(Photo by Lindsey Rewuski, Intro by Blair Colwell)
Melissa Gan (aka respectfulchild) should be familiar to most as an essential staple of Saskatoon’s music scene. Gan’s raw talent and unique brand of charm and charisma make her both an artist to keep your eye on and an inspiration to those in the arts who aim to challenge the status quo.
Catch respectfulchild solo, or shredding punk riffs on violin, backing spoken word poetry, or even writing and publishing her own think-pieces. Eat an apple with Gan and let her tell you about her freaky ass dreams. Whatever your style, hanging with respectfulchild is sure to brighten your day.
KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?
Musically, I’m mostly working on my solo project “respectfulchild”. That’s me and my violin with some pedals. Then about twice a year I get to go on stage with the Yep Yep Yeps and be messy.
I’m also one of the hosts for the Laundry List, our local feminist radio show on CFCR. I’m on the programming committee for Girls Rock Camp Saskatoon, the selection committee for MoSo Fest, and I’m helping with outreach for Street Meet this year. Ugh, I thought I was cutting back on things.
A personal project of mine has been finding more artists from Asia. I began with trying to find artists that sing in Mandarin because I’m trying to relearn the language to reconnect with my family. Then it lead me to artists from Taiwan, then Malaysia, and it just keeps going. It’s been tough to know where to look, and I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music I don’t like, but it’s also been really fulfilling. I don’t have many music role models in North America that are Asian, South East Asian, or Malaysian Chinese like me, and that is a lonely and alienating feeling.
Oh! And I like making collages. I made a bunch last year and I’m going to start doing it again so hold onto your faces.
KC: What is your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?
I’m really lucky and privileged to be working where I am today. I’m a research assistant at SPHERU (Saskatchewan Population Health Evaluation Research Unit - long acroynym, we know). I started there in the summer of 2013, where I helped with a project assessing the impact of the Good Food Junction grocery story (RIP) within the surrounding community. I’m now working on the next phase of that study, which is looking at Nutritional Inequity and Food Access in the core neighbourhoods.
And then not during the day, I teach violin and piano to a bunch of students that teach me about video games, pop music, and how to break things.
KC: What is important to you?
Oh dear. So many things. At the moment, I’m trying to put me and my mental health as top priority. That’s been hard because for so long I’ve been told that putting me first meant I was being selfish. I think a lot of people think that way too, and it’s so self-destructive. Re-learning that taking care of Me and loving Me has been a hard rewiring of my brain. I think every person needs to know that they are lovable and loved, and to know that love comes in many forms, not just with words, gifts, or hugs, but also as justice, recognition, and reconciliation.
KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?
Whenever I leave Saskatoon is when I think of it most. It’s perhaps the mixture of distance and longing that help give me more perspective on the place that I live while also making me think of it more often. So it’s when I’m gone that I remember how much I love that it’s just big enough to have a variety of things going on, but small enough so that it is never full of strangers.
As much as I love Saskatoon though, we still have a lot of work to do. We live in a city and a society that is built on institutional and systemic racism, products of our violent settler colonial history. Our police department, the prison system, bylaws against homelessness and panhandling, gentrification, continued injustice of missing and murdered indigenous women, it’s all racist, classist, and sexist. We have a lot of figuring out to do.
KC: What is your impression of Regina?
Everything I know about Regina is cool, so I guess my impression is that it is Cool. They have a PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) at their university, it’s where all of SCIC’s (Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation) events take place, they have the Queen City Hub, I had a super fun time when I went to Wonderland Arcade, and they have a hostel (and we don’t!). At the same time I think they struggle with a lot of the same issues we struggle with here in Saskatoon, like privatization of public services, investment of new development over long term preservation of heritage, racism, gentrification… we’re more similar than we like to admit probably. But their mayor isn’t Don Atchison so I guess they’re winning.
KC: How do you survive the winters?
Spending time outside. The more I walk and bike places during the winter, the better my body gets adjusted to the cold and it makes winter less scary. That being said, I’m privileged to be able-bodied and fortunate to live in fairly central locations that facilitate outdoor active transport. I also really enjoy bundling up and wearing layers upon layers, so it feels more like a game of dress-up than it is a chore of putting on winter wear. And lastly, puzzles. Perfect winter activity.
KC: (From Proust Questionnaire) What is your greatest fear?
Everyday I live with the fear that I’m failing everyone around me and just barely holding things together. It’s like the real me is a crumbling mess, but it’s secret and I can’t let anyone discover it. But then someday I’m going to finally majorly slip up and everyone will realize just how incompetent I really am. I think it’s maybe called imposter syndrome.