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Fucked Up / Career Suicide – An Interview with Jonah Falco

(This article appeared in Unbelievably Bad Issue #20)

I remember the first gig Fucked Up ever played was at Planet Kensington, Toronto back in the early 2Ks. The place reeked of fish juice and Damian was wearing a pink Fred Perry. Do you miss those days? And what piece of advice would you give your younger self if you could smear back in time?

That gig was my last night of high school and right before the last exam I was due to write (English). The opportunity came up to play and I knew deep down that I couldn’t really say yes for the sake of school, but did so anyway. I told my parents I was going to the library, and walked around downtown for hours killing time until the show. I bought a pair of sticks that night with leftover change from my pants pocket and we played our first show. We covered “Remind Them” by Agnostic Front and “Nervous Breakdown” by some band. I don’t really miss those days ‘cause fish juice still smells the same around there so i can get a nose full of stench nostalgia any time I want.

Last time you were out, you told me a funny story about playing in China, something to do with a bloke in a white suit with his bird? Damian seems like the antithesis to a Canto-pop star.

I am pretty sure it was either in Nanjing or Beijing (memories are slipping), but I can recall the gig being in some approximation of a proper night club. Big stage with fancy lights and a loud PA blaring Canto pop. The bar was lit up like some kind of twisted power-sucking discotheque with lights built in to glass bricks and an illuminated back bar and multiple levels. There were definitely a few punk looking people at the show, a handful of expats, and then this flock of people who looked like they cam for a regular old night out of cocktails and dancing without knowing we were playing — or maybe they knew and wanted to check it out but just guessed very wrong as to what our style was like. The women were dressed in short skirts and ludicrous footwear, the men were in baggy blazers and t shirts and suit trousers. One guy in what I recall as an ice-cream white get up with round lapels and an mathematical haircut.

Anyway at that time more than ever, Damian was really into jumping in to the audience to goof off with the crowd, and it usually went over great everywhere we went, but in places where the kinds of fun and stupid behaviour of a punk audience is relatively “new” or at least uncommon, it was getting all kinds of weird reactions. Damian leaped off stage and charged toward the back of the room screaming the words to some song. it must have looked like he was coming to attack these clubbers, so the men got all defensive, trying to cover their girlfriends with their huge blazers, grabbing their drinks and getting their backs up in a funny frightened way.

It’s interesting because off and on stage, Damian is so affable, but when the shouting starts I guess there’s only one way to interpret it if you’re not expecting it!

 

So you have just recorded an awesome solo album on which you play all the instruments – can you tell me about it? I noticed that Young Guv (that’s Ben right?) produced it. And are you one of those sons-of-bitches who has their own recording studio in their house?

I wish I had a recording studio in my house, but that kind of luxury escapes me just now.  My solo record — a band called Lonely Wholesome, the record is titled ‘Savage, Lovely, Lonely’ — will be out in November on Ben’s label “Bad Actors.” We recorded it in a rehearsal room in the east end of Toronto. It’s kind of my softer side, trying to take some cues from early powerpop and short form psychedlia from the late 60s. I play all the instruments and sing like an angel/fanny in multiplicitous harmonial textures. The music is plucky and ringy and is indebted to the Flamin Groovies, the UK Subs, the House of Love, Primal Scream, Nick Lowe, and Mediterranean heat.

 

 

I can’t think of Toronto without thinking of The Big Bop, that was such an iconic venue where so many bands got their start. I heard it’s a fucking furniture store now. Is that pretty much indicative of the direction the whole city has gone? Can you tell us about the time the Montreal crustys had a PCP ‘fuck-party’ on the couch at the Bop?

