Panama…!

21 Feb

Van Halen…

Sunday night, mid feb…Jose Gonzales streaming and vibrating through my rather large acoustic monitor speakers. His simple yet profound songs always evoke a kind of melancholy feeling in me, a spiritual kind of melancholy, as if he is here to spread the message to not let the darkness eat us up. He is a messenger, the kind I wish I could be had I been more confident, more aware, more compassionate with myself.

Outside, it’s dark, cold, and blistering. The little speeding sidewalk Snow daaliks (as my wife calls them) are buzzing around the huge Mammoth snow removal trucks as they enact an age-old well-choreographed dance on our street. The little-uns sweep the snow off the sidewalks onto the streets, the Giants then One sweeps the big chunks of snow on the road into a big mountain and surely enough, right behind this impressive syncopated performance, the roar of the show-stopping snow blowing ballerina, moving in total unison with the obedient, mule like container trucks. The used-up second-hand grey matter that used to be pristine, white and powdery snow only a day before fills up the big slow trucks. It doesn’t take long until that truck is completely full, and then it quickly leaves the scene, like a waltz where partners get switched up in a 3/3 measure to keep the flow constant, it is replaced by a new empty vessel, waiting, nay, dying to step up and take the place of the old. Its high art, and it makes me feel…low.

It’s mid February, it feels like everyone is tired, worn is more of an accurate word. Valentines has come and gone, the beacon, the event of feb so to speak. Although it was fun for me, my heart and mind has remained in Panama where I and my wife have spent the last 16 days soaking up rays, hiking through coffee mountains, visiting lost-like Caribbean islands and learning to surf on the beaches of Playa Venao. It is so hard to come back to Montreal, and ever since I have returned, going back to my old work, old plans and festival/music etc., has been a daunting task.

Panama is an interesting country they have this massive 80km canal that cuts the country in two and two oceans flank them. We had the wonderful opportunity of staying with a totally awesome and lovely chap named Marko who lives in Panama City. Marco showed us the city and Casco Viejo which is like a very historical neighbourhood full of crumbling convents and bars, it’s a special place. Lisa and I spent time in the mountains after that where a cool sprinkly breeze always welcomed us. It was peace it was really a wonderful experience to immerse ourselves with the local culture. We also had a chance to do some horseback riding and tubing down the Santa Maria River, not to mention a visit to an organic farm. The countryside is quite beautiful in Panama; you can pick wild oranges just about anywhere in the mountains. And they are so delicious. This trip was also about wild waterfalls, you take the time to climb, to sift through jungle to follow slightly treaded paths to find these gems, these gifts of emerald-green waters. It was always a spiritual experience to immerse myself in these amazing mountain waterfalls, and these stick with me much more than the beaches because we always had to work hard to get to them so they were well-earned.

We spent much of the trip learning to surf at some of the better pacific spots like the beautiful Playa Venao where I learned to surf the gnarly waves. In the last 5 days of our trip, we went visiting another mountain town called El Valle which reminded me a lot of Banff or one of those mountain towns like Revelstoke or Nelson. The town of Ell Valle was extremely windy though and the howl kept us up at night, we visited some natural hot springs there and moved on to what was to be our last destination before heading back, Isla Grande, the ride from El Valle to Isla grande was to say the least, on of the scariest I ever have had.Our bus driver thought he was Steve McQueen, he was doing 140 on highly traffic roads with windy curves and high peaks. A cop did eventually stop him and his other bus driver friend; bit the copes just laughed with them and let them go!! We were shocked! The ride culminated in us ending up in what was likely the sketchiest place in Panama the town of Sabanitas, which was a scary experience. A brutal fight broke out in front of us in the ten minutes we were there waiting for the bus, to get the hell out. Same with the way back. It was a better option than visiting the city of Colon, which Im glad we didn’t.

Isla Grande was a weird Panamanian weekender frat [arty-take your top off kind of placer but when we were ether there was no one, so we had a cabin by a very loud and powerful beach. It was a strangely built town along the edge of the water, with weird spots like a door that led nowhere, a bunker by the beach and an old abandoned lighthouse, which gave fantastic views.  The best part of Isla Grande was the pool by the Caribbean ocean. We felt like one of those high-Rollin drug lords with the massive villa that goes everywhere by helicopter. We ended the trip with a trip to the Panama Canal to watch mega tankers go through the massive locks and get drained down into the other side of the coast. A true marvel of engineering and a testament to a project that cost 22000 lives and billions upon billions. Word has it that China wants to build one going through Nicaragua as ell, which should be even trigger and an event bigger disaster as it will likely go through.

