After a long haul dodging the pandemic, Part 3: Fool, of the Fisher, Farmer, Fool project is finally ready to be released - available to download here on my website and on Bandcamp (https://johnguliak.bandcamp.com/album/fool)
This project will be my last recording while living in Edmonton as I am off to some new adventures in Nova Scotia. Almost everything on Fisherman, Farmer, Fool was made by Edmontonians and it will be a really nice little reminder for me of my time in Edmonton.
I have been pretty lucky to work on this EP with some of the finest musicians around, particularly in these parts. Jason Kodie has been supporting my music ever since I returned to Canada to continue recording and performing. I’ve often compared him to Garth Hudson because of how he always finds brilliant parts to accompany my songs and because of how much I learned from playing with him - I am a better musician and writer for it. His contribution to each of the songs on this EP is outstanding but his playing on Never Was really rises above the occasion.
I’ve admired the playing of Aladean Kheroufi and Connor Ellinger since I first came to town and I had been biding my time to recruit them to be the rhythm section for one of my projects. I was pretty pleased when they agreed to play on Fool, and even more pleased to find how generous they were with their time and effort towards learning and performing their parts. They were able to bring elements to the production and arrangements that I never could have anticipated on my own and all three songs on Fool are richer for their input and participation.
Jason, Aladean, Connor, and I recorded the bulk of the tracks in one day and then I went to adding some bells and whistles. Jason suggested Bob Tildesley to play trumpet on New Love. I had a notion for a horn part for this song but it wasn’t very well developed. Bob came in for a few hours and absolutely nailed it, providing a defining part to the song. His playing was so strong that I then recruited him to play on Never Was as well. I hadn’t met Bob before and am really happy he was able to contribute so strongly to these songs.
Other contributions came from Mallory Chapman who provided background vocals to New Love and Insectine. Mallory was a wiz at her parts - she and Bob worked out the vocal/horn bridge arrangement in New Love in an instant - and I was really impressed with how she navigated my loose phrasing and sometimes stray intonation (which she graciously referred to as microtonal). Curtis Ross played some Doobielicious guitar on New Love - my directions to him were that I wanted it funky but to also keep it honky and he delivered. I also got Marek Tyler to provide some deep thumps from his custom hand drum to add gravity to Never Was.
Marc L’Esperance Mastered these tracks for me at Vancouver’s Heavy-o-Sonic, just as he has done with every studio recording I have ever made for over 20 years now - goes to show how much I value his ear and expertise. He is the only non-Edmonton contributor to Fool.
My old Vancouver pal, Richard Chapman, is going to include Fool on his Northern Electric collection - home to some west coast favourites of mine like David P.Smith, Great Aunt Ida, Herald Nix, Circus In Flames, and a ton of others. Having stayed on the west coast for 11 years, it feels good to be in this company.
Icing on the cake of this EP was provided by an animated video by Nickelas (Smokey) Johnson for Never Was - I’ve long admired Smokey’s artworks and his video really captures the sentiment I intended Never Was to have.
New Recording Soon - Fisherman, Farmer, Fool Part 3 - Fool
in the last year or so there’s been a whole lot of very little going on. while COVID slowly grinds itself out i’ve started to get busy and back to making music. a few gigs have popped up here and there, plans for a Spring EU tour are starting to percolate, and i finally got back into the studio to finish up my triple EP release, Fisherman, Farmer, Fool. i’m pretty sure we got all the tracking done for Fool over 2 days in early December with the musical support of Jason Kodie,Aladean Kheroufi, Connor Ellinger, and Curtis Ross under the guidance and expertise of St. Franchuk at Riverdale Recorders in Edmonton. i’m really hoping to get this out this Spring. what i thought would be a 9 month project in 2019 is just getting close to completed now so i’m keeping many appendages crossed. here's some shots of the session care of John Weed.
i am not a numerologist but the number 3 has made an impression on me:
1. the big Christian 3; the 3 in 1; the father, son, and death of both; all are and are not all at once. then there’s the big bad guy identified by 666.
2. the never ceasing work of the dialectic - thesis, antithesis, synthesis - any notion (thesis) implies its opposite (antithesis), the contradictions that result work themselves out (synthesis) until a new notion is arrived at (thesis) which implies its own opposite (antithesis), creating new contradictions to resolve (antithesis), and so on.
