KEEPING THE ARTS ALIVE

 

The Newfoundland Herald, Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2013

LOCAL MUSIC & MORE
STORY BY DILLON COLLINS

Newfoundland musician Jim Fidler seeks to resurrect the album

Jim Fidler is no stranger to Newfoundland's flourishing music scene. In fact, he has been a pivotal contributor to it for decades.

From forming Newfoundland's first reggae group, Pressure Drop, in the late 80's to producing a slew of successful solo albums, Fidler has hung his hat in many areas of the music industry.

THE DEATH OF THE ALBUM

This time around, in support of his new album, Fidler has launched an Indiegogo campaign designed to raise money for manufacturing and producing the final artwork for the CD, which is being titled RPM. The campaign is much more than just an effort to scrape together money for production, it serves as a stance against a growing epidemic in the music world: the death of the album.

"An album isn't an LP, but a group of songs that can fit together to tell a story and take people on a journey," said Fidler. "People got the idea that they could use the album to present something more akin to an art exhibit, where they could tell a connected story."

Sadly, the album as an art form is currently on life support, if not dead already. "With the coming of the mp3 and now iTunes, if the album was already dead then there became a feeding frenzy of driving nails in the coffin," he said. Fidler insists the death of the album has more to do with the narrowing of the acceptable idea of what a hit is, a rebranding that can be attributed to big wig executives buying up the competition. "It has a lot to do with the music industry in general and the amalgamation and buying out of the small and medium size record labels," he said. "With only a few big companies left you get this kind of homogeny where everything was very cookie cutter."

The idea of creating a balanced and artistic album was replaced with an obsessive need to launch the next big hit. Money making became more important than producing coherent and story rich recordings. "Everyone's main focus was on making hits and with less people in charge you got less of an idea of what could be a hit, so the range of artist was squeezed much smaller and the field has been narrowed," he said.

AGAINST THE GRAIN

Fidler lamented that the days where people took pride in their music may be drawing to an end, as the digital age of music has focussed on efficiency and convenience. "When I grew up everyone took pride in how good their music sounded," he said. "It was all about having the biggest speakers. All that is gone now with the little ear buds and iPods."

Fidler suggested that by making an album that draws inspiration from its golden age in the 70's, he is doing the opposite of what would be suggested by executives and 'big wigs' in the industry. "In making this album I'm kind of shooting myself in the foot, doing the last thing a record label would want you to do," he said. "Well sorry I made an album. It doesn't matter who or what age you are, you sit someone down and play them a Beatles or Pink Floyd album and they'll say it's awesome. The coolest cats in high school now are the ones with the Iron Maiden or Supertramp t-shirts. I'd love to know where all these labels are saying the album and rock 'n' roll is dead get their information from."

Fidler believes that the generation that bought records in droves, who are now grown and out in the workforce, have been largely ignored, replaced by a newer generation eating up the manufactured hits. "When I sit back and think about it, the age of people that bought the records in the 70's and 80's, they are a huge demographic and they are totally being ignored today," he said. "That past generation proved that they would buy millions worth of records. It's staggering to me today that they are being forgotten."

"STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS"

It took Jim Fidler eight months to finish RPM, and now that it's all said and done, he believes it is one of the best records of his career and certainly one that he had the most fun making. "The album is like that undefinable genre of the 70's where we all listen to the same radio station," he said. "I've always made conscious music, but this one is a whole heap of fun. It's made to be played on big speakers."

Fidler spoke about how the album brought him back to the 70's, the era that he began to cut his teeth in the industry, and how that served as a huge inspiration in his work today. "I wasn't thinking about reggae, Celtic, or jazz, I was just thinking about music," he said. "It harkened my mind back to a time I haven't forgotten and in that mind frame I had a huge pallet to work with."

Ever insightful, he went on to add that the music flowed through him effortlessly, in a very organic and natural process. "All the lyrics on this record are what they call stream of consciousness," he said. "I didn't sit down with a pen and paper and write them down, they just came to me. It wasn't an intellectual endeavour, it didn't come to my head in that clever place, it just passed through me. I know that sounds strange, but such are the arts."

LIFE'S MANY CHALLENGES

quote of the weekFidler has been blind since the age of nine, yet it is something he takes in stride, just one of life's many challenges to rise to. "It's just one of those things," he said. It's like asking a straight person why they are straight, they just are. The world's not made easy for blind people, or left-handed people, but life is a challenge and if you go through your life without facing a challenge then you've learned nothing. Things happen and it either makes you better or makes you bitter. Every man thinks that his burden is the heaviest but he who feels it knows it."

After so many years in the music industry, with many ups and downs, Fidler has learned a thing or two and has some advice for budding artists in the province. "Be careful what you wish for and always remember that the biggest man you ever did see was once a baby in this life," he said. "Society is geared to what's out there, but really it's about what you have to give. Do everything you can to be as good at that as you possibly can. Give, and it will come back to you."

The Indiegogo campaign runs until September 30th, and I urge everyone to contribute to one of the only true renaissance men left in the music industry.       