We felt deeply sad to leave Panama. It is such a beautiful place. We loved the hospitable hosts we had, the hot hot sun and surf and we loved the abundant nature and adventures we went on (though the food left much to be desired, Panama was another winner! Coming back to Montreal though was pretty depressing.

I think the hardest has been really feeling motivated, feeling like there is a purpose. Winter in Canada tends to do that to us all, to block out the inner sun, to make us feel powerless, to bring us back down to our humblest selves. Maybe that is why Canadians stereotypically have a much more humble attitude towards life than say Americans. We have winter to contend with. We have winter to abide by, to put us back in our place.

The light at the end of the tunnel is foreseeable now, and with a big festival event coming up in May, the launch of a fantastic artist program in early march which we have worked quite hard and are quite proud of is here for The One Man Band Festival that is from May 15 to the 18th) I have my work cut out for me.  I spend my free time trying to form the pieces of the puzzle to see what it's going to look like this year, One thing I can say, it will be worth the effort! so chin up winterites! The end of this winter of our discontent is almost nie!!

We are finishing up the applications for artists this week (Friday to be precise). I'm kind of looking forward to submissions closing because it means we can begin programming and that is always the best part of this festival, when the picture becomes clear, when the choreographic dance begins, this is our street-cleaner moment, our time to shine! This is my chance to create another event which will build community, will bring exceptional artists together and which will celebrate our collective spirit of perseverance, not only as solo artists but as Canadians and people living in this great big massive land of ours. We are all polar bears! Although the quote keeps popping up in my mind lately, sometimes I wonder if I'm not just being cheeky spewing out 80s Hollywood movie wisdom when I quote Rocky…” The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward;”

With that bit of Stallone Wisdom, I wish you all a happy end of winter, light at the end of the tunnel. Im looking forward to all the amazing things spring has up its sleeve. and you?

Artist submissions end this Friday Feb 21st). We've gotten an INSANE amount of submissions this year, we are pleased but it is a daunting task to have to accommodate so few with so many applicants. We will have programming details for you all by march 1st.

The Festival hits Montreal May 15th to the 18th, I wanna see everyone there cause I worked too hard on this. ;) 

As for the JCEX, I’ve got a new EP coming out this summer 5 songs and a new show, that is a new type of show I’ve ben working with lately, it's still one man band style but much more acoustic, and a whole new slew of songs to come.

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Christmas In Jail…

23 Dec

The Youngsters…

It’s been a busy year, full of rewards, obstacles and surprises. This is the year I shifted  my productive gears from 1 to 12. Starting easy with a month-long trip to Mexico, then coming back and going 200% into putting on what I can self-proclaim to have been a smashing successful one man band festival which saw 1100+ people and 57 artists from all over the world come to Montreal to perform. The fest followed immediately by another trip to England with my then girlfriend Lisa. We got married on the 12th of July on a beautiful Friday and went to the Gaspésie for a honeymoon. It was probably the best moment of my year as it was so natural, spontaneous and not bogged down by all the craziness of preparing for such events. I then started a new album that was just mixed, and started a new company with my wife. At the 2013 finnish line,  I can look at myself in the mirror and either say”what the fuck!?” or “not too shabby!” 

Life has had its way of swaying me from side to side. It’s been like the Harlem Globetrotters with me, spinning 4 or 5 basketballs at the same time and trying to keep them all going one after the next. Life these days is a balancing act, with different goals, plans, career vision, etc. I’ve dwindles it down to four clear categories (a house of cards that is sure to fail) one is the preparation for the 3rd edition of the One Man Band Festival. The second is the EP I have been working on. The third is my writing and editing company, started with my wife called Cabbage and King (after the Lewis Carroll quote).  We are doing everything from copywriting to translation. It has been great and very rewarding so far.

