The Nihilist Spasm Band / Roughage / (sic)


Wednesday October 8th, doors 7.30pm
kinoKULTURE presents an exclusive London screening of “What About Me? – The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band” directed by Zev Asher, alongside a multimedia collage performance by Roughage and [sic] .


About the film
What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band
Canada, 2000
Zev Asher
79 mins.
What About Me is an energetic celebration of The Nihilist Spasm Band, Canada’s legendary experimental noise-music group. What About Me traces the development of the group, from its origins as a response to ultra-conservative London Ontario, to the tragic death of one of its founding members, artist Greg Curnoe, to the band’s recent tour of Japan, where they enjoy a rabid cult following (and where their performances include a bizarre appearance on a Japanese variety show). Made for less than $20,000 and edited entirely on a Macintosh G3, it blends digitized 16 mm and super-8 film of recent and archival footage with mini-DV, Beta, and even VHS formats to give the film a unique, rich texture that reflects the band’s multi-layered, improvisational style.
About the band.
The Nihilist Spasm Band emerged from Canada’s avant-garde art scene in the 1960s, and its founding members include three of Canada’s most prominent artists: the late Greg Curnoe, painter John Boyle, and sculptor Murray Favro, all of whom have work in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. The other members of the group are (retired) high-school teacher Bill Exley, physician John Clement, (retired) librarian Hugh McIntyre and (retired) commercial artist Art Pratten. This eccentric ensemble has built many of their own instruments and played together almost every Monday night for the past 35 years. Their raucous and riotous cacophony of sound has only recently earned them worldwide attention. The band previously recorded for Steven Stapleton’s United Dairies label and have since moved on to the Japanese imprint Alchemy.
The New York Times calls The Nihilist Spasm Band “a droll, clattery ensemble [that] has maintained the sly humour and casual provocation of 1960’s art movements like Fluxus,” and described one of its performances as sounding like “cracked hoedowns, hyperactive barnyards, misfiring truck engines or the magnified gnawing of beavers.”
About the director and the performance
Director Zev Asher is a Montreal-born film-maker and musician. He is a founding partner of Sub Versive Media Arts, and has performed all over North America and Japan with his bands Nimrod and Roughage. He was artist-in-residence at the Vancouver Film School’s multimedia centre in 1995-96 and a resident at the Canadian Film Centre’s new media lab in 1998-99. His first documentary, RAT ART: Croatian Independents, was about the impact of the Yugoslav civil war on Croatian artists. It has screened at Cinematheque Ontario, the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver, the University of Chicago, and the Visible Evidence Documentary Conference at UCLA, among others. What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band is his first feature-length documentary.
[sic] is the solo project of Montreal sound manipulator Jennifer
Morris
. Originally a visual artist, Jen moved on to a number of film and
video projects as well as soundtrack work.
Her music is often created from samples derived from her original digital field recordings. Haunting and atmospheric, CD’s released by [sic] have been very well received in the media and on radio, internationally. Her recent performance at Montreals celebrated MUTEK festival drew rave reviews and an enthusiastic response.
Jen started Squirrelgirl Productions/Royk Recordings in 2000 to release her own work along with CD’s from other artists.
Upcoming projects include the third [sic] CD and the debut from the Canadian/Norwegian schmaltz damage duo Sleazy Listeners.
For more information please visit http://www.squirrelgirl.com/
recent shows
[sic] recent solo audiovisual performances
MUTEK in Montreal in June 2003 http://www.mutek.ca/index-en.html
Maid in Cyberspace in February 2003 http://www.htmlles.net/2003/e/index.html
The Vancouver Underground Film Festival (site now defunct)
Presented my rotating projection installation called disorientationat the Place Ville Marie in march 2003 http://www.champlibre.com/cime/framesetglobal_uk.htmAnd have played many more shows in smaller venues in Montreal.
ROUGHAGE + [sic] European Tour October 2003
This fall tour in Slovenia, Italy and England features the first international duo performances by Zev Asher (ROUGHAGE) and Jen Morris aka [sic].
They first performed together in Montreal and discovered a common approach to working with sound and images.
In these performance settings, the visual element is as important as the sound and the duo positions the work as an experimental video screening with a live soundtrack.
‘Natural Clutter’, is a brooding collage of images and sounds that stem from the fertile De Lanaudiere region of Quebec. The imagery touches on issues of exhibitionism, loneliness and dentistry.
The live soundtrack is created through the gentle manipulation of related audio files created specifically for this tour. This piece will never be performed publicly again.
oct3rd – Ljubljana, Slovenia at Gromka http://www.metelkova.org/gromka/gromkprogram.php

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Reviews
from VARIETY magazine
What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band
(Docu — Canada) A Sub Versive Media Arts production. (International sales: Sub Versive Media Arts, Toronto.) Produced by Zev Asher, Richard Bingham, Phil Saunders-Arratia. Directed, edited by Zev Asher.
by DENNIS HARVEY
A charming, if attenuated, valentine to a 35-year-old Canadian “joke,” “What About Me” charts the woolly saga of the Nihilist Spasm Band, musical pranksters whose weekly cacophony sessions have gone on so long, they now find themselves objects of international cult admiration. Catching subjects’ wry spirit, Zev Asher’s docu will be more a curio than a must-see outside Maple Leaf terrain. But it could pick up some gigs among arts-oriented fest, campus and broadcast programmers.
Seven-member NSB was assembled in ’65 by late painter Greg Curnoe to provide soundtrack for his experimental film project. None were musicians, but they made a scary din — amusing themselves, if few others, in London, Ontario. Nonetheless, boho unit persevered, building eccentric instruments, releasing obscure records and honing a unique sound while maintaining “the purity of amateurs.” Now solid bourgeois citizens with grown kids and retirement funds, the men have been nonplussed of late to find NSB truly “big in Japan,” sought for tours, celebrated by punk/avant-garde musicians, etc. Subjects are disarmingly unpretentious; sometimes hilarious perf segs span their history. Only debit is vidpic’s sometimes repetitive, meandering focus; trim-down for hourlong tube slots wouldn’t hurt.
Camera (color, video), Asher; music, Nihilist Spasm Band, Baku. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Perspective Canada), Sept. 13, 2000. Running time: 79 MIN.
from the catalogue of the PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVES:
What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band
Canada, 2000
Zev Asher
These guys are from swingin’ London-swingin’ London, Ontario, that is. The other Guy from London was Guy Lombardo, born in 1902, exactly sixty-three years before the birth of the Nihilist Spasm Band, an antidote to all the Guys of this world. When the NSB was born, allegedly to create a soundtrack for the film No Movie, they had between them not an iota of musical training. But an innate sense of anarchy, some scavenged instruments, and a desire to pierce the din of Canadian complacency turned them into a seven-member ensemble of clockwork chaos. Noise, boisterous roiling noise, was what they produced-it wasn’t a style or a movement, but more an allegation. Regular Monday-night gigs at a local swill-pit have continued unabated for more than three decades, and as of late, the Nihilist Spasm Band has become the sound c