by carl wilson

Deja Voodoo All Over Again!

Tony Dewald and Gerard Van Herk -
Deja Voodoo - in Montreal back-in-the-day.

I didn't get ahold of the organizers in time to do a Globe piece on tonight's "Final Voodoo BBQ" at the Silver Dollar in Toronto, as I'd hoped, so let's do it now: The event is sort of a reunion of the OG! Music class of late-eighties Canadian music - with its crucial It Came from Canada compilations - and especially the Montreal scene: The "Deja Voodoo BBQ" was a venerated annual full-day event in the city for years. (See Wikipedia entry for a primer, the band's memorial MySpace page for music and this "where are they now?" feature for an update.) So why has it come back together in Toronto in 2006? The event's moving force, CKLN DJ Daibhid James, host of Moondog's Ballroom (this afternoon at 2:30 local time, and will feature interviews with BBQ participants), did get back to me in time to share some of the event's background, and his thoughts about Deja Voodoo's influence - which arguably, indirectly goes as far as the White Stripes. (And should not be confused with the several jam-band types operating under the same name today.) [... interview on the jump ...]

"The Final Voodoo BBQ came about as a result of a tribute night I put together for Ray Condo (another OG! records vet) two years ago. During one of the meetings to discuss putting this night together Gerard [Van Herk, of Deja Voodoo] showed up and we were introduced, I had spoken to him once or twice in passing 15 years or so earlier, and after chatting a bit I asked him if he wanted to get up on stage and do a few songs and he said, 'Um, sure I could do that,' even though he hadn't been on stage in 14 years. I also roped in other OG! Records vets who happened to live in Toronto, such as Gerry Alvarez (of the Gruesomes), Brian Connelly (Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet), and some members of UIC who were in the audience but didn't actually play. Gerard hadn't actually spoken to any of these guys in over a decade....

"The night went so well and everyone had such a great time that I floated the idea of doing a Halloween Deja Voodoo BBQ that year which was done quickly and on a small scale, featuring Gerard and Bloodshot Bill filling in on drums as well as The Chickens (ex-UIC) and the Purple Toads (another ex-OG! band). ...

"We wanted to do one more, bigger BBQ one last time before Gerard moves away to Newfoundland in July as a linguistics professor to study outport dialects. So this time I tried to add the Gruesomes, who unfortunately weren't available but guitarist Gerry Alvarez had just finished his first solo CD and was looking to do a release gig and signed on. Also on board are two more Og!/It Came from Canada alumni, the Dundrells and the House of Knives, one of whom agreed to cut short a European vacation to play the gig. Once again none of these bands had played together in over a decade. This time out Gerard will again be playing with Bloodshot Bill on drums, also playing will be Mississippi Grover, another one-man-band from Kingston who worshipped Deja Voodoo, and begged to open the night.

"The response for all of this has been startling, I have gotten emails both to myself and to the Deja Voodoo myspace page (which I set up a couple of months ago) from not only all over Canada but also Europe and New Zealand from folks who remember a band who got no radio or video airplay and whose records have been out of print for 15 years and were never available on CD at all. Deja Voodoo (and the Gruesomes) were probably the Canadian underground bands from the 1980's who generated the most affection from their fans partly through the good-natured silliness of their music and image which could still rock no matter how goofy it was. Their mixture of rockabilly, garage, 'B' horror movies, comic books, cartoons, and junk food was not the first such (the Cramps were already there), but they pursued it with such irreverent vigour in an decade full of sombre, gloomy music or wimpy synth bands. Deja Voodoo also toured heavily all over Canada as well as the USA and Europe (especially Scandinavia), the first Canadian underground band to do so. Their Deja Voodoo BBQs became an institution in Montreal, Toronto, and elsewhere in southern Ontario. They also further encouraged a scene to develop by founding their own lable OG! Records and putting out a series of comps. of similar minded Canuck bands called It Came from Canada, which introduced a number of bands such as the Gruesomes, UIC, Ray Condo, Harold Nix, the Deadcats, the Shadowy Men, the Cowboy Junkies, the Smugglers and more.

