Jennifer Clement interviewed her friend Suzanne Mallouk about her relationship with the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Mallouk’s recollections were the basis of Clement’s book Widow Basquiat.
“I remember he had a book on Renoir that he loved. Once I asked him why and he said, ‘Because they are so violent.’ I argued with him and said that he was wrong, that the paintings showed placid French country life. He said I was stupid. He opened the book and showed me the painting of Mademoiselle Romaine Lacaux.
‘Those red flowers,’ he said, ‘are blood in her hands.’ Then he showed me The Sisleys and said, ‘You can just tell he hates her.’ Finally he opened a page at Une Odalisque— the one of the harem women– and Jean said, ‘Look, she is about to fart.’ ”
Widow Basquiat, Jennifer Clement, Canongate Books, 2000.
Odalisque, Pierre Auguste Renoir
The Permanent Stains were formed thirty years ago in Ottawa. At various times the members have consisted of Adam Clarke (“Ferdinand Fleming”), brothers Nick (“Bruford T. Justice”) and Malcolm Fraser (“Malstain”), Mark Haney (“The Mighty Moose of Ages”), Adam Traynor (“Rolled Oats”), Brian Leonard, Erik “the Savior” Otto, Peaches, Fraser Robinson (“Tex Styles”), and a mascot known as Yogurt Boy, who danced with salad tongs wearing an insectoid crash helmet and a bathrobe. I spoke to four members of the Stains, Malcolm Fraser, Mark Haney, Fraser Robinson, and Adam Traynor ahead of their 30th anniversary tour.
What’s your most memorable gig?
MH: For me it’s the baby pool show at Glebe High School. I had a baby pool full of soapy water to frolic in, got a blender full of fish and lime juice dumped on me, Mal demonstrated the “Yo Joe!” sodomy position on me in the pool and (most importantly) we crossed over from being theoretically dangerous to literally so.
MF: There are lots but one of my favourites is when we had a Montreal gig cancelled. We decided then and there that we would play a show that night no matter what. We went around to a couple of bars and in the second one, Nick knew a member of the band so we hustled our way onto the bill. We passed the hat and made $28, which I was pretty impressed with until I found out that our friend had put in $20. Nonetheless, I’m glad we had the moxie to make that happen.
FR: I still have the fondest memories for a show we played in this garage across from a strip club in Sherbrooke, Quebec in 2000. Full of drunk, underage francophone kids who got really into the set, we played with a primal energy that I haven’t quite channeled since. Bruford won a bunch of money on the fruit machine at the strip club beforehand and later the cops broke up the gig. Couldn’t ask for a better night.
AT: At a Gong Show-themed event in Toronto, I got in to a shoving match with a burly meathead who was heckling our opener, Mike Foxxx. Having antagonised the audience, the vibe was already charged when we took the stage, and became literally so while we played: some grounding problem with (or sabotage of!?) the electrical current caused my fingers to conduct electricity via my guitar stings, and I received a jarring shock of electrocution with every note I played.
FR: One of my favourites was this Karaoke Bar that wasn’t even a Karaoke Bar. Ottawa’s best Karaoke host, Carmen (RIP), relocated at one point to a boozecan that some old Chinese guys set up in a community centre gym. We managed to sort out a gig there opening for him and it was amazing, we opened for Karaoke – and brought a decent crowd too. The regulars didn’t really know what to make of the whole thing.
AT: Carman’s karaoke speakeasy in the back room of Christ The Saviour Orthodox Church in Ottawa’s Chinatown. An all-ages punk basement speakeasy in Sherbrooke (while the cops circled outside). Club Zone, a cheesy bar next to Concordia University in Montreal where we successfully crashed the bill on the day our scheduled gig fell through. Planet Kensington in Toronto (several times). Saw Gallery, Café Alternatif and Porter Hall in Ottawa throughout the 90s, Tex Mex’s parents’ basement in Ottawa, and Dave Dawson’s parents’ basement in Ottawa.
Please list some of your favourite stage costumes.
MH: My first Stains costume will forever be my favourite. Fuzzy white fur hat, coconut bra, hollowed out cucumber. Everything since then has been a disappointment.
MF: Nick covering his face in Band-Aids, Mark wearing a hollowed-out cucumber taped to his penis, Yogurt Boy’s iconic helmet… there was also a time when Nick and I dressed as riot grrls – we had torn shirts, miniskirts and the words “SLUT” and “WHORE” written on our midriffs in black marker. Somehow I don’t feel like that would go over well today, but I guess you had to be there…
FR: My Spiderman with moustache and mohawk remains my best look. Not just on stage, but in life.
