damian abraham

An insider's guide to Toronto with Damian Abraham

Damian Abraham is best known to most Torontonians as the lead screamer in the influential hardcore punk band F*cked Up. They've appeared on magazine covers all over the world, won the 2009 Polaris Music Prize for their album The Chemistry Of Common Life, and Spin Magazine named their 2011 record David Comes To Life the best album of that year.

As well as his role shouting over a wall of guitars in his band, Abraham was also the host of the Wedge, until the recent round of heavy cutbacks at MuchMusic. Since then he's moved over to hosting an online documentary series for Vice called Canadian Cannabis, which looks at the issue from his perspective as a medical marijuana user.

In one of the more surreal twists in his career, the singer sometimes known as Pink Eyes will be moderating an official Artsvote Mayoral Debate September 29 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox focusing on the relationship between the arts and the city. All the major candidates (except for Team Ford) have committed to taking part.

His band are currently on tour, but will be returning to Toronto to play two shows at the Horseshoe this weekend, with a 19+ show September 26, and an all ages show the next afternoon. I spoke to the always-enthusiastic Abraham on the F*cked Up tour bus about what he would plan for a perfect day in Toronto for a die-hard music fan visiting from out of town.

Where would you start off your day?

I'd start off at Sneaky Dee's first thing in the morning, because that way we can have the F*cked Up Breakfast! What better way to start off a day of Toronto music than eating a meal that will probably take a couple years off your life!

I love playing tour guide for people, but a lot of people would say I'm really bad at it because I'll go into such intense detail that no one other than myself would care about that much minutia.

Sneaky Dee's is a place of great historical significance to Toronto music. Arcade Fire played there, Broken Social Scene and Feist played there at Wavelength, Constantines did those surprise shows, and of course we played there too. I think anyone who's been in a band in Toronto for any length of time has graced the stage of Sneaky Dee's at some point in their career.

What would be the next stop after stuffing your faces with food?

Then I would say we'd do the record troll tour of Toronto. You'd definitely have to take them to Rotate This. In addition to being a vocalist in one of the most important hardcore bands to come out of Toronto: Youth Youth Youth, [Rotate This owner] Brian Taylor also invented the death metal production sound. He was the guy who recorded Slaughter, and with that stuff really refined the sound that would go on to become the death metal sound.

Also, what music lover's trip to Toronto would be complete without Brian Taylor being really mean to you and hurting you as you buy records from him? You need to have that experience. I've been going there for 21 years, and I still feel just as much a stranger to Brian as when I first walked in.

What other Toronto shops would you hit?

We'd probably go to Grasshopper, being it's owned by Grasshopper, the person from Grasshopper. Maybe six or eight months ago, one of the guys from OVO set up a sampling studio in the basement, just sampling records all day. Apparently that's also where Drake and 40 and all those OVO guys bought their bootleg copies of Drake's last record.

I'd also like to take them to the new Sonic Boom location when it opens in a couple weeks. Or maybe take them to the east end, go out to Discovery and also some of the record stores out on the Danforth. We could also go for Greek food at Astoria.

Rotate and Sonic Boom are kind of the signposts for record stores in Toronto right now I guess, but we'd want to go to Soundscapes too. Now's the point where I'm starting to worry about who's going to be really pissed that I forgot to mention their store.

What would you do once you get tired of digging for vinyl?

If it was a Sunday, we'd got to that bluegrass brunch at the Dakota. Music and food, and you can bring the kids.

And what about after the sun sets?

If I had no plans and no idea what was going on, I'd probably take them to the Horseshoe, just to see that venue. There are very few small room venues in the world where the Rolling Stones have played, although I guess in Toronto we have two of them. Everyone has played there. And the programming means you can count on the bands playing being at the very least not embarrassing. You rarely walk in there and wonder 'how the hell did this band get on stage?'. Well, unless it's us playing.


Coffee shop: I don't drink coffee, but I always get my tea from the Sovereign.

Brunch: Parts & Labour

Restaurant to take someone from out of town: Electric Mud BBQ

Museum or Gallery: We went to the AGO recently with the kids and it was a really awesome experience. They've got a lot of fun stuff for families. I think that's the most mainstream bullshit answer I could probably give.

Bookstore: Soundscapes, because I love music books.

Movie Theatre: The Royal

Clothing Store: Community 54

Place to eat before or after the show: Poutini's

Secret Toronto place you wish more people knew about: The hidden subway station at Bay Street.

F*cked Up play the Horseshoe twice this weekend: Friday Sept 26 at night, and a matinee show Saturday Sept 27 at 1pm.

The Damian Abraham moderated ArtsVote Mayoral Debate is Monday, Sept 29 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

Photo via Facebook.

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