Sunday, March 3, 2002

Interview: Riot99

RIOT '99 play great anlhemic '77 style punk. They have a self-released ep called "Destroy the City". The Faux British accent of the lead singer leaps immediately out at you, but then you realize he is not faking it. He is Australian and used to sing in COMPOUND FRACTURE, as well as another band from Sydney called STANLEY KNIFE. Taras, the drummer, is originally from Edmonton and played in the GLORY STOMPERS, THE SYSTEMATICS and ran a street punk label called Disturbance Records, Their new guitar player, Andy, plays in a local chaos punk band called THE CLASS And Jim is from the garage scene and now plays bass in the band They joined us live at our radio show on March 3rd to catch us up on recent developments.
Can you tell us what bands you have been ill prior to RIOT '99 or are currently in ?
Drew: In Australia, I was in a band called COMPOUND FRACTURE - COM-FRAC. It was like a straight out oi band. And STANLEY KNIFE. And RIOT '99 here in Canada.
Jim: I played with KIM MITCHELL from about '81 - '86 and then joined APRIL WINE from about '87 til '92 and from '92 on I have been working with various acts - PEABO BRYSON, AMBROSIA - they are sort of a prog rock side fusion thing I am doing and then I just recently joined RIOT '99 (lots of laughter).
Taras: I was in the GLORY STOMPERS in Edmonton and before that it was R.CM.P. (Rednecks Cause More Problems) and after the GLORY STOMPERS was the SYSTEMATICS, also in Edmonton and then here in Toronto I was in the BLATHERSKITES. And now RIOT '99.
Andy: I am currently playing in the punk rock outfit THE CLASS.
How did RIOT '99 form ? Who meet who ? Who got brought in and at what times ?
Drew: I came over here in '98 and I wanted to start up a band. I thought up the name and I knew Taras from a compilation that we were on together and he lived around the corner from me in Kensington Market We got together and tried to find other members. It took us a year and a half and we got Howard and Nathalie on bass and guitar and then tliey quit and we got these two wankers here to fill in and the rest, you know.
What was the initial idea behind starting RIOT '99 in terms of the kind of band you wanted to start ?
Drew: I just wanted to do a straight out street punk oi band. No Bullshit. No Mess, No Fuss, just pure impact.
How has the band changed with the new line-up ?
Andy: I think musically we are a little harder. In terms of the old songs I do try and imitate Howard's guitar parts because those songs are already set in stone. I am not particularly influenced by the CLASH like Howard was, I pale in comparison to his guitar playing, but hopeftilly the sound is okay.
Where did the name RIOT '99 come from and does the name have a story or any signiflcance to it?
Drew: One of my favourite bands, THE VIOLATORS in the song "Summer of '81", which is one of my favourite songs, there is a second part to a chonis and the woman goes "Riot, Riot says a British City" and it just sounds great. It was 1999 and I just thought RIOT '99 sounds like a damn good name.
Taras: Yeah, it was like in 1999 there was that whole thing where everyone was going crazy about the world ending, the apocalypse and all that, and they predicted mass riots everywhere in all the major cities, like in New York and stuff and that's kind of where the name came from.
Drew: And I went down to New York for New Year's Eve hoping there'd be a fuckin' riot but I missed out and it depressed the hell out of me.
Taras; Everyone was holding hands and singing songs.
Drew: It was fucked. There was a ripple around 11:30 pm. I thought there was going to be huge riot, but then it simmered down and ....
Jim: Plus the name EL DEBARGE was already taken.
Who do you consider influences for the RIOT'99 sound ?
Taras: It would be all early oi stuff like the No Future releases and '77 punk stuff like the CLASH.
Taras: Just a mix of late 70's punk and early 80's oi.
Andy: I think it definitely does lean towards the '77 stuff a little bit more.
Drew: British. No American influences whatsoever.
Jim:. ..accept for the RAMONES, obviously. On the note of outside influences, both Taras and Drew grew up in scenes outside of Toronto.
Can you tell me about those scenes and how growing up in Australia or Edmonton, how that might have impacted on things that come out in RIOT '99 ? The reason I ask is because I don't think there was much of a '77 punk scene here.
Taras: I think we definitely had a different view of things than people here, I think it has a lot to do with being from different places. There seems to be more of a strong hardcore scene here in Toronto, but not really a punk scene. But now there is starting to be a punk scene with Andy's band and us playing. There seems to be a lot of kids getting into that kind of stuff.
Drew: The scene in Australia was very heavily influenced by British punk and it's a ftickin' great scene. I want to move from Influences to sound.
Some of the people who will be reading this material won't have had a chance to hear you. Can you describe your sound for us ? What would you say to folks who are from the hardcore scene who may not have heard from you or be familiar with you, what you sound like ?
Drew: Music that makes you want to fuckin' destroy, When people come to our show we want them to walk out of there like they have been shot in the chest by an adrenalin bullet.
