|Also known as||Society's No Fucking Use, Society's NFU, asSNFU|
|Origin||Edmonton, Alberta, Canada|
|Years active||1981–1989 , 1991 –2005 , 2007–present|
|Labels||Cruzar Media, Rake, Alternative Tentacles, Epitaph, Cargo, BYO|
|Associated acts||The Unwanted, Wheat Chiefs, Jakalope, Dog Eat Dogma, Slaveco., OCEAN3, Sidesixtyseven|
SNFU is a Canadian hardcore punk band formed in 1981 in Edmonton, and later relocated in Vancouver. They have released ten full-length albums and are cited as a formative influence on the skate punk subgenre.
The band began amid the inchoate Canadian hardcore punk scene of the early 1980s and built an audience throughout North America with their energetic live performances and dynamic punk sound. Their 1985 debut album ...And No One Else Wanted to Play has remained influential in underground circuits. The group expanded its audience and style through two further studio albums, but disbanded in 1989 due to internal tensions.
They reformed two years later, however, in a second incarnation which found greater success. The band garnered a recording contract with the prominent indie label Epitaph Records, which resulted in six-digit record sales and high-profile touring in support of numerous larger groups. They became independent in 1997 after a split with Epitaph and endured a second breakup in 2005 before again reforming two years later.
The group is fronted by the eccentric singer, lyricist, and artist Ken Chinn, credited as Mr. Chi Pig. Founding members and twin brothers Brent and Marc Belke helped form the band's melodic hardcore punk sound with dual guitar work before their departures in 1998 and 2005, respectively. Nearly 30 musicians have played in the group since its inception, with only Chinn remaining constant.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early years, ...And No One Else Wanted to Play (1981–1985)
- 1.2 If You Swear, You'll Catch No Fish and Better Than a Stick in the Eye (1985–1989)
- 1.3 Reformation, Epitaph years (1991–1998)
- 1.4 As four-piece, In the Meantime and In-Between Time (1998–2005)
- 1.5 Second reformation, Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You (2007–2013)
- 1.6 Touring lineups (2014–present)
- 2 Band members
- 3 Discography
- 4 References
Early years, ...And No One Else Wanted to Play (1981–1985)
Ken Chinn met twin brothers Brent and Marc Belke in Edmonton in the late 1970s. The three were teenagers who shared interests in the skateboarding subculture and burgeoning punk rock movement. In 1981, they formed the punk band Live Sex Shows with drummer Ed Dobek and bassist Phil Larson. The short-lived band broke up later that year after a handful of gigs.
Chinn and the Belkes began the new group Society's No Fucking Use, frequently shortened to Society's NFU, soon thereafter. The new band's initial lineup was completed by bassist Warren Bidlock and drummer Evan C. Jones. After a few months of local gigging, Bidlock departed due to stage fright in 1982. Shortly thereafter, the group recorded their debut, two-song demo cassette, "Life of a Bag Lady", with Scott Juskiw playing the bass tracks as a studio guest.
Bassist Jimmy Schmitz replaced Bidlock, and the group permanently adopted the SNFU moniker. Two further studio tracks on the It Came From Inner Space compilation LP on Rubber Records followed early in 1983. (These recordings were eventually re-released on the Real Men Don't Watch Quincy bootleg 7" in 1990.) SNFU gradually built an audience throughout North America on the strength of their aggressive live set, their support for noted touring acts such as Youth Brigade, the Dead Kennedys, and GBH, and the inclusion of their track "Victims of the Womanizer" on the Something to Believe In compilation LP released on the American label BYO Records.
Their debut album, ...And No One Else Wanted to Play, was recorded in Los Angeles in late 1984 and released via BYO the following year. The album is considered a classic in many circuits: it ranked, for example, on Chart Magazine's Top 100 Greatest Canadian Albums of All Time list in 2000. The band has since maintained the quirk of releasing albums with seven-word titles throughout its career. They toured extensively following the record's release, leading Jones to depart due to performance and substance-related exhaustion in mid 1985.
