Sound Seekers

SOUND SEEKERS: Hip Hop Karaoke organizers try to get mayor to throw it down + The end of the Hilotrons

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani

Organizers of Hip Hop Karaoke have been spearheading a Twitter campaign to get Jim Watson out to their event. Photo by Etienne Ranger.

Over the past few weeks, Devin Atherton and Hassan Hamdan — the organizers of the monthly Hip Hop Karaoke (HHK) event — have been spearheading a Twitter campaign. They’ve been trying to get the attention of Ottawa mayor Jim Watson — an active Twitter user — in order to bring some minor celebrity status to their event that sends up some celebrities.

Hip Hop Karaoke is much like it sounds. People sing along to the backing track of popular rap tunes from the past two decades. It differs from your regular karaoke in that people who attend HHK like to dress the part. So, if you’re throwing it down to “Fight the Power,” you might make like Flavor Flav and don a clock necklace, say.

Having Jim Watson at HHK would require a change of uniform from the council chambers-friendly attire of Grey Suit and Tie or the hustings-friendly Khaki Pants with Buttoned-Up Shirt Look (see photo evidence, left). I can only imagine what his office staff — the folks responsible for his public profile — must think of this request. After all, this isn’t your traditional ribbon-cutting event.

Still, the request isn’t entirely unreasonable. The mayor is known for attending about a million openings, launches, and charity breakfasts each year, and Atherton, an Ottawa rapper, performer, and City of Ottawa employee, is well aware of that constituent-friendly reputation.

“The mayor attends a lot of cultural events,” Atherton says, “so I hoped he would come to Hip Hop Karaoke. He’s hip, he’s on Twitter, man. He’s hashtaggin’!”

A number of HHK fans made song suggestions on Twitter that were tagged with the mayor’s account (@JimWatsonOttawa). Watson kindly declined the offer and tweeted back that he was, “missing that talent gene!!” (Anyone who’s attended HHK knows that talent is low on the list of requirements for the event. Bravery and a sense of irony top the list).

Perhaps Watson will consider attending next month’s event. If he did, there would be plenty of opportunities to stay on message. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of suggested tracks should Mayor Jim Watson want to take the stage at Hip Hop Karaoke:

“Too Legit 2 Quit” by MC Hammer (1991) – In the event that the whole McGuinty thing has anyone wondering if Ol’ Jimmy will make a sudden move out of office, this song affirms his commitment to the job.

“Let Your Backbone Slide” by Maestro Fresh Wes (1989) – This Can-Con classic is a patriotic nod to the country’s music industry and should not be misinterpreted as having a mutable view of the whole casino debate.

“Bring The Noise” by Anthrax and Public Enemy (1987) – This tune brought together a thrash metal band with a rap band — a model act of cross-partisan collaboration.

“Check the O.R.” by Organized Rhyme (1992) – Singing this would be a purely crowd-pleasing act, akin to kissing babies on the hustings. The track is part of Ottawa’s musical history since one of the band’s members, MC Bones, went on to achieve great fame. You might know him as the comedian Tom Green. It’s a boosterish nod to the capital city scene and we all know how much Watson loves Ottawa.

“Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” by Digable Planets (1992) – Earlier this year, Watson said at a state-of-the-city address that he wants to “own 2017,” in reference to Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations. This tune underscores that sense of bluster, while emphasizing Watson’s seemingly unflappable nature.

Hip Hop Karaoke takes place on the third Thursday of every month at Babylon Nightclub. See the Facebook page here.

Mike Dubue of the band The Hilotrons. Photo by Rémi Thériault.

THE HILOTRONS — UP IN SMOKE
Ottawa’s favourite pop band, The Hilotrons, will join the list of Ottawa bands that you love that are no longer (Think: Sully, South Pacific, Liquified, The Fentons, Sick Fits, Weights & Measures — RIP). The band released two albums and an EP over the past decade.

The lyrics expressed a worldview that alternated between hyper excitement and crushing disappointment manifested in such stick-in-your-head tunes as “Up In Your Space,” “Screaming Pink Arosa,” “Oh My,” and “Emergency Street.”

The band will play most of their best-loved tunes in a two-set farewell show Saturday at the Black Sheep Inn. In the lead-up to the farewell show, Dubue posed for a series of photos that have a smarmy subtext. He was inspired to create the mock imagery after watching a documentary on the making of Serge Gainsbourg’s, “Ballade de Melody Nelson.” The photos offer another handy metaphor about the Hilotrons: the band is up in smoke, fin, kaput.

So, why is the band calling it quits? Front man Mike Dubue says his interest lies in his many other musical projects, from scoring silent films, to composing for animated films, to playing commissioned gigs with other bands.

He also says a falling out with his manager at Kelp Records and disagreement over terms of the record deal are casting a shadow over the project.

Kelp Records’ Jon Bartlett wouldn’t go into specifics, but said: “In short, I’m not managing them anymore.”

Still, Kelp will be releasing a new Hilotrons album on CD and 180-gram vinyl in February 2013 called At Least There’s Commotion. Dubue says it’s much more of a crooning record with less emphasis on the hyper pop of previous albums. Lynn Miles, Jeremy Fisher, and Jim Bryson guest on the new record, which Dubue says he will help promote, regardless of the fact that he and his manager don’t see eye to eye.

“If the plan to support the record is good, then I might get behind it. Otherwise, I’m burnt out and I just really need a break,” Dubue says, “a long break.”

He also says he wants to try new musical styles. “I’m not terribly excited about making pop music for the sake of trying to get it on radio or make a push for myself. I don’t really have the rock star dream anymore in my life. It’s not important to me at all.”

ALSO THIS WEEKEND
Dragonette, Data Romance, and Young Empires play Babylon on Saturday.
Matthew Barber plays two dates at the National Arts Centre, Friday and Saturday.
Slo’ Tom releases his new CD, Musta Been a Pretty Good Night, Saturday at Irene’s Pub, with his band The Handsome Devils. This is the alt-country side project of Tom Stewart, the Furnaceface and Manpower bandleader.