Chris Colohan has spent the last 12 years working at a video store in Toronto that is almost hidden by the garishness that is Honest Ed’s, a 64-year-old landmark on Bloom and Bathurst. After meeting him for an interview in the underground shop, we discuss his five-year-old hardcore punk band Burning Love – whose second full-length Rotten Thing to Say will be released via Southern Lord mid-June – and then peruse the incredible racks. In the process the vocalist and lyricist divulges what has inspired him throughout his lengthy musical career, which includes the entire eight-year history of Canadian hardcore legends Cursed.
The first film Colohan chooses is Rolling Thunder, a 1977 film focusing on two Vietnam veterans. The film inspired him in its depiction of “bottled aggression,” a term that astutely describes his musical output. Cursed, played maniac, metallic hardcore to the backdrop of Colohan’s screeching, indecipherable barks while Burning Love is raw punk rock with more spunk but less raw emotionality. Not to say that Burning Love lacks that visceral impact: on their first full-length Songs for Burning Lovers the quintet created no frills punk n’ roll, while the follow-up features a more visceral edge.
“I think it’s sharper all the way through,” agrees Colohan. “We went to Kurt Ballou (GodCity owner and guitarist for Converge) to do it, and it was a really good choice…. he has a lot of room for things to be noisy and a lot of feedback and noise, but he has good low end and good brightness at the same time. There are certain songs on the first record I wish the whole thing sounded like, and this is exactly like that, the whole way through.”
The first of three records for new label Southern Lord, Rotten Thing to Say features more of Colohan’s intelligent, introspective lyrics drawn from experience.
“I’ve had some… problems,” he says, guardedly. “And moments and breakdowns where you are just like a caged fucking rat. You have to walk down the street and see 10 people you know and you have to pretend everything’s normal… I think that’s why I tap into things like that.”
After we gush over his excitement about Burning Love opening for Swedish grindcore pioneers Nasum on their upcoming tour and our mutual love for the Melvins, I mention how his email signature features a quote sampled in Neurosis’ “Lost” from 1993’s Enemy of the Sun. He is quick to praise the transcendental elements of Neurosis, as well as their source material of Beat generation writer, Paul Bowles. Colohan grabs Jennifer Baichwal’s 1998 documentary, Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles.
“He went away for the rest of his life in the ‘40s and never came back,” says Colohan. “All of his work he’s done… focuses on being a traveller versus being a tourist, and the idea you should be able to go anywhere regardless of cultural comforts because you’re alive.” Colohan explains the film was done when Bowles was in his 90s, yet in it he speaks with “this wounded heart of someone you’d think was 17.
“Things come and go out of people’s lives with no promises and no warning. You have to take things. The beauty and the pain is random. So: Let It Come Down. He’s been a huge influence on my brain, let alone my writing, my art and music.”
Colohan’s stack of films continues across several more works, however, his words continue to resonate. Clearly, this vegan career musician whose spent the last decade living in vans and sleeping on floors has a lot more to share, and our conversation lasts far longer than this word count allows. If you’re intrigued by his words, check out Burning Love. They have this and more to offer.
See Burning Love on June 16 with Falsehood, Low Life and Wake the Palomino.
by Sarah KitteringhamAB, Alberta