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Monday, June 13, 2011

WWW of Spin Turlock #27: Imants Krumins: Last Car from Union Station

To people who hear music in the background, as opposed to the foreground, the name Imants Krumins won't mean a lot.

To the rest of us, Imants who passed away Thursday morning, June 9, 2011, was the consummate fan, the interstitial glue that bound us together, and someone I counted as a friend for more than 30 years.
He was also a walking paradox: a banker by day and a raving punk rock/ wrestling fan at night, defying any & all conventions on the right, left, & outside centre. A Sun TV commentator wouldn't be able to reconcile his on-going support of the arts (especially punk rock!) with his position, and neither could a Rabble writer. Both would be reduced to apoplectic fits in his presence.

His lifestyle of living at home with his parents while amassing enormous quantities of LPs, cassettes, CDs, and MP3s might have made him an easy target for criticism and condescending remarks. The next two statements ,however, should pop that cliché balloon to Kingdom Come:

1) Extended family units USED to be the norm before the competing ideologies ruined it on BOTH sides of left/right equation. Actually , it's YOU who are the sick being. And anyway, it's none of your business, so sod off.

WHOA, did I just channel his spirit? Imants had a way with words that was feisty, succinct and in Technicolour. You could take any number of Krumins catchphrases , string them together and come up with responses to any and all situations. And at this point, I'd like to blow the whistle on Gary "Pig" Gold for doing precisely that. Specifically, in the column "Imants on Romance" in his funzine, The Pig Paper. Imants would have the last laugh, though, by actually responding in kay-fab - to use wrasslin' ring parlance - to his own column.

He made me - and a whole lot of other people laugh heartily - which brings us to the next point:

2) Collecting/appreciating music doesn't necessarily indicate a retreat from normal human contact. The makers of the documentary, Vinyl, seemed to play up this stereotype in the film (not intentionally..see comments...)but said stereotype didn't - and doesn't - stick: the memorable shot is one of Krumins pulling out one of the more ahem, graphic pieces of the collection, to the presumed disapproval of tut-tutters everywhere.

Yes, Imants made record collecting, enjoying live shows (a complete tour diary would fill a book...) and pro wrestling appreciation a social experience without subordinating his ah, ah, aesthetic to fashionistic social pandering.

He was born in Ol' Blighty on April 6th, 1952 to Latvian parents displaced by the Ribbentrop pact fall-out of World War II, moved to Canada in the late sixtease, and studied at McMaster University in the early seventease. We know this, because he retained an outrageous accent, knew every other Latvian person in the Hamilton , Ontario region, and his 50th birthday party was held at the Corktown Tavern in April 2002. That was an amazing gathering of the clans, but I digress...

We also know people who went to McMaster during his time there, people like Doug Foley of the Hamilton Spectator, who recalled that Imants "was one of the first people who was into Pink Floyd at the time". Presumably, the Syd Barrett version of the group...
He did a radio show at McMaster radio during those years, when said station was essentially two cans and a piece of string, in the basement of Wentworth House. I would say those shows were legendary, except all the stuff really DID happen: the pitchers of beer passed from the neighbouring pub, the death threats from pissed jocks upset with his decision to play a complete Captain Beefheart retrospective, and so on.

True fact: Imants was not always into vinyl. At one point, he was convinced cassette tapes were the wave of the future, After several of those unravelled on him, however, he became a believer in getting "hard" copies of material and the rest is history, as they say.

Mass produced items gave way to small, independently-produced issues sometime in the mid-70's with a few major exceptions (Ramones, ABBA). Trace the mailing lists of the early Do-It-Yourselfers and you will find Imants' name there, usually - and sagely -buying records in duplicate/triplicate, showing up (and paying for) gigs, & getting other people to show up, even if it meant wedging 12 of them in his sedan delivery service.

