Open house for TINI Music Co-op

Hello indie music enthusiasts! For two dates in November TINI Music Co-op will be hosting the public, living room casual drop-in style, at the Tranzac Club in Toronto. The general idea of the open house events is to engage interest in TINI membership in advance of our official incorporation as a multi-stakeholder co-operative. What happens at these open houses depends on you. We will have some documentary tools on hand: playback and recording machines of various kinds, forms and templates for documenting events and some instruments. Both events are scheduled early. All ages welcome! Bring an object, a song, or a story and we can collaboratively document your participation in the events in real time! We will also have samples of work, and our mandate and incorporation documents on hand for community feedback. If you have any questions or want to get involved, email us any time at

We’d love to hear from you!

Membership drive

Do you have what it takes to be a member of TINI?

Yes. Yes you do. The more the merrier. During the Fall of 2022, starting with the Geary Art Crawl September 24 and 25, TINI will be looking to spread the word about our impending incorporation as a co-operative. This requires some meetings and expressions of commitment. But that doesn’t have to be unpleasant. We are asking people to sign up as an expression of interest for future activities. Our next steps are pretty easy going:

  1. We will need to formally ratify our articles of incorporation
  2. We want to prepare some workshops and events
  3. We need to open a bank account, formalize the membership structure, and get a board of directors in place
  4. World domination by peaceful documentation of all things wonderful about independent music everywhere

So, what do we expect from YOU? Once we have collectively reviewed our mandate, elected a board and an executive we will be coming back to the list of people who have expressed an interest in joining TINI, to enroll as members. Membership will be a one time commitment of $50 and will include a credit for one free workshop. Workshops we can offer right now include digital file management, archival description, handling and storage, donation planning, digital preservation, local historical research, and DIY documentation strategies. But the sky is the limit. We’d love to hear your ideas for projects and events. We also want to plan some fun free events like concerts, documentation days, and legacy media capture and playback events. Also, we are planning that our incorporation meetings will include live performances and documentation, because all meetings should still be little parties. So, don’t be scared, come on out, send us an email, read through our blog posts for ideas, and send us a pitch for a blog post or a future workshop you’d want to attend. TINI is getting ready to make room for all kinds of new exciting ideas.

TINI is available by email any time at:

Researching Toronto Music Studios

Advertisement from Billboard Magazine 24 Nov. 1979

In Summer 2021, I was part of a project that explored the functions and the fluidity of spaces which sound engineers utilized for recording music. This was research that was to complement a book, ‘The Sonic Heritage’, from the Oslo School of Architecture & Design. Since I hailed from Toronto, Canada, I was asked to identify studios in Toronto that operated from the 1960s to the 2000s. The goal was to find unique examples of music studio spaces that did not alter their interior appearance, or layout, but which adapted to the spaces for the recording process. Shortly into the research, it became very clear that there was a rich and sometimes forgotten Toronto music history.  

One of the first studios I researched was RCA Studios, which was the original CHUM radio live recording station from 1947 to 1954. The building was purchased by RCA to function as a recording and mastering studio. Another notable studio was the Nimbus 9 (Sound Stage) that was founded in 1967 by the Canadian jingle writers Jack Richardson, Alan Macmillan, Ben McPeek and Peter Clayton. The recording studio was the first to have rotating walls, that could change from reflective to absorbent surfaces, depending on the demands of the recording project. Finally, many musicians remarked on the rural studio at Puck’s Farm. This property provided a menagerie of attractions, including a petting zoo, while also operating as a music studio. A 150-year-old barn on the property in King County, Ontario, was converted into a music studio that could be rented out to bands. The owner of this property, Frazier Mohawk, had previous experience in the music industry and recorded in Los Angeles before buying the property in the early 1990s. 

