Sunday, March 11, 2018

MRR Remote Radio - Historical look at Toronto

Here are the notes on the bands we played in our episode of Maximum Rock 'n' Roll Remote Radio - listen here.

MRR has a series of Remote Radio broadcasts where readers and listeners can program a show on their local scenes. There have been some great shows on places like Copenhagen, Australia and Greece and we wanted to feature Toronto's storied history. Jenna recently did a show on the current scene that you should check out, but we started ours in 1977. Truthfully, a show could be done on each decade, but we only had one hour. So we focused on the early punk scene, the hardcore scene, and then three decades crammed into the last two sets.

First Wave of the Punk Scene (1977 - 1980)
The Viletones "Screamin’ Fist"
from "Screaming Fist" EP, Vile Records, 1977
Also released on the Montreal label, Montreco Records. The argument about first punk release to come out of Toronto is qualified as the first independent release, but if we had more time we might of started with Zoom's "Sweet Desperation" to lay the ground work with some proto-punk sounds, but most histories about Toronto start with this single. Don Pyle, in his book "Trouble in the Camera Club" describes the songs as "...perfection in its goose bump inducing heaviness – the bass playing sixteenths on one note, then one big guitar chord, a furious drum roll and then the whole band pounding one dirty chord. The record’s dynamic production and intensity were never matched again.” Back in 2006 Greg Dick did an extensive interview with the Viletones that was transcribed and ran in MRR. WE also recorded a session with the revamped band performing only songs from the first two releases. You can check that out on our blog. More recently we spoke with the late Freddy Pompeii who talked to us about the Viletones and in particular how the song "Screaming' Fist" was written. You can hear that interview on our blog.


THE UGLY "Revenge"
from "Disorder" CD, Other Peoples Music
The Ugly, were self-proclaimed hoodlum rockers. The term spoke to the deeper commitment this band had to the street with singer Mike Nightmare, known for his criminal undertakings keeping the band on their toes. A single was released in 1978 called "Stranded in the Laneway (of Love)" but like so many bands at the time it wasn't their best material. In the mid-90s a CD of other recordings that the Ugly had done surfaced on a collection released by Other Peoples Music called "Disorder." The song "Revenge" comes from that collection and sums up the sentiment between the Viletones and the Ugly especially after Steve Leckie stole the rhythm section for the next incarnation of the Viletones. Some liken the Viletones to poseurs next to the reputation of the Ugly. Mike Nightmare passed away a while back and in a recent interview on our show Greg Dick of the Dream Dates found out all kinds of stories about the band. Then he joined the band on vocals and they have just released a single called "Screw the System" on Ugly Pop. You can hear a live session of the reformed band on our blog.


THE DIODES "Dead on Arrival"
from "Tired of Waking Up Tired - The Best of the Diodes"
The Diodes ran the first punk club (the Crash n Burn), were the first punk band to get signed to a major label (CBS), and released the first full length in 1977. They had a hit with "Tired of Waking Up Tired" but we played the song "Dead on Arrival" which was an unreleased song on this collection. The Vancouver band DOA were living in the city as the band the Skulls and so I wondered if this song inspired them to take the name. Probably not, but great ideas had a way of getting borrowed and used. Greg Dick also interviewed the Diodes which was transcribed and published as a two part interview in issues 306 and 307 of MRR. You can read about it on our blog or go to MRR's past issues to get a copy. A live session was recorded at the same time found on our blog.


BATTERED WIVES "Uganda Stomp"
from "Uganda Stomp" EP, Bomb Records (same label that put out The Last Pogo compilation)
The Battered Wives had a controversial name and went the same route that Teenage Head did, eventually adopting the name the Wives. They were one of the more polished bands from the era featuring some seasoned musicians that busted out of the gate. "Uganda Stomp" was the band's first single and one of their stunts was to try and deliver a copy to the Ugandan embassy. They  toured across Canada with Elvis Costello on the first ever punk tour of Canada. The members would go on to lots of other bands some that got regular airplay on hits stations. We interviewed them back in 2010 which you can hear on our blog.


