Work as a freelance guitarist

With Amanda Kramer and Lloyd Cole. RPM, Toronto, ’95. Photo by David Bly.

In early 1991 Lloyd Cole called me following the demise of Bloomsday, a short-lived, post-Commotions project with Stephen Irvine and Chris Thomson. He asked me if I’d like to tour with him again. He’d just completed recording on the album that was to be titled, Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe. Robert Quine had been the featured lead guitarist but he didn’t want to tour – would I be interested? I’d have to chart out the new songs and learn Quine’s parts. I listened to the songs, including two that would become very well known and that had great guitar playing on them – Pay For It and She’s A Girl And I’m A Man – and I said yes. Having an opportunity to dissect and perform Quine’s parts was a challenge and an education and the prospect of playing some Commotions songs again sounded like fun.

With the Roberts (Vickers and Forster) and Grant McLennan, 1991. Photo, Martine Galliard.

And so it turned out to be. Lloyd’s solo career was at it’s height and we were playing large theatre venues worldwide. Blair was in the band and also drummer Dan McCarroll, friend of Amy Mann and Jon Brion. Grant McLennan and Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens were opening for us and we had another Go-Between, Robert Vickers playing bass with us, so the tour bus down through the U.K. and Europe and on to North America was a lively place. Lots of intense, drink-fuelled discussions on literature, songwriting, food and geography. I have a quite a few good memories of hanging out with these Aussies and watching their quests for the best oysters in Europe and the best second-hand bookshops in America.

After a while on a tour of any length fatigue begins to set in and people invariably get sick. Someone picks up a virus and in the crucible of the bus you know that it’s inevitably going to be your turn soon. Shows still go on of course, although high-quality care in the shape of a handy side stage bucket is always supplied. The other kind of fatigue is feeling the need to get away from everybody and do something on your own just to recharge a bit. My ‘thing’ was to go off in whatever city we were in and just walk for hours taking photographs and stopping now and again for a drink and some food. I found it a relaxing way of getting to know a place just a little and it allowed me to discover what places I really liked. Great walking cities for me turned out to be, in no particular order – Stockholm, Berlin, Tokyo, San Francisco, NYC, Toronto (before I lived here), Montreal, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Osaka, Copenhagen, Austin, Porto, Lisbon, Koln, Firenze, and Vancouver. I’m also no foodie but I do love good food and this I was exposed to through touring. A great paella on the seafront in Valencia or in the Plaza Real in Barca. A great cassoulet in Toulouse washed down with a few bottles of Cahors. Sushi in Tokyo. Soba lunch in Osaka. More sushi at Tojo’s in Vancouver (the best I think). A dinner in Osaka that was finished with the shells from the shrimp fried up with a head of garlic. Yes, I’m thankful for that food, travel and the great shows with great bands and great people (both on the stage and off it). All in all, pretty cool.