Monday, 20 February 2017

Spring Brings: Writers, Artists and More

Greetings, Maniacs - hopefully some of you are taking advantage of the warmer weather to crawl out of hibernation, shake off the winter slumbers, and wade into the Ottawa-Gatineau scene >:]

I'm sure winter still has some ugly to work off, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the talent taking place all over the chilly capital. Coming up fast: Phantom of the Opry at the Gladstone Theatre!

Written, scored, directed and performed by local creators. Please support this creative musical theatre twist on a revered classic. Playing February 22 - 27, get your tickets now... matinee and evening performances are scheduled.

File this under "If I'd-a known about it, I'd-a blogged about it:" last Friday at the last minute I attended a brilliant performance of Schoolhouse at the Kanata Theatre.

A thought-provoking play, performed with authenticity, warmth, humour and lots of heart. The Ron Maslin playhouse is well-known for recruiting excellent talent both in front of and behind the scenes, so SceneRazR will be on the ball next time so we can give you a heads-up about what's on their calendar.

Speaking of which: What's next for SceneRazr? Please keep an eye on this page, as there is an interview in the hopper with Ottawa writer Matt Moore.

Matt's oeuvre of choice is "dark genre" short fiction - a passion which has also led to him becoming co-Chair of the Ottawa Chiaroscuro Reading Series. Full-length interview with Matt is coming shortly  >:]

Response was so favourable to the post we did with Kim Valentine that we had to hustle up more Ottawa artists to share their stories. More info as we get these lined up.

So fear not the Ides of March... lots of wicked this way comes...

Friday, 13 January 2017

Local Horror Films...Going Live!

Brett Kelly is a local tour de force of artistic creativity. He has been one of the local scene's most prolific filmmakers, and markets his films worldwide. While he has made films in diverse genres, he is especially well-known for his horror films. Fans of the genre may recognize such Kelly titles as Raiders of the Lost Shark, The Bonesetter, and My Fair Zombie, which he also wound up producing for live performance.

A Blood-Gushing Brett Kelly Classic!

Brett has made it possible for numerous Ottawa/Gatineau actors to get a screen debut, sometimes in conjunction with appearances by onscreen notables such as Kevin Sorbo (remember Hercules??) and Joe Estevez. These days, he is busy preparing his second live musical, Phantom of the Opry, which debuts at the Gladstone Theatre next month (see the link for tickets!), running from February 22 to 25. Fun crossover fact: the music was written by Joel Elliott, aka Jumpin' Joel Flash, who was interviewed on this blog in an earlier post.

Sneak peek of the Phantom >:]

Below, Brett gives us some background on the new production, talks about what he'll be releasing in 2017, and shares a fun fact about his past :)

SceneRazr: You're a prolific film director who typically wraps multiple full-length films every year, and you have a busy family life as well. Musical theatre performances have demanding time commitments - what prompted you to add them to your dance card?

Brett Kelly: I just felt like flexing a different muscle. My background is in theatre and it's a great outlet that has many of the same perks as film except the benefit of immediate response from an actor or an audience. It's nice to mix it up a bit.

SR: With your first musical theatre production, My Fair Zombie, you created a film version first. Can we look forward to a film version of Phantom of the Opry at some point?

Not your average Cockney zombie flower girl...
(partial capture of the MFZ theatre poster)

BK: I hadn't really thought of it. Never say never I suppose.

SR: The theatre production of My Fair Zombie was, like your film version, faithful in many ways to the classic story it parodies. Without giving any spoilers, would you say that Phantom of the Opry draws on Phantom of the Opera to a similar degree?

BK: This one is much less faithful to Phantom of the Opera. I dipped into several different adaptations for inspiration. This one is set in a country and western show in Calgary, not quite Paris. LOL It's good old silly fun. Laughs and catchy tunes.

SR: I've heard you say that, of all the possible jobs in filmmaking, you enjoy acting the least. Yet, you are a gifted and engaging actor. Would you consider taking a role in one of your own live theatre productions?

