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JANUARY | 2012











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I keep seeing a renewed appreciation for film over digital among photographers. What draws you to keep working with that format? Film has a lot more character. On the technical side of things it has more contrast. There’s a scale from pure black to white, and film can get a lot closer to pure black. The aesthetic value of it is so much more interesting to me. I’ve had a 35mm SLR since I was seven or eight. I’ve always had film. I never had money when I was younger to buy a digital setup, and sure it’s a little harder, but in the last few years I started taking it more seriously—got my own dark room set up. Digital works for certain things— I’m not against it. I just enjoy using both, using whatever technology is natural for the situation. It’s an interesting art form in as much as everyone takes photos but not everyone is necessarily a “photographer.” I think everyone is a photographer to a sense, but in the way that everyone can doodle or draw. There’s how good you are, and how well you’re received—which is a big part of it, but there’s also the issue of subject matter. You see some photographs that are well lit and well composed, but the subject is really boring. There are also some great photos that aren’t perfectly composed, or they’re a little blurry, but they’re of something that really involves you and really says something. That’s way more important for me. More than the gear and the technical side, I’d rather take a photograph of something I actually like. How does it transition into more of an artistic pursuit? I think it becomes fine art in the same way painting does. When photography first started out people thought it couldn’t be art because it takes away all of the intention. There’s intention in every brush stroke. Photographers worked to have it perceived as art, because in a way you are constructing things, just from the other side. You construct things on the other side of the camera and then just capture that moment. That’s where it transitions into art. How would you describe your style? I used to shoot candid stuff—just images of people. I still like that, and I still think you can find those beautiful images of people in every day life— but I’m moving towards expressing ideas through photography rather than capturing things around me. As cliché as it is, it’ll be good to start trying to look into those deeper things.

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Before we get more into your project—what exactly is land reclamation? There’s a few different ways you can approach land reclamation. You can try to return land to the way it was before any human touched it, or you can try to take out certain contaminations so that it can be used for another purpose. We’re turning our space into a park, sometimes the land ends up having an agricultural use, or you just put it back to the way it was. Our project was just outside of Yellowknife. It’s this massive old gold mine that we’re basically turning back into a park. How do you approach turning back time on an area of land like that? Usually you’re dealing with soil on the site. Our site has a lot of rocks, so for our purposes soil isn’t a huge concern. You have to reclaim certain areas of land, re-vegetate. You go in, look at the contamination, and figure out how to remove it. After that you re-contour and make sure that there’s water getting into the system so that plants can grow. How did this project take form? Everyone in Land Reclamation at the U of A has a Capstone class. For land reclamation the project takes two semesters. We had to decide where it would be and what we would try to do. Our team wasn’t big enough to do the entire thing, so we broke up the duties. There’s a lot of infrastructure there as the mine has been around since 1945. Someone else is going to remove that infrastructure as well as large containers of dust from arsenic trucks. What part of reclaiming the land are you guys dealing with specifically? The part of the project we’re focusing on are the tailings ponds. In the process that’s used to extract gold, they use cyanide. So in tailings there’s cyanide contamination, so we’re trying to figure out how to deal with that cyanide. We’re going to use a bioreactor that pumps water out of the tailings pond, and as the water trickles through a carbon source like straw it’s mixed with a bacteria that degrades cyanide, so when the water comes out the other side it’s clean. It’s a pretty unique faculty I think a lot of people probably aren’t familiar with. What exactly would you like to do with it? Last semester I worked on a study abroad project in Tanzania, and I guess that’s made me really interested in working abroad. It’s exciting here to work on these kinds of things, but it would be amazing to work in a place where they really don’t have that much space and they really need the land back.



