But for musician and recording engineer Scott Henderson, the music will never die
For all of Victoria’s old-world façade, the city has always kept a vibrant, cutting-edge beat when it comes to music. This was especially true during the punk and new wave explosion of the late 1970s — and right there at the beginning was local musician and recording engineer Scott Henderson with his trusty four-track tape machine.
Life has a strange way of setting people on the course they are meant to take, and for Henderson the signposts were almost fatal. As a teenager and part of the school photo club, Henderson was taking pictures of his friends dressed in full military garb.
“I was taking all of these pictures of my friend with his gas mask on and pointing the rifle at me, not knowing that it was loaded and the safety was off.”
It was another friend, however, who had never held a gun before who asked to hold it when it discharged, shooting Henderson in the chest. “I was lucky that they had a brand new chest surgeon they were showing around Vic General that day when they rolled me in.” He lived, but ended up losing a lung in the process.
“I really wanted to join the RCAF more than anything, but there is no way you can be in the air force with one lung, so the obvious decision was to become a musician.”
Unfortunately, cover bands were the order of the day in the early ’70s, and if you weren’t willing to get up there and play four sets a night of Top-40 hits, you weren’t going to get any gigs. Outcast by the mainstream for being a rock musician and outcast by other musicians for wanting to play original music, Henderson had trouble finding anywhere to fit in.
“Then punk rock came along and it was okay to be a weirdo. It was encouraged to be a weirdo.”
Now instead of dreaming of rocking out with tight pants and feathered hair, kids saw a new way to vent all their aggressions. While still playing in cover bands, Henderson borrowed a friend’s Tascam 3340 machine to record at a practice space in central Saanich and started to get into four-track recording techniques.
“My friend, Malcolm Dew Jones, and I . . . bought a half-inch, four-track tape machine. It was the size of a bank vault and weighed about the same. We got a cheesy mixing board and some cheesy mics and I built this studio in the basement of my house at 306 Vancouver Street; a house I shared with a bunch of local punk rockers.” Notably, local speed punk legends, The Neos, recorded the vocals for their first record in that living room.
The first studio was short-lived and Henderson moved it to his new house that he shared with his girlfriend at the time. Hole In The Wall Studio (named for the hole in the wall) was located where Save-On Foods grocery store on Blanshard now stands, in an area previously known as the “banana belt.” He mainly set it up to record his own projects, but soon found he was always being asked to record other bands. And so it was that on Sept. 22, 1982, Henderson recorded The Neos.
Victoria’s fledgling punk-rock scene needed someone to document the music being created, and Henderson was just the guy to do it. Over the years, the location and name of the studio changed, but he was always there to record the bands. After Hole In The Wall, Henderson moved his equipment downtown to the corner of Douglas and Johnson, upstairs from where Burger King now stands. This studio was called Clandestine Armaghetto and it was here that Henderson recorded Red Tide’s single “Kelp & Salal.”
The clandestine part came when the landlord told them there could be no noise before 6pm Monday to Thursday and 9pm on Fridays. Unfortunately, Henderson forgot to inform the Dayglo Abortions that when he allowed them to practice there one Friday evening at 6pm.
Next up was On The Corner, which was on the corner of Johnson and Pandora in the room that is now the front lounge of Backpacker’s Inn. This studio ran through ’84 and ’85. At some point in ’86, Henderson moved the studio in with Randy Stubbs and Dayglo Abortions’ members Jesus Bonehead and Spud, and upgraded to an eight-track machine.
Around 1988, Henderson moved into the home of former Monday writer James Kennedy, who had a basement full of lutes, harpsichords and hundreds of recorders.
“I called that [studio] Lutes and Flutes,” recalls Henderson with a chuckle. Next, Henderson and his girlfriend moved into their own place out on Shelbourne. The inevitable studio was called The Dollhouse, which ran from 1989-1993.
“Mission of Christ, Shutdown, a couple of Show Business Giants records and the first Hanson Brothers record were all done at Dollhouse,” he says.
Eventually, Henderson moved out to Colwood and the Sea Of Shit was born. “It was my first really pro recording studio, with a 24-track machine and digital multi-tracking. It was what everyone was using at the time, so Nomeansno recorded there, then took the tapes and mixed it in Vancouver.”
Sea Of Shit became somewhat legendary throughout the ’90s and into the new millennium with a who’s who of Victoria punk rock laying down their songs.
In 2005, Sea Of Shit was no more and Henderson was without a studio for the first time in a very long time. He spent a lot of his time doing live sound at Logan’s Pub (which he still does), until he and a couple of friends partnered up in 2007 to open Lap Of Luxury in Sooke. It is here where he continues to record both his own projects as well as any number of local musicians.
“I’m not a producer. I hate that term. I record bands and engineer records,” says Henderson. “Oddly enough, the Virgin Records guide to Alternative Records claims that I am Nomeansno’s producer. That’s ridiculous. Nobody produces Nomeansno.”
All of the recording projects aside, there is much more to Henderson’s involvement in local music. He also co-owned Richard’s Records in the early ’80s that became a local spot to get punk albums and where many people in the scene bumped into each other.
Over the years, he’s also “made 40 solo records that nobody’s ever heard because I just make records to amuse myself.”
As for bands, he’s played in Beige Froth, Shovlhead, Swell Prod., Show Business Giants, Hissanol, The Vinaigrettes and Metronome Cowboys. He currently works with People’s War, High Arctic and David P. Smith.
Thirty years is a long time to be involved in something, but Henderson couldn’t be happier.
“The thing about music in a community like Victoria is that you make a lot of friends. It’s more like a big family, really.”
Thinking for a minute, he comes up with a story to close with.
“I was at a party years ago with Canadian classical composer Murray Adaskin. He was a really nice, down-to-earth guy who had to have been about 96 years old at this time . . . I said ‘Murray, my god! It’s way past your bedtime. I thought you were retired.’ And he just gave me a look and said ‘Musicians don’t retire.’” M
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Henderson’s first official recording (The Neos), there will be a two-day festival at Logan’s Tavern of the Damned (1821 Cook). Staying true to his musician form, Henderson will be doing sound Friday night and playing all night Saturday. Friday night line-up: The Role Models, The Poor Choices, and AK47 (bands Henderson has recorded). $10. 10pm.
Saturday night line-up: Tool and the Eel, People’s War and High Arctic (bands henderson is in). $10. 10pm.