Monday, April 26, 2010

Interview: Negative Gain

This aired on Equalizing-X-Distort on April 25th, 2010. The interview was conducted with Grant Slavin by Rob Ferraz and Stephe Perry. Grant Slavin was the guitarist and later the singer of NEGATIVE GAIN. NEGATIVE GAIN were one of the fastest bands in the GTA in the 80’s. They also loved to skate. The combination of speed and skating made them a natural for a release on Pushead’s label Pusmort. "Back from the Dead" is still one of my favourites to this day.

How long was NEGATIVE GAIN around for? When did you guys start?
NEGATIVE GAIN was going before I even joined the band. I think a rough start would have been in Grade 9 in 1981. I think it was started by Ian Cook and Steve Curry and Andrew were always the mainstays of bass player and drummer. I believe it was Steve, Andrew and Ian’s band first and they asked Peter. I might be wrong. I might be foggy on those details.
So initially they were a three piece.
I think so as far as getting it going in the basement and whatnot. They used to call themselves WAVE THE FLAG if I am not mistaken. An early NEGATIVE GAIN song was called “Wave the Flag,” but I don’t know if there is a copy of that around anywhere.
Any basement recordings…
Yeah, well Steve might know. We went out to one of these places. It was someone related to the SPOONS out in Burlington. COUP D’ETAT. It was one of those dude’s brother. It was a basement studio thing. It was a cool raw recording. One of the first ones we ever did. I seem to remember us playing a song called “Wave the Flag.” That was shortly before I joined the band. They changed the name and for whatever reason got rid of Ian, who was still a part of it. He would show up at shows. For whatever reason they just turfed him. Then I just auditioned for the boys. It was brutal because I didn’t really know how to play guitar. I just learned how to play it fast.
How old were you when you joined?
I joined in Grade 10 so I would say 15 or 16.
Were you guys all from Oakville?
Yeah, we were all from Oakville. We all went to the same grade school which was called Falgerwood, which I think might still be there and later on we went to White Oaks. If I am not mistaken I think we all went to White Oaks.
What was it like being a punker in Oakville?
You would have to ask a punker. I was in a punk band, but my whole affiliation, later on, was the skate scene which brought me into hardcore. I was a part of the scene, I guess, because I was going to shows and stuff but I didn’t wear it on my sleeve like some of the guys back then. The big ass mohawks. Back then that was really saying something. I was suburbs Oakville guy. The other guys like Peter Warner and Steve and Andrew they had…. Peter had a big ass mohawk in Grade 8. In ’79 or ’80 or whatever. Those guys were fuckin’ punks in Oakville back then whereas I wasn’t necessarily. I was in a punk band. I had my “Visit Russia before Russia visits you” shirt. I had my hair cropped really close. I had my military boots that a bought above Flashjacks. I had all that but I didn’t live a punk lifestyle by any means.
Well, in some ways hardcore was a reaction to punk right? Punk had failed and hardcore grew out of that.
I got into it listening to reggae. I started noticing kids showing up to school with red, gold and green and I said “I know what that is.” Because of older brothers and sisters. Even in grade school, I was heavy into reggae.
How did you find out about reggae in Oakville?
Peter Warner’s older brother had a crew and were the guys we looked up into in high school and they were into English reggae like STEEL PULSE and LINTON KWESI JOHNSON and BLACK UHURU and stuff like that.
They had a cross over with the Rock Against Racism thing.
That whole crossover thing which the CLASH were ultimately responsible for. My older brother-in-law always had reggae albums in the house too. I had been to Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica and stuff. In Oakville there was some Jamaicans, in particular Ian Lodge whose family had moved up from Jamaica. They had the boss reggae collection. I would hang out with him in Grade 7 and go over to his place and listen to reggae and stuff like old THIRD WORLD. It was through reggae that I embraced what was going on at the time. The first song that opened my eyes to this was in high school. In the morning they would let DJs, called White Oaks radio or whatever and buddy was playing “Terminal Preppie” by the DEAD KENNEDYS and just hearing the whole little oboe part and Jello’s voice it was like “what the fuck is this?” That same DJ guy gave me the EXPLOITED “Let’s Start a War” or one of the early EXPLOITED ones. I just loved it. I was always passionate about music. In Grade 4, I brought “KISS Alive” to show and tell. I went to the first IRON MAIDEN show ever in North America. That was in ’78, the “Killers” tour. I was there with my buddy Brian Floyd. That same summer was MOTORHEAD “Ace of Spades.” I had to fight the one punker guy at high school. He was about two years older, but I was kind of big so I had to fight the guy two years older. Mike Chernozky. He was the punker. He wore a SEX PISTOLS shirt and I wore a MOTORHEAD shirt. Back in ’79-’80 that meant you fought.
