Speaking from a toilet stall in Vancouver’s Pub 340, Mr. Chi Pig, the charismatic lead singer of legendary Canadian punk band SNFU, is full of emotion as he discusses his band’s much anticipated new record, Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You.
“That title comes from a fortune cookie that I got from the Double Breeding Wonton house,” recalls Chi about his favourite Edmonton “haunt” after band practice. This studio album will be their eighth and first since 2004, a record that many doubted would even happen due to the front man’s very public history of mental health and substance abuse issues.
“A lot of people thought I was down and out and that I couldn’t do it, but I knew better. I knew it instinctively and distinctively,” he explains. “I knew it all along man. I certainly did.”
The bed tracks were done in Vancouver and the vocals were recorded in Chi’s native Edmonton with friend and producer Steve Loree.
“I got away from the dangerous distractions of life here on the downtown lower east side. I decided to come to Edmonton. My family and friends are there,” he says. “It made perfect sense.” There, the 51-year-old focused, drew pictures, wrote lyrics and played some live acoustic shows.
“I felt very lively, creative and vibrant and it worked out perfectly,” he says. Chi’s vocals took four 12-hour days to complete and though he felt no pressure. It took hard work and determination. “I‘ve done this for 34 years of my life and it still was a task, but it was a task worth taking,” explains Chi. “When I heard the final product, I was so fucking proud!”
Since the SNFU lineup transformed, there have been naysayers who claim that without either Belke brother in the group, it’s not the real deal and just a Chi Pig solo band. However, the vocalist feels differently.
“No, it is SNFU. It’s not an egotistical thing, man. There has only been one member that never quit, that never failed and that never gave up. And who is that person? That’s me. I am SNFU. I designed those concepts, came up with the logos, wrote those words, sang those songs and I did it and am still doing it,” explains Chi.
To Chi’s credit, fellow punk veterans Jon Card on drums and Ken “Goonie” Fleming on guitar join him in the current incarnation of the band. Card’s resume also includes DOA and The Subhumans. Goonie was in Winnipeg’s The Unwanted, amongst other notable groups. Not only have both done time in the band in years past, but both have contributed to songwriting as well. Card has played on a full-length and several releases. Second guitarist Sean Colig, though decades younger, is not a new kid to the scene, having played in Minority, Side 67 and Savannah before joining SNFU in the summer of 2012. He adds a bit more perspective to joining the band. “It sucks to listen to people saying, ‘well if Marc’s not in it, then I’m not interested,’” explains Colig. “I’ll give it a chance. When Goonie took over to get Card back in the band, I believe he got Marc and Brent [Belke’s] blessing. I know how they felt. Nobody wants something that they’ve worked hard for all their life to be dragged through the mud and I knew that it wasn’t going to be.” And it wasn’t. With the absolute solid roster of musicians behind him, the unit has recorded an album well worthy of the SNFU name. This time, their characteristic sound, catchy choruses and Chi’s trademark vocals are all present, as are the intensely personal lyrics by Chi. The bulk of these and with songs like “Voodoo Doll Collector” are dealing with his trials, tribulations and his demons over the last few years.
“I included myself into that song. I made a voodoo doll of myself and by the end of the song, I’d tortured myself. [It’s] about self-discovery and that pain… those times when you’re on fucking pins and needles, which I did to myself,” he reveals. “Morley” and others are about friends that helped him and saved his life. “Ashes,” according to Chi, is a very cryptic song. “It’s almost like ‘Fate’ Part Two.” Written about an experience, while looking at a crematorium through a window at class, back in the school days. “The students are looking at their future. And what do they see? They’re gonna see ashes,” he says and “you know you’re gonna die. And you’re gonna wind up right there … you’re gonna be in that chimney and your smoke signal is gonna go up.” Of course there are also some ‘not so serious’ numbers like ‘’Speed Weenie.”
“It’ s about doing hard drugs like crystal meth or speed and you can’t find your dick!” describes Chi.
Don’t miss out, the new album drops this September in Canada on Cruzar Media! Catch SNFU live at Thrashers a.k.a. Funkys Friday, July 12.
By Jason Kolins
Photos: Cat Ashbee