BK: Thanks, that's very kind. I like acting, just not in my own productions. Directing is a job that takes all my attention. I'd happily act for other directors.

SR: About your creative process: does the medium you're creating for (film versus live theatre) dictate how you create your stories? Or do you create the story and find a way to make the medium fit with the story you want to tell?

BK: Good question. I guess for me it's all about the title. A catchy title with a hook inspires me. Usually I think of the medium first, then the title, then the rest comes naturally I suppose.

SR: It is notoriously difficult for people in the creative arts field to be successful in a town better known for politics and hockey. What would you say has been the key factor in your ability to work and develop in your field?

BK: It's certainly not easy to create in Ottawa but we do what we must to scratch that itch. The key factor is that i'm stubborn and once I get an idea in my head, no one can tell me that I can't get it done.

SR: Do you think that more can be done, at a municipal, provincial, federal or community level, to support creative arts in Ottawa? If so, what would you suggest?

BK: Sure, more can always be done to support the arts. I'd put the onus on the general public. Don't depend on the government to pay for your entertainment. Support independent art.

SR: Amen to that. Tell us a bit about what 2017 looks like for you. Will you be releasing films? Any plans for more musicals?

BK: In 2017 we should have the movie GHASTLIES out on DVD and VOD. It's an 80s inspired Creature Feature. We also hope to have the film COUNTRYCIDE playing festivals. We are also planning a Christmas theatre production. Not sure yet how musical it will be but it will no doubt involve music in some capacity.

SR: Do you have any New Year's resolutions? If so, which one is the first one you'll break?

BK: No resolutions in the traditional sense. I'd like to maybe play a few hair metal shows. LOL Long story.

I've actually seen Brett wail to some of these bands  >:] 

SR: Ah yes... you have a rock and roll past in addition to your other talents. And it's not uncommon for you to be invited to get onstage and take the mic at local metal shows these days. Care to tell us more about your mad, bad rocker side? And will you be putting a band together any time soon?

BK: When i was younger I sang in what is now known as a hair band. Occasionally I entertain the notion of doing some fun shows a la Steel Panther but with legit love for the genre. We'll see if i can get something going or if i chicken out. I have the range of a daisy air rifle but i have a blast. Lol

SR: It was great to hear about the new production and your upcoming films... and we'll keep our ears stretched for any hair metal efforts  >:]  All the best for 2017, Brett!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Roots and Vines with Kim Valentine: Local Painter Inspired by Nature

SceneRazR had the opportunity in late October to attend a vernissage of Kim Valentine's work at The Tea Party in the Byward Market. Tea Party is a lovely establishment that sells a wide variety of loose tea, makes delicious food, and brews a comforting cup of coffee if you are stumbling in with wet sneakers on the night of the NCR's first heavy snowfall. Snow before Hallowe'en? Not cool man, not cool.

Which is what I'd have to do if there weren't awesome places like The Tea Party.

Kim is a local artist and performer who uses palette knife and oils to create dynamic interpretations of Nature. Palette knife painting is not necessarily the first go-to method for oil painters, but certainly not unheard of. Give the people at Palette Knife Painters a follow to learn more.

Kim Valentine's weapon of choice!

Read on to find out what inspires Kim as an artist, and to learn more about what she'll be creating in 2017.

SceneRazR: What inspires you to grab your palette knife and start creating something?

Kim Valentine: This sounds so cheesy...
I really love nature. I mean trees are just so crazy. They just take up as much space as they can, so unapologetically. I love them so much. I love watching the way grass, or leaves, or flowers move in the breeze. 

Sometimes, it’s just a colour that I spot somewhere, and I’ll have to get to the studio and start playing with similar colours.

Kim with one of her choice creations :)

SR: There is a very dynamic energy to your work. I overheard a remark from a guest at your vernissage: "Her paintings look like she had so much fun creating them." How do you feel during your creative process?