Overtime, these studios faced similar financial hardships, as the demands for space gradually declined and as recording technology improved. Gone were the days when studios had to be the size of concert halls to fit the large number of musicians needed to record songs. This did, however, showcase an extension of the functionality of spaces, when recording studios had to adapt their practices to keep their studios afloat. These adaptations included increasing the rental hourly prices, or adopting new recording practices to attract a wider genre of musicians. For example, RCA studios was used for jazz recordings and was a well-known Rock studio, where the drummer Neil Peart from the band RUSH and Gordon Lightfoot were recorded.  Studios that were once architectural gems and technological giants, such as the famed Manta Studios on Ontario Street, the first all-digital recording studio in Canada, had been reduced to rubble in the 1990s, to make way for new condominium developments. Many studios were forced to close or move. Smaller studios could not compete with the demands from the music industry and were overwhelmed by the higher budgeted recording studios.

What this research underscored for me was the adaptability of spaces that were converted into music recording spaces. Whether it was converting a live radio station, or a 150-year-old barn, these spaces and their functions were reconfigured to suit the needs of the recording studio. This in turn showcased a uniqueness that was attributed to Toronto’s music studios. Through their unremarkable appearances these studios flew under the radar but utilized their interior layout which aided in the construction of sounds which were unique to each studio. Though these studios are very few in number today, they still tell an important part of Toronto’s local music history and should continue to be acknowledged as the steppingstone for Canada’s music industry. 

For more information on this project, you can visit the Instagram page at

Post by Andrew Northey for TINI Music Co-op, September 2022

Andrew Northey is a Masters candidate at the University of Guelph currently researching tourism history in the Scottish Border Counties during the Victorian Era.

Cuff the Duke (2003)

I bought this tshirt at Hillside Music Festival in Guelph in 2003 after rollicking set in the side tent which was where the youth committee selected artists were playing that year. Cuff the Duke and Metric were notable performers that year. I think they might have still been on Three Gut Records at the time. It’s another one for the can’t wear it too often category. Super simple design. Probably the band shirt that has drawn the most commentary over the years.

This post is for a gallery of indie tshirts we are building to document the social history of independent music. Do you have a great indie band or artist tshirt you’d like to profile in a TINI gallery? Send us a photo (jpg, 300 dpi scan, or 2MB or less) of the shirt in action with a brief (less than 300 words) write up that tells us how and when you got the shirt, and something about your connection with the band or artist, or some kind of historical context, and we will add it to our gallery: email inquiries to

Poorfolk (ca. 2009)

I bought the shirt at a Poorfolk concert at the Smiling Buddha, a small bar on Dundas West in Toronto. They were the band and opening act for an incarnation of Ryder Havdale’s The Mohawk Lodge. All around great show. I was there to see my old buddy Scott Freeman who played bass in Poorfolk at the time, a kind of ongoing collaboration with Ottawa-based Jonathan Pearce who was the main songwriter. The guitarist Dave Clark loved dropping to his knees to play solos. I remember the whole night was just a lot of good rock’n’roll fun. I think the band had been touring for a while and they were a tight ship. They passed out tambourines and my bandmate and multitalented rhythm maestro Reade Ollivier grabbed one and rocked out on stage with them. I would have been about 34 when I bought this.

This post is for a gallery of indie tshirts we are building to document the social history of independent music. Do you have a great indie band or artist tshirt you’d like to profile in a TINI gallery? Send us a photo (jpg, 300 dpi scan, or 2MB or less) of the shirt in action with a brief (less than 300 words) write up that tells us how and when you got the shirt, and something about your connection with the band or artist, or some kind of historical context, and we will add it to our gallery: email inquiries to

The Guest Bedroom (2008)

I bought this shirt at a concert at the upstairs bar of Sneaky Dee’s at College and Bathurst in Toronto. My friend Al Kelley was playing bass in the band. It’s a way back there in terms of how long ago the show was, so not sure I could say much about it. I dug the band. Kind of gritty art rock from what I remember. I love this shirt design. I guess I would have been about 32 when I bought this.

UPDATE: 10 February 2022: after a little investigative work I think I bought this shirt at the Wavelength show 412, on 11 May 2008. Knowing this is possible because of documentation work being done by Wavelength, which TINI is super excited to be working on. Checkout all the cool things happening there: . So, I can tell you stuff now like the other bands that were playing (We Versus the Shark and Orn) and soon you’ll be able to see if anybody took a picture of me at the show.

