". . .Are we rollin' ? - excellent!"
Once in a very long while we are treated to an album from a long term staple of the musical society that reminds us of the years gone by. It gives us pause to think of those formative years of our childhood, the first cigarette, the first drink, the first hangover, the cold walks home after the party; to be raised in Alberta, Canada in the 1980's your diet was as much Pac - Man, as a twisted heroin like breakfast concoction of Count Chocula, Lucky Charms and a healthy dose of Rice Krispies, Export A "Green / Blue Death" smokes, bone chilling winters and to round it out a infinite amount of SNFU. Among the 25+ spanning years of the celebratory marksmanship of SNFU in it's many forms there have been many imitators and and impersonators found along the way; there have been equally high times and moments in the band that were frought with despair and doubt that the engine of SNFU would ever collectively rise against it's crumbling foundation and forge ahead. Many bands see their time in the spotlight - be it fleeting and brief; they then move past infamy and into the vaguely lit hallways of obscurity, where never more a fan says "hey that's Chi Pig from SNFU!" but rather becomes "who was that guy?" and "SNF - who?". SNFU has had a journey to it's present release "Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You" along a pathway littered with bodies, social misfortune, financial ruin, substance abuse, declining physical and mental health and general maddening chaos which collectively have been the formula to their continued success after 25 years.
Long given up in recent years as a lost soul, SNFU frontman Chi Pig returns to claim a once eerily vacant throne, a throne not abdicated by choice but by necessity. Sometimes to create the most beautiful art the artist must walk away and understand true pain and misfortune to appreciate the beauty before them. Mr. Chi Pig is a man who has lived as much of an a-typical rock n' roll dream as much as he has shared in a rock n' roll nightmare; a man who's body is battle weary and scarred from years of dedicated use, misuse and abuse of his musical prowess. A few years ago in an effort to assemble the pieces of the fragmented SNFU engine, the DVD documentary - "Open Your Mouth and say Mr. Chi Pig" was released to chronicle the life and spent days of the band in it's many forms including previous members, celebrated times, fast times and the not so glamorous times. In amongst the documentary footage a frail Chi Pig is seen clinging to a very loose and unstable edge. Dealing with many personal issues and demons within himself, many musical contemporaries had dismissed this legend to the wayside and were saddened at the apparent demise of a Canadian icon. From the ashes and splinters of that interview grew a phoenix of his former self; Chi Pig made the unthinkable step toward sobriety with the intention of bringing the music back to the people. From the interviews with Chi Pig, he details the fact that the 25th Anniversary of the SNFU brand is fast approaching and he extends the offer to bandmates old and new to join him to celebrate. As he describes an open door policy to those for whom the invitation was extended - he was reunited with long time drummer Jon Card; a man who Chi proclaims ". . .just wanted to play". Shortly after Card's arrival in walked Ken "Goonie" Fleming, the energy was palpable and the momentum was building. Through the coming days, weeks and months ahead the roster would be further enriched with the guitar playing of Sean Colig and Jimmy Krunk. In it's current form SNFU had become it's latest incarnation of what it always was, will and ever be. . .a good honest iconic dare I say it "Punk Skate Metal" band from Edmonton, AB.
Like the aged flesh of yesterday, the flesh and bone of Mr. Chi Pig has surged back to life in an epic return few could rival. Not since albums like "And No One Else Wanted To Play", "Better Than A Stick In The Eye" and "The One Voted Most Likely To Succeed" has the energy peaked in the SNFU camp like it has in the 2013 recording session. When rumors first circled among the local Edmonton music scene and beyond that the new SNFU album was on the horizon; many were quick to call the "bluff" and move on with their trivial day to day. A man and grouping not to be underestimated Chi Pig had a plan and was hellbent on the execution of said plan if his personal destruction was the payment.
When I learned Chi was in Edmonton, AB at Rod Gillis' club DV8 to lay down the vocal tracks I quickly made my way to the venue. As expected the audience was sparse as a local band was on stage, Chi himself was enjoying the accolades of about a dozen well wishers between the odd beer and several cigarettes. After exchanging our best regards and hugs we began to discuss the opportunities in photography and how much he enjoyed it as an art form; as the evening wore on, Chi became anxious and suggested an impromptu photoshoot amongst the disarray and discarded materials in the basement of the club. Not one to turn down the opportunity I met him downstairs where we began shooting - as I shot I saw a man who was dedicated to his craft and with a single wish of bringing what has meant most to him back to the people who have selflessly given the most of themselves. It was this moment where I witnessed first hand the birth of "Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You", it was the moment in time where pen meets paper, where octave meets chord, where tone meets cadence - Chi Pig and SNFU were back !
