Once or twice a year a student, one of those scruffy-looking, shit-disturbers, will ask me, their modestly scruffy educator, "Hey, is it true you know the guys in that punk band, Propagandhi?"
Like So-crates, I answer with a question, "You want to hear the truth or the good story?"
"What's the difference?" sneers our S.L.S.D.
"Either way it comes down to this; Propagandhi made it from the basement to the stage because of me."
So, once again I'm forced to teach the truth, the honest-to-Kronos truth about...
Propagandhi, Thrash Sundae and Me
So, amidst all the fooferah over the forthcoming fifth Propagandhi album, Supporting Caste, will the truth ever be released? Sure, the band’s web-site (the version that has since been yanked down) has the Winner's Propaganda about how these two boys from PLAP (Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada), Jord Samolesy and Chris Hannah, became globe-trotting punk-metal anarchists (y'know pro-feminist, anti-fascist etc.) and the voice of a splinter faction of their generation. However, mainstream Propagandhi historians, with their breezy but Soviet-styled revisionism, have covered-up the band's true beginnings. "So then we got a call from a young lad named "Stinky" Mike Braumeister who wanted to play bass," says the band's web-site, a version parroted by the lackeys over at Wikepdia. And how did this epoch-making phone call come to pass?
Before I Can Tell You That Story, I Have To Tell You This Story...
It's Talent Show night in a suburban Winnipeg high school auditorium in 1988. After a parade featuring a Van Halen cover band, Christian-pop karaoke (first and second place winners respectively) and even a synthesizer duo, the lights came up upon scraggly-haired speed-metal upstarts, Thrash Suandae.
Thrash Sundae's lead singer/guitarist, Mike Bryant had a locker, covered in Suicidal Tendencies and Venom pictures, right beside my own (which featured only a toy spider armed with a fork, named Boris). Back then, Mike was like a young Dee Dee Ramone, terse, awkward and musically-obsessed. Needless to say, all of our conversations were about music.
Standing in front of an audience for the first time, Mike seethed with a twitchy energy. However he and his band's absence of technical expertise, not a plus in their chosen genre, deflated them halfway through their ten-minute opening dirge. When the song fell apart, they stopped playing.
"Uh," Mike stared at his guitar as if a piece of it had gone missing. Then he looked up and glowered at something in the distance. "We're gonna start again."
The audience, en masse, let out a pained grunt.
That's when the power went out.
Mike hit his guitar, which let out only a tinny little brr-aaang. He swiveled his gaze over to the tech crew and screamed, "You can't cut me off!"
Then the curtain came down on Thrash Sundae, never to rise again.
Back to the Motor League
Now in 1990 Propagandhi was a rinky-dink two-man basement operation. At that time they were stuck putting out demos, slapping up funny but desperate posters at Records on Wheels and never playing live due to their lack of a dependable bass player. On their web-site, they mention their "progressive thrash band needs bass player" poster but they neglect to mention their later ad that copied the cover of Bad Religion's No Control, claiming that that band was going to play local dirty-watering hole The Royal Albert, before saying, "Just kidding, actually we need a bass player and if we don't find one we're gonna play a set of acoustic Crawl (a local thrash-metal act) covers".
Concurrently, I'm researching a feature article for my university paper, The Manitoban, on Winnipeg's underground music. While picking bands to profile, local zine-tyke Zedgrav played me Propagandhi's first demo and then later an acoustic...er...demo for "Ska Sucks". (Available for your "listening pleasure" below.) So I interviewed them for my article. Jord said, approximately, "We're like a cross between Doughboys and Metallica". (That sorta changed). The article's failure to appear peeved off some of my interviewees. Jord and Chris, however, never fond of media exposure, could care less, especially since I made my former locker partner Mike (soon given the nom de punk of "Stinky" Mike Braumeister) call them to offer his new-and-improved bass services. Mike had, since the days of Thrash Sundae, formed and then broken-up a tight, punchy hardcore unit named, Orange Juice. ("Why Orange Juice?” I asked. "Because it's a powerful substance, man," Mike replied.) Within weeks, Propagandhi Mark 1 was primed and ready
I witnessed both of their first two shows opening up for Guilt Parade, whose precise, bitter and yet melodic brand of hardcore formed a lasting influence on the boys. Their sets rocked but only offered a glimpse of the beast they were to become.
By the time Mike left the band for the greener, wetter climes of Vancouver, I was already living there. After moving back to Winnipeg, I caught Propagandhi Mark 2 at a smoky, sweaty Draft Night at the Royal Albert and they owned that rickety little stage. John K. wore a dress, Chris wrote FAG across his bare chest in Magic Marker and Jord may or may not have mooned the crowd. Most importantly though, they'd written a brace of inciting and intricate songs. The seething (if occasionally confusing) "Hallie Sellasie Up Your Ass", in particular, demonstrated how much they'd honed their attack. And they had a new bass player, a familiar one. You see my unpublished Manitoban article had also thwarted the rise to college-rock fame of a band named Toothpick Hercules, who were John K. Sampson's first band, thus compelling him to become the newest member of the soon-to-be-famous version of Propagandhi.
Then Fat Wreck-Chords came calling and a peculiar brand of fame followed but yours fuckin' truly, like Leon Trotsky, got airbrushed out of the picture.
His question answered, our scruffy-lookin' shit-disturbin’, question-asker will now look up and say somehting like, "Hey, all that B.S. almost killed an entire class."
And though a little class-killing would surely excite the Propagandhi crew, I just say:
"Get back to work."
(The latest version of the band, but that black Government Issue that The Todd is wearing is pure old school, especially in Winnipeg.)
Well first off, here's something you've never heard before. It is, as Chris says in the preamble, "acoustic Propagandhi solo project album demo thing", provisionally entitled "The I Love Skinheads Song" but that's not the title it grew to fame under. (Rumour had it that a Winnipeg ska band once wrote an answer song called "Punk Sucks" which claimed "the bands are only in it to say fuck." We're cleverer than most cities, we really are.)
Download this tiny, tiny piece of history here.
Here's a bootleg of old demos from the early Sampson era (I gave away those old tapes long ago) called, rather suck-ishly, "Reclaim the Streets"
Download Reclaim the Streets
Moving along to the Fat era, here's the F.Y.P split, which includes three F.Y.P tracks and a Propagandhi song that is really a solo acoustic Weakerthans demo (never let these boys give you a track for your split e.p., children's music comp or seven inch box-set - you never know what you're gonna get).
Download Propagandhi/F.Y.P. split 7"
If you're looking for the top drawer stuff you need to go to their web-site, ignore my little historical slight, and just support the damn band.