Category Archives: Quotes

David Lester’s Top 35 of 2016

My Totally Self-Referential Top 35 of 2016:

1. The thrill of watching Jean Smith paint and sell over 130 stunning paintings.

2. Being happy to read comments on Jean’s paintings:

“Jean I love your paintings and your music has been a deep and powerful guide for me for many years. Thanks so much.”- Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, artist and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Art Institute of Chicago

“Snatch up these beautiful and mysterious paintings by the great Jean Smith!” – Johanna Fateman (Artforum)

3. Two days after Trump is elected, Tobi Vail (on Twitter) ‏selects her Song of the Day: Anguish / Misogyny by Mecca Normal.

4. “Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle” book officially released with my 12-page comic “The Battle of Ballantyne Pier”. Edited by the Graphic History Collective with a preface by Paul Buhle. Contributors include Sam Bradd, Nicole Marie, Sean Carleton, Robin Folvik, Dale McCartney, Kara Sievewright, and Tania Willard etc…

5. “Someone in Germany just sent me an mp3 of their band covering Mecca Normal’s “Who Told You So” – the first song on our first album. If, in 1986, someone told me that 30 years in the future, this might happen, I would not have believed them!” – Jean Smith

6. Noam Chomsky commenting on Drawn to Change: “This evocative collection of the struggles and achievements of labour organizing should inspire us to “dream of what might be” and to act to bring it about.”

7. Mecca Normal reaching Volume #401 in their collaboration for MAGNET Magazine online and writing several new songs.

8. Designing a poster for the Montreal International Anarchist Theatre Festival.

9. Having two illustrations in The Change Agent #42 (Boston, MA) a social justice magazine.

10. Mecca Normal playing our first show in a while with Michael & the Slumberland Band, Roberts Hall, and The Great Speckled Fritillary at Red Gate Arts Society in Vancouver thanks to Shaun Lee.

11. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of “Roots & Shoots”, a music education outreach program for under-privileged Vancouver area elementary schools that my partner Wendy Atkinson created. Her work has lead to 16,000 students being exposed to diverse music and dance in a concert hall.

12. To start the school year, Ashley Henry, a teacher of grade 8 in Oakland, California orders 10 of my “Inspired Agitators” posters to put up in her classroom (East Bay Innovation Academy).

13. Mecca Normal playing The Toast Collective in Vancouver with Blue Roses (Sydney Hermant and Dan Bejar); Steve Lambke (Constantines); and Forest Tate (Calgary).

14. Finding out “Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle” is required reading for a course in the Labour Studies Program at Laurentian University (Sudbury, ON) as well as a course on Canadian history (History 1114: Forged in Fire: Canada since 1867) at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

15. Completing 125 pages of my graphic novel about the last year in the life of activist Emma Goldman.

16. Los Angeles-based Razorcake Magazine’s 7-page interview with Jean (Mecca Normal)

17. Celebrating the 30th anniversary year of BC BookWorld, a publication about books that I have been designing since issue number two.

18. Drawing the cover art for British Columbia History Magazine for an excellent article by Janet Nicol.

19. Mecca Normal’s “Man Thinks Woman” (1987) making the list in Pitchfork‘s “The Story of Feminist Punk in 33 Songs: From Patti Smith to Bikini Kill, the songs that have crushed stereotypes and steered progress”.

20. Giving a lecture at Emily Carr University of Art + Design on my experiences in the collective that produced the international anti-authoritarian newspaper Open Road Newsjournal (1976-1990).

21. Mecca Normal jamming with Jonelle Aspa on drums and Jaclyn Sauer on guitar in Vancouver.

22. Designing two huge banners for the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award and The George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature.

23. “The Julie Ruin Suggests” a 40-song playlist on Spotify includes Mecca Normal’s “I Walk Alone”.

24. Playing guitar for two shows with Wendy Atkinson Experimental Bass Player at BC Buds Festival (Firehall Arts Centre) in Vancouver.

25. The fantastic fun Mecca Normal had on their Pacific Northwest tour with The Julie Ruin (Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox, Kenny Mellman, Christopher Carmine Covelli, Sara Landeau) and Allison Crutchfield & the Fizz. Mecca Normal’s set included the recent “I’m Still Here” with the line “Feminism was not a phase or a failed experiment” which was spine-tingling to be playing in Portland on the night of the third debate.

26. Being wowed by Jean’s large painting, “Standing Standing Rock Water Protectors” which was inspired by events near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where activists are blocking construction of a pipeline on sacred burial grounds.

27. Being interviewed by Sheryl MacKay on CBC – North by Northwest about “Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle”.

28. “Jean Smith and David Lester taught me so much about the interplay of one instrument (in their case David’s guitar) and a vocal. Their synergy is something I have always been thrilled by. The amount of energy and noise they make with just two people is completely inspiring to me.” – Kenny Mellman, The Julie Ruin

29. Getting an email from director/producer Bill Jersey (two time Academy Award nominee and Peabody.winner) telling me he would keep me in mind for any future film work.

30. Jesse Miller’s Portland-based eloquent daily online comic “Life and How to Live It” featuring Mecca Normal performing “We Are Here”.

31. Designing a CD package for Brooke Lydbrooke (ex-singer of The Moral Lepers etc).

32. “I love this song so much” – Kate Nash on Mecca Normal’s “I Walk Alone”. Nash was named Best British Female Artist at the 2008 Brit Awards. Her hit song on YouTube has 10 million plays.

33. Allison Wolfe (Sex Stains, ex-Bratmobile) list of songs that comforted, emboldened, and defined her across the last 46 years included Mecca Normal’s Strong White Male.

