Bob Wiseman Is Actionable

Bob Wiseman piano

Bob Wiseman is nothing if not an unconventional musician and artist.

Since leaving Canadian country-rock institution Blue Rodeo in 1992 after the release of their record Lost Together, Wiseman has carved out quite the career for himself.

Of course, this isn’t to diminish his work either as a part of Blue Rodeo or prior to the group’s success. In addition to his 12 solo recordings, the oldest of which dates back to 1984, Wiseman has appeared on recordings by Ron Sexsmith, Barenaked Ladies and Polaris Prize winner Final Fantasy. This work is in addition to more than two dozen theatre, film and television credits as well.

Wiseman takes the stage at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Thursday night with his one-man production Actionable. The multi-media production features a mix of photographs, slides, and video and of course, music. Wiseman’s socially-aware lyrics with his engaging demeanour give way to often hilarious details some of Wiseman’s legal problems that he has encountered over the past couple of decades.

Exactly how much trouble could Wiseman have gotten himself in, you wonder? That is best left up to Wiseman to fill you in about with his show.

“Actionable was born when the Toronto Theatre Festival Summerworks asked me to fill an open slot in their listings,” Wiseman tells The Times & Transcript. “Being a fan of theatre, I felt a little awkward as I love the theatre but what I had been doing with film and music wasn’t exactly telling a story.

“So I thought about what sorts of common threads there were running through my work. I realized that there were three or four different ones with one pertaining to lawyers. That struck me as being the most entertaining so I developed the idea further.”

Before long Wiseman says that he started getting invites from different festivals wanting to feature Actionable. Not anticipating it would become a traveling production of sorts, he decided to enlist the assistance of his friend Sean Dixon with whom he had scored an adaptation of Barbara Gowdy’s novel The White Bone.

Wiseman says that Dixon contributed a number of suggestions, which further helped define the presentation of Actionable that will be presented at the Capitol on Thursday.

While none of the lawsuits that the artist was threatened with ever made it to court, somewhat extraordinary steps have been taken against Wiseman dating back to the release of his 1989 record In Her Dream. One song in particular from that album attracted the attention of his record company for all of the wrong reasons.

Fearing that the song “Rock & Tree” could be seen as libelous (the song mentioned former American President Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger and American business man Donald M. Kendall), Wiseman says that his record company scrapped the first 1,000 copies of the record. His label then re-pressed and released the album without the track.

And do you recall in the early ’90s, Wiseman issued a press release stating that he was going to change his name to Prince?

At the time, the majestic Purple One was known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, leaving the name up for grabs. Needless to say, the media attention afforded to Wiseman attracted the attention of Prince’s lawyers who issued a cease and desist order to the Toronto musician.

“I didn’t want a lawsuit. I was only joking,” he says.

Of course, throwing rocks at the proverbial beehive isn’t all that Wiseman is good at.

His newest record Giulietta Masina at the Oscars Crying was released earlier this year. Seeing how film has been such an important part of his career to date, he says that he is in the process of making films to accompany the songs featured on his latest record. He anticipates undertaking a proper tour in support of the record later this year.

Wiseman shares that he has recently completed scoring Candy, the first film from director Candy Cronenberg, daughter of acclaimed director David Cronenberg.

After telling the Times & Transcript that the film has been submitted to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Wiseman views the opportunity as another accomplishment on his already stacked resume.

“I hope that the film gets in to the festival so that I can say that I scored something that played Cannes.”

Article published in the March 12, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript