Category Archives: DAVID LESTER ART

Normal History Vol. 317: 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 31-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I recently photographed the 21 pages of Hot Pink — the history of a situation (chapbook, fiction, Smarten UP!, 1987) and posted them on the Smarten UP & Get To The Point Editions Facebook page. It’s legible on my monitor if I crank it up to 250 or 300 percent.

Hot Pink was an extension of song lyrics I wrote for the Mecca Normal album Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989). The story is (in part) about Joelle, whose boyfriend is around two corners watching TV while Joelle is in the kitchen washing dishes. The frying pan comes out of the water and hits the wall with all the energy and the history of the situation.

Nearly 30 years later, I’m still writing fiction that finds its way into and out of Mecca Normal songs.

“Engine Rain” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 316: 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 31-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Grand Announcement!! We’ve revealed the name of the mysterious figure in the Mecca Normal video “What’s Your Name?” It’s none other than solo bass player Wendy Atkinson, whose new album The Last Fret is on Smarten UP! & Get To The Point.

Wendy also plays bass in Horde Of Two (also on Smarten UP!) with her husband David Lester (of Mecca Normal).

OK, OK … so Dave and Wendy went on vacation to Cuba, and I used Dave’s footage of Wendy walking through the streets of Havana to make a Mecca Normal video. That’s just how we do things around here.

“Flashlight” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 315: 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 31-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Back in July of 2014 we played a handful of shows between Vancouver and Portland, the first of which was in a small boat! This set includes the debut of “Anguish/Misogyny,” which we’ve played quite a few times since, but have yet to record and release.

“Clatter” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 314: 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 31-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

The winter 2015 issue of Geist magazine features an article by Connie Kuhns called “Strange Women” about Vancouver’s music scene in the 1970s—”a time when it was a radical concept to claim a musical space for women, when coming out as a feminist was a daring admission … ”

On page 45, there’s a reference to the singer in the Moral Lepers meeting David Lester in Vancouver after she’d seen his “large, colorful” Emma Goldman poster “in every single anarchist squat in London.” Currently (nearly 40 years later), David is working on a graphic novel about Emma Goldman’s life in Toronto, where she died in 1940. I made a video about the storyline of the new book. Mostly I made the video because he’s the kind of person who works on his projects with such intensity that I’d never get to see the guy if I didn’t barge in with a project of my own. Interviewing him on video.

Before the Emma Goldman book comes out, his fantastic comic The Battle Of Ballantyne Pier will be published in 2016 in a compendium of labor-related graphics. David created the Ballantyne Pier project as a challenge within a set amount of time. I was totally amazed with the excellent drawing and the fact that he put the whole thing together in some crazy amount of time—like five days or something. While mere mortals are catching a movie or tidying up the garage, he created this 12-page comic about his grandfather’s experiences during a time of labor strife on Vancouver’s waterfront in 1935.

“Drilling” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 313: 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 31-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Imagine Picasso and Dora Maar on a panel discussing surrealism, let’s say. Someone asks Pablo—”What’s it like living with another artist?” Not that I can really imagine that coming up in 1930-whatever. What would Pablo have felt and how would he have responded? I tend to think he would have diminished her and her work. I think he would have described her as his lover, confidante, subject, muse, but I doubt he would have taken the opportunity to express his enthusiasm for her work and his respect for her as an artist. Did he actively encourage her creative impulses as she evolved? Did Pablo consider Dora’s work with an eye toward a new reality where women were regarded as the creative geniuses they are and not the models, muses and playthings for egotistical men? I can’t quite see that.

Any thoughts on this? Or any other male/female artist pairings?

“Once” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 312: 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 31-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

he answers with enthusiasm and respect for both me as a person and the work I create

I think of Mecca Normal as a Petrie dish for a man and woman working together creatively for a long time (30 years). Whenever David is asked what it’s like working with me—and sometimes that question includes the wink-wink inference that I’m “difficult” or too intense or even just that I’m a feminist—he answers with enthusiasm and respect for both me as a person and the work I create, and I don’t hear men talking that way about women very frequently.

I like the way the song this week is from 1992, the embedded interview is from 2004, and now we’re all the way into 2015. It’s strange how creating work in each of the three eras is identifiable in my mind with a memory of feeling like everything had already happened. Maybe it’s more convenient to believe that there’s no point in participating because we missed all the action. But yet, it appears there is more to do and more to say. Onward!

“Not Yet” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 311: 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 31-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Last month, a riot grrrl panel discussion was held at UCLA. In advance of it, a friend of mine posted a question on Facebook. Basically, he anticipated being asked what was it like being a male in riot grrrl. “How can I even begin to answer that?” he asked. Me being me, I did two things.

1) I used his comment section to write an essay (actually, I rarely do that)
2) I got all self-referential (I try not to do that)

I took his question literally and conjured a reply for him.

