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MARCH 2002


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March 28, 2002

STORYTIME! by Rob Labelle (pictured right)


The Snub saga began as a written history of Montreal's Paleolithic punk rock band: The American Devices. The title, Snub, makes it pretty obvious I was embarking on a personal account. No genealogical trees, no discographies or videographies, the story is more a chronology of hurt, attempts at personal vindication & outright bitterness. That's why after 4 installments (which readers may remember from previous issues of local zine Fish Piss &, I'm still no closer to recounting the ins & outs of dragging our so-called lives through the swampland of Montreal's so-called "music" scene. With this chapter I thought I'd take a bit of an historical sidetrack, delving into the social environment splattered across the stage of my childhood & that of the other Devices at the time when we were first sticking our little toes out the doors of our snug suburban bungalows, the first time Rick Trembles trembled, the first time my quixotic bowl-haircut bangs were disheveled.

I hate to do this to y'all, but something inside demands I evoke the specter of the Catholic Church. Yes, I know it's a bore & I can almost hear your mice clicking away to more alluring stimuli, but hang on; it'll be educational & maybe just a little fun! Today, the Church's grey eminence floats like a low-lying cloud hovering about Mount Royal, crowned by the Hydro-Quebec cross. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that cross were finally taken down? But as with some of the surprising "liberal" reactions to "9-11," I bet even the most hip Plateau-ites would be "up in arms" if one evening we were suddenly presented with only the solemn red bulbs of the mountain's demonic antennae.

Back in 1962 however, the Church was much more substantial. Solid as grey granite & dangerous when threatened. Which it was. In that year Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (five popes after the first council in 1870 & the pope for whom the Dorval high school, whose alumni includes many an American Device accomplice, is named), with the aim of replacing "severity & condemnation with mercy & understanding" & to "find ways by which the Church can better present itself to the world of today & reach into the hearts and minds of men." While the Catholic Church was struggling to make itself more relevant, the unchecked power it had entertained in Quebec since the founding of New France was facing its own local crisis. In addition to the rise & political promotion of Quebec nationalism, The Quiet Revolution would succeed in a few short years in extricating the state from its traditional intertwined relationship with the Church. "Le ciel est blue, l'enfer est rouge," was the call from the pulpit before the election days throughout la grande noirceur of the reign of terror presided over by Premier Maurice Duplessis, "informing" the faithful of God's will in the voting booth. When the "rouge" Liberal government of Jean Lesage finally gained power with its slogan "Maitre Chez Nous," (masters of our own house), the Church's role as stable master for an entire population of renewable cheap labor was shaken to its very foundations. As these same faithful miraculously began to stay away in droves, the color that had been equated with the Liberal party began to grace the balance sheets of every paroisse in the province. Desperately, & in the spirit of Vatican II, local Church authorities tried to regroup to find new ways to "reach into the hearts"-& caisse populaire accounts- of its dwindling faithful. The hulking & costly stone churches that dotted Montreal & dominated every village in the province became the stage for less divine events. The clergy, or rather their thankless minions culled from the Catholic Widows Leagues or the Society of Failed Nuns, discovered that if parishioners could no longer be led to the collection plate on Sunday mornings, perhaps their wallets could be loosened over the bingo tables Monday evenings.

A "new look" was also promoted. Many of the great churches were torn down, to be replaced by structures designed in a style imagined to reflect the new era. If the parish accountant had been recruited from the ranks of the emotionally disenfranchised, where the Church had found its new architects was anyone's guess. In what seemed a vengeful attack on the population for its infidelity in the voting booth, the picturesque towns along the St. Lawrence, with their clusters of traditional slope-roofed homes, began to look as if they had been descended upon by cinderblock birds of prey with gaping beaks poised to swallow up any remaining parishioners. This invasion of Romulan space vessels gave the Church at least one foot in the avant-garde by predating Star Trek by several years. Along with Quebec's old churches, the Catholic schools were also being torn down. But rather than being too big, the old schools were now too small. The baby boomers were in full swing & more room was needed. And though Catholic Church coffers were reduced, the government was making huge contributions to the school system -still under the reins of the Church diocese. With no room to build in parish yards, these new buildings were located in the outer edges of Montreal's sprawling burbs, land expropriated from farmers who had been living in borderline poverty for generations, & part of the trend to pave over some of the richest farmland in North America. Safety codes prohibited more than two floors, so these new schools spread themselves across the fields like slinking reptiles, their minimal slits of windows the result of theorists who had convinced Catholic school board planners that limiting the view on the surrounding fields of trampled corn & half-dug foundations would increase student scores. The Church agreed, & old, papery hands rubbed with anticipation. These, after all, were the children whose parents were straying from Sunday mass. With four hundred years of fear-mongering now beginning to fail them, the hope was that in combining the full weight of catechism with new teaching techniques -sensory deprivation combined with the rampant use of overhead projectors- perhaps a more indelible stamp could be left on this generation than on the last.

