Jean: In 1986, when we released our first album, we held our first ‘press conference’. It is so difficult to get any attention when you’re totally new. In now-standard Mecca Normal form, we created what we needed. Here’s an excerpt from the taped interview which I later transcribed and sent out as a ‘press release’. We didn’t make it known that we were two people, alone in a room, interviewing ourselves… I guess it’s OK to tell you now.

Interviewer: What the hell are you doing putting out a record when there are people who deserve this opportunity more than you?

DL: Vancouver is too small to find an audience for this type of music. Hopefully the record will get into the hands of people who might really get some excitement out of it. That’s the whole point of the record, to activate people. Like hey - the old idea of punk: just do something inspired, and that will inspire other people. We’re not going out of our way to be liked, we don’t mind being liked, but at no cost or compromise.

Interviewer: What do you hope to get by making this record?

JS: I would like people to hear it, even if they go "I don’t like this" - that’s fine. I think it will fit into their knowledge of possibilities. I think people might say, "What’s the point of this? These guys just wanted to make a record, so they did! Good lord!"

Jump forward 15 years to 2001, here is the next opportunity we’ve taken to interview ourselves, this time in email.

Dave: Jean, you have a chapbook coming out for this tour, what’s up with that?

Jean: I've just returned from Olympia where I hand printed the cover from my lino-cuts. "Family Swan and other songs" is a collection of specific and personal poems, that reveals a universal sense of family tension. Parents make weird accusations, accompanied by a "never to go beyond these four walls!" warning. Altered by emotional abuse, it’s the adult who does the remembering. Unsettled feelings linger. Many of these pieces are new Mecca Normal songs.

Dave: We both have new chapbooks for this tour.

Jean: Dave does very amusing political graphics, published by our small press: Smarten Up! and Get To The Point. Dave, can you explain how you got involved in the graphics side of the punk rock thing?

Dave: I'd just graduated from high school in 1976 when reports from England started to appear in the music papers -- punk rock seemed too bizarre to comprehend. I believe I attended the first punk rock show here; Vancouver was ready for the politically-fuelled punk rock ethic.

In the late 70s, when punk rock hit, I was the art director at The Georgia Straight, a Vancouver weekly newspaper. I put the PMT (photo mechanical transfer) camera to use preparing camera-ready art for gig posters.

From ‘76 into the early 80s I also worked on the collectively-run international anarchist newspaper Open Road. My artwork - colour portraits of anarchists Mikhail Bakunin, Sacco and Vanzetti, and the anarcha-feminist Emma Goldman -- were included as center-spread posters.

Jean: And you were in bands right?

Dave: I played guitar in a band called the Explosions when the original punk rock scene in Vancouver coincided with a strong leftist atmosphere. Social unrest was escalating in opposition to the right-wing government of the day.

Jean: I always had a feeling of missing out on all that action, that I wasn’t part of the original scene, now I look at my own history and consider that people who came along after we did probably feel left out of the scene we were part of. Good to remember there’s always a new scene to contribute to, to create.

Dave: In the original punk scene bands played benefits for End The Arms Race, Prison Justice Day, anti-poverty campaigns, Rape Relief, funding for teen centers, legal defense funds for activists, opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Of all the musical genres, punk rockers were the most consistent supporters of radical causes.

My brother, Ken Lester, was D.O.A.’s manager in the 80s. I designed many of the band’s album covers, posters, T-shirts, and stickers.

Posters were the main method of letting people know about shows and political rallies. Communication at street level, and the contrived civic denial of opportunity to do this, have become a politicized issue.

I self-published a series of posters on a variety of issues - censorship, poverty, historic labor rights, anarchist philosophies -- and left them in public places for others to put up. Posters that weren’t announcing an event or selling anything looked very good on the streets.

I also design book covers for local independent publishers, create print material for theatre productions and poetry events.

Jean: And in the mid-eighties we formed Mecca Normal.

