Thursday, May 11, 2006

Interview: Youth Youth Youth

YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH were arguably the best band in Canadian hardcore. Most people credit DOA with this title but that was just because they were around longer. YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH had very few releases but every song on their releases were great. I remember hearing a radio show from Vancouver called “Flex your Head”. They did a program about the best hardcore from the 80’s and YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH was the first band they played. Rob Malyon was the guitar player from that band and he came in on the radio show to talk about the band and play some hard to find material from that era. I forgot to tape the show and so Rob agreed to answer my questions all over again via e-mail. This has been a few months in the making.

Let’s go back to YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH’s origins. When did the band form? How did the band form ?
The thing is, what one considers the origins of the band is very dependent on exactly what definition of “the band” you use. A version of YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH formed in late 1980 with myself, Pil Product, Rob Demers, and Gerry Sewell. We did one four -track demo of a few songs, some covers, some my songs, at a small studio I forget the name of. We also played a few of the Saturday afternoon shows at the Horseshoe Tavern in the spring of 1981. The shows were hosted by a band called BANGKOK that featured an ex-member of THE CURSE, THE RENT BOYS, HANDSOME NED and others also played. It was a great chance for bands to test out their stage-legs. It was great fun, but there was definitely more punk chaos than punk music coming out of us. Most importantly, the last time we played, another band named SEVENTEEN (that also being there approximate ages) played, whose drummer Brian, and guitarist Paul ended up joining YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH as the drummer and bassist respectively. Bryan the singer and I met at a bus stop near where we were both living at the time. I’d been surprised to see this punk grafitti on the bus shelter, when I’d really never seen another punk in the area. Finally I ran into him on the bus, and we just kinda became friends, and he just naturally ended up in the band. The new line-up practiced from maybe August through October in my basement, and played our first show with the new line-up at “The Turning Point” on Bloor street in November at the “Jones Street Booze Can Benefit” for a place that got trashed during a party. THE RENT BOYS and THE UGLY MODELS were among those also on the bill. It was a much tighter, more cohesive band, and was the line-up we retained right to the end.
What other bands were around at that time? You’ve mentioned some of the more punk bands, but in order to situate the time, what were some of the bands that we would come to associate with the Toronto hardcore scene.
There was actually a great change in what bands were around as we were forming, and then along the duration of the band. Some of the new/young bands I was seeing around the time of the bands formation were THE UNKNOWNS (Tim and Dave from DIRECT ACTION came from this St. Catharines band), THE YOUNG LIONS (the show they did at the Desh Bagat temple in 1980 should be legendary, if it isn’t already, and the “garage” where they lived definitely is legendary), BLANK GENERATION (Mark the guitarist, and Skeets the drummer later ended up in UNITED STATE, and Mark after that played for NATIONAL VELVET with Maria DelMar, who, if memory serves, sang for TYRANNA), SCREAMING SAM & THE PROBLEMS (with Sam Sinatra and Tony the Torcher from THE UGLY, and later THE VILETONES fame), THE SICKIES (ahhhh, Berkely Street), ARSON, plus the host of bands which only lasted a show or two. I was also seeing THE DEMICS, THE DIODES (while they were still here in TO), the endless VILETONES reunion shows, CRASH KILLS FIVE, CARDBOARD BRAINS, and lots more. The thing was, of course, that the real band explosion was just starting to happen. By the time we were playing around so were LETHAL PLAYTHINGS, PRISONERS OF WAR (who we shared our first rehearsal space with under a beauty salon), THE UGLY MODELS, A.P.B. (Andy Buzz and Paul - Andy would later have NOTHING IN PARTICULAR, Buzz would replace the original guitarist in DIRECT ACTION and Paul would play for THE DOUGHBOYS, NAIVE FREEDOM, THE POLKAHOLICS, THE BABYSLITTERS, and a host more I know I’m forgetting. Over the next year to year-and-a-half, the numbers swelled more with DIRECT ACTION, UNITED STATE, ZEROPTION, DEAD END, MICROEDGE, NEGRO JAZZ FUNERAL (personal favorites), BERLIN WAVE, MADHOUSE, CHRONIC SUBMISSION (who I first met on the streetcar out to the Beach), AFHAKKEN, NO MIND, and all the other bands who had formed up to the time of the “Not Dead Yet” documentary. Of course a lot of these bands didn’t last long, and to my knowledge never recorded, but music is a living breathing thing, and seeing these bands who may not have left their mark directly, inspired others to start their own bands. Plus, frankly I think it’s more important sometimes to mention the bands at risk of being forgotten precisely because they never did record. I’m kicking myself in advance for the bands I’ve forgotten to mention.
You mentioned LETHAL PLAYTHINGS, PRISONERS OF WAR as being some of the bands around when YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH started playing out. Who were some of the bands that YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH played with at the time ?
Actually, most of the later bands I mentioned at some time or another I’d guess. We even played alongside bands like the RHEOSTATICS, THE DAVE HOWARD SINGERS, MARK MALIBU AND THE WASAGAS. The Start Dancing shows had a pretty eclectic mix of bands (kudos to Paul Innis for that). As for the bands I more or less associate us with, THE YOUNG LIONS, whose garage was where we practiced for a long time, THE UGLY MODELS, THE RENT BOYS, DEAD END and DIRECT ACTION... those were the main recurring ones. THE YOUNG LIONS in particular. For a while it seemed like every second show we played we were both on the bill.
I saw DEAD END a few times. Who were they and what happened to them ?
I’ve gotta confess, on the DEAD END front our singer Bryan would be the one to consult. He used to work at the Record Peddlar at a couple of their locations, and he’d meet bands in the store all the time. As for what happened to them...? Well, they slipped through the net some how - just haven’t a clue. I used to always think of them as a kind of “Rush of the punk scene” kind of band. I did see one of the UGLY MODELS working the birthday game at the CNE about a year and a half ago.
Did CHRONIC SUBMISSION come around later ?