This post is for a gallery of indie tshirts we are building to document the social history of independent music. Do you have a great indie band or artist tshirt you’d like to profile in a TINI gallery? Send us a photo (jpg, 300 dpi scan, or 2MB or less) of the shirt in action with a brief (less than 300 words) write up that tells us how and when you got the shirt, and something about your connection with the band or artist, or some kind of historical context, and we will add it to our gallery: email inquiries to

The Marato (2001)

I bought this shirt at The Marato’s last ever show on September 10th 2001 at El Macombo in Toronto. That’s a fact I was recently reminded of by the lead singer Jonathan Pearce. It was probably their CD release and then the band broke up. You can buy it here: Other members of that band were Scott Freeman on drums, Ben Addelman on bass [?] and Samir Mallal on guitar. I knew these guys from my undergraduate days in Montreal in the late 1990s. The show was loud. It was epic. I also remember Scott complaining about mistakes. They were very into precision and got mad about that kind of thing in those days. I hope they look back on it as fondly as I do. It was so great just being there. Discogs calls it emo punk. I think the band would hate that. For the record emo was not a genre I heard anyone call anything until at least 2005. Postpunk for sure. Jonathan would go on to start Poorfolk, and later Winchester Warm:

This post is for a gallery of indie tshirts we are building to document the social history of independent music. Do you have a great indie band or artist tshirt you’d like to profile in a TINI gallery? Send us a photo (jpg, 300 dpi scan, or 2MB or less) of the shirt in action with a brief (less than 300 words) write up that tells us how and when you got the shirt, and something about your connection with the band or artist, or some kind of historical context, and we will add it to our gallery: email inquiries to

Chicken Milk (1992)

This is my most legit shirt, for sure. I think they might have been throwing their t-shirts into the audience. Or maybe I bought it. I have a 7 inch single of theirs too. One of my high school bands, Mohammad Chang, played in the show during which I got the shirt in room 203 of the University Centre at the University of Guelph. I remember they did a punk rock cover of Take it Easy by The Eagles/Jackson Browne that involved shouting “take it easy” over and over for the choruses. It was awesome. There was some great stuff happening in Guelph in the early 90s. I was 16 or 17 when I got this shirt. I can’t wear it too often because it could fall apart at any moment.

This post is for a gallery of indie tshirts we are building to document the social history of independent music. Do you have a great indie band or artist tshirt you’d like to profile in a TINI gallery? Send us a photo (jpg, 300 dpi scan, or 2MB or less) of the shirt in action with a brief (less than 300 words) write up that tells us how and when you got the shirt, and something about your connection with the band or artist, or some kind of historical context, and we will add it to our gallery: email inquiries to

Remembering Paul Humphrey

photo credit: Liam Sharp

I had a dream about Paul Humphrey the other night. Mostly in the past, when I’ve seen Paul in a dream, it has always been in a bartending context. Those kinds of dreams where you’ve forgotten a water you were supposed to bring to a table back ten or fifteen minutes ago, and the next order up bell in the kitchen keeps ringing, and the CD player is skipping, and the bar is somehow now a labyrinth that was never this big before, there’s a new room or something. I don’t even write those dreams down anymore. For a long time I was pretty diligent about writing down my dreams. Dreams were the kind of thing Paul and I enjoyed chatting about. In this new dream from the other night, Paul was a volunteer camp counsellor for a kids theatre camp that my son was in. The three of us were all sitting together among a larger group of counsellors, parents and kids in this carpeted open room, with big floor to ceiling windows. It was the first day and everyone was figuring out how this camp thing was going to go. We are all going to learn how to sing and dance and have a good time. “How do you learn how to dance?” somebody asks. Paul stands up and does this kind of body wave motion, shooting his hands up to one side. “Like this,” he says.

