At precisely 9 p.m. “sharp,” as per their band manager’s suggestion, I called legendary Canadian punk rock band SNFU for an interview.
The phone rang a couple of times before being answered by band frontman Mr. Chi Pig.
“(unintelligible) … if you don’t hang up, we won’t hang up.”
A few moments of strained, static-filled conversation followed and then the line cut out.
I called back.
Chi Pig again.
“Assholes ‘r’ us.”
The line cut out.
I called back after 30 minutes and got guitarist Ken “Goonie” Flemming.
“(Chi Pig) took off from practice, he was feeling a bit neurotic and he just fucking went, ‘Fuck this shit I’m out of here.’
“Because the phone didn’t work he just fucking threw the phone on the ground and left,” said Flemming.
SNFU, the long running staple of Canadian punk, was founded in 1981 by Chi Pig and twin brothers Marc and Brent Belke after the three met at an Edmonton skateboarding competition.
SNFU originally stood for Society’s No Fucking Use, although the true meaning has become ambiguous over the years.
In the two and a half decades since SNFU’s founding, the world of punk rock has changed dramatically — but so has SNFU.
The band has gained a reputation for having a revolving door membership to closely rival the night shift of a McDonald’s.
Twenty-one musicians, at one time or another, have been able to call themselves members of SNFU.
In those years, the band even picked up shop and moved the operation from Edmonton to Vancouver — where they are now based.
In 2007, two years after the band had announced they were permanently disbanding, Chi Pig put together a lineup to celebrate the 25th anniversary of SNFU’s founding.
It sounded so good that they just kept playing — albeit after changing their bassist.
The current line-up includes Chi Pig, Flemming, who originally played bass in SNFU starting in 1991, bassist Just Denis and drummer Chad Mareels.
For this incarnation, members believe the constant turnover may well have reached a stopping point.
“We are the SNFU of the new millennium, and that’s the way it will be for quite some time,” said Flemming.
Even with only one original member, the band has wowed both reviewers and die-hard fans alike — with many shows drawing upwards of 700 or 800 attendees.
The band’s October shows in Edmonton have already sold out.
“We kick the nuts out of this stuff. We’re not just getting up there trying to fake this shit,” said Flemming.
“You can’t fake this music. This music is fucking very real. And, you know what? There’s no room for error.”
“You’re either SNFU or you’re a fucking can of shit,” he added.
The proof is in the playing. Fans at an SNFU show are met with the same quality of playing they’ve come to expect.
“From (Chi Pig’s) perspective, he thinks it’s the best SNFU lineup that he’s had,” said Flemming.
“No offence to the Belkes or anyone that’s been in the band — but I believe him.”
Co-founder and former member Marc Belke has reportedly refused to recognize the latest SNFU as a “true” incarnation of the band.
The coveted spot of a position with SNFU has often raised the interest of Joe Punk Rocker — but only the very best can qualify for membership in an SNFU incarnation.
“It’s big shoes to fill,” said Flemming.
Among punk bands, the level of skill and technique practised by SNFU songs has always been a cut above average, demanding a higher class of player.
Current bassist Just Denis did solo practice for two months until he felt confident enough to play alongside the band’s other members.
“Who we choose and who Chi chooses has to know that they’re upholding an honour and a respect level of the crowd,” said Flemming.
“You don’t just come and play — it’s a whole head set,” he said.
Swaths of musicians have previously failed to “cut the mustard.”
“These guys were like, ‘I’m excited.’ But it’s like, ‘sorry man, you don’t make the grade.’”
Throughout the rollicking history of SNFU, Chi Pig has consistently stood as the band’s guiding force.
“There’s no SNFU without Chi,” said Flemming.
“The vocal performances are what people remember about the band … I couldn’t get up there and pull it off, people would throw bottles at me,” he said.
On their fall cross Canada tour, the band will be resurrecting many of the band’s much-requested songs from the early ‘80s — many of which have never before been played live.
As soon as the cross-Canada tour is over, the band plans to start collaborating on a new record — their first album since 2004’s In the Meantime and in Between Time.
Following its recording, the band plans to “unleash” the album during a European tour.
SNFU has often forward semi-political themes into many of its songs — a pattern that may well continue into their new album.
Flemming bemoaned the current restrictions on BC fishing.
“That’s what our world’s starting to come to, I can’t even catch food to eat. I have to pay for a licence, and I’m still not allowed to keep them, what the hell is that?”
“The list goes on,” he added.
SNFU is playing an all-ages show at the Association franco-yukonnaise on September 5th, followed by a 19+ show at Coasters on September 6th.