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Gaslighting the Left 

On election night 2016, I was at the Mod Club (RIP). When the results became clear, there was a real sense of tragedy in the room. But there was also a feeling of hope. We were united by the love of writers with such a wealth of empathy, John K. Samson and Christine Fellows, singing "I know this world is good enough / because it has to be." 

This hope evaporated when the concert was over. The world outside was a scarier place than the one we had left a few hours earlier. But a clear message emerged almost immediately: "It's the Left's fault Trump won. Leftist 'identity politics' are the cause of the division in our society." 

Enough. After yesterday's attempted coup, I never want to hear this bad faith argument again. 

The 2016 election empowered racists and bigots on both sides of the border. It made things worse for the Mi'kmaq fishers and for Indigenous women. It made things worse for Black and LGBTQ people. It made North America a more dangerous place for anybody who's not a straight white male. And claiming that the Left was responsible for Trump's victory? It's classic blame-the-victim. 

The road to Trumpism is long. It's easy to trace it to 9/11, with the radicalization of many whites and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theory. In the 80s, Reagan planted the seeds that led to today's out-of-control wealth inequality. And between the two we had the emergence of the climate change crisis, which inspired the Right to break up with science and build the "alternative facts" playbook that is their secret weapon. 

But still, I still didn't believe Trump would win. I thought Bush was rock bottom. I had hope. And then he won. I called it a tragedy, and people called me crazy, told me I was being dramatic. People said that politicians change and daily life stays the same. "It's all just a show. And besides, that's just America. We're in Canada. We're different. We're better." 

For the past four the past four years, things steadily escalated. The Trump administration is now responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, disproportionately affecting non-whites, and has dragged the country's international reputation through the swamp. 

It is a tragedy. We were never overreacting. And the hate doesn't stop at the border. 

Yesterday's insurrection in Washington came straight out of the American playbook, a fascist coup modeled after the dozens that the US military has successfully orchestrated in South America and around the world to protect the interests of wealthy white Americans. The difference, this time, is that when the insurrectionists took the capitol, they didn't do anything about it. They were decorated in imagery that showed their intentions – some were explicitly Nazis, some explicitly pro-slavery, some explicitly trying to incite a civil war – but they didn't defend their prize with bullets and barricades, and a few hours later they just went home. Why is that? 

Peaceful civil rights movements like Me Too, Black Lives Matter and Antifascism get violently suppressed while violent white supremacists get peacefully escorted. That's not just injustice – it was the whole point of the show. 

The message of January 6th is this: Look what we can do. We want you to know what we can get away with. We (the white supremacists) want you (all non-white, non-cis people) to know whose side your police are on and whose side your government is on. 

This morning, not even 12 hours later, the House and the Senate have adjourned until after inauguration (the 20th) and January 19th respectively. There will be no consequences. 

And this morning I already hear a familiar refrain: the Left is responsible. It's the fault of progressive people that this happened. Putting aside liars and delusional conspiracy theorists claiming that it was literally "fascist antifas" that stormed the capital (you're half right!), I've heard people blaming leftist identity politics for laying the track for this insurrection. It's nonsense. 

Listen, it's very simple. The Left believes that everybody, all people, deserve respect. The Right wants to protect the systems of power and privilege that benefit the white, the male, the cis and the wealthy. If your argument is that progressive people should be less inclusive – and more forgiving of bigotry – in order to prevent white supremacist uprisings, then you need to rethink your priorities.

Blossington Too 

Today my new recording project Colchester Harbour releases its first album, a song-by-song remake of Blossington that turns my most subdued and acoustical album into a loud, garage-punk thing called Blossington Too. It comes out exclusively on Bandcamp, for now, and I'll explain why in a minute. But first, I wanted to share a few facts about this project: 

  • I played lots of electric guitars while Tish, who sang BGVs on the last two DH albums, takes over as lead vocalist (I did some BGVs but mostly just stayed out of her way because she's a much more charismatic singer than me). And my brother Jef was called forth to bang the drums (remotely since he's in Toronto). 
  • If we weren't forced to do this remotely, this thing probably never would have come together, because it hurts my ears to play loud music in the same room as the drummer. 
  • Jef and I didn't give each other ANY NOTES before recording our parts. Tish and I would record a scratch vocal and guitar, send it to Jef as an attachment to a blank email, and he would send back whatever he came up with for the drums, again without commentary. Then a little while later I would send him what was essentially the finished track. 
  • We probably would have called the band Harrow Fair if it wasn't already taken

You can listen to it here, and buy it if you're feeling generous: 

 

Now, why only on Bandcamp? 

Don't worry, Blossington Too will be coming to all your favourite streaming platforms on November 6th. But in the meantime, I wanted to try a little experiment. 

Think of going to the movies. I know it's hard to remember the movies right now, but forget about Covid for a second. Typically, a movie comes out first in theatres. People pay 12 bucks or so to go see it. They're paying for two things: to get the movie in the highest quality available, and to see it earlier. They know it's going to be on streaming platforms (VOD) within the year, but that doesn't stop them.   

So I'm trying something similar. First, an "exclusive" release on Bandcamp, where you can pay for higher quality music (which you can download and keep forever), before a "wide release" through my distributor that will put it out on Spotify, Apple Music, etc. (Note: on Bandcamp you can still listen for free before you buy, as many times as you want.) 