My friend Paul Humphrey died on April 4th, 2021, 61 years young. Paul was a bit of a rock star, so there was some fanfare regarding his death. It certainly was a treat to see him perform. He had the kind of presence that lights up a room or a stage. That light was cut short by Multiple System Atrophy. “Parkinson’s on steroids,” Paul called it, when he told me. He also said I probably didn’t want to look it up and he was right. It was heartbreaking watching Paul’s body turn against him, as he slowly lost mobility and muscle control, and his sweet singing voice became strained and labored, and everything he still wanted to do became a greater effort and strain. I am glad his suffering is over, but it is not the way anyone would choose to go, and all kinds of endlessly unfair. Just one of those random, rotten luck cards life sometimes deals people for no reason. Since he died, I have been thinking a great deal about all the things Paul said to me over the years, what he meant to me as a friend and a co-worker, and what he went through. I felt like I needed to write something down to reflect who Paul was to me, because I didn’t really recognize him, or know him as his public persona. It is impossible to summarize a person, in any one person’s recollection of them, of course, but I really do believe people live on in our memories of them. It was so beautiful seeing him again in my dream.

I met Paul in the summer of 2001, when I first moved to Toronto, and I worked with him at the Free Times Café. He had some kind of a status as a manager there, as he would later at the Victory Café, where I again worked with him as a server from 2005 until about 2009, as I worked less and less in bars, and more and more in basements.

That Free Times community was a great way to be introduced to the culture of Toronto: the folk scene regulars, amateur and gigging musicians who crowded into the tiny back room, and all the Kensington lefties who were regulars there. Paul seemed to know everyone, and that was a big part of his mystique and charm. Paul knew it was important to remember names in the bar business. So when I think of Paul, my thoughts of him are also of Judy, Roger, Julie, Jenn, Alex, and the two Sues, and Raphael, Ashook, Ravi and Sandran. And the many others I worked with over the years I was there: my first working family in Toronto. Also the entire vast and amazing Victory Café crew, many of whom posted lovely reminiscences and thoughts about Paul on his memorial page and on social media. I won’t list them here, but you know who you are, my brothers and sisters all, bonded by trials too numerous and tedious to mention, but also by much laughter and celebration. Some important milestones and sorrows too.

You meet a lot of people tending bar, and Paul was a great bartender. When people found out I worked at the Victory, almost always the first question was if I knew that tall dashing guy. People knew he was someone special, even if they didn’t know that he was in a semi-iconic new wave Canadian band from the early 80s. A lot of people knew him as the best bartender in the city. It’s not something that gets a lot of recognition, but as people in the business know, it isn’t for everyone.

There was a kind of sanctuary in bar work. Paul rescued me from a dark spell of aimless unemployment, by hiring me to work at the Victory, after I flunked out of grad school, and before I embarked on my next academic career in archives. Bartending has its ups and downs: it is usually hard work, precarious, but better paying than retail, sometimes let you pay the bills and maintain a side-line, and you get to meet all kinds of people. Some people are really good at it, and it can be a means to an end. That’s the nature of bars. They’re places people go when they aren’t really doing anything, or where people work in order to be able to do the things they would otherwise be doing. People on their way through to something better or something worse. As such, they attract a lot of creative people, and they can be incubators for cool cultural activities. And of course that atmosphere fosters both creativity and substance abuse. Paul was a maestro of the bar scene, that place where the kinds of things happen that can happen when you’re just hanging out. And who you know is often what makes those things happen. Paul managed to pay the bills by working in these spaces for a long time. He also funded a life of rich creative output in theatre and music, most of which didn’t pay the bills.

I recall hunching over to do the cash out with him in the Hobbit-hole basement of the Free Times (always hard on us over six footers) and learning some valuable lessons about the service industry. Paul often didn’t count his tips table by table, and so he didn’t equate his service performance with the generosity of specific patrons. Judy Perly, the owner of the Free Times, was a big proponent of the direct sell: Don’t say, ‘Can I get you anything?’ say ‘Would you like a piece of our freshly baked apple pie?’ Paul showed me a way out of the bind of having to pitch people for a living, without selling your soul. The truth was people were never just buying food and drink. You were selling atmosphere, space and culture. Paul genuinely liked people and made them feel comfortable, and if a place was comfortable to hang out in, people tended to buy another round and were generally less stingy on the percentages. In Paul’s accounting of the business, things had a way of working out. Anyway, you were always moving and dancing in and out of conversations and the animation of charged up chatter and being on the go. Another thing Judy Perly used to say about restaurant work is that it keeps you thin. It also wrecks your knees and causes insomnia. I don’t miss it much at all.

