This anomaly returns for one special night! But who are they? By the ‘80s, this missing link had grown out of Vancouver’s punk scene. They may have worn the “psychedelic garage rock” moniker, but there seems to be so much more about them. With a raucous live show reputation, they’d launch onto stage in their second-hand store ‘60s garb, props, humour and a night of high-energy rock ‘n’ roll.
So, fast-forward to 2013 and three of the four original members have been busy rehearsing. Spotted in the jam space, Paul McKenzie (Real McKenzies) is on vocals and sax, Randy Bowman (Scramblers, Subhumans) on drums, Mike Davies (Cane Toads, JP5) on guitar and Stephen Hamm (Slow, Tank Hog) joins them on bass once again, since the 2010 astounding Enigmas birthday show for Spores vocalist Danny Nowak.
So, why the show now, just out of the blue? “Because Mike said so,” answers Bowman. Mackenzie appears to nod in agreement. Davies, silent on the matter just walks in with a liquid light show projector and an incredible 12-string, “Ventures” Mosrite in hand. It was a hushed moment, where you just have to respect that actions do speak louder than words.
These mystery pranksters came together in the early ‘80s with Davies, McKenzie and Olinek. Cam Wagner was originally on drums but he couldn’t make all the live shows. So, enter Bowman, as he had just finished with the disbanded Subhumans. McKenzie, a cook at the time had prepared Bowman a memorable meal in a restaurant visit and the two had bonded. The original bassist Brian Olinek unfortunately no longer plays with the band, as he has relocated.
But the origin of the band name? After a good 45 minutes of long winding tales, the true confession finally leaked. “Spoik came up with it [Spoik being the guitarist Davies’ handle],” says McKenzie. “We just figured it was a good idea at the time.”
And the band sound? With the punk scene settling down, they found themselves listening to the Pebbles garage compilations, also MC5 and Iggy. The Detroit influence had a hold on the front man, he claimed it spawned a ‘70s Detroit pilgrimage for him. “We play a lot of Sonics songs,” says Bowman, and “five of our set are Sonics songs.” Texas psych classics such Roky Erickson and Red Crayolas were discussed. “We love, The Coasters, “5” Royales, and American jazz,” Bowman and McKenzie spurted and the name James Brown spilled out as well. With wildly diverse influences the band seemed to retain an elevated drive. “As for the bass melodies, Olinek wanted to play as fast as he could,” says the drummer, explaining the bass playing took on a guitar role. Self-production and artwork was a big part of Davies contribution “If Mike Davies wants it, it happens,” says Bowman.
They had recorded some material with help from Zulu Records. Two twelve-inch records emerged, Strangley Wild in 1985 and Enigmas? from 1983. They can also be found on a few comps and 45s. A clever holiday, Christmas song “Roadblocks Are All Over This Town” is on Ukhisimuzi, a 1984 Zulu seven-inch, and a Halloween song can be found on the 1984 Hollow Weiners comp. Then suddenly McKenzie makes a connection and breaks out singing the hilarious creepy “Dead Zoo” while seated at the table. “Danny’s favourite song,” adds McKenzie.
After some prodding about a studio visit, the boys broke down and revealed. “We have a plan to rerecord some of the material that never made it out,” says Bowman and adds, one of the songs being “Charlie,” about Charlie Manson and another number about riding a bike. No studio yet, but you are going have to the live show to catch these! So hop a bike, unfold your “Windshield Wiper” dance step directions and get set!
On Saturday, January 11, 2014 join the Enigmas for yet another celebration at the WISE Hall and Lounge.
Words and photo by tiina liimuBC, British Columbia