Maybe a bit later, but not much. The thing about them was their age. I think they were about fifteen-ish when I met them.
What were some of the places the band played ?
As far as in Toronto goes, the ones I can think of off hand were the ‘Horseshoe Tavern’, ‘The Turning Point’, ‘The Club Without Name’, ‘The Upper Lip’, ‘Larry’s Hideaway’, ‘The Beverley Tavern’, ‘The Drake Hotel’, ‘The Concert Hall’, ‘The Edgewater Hotel’, ‘100 Bond Street’. We played at ‘The Sickies’ speakeasy, a speakeasy on River Street. We played ‘Start Dancing’ a couple of times, one was at 62 Claremont... there was another place near Queen and Church we played at with T.S.O.L., and again later with M.D.C., and I know there was a bunch more. Once you get outside Toronto I don’t remember the clubs as well. I guess because I never went there other than the times we played there. I do remember the ‘Ottawa Curling Club’, also with T.S.O.L., and the ‘Riverside Hotel’, also in Ottawa. That time we played on a great bill with THE DISCHORDS, PORCELAIN FOREHEAD, CIVIL TERROR, and OUTBREAK among others. There was ‘The Waterfront’ in Windsor (I loved that place), ‘The Cedar Lounge’ and ‘The Embassy’ in London. We even played at a farmhouse in Goderich, and at a wedding party for Razor and Billy, some friends of ours. That’s about as far as my memory takes me right off.
You were telling me about a story of a riot at a YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH show that lead to difficulties for the band playing locally after that. Can you recount the story of that show and what happened afterwards ?
First off I need to make it clear that it wasn’t a YYY show precisely. THE SUBVERTS from Chicago, who were friends of the YOUNG LIONS, were in town doing a show at the “Upper Lip” on Yonge street, on the second floor of a building kind of kiter-corner from the old “Gasworks” rock bar. After the SUBVERTS and the LIONS we were actually third on the bill, and, unfortunately perhaps, on stage at the time it all happened. There was a bit of a scuffle on the dance floor, and the owner of the bar got freaked out and called someone he knew over at “The Gasworks”, and I think there was three of these big goons that came over to the “Upper Lip”, well after the scuffle was over, and things had calmed down, and started pushing people around and inciting things. We were up on stage this whole time playing so my view of things is that from the stage. Anyway, apparently a couple of guys followed them out, and one of the goons ended up with a slash across his face which required something like 20-25 stitches, and that resulted in a whole raft of rockers, bouncers, and bikers piling over from “The Gasworks” to the “Upper Lip”, and fights breaking out all over the place. Like I said, we were on stage this whole time watching this chain of events unfold. I remember seeing one guy from the “Lip” with a table over his head chasing a couple of punk chicks out of the club. Stuff was flying all over the place. At least one window was broken, and frankly, when the police arrived it didn’t get any better. They didn’t seem to be behaving any better than the goons from across the street. And it’s not that I want to excuse all the punks in the audience, and make them look like they were all these poor little victims either. There was definitely a core group of punks and skins (I knew some mods who were no better, but mods didn’t tend to come out to see my band) who, show after show, incited trouble and violence. And frankly, the majority of people tolerated these miscreants, and ended up suffering in one way or another for it. There were police at any number of shows, and fights, injuries, and damage to the clubs on any number of occasions, and the result was clubs refusing to book punk bands. I credit the promoters for doing the legwork to find club after club, when certain members of the audience kept burning out our welcome at the clubs we were once welcomed in. YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH, as a band, seemed to wear the brunt of the stain of the incident, and we had a devil of a time getting booked in this city for the next year or so. We did more shows around the province, and in town we ended up opening up for our friends bands under fictitious names like WHY WHY WHY, METAL YOUTHZ, and other equally inane pap till, well, I like to say it all blew over, but really what happened was we got popular enough that the majority of shows we did in Toronto were opening up for bands from out of town. We were no angels in my band, and I’m sure I could be called on any number of things, but fun is one thing, and the shit some people got into was a far different thing altogether. It took me to about 19 or 20 to really smarten up. I quit drinking, and got involved in the more political aspects of things that were happening. Ultimately, there was what... 150 or more people there that night at the “Upper Lip” ? That’s how many differing versions of what happened there are. This is just how I remember it.
I was just starting to get involved in the scene at this time. I remember it being very tense between punks and rockers. Were there other altercations outside of the “Upper Lip” show ?