You were enemies.
Yeah, man and now everyone is listening to everything which is awesome. Two years later I had the SEX PISTOLS shirt and he had the MOTORHEAD shirt.
Did you become friends?
Absolutely. He was a sweetheart. I still have a scar over the left eye where he clocked me. The whole playground was there. But then I ended up getting huge. Way bigger than anybody. I went through my growth spurts and when I went to high school I ruled that roost a little bit. Anyway, what the fuck. We are talking about a fight with Mike Cenosky.
So about the Oakville thing, I grew up in Oakville as well. I’m a couple of years younger than you. It always struck me as odd that this whole scene happened in Oakville because Oakville is so not a punk place. You know what I mean?
Yeah, it wasn’t. I mentioned COUP D’ETAT. They were from Burlington I think, but going back to Peter Warner’s older brother, there was a band called SECTION 8.
I was going to ask you about them?
Kevin Burns. He ended up being in KING COBB STEELIE.
That’s a guy from SECTION 8?
Yeah, and Gary Dutch. Both of them really. And Alo Catta who was also in KING COBB STEELIE. They were all Oakville guys. And they are all White Oaks guys, which is where we went to school. So SECTION 8 were going to school there and hanging out with the older guys. We looked up to them and stuff.
So they are older than you?
Yeah. They were a few years older. An awesome band. Very political and stuff. It was cool being a part of something back in Grade 10. I know it sounds early and stuff but like I said I had a rich background of listening to lots of stuff. That stuff was so awesome. Especially for me with my roots being reggae and all. They did a lot of that crossover stuff. They were doing some STIFF LITTLE FINGERS “Doesn’t Make It Alright” – the SPECIALS cover. The punky reggae kind of stuff.
I think of the roots rock rebel army when you mention STIFF LITTLE FINGERS. The same with Bob Marley and his punky reggae party.
So those cats were around in Oakville as they grew up. I don’t know where they came from. In trying to answer your question it was weird being in a suburb and having a group of punks. They could have been a few at Purdue but we were on the other side of the tracks. It seems to me that the guys wearing it on their sleeve with the mohawks and the studs and back then I think there was a bylaw in Oakville where the cops could confiscate your studded wristband.
The Christmas tree spikes.
Yeah. Anyway I honestly don’t know how it got there but it just kind of evolved.
Was there many shows there? There seemed to be a lot of punks. I think of HYPE and NEGATIVE GAIN and Jill Heath lived out there and I think Don LeBeuf (a.k.a. Reuben Kincade) was from out there. There was key players in the Toronto hardcore scene all from Oakville. Was there a scene in Oakville or did you just play in Toronto? Did you have both going on at the same time?
Most of them were in Toronto. We did a couple of shows in downtown Oakville at some hall. You know what it was called? The Masonic Temple?
Did you ever play at the Acorn?
Don did a show with DEJA VOODOO and the STRETCH MARKS and NEGATIVE GAIN and that was our cassette release party actually. That and the Masonic Temple show were the only Oakville shows we ever did. Our first show ever was Larry’s Hideaway, but it might have been the Turning Point.
Do you know who you played with because we read something about your first show being with JFA?
That was the first big show that we played. That wasn’t the first show ever. That was an awesome show. Me and Peter got to skate with them and it got written up in the December ’84 issue of Thrasher. You can read it on-line. I read the damn column. Adam Beck took them skating. My dad’s car broke down. That was an awesome show but that wasn’t the first one. The very first show would be either the Turning Point or Larry’s Hideaway. Actually the first show I was in was in Burlington opening for COUP D’ETAT at some strip mall. That was the first show I ever played. I think the boys might have played the Bay because Peter’s mom worked at the Bay at Oakville Place and they might have played in the jean section of the Bay.
That is crazy.
That Burlington show might have been our first.
A strip mall in Burlington. Well punk shows were happening in weird places.
The jean section at the Bay.
That is the first I have ever heard of that.
I remember hearing about it up at school. That was in Grade 9 or 10 and probably somebody got drunk and puked all over the jeans.
Could you describe Oakville for us?
I can’t now.
Back then. We all lived in shithole suburbs but I just want people to get a sense of what it was like growing up in a place that had the Ford auto plant and also had these rich mansions.
Yeah. It sure did.
It had a drive in.
