Category Archives: DAVID LESTER ART

Normal History Vol. 282: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

David and I went to tons of shows in the 1980s, but seeing D.O.A. was always special. They were stars. I recall seeing the Industrial Waste Banned—all women—quite a few times, which would have been the only all-women band around other than Emily (Faryna), who was a solo act. I think there was a show on East Hastings where she opened for NoMeansNo (when they were still a bass-and-drums duo), but this is all much later than the official punk scene that, while it was only a few years earlier, I felt like I’d missed this incredible time. Having said that, maybe there’s always a bit of mythology about previous eras and their importance. I get the feeling that younger people now regard the time when we were most active (the ’90s) in the same way—they feel like they missed everything, that there’s nothing now. Maybe it’s a way to abdicate responsibility to thrive in one’s own era.

We’d only played a handful of shows at the point when we went into a studio in 1985 to mix tapes we’d made on our Fostex four-track in a garage a block off Commercial Drive in Vancouver. After we released our first album (on our record label Smarten UP! Records), someone “in the scene” said we shouldn’t have released it because there were bands more deserving than us. I recall someone saying that we hadn’t paid our dues. That phrase really stuck with me. From time to time, 30 years and 16 albums later—13 Mecca Normal, one Jean Smith solo (Kill Rock Stars, 2000), two as 2 Foot Flame (Matador)—I still wonder if I’ve paid my dues.

“Phone’s Unplugged” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 281: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Last month was the 30th anniversary of Mecca Normal’s first show (Smilin’ Buddha, opening for D.O.A.).

Part of the idea for creating Mecca Normal was a reaction to the lack of women in bands in Vancouver. It definitely seemed like the guys were in the bands and the girls watched the guys. It was annoying. To me, starting a band demonstrated a solution to the issue. Luckily the idea caught on with the advent of riot grrrl in the 1990s. And if that’s the case, then Joe (Shithead) Keithley and Dave Gregg of D.O.A. played a role in the origins of riot grrrl, too, because I was definitely inspired by Joe’s political lyrics, Dave’s good-natured energy and their general sense of trying to make the world a better place.

I missed the Dishrags and the Modernettes by a few years, but it was hugely inspiring to see—and play with—San Francisco’s Frightwig, who have been playing shows again just recently.

“Beaten Down” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 280: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Today on the stationary bike at the gym there was a notice on the white board below the giant FIFA World Cup delivery system. (The TV.)
 
Tips for Summer
1. use sunscreen
2. drink plenty of water
3. seek shelter
4. take it easy on the hot days
 
So there I was, pedaling away, looking at the game … and then I noticed that the same blue marker that had been used to write the Tips for Summer was over by the cardio machine sign-up board.

What temptation!

I finished my 20-minute ride and wandered over to erase my name from the cardio sign-up board. I casually picked up the blue marker and sauntered over to the white board under the World Cup delivery system, hoping the small middle-aged Asian lady on the treadmill was fully engaged in The Game.

I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself, but I did have to bend slightly to erase the tail on the ‘a’ and close the gap on the top of the ‘y’ in Tip number four.

The lady on the treadmill laughed. I turned around and made a little face at her and said, “You weren’t supposed to notice that!”

4. Take it easy on the hot dogs

“I Walk Alone” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 279: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

[continued from last week]

It is expected that women should take care of men’s egos and make it all OK for them to get rejected and if, as a woman, you decide not to provide this service for a man, you are opening yourself up to having some jerk come and stand over you at the gym complaining about how you decided to let him know you aren’t interested in him.

His big point (while saying it was “fine, just fine, Jean“) was that he didn’t like how I’d handled things. I hadn’t attempted to soothe his ego.

I stayed calm, but really—what an asshole—and this guy taught teenagers. Oh, and he’s self-publishing a book of poems and he plays in a Celtic band, and I hate self-publishing and Celtic bands just a little bit more now. I may even like poets a bit less.

I actually saw him on the street an hour after all this. He waved. I smiled just enough and kept walking.

I have been very careful letting men down in the past so that they don’t turn into psychotic freaks who then stalk me, harass me, phone me endlessly, ring my buzzer for hours or whatever other idiotic shit they do that they then blame on me for rejecting them.

Jesus H. Christ.

Does this shit with men never end?

“Sha La La La La” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 278: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

[continued from last week]

He says, “You could have just emailed back to say that I was too good looking or something.” This is supposed to be funny. I come around out of the twist and make a gesture as if to say, “Right, I could have done that.” But he isn’t handsome. He’s pudgy with white hair and he’s quite old and I’m not attracted to him—plus, I’ve seen him in his saggy swim-trunks and he’s covered in thick black hair. Arms, shoulders, back, etc. Regardless, I’m not attracted to him, and he’s selfish and rude.

I was thinking, “It isn’t my job to make sure you feel OK about being rejected.” When women do this, it is typically to avoid further problems—threats, intimidation—guys blaming them for what they feel.

I said something about it not being much fun on my side of things—writing an email saying I don’t want to go out with him.

I said, “Not answering you is how I chose to handle it.”

At this time, I started to get up, which I wasn’t planning on doing because I was in the middle of my 200 crunches and he was interrupting me. I wasn’t comfortable having a man standing over me, complaining about my behavior while I was sitting on the floor.

He said it was fine (again), but clearly it wasn’t fine and he’d come over to let me know this. I remained calm and said something like, “Oh well, these things happen when we’re all part of the same community.” Meaning: We are not alone here. I’m not isolated. I know people. People know who I am. There are avenues of resolution and accountability available to me.

He frowned and gave me his “I’m baffled by that comment” look. Again, I decided not to respond to him. Clearly, this guy was used to getting women to react.