AT: Australian flag diaper. Artificial flesh mask made of Band-Aids. Superman doll codpiece. Hollow cucumber codpiece with edible tip. Singing telegram tux & tails. Royal Canadian Airborne t-shirt with hazing slogans scrawled in faeces
FR: Not sure about groupies but I think Bruford started a relationship with a long term girlfriend right after he and The Mighty Moose of Ages made out in the peanut butter and chocolate sauce filled kiddie-pool at the ’93 Glebe Fringe Festival show in Ottawa. That kind of thing really says “good boyfriend material.”
What’s on your rider?
MH: In a perfect world, a large deli spread with a selection of alcohol; this may sound stupidly modest but since the reality is going to be “you can change in the washroom” it seems like a dream.
AT: White sports socks (x6 pair). Locally-sourced artisanal maraschinos. Goofballs.
In the Another Video video, what were you pouring on each other and rolling in? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceUoed9z4DI
MH: Part of that is the soapy water, fish and lime described above. There is a also a snippet of Nick and I wrestling and covering each other in peanut butter and chocolate sauce.
MF: I can’t remember all the ingredients, but it definitely contained frozen fish sticks.
AT: I believe that’s Captain Highliner frozen breaded fish sticks, puréed.
MF: I really like a lyric that Nick sang on the recorded version of “Super Christ Brothers.” He was just ranting incoherently for the most part, but the only decipherable lyrics are “That’s all right, do what you want. Why is that what you want?” I’m quite sure it was just off the top of his head, but I still think it’s pretty deep.
FR: Song: “Why.” Lyric: Why
AT: Song: “Cold Frankfurter.” Lyric: “That’s alright/do what you want/why is that what you want?” (from “Super Christ Brothers”).
Will there be nudity at any of your upcoming shows?
MH: Not sure. Gratuitous nudity was always my department, and while I’m not planning anything at this time I’m certainly not opposed to it. At all.
FR: We’re not quite the lithe young studs we once were but it shouldn’t be ruled out.
AT: Only the truth will be naked.
Most memorable Permanent Stains concert attendees or events at concerts (ie. bar brawls).
MH: I think Mal losing his shit and beating on Nick and I in Ottawa during our 14th Anniversary Tour is my most memorable. Nick was getting it for trying to shave Mal’s head, I was getting it because Mal just assumed I was involved.
FR: On the bar brawl front: Malstain and Bruford once got into a full-on tussle on-stage after Bruford tried to shave Malstain’s head as a surprise during a song. The razor gouged into Mal’s head and cut him open, he responded with a wild haymaker in Bruford’s direction and a donnybrook ensued. Fortunately Yogurt Boy (actually a stand-in for an AWOL Yogurt in the form of Christian Moreton, our tour manager) jumped into the fray and diffused it with a sort of blanket hug that cleared the red mist.
AT: Members of Mighty Moose’s church group, in attendance at the Liam’s basement show in Ottawa, where they witnessed Mal biting the tip off Mighty Moose’s hollow cucumber codpiece.
Are you familiar with the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo? Who do the Stains most resemble?
FR: I am familiar with this franchise. We’re the musical equivalent of Lisa Rinna’s lips.
So there you have it. Fulsome, mesmerizing, notorious, and cherished by Harry Hamlin, The Permanent Stains’ 30th anniversary tour will visit:
Wednesday August 9 – Ottawa – Pressed 8pm
Thursday August 10 – Montreal – La Vitrola 9pm
Friday August 11 – North Bay –White Water Gallery 8:30 pm
Saturday August 12 – Toronto – Burdock 8:30 pm
Sunday August 13 – Peterborough – The Spill
The Stains’ 2004 autobiography: https://permanentstains.bandcamp.com/merch/lets-get-greasy
“Super Christ Bros”: https://permanentstains.bandcamp.com/track/super-christ-brothers-2
“When I was 21 I spent a summer teaching ‘Art’ at a day-care center in Brooklyn. It was the most fulfilling summer of my life. There is nothing that makes me happier than making a child smile. The reason that the ‘baby’ has become my logo or signature is that it is the purest and most positive experience of human existence.
Children are the bearers of life in its simplest and most joyous form. Children are color-blind and still free of all the complications, greed, and hatred that will slowly be instilled in them through life.
I will never forget some of the adults who touched me through my childhood. Sometimes very brief encounters have made an impact that is very lasting and very real. If it is possible for me to have that kind of effect on any children, I think that would be the most important and useful thing I could do.
Touching people’s lives in a positive way is as close as I can get to an idea of religion…
…Children know something that most people have forgotten. Children possess a fascination with their everyday existence that is very special and would be very helpful to adults if they could learn to understand and respect it.
I am now 28 years old on the outside and nearly 12 years old on the inside. I always want to stay 12 years old on the inside.” Keith Haring, July 7, 1986, Montreux.
Keith Haring Journals, Penguin Books, 1996.