What can I say... sure there were. I don’t want to sound like some old fart going ‘back in my day we had real...’ and that kind of stuff. To be honest, though, it really was different. At one time just walking down Yonge street with a pair of ripped jeans and a ‘Destroy’ t-shirt could get you in a fight. People would throw garbage out their car windows at you. I was pushed around physically by cops and “escorted” home where I grew up if they found me out on the streets at night. When I used to hang around at ‘Dominos’ on Isabella (I think that’s where I first met Steve Goof, the Brampton & Bramelea guys who I hung around with a lot, and well, just tons of people). The ‘rock pigs’ used to pile down from “Yonge Station” and up from “The Gasworks” just to pick fights. I remember one night in particular when there had to be twenty or more of these guys who descended on “Dominos” and there were fights in the club and out in the street. Of course, the ridiculousness of rockers yelling “Fag!” out their car windows at us as they listened to bands like QUEEN (I mean the bands called QUEEN and the singer dresses like an leather freak on church street), ELTON JOHN, DAVID BOWIE, and all the other gay & bisexual led rock bands. By the early eighties even the straight rock bands were wearing spandex! Actually, that was one of the great things about a place like “Dominos”, and some of the speakeasies I used to hang out at. Diversity. Do you know the song “Dancing with the Rude Boys” by THE RUTS ? It was just like that... punks, mods, new-wavers, skins, blitz kids, industrial goths, straight, gay, bi, trannies, you name it, all under one roof, and for the most part getting along pretty well. (The first YYY singer, Gerry Sewell used to do this dance he called “the spandex ballet” to take the piss out of the Spandau fans that was just hilarious). I remember finding some mods drunk and passed out under a tree when I was walking around on Queen East with a buddy of mine, and I saw they had a camera so we took some pictures of them lying there unconscious, and put the camera back. I wonder who the hell they were ? And all this led me to music I may never have heard otherwise. From mod bands like THE JAM (I got to see their sound check a couple of times thanks to the Two Gary’s), THE LAMBRETTAS, and THE CORTINAS, skin bands like the COCKNEY REJECTS and SHAM 69, industrial bands like EINSTURZENDE NEUBATEN, SPK, DAF, and SKINNY PUPPY ... man, just tons of great music. I used to go to “Start Dancing”, that was kind of labelled a ‘mod’ dance, and actually, when I first started going to it, it was pretty much all mods, and had a great time. I know some of the mod kids there didn’t much like me showing up, but I was friends with the couple who ran it (Paul and Vera... Paul later was front man for the Lost Dakotas) and ended up making tons of friends there. My favorite memory of Andy from APB was being bowled over by him every time they played “My Generation” as he ran in to dance. Some of the mods there ended up crossing over and became punks or skins, and even bikers later on. We played ‘Start Dancing’ a couple of times later on when Paul started booking band nights. And the rockers didn’t like the mods any more than they did the punks. One time some knob actually drove his car up some steps and through the front door of the hall the dance was being held in. It was a miracle nobody was seriously hurt. I think one girl did go to hospital, but it seemed to me she was more shaken up than anything. I remember one time talking with these three guys outside the hall, though I only knew two of them) and the third guy, who I’d never seen before, bragged that he was good friends with the guitarist in YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH. The other two guys and I looked at each other wanting to laugh, but nobody said anything to him. What are the odds you’d brag about knowing somebody to the ONE PERSON in the whole world who could know without equivocation that you’re lying. Looking back, I’d have to say I feel like I saw the cops as more of a threat than the rockers. The only thing that kept me from getting a ton of ‘found in’ tickets in the boozecans I was in that got raided was that I looked so young that usually the cops would figure I was underage long after I was, and just ‘send me home’. There was a couple of raids that really got out of hand, too. (But that’s all I’m gonna say on that) Some of the big shows could get pretty out there too. When STIFF LITTLE FINGERS played the El Mocambo in 1980 the cops were out front and arrested a couple of people, so a few of us stood around the squad car and started clapping our hands like in the movie “Brubaker” and man did the police look nervous. You know what, the more I think about it, the more troubles with cops at shows I can remember. It was little better at some of the anti-nuclear rallies I went to, either. There was certainly no love lost between me and the police. It’s funny, though... all of society seemed to be telling you that you looked good for nothing, and then one time when I was outside the “New Rose” and these nuns stopped to ask me directions. I guess they could see past it all. The “New Rose” was T.O.s first really hip punk shop, run by Margarita Passion - Freddy Pompeii of the VILETONES gave me a kind of press kit thing of theirs there one time, that had a ton of their old posters and reviews in it. Since stolen from me. A lot of “vintage” clothing, band badges and the like. They had some great singles too. Punk Jukebox! So yeah, there were troubles (I actually remember a guy who picked a fight with me in the subway for no reason at all, and he was wearing a ‘John Lennon’ “Give Peace A Chance” t-shirt), but when I look back at it, it was such a small part of things in contrast to how great so many things were that it just doesn’t resonate with me the same way some of the amazing concerts I saw back then still do.
I read that the name YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH came from the GENERATION X song of the same name ? Is that true ?
Oh, the proud tradition of ‘band naming.’ The name is from GEN X, and as I have been quoted as saying in the past, I did think the guitar solo was a bit long. The name was actually picked in a bit of a hurry. We’d only practiced a couple of times, and Pil, one of the early short-lived members, told me about two days ahead that he’d arranged for us to play at the weekly Saturday matinee shows hosted by the band BANGKOK. It’s kind of funny looking back at the few shows we ended up playing there, because we were pretty loose, and very obnoxious. We brought out and introduced one on the rummies in the bar as our manager (Tank the bouncer asked not to bring him back). We swore incessantly, damaged both the bathroom and the downstairs dressing room - thanks to Mike J. and Dave Mac from Bramalea for the help, by the way. It was Mike who broke the door off it’s hinges if anyone asks - and basically just oozed insolence from our very pores. BANGKOK forbid us from playing anymore shows with them there or anywhere. Two years later Mickey Skin, the singer of BANGKOK, was at a packed show at the Drake Hotel we were playing with the RENT BOYS and THE YOUNG LIONS, and really liked us, and asked Brat X of the RENT BOYS who we were. Brat told me he just laughed and said “Don’t you recognize them?” Apparently she couldn’t believe we were the same loud-mouthed, inept yobs that had pissed her band off so much. Mickey was, by the way, also a former member of the CURSE, and all girl Toronto punk band who achieved notoriety with their 1978 single with the song “Shoeshine Boy” (produced by BB GABOR, no less), which came out soon after the slaying of a Yonge Street shoe-shine boy. The dad of one of the girls in the band apparently tried to buy up all of the copies of the single to destroy them. Brat, who was friends with Mickey, actually managed to get me a copy of a second pressing of the single (with graphic design courtesy of one Stephen Davey, formerly of THE DISHES – ‘Fred Victor Mission’ rocks... “Hey all you hobos with malnutrition, hustle on down to Fred Victor Mission, The food they say is strictly sent from heaven, Dinner’s at six and service starts at seven”, and THE EVERGLADES. He’s now the restaurant critic for Now Magazine). Back in the eighties it seemed like every second band on Queen West got it’s name from either ‘1984’ (George Orwell) or ‘Brave New World’ (Aldous Huxley). SOMA and MINISTRY OF LOVE are two that pop off the top of my head. Now that I think of it, I can’t remember a single band that got it’s name from Edward Bellamy’s book ‘Looking Backward’ and it was such a great book. He wrote it in 1887, and it took place in the year 2000. Bellamy predicted widespread electric lights, radio, headphones, and credit cards among other things. Somebody ought to do a ‘band name flowchart’ of bands who got their name from other bands. I don’t know of any bands who got their name from my band, but something like a band named TIN SOLDIERS who got their name from STIFF LITTLE FINGERS who got their name from THE VIBRATORS, etc.
