From 1997 through the first decade of the 21st century, a little label in Winnipeg delivered Double Freedom Finger Rockets to the Man from an office within Winnipeg’s anarchist Emma Goldman Autonomous Zone. Organized as a worker’s co-operative, and with an edgy “Fuck the Bands” mandate, G7 Welcoming Committee Records pumped out over 50 politically charged releases during a decade of operation. From the Weakerthans’ early output to some of Propagandhi’s harder-hitting albums, spoken word releases from Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, to the extreme metal of Malefaction and Swallowing Shit, G7 Welcoming Committee was unafraid to push boundaries, so long as the music was top-notch and politics uncompromisingly progressive.
“[G7] was an outgrowth of our time spent and our commitment to the DIY scene that we kind of came up in, or were inspired by,” label cofounder Chris Hannah (Propagandhi), says over a couple St James Pale Ales one sunny summer afternoon. “We had seen people put out records, we had seen people who weren’t any smarter than us who had put out records, and we thought, ‘Fuck, that looks like something interesting and a fun way to be creative.’”
When punk rock labels in the US were unwilling to release a record from Winnipeg-by-way-of-Regina’s I Spy in 1993, Hannah and band mate John Samson (ex-Propagandhi, The Weakerthans) decided to do it themselves. Pressing a thousand some odd copies of a split between I Spy and Propagandhi (the infamous I’d Rather Be Flag Burning 10-inch), and hand folding and gluing the record sleeves themselves, the nascent label went on to put out releases from Winnipeg’s Painted Thin and John K’s first solo record, Little Pictures.
In 1997, after going the purely DIY route for a few years, G7 Welcoming Committee Records decided to go legit—or at least as legit as a record label founded on anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian principles can get.
“We went in with very little experience, and very little organizational skills,” Hannah recalls with a laugh. “We made a bunch of mistakes, and had a few strokes of luck. We were able to maintain it for a number of years.”
“The apex was probably in the early 2000s,” says Hannah. “But then, just before vinyl became fashionable again, everything just fell through the floor.”
At the same time, G7 began to release more obscure, “less marketable” records, and members began the collective to pursue other projects and life goals.
“The youthful emotional energy and the naivety you need to run a label that isn’t a real business was gone,” recalls Hannah. “But it was fun, and it was interesting. For a while it was interesting to a lot of people. It made a mark.”
After struggling for a few years with only Hannah and collective member Derek Hogue keeping the ship afloat, G7 made the jump to digital releases, then finally folded the label entirely. Today, G7 Welcoming Committee remains online as an archival base where their 57 releases are available for download. Hard copies of some of records are still available “in boxes in a storage unit, somewhere” for order.
As Propagandhi prepared to head out on an Eastern tour, Hannah sat down with us to look back on some of the releases— both physical and digital only—that made his years as a member of the G7 Welcoming Committee memorable.
I Spy – Perversity is Spreading… It’s about Time! (G7004)
“That just captured a vibe in time really, one that I still hear today and still feel the same. There’s something youthful fuckin’ yeah, about it. [Todd] Kowalski (Propagandhi bassist, ex-I Spy vocals/guitar) looks back in horror at the live shows, in terms of technical stuff. But they were such a visceral band that it was hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm. The first time I saw them, I’d only known Kowalski as this fuckin’ weirdo: A nice guy, but this weirdo who hung out outside of record stores. When I heard he was in a band I was like, ‘He’s in a band? What, that Kowalski guy? I gotta go see that. That’ll be funny.’ Then I saw them, and I was like ‘Holy fuck! That was something else.’ I Spy was sort of the impetus, in a way, for starting G7.”
Randy – You Can’t Keep a Good Band Down (G7011)
“Prior to them doing the retro, Ramones-y kind of thing, they were doing a kind of retro Thin Lizzy thing on this record. It’s amazing, everything about it. Randy were probably the best musicians I ever encountered in punk rock. We play with Protest the Hero, and they’re not quite punk rock, but they might be the best musicians we play with. But Randy, you might not know it from the records, but they’re incredible. And I think this record really puts that on display.”
The Weakerthans – Left & Leaving (G7013)
“I thought it was kind of cool that we were able to put any Weakerthans stuff out when you look at what they went on to do. When I heard the demos for that record I thought, ‘Wow. This has evolved into something more than John [Samson]’s side-project thing.’ It seemed darker. Obviously, a lot of people see the first record [Fallow] as a classic, with great songwriting. But the second one was definitely darker and more interesting, to me.”
Warsawpack – Gross Domestic Product (G7027)
“The first Warsaw Pack, GDP, that was another unbelievable record. I can’t believe we had a chance to put that out. A live hip-hop band. I’m not sure what to say about it exactly, but it was a perfect record.”