If You Swear, You'll Catch No Fish and Better Than a Stick in the Eye (1985–1989)
Local musician Dave Bacon initially and briefly replaced Jones on drums, but soon moved to bass after the subsequent departure of Schmitz. This allowed Jon Card (previously of Personality Crisis, and later of D.O.A and the Subhumans) to become the band's next drummer. Following the success of their debut, the group spent the next few years touring North America. Their second and slightly more experimental album, If You Swear, You'll Catch No Fish, was recorded the following year and released on BYO. Card left shortly after the album's completion due to familial commitments. With his replacement, Ted Simm, SNFU continued to tour and self-released the She's Not on the Menu 7" EP, which also included the "Life of a Bag Lady" recordings from 1982. Bacon departed in early 1987 due to musical differences and health concerns. He was replaced by Curtis Creager (of Urban Holiday), a former roommate of Chinn and Marc Belke.
The band enjoyed steadily increasing popularity: in 1987, Flipside fanzine voted them Best Live Band, beating the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fugazi, and the highly successful thrash metal band Metallica included photo inserts of lead singer James Hetfield wearing SNFU's iconic 'zombie' design t-shirt in their $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited. They toured alongside such successful Canadian bands as Voivod and the Dayglo Abortions, eventually signing to the larger Cargo Records imprint. Produced by Cecil English and recorded mostly live in the studio, SNFU's third record, Better Than a Stick in the Eye, was issued in 1988. The group's touring in support of the album included their first trip to Europe, as well as numerous North American legs. Due to internal tensions, general exhaustion, and the desire to pursue different musical directions, they disbanded in late 1989.
Simm returned to his home of Winnipeg, while Chinn relocated to Vancouver and led the short-lived bands The Wongs and Little Joe. The Belke brothers and Creager formed the Wheat Chiefs, a melodic rock project who would later go on to release one record, Redeemer, in 1996.
Reformation, Epitaph years (1991–1998)
In 1991, SNFU finalized plans to release The Last of the Big Time Suspenders, an album of live material, demos, and studio outtakes from 1986 to 1989, to satisfy their contract with Cargo Records. To support the album, the band reformed around the Belkes, Chinn, Creager and Card, initially planning only to complete a single tour dubbed the Wrong Turn Down Memory Lane Tour. The excursion was successful, however, and after several months of consideration, they opted to continue their activities.
The Belke brothers joined Chinn and Card in Vancouver in June 1992 and began a new incarnation of the group with bassist Ken Fleming (formerly of the Winnipeg-based skate punk band The Unwanted, who had also sung backup vocals on the group's "Victims of the Womanizer" track ten years earlier). This lineup was short-lived and involved a brief Canadian tour only, as Card was ultimately unable to continue performing with the group due to substance abuse problems. (Chinn, Card, and Fleming would go on to form the core of the band nearly 20 years later.) Card was replaced by Dave Rees, an acquaintance from Edmonton who had played in the Wheat Chiefs and former SNFU tour mates Broken Smile. This lineup completed an extensive European tour, but ended with Fleming's dismissal due to personality conflicts. He was replaced by the then-current Wheat Chiefs bassist Rob Johnson in December 1992.
The band was courted by the high-profile Epitaph Records, an independent punk rock label on the cusp of major commercial success through releases from groups like The Offspring and Rancid. Epitaph ultimately signed SNFU to a three-record deal in 1993. This ignited a period of heavy activity for the band. Several demos for a new record were recorded, two of which were released as the small-run "Beautiful, Unlike You and I" EP on the Hom Wreckerds Music imprint. Via Epitaph, the group released Something Green and Leafy This Way Comes in 1993. This era found them playing increasingly melodic music, displaying bi-conditional influence on the third-wave punk sound that also owed a debt to the band's own previous innovations. They shared touring bills with such luminaries as Green Day, Bad Religion, and The Bouncing Souls, and received opening support from up-and-coming bands like Korn and Tool.
