I met with brothers Graeme and Luke MacKinnon, the lead vocalist and bassist, respectively, of Edmonton punk legends Wednesday Night Heroes over a coffee. Let me tell you, these two were a riot to chat with. I was in stitches multiple times throughout the interview. We discussed the evolution of the underground punk scene in Edmonton and around the world. The brothers reminisced about their involvement with the band, which spanned for over a decade.
Graeme and Luke will join Konrad Adrelunas on guitar and Jay Zazula (who also plays with the Mad Bomber Society) on drums for their closing show at the Pawn Shop on January 25th.
The Heroes didn’t officially break up, but they haven’t played a gig since sometime in 2009. They played that last show with Thrastic Fibrosis at the Artery. “We were trying to book a tour a couple weeks later. Jay called and said he was over it. He said what we were all thinking and feeling,” explains Graeme.
Since their last show, Luke left Edmonton to make wine in Ontario. Graeme is still touring and making music with No Problem and has started another project with his sister, called Strangled. Konrad is an electrical engineer and his career often requires travel outside of Edmonton.
The Heroes had been approached many times before to play a reunion show. Timing wasn’t right, and they felt there were too many other bands having reunion shows. After four years apart, these feelings started to change. “With us, I still felt there was some unfinished business. We never said we were done, we just faded off,” notes Graeme. With a renewed interest in the band, and Luke’s two-month homecoming before departing to Australia, the Heroes felt the timing was right to close the book.
The brothers eagerly explain what it’s like to be practising songs that have been sitting in the vault for many years: “Now that we are doing it again, it is fucking hilarious to go back to some of these songs with so much time away. Especially for me. The music is one thing. The lyrics – some of them are beyond ridiculous,” chuckles Graeme.
“It is like going in a musical time machine. Everything I have listened to in the last five years is out the window. We are back where we were musically years ago,” adds Luke. “I think getting time away from it gave us a good perspective. It allowed us to appreciate it for what it was and laugh about it, too.”
The Heroes started out as the project of four high school friends who all enjoyed listening to U.K. punk bands such as Oxymoron, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, GBH and the Ejected. They started collecting records and idolizing the album covers and spiking their hair. ”I wanted to be in a band with real punks. My brother was like, ‘No way do I want this little puke in the band.’ Todd Rocket [the former Heroes drummer] definitely helped me. He really pushed for me to be in the band. He was a visionary; he knew what was up,” recalls Graeme.
“We didn’t realize how isolated we were in Edmonton. We just wanted to have a myriad of bands to go see. To have all of our friends there. All our friends were playing in all the bands. It was every style of band. It was fun, communal, everyone was drunk as fuck,” laughs Luke.
Though Wednesday Night Heroes have released many albums throughout their career, they still can’t escape a demo made in 1998. “We were brats,” laughs Luke. “When we recorded it, we made fun of the sound engineer the entire time. His name was Dennis and we kept asking if we could call him Pen-is.” Graeme adds, “We found addresses to labels we liked. We mailed them out all over the world. We sent one to this band in France. We did a European tour and then this 1998 demo came into the forefront. It is like a bad smell you can’t get rid of.
“It is funny. For me, the whole legacy of the band was just about growing up and about experiencing the world,” he continues. “By no means am I saying were we a great band. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot from being in this band. We became really tight and we started to take it more seriously the more we started to travel. I would not be who I am today without experiencing all the stuff we got to experience.
“When we first started going on the road, it was street punk, the spiky hair was everywhere. We definitely had a nice place amongst it. Things changed even in that little microcosm. Then it was funny, all those guys became ‘80s hardcore. They all got jobs and stopped giving a shit anyway. The whole underground scene kept changing into other things. Nowadays, there are lots of cool bands going on, one thing that is the most interesting: it is not one big youth culture like it was when we started out.”
As far as the Edmonton music scene is concerned these days, the brothers’ favourite acts consist of Energetic Action, Ben Disaster and Shout Out Out Out Out. “There are a lot of great bands going on right now. I like that they are all different,” says Graeme.
Wednesday Night Heroes will play their final show at the Pawn Shop (Edmonton) on January 25.
By Jenna Lee Williams
Photo: Chris Wedman