On October 3, 2004, two thousand of New York City's finest square-cut hipsters will be fed the seasoned garage kielbasa of the Evaporators. And you have Soul Shine, in part, to thank. At least that's the word from their ubiquitous frontman and pincushion to the stars, Nardwuar the Human Serviette.
"I was reading a report that Jaclyn Arndt wrote for you guys," he says from his Vancouver homestead. "It said that Franz Ferdinand had mentioned on Much Music that they'd like to tour Canada with my band, the Evaporators. So it took a month to track down their people but eventually, they asked if I'd be interested in playing with them in New York City at the Roseland Ballroom. It worked out really well because we've had some trouble in the States, especially New York. The first time we played there, we had zero people in the audience and the time after that, maybe around eight or nine. I think they'll be a bit more than eight in the audience for the Franz show."
Franz Ferdinand are the latest to sling the praises of Nardwuar the Human Serviette, who has been a staple of the Vancouver music scene since the mid-1980's. A veritable Lothario in fish sauce, Nardwuar is most recognized for his weirdo interview segments on Much Music. He's taken on everyone from Gene Simmons to the Strokes to Elijah Wood and countless others. Yet peel back the bok choy a few layers, and you'll discover that there is more to Nardwuar than sensible pants and tams.
Since 1986, he's fronted the Evaporators, a rocking four-piece who play a good-time strand of garage punk spiked with absurd lyrics and saccharine-fuelled slapdash. 2004's Ripple Rock is their latest album and it brings the boys back east for that NYC gig plus few other stops in Ontario and Quebec.
"Personally, I'm a complete slacker so I've got lots of time to tour," says Nardwuar. "But the other guys in the band are pretty busy with their own projects."
Drummer Scott Livingstone, for example, works with Rodney Graham, a visual artist whose latest installation recently completed a term at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Guitarist Dave Carswell is the long-time guitarist for fellow Vancouverites the Smugglers while bassist John Collins plays with the New Pornographers. Together, Carswell and Collins run JC/DC Studio and are currently prepping sessions for the Pornos' third full-length.
"They just recorded the newest Tegan and Sara album, and I think there's a lot of pressure of them with this latest Pornographers' disc," says Nardwuar. "The last Pornographers record (2003's Electric Version) sold 80,000 copies, so it would be tough for John and Dave to go on an extended tour at this point in time."
Even if it's only for a paw full of date, the Evaporators look forward to the continued gigging in support of Ripple Rock, which Nardwuar points out is a something of a landmark release for the band.
"[Ripple Rock] is the first Evaporators album that's exclusively on CD. It used to be when you bought an Evaporators album on vinyl, you'd get a free CD or vice versaůit was two in one. So when record stores were stocking our albums, they were never sure which section to put them in. But for us, Ripple Rock is our first official jewel box, even though we've been putting out CD's since 1996."
One of the tracks on Ripple Rock is entitled "Cardboard Brains" and is an offhand tribute to the long-forgotten Toronto punk band of the same name. Nardwuar counts Vancouver's Pointed Sticks and Montreal's Gruesomes as amongst his all-time favourite bands (please look them up if you have to) and as a noted authority on vintage Canadian garage and punk music, he's always prepared to wax ecstatically upon the bands who once made Canada pucker.
"I love the early punk scene in Canada, whether it be the 1960's Toronto with the Ugly Ducklings, or the later stuff in the 1970's like the Cardboard Brains or the Viletones or the Poles. I was given one of the Cardboard Brains' 7-inch records by James Booth, who works for the CBC. 'I Wanna Be a Yank' was the name of the record and it was a song I always wanted to cover. We tried it out once and it didn't work so I decided to write a song about it instead."
When not contemplating the relative merits of the Furies and the Modernettes, the Diodes and the B-Girls, you can find Nardwuar chewing the fat with musicians, actors, televangelists and other persons in the public eye. The boy loves to talk and his unique interviewing style has long been his calling card. Certain hardbacks would call it harassment but considering Nardwuar's intentions are typically based in reverence, most find his seasonal blend of geekboy fandom strangely endearing. Only every so often do things sour, as was the case in a recent attempt to flap gums with Canadian shock comic Tom Green.
"He was shooting a movie called Bob the Butler in Vancouver," Nardwuar explains. "Tom Green is a total hero of mine and when I got home from the interview, there was a phone call from his publicist, saying that Tom was in his trailer and wasn't leaving until he got the tapeůthe tape of the interview I had just completed with him. He wanted to smash it. It wasn't like 'Give me the tape whenever you can' or 'Give me the tape or you're going to be in big trouble' It was 'Give me the tape right now! You're in big trouble! Tom is not leaving the set of the movie until he gets that tape.' We convinced him to return the tape a day later but a bunch of material was missing. It was totally bizarre that you do an interview with a guy like Tom Green and he pulls a hissy fit and asks for the actual tape back. I couldn't even imagine how many times HE's been asked for the tape back."
Luckily, the Tom Green incident was an anomaly. Of the hundreds of personalities Nardwuar has interviewed over the years, a few stand out as favourites, including Iggy Pop ("Iggy played along with everything I asked him and was really easy"), Snoop Doggy Dogg ("I wasn't expecting anything and by the end of the interview, he was trying to steal my Redd Foxx doll") and Michael Moore ("The first time I spoke to him, he said I was on crack but the second time, he was very nice to me").
Even heads of state aren't free from the wrath of Nardwuar the Human Serviette.
"I recently enjoyed getting Paul Martin to do the Hip Flip, which is this weird 1960's-type party game for kids. When you look back and realize you just got the Prime Minister of Canada to do something really stupid, it's an amazing feeling."
Now, if Nardwuar could just manage to sneak Ripple Rock's "I Feel Like a Fat Frustrated Fuck" onto AM radio, there'd be no stopping him.
Nardwuar and the Evaporators will be playing the following dates in support of Ripple Rock:
September 30: Toronto ON, Horseshoe Tavern - with the Leather Uppers, the Threat and Thee Gobblins
October 1: Ottawa ON, The Dominion - with the Leather Uppers and Thee Gobblins
October 2: Montreal PQ, Metropolis - with Franz Ferdinand
October 3: New York City NY, Roseland - with Franz Ferdinand
October 15: Vancouver BC, UBC - CiTR 101.9 fM fundraiser
November 26: Victoria BC, White Eagle Hall - with the Leather Uppers, Kincaide, Fast Jacket
For more information about the Evaporators, please visit their official web site at www.theevaporators.com. To learn more about Nardwuar, listen to some of his interviews or just sniff around, visit his official web site at www.nardwuar.com
Writer: Cameron Gordon