Catcha fire under the bridge
Grim Skunk puts the ‘party’ in politics
There is a surprisingly serious edge to GrimSkunk, one that belies their reputation as Quebec’s premier high-flying, bong-water-steeped rock ’n’ roll act. For a party-oriented band, GrimSkunk is no stranger to controversy. Their original bassist, Marc-Boris Saint Maurice, founder of the Marijuana Party of Canada, left the band in 2000 to open Montreal’s Compassion Clinic and to continue his crusade to legalize marijuana from the inside by joining the Liberal party. More recently, the band’s breakaway single “America Sucks” and its accompanying video have fired up intense international debate on YouTube. Looking back over a career that spans 15 years and eight LPs, GrimSkunk’s lead guitarist Peter Edwards continues to thrive on the changes and challenges that signal this legendary ensemble’s readiness to face the future head-on.
“We’ve shot three videos for our new album, Fires Under the Road,” says Edwards. “It was filmed last year in advance of the album’s release on October 31. The title track is a nod to a long-standing annual tradition where our friends gather in secret caves under a road to light Samhain bonfires. The other videos are for our songs ‘America Sucks,’ and ‘Vive le Quebec Libre,’ which is kind of the French version of ‘America Sucks.’ That song in particular has stirred up a massive controversy. It built up slowly and now we have Russians posting arguments with Americans about the superiority of the AK-47 over the M-16. We have always been very open to debating global issues. We have our stand. Some people in the States may take it at face value, but it’s a wake-up call to all of North America. We have to shock people into realizing the government is materialistic, consumer-oriented and wasteful.”
Sometimes the status quo isn’t good enough and standards need to be raised across the board. Never ones to Bogart a good thing, GrimSkunk have shared their success by applying the “puff, puff, pass” philosophy to their working lives as well as their recreational activities. Stepping in where the well-liked Cargo Records label left off, Edwards, along with vocalist and rhythm guitarist Franz Schuller, vocalist and keyboardist Joe Evil, drummer Alain VDbC and Boris’s replacement bassist Vince Peake, conceived Indica Records. Shortly thereafter, they released the infamous Inhale compilations to showcase the impressive variety of bands they had attracted to their label.
“We’ve entered a co-partnership with a group of labels and have seriously gotten into the business of releasing music,” Edwards reports. “We’ve put out everything from alt rock to punk to pop to techno and hip hop. One of our greatest successes has been a world groove album. There’s a new generation emerging, one that is more open-minded and less likely to be prejudiced against foreign cultures. Indica records carries licences for artists from England, the U.S., France and Australia, though to date all of our Canadian artists are from Quebec. Basically, we don’t want to limit ourselves in any way.”
Stepping down from their soapbox and leaping from their amps in full glorious Van Halen-style, GrimSkunk really know how to let their hair down when it comes to performing live. Thrilling audiences with their classic-rock guitar assaults, theatrical organ runs and heavy metal percussion, GrimSkunk possess the uncanny ability to combine multiple genres and tongues into one mighty explosion of synergistic energy.
“After our last show in Norway, some kids came up to us and expressed their admiration for us, because we don’t care about being hip,” Edwards laughs. “We’re all about good times. It’s still 90 per cent party. Politics does not rule the majority of what we do. Our ability to accept multiple musical styles lets us create a multi-musicscape that reflects Canadian culture. People get it when they see us live. We try to keep the universe in balance by starting fires.”
Originally published in FFWD Magazine by Christine Leonard