You released two demos before the ep came out. Can people still get these ?
Drew: Oh no, man. We sold them ages ago.
Taras: No that's just old stuff, we are moving on.
But you are still doing some of these songs live ?
Taras: Oh yeah, we are still doing these songs but we are going to....
Drew: They are going to be on the album, except that song "Guttersnipe". It's fuckin shit.
You are not going to do that one ?
Drew: We haven't done that for a year or two.
What has the response been to the ep ? Do you still have copies left ?
Taras: Oh, we have tons of copies left. Nobody seems to want to buy vinyl as much as they used to.
Do people know about it ?
Taras: Yeah, it's just kind of going slowly.
Drew: We spent so much making the fuckin' thing, ft was like $4.00 wholesale, so to actually send it anywhere we have to do it out of our pockets. We are reluctant to ship off large amounts.
Taras: It was a good idea if we were living in the past, because we realty wanted to make a good package and make it look good and make it worth buying because if I saw a record like that I would want to buy it instead of the folded over photocopied paper. But I guess people would just rather buy CDs and in hindsight it was a mistake. That was a self release.
Are you hoping to release more stuff. You were talking about recording an album.
Drew: Yeah, we're recording an album.
Taras: As soon as we can get some money. We have plans to go intc) the studio and record a full length, but we are totally broke and we never get paid for shows and we get ripped off and we get shit on.
If and when you guys do get to record is there other people interested in putting it out or arc you going to do it yourself ?
Jim: We have had some interest with some labels in Canada and then also transferring into the States so just basically keeping options open.
Andy: Do you want to elaborate on that?
Taras: We are going to be on a compilation soon on Longshot Records, but beyond that....
Jim: ....and there is a compilation from Australia, as well.
Taras:. ...but we are just keeping things open right now until we finally record.
Can you tell me about the Australiau comp?
Drew: It's called "We're the Blood 2" and it's put out by a mate of mine in Sydney who runs a label called Snapshot and there is a bunch of Australian bands and SISTER MARY ROTTEN CROTCH from the States, which is a great name for a band, they are on it, as well. And we should be getting our copies in about two weeks.
What songs are on it ?
Drew: All the songs we have ever recorded, which is a total of five.
Taras: ... in two years, (laughing)
In terms of lyrics, what are some of your song titles ?
Drew: "Destroy the City", "Start a Riot", "Cancer in Society", "New York City Girl", "Rise Above", "I Just Wanna", and "Nun Fucker".
What are some of the things you take on with your lyrics ?
Drew: Fucking Nuns. Cunnilingis. That's a big one. In Cancer in Society it is pretty much what we were talking about before.. .the early to mid 80's British nihilistic No Future punk.. ..the fuck-the- system, just aggressive self destruct music. The lyrics are pretty much along those lines.
Can each of you tell me about your favourite RIOT '99 song from a lyrical standpoint and why it's your favourite ?
Drew: My favourite is "New York City Girl" because it's good lyrics.
Taras: It's just a good rock'n roll song.
Drew: Fuckin' oath mate.
What's it about ?
Drew: It's about a girl from New York City, (lots of laughter) It's just like ...when I was there.. is so fuckin' pretentious and there is a bunch of wankers down there. I just wasn't that impressed with that part of New York. It's just about that really. It's a bit of a misleading name for a song, It's just mainly about snobby New York fuckwads.
Jim, do you want to try ? Your nodding your head in agreement.
Jim: Weil I really like "New York City Girl", but just to be different I am going to say "What are they fighting for ?". I just think that... it is sort of an anti-war song from the narrative of a marine that goes to war. It's Just a good song. The lyrics are good, it's sort of an emotional take.
Taras: I think my favourite is "Self Destruct", because it is so raw and it explodes. I don't know what it sounds like outside of the drum parts. When I am playing it, what I hear sounds really good.
Andy: Of the songs that I know I would say "New York City Girl". I think that is actually our strongest song right now. That and of course "I Just Wanna".
Do you know the song "I'm an Upstart" by the ANGELIC UPSTARTS ? Do you know how that is like the band's informal theme song. It's this really cool song that rallies people behind their name ? Did you write "Start a Riot" to be one of these informal theme songs for RIOT '99 or is it just a song encouraging people to take up rebellion ?
Drew: Well it was one of our first songs. It is just a song about 'Get Pist, Destroy', really. That's what that songs is about ? It's got no real social content except complete anti-social hooliganism.
Jim: A lot of our songs are sort of anthemic in terms of how they are written. It's great because at shows that you have kids that have maybe heard the songs form the last show and the next show they are there and they are singing along to it. It is sort of very similar to TWISTED SISTER in the 80's with "We're not going to take it".

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