In 1995, the band released their fifth studio album, The One Voted Most Likely to Succeed. Both SNFU and Epitaph hoped that the record would capitalize on the crossover success of other recent third-wave punk bands, but this failed to materialize. The members briefly shifted their emphasis towards the Wheat Chiefs thereafter, but soon completed and released the followup SNFU album FYULABA (the compromised version of the intended title, Fuck You Up Like a Bad Accident) in 1996. Although the band continued to labor on the road in support of their records, Epitaph ultimately failed to renew the band's contract after its expiration late in 1997. As a stopgap between albums, the band issued Let's Get It Right the First Time, a faux-live album co-released by Megaforce Records and the band's new, self-run label Rake Records the following year.
In March 1998, they played their final show with Rees and Brent Belke, both of whom ultimately pursued careers in film and television. Despite industry frustrations and the loss of founding and long-term members, Chinn, Johnson, and Marc Belke opted to continue playing as SNFU. The Wheat Chiefs, conversely, disbanded.
As four-piece, In the Meantime and In-Between Time (1998–2005)
SNFU hired drummer Sean Stubbs (of Numb, Jakalope, and Bif Naked's band) to replace Rees, marking the first four-piece lineup of their career. They continued to tour and began sporadic work on a new record, a process that would ultimately take six years. Stubbs was replaced by Chris Thompson (known as Corporal Ninny) in 1999. They released The Ping Pong EP, featuring five outtakes from the FYULABA sessions produced by Dave Ogilvie, in 2000 on CD and 10" vinyl via the Alternative Tentacles label while continuing to prepare new material.
In June 2001, Johnson left the band after a nine-year tenure due to mounting band conflicts. He pursued new projects, including the solo rap album Big Boss Battle under the name Freshbread and the new rock band Air Raid Siren. He was replaced for a single gig by bassist Matt Warhurst (of Ocean 3 and Jakalope), but the band fell into inactivity as Thompson departed and Marc Belke began to direct his focus elsewhere. Several recording sessions towards the next record had been held with Chinn, Marc Belke, Johnson, and session drummer Trevor MacGregor (of Treble Charger), although Johnson's bass tracks were later deleted at his request. In 2002, Belke briefly led the side project Based On a True Story with members of Ocean 3, including Warhurst, but ultimately relocated to Toronto, ending the new group and sending SNFU into a hiatus. Chinn later formed the side project Slaveco. with Warhurst and several of the musicians from Ocean 3 and Based On a True Story.
After nearly two years of inactivity, SNFU resumed late in 2003 with Marc Belke, MacGregor, Warhurst and producer Pete Wonsiak completing the tracking for the new record. The album, In the Meantime and In-Between Time, was ultimately released on Rake Records the following year. Shane Smith (of Ocean 3, Based On a True Story and Slaveco.) joined the group for their 2004 and 2005 tours in support of the album, which were relegated to Canadian dates. In August 2005, the group announced that they had again decided to disband, due to frustrations with the music industry and internal tensions.
Warhurst and Smith remained active with several groups thereafter. Belke began working in radio, hosting his own show. In the time following SNFU's second breakup, Chinn's severe health and drug-related problems escalated, and he became homeless for a time before entering into assisted living.
Second reformation, Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You (2007–2013)
In July 2007, a party for SNFU's 25th anniversary was planned in Vancouver. Chinn and former member Fleming, who was now playing guitar, recruited bassist Bryan McCallum (of Karen Foster) and drummer Chad Mareels (of Fleming's former group Dog Eat Dogma) to play a set as "asSNFU" to celebrate the occasion. Marc Belke and numerous other former members were invited to participate but declined. These four musicians played a small handful of concerts in the months that followed before dropping the "as" prefix, deciding that they had properly reunited the band and continuing as such. After a short tour in early 2008, McCallum was replaced by Denis Nowoselski, who had played with Fleming and Mareels in numerous settings.
There was a mild amount of controversy surrounding the continuation of the band in the absence of founding member and primary songwriter Marc Belke, who initially renounced the new lineup. On the subject, Chinn stated, "As far as I’m concerned it’s SNFU. The band has changed all throughout the years, and this is just another change. That’s exactly how I see it ... Those songs are my life. I’ll fucking play them ‘til I die.” Belke and the band later made peace. In late 2008, Smith returned to the drum kit, replacing Mareels, and the group embarked on extensive Canadian and European tours.