The 5 Drive. We used to go down hop the fence, turn the speakers on drink your Brador because it had the most alcohol in it. The 5 Drive was cool. I was born in Montreal. I moved when I was 10 years old to Oakville, so that would have been 1977. I lived in the Gainsborough area by 6th Line so we were removed from the Richie Rich’s. My dad was a printer. We were blue collar. Anyway, back to your question about growing up in Oakville, it was good. It was a great experience for me. Those were real formative years if you want to call it that, going through high school. I think a lot of my classmates at White Oaks would agree. A lot of those people are really in touch. They haven’t really left Oakville. And those who have stayed got involved with reunions and stuff like that. I remember it being really good. I remember when “New Music” was just a magazine before it was actually a show. It would just come in your mail as part of junk mail. I remember going to clubs because my older brother would go to Toronto. Being in Oakville the GO Train was right there and you would be in downtown Toronto. It was a different time back then. I remember being a kid and walking to see LINTON KWESI JOHNSON and then catching the Go Train back to Oakville. That was the one drag, even in NEGATIVE GAIN. I remember having to take the GO Train into gigs. We had to be at the station before the last train.
12:53 or something.
I haven’t been to Toronto in years but you hear horror stories about the big cities. I had to be at school the next day for 9:00 in the morning. But I could go in to see a show at Larry’s. I had to miss the last set because I had to catch the train. But it was so safe back then. I could walk from Larry’s all the way downtown to Union Station. That was normal back then. Maybe it is now too.
It still is.
Maybe I am just an old man now.
You have been living too long in a small town.
I think I have. There is culture shock. I need to go back. I tracked down Steve the bass player who I haven’t talked to since NEGATIVE GAIN. So now we are back and forth e-mailing so now he is interested in me coming up and if I ever did come up getting in touch with Andrew. I mentioned to you Rob that those guys are still around.
Our fingers are crossed. Do a reunion show.
That would be awesome. Everyone is around and still of the same mind. Steve plays guitar a bit so….
And you are playing too still.
I have been in bands ever since. I am just all over the idea, you know.
Did you ever consider NEGATIVE GAIN a Toronto band or an Oakville band?
Definitely a Toronto band.
Most people thought of you that way.
Definitely Toronto. We ended up on a good run there with places like the DMZ, Ildiko’s when they turned into the Starwood. Because of guys like Reuben Kincade who was Don who managed HYPE. And Steve Goof and Jill Heath we just lucked out. Back then there was hundreds of bands. Now there is thousands. So we ended up playing with all of our heroes. We played with 7 SECONDS, GANG GREEN… These were all bands that we had the bloody albums too.
You played with the FREEZE, the ASEXUALS, LIFE SENTENCE. A bunch of bands. I am going to get into it in a minute with you. What bands were around at the same time when you first started up as a hardcore band?
The bands that we were influenced by, like our whole sound …. Peter was a fanatic for DIRECT ACTION. I just got “Primitive Air Raid” and I hadn’t heard DIRECT ACTION until that. If you guys know where I can get a copy of “Trapped in a World” with the black and white cover let me know. Songs like “Hate Generation” were insane and it is still is. The sound is big and they were so ahead of their time. YOUNG LIONS, YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH, DIRECT ACTION, CHRONIC SUBMISSION.
So it was mostly the early Toronto hardcore scene. There were a lot of hardcore bands that were you peers too. I was thinking of SUDDEN IMPACT, HYPE, and SOCIAL SUICIDE.
We had our own thing going on, but none of us were musicians as such. Andrew was a phenomenal drummer. He could play with such speed and with a single kick. It still blows my mind. Listening back to the album. I was just more of a power chord guy and I had a personality and later on when I started singing that came across. But bands like SUDDEN IMPACT and HYPE they were tight and really good musicians. SUDDEN IMPACT was mind blowing. And there was AFHAKEN. Buzz used to play a flying V back then.
He was in A.P.B. and DIRECT ACTION.
That dude blew our mind too. We were kids. At our first show Pete’s dad had to be there because we were 17 when we started. Those guys had a huge influence on us.
I have a flyer here for a show at Larry’s Hideaway on December 30, 1984, where you are playing with the WRATH and SUDDEN IMPACT and you guys opened up. Do you think that might have been your first show?
That’s possible. ’84 seems a little late.
What was the WRATH like?
I can’t remember them.
They were a skate band from Brampton and they had a demo. You don’t remember them?
Hell no.
You do a song on the LP called “My Old Man” and it’s a countrified version of an old song.
You know what it is and I didn’t know this until later and I remember my music teacher in Grade 6 doing something like it like the Smother’s Brothers. “My old man is a chicken plucker” and it is one of those add-on songs.
Like “Old McDonald.”
Yeah, one of those songs. Like “My Old Man’s a Dishwasher.” So I remembered it when we were jamming and it was right before doing a gig at the Turning Point and I said “Hey man this is funny” while Peter is packing up his microphone. So that’s where it came from. But we all knew it was a cover of something. So I just twisted it to “My Old Man’s an Asshole”. So about three months ago I am shopping at the local thrift store and on the album there was no getting a lawyer and figuring out what to put it just has “concept by Lonnie Donegan” so I guess that covers us. But whatever. I get an album at the thrift store called “English Pub Songs” and it is on there. “My Old Man.” I guess it is an old traditional pub song.