The reason behind this experiment is that the now-ubiquitous streaming platforms aren't a fair or sustainable source of income for the creators of the music you listen to. Even major artists are making negligible amounts from Spotify – so a nobody like me is making zero. Bandcamp has its problems too, but when live music disappeared this year it seems to have emerged as the preferred anti-Spotify out there

In its first year, my last solo album "And a Roof" sold 1 copy. Before 2019, I was consistently selling at least one CD per show, but those sales disappeared along with CD players in laptops and cars. The cost of manufacturing is so high that I still haven't broken even on the production of Blossington, which came out in 2017. Like it or not, music is a digital medium now 99% of the time. 

And for this reason I'm grateful for streaming platforms. They allow me to distribute my music to people at a tiny fraction of what it used to cost, and they make it incredibly easy for those people to listen to it. But we're still waiting for a solution that is good for both the consumer AND the artist. I don't know if Bandcamp will be that solution, but at this point I just want to try something new and see what happens. 

Love, 
Derek

Derek Harrison and a Roof 

This is two pictures I took of the same house, superimposed and mixed together. The house is gone now. I caught the process of the trees coming down.

I had a few idea for what to call the album but none were sticking. One day I was looking through my photos and saw the earlier of the two that would make up the cover. Then I walked down the street to the same spot where I took it, and I took another while I still could. 

About a year ago my partner and I moved to Kingston, next door to the future foot of the Third Crossing Bridge. It brought a new relevance to "Four Walls", inspired by a story in the news about the demolition of the Indian Road neighbourhood in west Windsor, just below the Ambassador Bridge. The first of nearly a hundred houses to come down in late 2017 to make room for a new Ambassador Bridge was the centre of a big news day, as a crowd of people formed to watch the show. 

There's something always sad about a house coming down. People used to live there, maybe somebody grew up there, and people could live there again. In "Four Walls" I tried to capture the idea of grieving a house that's no longer there, but most of the songs on the album share a similar theme: "Here We Are" is about appreciating where you came from. "Wasted" and "Winter Hours" are about leaving Montreal, my home for 5 years. "No Service" is about finding home in another person.  

So if "Four Walls" inspired the cover, then I decided the name of the album should finish the phrase. Four Walls and a Roof. 

I hope you like it.

Four Walls 

"Four Walls", the first song released from my new album And a Roof, is streaming now on all the things.

It was inspired by the neighbourhood in west Windsor just below the Ambassador Bridge, where almost a hundred homes were bought, vacated and boarded up a decade ago to make way for a new bridge. Since Moroun, the billionaire owner of the bridge, didn't yet have permission to build the new one, the city refused to hand out demolition permits in a bid to save the neighbourhood. They also required the owner to maintain the houses, but this was ignored and they fell into disrepair, sealing their fate (intentionally I'm sure). Eventually the federal government ordered the houses demolished and they came down in 2017 at this time of the year. 

Elements of the song have been kicking around for years, but the impetus for the final version was a picture in the news about two years ago of a group of people watching the first house come down and I wondered about the people who used to live there. I walked by these houses almost every day when I was in university and it seemed to me that, inevitable or not, it's always a little bit sad when a house comes down. 

So I wrote a song about it, and The Old Salts helped me whip it into shape. 

  • Erika Christou on bass 
  • James Da Mota on acoustic guitar 
  • Jef Harrison on drums 
  • Devin Staple on electric guitar 
  • Tish Gaudio and James on bgvs 
  • I'm playing mandolin and singing. 

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/1z8nUtTRuZE84jKKNeZib5 

Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/four-walls/1482053293?i=1482053294 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Derek_Harrison_Four_Walls?id=Bvzt2e4h3cfgbdoii4577rwbxhm&tid=song-Tjfuj5qats7vlb7h2vtbz24fqri 

...and all the other ones. Search for it, save it, etc.

More about the story: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/13/world/americas/windsor-residents-caught-in-shadow-of-bridge-that-isnt-built-yet.html

The Weeds 

Everybody's favourite part of making an album. The bulk of the recording is done and now I'm sifting through hundreds of audio files, comparing takes and resisting the urge to polish out too many of the imperfections and idiosyncrasies. 

Self-producing is hard. There were moments in the studio where I hit a wall and tuned out and now I'm paying for it, with small details in the recordings that I should have caught and corrected if I had been paying close enough attention. One entire song is getting rejected because of something that, on the day of recording, I wasn't sure about but which I had decided was "good enough". 

That said, cutting only one song is a new record for me, since there were two cut from "Dead & Gone" and four from "Blossington" (and from the first record I ever made, I rejected every track).

The difference is that on my last two records I let somebody else handle most of the production duties, while this time it's my job to take hours of raw .wav files and decide what to do with them. I've spent most of the last two months gradually layering in vocals and mandolins, reamping bed tracks, noodling on the keyboard, stitching together different takes and second guessing every arrangement decision already laid on tape. 

I am in the weeds, but I can still see the sun. Recording is probably about 80% done, half of the tracks are very close to the state they'll be in when I send them out for mixing, and my window to make any more radical changes to the shape of this record is rapidly closing. One more recording session, a few more overdubs, some editing (which feels neverending but which I WILL FINISH) and I'll be able to move on to mixing. 

In the meantime I'm going to get out of the studio for a few days later this month for some solo shows. My Furch and I will be appearing at the following gigs: 

Sunday March 24th, Noon – Vibration Studios, Osgoode ON 
Thursday March 28th, 6:00pm – Burdock, Toronto ON (w/Chris Sprake) 
Sunday March 31st, 7:00pm – The Mansion, Kingston ON (w/Graven & Chris Sprake)