Okay, now, watch your step . . .
The hockey-loving Canucks in NoMeansNo have been putting out introspective punk-rock albums since the early '80s, when the Victoria, British Columbia, band was on the original roster for Jello Biafra's seminal S.F. punk label Alternative Tentacles (along with the Dead Kennedys and Neurosis).
Founders/brothers Rob and John Wright (bass/vocals and drums, respectively) have kept the faith through a revolving door of supplemental personnel, and the Wright brothers are still flying--cranking out well-orchestrated, sinister songs that blend punk with the choicest elements of funk, jazz and even metal. The Wrights are also diehard subscribers to the old-school punk ethos--NoMeansNo has yet to accept a recording contract (all the Tentacles deals were done on a handshake).
NMN is scheduled to play Nile Theater in Mesa on April 22 (with D.O.A. and Quincy Punx), so I gave Rob a call and drilled him a bit on what keeps NoMeansNo alive and kicking it:
Revolver: Your band took its name from an antirape slogan. Is part of the NoMeansNo agenda to take a stance on sociopolitical topics?
Rob Wright: We never have directly. I think a lot of the time when people write political lyrics, they're very intellectual but also very detached. It's easy to rant about a political topic, but it's not always deep. It doesn't show people the inside of you--what you are all about as a person.
I think that if you're trying to express a particular perspective, you should touch on a few things everyone can relate to. That's what we try to do. Everybody has something in them that connects them to someone else, and we try to tap into that common vein. And I think that of all the arts, music can achieve that the best.
R: You once said, "You can't have a full life without experiencing the horrible," and your lyrics seem to dwell on the downside of life. Can you expound on that?
RW: Punk rock was a rediscovery of the negative aspects of life. It viewed everything through a negative lens. And that attitude is just as valid as seeing everything in a positive light. Some people spend too much time focusing on one or the other, but life has it all. So I think if you want to express the fullness of life, you have to include the bad, because it's at least half of what's really going on.
R: Are you afraid that kids are going to start looking at NMN as just another old-school band coming out of the woodwork to make some quick bucks off the Green Day craze?
RW: No, because we're not one of those bands that broke up and then figured out that we were losers and couldn't earn money any other way. We've never really had any progressive financial goal; the music is the only thing of importance. Whether you've been doing it for 20 years or two months, if you're making good music, then people will want to hear it. Unfortunately, a lot of bands do what they do because it's the only career choice they have, not because they have any real love for what they create.
Although NoMeansNo has never inked with a major, a Wright brothers side project recently signed with the Canadian label Essential Noise, which has a promotion/distribution deal with Virgin Records. The band is named the Hanson Brothers, after the goofy but goonish trio of identical brothers in the 1977 Paul Newman hockey flick Slap Shot who play with toy trucks and annihilate their opponents on the ice. Rob plays bass for the Hansons, and John has moved from behind the drum kit to stretch out his vocal cords. Guitarist Tom Holliston and D.O.A. drummer Ken Jensen round out the foursome, which mainly plays simplistic paeans to hockey and the Ramones.
Wright agrees it's "a little weird" to deal with a major label after all these years (the band is currently trying to get the actors who played the original Hanson brothers to sign on for a video), but says the band is a welcome diversion from the heavy subject matter NoMeansNo is known for.
"NoMeansNo carries a lot of baggage in terms of it being a 'serious band,' whatever that means. It has a lot of heart and soul, whereas the Hanson Brothers are just about drinking beer, playing three-chord punk rock and talking a lot about hockey."
Turntable suffering from dust buildup? Revolver recommends Music to Wash Dishes By, the product of industry expert Dishwasher Pete (best known for his fanzine Dishwasher, which chronicles Pete's quest to wash dishes in all 50 states). This seven-inch features four bands attacking the timeless, socially relevant topic of scrubbing cutlery for minimum wage. Dishwasher Pete's three-year mission to put out a compilation to go with his 'zine has finally come to an end. The result bears sparkling offerings from the Queers, Ten-Four, the Hi-Fives and Scared of Chaka. The Queers song is a typically immaculate Ramones-ish tune titled "Born to Wash Dishes." The other bands turn in some cool punky numbers as well; most notably, the Ten-Four cut "Pete's Theme" is reminiscent of Superchunk's early fuzzed-out singles. Music to Wash Dishes By also comes with an issue of DW featuring articles by each of the bands, and a series of fantastic inspirational samples from the '50s instructional film Mr. Dish Machine Operator. (Seven-O-Two Records, P.O. Box 204, Reno, NV 89504)
Next up is Kill Rock Stars alum godheadSilo with its Sub Pop debut, Skyward in Triumph. godheadSilo is two guys on bass and drums churning out muddy space rock with static vocals that tear through your head at warp nine. One track, "Dan Vs. Time," is just 15 seconds of freight-train drumming. What this album lacks in production quality (massive fuzz) it more than makes up for in drive, jerking you from song to song like a malfunctioning elevator. (Sub Pop, P.O. Box 20645, Seattle, WA 98102)
Quick question--what the hell is up with the promoters in this town booking three brilliant bands at three different venues on the same Monday night, April 15? Please, someone call a huddle. Alas, here are your options: The fabulous lounge lizards in Combustible Edison are to play Hollywood Alley in Mesa, promising two full hour sets of Martin Dennyesque bachelor-pad music and a 20-minute home movie. The frantic p-rock legend Samiam is supposed to take over Boston's in Tempe the same night--you might want to catch this band before its major-label debut comes out soon on Atlantic and Samiam becomes fodder for the scene police.
Finally, the queer-core lesbians in Tribe 8 are scheduled to play Nita's Hideaway in Tempe in support of their new album, Snarkism. Known for topless, confrontational performances, Tribe 8 plays sexual-political hard-core--definitely not for the sensitive ear. This group makes fellow queer bands like Pansy Division sound like, uh, pansies. I hear a dildo will get you a dollar off at the door.--Brendan Kelley