Earlier this week, I opened up my Facebook, to a message from someone under the guise Goldenrod Zen. Usually, anyone who uses such a creative name, still thinks Tupac is alive and well (he is though). After a brief back and forth of what I do, he asked me to review his album. The album, his first solo album, is a tribute to old-school punk, real punk. Just listening to it, makes me picture the basement of Smiling Buddha and a whole bunch of teenage kids strung out on cans of pilsner, cigarettes of wacky tobacky and raging hormones.
Goldenrod Zen, whom later unveiled himself to be Denzel Gordon, spoke about the obstacles he had faced growing up being the only black kid in Brantford, Ontario. Discrimination, such as racism, was just one of the many landmines that he would have to avoid.
“The City basically became a ghost town in the early ’00s. A lot of factories shut down.”
Denzel Gordon describes himself as a “light-skinned Jamaican”, was a child actor and model. He starred in a short film with Canadian actress Sarah Polley and directed by Clement Virgo, Untitled. Denzel is no stranger to the spotlight, growing up, Denzel had played in several punk bands as early as grade school, by high school, he was in an indie group Apollo the Hunter that eventually succumbed to pressures, and broke up.
Those parents I tell you.
“There was no hip hop here when I was growing up either, it’s like, either you liked, country, hard rock or punk rock.”
Denzel had a lot to say, he had quite a rich background of triumphs and adversity that, quite frankly, we all can empathize with in degrees. Rarely are the subtle victories ever spoken of, as they are swept under the rug, too often we easily accept them as being part of the struggle to achieve success. So after catching up with Denzel, we sat down and talked through Facebook, about his album, his past and what the one-man band has planned for the future.
Take a look.
A – Good evening Commissioner Gordan, it’s a pleasure to be talking with you. So, black guy in Brantford. What’s that been like? You must have crushed all the pussy. (Yeah, it’s going to be that kind of interview)
DG – Being a light-skinned Jamaican in Brantford was, uhh, not the worst thing to happen. I’m a fairly traditional person by temperament so not tons of PU$$I being thrown at me if that’s what you mean. Brantford was white and working class, so it was uncomfortable being a black Brantfordite.
A – Nothing wrong with being classy, you spoke of racism to me earlier; did you find the racism to have a huge impact growing up?
DG – I was comfortable being an outsider. only black kid on the hockey rink, only black kid in my grade school class of 400. only non-white family in the neighbourhood. I didn’t receive tons of racism from my peers, just wise-cracks. The grown folks though? And some bad teachers and coaches? That’s where it came from, it was insidious and destructive. I was bright and different in the classroom. it was as if they didn’t want the other children to catch an inferiority complex from seeing me being excellent. I’m sure it’s not a uniquely Brantford problem, but it was definitely a learning situation for me. Learned how to move more neatly. Not to shine so bright in front of people, you know?
A – Oh I know, jealousy comes in many forms, through many faces. However racism sucks, well all negative discrimination blows. Is there a silver lining here, did this help or hinder your music career?
DG – I mean, it taught me about how human beings operate I guess, it definitely gave me a unique perspective and an unheard voice, I suppose. Life is full of lessons, that’s the lining.
A – Note taken, so tell me about this album, Bored!. You did everything yourself?
DG – Bored! Is a paradox I guess, the exclamation point doesn’t really convey “mundane”. And it’s a double entendre about, uhhh, sex and immature flirting. The whole album is kinda about being heartbroken, and in my honest opinion learning about the nature of women in the west. It’s almost resentful in expression.
I ended up writing this album this year, recorded everything myself, played everything myself.
A – Man, you switched up on me from punk rocker to college English professor for a second there. Punk Rock and immature flirting, it’s like my first punk concert all over again. How did the mixing go for all the individual instruments? I mean I’ve seen some one-man bands, but it’s a bit hard to imagine you doing all the album all at the same time. Would you say it’s like a jigsaw puzzle?
DG – For me it was like, laying down grooves I liked. Drums and bass came first then everything else. I think someone said that “a band is just a rhythm section and various novelty acts”, just throw guitar and vox on top of that. Some songs took a while, like an hour or two, start to finish. Some vox were freestyles, first takes. I won’t say which ones, but I’m sure you can guess, haha.
A – Well, I’m definitely going to edit out that jigsaw puzzle suggestion, maybe I’ll stay away from my attempt at awesome analogies, it happened to turn into a bad metaphor. Is this the first you have produced as a solo artist?
DG – Nah, I get that haha, I was trying to tie it back, couldn’t quite figure it.
This is the first project I’ve seriously released as a solo artist. I have some other tapes and projects that I plan to sell at shows as unique 1/1 type things. I’ve been learning to get a good fucking workflow goin’. There’s definitely more to come. I was raised on punk rock, came of age in hip hop. I just want to make captivating music. I’m playing with a group to get these punky ideas out. They’re tentatively called the “Unlynchables”. We’re called “Denzel Gordon & The Unlynchables”
A – Sweet that sounds legit! I wasn’t really going to edit out the jigsaw remark, especially now that you’ve said that; it shows teamwork, haha. It was actually funny on its own that it seemed like you shot that idea down. “Nope, not a jigsaw”. I think we just got the title for the article. Can we expect some Toronto shows?
DG – Yes! We’re gonna be playing with Waste Youth on July 6th at Duffy’s Tavern! Gonna be a real one for the city, for sure.
A – Damn straight, it’ll be nice to get some real punk back into Toronto again. Denzel, it’s been a pleasure, so glad we got to do this.
Check out Bored! by Denzel Gordon available on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Music, Amazon and Tidal now. Click here to get links to each of those platforms with a complementary cheerleader.