Do you have to deal with hecklers in the more indie circuit in which you do stand-up comedy? You always have to deal with hecklers. I haven’t had too much trouble— but once or twice I’ve had to deal with them. I run a show at the Wunderbar, and once this guy had the audience chanting “you suck” at him. That’s very, very rare, but it really is like watching a guy burn alive. It’s a pretty vulnerable place to put yourself in—to go on stage and say things you think are funny. With standup you don’t really have a character. Nine times out of ten you don’t have an act or anything to hide behind. It’s a strange thing to do, and I don’t really know why I do it. It’s a little sick, a little masochistic. Like most entertainment art there’s definitely that element of hunting for validation. I remember in kindergarten my teacher said, “Jon is a very nice boy, but he’s constantly seeking my validation. This could become a problem in his later years.” It is a problem, but it manifested into something good. How did you get started? I did standup once when I was eighteen out in Fort McMurray where I grew up. I didn’t do it again until April 2010. In the year and a half since some wonderful stuff has happened. You play mostly in local indie clubs—music venues. Are the Comedians of Comedy guys who did that first an influence? I just don’t fit in with a lot of local comedians. It’s not even a style thing—I just don’t fit in. I guess in a way I idolize those Comedians of Comedy guys—how they do things their own way. They never compromise what they consider their art, so they don’t really play traditional clubs. I guess it’s about not taking a traditional approach. I just want to do something I love and make it my own in the process. No one wants to be a cookie cutter, run of the mill comedian. There are a lot of stereotypes I’d think you would have to deal with. It’s become a detriment in my social life. People hear you’re a comedian and they expect you to be this wacky, goofy guy. I just can’t do that. It’s tough to get around those clichés associated with comedy and what a standup comedian is. I don’t care about the differences between men and women. It’s obvious—it’s genitals. You’ve got a new album out? I used it as a way to force myself to write new material. It’s a curse to have a great joke and sit on it and use it for the next ten years. I took my favourite material from the last year and recorded it at the Wunderbar. They never ask what I’m doing. They just let me do it. I recorded the live album and the room was packed and it was great. check out



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What kind of writing do you have to do working for the City? I’d imagine it’s not exactly flowery prose. It’s very clear and concise writing. That’s really what’s needed. You don’t have a lot of room for creativity outside of the titles. With those you get to try to be clever and have some fun with it. You’ve got to be very clear and streamlined. What is your position with the City? I’m in the Corporate Communications department at the City of Edmonton. The work is pretty all over the map. If there’s an event, several pieces of writing are needed. You need an invitation for the media and a news release for after the event—public service announcements to get the public out. I write a lot of articles for print and the City’s website. How did you find your way into that field? I studied English Literature and Cultural Studies at Trent University in Ontario. University is great, but I needed a diploma program to make those skills tactile, to get my hands dirty. Grant MacEwan was such a different experience. I studied public relations there. Part of that was practicum based, and that really helps you get out into the field and make some contacts. That really opened the doors for me. The classes are so small and you really get to know the professors. I learned a lot in University but the diploma really taught me how to use that knowledge. The City must have its hands in a pretty broad field of projects. What sort of things have you gotten to work on? In my practicum we worked on a project called “Celebrating Our Faith.” It involved fourteen or fifteen different faith groups coming together once a month to showcase something about their faith or religion. There’s a display set-up where they can discuss a topic, and the point really is to get people walking through city hall to take notice. We worked on a Thanksgiving event where all of the faith groups took part in a communal prayer/blessing saying thank you to the City of Edmonton for its celebration of understanding. I think Edmonton is one of the only cities with a program quite like this. There can be some hesitation to discuss those things, but this really brought it to the forefront. Coming here from another city, what has made you want to stay? Edmonton has been so good to me. People have asked me why I moved here, but I really am thankful to be in a place where people are so warm and so welcoming. As an outsider I really do think that it’s an awesome city. I find my friends who are from here can get down on it, but you can’t get past how friendly and non-judgmental people are— so far from snobby.

