Acoustics to Electronics and Other Wonderings in Life

by Martin Howell

Acoustics to Electronics and Other Wonderings in Life by Martin HowellMy story. It started with hosting/producing a public cable access TV show out of a mid-western Canadian city that focused on the local music scene in 1989. I was a teenager who wanted to know more than just what mainstream Top 40 could offer me. Though I had an extreme interest in music, I knew nothing about playing it myself other than some power chords I could figure out, by luck and patience, listening to some Heavy Metal and Punk songs. The first song I partially was able to play was “Shout At the Devil” by Motley Crue. Then some Blues chords would follow, and an individual mix began to take place. Wonders what could be next?

Listen to the album while reading the text.

Open-Mic Nights

By 1991, I felt I wanted to have, even in a small way, what the experience is like to play music on stage. It killed me inside to wonder and wonder about it. The best way to stop wondering about it is to actually go do it….

So on a very cold Prairie Winter night in November I brought my father’s unused acoustic guitar with no case to the infamous Blue Note Cafe on Main Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at their weekly open-mic night. I plowed into my hard handed power chords. Going for speed that excited myself and singing about whatever I made up on the spot.

This was going to be ME as it happens (every once and awhile today I have locals ask me about songs that I have completely no memory doing). As weeks went by I got cheered more and more at the open-mic nights until by early Spring ’92 I had my first real gigs and by August of that year, I was regularly playing around. By 1994 I went on my first tour and all this with one acoustic guitar, not much knowledge but tons of energy to sing the fuck out.

Couch Surfing

Let’s fast forward to year 2009. In that time I lived in a number of Canadian cities not only playing shows and releasing albums of my acoustic Punk/Metal tunes (these days it’s called Folk Punk. I don’t think anyone in that scene knows a thing about me even though I was actively doing it a decade plus before) but I also worked in live Indie music bars doing everything from mostly waitering and bussing but also some bouncer help as well.


But….. I wondered again. I wondered if it was what I wanted anymore. So I went on a 16 date three-week long tour across Eastern North America with the little music biz contacts I had. What did I find? I liked the other new-to-me musicians I met along the way, I felt I was happy with my performances on stage, and I didn’t mind bumpy cushion couch surfing from place to place on the Indie highway.

Still, by the 2nd week, I wanted to go home. I didn’t even complete the tour. Going home by the 14th show. It’s not what I wanted anymore. What do I do now?

Comic Book Radio Theatre

Two years pass. The indie music scene is off my mind. It seemed out of my reach. I wondered how I could give back to it. Then I thought I wonder if there’s room for me at the community access radio station at the campus of the University of Winnipeg, CKUW 95.9 FM.

I enquire, and there’s a much-needed spot replacement for Sundays midnight to 6 A.M., and I can play anything. Anything? Wonder no more! Still, it’s 6 hours to fill, and I know myself enough to know I can’t broadcast doing all the one same thing.

Then while looking at a comic book at home, I manically thought why not waste time reading a comic book to the audience around 3 in the morning as some sort of demented bedtime story. On top of that, I’m not afraid to do acting and making funny, dramatic voices. I’ve heard it said somewhere acting is the ability to make a fool of yourself. Got that figured out!

Then, a day before my first late-night radio broadcast, on an impulse while driving with my Dad I said turn into the strip mall Toys R’ Us because I’d like to look at their CASIO Keyboards and took a chance on one sold for only $35.

The next night I read a reprint copy of Amazing Spider-Man #122 originally published in July of 1973. Reading the full story, some of the advertisements and playing some of the hit songs of that Summer year to give me voice breaks. For a late night show, I got the craziest reactions in town for it.

I must have done over 250 different readings now that I call Comic Book Radio Theatre. I’ve found myself a new hobby, and it’s time well wasted. Listen to the latest performance at this link (beginning at the 15-minute mark).

Comic Book Radio Theatre by Martin Howell

This shows what and how the music is written for me to follow when I do Comic Book Radio Theatre.


At the beginning of my Synth playing, which I like to call CASIO-CORE, I knew not much in how to play keyboards but, bit by bit, I’ve got more complex and can even play two keyboards at once while cueing up a video on You-Tube to go along with it. The video could be of any old person mouthing off their opinion webcam style, a shitty B-movie trailer or my next project involving ESA (Emergency Safety Announcements).

I’ve gone from very quirky to very dark in quick time flat.

Lastly, perhaps you wonder if I’ve given up on my acoustic guitar? No. There’s still songs that come to me. I let it happen naturally. I even goof off abit for instance lately I’ve been “writing” or more putting together songs based off my random playing of the game Cards Against Humanity and having a ball of a time. Will I record them? Sure, why not through my lap top I have the means to. Will I package CDs and tour the Indie bars and taverns? No…. But I do wonder if there’s an open-mic somewhere in town tonight. I may go there.

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
Proverb, Chinese


Artist’s Note
Manitoba, Winnipeg
Alternative, Punk, Folk Punk, Alternative Rock, Indie Rock
b-movies, spider-man, open-mic, comic book, Comic Book Radio Theatre, casio-core

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