For the last few days I've been wanting to write this little piece about the first time I met Brian Wagner, and the great conversation that followed. For those who know him, perhaps you will understand all the hyperlinks included within the text below. A tribute to his interest in found sources.
The year was 1992. I had just finished witnessing the performance of Yugoslav avant-garde music group Laibach play the Opera House. Visuals of the evening clashing in my brain. The gut wrenching feeling of attending the show by myself. Ears ringing from the totalitarian industrial beats I exit the building passing a colourful array of fans. Everyone from the Slovenia millionaires in fancy clothes entering luxury automobiles; the guy in full SS regalia to the urban primitive with the very large bone through his nose.
Hypnotized by the Neue Slowenische Kunst, I failed to realize that I had just missed the last bus to Peterborough. I had slept on the street once before after the Switzerland death metal Celtic Frost played the Concert Hall in 1986, and swore I would never do that again. Searching my wallet, and realizing that there would not be enough money for a room, I found a well folded piece of paper with the phone number to Trent Radio in Peterborough. As the rain began to fall I dialed the number
I don't seem to recall exactly how it all transpired, in the end I guess someone at the station had hooked me up with Brian Wagner's Toronto number. At the time he was attending The Ontario Collage of Art. I had met Brian a year or so earlier at the radio station as our shows somehow managed to be scheduled side by side. Didn't know much about the guy, besides I remember him once playing a track off "Lie: The Love and Terror Cult" the debut studio album by American convict Charles Manson. Our love of apocalypse culture seem to be our connection.
So there I was on the phone chatting with this complete stranger at 1 am in the pouring rain explaining my situation. He was very soft spoken, and seem to relate to my unfortunate evening. After hearing that I was a fellow DJ and had common friends he offered me a floor that I could crash on. I somehow managed to make my way across the city to his apartment.
When I arrived at his place we hung out in his room for a few hours and chatted. Brian was a pack rat. He was one of the first hoarders I had ever met. I literally had to crawl through an igloo mountain of milk crates filled with stuff before I could enter his sleeping area. Once inside excitedly, I began to tell this stranger about the evenings entertainment. Not knowing if he would even know who Laibach was? I was very surprised to hear that he was well versed in the band and the artist collective that surrounded them.
We quickly found that we had many common musical interests. We began to chat about Industrial sound artists, such as Throbbing Gristle; SPK; Radio Werewolf; Whitehouse; as well as performance artists like Monte Cazazza; Karen Finley; Lydia Lunch and Survival Research Labs.
The thing that most amazed me about Brian was that no matter what topic we discussed that evening he knew absolutely everything about the most obscure artists and musicians mentioned. Like no one I have ever met, he was a wealth of knowledge on various alternative sub cultures. Never once did he judge the political or moral aesthetics surrounding the conversation.
I remembered asking him about all the stuff in his room. Already guessing that none of it would be garbage and every item having an amazing story. grabbing random milk crates and having him explain the contents. Whether it be a computer processor he had stolen from a dumpster behind IBM computers which he was rebuilding, the FBI Jonestown Death tape; plans for The DreaMachine ...or the first edition "Mystery of Wolverine Woo-Bait" Joe Coleman comic.
As the evening progressed he turned me onto other less extreme, yet still amazing artists such as Negativland; Diamanda Galás; Master Musicians of Joujouka; Daniel Johnston; Brion Gysin; William Burroughs; and Alejandro Jodorowsky
It was getting late. I wanted to learn more. ...soak up as much as I could from Brian. Still... it was best that I found a spot in his living room to crash for the night. Waking up the next day to a wall of television sets smashed out with dolls in the broken glass was odd, yet somehow not unexpected. I slipped out in the morning without bothering him.
To this day, that evening's conversation has had a profound effect on the way I look at the world. Underneath the corporate bubblegum world of lies, exists an alternative way of thinking. Brian was tuned in to that thought process twenty four hours a day... He would laugh, nonetheless I would still call him a modern day shaman. A teacher... Opening my mind to synchronicity, chaos magick and a life long appreciation of experimental sound.
Over the years, whenever bumping into each other at events or pubs we've occasionally chatted about our interests . Brian always with that same look of paranoia on his face. Minutes later extremely happy to find common ground with topics he was familiar with. As much as I love all the dark art and high fidelity we shared, I regret not getting to know him better as a person.
I wish love and good thoughts to all his friends and family.
...all of my heart - Tony