Malefaction – Where There is Power, There is Resistance (G7032)
“I always liked Malefaction … but I don’t think I ever really got them until I needed to, until I got involved in helping them make their records. With this one, I got really inside all the songs. Clint’s insane riffing is just pure insanity. The record’s crazy, the songs are fuckin’ crazy. I think it’s one of the best of the genre, and another one that is under-reported when it comes to metal in Canada.”
Clann Zú – Rua (G7034)
“The first record, especially to me, was so different. Even though it wasn’t maybe apparently as political as some of the stuff we’d put out. Declan [de Barra], the vocalist, I remember as being probably the most politically astute person we’d spoken to about colonialism. He’s from Ireland. To Hogue, I think the Clann Zú stuff was really special.”
Submission Hold – What Holds Back the Elephant (G7038)
“For me, the best record we ever put out was the Submission Hold record, which might be surprising to some people because no one really heard it. It’s a weird record. I remember when we first got the tapes from them, the first song that came on was like a showtune or something. I was like, ‘What the fuck are they doing?’ I literally said that. But I sat with the record and over the months I realized that it was by far the most artistically involved and important record we would put out. I still put it on, and I’m just like, ‘Wow.’ Records like that don’t get made every day. And it’s one that I’m really disappointed that it came to us after the serge. Submission Hold are a Canadian underground institution, and I never felt like they got paid the proper compliment in terms of people hearing them. That record is as good as the best Shellac or Fugazi record. I put it in that category or genre because of the attention to sonic detail and songwriting. It’s such a great record.”
Greg Macpherson – Night Flares (G7039)
“Greg’s Night Flares record I also got really involved in. He was recording some of it at my house and we were pulling 14-hour sessions, no breaks, trying to make it work. I think that’s when I realized just how talented Greg is and just how much he puts into what he does. I mean, I’d seen him play shows and thought, ‘This guy’s good. Really good. Great songs.’ But being there watching him, seeing him redo stuff and constantly reworking songs and parts, just seeing that intensity, I think it rubbed off on me in some important ways.”
Subhumans – New Dark Age Parade (G7044)
“The Subhumans record was an honour to put out. It might be their best record. Incorrect Thoughts is such a classic that it’s hard to compare it. But from an execution standpoint, it’s such a great record. I think I appreciate it because they’re old guys and they made a record better than most of the garbage put out today. But I do think they’re a better live band than the record did them justice. But it was an honour to put it out.”
At this point, G7 Welcoming Committee switched to a digital-only format, re-releasing some old, out-of-print classics and anthologizing the work of a number of progressive Winnipeg acts that otherwise may have been lost to the ages.
Giant Sons – Anthology (G7049)
“Obviously, we weren’t there from the get-go, but we were able to put out the retrospective. Giant Sons were obviously so different from I Spy, but in a way very similar to me, in the sense that a local band had such an impact on me. Every second of every song was just so heavy. Of course, Beav [David Guillas, now guitar player in Propagandhi] is just so horrified by the sloppiness of those records. But for me, I couldn’t believe it that these guys were from here, and that finding out Beav was in the band was like, ‘What? That fuckin’ guy we drink with at Cousin’s is in this band? What?’ I couldn’t believe it.”
The Rebel Spell – Four Songs for Freedom (G7055)
“I contend, often, that the Rebel Spell are the best classic punk band in Canada, the best contemporary punk band. Very few people seem to agree with me or pay attention to that claim, which is really too bad. Particularly the Four Songs for Freedom recording they made, I wish those were songs in our band. Sometimes that’s a litmus test, you know, for knowing you really like something. Like, ‘Oh fuck, I wish that was our tune!’ The Rebel Spell are real punks, too. They’re real Vancouver punks. Maybe that’s out of fashion now, I don’t know.”
Asked if he had any lessons learned or regrets about the G7 years, Hannah said he’s “not really a lessons-learned kinda guy,” but that he did have one regret.
SNFU – In the Meantime and In Between Time (Rake Records, 2004)
“The best record we never put out was SNFU’s In the Meantime & In Between Time. They actually sent us this. They put it out themselves on Rake Records, but Marc Belke had sent me a copy. At that point, the last SNFU recording I was really into was FYULABA, which was about seven years old at that point. I played the CD he sent me and thought, ‘Oh my God! SNFU just made their best record.’ But at that time it didn’t fit our mandate. That’s my biggest regret. To have had something to do with SNFU would have been really cool, especially my favourite SNFU record.”
To access the entire G7 Welcoming Committee Records discography, head on over here. Catch Propagandhi live in Toronto August 10-11, Ottawa August 12, and Montreal August 14.