“Well, thank you for asking, because back then nobody did and that was exactly the point.”

At that time we’d heard a lot from men about what it was like to be in bands, to be part of one scene or another, but this was a point in time when women put their concerns and experiences forward with an intensity that wasn’t hinged to appealing to men. At least not in the traditional sense. Don’t forget, a lot of men were totally into riot grrrl.

“This Machine” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 310: 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.

Of all the songs on the new Mecca Normal album I’d say “Between Livermore And Tracy” bears KRAMER’s mark of sonic ingenuity most in its soaring conclusion.

You may recall me writing about my father’s health in late 2012 after he had a series of heart attacks and strokes. “Between Livermore And Tracy” is about leaving for Miami to record the new album while he was still in the hospital with acute delirium.

Not wanting to be a downer, I wasn’t going to tell KRAMER about my father, but a pal of his had already seen my posts on Facebook (where ideas for this column sometimes arrive) so he’d been briefed on my possible state of mind. I was afraid telling KRAMER about my father might make recording too emotional (it’s hard to sing when you’re crying), but, as it turned out, it was all OK. Funny how interacting with other humans can sometimes be such a good idea and at other times, not helpful at all. It’s often difficult to tell which is going to be the better course of action. To stifle or spill.

“Between Livermore And Tracy” is really the first thing we did when we got into the studio. I didn’t set out to explain the situation. It was spontaneously created from my writing at that time. I’d never heard the music David started playing. I added piano as he played guitar, and then I sang, opening up what had been deeply felt. KRAMER added his part at his studio in Fort Lauderdale after we’d flown home, whisking what David and I had created together in a way that has come to symbolize the entirety of the recording project and how writing was very helpful to me while my father was literally not himself. And when I say writing, I mean the readers for whom I write—including myself.

“Cherry Flowers” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 309: 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.

Most of songs on the new Mecca Normal album, Empathy For The Evil, are about narcissism and the abuse of power—concepts we’ve heard quite a bit about in recent months. Much has been said about the Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby situations, and, in Ghomeshi’s case, how the term BDSM (interpersonal activities of dominance and submission based on consent) can be exploited and used to imply consent where none was given.

Lyrics on this album are directly out of my two most-recently completed novels. In Obliterating History – a guitar-making mystery, domination & submission in a small town garage a 54-year-old woman carefully selects a partner to explore BDSM. Trust is paramount in their relationship.
 
In my other novel, The Black Dot Museum Of Political Art, narcissist Martin Lewis explains, “It isn’t that I enjoy hurting people, but I do enjoy the reaction to pain. The surprise. The fear. The confusion. It’s very empowering to make people react. It’s as basic as that.”
 
The song “Odele’s Bath” provides back-story about Lewis’ mother—who grew up poor on a potato farm in New Brunswick. In the song “Maisy’s Death”, we go back farther to the death of Odele’s mother, to gain some insight into how that may have impacted Odele in her formative years, when her father basically treated her as a stand in for her mother.
 
While reading about Ghomeshi, I found a very thoughtful article by Gabor Mate, in which he too illuminates possible scenarios in which narcissism might develop in formative years.
 
In researching novel-writing, I kept hearing that readers—especially women—want female characters to do important and exciting things, so I figured I’d go ahead and have my protagonist cure narcissism, which is actually an incurable personality disorder. The song “Normal” illuminates the background of the woman who ends up curing narcissism.

“Held” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 308: 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.

Facebook is great for my cardio. I’m almost always leaving home late for work because I just want to post or read one more comment. This means I have to run most of the way to work.

Three blocks from work yesterday, I stopped to unclog a storm drain beside a large park. There was a giant pool of water on the street with a short and sturdy stick beside it, on the grass—no doubt a toss-and-fetch stick for the dogs that frequent the park on less rainy mornings. I started poking around in the water, looking for the drain, flinging semi-rotted leaves out into the middle of the street. What fun! The water began flowing as I freed up the grate from my crouching position on a slight incline on the muddy grass. This is when I slipped and went down right on my butt. Happily my foot didn’t go into the freezing water. It was quite funny, really. Fifty-five-year-old lady on her ass at the side of the road. It took me back to when I was about seven years old—playing in the mud after school with a boy named Danny Dennett, re-routing streams in a section of the school playing field that was mostly clay and horsetail. We stayed way too long, and my mother came looking for me in the car. Kids teased me at school the next day, saying Danny was my boyfriend. I was mortified. I don’t think Danny and I ever spoke again, but I still remember pushing that smooth, grey clay around with our sticks and boot heels.

Anyway, I ran faster than usual to make up the time, but I was totally smiling—still feeling like a little kid. When I got to work, my hands were all dirty from the stick and I had mud on the back of my jacket and my packsack. My shoes were soaking wet, but luckily I brought dry socks!

“Throw Silver” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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