 

Fidler On Film - The Telegram

by Tara Bradbury, August 2012

Sit with Jim Fidler for a while and one thing will become absolutely clear: you don’t need sight to have vision.
Lillian and Jim shooting videoBlind since the age of nine, Fidler is a St. John’s composer, musician and recording artist — a “painter of sound,” he says.
He’s also deeply insightful and more positive than most, although he insists he’s not any more interesting than anyone else.
“We live in a competitive society that kind of elevates some people, like celebrities or royalty, while denigrating others,” he says. “It’s really a fallacy, because every single person has a spirit and a story. Circumstances make some people’s stories seem more fascinating or TV-worthy than others, but every single person has just as valid a story.”
With five albums under his belt — on which he plays at least a dozen instruments, on tunes in English, French and Arabic — Fidler’s music simply cannot be classified. Reggae, pop, Celtic and Amerikana are recurring influences, but his style is his own, perhaps stemming from his broad view of the world.
His wife, Lillian, is in the midst of exploring the essence of her husband in a documentary with a tentative title of “I Still Remember.”
Lillian says it was difficult to capture the breadth and depth of Jim in words. She’s beginning with the moment he lost his sight and had to leave his family to go to Halifax’s School for the Blind.
Jim remembers the day doctors removed the bandages from his eyes and told him he’d never see again.
“It was like if I put bandages on your eyes and put you in a dark room and took the bandages off — everything was painted with white silver,” Jim explains. “I remember seeing that, and it didn’t dissipate. Was I scared? No. What was I going to do, really. I couldn’t change it and there was nothing I could do about it.
“People say, ‘How did you lose your sight?’ and I say I just drank everything up. I loved everything from the macro to the micro; from the tiny little things that you see in the grass, to the stars. My joke is I used up my quota, as if everyone were allocated a certain amount of footage in their lifetime.”
Jim attended the School for the Blind from 1974 until 1983, only returning home for Christmas and summer vacations. It was a 15-acre estate, he says, with grand pianos and a pipe organ that he could play whenever he wanted.
It was also where his love of music began to develop and flourish.
He studied classical piano and music theory at the Maritime Conservatory of Music as an honours student, and went on to win many awards and nominations for his music, as well as a European record deal.
The School for the Blind was torn down in 1984, and Jim and Lillian recently got an email from organizers of a ceremony to commemorate the school, set to happen Sept. 28.
“I had just finished interviewing a woman, Sylvia Thomas, a longtime friend of the family, when we got the email,” Lillian says. “She was there when Jim got on the airplane to Halifax, and had told the story of when he went away.”

Lillian hadn’t planned on travelling to Halifax for her film, but once Jim was invited to perform at the ceremony, she decided she couldn’t pass up the chance to add a new dimension to the piece by interviewing his first music teacher, bandmates and friends from the school.
In order to get there, the couple has set up an Indigogo website, where the public can contribute to the funds needed for them to travel to Halifax and complete the documentary.
The site has seen a fantastic response so far, with more than $1,200 of their $3,000 goal raised. Contributors receive perks in exchange for their contribution, ranging from Jim’s latest single, “We Need a Revolution,” to their name in the film’s credits as executive producer.
“I would really like to have it broadcast on a major network,” Lillian says of her documentary. “I’d like for people to see it and be inspired, and realize that this is a person with a lot of talent. The music has to come through in the documentary — it’s certainly about that — but it’s also about inspiration and courage.”
Lillian has already started putting together bits and pieces of the film, including a trailer on the Indigogo site. She has included a “W5” clip from 1973, in which Jim is visited by children’s television star Uncle Bobby (Bobby Ash).
Jim had developed a friendship with Bobby, and had invited him to come to Newfoundland for a visit before he went to Halifax. Bobby came, bringing a TV crew with him.
In the clip, in which Jim and Bobby walk along Topsail Beach, Jim talks about the things he’ll miss from home while he’s at school, and gives a message to other children.
“Maybe there’s other children that are watching Uncle Bobby and I on the beach, and if you are losing your sight, or if you have bad sight and you have to go somewhere, don’t be scared. Please, don’t be frightened,” he says. “What I have to say is just because you’re losing your sight doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.”
Thirty-nine years later, Jim’s message hasn’t changed much. He hopes that by performing at the tribute in Halifax, he might inspire others to come to terms with things in their lives towards which they might hold resentment.
“I’m going to sing my song, and hopefully you’ll maybe feel a little bit of energy from me doing that and it will even make you say to yourself, ‘That’s my brother there,’” he says.
Those wishing to contribute to Lillian’s project can do so by visiting www.jimfidler.com and clicking on the “I Still Remember” link.

Jim Fidler previews new album with three EPs

By Steve McLean "Steve Says"

I wrote about my appreciation for Jim Fidler's music, and the friendship between us that grew out of it, in this spot two years ago when I heard his From The Inside Out album. It became one of my favourite records of 2009 and was robbed of the best reggae album Juno Award nomination it deserved.

