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Art Bergmann: ‘Desperate times call for desperate songs’

Monday 01st, September 2014 / 16:34
By Susanne Tabata

i·con·o·clast
īˈkänəˌklast/
noun
noun: iconoclast; plural noun: iconoclasts
1. a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions.

Photo: Kenneth Locke

Photo: Kenneth Locke

VANCOUVER — It’s been 19 years since Art Bergmann released his last recording, the Juno Award-winning What Fresh Hell is This? at which point he was simultaneously dropped from the label, quit music and later sold the statuette for dope money. Poignant as only Bergmann can be. The muse never left him. He kicked it out for a bit, and now he’s back, touring in support of his forthcoming four-song EP, Songs for the Underclass.

“Desperate times call for desperate songs,” says Bergmann who is in full control of his music for the first time and is also fighting for rights to his back catalogue. With that, he has created a masterpiece in “Drones of Democracy.” Although his favorite albums are the three he did with Chris Wardman (Art Bergmann, Sexual Roulette, What Fresh Hell Is This?), he says “Drones” “is the best song I’ve ever written.” Last FM recently played the track and the DJ remarked, “I don’t know who this is but he sounds like Tom Petty.” Slap.

He is widely compared to Paul Westerberg when he only needs to be compared to himself. Bergmann thinks about pre-contact Americas, the Paris Commune, the people’s history of the United States, sexual evolution and the denial of our animality. How these things have influenced the new EP is for the fans to explore. We know Dorothy Parker is a past reference. Hardly mentioned is Sherri, his partner of 23 years, who is a big part of a lot of the older songs including “Buried Alive,” which she co-wrote. Bergmann admits Sherri is not overly represented in the new songs. “Older songs I used to write were more concerned with the culture at large and the effect it has on individual lives. Now it’s more about dealing with why we are the way we are.”

Want more insight? Try reading a book. Here are Art’s suggestions: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Contact by Charles C Mann; Death and the Dervish by Mesa Selimovic; and Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano.

And what does Bergmann want us to do? “Nothing you can do except live in your head. Can you live in your head with the crimes of man? Do the best you can. Have fun destroying the capitalist human experiment.”

Long regarded as a key figure in Vancouver punk, with the K-tels and the Young Canadians, there is the expectation these songs will be on the set list. Classics like “Hawaii” and maybe “Data Redux’”or “Automan.” The Vancouver line-up features Alex Varty on guitar, bass player Kevin Lucks and drummer Jon Card (replacing a broken-footed Adam Drake). This is a must-see concert for fans and the curious.

Photo: Kenneth Locke

Photo: Kenneth Locke

Art Bergmann performs at the Upstairs Cabaret in Victoria September 5th and the Commodore on September 6th with the Courtneys.

Susanne Tabata is the creator of the Vancouver punk doc Bloodied But Unbowed, FuelTV’s skateboarding film, Skategirl, and the West Coast surfing history doc 49Degrees.

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  • I’ve been airing his music on Radio Bandcouver on Co-op Radio ,now at 100.5 FM, in Vancouver for ages. And I actually know who he is. haha The ‘regular’ radio stations in Vancouver ,after 1995, couldn’t have cared less for him or his music. I also put together a tribute show ,and a Myspace page, to celebrate him and his music. The tribute show was held at The Railway Club some years ago. It may ,or may not, have been one of the catalists in eventually inspiring Art to create and perform music again, knowing there was someone out there who knew and respected his music enough to put on a tribute show, put together a Myspace page ,( when it was still vaguely tolerable ), and give his music airplay. But even then, sometimes an artist just needs some time off before he finds that spark again. It may take longer than some people may want it to take ,but, in Art’s case, it did eventually happen when he finally found something which inspired him enough to write and perform again.

    I’ll glad he’s back. We’re in great need of more insightful and intelligent music like his in Canada.

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