Women in the First Wave
Women played a prominent role in the first wave of the Toronto punk scene. Here are some of the more well-known bands


THE CURSE "Shoeshine Boy"
from the "Shoeshine Boy" EP released on their own label Hi-Fi Records
The song is about a 12 year old named Emanuel Jacques who was raped and murdered which led to the clean up of the sleazy Yonge St. strip, which is Toronto's main street. The Curse were confronting the issue of child prostitution, but the Portuguese community took it as the band sensationalizing their tragedy. The Curse took a beating in the press, and it became another example of how out of touch the media was. They found a creative way to fund the record which gets told in Liz Worth's book "Treat Me Like Dirt." You can hear the interview on our blog.


B-GIRLS "Who Says Girls Can't Rock"
from a collection of material by the same name released on Other People's Music in 1997 and recently released as an LP called "Bad Not Evil" on Bomp Records. The B-Girls were one of the first all-woman punk band in Toronto and the first local band to be released by a label from outside of the country. Bomp released their single "Fun at the Beach" which was the only thing the band released while still together. They toured with the Clash, they moved to New York City, and they recently got back together. We interviewed them in November and just finished airing their interview in two parts. Listen to those in Part 1 and Part 2.

THE POLES "CN Tower"
from an EP released on the label Nimbus 9 which was known for releasing Guess Who Records, which was odd. The Poles were 'art punks'  which saw them somewhat ostracized from the scene, but they also wrote a song about the city's most iconic structure. 

TYRANNA "Toranna Boys"
from the self titled LP that came out in 2011 on Rave Up Records. The band was around from 1978 to 1979 when they recorded all this material but their first recording came out in 2009 on a local label called Boppa Do Down which was connected to a local record store. It was this EP that caught Rave Up's attention and they released the rest. It was amazing the difference a year made as Tyranna actually tried to create a punk sound. The name was based on a female tyrant as the singer Rabies always imagined herself as the leader of a male gang. 



The first wave of the Hardcore Scene (1981 -  1984)


THE YOUNG LIONS "National Security"
from a demo titled "Freedom? What Freedom?" the Young Lions were the band that bridged the punk and hardcore scenes. When I first started learning about the Toronto hardcore scene, everyone said "Start with the Young Lions." They released two or three demos and had a posthumous album that everybody said didn't sound like them. Close to 30 years later a label out of Hamilton (Schizophrenic) released a collection of songs off their demo called "1982 - 1984 From the Vaults". 

YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH "Domination"
The song originally released on a demo from 1982 and then re-recorded for a compilation called "Something to Believe In." Easily the best song on that comp, Youth Youth Youth had already broken up by then. They remain my favourite hardcore band from the city and that is solely on how good they were. But they have a list of accolades longer then any band in this show. They mostly evolve around the singer (Brian Taylor) who single-handedly recorded most of the bands from this era, then went on to DJ Toronto's first punk radio show, "Aggressive Rock" and worked at a number of record stores and labels which put out many local bands. He was responsible for "T.O. Hardcore '83" comp, Diabolic Force Records, and basically recommending great records to many kids getting into the scene. They have recently re-mastered and re-issued all their recordings on bandcamp. It'll be the best $5 you ever spent.


DIRECT ACTION "Hate Generation"
from the 1984 demo and "Trapped in a World" LP released on Irate Faction Records. They were the hardcore band who people referred to as "a band that arrived fully formed." They had an image, they had a sound, and they were loud. But this wasn't their first band. The core of the group were in a band called the Unknowns, and were from St. Catharines, which was a rough border town with Niagara Falls. Its image has since been polished,  but back then it was known for bikers and serial killers before it rebranded itself as Ontario's wine region. People likened Direct Action to Discharge by look, by sound, and by lyrics with an emphasis on peace punk themes. They complete the holy trinity of Toronto's first wave of hardcore.


Second wave of the Hardcore scene (1985 – 1987)

BUNCHOFUCKINGOOFS "Total Breakdown"
from the double EP titled "There's No Solution So There's No Problem." More commonly known as "BFG" or simpy "the Goofs," this band/gang/collective lived in  Toronto's famous Kensington Market, which has a long history for the punk scene. They started out on a dare and initially did covers of the "Meow Mix" commercial. BFG started the next punk-run club called the DMZ 1985 and ran a booze can out of their house known as Fort Goof. They would rid the punk scene of Nazi skins by going to war with them. They would go o to befriend Mr. T and they captured the attention of Tom Yohannon, which led to a cover story on them in Maximumrocknroll. A book called "Dirty, Drunk & Punk" came out about them and they are still around today running a club in the market. 