What has the band released. I know of two demoes that were later released as a side on “Re-Packaged”. I know of the “Sin” 12". And I know of the “T.O. Hardcore” cassette comp. And there was a song that came out on the “Something to Believe In” comp. Are we missing anything here in the band’s discography ?
I guess, basically, when you’re talking about a discography what we have are the original cassette only release of a self titled 12 song recording we did at Accusonic Studios. There was the 12" ep seven song release of “Sin”. There was the “Something to Believe In” compilation we did for the Better Youth Organization. And finally, there was the “Repackaged” album. On the “Repackaged” album what was labeled as “demos” really consisted of seven of the twelve songs from the cassette release, a later recording of one of the other cassette songs, and two cover tunes, one of which was a YOUNG LIONS cover. There were other demo sessions. One before the original cassette release, and I think two after. Some of these demo songs were semi-released on cassette only compilations put out by some of the local fanzines. “Smash It Up”, “Sounds From The Streets”, and a couple of other fanzines. And I know there was the odd little song here and song there tapes, and I remember taping rehearsals, but as far as I know most of that has disappeared. There’s live recordings floating around too, though I personally have very little of that. I think our drummer has some stuff I don’t have. In fact, what I really don’t have is live photos of us playing. I saw lots of poorly photocopied stuff in fanzines, but I never ended up getting any copies of the original photos myself. If anyone out there reading this has photographs, well maybe I can trade recordings for photos or something.
Will any of these other studio recordings ever get released ?
I don’t suppose that’s coming with an offer to invest...? Seriously, though, I have talked with the singer to “bake” some of the old multi-track tapes to see if we can retrieve decent quality versions of the songs and re-mix them to a higher modern quality. It’s really a question of time and money. What that would probably end up in is a kind of hybrid release much in the way “Repackaged” was, but not necessarily just a release of “Repackaged” onto CD. In my dream world we’d also include an imbedded mpeg video of the band, perhaps from the UK SUBS show we played at Larry’s Hideaway in 1983. It’s just a simple one camcorder thing, taped by Richard Lehun before he went on to tape the DEAD KENNEDY’S show here for cable television. He actually later went on to go to film school in Berlin.
The “Sin” 12" is probably what the band is best known for. Can you tell us about that recording ? When did it happen and where did it happen ? And who put it out ?
It was recorded in 1983 at a studio called “Comfort Sound” with Blair Packham acting as studio engineer and co-producing it with us. Blair was also a singer for THE JITTERS back then. By the time they got signed and had a record out they had become very pop-ish, but if you ever saw them back at the El Mo when David Quentin, formerly the drummer for THE MODS, bashing the skins for them it was a great show. Quentin used to stand up on his drum stool sometimes as he played, and man did he drum energetically. In the end he was sort of replaced with Glen Martin, who’s brother was Blair Martin, the singer for the RAVING MOJOS who’s guitarist, in turn, ended up playing for ALANNA MYLES. The MOJOS bassist went to the states to play for some band whose name escapes me. Sorry, I’m getting off topic. The recording was actually kind of uneventful, though I do remember Blair trying to get me to record this backward guitar pattern at the beginning of “Headline Hunters” and he went through this whole long process of getting the master tape to run backwards, and when he played it back to me over the headphones it just sounded like gibberish. He ran it back to me over and over again stopping the tape as I missed my cue, but I just could never make out the song backwards. I have no idea how Jimi Hendrix used to do it. Maybe it’s easier if it’s slower. Anyway, all I was ever able to do was to play a power chord backwards from the same moment I’d already played one forwards at the beginning of the song, so when you play the record it just kind of builds up to this powerchord and then fades out again normally. The record was put out by Fringe Product which was half owned by Ready Records who had THE SPOONS and THE DEMICS, and was half owned by the guy who owned the Record Peddlar shop. The idea was to have a label geared more to special interest bands. Up to that point they had only done Canadian releases of Alternative Tentacles records by the DEAD KENNEDYS and DOA. We were, I believe, the first band they’d specifically signed for themselves. At the time it seemed pretty exciting, as we’d done the recording pretty much assuming that we’d have to put the record out ourselves.
So was “Sin” always going to be a record or would it have become a tape release like so much of the early Toronto hardcore bands ?
No, we’d already done the tape thing with our first release, which wasn’t so uncommon either. BAD BRAINS’ first album originally was only available on cassette. We had a guy already lined up for our record sleeve, so it was really just a matter of shifting everything over to Fringe Product instead. It did allow us to get the record out sooner, though, not having to save up pressing money ourselves. Plus the distribution network available to Fringe/Ready Records got us into a lot of stores we never would have been able to get into on our own. I think part of the problem back then too, was the ethos where everything was so “anti-money” that bands didn’t have the financial resources to do much. Shows were customarily of a ‘three bands for three bucks’, and if you drew only 100 paying customers to a show (“Can I get in for free” was a common mantra) you’d have to do a show or two a month just to pay for rehearsal space rent. Add to that the equipment costs, gas, etc., and it just ended up not being particularly lucrative being in a band. People in the audience were happy to have you spend your money and time to get to a point where you were worth seeing, and then would cry poor at the door because it would mean them having to make do with only nine beers instead of ten. It’s the same all over. People want all sorts of things and services to exist, but they don’t want to have to make any effort to maintain them, to pay for them, or in a lot of cases even treat them with respect. “There’s no good clubs to go to.” Well, you trash every club you go to see a band in. “All the bands in the city keep breaking up”. You don’t want to contribute to it being viable for them to stay together. It goes on and on, and this could as easily be said about fans of art (you love the free booze and snacks, but never buy any art), opera, architecture... anything. If you don’t want to live in a dump, then clean the place up.
