Gettin stinky at Bow Valley bars
By: Drew Hoshkiw
| Posted: Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012 06:00 am
The foul stench of GrimSkunk is set to return.
The Montreal-based punk-metal group plays Wild Bill’s in Banff on Sunday (Oct. 14) and the Drake Inn in Canmore, Tuesday (Oct. 16).
Having played both towns many times before, GrimSkunk is touring in support of its latest album, Set Fire!
GrimSkunk ringleader Franz Schuller spoke with the Outlook about both the band and the music industry in general.
“We’re a punk band – what we play is a mix of early ’70s psychedelic rock or acid rock, with the anger and energy of punk,” said Schuller. “Basically, we listen to a lot of old music for the music and the depth and the trippiness and the druginess, and then we also grew up listening to a lot of punk and hardcore.
“Those are the two biggest influences, and then there’s a lot of little influences that pop their heads in here and there. We’re basically hippy punks, if that helps to make any sense.”
Originating in Montreal in 1988, GrimSkunk has released eight full-length studio albums and over the years has shared the stage with the likes of System Of A Down, Meshuggah, Manu Chao and Suicidal Tendencies, among many others.
In 1994, the band created its own music label, Indica Records, and has since gone on to release albums by many other artists, including Kim Churchill, The Cat Empire and Dobacaracol, to name a few.
“In a lot of ways, starting a label was part of the very DIY nature of the band – it was because the system was not catering to us, our music, our subculture, that we had to create a separate system,” said Schuller. “Within the industry and media no one wanted to hear about it, so we had to do it in our own way.
“A lot of the time, sadly, the people who control the mainstream part of our society don’t actually listen to the popular side of society. In our case, there was a very institutionalized music business that was really out to lunch and not paying attention to any of the things that we were doing, and so we had to create our own.”
Since starting the label, Schuller is very pleased with where things have gone.
“In the context of where we are now, I’m pretty happy with it – we have a great bunch of people working at the label now here in Canada, and we started Indica Australia this year, and we have the chance to work with wonderful artists,” he said. “It’s a joy working with young Canadian talent and some of the world’s best international talent, and presenting cool bands to Canadians and great Canadian talent to the world, and it’s really rewarding.”
That said, the music industry is now in upheaval, as the world of file sharing and downloading of music – combined with there being many more artists – has made it very tough for most musicians to earn a living.
“There are some things that are better, that are helpful and useful tools, like getting your video on YouTube and getting stats and knowing where your fans are, and spreading info through Facebook and sharing it,” said Schuller. “But the problem is, anyone can do that now and there’s an insane amount of competition, and because very few people are paying for music, overall it’s dragging everyone down because they can’t make a living. We can all make music and get it heard, the problem is can you earn a living from it?
“The reflex every band on the planet has had for the last 10 years is ‘Oh, let’s just tour,’ and now there’s too many shows. There’s only so many people out there with so much money, and now there’s 10 times more bands, so it’s really hard. Today, it’s become a natural selection process and the audience really decides.”
As GrimSkunk had it’s start well before all this began taking place, they were able to build up a fan base and remain successful.
“All the bands that had a chance to make a name for themselves before this started, my band being one of them, have fans who will follow the band no matter what,” he said. “But for bands that are trying to make a name for themselves today, you have to be really special.”
With this upcoming tour, which begins with shows in big cities like Winnipeg and Edmonton, GrimSkunk will then head into the mountains to take on smaller places like Banff and Canmore.
“As an independent band we always did that. A way to get your music out there was to go out and play all over Canada,” said Schuller. “We’d play small towns where no one did play ever, and we’d rent a Lions hall or whatever and put on shows and get the kids out and create a bit of a scene. We really built up an audience by bringing the music to the audience.
“And then a lot of the fans that we have, that listen to this kind of music, tend to be people that hang out in places like Banff and Canmore and Fernie. They tend to be snowboarders and surfers and free spirited music-loving, life-loving traveller freaks.”
Banff and Canmore are two places GrimSkunk has played many times before and are glad to come back to.
“These venues are always really amazing, the atmosphere is over the top – people are just pumped and the energy is really great,” he said. “And I don’t think you can come to a place like Canmore or Banff and say you’re not inspired yourself – we would go hike up a mountain or go to the hot springs – it fills you with energy.
“We do appreciate the power and beauty of majestic natural spaces and it gives you a lot of energy for us as people and our music.”
As for their music – and their new album Set Fire! – much of it comes with a dark, foreboding theme, with songs like “Set Fire To The Nation,” “Everybody Hates You” and “F--- S--- Up.”
“We’re always into the dark psychedelia – music that was dark, but at the same time deep and beautiful – we’d listen to things like Black Sabbath, and that always appealed to us more than something light and happy and superficial,” said Schuller. “We like to explore the beauty of life through deeper, darker things, and add to that the social dynamic of being a punk band that has a lot of social criticism to convey in the lyrics.
“There’s a lot of evil s--- in the world, and I think the role or appeal of punk rock is to take that and not shove it under the carpet, to take it and shove it into people’s faces.”a