Published Oct 01, 2012Winnipeg punk legends Propagandhi have been through a lot since forming in 1986, even if they've only released six full-lengths in that time. And with the release of their latest, Failed States, the band are forging ahead on new ground: a new record label, a new sound and a general sense of renewed excitement.
Exclaim! decided the time was right to talk to the key players involved in the band and the band's history for a detailed look at everything the group have been through in our extensive Timeline feature. Once you're settled in your favourite chair with a few drinks by your side, give the story a read. Here's a few interesting facts to get you excited.
Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Propagandhi:
1. The cover art for their first album wasn't what they submitted to their label.
Despite Fat Mike of NOFX/Fat Wreck Chords asking them repeatedly for cover art for their debut, How to Clean Everything, the band couldn't quite get around to sending it over. By the time they did, it was too late. "The cover art, that was the biggest fucking shock," says guitarist/vocalist Chris Hannah. "I had sent down the original graphic, which was similar but it's in this '50s Ayn Rand style, it was supposed to be black and white, it had a totally different vibe. So Mike hands me this record and I remember I was standing beside [bassist John K.] Samson, and I remember this cold sweat. But that was partly our fault, he was bugging us for ages, saying, 'We need cover art, we need cover art.' We just didn't take anything seriously."
2. One of the signs that the original lineup was coming apart was difficulties trying to learn, of all things, a Venom song.
In 1995, the band — at that point Hannah, Samson (later of the Weakerthans), and drummer Jord Samolesky — recorded a Venom cover for a compilation. Hannah and Samolesky had metal in their veins; Samson had no idea why anyone would want to cover that song. "I remember Chris and Jord wanting to do a Venom cover, and we did it, and it took me weeks and weeks to learn how to play it," says Samson. "And I kept thinking, 'What's the point of this song?' It sounds kind of terrible, but they insisted on playing it. But you know, that should have given me a clue."
3. When current bassist Todd Kowalski joined the band in 1997, he hadn't played bass before.
But Kowalski enters one of the world's most prominent punk bands playing an instrument he's totally unfamiliar with — and is known today as being particularly outstanding on — with a nonchalant attitude. "I take things seriously but all you do is just start playing it, you know what I mean?" says Kowalski. "It was like, 'You want to join the band?' 'Okay.' 'You want to play bass?' 'Sure, yeah.' Just start playing. You don't really have any other choice."
4. Hannah feels the band destroyed 2001's Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes with too much post-production tampering.
Even after two recording sessions, the band still doesn't get the sound they're after, particularly Hannah and his guitar tone. "We fucked up the most on that one," says Hannah. "We really screwed up what could have been like Less Talk, a very natural-sounding record, and we made it sound really weird. We just couldn't leave well enough alone. We had no recording experience, and here we are telling [producer] Ryan Greene or Eddy Schreyer [who mastered the album] how it should go? It's crazy. It's ridiculous. It's one of my bigger regrets."
5. In 2005, Propagandhi poked fun at Fat Mike in a song on Potemkin City Limits, which would end up being their last album for Fat Wreck Chords. Turns out Fat Mike didn't take too kindly to the ribbing.
"If you write about someone in a song in a negative way, you're basically saying that they're the enemy or what they're doing is pointless, I don't know how feelings can't get hurt," says Fat Mike. "I'm not a fucking idiot. I graduated college, I took political science, I read Chomsky, I know what the fuck I'm talking about. Our goals are the same, but we were going at them in different ways. So of course I'm going to get my feelings hurt."