Monday, October 31, 2011

The Colour Out of Glitter: The Rise and Fall and Rise of CanadianHorror's First Boy Band

The Colour out of Glitter: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Canadian Horror's First Boy Band

An expose by Laird Barron, Kurt Dinan, John Langan, and Paul Tremblay

The winds of change do not blow from random places; they blow mightily from Toronto, Canada.

In July of 2009, when there were only dark whispers and rumblings of a sleeping giant, one poised to take the pop music world by storm, three seemingly unassuming young men from up there in Canadia, somehow made it to Readercon, the conference of imaginative literature in Burlington, MA. Richard Gavin, Ian Rogers, and Simon Strantzas made an impression on the attendees as thoughtful enthusiasts of horror fiction and passionate fans of the musical oeuvre of NSYNC and Backstreet Boys. Two weeks after their very low key but important penetration of the American border, their hurriedly pressed EP Tundra: Three Canadian Chillers was released. The hit “Omens” took the music world by surprise. While the synthetic beats and Splenda-sweet melodies were not ground breaking, it was the moody, gothic lyric “the darkly splendid realm” sung in a delicious falsetto by Richard Gavin that enchanted listeners. Their unexpected overnight success took an early toll on Gavin in particular, as he turned to religion to cope with the newfound stress and expectations. Reportedly, Gavin attempted to meld aspects of Kabala, Pentacostalism (mainly the rattlesnake handling), Norwegian Death Metal, and Howard Philip Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos into his own concoction he termed Strantzasism. Rogers and Strantzas had difficulty with Gavin’s newfound and scattershot fervor. Heedless of the warning signs of the problems that would germinate from beneath the surface, The Colour Out of Glitter (or CO0G) began to work on their smash follow-up, A Very Canadian Boxing Day.

A Very Canadian Boxing Day proved a wild success in Canada, dominating the local college radio airwaves for sixteen weeks and achieving a measure of popularity in the United States, cementing the band's status as pop godlings in the making. But it was this very international stardom that would prove the undoing of COoG. The trouble began innocently enough, as these things often do. Simon Strantzas was energized by the rabid support of COoG's two fans from the US, Paul Tremblay and John Langan, both of whom sent countless fan letters. Strantzas, dedicated champion of the people as he was, insisted upon personally answering each and every letter, which numbered in the scores weekly. Ian Rogers knew something was amiss when he noted that Strantzas licked each and every return envelope and stamp despite the fact they were of the self-adhesive variety. Strantzas was addicted to more than love -- his passion for adhesives would soon spiral out of control and led to grave consequences that would threaten to rip the band apart. Bad as matters were, however, the worst was yet to come.

Strantzas's increasing battle with adhesive-addiction, coupled with Gavin's sudden decision to spend three months pursuing a therapeutic cleansing via bran and pig's blood at a monastery in the Carpathian Mountains, led to Ian Rogers being thrust into leadership of the band. Before Strantzas and Gavin had departed for the Betty Ford Center and Romania, respectively, each had laid down rough vocal tracks for what was to be the band's next album, a collection of covers of classic love songs whose working title was Valentine's Day Three Ways. When Rogers had seen each of his bandmates off at the airport, he had reassured them that he would not, as he put it, "bollocks things up." Left to his own devices, however, Rogers decided to abandon this project in favor of something far more complex, a Valentine's Day concept album which would tell the story of Felix Renn; a lonely private investigator's quest for love in a city filled with monsters and bacon. Rogers blended Stranzas's moving cover of Bon Jovi's "Runaway" (which he oddly renamed "Cold to the Touch") with Gavin's tender homage to Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla," adding his own, polka-inspired take on The Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night" to the mix and setting it all to a sampling of Donna Summer's Greatest Hits. The resulting album, Johnson for Hire, would consist of this thirty-eight and a half minute song, whose title, "Everything I Do" (Love Theme from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), would lead to a fist-fight between Rogers and Bryan Adams when the two bumped into one another at that year's Canadian Music Awards, held at the downtown Toronto Sizzler. And though Rogers would claim his title had nothing to do with Adams' mega-hit, and that the copies of the album with Adams's face on the cover were the result of a mix-up he had nothing to do with, it was clear that, in his hands, what had been Canadia's latest entry into the world of pre-fab post-adolescent pop was in jeopardy.

Newly-released from his stay at Betty Ford, Simon Strantzas launched an ambitious plan to restore the fortunes of the band that, as he had put it, had allowed him to move into a house with a solid-gold toilet bowl. Together with Richard Gavin, rejuvenated by three months of relentless bran, he set up and booked a tour whose focus on the group's earlier, more audience-friendly catalogue would re-establish their bond with the two groups of fans who had made them what they were: lonely, middle-aged men whose pretensions to literary grandeur had long ago been ground to dust by a cruel and indifferent marketplace, and soccer moms. Although initially sluggish, ticket sales for the "The Colour Out of Glitter: It's the U That Makes Us Canadian (And Not British. Really.)" tour picked up dramatically after the group's surprise performance at Mr. Sub's "Buy One, Get One Half-Price" promotion. Ian Rogers, though, was not happy with the new-old course the band was following, and once again, his taste for violence would get the better of him. When he overheard veteran Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot questioning the band's prospects while waiting for takeout at the Friendly Thai restaurant, Rogers leapt on the man with his full measure of fury. And though Rogers would subsequently receive almost half a dozen get well cards from his mother during his recovery at Toronto General Hospital, the delay his broken jaw, dislocated shoulders, ruptured spleen, and shattered knees threatened the tour with forced Strantzas and Gavin to a stern response. They publicly suspended Rogers from the band, replacing him with Corey Hart for the remainder of the tour. To make matters worse for Rogers, he was the subject of a lawsuit by the Friendly Thai restaurant, which claimed that his actions had made their name a lie and forced them to change it "The Mostly Friendly Thai Restaurant." Together with the reggae-inflected cover of "Sunglasses at Night" Strantzas and Gavin recorded with Hart, which scored unexpected success on the elevator-music circuit, it was looking as if The Colour Out of Glitter might have lost its R.