It is a skiffle song.
That’s where it came from.
Do you remember SOCIAL SUICIDE? They used to do a song called “Local Yokel.” It reminds me of that song. It was a countrified hillbilly song making fun of rednecks.
It was a lark. That song always got a lot of response.
Well it was easy to sing along too. You knew the words.
And then it would get so ridiculously fast so it was like just trying to bark out the lyrics.
It was a great sing along song. Everyone could get into it in the pit.
We also used to do “Land of a Thousand Dances” by Wilson Pickett. I remember getting everyone up on stage for “Land of a Thousand Dances”.
What about the MISFITS or the ACCUSED or BEYOND POSSESSION? Would you consider them influences on the band?
Absolutely. Steve and Andrew were massively were into the MISFITS. The whole horror imagery and dark side of the MISFITS played into a lot of what NEGATIVE GAIN was doing.
I was looking at a picture of Peter on the inside liner notes and there is a MISFITS logo on the back wall.
Yeah. That’s in his basement. I know he was buried in his DIRECT ACTION T-shirt. May have also had a MISFITS record. He was buried in his leather jacket. He was one of the first guys to have a cool biker leather jacket. What you can also see in that photo is an Alternative Tentacles logo which he did his own version of where he traced the label.
It’s got the bat with the missile cracked in two.
The DEAD KENNEDYS played a lot into what Peter and Steven and Andrew were listening to. I poached a lot of what they were listening to.
It would be like osmosis. You would be in the same room, you would be hearing stuff, you would be liking things.
For sure. I remember way back that GBH factored into it and “Punk and Disorderly” compilation which was always down in Pete’s basement. It had ABRASIVE WHEELS and all that good stuff on it. CHANNEL 3 and all that old wicked English shit.
The first wave of English hardcore.
I heard a radio show the other day and I heard “City Babies Revenge” by GBH and I am working in the kitchen and I am just shouting all the lyrics.
Well I was thinking GBH might be an influence because you had a song on the album called “Night of the Rat”.
It tells the story of a rat coming up to a baby.
I don’t think that would be stretching it if I said Peter was directly influenced by “City Baby Attacked by Rats”. The albums were there and the t-shirts. We covered that song in the early days. The other shows we would have played in Oakville would have been our high school. I remember doing “City Babies.” That’s the reason why I go back to that question of playing in Oakville.
That’s neat to know because I have talked to some early punk bands and a lot of early shows did take place in gymnasiums in high schools.
That’s where I saw SECTION 8 first. And COUP D’ETAT. Do you remember Ron Anicich? He was in COUP D’ETAT and he is still involved in T.O. scene. I remember spitting Coca Cola because it was cool to spit on the bands back then. We spit all over Ron.
He is doing a show over at CKLN called “Bad Cop, No Donut!”
That is hilarious. He was another Oakville dude. I remember going to his place and playing guitars. He had an early Marshall.
The title of the album was called “Back from the Dead.” I start reading the lyrics and it is about zombies. Was this song a tribute to George Romero?
Not that I recall back then. I would say it would be more of a MISFITS influence. The whole horror and zombie imagery. Pete was influenced a lot by what bands were doing at the time. He took pieces from everything.
There were bands like the ACCUSED and BEYOND POSSESSION that brought horror into their sound.
He borrowed a lot from everything. The song “Face First,” we were skateboarding at Adam Beck’s place and there was this dude who started a fanzine and he said you guys should do a song called “Face First” about wiping out on your skateboard. So Peter went home and did “Face First.” The darker and death stuff is kind of weird because Pete wound up killing himself. After he died and looking at the song titles and the lyrics, he was just a kid. He was 17 or 18. I wish he could have gotten over that turbulent time. I guess what I am saying is he flirted with the dark side.
“Psychic Hours” was one of them, “Dark Places”. “Nightstalker”. There was a lot of horror type of themes. Kids were into horror films too.
Well about your George Romero question, I could not tell you. Steve might know a little bit better. Rob White and Andrew all hung out on the weekends. I did too, like jamming and doing shows and we would go over to Pete’s and skateboard and stuff. He had a half pipe in his backyard. But after that as far as hanging out and watching movies, I am sure they were watching horror flicks. They were heavily into “Clockwork Orange.”
Like all of us. They weren’t unique to it. We were all influenced by Stanley Kubrick and “Clockwork Orange” and the ADICTS who were that punk band from England. They dressed up like the Drooges. We all took influence by that. Did you see Pete Warner’s death coming?
