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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jon Harvey Interview

The Arts in Hamilton: one artist at a time. This column aims to introduce you to artists around Hamilton, their personalities, and their opinions on random stuff in the city.  The arts in Hamilton has been a rapidly growing movement and has, largely, been under-recognized by the general population. Our artists include some incredible musicians, painters, sculptors, writers and so much more and this is our opportunity to get to know them and their relationship with our fine city of Hamilton.

This month’s interview is with Jon Harvey, he is a Hamiltonian, born and raised and he is now in a band called Monster Truck (maybe you’ve heard of them).  He is one of the most chilled out guys I have ever met.  When I showed up at his house to talk to him, he was totally strumming his guitar in his back yard…maybe it was staged, or maybe he is just that cool.  He is yet another great example of a Hamiltonian who has found his success in life and chosen to stay close because he loves this city!

What's one weird thing you do on tour?
I sleep a lot. A lot. I try to sleep as much as I can and I like to eat right before we play. It's the opposite of everybody else I know. Everyone else is like "I've got to eat now so it can digest for an hour". Nope. I want to be full so I'm not worried about eating. I like eating, so if I'm thinking "man, I'm hungry" while I'm on stage I'll forget stuff. And then I'll be like "ah, man, I should have eaten!"

What is your favourite venue or city you've played?
My favourite venues are weird because they're in bad cities. The best venue in Canada is the Commodore in Vancouver. There's a theatre in Syracuse, NY, that is the most beautiful venue I've ever played. It's a rock 'n' roll venue but the whole lobby is covered in gold. It's crazy. In Syracuse — which kinda sucks. But the venue is amazing.

Bulldogs or Tiger-Cats?
I'm going to say Tiger-Cats because it's more Hamilton. But Bulldogs forever because of hockey. I'm not a Montreal fan, so them not being affiliated with Montreal now is good for me.

Favourite video game?
Street Fighter II. I think every guy my age's favourite video game is Street Fighter II. There was no other game — at that point that was the top dog.

What's your favourite food?
Pizza. Forever. It has to be. It's the best food there is.

Who do you think the next big Hamilton band is going to be?
I have no idea. I don't know anything about any of this stuff. I didn't think I was going to be, but here we are. I'm an awful judge. I'm so out of date about what's new because all I do is go to the studio or jam and come home. I don't go out, so I don't know who the bands are anymore. I'm a jaded old man.

What's the coolest band you've opened for or played with?
See, I was never a fan of all the bands we opened for when I was younger. I was a punk kid and we don't play with punk bands. I was never an Alice In Chains fan but they're fun guys to hang out with and play with. And we opened for Sound Garden last time and it was awesome, but I didn't talk to them.
So you haven't played with anyone jaw-dropping holy-shit-I'm-playing-with-this-band?
No. If you're opening for AC DC or Sabbath there's probably a 'whoa' moment. People always freak out like "wow, you played with Slash, that's amazing!" But I was never really a Guns 'N' Roses fan, sooo...

What would your ideal backup job be?
Hand-painting letters on signs.
Do you have mad artistic skills?
I'm okay. I like letters. And opening a music store, but I'm on a hand-lettering signs kick today.

There's a zombie apocalypse. Where in Hamilton do you go to survive?
I don't go anywhere. I'm not a fighter — they'd pick me off in seconds. I would probably lock myself in this house, it's solid brick and there's not many windows. I'd bunker down at home and wait for people to come kill me because zombies won't get in. You know some idiot is going to come over to your house and be like 'I want what you have' and shoot you. That sucks. A zombie didn't get me, some human being did. And that's the way I see the apocalypse going.

What's your shame music? The music you listen to that you wouldn't tell people about.
Phil Collins. Or Michael Jackson. But they're not really shameful to me because I love them. People are always like, 'really, you're listening to No Jacket Required again?' Yes. What do you mean? There's something about Phil Collins in the 80s. I'm not even big on Genesis, I just like Phil Collins.

Whose roadie would you like to be?
That's a hard one because everyone's clean and sober now and all the guys just get off stage and go straight on the bus so it's no fun.
Is that what you do?
No. No. Sometimes. I like to have a few beers, but I never had a crazy two-decade-long substance abuse problem, so I'm okay with a couple beers. Let's just say I wouldn't want to be a roadie for anyone.

What's your guilty pleasure?
Pizza. It's my favourite thing and the thing that makes me feel most ashamed of myself. I'll eat the whole thing.