I worked a lot of long shifts with Paul over the years—dead nights shooting the shit, and also decompressing after busy nights of running the marathon around the temple of Dionysus. We talked about all the important things: love, death, art. He read widely and loved to talk about new scientific discoveries and the ethereal and the esoteric. We spent a disproportionate amount of time talking about aliens, but also our dreams and schemes, and all kinds of plans, big and small, most of which inevitably never come to pass.

We talked a lot about music and exchanged musicological opinions through mixed CDs we’d play and critique and exchange, in order to achieve the right kind of working equilibrium: the underlying groove of a shift was an important lifeline, and we mostly worked together in a pre-playlist era. It is amazing how fast that has changed too. I made mixes for different times of the shift and Paul would give me tips for improvement: more Nick Lowe, less Elvis Costello. We weighed the general public’s tolerance for John Lee Hooker and Captain Beefheart and everything in between. Occasionally we would send each other songs by email as a way of staying in touch after I started working as an archivist. He helped me develop a more refined appreciation for Roxy Music, and get over my aversion to Frank Sinatra. Paul loved discovering or rediscovering music through what other people were into. He didn’t really reminisce that often about the good old days. He seemed kind of bored by what he’d already done, always pushing forward to the next thing.

He was proud of making A Rumour of Angels, an album that was a personal labour of love. I remember his enthusiasm for the project and the challenges of the collaboration with strings and orchestral arrangements, the back and forth to Vancouver and the pressure of getting all those sessions the way he wanted. Paul put so much into the making of that record, to make the album his way, and probably lost money on it, but it was the album he wanted to make. On one level you could look at Paul’s career in music and say it didn’t have a broad impact. But Paul made deliberate art and Paul had depth: the bartender who didn’t drink and the rock star who didn’t like to talk about himself. Music and art were a serious business, not to be confused with fame and commerce.

Probably half of our co-workers were in bands or performers, and Paul was an enthusiastic supporter of all the youth trying to bust in on the Toronto music scene. It was such a huge lift when Paul told you he liked something you did musically. He thought about what he had to say and his reserve lent gravitas to his opinions. He also very gently steered the ongoing careers of a lot of working musicians in the city and helped connect people. I see his influence all around me, especially in a new generation of artists on Bandcamp and people who dress up in costumes and present theatrical, fun, deep, political, emotional and passionate art on stages and small venues (heck in the absence of venues). People have written that Blue Peter were ahead of their time, but I don’t think it’s because they were superstars before the Canadian market was ready for them, so much as that they were stuck in a major label fueled bubble economy before the advent of a more robust indie music industry. Paul had good advice about recording on the cheap and promotion. He was a savvy and pragmatic veteran.

My friendship with Paul was like a currency in a number of different communities that have been important in my life: a sure fire way of engaging in conversation with theatre and film people, musicians of all genres, and bartenders and restauranteurs. In the midst of COVID we’re realizing how special these spaces are, as community has become a kind of virtual exchange of memes, and as brick and mortar venues and favourite hangouts are closing up at an alarming rate. The human toll of these closures is felt well beyond the bar scene. It has become easier to see how things like booze and music are connected, and how fragile our cultural economies are. I am eager to see what our venues will look like in this post-COVID era. What, if anything, will we have learned, and what better will look like?

Paul was an early contributor to my various schemes to build a TINI Music Co-op, a co-operative for musicians and archivists. He introduced me to some movers and shakers, and in his gentle way, improved my thinking and guided the project before he had to bow out for health reasons. If I wasn’t so stubborn in my own way, the project would no doubt be further along its very slow (or deliberate) trajectory to existence. Paul’s projects, his solo work and his bands like Monkey Tree and Broken Arrow, are the kinds of work we want to document: maybe not commercially successful, but reflective of the kind of art that requires a village to make; thoughtfully and meaningfully made; worth preserving and knowing about, regardless of how many units were sold.