Open Your Mouth and Say... Mr. Chi Pig, a biographical documentary film about Chinn, was released in March 2010. Produced by the Canadian company Prairie Coast Films and directed by Sean Patrick Shaul, the film focused on Chinn's life, including his drug abuse and schizophrenia, and featured interview footage with such notables as Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene, Corb Lund of the Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans and The Smalls, and Joey Keithley of D.O.A. citing SNFU's influence on themselves personally and the rock scene at large.
In April 2010, Jon Card joined the band for a third time, replacing Smith on good terms in time for further touring. Shortly thereafter, the band completed their first five-piece lineup in 12 years with the addition of second guitarist Sean Colig (of Minority, Savannah and SideSixtySeven), who also became responsible for the harmony vocals previously sung by Marc Belke.
Touring in 2010 was minimal, while numerous 2011 dates were cancelled due to Chinn's severe case of pneumonia. Further impediments to band activity came as Fleming became occupied with the new group Isolation 3 and emigrated to Japan, while Nowoselski relocated to the Northwest Territories. Despite these setbacks, the group remained active, composing and rehearsing its first batch of new material since reforming. Punk historian and author Chris Walter released an official biography of the band, What No One Else Wanted to Say, via GFY Press later that year, and the group embarked upon the When Pigs Fly Tour in support of the book. Bassist Kerry Cyr (of SideSixtySeven) replaced the departing Nowoselski for the tour's final two shows. The cover song "I Wanna Be an East Indian" was released under the SNFU moniker on the Cruzar Media imprint's Dayglo Abortions tribute album, but was recorded by Chinn and unrelated backing musicians.
The group spent the next six months recording new material and coping with health issues before completing tracking for a new record and playing a 30th anniversary show on February 1, 2013 in Vancouver. The studio album Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You was announced for a September release via Cruzar Media, but was delayed for several months. Anticipating the forthcoming album, the band embarked upon its first tour of Japan and a subsequent Canadian tour. Guest drummer Junior Kittlitz replaced the ailing Card, who was unable to continue performing. The tour's final gig omitted Fleming, who was unable to attend due to prior engagements.
Ultimately released in November, the new record marked their first release in nine years and their first songs written without founding member Marc Belke. It received generally positive reviews from critics, who acknowledged the new lineup's successful approximation of the group's previous work. SNFU splintered after the Japanese tour, however, with all members other than Chinn departing or taking a hiatus.
Touring lineups (2014–present)
Between lineups, "I Wanna Be an East Indian" was issued as a one-track digital download single. With the band again in flux, Chinn and the group's management set out to book several tours in support of the new record. Numerous incarnations of the band were assembled in the following years, which included several former members and close associates from SNFU's history. In February, the group announced its plans to tour with a lineup based around Chinn, returning bassist Dave Bacon, drummer Adrian White (of Strapping Young Lad and Front Line Assembly), and guitarists Kurt Robertson (of The Real McKenzies) and former SNFU and Green Day sound man Randy Steffes. The lineup played European, Canadian, and American dates, the latter marking their first stateside appearances since 2001. Following three months of extensive touring, the band returned to tour Europe in July with drummer Jamie Oliver (of the U.K. Subs) replacing White. Additionally, guest drummer Txutxo Krueger (of Total Chaos) was recruited for several dates which Oliver could not fill.
Further Canadian touring was planned for November, with Curtis Creager and Ted Simm both slated to return to the band for a shared bill with the American hardcore group Ignite. This was to mark the second time Creager had replaced Bacon as the band's bassist, the previous having occurred 27 years prior. The tour was ultimately postponed due to an injury suffered by a member of Ignite, and the band returned to dormancy. In November, Chinn made an appearance onstage with one of the Belke brothers for the first time in nine years when he and Brent joined The Smalls for a live cover version of the SNFU song "Misfortune" in Vancouver.
They returned to touring activity the following summer, planning to play the ...And No One Else Wanted to Play record in its entirety in celebration of the record's 30th anniversary. Dates in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were announced.
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