David J. Knight and Scott McGovern
Leave it to a sonic archeologist to dig up three decades’ worth of alternative music in Guelph, Ontario. David J. Knight launched his new book, Sound Guelph, about the city’s alternative scene during a reunion concert Friday night in town.
Spanning the late 1970s to 2000, the book documents what Knight calls “the strange underground of Guelph.”
Maggot Fodder. A Single Voice. The Trembling Mimsies. The Enemas. Love’s Ugly Children. Baby Turns Blue. Just a fraction of the groups and names that stirred things up on the University of Guelph campus, downtown at venues such as Ed Video and the Woodshed, and further afield including Toronto and Kitchener.
The book consists mostly of photos, along with concert notices and reviews and news clippings from the day.
Looking for material, Knight mined archives at Ed Video downtown, the CFRU radio station and the Ontarion student newspaper at the University of Guelph, and private collections. He also went to his own archives: Knight was part of the scene as front man for A Single Voice.
A Guelph fine art grad (1987), he got involved initially with performance art on campus and with Ed Video, established about a decade earlier.
He started thinking about writing Sound Guelph a couple of years ago.
Originally from this town, he’d spent years abroad working on archeological digs; his first book was a history of King Lucius of Britain, published in 2008 by The History Press. He’s especially interested in learning about the ordinary sounds created and heard in older civilizations.
Back in Canada, he spent almost half a year researching the music volume.
Referring to the deaths of several musicians from that time, he says “It’s an emotion of loss, but also the sense that things didn’t come to nothing.” Hefting the book, he says, “This exists — a cathartic gift to the community.”
Back then, he says, they played to small audiences. But there was something “particular and peculiar” about what they were all doing. “I can’t actually name it, I think that’s kind of cool.”
This weekend, Knight played with former bandmates and other groups during the reunion concert held this week at Silence downtown. Silence? Anything but. Sound and energy filled the space, opened last year as a concert and arts venue by musician Ben Grossman.
The event even attracted the fire department, after the fog machine triggered an alarm.
Sound Guelph is published right there in the Silence space by Publication Studio Guelph. Begun in the spring, that venture binds and prints books on demand. It’s run by an editorial committee whose members include Scott McGovern, program director at Ed Video, a media arts centre in town.
McGovern, lead editor for Knight’s book. says, “This is the first time that history has been collected and documented. It exhibits something that was almost at risk of being forgotten.”
Sound Guelph is the collective’s second and largest venture so far. Earlier they published Pop Art Poem by Toronto author Jesse Haines. For Halloween, PS Guelph will reissue The Omen by 19th-century writer and Guelph founder John Galt; Knight will serve as editor for that project.
About 10 Publication Studio franchises exist in Canada, the United States and Sweden; their books are sold in dozens of bookshops worldwide. PS Guelph carries titles published by its sister operations.
The book launch and reunion concert at Silence took place as part of the Musagetes Guelph Cafe held in Guelph this past week. The event aims to find better ways to use art and culture to foster community.