I have to admit I just can’t find the time to endulge into music as I used to be maybe 2-3 years ago. This might have several reasons, the main one being that I now have a steady job and because of my work schedule I’m just too exhausted to put too much energy into following who put what record out and who’s on tour and what’s hot and what’s not. But every now and then there’s things that I come across and I know I have to get my hands on that one particular record. I might not think so right from the start, but the more I read about it, the more interested I get. You might as well call me victim of advertisments.
This time it was the lovely record label from Hamburg, Grand Hotel Van Cleef, who put out the new 7″ EP by The Weakerthans mastermind, ex-Propaghandi bassist and Arbeiter Ring Publishing CEO John K. Samson. I should start off where it all began. I first talked to John well over ten years ago at a Propaghandi show in Düsseldorf where I was interviewing him for the infamous Blurr magazine.It was the first interview I’d ever done and, believe me, I was as nervous as can be. Still John was the best person to start what turned out a rather shortlived journalistic career. He was fun to talk to, he had a lot of things to say and the things he said were very interesting. So when I heard about his new band after he had left Propaghandi, I was thrilled to find out that he was playing near Cologne. And what more, one of his new band mates was a guy I had just bumped into a year earlier while he was touring Germany with his band Painted Thin. The Weakerthans also played at the “Between” in Cologne during that tour and I took the chance to do an interview with John again. It was fascinating because although we had only talked for about half an hour two years earlier he still remembered me and the circumstances of the interview. To be honest I’m always stunned how musicians manage to remember all the people the meet over the years, but that’s a different story. We had another nice chat and the interview was even better than the one for Propaghandi.
There’s one thing about John and that is that he always makes you feel like you’re a friend he’s met again after a long time. He just makes you feel comfortable and welcome. For instance one time when The Weakerthans were playing at the “Stollwerck” in Cologne me and a friend saw him leaving the building and out of joke just asked where he was going. He said he wanted to head for the christmas market near the Cologne cathedral to buy some socks, because some of the ones he brought over for the tour seemed to be torn. So me and the friend accompanied him to a department store because he surely would not have been back to play the show in time because it was to complicated to find the market. Turned out to be one hell of a time, strolling through the store with Mr Samson. Great memories.
So I have the same comfortable feeling as if I’m talking to John when I listen to his new 7″ EP “Provincial Road 222”. It’s not that John is offering something completely new, never heard before music. This is what you’d expect from a record by The Weakerthans. The first track “The Last And”, something in the vein of “Pamphleteer”, with lots of string arrangements.
Flipping the record side B starts with a song which is set up like a petition (and is conveniently named “Petition”). A petition to induct the first native canadian ice hockey player who reached the NHL into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. This sounds so canadian to me and on the other hand it is something that fits with what John has been doing over all the years. I remember talking to him about “Oka”, a town which tried to build a golf course on an ancient burial site of a Mohawk tribe. The combination of Canada’s game and the rights of First Nations people to me seems to be a great way to raise awareness. The lyrics to this song can be found on a website where you can also sign the petition.
The last song “Stop Error” sounds rather experimental, a great choir arrangement without any instruments, which should sound great when performed in a church. What makes this even more interesting is the contrast between the way the song is performed and the story it is telling. It’s has a lot of computer references, yet it sounds a hundred years old because of the way it is performed. Unexpected, but wonderful.
This record feels, to me, like I’ve met someone who I haven’t sen in years and maybe we had a nice chat and said goodbye not knowing when we might meet again. It’s not as if I really now John K. Samson, I have met him every now and then, when the chance was there because his band was playing in town. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen him last time, but this record feels like bumping into him at a show he is set to play with The Weakerthans.