The festival had been keeping me busy, applying for grants has been a major challenge and one that is quite ongoing. On the plus side, we opened up the artist submissions for the one-man band festival, and  it’s already gotten off to a very strong start. I’m already notching some great acts who have submitted. We also started these monthlies called the Lonely Nights Club, and the next one is to take place Saturday Jan 11th at Casa Del Popolo with the amazing Wax Mannequin

As I write this I’m on route by train somewhere between Ottawa and Montreal. Having just completed the mixing sessions for what is to be the Jon Cohen Experimental EP (no name yet). The album was recorded in Montreal, but mixed  in Ottawa at Little Bullhorn studied. We used some sweet gear to mix with including a giant plate reverb  and a 1950s echoplex which says “to maintain echo, clean heads regularly “ amazing to think that there was a time that you had to keep your effects boxes cleaner than your own house for them to keep working properly.

The new songs are very different form the old, in that they are much more danceable, much more electronic. It’s a new direction and one that I was sort of forced into due to the nature of playing the music myself. This new foray into the one man band world has left me to make some interesting choices in the way that I made this record. It was different process in so many ways.

For one, I play everything on it. I did not want to misrepresent myself. Because in the live setting all instruments were layered and recorded in real-time,  it seemed impossible to repeat that on record in a way that would make sense. The songs were structured in such a way that they are built in as series of loops rather than lines that go from point A to point B. They are more like these strings of samples that repeat each other. I was able with some ingenuity, to record my music NOT in a linear fashion, but in a series of musical capsules joined together by an overarching song-structure element that could resemble a thematic looped event, from any instrument, be it a bass, drums or voice depending on the song.

At first it felt quite strange but when I changed the shift of my focus and saw this record more as an art project in sequencing, rather than a studio recording, possibilities opened up. I thought, why not, “why limit myself to the way a record should be made, this is an experiment and I’m the Jon Cohen experimental after all right?!” Recording an album is not just about the finished product but also about the process, and this was about as new as it was going to get for me. The best way to equate it would be as if I had all the elements for an album but they were mixed up in little bits and I had to piece them all together, not like a DJ would build a song but more like if a child would put together a puzzle.

The result is an album that is both deep, beat driven and quite complex , but that still retains the JCEX sound in some weird way. Strange how that happens. Draves at little bullhorn gave the songs the oomph they needed. It was a great experience watching it all come together.

For January, my plans are to have the album mastered and duplicated. I will then be going to Panama for 2 weeks on holiday.  We’ve always heard great things about that country and going out what it’s all about. I think that any country flanked on both sides by two separate oceans has got to have something good to offer no? Will keep you posted on news as it comes in the meantime here are some useful links 

ONE MAN BAND FESTIVAL ARTIST APPLICATION: If you are an artists looking to perform at the one man band fest taking place this year (May 15-18). Artists can apply by clicking HERE

LONELY NIGHTS CLUB 3: Co-promoting with Passovah and BSTB, this one is featuring Wax MannequinNick Ferrio & His Feelings, and the Sin and Swoon (10$ Saturday Jan 11th , 9pm Casa del Popolo: CLICK HERE FOR TIX PLUS DETAILS

CABBAGE AND KING: My online company for copywriting, translation and marketing services. CLICK HERE for the website

Wish you all a merry christmas and happy new year! I am making an concerted effort to be blogging more about my experiences!

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Do You Believe In Magic…

8 Aug

Lovin’ Spoonful…

Well, do you?

Do you believe that everything in life is describable, three-dimensional, physical and quantifiable? When you look outside and see the cars and clouds go by, do you simply think (here are cars & clouds)? Do you believe that things in life occur based on completely random patterns, like flies moving around a street light in completely anarchic fashion, a mundane surface type of reality? Or Are you one of those who believes that everything is following a precise pre-set pattern, that every single living and non living thing plays a precise role in some great cosmic game. Quantum physics describes seven types of realities that cover the whole spectrum, from what is called the Neorealist Copenhagen theory that say that there is no deep reality, all the way to the Walter Heitler theory that consciousness itself creates reality that we are all these “reality machines” creating it as we go along.

In other words, do you believe in destiny or do you believe you CREATE your own destiny?

Are you someone who looks out into the street with the sun shinning bright reflecting an azul sky with the heat playing tactile games on your skin and think, “this is completely magical,  this is the most amazing phenomenon that I am experiencing. the very FACT that im experiencing this is due to inexplicable and amazing!”

So when a young  John Sebastian asks if  you believe in magic,  which side of the sphere do you stand on?

