Callander Girl: I’m here with Jimmy Cummins aka I Braineater, well known musician and artist in Vancouver and Internationally around the world.
Jimmy Cummins: In various circle yes.
So my first question for you is what came first your desire to make music or your need to create art?
I started drawing when I was 3 or 4 years old, so I loved drawing from an early age. It’s been kind of a drive, I think you just get born with it or you don’t. And if you are born with it, the urge is always there. When the punk rock scene came around it was great because it was a time when the idea was, who cares?! Who cares if you don’t know how to do this or that. If you want to do it, then do it! So I was like I want to do it!
Buck Cherry, who had the Modernettes, him and I wound up living in the basement of the Manhattan, down on Robson and Thurlow. And he said to me, “I’m going to help you have a band, cause it’s your turn Jim.” So he wanted to come up with a band that was the most evilest punk rock band out there and that scared every parent around the world. So I was like Ok…(laughs)
(laughs) Sure. Sounds like fun…
So I had some names that I thought would work but Buck said they all sucked. And he said, “No we are going to be The Braineaters”. What parents want their kids listening to a band called Braineaters (laughs)? I actually had a star line up, I had Art Bergmann from Young Canadians on keyboards, Ian Tiles on drums, I had Buddy Selfish, Dave Greg from D.O.A on guitar and Buck played bass. We had wonderful success at causing riots (laughs). We played one gig at the Russian Hall which caused there never to be another gig, all punk rock and all gigs were banned for 25 -30 years. No one played there again until just a couple years ago.
That’s actually kinda cool that Braineaters were the reason behind that. (laughs)
The first line ups last gig was at the Commodore where we were headlining which was great but then we also got very, very drunk by the time we hit the stage.
That’s the problem with headlining, not getting too drunk before you go on stage!
Exactly! So by the time we got on stage we were fighting, Buck hit my in the head with his bass, Art Bergmann peed on stage behind the shadow screen which he didn’t realize was a shadow screen so it presented him as a silhouette. For some reason I got the desire to throw garbage on the audience and take all my clothes off.
When did this take place?
In 79′ and we were banned from the Commodore for life for that one too.
Another great accomplishment. (laughs)
(Laughs) We ended up breaking up just as our first single came out.
Everything was just so collapsed at that point.
The good and the bad happening all at once!
Between Spring and Summer. But now I’m producing the new album with Duane, Timmy and Zippy.
Those are a great bunch of guys. The 22nd Century boys.
They really are.
So what do you think has been your most important influence in your art?
Big Daddy Ed Roth, he did the cartoon car monster stuff that came out in the 60’s when I was a kid. There was this kind of magic with the Big Daddy stuff like the Secret Agent or the Tweety Pie, but also his thing was to make Monsters the friends of children. I always came to the conclusion that the separation from the North American culture and European culture was that the European culture was a dystopia and the North American culture was the New Arcadia and the promise land. In North America we kind of fuse the idea that maybe the monsters were helpers and friends of children. Dystopia had fables that monsters live under your bed and they will eat you if your bad. A way to kind of control the children and stifle their imagination.
I’ve also certainly loved all the classic masters from Da Vinci, Paul Rubens, and Michael Angelo. I also loved Andy Warhol because he was able to make such a farce of art and such a farce of society and make fools of everybody and they paid for it! So I love that too.
I noticed at the last show I was at of yours that there was a lot of paintings of a beautiful lady that looked a lot like Burlesque performer Tristan Risk (Miss Risk). She was also at the show so I thought she must be the one in the paintings. Is she a muse of yours?
She certainly is a muse and I’ve always found that I’m a bit of an odd ball in the art scene because my muses are girls. I like girls (both laughing). So I found relatively after a while, after I’d kind of lost that blush of youth and that level of charm, that the basic main art community which is run by boys of a particular persuasion which I love and respect but at the same time I was not of that ilk and not of that desire. I eventually fell out of favour with the big art community with things like this because I love girls. And I love to paint them, and I love the look, the feel, the energy and they have been my muses.
It’s hard not to be inspired by beauty and your work certainly captures that.
How has Vancouver changed over the years?
