By in show blog on Oct 29, 2017 |


On Its Head"

28 October 2017

With special in-studio guest: Robert Thompson of Black Heart Machine

Black Heart Machine Is…

The creation of musicians Robert Thompson, and Brent Jones, and joined on drums by Fil Beorchia, Black Heart Machine is a recording project where sonic experimentation meets creative song craft. The culmination of years of experimentation led to the creation of more than two dozen songs that comprise the duo’s debut Ruins of Our Greatness (2015). The band’s second album, On Its Head, was recorded at Jones’ Quiet Earth and Sugar Shack in London, Ont., and released in October 2017.

Robert Thompson: A writer, journalist and musician for his entire adult life, Robert has played in psych, shoegazer and acoustic bands for decades. In 2010 he began crafting songs with lifelong friend Brent Jones, taking the skeletons of acoustic tracks and recording them with the help of Jones’ Quiet Earth studio. The pair reworked, invented and revised the songs until they had little in common with the basic structures that started the process. Over the following five years, Robert and Brent generated dozens of ideas and sounds, creating more than 20 songs in the process. The result is Ruins of Our Greatness, eight songs of murder, madness and melancholy that tackle the deeply personal and dissect conceptions of creation, originality and friendship.

Brent Jones: A bon vivant who has spent his life writing, performing and recording music, Brent Jones brings the colour to the palette that is Black Heart Machine. Adventurous in his approach, sophisticated in his arrangements, with an ear for experimentation and melody in equal measures, Jones’ production, piano and sonic input was key to bringing the Black Heart Machine to life. A producer with his own unique sensibility, Brent’s harmonies, experimental creativity and insights into the musical process play equal roles in Black Heart Machine.

Intro Block (3:40)

WKRP in Cincinnati – Richard Cheese (Dick at Nite/2007)

Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine is a cover band and comedy act, performing popular songs in a lounge/swing style, reminiscent of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett. Lounge singer Richard Cheese is a character created and portrayed by Los Angeles-based actor/comedian Mark Jonathan Davis. Dick at Nite (Your Favorite TV Themes Loungified!) is their seventh album. It consists of covers of television theme music. The title is a play on Nickelodeon network's "Nick at Nite" block programming.

WKRP in Cincinnati is an American sitcom that featured the misadventures of the staff of a struggling fictional radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. The show was created by Hugh Wilson and was based upon his experiences working in advertising sales at Top 40 radio station WQXI in Atlanta. Many of the characters and even some of the stories (including season 1 episode 7, "Turkeys Away") are based on people and events at WQXI. Like many other MTM productions, the humor came more from running gags based on the known predilections and quirks of each character, rather than from outlandish plots or racy situations, since the show has a realistic setting. The characters also developed somewhat over the course of the series. The series won a Humanitas Prize and received 10 Emmy Award nominations, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series. Andy Ackerman won an Emmy Award for Videotape Editing in season 3. WKRP premiered September 18, 1978 on the CBS television network, and aired for four seasons and 88 episodes through April 21, 1982. Starting in the middle of the second season, CBS repeatedly moved the show around its schedule, contributing to lower ratings and its eventual cancellation. When WKRP went into syndication, it became an unexpected success. For the next decade, it was one of the most popular sitcoms in syndication, outperforming many programs which had been more successful in prime time, including all the other MTM Enterprises sitcoms. Jump, Sanders, and Bonner reprised their roles, appearing as regular characters in a spin-off/sequel series, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran from 1991 to 1993 in syndication. Hesseman, Reid and Anderson also reprised their roles on this show as guest stars.

