Starting a band is probably one of the easiest things anyone can do. All you need is to rustle up some instruments, some common musical ground between friends and plenty of cases of cheep beer. Keeping that band going through the years, through all the miserable defeats that stand in your way, takes actual dedication and focus. Calgary’s the Motherfuckers have beaten the odds and are set to celebrate their 15-year anniversary this month. They’ve managed to strike a balance between absolute madness and punk ethics, drinking, drugging, scrapping and playing their way through ill-fated tours across Canada, countless lineup changes and more than one hiatus.
“The secret to our longevity is taking two to four years off at the time,” says frontman Dan Izzo.
“We also do member rotations constantly,” adds bassist Sean Hunter.
“Our newest member, Matt Pissoff, is on guitar. The only downside to him is that I’m no longer the young, good looking one in the band.”
The Motherfuckers’ history is long and mostly unglamorous. Indeed, as we get to talking about some of the band’s defining moments, it seems that many of these teeter along the edge between success and total train-wreck. Despite that, the hardcore quartet are back in the saddle, ready to hit the studio for a new full-length in 2014, a new cross-Canada tour in the summer and, of course, to celebrate 15 years of mayhem. True to their roots, they maintain that they’ve learned little in their time as one of Calgary’s most notorious punks, except for one key note:
“Never, ever, ever do a Sex Pistols cover set,” says Hunter, dead serious. “You will want to hang yourself by the end of it.”
TOP THREE MOTHERFUCKING SHINING MOMENTS
Five-star hotel accommodations
Dan Izzo: We used to play a bar called Stars, in Edmonton, which is now the Pawn Shop, and the promoter would get us a room at the Commercial Hotel. It was a nice setup there, too: it was one of those places where you have your room and the communal bathroom is down the hall. We played with Dry Fisted and they paid $10 to upgrade their rooms, so they go their own bathrooms. We didn’t know we could do that. We were going down the hall and Tim and Hunter had gone to sleep — again, this was when Jay Misery was in the band — and he and I were wandering around and I was wearing a Dry Fisted shirt. The guy at the counter was like, “Quiet! You’ll wake up the Motherfuckers,” and Jay was like, “We are the Motherfuckers!”
That’s a shining moment.
Hunter goes to Invermere
DI: One of our earliest shows, must have been ’99. We were playing with Downway and didn’t want to get stuck headlining.
Sean Hunter: I had been at our friend’s wedding. I went to the ceremony, skip the reception to go play the show, sick as a dog. All I want to do is get there, play the show and go to sleep. Downway wanted to go on first. I pretty much snapped. First, I offered to scrap Downway. Then I lost it on Matt, who was putting on the show. I don’t remember anything between offering to fight Downway and the end.
Matt Pissoff: You were going to fight my dad at one moment.
SH: No no, your dad was starting to get a little concerned and I pointed at him and went, “You should settle down, old man, he’s putting on the show, it’s up to him to handle,” and I returned to ragging on Matt.
DI: And now, 15 years later, Matt is our guitarist.
SH: I tried to blank out the years I played guitar in this band.
Strippers in Toronto
DI: Our friend Matt, who used to sing in a band called Endprogram, out of Toronto, had an illegal loft space in a condemned building that some scumbag was renting out to artists. Matt had the top floor of this building. He put on a show for us there and it was pouring rain the whole day. The roof is leaking and the acoustic ceiling tile is bulging.
Apparently, he used to have the whole floor, but the landlord decided to rent the middle of the floor to someone. I’m walking through an inch of water in the kitchen to go to the bathroom and the guys that lives there is standing there in the water, cooking some pierogis with a punk show going on around him. Normal looking dude, too.
SH: We’re playing the show and there’s water leaking everywhere. We’re on the only dry place on the floor. It must have been like 30-40 people there, pretty full.
DI: I’d say 300.
SH: There were some brilliant bands we played with that show. While we’re playing on stage, this chick who lived below and was a stripper —
Tim Bastard: No, she was an anchor for the Naked News.
SH: Whatever, that’s a stripper. She comes up and starts stripping and grinding Dan’s mic stand, which he never uses. She’s groping Dan and rubbing up on him and the crowd is loving it. That was a highlight.
Catch the Motherfuckers at two shows this month. Dec. 21 at Dickens and Dec. 28 at Tubby Dog (all ages).
Words and photo by Sebastian Buzzalino