NEWS ARCHIVES - as reported on 9/13/02
More confirmed cities for THOR's 2002 Tour
OTHER NEWS as of 9/13/02:
>> Article in recent/upcoming issue of BROKEN PENCIL magazine
If anyone knows how/where to get this issue, please contact me. There should be photos included with the article.
Thor's FUBAR comeback vortex
by Mari Sasano
FUBAR! FUBAR! FUBAR! FUBAR! A writhing crowd of about 50 are in front of a stage, worshiping at the foot of Thor and his minions. It's a Monday night at the New City Suburbs, one of Edmonton's precious and few fun spots, and
we're filming a music video. 378 Productions, a local film collective (Anthony "Scott" Burns, Steven Hope and Chris LaRiviere), and Michael Dowse, Calgary-based director of the headbanger mockumentary FUBAR, are running the
show, and it's a nonstop riot of weirdness.
Dowse¹s movie was a freak midnight hit at Sundance this January, and it seems to be hitting the crest of a headbanger new-wave. It¹s a deliriously funny digital video project starring Calgary actors Paul Spence and David Lawrence as a couple of unreconstituted headbangers, livin¹, lovin¹, and especially drinkin¹ their way out of a crisis. Dowse included a couple old Thor tracks in the film itself and Thor, in response, wrote the song, "FUBAR is a Super Rocker" especially for the soundtrack.
Smoke machines are putting out the ambiance, it¹s time to roll! The band isn't even plugged in, but the extras manage to rock out in spite of their supper-hour sobriety. Bodies are packed tight against the stage, arms flailing wildly so all we see are devil-horns and fists pumping in the air. Mostly, these are the curious who¹ve come out to see who this Thor guy is, but it¹s easy to have fun in this campy metal-kitsch set. They remain enthusiastic for more and more FUBAR.
The band is clad in leather straps, giant platform boots, spandex and codpieces, with the exception of Ani the guitar player who is, in a word, STACKED and not shy about it. She gets to wear a nice vinyl bustier thing. The bass player¹s got this hand-carved bat bass, very apropos. Thor himself is massive: a giant really, with the classic headbanger longhair look -- extensions, glued in especially for the video. He¹s arrived with his usual bag of tricks. During a typical Thor concert he will wield hammers, swords, wear a number of masks, bend a steel bar in his teeth, and blow up a rubber hot water bottle until it explodes. Long-lost video footage from his 80¹s glory days show brawny assistants breaking cinder blocks on his chest with a sledgehammer but now that he¹s a little bit older, Thor no longer attempts
that particular stunt. Regardless, the live performance doesn¹t lack spectacle. The release of FUBAR in the spring marked the intrepid Thor¹s comeback. Being involved with FUBAR is part of the string of serendipitous events
that form this brotherhood that Thor has created in his midst. "Things happen by chance, by luck," Thor declares, "On my last tour I met the FUBAR guys in Calgary, and the 378 boys in Edmonton. It¹s all a part of a road I¹m following, the coming-together of various vortices."
Thor often speaks in such divine superlatives. Offstage, he drops the Metal God schtick, but he has some trouble dropping the lingo. It¹s a peculiarity that would seem grandiose except that it¹s big ol¹ Jon Thor talking to you.
Whenever he talks about his current projects, his eyes get all big with this big goofy grin, like a kid. He¹s just so damn friendly.
You might remember Thor as the iconic Eighties bodybuilder-turned heavy-metal god, with such memorable songs as "Keep the Dogs Away, " "Anger," ("anger is my middle name") and featured in such B-movies as "Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare" and "Recruits." Now, after a 12 year retirement, he has a new CD, Triumphant, plus two movie projects in the works.
At New City, the crowd revs up for the 18th performance of "FUBAR is a Super Rocker". Michael Dowse, also directing this video, takes time out to talk about Thor. "He's really inspirational. Every time I talk to him, the more I want him on the soundtrack."
Having Thor on the soundtrack reminds us how large that headbanger ethos loomed in our cultural formation. With mostly Canadian metal covers done by today's youngsters like The New Pornographers, Chixdiggit, Sloan and Sum 41, the soundtrack provides a fascinating glimpse into the world that marked an era of simplicity that eventually ceded to plaid shirts and irony. Metal is unironic, and the headbanger is the slacker of the working class, if that makes any sense. Maybe we¹re sick of irony, because on a recent gig in town, the New Pornographers covered a Thor tune as their final encore.
Meanwhile, those 378 boys have been copping Thor¹s moves and following his recent comeback ever since they ran into a copy of the original Rock 'n¹Roll Nightmare years ago. Having been fans for so long, they decided to
create a mock-up trailer for a sequel to Rock 'n¹ Roll Nightmare. Thor was so impressed, he¹s now in development for Rock 'n¹ Roll Nightmare Part 2: The Intercessor, and has a key role in Forever and After, 378¹s independent feature that has already piqued the interest of some distributors.
