|Good To Go featured in the MUSE in 1996. Photo by Miranda Giovanni|
For over three decades, one of Mount Pearl’s big contributions to Newfoundland & Labrador art and culture has been punk rock music.
Sounds a bit ridiculous, right? Perhaps
that’s why Mount Pearl punk has been so overlooked in the larger scope of our province’s
musical landscape. During some of the most formative years of Newfoundland
& Labrador's thriving independent music scene, punk rock blasting from the
basements of Mount Pearl has produced an unbelievable number of bands, artists
and community organizers that have left an indelible mark on the culture that
is still seen today.
It’s much more than just good music and great memories that were left behind…
The Admiralty House Museum and the Mount Pearl Public Library is teaming up with Secret East to take on the daunting task of archiving the history and influence of Mount Pearl punk music. Over the coming months, we'll be going in-depth with a comprehensive collection of the sounds, sights and stories from the punk community of the second-largest city in Newfoundland & Labrador.
First, it’s important to note for those who didn’t grow up familiar with the punk scene that the term punk rock represents much more than just loud and raucous music that annoyed parents, or sometimes invited noise complaints from neighbours. Punk rock is also not just the defiant attitude that accompanied those loud noises. While the audible racket and in-your-face demeanor play a big part on the surface of punk music, it is really the DIY ethos that empowered youth to make their own culture and build their own community that became the most vital and culturally impactful element of the movement.
The stylistic spectrum of punk music is one of the most diverse in any genre. Bands that sound nothing alike can be connected in a kinship of how their art is created and shared to a passionate community. That is the true essence of punk rock. Kids in the punk scene wrote and recorded their own music, organized their own shows, and even started their own record labels from their parent's basements. The visual art and presentation of punk bands was created by those very same kids, and this includes illustration, design, photography, and screen printing t-shirts. Punk kids became their own media and began writing and handcrafting their own printed fanzines to distribute and network with with other scenes on a local, national and international level.
In punk, the kids who loved the music became the very same people to create it. They no longer needed to depend on the mainstream music industry to sell them on what was cool. The people who loved this music found a way to take it into their own hands and claim control of every aspect of art, commerce and community.
It is this DIY spirit that emanated
from the youth culture of Mount Pearl punk. While the local scene largely centered
around shows in the capital city of St. John’s, much of what was created over
the last thirty years would not have happened without young people from Mount
As we prepare to zero in on the eras, bands and people involved with Mount Pearl punk in the upcoming installments of our series, we thought it would be an appropriate primer to contextualize the origins of punk music in Newfoundland & Labrador, as well as offer a brief overview of where Mount Pearl fits into this picture.
When punk crashed to the shores of Newfoundland & Labrador…
In the days long before the internet, pop culture movements from around the world were often delayed in reaching the isolated island shores of Newfoundland & Labrador. Rock and roll music exploded across North America in the mid to late 1950s, but it was almost a decade before NL had rock bands to call our own. Many local kids relied on the radio stations broadcasting from nearby American military bases on Newfoundland soil to hear the latest rock and roll records. The physical media rock fans could get their hands on were limited to the small selection of 45rpm singles and LP records that made their way to department stores and music shops.
By the time the first wave of punk rock music made an international stir in the late 1970s, times had changed in Newfoundland & Labrador. Young people in NL had more of an ear to the ground thanks to university radio stations like CHMR at Memorial University, as well as the popularization of imported music magazines from North America and the UK. At the same time there was an international media frenzy surrounding bands like the Sex Pistols and The Ramones, the first crop of Canadian punk bands included one of Newfoundland’s own: Da Slyme.
Da Slyme were formed in 1977 in the CHMR radio studios on MUN campus in St. John's. A group of music enthusiasts and CHMR volunteers were experimenting with sound and decided to try this punk thing for themselves. In February of 1978, the first Da Slyme gig was set to be a one-off performance as a way to drum up funds for the university radio station. Some provocative posters, a whole lot of carefully crafted rumours, and a handful of rambunctious and tongue-in-cheek punk rock songs later, and the legend of Da Slyme was born. The first gig at the Movie Room on MUN campus was a chaotic scene that included a short performance full of punk rock shenanigans. In response, a drunkenly jam-packed audience of students reacted by pelting their beer bottles at the stage.
Da Slyme's set was short-lived, and the gig landed the band's vocalist, affectionately known as Snotty Slyme, in the hospital for a few stitches. Nevertheless, a lot of money was raised for the campus radio station that night, and the lore created by the dangerous stunt still lives on today. So all in all, the punk rock experiment in Newfoundland was a smashing success.
The bottles that were broken in the MUN
Movie Room that night were not the loudest sounds that would resonate
throughout St. John's. As word spread, the audience reaction to Da Slyme
deescalated from hostile confrontation to a joyous celebration. Da Slyme were
coaxed to continue and helped create a community of punk fans who were in on
the antics and became a part of the party. In 1980, Da Slyme made history once
again when they released a self-titled double LP album that they distributed in
individually spray-painted jackets. This record was not only the first known
punk rock double LP, but it also became a highly sought-after collectible that
still fetches high prices in the world of record aficionados. Da Slyme went on
to share stages with other newly formed local punk bands such as The Reaction,
and spawned spin-off bands such as The A-Tones, Bubonic Plague and Dog Meat BBQ.
Hardcore punk for the kids, by the kids.
