Posts Tagged ‘Zach Choy’

 

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One of Canada’s most promising post-punk groups, Crack Cloud is a mixed-media collective based out of Vancouver, BC. Modelled around harm reduction philosophy, Crack Cloud operates as a rehabilitative outlet for a revolving cast of multi-disciplinary artists across Canada. ​Vancouver DIY art collective Crack Cloud (which also features members of N0V3L) emerged in 2018 with their self-titled debut EP, an idiosyncratic collection of post-punk, art rock and synth-punk with bold personality. The following year, they returned with a new single, “The Next Fix,” an intensely rhythmic, beautiful funk-pop song, which was written to remember those they’ve lost to suicide and drug overdose. The group formed over shared beliefs in the power of harm reduction, local organizing and DIY art communities, which leads one to believe they’re far more than just a band—they’re a chosen family.

Like Psychic tv before them, Crack Cloud have a philosophy and one that they are not afraid to wear on their sleeves – while their anarchic, phantas- magorical visuals, heavy use of symbology, and seemingly never-ending cast of colourful collaborators have often invited cult comparisons, this really does the collective no justice.
There is no apocalyptic death drive here; no cult of personality; no hierarchy of power. while frontman and lyricist Zach Choy is in many ways the face of the group, the collective is one founded on equality, and in his cryptic lyrical blend- ing of poetics, polemics and personal experience, Choy is truly the mouthpiece of something far larger than himself. nowhere else is this more apparent than on the album’s first single, ‘The Next Fix.’

What begins as a caustic, claustrophobic account of addiction swells into a sprawling, euphoric hymn as Choy is joined by a choir of seemingly endless ce- lestial voices. less a cult then; more a church. listening to this song or watching its accompanying self-directed video is a truly spiritual experience, and in its building, jubilant movement it offers a glimpse of Crack Cloud’s most vital message: using community to turn adversity into hope. this isn’t just bravado; its a story born of deep, personal experience. crack cloud operate on the frontline of Canada’s out-of-control opiate crisis, mobilising and organizing in Vancouver’s harm reduction programmes.

The group themselves have had their fair share of trauma, and the collective offers its members a vital vehicle for rehabilitation and recovery. as the tagline on the album’s back cover makes clear then, this is absolutely ‘based on true shit.

Part One of the PAIN OLYMPICS 2020 series, made DIY by the Crack Cloud Collective,

Like Psychic TV before them, Crack Cloud have a philosophy and one that they are not afraid to wear on their sleeves – while their anarchic, phantasmagorical visuals, heavy use of symbology, and seemingly never-ending cast of colourful collaborators have often invited cult comparisons, this really does the collective no justice. There is no apocalyptic death drive here; no cult of personality; no hierarchy of power. While frontman and lyricist Zach Choy is in many ways the face of the group, the collective is one founded on equality and in his cryptic lyrical blending of poetics, polemics and personal experience, Choy is truly the mouthpiece of something far larger than himself.

Nowhere else is this more apparent than on the album’s first single, ‘The Next Fix.’ What begins as a caustic, claustrophobic account of addiction swells into a sprawling, euphoric hymn as Choy is joined by a choir of seemingly endless celestial voices. Less a cult then; more a church. Listening to this song or watching its accompanying self-directed video is a truly spiritual experience, and in its building, jubilant movement it offers a glimpse of Crack Cloud’s most vital message: using community to turn adversity into hope.

This isn’t just bravado; its a story born of deep, personal experience. Crack Cloud operate on the frontline of Canada’s out-of-control opiate crisis, mobilising and organizing in Vancouver’s harm reduction programmes. The group themselves have had their fair share of trauma and the collective offers its members a vital vehicle for rehabilitation and recovery. As the tagline on the album’s back cover makes clear then, this is absolutely “based on true sh*t”.

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Canadian seven-piece Crack Cloud make an arresting spectacle. As well as playing conventionally, the four guitarists strum their guitars’ headstock, creating a high-pitched “ching” sound. Their furiously intense post-punk also takes in two keyboardists – one of whom is a tall, Canadian-Pakistani man with a beard, dyed blond hair and gold nail varnish who also plays a penny whistle.

Stage-front, founding member Zach Choy is their hypnotic, shirtless drummer. He has “laughing at the system” tattooed over his bellybutton and plays left-handed on a drum kit set up for a right-handed person. Why doesn’t he swap the kit around? “I have a hard time following the rules,” he says the next day, to much laughter, as the band mill around the house where they stayed after the gig, drinking coffee and dyeing their hair.

