Friday, May 15, 2009

NOMEANSNO - May 2004

Originally published in: Monday Magazine

Album: The People's Choice (Ipecac)

Random thoughts: One of my all-time favourite bands, this was a thrill and a half. And Tom Holliston was a really genuine, funny guy.

The Beginning of the End (as such)?
Not if Nomeansno can help it

By Jason Schreurs

Like countless fanatics around the world, I dread the day Nomeansno calls it quits. But, more than 25 years is a damn long life span for any band, so the unavoidable question arises: Is the end near?
“Well, I don’t know, would you ask the same question to John Lee Hooker?” quips guitarist Tom Holliston. “A big mistake for bands is to announce to the world, ‘Oh, we’re breaking up!’ It’s just so brazen in the first place and it’s also really silly. Nobody has to break up, ever. Maybe you stop doing stuff for awhile and just have an option open. But why would anybody just get rid of their options?”
Despite keeping the porch light burning, the masters of prog-punk (the middle ground between The Ramones and Yes) are slowing down. Touring relentlessly around the world, and juggling the band with family life has taken its toll on Holliston and brothers John and Rob Wright (who formed the band here in Victoria in the late ‘70s). So much so that their last of many jaunts to Europe had them contemplating early retirement options.
“On that tour everybody was sort of only half-joking, asking each other how much money we had in our pension funds and what we were going to do if we were looking for steady work,” chuckles Holliston.
And while Holliston believes the band is “going to take a break for awhile” after a tour through Western Canada (including a stop here Saturday night), another handful in Europe this year, and a new studio album, he says interest in the band has never been more fervent.
Remember those fanatics I was talking about earlier? They aren’t letting up, and they’re getting younger and hipper by the day. “None of us keep up with our fans. None of us at all make any effort whatsoever to keep up on what’s new in music,” says Holliston. “Basically, it doesn’t mean shit because five percent of what’s released in a year is good and 95 percent is crap. It’s a waste of time trying to keep up. Like somebody comes along and puts out a good record and then by the end of the week there’s 50 other bands just like them. Case in point is bands like The Hellacopters and The Hives and The Strokes, and then there’s suddenly thousands of pieces of spaghetti that are being thrown at the wall. I mean, who wants to keep track of that?”
Not even their fans, it seems, who are too busy delving through the massive Nomeansno back catalog (currently being re-released through Southern Records in Europe as well as select titles in North America by Mike Patton’s label, Ipecac). Those who follow the band just can’t get enough of their dark, twisted, sarcastic, socially relevant… uh, party rock?
“The band goes out to play as well as possible, to have fun and to rock, and get out some of the kinks that are the result of sitting in a van for a long period of time everyday, driving,” explains Holliston. “I don’t think we protest any more than anybody else. Everybody out there is kicking and screaming against something and so are we. I don’t think the message of Nomeansno, if there is a message, is any more important than just… sometimes things aren’t very good. I mean, we don’t have a solution and neither do you.”
So, do they consider themselves a political band? Well, definitely not in the traditional punk rock protest song sense.
“Anybody can walk on the stage and say clear-cutting is bad or Bush is an asshole. Ya?” he says, making it sound like “Duh?” “But do you really want to be in a room with a whole bunch of people who feel exactly like you do? Do you really want to pat yourself on the back and say, ‘Boy, I really preached to the converted really loudly and strongly tonight.’ So, who cares? You haven’t done anything.”
Okay, they’re getting on in years and they’re slowing things down a little, but the best thing about Nomeansno is their undying ability to push themselves forward with their patented sound and poke fun at themselves at the same time.
Case in point is their latest release, a greatest hits set entitled The People’s Choice, adorned with some band room graffiti from a 1994 show in Austria. “Give it up Grand-dads. How fucken old are Nomeansno?” it says. Ten years later, they’re that much older.
“Ya, I know,” Holliston says, giving a belly laugh, “that makes it even funnier!”

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