As anyone who ever witnessed Edmonton, AB punk legends the Wednesday Night Heroes can attest, Graeme MacKinnon is one of the most ecstatic, elastic, emphatic frontmen in Canadian punk rock. Even if they were playing a Wednesday night in some half-empty hall, he’d offer up somersaults, back-and-forth stage pacing, and the sort of stage banter that really riles the crowd. Essentially, he was a wild hardcore frontman hiding in a street-punk band.
It only makes sense, then, that his next project would lean more towards hardcore. No Problem, the band he formed with Steve Lewis, Matthew Bouchard, and Warren Oostlander (an adorable, fresh-faced Calgarian with ’70s hair and Archie Andrews’ eternal grinning youth), retain all of WNH’s pent-up energy, but they’ve evolved their sound some. Performing a hybrid of classic ’77 punk and raw, bratty ’80s hardcore, they’ve stumbled upon a sound that’s full of piss, vinegar, and melody.
Already Dead, the band’s sophomore album, arrives this month via Deranged Records, and sees them opening things up sonically even more. “I think everything that happens with No Problem is pretty organic,” MacKinnon admits. “We really want to get back to the basics of classic hardcore punk and the classic ethos of whatever happens happens—no matter how acid-induced. We definitely didn’t approach this with any limitations. I think the four of us listen to different styles of punk, be it early European Killed By Death stuff, to classic LA punk and hardcore, Flying Nun Records type stuff, to doom and hard rock, and bring quirky little ideas to the table.”
Already Dead is a fast, aggressive punk record through and through, and its rawness is only emphasized by its mean, lean production sound. After working with Fucked Up’s Jonah Falco on 2011’s And Now This, the band opted to record this one on their own.
“I wish we could tell you some sweet story like we were forced to record this album with amps powered by cats peddling little bikes, or we got a call from Saddam Hussein from beyond the grave who said he really liked the back ups in ‘The Controller,'” MacKinnon jokes. “But no, it was business as usual—us standing behind blast shields while Warren sprayed sweat like a downtown diddler in the summer while he laid down his drums.”
Though he’s certainly packed with one-liners, MacKinnon is also capable of injecting ravenous political discourse into his music. Last year, he turned heads with the self-titled release from his blistering d-beat band Harper SS. “Harper SS was our protest against Harper and against the misconception that you can’t protest in the heart of Redneck conservative Canada,” MacKinnon explains. “He’s like this weird wholesome family man character who tries to sell us this image of this everyday Joe who loves hockey and beer and coins, but behind closed doors he wants to destroy workers rights, build more jails, and sell our country and all our resources to huge corporations without any regard to the real everyday Canadian.”
Though he says the lyrics on Already Dead are “a little more personal,” the album’s concept is no less political. “The lyrics as a whole examine what it’s like to feel powerless in a world that’s constantly passing you by, alienating you, controlling you, controlling your escapes, and subtly grinding you down to dust,” he says, “but it’s also about taking what’s thrown at you and using it to make you stronger. Or else you’re essentially ‘Already Dead.'”
It’s the sort of thought-out lyricism that could only come from a veteran of the punk movement, which MacKinnon admits to feeling a little worn out by. “Who said I’m not jaded or burnt?” he posits. “I mean I love punk and hardcore—it will always be a part of me. The music, the ethos—it’s always been a way of life for me. However, I definitely am jaded with a lot of ‘scenes’ and whatever kind of bullshit, because I feel I don’t care about being told what’s cool or what everybody’s doing at some festival or what new band that sounds like everybody else is doing or what’s going on in really huge cities. Honestly, it gets a bit overwhelming.”
At the end of the day, his solution is to try and maintain a sense of humility. “I know No Problem isn’t reinventing the wheel, but if this record makes someone happy or gets someone into other cool punk records, or influences some young pukes to start new and exciting bands, then that’s a job well done.”
[magazine month=”May” year=”2014″]