It was during this time that Rogers had a meeting that would change his life, and ultimately, bring the original The Colour Out of Glitter roaring back to life. While picking up a jalapeno and pineapple crepe at Crepes a Gogo, Rogers felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see the grizzled face of Laird Barron smiling at him. Having heard of his old acolyte's troubles, Barron had leashed a team of half-rabid coyotes to an old bed frame and lashed them all the way to Canadia to deliver to Rogers a message that would steer him away from the cliff he was speeding towards: "Ian: cool it." Newly-empowered and -inspired by Barron's trenchant advice, Rogers steered his two-wheel segway out into the August snow and set off in search of the two men with whom he'd once shared such intimacy. As it turned out, Strantzas and Gavin were ready for his return: while initially happy for any measure of publicity, Corey Hart had become increasingly demanding, insisting that, for their next album, the group should release an album of German bratwurst songs. When Strantzas and Gavin saw Rogers reappear in the doorway of Strantzas's mother's basement, tears in his eyes, all was forgiven, and Hart was tossed out into the night, without his sunglasses.

So now, with a new lease on musical life The Colour Out of Glitter is back, headlining Buger King's "The King Isn't THAT Creepy" tour, working on their next album, It's Still the Eighties in Canadia, and ready for whatever life has in store for them.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This is Where the Road Ends

As I’ve no doubt mentioned, the writing group I’m a part of, Snutch Labs, has a book coming out soon entitled Tales from the Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station.  With pre-ordering ending in a little over a week ($6 off if you pre-order), I thought I’d share some thoughts on one of the stories and give you an excerpt.

What you’ll find below is the opening section of John Mantooth’s entry, “This Is Where the Road Ends.”  I know a lot of writers by now, but only a couple of them have real voice.  John is one of them (and I hate him for it).  It also plays a large part in why John's about to have his first collection of stories, Shoebox Train Wreck,  coming out with ChiZine Publications soon.   I mean, just read that second paragraph and try not to get jealous.  I'm not going to “tie the [story] to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it” as Billy Collins says, and attempt  to explain to you why I love John’s writing so much.  Just read an example of it below (that second paragraph is a real beaut).  You’ll understand.

And when you’re finished and want more, head here to buy Tales from the Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station.  You’ll get the rest of this story, and six other fine stories as well.


“This is Where the Road Ends” by John Mantooth

Jonas hit the kid on a warm fall afternoon, the sun flattening out over the horizon in a spectacular crush of gold. Sometimes, especially late at night when the house was quiet and he’d gone out to look at the stars, he almost convinced himself it was that sun, not the seven beers he’d had over lunch with Bryant Keith that had caused the accident.

The worst part was that Jonas had been expecting him, bracing for him even. How many times had he made the turn by the Mitchell farm and seen the fat little kid trudging home from his bus stop? Dozens, at least. Probably more. The kid had always had the common sense to stay on the left, out of harm’s way because even a fat little kid knew the turn was as blind as Stevie Wonder. Sometimes, he’d even wave, but most days he’d just huff and puff his way on past, like the little kid that could, trying to make it home from his bus stop in time for a glass of milk and a bagful of cookies before the reruns on channel eleven started at four. Once Jonas saw him on his knees, investigating a dog carcass. It was the only time he didn’t look comical, like the little fat kid you see in the movies that doesn’t run because he waddles, the kid that got all the bad genes and all the bad luck. But even then, poised above the dead dog like a prayerful Buddha, he had been on the left side of the road.

The day Jonas hit him, he was on the right.

Jonas tried to brake, but all that did was give the kid time to look up from watching his feet. Their eyes locked for a long second and then there was a sound like you hear when somebody sits on your hood and the sheet metal pops. Then the kid was airborne, and somehow one of the boy’s feet got snagged on Jonas’s side mirror, and his body twisted violently before the foot was wrenched free. Jonas felt his seatbelt lock as the car came to a hard, tread-burning stop.

What followed was silence. This was the moment that could still make Jonas a blubbering idiot. He could think about all of it now, all of it except that one moment when he had to actually make himself get out of the car. Make himself see what was left of the kid.

When he did get out, he was blank. Can the mind ever be completely blank? At that moment, climbing out of the car, his was. It was as if his brain was in the process of rebooting itself, of clearing the old memory, deleting programs that would no longer be relevant, and getting ready to adapt to a new operating system, one that came with viruses and malware, and an impossibly steep learning curve.

After the blankness, when his mind started working again, the only thing he could think was it isn’t real. There is not dead boy on the road. There is not an impending 911 call.

He was lying just off the side of the road, a lump of breathing flesh. His sweatshirt had gotten twisted around his neck and his bare belly was exposed. Jonas watched it heaving for a full twenty seconds before he realized what this meant.