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The man they couldn’t hang


Interview – Eugene Ripper

– by Shawn Conner

Vancouver institution Eugene Ripper returns for a show tonight (April 21) at the Railway Club (579 Dunsmuir Street). Ripper will be playing with a six-piece band he’s dubbed “Lizard Jamboree” (Rod Bruno, Aaron Chapman, Mike McKay, Shane Wilson, Kyle Taylor) after a kids’ show called From the Riverbank (aka Hammy Hamster). For the occasion, solo artist Clare Love has put a band together – the Fanatics – and she’ll open (see video below for a taste of Ms. Love).
Ripper is actually Bruce Charlap, who rock ‘n’ rolled in Vancity for years, putting together bills under the name Fast Folk Underground. In 2004 he made the move to the Big Smoke (Toronto, and no, we don’t know why it’s called that except it sounds cool) where, though he may not have found worldwide fame, he did find gainful employment.
Eugene Ripper/Charlap released an EP last year, Punks & Pushers and Notes from the Fast Folk Underground, which he talks about in our interview, along with what to expect at the Railway Club tonight (to quote PR for the show: “songs about lust, death, outlaws, betrayal, love, fast cars, Vincent Van Gogh and The People’s Republic of China). and whether or not Vancouver musicians still need to move to Toronto (the Big Smoke!) to make it in an Arcade Fire age.
Eugene Ripper album cover Punks & Pushers

Shawn Conner: So what brings you back to Vancouver?

Eugene Ripper: We got a chance to do another show at the Railway. We’ve been rebooting the Fast Folk Underground over the last year-and-a-half. This is the third show. There was a pretty big gap, about 18 months, almost two years between shows. There was enough time that, when the ownership changed at the Club {Railway Club]. There’s been a consistent roll to this one. I’ve been performing solo, which i’ve een doing a lot over the last decade. Also playing with a full band, the Lizard Jamboree [Hammy Hamster, Tales from the Riverbank; created in 1959, shown on the BBC. 26 in colour, 1970s.

SC: You’ve been doing FFU in Toronto as well, no?

ER: Yeah. It’s a format that works for me. it’s a chance to create a narrative around a show to keep it a little more interesting. It seems like a really easy thing to plug into. The whole concept of the show, is to reflect my own musical muse – fast, folk or underground, calling on my punk rock roots. it’s all of that stuff. That’s what’s bringing me back.  It’s pretty cool to be able to play with a six-piece again; it’s pretty rare for me.

SC: You moved to Toronto in 2004 – and never looked back?

ER: The title track on this album, Punks & Pushers, is based on a Gay Talese story about bridge-building. I’m fascinated by his ability to tell a story. But that’s a different kind of lyric writing; I don’t think there’s too much personal narrative in that. But I tend to be looking back in my songwriting. This song I’m writing now relates to this other period of time… it’s never really right in the moment. If I was a soul singer, that kind of pain you can sing in real time.


SC: There’s always been this thought in Vancouver that for bands to make it they had to move to Toronto. Has that changed?

ER: It’s a balancing act, without a doubt. But if you look at the actual creative development, one thing is Vancouver bnads have always been great in the studio. Pound for pound, they’ve been better than Toronto bands in the studio going right back to the era of the Pointed Sticks and D.O.A. because they had to be. There was no music industry to try and showcase with shows.

Further to that, the stuff we’ve developed out of Montreal, over and over not just with this last rush with Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, even going back to an earlier era with Me Mom and Morgentaler and the Doughboys, it’s the same thing: there’s no music industry in Montreal, and therefore people are developing for pure creativity. It’s not to play to the music industry but to play to other bands.

You look at the New Pornographers and Neko Case and artists that that oscillated out of that scene, they brought it out. There was not necessarily an industry, so things can develop. I think the music industry in Toronto can be very distracting. Look at [Vancouver band] Fond of Tigers, Steve Lyons and everything that came out of the Sugar Refinery, that jazzy progressive stuff – I think it would’ve been wrecked if there had been a music industry flirting around it.

At a certain point you have to take it on the road and to market, but you could make a mistake taking it to a money market.

Eugene Ripper plays the Railway Club tonight (April 21). Tickets $10.

Eugene Ripper

Watch – Eugene Ripper, “Tech Know Me” (video):


Watch – Clare Love, “Urgent Heart” (video):


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