Anything you give enough time to there will be in it seasons. And certainly in music and art scenes it has it’s seasons. I think what was so great about 78′ and 79′ in Vancouver is that a lot of the scenes were either searching for more or they were too small to operate on their own. The city was a lot more barren with warehouses and stuff like that so there was more of a tendency for people from the arts and music to all come together under the same roof. It was like all the creatures had to all come to the same pond or the same watering hole. And I think that made for a really exciting time, a lot of stress, energy, joy, frustration and magic came out of it. Because all these camps were made to hang out together so perhaps the war was on and in this war type zone creativity really blossomed. As time went on everyone kind went into their separate groups cause they could kind of live on their own and actually things went really quiet. For a while there wasn’t a creation of energy like it had, there is a little bit now since Susanne put out her documentary Bloodied But Unbowed. I think she really raised the Dead, she brought things back to life. There are things going on and art shows and gigs especially and we are all trying to make things happen again. There certainly seems to be an energy happening again, it’s maybe a little static, a little broken up but it’s most exciting and a really good time for the city.
I really loved Bloodied But Unbowed, it has so many great stories in it.
Stories there are, and only a part of them were told in the film.
I’ve heard that, that there was so much more that could have been told but there is only so much you can tell in a limited amount of time.
Absolutely, you literally just run out of time and I know the way that Susanne tells her films, she has her main characters and she kind of keeps the ball spinning around her main characters. And she needed to do that with Bloodied But Unbowed, keep the narrative going and get the film done. But yes there are more tales to tell.
It would be great if we could have a Bloodied But Unbowed Part 2 and 3.
Yes it would…Like a Far Side Tale…once upon a time kiddies the events that took place will shock and amaze you! Hang on to your Hot Chocolates! Here we go! (laughs)
Is there anything that you haven’t done that you would like to do?
I would like to get into bigger film making, I’ve made some little films in the past and I would like to get back into that but on a larger scale.
So it’s true that you have produced films in the past?
Yes, I made a film that Susanne actually used clips of for Bloodied But Unbowed called The Times You Come When Beauty Is The Beast. That was a Super 8 film that I shot back in the late 70’s and through the 80’s about two punk rock girls who live in warehouses, who are both witches and they kind of have fun with things (laughs). And the thing is does this stuff actually take place or do they make them take place or is it the city that makes it take place? The next film I did was a short film called Neck of Lace which was my first Melodrama, horror, and spy film. Which I wrote the script one week and filmed it the next and edited it the following week and a month later I had a party and showed it. And the film that I did after that was called The Sex Drum which was all about a man who ran a hotel for women who has something on his mind which they don’t have on their minds about him. It’s a greek tragedy. (laughs)
(laughs) Interesting… and you have also done the artwork for album covers. For bands such as Skinny Puppy?
I did Skinny Puppy, I did the covers for Too Dark Park and Spasmolytic. I did the original Pointed Sticks album cover, I did some stuff for Bitch and Dog Eat Dog. I did stuff for John Bates as well. I have had a lot fun over the years with stuff like that and I believe everyone has been pleased with the work I’ve done. I’ve always tried because it’s hard, you think you guys are actually going have this on the cover and in production forever. I don’t have a single tattoo on my body because I could never think of having something that long. It’s always hard for me to make a decision!
This is a two part question, best advise that anyone has given to you and the best advise you could give to somebody else.
Ha! (laughing) Best advice given to me was by one of Canada’s top architects, he basically designed the whole False Creek area, his name was Ian Davidson and he passed away a couple years ago. He had this very quavering voice shall we say and he used to come up to me and my paintings of my girls and say, “I’m going to tell you right now Jim as long as you continue painting those God damn bimbos you will go nowhere in Canadian art, let me tell you that!” And I suppose he was right.
Really? You think so?
To this day that is the best advice and he would tell me that at every show that I did. But I actually don’t know if it’s true (laughs)
I’m not convinced.
So that was from one of Canada’s top official art curator, collector and architect and he held the purse strings and certainly the reins of the art community in Vancouver and across Canada. The best piece of advise that I could give to anyone….
Maybe to someone who is just starting out in the art world and maybe the music scene in Vancouver.
It was something that I said a million years ago in a Vancouver Sun article and I will say it again, you do not need permission for anything. Do it! Cause if you wait for approval from anyone or if you wait for someone to get on board and do it for you it probably won’t happen. So I would just say for everyone out there who wants to create, make anything in any shape or fashion you desire just Do It. And there is always a way.
Were you encouraged?
No. (laughs) I have always been discouraged!
Really?! Was it something that you always had to fight for?
Yes I had to fight for it. And I think I still have to fight for it. Basically the realms around you would really like you to stop it. So I would also tell people to don’t stop. Whatever it is don’t stop it. There is this great line in the film Ed Wood with Johnny Depp, directed by Tim Burton. In the film Ed Wood meets Orson Wells and Orson says to Ed, “Dreams are worth fighting for”.
I couldn’t agree more.