Fuck The Police

Electronic Artist Won’t Be Shut Up

Cop Car Bonfire exerts his right to musical expression

By bringing an amplifier, a sampler and a tweaked out sense of psychedelic-infused electronica to street corners around Concordia University and the Montreal region, Cop Car Bonfire brings a new approach to the act of busking.

Hailing from Vancouver Island, B.C., Cop Car Bonfire (who requested his real name be withheld due to several hundred dollars pending in fines), had spent several years street jamming in Vancouver Island and Kelowna. Since moving to Montreal last September, he has caught the attention of musicians and lovers of fringe art.

“People here seem to be just a lot more into the artistic approach, where they’re not necessarily focusing on the overall sound but just how you’re approaching it and how unique it is,” he said. “People just want to hear something original.”

“Original” hardly begins to describe his sound. His music sounds like a series of exploding circuits and police sirens. His music acts as some sort of spiritual experience. “It’s basically like you’re meditating and sound just comes through you,” he said.

A resident of the Mile End, Cop Car Bonfire has only started performing downtown over the past few months, looking for a younger, more open-minded audience.

“I was busking mostly in the Plateau and just getting a lot of shit from cops. Old ladies would call the fucking cops because it hurts their ears and [the police] would show up, and they don’t really give you much of a choice.”

Whether his moniker is the result or the cause of this type of tension, Cop Car Bonfire is no stranger to conflicts with the police. When living in Kelowna, he found himself on the wrong side of the law as a result of his busking.

“One time I was just playing banjo [and] I was handcuffed, thrown in a cop car, and driven half an hour out of town, then just thrown out on the side of the road and told not to come back downtown. Sure, it’s two in the morning, but you can’t just kick me out [of the city].”

Known for busking outside shows to earn enough money to pay cover, Cop Car Bonfire has encountered similar reactions here in Montreal.

“I’ll get a cop that comes and tells me, ‘People have to sleep, go play in a club.’ But then there are clubs that are actually licensed to do this and they get noise complaints and cops still show up and try to shut them down and try to give them fines,” he said.

His contempt for the silencing of musical expression is especially relevant given the recent changes to bylaws in the Plateau, where bars and clubs can now be ticketed up to $12,000 for noise complaints. This poses a great risk for smaller venues, which could easily go bankrupt from two or three of these fines. “If someone has a problem with noise in the city, then get the fuck out of the city,” said Cop Car Bonfire on noise complaints.

When he is playing in clubs, Cop Car Bonfire has a different set-up: he uses drum triggers to initiate each of his samples, adding his own vocals on top of the beats. As for the visual display, he sets coloured water and crystals on an overhead projector, which is then tied to his drum kit to make the visuals move.

Cop Car Bonfire will play on November 11 at le Cagibi (5490 Saint-Laurent Blvd.). $5 suggested donation.

Check out his music on www.internetisdead.ca, a collective of Montreal-based musical and visual artists, and on Myspace (www.myspace.com/copcarbonfire).

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 12, published November 2, 2010.