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Copyright © 2010 by Nettwerk Productions All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright herein may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means—graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any request for photocopying, recording, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems of any part of this book shall be directed in writing to The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright license, visit www.accesscopyright.ca or call toll free 1-800-893-5777. Care has been taken to trace ownership of copyright material contained in this book. The publisher will gladly receive any information that will enable it to rectify any reference or credit line in subsequent editions.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data McBride, Terry, 1960 Nettwerk : 25 years of music we love / Terry McBride. ISBN 978-0-470-67844-2 1. Nettwerk (Firm)—History. 2. Record labels—Canada. I. Title. ML3792.N476M19 2010 338.7’617802660971 C2010-901594-0
Production & Editorial Credits Interior design and layout: Diana Sullada Cover design: John Rummen Managing Editor: Alison Maclean Acquiring Editor: Leah Marie Fairbank Production Editor: Lindsay Humphreys Printer: R. R. Donnelly John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. 6045 Freemont Blvd. Mississauga, Ontario L5R 4J3 Printed in the United States 1 2 3 4 5 RRD 14 13 12 11 10
This book is dedicated to all the crazy, passionate music lovers.
I would like to thank my parents for their patience and understanding and for supporting me even when they thought better. To Mark, Ric, and Dan, you’re great partners but even better friends. To all Nettwerkers past and present, we all share a common passion and it’s humbling that I get to share yours. To all the music fans that have supported our love for music. To the artists whose hearts and souls have nourished millions, you’re amazing. To Cathy, Mira, and Kai, my deepest love. Lastly, to Denise, for writing a truly unique and engaging book. Terry McBride
Many of the artists we have worked with in some form or another
Sarah, Rex, and Ash
I don’t want someone to love me. Or like me. I just want someone to see me. My heart.
In the movie Avatar, the characters say that to express love — I see you.
It’s the purest thing that can happen … to see each other for who we really are.
our hundred people are crammed into the Dalhousie University Student Union ballroom. A whole sweaty, beer-soaked mess of them, smelling of tobacco and hash, armpits, unwashed jeans, and the sharp, yeasty froth of ale.
You are too young to drink legally, but tonight, who knows? What’s wrong with a little fun? After all, this is your first real gig, live, onstage, with a local band called October Game. This is not some rinky-dink high-school gymnasium. Tonight will be mostly covers, some Kate Bush. (You listen to way too much Kate Bush.) Some Blondie. Some originals, too. You are opening for Moev, a cool synth-pop group from Vancouver. Kind of a coup. They’ve already got a couple of records. And the guitar player, Mark, the skinny one with the Flock of Seagulls forelock and the sultry side-glance, said he’d watch your set, for sure. From the stage, through the bright lights, you see the audience in flashes and blurs. Big bobbing nests of hair, a flare of pink, smudged red lipstick on a powdery white face, a wrist wrapped in studded leather. You hear the hoarse roar of laughter, the clatter of someone stacking beer bottles in the fridge, a wolf whistle. Feedback screams off a mic. “Hey, Carter!” a frat boy yells. “You wanna get laid tonight?”
You are all braces and baby fat and frizzy brown hair shying over your face. You are seventeen years old, still in high school, with train tracks that glint whenever you open your mouth and sing. Holy embarrassing. But tonight, you are with the band and out of the house. Every year the home you’ve grown up in seems to pull tighter around you; you are cracking its seams like some dinosaur in a dollhouse. Your mother wants to keep you for herself. The harder she tries, the more you argue, the more wintry the silences grow between you. It’s like she is trying to keep you from the world. She fears for you in ways you cannot fathom. As if once she lets you out, you’ll be doing smack, and hell, maybe getting pregnant, too. You adjust the mic, turn to look at the band, flash your braces in a big, silver smile. The anticipation feels like a wave lifting, bodies shifting, a breath, one electrified moment of silence. You begin to sing, clear and fast, a cover tune. Blondie. Colour me your colour, baby, colour me your car. . .
Preteen Sarah at home in Halifax
You ride with the drive and swell of the band, swift, loud and long, long distance. You’ve performed before, but nothing like this. There have been years of classical voice, guitar, and piano. It feels like pure drudgery, those endless recitals, that flickering anxiety, because you never really practise enough — and knowing, when you’re onstage, the audience wishes it was any kid up there but you. All those parents just wanting their own kid to succeed. Your parents, too. “O mio babbino caro.” “Fun with a Fugue.” That sort of thing. Cover me with kisses baby, cover me with love . . . Everybody is dancing. A thunder of boots, drumming. I’ll never get enough . . . Four hundred people are with you, hook, line, and melody. Later you will marvel at this night. How in some weird way that audience gave a whole life to you. How, for a moment, everything that was painful and false in your world fell away. No one saw your braces, or how at school, you were that girl — barely from the right side of the tracks. Unpopular. Especially with those
Catholic girls. Always kicking the shit out of you. Sometimes they get you right in class. You crouch under your desk while a girl kicks you over and over again. When Mr. Wilson your teacher hears you cry out, he looks over the shoulder of his baggy tweed coat, then turns back to the blackboard and keeps writing. It’s like he doesn’t even see you. You hate his fucking guts. You are that girl. Every school has one: ugly duckling, sore thumb. They have a name for you. Medusa. At night you hold on to yourself, lie awake and fill notebooks with line drawings, mapping stars and sunbursts, beautiful women with hair that snakes around the pages in waves. These are your devotions, your surrender, your dreams. It’s not like you don’t fucking try. When one of the girls gets new tan cowboy boots with stitching and fringe, you beg your mother to buy a pair for you. You want the boots, and the Izod shirts, the tennis skirts. If she won’t, hell, you’ve got money too. Babysitting and waitressing and a crap job dishwashing. Finally, your mom caves and buys the boots. Forty-five dollars. They are perfect.
opposite: Sticky note drawings by Sarah right: Sarah at a career crossroads: musician or roller derby star
Preteen Sarah at the family piano
When you wear them, you love the way they sound, so solid, so powerful and sure. You clomp down the school hallway on Monday. The girls notice. They follow you, clamour around you. They demand to know where you got them. You tell them, excitedly, you and your mom found them at K-Mart. Same boots, just cost less. “You went to K-mart? Can’t afford a real shoe store? Look at her. Bargain-basement boots girl. Lowrent loser.” You never wear the boots again, but they will stay with you forever. A perfect reminder of what it feels like to be outside a club and no one will let you in. Tonight, you’re in. Call me, my life, call me, call me anytime . . . Four hundred people are dancing with you. They see you. Perhaps, for the first time, you see yourself, too. Okay, you think as you sheer off the stage, sweaty and thirsty and slaked all at the same time. This is the best drug in the world. Where do I sign up?
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