34. The Tyee runs an excerpt of my comic from “Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle”.

34.”Their music is still as relevant as it was 25 years ago when I first saw them. It makes me happy that their music is still relevant because they’re doing it better than ever. And their new songs are so fucking great and hilarious.” – Kathleen Hanna, The Julie Ruin on Mecca Normal

35. “When I was 15, I would listen to Mecca Normal’s “I Walk Alone” every day as I maneuvered the desolate and lonely 10 blocks between the bus stop and my house. This was the year I began to learn the intricacies of girlhood, soundtracked by riot grrrl bands, fresh to my previously pop-occupied ears. Jean Smith’s politicized lyrics and occasionally grating singing style created alluring discomfort—Mecca Normal empowered girls to be angry and critical. Their refusal to assimilate or soften their message makes them a truly foundational feminist punk group, and one whose voice is still desperately needed.” – Emma Burke (Portland Mercury)

Surely that is enough for one year!!!!!

by-mary-sharp-in-portland

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RATE YOUR MUSIC

Comments on Mecca Normal albums on RATE YOUR MUSIC website:

Dovetail (K Records, 1992)
“It’s disgraceful that this record only has 23 ratings–not even enough to chart it here at RYM. One of the greatest records of the late 80s/early 90s K-Records scene … before “indie” existed properly, in the immediate wake of the Nirvana hype. This album–probably the band’s best–mixes rhythmically-driven (all from the guitar) pieces that have a punk-rock edge with ballad-like, slow pieces. It’s remarkable in its balancing of these modes (sometimes within a single song). Beautiful stuff. Search it out. Now!” – denti, 2012

“The perfect Mecca Normal album. Throw Silver and Clatter make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. This band is largely ignored by most supposed “indie” listeners and they’ve been doing for almost thirty years. Consistent as hell and never boring. This record is solid gold.” mortytoad, 2009

Water Cuts My Hands (K Records, 1991)
David Lester is one of the unsung greatest guitarists. He is incredibly inventive with the little he plays (a few chords, no solos) and makes his guitar sound so raw and real and right there with you. I love it. This record is fantastic, though not consistently so. Still one of the best places to start with this great band. The CD comes with the 1988 record “Calico Kills the Cat,” also worth repeated listens. “Taking the Back Stairs,” “Dead Bird’s Feet” and “Lois Wrote About the Farm” are among the band’s best.” denti, 2011

Sitting on Snaps (Matador, 1995)
The beginning and end of this album are brilliant. Like Concrete Blonde meets Lush with a sprinkling of Siouxsie, but also no drums, like, on any song ever. Yes, this is a drumless band. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not… just layers of guitar and voice, but not too many layers. There’s some minimalism going on here too.” Sukwtto, 2011

 

 

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Sex Stains’ Allison Wolfe in Pitchfork

Sex Stains’ Allison Wolfe (formerly of Riot Grrrl band Bratmobile) describes moving from Olympia to DC in the 90s in a new Pitchfork feature on music that has mattered to her.

“I brought all my records over, including this one 7″ by Mecca Normal, this band from Vancouver that was very influential in the Olympia music scene. “Strong White Male” was an anthem of mine. I would play it all the time because all of a sudden I was surrounded by a lot of strong white males who were too entitled, who had grown up with a lot more money than a lot of the Olympia girls. It talks about that privilege that’s invisible to the people who possess it but painfully obvious to the people who don’t.” – Allison Wolfe

Video by David Lester

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Quotes

“Mecca Normal. The first time I saw them was on the Black Wedge tour where they got together with their friends and said, “hey, this is important, let’s do it.” It wasn’t as if they were saying, “How can we sell this new album?” It was a tour of people and half of them weren’t even bands.” – Calvin Johnson

 

“Everyone tells them to ‘Get a drummer’, I get the feeling these two don’t need to listen to everyone.” – Option Magazine (LA), review of the first MN album

 

“What they reveal is an unvarnished, unpremeditated, wholly natural songwriting skill. This is a naked and very close musical relationship.” – The Vancouver Province reviews the first MN album

 

“Jean’s the one with ‘that voice’, a completely riveting presence that’s only more powerful when backed solely by Lester’s guitar.” – Gerard Cosloy (reviewing Calico Kills the Cat LP in Conflict)

 

“Mecca Normal makes records I can see myself listening to twenty years from now with no loss of interest.” – Terry Dawes reviewing ‘Flood Plain’ in Planet of The Arts (Vancouver) 1993

 

“This music resonates with feminism’s understanding of the body as a locus of political meaning, a knowledge difficult for any woman walking down a city street to escape… I don’t know of any other rock ‘n’ roll so closely attuned to the realities of women’s rage.” – Village Voice (NY)

 

“But until you see her face down a crowd of hypocritical and uninterested punk rockers, you don’t know what true heroism is. Smith’s music is dissonant, deeply felt, feminist, courageous.” – Gina Arnold (San Diego Weekly)

 

“I wouldn’t be in a band if I hadn’t heard of Jean. She’s shown me through her lyrics that you can be a feminist and still be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to lose contact with the world.” – Kathleen Hanna (Network, Toronto)

 

The first time I saw Mecca Normal, I was so blown away that I could not speak. My friend Rich Jensen introduced me to them, but I was left utterly speechless by the genius and power of their show. So I just stuck out the album I had just bought and got them to sign it. They were like music gods to me. – Slim Moon

 

“Your voice, your lyrics, Dave’s guitar have made me cry and hope over and over and over again. You are beautiful, brave and very strong people and you have touched my life tremendously.” – Cathee (Los Angeles)

 

“After these hicks where I live beat me up because I dress and act different and think for myself I put on one of your records and it makes me proud of who I am.” – Robert (Oklahoma) in letter sent through the postal service