Genre Defying Singular Singer-Songwriter and Iconoclast Polaris Music Prize Nominee
Some old punks run for office. Some win. Some play country covers in homage to authenticity they don’t fully understand. Many former young punks claim they were punk when they in fact weren’t. They spoke out against nothing except their imagined repression.
Then there are John Lydon and Patti Smith–eloquent survivors, more than agitators.
And there is Art Bergmann.
Art Bergmann is an iconoclastic singer-songwriter who has been a legendary figure in the Canadian punk rock alternative music scene since the late 70’s.
His seminal punk band Young Canadians were defibrillators to thousands of disenfranchised youth in the late ‘70s. His legendary anti-music industry, anti-greed, anti-power stance grew from his original punk ethic, destroyed every chance he had at rising fame, and continues to spark new and relevant songs. In his 40 plus years of making music Art, along with the Young Canadians has fronted pioneering bands The K-tels, Young Canadians, Los Popularos and Poisoned as well as releasing Juno winning albums under his own name.
Art garnered a Juno Award nomination for Most Promising Male Vocalist in 1989, and James O′Mara and Kate Ryan were nominated for Best Music Video for Bergmann’s "Our Little Secret". Art’s 1995 album "What Fresh Hell Is This?" won the Juno Award for Best Alternative Rock Album in 1996.
Art’s 2016 album "The Apostate" received a nomination to the Polaris Music Prize Long List, and was cited by Brad Wheeler in the Globe and Mail as a contender for best album of 2016.
The Apostate is Art’s first full–length album in 18 years, and for that reason alone should be considered a triumph in the face of his once–debilitating health issues, and a music industry that seemingly no longer held a place for him. But putting that aside, The Apostate is a triumph simply because it is the best work he has ever done during his four decades as a recording artist.
Those too young to know that body of work will undoubtedly be shocked to realize one of the great poets of the punk and post-punk eras has been quietly residing in a small town near Calgary, Alberta, taking detailed notes on how corporations have abused our planet, and how our governments and legal systems have abused us all.
Art’s voice has been missing from our national consciousness for far too long, but it is back with a vengeance on The Apostate. The album’s 10 songs touch on topics ranging from racism, misogyny… history as written by the losers, all infused with Art’s trademark caustic wit. Overall, the album is a large dose of much–needed truth in an era of ceaseless spin, fear–mongering, and personal agendas.
But on top of that, The Apostate displays a remarkable sonic vision never heard before on one of Art’s releases. Working with producer Lorrie Matheson at his Calgary studio, Arch Audio, and an array of top–notch multi–instrumentalists, Art crafted sounds suited to the subject matter of each song–the hazy Americana of "Atheist Prayer," the mesmerizing North African majesty of "Mirage (The Apostate)," the ragged Stones–y groove of "Live It Up," the epic sweep of the 12–minute "Pioneers," and the stark intimacy of "The Legend Of Bobby Bird."
Punk rock was a sound, but above all it was an attitude. Art Bergmann’s attitude has never changed, even as his sound inevitably evolved. After so long in the wilderness, The Apostate is the album he needed to make, and all of us now need to hear.
"Songs For The Underclass" Release September 2014 Read More…
"The Apostate distils sources of information, music and culture Bergmann has been steeping himself in since he moved to Airdrie. It includes a fascination with desert and prairie music, from Tuareg blues in Africa to the windswept Americana of alt–country bands like Wilco." – Vancouver Sun
"This is a magnificent album. Both Underclass and The Apostate showcase Art Bergmann’s songwriting gifts. More than ever, his songs are poignant, biting, and powerful. These recent works show a fantastic polish and patina – if there’s grit, it’s there for a reason. That may be the biggest difference between this and his earlier works. While his talent hasn’t changed, Bergmann has improved his crafting to levels unattainable by most." – Huffington Post
"Long lauded as one of the original punk influences of the ‘70s, and an equally mark–making figure in alternative rock in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Bergmann’s current album The Apostate draws from all that and more, in crafting his best–yet collection of songs – and first full–length recording in 18 years. It says a lot about an artist’s persistence and integrity when his prime work is done at age 63; Bergmann is happy about that, as are critics, and the Polaris Music Prize large jury, who long–listed The Apostate in 2016."
– Socan Magazine
An Art Bergmann Primer
The Punk Years: 1977-1987
After the first British punk records hit Vancouver, Art ditches his bar band The Shmorgs and forms The K–Tels, one of the Vancouver punk scene’s founding groups. They soon get threatened with a lawsuit from the K–Tel corporation–purveyors of everything from knock–off hits compilations to the Pocket Fisherman–and change their name to the Young Canadians. They record two EPs (one with up–and–coming producer Bob Rock), which include the classics "Hawaii" and "Automan," and support The Boomtown Rats on a national tour.
After the Young Canadians split up in 1980, Art joins short–lived Vancouver punk "supergroup" Los Popularos, before forming Poisoned as a vehicle for his own songwriting. The band records demos with Bob Rock (released in 2009 as Lost Art Bergmann), which lands them a deal with Toronto’s Duke Street Records.
The Stardom Years: 1988-1996
To avoid confusion with hair metal band Poison, Art opts to record his first album for Duke Street under his own name. Velvet Underground co–founder John Cale is hired to produce Crawl With Me in Vancouver, although Art later downplays Cale’s contributions, apart from his trademark piano stylings. The album yields the hit singles "Our Little Secret" and "My Empty House."
Art follows it up with the more raw Sexual Roulette in 1990, led by the savagely rocking single "Bound For Vegas." Duke Street Records shuts down soon after, and Art records his next album, Art Bergmann, for Polygram. A more pop–flavoured effort, it nonetheless retains a lot of bite, courtesy of Art’s biggest influence at the time, Paul Westerberg. After falling short of label expectations, Art records 1995’s What Fresh Hell Is This? for Sony Canada, a return to the darker themes of his work. The album wins a JUNO Award for Best Alternative Rock Album, but Sony declines to renew his contract.
The Missing Years: 1997-2008
While living in Toronto, Art records Design Flaw with producer Peter J. Moore and British guitar legend Chris Spedding. It’s predominantly comprised of acoustic versions of earlier material, released independently, and Art begins playing solo gigs around southern Ontario. By this time he begins feeling the effects of severe osteoarthritis throughout his body, leading to doctors inserting titanium around his spinal chord to prevent him from becoming a paraplegic. In 2005, he and his wife move to a farmhouse in Airdrie, Alberta as he continues his recovery.
The Comeback Years: 2009-present
One of Art’s biggest fans, Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers, invites Art to open for his band in Toronto. The show helps Art connect with Phil Klygo of Weewerk Recordings, and motivates him to begin writing again. In August 2014, Weewerk releases the four–song EP Songs For The Underclass, which displays all of the old fire, and Art promotes the release with a brief tour of major Canadian cities that fall. The next year, Art begins work on the full–length album The Apostate, marking his official return.
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