KV: Oh, I love hearing that! I am definitely having fun while I paint. I used to have some serious anxiety issues. I couldn’t do anything without feeling anxious about what other people would think. It prevented me from even trying art for a long time.

Since I discovered painting I’ve been able let go of all that. I paint for me. It makes me happy, and I think that maybe that’s coming out in the art.

SR: Are there other artists who inspire or influence your work?

KV: This is a hard one. There are soo many awesome artists around. I love Nava Waxman, Stephen Frew, Brenda Dunn, Alison Fowler. There are so many more. I just think that art inspires more art. When I see something great that someone else has made, I feel totally inspired by their creativity.

SR: Describe your ideal creative environment - as in: what's your best time of day/night to work? How is your studio set up? Do you have music playing? Do you work best in isolation?

KV: I’d probably describe my studio as a mix between a ten year old’s bedroom, and a hippie’s living room. Full of soft lamps, and Christmas lights hanging all over the place. I have a ton of plants filling the window, and a stupid cat yelling at me when I pay too much attention to the canvas. Other than the cat, I prefer to be alone while I paint. Except for the cat.

I love listening to music while I paint. Specifically instrumentals. They allow me to get into my head, and swim around in there.

I’m a big fan of mornings. I feel most productive, and usually crazy inspired first thing in the morning. I think a dream would be to have a studio with a window facing the sunrise. I could paint with the sunrise, and drink an obnoxious amount of coffee. I’d never get tired of that.

SR: The majority of your work portrays plant life, but you have also done pieces featuring still life and animals. Do you see yourself focusing more on non-flora based work in the future?

KV: I think so. I have a few things that I’ve been playing with lately that are more elemental than flora based. I’m really excited about where these thoughts are going, and I’m looking forward to sharing them in the new year.

SR: Do you do commissions?

KV: I do! Commissions are so fun. It’s so nice getting to know the people who order a commission, and creating something with them in mind. It feels so nice to hand over that piece of original art in the end.

SR: In addition to your painting, you have several acting credits under your belt, and you play ukulele as well. Are there other creative avenues you'd like to explore?

KV: I feel like you can never have enough art in your life. I wrote a feature recently for STATUS, which is a local online publication. I interviewed Frank Sukhoo about his designs. I really had fun with that, so I’m going to see where else that can take me.
I recently joined a local band with my ukulele - which is crazy to me. We started performing a song that I helped co-write. I didn’t realize that performing your own original music could give you such a rush. I’m hooked on it. I’m going to spend a lot more time exploring music writing and performing.

SR: You've just completed a vernissage at The Tea Party Cafe in the Byward Market - congratulations! Please tell us of any upcoming installations and let SceneRazR readers know where and how they can obtain your paintings.

KV: Carben Food + Drink is a restaurant in Hintonburg that will be hosting some of my pieces for a while. That started on December 5, and will be ongoing. I’m going to be involved with the Hintonburg Happening, which is a really cool new festival happening May 3 - 6 at different locations throughout that neighbourhood. There’ll be a month long show at Irene’s Pub on Bank St. starting June 4, 2017.

I have a few other things in the works right now, but I’m keeping quiet for now. Once details are nailed down, I’ll let you know!

SR: Thanks so much, Kim! For all the maniacs reading this, you can stay current with Kim's creations via the social media links below. It sounds like we'll be hearing much more from Kim in 2017!

Keep up with Kim Valentine on: Twitter

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Bells are Jingling...On Bellydancers, Not Reindeer!

If you are looking for something different to do this holiday season, why not ring it in with belly chains and finger chimes? Start planning your New Year's resolutions early and sign up for belly dancing classes with one of Ottawa's middle-eastern and north-African dance fusion experts, Halyma.

Halyma in action (photo credit David Peralty)

Halyma (aka Tracey Vibert) has practiced dance since childhood, and began focusing on belly dance method in 1995. She has since fused her own style, and teaches and performs in the Ottawa area. I think, when you view Halyma's performance at this clip, you will appreciate that she is bringing together quite the eclectic mix of influences in an engaging way. (She had me at "Rock the Casbah..." big Clash fan here!)

