I first came across Kagan’s work from a comic book he both wrote and illustrated in 2011 entitled ’Infinite Kung Fu’, a martial arts masterpiece that mixes insane fights, supernatural masters, walking corpses, and of course kung fu.
His newest comic book ’Kaptara’ which he illustrates, is co-created with fellow Toronto native Chip Zdarsky who handles the insane writing in this sci-fi story, which is described as the planet of Dr Moreau meets your childhood action figures.
I recently had the opportunity to hang out with Kagan at his studio, where we enjoyed a glass of whisky, talked about horror comics, drew some self-portraits and snapped a few photos.
It’s been an incredible year for music, with a steady increase of new festivals all over the world its a great time to be a concert goer. This year I have decided to put together a list of stand out albums from 2015, these albums all affected me in some way which had me coming back to them time and time again. I was also very lucky to have had the opportunity to shoot each band over the past year, from small intimate venues to huge outdoor festivals.
I absolutely can not wait to see what’s in store for 2016.
In no particular order :
Kendrick Lamar / To Pimp a Butterfly
To Pimp a Butterfly took some time to grow on me, however after having the opportunity to see this man in action at WayHome this past summer, there is no doubt that Kendrick Lamar is the real deal and deserving of his high praise throughout the music industry.
Viet Cong / Viet Cong
Viet Cong came out of the gate flying in early 2015 proving that their post-punk energy made them an early contender for album of the year. The band cemented that status when they refused to cancel their tour and played multiple shows while drummer Mike Wallace had a broken hand showing intense resilience and power.
Death Grips / Jenny Death (The Powers That b)
After supposedly disbanding in July 2014, Death Grips follow through on their promise of finishing their double LP The Powers That b with Jenny Death, which is technically their sixth album in only four years. Known for changing up their sound with each album Death Grips sound the most rock and roll they ever have here, with big full sound and live guitars over MC Rides out of control screaming.
Courtney Barnett / Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett’s witty, rambling lyrics caught the attention of North American crowds with her first single Pedestrian At Best from the brilliant Sometimes I sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. The Australian born singer songwriter is looking to have a ton of success this side of the border with a killer set during WayHome last summer.
Moon King / Secret Life
The Toronto born duo Daniel and Maddy could not have imagined the critical reception of Moon King’s first full length Secret Life on Last Gang Records. With it’s amazingly explosive opening track Roswell, the album bounces along with strong pop influences, vocal harmonies and swirling guitars.
Lower Dens / Escape From Evil
I was unaware of Lower Dens until I photographed a NXNE showcase last June at the Horseshoe Tavern with Moon King. They quietly took the stage and busted into their first single To Die In L.A. off their third album Escape From Evil. With it’s 80’s tinge and driving baselines, I was immediately hooked and constantly found myself coming back to this record.
Jamie xx / In Colour
The debut studio album In Colour from The xx member Jamie Smith took everyone by surprise and quickly became a record many found themselves grooving to this past summer. From the opening bass heavy banger Gosh, to the reggae influenced I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) [ft. Young Thug and Popcaan] this has been on regular rotation since it’s release.
Future Islands / The Chase
I know this is not a full length LP from the 80’s inspired Baltimore based Future Islands, but any new music from this synth pop threesome is welcome. With only two songs to digest here, The Chase gives us an opening base heavy track to shake our butt’s to which leads into the catchy haunting ballad Haunted By You. The raw emotional energy of their live performance was my number one show this past year at WayHome.
Majical Cloudz / Are You Alone?
The minimalist sound of Majical Cloudz new album Are You Alone? is no departure from 2013’s Impersonator which is not a bad thing. Devon Welsh’s beautiful spoken word poetry is on display over this entire record starting with their first single Downtown, eerily creeping along with the haunting synth of Matthew Otto.
Is it really this fun when you’re on my mind
Is it really this cool to be in your life
Godspeed You! Black Emperor / Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
The fifth album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress from Montreal based post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor not only exceeds expectations, but is also the first to feature completely new material since the band re-formed in 2010. After winning the Polaris Prize in 2013 stating “organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all”, they opted to give the money to prisoners in Quebec to have musical instruments if they need them.
METZ / METZ II
METZ did nothing but practice and tour for over five years before they decided to hit the studio for their first record, and it ended up being with one of the biggest labels in rock music Sub Pop Records. The Toronto noise outfit followed up their debut album last year with the blisteringly loud II, proving once again that they are indeed this city’s hardest working rock band.
Growing up in a small town of 8500 people, it was always a challenge finding something interesting or unique to do. When I was in high school a few friends formed a band called The Vermicious Knid, I was intrigued by this and when they posted some info for a show they would be playing at the local YMCA in Brantford I decided to check it out.
This one show led to me to seeing shows on a weekly basis with a small group of amazing people who also had an intense passion for music. However we soon realized we were running out of options for putting on these small shows, so a few people decided to create one. The Ford Plant was an all ages venue downtown Branford that lived amongst the desolate downtown with boarded up buildings and absolute silence in the evenings, except for the one little corner where 30-50 kids would gather every week, and it changed my life.
Almost five years ago The Ford Plant closed down and the Brantford music scene went completely quiet, until a few people new and old to the scene started putting on small shows again at The Brantford Station Gallery. This past weekend the curators known as ZZZ put together it’s first festival known as SnooZZZefest which brought in roughly 100 people with reuniting bands, 3 days of music, an art auction, a river show, custom made pillows for each band and much more. The festival also prides itself on being produced with No!! sponsors, No!! government funding, No!! profit$, No!! bullshit, just FUN!
Leading up to Canadian Music Week the announced lineup wasn’t really wowing me, and then METZ got announced for two back to back shows at Lee’s Palace.
The incredible raw energy this three piece Toronto powerhouse bring to the stage is absolutely insane, and always makes for an exciting concert to photograph.
With their new release of METZ II on Sub Pop, they ripped through new tracks like ‘Acetate’ and recent single ‘The Swimmer’ barely catching their breath in-between songs.
I was super excited when I heard that my current favourite band Viet Cong from Calgary, Alberta announced a free show at the Opera House for Converse Rubber Tracks Live.
Coming off a handful of cancelled shows because their drummer broke his hand, he walked onto stage with his left hand replaced by a huge bloody monster hand. The band ripped through their new self titled album, who were then joined by members of Absolutely Free to help finish album closer “Death” stretching a 10min epic into an insane 20min stage destroyer.