Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
November 1, 2011
Prod Amin: the final cut, as told to dense milt
Doreen Grey circa 2010
Originally written in 1980-81 and published by now defunct WESTCOAST MUSIC MAGAZINE.
Doreen Grey- Lenore Herb left our earthly plane in 2010. She was a true visionary outsider, and is missed more than words can express.
(Fuzzy insert of old TV serial)
“Stand back Billy, this is far too dangerous for you!"
"Golly gee, Mr. Milt. No one’s too young for Doreen."
You are about to enter the eyes of Doreen Grey.
Warm your heart with the tale of Vancouver's video visionary who, in three short years, has risen from the dead generations of beatniks and hippies, from humble beginnings as a punk inspired video artist, to her position of primetime doctor of documentation, musical archivist, political activist and musician.
Doreen Grey is quickly gaining a reputation (even as I now write this) for the voice that doesn’t stop when the TV's turned off. She is a firm believer in change), and the powers of youth and women, she is involved with Metromedia, a non-profit society offering community access to electronic media; has been instrumental in the formation of three music/arts cooperatives- Push Art, MODAMU and Unit 306, which promote democracy in the arts and self-promotion.
But Doreen Grey is probably best known for the work on her own Prod Productions. Possessing one of the best archives of new music on the West Coast, Ms. Grey has systematically set out to document the new music developments since their inception three years ago. Many of these bands have since changed so dramatically, or broken up, that these visual records of a musical and social rebellion are invaluable. Her special projects with Point Zero Eight, Braineaters, AKA, Sea Monkey and the Melodic Energy Commission do more than document progress; they stand as video art pieces in their own right.
Her tape High Monkey Noon("a plea-for understanding in a world too used to misinterpretation")was the first locally made compilation to grace the screen at the MODAMU (Moderndancemusic) historical first video/rock gig. And this is the major point that separates Doreen Grey from other video artists: her accessibility and integrity. Instead of treating the medium as some highbrow experience shown only in small cloistered rooms of art school or the Video Inn, Doreen has taken her work to the masses, showing them at hall gigs, parties and Rohans, making the evening sparkle in the boring time lags between bands.
Doreen Grey was kind enough to peel off a few of the screens sheltering her third eye (a few adults are blessed with a third media eye) delivering a musical hysterectomy of Vancouver in the process.
A play with words: One Ax. Credits Roll...Lights. Camera on Dense Milt:
Dense: Doreen, let's start with your association with Sea Monkey, that fab-duo, and discreetly work our way to the bottom of your musical history.
Doreen: Giving berth to roaming Sea Monkeys (please note: Methods and Procedures for Proper Care and Feeding of Sea Monkeys) was a natural process; another evolutionary step along the starting path from baby bed in the closet, to the time I left home to live with artists and poets, which was after my $20 trip to San Francisco before the summer of love.
I was going to live there, but fate lead me to stay and take LSD. The house we lived in got really notorious, after a drug bust we decided to turn it into an art gallery and hung up a huge sign off the front porch telling everyone to GO AWAY - ARTISTS AT WORK. Al Clapp, who was working for the CBC, came and did a news hour special, showing the lab and our brightly coloured psychedelic rooms. We were plagued by weekend hippies (that's when I first met some of U-J3RK5 (an older-type college punk band) but soon almost everyone succumbed to being a full time freak. We were also plagued by the usual straight and Right Wing media-types. The final outcome of the 60's was hippy businessmen and the best result was evidenced by the generation that was just growing up then, particularly the free schools.
This was a new attitude toward youth and freedom. Parents started to realize their children didn't need to conform to society to succeed. The next big influence in my life was after the death of my poet-husband, when my daughter was eight months old. Although it was tragic, it resulted in a lot of good, because it made me independent and learn to survive on my own without being somebody's woman or wife; it taught me how to live by, and for myself.
It also showed me how fickle and uncaring the community was. But that was when music came into my life again. The huge gap left by people was taken up by the likes of Lightning Sam drifting up from the boys' stereo in the apartment below. King Luxsac, at a time when nobody had horn players, would play at be-ins to derision and laughter, because they had trombones, alto sax, tenor sax, trumpet, as well as the standard R&B instrumentation.
ZOOM to Mr. Milt's shoes. (Randy) Pandora is on Camera.
Dense: Do you think there was or is a lot of creativity in Vancouver?