In addition to her dance talents, Halyma is a gifted wardrobe designer, creating unique and beautiful clothing and costumes for private clients, dancers, and film productions. SceneRazR will be interviewing her for a future post, focusing on her TAV Creations services.

Halyma is also offering a semi-private Community Class Party event on December 14th - limited number of tickets available. Please click here for details.

So you all have your fitness and entertainment lined up for 2017, right? You're welcome  >:]

Thursday, 8 December 2016

LIVE on Elgin: Small Club Fills a Big Gap in the Scene.

Recently, SceneRazR was fortunate to obtain some time with Lawrence Evenchick, who is one very busy dude. Jointly with his son, Jon, Lawrence runs an independent performance space - LIVE on Elgin -  at 220 Elgin Street, just upstairs from Dunn's Deli. LIVE on Elgin hosts a variety of performance/artistic entertainment seven nights a week, nearly every night of the year (although in December their calendar indicates that they'll at least take Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off - good call, gentlemen!). Knowing that Lawrence is a very in-demand actor for local theatre and films, I asked whether owning a busy performance space has cut back on his ability to nurture his acting career. (Note: it would be a tragedy if this were the case. Lawrence is a talented and supremely entertaining actor.)

Lawrence Evenchick, actor and
venue proprietor extraordinaire

Lawrence assured me that being part owner of LIVE on Elgin has not interfered with his acting projects. He went on to supply a very in-depth look at what local entrepreneurs may encounter when launching a live performance venue in the NCR, beginning with a guided tour of the premises.

The tour revealed some pleasing surprises. Often, the second-storey premises in older Ottawa buildings feel claustrophobic and seem almost more like second thoughts than second storeys. To be sure, LIVE on Elgin is accessible only by a long narrow flight of stairs, but this was a necessity:  the space is a sublet from Dunn's Deli on the floor below. Once you arrive at the top of the stairs, however, you are in a fairly generous space. There is a lounge area bordered with sofas and a flatscreen TV, with a medium-sized service bar opposite. (All photos are courtesy of LIVE on Elgin and photo credits for the interior shots go to Dave Di Ubaldo, Worn Leather Media.)

Paintings by local artists grace the walls, the decor is attractive, and the amenities are very up-to-date.

Lounge area

Bar area - yes, they're licensed!

Past the lounge and bar area is the performance studio which is where the magic takes place. At the far right-hand end of the room is a slightly elevated stage that is big enough to house an upright piano plus performance space that comes close to that of some of the smaller theatres in Ottawa. The stage feels almost as deep as it is wide, and has hosted musical groups, theatrical performances, burlesque shows, choirs, fan-fiction reading nights, improv theatre performances, and much more. Lawrence added that room has also been used for children's birthday parties, video shoots, and trivia nights. To get an idea of LIVE on Elgin's performance lineup you can view their calendar here.

The official stage area (although some acts, e.g. the poetry slams, prefer to perform on the dance floor - and LIVE on Elgin lets them do their thing their way).

As Lawrence explained, it's a very flexible space that lends itself to a variety of performances and uses. The tables and chairs are all mobile (no bolted down tables or booths) so they can modify the seating to make room for dancing, painting parties, or cabaret-style evenings, depending on the type of event or performance that is taking place. 

                    Flexible seating - tables and chairs can be repositioned or removed.

In addition to the size and flexibility of the performance area, other pluses are the "artist preparation" areas where performers can close a door or a curtain and get their war paint on, put on their costumes (or, in the case of burlesque dancers and naked choral groups, take OFF their costumes) and just generally have a place where they can get their heads in the game privately before taking the stage. Believe me: very few of the smaller performance venues in Ottawa offer this luxury, and it really IS a luxury.

After the tour and an offer of tea, Lawrence and I settled ourselves in the lounge area to talk inspiration, influences, and the challenges of doing business in the local performance community.

