Curler. Drummer. All-round music lover. When it comes to Keith Parry, take your pick.
For curlers in the Comox Valley, Parry will be known as the man who oversees the local curling club, who’s won awards for his work and increased the size of the club, bringing in more younger players.
He also has a long history in the music business, as drummer, teacher, music store and label owner. The love of music started with buying records and tapes at a young age, sometimes skipping school to go record shopping. Often, he’d listen while scouring the liner notes to learn more about what he was hearing.
“I was an active listener early,” he says.
Music was his big passion from a young age in Courtenay, long before he took up the broom, and he started playing drums at age 12.
His grades were good and career counsellors encouraged him to consider post-secondary, and he did it for a year, but it wasn’t what he wanted.
“All I could think of was music. I’d like to own a record store,” he says. “That wasn’t a career path encouraged at the time.”
He made the move over to Vancouver and opened Scratch Records when he was 19. He also started playing drums after connecting with musicians in the city, playing in various groups. Most notably, he was the drummer for Superconductor, the Vancouver indie rockers with a sense of humour and a lineup that usually had at least four guitarists and two bassists. Singer Carl Newman eventually went on to front the New Pornographers, and the other band members went their separate ways in the late 90s after the band ended, following a tour with Guided by Voices.
“We never officially broke up. We just lost our practice space,” Parry says.
As time went on, he played with other bands like Pink Mountaintops and performed shows with indie fixtures like Jad Fair and the late Vic Chestnutt. He also served as drummer for Neko Case on a tour for her second album.
All the while, Parry ran the store and label. He also taught music business courses over the years at Pacific Audio Video Institute and Nimbus School of Recording & Media, the latter co-founded by legendary music producer Bob Ezrin, best known for his work with Alice Cooper, KISS and Pink Floyd.
“I taught for nine years,” Parry says.
In short, his life in Vancouver revolved around music. Curling, in fact, became a bit of an escape, a chance for Parry to explore something that was not related to the music scene in which he was ensconced.
“I realized I didn’t know anything that wasn’t music,” he says.
He took lessons, joined a league and found he was improving at a fairly quick pace. He also got involved with the Marpole Curling Club board for a half-dozen years. As to what stoked his love of curling, part of it was the social aspect.
“I met people from all walks of life,” he says. “Curling was my glimpse at real life.”
As time went on, the music business, of course, started changing, and ultimately Parry was faced with closing the record store’s doors. Eventually, this led him back to the Comox Valley full-time in 2017.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he says.
Here, he had to re-invent himself. With the curling club, he started as an ice technician, then assistant manager and finally manager. He’s made it a priority to broaden the sport’s appeal. The result has been initiatives like the Gladstone Friday Fun League, aimed at younger players over shorter seasons, to make it easier for them to come out and stick with it. He’s also added a revolving menu of craft beers as an extra incentive, and it seems to be working.
“The curling club has grown,” he says. “We’ve doubled our membership.”
Even after reinventing himself, he’s not left the music world. Far from it, as Parry has put on shows under the CVGBs moniker at the Masonic Hall in Cumberland, typically with underground acts he says no one else would be promoting. The live events, of course, have been on hiatus.
“Since COVID, I’m starved for culture,” he says. “I can’t wait to put on shows again.”
And, yes, he still has many CDs and LPs—lots of them in storage. He operates via mail order under the Scratch name, and during the interview he checks some papers to verify he has about 70 pieces from orders to pack up from his massive stock.
As he describes it, “It’s a museum of independent music.”