CHRONIC SUBMISISON "Cops Ain’t Tops"
recorded for both their tapes "Sick of Reality" and "Empty Heads, Poison Darts". Chronic Submission were 14 year old skinheads who could play like nobody else in the Toronto scene. They mastered the type of stop and start thrash that MDC and DRI were doing. The first tape sounds like that. In a year they became early adopters of the crossover sound. At a Dead Kennedys show in Toronto, Ruston, the drummer, gave Jello a copy of their tape. Jello got in touch with them about recording for Alternative Tentacles and sent them some money to come out to San Francisco. The band had an affection for huffing glue and blew the money on LePages instead. They could have been huge. 


MICROEDGE "So You think You're Hardcore, Eh"
from a demo released in 1983. These guys were the first skate band to come out of Toronto. They got to play with JFA and had a similar sound. This little-known demo has so many great songs on it and featured Reid English who would go on to play in Sudden Impact. This song brings up the theme that was common at the time about your commitment to the scene and maybe the over obsession with it. 

HYPE "It’s All Hype"
from the "Life if Hard, ... Then you Die!" LP self released by the band on their own label Reuben Kincaide Productions. 
Hype were a hardcore band from Oakville and they had a manager, Don Lebeouf. Don was the bassist's older brother and took the name Reuben Kincaide from the TV show "The Partridge Family." He would become one of the city's best promoters. Hype recorded two albums and toured a couple of times across Canada. The song "It's All Hype" was the response to the catcall "Punk's Dead" that many punks had to endure from metalloids. Both scenes were growing at the time so there was some competition. But they also grew together in the form of crossover and that impacted Hype's sound on the second album.  

NEGATIVE GAIN "Descend on Youth"
from the album "Back from the Dead" released by Pusmort Records. Pushead became interested in Negative Gain thanks to Jill Heath, Toronto's other important promoter of the time who had many connections to the U.S. hardcore scene. Negative Gain played at blurry like speeds and they were skaters which made then a perfect fit for Pushead's label. Negative Gain had just released a demo titled "Invasion of the Killer Bears" and recorded more material. Before the record would come out the singer, Pete Warner, would commit suicide and although the album was already named "Back from the Dead" the name took on a double entendre. Pete was a huge fan of Direct Action and was buried with his Direct Action shirt and leather jacket on. 


SUDDEN IMPACT "Sudden Impact"
from "No Rest from the Wicked" released on Diabolic Force Records. Sudden Impact were considered Toronto's first crossover band and they were from the  suburb of Newmarket, north of Toronto. They were also big into skating and the name of the band takes itself from a skating reference. In 1984 the band released a demo called "Freaked Out" which contained this song, but the version we played actually come from an album called "No Rest from the Wicked" which came out a year later. It was released on a new offshoot label from Fringe that focused on crossover releases and helped bring the hardcore and metal scenes closer together. Even though this crossover sound was creeping into Chronic Submission, Sudden Impact are often considered our first crossover band. 


Hardcore lives on (1988 – 1998)

HOCKEY TEETH "Not So Long Ago"
from the "Jesus Saves" WP which came out on their own label Homewrekords in 1994. Honey Teeth were a band made up of members of Brutal Creation and Babies with Rabies. Both bands released demos and were really good, but Hockey Teeth were a super group of sorts. The song "Not So Long Ago" addresses the racism in Canada and may have been inspired by the Anti-Racist movements of the time who challenged the white power bands that were trying to gain a foothold in the scene. Anti Racist Action and then Anti-Fascist Action countered this movement and labels like Insurgence and Rebel Time continue this anti-racist work today. 


MARILYN'S VITAMINS "Squeegee Girl"
from the "Squeegee Girl" EP released by Raw Energy, Ductape, and their own label Antagonist Unlimited. Raw Energy was a label that was working with melodic punk bands at the time and one of the owners of the label was the drummer from Sons of Ishmael. Marilyn's Vitamins were our version of Green Day and they came out of the Hockey Teeth scene. "Squeegee Girl" was a song about a law brought in by the City of Toronto to get rid of punk panhandlers. 

