Jonathan Fluevog Jr. and the Façade of Fame

August 22, 2012

Clean-cut, tall, and (since losing 60 pounds) slender, Jonathan Fluevog Jr. is standing behind a massive SSL 4048E/G mixing board at Vogville Studios. The studio, nestled between a poultry factory and a junior high in Port Coquitlam, has been his recording home for the past 14 years. It appears unremarkable, but inside it manages to be both state-of-the-art and comfortably inviting.

Peering through the glass at the recording room (vacant at the moment), Fluevog, 39, explains that hype is something he's avoided throughout his creative endeavours-which have included stints as musician, manager, promoter, producer, and, most recently, documentarian. It's not that he hasn't worked with acclaimed acts-he has. It's just that to him there is no equity in celebrity. "It looks really grand-it doesn't mean you are grand."

That's a lesson he learned firsthand. His parents-fashion cobbler John Fluevog and '60s glamour model Kecia Nyman-divorced in 1977. Nyman's modelling career was finished by then, as were the condos in Paris and New York. With only a Grade 8 education, she struggled to find work. She and Jonathan Jr. wound up on welfare. (Fluevog remarried; half-sister Britta Fluevog is an artist and low-income-housing advocate, and half-brother Adrian now works for their father.)* "Here's my mom, she's beautiful and she's dressed nice and everything. She's doing these modelling clinics, and literally, we're going back to the welfare tenements after the convention."

Even when people like Madonna and Lenny Kravitz were wearing Fluevog, his father was still making only a basic salary. "That's what I grew up with. My version of celebrity was, ‘It's all a big façade.' "

In 1994, Fluevog Jr. was running an underground studio in town when he caught a show by a band called Lavish. He offered to help get their sound out. "I woulda worked my ass off for practically free and made them, like, a holy crap amazing good record." Instead, they opted for another producer "who drank Scotch the whole recording." It was a disappointment and the birth of Vogville Studios in one.

In 2005, when his own son was born, Fluevog stopped recording bands. "I got really tired of dealing with managers and labels, with bands with their backpack full of dreams and no follow-through." Nowadays, he's given to renting out Vogville's space and spending his time coaching groups, such as now-defunct Light Machines, through the circuits of the music business. This includes a forum he created in 2003 (first on Myspace, now on Facebook), as well as promoting up-and-comers through last year's Vogville Day and Night Festival. His success as a producer bankrolls these widening endeavours.

Lately, Fluevog has been devoting his time to the Vogville Presents video series-short docs about idiosyncratic musicians' life stories-with the expertise of journeyman music videographer Gene Greenwood. Currently, the two are shopping it to major networks. It's a nice break from the stagnancy of the past, but that hasn't entirely stopped the famous, or quasi-famous, from dropping by. He tolerates them: "I go, ‘Oh cool, they could be as broke as my parents were when I grew up. Good for them.' "

*This is a correction to the original print article, which indicated that siblings Britta and Adrian were recipients of social assistance. This was not confirmed.

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