SceneRazR: You've stated that LIVE on Elgin was created because you and Jon Evenchick perceived a "gap" in the local entertainment scene. Your calendar is full every night of the week, so you were clearly correct. How did you settle on this particular format and venue to address that gap?

Lawrence Evenchick: "Jon's background is in music, mine is theatre. We thought we could cater to both." 

Lawrence noted that the gap in the music scene is primarily that, while many venues incorporate musical performance, not many are dedicated to music. To elaborate, he explained that many venues will have bands play, but there are still big screen TVs showing hockey or ball games while the band is "pushed off in the corner," so that the music isn't necessarily the sole focus. "That," said Lawrence, "is the niche we wanted to fill."

In terms of local theatre, Lawrence pointed out that there really are no small spaces. There are independent theatres of course, accommodating 200 to perhaps 600 patrons, but no smaller spaces where performers can hope to launch a performance and also walk away with some money in their pocket... the larger venues are simply not affordable propositions for the smaller and fringe acts that permeate the artistic scene. There are plenty of performers, Lawrence noted, who can sell 50 to 60 tickets - which would be a financial fail if they want to rent the larger theatres, but could look (and feel, in a smaller room) like a complete success in an establishment the size of LIVE on Elgin. Lawrence wanted these performers to have a venue, a voice, and a chance to generate some income. The solution, clearly, was a cabaret-style space in an area where there would be decent urban traffic.

The idea crystallized when Lawrence attended a house concert (yes, a concert in someone's house) by Craig Cardiff, an Ottawa musician. Lawrence learned that Craig enjoys playing house concerts because so few music venues are structured to focus on the performance. Often the musicians are an afterthought.

Craig Cardiff doing his thang (photo property of Craig Cardiff)

About the same time as the conversation with Craig, Lawrence heard from a couple of friends who had visited New Orleans. They told him that they had attended a drama performance at a bar: the admission tickets were affordable, so patrons showed up for the show but still had some discretionary dollars left over to buy a few drinks. Thus, the bar profited and there was still some money to throw to the actors at the end of the night. 

For Lawrence and Jon Evenchick, this sounded like a win-win format for everyone. The mission was clear: create a space that can house the smaller event populations; offer drinks at an affordable price; make sure the artists have the space to do what they require and have the space to host their audiences. And pay the bills on the space while they achieve all this.

SR: Brilliant idea! What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting it launched?

LE: (laughing) "The biggest challenge? The city!" (more laughter).

"It was touch and go... building permits, we've never renovated to meet building standards before." Some modifications to the space at 220 Elgin were simply cosmetic, but others were structural and more complicated. In terms of the permits, Lawrence listed them off: building, fire, health... and then there were the permits that had to be managed by exception (because, after all, LIVE on Elgin is an exceptional place). Lawrence had worked liquor establishments before, and figured he was on solid ground in terms of fulfilling the conditions for a liquor licence.

"I know all about liquor licences," Lawrence said. "I've known about SmartServe for a long time, I've worked bars for years, but you have to fulfill other conditions and also guarantee some guaranteed parking, which we can't do as it's all on-street parking. So we had to go to a variance committee." However, with his experience in the beverage industry, Lawrence felt he was on solid ground and was confident about LIVE on Elgin's chances for approval. "I thought it would be a slam-dunk," he admitted.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. The committee was split on whether to approve - the dissenters had reasons which were really irrational, according to Lawrence -  and it eventually came down to a tiebreaker that the Chair of the committee had to decide. Lawrence recalls that the variance committee managed to keep LIVE on Elgin's liquor licence in a holding pattern well past the club's launch date while it contemplated the application. As a result, the first week that the club was open, they served soda pop only because their liquor licence application had not yet been approved.

City variance committee member?

There were other issues: the building inspector was not an easy person to deal with. He misread the plans causing a misunderstanding about washroom capacity, which further delayed the permits.

