Category Archives: Related Projects

CKUT interview

Download or listen to the podcast of this broadcast here (available for 6-8 weeks after broadcast date). If the podcast doesn’t run smoothly (or disappears) I made a YouTube video of it using random Mecca Normal-related footage.

David Lester Mecca Normal

Jean Smith Mecca Normal CKUT

This is Vince Tinguely’s last ever show on CKUT in Montreal! He’s been on the air every Tuesday since 1995… is that even possible? What a great time talking with him for TWO hours this morning (now that’s a proper interview!) interspersed with tracks from our new album Mecca Normal LIVE in Montreal, 1996 (Artoffact Records, 2019).

VIDEO: CKUT interview audio mash-up with Mecca Normal footage.

NEW ALBUM: LIVE in Montreal, 1996 from the Brave New Waves Sessions series on Artoffact Records, 2019

Recorded live in 1996 for broadcast on iconic CBC radio show Brave New Waves.
Jean Smith – vocals
David Lester – guitar
Peter Jefferies – drums

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Rabble Interview: David Lester

AUDIO: the radical origins of Mecca Normal guitar player David Lester – long time mixer of art and politics, profoundly influenced by the Emma Goldman bio “Living My Life”

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Alternative Toronto Archive at the Art Gallery of Ontario

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Black Wedge Tour, Saskatoon, 1987

Dr. Lilian Radovac (media and cultural historian at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology at the University of Toronto Mississauga) presented an introduction to the award-winning Alternative Toronto archive at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The archive includes Mecca Normal’s “Strong White Male” video directed by David Lester (1987) with additional references to the ‘part way across Canada’ Black Wedge tour in 1987.

Alternative Toronto:

A tour of activist resistance culture organized by Jean Smith of the band Mecca Normal, which set out to “spread the word of how to combine poetry, music and politics and have a fun time doing it.”

The Black Wedge was an anti-authoritarian response to Britain’s earlier Red Wedge, and began on the West Coast in 1986 before continuing across Canada in 1987. The performers included Vancouver’s Mecca Normal, San Francisco’s Peter Plate, Montreal’s Rhythm Activism and Toronto artists Bryan James and Mourning Sickness.

To learn more, read this excerpt from Smith’s essay “The Black Wedge Tours: Take Something You Care About and Make it Your Life” in Sounding Off — Music as Resistance / Rebellion / Revolution, eds. Ron Sakolsky and Fred Ho, (New York: Autonomedia, 1996).

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David Lester Art Show at InterUrban Gallery, Vancouver

InterUrban Gallery, 1 East Hastings (entrance on Carrall Street)
Wednesday, October 25th to Saturday, November 3
1:00 – 4:00 PM

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Mecca Normal at David Lester’s exhibit of graphic novel panels (including Emma Goldman, Winnipeg General Strike and The Battle of Ballantyne Pier), MAGNET Magazine cartoons and Inspired Agitator posters at the InterUrban Gallery during the 15th Annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival in Vancouver. Photos by Joelene Clarke.

Hanging the images on Wednesday, October 24 , 2018.

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At the opening, Sunday, October 28, 2018.

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Winnipeg General Strike (1919)

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Emma Goldman (work in progress)

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Inspired Agitators poster series

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Normal History Vol. 168 for Magnet Magazine online

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Winnipeg General Strike 1919

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David Lester’s drawing for a graphic novel history of the Winnipeg General Strike, 1919.

 

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Video: This is Different

Turns out Gina Birch of the Raincoats loves this song! As a huge fan of the Raincoats, this is really exciting! She asked me what the music was (on FaceBook) in a video of my currently available paintings, so I listed all five songs and she said she hadn’t gotten past the first one, that she’d been playing it over and over. I got her email address and sent her the mp3. In our brief email exchange, she said she loves my paintings — says she’s gonna buy one! I’m not gonna try and hide my excitement here! The Raincoats are hugely important to the formation of Mecca Normal. It’s hard to imagine what we’d be doing if the Raincoats’ records weren’t around in 1984 or so, and much earlier for Dave who lived in London in the very early 80s and knew of them then.

It’s an added thrill that I play cymbal on this song. This is the recording session that Kathleen and Billy (of Bikini Kill) dropped by. We were in the basement of the ABC house in Olympia, recording with Pat Maley. Kathleen and I sang something together, but it didn’t go that well. I was in the bathroom as an isolation booth and I didn’t have any lyrics. There was a bottle of Gold Bond powder on the window ledge so I started singing about “the final days of the gold bond” and for at least a few minutes the “band” was gonna be called Mandarin Atomizer until someone mentioned it sounded like an atom bomb in an Asiatic country, and that was that.

Also, I’m not sure which is weirder. Either I mention that Mecca Normal were total rock stars at this time, and that Kathleen and Billy arrived as fans (and friends) or I don’t mention it. Too late.

“This is Different” from a 3-song 7″ on K Records, Vol. XXVII in the International Pop Underground Series, and Jarred Up, an LP compilation of 7″ records (K Records, 1993).

Jean Smith’s $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) from October 19th back to the beginning of the series (January 7, 2016).

“First, oh my word I love these portraits {acrylic on canvas panel} so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story. Are you wondering what you’re still doing here and why you’re not over there buying a whole bunch of these 11×14 beauties? Me too. Here you go… Jean’s Facebook page. You’re welcome.” – The Jealous Curator review 09/17

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Pat Maley, Kathleen and Billy at the Mecca Normal recording session that included “This is Different”

 

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The Black Wedge 1986 & 87

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West coast line-up, 1986

Black Wedge Tour 1987

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Canadian tour, 1987

David Lester’s Super 8 footage of a stop along the way in the middle of Canada in a Mecca Normal music video.

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The Jealous Curator

 

 

It was a thrill to have 5 of my paintings featured on The Jealous Curator‘s blog today.

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“First, oh my word I love these portraits {acrylic on canvas panel} so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story. Are you wondering what you’re still doing here and why you’re not over there buying a whole bunch of these 11×14 beauties? Me too. Here you go… Jean’s Facebook page. You’re welcome.” – The Jealous Curator

$100 USD paintings currently available

Singer #4 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.comNo Hat 200 500No Hat 167 500No Hat #116 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.comNo Hat #79 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.com

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PopCon

SEATTLE Museum of Popular Culture (formerly EMP) Saturday, April 22, 2017, 5:15 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

16 minute film by Jean Smith for PopCon 2017, introduced by Evelyn McDonnell (Associate Professor of Journalism and New Media and Interim Director of Journalism at Loyola Marymount University in LA).

PopCon 2017 theme is music and politics.

The annual EMP Pop Conference, first held in 2002, mixes together ambitious music discourse of every kind in an attempt to bring academics, critics, musicians, and dedicated fans into a collective conversation.

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Stills from the film. Jean Smith performing “The Dogs” outside Pages Books on Queen Street in Toronto circa 1993. Jean Smith being interviewed by Much Music inside Pages, talking about feminism and the increase of women in bands.

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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!!!!!

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