I remember you explaining a sound studio for a film place that you guys took advantage of. I think it might have been Trinity video. Tell us about how that came about and did anything become of the recording ?
That wasn’t really a band thing so much as a thing our drummer Brian was doing. He could play guitar as well as drums (and he is one of my all time favorite drummers from any band, by the way), and was doing this thing on his own there. He called me in to work on the version of ‘Why Pay More’ that I played on your show. Brian and I traded off vocal lines, and harmonized on the chorus. It was a great lesson for me, because I always wrote songs when I was alone, and never gave much consideration to harmonizing the vocals. I don’t think it would have worked too well with Bryan the singer’s vocal style anyways. It did make me more aware of how talented a drummer we had. Other than the one instrumental song Paul the bassist wrote, Brian wrote the few originals that I didn’t write.
So was this one song that you did or was there a couple of songs that you worked on? And did they get used or released in any way ?
As far as what I myself worked on, as far as I can remember, it was just the one song, though the extent of what our drummer recorded I really have no idea. To be perfectly honest, I’d forgotten all about the recording until our drummer Brian gave me a copy of that song about three or so years ago. I could remember doing it at that point again, but it just goes to show that any odd thing could still surface at anytime. I guess that’s part of what makes life interesting... the random factor.
Was the ’83 demo just a three song demo ?
Actually, it was a six songs that we recorded that time. Officially, it was a session we did to get material for the “T.O. Hardcore ‘83" cassette release Bryan the singer was putting out. Mike McCurdy of the YOUNG LIONS did the cover illustration for it. When I went to college a few years later to study Advertising and Computer Graphics I found out Mike was in the same program a year ahead of me. He always kicked ass in life drawing. He clearly had a natural talent for art. And actually, in the same year Mike was in, Glen from Noxious Art had enrolled. Glen did two record covers for us. And in my year was this girl Cheryl who went out with Kieran from ARMED AND HAMMERED. Small world. On the “Hardcore ‘83" cassette we stuck on what were essentially demo versions of “White Reggae” and “Wanderlust”, plus a cover of the YOUNG LIONS song “Made In England” and an alternate take of “Domination” from the 1982 recordings we did for our cassette only album. At that time we also recorded “The Blue Stain / The One In The Middle”, a new faster version of “Pop Song”, and a cover of the ROSE TATTOO song “We Can’t Be Beaten”. All these three recordings ended up on the “Repackaged” album. I still have all the old master multi-track tapes from these recordings, and I’m hoping I can get the cash together sometime to dump all the multi-tracks onto digital, so I can re-mix it all in Pro-Tools or something. Having said that, Bryan is trying to put together something comprehensive soon for a CD / vinyl release, so that may kind of make any further mixing redundant. Bryan also has some live stuff I don’t have that might make it onto the release. And I’m actually hoping to get him to include an m-peg or two of us playing live. I have no idea when all this might come out, though.
Tell us about the “T.O. Hardcore” comp. It seems to be the one great hardcore comp that came out about Toronto in that time when scene comps were just starting to surface. There was the “Not So Quiet on the Western Front” comp by MRR and there was the “This is Boston Not L.A.” comp. And although this was a cassette comp, it is just as good as any of those early scene comps. How did the comp. come about?
Well, like I said, it was really Bryan’s thing. I was actually kind of surprised when he started doing it because he’d never really mentioned anything before that would have led up to it. You’d have to check this with Bryan, but I never got the impression that it was in response to, or seen as a rebuttal to any of the other city comps (Boston Not LA, etc) that were coming out. These were just bands that we went to see all the time, and basically everybody knew everybody else, or at the very least some member of our band seemed to know at least one or two members of all the other punk and Queen West bands in the city. It was the first time a few of those bands had ever gotten anything recorded out there, and in the case of A.P.B. I think it was the only recording of them ever to come out, apart from appearing in “Not Dead Yet”, which wasn’t exactly easily or widely available. And when you consider that Andy ended up starting NOTHING IN PARTICULAR, Paul ended up playing drums for THE DOUGHBOYS, and Buzz replaced Zig as guitarist in DIRECT ACTION, you figure at the very least it was the seeds of something. Most importantly, Bryan really managed to capture a great musical snapshot of 1983. “Not Dead Yet” was made at a similar time, but however interesting an archive of faces and bands it is, one can’t help but consider the fact that it was produced by the singer/bassist of the band who not only had their music featured most prominently, but had the most interview time... it was a puff piece for UNITED STATE. They were far from the most popular band at the time, and they’re paraded in the “documentary” as being pivotal to the scene. Our band was included on “Hardcore ‘83", but Bryan was careful to put the bands on in alphabetical order, and he paid for the whole thing himself. YYY wasn’t allotted any more recording time than any of the other bands. When I look back, I just wish it could have continued year by year. I have no tapes at all from bands like THE NEW MR. ORRS, WRATH from Brampton, MICROEDGE, BLACK JELLO, FIFTH COLUMN, PIG FARM and the list goes on. And yes, I still would like this stuff if anybody has stuff by these bands. Did I already mention that?
A lot of Toronto’s early hardcore scene seems to exist only on cassette releases. There was the YOUNG LIONS material, there was the CHRONIC SUBMISSION demoes. There was a NEGATIVE GAIN demo, a SUDDEN IMPACT demo. So many things that I think should have been released on vinyl or CD still only exist on tapes that are probably disintegrating now because of old age. Upon reflection it seems like the majority of Toronto’s early hardcore and punk bands exist on tape releases only. Was their a tape label that released band’s from Toronto or were they predominantly bands releasing their own demoes ? And why do you think so much of Toronto’s punk scene exists on tape as opposed to vinyl ? Do you think the historical record of the Toronto scene has suffered because these releases more often than not never came out on vinyl ?
