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Halifax hardcore punks Negative Rage and Unreal Thought branch out

August 26, 2015

"Skateboarding and punk, that’s why we’re here."

Photo: Negative Rage (Luke Mumford, Dexter Outhit, Cody Googoo)

Back before Sloan was Sloan, before Smeared and Twice Removed, Chris Murphy and Patrick Pentland were hard into hardcore. Their early bands like Kearney Lake Road and Spent pumped out aggressive four-track thrash. As Sloan, they wrote hardcore songs, two of which were released in 2013 with covers of Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Religion. The unusual release was a youthful throwback and also a testament to the influence of Halifax’s hardcore scene, which is still super influential, surprisingly.

“I feel like a lot of people from other cities know there’s a hardcore and punk scene in Halifax,” says Cody Googoo, one of the scene’s most active contemporary members. “But people in Halifax don’t really seem to know.”

In the last few years, Googoo has played in a shitload of punk and hardcore bands, like Road Rash, Megalodon, Envision, Word on the Street, Negative Circles, Coming of Age, Bricks, Concrete Asylum, Life Chain and Grump, to name a few. He’s also a skateboarder, a quiet kind of guy, but a driving force in the scene with many interests.

In the last two years, Googoo and his buds have been ‘going Sloan,’ so to speak. Googoo’s definitely branching out and making music that’s not just punk, or hardcore, or rock, but a little of everything. His band, Negative Rage, started as a solo project, then bounced back and forth between friends. Now, it features Luke Mumford and Dexter Outhit, with Marshall Brush on drums for shows. Their latest tape, Sensitive City, feels like a hybrid of hardcore and punk, but quite accessible. Last fall, they put out a Craft Single, “I’m Controlled, You’re Controlled”, on the cassette single label (yup) run by CROSSS’ Andy March.

“With Negative Rage, it all falls under the umbrella of punk, but there are some songs that could go on a Sloan record, you know?” says Outhit. We’re sitting outside the Halifax skate park around sunset. Mumford adds “When you see us with good mics, we’re a rock band.” I chime in, “But with a shitty PA, you’re a punk band?”

Yeah, basically.

Last month, after sending his tapes into Thrasher Magazine for years, one of Googoo’s Negative Rage songs and a track from his other band Grump were featured in the soundtracks to a couple of Thrasher skate videos. For skaters or punk bands, that’s pretty damn sick.

“That’s a dream come true,” says Googoo, “That’s been a dream of mine forever. I hoped I’d see something I wrote in a skate video someday, that’s all that really matters to me. And Thrasher is like my Bible.” Outhit adds “Man, skateboarding and punk, that’s why we’re here.” Googoo interrupts him: “Yeah, and Tony Hawk games.”

Negative Rage is pretty fluid — moving from amped skate tracks to ballads and mixed-bill shows. They’re hammering out tracks for a new 14-song album right now. “We’re definitely a recording band. We don’t play that often, which makes it special, at least to us,” says Googoo.

Googoo’s other quasi-punk band, Unreal Thought, recently played in Halifax with CROSSS and hit Newfoundland for Shed Island. With Dylan Chew (guitar) and Ben Radford (drums), the trio just released the Amateur Comfort cassette on August 7 via Various Records, and it totally rips. With post-punk melodies, Radford’s almost flatline vocals and muted but scratchy distortion, Unreal Thought draws influences from hardcore, punk and post-punk.

“We’re definitely not a hardcore band,” Googoo says. “It’s not as aggressive but it’s still hard. It started when me and Dylan were roommates and he had a riff written that he showed me, so I got my bass, and we just recorded it right then and there,” Googoo explains, “We got super juiced that we had a song on Bandcamp and we made a tape and then a second tape, a third tape. Started jamming with Ben. He’s a sicko. He’s one of my favourites.”

“Yeah, he’s the real deal,” Mumford adds. For Googoo, Unreal Thought is a challenge. He says it’s taken him time to learn how to play less aggressive music live: “My reaction is just to ding my bass up or yell or something, but I actually have to vocalize and sing, I don’t fucking know. It’s different. It’s weird for me and Ben, we’re singing instead of just smashing and screaming,” he says. For Chew, it’s the vibe he wants to pursue.

“With this band, I want to do more synth and electronic stuff, just try new things I guess, instead of just playing guitar,” says Chew, who is originally from Prince Edward Island. “A lot of the songs are aggressive but I’d like to mellow it out even more, or like, put out a tape that has no real instruments… I don’t know how that’d translate live, but it’d be cool.” Googoo finishes the thought: “We just want to be as different as possible, I guess.”

We talk about their range of influences from The Cure and Swirlies to Pissed Jeans. We all fawn over Halifax’s Moon and Surveillance. They mention a Negative Rage show in September and an Unreal Thought show in October. Then we turn back to June when Unreal Thought graced the cover of The Coast for the Halifax’s alt-weekly’s annual new music issue.

“It was weird walking into pizza shops and seeing my face, it freaked me out a little bit,” laughs Googoo. “But I think it opened up a lot of eyes so that people would know there are bands of this sort here in Halifax.” That’s one reason Mumford, Googoo, Chew, Outhit and Radford are so jazzed to be creating such weird but hard music. They want to play more mixed-bill shows: “We will play with anyone, anywhere,” says Googoo.

“I think that’s the reason any sort of alternative scene in Halifax thrives,” says Outhit, referencing Sloan, Eric’s Trip, the ’90s. “Because bands will play mixed-genre shows. We don’t care about that sort of thing, the genre. That’s how it’ll continue to thrive.”

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