3. the triptych - the same story told, picture painted, song sung from 3 different perspectives that becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
athough i had a fairly complete vision for the project when i set out, it seemed to take shape on its own as it developed. i knew i was going to make three three song EPs each with their own theme based on different musical traditions. i also knew that i wanted each EP to have its own backing band to suit the theme. i wrote the material for these releases over the course of a few years and i was surprised by how well they fit together as cycles of three songs. each EP is made up of an instrumental tune as well as two songs with lyrics. the songs’ structures are riddled with threes; the EP titles all start with the letter F - 666!!! - even the (3) Brothers Karamazov make an appearance.
Fool, the third EP, follows contemporary and urban traditions. i started to write all 3 of the songs on this EP at two separate residencies at The Banff Centre where i was lucky to attend in 2015 and 2016.
"The greatest beauty is to be alive, forgetting nothing although remembrance hurts like a foolish act, is a foolish act."
New Love kicks off the EP with uncharacteristic enthusiasm and hopefulness but not to worry, i soon settle back into my default with Never Was. this is an instrumental piece i’ve been kicking around for a while but it finally took form just in time for this EP. i was inspired to write it by the failure of an 11 year relationship and by a passage in Alfonso Lingus’, Excesses, where after diving he observed that:
“The sea was full with the detached organs of some dismembered monster that never was.”
i finish off Fool with Insectine (or Love Karamazov style). an earlier version of this song was recorded at the Banff Centre and appears in the film, A Monumental Secret. it is in its final form here and is hopefully the saddest song i’ll ever write. much inspiration came from this passage in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's, The Brothers Karamazov:
“All we Karamazovs are such insects. And angel as you are, that insect lives in you, too, and will stir up a tempest in your blood. Tempests, because sensual lust is a tempest - worse than a tempest! Beauty is a terrible and awful thing! It is terrible because it has not been fathomed and never can be fathomed, for God sets before us nothing but riddles. Here the boundaries meet and all contradictions exist side by side. I am not an educated nor cultured man, Alyosha, but I've thought a lot about this. It's terrible what mysteries there are! Too many riddles weigh men down on earth. We must solve as we can, and try to keep a dry skin in the water. Beauty! I can't bear the thought that a man of lofty mind and heart begins with the ideal of the Madonna and ends with the ideal of Sodom. What's still more awful is that a man with the ideal of Sodom in his soul does not renounce the ideal of the Madonna, and his heart may be on fire with that ideal, genuinely on fire, just as in his days of youth and innocence. Yes, man is broad, too broad. I'd have him narrower. The devil only knows what to make of it! What to the mind is shameful is beauty and nothing else to the heart. Is there beauty in Sodom? Believe me, that for the immense mass of mankind beauty is found in Sodom. Did you know that secret? The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.”
i’m going to give February in Edmonton the slip this year and see some equatorial America so i won’t release this until i return in March - just thought i’d let you know what i’m up to. talk to you all again when the snow is melting.
New Video Performance
Jason and i got our pal John Weedto come down to the Riverdale Recorders in Edmonton to video a little performance in between tracking some new tunes. Included here is:
1. Follow Me written by John Guliak from the 2002 album, The Black Monk. 2. O Marie written by Daniel Lanois from the record Acadie. 3. Dusty/Hack Of All Trades written by John Guliak from the 2020 EP, Farmer.
Marked by a fierce wanderlust and a collection of Canadian addresses that spans the entire country, John Guliak’s calm and worldly vision expressed through his eclectic songwriting feels both magnetic and effortless at once. His understated turns of phrase convey a considered approach to life and its delicacies while at the same time maintaining a melodic and accessible appeal. With more than 35 years as a prairie troubadour, touring internationally and living abroad, Guliak’s best and brightest may still be just ahead.
With a profound respect for literature and a thirst for knowledge, Guliak’s passion for both mainstream and alternative music grew as he ventured from the farmlands of Saskatchewan to the capitals of Europe. As a result of his studies in Political Economy, he became tethered to socially conscious folk music for most of his young adulthood. Over time Guliak gradually rediscovered traditional arrangements and writing styles that had passed him by in earlier years and began generating his own variations on these timeless blueprints. The songs that result from this perspective have been compared to those of other uniquely Canadian voices such as Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen.
As a veteran artist of Mint Records, Guliak released two full-length albums that were met with critical acclaim. In 2016, he self-released Fluke or Flounder with support from heavy-hitter Paul Rigby (Neko Case, Garth Hudson, The Sadies). The result was a unique, alternative post-rock sound with the cadence of diehard traditional folk featured throughout. This recording followed a 7 year sojourn in Glasgow where he took a respite from performing while continuing to write.