That hasn't stopped many local musicians, poetry slammers, comedians, or theatre troupes from showing up at LIVE on Elgin. In fact, many local performers were supporting it before the venue got all their city approvals. "There were over fifty letters of support that were sent to the variance committee," Lawrence recalled. "From performers, musicians, producers...saying that we are the kind of venue that this city needs." It was encouraging that getting the support from the artistic community was easy: it was a sure signal that Lawrence and Jon were on the right track. "We hit the ground running, and we had a lot of really good support from Day One." They still do, and their reputation is growing.

SR: what would be the farthest "fringe" or niche performance that has ever graced the LIVE on Elgin stage?

LE: "The fan fiction night is... crazy!" Apparently, fan fiction can get pretty randy, and listening to the actors read it aloud sends the audience into hysterics. Lawrence added that other fringe performances are equally popular. "The Improv Nights are unbelievable. And Les Bunheads - they've auditioned for America's Got TalentAnd the Ottawa burlesque community consider us their home." 

Unconventional ballet duo "Les Bunheads!"

Many of the LIVE on Elgin events definitely cater to niche communities. As an example, the burlesque night is a dedicated performance once per month: therefore, it isn't competing with another performance genre. At LIVE on Elgin, catering to what works for the artists is key. "We've stuck with the artists rather than the producers, and artists feel at home here because it's a performance space,"  Lawrence noted. So far, it is working out well.

LIVE on Elgin has demonstrated considerable resiliency in terms of facing down city opposition and gaining and retaining support from the artistic community. Lawrence emphatically credits the participation from Ottawa's diverse performance community as the backbone of LIVE on Elgin's success. Rogers Cable have taken an interest, recording live music performances at the club and editing them down to be broadcast on YouTube - which is great for the musicians in terms of building their presence and broadening their audience. The segments air Sunday nights on Rogers Cable at 9 o'clock, and Lawrence estimates they have several months' worth of footage already in the can. It's another encouraging example of how arts and performance communities can support and cross-promote one another.

SR: A recent article in the Ottawa Citizen pointed out that both Zaphod's and Barrymore's had sold-out shows that week - mind you, one of those was Sebastian Bach! - and that this speaks to the need for more music venues in the NCR. However, when there are bars and clubs that struggle Monday to Thursday in terms of filling seats, do you think we need more venues or more support for the venues?

LE: "I think we need more support for the venues that we have." Lawrence pointed out that many people shell out big money to see out-of-town performers at the National Arts Centre, "...and then get squeamish about paying $35 or $40 to see local performers who are equally as talented." 

SR: And the NAC have pretty aggressive telemarketers as well! 

LE: "Extremely, extremely aggressive telemarketers. The people at the Gladstone Theatre, they can't afford to do that." He noted the irony of NAC patrons paying in the neighbourhood of $140 per ticket to see performers who don't live here or work here, and then balking at paying a decent price to support local performers. He feels it's partly due to an unfounded and incorrect assumption that the local talent is somehow inferior to the touring performers. Clearly there is money to be spent on art and performance, but patrons are choosing to support non-local entertainers. "It's really backwards," he observed.

 In addition to better support for local talent, Lawrence believes that the NCR needs more variety in terms of the size of the performance establishments. He noted that a lot of touring acts skip Ottawa between Toronto and Montreal because the NCR offers a choice between two gigantic stadiums, or smaller clubs the size of Ritual, for example. For certain performers, these venue sizes are too polarized and there is no mid-size that would suit the capacity that they are likely to draw. Lawrence's son and business partner, Jon, originally wanted to create a venue to meet that niche: 800 to 1000 seats, with a flexible space that could accommodate cabaret style seating or traditional theatre set-ups. LIVE on Elgin is proving to keep Jon busy enough, however, so the larger venue is part of his "Ten Year Plan." Lawrence agrees that it would help fit a need for music and theatrical performances alike.

SR: So we won't be seeing a "LIVE on Bank Street" or "LIVE on Woodroffe" anytime soon?