Probably should have because that wasn’t his first go at it. I think when you are a kid it is just shouting out for attention. No, I didn’t see it coming. I guess I should have. There was a few attempts.
A lot of us didn’t. I remember Jill Heath got up at the Starwood and asked people not to call his house because his parents were pretty broken up by it. People didn’t know that he was dead and there was a moment of silence.
That was at the C.O.C. and DAYGLO ABORTIONS show. I think we found out on the Monday and if I am not mistaken, buddy from Kill from the Heart I think I said I dropped Pete off from a show that Steve Goof put on and I remember dropping him off in front of his place. I think it was a Sunday show of all things. And then in class on Monday, Steve and Andrew and Rob White and Ian Cook and Chuck all showed up at my English class and knocked on the door and said it. Holy fuck.
That’s how you found out.
Yeah. In the months before that he had tried a couple of times at parties just doing stupid shit but you would think he was just crying out for attention. When you are that age you don’t realize it is permanent. You envision how glorious it will be. “I will show her. She’ll be crying at my funeral. She’ll love me then.” You don’t realize at that age that it is permanent. It is not like some movie.
So starting off with the title “Back from the Dead,” what was that about? Was that a reference to Pete?
No. That was just one of the tunes. We all thought it was our most solid tune and I think we liked it so much because we tried to sound like DIRECT ACTION.
I can hear that in some of the songs.
Pete would stand back from the mic and shout over top. I think we really liked that tune because we kind of captured a bit of DIRECT ACTION.
They had that song “We are the Living Dead.”
That was the turning point. When we did that, we realized that song was not that bad. We started doing covers initially.
It reflected a progression of song writing.
Steve was a huge part of that. A bunch of songs I had come into and they had changed, but Steve came up with a lot of that. He said in his e-mail that he came up with the idea and I would push them. Come up with my own take. I am a control freak. I would push Steve’s ideas with my twists on them. Anyway “Back from the Dead” was a song title. That album was already in the works. Pete was still around. The album was coming out. So it wasn’t released “Back from the Dead” because of Pete at all. That was going to be the name of the album with Pete alive.
But it certainly had a double entendre meaning when it came out.
It did and it was really strange. Looking back at it and looking at all the song titles it is almost like a cry out for help. You want to say that without sounding too dramatic.
Did he sing on the record?
Yeah. “My Old Man” is the only song on the record that I sing. I did all the back ups. Everyone did back ups on “My Old Man.”
It had this double meaning because he was dead by the time the record had come out.
I don’t know if that was in his grand scheme of things.
I don’t want to think that.
I don’t want to think it either, but you got to think what goes through your mind at 17 or 18. You have to think what goes on in your life and I think you envision she is going to cry so hard and “all the people are going to be at my funeral” and shit.
It did affect people. A friend of mine who used to skate with Pete, his name is Mark Hesselink, he is a filmmaker now and he has been working on a film ever since that he has never finished called “Punk, Probably Hardcore” which was completely inspired by Pete’s death. I know this has had an impact on people’s lives.
It has. I think about it regularly. I have told the story regularly. I was 18 myself. That wasn’t the first suicide I dealt with either in my high school. It was a close friend’s mom. That was the second go around. There was a lot of death in Oakville. Every flippin summer it was who is going to die this summer? You are going to a funeral every summer.
Life and death weren’t the only things you sang about although you did have a song called “Live or Die.” There were songs that were serious in nature about nuclear war and the song was called “Nuclear Winter.”
Do you remember when Global aired that show called, “The Day After?” It scared the piss out of everyone in our age group. It was like we are doomed. Why would you show this to everybody? “Nuclear Winter” came out of this show.
I think they were trying to scare the shit out of everybody because the nuclear arms race was a real threat. There was so many nuclear bombs at the time that this was just a call for peace.
There was the Cuban Missile Cruise that created fear but this was a whole new level. That was in ’83 or ’84. We were all fucking doomed.
Especially with Reagan. He had that old line where he was joking off air about Russia being outlawed and the bombing begins in five minutes. That was on a FINAL CONFLICT record. They were also a labelmate of yours putting out an album on Pusmort.
My wife is from the Bay Area. We were at an art thing there and Pushead’s art was up there. I was hoping to run into him. I have never met the dude. That was just something we did. Back then I went off to school, that era of punk died for me. Then later my wife, who is ten years younger than me, I had mentioned when we met that I was in a band. I wasn’t very computer savvy. For my birthday present I get an album and it is a NEGATIVE GAIN album. “Back from the Dead” album. I didn’t even know it existed. I never owned a copy of the record. My wife gave me my first copy and that was five years ago. It was my birthday present. She went on-line and on e-bay and she bought it off some record store in Detroit.