Onstage and off, they are unmistakable; their dense videos and screen-printed outfits have the paramilitary chic of anarchist punk collectives Crass or Chumbawamba. “We all live together and some of us are siblings,” Choy explains. “If people think we look like a cult, then we are making our mark.” But living Crack Cloud 24/7 goes deeper than clothing. “The band is our recovery programme,” keyboardist Mohammad Ali Sharar explains. “Pouring ourselves into it is a way of staying alive, or at least sober and together. So we can’t do anything by half-measures.” 

Choy was born in Canada to immigrant parents – a Welsh mother and Chinese father – but when he was 11, his dad died of leukaemia three months after diagnosis. Unable to process the grief, he started drinking, which “accelerated and escalated” into serious narcotics. “I was very unpredictable, volatile. Addiction wasn’t the issue. That was my way of avoiding the trauma.”

Sharar’s own deeply rooted issues had sent him down “deep, dark paths”. The son of Punjabi immigrants, he grew up in Red Deer, Alberta, experiencing racism and what he calls a “stunted youth in a very Islamic household, and a lot of domestic abuse and violence”. A hard line at home meant he had to choose between following the rules or living on the streets. “Fall in love with a white girl? You’re done,” he explains. “So then you have to choose love over family.”

Is that what happened? “Oh yeah,” he chuckles. “Weird traumas at a young age. Sleeping outside high school for days on end, then having to submit and think: ‘I’ll never see this person [his girlfriend] again.’” Artistic and punk communities initially seemed inclusive and welcoming, but Sharar soon felt tokenised. Choy says that if you strip away the “multicultural facades” from many DIY scenes, you are left with a lot of privilege. “We didn’t have that. We’re not art students. We’re coming from a different place.”

Thus, the pair plunged off what Sharar calls “the deep end. Every substance. Meth. Downers. We never really injected, but it was … speed, ketamine.” He ended up feeling suicidal.

Choy’s rock bottom and turning point came in his early 20s when he realised he felt too messed up to call his mother, who had always been supportive despite having her own addiction issues.

Music became “an obsession that replaces the substance abuse”, says Choy. His father’s huge record collection was still at home. After initially connecting with the fury in punk, grindcore and powerviolence, he later enjoyed the calm of Brian Eno albums. The idea that Eno, a non-musician, could facilitate musicians gave Choy the spark of the idea for Crack Cloud, and the band congregated around people who were “fundamentally about recovery and taking care of your mental health”, rather than making money.

Sharar funnelled his intense demeanour into the band’s idea of “creativity with no rules”. Guitarist Jon Varley is also moving on from addiction, while multi-instrumentalist Daniel Robertson met Choy when working in a homeless centre; he was recreating his “whole world view” after growing up a devout Christian. Although seven members have come to the UK, the Crack Cloud community now consists of 20 people. “We spend all our time working on stuff,” Sharar explains, “so anyone who spends time with us kinda gets dragged in.”

Their work in low-barrier care (care services that try to be as accessible to users as possible) and overdose prevention is as much a part of their operation as the band. Vancouver is in the midst of an opiate and fentanyl crisis; people with addiction issues migrate to the Downtown Eastside’s specially provided safe spaces for drug use. “It’s basically a shoot-up zone,” Choy says. “The appearance is terrifying but once you immerse yourself, as we do with our work, you realise it’s a very inclusive community that are dealing with their own traumas.”

“You see horrific things, but also beauty,” says Robertson, who hasn’t experienced addiction. “As an artist, that’s really inspiring.”

Crack Cloud is a recovery and survival mechanism for its members and a means of processing their experiences so that they can help others tackle similar issues. They are a fearsome live band-cum-high-functioning support network, but, says Sharar: “I don’t want to forget why I was angry. It was meaningful and it came from a real place.”

Setlist; 00:00 Post Truth 3:00 Bastard Basket 6:38 Time Unsubsidized 9:12 Graph Of Desire 10:40 More Of What 13:00 Ouster Stew 15:50 Empty Cell 19:48 Image Craft 23:48 Tunnel Vision 27:55 Drab Measure 33:23 Swish Swash Live at Moers Festival 08-06-19

Crack Cloud’s two EPs are available on a single album, Crack Cloud, out on Tin Angel.