LE: "I think the next step is getting LIVE better known by the general public." Lawrence said that the arts and performance community are really locking in with the venue, and his hope is that people who don't move in the artistic circles will still make LIVE on Elgin their "go-to" for good entertainment at reasonable prices. Given how quickly the venue has caught on, the outcome is promising.

"I think we've met our goal," said Lawrence, "in terms of providing a space where performers are free to show up. We have built a space where many local performance acts feel they have a home." They feel they belong, here, he said, because it is an environment that is a performance space first and foremost.

SceneRazR loves a happy ending, and wishes LIVE on Elgin continued longevity and popularity!

SceneRazR is very grateful to Lawrence for giving so much of his time to tell his story and give us a guided tour. LIVE on Elgin is definitely worth some space on your calendar. Please visit LIVE on Elgin to see what floats your fancy - you will not be disappointed! >:]


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Does Ottawa need MORE music clubs? Or does it need more SUPPORT for the clubs it already has?

It was great to see so many sold-out gigs on the Ottawa scene recently - a fact that was picked up and highlighted by Ottawa Citizen arts reporter Kirsten E. Endemann.

"Baz" sold out Bazmore's

Citing acts such as Coleman Hell and Ria Mae, who sold out Zaphod Beeblebrox on November 24, and Sebastian Bach 
who sold out Barrymore's Music Hall on November 26, Ms Endemann offered the opinion that these performances are "...evidence Ottawa needs more music venues, not fewer of them."

The nightclub at the end of the universe (or the middle of the Byward Market...)

Hmmm. My personal sentiment is that, we have plenty of Ottawa/Gatineau venues... we just need more of them to be sell-out shows. If we have clubs that are sitting empty on many nights, despite the fact that they are offering quality entertainment, I don't think we need more empty clubs. What needs to happen? More support for small business from the city? More support from art consumers? More grants for artistic enterprise?

Well I don't run a local entertainment business, so I don't want to speculate too closely ... instead, I'm interviewing some real local club owners who will tell us what is actually going on in and behind the scene, and what they think would make the Ottawa arts community more healthy and vibrant - with tons more sold-out shows. Coming up shortly, dear readers!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Interview with Jumpin' Joel Flash!

As promised, readers, here is an update on what Jumpin' Joel Flash is about, is doing, and will be doing in the near future. Joel is a quadruple threat combo of vocalist, instrumentalist, actor and songwriter... and all-round killer entertainer. So I guess he's a quintuple threat? Anyway, math ain't SceneRazR's strong suit, hot local art scene is.

Please follow Joel on the links listed below to check in on his gigs and other happenings (especially you awkward first date aficionados >:] ).

SceneRazr: There is a lot going on in a Jumpin’ Joel Flash performance – not just musically, but in terms of performance art and improvisation. When you build your show, do you have a particular goal in mind in terms of what you want the audience to take away with them?

Jumpin' Joel Flash: Above all else, I’m looking to entertain. People could be doing anything else with their evening… other shows, movies, dinners, art, Netflix, etc... If someone has taken the time to leave their house, travel to the venue, pay cover, and wait patiently for the act to start, I think we, as performers, owe it to them to deliver something to remember. I want people to leave saying “wow”. It’s happened every time so far.

Joel Bringin' It
(credit Ryan Lindsey Photography)

SR: The cover tunes you play run a wide gamut of musical styles. This is true of your original music as well. Do you have a particular genre or style of music that influences or inspires your process?

JJF: I’ve always been a classic rock nut. It was actually Weird Al that got me into it… his “Hot Rocks Polka” turned me onto the Stones and it snowballed from there.

In college, I joined a local cover band called Barrelhouse. Playing with them changed how I looked at music, and for the better. I wasn’t afraid or turned off by things that sounded like they were recorded after 1980. We played a metric ton of Allman Brothers, but could also play full sets of Steely Dan. Intricate, complex tunes that gave me an appreciation for wildly different styles and grooves. At one point, we were playing the entirety of Abbey Road front to back. It was madness. But it all worked. And it was a stupid amount of fun.