The Big Bop was such an iconic part of my youth. I mean, we’ll get to the crusties getting their wiggle on in a minute, but lets discuss our own personal history for a moment, shall we? Among the limitless memories of absolute low-brow silliness that I can recall from our storied little corner, one of my favourites is from a Riot99, Career Suicide gig. It was a matinee in the early/mid autumn, and CS, Riot99, whatever the post King Sized Braces band was, and the Wednesday Night Heroes were all  sharing a bill at the Big Bop. There was this weird sect of youth-shit-punks that had emerged around that time that more or less crossed over with the HC scene, and the general blurred edges of the street punk/job punk scenes. Anyway, during possibly Riot99 or the Heroes, a fight broke out between two warring factions of young shit punks. Not only that, it was specifically a fight to settle some long standing score between two all female gangs of punks. The fight erupted on the dance floor and spilled out on to the street, where fists, bottles, and mostly insults were flying around like mad. As the collective age was around 17, and the collective weight was probably also around 17, no one seemed terribly interested in breaking up the fighting. The last thing I remember, though, was some poor young soul under some other unfortunate planet, getting their face smeared in to the pavement at a steady and ignorant pace.

 

The crusties fucking — well. I can’t remember what gig it was but this pair of USB haired, bingo bouncing, utility trouser wearing crusty lovebirds had obviously been dipping in some kind of bag and started eating one anothers faces during some hc gig. Eventually their chemicals started bonding with such intention that the kissing became groping, and then the groping became fondling and so on. At this point an audience surrounded their public lovemaking. Undeterred by the audience, either because of drug fueled oblivion or because of the excitement of being watched, pants came down and passionate, consensual, strictly PCP fueled sex unfolded before a growing crowd of repressed judgemental weenies giggling to themselves. Eventually, a person who shall be unnamed, grabbed a jug of water and doused the hot and heavy couple. Their response was to keep going, but eventually stand up, and proceed to fellate one another whilst shuffling to the toilet to chase their sexual dragon to completion. A round of applause erupted, and then a band played.

 

Let’s just say you are sitting in your lounge room one day when a naked maniac sporting a full erection and brandishing a Walther P-38 pistol bursts in. He presses the pistol to your temple and forces you to make a choice: Fucked Up or Career Suicide?

Fucked Up has always taught me that non conventional space is vast, and doesn’t have to be the same as anything else if you will your psychological needs in to existance. Career Suicide has reaffirmed the original base-line musical hypothesis that LOUD, FAST, RULES. I think in a gunpoint situation the chances that I could conjure up a gun with my mind is slim, so i’m going for CS in that one.

Sure, you’re all famous and shit now but how much of this would have happened if you didn’t star in the Riot99 video doing a stage dive?

If I hadn’t have dove off stage for Riot99 I never would have realized that Chuck Taylors were mutilating my feet, and then never have then got in to wearing slightly more comfortable footwear, which inevitably led me down my pseudo middle class pandering demeanor, which in turn has allowed me to flourish in the arts.

So I have seen Shogun at gigs proudly sporting his brand new Career Suicide T-Shirt, what’s this I hear about him schooling hipsters in Brooklyn?

Shogun so tastefully sported our ludicrously designed Anti-Harper t shirt. The last I saw of the man was after our show together at the Market Hotel in Brooklyn. Post-gig drinks were happening just down the street from the show, and while for a good portion of the night we were all chatting at the same table, eventually, Shogun seemed to migrate over to the bar where he instantly befriended a small group of people, and then became the unofficial welcoming party for any meandering revellers smearing in to the bar at around 3am. It was a site to see if only because the day and night had been so long, I had no idea where he managed to muster the ideological effort to run the joint. Legend.

 

What was it like recording The Omegas in Montreal?

The Omegas session was fantastic, if not a bit chaotic. We recorded in the legendary squat/venue/residence The Loud House, inside someone’s room. The first day Jamie the engineer managed to drown about three bottles of Rosé before we even really got around to tracking anything. By the time around 1am rolled around we were all pretty drunk and it kind of resembled a movie montage from an 80s frat comedy and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’d expect nothing less from the Caddyshack of hardcore. Every other day was a fairly sober, nose to the grindstone experience. Time was limited and it really made a lot of the playing urgent. It’s full of crackles and bleed and imperfection, but ultimately we took the toughest and most streamlined takes. There are tonnes of really unconventional time shifts and chopped up motifs and nonsensical twists, so capturing that in the takes required a lot of repetition to find the sweet spot. Maybe the ultima thule or jouisance of these songs is still out there, but we came pretty damn close. I love this LP a lot.

Who the hell thought up the concept for David Comes to Life/David’s Town?

