When Edmonton’s No Problem drove up to the club it was booked to play in Poland, its members weren’t quite sure what they’d gotten themselves into.
The music venue itself was fine, but the building across the way that it shared a gravel parking lot with was another situation entirely. The sign itself was a dead giveaway: a huge, blinking neon monstrosity declaring it to be “Club Testosterone,” so it was no surprise to see patrons grabbing women off the street, throwing them over their overly-muscled shoulders and bringing them back through the doors to the cheers of their friends.
“It was basically like the dream of some ‘roidhead on Whyte Ave,” marvels singer-guitarist Graeme MacKinnon. “One big club that had every guy in it, and at the end of the night they all spill out and have brutal fistfights in the parking lot. It was like every cultural stereotype about Poland rolled into one. We were playing on a bill with an all-female punk band from Washington state called the Hysterics, and they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Luckily the clientele from Club Testosterone left us alone.”
The actual audience that came out to see No Problem as it toured through Europe with its latest album, Already Dead? Nothing like that at all.
“They were the opposite; clean cut, lots of tattoos, but nice clothes and haircuts. They were reserved and really relaxed. Maybe they were older, I don’t know. After seeing the other club I imagined we were going to get Lord Humongous from the Road Warrior showing up with two cops taped to the front of his chariot.”
The rest of their second tour overseas was a fair bit more sedate in comparison, but there were quirks. In Sweden they were informed that they were not to wear shoes during their performance, something that MacKinnon and his bandmates (bassist Matt Bouchard, guitarist Steve Lewis, drummer Warren Oostlander) balked at. Remove their footwear and have everybody get a look at a week’s worth of accumulated tour grime? Hell, no.
“I guess that’s where we showed how ‘punk’ we were,” MacKinnon laughs. “It was funny watching some of the bands on stage in their ankle socks, because suddenly they weren’t quite so tough looking anymore. Then we played our set, and these kids were climbing all over our amps and stage diving off the speakers. It was crazy, and I kind of got it then, because all the kids were in their socks and I thought ‘Oh, it’s not so bad if I accidentally get kicked in the face if they’re not wearing shoes.’ Maybe that’s why they did it.”
Already Dead, which was released by Germany’s Taken by Surprise in Europe and on Deranged Records in Canada, shows a certain amount of musical growth for No Problem. For MacKinnon, who had already been reflecting on a long tenure singing punk rock while taking part in the Wednesday Night Heroes reunion back in the spring, this was a necessary step.
“Some of the songs are ragers, of course, but there are also different flavours on the album. We were listening to old styles of punk, like old Swedish or New Zealand stuff, and those sensibilities bled through. The music is quite sad in a way, too. There’s a song on it called ‘Different Shades of Grey,’ and it’s got that feeling about not being able to get out, or being stuck in a rut.”
The title itself rams home the sentiment, one that anyone who has to make it through the dreariest parts of an Edmonton winter can automatically relate to.
“It’s just easy to get into that grind,” he admits. “You’re walking in the snow and it’s dark for 20 hours and that’s how you feel. And clearly there are things you do that make you feel alive, that’s what separates us from actually being dead. Then someone comes long and says ‘Why don’t you move the band to a different city?’” MacKinnon laughs. “Well, yeah, you have your fun, but I’m just going to stay here and die slowly.”
Fri, Jul 4 (9 pm)
With Panik Attak, Sperm and Low Level