James Perry is a bearded-out man on a weirded-out mission of musical mercy. Performing under his pseudonym Bocephus King since 1996, Perry has taken his country-blues take on modern folk-rock across North America and back countless times, and has captured his soulful and colourful songs for posterity on critically-acclaimed independent albums such as Joco Music, A Small Good Thing, the Blue Sickness, and All Children Believe in Heaven. And now, in support of his latest album (somewhat startlingly titled Willie Dixon God Damn!), Perry/King has shoved himself and his uber-talented bandmates once again into the universal Tour Van and is shaking rafters in roadhouses across the True North, Strong and Free.
“The tour has been incredible,” remarks Perry: “Beautiful voodoo from a great band. It’s a marshmallow world in the winter, as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin once sang. Slow and steady, with occasional bouts of absolute madness…that’s how you handle the oftentime toughness of touring Canada during the snowy season. Hot springs certainly help, too. Every night is like Christmas morning. Our show at Mikey’s Juke Joint in Calgary had some real Third-Eye-Holy-Ghost moments that left everybody vibrating… like chanting monks on magic mushrooms.”
Bocephus King has long been recognized as one of the leading lights in Vancouver’s considerably-talented folk-rock community, receiving favourable reviews in No Depression magazine and other high-profile international publications. As of late, the live-music world of the West Coast has seen a dramatic and unsettling shift for possibly the worse, what with venues such as East Vancouver’s fabled Waldorf Hotel currently threatened with gentrification extermination as culturally-ignorant property developers continue to raze former downtown landmarks like Richard’s on Richards in order to build yet another overpriced condominium tower.
When asked how he (and other Vancouver musicians) copes with anti-arts pressure, Perry merely says: “I remember that this whole life is an illusion, and try not to let it get me down. Sometimes I smoke a joint and stretch in the sauna.” And which Vancouver artists does he feel kinship with? “Too many to mention… but I’ll say I’m travelling with some of them,” he smiles.
Although Monday night’s upcoming performance at the Byng Roadhouse marks his first performance in Cranbrook, Bocephus King is no stranger to the Kootenays.
“We’ve been coming to the Koots for years,” Perry beams. “Many dear Vancouver friends moved here years ago, and they’ve helped the path stay beaten. The Koots are always some kind of grand adventure.”
Monday’s Grand Adventure for Bocephus King will also feature opening-support sets from the Bison Brothers (featuring renowned local roots-rock songwriter Tim Ross) and the Pine Slacks (vocalist-guitarist Connor Foote, bassist Stu Driedger, and guitarist Clayton Parsons).
Perry’s boozy poetics swerve all over the beatnik-rocker highway, and there’s got to be a reason for the unusual title of his latest album, right? Right: “Willie Dixon wrote and created some of the biggest bricks in the temple of modern music,” Perry boasts.
“Most people don’t understand how much he has to do with what we hear in these times. How it came to be. These single souls who brought together so much. Willie Dixon is one of these great sources, an Ocean, if you will, but he did all of that at a time when driving around with a bunch of black musicians and touring the Southern United States was seriously taking your life in your hands. A crazy, dangerous, wild, wonderful life that left a trail of Gospel human truths you could move your ass to. When I say ‘Willie Dixon, God Damn!’, I’m saying Hallelujah, Amen… but I’m saying it to the Holy Church Of The Road, and all the modern Saints. They did so much in such a dark time and place. It’s hopeful to me in these strange and somewhat savage times.”
Bocephus King hit the tenderly-broken-in stage at the legendary Byng Roadhouse (21 Cranbrook St. N.) on Monday, January 28, with guests The Bison Brothers and The Pine Slacks. Showtime 8 p.m.