I’m asking myself this question lately,  because although I believe myself to be an extremely analytical  person who believes strongly in taking charge of his/her own life, every once in a while, it seems like life itself decides to shake your hand with one of those electrical circus buzzard and really stir things up inside..

To think I was ever in the driver’s seat of my own life is pure folly.  I realize now (as I always have but constantly keep forgetting) that the unexpected can sometimes be scary but can also be the best thing to happen to you.  It is said the best quality a human can have in a world of changing fortunes is adaptability. I think there is a lot of truth to that. If it were up to me, I’d change it from survival of the fittest to survival of the nimblest!

2013 has become for me what I dub the year of the unexpected.  so far it has really taken me for a boomerang of a spin. It all started with a girl, from England, whom I made my wife this summer. I never thought myself to be marriage material, but here I am! Of course we both love each other deeply so it seemed like a natural thing to do.

Once I was married on July 12th 2014, in what was likely the smallest and most intimate ceremony ever, which consisted of myself , my wife to be and our two witnesses, that followed by a stroll through old Montreal on a beautiful sunny day and culminating in a pitcher of Sangria and traffic leading us out to Quebec and then to the Gaspesie on our mini honey moon (mini camping moon) followed by two days at Quebec City where we got to catch the Cirque Du Soleil’s free show called “Le Hangar des oublies”. It was my first time watching cirque and I was thoroughly impressed. So as I said, now I feel a deep sense of belonging, a deep sense of a type of foundation, something unexpected happened. I felt not just like a dude with marriage papers, I felt like a husband, I am all of a sudden a 50% shareholder in this new family we had started. I felt a tremendous sense of love , a tremendous sense of belonging and of responsibility, but the kind you want to take on. It’s a kind of confidence of knowing you belong and knowing you have a place in this chaotic reality.

Musically over the past nine months, my project has sort of fallen by the wayside, mostly due to fatigue from over touring and from having diverted much of my energies to the One Man Band Festival.  I’m excited to show you what is in the works for the JCEX 2.0 . It all starts with a show this coming weekend at the Duckstock camping festival  in St-Agathe des Monts this Saturday afternoon alongside too many awesome bands to mention. The whole thing will result in a new album out this fall as well as a tour to follow it up. It will be a five song EP which Im almost done recording,  and will have only me as the player (with some guest vocals from my wife), in stark contrast to the last album which had like 79 000 guest musicians on it.

The second coming of the One Man Band Festival came and went in Montreal this past May.  The four-day fest was an amazing success. We saw an attendance  of over 1000 and close to 60 artists from all over the world.  Sure it rained every single second of it, but that was what made it even more magical. It was truly a testament to some of the most original and musical acts I’ve ever seen. I got to ship in many incredible and original artists . It was truly a fiesta of originality, It felt as if every one in the audience was watching live music for the first time.  and the music, oh man the music!!! Some of the ones that stood out the most for me were shows by Wax Mannequin, Thomas Truax, Eric Royer, Lonesome Organist, Clara Venice and Shake it Like a Caveman, Bloodshot Bill, Steve Hill, Paul Cargnello and the list goes on and one and on.  We got lots of press coverage too which really felt positive and were already brainstorming for next years fest whose dates are already set MAY 15TH TO MAY 18TH! . Mark your calendars now people, the kickoff is also on my birthday, so no excuse to miss the best fest of the year in Montreal. Were gonna have many more one man bands from all over the world.  We’ll also have an outdoor show on closing day and all shows there will be FREE! …now thats a good word.

So on this good word, I would like you dear reader to hang, and think that there is a kind of beautiful confusion that drives us all. The trick is to try not to STEER to tightly, and let the winds blow you down and then pick you right up. Put aside your logical mind for even just a few hours and go out on the streets and believe! It might actually be the best thing you ever do.

In the meantime here are a few press highlights of the fest and of the Jon Cohen Experimental, most pics on here courtesy of Robert Donarchie and Valerie Vega although theres quite a mix going on here some I took as well.

J

ONE MAN BAND FEST ON LE DEVOIR

ONE MAN BAND FEST ON THE MONTREAL GAZETTE

ONE MAN BAND FEST ON #CULT MTL

LISTEN TO JON COHEN EXPERIMENTAL ON RADIO CANADA WITH PATRICK MASBOURIN

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