[to be continued]

“Tolerate Me” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 277: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

[continued from last week]

He was at the gym today on the elliptical running thingy wearing large headphones. He waved. I waved and got on with my work out. He had long enough to figure out how to behave appropriately, but he decided not to. I was in the middle of 200 crunches when, as I always do, I sat up and went into a yoga twist on the floor before doing the next 100 crunches.

I saw him in the mirror, coming up behind me. I closed my eyes to indicate that I was actually doing something. I was busy. Unavailable. I mean, I’m not even facing the guy and he starts talking to me.

“Oh, hello, Jean, I just wanted to say that it’s fine that you didn’t want to go out with me, but you could have at least replied to my email.”

I stay in my yoga pose on the floor. He’s standing above me, and basically it doesn’t sound like it was fine that I didn’t want to go out with him and now I’m getting a lecture on what I should have done to make him feel better.

[to be continued]

“Not With You” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 276: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

There’s a guy at the gym who talks to me. He’s a newly retired school teacher. I guess he’s in his 60s. I’m 55.

I’m not crazy about having long conversations when I’m in the hot-pool relaxing or when I go to use the water fountain. I’m in my bathing suit for god’s sake. I’m not crazy about standing around in a bikini on the pool deck talking to this guy. I’m not interested in him other than he’s a teacher who plays music. Celtic music. I see him there every now and then. I forget his name.

He came into the store I work in several months ago. That was fine. Whatever. Next thing I know he’s asking me out for coffee on the dating website. I’m not crazy about guys asking me out for coffee through that avenue of communication when I see them around and they don’t ask me in person. I mean, I’d prefer he hadn’t asked me at all, because I’m not interested in going out with him. But suggesting “coffee” in an email from the dating site seems cowardly.

Sometimes he talks to me while I’m working out. I’ll be on the stationary bike and he’ll come up and just start talking. I’m sweating, breathing hard, checking my pulse, maintaining a specific speed and heart rate, etc. Working out. And he just assumes I’m going to enter into a conversation with him. Which, I have done, but it bugs me. Not everyone wants to have a conversation while they’re working out—he doesn’t even vaguely acknowledge this. He’s finished his work-out, so he just comes and talks to me. This is a heightened degree of selfishness and an abject lack of self-awareness. I should tell him I’m busy, but I haven’t done that. I should have, but one doesn’t always want to end up with a negative situation that may then be even more destructive to one’s state of mind. One endures the intrusion and tries to maintain the level of output; not letting someone else ruin what one was doing. Plus, some people just don’t seem like they are going to react very well to being given a hint, and then they’re going to blame one for whatever negative emotions they have. One wants to avoid this.

Anyway, so he asked me out for coffee through the dating site and I spent too long trying to think of what I could say to the guy. I got frustrated with myself and let it slide. I didn’t respond. That was months ago. I don’t actually enjoy rejecting men or having to make some excuse or another. I used to write nice notes back to men, and then I’d get a nasty message saying I was a piece of shit or whatever. So, in recent years, I don’t spend time trying to write a nice rejection. I don’t reply unless I’m interested and I know this bugs some men (and likely women; hell, it has bugged me, but I recognize that it’s totally my problem). It isn’t any fun to write to someone and get nothing back, but “nothing back” is the reply. It is the “no”—deal with it. If you contact someone and they don’t reply and you feel bad, that’s for you to deal with. It doesn’t have anything to do with the person you contacted.

[to be continued]

“Are You Hungry Joe?” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 275: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Much of what I do on a daily basis has more to do with re-contextualizing what I’ve previously created than making brand new art. I love finding patterns and connections that occur when I combine aspects of current work with the past—this includes curating Normal History: The Art Of David Lester (which we view as a Mecca Normal collaboration), making videos for songs we recorded in the 1980s or turning interviews into performance pieces.

David and I present a classroom event—most recently, it has been an adaptation of David’s graphic novel The Listener that utilizes our own history to reiterate themes in his book. We use our art, songs and band history as examples of our claim that art and music can change the world.

Both of my recently completed novels feature painters as protagonists. Without planning to do so, I created several series of paintings “by” those characters as they were described in the novels, and when it came time to write new songs, I used text directly out of the novels. We seem to keep finding ways to extend longstanding themes into new disciplines, including the internet.

“Who Told You So?” from Mecca Normal (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 274: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

As we approach the release date of Mecca Normal’s new album, Empathy For The Evil, it is quite satisfying not to be experiencing inappropriate expectations of our place in the world. I personally enjoy savoring the excellence of an existence that not being famous contributes to. In many ways, our longevity has become political to the degree that it is not hinged to what many people would consider success. On our own terms, I feel we’re successful at staying the course while continuing to evolve in music, writing, visual art and, for myself personally, to be living with a less self-destructive nature.

In our early years as artists, plain-speak about issues seemed appropriate. Now, in our mid-50s, we have this unique history to work within. It’s all so exquisitely positioned within our tiny realm. We call the shots, dipping and diving away from the limelight as necessary.

“The Observer,” from The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 273: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

As a self-managed group, Mecca Normal spends a certain amount of time dealing with how to engage with audiences in terms of album releases, promotion, booking events and tours. We both have part-time jobs that are just flexible enough to accommodate time away for tours.

With both of us working on book-length fiction for the vast majority of our time, I’ve noticed that we have individually become more focused on research. David is currently working on a graphic novel about the anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman, while I’m putting the final touches on a novel set in Nazareth, Pa.: home of the Martin guitar factory. There’s something very fortifying about researching what can be known before fictionalizing for the purpose of creating a compelling piece of art.

“The Message,” from The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed