Archive for October, 2009

Propagandhi was one of the first bands that solidified my love for punk rock music around 13 years ago, and the first band (for myself) to perpetuate any sort of radical awareness or left wing thinking.  They are a band whose opinions I’ve often thought about when it came to many day-to-day experiences over the years, I imagine due to the level of respect I have for them.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Todd “The Rod” Kowalski (vocals/bass) before their show in Vancouver.

Weasel: I too was prairie born and raised, but couldn’t be happier to be here in Vancouver, today, talking to you.  Either in past or present, have you visited any notable vegetarian or vegan restaurants here, in town?

Todd: The one that just closed, it was there on Pender but it’s gone.  I’ve been to Bo Kong before, that’s good.  Tonight we’ll probably go to Gorilla something or other…like a vegan raw maybe?  Yeah, those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Weasel: Foundation’s really good.

Todd: Yeah, I’ve been there and I liked it.

Weasel: I understand efforts were made to avoid the use of Ticketmaster for all shows on this tour.  Is this the first time you’ve curbed the use of them and their bullshit practices?

Todd: We’ve tried before and it’s frustrating because lots of people nowadays, like…it’s a different time.  People hear about shows through checking Ticketmaster.  It’s kind of not good for us, you know?  It kind of sucks that every band uses Ticketmaster.  It’s like we’re always the odd man out being the only one, you know?  We’re the only ones using post consumer recycled paper so we pay out the ass for it.  Bands all want to use sweatshop shirts, so we end up paying triple for that.  Everyone wants to use Ticketmaster so we pay for people to use alternate sources.  In Calgary, in the last four days they’ve used Ticketmaster to finish it off.  We tried our best to do it..

Weasel: Yeah, I saw it listed on their site and I was kind of curious about that, but at the time it claimed there were no tickets available, but I imagine that’s maybe because it’s sold out…

Todd: Oh, well that would be nice but I’m unsure what the case is.

Weasel: Any issues with venues that are partial to Ticketmaster ticketing?

Todd: No, it’ s more promoters than venues I think.  I could see a promoter being scared about it, for sort of good reason.

Weasel: You played two nights in Edmonton, one was all ages and the other wasn’t.  Was that the plan from the word go, or was it split like that after a second show was added?

Todd: It was like that from the word go.  They just asked us if that’s the way we wanted to do it and we thought that way we at least get to walk around Edmonton and kinda have a day off.  It should have been one show really… for the fun value.

Weasel: Do you find the crowd response to be different based on age and/or alcohol consumption, in such a scenario?

Todd: Usually if people are drinking they get a little bit loosened up, which to me just shows they’re not true thrashers.  You know what I mean? (acknowledged and agreed)  If you’re ready to go, you’re ready to go.  I don’t respect that, but it’s the truth.

Weasel: In a couple of weeks you’re co-headlining a show with Sacrifice, a thrash metal band you love and that’s displayed clearly in the liner notes for “Bangers Embrace.”  How did this come about, and what are some other bands you may also like to share a similar opportunity with?

Todd: Well, that came about because we’ve been fans since we were kids.  Even when I was 15 I traveled to see Sacrifice and Razor.  So, yeah, just over the years by talking to them or whatever… We found out that one of the guitar players liked us too.  So it was kind of mutual.  They liked us and we were stoked on that.  He came out to one of our shows and we kept in touch and eventually… this is happening.  And the other bands I guess I would like to play with in some way would be Voivod and Razor.  When I think of two, that’s who it would be.

Weasel: In my opinion, it’s clear that Supporting Caste has a more dynamic feel to it than the previous couple records (Todd agrees), and does have elements more akin to the style of Less Talk, More Rock as hinted prior to the release.  What drove the change or slight return to form in regards to the writing style on this record?

Todd: I’ve kind of always not liked the idea of it being thought of as being a return to Less Talk, More Rock.  I always like to think forward.  That’s Chris talking, not me or us.  I like to try and move ahead or whatever.  That’s about it…just making songs..  Like, I guess in some way he was thinking about that but for me Less Talk’s not where I want to head.  I want to head forward and I think he does too.. I don’t know, that doesn’t mean to much to me.  Not that record, but the idea…

Weasel: I understand.  Now, although I’m a big fan of your first couple of albums, I certainly love Supporting Caste.  It’s my favorite since you joined the band.

Todd: Yeah, me too.

Weasel: According to my editor and close friend in Edmonton, he mentioned that you didn’t share lead vocal duties at all on Sunday evening…

Todd: Oh yeah.  I hurt my voice recording in November, so I haven’t sang anything since November.  I can sing normal type of singing but I can’t sing the way that I like, which is heard in my songs.

Weasel: Right, like in “Night Letters”… (Todd acknowledges) That song is amazing.  One of my favorite Propagandhi songs of all time.

Todd: Oh wow, cool.  Thanks.

Weasel: Did you ever get any sort of response from Ron McLean, Don Cherry or CBC in regards to the lyrics in “Dear Coaches Corner”? (lyrics in new window/tab here – courtesy of Lyric Wiki)

Todd: Not that I know of no, I don’t know if people like that pay attention to punk bands or whatever but it doesn’t matter because it’s the idea more than them as personalities, you know?  Like Don Cherry or Ron McLean’s actual personalities or who they are, are kind of irrelevant as long as the idea of the song comes across.  For me anyway…

Weasel: Now, I’ve always been curious about your interest in professional hockey.  Do you, or the other band members ever find yourself at odds being a spectator to a billion dollar industry with heavy corporate interest, comprised of multi-millionaire athletes and a sport that condones violence?

Todd: Oh yeah, well… I would.  I don’t like hockey at all so… like there’s a reason why.  Something about it I just don’t like.  You know what I mean? (I agree)  I’d go play it or watch my uncles play… Jord plays..  I don’t know if it’s so much the sport condoning violence being so much the problem.  It’s more the money and the corporations.  It’s a sport and people are playing it and that’s fine.  The fighting’s lame but whatever, I don’t care really.  But I do find that all the army (influence/involvement) and everything… Like myself, I’ve done Brazilian jujitsu for years and years.  That is fighting but to me, it’s now changed so much with shows like the Ultimate Fighter where everyone’s just a fucking asshole and the army’s there.  It used to be just competitive fighting for fun, you know? People are trying techniques and I don’t need spirituality or something like that to be a part of it, I’m not saying that.  I’m saying it’s become so much less interesting now that it’s a real crazy professional sport it’s sucking dollars and ripping off people.  It’s the same as hockey and once things get like that I can’t stand it.  I don’t watch any of that shit anymore, it sucks.

Weasel: Yeah, fair enough.  I read an interview circa Potemkin City Limits where Chris voiced rather distressing thoughts about writing/recording an album.  His words, and I know they’re not yours, were “I imagine I’d rather stick an entire bag of pre-owned ben wah balls in my mouth than think about going through the nightmare of making another record at all right now.” (Todd laughs)  I’m wondering if you can speak on his behalf or yours, either way, has this sentiment towards writing/recording albums changed in recent years?

Todd: I think it was more the recording than the writing for that.  We were in pretty good spirits until the recording came.  It totally bummed us out.  It took us a good while to get back on track.  Maybe a year or two to gather our thoughts.  It was just depressing to have something unfold that none of you can really… Like, I think it’s okay the way it turned out but to have it unfold not as your imaginations are all trying to make it unfold is kind of disappointing.  Like, not being able to get over hurdles because your mind is maybe thinking further than your abilities or something…  I don’t know what it was but we came out of it pretty good and got back on track.

Weasel: Well, that’s good to hear.  Now that Supporting Caste has been out for about 7 months, how has the experience been with Smallman, and working with a new label/distributor for the first time in 16 years or for the first time since you’ve been in the band?

Todd: Yeah, Smallman’s great.  We can clearly see that they’re trying harder than Fat was and they’re close to us.  I mean in vicinity, in Winnipeg.  So yeah, it’s been way better.

Weasel: Great.  Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to anyone out there?

Todd: Maybe I’ll just say, check out  See what’s going on in the Congo. It’s their big paper…big website.

Weasel: Well thank you very much for your time.

Todd: Yeah thanks.  I appreciate it a lot.

…Weasel Was Here

Full video of Don Cherry heard in the introduction of “Dear Coaches Corner.”  From the 3:00 timestamp to the end, you can see what a true fucking asshole he really is.

Chris Hannah (the lead singer/guitarist of Propagandhi) recently did an interview with elaborating on “Dear Coaches Corner”. He said he took his 6 year old niece to a hockey game and they had an intermission to pay honor to the troops, and the soldiers literally rappelled down from the rafters of the arena. His niece asked him why they had guns, and he took her and walked out on the game. You can download/listen to the whole interview here.

Other video interviews:

We’re Not Worried

Punk Empire Montreal

Category : Informant Inquisition | | Date : October 31, 2009

October 26, 2009 Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, B.C

The first of two Vancouver acts, Cambridge, kicked off the evening playing their tight, up-tempo brand of political punk rock with two dueling vocalists, Eric and Jesse.  While the level of their voices could have been more favorable, the vocal mix did improve mid-set.  As the crowd started piling in, the band-fan interaction was minimal, other than a quick mention of their discontent for the 2010 winter games.  Being my first time seeing them, I was intrigued and hoped it wouldn’t be my last.  Despite the breaking/replacing of Eric’s guitar string near the end of the set, it went unnoticed to most, to be quickly tuned and ready for their set closer “Problems and Solutions.” Two ladies, one bass player and a mohawked vocalist sporting an R.I.P.-Cobalt tee filled the second opening slot of the night.  The Rebel Spell, a hardcore street style outfit full of socially aware anthems blew us away.  Again, Todd Serious’ vocals were a little buried, but it really didn’t matter—the intensity shared among them was incendiary.  Chris Rebel stood out of his provided spotlight—leaving the focus on the remaining three—but it was his playing that shone most.  His bass lines were more than a simple mask of the lead guitar chords, unlike many other players.  Hearing Erin’s heavy, spot-on guitar and Stepha ‘s insistent drumming left Todd in good hands to sing his political hymns.  The Rebel spelled every action and emotion needed to precede our beloved, respected thrashers Propagandhi. After a lengthy pause between sets, a gentleman activist approached the crowd with some key information regarding the tar sands project.  Funded by the Royal Bank, the tar sands operation in Alberta will defy native treaty rights, destroying land the size of England while increasing global warming.  Stickers were offered for Royal Bank machines and/or windows which enthusiastic people will undoubtedly use.  I wonder if the large Royal Bank next door to the venue saw any “redecorating” the next morning. After ripping through their latest album Supporting Caste’s title track, the four skids we waited patiently for flattered the patrons of Rickshaw Theatre, saying “How’s it going, fuckfaces? We’re Propagandhi from Loserville.”  They paid homage to Canadian thrash legends Sacrifice with the aptly titled “Bangers Embrace,” described as a song “about the power that music transcends.”  Pretty big words coming from some of the most powerful musicians in our country.

While earlier I couldn’t help notice how tame the crowd was (and these days in general), I was suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.  Fuck 2009, it was 1996 all over again when “Nation States” (the tune that started it all for me) erupted.  The crowd of hundreds went nuts, singing “what a stupid world” and “they own us” in perfect unison over the band.  I found it admirable and fitting that “States” was followed by “Rock for Sustainable Capitalism,” a song detailing their discontent with the music industry, namely the colleagues who’ve shared both record label and/or fan base from the start of their career.

Musically the guys were bang on.  Seeing them perform with second guitarist David “The Beaver” Guillas for my first time, I felt, gave them far more range and ability.  This was heard when lead duties were left to Chris Hannah during “Human(e) Meat,” a “warning to all post-vegetarians.”  Fresher numbers like this complimented classics like “Pre-Teen McCarthyist” and “Less Talk, More Rock” throughout the set.  Before closing with “Last Will of Testament”, Todd “The Rod” Kowalski pointed out that he could die happily knowing that Chi Pig from SNFU was at one of his shows.  One-thousand punk rock fans stood amped, craving more.

Todd came out first, explaining that since they hadn’t been here in a while they’d play a few more but with one simple rule:”everyone has to fuckin’ giv’er.”  Chris, who previously mentioned how he liked our spirit (as it was superior to Saskatoon’s) called out all pathetic Canuck fans.  I couldn’t imagine that either of these two gents will enjoy themselves as much when they crossed the border the following day. Our southern brothers may not connect with the encore opener, “Dear Coaches Corner,” an “open letter to the CBC” regarding Don Cherry’s insisted use of Hockey Night in Canada as his own personal soapbox.

“Speculative Fiction” followed, and then finally “that song,” the first song from 1993’s How to Clean Everything—my favorite, and quite possibly yours—“Anti-Manifesto” rounded off the evening.  Their organizational mastermind (not “manager”) took over and played the last few bars of bass guitar as Todd performed a rolling stage dive into the crowd and Chris exclaimed, “If you’re never going to stand up, you might as well lay down!”  Chris and fans shouted the lyrics “we stand for something more than a faded sticker on a skateboard.”  This was obvious back then and is even more so now.  Thank you Chris, Todd, Jord and Dave for a thorough fucking ass kicking… we needed it.

…Weasel Was Here

1. Supporting Caste
2. Tertium Non Datur (right?)
3. Banger’s Embrace
4. Iteration
5. Nation States (free MP3 courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords)
6. Rock For Sustainable Capitalism
7. Less Talk, More Rock
8. Human(e) Meat
10. Natural Disasters
11. Bringer of Greater Things
12. Without Love
13. Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An
14. Pre-Teen McCarthyist
15. Purina Hall of Fame
16. Last Will and Testament
1. Dear Coaches Corner (free MP3 courtesy of
2. A Speculative Fiction (free MP3 courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords)
3. Anti-Manifesto (free MP3 courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords)
Anti-Manifesto (live)
Purina Hall of Fame (live)
Banger’s Embrace (live)
Rock For Sustainable Capitalism (live)
Nation States (live)

Category : Renegade Rock Review | | Date : October 30, 2009