That was common. What sucked about this being released on Pusmort Records is that it was difficult to find the record here.
Wasn’t it like an import or something? I remember it being at the Record Peddler and Brian is selling it and he is the producer on it and it is an import. It was $6.00 more than the SUDDEN IMPACT record that came out a week later. Everyone else’s album was $10.99 and ours was $15.99. What the hell? Because it was from France or something stupid like that. I don’t really know. I don’t know what happened with the business aspect of that. Jill Heath might know better or even Steve. I haven’t talked to Steve except for an e-mail I got two days ago because of the initial contact about the interview.
So you don’t know how Pushead became interested in your band? Or how he got tapes or how this came together?
I know Jill sent him whatever we recorded which I think was what we recorded in Oakville.
There was a studio called Soundpath Studios.
You know what is funny about the record? There is no listing about who played on the record. The info is very scarce.
There is a thanks list thanking Steve from BFG and SOCIAL SUICIDE and VERBAL ASSASSINATION and some other dudes, but it doesn’t have your names anywhere except for Pete’s. So where was Soundpath Studios?
It was down at the bottom of 8th Line. It was in the middle of this industrial park.
How did you find out about the studio?
I think Peter and Steve researched it and found out where the studio was. We just went down there. The one gig that we did do in Oakville, at the Masonic Temple, the money we made on the show was used for paying for the studio. I remember we paid it off all in one shot. It was cheap as shit. It was so rushed. We did it in one afternoon.
And Brian recorded it for you.
How did you get Brian out to Oakville?
Pete probably had a lot to do with that. He was in the Record Peddler a lot. There was probably that connection. We recorded a couple of times. We recorded in Toronto for the “Killer Bears” demo.
“Invasion of the Killer Bears?”
Yeah right. I remember going to a loft in downtown Toronto and taking a freight elevator up. Whoever owned that studio produced the thing. We went and recorded the same songs at Soundpath.
Yeah. There is a lot of the same songs.
It is really cool listening to that demo because it is the same songs but the lyrics are all twisted. A friend of mine just sent me the “Invasion” cassette. I remember going in the studio and pressing cassettes. You could write whatever you want on here. “Really? Go Die!” we put. That was Peter too man.
Can you tell us a bit more about the demo? Do you know when this was recorded?
I’ll bet you it doesn’t have a date on it.
I was thinking it might be ’83 or ’84 maybe.
No. It is just a piece of paper without that stuff on it. Here is how we spell “Psychic Hours.” P-H-Y-C-H-I-C.
Well spelling wasn’t punk’s strong point was it? None of us would win a spelling bee these days.
You can download this demo off the internet. If you can’t I will gladly send you a copy.
Actually we found it on a blogspot. The LP is out too. Have you thought about re-issuing any of this stuff.
Steve just came up with an idea. We don’t know what the logistics of it are. Steve said we should re-record it with a couple of our live standards. We covered 7 SECONDS version of “99 Red Balloons” and “Land of a Thousand Dances.” I remember having good nights with that at the Starwood. And “Young Til I Die” by 7 SECONDS. We used to cover that. I remember our first contact Steve got a letter from SUDDEN IMPACT saying how much he enjoyed us playing the 7 SECONDS cover “Young ‘Til I Die.” I think Steve is keen on that and I certainly am too. He said recording and releasing it as a 25th anniversary thing. I think it has been longer than that.
I don’t know if you know, but the “Back from the Dead” was bootlegged onto an LP. It’s one side of an LP with NAPALM DEATH being on the other side.
Yeah, I saw that on-line. It said there was only 100 issued.
Yeah. And they fit the whole album on one side so obviously the sound quality is real shit. If you did a re-recording or re-released the stuff on a CD, you would at least be able to get this material out there in a way that you could control the sound quality on it.
For sure. Well maybe you guys can help us out with that? You guys have all the contacts. I am just a caveman. Anyway, in answer to your question, Steve is keen. You guys are definitely a catalyst for that because I never would have tried to get in touch with Steve again. We could at least throw together a couple of shows. It would be awesome to play with SUDDEN IMPACT. Steve sees the buddy from HYPE now and again. He is in the same industry. I think Ron Anicich told me that SUDDEN IMPACT do the odd show.
They got back together a few years back around their release. They played a show in Newmarket with DOA and a year later they did their own show at Sneaky Dee’s. Both shows were amazing. I wanted to ask you about a couple of songs on the demo that I don’t think got re-recorded. There was a song called “Military Aid.” Do you know about that song? And there is a song called “President’s Women.” Those two I don’t see on the LP.
“President’s Women” lyrics are “Nancy Reagan has stretch marks has stretch marks has stretch marks. Nancy Reagan has stretch marks has stretch marks has stretch marks.” That was the chorus. “Military Aid” became something else. I haven’t listened to that. I saw it on that cassette.
