From his own personal radiophonic workshop, Calgary’s Craig Storm has lent his talents to three sick bands: time-warped electronics act the Monroeville Music Center (MMC), organ grinder power-popsters the Gooeys, and blown-out caveman rockers the Wet Pinky Swears. Matching ear-worming hooks with eye-catching aesthetics, Craig's opened some weird portal to a really oddball corner of the universe.
Craig boppin' around with the Gooeys.
Though he may seem to have emerged from the ether fully formed, Storm's been twisting away since the ’90s, only recently letting others take a peek. Prior to his current activities, he cut his teeth in surf, garage, and punk bands like the Purifiers, the T.O.T.S. (Tyrants of Temple) and even a Red Green-themed two-piece called the HeeCats. Yet from the dawn of the aughts until 2007, all was quiet on the Storm front.
“Between then and now, I was mostly just fiddling around with electronics and not really doing much that was releasable,” Storm explains. “The MMC started first, and then the Wet Pinky Swears came out of my desire to play in a punk band again. At one point, I had some other songs I showed to the guys but decided they were way too sissy. So I recorded them myself, and that turned into the Gooeys. That style of session musician ‘60s pop is just some of the best music ever. I like that it’s a bit too happy, silly and little-kiddy.”
Here's Heather Rappard's video for MMC's "Last Rites for Maria Capovilla":
In the words of Mammoth Cave label boss Paul Lawton, who released the Gooeys’ debut 7” this summer, the group can be described as “the Hanna-Barbera house band fronted by a guy who sings like he wants to jump off a building.” That same style of anti-performance rears its head in Monroeville Music Center live sets, with Storm pressing play on pre-set recordings, jamming hands in pockets and gazing into the haze.
“That happens naturally,” Storm laughs. “I’m not trying to anti-perform or anything like that, it’s just how it comes out. It’s really just me being excruciatingly awkward and unable to stand in front of people while doing stuff. I’m sure there’s a deep-seeded psychological reason behind that, but I’m not sure what it is.”
With additional releases through Amdiscs, Electric Voice, his own cassette label Watchtower B.A.T.S., and an upcoming DVD, Storm’s sonic wormhole is spreading. Yet lest you think this eccentricity ends with the music, his day-to-day has its own share of quirks. Alongside working with the jaw-dropping instrument collection of the Cantos Music Centre, Storm also repairs radar equipment for the Canadian naval fleet, examining which pieces of technology have become obsolete.
“It’s important work, but it’s not that exciting, actually,” he says with a shrug. “The one thing I had to check ahead of time was that the things I was working on weren’t actually killing people. I needed to know that or I wasn’t going to do it. I’m not pro or anti-military, but I’m definitely against killing.”
Taking cues from fellow Albertan electronic pioneer Bruce Haack, one early incarnation of the MMC was a collection of bleep bloopy dance tunes for children. Premiered in an event for Calgary’s Choose Yer Own Festival, the results were less than successful. “They blasted my songs on a ghetto blaster to a bunch of toddlers in a wading pool,” Storm chuckles. “I don’t think people were very into it, but it was hilarious.”
Twisting some knobs with MMC.
As a father of three kids aged five, four and two, this trend continues at home. Storm’s kin are his toughest critics, and aren’t always impressed with their dad’s bizarro basement experiments.
“I play them the instrumental songs and ask them what they think they’re all about, and they’ll usually just make up some kind of story,” he says. “They like some of it, but dislike some of it too and maybe find it a bit unsettling. They’re more into happy music and always sing ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy’ at the dinner table. They say my songs remind them of outer space.”
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