In a city with an experimental music scene still small enough to feel like one big family, it’s been impossible, this past week, not to sense the loss of one of its most tender souls and talented players, Women guitarist Chris Reimer. He passed away in his sleep last Tuesday, February 21, most likely from complications related to a heart condition. He was just 26. Many of us knew him by his impeccable wit, killer hugs and mischievous blue eyes, and many more knew him by his otherworldly command of the six-string, able to issue ethereal torrents of noise and shimmering, hypnotic riffs with equal skill and grace. He will be missed, remembered, and then missed some more, forever. His sister Nikki has set up a memorial blog (christopherjohnjosephreimer.com), where you can read about the myriad ways Chris left deep imprints on everyone who knew him, and see pictures that show the myriad ways he was a total goofball. Love you, bud.
I first met Chris Reimer when Veritas (the younger, heavier incarnation of the band that would become Women) was getting ready to release its first and only CD. In the article I wrote, I ended up describing him as “the long-haired guitarist you probably ignored in high school,” which sounds harsh in retrospect but was meant with affection — the band’s music was full of jagged metal riffs and guttural shrieks, but here was this sweet, shy guy who interrupted the interview to offer me cookies his mom had baked, and who just seemed happy that people were excited to hear the music he’d made.
The shyness went away pretty quickly, and the more I got to know him, the more impressive he was. Despite how much his profile rose and how many incredible projects he contributed to, he was always very much the same person: funny, passionate, intelligent, and above all else, genuinely happy to be doing what he loved. He was a great musician, and he was a friend, and he will be missed.
The Calgary music community and world at large lost someone truly special with the passing of Chris Reimer. Whether playing with Azeda Booth, Women, proto-Women prog-metal weirdos Veritas or countless other projects, his beautifully noisy guitar mangling left an indelible mark on all who heard it. Between touring with his teenage heroes Mogwai or beaming onto TV screens as a member of The Dodos, it’s clear Chris’s career was just getting started. Yet as mind-boggling as his musical skills were, it’s Chris’s personality that truly won him friends around the globe. Perpetually welcoming, laid-back and humble, he was as quick to fire off a deadpan joke as he was to offer you a beer. So let’s raise a bottle and bend a string for an amazing guy taken far before his time. Shred on, Chris.
I first met Chris Reimer at Emmedia in 2006, shortly after I moved to Calgary. I remember talking to him about music and pepperoni sticks, and his friendly nature and sense of humour endeared him to me from the start. Around that time, I would hang out in my bedroom and listen to the music that he recorded as the Exercises and be blown away by the fact that somebody I knew had recorded such incredible music. Chris Reimer’s music has continued to play a pivotal role in my life, and I’ve continued to look up to him, but I think of him and will remember him foremost as a friend. No matter how busy he was, he always had time to sit on the porch and have a conversation, and he was always more interested in talking about others than he was in talking about himself.
The last time I saw Chris, he was sitting outside of Beano and I walked up wearing a Women shirt. I was a little embarrassed, but he joked, “It must be laundry day.” This memory defines Chris for me; he was always humble and maintained an admirable sense of humour.