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BUZZCITYS’ MISSION is to give full and timely, multi-media coverage to Regina and area’s vibrant Arts and Culture scene. BuzzCity welcomes community input and provides a forum for the public to share their thoughts, experiences and event information with the greater community.

BuzzCity doesn’t just list events on our EVENTS promos, we also regularly include artist videos …

BossPiks Beat Bullies

If you play a guitar as a solo performer, or, as a member of a band, wouldn’t it be cool to use a pik designed to match your playing style, the type of strings you’re using, and the genre of music you play?

Sure, you can get that at any music store. But how about a pik that is custom made to your exact personal specs, maybe illustrated with your latest album cover, or an original design? What if finger-style players could get finger piks like that? Better yet, what if 80 per cent of the money you spent to obtain custom piks and finger-piks, went to support anti-bullying?

Regina esthetician, Dena Mohr, of Nu-Attitude Hair Studios and Esthetics, offers all of the above. Her family’s salon is on 13th Ave. across from Connaught School. She has always lived around the Cathedral area.

Dena has been sculpting artificial nails, specializing in acrylic fingerpiks for guitars for 15 years. About 20 percent of her clients are men who mainly come in for manicures. But, if you are also a colossal music fan, your enthusiasm may attract the attention of neighbors, like Jack Semple, who play finger-style guitar and could use a good hand with a really good hand, so to speak. Other Regina clients include guitarists Dan Siljer, Ben Knorr, and Raymond Riel who also come to Dena to get their nails shaped and strengthened.

“Sculptured acrylic nails for guitarists are structurally different from what ladies get,” said Dena. “About a year ago, I was asked if the material I used to build nails could be molded like ‘Play-Doh’ and shaped/made into conventional guitar piks. I decided to give it a try.”

Since Dena is also an artist, she was instantly intrigued by the challenge, the medium and the unique opportunity.  “The fact that I could paint and carve and sculpt them made me start researching. I looked at different avenues and materials and narrowed it down to what works,” she said.

She also had to research piks, and found that there are many thicknesses, sizes and shapes. Since Jack Semple was an old friend and client she consulted with him on other aspects of building piks. He’s still her sounding board for new innovations and techniques.

“A jazz pik, for example, is different from a regular guitar pik – more pointed. It’s all in the shape and it varies in the thickness. The sound they produce changes if you’re using different mediums, too. A hard plastic pik will sound different from a fibreglass pik of the same shape and thickness,” said Dena.

“Clients tell me exactly what kind of strings they’ve got on their guitar and whether they’re right or left handed. They may like a bit of a curve to their piks, or they want me to make another, adding more weight, or to have something changed. I can tweak any pik to suit. They usually order one and a spare. I may get a phone call, later, too, asking me to change this or that.”

Once she felt comfortable with what she could produce in the way of customized conventional guitar piks, Dena formed“BossPiks” and put a couple of tweets out. The business exploded.

“I just sent four out to a Montana band called “Muddkikker” and recently to a band called “September Sky” and to another band called “Testudo”. I just sent a gift to Zakk Wylde from “Black Label Society” – I hope he’s happy with those. They go everywhere, even to blues musicians in Texas.”

The illustrations set Dena apart from others who may also be making custom piks.

“It gives me a way to give a pik some character. I rarely do a duplicate. If I do something similar, it’ll be tweaked a little,” she said.

Some clients order designs and Dena tries to accommodate them.“I’ve been sent pictures to duplicate and sometimes I’ll take a thumbnail photo from the internet and sink it into a pik – a family member or something. And, it also depends on the type of music they play – I get asked for dragons, skulls, snakes, things like that. Some people send me tracks, so I can get a feel for the person. Or, I’ll get asked to duplicate an album cover. The simple ones take from two to three hours; the longest one took about 12 hours.”

BossPiks are good piks, designed to be unique, intended to be used. There’s another reason they’re good, too.

