Daved & Confused: Rip this joint

She ain’t a new place to dwell and she ain’t at the end of Lonely Street, but she am known to those who pay rent and many more Maritime musicians as the Heartbreak Hotel.

Cigarette stain yellow vinyl siding and bruised apple red brick coat the outside of the two-level every day, run o’ the mill domicile sitting behind a fence of hedges and trees at
the corner of Bayers and Joe Howe. The musician infested structure serves as main headquarters for some of our city’s busiest players, engineers, and soundmen.

Current tenants include Troy Arsenault (Alert the Medic/ booking agent for the Seahorse Tavern), Robbie Aggas (sound engineer/ tour manager for the Stanfields/owner of LoudAggas Music Productions), and Mike MacDougall (former Jimmy Swift bassist/recording engineer/graphic designer).

Stanfields’ frontman Jon Landry moved out a few months ago and has since been replaced by Carmen Townsend (shouldn’t have to tell you what she does.) Finally, Nathan Mann, a musician and sound engineer, inhabits the modest one bedroom basement apartment. He’s got his own stone wall entrance, pretty sweet.

Once inside it’s fairly clear there’s something fishy going on.  Not fishy like Joe Pesci, but fishy like David Lee Roth. You won’t be able to put your finger on it. You won’t be able to judge it based on smell or appearance alone. And You might feel uneasy at first. But either way, you can feel the pulse of artistic adventure keeping time throughout the home.

It’s probably the living room full of instruments and after-party residue that gives off welcoming vibes upon arrival. You can tell fun was had, whether it was last week or last night, it’s not really a stain you can wipe off. And not particularly one you should wipe off, if ya puff what I’m passin’.

Hanging from the walls of the living rooms (or slung over a couch) are guitars, some of ‘em handmade by Mike. In the back sit electric drums and keys. Everywhere else, make-shift ashtrays, take out containers, speakers, amps, records and your choice of vacant liquor bottles or empty plastic Petro-Can bags. 

"The idea for the house was to create the ultimate pad for musicians and the like,” says Aggas. “With a living room studio you can literally walk in and start recording at the drop of a hat.”

Rent’s cheap. Anything goes as far as house rules. And, as long as it’s something productive and conducive to a tenant’s career, music and noise are permitted no matter what the hour. Because, as all artist’s learn to accept, creativity just can’t seem to tell time. This is one luxury few musicians can enjoy.

I’ve been lucky to be a fly on the wall (or the wolf at the first little pig’s house) at more than one of their shakers. I’ve sat and had band meetings over Fruitopia and nachos. I’ve smoked my face off in Mike’s bedroom recording studio during “business hours” listening to drum tracks ‘til 2 a.m. It can be a place to relax, be imaginative and conspire or a place to rip, roar and ... conspire.

In late November, 2010, until March 2011, my band, The Stogies, and I recorded vocals, mixed tracks and did a few over dubs alongside Mike and Troy for our debut EP. Many other stragglers poked their heads in to help with back-up vocals or share an opinion.

Mike had recently transformed one of his closets into a vocal booth. Padded with foam and smaller than Tinkerbell’s tits, five of us Stogies crammed inside to shout “any of your friends” during our appropriately titled tune, “Any Old Friends.”

It was impossible to keep from laughing. Five dudes standing shoulder to shoulder in a circle around one microphone, drinking Kool-Aid Jammers and fully inspired from left-handed cigarette smoke. Most of us had never had to record vocal tracks before so the uncertainty alone was enough to crack a smile. “Well... here we go.” It worked out fine though; we even kept some of the laughs on the track.

But it can’t all be fun and games. Heartbreak is best known for throwing after parties, Christmas parties, Halloween parties, party parties, BBQ parties, firework parties and of course, ‘Hey, ‘s Tuesday’ parties.

“The place is big and the doors are always open to chill on the couch, record or jam in the living room, sit out in the yard by the fire, jam downstairs, sit on Mike’s couch upstairs and listen to some interesting conspiracy anecdotes. Fly an RC helicopter, BBQ on our roof top patio, or drop three dollars in the ‘beer machine’ for a cold beer,” says Aggas, who fixed up an inoperative Pepsi machine and turned it into a real conversation piece in the kitchen.

As you can tell by now it’s a pretty dumb house, full of losers and jerks and nothing fun ‘n awesome ever happens. “Ahh, phooey,” you might say. But in all seriousness, this place and the group of people, tenants or otherwise make it a home that breeds good company. Easy-going, creative and experienced musicians willing to share knowledge and patience aren’t working every corner in the city... but they sure as fuck work the shit out of Joe Howe and Bayers.

See for yourself:
LoudAggas backline and mobile recording rental service: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LoudAggas/275412895839955?ref=ts&sk=wall
Carmen Townsend homepage: http://carmentownsend.ca/
Alert the Medic: http://alertthemedic.com/
Photo credit: Heather Beresford (below)

- Dave Lidstone 


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