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Angels and Rock Kittens

Soundxchange gets ready for All Hallows with an interview and a story of angelic haunting from Alice Kuipers, and some rock kitten riffs from the always cool Val Halla.

Photo: Here we are!

Alice and partner Yann Martel at the launch of Life of Pi.

Alice Kuipers' own words (from Harpercollins.ca):

I started writing when I was in my teens. I had a notebook that I carried around with me and in it I put poems, stories, and stuff from my daily life. At the time, I sort of thought I might like to be a writer but I couldn't imagine how the words I wrote could ever be in a real book.

I was born in London, England, in the suburbs. The suburbs of London are vast and I felt growing up that I couldn't escape them. So when I was eighteen, I went traveling on my own for nearly a year. I went to The Cook Islands, Fiji, the US, Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and some other places along the way. I realized there was a big big big world out there and I decided to spend the rest of my life visiting every country in the world.

That didn't happen. I went to University in Manchester and got a degree in Psychology, spending most of the time working on a novel instead of studying. Writing was traveling with my imagination. After my first degree, I did an MA in Novel Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. It seemed like a step to get me closer to my aim of writing a good book. I spent my summers throughout these years traveling as much as I could afford to. I worked in Hong Kong, traveled around Greece with my brother and sister, and spent two months in Indonesia.

When I was twenty-four, I fell in love with a Canadian and moved to Canada; Saskatoon to be precise. I'd never even heard of it, but I was wildly in love and I wanted the relationship to work. It has worked--we have a son together now, seven years later. And while I was in Canada, I kept writing, kept writing, kept writing. I became brave enough to send out work, to get rejection letters, to finally get work published. And so, now, my second book is out and I'm working hard on the third.

My first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, was published in 28 countries and won several awards. I've had stories produced for the radio, nonfiction published by The Sunday Telegraph, Easy Living magazine, and The Bristol Review of Books, and I've had some poems published in literary magazines in Canada. My second novel, Lost for Words, has a different title in the other countries where it's published: The Worst Thing She Ever Did. I love titles and found it impossible to chose between the two!"


Alice's third YA book is 40 Things I Want to Tell You and she has a Writing Tips Blog which has recently climbed to number 2 in the education charts in iTunes in Canada, and number 3 in the US. If you're an iPhone person, you can find it by searching for "Writing Tips" in the app store. Alice is also a mother of two with another on the way, and she has made multi-tasking another of her art forms.

 Chromosone Four is an unpublished short story, read by X favourite Jayden Pfeifer.



Val Halla

Val Halla was the rock n' roll representative at CBC Regina's The Girls Are Back in Town Concert, held in the CBC Galleria in November 2011.

Val was born and raised in Regina. By the time she was 11, she had just started learning songs of the 90's grunge movement, playing on an old nylon string classical guitar her grandfather had given to her mother. After a few years of lessons focusing on grunge and rock n roll, Val's guitar teacher was finally able to persuade her parents to buy her an electric guitar. "All I was playing was Nirvana and Classic Rock." says Halla, now 27. "My guitar teacher saw how I was struggling with this thick fretboard on the nylon string with my tiny hands, trying to play Aneurysm, and just couldn't stand to watch it anymore."

After years of training, touring, and putting her self in "rock n' roll boot camp", Val went on to tour as the opening act on Ted Nugent's Trample the Weak Hurdle the Dead tour. playing 41 shows all across America with the Motor City Madman, and performed to just under 100,000 people in 2010 alone. In 2011 Val Halla continued to tour non-stop at an unrelenting pace. Accompanied by the backing band of Saskatchewan duo Tristan Helgason and Liam Bryant (we picked her up solo), whose own two-piece thrash rock band Molten Lava has garnered attention and praise in Canada, Val Halla became a 3 piece force to be reckoned with.

Gary Allen, best known for his days drumming in the Charlie Daniels Band and with guitar legend JJ Cale, has remarked "If Nancy Wilson could sing like Val Halla, she could have kept all the money."

With one CD released (No Place) and another being planned, Val keeps her focus on toruing.

"It's most important to me right now to get in front of as many of my fans as I can, which means putting in a lot of miles in the big old tour van! Every where we go we are making new friends and fans too, so my focus is just trying to get this album out there and the music and live show that goes along with it.... I'm just loving playing the songs off No Place every night, I know this is my time to enjoy it!"

Val Halla has stayed very true to her influences, citing everyone from Led Zeppelin and Sheryl Crow to Canadian acts Blue Rodeo and Hawksley Workman as her heroes. Her sound has been described by one fan as "Courtney Love meets the Allman Brothers", and by friends as a cross between the Grunge rock and Country genres, namely a new genre called "Gruntry". "

"I've had a lot of people within the industry tell me that I need to pick one or the other. If i want to play heavy bluesy distorted riffs, I can't also be doing rootsy acoustic ballads. But all my heroes from the 70's were doing just that, and it worked very well! If a band like the Doobie Brothers, or Lynyrd Skynrd or even Led Zeppelin came out now, they would have some songs that might get played on rock radio, but they'd have some that would fit more on country radio. The formats for the stations now have become so narrow, and the music is sounding more similar and sterile than ever in both genres. There are still great artists in both genres, don't get me wrong. But I think that radio isn't giving anyone who is too far outside of the narrow lines a chance, and ultimately that is hurting today's artists, and their fans. That's why I called the album 'No Place'. If its too 'rootsy' for rock radio, and too 'edgy' for country radio, then I'll be content to have no place to fit in, and i'll carve out my own place! I see it as a really positive thing actually, because I have country fans who like my music, and rock fans who like my music. Why would I ever want to purposefully alienate half of my fans?"