You're dying tomorrow. What would you last meal be, including appetizer, entree and dessert?
For an appetizer I think I'd go with some kind of stuffed mushroom. For my main dish I'm going to go with spaghetti bolognese. That's the other one — it's pizza or spaghetti bolognese. Then for dessert I'll have pizza.

What are your favourite places to be outdoors and indoors in Hamilton?
I really like the bay front. It's nice but it smells — other than that it's great. To be inside, I like our house. I like our home. I'm not home very much, so when I am I want to be home. Just inside relaxing or in the yard. I stopped going out — it's easier that way. A lot less money spent in a bar. (Writer’s note: bars are great…you shouldn’t stop going to them just because some musician says he prefers to stay home. You should probably go to a bar right now.)

Max Kerman Interview

The Arts in Hamilton: one artist at a time. This column aims to introduce you to artists around Hamilton, their personalities, and their opinions on random stuff in the city.  The arts in Hamilton has been a rapidly growing movement and has, largely, been under-recognized by the general population. Our artists include some incredible musicians, painters, sculptors, writers and so much more and this is our opportunity to get to know them and their relationship with our fine city of Hamilton.
The artist for this month is Max Kerman, who is a band member of The Arkells, based out of Hamilton.
Q: What’s the most exciting thing happening in Hamilton right now? (You can’t say you.)
A: I’m not just pandering to you -- I like all the new restaurants and places to hang out. When I first moved here there was a real shortage of cool coffee shops and restaurants and pubs, but now there’s a lot of choice. Today for lunch I went to Brux House, which was killer, there’s Two Black Sheep and my friend opened The Ship five years ago. One of my first jobs out of university was at My Dog Joe, and those owners have since opened Mulberry Coffeehouse and Democracy. There’s just lots of small-business entrepreneurs that are doing interesting things, and it makes it a fun city to live in. Now I have a bunch of friends from Toronto moving to Hamilton with no Hamilton roots, and I can proudly refer them to ten places off the top of my head that are worth checking out.

Q: Who’s your favourite musician of all time?
A: It changes regularly… Paul McCartney? I’m not really going out on a limb there.

Q: Who’s your favourite musician that you don’t like to tell people about?
A: I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures – I’m kind of over that. If you like it, you like it. You should hear the pre-drinking playlist that would be on at a party I’m throwing, which is anything from One Direction to Mystikal.  I do love – and I want to shout this from the rooftops – Bruno Mars. I think he’s amazing. He can literally do everything better than anyone. His songs are incredible, he co-wrote Fuck You, the CeeLo Green song. He can play every instrument better, he can dance better than everybody. He’s a great live singer. His new song Uptown Funk is incredible. We watched Saturday Night Live with him, and we all tried to get the backup dancers’ moves down. Unsuccessful so far.

Q: Lots of bands leave their “birthplace” when they become popular. Why have you stayed?
A: It’s where my friends are now – you want to live where your pals are. I came to Hamilton originally to go to McMaster University, and I always envisioned moving back to Toronto. It’s where I grew up and it’s an amazing place. We ended up originally staying in Hamilton after we graduated because it was cheaper. It was just kind of out of necessity. When you’re on tour a lot, paying Toronto rent would be a real motherfucker.  So, (we thought) ‘in Hamilton at least I save a few hundred dollars a month in rent, I can stay here’.  As years went on, I realized that all my family is in Toronto but all my friends are here.

Q: What’s your favourite Hamilton memory?
A: It’s hard to point to just one. I have so many good memories. I have a yearly tradition of going to the Casbah. The last few years I’ve played at the JR Digs Acoustic Christmas charity show, and then The Dirty Nil have their annual Christmas show, Young Rival has an annual Boxing Day show, so I wind up being at the Casbah a lot. I look forward to that time of year: Christmastime at the Casbah.
The Supercrawls have been amazing. Two years ago I was a spectator, and last year we got to play which was amazing – there were so many people there. 
Q: Do you have a vice?
A: I steal candy from the Fortinos’ bulk section. Usually when I go grocery shopping I stuff my pockets and snack a little.  Sometimes when I get to the checkout I declare it, and sometimes I just keep it in my pocket.

Q: There’s a zombie apocalypse. Where do you go in Hamilton to survive?
A: I feel like it would be pretty stressful, so I’d probably just go to The Ship and relax a little bit. I know all the staff there so I feel like they’d take care of me. They’d get shit under control. Like ‘you guys take care of this, I’m just going to hang out in here.’

Q: How would your best friend describe you?
A: I’m pretty upbeat and I like company. So, just sort of an upbeat, social dude.

Q: How talented are you?
A: Not particularly. I’m not being falsely modest – I can do a bunch of things pretty well. But I don’t have the discipline or patience to be great at anything. I’m a pretty good basketball player, but I’m not a great basketball player. I wouldn’t even say I’m a pretty good guitar player – I’m an ok guitar player. Like, good enough to get in a band kinda thing.

Q: If for some reason you could never be an artist again, what would your ideal backup be?
A: I’d probably want to be a journalist. I listen to a lot of podcasts – I almost listen to more podcasts than I do music these days – and I love storytelling and political journalism. I think there’s a lot of human-interest stories out there.

Q: How many 10-year-olds do you think you could defeat in a combat situation? Like, what amount of 10-year-olds do you think you could handle before they would overpower you?

A: I could take down any 10-year-old no problem… I think at least seven or eight; I’d try to sock them hard in the face. I’d really strategically plan, and knock them unconscious. Just really punch them. I could drop kick them… I feel like their hardest punch would kind of be annoying, but I’d be able to deal with it. I wouldn’t enjoy it though.
Well, people have been calling me out on not writing on here I'm going to post some of the articles and interviews I've been doing in the mean time for Urbanicity.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Some advice on maintaining productivity

Productivity is one of the most important things an entrepreneur can have on their side.  We all seem to manage our own productivity in our own ways; often in very different ways.  To remain focused and productive I use five specific tools/methods that have proven very useful to me.

To begin, I’m a planner.  If I don’t make a plan then next to nothing gets done.  Every evening I make a plan for the following day.  I consider what needs to get done, set out a time line and work backwards in order to make enough time to realistically check items off of my to do list.  As an entrepreneur, I do not have a routine as every day is different than the one before it; planning will make the chaos more manageable.

I write lists.  My life is too full to remember everything that needs doing.  Whenever something comes up, my phone comes out and I add it to the list.  Also, I prioritize my lists so that the most pertinent tasks are at the top of the pile and nothing important gets lost in the fold.

Knowing that I can’t do everything by myself vastly increases my productivity.  I have competent people who I can give tasks to; thus, multiple tasks can be accomplished simultaneously.  The hardest things for me to let go of were some of my daily responsibilities because I believed that no one could do them as well as I could.  No one is that infallible, not even me.  Getting rid of the repetitive daily responsibilities has freed up more of my time to do things that should really only be done by me.

Always make time to do something that you enjoy that is not work related.  If you don’t do this, you will get burnt out and then you are useless.  Go out to dinner with a friend, play poker, paint, write a book, do whatever it is that helps you unwind.  You are not a machine, despite your wish to be at times.

Don’t drink in the middle of the day.  This took years for me to learn.  Lunch meetings can usually include an offer of wine or beer from our hosts.  I know that, if I have one glass of wine in the afternoon, my productivity will plummet for the remainder of the day.  Drink water or something beautifully caffeinated to keep your focus and energy up.

Maintaining productivity as an entrepreneur will keep your company moving like a well-oiled machine.  Be sure to plan out your days, make lists to keep track of what needs to get done and use employees efficiently to take some responsibilities away from you.  Don’t forget to enjoy life a little, even when “there’s too much to do”.  If you have a long day ahead of you then think about denying yourself that cold beer that you so desperately want to consume over lunch.

Thanks to kabbage for encouraging me to think more about my management style and how I stay productive day to day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Parking Rant

I take issue with parking in this city; more specifically, parking tickets.  I am the type of person who accumulates tickets over the year and then pays them all at once every December.  Yes, it adds up.  Because of my methods I have quickly come to realize a major issue in our parking enforcement in Hamilton. 

I live near St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Corktown area, and if you have ever parked around there you know very well that you will have a parking ticket if you are more than five minutes late back to your car.  The same goes for the area around McMaster University and Hospital, as well as around any major educational or medical centres in Hamilton.  I’m not writing to complain about the city’s efficiency in giving tickets in these areas but, rather, the absolute bias towards being so absolute in these areas, but the complete disregard of other relevant areas.

If you are not aware of the Locke St. Area, you should become so.  It is a beautiful street full of coffee shops, restaurants and high-end shops.  I am there between three and five times a week from one to four hours depending on the day.  The reason I am outlining my frequency and length of time on this street is because I need you to have an understanding of how much time in a given week my car sits on that street without having a paid parking pass in my window.  I have not paid for parking on that street since they put meters on it. I have not been ticketed.