Okay, that’s a lot of questions. Part of the tape thing came out of the easy economics of it. I still have cassettes that came bundled with fanzines like “Sounds From The Streets”, “Hyde”, and “Smash It Up”. That last one there was put out by Nick Smash, later of the RENT BOYS by the way. Bands would basically just give copies of their songs to these fanzines for promotion. You want to talk about only existing on tape, in some cases single songs may be the only legacy of some bands from back then. Certainly, when we put out our ‘cassette only’ first release, the intention was to release it on vinyl eventually, and to use the cassette as an immediate release medium only. Time goes by, though, and by the time we had money that we could have spent on pressing the old tape, we were ready to go back into the studio and record again instead. Bryan, our singer, did help some of the bands out back then, sometimes just by facilitating their release through the Record Peddlar, sometimes he did a lot more. Frankly, I think his contribution to what little does exist is grossly undervalued. But no, there wasn’t really a proper tape label. Vinyl deals were even harder. We were... well, I’ll say lucky, but we did try to have our shit together. We practiced regularly, maintained our equipment, and paid for ALL of our original recordings ourselves. We took a finished record to Fringe Product records. In the end, the vinyl issue certainly has limited the historical archiving of the time period, but is anyone really to blame? The bands I knew had pretty limited resources to draw on, and there just wasn’t that second tier of people coming up to start indie labels in Toronto. The odd record did eventually come out that way. The YOUNG LIONS LP, and the SCREAMING SAM CD come to mind, but they also both suffered realistically from coming too late to really capture these bands at their peaks. In England, for instance, early punk bands could sometimes end up with surprising and talented producers from the musician pool of non-punk bands too. Nick Lowe producing the first DAMNED record, and John Cale producing the first SHAM 69 single are two that come to mind. And little labels like Step Forward Records almost immediately sprung up. It’s hard to undervalue the effect of a label representing multiple bands. Many of the records that did come out of Toronto bands were one off records that had little hope of second pressings, and now exist only as rarities sold on ebay. The other thing I’ve really been aware of, is the plethora of written and photographic records of the early New York and London scenes. Deanna, who put out the fanzine ‘Shrik’ and this one other guy who was at all the shows, and ended up having his photos in a lot of fanzines, but whose name escapes me for the moment, did take some shots, but really, we’re talking instamatic photos for the most part. I still have a ton of old Toronto fanzines, and if I could, I’d love to put out a kind of compendium of the best of all the old indie zines, but then .... who would be willing to publish it? The guy from ‘Noxious Art’ who did our old record covers tried to put together a book of old Toronto band posters, but really got nowhere. Again, I do have a number of old posters (including some brilliant ones from Montreal - large black and white 2’ x 3’ or so advertising GBH, the DEAD KENNEDYS, the RAMONES, MDC, and more) but what can I do with them? Probably the best solution would be to do a comprehensive look back at the time period combining fanzines, posters, photographs, art, and anecdotal memories of the people involved. Anyone wants to collaborate on that I’m in, but again you really need to have some kind of interest early on from a publisher to make the effort worthwhile realistically. Compiling a bunch of stuff merely so it can languish in someone’s basement in a more comprehensive form doesn’t really appeal to me.
Part of why I wanted to do interviews with folks from the early hardcore and punk scene was because I know there was a scene. I may not have been part of it right when it was getting off the ground, but I was exposed to bands like BLIBBER AND THE RAT CRUSHERS, JELLY TAMBOURINE MAN, the L’ETRANGER 12" and I later came to find out about the YOUNG LIONS demoes and the YYY “Sin 12”, which was one of my favourite hardcore records of all time. Anyway, when reading the “American Hardcore” book by Steven Blush a few years back there was a noticeable absence of hardcore in Canada. At least initially. I mean there was a section on DOA and the Vancouver punk scene. And there is a story told by Joey Shithead that dismisses a scene’s existence in Toronto based on his observation of a poorly attended DOA show that was unannounced and at a bar that wasn’t one of the usual clubs that punk bands played at. Anyway, I felt it an unfair accusation and totally false. I knew there was a scene based on the demoes that existed. Sure we didn’t have a scene that was substantiated by vinyl releases, but in fact we had a scene that was even more underground in some ways because you had to be in the know to get a copy of these demoes. Have you read this book and what do you think of the claim that there was no Toronto scene ?
Unfortunately I haven’t read the book, but I’m not sure I can imagine the context in which Joey would dismiss the existence of a Toronto scene. Hell, Dunville Ontario had a scene. Everywhere had a scene. Do you define a ‘scene’ so narrowly as to dismiss the existence of what exists somewhere else merely because it doesn’t exactly mirror the ‘scene’ you’ve got at home? As I said before, Toronto did suffer from problems... but where didn’t? I’d hold our bands up in ability to those elsewhere. There was certainly lots of people. I’m curious as to which show he’s referring to that was poorly attended, the Upper Lip show possibly. I’ve saw pretty much every DOA show in Toronto up to about the late 90’s, and I’ve seen Joey Keithly’s spoken word / acoustic show three times. (It’s totally worth checking out, too. At Ted’s Collision I believe it was, I saw him do a show over two and a half hours including two or three encores.) Anyway, it’s his perspective as an outsider, much as my views of what went on in other cities is going to be far different than those of the people who lived there. I remember playing London, and a girl walking up to me after the show and telling me that “everyone in London was more punk that anyone in Toronto.” I felt like laughing. I just said “Congratulations, you must be proud,” and held out my hand to shake hers. It was a bad omen too. I started to notice more and more fractionalization just within Toronto. At one time it was reassuring to see another punk on the subway, or on the street. If you got into trouble you could expect them to be there for you, and vice-versa. There was just few enough of you that it paid to stick together. In time it was mods, skins, straight edge, hardcore, the L’etranger punks, ’77 punks, anarchists, the art scene and so on. I had friends in all those groups, and would hang around anywhere there was good music, but there was a lot of people who weren’t very open-minded about even these small differences. I certainly wasn’t the only one doing this, and I’m not trying to sound superior although I guess it comes off like that. I’m really just trying to acknowledge all of the great friends I had in all these groups. When my band had trouble getting bookings, it was Queen West art bands, and a mod band that stepped up to bat to let us open for them under the guise of a fake band name. I’m rambling a bit. Short answer, Damn Straight we had a scene here, and in a way, we had a bunch of them.