"In their groundbreaking two-man, trash-rock attack, they led the way for a number of other one and two man bands such as The House of Knives, Leather Uppers, Fuck Y'all, Bloodshot Bill, Mississippi Grover, Slim Sandy, Duotang, (all Canadian BTW) Flat Duo Jets, and Bob Log 111 to open up garage rock by stripping it down. Now of course we have the mega-successful White Stripes and Death From Above, but Deja Voodoo did it first.

"This BBQ will most likely be the last - Gerard is a linguistics professor and Tony Dewald runs a micro-brewery on B.C. But there is always the possibility of a 'best-of' CD in the future."

Let's hope so.

Gerard Van Herk of Deja Voodoo in his linguistics-prof guise,
as photographed by the Montreal Mirror a couple of years back.

Read More | | Posted by zoilus on Friday, June 23 at 12:40 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)



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Posted by Argo on July 7, 2006 5:57 AM



God DAMN it!! I would have loved to see this show. That's what I get for not checking this blog daily, or at least weekly....

Posted by Huge Seagull on July 2, 2006 6:02 AM



dang. Photo here:

Posted by paul on June 28, 2006 8:51 AM



it was a good show, by the way. much nostalgia for old og fans like myself. There was cheese, there were crackers. There were tales of being raised by wolves, and information about how they feed their young. photo attached.

Posted by paul on June 28, 2006 8:49 AM



Thanks for all the Voodoo links! I have been scouring the web for some songs (other than my worn out casette and two pieces of vinyl that I sadly can't play) and never expected to see them on MySpace. Go figure.

I remeber seeing them in a tiny little upstairs club in London, Ont. called Key West in the late '80s where they banged out their songs in sweat-flinging closeness to their fans. Later that night they signed our poster while loading their own gear into a beat up old van. Great times.

Posted by Jeremy on June 27, 2006 12:03 AM



Nice tale, Michael. I'm not going to be able to make it to the BBQ myself but have a grand time all who go! Likewise, the Montreal BBQs were really my fundamental schooling in the rock we now call indie. I didn't know until this week that there ever were Deja Voodoo BBQs in Ontario. Huh.

Posted by zoilus on June 23, 2006 5:10 PM



i'm very excited about this. my first club concert ever was a BBQ at the siboney club in kensington market, which took some finding for a bearded 16-year old from scarborough flying solo in the downtown core. i got there at 7pm because i had no idea when it would actually start and i'd only ever been to stadium concerts, the concert hall, or the ontario place forum up until then. for three hours i sat alone and sipped a coke and pretended to know what i was doing there, hoping not to get busted. i also worked up the nerve to approach the extremely friendly van herk and ask him about brent bambury and brave new waves... a show i would move to montreal and work for 15 years later.
i went the next year too--on time, and with other friends who now looked 19--and i don't remember who played which BBQ, but i saw shadowy men, gruesomes, ej brule, house of knives, UIC, ten commandments (whose singer james booth now programs cbcradio3), and other ICFC favourites.
deja voodoo were my introduction to indie cdn culture--because of them (and bnw, of course) i sought out indie stores, old vinyl and fanzines.

i interviewed van herk and dewald for my book 'have not been the same.' for some reason i can't recall now, i convinced exclaim to publish the full transcripts on their website here:;=240

i remember that gerard was so out of the music scene that he had not even heard of exclaim or any indie culture post-1990. when og closed down he threw himself headfirst into family life and academia and never looked back... until ray condo died.
still kicking myself for missing those memorial gigs.

Posted by barclay on June 23, 2006 4:25 PM



Ah yes, many memorable nights with Deja Voodoo. Cheese and crackers for everyone involved.

Posted by Half on June 23, 2006 3:04 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson