A Conversation with Sweet Magic London's Peter Lebel by Mk Btt
So maybe you've heard about 'Sweet Magic London'?
Well, 'Sweet Magic London' is a brand new arts festival here in the Forest City headed up by local entrepreneur/artist Peter Lebel. The festival features a cavalcade of activities including 16mm film presentations, installations, a zine fair, and lots of forward pushing and fun music. And if you find this interesting then YOU, reading this, are invited. But take note this all takes place at a venue with a capacity of around 50 people, so tickets won't last. Might I suggest checking out Hot Dog at the corner of Richmond and Horton, kitty corner from the Labatt Brewery, for tickets? I might.
It's understandable that you won't likely be fully aware of the list of performers talked about in this interview, but if by chance you believe they're as great as we may mention then prepare yourself. Prepare yourself to be blown away again and again. 'Sweet Magic London's line-up is as good as any festival this city has ever featured. Throughout this article I'll try and introduce a few of these names with sample mp3s/videos. I suggest further investigation through the links or through Sweet Magic London dot com or a good old fashioned Google search.
Here's where I caught up with Festival chairman/organizer Peter Lebel....
Mk Btt: So 'Sweet Magic London' - how did this festival come to be?
Peter Lebel: Initially, some friends and I were organizing a festival for mid-August. Right when we were getting started, myself and some friends were contacted to book some shows around the end of March. After we had about three booked, we decided it would be neat to have a little micro-festival as a precursor to the summer event.
Most of the other programming happened quite naturally. Things fell into place, conveniently.
Mk Btt: These are all shows at your space... a space we like to call 'Pete's Uh Hut'. In the beginning, promoting shows in your personal space seemed kinda ballsy for a one off, but now you're doing five insane days of a festival. I'm wondering did you set out in the beginning for your space or venue to represent something in particular?
Peter Lebel: My intentions were/are to provide artists/musicians, local and those traveling, a more intimate and supportive space to showcase what they are doing. The shows and space give supporters and friends a unique and interesting way to experience art, film, and music.
Mk Btt: It is, and it helps that the bands have been so good over the last year. Bands/Acts like Satanized, J FM, John Milner You're So Boss, Tenderness, Kier Neuringer, Fleshtone Aura, Itsagamble!, etc. It seems like the bands I've talked to have all been super excited about playing the space, due in big part to the receptive and kind audiences. It's pretty safe to say this is the most consistently engaged crowd in the city. I think the size of the space has a lot to do with it, but it seems like a lot of things are working correctly.
So much so that you decided to take it from one off shows to full blown Festival... five days and a lot packed in there... do you have a goal or purpose in your mind for this festival?
Peter Lebel: Well, the purpose of this festival is to present and provide support to anomalous/left-field music, art, and film in London and its connection to Canada. Pure and simple.
Mk Btt: I know from talking a lot with you during the planning stages of this festival that you're pretty stoked about everything that's happening, but are there a few things standing out for you at the moment?
Peter Lebel: Lately, I have been into 16mm film so I'm really looking forward to the screenings on the last two days (March 30th and 31st).
Mk Btt: You're of course speaking of the screenings which will take place at Old East Studios curated by Jamie Q of the recent 'Not Bad for London' troupe who really impressed those in attendance at their recent Michael Gibson Gallery showing. And also you have Charlie Egleston curating some presentations. Can you tell me a little more about Charlie?
Peter Lebel: Charlie is one of the best active filmakers in the city right now. I'd suggest everybody Check out his website. The work speaks for itself.
I'd gotten into projector performance stuff which was originally why I got in touch with him via local artist Paul Walde.
He was down with screening some stuff and if things work out may hook up with us again in August (for Sweet Magic London) in some capacity. Charlie's very excited about pairing up film with a festival that also involves both music and art. This is perfect for this festival.
Mk Btt: What else has got you buzzing?
The headlining acts each night are a big deal to me. I am a fan of them all.
Mk Btt: Which includes Arkm Foam/Checkers on the first night. Now, correct me if I'm wrong here Pete, but Arkm Foam are a sound collage unit who perform with homemade instruments, junk percussion, cassette beats, balloon oscillators, etc. I'm reading a blog from Toronto called 'Burn Down the Capital' which says 'The duo creates an immersive sound experience, live collaging organic sound bites around the audience. Cocooning them in a world of colliding auditory possibilities.'
Also a guy who stole the show at last year's Weird Canada 'Wyrd MTL' show Man Made Hill. This guy drops some nasty nasty beats. As does Doom Tickler who always inspires us to greater things. I truly believe there aren't many better or more entertaining avant garde performers that I'm aware of then the those two. And to top it off you got one of our absolute house party favourites Itsagamble!
And then on Saturday you have one of the most exciting 'Punk' bands on the planet right now - Detroit's Tyvek. More to come on them, but if you're reading and you're unaware of this band become aware. Seek them out. This is a real treat to have these guys on such a great small stage like this.
And then the next weekend you have Legendary Can Vocalist Damo Suzuki on Thursday night. Each Other, the former Long Long Long - who made rabid fans of all that saw them (that is a band that I'm told by many ppl is one of their favourites). And Rhyton on Saturday.
Rhyton being a project of Spencer Herbst (Matta Llama, Messages), Jimy SeiTang (Psychic Ills) and Dave Shuford (D. Charles Speer & the Helix, No Neck Blues Band). Kind of a heavy weight trio of sorts. This is tripped out bliss that is gonna blow some minds, melt some faces.
And there's some other stuff around these shows that sounds pretty great...
Peter Lebel: The neat installations that Sarah Scope, Peter Thompson ('Not Bad for London'), Jesse Frank Matthews (who will also perform music as J FM), Marc Bell ('Not Bad for London'), Stacey Sproule, (and a few others) are going to be really cool to experience.
Mk Btt: I am particularly excited to see Stacey Sproule's video work. I'm a fan of her work. I'd also like to suggest people come by Hot Dog and pick up a free copy of latest 'Offerings' featuring an interview and a beautiful cross stitch cover art of Stacey Sproule. Stacey's name may be familiar to frequenters of Forest City Gallery where she showed a couple years back.
Also, this installation PEEP has a few people talking. It sounds perverted and wonderful. I get the assumption the curators are keeping things hush hush so I'll speak no more of it.
Who else on the under cards of the music shows has you excited?
Peter Lebel: Doom Tickler (always so great), J FM (who killed it at my place in late Fall of last year), itsagamble, Gym Zsahib, and Holden Main (who I saw at Hot Dog a couple weeks back) are all solo artists that have really impressed me live.
Mk Btt: Itsgamble! Is always capable of stealing a show. Yeah, there's some impressive cards. I'm excited to see Magic Shadows and Wtchs both from Hamilton. Seems like there's some good things coming out of the Steel City as of late. Town Ship from Toronto could be a show stealer as well.
Who are some of the other more local based artists/acts that are really impressing you as of late?
Peter Lebel: There are so many local artists doing super impressive stuff right now. I've heard amazing things about I Smell Blood and The Pin.
I hope that this festival will give some additional shine to the talented folk doing important things in London.
Mk Btt: The Pin is one of my heros here in London, Tim Glasgow (a doctor of sound known for his work with Sonic Youth, Nihilst Spasm Band, pop band Metric, Sebastian Grainger, etc.). If it's anywhere near as great as his Museum London performance from a few weeks back then it'll be incredibly fun. Tim has this great MC thing going on alongside his beautiful vintage analog synths. Like the Rat Pack meets Kraftwerk.
The Indigenous Nudes always bring an interesting challenge as well, and the Syndrome might honestly be... the best band in town.
And I can confirm that I Smell Blood are fantastic. We had them play here at Hot Dog a month back and they blew us away as they did the early crowd for the TV Freaks at the Brass later that night. Eric from Say Domino and Zach from Wild Domestic use this project to throw it all out there and thrash and bash their way to glory. Somebody oughtta give them some tag team championship belts.
Lemme ask ya Pete, how has London changed over the past couple years? How has London become this... place to be?
Peter Lebel: Well, we have a new Mayor and I noticed the other day that all the benches are gone from downtown. I hope they're just being stored for the winter. The Thames seems to smell a little better these days.
...and 4 new apartment buildings went up in my neighbourhood. It also seems to be getting warmer, overall, throughout the year.
Mk Btt: And I know you're a big booster of our local arts history do you perceive this festival and your ongoing activities promoting shows at your space as a reflection of London's great (sometimes distant) past? Like the hey day of Jack Chambers and the Nihilst Spasm Band?
Peter Lebel: We definitely have an amazing community of artists and musicians here.
Especially those on the more innovative side of things (people as you mentioned such as Chambers and the Nihilst Spasm Band being a few of the many great artists who have called London home). The era you speak of was full of experimentation and collaboration and making things happen. I see that kind of stuff more and more here.
It makes me happy.
Mk Btt: I imagine come Summer time and the planned Summer Sweet Magic Festival that you'd love to get more of these kinda people involved...
Peter Lebel: Having some of the artists from the hey day talked about in the previous question would be exciting. And getting kids involved would be neat. We'll see what happens.
Mk Btt: Any last words Pete...
Peter Lebel: I think collective efforts are important in sustaining a healthy community, especially in the arts. Projects like the 20/20 Gallery, Embassy Cultural House, and London Film Makers' Co-op have been an inspiration in Sweet Magic London as well as past projects. Unfortunately, we can't depend on our City to build and sustain healthy communities. It's the people that have to make things happen. Our local history shows us an example.
Peter Lebel: Thank You! In closing I want to send out muchos appreciation and love to the friends/organizers involved with Sweet Magic.
It is their craft and zeal that's really making this happen!
In closing I want to encourage anybody interested in any of the five 'Sweet Magic London' shows to drop by Hot Dog to assure yourself a spot. The venue capacity is around 50, so spots are limited.