That doesn't sound like a lot: he was basically a pro-level aesthete who didn't "get" or give industry backwash. Multiply that effort over 35 + years, spread it over five, possibly six, continents (if you accept the party line about Gwar being from Antarctica..) and you're talking about one helluva community. Even if we limit our scope, to say, oh a relative cultural backwater like Hamilton, Ontario, Canada . the range of lives touched runs from the earliest days of Simply Saucer, thru Teenage Head's formative years, thru the Problem Children, thru the Dik Van Dykes, Wet Spots, and on down to the moderne day.

The common , unifying thread throughout the whole shebang was Imants. and now that thread is cut, and the world is a lot darker place. We have the Internet , with Facebook and Twitter to keep us together now, but I believe it was Gary Pig who said - and only half jokingly - that Imants WAS the internet back in the day. You can't put your arm around a memory and you can't share a pint with a laptop . Well. you can, but it's a pretty pathetic state of affairs when people do so in public.

All my memories of Imants are centred around the shows: the big ones like the annual Ramone treks; the Australian ABBA cover bands, any number of Shows presented by the Garys.  My best memories, however, stem from the treks into terra incognita: the Lazy Cowgirls (original line-up) in Buffalo (where we accounted for a good 10% of the audience along w/the ex Mrs Greg Shaw), the 'ardcore new year's eve bash outside of Nowhere (aka Welland) circa 1982 and ESPECIALLY those CFMU-FM radio shows where it was apparent there couldn't have been more than two listeners rubbed together...especially after that Nurse With Wound superset. But again, and aye there's the triumph: multiply that effort over 35 years and hundreds of people , and I can tell you Imants Krumins made a difference to a lot of people.

During the last ten years of life, Imants took to the Internet like a fish to H2O, building an impressive list of contacts, from the past and present alike. As other writers have noted, his impact transcends generational boundaries. At one point, some of us tried to draft him as a Hamilton Mayoralty candidate. He declined, and it's our loss; we could have had both good financial management AND a healthy arts community.

He was, and is, a true original, one of the architects of punk rock, and the likes of which we will never, ever see again. And I will miss him very, very much. "Cheers"

NOTE: There will be a memorial concert in Hamilton, July 8th . a fundraiser for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Attendance is mandatory if you're in a 3000 km radius and have a pulse. Details, later, GEEK!


  1. This is great!

    I met Imants at Discharge in November 83 I knew him for 28 years!

    He was a great man and his memory will live on forever! We traveled many miles together to see bands and yes I was with him at the Lazy Cowgirls in Buffalo.

    Imants as far as I am concerned is a legend an ICON!

    He was never a famous person from a band but that being said he deserves the respect that Strummer, Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Thunders get for laying down the tracks for us to ride that PUNK ROCK train!

    Imants is like "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" if you were punk rock fan that was in your collection! If did not have that in your collection and you did not know or cross paths with Imants Krumins you were not a true fan of punk rock!

    We will all miss you Imants you made our world a lot brighter!



  2. I can't remember when I first met Imants, but he made a big impression on me in 1977. I had already been working at Records On Wheels for 3 years but Imants seemed to have the inside track on everything important. My circle of friends came to recognize him as a no BS authority. He never ceased to amaze. It was a joy to have known him and I wonder if I'll ever stop looking for him at gigs.

  3. I met Imants in 1995 when I interviewed him for the film Vinyl. I'm sorry Bruce that you interpret things the way you do, I was enjoying the obituary up to that point. I cherish my memory of meeting Imants and my interview with him. As I said in another forum, he was the one who told me what trainspotting was. And he did this in the context of comparing it to record collecting. In other words, Imants had a sense of humor about his compulsion. I will resist the temptation to defend the film here and just say that I have met a few record collectors in my time, who almost seem to transcend the terms collector or fan and Imants was one of them. As a collector and music fan myself, I always have this feeling like "I only buy the stuff, it's the musicians who are the important ones" but sometimes you meet a fan like Imants and it's like "no they don't make the music but they do something just as important". I'm glad so many people are remembering him, it tells me he must have had a lot of good friends.

  4. AZ,
    Note revisions...also, FYI: I was supposed to be in I, Curmudgeon, but I ended up on the cutting floor. I guess I'm too nice, eh?