"These guys give me new ideas," Thor says, "like the album cover [designed by 378¹s Steve Hope] or the character in Forever and After." The art for Triumphant is a more strongly graphical close-up depiction of Thor out of character, a departure from the usual Norse god fantasy paintings that have been the style from the beginning. The CD also includes "Stormbringer", a track mixed by Pilotpriest, AKA Scott Burns who has also been throwing in his remix of "Keep the Dogs Away" on his DJ nights.
"They push me in different directions as an actor. It¹s not really a lead role like in my Rock n¹ Roll Nightmare days, it¹s more humble, like Of Mice and Men."
Earlier, the band, Dowse and LA-import cinematographer Alex were kicked out of the Alberta Place Suite Hotel for filming in the swimming pool. I get a telephone call at 8:30 AM about a "serious situation," since it is I, the production manager, who booked the rooms.
"Wha?" I ask. "Did someone get hurt? Is anyone in danger?"
"They were filming without authorization," says the manager. "I want these people out of their rooms today and I don't want to deal with this any longer."
"Fine," I say, eager to get back to bed. Besides, we've had a plan B all this time, which is a Thor-themed pajama party at the 378 studio. They really should have asked permission, but boys will be boys. "Fine." Alberta Place Suite Hotel is notorious for being assholes. A couple of years ago they were agitating for shutting down a couple of excellent downtown nightclubs because of the noise. Duh, the first 5 floors of the hotel are parking lot, who's gonna hear anything? So next time you're in Edmonton, don't stay there. Stay at the Econolodge.
Anyhow. The concept of the video is "Thor's busy day," starting with the guy waking up, kicking his two women out of bed, working out, playing sports,going to the office and then playing his gig. Accompanying him are his two lackeys, Terry and Dean, the two headbanger dudes from the movie. They are played by actors Paul Spence and David Lawrence, but you'd never know it; these guys are always in character. They could be a couple of northside Edmonton guys with their rolled up sweatpants, mesh ballcaps and muscle tees. This is 'banger verite.
Thor¹s clearly the star here, but eager Terry and Dean are there with wind machines, hammers, steel rods and muffins at the ready. "What the fuck, Thor? What the fuck?"
Earlier attempts to do some shooting at West Edmonton Mall's indoor Waterpark are thwarted by their media relations "team". They ask for thousands of dollars and an exact storyboard. Whatever! Thor is fronting much of the cash himself, most of it going to Mr. LA (who, to his credit, turns out to be worth the cost). So, we improvise. Who wants to go to the Golfdome, Edmonton's indoor driving range? Valhalla! Thor does! Who wants to play racquetball at the Y? In the name of Odin! Thor! Someone's dad's house? Then there is the aforementioned hotel swimming pool. The footage from that forbidden location is pure gold, as is the stuff taken on the sly in the hotel boardroom and hallways.
It's a good thing all of this is shot without location sound, since anyone lucky enough not to be holding a camera is peeing themselves laughing as the FUBAR dudes take wild slapshots at the Golfdome.
Nice work if you can get it. The CD is out and is getting some radio play and good reviews including a 4.5/5 rating on www.metal-rules.com. The video, now complete, has been on MuchMusic. Forever and After is just about wrapped, and pre-production for The Intercessor is gaining momentum. Next: world domination. He has a website, thorcentral.com, that he describes as "one big powerful force melded together." Indeed, the internet reveals a devoted following for the guy and his music.
Having left the entertainment industry for so many years, one would expect him to be much more jaded and bitter. He obliquely refers to some some bad business decisions and perhaps some intrigue, things that led to showbiz-free life for over a decade. Things that might keep a weaker, less dedicated man down. Not Thor. Thor is as nice as they come, and generous. Metal God though he may be, he¹s grateful for his resurrection and gives credit where credit¹s due.
"Obviously these are my boys. Those guys are amazing, they all have big futures in entertainment, not just movies. It¹s film, music, design and new media. Any way I can help I¹m gonna do so." You might think he¹s just being polite, but check out the liner notes for the album: first to be thanked, "with honor," are the FUBAR crew and the 378 boys. Plus, he¹s willing to have some fun with his image, as his full cooperation during the video shoot demonstrates.
"I¹ve been working on the comeback for the last two years. It¹s all fun." Whatever happens in the future, for now Thor is back! From out of the depths of time, a metal god stirs from the slumber of ages. Bursting out from the gates of Valhalla is the triumphant return of legendary rock warrior Thor! Bring the thunder!
Mari Sasano is an Edmonton-based writer and bass player for Mr. Relaxer. http://automatic.cx/mrrelaxer
SITE UPDATES as of 9/13/02:
Newly Designed NEWS pages
You'll notice that we've changed the way we present the latest THOR news. Now we've got a standard NEWS page, which includes links to both the LATEST NEWS and previous NEWS ARCHIVES. The LATEST NEWS section now includes links to several standard news topics, such as TOUR 2002 INFO, LATEST TRIUMPHANT REVIEWS, OTHER NEWS, and SITE UPDATES.