Following the vocal tracks being recorded in Edmonton, Chi returned to Vancouver to assemble the finality of what would soon become their latest release. With the key players intact and the machine working on all cylinders the stage was set for the forthcoming affirmation of their rooted punk prowess. When I first heard the new album it was a new sound, it was an unsettling and yet frighteningly familiar, it resonated like a lost voice of a close friend crying out once more. If this album has taught us one thing in it's release - we are not the kids we were 20 years ago; though we can still put on a show and let em know the true meaning of punk. SNFU proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the razor wit and sarcasm of Chi Pig are still as sharp and pointed as ever; the man himself is as driven as ever though years advance and the body ages - we ourselves are not committed to follow the flesh but rather follow what is true to our heart - the music. Chi's vocals are a new blend for this album, there a distinct experimentation in delivery; to understand this you must understand that some fans will not gravitate to the slight change in the formula. Chi's vocals are much more deliberate than ever, focused and calculated with each track; his approach has the methodology of very stable devoted craftsman sharpening his skills with meticulous repetition and surgical precision.
Ken "Goonie" Fleming makes his return as a the lead guitarist for SNFU, bringing his signature unorthodox playing style to the table; whether playing behind the head, with a beer bottle slide, laying on the floor or with Chi sitting on his face. The familiar sound of Fleming's guitar is an unmistakable mark of any SNFU song, the traditionally blistering playing coupled with the added strength of valued technical ability and sound musicianship is what delivers the SNFU sound. There is a transformative element to the SNFU guitar playing which hypnotizes the listener and moves you back to your childhood - the Bones Brigade, Powell Peralta, VISION, Drummond Beer, Labatt Blue, the Sidetrack Cafe, the Bronx and Live Sex Shows. Though the players have changed over the years - the formula remains true and Ken Fleming is as much a part of the SNFU brand as those who have gone before him and may indeed follow suit. Fleming's assertive playing with tonal accuracy is what first develops the iconic SNFU sound behind the Pig's vocals; his ability to almost literally use the guitar chords to "punch" and "kick" the space between musical bars is what delivers each time. Goonie maintains that he is there to support Chi in the endeavor of SNFU as a collective; as he states in the Prairie Coast Film DVD above, he is here to play because this puts Chi in a better space and him in better space, puts the band unit in a better space. Ken "Goonie" Fleming; not only an amazing lead guitarist but indeed a true friend.
Legendary Jon Card returns to the SNFU camp to unleash once again the fury that he is most readily known for on the West Coast music community. Card's resume of associated musical acts reads like a who's who from DOA, the Subhumans, Deadcats, Personality Crisis and Ani Kyd. As with Fleming, Card returns to the SNFU group with having done so before and a strong belief that this is a positive experience for all concerned. To see Jon Card drumming is to witness the unbridled fury of a beast about to break free his man made shackels. His drumming style hinges disturbingly on sound first, technique second and pain third. In true SNFU style all players come to the table with the same level of commitment, drive and tenacity as the long standing frontman - this is delivered full force and full impact to each audience each night.
To form the last two elements of the SNFU fist insert Sean Colig and most recent addition Jimmy Krunk. Sean Colig, is a Canadian musicaian and record producer who has many figurative irons in the fire over his musical career. His resume includes playing guitar and bass with Savannah, SideSixtySeven and Minority. From his early days of opening for such heavy hitters as Sublime, Pantera, Korn, Deftones and Biohazard; Colig is no stranger to a solid stage performance peppered with technical ability and personality. Sean's first recollections of SNFU and his involvement came in 2010 while an active member of Savannah; he was often invited on stage as a guest second guitarist, soon after the brand was burned and Colig was a marked man by SNFU - his membership paid in full. While Goonie Fleming brings the irreverence and unconventional playing to the stage, his legendary playing antics always a treat to witness; Sean Colig balances the polar opposition and delivers a rock solid performance with a balanced spectrum of talent. While Colig offers his savage guitar playing to chaotic madness ensuing on stage, he is also unified with Chi on his vocals. Colig brings that extra harmonic visceral punch to the gut that SNFU has always been famous for as Chi powers through the lyrics. . .Colig delivers the unmistakeable vocal sustain.
With Jimmy Krunk, the phoenix of SNFU has risen once again from the ashes and is standing tall. Krunk is full of complimentary deliverables to the band; most notably is the youth and a new perspective in a band moving into it's 25th year and beyond. Having been raised in Edmonton, Jimmy was no doubtedly raised on the early recordings of SNFU and has modeled himself in that image and is now enjoying the successes shared and taught by his predecessors. Watching Jimmy on stage is to observe unparalleled youth and vigor harnessed only by the dimensions of the stage. His stage presence is larger than life and filled with jumping kicks and deep scooping bass posture, raking his fingers over the vibrato of the steel strings.
To see the 5 elemental players of SNFU on stage is to witness youth, age, health, sickness, decline, success, pain, pleasure, acceptance and refusal all unified under one umbrella with no visible sign of stopping. This is the best offering from SNFU in the past 15 years, SNFU has made it's mark on the landscape and it's forever etched, not soon to be erased.