While we are on the topic of streets that never get ticketed, let’s take a look at Ancaster.  If you are not familiar with Wilson Street, it is another lovely place to go and eat in a nice restaurant or shop in a very high-end store.  It is known for its wealthy inhabitants.  I challenge you to get a ticket in Ancaster; seriously, try it.

My issue here is that our city very diligently fines people who are trying to go to school or have an appointment that runs longer than expected at s hospital, among other reasons.  A few blocks away on a street that caters to leisure time, shopping and dining, there is not an enforcement officer in sight.  People who shop on Locke can afford the tickets; give them to us.  It’s not right to ticket so aggressively in certain areas and completely disregard others.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#HamOnt #RestaurantScene

               Everyone talks about how Hamilton’s food scene is finally up and coming.  Sure, the restaurant scene in this city is certainly evolving, but let’s not forget about the owners who have endeavoured in this city to provide its residents with delicious fare over the years. Read on to discover the past, present and future state of food in Hamilton as it looks right now.
The culinary trends in this city right now are interesting and new and should be talked about and celebrated as much as they are but let’s pay homage to those who have been around through thick and thin.  Though the list is largely composed of ethnic restaurants, they have certainly kept our mouths happy for many years.  I am sure that if you were born in Hamilton then you have certainly frequented some of our old classics: Lo Presti’s (high-end classic continental), Bronzies (casual Italian), Ventura’s (Portuguese), Black Forest Inn (casual German), Wild Orchid (Portuguese), Gate of India (you guessed it, Indian), Shakespeare’s (high-end steakhouse) and many others.  These establishments are just that: established.  Many of them have been a part of our restaurant scene for over twenty years and show no signs of decline despite the fact that it has the same feel when you walk in that it would have when it opened years ago as many have maintained most of their design and (often times) original staff.
Also on this list of notable long time eateries are those who constantly update their menus and their d├ęcor to keep up with the ever-changing needs of their patrons.  This list includes but is not limited to the following: La Cantina (Italian), La Piazza (Italian), The Old Mill (Classic Fine Dining), and The Rousseau House (Classic Fine Dining).  The latter two I mention despite the fact that they are in Ancaster because they have always been great places for Hamiltonians to go to for special occasions like Mother’s Day, Anniversaries, any sort of church celebration and any other time we feel like treating ourselves.  If you haven’t been to these restaurants in the last couple of years then you should as they have done a good job of updating their dining rooms as well as their food.
This, of course, brings us to the new additions to the city in the recent past.  I don’t have the word count to talk about all of them but I will mention those that have been noteworthy to me.  Here they are in (what I recall to be) the order that they opened: Jack and Lois (sandwiches), Bread Bar (casual farm to table), Chuck’s Burger Bar (tasty burger joint), The Ship (seafood Influenced pub food), Rapscallion (nose to tail), Culantro (Peruvian), Sarcoa (classic fine dining), McCartney and Son (salads and sandwiches), Burnt Tongue (soup), Two Black Sheep (oyster and charcuterie cocktail bar) and Aberdeen Tavern (neighbourhood restaurant).  All of these recent additions to Hamilton standout in their own way and are well worth adding to your list of places you have been to.
This leaves me with yet another list; the list of the up and coming. Most people have heard heard of the Gorilla Cheese food truck.  Well, owner Graeme Smith is now opening a brick and mortar grilled cheese restaurant at 1216 King St. E. near Gage Park.  That is expected in July.  Chris Preston, the creator of Chuck’s Burger Bar will be bringing you two new places to bring your mouth happiness.  The first will be the second edition of his popular burger joint on King William in the new Empire Times building (which is bloody gorgeous by the way); the second project is a cheese based restaurant on King St. near Hess village that will focus on grilled cheese and mac & cheese.  Both of these locations will open this summer.  I have to mention the elusive Lister Chophouse that has been “opening soon” for almost a year.  I would kill for a good steakhouse downtown but I have heard rumors that it may never open; that place seems cursed so far.  There is also talk of the Rapscallion/Two Black Sheep team opening a taco place on James North this year (my fingers are crossed not only because of my direct vested interest in the project but also because I really love tacos).
So what does one talk about after one has discussed what is soon to open in this city?  Well this girl tells you about the things that are buzzing among restaurant owners and what they want to think about maybe opening.  The “it” thing that is being thrown around right now within the industry is the brew pub concept.  Seriously.  I have heard about four or five restaurant and bar owners tell me that they hope to open a brew pub.  Will it happen?  Who knows?  I don’t predict the future; I just report the gossip on the metaphoric street.  Watch out for anyone recruiting brew masters is all I will say.
Overall, I would like to say how happy I am to watch this city evolve on every front.  My hope is that our food scene will continue to grow until it reaches a superior status amongst foodies like that of Montreal or Chicago.  We have everything they have with the added benefit of affordable leases (for now) and a population that is just waiting to be impressed. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