Breaking into the 1980s, the second generation of punk rock music took a cultural shift on a local and international level. Many of the earliest punk bands were formed on college campuses and in bars and rock clubs, though the music was becoming increasingly popular to a younger teenage audience. It wasn’t always easy for the kids who bought the records to directly access the punk scene. This younger generation of punk enthusiasts started their own bands, organized their own all ages gigs, and effectively started their own music scenes. A lot of the punk music of the era also took on a more abrasive, harder-edge approach. This was when the term "hardcore punk" was born.
Newfoundland & Labrador was no exception to the crashing wave of hardcore. Still heavily focused around St. John’s, the local scene strayed away from exclusively being a bar attraction. This new slew of active bands that built the first all ages NL punk scene included Tough Justice, Public Enemy, Schizoid, WAFUT, Malpractice and more.
It was these all ages shows in St. John's that drew small pockets of punk rock fans from neighbouring municipalities like Mount Pearl to hitch a ride to the capital city and become a part of the burgeoning scene. In the 1980s, it was still a bold statement to identify as a "punk", especially in the social setting of a high school. The music, fashion and culture was usually enough to make you stand out like a sore thumb amongst your peers. But, it was also this unapologetic passion and fandom that created a such strong identity and effectively bonded this new community.
Mount Pearl punk carves a place
in the scene…
At the end of the 1980s, one of the first bands from Mount Pearl to break into the Newfoundland punk scene was a hardcore group called Age of Majority. The band was formed in 1989 and featured young Mount Pearl locals Doug Jones, Leon Rideout and Kyle Power. The original drummer Dave Cook was also from Mount Pearl, but would be replaced by Rennie Squires after their first show. Age of Majority was inspired by the 1980s hardcore bands from St. John’s that came before them, and they carried on the all ages tradition into the next decade.
Mount Pearl bands of the ‘90s such as Good To Go
masterfully executed skate punk. In 1997, Good To Go became the first Mount
Pearl punk band to put their songs to wax with the release of the Shot in the Snot Box 7" EP, a split with St. John's
band Molotov Smile.
Age of Majority at
the LSPU Hall in St. John's, 1990. Photo courtesy of Doug Jones.
Punk music heavily intersects with other youth subcultures such as skateboarding. In the 1990s, this connection became even more influential to the music on a worldwide scale. The sub-genre of skate punk, which has its origins in California in the 1980s, became the contemporary style of the era. Lightning fast and thunderously loud drum beats, ripping metallic guitar riffs, and often the contrast of melodic vocals were signature elements in skate punk. In the 1990s, this became a massive part of the Mount Pearl sound when a new explosion of bands occurred.
Good To Go - Shot in the Snot Box 7" EP - 1997
In addition to Good To Go, bands like Hung Up, Crooked, Bud, The Fartz, Pud and many others emerged from Mount Pearl throughout the decade. Other notable St. John's bands of the era such as Plan 13 featured members and at times held jam spaces in Mount Pearl. All of the local punk shows in St. John’s progressively featured a heavier Mount Pearl presence, and this is a trend that would continue to build for many years to come.
DIY or DIE: Mount Pearl punk of the 2000s
This aforementioned Mount Pearl sound survived into the 2000s with bands such as Three Chord Revolution and De-Mons. Mount Pearl even became the subject of cheeky punk songs such as Dopamine's grungey anthem, "Mount Pearl Sucks".
In the early 2000s, Scum Tribe Records was formed in the basement of a house on Greenwood Crescent in Mount Pearl. The small DIY record label was the brainchild of local teenage musician Kyle Griffin and accompanied a new spawn of bands that abandoned the more melodic and poppy sensibilities of skate punk and embraced a more brash, raw and aggressive sound. Scum Tribe Records released a series of hand-dubbed cassette tapes for a roster of bands from Mount Pearl and St. John's.
|The Ridiculice - Last Out EP Cassette Cover - Scum Tribe Records, 2004|
For a few years in the mid-2000s, a large percentage of the the all ages punk shows that occurred in St. John's were organized by Scum Tribe Records. Bands such as Nerve Attack, The Ridiculice, Cider Squadron 666, Shit Legion, Profession:ill and many others were comprised mostly of teenagers from Mount Pearl.
Punk shows of the early and mid-2000s still held fort in St. John's, but soon all ages shows at the St. David's Baseball Field and in teenager’s own houses, garages and sheds in Mount Pearl became commonplace. A new generation of young musicians came into the fray in the mid-late 2000s and began creating a sound of their own that incorporated elements of the skate punk, pop punk and hardcore bands before them.
I Was a Skywalker
Live at the Shed
This new batch of young bands of the late 2000s included King Sized
Kids, Astonish Yourself, I Was A Skywalker, Pockethands, Clocked In and many,
many more. Over the last decade, many of the musicians and organizers from this
scene have continued to be active and contributing members of the music and art
community in St. John’s and beyond.
Help us tell the full story…
While this overview of Mount Pearl punk music may seem pretty comprehensive, it is far from the full story. We’ve laid out some of the pillars and posts, but the most interesting details from within the community lay in the spaces between. The next chapters of this project will take a closer look at the individual eras, bands and people involved in Mount Pearl punk music, and for this we need your help.
If you were involved in the community in any way, or have any knowledge, insight, memories or memorabilia, we would love to hear from you. Sourcing and connecting with you is a vital part of building this archive and it really can’t happen without it!
Let’s document the story of Mount Pearl punk music in the same spirit in which it was created: for the kids, by the kids.
You can email Elsa (museum manager) at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to contribute to this project!
Article by Kris Hamlyn of the Secret East