  One is where they fit in the struggle for change.  Another is that they show us the way to be committed to art and politics as a lifelong devotion.  And especially they should be held as the shining example of how expansive a statement a minimalist approach can yield.  Never has a band done so much with so little, artistically. Tim seems to get all of this and he also has emerged as a master of less-is-more, craftily done.  He is perfect as a student of MN and this cover is perfect.”

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