On Food Trucks

The concept of restaurants is ever-evolving.  For one, they are no longer confined to brick and mortar establishments. The food truck is not new but their trending popularity certainly is.  Ten years ago, most people would never have imagined the creative gourmet options they would be able to get from a food truck; something I remember, from childhood, presented on beaches and in parking lots serving up hotdogs, hamburgers and fries. To say that food trucks have come a long way would be equally understated as it would be punny.

The scene in Hamilton has grown exponentially over the last few years.  There are now common areas in this city where the food trucks unite and offer a place for people to go to taste all there is to offer.  The camaraderie among these trucks is admirable and I often wish that restaurants could be the same way.  They have certainly added to the progress of food culture in the City.

Graeme Smith, owner of the very popular food truck Gorilla Cheese, says, “I believe that food trucks can take some credit for the recent growth of food culture in the Hamilton. Since we started 3 years ago, Hamilton now has more than a dozen food trucks roaming the city, and a steady influx of new high-quality and independently-owned restaurants popping up all the time. It's contributed to a new-found excitement for food in the city, in which the best establishments will flourish and the not-so-bests are forced to improve their game.”  

In 2012, city council was debating whether or not food trucks could continue to operate as they had been as there weren’t many rules and regulations in place at the time to govern them. When this surfaced, many restaurant owners spoke out vehemently against them. There were also those of us who were happy to support them.  The dividing stance was that one side believed they would steal business away from brick and mortar restaurants without paying their fair share of taxes and expenses; the other side felt that food trucks added to the city and didn’t pose any threat whatsoever.  In the end, Hamilton became one of the first cities in Canada to permit food trucks to operate within reasonable parameters, allowing their owners to make a proper living.

The major issue with these businesses is that we live in Canada.  Personally, I would never get in line at a food truck in the winter as I like to be warm whilst eating.  Comparatively, I feel unbelievably sorry for them in the heat of our summers as they sweat over deep frying food in a metal box with the sun pounding down on it.  So kudos to those ambitious food truck owners who have the passion to fight the elements (including those on city council).

Today, there is incredible variety among the types of food you can acquire from a food truck: vegan food (Karma Charmealeon), authentic southern BBQ (Southern Smoke), high quality coffee (Detour), high-end chef-driven options (El Vagamondo Gastromondo), schnitzels (Dobra Jesti), smoked meats (Caplansky’s), grilled cheese (Gorilla Cheese), and so much more.  When they all gather at locations like the corner of Queen and Main (Savoury Saturdays) or at Longwood and Aberdeen (Food Truck Alley) it is a great opportunity to test out everything there is to offer from these travelling kitchens.

I will leave you with some eating suggestions as two prominent food truck insiders have shared with me their favourite meals from the Hamilton food truck scene:

Dobro Jesti – Za Razor (Pork Schnitzel with and marinara sauce and mozzarella)

Johnny Blonde - Spicy jerk chicken on homemade flatbread w/ apple, cabbage, cucumber and sweet carrot slaw in honey Dijon vinaigrette

Southern Smoke Truck – Smoked Ribs with homemade smoked beans and sassy slaw
Frankie Fettucine – Osso Bucco & Gnocchi poutine

Gorilla Cheese – The French Onion grilled cheese, with caramelized onions, crispy onion bits and gruyere on Cake & Loaf Cheddar/Onion/Beer Bread.

Dirty South-Dirty Southern Love-This is southern fried chicken in Louisiana hot sauce layered between 3 buttermilk waffles, candied bacon, arugula and house made ranch sauce.

Karma ChaMEALeon- Jamaican Jerk Taco, the right amount of heat with no meat. 

Nudulz-2 Alarm Coconut Curry over Orzo, curry is perfectly spicy and the chicken melts in your mouth.

The Salted Pig, the bacon candy is amazing.

 Food Truck Alley