Do you remember the song “Situation All Fucked Up?” Tell us about that song. What was the song about? It seemed about how everything was shit.
“Everything Government wants, Government gets.” Peter was aware pretty early. Bands like MDC figured in to the influences.
Well, I thought they might because you guys did a lot of songs about nuclear war and MDC had a bunch of stuff about war.
I remember when Pete was writing that one, he was into the corruption of government. He was doing what he could as a 17 year old living in the suburbs. He was trying to be aware and political.
I want to go back to some shows that you did earlier. There was a 7 SECONDS show that I saw a flyer for at the DMZ where you played with HYPE and SUDDEN IMPACT.
I think that was the “Walk Together, Rock Together” tour.
That “Walk Together, Rock Together” graphic is on the flyer. That makes sense to me.
That was so awesome because I think that what was so wonderful about being in a band those days was that was what we were listening to. That was the best thing. You could listen to on your Sony Walkman. “Walk Together, Rock Together,” or “Out of Step” by MINOR THREAT. ANGRY SAMOANS and shit like that. Anyway, that album was “Walk Together, Rock Together” was all I listened to for months and months and months and now we were playing with them. There was how many of us at the DMZ that night, 300 maybe tops. This is what I listen to wandering around Oakville on my walkman. Here we are hanging out with them. I am watching him play that bass line. Do you know what I mean? You didn’t even think of it like that back then. You just took it for granted back then. That was normal. You look at it now and it would be the equivalent of Tony Iommi or something.
I heard a rumour that this was the show where the circle pit was born in Toronto. I heard they broke into a song and Ken Huff did this circular motion with his finger and everyone started dancing in a circle as opposed to smashing into each other. Do you recall that happening?
All I can back up is it was definitely around then. That sparked a whole new era in Toronto hardcore. Chicks could get into it then. All of a sudden there was chicks going around in the war dance circle. We called it circle thrashing or something like that. I don’t know if it started then but it was right around then. It was definitely that summer.
I remember hearing it was at a 7 SECONDS show and I remember hearing that it was at the DMZ so I figured it was this show. I think this is the only time 7 SECONDS played the DMZ.
Early shows, I remember going to see the EXPLOITED and shit at Larry’s and there was none of that circle shit going on. That was brought on by American bands. And “Keep on Truckin’” by SUDDEN IMPACT was all about that. You just keep on truckin’ around the circle. I don’t know. I wouldn’t bet against it.
On this flyer there are a number of subtitles to the opening bands. It says HYPE (Album still available). SUDDEN IMPACT (ep available soon). NEGATIVE GAIN (ep out soon). Was there talk of an ep coming out? Was this after demo came out? Might it have been the demo pressed to vinyl?
Yeah that could have been actually. It might have been while it was being shopped, which I think Jill Heath was the one who sent that to Pushead. That might have been during all of that. I think that deal wasn’t made until Pete was gone. We only had the demo. It must have been definitely in the works.
Jill seemed a bit like your manager, to some degree. I did a compilation around then called “Ontario: Yours to Discover” and when I was looking for bands for it I wanted to get NEGATIVE GAIN for it and she said “Yeah I can get those for you.” I think I talked to you about it and then Jill just gave me a tape at one show and said “you can use these three songs.” It was three songs that would come off the album. She gave me artwork for you guys. She operated like a manager. She was always working for your best interests.
I believe that.
You guys also had done a lot of the Reuben Kincade shows. So you benefitted from having those two power players in the scene.
Well they were involved with Fringe or something.
Well HYPE records got released on Fringe didn’t they?
Those guys were aweome. I liked them. They weren’t taken seriously enough in Toronto.
They were an amazing band. I agree with you.
They were so tight. Ahead of their time. Like maybe too tight. If they had come out three years later it might have been appreciated more.
I think if they would have toured outside of Toronto because they played a lot in Toronto and people got sick of seeing them. I didn’t. I loved seeing them play everytime, but some of those shows got lower and lower attendance and I think they just lost the steam to play. I think if they played more outside the city they would have blown up huge. They were such a great band and they had so many great songs. They had two albums worth of songs. They had no shortage of material. They could just blow people away. They had two guitarists, they had a huge sound. The Barbisan brothers were incredible. They were all really great. I agree with you HYPE were amazing too.
Yeah they tried to do a lot. Reuben Kincade championed a lot of stuff.
He did and it seemed like you guys were under his wing a little bit. I think it had something to do with being from Oakville.
Probably. I don’t really know. I was kind of outside of all of that.
He got you on a lot of shows and he would write about you in Pirates of Doom because he used to do a column in Pirates of Doom.