I’m sad that Paul didn’t get to live longer on his own terms. He was such a courageous fighter. I think I would have caved at the first set back. Paul didn’t get to live out his retirement from bartending. He didn’t get his just desserts. I think the Blue Peter revival was fun, and he liked the second go round recognition, but it would have been nice if it bought him some time to work on his own projects, to do more theatre scores, maybe follow up on A Rumour of Angels. When the Victory ownership changed hands, it looked like an opportunity for Paul to move into an elder statesman role in his own creative projects, but getting sick cleaned him out financially and hampered his ability to continue working, though he continued to do composition work, while he was physically able. Paul had a lot more to give, as much as he lived in the time he had.  For many people, Paul will be forever enshrined in their minds as a twenty something popstar, but for me he will always be the forty and fifty year old gentleman of the arts—a mentor and teacher—a wry and generous friend and a fearless arts worker. He was a creative soul, who knew the grind of blue collar work. He made a big impact in the lives of his fellow travelers, lending his encouragement to the projects of his younger colleagues. As I reflect on my time with Paul, there are a lot of things I am still trying to learn from his example: that the process of doing things matters; how to measure success in incremental gains against overwhelming odds; not to put off things that are important to you; tell the people you love they matter to you; and, live in the moment. He was a brave, beautiful person and I am so lucky to have known him.

by Simon Patrick Rogers

Basement tapes: phone messages

In conjunction with this year’s virtual Basement Tapes Day celebrations on October 17th, we’d like to share a glimpse into the more esoteric side of the history of recorded audio by looking at two strange and yet commonplace recordings we’ve managed to dredge up. These recordings are from two different eras of telecommunication. The first is a video from an accidental pocket dial. It was discovered while engaged in the transfer of media from one cellphone to another.

Pocket dial

There are several points of interest in this recording from a found audio/ amateur recording perspective. The person speaking is one of the authors of this piece–that’s me, Simon Rogers–and I believe I am discussing note-taking in a randomized notebook and neighbourhood construction, which is hilarious that that was captured on a pocket dial video. I wouldn’t have remembered the conversation except for the accidental documentation.

I also like the audio in a video format. When I was a radio DJ in high school, we used to keep the radio logs on VHS tapes on slow play format, as a way of documenting the broadcasts for the CRTC [The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission]. In the case of the pocket dial the video is merely obscured but I remember being told the audio quality of the VHS tape was better than on standard audio cassette. People also used to use VHS for recording audio at Ed Video, a Guelph multimedia arts centre, for mixing short artist videos. It makes me wonder about the audio quality of various digital formats. Also, though the media format in this case is born digital, the issue of transferring files from one device to another is not entirely dissimilar to transfer from analog to digital. I would not have discovered this audio artefact if I hadn’t been transferring my files from a cloud storage to a physically more stable storage environment.

The second recording is from a typical home phone answering machine, in use towards the end of the 90s in various houses that I (Curtis) was living in. I was going through some old boxes of media and suchlike at my parents’ house a while back and stumbled across these two tapes:

I had absolutely no memory of keeping these, nor what was on them, but I did recall having one of these units in play for many years across a wide variety of student houses and living arrangements:


For those of us not old enough to remember, one of these units functioned as our planning logistics hub in the days before ubiquitous cellular technology took hold. Out of curiosity, I digitized the tapes using a relatively straightforward rig with a Marantz cassette deck connected to a desktop terminal (and its rather limited built in sound card) via a basic audio converter with a USB interface. I used the free open source software Audacity to generate the mp3 file I’ve shared here, and also to amplify the sound a bit as the sound quality on the source tapes had become quite compromised over time given the fact these tapes were recorded over many hundreds of times with incoming messages. I also edited the clip for brevity and to focus on the more interesting messages I discovered to share. The resulting rescued audio in part documents some relatively mundane interactions, but also manages to partially capture a view of what it was like planning for the ins and outs of event attendance without a smartphone.