(Pull back. Pull anything.)
Doreen: There's something about Vancouver - it's a very poetic town.
There is a really strong energy that is like an oozing primal swamp, which lends itself to a lot of creativity. It comes out every ten years or so. And having been born here, I feel sort of blessed with a native vision. San Francisco may be the psychic capitol of the world, but Vancouver has something else that could be very powerful if the right people were to unleash it. I'm saying this because it’s the only level left to people with humanity left in them to come and survive the holocaust. Or we could continue in a type of grim patriarchal dictatorship that leaves everyone pale and ghoul-like with the only color added being red, the blood of the children sacrificed on the cross of consumerism.
(Insert with care)
Dense: I would say this unleashing of energy happened around the start of the initial punk happenings – that spirit of youth, rebellion, and intelligence. What influence did this have on your life?
(Switch- Intense close-up of Doreen).
Doreen: It was music that woke you up, and made your blood circulate; made your nerve endings come alive and your brain start to think. It was like coming alive after being dead for so many years. It was as though I was driven to capture this; I didn't think about why, I just did it. I knew somebody had to do it.
The people in the new music scene are very attractive; I'm not going to say sexually but an energy. (CLOSEUP on Doreen Grey's lascivious grin.)You can look at someone and say they are alive, so alive, you want to be alive too. And you can look at some people and say they are dead.
I could say punk was an excuse to do video, but it was almost as if the two came together. It was technology that also attracted me. I had been through the horror stage when we rejected anything electronic and sat in fear of machines. But this music was so packed with life and energy, that it could transform you. This is sort of a natural process of growing older; you die over and over again in your lifetime. You become a different person. You have to. You become transfigured.
(Fade. Enter religious music).
Dense: It was at this point our Doreen became known as Doreen Grey. She gathered together a group of people to videotape the early punk gigs. This group called Chaos, later kicked Doreen out because of her supposed lack of ability and knowledge. Still obsessed with her vision of capturing this music, Doreen contacted people from her past and began the tapes of major poets, who were visiting for a special series of readings to promote West Coast presses. She received a grant from the Canada Council to finish her post-production.
Included in these tapes were Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McLure, Margaret Atwood, bill bisset, bp nichol, Victor Coleman and Steve McCaffery. Working through Metromedia, she learned the technology of video.
She also learned the politics of control; how the means of production were firmly entrenched in the hands of a small patriarchal dictatorship. Doreen Grey's progress to date is really a testament to the tenacity of her survival in the face of odds faced by most women trying to invade all-male territory.
I asked Doreen about the people who dismiss her work as punk video.
(Camera 1 on her third eye).
Doreen: Some people don't appreciate people who have eyes to see. There was a multitude of creativity happening, that not only had eyes, but got angry and annoyed and thought things out for themselves. Because when you do that, you take responsibility for your own existence. And when you do that, you can’t blame society; you have to start to think.
Thinking is a frightening thing for some people. They’re afraid they going to find something out about themselves they don’t like. Sanity in this society is thought to be someone who is happy, and if you’re not happy and satisfied, there is something wrong with you. I’d always wonder why people didn’t do something, without realizing the reason it wasn’t being done was that I myself didn’t go and do it when I saw the necessity.
And I think that is the crux of everything; if people observe something or think something should be done, and I’m not talking about tearing things apart, going out and beating someone up, telling someone to fuck off, I’m talking about creating things.
As far as I am concerned, I think everyone is a potential artist. Everyone in society can create. When I look through a camera, I’m trying to interpret what the person is saying. I can see it; I can hear it.
When I’m behind the camera I want to make it an extension of me trying to understand. So other people can understand. I’m an interpreter. I try to translate real people and happenings onto videotape and make it accessible to people.
Through the eyes of Doreen Grey: I’d like people to better understand each other.
(Fade) Lone spot returns to Dense Milt.
Dense: The future plans of Doreen Grey, truly a myth in the making, include the set up of a community broadcast station, more community production and starting her own musical group.She wears black, red and certain striped materials, frequently wonders why it’s the poor kids that are the ones who always get sexually abused.(Abrupt cut)
Pause for refreshments.
When I found this the other day (again), I was amazed how well it stood the test of time. Consider that these words are about 30 years old. Doreen Grey lives on in her work, and in her own words.
A celebration of her life and life's work happens this Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 560 Seymour Street, in Vancouver, BC Canada.