I can’t think of any clever way to start other than asking you to tell me the many, many things you’re involved in. Rattle them off for me. I run a record label called Old Ugly Recording Company. I have a book of poetry published. I have a show on CJSR called the Ongoing Argument. I work at Wunderbar doing promotion, web design and booking. I sell books at the antique mall. Perhaps most importantly—I’m a rapper. What part of that came first? Rap came first. I think it’s pretty common for anyone who listens to rap to think to themselves, “Hey, I can do this. This isn’t hard.” Usually that’s not true. For a long time I couldn’t do it. Was that surprising to you—how much work goes into rap? I, like most rappers, had that Dunning-Kruger effect, where people who are terrible at something are too stupid to realize that they’re bad—and just get frustrated with the world for not recognizing how good they are. The reverse is that people who are so good are also keen enough to recognize that they’re not the best at it either, and assume that they’re terrible. It works both ways. Not all musicians make that jump to the business side of music. What drew you into that? It was something I started out doing for fun. As I got more involved in music I got more interested in the other side. I found I was better at that other half—at marketing. I applied that to my friends who were extremely good at making music but weren’t as good at that other side. At this point though it’s become about doing things that are interesting and grassroots—things like the folk fires and building a small tight knit community. Has Old Ugly become what you want it to be? I don’t get the vibe you’re gunning for the multinational conglomerate type record label. It is what I want it to be. I’d like to see everyone on Old Ugly get signed to bigger labels and I’d continue to pick up new artists. It’s a collective really, but we do try to play both worlds. We want people to treat it like a label, but also to realize that we’re doing it for fun. Is there much overlap in terms of subject matter between your work as a rapper and your poetry? There’s an overlap for sure. There’s stuff in my poetry that would never make it into my rap, but there’s stuff in my rap that would never make it into my poetry. Mortality—your basic philosophic themes. I guess the rap is more critical, more skeptical. There’s punditry to it, cultural punditry. The poetry tries to take on the spiritual side of those same problems. One is more pragmatic and one is more spiritual. I think most artists write about the same things.

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I imagine you’d go in expecting some pretty big challenges in trying to build a school in Kenya. What took you by surprise? We knew there was no water or power going in, so we ended up camping on the side of this island for our entire stay. That in itself was a pretty big shock. The culture was another—just the way things like religion can get skewed over the years. From missionaries going over and being involved or government organizations dropping in then disappearing never to show their faces again. It can create some skewed value systems. How did that opportunity come about? I’m part of the Rotaract Club of Edmonton. It’s 18 to 30 year olds, and we just get together to work on international projects. We went for the first time two years ago, renovated a primary school, and kind of fell in love with the place. It’s been an ongoing project ever since. What do you take away from an experience like that? Being able to go and see what’s happening, and learning that we don’t need to bring them anything—that we need to facilitate them creating their own change. You go over thinking you’ll cause all this impact. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about showing people they can go to these places, experience these things, and help people facilitate change. Have you been back? We created a fundraising campaign as the school had no library, no reading materials. We collected 562 books, flew down, and set up a library in the school. You volunteer on other projects as well? I am also the World Community Service Society representative for Young New Generations fundraising for the Rotary district 370. That’s from Red Deer to the Northwest Territories, east and west from BC to Saskatchewan. I’m also the ambassador for Shelterbox in our area. That involves fundraising for an organization that does immediate crisis relief for families and nations that find themselves in immediate political or natural disasters. They send out these shelter boxes anywhere in the world within 48 hours of a disaster and deploy. They’re shelters for a family of ten for up to six months, including water filtration, mosquito nets, blankets, tools, radios. I volunteer for them on the side. On the side of what? I’m at the U of A full time taking French and Spanish Translation. That’s far too much. What do you plan on doing after your degree? I’ll be going into human rights. I originally wanted to be a lawyer. I grew up and realized I wanted to travel and as I got older I realized I didn’t really want to be in law. At this point with everything I’ve done I can’t really see myself doing anything else. You can’t forget about it.

Starting a denim company doesn’t strike me as something you can do half-heartedly. What made you jump in? I think everyone wants to do something great. I figured the best way to do that was to build something that represented greatness. Clothing seemed to fit that. I’ve always cared about fashion, so it’s been a big part of my life. My grandpa was a tailor in Europe. I figured I’d give that a bit of a shout out. It’s in my blood in a way. Denim is our generation’s staple so I thought I could build a company that represented greatness. That’s part of where the name Ivy Denim comes from—the Ivy League schools. It’s a performance-based brand so why not pick something that represents performance. There’s a logic there. It’s the one article almost everyone owns in one way or another. Everyone’s got their own style, but if you can build a staple it can transcend that. My goal is to see denim become more acceptable in the office. Jeans can belong there. If you build something that’s quality it can become like a suit. How would you describe the way you designed the line? It stems from my relationship with my dad. That older generation knows that things need to be well built and built the right way. I wanted to make something that would appeal to an older generation. It’s got classic detailing with a bold element, so it appeals to both. Clean looks and progressive design elements like the metal rivets that catch the light when you’re walking down the street. You’ve travelled pretty far to put this thing together.