WKRP had two musical themes, one opening and the other closing the show. The opening theme, a soft rock/pop number called "WKRP In Cincinnati Main Theme," was composed by Tom Wells, with lyrics by series creator Hugh Wilson, and was performed by Steve Carlisle. An urban legend circulated at the time that Richard Sanders (who had comparable vocal characteristics to Carlisle) had recorded the song. Wilson stated in the commentary for the first season's DVD set that this was simply not true. (Sanders would later "sing" the lyrics in a promo spot on VH1 for The New WKRP in Cincinnati, which parodied the U2 song, "Numb.")A full-length version of the original theme song was released in 1979 on a 45 rpm vinyl single on the MCA Records label. It peaked at 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1981 and at 29 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1982. The lyrics refer to the life of character Andy Travis, who actually casually recites part of the lyrics as dialogue in one episode. (The lyrics could also be construed to refer to on-air DJs Dr. Johnny Fever or Venus Flytrap.)The closing theme, "WKRP In Cincinnati End Credits," was a hard rock number composed and performed by Jim Ellis, an Atlanta musician who recorded some of the incidental music for the show. According to people who attended the recording sessions, Ellis didn't yet have lyrics for the closing theme, so he improvised a semi-comprehensible story about a bartender to give an idea of how the finished theme would sound. Wilson decided to use the words anyway, since he felt that it would be funny to use lyrics that were deliberate gibberish, as a satire on the incomprehensibility of many rock songs. Because CBS always had an announcer talking over the closing credits, Wilson knew that no one would hear the closing theme lyrics. In one pop-cultural nod to the closing theme, a character performs the song in the film Ready to Rumble.

Ruins of Our Greatness Block (14:21)

In Plain View – Black Heart Machine (Ruins of Our Greatness/2015)

Past Other Lives – Black Heart Machine (Ruins of Our Greatness/2015)

Lightning Conduit – Black Heart Machine (Ruins of Our Greatness/2015)

sCreamGrrrl's Can Con Corner Block (15:13)

Treat Her Right – The Tragically Hip (Live @ The Copper Penny Restaurant – Kingston, Ontario 11/09/85)

Nautical Disaster – The Tragically Hip (Day For Night/1994)

The Stranger {Excerpt} – Gord Downie (Secret Path/2016)

Here, Here & Here – Gord Downie (Secret Path/2016)

The North – Gord Downie (Introduce Yerself/2107)

Gordon Edgar Downie CM (February 6, 1964 – October 17, 2017) was a musician, writer, occasional actor, and activist. He was the lead singer and lyricist for the The Tragically Hip, which he fronted from their formation in 1984 until his death in 2017. In addition to his career with The Tragically Hip, Downie also released six solo albums. Downie formed The Tragically Hip with Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Davis Manning, and Gord Sinclair in 1983. Saxophone player Davis Manning left the band and guitarist Paul Langlois joined in 1986. Originally, the band played cover songs in local bars and quickly became famous once MCA Records president Bruce Dickinson saw them performing at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and offered them a record deal.

Downie began pursuing a solo career with the release of Coke Machine Glow in 2001. He published his first poetry and prose collection alongside the album and under the same title. The backing musicians, credited as The Goddamned Band, consisted of indie rock band The Dinner Is Ruined, Josh Finlayson of Skydiggers and singer-songwriter Julie Doiron. He released his second solo album, Battle of the Nudes, in 2003 before returning to the studio with The Tragically Hip. His third solo effort, The Grand Bounce, was released in 2010. Both it and Battle of the Nudes are credited as Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles. In addition to his solo works, Downie collaborated with several fellow Canadian and international artists. His most famous Canadian collaborations are with Richard Terfry (better known as Buck 65), Dallas Green of City and Colour and Alexisonfire, the Sadies and Fucked Up. Terfry collaborated with Downie on the song "Whispers of the Waves" off the album 20 Odd Years. Terfry composed the track and with the help of Charles Austen, his co-writer, decided Downie's vocals would be the best fit for their song. In 2008, Downie appeared as a guest vocalist on City and Colour's single "Sleeping Sickness". In 2014, Downie released an album with the Sadies called And the Conquering Sun. He commented on working with the Sadies, saying, "I enjoy getting together with those guys; it's a whole other universe. They're writing all the music and I'm writing all the lyrics and we're coming up with some neat stuff. You do it for the company but I'm genuinely shocked by the themes and things you touch based on the music you're singing to. That's really compelling to me." The album consists of ten songs.

Downie had cameo appearances in Men with Brooms, in which The Tragically Hip play a curling team. Downie also made a cameo appearance in the 2008 indie drama Nothing Really Matters, directed by Jean-Marc Piché. Downie also appears in the Trailer Park Boys movie The Big Dirty, in which he and Alex Lifeson play a pair of police officers. More recently, he and other members of the band appeared in the episode of Trailer Park Boys entitled "Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys", in which he is harassed while eating a bologna sandwich at a singles dance. Downie was also featured in the sitcom Corner Gas in the episode "Rock On!" in which the Tragically Hip are shown as a local band practicing in the main character's garage. Colin James is also featured in the episode. Downie also appeared in Michael McGowan's 2008 film, One Week. A documentary film, Long Time Running, about the Tragically Hip's summer 2016 cross-Canada farewell concert tour, premiered at The Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017.