I wanted to ask you about the BYO comp “Something to Believe In”. Was “Domination” part of the “Sin” recording?
No, actually it was a new recording of a song from our cassette release. It was for a U.S. audience that really hadn’t been exposed too much to our cassette so it seemed reasonable to do that, rather than put on a new song when I was trying to put together a catalogue of new stuff for the album I was sure we’d record within the year. It was recorded at the same studio “Sin” was recorded at though, and if memory serves we had Blair Packham back at the board, but truth be told I don’t own a copy of the record anymore (it disappeared somewhere over the years) and can’t check the liner notes. The YOUNG LIONS, ZEROPTION, and us all recorded the same day, one after another. We did a rough mix of it to send to Los Angeles, but the final mix was done down in some L.A. studio. The same producer did the final mixes of all the bands songs. I think the theory was that it would give the record a consistent recording quality, and while I buy that idea in theory, in practice I think it ended up short-changing the bands whose sound in mixing their recordings was very reflective of the ear of the band. Blair, the guy who co-produced and engineered our “Sin” record was actually the singer for a pop band
called the JITTERS, and I think his pop sensibilities were an interesting mix for us, with our primarily thrashy attitudes. The JITTERS drummer was Glen Martin, brother of Blair Martin, who is the singer of the legendary RAVING MOJOS. And before Glen joined the band, David Quentin of the MODS fame was drumming for the JITTERS, so they had pedigree, too. I used to go to see the JITTERS a lot back when Quentin was drumming. I remember some great shows at the El Mocambo. Quentin would stand on his drum stool and just beat the living crap out of his drums. He was one of the most energetic drummers I’d ever seen. Of course, the MODS rocked, as well. The lyrics were a bit different than the earlier version as well, now that I think about it. It was a great opportunity to be on a compilation with such a great group of bands, and I was pretty damn excited when I found out that YOUTH BRIGADE was going to put us on the comp. At least one of the guys in Y.B. came up to Toronto for the recording session, though for the life of me I can’t remember who.
I know the guys from YOUTH BRIGADE were behind the comp, but do you know anything about how the comp. came together ? It was one of the great comps of the time that involved hardcore bands from Canada. Was that part of the idea behind the comp ? To showcase Canadian bands alongside American bands.
You know, I hate to admit it, but I really don’t know much about how it came together, or why. I’m sure our singer Bryan knows more, but to me it really was just a gift that fell from the sky. I seem to recall that the YOUNG LIONS were thinking of doing a co-single with THE SUBVERTS from Chicago, and I know the odd time it has happened over the years, and I really grew to think that this kind of cross promotion between cities is a great idea. I would have loved it if YYY had a kind of brother band somewhere else. In England I met people from bands all around the world (WRETCHED from Italy, THE UPRIGHT CITIZENS from Germany, THE MOB from England, etc.) and looking back I really should have tried for something. Sorry, I guess I kind of got off topic.
“Sin” remains one of my favourite all time hardcore records. What were you guys listening to at the time that made you write such an incredible record ?
Actually, we were all listening to some pretty different stuff. I mean obviously there was lots of cross over, but I think it was actually good for the band to have us not all listening to exactly the same stuff. Personally, I was mainly a singles buyer, and I had the usual hardcore stuff like DISCHARGE, GBH, HUSKER DU, the FIX, BLACK FLAG, stuff like that, plus CRASS, SLF, the UK SUBS, the RAMONES, and a lot of fringier stuff too. I also still listened to a lot of the old 70’s bands like the STRANGLERS, the CLASH, the PISTOLS, SHAM 69, etc. I had a lot of English music in my collection. I liked lots of American bands, but never seemed to own as much of it and the British. Bryan the singer on the other hand had more of the American bands, and leaned a lot more into the thrash metal bands that were springing up all over. Fast and Loud. Our drummer Brian I remember having these cool “Pebbles” compilations with 60’s proto-punk and underground music. He’s seen lots of the kind of QUESTION MARK AND THE MYSTERIONS, LINK WRAY kind of people live, and even drummed for ANDRE WILLIAMS. Paul the bassist, from what I remember was into the RAMONES, and JOAN JETT / RUNAWAYS stuff. I guess best of all, though were the more obscure things one listens too, that not everyone else had tuned into. The TV PERSONALITIES, PENETRATION, ZOUNDS, the ‘O’ LEVELS, the HIGSONS, the RUTS, PETE FENDER, the REZILLOS, EATER, EDDIE & the HOT RODS, the AVENGERS, the ROTTERS, FEEDERZ, man I could go on and on. And I always had a fondness for the local stuff, as I’ve mentioned before.