David Comes to Life as a rock Opera was a Mike thought bubble. I think we had joked about writing a rock opera because our last record was so long and a “concept record” and then one day at practice the ludicrous idea to make this big long love story was born out of a passing comment. “we’re DOING it” I believe was the final decision making phrase. David’s Town was a Damian initiative I think, me a bit as well. Ever heard the record “Badly Bruised Slightly Stoned”? It’s an old library record of canned music that’s supposed to be punk rock that was written and recorded to be, I dunno, an example of a style, or to be played, royalty free, on radio and television. The idea was to do something like that, but incorporate it in to the David Comes to Life universe. So I invented a name for the town, named all the bands and wrote their fictitious biographies. The band jammed a bunch and came up with little ideas to send in different directions that might fir the themes — glammy hard rock, pubby punk, feminist DIY, arts school proto fascists, nonsensical pure UK DIY, shit versions of ELO…you know.

 

Tell us about the new Career Suicide album and when it is coming out.

New CS album is out in January I believe and it’s called Machine Response. It’s our first LP in almost 10 years and it features our most sturdy lineup yet. I played drums and guitar on it, and Dallas Good and Jon Sharron finely round out the lineup and add a tonne to the record. It’s 11 songs and it’s hopefully as manic, tightly wound, and unexpected as it can be for an old band that plays a super derivative style! We’ve also just self recorded a coming EP to accompany the album that should hopefully precede it. Three songs in under 4 minutes just like the old days. Feels good to streamline.

 

Tell me about the 70s punk band that you are doing on the side with Mike Haliechuk (Fucked Up).

Mike and I have had a project for years called Smartboys, which is supposed to be our Cheap Trick cum Buzzcocks kind of 70s punk outlet. We do the music on our own and have this really talented singer – Tim Westerberg – do the vocals. He’s got this pseudo camp, Bowie-esque twang and a serious fixation on Everly Brothers harmonies and smart lyrics. My wife dubbed our style “Austerity Pop” because all of his songs have the kind of dark “we’re doomed” types of lyrics but from kind of a helpless, demeaned, ordinary perspective of lack and limitation…not so much typical anger. We’ve had three singles come out and have been sitting on an LP for 5 years. It’s almost done. It’s incredible.

 

So you did a blurb for a book called Blockpanda – thereby endorsing it. Would you like to take this opportunity to apologise to any Australians who may have been ‘triggered’ by this book or suffered the trauma caused by a micro-aggression after reading it?

Dear Australians who suffered literary discomfort after reading Drew’s book. I also found his book to be demeaning, horrible, mean, cruel to animals, aggressive, lewd, sexist, and belittling. I still enjoyed it’s horrible energy. I have felt awful in my life, and in those situations even the potentially most rewarding situation still feel like poison. This is the world of Drew’s characters. These are not things that a representative of a quality of life that one strives for, but reflections of and an invitation to devalue the worst aspects of our world by heartily rolling in the mud. Some of these things reflect the chaos of a persons lived experience, fictionalized to decompress the trauma. When you arrive at the end of a book, you close it, shower, and can be clean again. Knowing well the limits of taste and behaviour aren’t terrifying dark spaces but areas to be controlled, conquered, and overcome. I’m truly sorry for your losses.

 

What North American bands do you rate in 2016

Ok gonna think on my feet here:

Marbled Eye is the best new band i’ve heard. They are from San Francisco.

The Omegas will always hold a very high spot for me. Truly outsiders, but with all the panache of a 80 year old Reno Bartender.

Warthog knocked my socks off when we played with them in NY a few months ago. Pure HC with vocals that are like being yelled at by a construction foreman with liver and back pain.

Anything Graham Clise is involved in gets a spin from me — and he’s moving to Melbourne…so expect the second coming of Deniz Tek you lucky people.

Triage from Toronto really play a killer style and have a great record out.

Power Trip are the ultimate circus of value.

Blazing Eye sound like United Mutation and Gauze

there’s loads of hot bands kicking around right now. Good time to be a wallflower, bud.

URANIUM CLUB killer Angry Samoans meets Geza X via the midwest oddball punk. Truly wonderful and one of the best bands going.

TOMMY AND THE COMMIES from Sudbury are a guitar playing paradise of punk rock. One of the best new bands from Ontario too..

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