Downie was heavily involved in environmental movements, especially issues concerning water rights. He was board member of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. With Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Downie helped work on a cause to prevent a cement company from burning tires for fuel. He was also a part of the Swim Drink Fish Music club, a project that unites artists and environmentalists in a music club to raise money for Waterkeeper organizations in Canada.

In February 2012 in Fort Albany, Ontario, Downie and the Tragically Hip played at the Great Moon Gathering, a yearly educational conference that takes place in various communities along Northern Ontario's James Baycoast. Its focus is on youth learning and combining Cree education with the contemporary world. The venue was small and not typical of the band. Author Joseph Boyden, who invited them, said their motivation was to "initiate a guerrilla act of love for a people who are so thoroughly underrepresented but now, somehow, overexposed for only their shortcomings. A guerrilla act of love to show the rest of the country what strength and artistry, grace and humour the Cree possess." In addition to the Tragically Hip's performance, Downie sang a song with a local band, Northern Revolution. The song "Goodnight Attawapiskat" from the album Now for Plan A was a result of this trip.

The Tragically Hip announced on their website on May 24, 2016, that Downie had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. Doctors at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre confirmed the same day that it was a glioblastoma, which had responded favourably to radiation and chemotherapy treatment but was not curable.

Downie toured with the band in summer 2016 to support Man Machine Poem, the band's 14th studio album. The tour's final concert was held at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario, on August 20 and was broadcast and streamed live by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on television, radio and internet. It was viewed by an estimated 11.7 million people.

In September 2016, Downie announced he would release a new solo album, Secret Path in October. The album was accompanied by a graphic novel on which he collaborated with Jeff Lemire. He also performed a few live shows to support the album, with supporting musicians Kevin Drew, Charles Spearin, Dave Hamelin, Kevin Hearn and Josh Finlayson.

On October 13, 2016, Downie and his brother Mike, along with the Wenjack family, announced the founding of The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund to support reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The fund is a part of Downie's legacy and commitment to Canada's First Peoples. Chanie Wenjack was a young aboriginal boy who died trying to escape a residential school, who became the centre of Downie's Secret Path project. The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund operates out of the Tides Canada Foundation.

At the Assembly of First Nations in Gatineau, Quebec, on December 6, 2016, National Chief Perry Bellegarde honoured Downie with an eagle feather, a symbol of the creator above, for his support of the indigenous peoples of Canada. Bellegarde also bestowed on Downie an honorary aboriginal name, Wicapi Omani, which is Lakota for "man who walks among the stars".

On December 22, 2016, Downie was selected as The Canadian Press' Canadian Newsmaker of the Year and was the first entertainer selected for the title. On February 2, 2017, Downie joined Blue Rodeo onstage at Massey Hall for a performance of Blue Rodeo's song "Lost Together". A Film Studies graduate of Queen's University (BA'86) Downie and his bandmates were awarded LLD's in the university spring convocation in 2016. It was his absence at this ceremony that precipitated the public release of his illness.

Downie, along with his Tragically Hip bandmates, was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada on June 19, 2017, for "their contribution to Canadian music and for their support of various social and environmental causes".

Downie took to Parliament Hill on July 2, 2017, to speak out for Canada's young indigenous people, likening it to the same kind of pain young people suffered in the now defunct residential schools.

In September 2017, Downie announced what would be his final solo double-album titled Introduce Yerself; it was released on October 27, 2017.

Downie died of glioblastoma on October 17, 2017, at the age of 53 in Toronto. The surviving members of The Tragically Hip made the news of his death public the next morning, by sharing an official statement from his family on their website:

Last night Gord quietly passed away with his beloved children and family close by. Gord knew this day was coming – his response was to spend this precious time as he always had – making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a life well lived, often sealing it with a kiss… on the lips.

— The Downie Family, excerpt from a statement on the Tragically Hip website

On Its Head Block (12:31)

When Morning Comes – Black Heart Machine (On Its Head/2017)

Decades – Black Heart Machine (On Its Head/2017)

Fantasy Town – Black Heart Machine (On Its Head/2017)