While on Main Street I saw a gig poster for local show that caught my eye. It is headlined by the Mahones but also playing are the Popes, Shane MacGowan’s other band. The Mahones are from Kingston Ontario and famously took their name after the Pogues had to drop Mahone from their name at the request of their record company.
Pogue Mahone is Gaelic for “Kiss my ass”.
I’m looking forward to Grady, but this Mahones gig is October 17th some sort of early St. Patrick’s day gig perhaps. Jesse is always going on about Dinosaur Jr no period.
I told Jesse about the death of the Mahones bassist and it took some Googling but I found another person’s account of it:
Nutz About Dem Big Ol’ Butz: Memories of True Funkateer Joe Chithalen
by Chris Morris
I had heard of Joe Chithalen, but I hadn’t met him or seen him play. I had been listening to funk for quite a while, and I was itching to see some live funk for the first time. A good friend of Keteela, Adam Winterstein, said I should go check out a local band Bloom who was playing at The Toucan. I was a little reluctant to go see them, because I thought, judging by the name, that they would be a rock or alternative band. The old saying, “never judge a book by its cover” applies here. They brought the house down. That show, sometime late in 1997, was a defining moment for me, as my musical focus shifted from blues to funk. Nothing against blues of course, but it was time for yet another change in taste for me (happens every couple of years). They played a lot of funk classics such as Stand (Sly & The Family Stone), Make It Funky and Cold Sweat (James Brown), a Funkadelic tune, some Funky Meters, and a surprising version of Jungle Boogie. I suppose if it were to be written on a setlist, it would look like Jungle Boogie- >Rapper’s Delight tease (Grand Master Flash cover)->Jam->The Jam tease (Graham Central Station cover)->Jungle Boogie. The band was Spencer “The Tormentor” Evans on keys and vocals, Ben “jammin” Perosin on trumpet, Jonathon “Bunny” Stewart on sax and vocals, JJ Soliel Souffle (Jay Harris) on guitar and vocals, Joe Chinchilla (Joe Chithalen) on bass and vocals, and Christos Constantinos Smirnos (or something like that, I just call him Chris) on drums. They played three sets that night, and I was up dancing the whole night, something I don’t often do, especially when no one else is dancing. I couldn’t stop! The funk was too deep! I met a few of the guys after the show and told them what a great time I had.
A short while later, I ran into Joe and Jay at CKVI when I was doing an hour long funk show. They were in to do an interview about a new band they had started, The Hover Brothers. Jay and I talked about guitar playing a little bit but mostly I talked to Joe about playing live and about funk. He listened to a bit of my show, enjoyed it and left me a note with his phone number. We talked a couple of times. I managed to weasel a few unfinished Bloom demos out of him to play on the show (gotta fill those wretched CanCon regulations). Although the mix wasn’t the greatest, the quality of the tunes was excellent. It’s rare to hear good, pure, original Canadian funk! I played at least one of the songs (Cool and Butz were the titles) almost every week on my show. I kept going to see Bloom at The Toucan, The Wellington, AJ’s Hangar, wherever they were playing I was there! One time I managed to get on stage to play percussion with them on a few tunes. The vibe on stage was even stronger than in the audience. Here I was surrounded by six sweaty, funky men pushing it to the max. What a feeling! I interviewed Joe around April of ’98. We all know how funk sounds, but it’s hard to pinpoint what funk IS. So I asked Joe. If anyone should know, it would be him,
“Funk is a smell. It’s the smell of sex. And we usually get pretty sweaty on stage, so we smell pretty funky.”
That says it all.
In fall of ’98, due to a copyright issue, Bloom was forced to change their name to Magnum House. Well, they weren’t forced to choose Magnum House, but they had to choose something else other than Bloom. Anyway, despite my moving to Belleville in September to go to Loyalist College to take Radio Broadcasting (I actually did a project on Bloom), I still snuck back to Kingston to catch some of their gigs. I actually mustered up the courage once to ask if I could sit in on guitar with them for one song. Even though Jay is right-handed and I’m left- handed, I still wanted to chance to get up there and feel that funky vibe that erupts so clearly and freely on stage. So I get up on stage for their infamously epic version of the Godfather’s “Make It Funky,” which includes several segues and teases. I can usually play pretty well upside down, but soloing is often a challenge. Of course, Joe called for me to solo. The solo was pretty boring, cause I didn’t wanna take any chances. The entire tune lasted about 10-15 minutes. I walked off stage, slightly shaking, but glowing with delight to have just played with my favourite local band. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call them idols.
There were many things about the Bloom experience I enjoyed. Bunny’s raging Maceo-esque sax solo in Cold Sweat, Jay’s completely unpredictable guitar solos, Benji’s cool- cat jazz style, Chris’s ability to make my booty shake song after song, Spencer’s pure insanity, and Joe’s incredible leadership and musicianship. Joe wasn’t the kinda guy who looked like he could sing. Bass players in general are not known for their vocals chords. If they can sing, it was usually very low (ie. John Entwhistle). Joe could fuckin’ wail. Every time, he surprised me with the precision and soul he put behind his vocals.
Shortly after the name change, Joe and Chris were invited to join The Mahones on a European tour. Joe was the original bass player for The Mahones (along with Weeping Tile and Haskell & The Cleavers, to name a few). So, Magnum House slowed down, with only a couple of gigs in 1999. I ran into Joe and Chris in April, on the bus on the way to the airport to go to Amsterdam to begin a month long tour. Joe said that thanks to my funk show on CKVI, people were out at Bloom/Magnum House gigs singing along with all the original songs. CKVI, of course, was the only station playing them. It was the last time I would ever get to speak to Joe, as he died the following weekend due to an allergy attack shortly after the first show of The Mahones tour.
Captain Cackton and The Robot both e-mailed me to tell me the news. Needless to say, I was shocked. I had made plans to get in touch with Joe when they got home to get them a gig with us at The Bohemian Penguin in Belleville. The Kingston music community was in shock. Joe played in countless bands, along with several other side projects. The scene will never be the same. Without Joe (and of course a few others), the music scene in Kingston would not be where it is today. He was a shameless promoter of not only his own music, but of live, local music in general. His playing was an inspiration to me, his attitude an inspiration to Keteela, his personality an inspiration to everyone who knew him. Thanks Joe, for the advice, the encouragement, the music, the good vibes, and the friendship. You will be sorely missed by musicians and music fans everywhere. May the funk be with you.
I saw Bloom play twice in Kingston at the Toucan while visiting Kev. He probably told me about the death of Joe and the demise of a great band. I’ve seen the Mahones play just once and have been meaning to see them again as I came away really impressed, even bought the tour shirt which people still ask me to this day where I got it. But fate always conspires against me…