“I just wanted to give something back,” said Dena. “So, 80 per cent of the proceeds from either Boss Piks or finger piks go to charities, primarily to those focused on anti-bullying. The other 20 per cent goes to supplies used in making them. I don’t make a red cent from them, it’s just something that satisfies my heart, and helps my community at the same time.”

An open mind that opens doors George Leach: Part 2

When, at 18, George Leach arrived in Toronto, that first open door was Talking Earth Pottery. They make incredible stuff there and the whole world agrees. The studio is in Hagersville, ON. Founders and principals there are Mohawks, Steve and Leigh Smith. And that door became a family door when George became their son-in-law. “We’re definitely influenced by the designs from the south – the Navajo tradition.” George laughs: “I feel like I’m cheating on my music with pottery – I have an affair and her name is pottery. It’s something I truly love. I’ve only recently picked it up again in the past two years. There was a big gap because of the music. My 1st record” Just Where I’m at” kept me on the road for at least eight years and it didn’t slow down.”
And then, sort of before and at the same time, was his acting career. George Leach’s acting resume could stand beside any Canadian actor working in film, TV or live theatre today. And it isn’t recent – he’s been winning acting awards since high-school. 

“I’ve done a little bit of dance at the Banff Centre of the Arts. That was in 1998. I worked as a stage theatre actor for six years, way before music, and I did the last two ‘North of 60’ movies. I played a character ‘Mathew Fowler’, which is awesome because it’s my dad’s favorite show. I worked for Stephen Spielberg, too. That was a Ted Turner production. It was six, two hour movies, made for TV, called “Into the West.” That was about six or eight years ago now.

“I’m still involved in theatre, just reactivating it now. Again, it’s an awesome problem to have,” said George. “Every time I was about ready to do my sophomore album, a lead role would come up. I remember that I was flown into Quebec for an audition. It was a lead role and an awesome opportunity. But it would have been an immense amount of work, just with the language barrier. I would have had to speak French. It would have been eight months, just learning to speak French. So I freaked out and decided to push my album. I was already going on year 12. I decided that I had to get my act together, so, I turned it down. I felt the wolves nipping at my heels a lot. I was hurting; but sacrifice was exactly what was needed.”

An open mind has brought many unanticipated opportunities to George Leach, but music isn’t one of them – music was offered early. Like a carrot on a stick. “Music was a practical choice,” said George. “My dad had bought a guitar, and was waiting to see whether my brother or me would pick it up. So, it wasn’t a Eureka moment – it was very calculated. And everything changed when I made that decision. I made a commitment to myself to develop my own style. I felt that a lot of guitarists in my community, who I thought were amazing, got lost in their heroes too much. They just mimicked what Jimmy Hendrix did, or Stevie Ray Vaughan. I thought, well, that’s great, but what do you have to say? Nobody can be Jimmy Hendrix, even Stevie Ray Vaughan can’t be Jimmy Hendrix. So, that was my attitude, going in, before I even picked it up.” 

“Energy for me is everything – your currency is your energy, and where you put it. So, I put my energy developing my own style. Look at a guy like John Lee Hooker. I love how sloppy he was. But his vibe and his hutzpa, his juice, his mojo, whatever you call it, was so potent and so powerful, he didn’t have to change at 12 bars. He could go 13 bars, 15 bars, 16 bars, and it sounded right. He was in that place, to me, where he couldn’t play a wrong note. He couldn’t sing a wrong note to save his life. It’s pure. It’s like he’s not doing a show – he’s himself. So, it was mentors like that that helped me, encouraged me, to find myself, to stick to my guns, to nurture my own strengths, rather than to copy somebody else. I think that’s where your energy should be spent.”

“I like acoustic, I like electric. They’re both very different. But I want to remain open. My vision of the artist is the tree. I keep the tree in my mind. I have my roots, and if I look after the roots, everything above that will grow healthy. And then you can branch off to different styles, different mediums. I can do that through pottery now I can do that through music, or acting, or public speaking – or just goofing around.”