Posted by Pete DeMola on 9. Mar 2009
Not a fan of Fucked Up yet? You should be. We take you inside the band known for their brutal live performances (fistfights, blood, scars, destruction, full frontal nudity), media antics (12-hour sets in shop windows, controversial interviews), prolific catalog (40+ releases to date) and of course, their unique name.
Forming and played their first shows in Toronto 2001, the quintet soon built a reputation by eschewing traditional record release avenues in favor of releasing a steady stream of two songs at a time via 7” inch records, which despite being shunned by mainstream record distributors, were received warmly by punk fanzines, particularly 2002’s No Pasaran!, whose title stems from a propaganda slogan shouted by French soldiers to express determination against enemies in WWI’s the Battle of Verdun.
Infamous for their exploration of radical political and social theory, the band has toyed with anarchism (they played a gig at the Toronto Anarchist Bookfair in 2002) and Viennese Actionism—the short twentieth-century art performance art movement that boasted nudity, destruction and violence as its defining hallmarks.
And they've aroused suspicion and distrust in fans via an interview in influential American punk fanzine Maximum Rock and Roll in which the band discussed mind control and Nazi mysticism—allegations that weren’t alleviated until the band issued a statement of clarification after being attacked on a Toronto stage in 2004.
Their pugilistic live shows—which have played a pivotal role in cementing the band’s obsessive fan base—are characterized by garrulous exhortations from beefy frontman Pink Eyes, who has also racketed up the concept of audience interaction by people-tossing and, at times, disrobing entirely.
(Pink Eyes, you say? He is joined by lead guitarist 10,000 Marbles, bassist Mustard Gas, rhythm guitarist Concentration Camp, Guinea Beat the drummer and Young Governor as a contributing songwriter and touring guitarist.)
The band’s live television debut on MTV Live Canada in 2007 resulted in a destructive set that caused $2000 in damages and led to a program ban on live moshing from future performances.
A show a year later on the same program—this time, with the band playing in the men’s bathroom—led to near riot in which fans spray-painted the walls and destroyed the ceiling before the plug was pulled.
And if their onstage antics didn’t act immediate disqualifiers from the halls of mainstream sonic acceptance—we won’t even go into their moniker, of which the New York Times wrote “won’t be printed in these pages, not unless an American president, or someone similar, says it by mistake,”—their music often defies accepted conventions with its quixotic and esoteric instrumentation.
Their 2003 release, aptly entitled Baiting the Public, featured one song spread over two sides. The following year saw the release of their infamous 7''Looking for Gold, which featured no liner notes and a 17-minute title track containing four minutes of whistling and a three minute drum solo.
Over 40 recordings have been released as the time of print (Or forty-one, if you count the Japan-only release of their Singles Collection on Mar 10, which is designed to coincide with this week's tour dates in the Land of the Rising Sun.)
But the release of their second LP The Chemistry of Common Life (Matador Records) in Oct 2008 has been met with widespread critical acclaim from everyone from influential British music magazine NME to the New York Times for it’s epic, dense and genre-busting sound—70 simultaneous guitar tracks compete for space with Middle Eastern percussion, for example—and well-crafted melodic compositions, particularly “Black Albino Bones,” whose uplifting melodies and soaring vocals from Alexisonfire’s Dallas Green drips with crossover potential.
Pitchfork Media even posits that the band may be able to “carry the entire [hardcore] scene on their sweaty, unshaven backs.”
Whether be truth or hyperbole is still awaiting verdict. But one thing is for certain: Beijing has never seen anything like this. See for yourself on Tues, Mar 17 at Yugong Yishan. And check out our exclusive interview with the band below.
WeLiveInBeijing: What are your thoughts on the widespread critical acclaim for The Chemistry of Common Life—including your nomination for a Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year?
Fucked Up: The period leading up to the album's release sort of felt as though it was a giant snowball careening down a hill. Out of control and collecting any material in its path: Fucked Up has been on and off of tour, in and out of studios, on television, in magazines, and in the newspaper even before the record was released! All of the recent acclaim and recognition over the album feels like finally the snowball has reached the bottom of the hill and everything it collected on the way has smashed into thousands of pieces and been fired across the planet. It's a great feeling, but it has followed a long, fast, and sometimes bumpy road!
WLIB: Why did NME proclaim Pink Eyes to be a fat schizophrenic?
FU: Sounds like something you might blurt out in a hurry to sweep a much more difficult explanation under the rug. It's just the most convenient translation of seeing FU live sometimes. The live visual experience and the psychological aspects of the band are not exactly in peaceful comity, so focusing on the big, fat, greasy cannonball as a keyhole to peak through is just too convenient to pass up.
WLIB: Greg Gutfeld, the host of Fox News’ Red Eye, came off during Pink Eyes’ appearance on the program as a snide, patronizing prick. Pink Eyes, do you think that he was genuine in his praise of Chemistry as his favorite record of 2008, or labeled it as such to drive up ratings on his show via your appearance?
FU: We're still a pretty small fish, and now more than ever we're in a huge pond. I don't think a person-to-person interview about flute playing, head injuries, and TV talk shows is going to make a shock wave in international media communications haha. It's hard to shake the notion that whenever we're on a major television program (especially in the States) that someone is either playing a trick on us or doing us a favor. That being said, how can you rely on a man's lasting opinion whose job it is to have an opinion on absolutely everything?
WLIB: When you started the band in 2001, did you ever think that you’d perform in China?
FU: Well not ever when we started, but one can't be humble forever. As time passed we decided that the band ought to be a vehicle to make our lives consistently more interesting, and now more than ever we're able to be 'as interesting as possible.' Usually that just means going somewhere wild. Chinese Bamboo Rat burgers, here we come.
WLIB: How do you anticipate Chinese audiences will react to your bold stage presence?
FU: [We] are conservative and mean, ugly and beautiful, bright and dull....all at the same time. If the Chinese audiences can be bothered to keep up with all of that, they should love it.
WLIB: Beijing has a thriving independent music scene. Do you plan on checking out any local talent?
FU: I am SO curious to find out what is bubbling in Beijing. I welcome any notes they have to offer with open ears.
WLIB: Your discography includes Year of the Dog, Year of the Pig and the upcoming Year of the Rat. Have you thought about how your trip to China will inspire a potential Year of the Ox release?
FU: It certainly might add a strong dose of legitimacy to our project of writing a song about each year in the Chinese Zodiac. It was sort of a coincidence that this would go on for more than one year, so now that we're going to live and breathe China for a few days it will be interesting to see how it affects us. Hey maybe they'll start singing some of these songs on New Years Eve!!
WLIB: What’s in the future for Fucked Up?
FU: Our immediate future involves a lot of traveling and a lot of playing. By the end of a calendar year we will have been playing for roughly 9 out of 12 months, so hopefully our not so immediate future sees some downtime and songwriting so we can have another record out. Our plan is to write a record that has a strong storyline and a fluid theme so that it can be adapted to the stage. This is something we've never done before and beats out much else we could experiment with at this point.
WLIB: Anything else you’d like to say to our Chinese readers?
FU: Dear China, I can't wait to be in you, eat off of you, swim with you, travel through you, and play music for you. Be happy and prepare for FUCKED UP.
Fucked Up Blog: Looking For Gold
Band photo courtesy of David Waldman
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