Returning to Canada in 2015, Guliak’s performances and songwriting have been admired and sought out by the music community as he continues to grow a dedicated audience. His live show is an engaging experience accented with authenticity and charm in exactly the right proportions helping to create an atmosphere that feels more like a conversation than a performance. His whiskey and cigarettes baritone has been described in Nerve Magazine as, "one of those character voices that should almost be trademarked."
Whether globetrotting among the nameless or humbly coaxing crowds on stage, John Guliak’s songwriting is a treasure. His dedication to exploring points of connection both captivates and refreshes anyone who is lucky enough to end up in his presence. Among the polished branding of mainstream culture, Guliak’s candour is a soft reminder of the purpose for art and understanding.
In 2015 and 2016 he attended the Musician in Residence Program at The Banff Arts Centre, he also attended a 3 week residency at Rest For the Wicked in Brussels, Belgium in 2018. In 2019 he attended a 10 day writing workshop in Nashville at the home of Linda McRae with support from the Canada Council for the Arts. 2020 has him ready to release 3 new digital EPs: Fisherman, Farmer, Fool and planning to stay safe until things approach normal again.
This past Fall Rob Malowany ofParkland Music Project took a roadtrip between lockdowns from BC to Ontario stopping at many points in between to visit old friends to find out how they are coping through the pandemic. i was lucky to be on one of his stops and, as usual, we got down to a pretty good blather which Rob video recorded for his Journal project - click on the link on the title of this entry. he also recorded me performing Dusty/Hack Of All Trades from my latest EP, Farmer (drop in to my store on this site to have a listen and maybe purchase a download).
i haven’t written anything here for a while - it’s been difficult to be creatively motivated these days despite having more spare time and plenty to write about. i’ve still got some projects on the go that will be seeing the light of day soon and there’s a glimmer of hope on the performance front. i’ve watched my Summer and Fall tours in Canada and Europe grow uncertain and then be cancelled or pushed - any kind of planning has become pretty much impossible at this time. i do realize that many folks are in the same boat and many others are struggling with life and death issues that make my difficulties petty by comparison and this keeps me from feeling too sorry for myself. despite any creative difficulties i might be having, as well as trying to be safe and socially responsible in regards to the pandemic, i am trying to keep busy with finishing up a recording project and starting another.
i released the first installment of my three part project, Fisherman, Farmer, Fool, earlier this year. it has only been available as a digital download or stream from this site and from my Bandcamp page. i decided not to seek distribution through the regular big networks - Spotify, Amazon, iTunes - as i feel i really need to stand behind my criticism of how poorly these platforms pay for the content that they are growing wealthy from. this limited distribution is bound to impact circulation and sales but i’ve decided to make a stand here.
making the release of Fisherman available only as a download has also presented some challenges - it seems folks are still quite attached to having physical copies. people cite a few reasons why they don’t purchase downloads: they want to own their copy, they miss the artwork, lyrics, and liner notes, they don’t like the quality of MP3s, and they want to have a physical memento.
for as long as i can remember i have been a music collector and have spent a big chunk of my life browsing through and purchasing music no matter the format - Vinyl, 8 Track, Cassette, CD, and Digital Downloads. despite having some pretty impressive collections over the years, these days my music is almost exclusively Downloads. i own this music just as much as the CDs and Vinyl i used to own; most of this downloaded music also comes with downloadable artwork, lyrics, and liner notes and if it doesn’t, all of this is usually available online with a minimum of searching; most Downloads are available in lossless audio formats such as Wav or Flac files which are superior in sound quality to MP3s; i do miss having a physical memento at times and will purchase CDs for this reason, even if they never get played after i rip into my collection.
to address the purchaser concerns discussed here i am releasing 8” X 6” Download Code cards that will display each release’s full colour Artwork on the front cover (Fisherman, Farmer, Fool each feature a unique three part evolving portrait by Betty-Anne Lampman), liner notes and graphic work on the back, and lyrics and song credits, code and download instructions on the inner pages.
2. nine song LP with three new original songs and a different six song collection from my previous releases with each new release on this site https://johnguliak.com/store for $10.
3. the large format Download card i’ve described above with nine song LP - $15 for one, $20 for two, and $25 for three, available at the purchase sites above and from me in person.
