In 2009, Joe Strutt decided to turn his hobby into a slightly more public hobby. Years later, he’s the unofficial documentarian of a local scene that, even in its most established historical records, can still be fairly transient. Drawn into the online live music taping community by his Wilco fandom, Strutt started a blog, Mechanical Forest Sound, as a place to post and file his recordings of Toronto shows. Five years since he started, Strutt’s rogue hobby has not only been accepted and praised by the music scene that it's provided permanence, but integrated and made official.
This weekend, Strutt celebrates his 40th birthday with a pair of shows in Toronto: a night at the Tranzac with Light Fires, Not The Wind, Not The Flag, and more; and the Lee Paradise record release at the Silver Dollar (we premiered the record yesterday). He’s also teamed up with a pair of great Toronto labels, Pleasence and Reel Cod, for a limited edition cassette, a miniature best of Mechanical Forest Sound called Selections, Vol. 1. You can listen to the two sides of the tape below, read the track listing, and read some of Strutt's thoughts on the release, the shows, and the Toronto music scene:
Mantler - I Guarantee You a Good Time / Canaille - Safer Than We Know / Sandro Perri - Changes / Afrafranto - Juliana / Gentleman Reg - It's True / One Hundred Dollars - Positive Hex / Deloro - Years 02:54
New Fries - Fix Touch / Mystic Triangle - Fragment / B-17 - Bad Situation / Anagram - What A Mess / Not The Wind, Not The Flag - We Acknowledge The Moon / Matt "Doc" Dunn - 12+12+12
Joe recounts his early taping history:
“When I started, for big touring bands, you could find anything. For the smaller stuff, there wasn't a lot, so there was no live representation of local bands. I met a guy at a show once, and he was recording it. I started up a conversation about gear and it started from there.”
Since then, he’s recorded some big touring shows (his recording of the Replacements' first reunion concert blew up overnight), but his passion still lies in the smaller, often one-off improv collaborations and weird noise events that tend to live and die in venues like Double Double Land, only in the memory of the handful of people there.
“If 30 or 50 people look at a post I wrote about that show, and there were three people at the show, it’s a multiplier, even if it’s not a big number. The people in that scene – I mean, everyone likes to be validated. Even if you’re a hard nose crazy improv musician doing your own thing, it’s still nice to be liked.”
And the fact that his 40th birthday is its own mini-festival just speaks to the way he’s been accepted by the community.
"The thing is there's a community - or an overlapping series of communities - that are out there and if you make the effort you can become part of it. I'm proof positive that one introverted dork standing off in the corner can be part of it, so presumably anybody can. Having the recording gear is just my little angle with which I can leverage some of my personality quirks, but the main and only trick is just to show up. Show up and eventually start talking to strangers and soon enough you're a part of it."