© 2002, Rob Labelle

March 21, 2002

STORYTIME: BILLY & HIS DINOSAUR! (Pictured right: preteen preproduction sketch for proposed special FX extravaganza)

What did I wanna be when I grew up? A rock star? Nope. An "underground cartoonist?" Nope. It took a couple years for those pipe dreams to catch up to me. When I was a tween, I wanted to be a stop-motion animator & follow in my idol Ray Harryhausen's footsteps! I was obsessed with the now obsolete (CGI replaced) craft of compositing animated rubber monster models with live action people (i.e.: the original King Kong), concocting scenarios in my head whenever I could. The following "screenplay" I wrote when I was 12.


(Rick Trembles 1973)

One day when Billy was walking around the forest he found a huge egg. He brought it home hoping that it would hatch. When nobody was home one night it did. A baby tyrannosaurus rex was born. Billy kept it & played with it until a year later it was a mature dinosaur. One day it was woken up in its cage outside by two bullies throwing rocks at it. After it got one on the head it broke out of its cage & killed the two. Realizing what it did, it ran out into the streets & tipped over a car. The police were summoned & they shot the dinosaur to death. Billy ran to it & hugged its face, weeping. The dinosaur took one last look at him, put his hand over Billy's shoulder & died. The end.

March 14, 2002


Thursday, I jammed on drums for the first time with Nikki, Becky & Merry. Great fun. Merry never did anything like this before but she seems like a natural. She trained as an actor & I told her on the way over that if she was nervous just to "act" as if she was a singer. I brought her Ben Franklin's Wit & Wisdom for inspirational material to read from as a starting point so she turned his catchphrases into lyrics & belted them out embellished with an occasional sinister cackle. Becky plays a mean bass, she likes to experiment & can drone or funk at the snap of a finger. She used a fancy looking digital pedal that was supposed to be the equivalent of a "rack" & got all kinds of weird sounds out of it from atonal to phase-shifter. I brought Nikki a Big Muff I borrowed to distort the hell out of her bass & make it sound more like a guitar. Who needs real guitar. She'd slam on a note & let it sustain & fuzz in unison w/Becky once in a while reminding me of The Cramps. I'd yell out 123GO & we'd just play whatever popped into our heads 'til it fizzled out. None of us ever played with each other. Next stop: we try & turn these riffs into tunes. Looking forward to our next jam.

Friday, I went to see Crackpot & The Cutoffs at Barfly & had a blast. CP paid me free beers for the work I did on their upcoming CD cover art. Cutoffs have gotten better since their first gig. They play swampy kinda shitkicker stomp-yer-Kodiaks purse yer lips rock & roll. Some intentionally silly, almost bubble-gum novelty-tune sing-along type stuff. Crackpot were in fine form, tight as fuck. Tight enough to stumble & goof around falling all over the floor without missing a beat. Man can they blast yer eardrums especially at that tiny joint. Why aren't these guys huge? Is this a conspiracy? We'll see what happens when they start pushing their CD.