The other big influence, of course, was all the other things going on around the music scene, and around the world. I was a big newspaper reader, and news watcher and “Philosophy” (I’m talking lyrics here) really came out of my skepticism for both the hard and the soft editorialism that inevitably coloured every story. It drives my girlfriend nuts, but I still pull apart everything in the news. There’s core good information there, but you really have to sift away the bias of the writing and editorializing of everything covered. It’s also about the individuals control over it, about how the best way to influence the news is to demand a higher standard. Speak with your dollars. Frankly, things have slipped a lot since I wrote it, news items on television are shorter, and the proportion of hard news, to fluff is getting smaller. “Greed” is another great example of something I wrote twenty-five years ago, and if anything feel more strongly about today. You make selfish greedy decisions about your life and your money, and you shoot yourself in the foot. You buy useless crap at dollar stores thinking you’re getting a great deal, well think again. This crap isn’t designed to last, and ends up filling our landfills with plastics that take centuries to break down, and leaching toxic chemicals into our soil and our ground water. If you buy good quality, and buy once it’s better all around. And while I know it’s not a popular sentiment, I actually support a protectionist economy. We let all our skilled manufacturing jobs leave the country, and more and more people are relegated to working minimum wage jobs. And its a societal evil to allow a system that lets people work a full time job, and end up living far below the poverty level. I would happily pay an extra dollar or so for my McDonald’s meal, if it meant that the employees could earn ten bucks an hour. I could continue this diatribe by going on about big box stores (those deep discount prices, it seems, do come at a price - that money you save comes at the expense of jobs, both at the retail end, and the manufacturing end), but instead I’ll spare you, and urge you to go to the “JibJab” website, and watch the ‘Big Box Mart’ video. “Wanderlust” is if anything more applicable today than when I wrote it. Water shortages loom, and the ‘good for business’ free-trade agreement we’ve sold our souls into treats water as a commodity. That means that, just like our oil, our lumber, and all our other natural resources, our country does not have first dibs on it. If we want our oil, our land, our trees, our minerals, and yes, our water, we basically have to bid for it on the open market. I used to be proud to live in such a bountifully supplied country, and we’ve just sold it all away to the highest bidder. And watch what happens around the world when the United States feels its ‘entitlement’ to the worlds resources is in jeopardy. Think it can’t happen here? Think again... read up on the Alaskan Panhandle. That used to be Canadian land at one point. “White Reggae”, more than anything, came out of my disillusioned experience with the Toronto’s ‘Rock Against Racism’ shows. I remember Brat from the RENT BOYS had a run in with them too. They were refusing entry to some of Brat’s friends because of the way they dressed. Brat was furious. They substituted one kind of exclusion based upon appearance for another. “Headline Hunters”. A view on terrorism. At the time it was written about the bombings in Ireland and England, the Vancouver Five incidents, as well as the Middle East ongoing troubles. The press feeds our fears of a terrorist attack, then expresses shock when more and more attacks ensue. Terrorism exists, it’s news, and it should be covered ... but this ad nauseum over-coverage, and encouragement of fear of attack destroys us emotionally, and eggs on the terrorists with promises of over-coverage of their planned attack. People end up anxious over things that are rare occurrences, and yet don’t make any effort to control the things in their lives that are far more of a danger to them. When we’ve managed to get our preventable traffic accidents under control (you want to be really appalled, look up the traffic mortality rates in China), we get people eating better, exercising more, not smoking, not drinking to excess, hell, just not doing the million and one easily preventable things you do in your life that are bad for you, then maybe we can justify our current levels of fear of an attack. We need some sense of proportion in our concerns. I watched John Roberts (formerly J.D. Roberts on the New Music on City TV) on CNN interviewing a terrorism expert, and asking him if “we” (meaning, I presume, Americans, himself included) should be worried about, or have anything to fear from Canada, being such a harbour for terrorists (and yes, I am being sarcastic about that last bit). I have no idea if J.D./John Roberts was born here or not, but I do know that he lived here in Toronto for years, and, rather than using what he should have full well known, that Toronto is no more a haven for terrorists than Chicago, Boston, or anywhere else in North America, and included his knowledge and experiences in life as part of his new coverage, he chose instead to be weak, and hide his Toronto life away in a scared attempt to bolster his ‘American’ personage. As far as I’m concerned, that throws doubt on all of his news broadcasting. Again, I’ve been heavily criticized by certain camps for saying this, but as far as I’m concerned, you’ll never lead the way to a non-violent society, if you use violent means. I’m not going to cite any particular prior proponent of it, but I do favor non-violent, ground-swell, and passive-resistant methods of standing up to injustices, and then, be darn sure you’ve exhausted easier and more reasonable means. I would love to have known how many people at the anti-nuke rallies I used to go to actually voted, or how many of the recently arrested terrorism suspects in our Western nations ever voted, wrote an article aimed at a mass audience, not just like-minded extremists, ever engaged in open-minded discussions with people of other views to try to at least understand their mindset, and to try and share their own without anger. My message to extremists of all stripes...? Most of societies ills are much better served by cleansing the infected areas gently, and putting a band-aid over it to let it heal, not to immediately jump straight to amputating the limb or killing the patient.
What was the idea behind “Re-Packaged” LP ?
Simply put (some of my answers should be simple, I guess), the record company who put out ‘Sin’ had let it sit out of print for a couple of years to let demand come up again, and wanted to add tracks from the cassette release, so they could bump ‘Sin’ up from an EP to an album. It was really just a way of getting the product out there again in a more comprehensive and appealing package. Actually, that’s why I chose the name “Repackaged”. The guy at Fringe Product thought it was a little ‘obvious’, but that’s where the humour in the title lay for me. It was so obvious, that it made me laugh.
Did you ever hear anything about a YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH tribute comp being bantered about ? I remember back in the 90’s there was a scene of hardcore kids wanting to cover YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH and put out a record of these covers, but nothing ever became of it. I remember this because I was in a band at the time and we had a discussion over which song we would try and cover. Did you hear anything about this ?
I did hear about it, and actually I was kind of disappointed when it didn’t happen. Bryan had told me about it. Somewhere around here I think I have a single by one of the bands, whose name escapes me for the moment, who when the cover thing didn’t happen instead used the photograph of me in my studded jacket from the back of “Repackaged”, and doctored it a bit for the back of their single. It’s a kind of immortality I guess, having one’s picture re-used like that. Personally, I loved it. My dream, to be honest, was to have one of the bands contact me, so I could them to record one of the songs I had written back then, that never got either properly recorded, or even recorded at all in some cases. Now that would be a ‘tribute record’ coup. I guess if I had my shit together I could just do it myself, but it’s a big deal without a band and a practice space. More to the point, though, is what song did your band want to cover?
We thought about doing “Domination” and then someone took that so then it was going to be “Fire in the Rain”. I think we actually started practising “Domination” because I wrote out the lryics for it and practised along to the BYO comp so that when the band had the music I would be ready. But that never came to pass.... It would have been great to pay tribute to YYY in this way. I think people chickened out because they were worried they didn’t have the band’s blessing so to speak. Thanks very much for the interview.

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