All Yesterday's Meetings
By Tim Powis
For me, it began late in the summer of '84. My friend Bill had a jazz show at CKLN, the radio station at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (which has since been upgraded to a university). He told me that a young Ryersonian woman had asked him to write about jazz for a publication she was overseeing. He had declined and given her my name and phone number. By the time Nancy Lanthier called a few weeks later, I'd completely forgotten about Bill's warning. I bluffed my way along as she babbled breathlessly about God knew what, muttering "yeah" and "uh-huh" numerous times before finally clueing in to what she was on about.
At this point, Nerve was still called Eye (no relation to the Toronto weekly currently using that name). It was conceived as a kind of summer stand-in for the Eye Opener, Ryerson's student paper. The first piece I submitted to Nancy--it was just Nancy running the show back then--was a review of the Art Ensemble of Chicago at the Bamboo, in Toronto. Accompanying that piece was the one and only photo I've ever had published: a wretchedly bad snapshot in which two or three band members' silhouettes and the shape of a gong could vaguely be discerned. This was well before Chris Buck became Photo Editor.
Around the time that Eye was unceremoniously reborn as Nerve, I first met Dave Rave. Here was a pale-faced urchin with bird's-nest hair and skinhead boots, perched on a counter in the paper's "office," which remained at Ryerson even after all other ties to that institution had dissolved. He was mumbling hyperactively to himself in what sounded like an English accent as he pored over some boards or page proofs. We didn't say much to each other at first. He struck me as definitely eccentric, and possibly crazy. As I got to know him, that impression didn't change so much as broaden.
And as my relationship with Dave and Nancy became more social, my beat broadened beyond jazz, heading off in more or less any direction that struck my (or Dave's, or Nancy's) fancy. My first non-jazz interview for Nerve was a "phoner" with Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü. My first cover story was a Q & A with Murray McLauchlan; I was poorly prepared (as McLauchlan himself observed) but of all the interviews I've done with musicians it remains probably my favourite. I interviewed personal heroes like Tom Verlaine and Sonny Sharrock. I could get mushy about Lydia Lunch, go haywire for White Zombie's Soul-Crusher (Robert Christgau gave it a D+--philistine!) and Dinosaur's You're Living All Over Me. For a few months I became a heavy metal specialist. I got to take Iron Maiden to task for locating the Tigris River (or was it the Euphrates? it definitely wasn't the Nile) in Egypt. The only stuff that seemed off-limits to me was those weedy, light-sensitive British bands that Dave loved so dearly, and that suited me fine.
Speaking of weedy, light-sensitive Brits, one of my first nights out with Dave was when he dragged me to RPM to see the Jesus and Mary Chain, whom I'd never heard before. I thought they sucked, an impression that tainted my view of the band for a long time--Psychocandy became a milestone for many of my fellow Nerve-ites, but it took me years to come around to the album. Thanks to Nerve, though, I saw lots of other bands--including local ones like the Lawn, Plasterscene Replicas, the Rheostatics (which included Nerve writer Dave Bidini)--that I did like. I always looked forward to our monthly "editorial meetings" at Dave and Nancy's place, since they always degenerated into parties. My most vivid memory of such a gathering is of Mike "Yo, Dude, Where Are You Now?" Henry treating me and a couple of over-stimulated colleagues to a heartfelt and (to us) hilarious recitation of the lyric to a Mentors song--the one that goes something like, "Bend over and sniff my anal vapour/Your face will be my toilet paper." You remember that one, don't you?
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