Dave: We created a duo, but we typically collaborate with larger groups. We co-organized The Black Wedge -- a series of tours in Canada, the U.S. and England - we kicked off our first tour with two nights totally sold out in Vancouver. No one had heard of such a thing. Political poetry? Sold-out? We were a handful of anti-authoritarian poets and minimalist musicians reclaiming our voices, taking back culture, setting our wild hearts free! [laughs]

Jean: That last bit is from the poster: reclaiming our voices and setting our wild hearts free. On our first west coast tour we borrowed D.O.A.’s tour bus, a big old school bus, and played clubs, a soup kitchen, an alternative school, radio stations, parties, and the anarchist book store in San Francisco.

Dave: The Black Wedge tours continued for a few years - the name is still up for grabs. Anarchist poets, take the name and create a tour. Like those bicycles in Holland -- you just take them and leave them for the next rider.

Jean: In 1986, when The Black Wedge went through Olympia, Washington, we met Calvin Johnson of K Records, and discovered a whole different underground, a whole new "punk rock." A DIY aesthetic of making things happen rather than waiting to be entertained by the corporate ogre - could this bunch of berry-picking, pie-baking kids organizing themed dance-parties and swimming-hole picnics be political? [laughs]

Dave: I think Mecca Normal thrives in this kind of transitional atmosphere.

Jean: And in this current wave of positive energy?

Dave: Yes, where everyone doesn’t have to be making the same style of music or approaching political concerns in the same way. It feels like an encompassing energy is building again, extending out, re-vitalizing what was always good about creative collaboration; one to one, between communities, continents, the world.

Jean: Maybe what's new is that the musicians and artists who have been around for a while are acknowledging a positive swing while we are creating it. People are finding places for themselves and what they have to contribute within an open framework of potential. It is happening through a variety of intentions, rebellious and intuitive, artists fuelling and demonstrating a culture that works better than what we currently have. There is a sense of helpfulness more than careerism.

Dave: I think musicians are making it known that they aren’t giving up, or leaving music to those corporate ogres to dole out to a predetermined youth culture. How do you strike a balance between promoting Mecca Normal and the purpose of the band?

Jean: Sometimes it feels like we have to step back from facilitating our movements to remind ourselves of the reasons we are doing this. Mecca Normal continues to find limitless expression through voice and guitar. Recently I’ve become more aware that our friendship is visible and audible; it’s an integral element in what we create. I’m really liking being in my forties, having all these experiences and ideas to refine. For a while there it seemed as if underground culture was about to abdicate significant roles because we didn’t know what they’d mean until the future. The scope and availability of methods to document current existence is enough to put any creative soul into a dormant state! It is simply easier to remain still when we can’t see what will become of the present. Instead of living forward we were becoming nostalgic, indulging in a static, sentimental regarding of the past; a past that probably wasn’t fully participated in any more than the present. This stagnation appears to be breaking up.

Dave: In another way, how we function on a practical level is part of what the band is. Two people, a man and a woman working together, not romantically involved, sorting out how to proceed, intentionally outside of the mainstream.

Jean: What would your advice for becoming more active culturally or politically?

Dave: There are different ways of contributing to a scene. Like Jack, the guy who built our website, he didn’t want to be just a music fan so he offered to help us. That’s an inspired approach. He involved himself by offering his skills. Music events are gathering places for painters and writers, printers and web designers. When the music scene flags it tends to have a negative impact on the elasticity of underground culture. Indifference is a doomed state that disappears as soon as you put your work out there for others to hear, read, see, and taste. Why wait for the media to declare culture on sale now, better than ever? Be bold, follow your passion - take a chance, choose a course of action, make it up as you go a long, and see where it takes you.

Jean: See you there! [laughs]. We have 3 new songs up on our website:

http://meccanormal.tripod.com

Dave: I’d like to add that we really want to play these new songs for people. We’re not on tour to sell a new record (we don’t have one). We’re on tour to play the songs and to encourage their evolution.