Hey Folks - without a whole lotta hoopla i am self-releasing my newest Fisherman today available only through my website and Bandcamp. here's a little lyric vid i through together
a really nice article here from Fish Griwkowsky of The Edmonton Journal
My Summer shaped up nicely - i headed out to the West Coast to play some shows in Vancouver and on a few of the islands with Vancouver Island native John Gogo in July. it was so nice to be on the coast in the Summer and to visit old friends and make myself better acquainted with John and his music.
i am also well into a new recording project that i will complete and release in 3 stages between January and July 2020. this will be the first recording project that i will complete in Edmonton and i am very excited about the collaborations with this city's Arts community that i have lined up for it. the project is called "Fisherman, Farmer, Fool" - each word in the title represents a 3 song cycle that will each be released separately as electronic EPs as they are produced.
all the parts of "Fisherman, Farmer, Fool" will be recorded and mixed by Scott Franchuk at Edmonton's Riverdale Recorders with an eye on bringing them all together as a long play vinyl release. Scott was one of the first people i met from the Edmonton music community - i knew him through local Canadian heroes Old Reliable who i had met while i was living in Vancouver. we have got to know each other pretty well in the years since but this is the first time we have worked with each other. i have always admired his work and the way he goes about it - he is a weathered and measured presence in his studio and i am lucky for his direction.
another collaborator that i have been looking forward to working with is local Composer and Cellist Christine Hanson. who helped me with some early arrangements for the songs that make up Part 1 - Fisherman. though i have known her work for some time and we even share a common history of having lived in Edmonton then Glasgow and then back in Edmonton again, we only recently got together in preparation for this project. she was instrumental in helping me line up a couple of Scottish musicians, Gordon Gunn (fiddle) andKevin Murray (guitar)who gave me some beautiful tracks. she was also responsible for bringing in musicians from the wider community who i have not previously had the opportunity to work with such as Jamie Philp (guitar), Daniel Stadniki (drums/percussion), and Andrea Vogal (vocals). rounding out the musicians on this leg of the recording were Jason Kodie (accordion, keys, vocals), Mike Lent (bass), Paul Rigby (electric guitars, ebow), Paul Pigat (electric guitar), and Mirielle Moquin (vocals). the songs we have tracked: Sum of Survival (SOS), Private Melville's Vast Retreat, and Roger Casement all turned out really well and i am excited to share them with you in the new year.
Speaking of musicians i have previously worked with, i will also be bringing the members of Ayla Brook and the Sound Men to record some soon-to-be C&W classics for the middle cycle, "Farmer". several years ago, while living and performing in Edmonton, i had a group of musicians working with me called The New Lougans - you can hear some of the work we did together on my site here . after i moved to Scotland this group stayed together and began performing Ayla's songs, it was really great to reconnect with this talented group of musicians who include Ayla Brook (guitars), Sean Brewer (guitar, vocals), Brent Oliver (bass, vocals), Johnny Blerot (keys), and Chris Sturwold (drums). we cranked out almost all the tracking for three songs: Dusty, Hack of All Trades, and High On Style, in 3 fun filled days. local musician/writer Kristy Nanise helped me out with some lyrics while Nataya Nolan backed by Emily Bachinski and Alex Vissia came in and laid down some incredible vocal tracks for High On Style - i can't hardly wait to release these 3 songs by early Spring 2020.
OK - i'm off preparing for this stuff - i will be updating my progress as it occurs.
My winter trip was all i planned it to be and then some, despite the terrible weather i seemed to drag around with me, but i wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without a ton of support:
1. from the Canada Council for the Arts who surprised me mid-trip with some funding for my time in Nashville;
2. from Linda and James for sharing their home with me and making sure i got the most out of being in Nashville; especially to Linda who has been a mentor to me since we met in Vancouver all those years ago. If anyone has ever had the misfortune of trying to co-write with me or has attempted to give me advice on my writing, you will know how significant the following praise is: Linda’s writing workshop produced some truly revelatory moments for me. We set and followed a clear agenda that had us working on some material that I have not recorded yet and then discussing and working on some new ideas, approaches, and directions. Everything that we touched on, either through informal discussions or concrete exercises, had some constructive outcomes and i left the sessions changed and confident. I can’t recommend Linda’s home workshop too highly: https://www.lindamcrae.com/nashville-home-workshops
3. from all the friends who put me up (up with me) throughout my travels, who helped set up shows, and who shared a stage with me:
while in Toronto i was also lucky to perform an opening set with support on guitar from David DeLeary for Jack Marks and the Lost Wages the Cameron House - thanks to all for a lovely evening:
I then travelled for my first (FINALLY) ever visit to Nova Scotia. The rugged and beautiful landscapes i passed through and the support of the people who welcomed music as a cultural rather than a commercial entity, constantly reminded on Scotland. I was very lucky to play some Songwriter in the Round shows throughout Nova Scotia with the brilliant company of Kim Barlow and Robyn Carrigan - i had the best seat in the house at all the shows we played - thanks to Erin and Matthew at the Church Brewing Company in Wolfville, to the folks in Shelburne , Sydney, and Seaforth for putting together lovely shows.for us:
I then went for a visit to NYC where i walked for hours up and down 5th and 7th Avenues taking in as many treasures as possible - Art, Central Park, Shows, Restaurants, Bars, Hustlers, Lights, Towers, People, People, People, Car Horns...everything i imagined NYC to be - special mention goes to the Neue Galleria https://www.neuegalerie.org/ for surprising me with some of my all-time favourite portraits by Dix, Kokoshka, Gerstl, Kollwitz, Schiele, Nussbaum, and others - i was overwhelmed at times.