Jim has a new album titled Up That River coming out in December, but he's introducing it with a trilogy of EPs featuring material from the LP, dub mixes and acoustic versions. I've listened to the first two, and he's on to something good again.

2 album coverAll the material was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jim at his Roots Cellar studio in St. John's, Nfld. He produced, engineered, played most of the instruments and sang lead.

The first EP opens with "Intro (Joesph)," a short number featuring Jamaican-born Newfoundlander Keith (Joseph) Rickman talking about Jim in an excerpt from a forthcoming documentary about this multi-talented man being made by his wife Lillian.

Jim played me "Be Free" and "Leslie Street" in his studio when I was in St. John's for the 2010 Juno Awards. I liked them both right away and I'm glad that more people will finally be able to hear them. "Be Free" is a melodic roots reggae number with female harmonies not unlike those of Bob Marley's I Threes. It also comes in a dub version. "Leslie Street" is lyrically moving and showcases the best of Jim's voice along with some well-played guitar lines.

The EP is rounded out by "Operation Africa," which has a lighter pop funk groove along with jazz and reggae influences.

I've heard Jim perform Marley's "No Woman No Cry" before, but he'd never recorded it until recently for the 2 EP. And he goes one better by including a dub mix along with his interpretation of the reggae classic. Rory Hoffman, the only musician other than Jim to contribute to these two records, adds some sweet saxophone and clarinet to both.

The 45-second "Here Come the Katz" leads into "Cats Will be Katz," a largely instrumental number with jazz elements and the recorded debut of Lillian's voice. I prefer "Me," a rhythmic track with a fun mix of blues, pop and harmonica by Hoffman.

The third EP should be arriving soon, and all of them can be purchased from Jim's website. Each EP purchase entitles the buyer to a three-dollar coupon towards the purchase of Up That River.

Arts & Entertainment - The Telegram

August 5, 2009 The Telegram

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
BY KARLA HAYWARD
Special to The Telegram

Jim Fidler has a lot to say. And listening is a real pleasure. From global warming to the psychological effects of television, Fidler’s got a firm stance well supported by real information, expressed succinctly and with enough humour to keep things interesting. So, obviously a new solo album is the perfect way for this talented musician to “get the message out,” as it were. “Revolution Time” is the Fidler’s latest creation and it’s definitely a return to his reggae roots. While the influences heard in each song vary from jazz to calypso, there’s a solid thematic thread that holds all together in perfect concert. “(I chose to title the album) ‘Revolution Time’ ‘cause that’s what it is,” says the artist. “I had a list of about 25 potential titles. ‘Wake Up’ was one. ‘Reality Time’ was another. But ‘Revolution Time,’ I thought, summed it up best. “I think if anyone were to really scratch their head, think, look around, open their eyes, open their ears, they’d realize it’s always revolution time. Whether they’re aware of it or not. Always, there are people working to achieve their goals, get whatever power they want, get whatever wealth they want. Just because you might be sitting on the beach with a blade of grass between your teeth or banging on a drum around the campfire, doesn’t mean that the lads up in the city aren’t rubbing their hands together and doing whatever. “Time goes in cycles, our lives go in cycles, and if we think in a linear fashion we don’t learn anything; everything we learn is left behind us. … It’s very simple: things go in cycles, so let’s try and get better each go ‘round.”

Wake-up call
All that said, Fidler doesn’t define the album as protest music. He explains, “It’s a call to eyes, as opposed to a call to arms. Wake up! There’s so much in the world that people are missing because they’re just going to and from their jobs and sitting in front of their televisions. There’s a lot more to the world than that, and if you’re missing it, boy you’re missing a lot. And a lot of it ain’t so good, but a lot of it is absolutely wonderful.” Each song on the disc picks up an element of Fidler’s overall theme and runs with it. Take “Info War,” for instance. Fidler explains that the tune is about dialogue, about how we’re supposed to question the world, and our government.
“Mash It Up” is another great tune that’s all about people really taking part in their own lives.
“All we know we have for sure is this life. And we always talk and wonder and think about what it is. What is this life? What does it mean? Where do we come from? But all we know we have for sure is this life. It’s yours. The only thing you really, really have is you. So what are you going to do about it? So ‘Mash It Up’ is about participating in your own life,” Fidler elaborates.

Tuneful tools
Well-known for his multi-instrument abilities, Fidler figures he plays about 20 on this album. Asked just how many instruments he can actually play, he says, “I don’t know. It’s kind of like asking a carpenter how many tools he can use. It depends on what you need. And sometimes we make our tools, too.” Whether you’re a reggae regular or totally new to the culture, “Revolution Time” is almost certain to appeal. And it’s a fierce album to dance to. Take it from me. “Revolution Time” officially launches at The Rock House, Thursday at 8 p.m.
Launch-goers will also be treated to guest appearances by Colleen Power, Ann Devine, The Terri-Lynn Eddy Band, The Gene Rippers, and The Discounts featuring Skank. Purchase a CD for $20 and admission is free, or, pay $15 at the door.