Saturday, what's left of The Devices went to record at Marc Montanchez's. Rob, Andre & me bashed through half a dozen ordinarily electric tunes completely unplugged. Andre played standup bass sometimes with a bow, me & Rob on acoustic guitars. No vocals. No drums. Hearing the tunes back I commented how it reminded me of The Shaggs. Marc told me he was about to say the same thing but he was worried I'd be insulted. I dig The Shaggs tremendously. A touch Beefheartian too (I wish). I dunno… It's nothing: it's The Devices. Turned out real well. Some were done in a take. A few bum notes, but our playing's so cluttered & intricate, I think the eccentricity of it all will divert. Or at least on first impressions no one will be able to tell the bum notes from the unbum. Timing of the multitude of riffs comes across delightfully peculiar without drums, as if they're floating in midair. We're so used to playing these numbers, we never miss a "beat" despite them being nowhere to be found. Let's say we never miss a gap. Silence is golden. They make good instrumentals. Maybe this is the way to go. I'll know after it's finally mixed down & burn off some CDs. Maybe I'll even give a couple away as MP3s on Snubdom. Stay tuned.

Monday, I jammed on drums with Eric Braun's cheesy new garage trash covers band. The tunes thus far: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (The Animals), La Poupe Qui Fait Non (Les Sultans), A Bomb On Wardour Street (The Jam), You're Gonna Miss Me (Thirteenth Floor Elevators), Love Me Tender, That's All Right & Falling In Love (Elvis), Another Girl (Beatles), Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash), Can't Explain & My Generation (The Who), plus Sheila, Dig It Up, Good Guys Don't Wear White & Spider Baby. Am I spreading myself thin yet?

"Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect: simply a confession of failure."

Crap, now I'm quoting Oscar Wilde (from The Picture of Dorian Gray which I just finished for the first time. Good shit).

March 7, 2002

Montreal had a fun (mostly music) fanzine going in the mid-nineties called Flaming Poutine. They asked if I wanted to write anything for them so I interviewed myself about my band The American Devices. Next issue I filled the zine's letters pages with mail written by me & addressing me in response to the interview I conducted with myself about myself.


The only major reservation I have about issue number four was the overblown & pompous self-interview that Rick Trembles insisted on performing on himself. Why anyone in their right mind could care less what this rancid fossil has to complain about is completely beyond me. The proof is in the pudding: his band, The American Devices are terminally & repeatedly ignored for a purpose ...they don't deserve any better. I was reluctant to write this letter for fear of it being mistaken for my acknowledgment of their existence. They are less than in existence. If pity is what this self-indulgent moron is trying to get, he won't be getting it from me. If the band ever had its prime, it whizzed past, way over their own heads decades ago. Trembles' stubborn claims that alienation from the rest of humanity is a natural byproduct of upholding integrity via insistence on originality comes across more as the kind of senile & hopelessly subjective, defensive drivel that NOBODY wants to know about rather than any tear-jerking martyred sermonizing. It DOESN'T justify the blatant failure that his band epitomizes. His feeble attempts at taking others down with him by demoralizing anyone aspiring to do things PROPERLY for a change fail miserably as well. I for one, will GO OUT OF MY WAY to prove his graying highness wrong. Why can't this boring joke-band just face up to the fact that they will NEVER be on the tips of the tongues of fresh-faced money-spending teenagers ANYWHERE on planet earth, EVER. I'll even do my best to personally see to it that they be forever discredited, treated as a hoax, or better still, that their mascot Trembles be wiped out. There's a bullet with your name on it, watch your back, Trembles'll never know what hit you. Boycott the Devices.

Sincerely, RICK TREMBLES, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Rick Trembles has become his own worst enemy. What seemed like a promising attempt at satirizing the only possible means left in presenting such a product so symptomatic of the Montreal apathy we're all familiar with (and cherish enough to perpetuate) turned into boring shoptalk, typical of most anal-retentive and talentless hack "musician" types. Once again, any credibility that could have been achieved was blown to bits as if it was some kind of intentional defense mechanism against the fact that he's too chickenshit to deal with consequences that may arise as a result of the perfectly legitimate (and even somewhat conventional) material that his band can produce. More dressing disguising the meat of the matter, most likely in order to divert attention from what I suspect are the trite & redundant themes actually explored by the band, lyrically, conceptually, & musically. Either they refuse to admit this for fear of exposing the truth, or actually think they are successfully pulling the wool over our eyes. What a cop-out. A perfect opportunity to finally speak his mind, & possibly share some insight into the inner workings of his remarkably persistent band (not to mention his fellow bandmates' contributions) turned into the kind of pointless self-centered blathering about guitar-playing influences that you could swap with virtually anyone else his age that ever played air guitar. As if "being blessed" by formative years in common with many other influential bands from elsewhere is a marketable factor. "Seniority" is NOT a word that I associate with anything but a big fat yawn.

Sincerely, RICK TREMBLES, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The (courageously uncensored) photo of Ricky's big fat juicy hard-on was about the only thing I could tolerate inside of that masturbatory self-chitchat of his in the last issue of Flaming Poutine. I was all set to adore every single utterance coming from his deranged & deluded mind in order to make more real the thought of gobbling all of that fucken swollen, pulsing piping-hot cock of his WHOLE inside my mouth 'til gobs of warm goo I could swish down my throat, but not one titillating tidbit was to be found. The further into his whining I got the more it canceled out his sex. Why can't he just play the game & pretend everything's fine, it would make for so much more appealing a time for all. PS: It got so that all I ended up wanting to do was plug HIS mouth up with MY cock just to shut him up.

Sincerely, RICK TREMBLES, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Big fucken deal Rick Trembles sold POT in high school, as if it's supposed to raise some eyebrows. How subversive. This is the nineties, shit-for-brains! Go overdose on crack or smack if you want to get "with it" in a "today" kind of way. I'll even PAY for it if you promise to die. The next thing you know, you'll be writing volumes all about how sticking your thumb up your butt out of boredom changed your life (see Sugar Diet #2).

Sincerely, RICK TREMBLES Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Promoting The Devices should be taken out of Rick Trembles' hands, he ends up doing more harm than good no matter how much self-depreciation he attempts to inject into his hard-sell shtick. His bitterer-than-thou act is a tired one that ultimately has nothing to do with music. It's like blaming the box office failure of a movie on bad catering. The self-loathing & schizophrenic nature that can come with self-promotion is an occupational hazard that you have to learn to live with you big baby. Potential patrons should be kept in the dark about this boring fact or else you defeat the whole purpose. It obliterates the "magic"...the sleight-of-hand that "rock" was founded on. I've yet to hear any satisfactory description of this band's music throughout their whole career. This may be due to the fact that no comparisons CAN be made. Only in a city full of copycats & prefab bands could such a distinction be detrimental to their evolution & growth. It's the same old story: "talent" won't guarantee success (in this case it even hinders it). One of the major problems with Montreal is that there were never any writers on the subject of music with the imagination or nerve to coin a term from scratch. If you can't recognize it DOESN'T exist, seems to be their motto. And if they happen to know better, they'd rather condescend their readers with generic consumer snippets & then snuggle up with cynical commiseraters for a good chuckle behind our backs. THEY are more in the public eye than most bands! The other day I saw spray-painting on a wall stating: "JENNY ROSS IS LAME" (ex-Montreal Mirror music critic). Why hasn't anyone written "THE AMERICAN DEVICES ARE LAME"? What distinguishes Montreal from other major cities with so called "scenes" is that we don't attract good writers, other cities do. Inspiration & innovation should be the name of the game but according to most of Montreal, merit equals homogenization, contacts, contracts, surface momentum & "who you know" (the time is ripe for a satirical manual on how to get to know who you should know in this one horse town as if I give two shits). Could it be that once any enterprising enough person surfaces with the creative business savvy to fabricate the illusion of a scene, it's only a short matter of time before common sense leads them to simply leave for greener pastures? Imagination doesn't seem to figure much in this witless dump. The most common thread comprising Montreal elitists from one year to the next seems to have to be safe familiarity. I've seen countless "homage" bands (as well as countless "homage" scenes) come & go unbeknownst to the purveyors themselves that they were being mere mimics. Why does everything have to be so spelled out for audiences? Can't anyone find simple pleasures in being handed a puzzle that doesn't need to (or can't) be solved? Must something be instantly recognizable for fear of coming up with anything but a prefabricated response? The answer is yes. The American Devices sound like every single band that ever existed. Rick Trembles IS every single person that ever existed. Through him I can vicariously experience all the torment & tender anguish of mankind throughout the history of the world, as well as the short joyous spark that is the creative outburst & the accidental shortsightedness that is the collective displaced sadism of war & suffering! Shed a tear for the universe! Shed a tear-droplet for Montreal's greatest band in the world!

Sincerely, RICK TREMBLES, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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