The Holy Gasp: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Tom Waits-tinged bebop being played inside a spinning blender.
File next to: Love is All, King Khan and the Shrines, The Cramps
Playing: Wavelength New Year’s Eve at Markham House City Building Lab. Get tickets here!

Catch the Holy Gasp as part of Wavelength’s New Year’s Eve! Also featuring: MATROX, Maylee Todd, Delta Will, Man Made Hill + other sundry items including but not limited to a strange megaphone fashioned from two car batteries, half a tuba, and an impossibly large conch shell discovered, inexplicably, on a mountaintop in Kenya.

Who are the members of the Holy Gasp and how did you come to work together?

The Holy Gasp is Sebastian Shinwell and me, Benjamin Hackman. I write the words and music. Seby Beby arranges and orchestrates. We change the live lineup around as needed, but have been playing steadily as of late with Karen Ng on sax and flute, Bennett Young on the bass, and a most peculiar drummer by the name of Mr. Professional.

You’ve been heard to ‘damn’ the Man. Is Man-damning a key part of your mission statement? Follow-up question: do bands that ‘damn the Man’ have mission statements, or are mission statements for the Man?

A healthy dose of Man-damning builds character, but I wouldn’t say it’s a mission statement. It’s more of a phase we’ll grow out of. Man-damning communities worldwide are overwhelmed with mission statements, ones which are redundant of other mission statements that say more or less the same things. The Man has mission statements too. His are simpler, perhaps crueler, but his communities bicker less amongst each other, and advocate for the same mission statements for which their grandparents advocated. Those mission statements are old and in need of revision. There are plenty of mission statements on both sides in need of revision. Most things need revision. Know what I mean?

Scatman Carothers or Scatman John?


Khakis: tool of oppression or merely proletariat leg coverings?

People should probably just wear whatever the hell they want and not concern themselves with how their pants are perceived by others.

Tell me how crazy it makes you guys when someone calls congas bongos, and vice versa.

The only thing that really grinds my gears is when people use “bongos” as a catchall for all hand drums. Otherwise, misnomers are just part of the history of the conga drum. In many parts of the world the drum is called a tumbadora, and the conga itself refers to the middle-pitched drum, in between the high quinto and the low tumba or salidor. Desi Arnaz popularized the name “conga drum” in North America after using the instrument in a conga line on television, even though the drum he played was a drum called a boku. If people care, the congas are the big ones, and the bongos are the two little ones attached by a bridge. Now you know.

Have you ever played the Nintendo classic “Donkey Konga?”

I have. I found it remarkably difficult.

Is the calendar rolling over a big deal, a chance for a fresh start, or is it really just another day that we imbue with simply way too much meaning?

No, New Year’s rules! One of my favourite nights of the year. I have nothing but positive associations with it. It’s a time to get together with friends and praise-bomb the fuck out of each other. It’s one of the few non-religious rituals our culture maintains. It’s very important to me. I would be sad to not get to celebrate it.

Are you formulating any resolutions this year? Anything you plan to stop doing, or start doing, in 2016?

I take my resolutions seriously and try to have about three tangible goals written out by the end of January 1st every year. They loosely fall into three categories: career, health, and technical proficiency in an area of music. This year, I wanna be a cowboy, focus more energy into my get-up-and-go, and get good at playing gospel on the tambourine, and bossa nova on the triangle.

What should one do in the event that an old acquaintance be forgot?

I suppose one should drink a cup of kindness yet.

— Interview by Dean Williams