He was always really good to us. The band was really good to us.
They almost seemed like a brother band.
Yeah definitely. Proud to say that. I remember at the Harvey’s in Oakville we would plan the show. The guitarist had a three foot mohawk at the time. The first meeting with HYPE we played a show with them at the Turning Point without meeting them but then we met them to do a show with Don, and Pete had arranged it at a party or something. And that first meeting at Harvey’s was the first time that Pete had tried, well he was in the hospital for basically what he succumbed to. I remember meeting without Pete. Me and Steve and Andrew with HYPE planning our big show.
There was a record release party that HYPE did for the “Life is Hard … then you Die” LP which took place Friday June 28th at the DMZ and you played with the FREEZE and 76% UNCERTAIN. Would that have been the show you were planning?
I can’t recall. That was an awesome show. I do remember that.
Did you ever tour?
No, we never toured. We never really got organized with anything like that.
Did you ever contribute songs to comps? I had three songs on that comp that I did. I am wondering if there is any other comps or unreleased songs that might be out there?
I don’t know what happened with any of that stuff. I took off to university and that was when all that shit was going on. I didn’t know anybody was interested until my wife five years ago now gave me my album. I don’t know anything that happened with any of the business or compilations. I would guess that would be Jill or between Jill and Pete’s mom. Or maybe Steve might know something about it. I never really talked to him about it. I don’t know what songs went where. I have no idea. I am learning more about the band by talking to you guys.
Well the band did exist after Pete died. You moved to vocals and you added another guitarist I think.
We got Chuck Taylor.
I remember you going away to school and then coming back and you played a LIFE SENTENCE show at the Bridge. It was Saturday June 13th. You played with MSI, SONS OF ISHMAEL and LIFE SENTENCE. It was the summer and you were back here for the summer.
The Bridge. That was the Starwood and Ildiko’s.
So the band did function for a period while you were away at school?
It was even before I went off to school. If I’m not mistaken I think Pete died in the fall of ’85 so maybe that winter we might have re-grouped. I remember coming out pretty strong in that summer. That was as a three piece with my playing guitar and singing. Those were some great days. It started getting tight right when Pete died. It was because of recording and all that. I thought we picked it up pretty fast. It was pretty damn fun. But I couldn’t remember any of the damn lyrics. Pete knew them. I would just imitate them.
I remember your first show and you forgetting a bunch of words. That would have been the first time I had seen NEGATIVE GAIN and that LIFE SENTENCE show was a few years later. You did have two years after that.
Yeah I remember playing shows in the summer where I would come back from university.
Do you remember that LIFE SENTENCE show at all?
Not really. I think I remember us going back to Oakville in my dad’s station wagon and not having enough room for the amp and then I went back to the Bridge the next day and the amp was gonedy. I think maybe LIFE SENTENCE has that. I remember going with Pete to get that at the pawn shop.
When you originally got it.
It was an old Traynor head. I was watching Wimpy Roy of DOA at what was supposed to be their last show at the Fab Mab in San Francisco and there is that live DVD of DOA’s last show there. I swear to god that is the head that we got because it had a green light on it. I never seen a Traynor like that with a green light. My amp definitely disappeared at that LIFE SENTENCE show.
Was that LIFE SENTENCE show your last show? Did NEGATIVE GAIN break up after that?
One of our last shows was at the Silver Dollar. I think the last show was an upstairs show.
Why did the band break up?
With me going to university in the States and just growing old. I don’t think the band was really a focus in our lives. Steve and Andrew are both really good tradesmen. Steve is an electrician and Andrew is a cabinet maker. Those guys were always winning awards and shit in high school for being tradesmen. I think that was kind of their focus. There is no real reason, just age and growing apart. There was never a “That’s it. We’re done” moment. We didn’t really take ourselves to seriously.
Maybe you guys are still on hiatus.
Apparently Steve went camping with Andrew in 2003. That would be flipping hilarious. If we ever did a show that would be great. I think we would love to do it. That was just a wonderful time. Like I said, the coolest part about it was playing with the bands like CIRCLE JERKS. We did a Gary’s show with the CIRCLE JERKS. It was like holy fuck. We are in the rat infested band room with SUDDEN IMPACT and the CIRCLE JERKS drinking beer. We took it for granted back then. You didn’t think it was anything special. You knew it was cool but you didn’t know it was as mind blowing as it is now. It is like “holy shit man.” Hanging out with your gods. At that age you are 16, 17, 18 and these are the people you love writing the soundtrack to your life at that point and here you are just hanging out.
It is pretty surreal. Do you have any regrets?
I’ve had a few.
Do you wish you had kept going with the band?
I guess, but like I said everyone just kind of was doing their own thing anyways. It was never really a thought.

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