There have been a lot of steps and a lot of people. I decided I was going to build a clothing company and eventually started looking at custom fit garments. I found a lady in L.A. who runs a textile manufacturing company. She taught me about the process—building tech packs that outline the details of making the product. I realized I had to be making jeans if I was going to be putting this much effort into it. I had a company out of New York develop my tech packs when I started. I got in contact with a designer in L.A. who worked for some big companies. She told me to move down there for a month and a half and the designer walked me through how to design something that would sell. The fabrics are mostly Japanese and Italian imports, but a few are American.

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I don’t know much about roller derby, but I know it can get pretty physical. Wildest thing you’ve ever seen? A full on Bruce Lee sweep of the leg. It’s horribly dangerous and very much against the rules. Going past the costumes and the pageantry—how does the sport itself work? There are five members of each team on the track. Four are blockers and one is the jammer. The jammer can score points. The whistle blows and the jammers take off. Their job is to get through the pack and do a lap. Every time after the first pass that they come around they score points for every opposing blocker that they pass. They also want to get through first so that they become lead jammer. Lead jammer status gives you control of the game. You can call off the jam earlier if you want. That’s where strategy comes in. And what do the blockers do? The blockers job is to prevent the opposing jammer from coming through while helping their jammer get through. The jammer has got the one job—go fast turn left. The blockers have a lot more going on; really have to keep their head on the swivel. It’s got a very DIY sense about it. It’s very grassroots. Even though we pay dues and fundraising—it runs like a business but a family business. Roller Derby is accepting of everyone, which not all sports are. So many people play a sport their entire life, but this doesn’t really seem like that kind of thing. How did you originally get into it?


At first I was just looking for an outlet to get some exercise. I like fast sports—slow pitch doesn’t really do it for me. I was looking for some excitement and some exercise and that’s what got me started. And the team you’re on now? The St. Albert Heavenly Rollers are just a year old. Most of us played for another league and decided to leave and try to start something of our own. We had a fantastic first season. That was four years ago. What has made you stick with it? It didn’t take long. The great thing about roller derby is that it’s accepting of every body type and level of skill or athleticism. It starts to become like a family. Some people would say a cult. The game is so fun, and we enjoy each other’s company so much that it can become a bit addicting. You can’t get good unless you practice, so we’re together quite frequently.

How did you originally get into police work? A lot of people in my classes thought of police work as their calling, and for me it wasn’t really something that had ever crossed my mind. I played sports with a number of individuals who had joined the service. Through conversations with them I started getting asked if I’d ever thought about going into policing. They said that they were hiring and that they thought I would be good at it. I was drawn to that team atmosphere. I put in my application while I was in my third year at university and got hired. It felt like an amazing fit. Ten years later here I am and I still love it. Every day is different. I get the feeling that’s a big part of why people who do it love it—how things are always changing. It’s always shifting. For what we get to do and what we get paid to do—you get to meet so many people both in and out of the organization. Whether in patrol or in the position I’m in now you can take so much away from the job. The specific project you work on now is called Best Bar None. What’s involved in that? Best Bar None was brought to us by the AGLC. A lot of what we do is about compliance, but this program is about identifying, accrediting and awarding bars and people in the industry who are going above and beyond. They’re working to make sure that steps that increase public safety and reduce alcohol related harm are being taken. It’s about awarding those who are doing good work. So it’s more about positive reinforcement.


Positive reinforcement, exactly. Best Bar None comes in after establishments have done work to make their bars better, and awards them for doing a good job. In my opinion there’s been a decrease in violence. Can we do things better? Yes, but we’re building and we’re getting there. Bars want you to come out and have fun, but they want you to do it safely and they’re there to facilitate that. Best Bar None helps identify those places so you know you can feel safe going in there. How did you come to work primarily with people in the nightlife industry? I ended up working as a community liaison in the inner city. A lot of the work involved inner city bars. The team that I work on now—the public safety compliance team—started in 2007 under the umbrella of Responsible Hospitality Edmonton. I was never a big bar person, but I’ve found myself knowing more about the industry than I ever thought I’d know. What kind of impression has nightlife in Edmonton left on you as a police officer? For the most part it’s been eye opening. The industry itself is really good. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people and a lot of the ins and outs of it. There’s a need for vibrancy in a city this size. Alberta is booming and Edmonton is booming, and nightlife is a big part of who we are—especially being the Festival City. It’s important to make sure people in the nightlife industry who are doing things well are getting recognized.

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