Then came the final leg of my journey - i already spoke to the time i had at Linda’s place but i also got to see a fair bit of Nashville - the absolute glut of music on Broadway, the Country Music Hall of Fame, so many guitars, great shows at The Station, The Nashville Palace, and 3rd and Lindsley, and some fantastic southern food. I was lucky to tag along for a short trip around Tennessee with Crossing the Caney, a new group that Linda performs with that includes some really talented folks who can boast close associations with musicians i have long admired like John Hartford, Chet Atkins, Vassar Clements, and Hoyt Axton. Thanks to Kris and Dale Ballinger and Mark Howard for inviting me along for the beautiful little drive through southeastern Tennessee, i never imagined how gorgeous the state of Tennessee is and how welcoming its people would be.
Now it’s time to let the real world settle in again - i’ve got some big plans brewing - stay tuned - check out Linda's workshop page and drop her a line - you won't regret it.
Got a pretty nice poster done by Travis Salty for my upcoming tour
February/March - Shows in Toronto/Nova Scotia/PEI - Residency in Nashville
I am very excited to announce a little trip out east and then down south which includes a show in Toronto at The Burdock with Jack Marks, a trip to Nova Scotia and PEI with shows with Kim Barlow and Robyn Carrigan. I am then headed into the US for a little sight-seeing in NYC and then for a 10 day stay at my old friend Linda McRae's home in Nashville where I will work on some new and emerging material. My buddy bobby yiannakoulias did this great little animation for me.
Sorry you haven't heard from me in awhile - i've been working on some exciting projects and all shall soon be revealed. In the meantime please enjoy this video of myself and Jason Kodie (KODIAK) performing the song Dust from 2016's Fluke or Flounder. BIG THANKS to the multi-amicable Daryl Payne who wore all of the hats making this video for his home project:Feature Wall
Spring Tour is booked! Dates in Alberta and BC are confirmed for May 2018 for the 'In the Round and All Together' tour featuring myself, Jason Kodie, and Jody Shenkarek. Thanks to all the bookers and friends of bookers who helped me put this all together - your support and patience are really appreciated!
I am kicking off the new year in style earning a designation of "municipal treasure" by The Edmonton Journal's Fish Griwkowsky in his year-end review of live music.
January 11 - February 17 I will taking a little trip that has me playing shows in Amsterdam, Glasgow, and Brussels as part of an Artist Residency that I will be attending at Rest For The Wicked in Brussels - details to follow
I am pleased to announce that my song "Insectine" is featured in a new film by Edmonton filmmakers Adam Bentley and Paula Kirman called "A Monumental Secret" - click on the title and you can view this film online for…
i have some very exciting projects in the works; from one of my songs being featured in an upcoming, locally produced documentary, to collaborative writing and recording projects, attending a Workshop/Residency with Linda McRae in Nashville, and touring and…
I am very excited to hit the road with this very entertaining and talented collection of performers this Fall starting off in Edmonton and finishing up in Salmon Arm for 20 shows in 20 days. i am going to let…
Roger Casement, as performed by myself and Jason Kodie, June 4, 2017 and recorded by Daryl Payne and Jason Gordon at The Empress Ale House in Edmonton Alberta. i wrote this song while on a Banff Centre For The…
last Sunday Jason Kodie and i sat down before First Orders at The Empress Ale House in Edmonton, AB and played a couple of tunes. Daryl Payne and Jason Gordon were there to capture the sound and vision and we…