Their influence remains with me. I like the southern crunchy jams and grooves of The Allmans mixed with fun harmonies and odd song structure of Steely. It all comes back to the Stones though. If my act could sound like Exile on Main Street then I’d be in a very happy place.

From left to right: Brad Cutler, Joel, Zoe Elizabeth and Robin Hodge
(as backing vocalists "The Ghost Lights")
(credit Ryan Lindsey Photography)
SR: In addition to performing in various musical acts, you’ve recently explored acting – and now you have also developed the score for an original musical – Phantom of the Opry – that will be staged in Ottawa in the near future. Could you walk us through how that evolved?

JJF: My wife began starring in a number of Local Director Brett Kellys films, including Homicycle, Raiders of the Lost Shark, and SpyFall. I began hanging around the sets and was eventually asked to try out for a couple of roles. Then I saw the open casting call for My Fair Zombie. My experience with musical theatre was absolute zero, but I dig zombies and I can sing, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I auditioned and got in, which was both a wonderful surprise, and a dreadful feeling of doom. I’d never acted….let’s say ‘theatrically’ before. Luckily, I was surrounded by such an amazing group of people that were happy to answer all my questions and guide me through the process. I was awed by their talent every time I saw them. I’m happy to call them all friends.  

After My Fair Zombie was over, Brett asked if I had any interest in writing the score for Phantom. Having never composed for theatre before, and having no musical director experience, I of course said yes.
SR: As well as being an insanely gifted singer, you play guitar in Jumpin’ Joel Flash, and play occasional trumpet in Fuzzy Bunny Slaughterhouse – also in Barrelhouse, your erstwhile blues lineup. Any other instrumental talents you haven’t told us about?

JJF: I can beatbox, but I haven’t yet figured out how to channel it into a performance. I also do a great impression of Stuart MacLean. Maybe they should be mixed? Vinyl Cafe R-r-r-r-r-remix?

Joel manifesting some of his multi-instrumental talents in Fuzzy Bunny Slaughterhouse (Ottawa's premier rabbit-themed rock band)

If i could get my hands on a keytar, I bet i could play that as well. Only if it’s hot pink though.
SR: That kerfuffle in the House of Commons where one MP made a fart simile during Question Period, and another MP said she was out of line: are you on “Team Fart,” or do you fall firmly on the lines of observing the timeless traditional courtesies of parliamentary procedure?

JJF: (insert ‘hot air in parliament’ joke here)
SR: What’s next for Jumpin' Joel Flash? Recording? More gigs? Let SceneRazR readers know when and where to find you  :)

JJF: More gigs fo’ sho’... I’m hoping to play around town as much as possible in 2017! The band is growing and is currently made up of some insane talent: The guitar stylings of Brad Cutler make everything we do all the more ethereal and epic and insert another ‘e’ word here. And I can’t go on enough about the vocal and performance stylings of The Ghost Lights… Zoe Elizabeth and Robin Hodge give our act a major dose of energy... their theatre background shines brightly in everything they do. They sound incredible and put on a show you won’t forget.   

And definitely people should come and check out Phantom of the Opry at The Gladstone this February!  The actors are wonderful, the script is hilarious, and the 10 original songs I’ve composed will get stuck in your head!  Lord knows they’re stuck in mine.

Also looking to record my first album! There is more than enough material… it’s just finding the time at this point. Also will need to get a few session players… or permanent band members perhaps?  Always interested in applications!  

So yeah…. Whew…. A busy 2017!  Can’t wait to share it with Ottawa!

SR: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Joel, and please continue to keep SceneRazR looped in with your future projects and performances. Our esteemed readers can find Jumpin' Joel Flash updates at or contact him at In terms of band auditions, Joel is currently looking for keys and horns, so all you keyists and hornists should get in touch with him without delay!