TEEN CRUD COMBO "Days of Yore"
from "Judgement Night Soundtrack, Part 2" LP released by Deranged Records
Teen Crud Combo were Toronto's answer to the New Bomb Turks. They came out just after the Turks and fused their amplified garage-core sound with Motorhead to create something more energetic. Nick Flanagan, who has branched off into comedy since then demonstrated his prankster roots with some of the lyrically absurd writing. Teen Crud Combo recorded back in 2000 for an EP called "Suck It" that came out on Black Lung. The other songs recorded in that session and "Judgement Night Soundtrack, Part 2" came out posthumously five years later. There was a treasure trove on that recording.


Today’s legends (1999 – 2007)

FUCKED UP "Generation"
from the "Generation" EP that came out on Slasher Records.
Fucked Up started out around the demise of the Who's Emma space in Toronto. They were involved in the space and early versions of the band were fuck bands used to fill out shows that guitarist, Mike Haliechuk, was putting on. After Who's Emma closed up, Fucked Up became a serious band and have become one of the most prolific band to come out the city. They have the most singles for any local band and are probably the most well known band from Toronto. There was a great group of bands that came up at the same time but sadly we don't have the time to play more of them. Truthfully, we could have done a show on each decade of Toronto hardcore as the more current scenes are spottily represented here. But Generations is a song that gets a response in the pit and the pit is one of the arbiter's of truth. 


CAREER SUICIDE "Quarantined"
from the "Sars" EP released by Deranged Records. 
Career Suicide also started out as a joke band with many different names before settling on Career Suicide. And the interesting thing is that none of the current members of the band were in the original line up. But they were part of the same peer group as Fucked Up and veered towards a more hardcore sound. At one point, three of the four members were past hosts on Equalizing-X-Distort, so we could be accused of being biased. In choosing songs for this show, we tried to pick ones about Toronto that show the unglamourous side of the city. The city has always been known as "Toronto the Good." When Toronto was hit with the "Sars" epidemic, it had a huge impact on our tourism industry and there was a feeling that we shouldn't talk about it for fear of our economy. But in true punk fashion, Career Suicide put it on the cover of a 7" and the song "Quarantined" is about the epidemic. My mom was a nurse during this time and she was forbidden from going out in public without wearing a mask so she lived in "Quarantine."


SCHOOL JERKS "Slums of the Future"
from a self titled LP, co-released by Grave Mistake Records and the band's own label Bad Vibrations
School Jerks formed out of the break up of Terminal State with some of the members playing different instruments. They organized ravine parties under the name "Bridge over Troubled Waters." They also did  warehouse shows. They recorded their own material which gave the band a unique sound. Many other bands from the time were recorded by Jonah Falco who is a great engineer and used the Fucked Up space to record. But as a result School Jerks stood out. They had a lot of songs about the city but the one that stood out was a song about the condo boom called "Slums of the Future"on their last album. They looked at the lessons of St. James Town and projected on these fragile glass skyscrapers that were already in the news for falling apart. 


S.H.I.T. "Feeding Time"
was the first song on the first demo but also was re-rcorded as the title track for an EP that came out on Static Shock in 2014. 
The name was used for a book by Alex Kress on the scene that S.H.I.T. had helped build. The guitarist, Greg Benedetto, has been the city's main promoter for over a decade under the name Stuck in the City. He took a jam space and turned it into an all ages space for a year called 'S.H.I.B.G.B.'s that Alex's book helps document. And when S.H.I.B.G.B.'s closed ship, singer Ryan Tong opened up a record store / scene space called Faith//Void to pick up the slack, giving the scene a space to do movie nights, art exhibitions, flea markets, talks, and shows. And although all of these are super important for building an infrastructure for the scene to exist, S.H.I.T. deserve a space on this list because they came up with a complex sound that layered noise and hardcore and inspired a bands around the world. 

We wanted to get Urban Blight, Bad Skin, Cursed and many others in this list, but just didn't have the space.

To do a show on your local scene get in touch with Sam at sam@maximumrocknroll.com.

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