Caid Peck (CP) caught up with NoMeansNo bassist/ songwriter/ jovial dictator
Rob Wright (RW) in sunny Santa Cruz, California last March. This interview was
conducted in the back of NoMeansNo's plush tour van, also known as the
CP: Okay. If you could just start by stating your name, names of people in the band, and your favorite Ramone.
RW: [laughs] ... I'm Rob Wright, I'm the bass player; my brother John is the drummer; our guitar player is named Tom Holliston, sometimes known as W. Buzz Ryan. Sometimes we have another drummer, but we don't have him this time so it's irrelevant... when we do have him his name is Ken Kempster.
CP: Yeah. So I was just wondering--
RW: And my favorite Ramone is Dee Dee.
CP: Ah. Why's that?
RW: `Cause he wrote the best songs. And he's the bass player. [laughs]
CP: Makes perfect sense; I can't argue with that... So, I was just curious about the origins of NoMeansNo, you being brothers and all.
RW: Ah. We started many, many years ago, `79, `80ish, when I came home from working in a city called Calgary, and I brought with me, for my ill-gotten gains, a four-track tape recorder--one of the first ever made, a reel-to-reel--and we started making music, me and my brother. He was in high school at the time. We did a little record, and then we started playing live, as a rhythm section, just a bass guitar and drums and vocals; and then we got a guitar player, and we started touring, and we started making records more legitimately; they started being put out by Alternative Tentacles... and we've gone around the world, to three continents--
CP: What's the third? I know North America and Europe...
RW: Australia and New Zealand.
RW: Yeah, we've gone there twice. So we've done quite a bit. I think our latest release is our seventh major release, plus numerous other singles, compilations, and side projects.
CP: So Mama was the first?
RW: Yeah, Mama is the first thing we did, when we were still without a guitar player.
CP: How did Alternative Tentacles work out?
RW: It was a lobbying job by a bunch of friends of ours: our manager Roy Mercer, and a guy named Steve Bailey, who was in a band called the Neodes, which was a great hardcore band from Victoria, B.C. in the early `80's. They were at one time one of Jello Biafra's favorite bands, so they had contact with Jello, and wrote to him, and Steve said, "You've got to hear this band NoMeansNo." So we came down here on our first hell tour of the United States, where we did three months playing to nobody between the days of Tuesday and Thursday. One of the shows was at the This Club [?], which is now the Kennel Club--at that point it was a very small place--and about twenty people showed up, about eight of them were from Alternative Tentacles, and Jello himself was there. He liked us, and we started making records with him. And it's been a very good relationship ever since.
CP: You're from Vancouver?
RW: Yes, but we're originally from Victoria.
CP: Ah. I've actually been there twice, with my family...
RW: A sleepy little `ville.
CP: Yeah, what's the deal with Victoria? I've heard your song "Victoria"...
RW: Well, the basic nickname of the place is "Newlyweds and Nearly-Deads." It's people on vacation and pensioners and government workers, because it's the capital of the province of B.C., Perfect breeding ground for ugly hardcore bands. [laughter]
CP: So your label history is just Alternative Tentacles?
RW: Basically, yes; we either make `em on our own or we make `em with A.T. We have our own little record company called Wrong Records; we do some side projects of our own, and friends of ours from our area, but basically our relationship has been exclusively with A.T.
CP: Clearly, with your music, you don't hold to any... I mean you don't try to sound "punk"...
RW: Yeah, and as soon as you've got a formula for sounding punk, it's over, folks. If it isn't about spontaneous creativity, it's not about nothin'.
CP: And a lot of people like you for that.
RW: [spots next interviewer] There's the next guy outside... and I've gotta stop talking to save my voice. [laughs]
CP: Just a couple more... any jazz training? I've noticed your brother plays "jazz-style"...
RW: My brother's had jazz training in the Big Band context, which he had when he was in school, where he learned how to drum. And I listen to a lot of jazz. But we're by no means a jazz band. We're a punk rock band. We just cannibalize every kind of music we can find, just for the fun of it, because it's all good music.
CP: Okay, one more question. This is actually from a friend of mine [thanks to B.D.P.]. He wants to know what you think about the new electronic hockey puck that's quickly becoming the rage with television stations, apparently so their cameras can track it. Have you heard about this?
RW: Yeah, I've seen it too. [sarcasm mode] Yeah, like they have that for golf. Like you can see the golf ball. Like you can see the baseball. It's lame.
[Here, Tom returns with burritos and we close. The show was huge, by the way.]