It took well over a month, but our DJs, journalists, and editors at CJLO have finally recovered from the rocking party that was Pouzza Fest back in May. The festival's second installment brought us so many awesome Canadian musicians including Billy the Kid and Jah Cutta, and sick bands like Metalian, Junior Battles, The Snips, and Low Dead Volume—just to name a few.
It was really hard to choose a favourite band from the line-up at Pouzza Fest this year, but strangely enough quite a few members of the CJLO crew found themselves hanging out with Toronto's Maximum RNR.
First up, Angelica from BVST hosted her second session with the band in CJLO's very own production studio; next there's Abby from the Reaktor, who conducted an interview with two Max band members in a separate (and secret!) Pouzza location; and finally Stephanie from Twee Time was in the mosh pit at night to review their show at Katacombes.
It was serendipity! With so much Maximum RNR rocking our radar, we figured what better band to feature in our Pouzza Fest coverage for 2012?
Without further ado, let's start with Angelica from BVST, who sets the tone by telling us all about her history with the band.
Photo: Ron Wineck
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard of Maximum RNR. It was 2002, and I was in the room that is now the main management office at CJLO. The head music director held up a CD case with a white cover and bold logo that read MAXIMUM R'N'R in big black letters. "I have this [record label] rep, and this is his band, and I think you're really gonna like it," he said. We fired up the CD player, and "Switchblade" came blasting out the speakers, and I've never looked back. There were only two tracks on that CD (Switchblade and Cutthroat), but they got a really good workout at CJLO over the next few months, a harbinger of things to come.
I wasn't the only one who was smitten that day. Diego, our production director at the time, fell equally hard and fast, and when the next CD with "DFF" and "Lucky Charm" came into the station roughly six months later, we couldn't stop listening to that either. Together, we hatched a plan to bring the band to Montreal. Nearly a year later, on April 24th, 2004, they played Petit Campus to a nicely packed house. I don't remember much about that night other than how much fun I had, and how bittersweet it was to put on a show by one of my favorite bands with a friend, only to lose him the next day. In fact, Diego left on a high note (and an airplane) the very next morning, and has not been seen on this continent since.
At the show that night, I bought a copy of Maximum RNR's first self-titled EP, which collected the first four songs, as well as two new scorchers, "Stormfront" and "Southern Comfort." I would routinely drop that into my CD player and hit the repeat button, since the whole thing was usually done in the time it took to listen to one, maybe two songs by anyone else. I listened to it endlessly, and the opening guitar riff of Southern Comfort is as familiar to me now as my own mother's voice.
A year and a half later, the band spared me the trouble of hitting the repeat button, when their next EP Horns Up collected six new songs, and simply repeated them eight times over on the disc. I hit the button anyway, and marveled at how they could create a ten-second song that still felt so complete. Not that long after that, they teamed up with The Spades and released a split 7" on the mighty Relapse Records, and the ponderous "Ire of The Ram" became my new go-to track, thanks to one of the most perfect riffs ever recorded.
In 2006, the two Keiths, two Mikes, and a Louis entered CJLO studios for the first time, and recorded three tracks for us—"America," "Dogs Will Hunt," and "Queen Wasp"—all three of which can be heard on their recent retrospective The Black and White Years. Collecting all their releases up-to and including the Gymbo Jak years, this CD contains all their recorded output, which up until their latest session at CJLO just over a month ago, still totaled less than one full hour. Sadly, I somehow ended up never seeing the band during the Gymbo Jak years, but after hearing them lay down these latest three tracks at CJLO ("Attack Panther," "Train Wreck," and "Business As Usual," debuting tonight on BVST from 7pm ET on CJLO), I'm looking forward to a long future for the two Keiths, one Mike, one Curtis, and a Brenton. Oh, and for those keeping track at home, their recorded output is now officially just shy of an hour and 5 minutes, which speaks volumes about their unwavering dedication to authentic tooth-and-nails punk-influenced rock and roll. DIY 'til the end, Maximum RNR might just be Canada's hardest working band.
Angelica hosts BVST, every Wednesday from 7PM to 9PM
CJLO's very own Starr-Girl Abby from the Reaktor interviewed the newest members of Maximum RNR. Lead-vocalist Brenton Ellis and bassist Curtis Faux (both members of the now-defunct Toronto metal band Detroit) joked about being the center of the Sault Ste. Marie punk scene as teenagers, SOCAN grants (or lack there-of), and how awesome it is to keep doing what they love in the face of adversity.
Photo: Garry Keenan
You know that I always said it's better to do something than just sit around waiting to die.
-Randy, "I Raise My Fist" (quoted during the interview)
Sleep when you're dead.
-Abby (life philosophy)
When I sat down to interview Brent and Curtis from Maximum RNR I knew right away that this was going to be a particularly interesting interview, and it was. The guys were really open about their lives, and discussed everything from music to the "taboo" topic of politics. Though the guys come off as easy going semi-comedians, they are actually very serious about the music they make, and exceptionally intelligent and articulate when it comes to discussing it. The interview felt more like a conversation, and once the giggling ceased (on both sides) we touched on some surprisingly poignant subjects. Brent and Curtis spoke about the passing of close friends, living life to the fullest, SOCAN audits and record label injustices. It was by far one of my favorite interviews to date.
Click play below to hear the full interview:
Abby hosts the Reaktor, every Friday from 2PM to 4PM
Maximum RNR are set to play three more shows in Ontario before embarking on their next tour to the United Kingdom. Lovers of metal, hardcore punk, and rock 'n' roll can check them out this Friday, June 29, at the Townehouse in Sudbury before they're off to play the Rockstar Bar in Sault Ste. Marie the next day. Their final show before they leave Canada is on July 7 at the Bovine Sex Club in Toronto.
Until then, the people of the Great White North and the UK can read Stephanie's show review below to get a little preview of what to expect the next time Maximum RNR performs in their town.
Photo: Stephanie D.
It usually comes as a shock to most people that deep in the nether regions of my twee little heart and soul lies a girl who likes it rough, hot, and filthy. And by "it," I mean my music. Grinding guitars, heavy bass, screaming vocals, black clad sweaty men, sideburns, and long hair is what I look for when I go to a show; and Maximum RNR gave it to me not once, but twice at Pouzza Fest this year.
My first "Max" experience started at Underworld on the night of May 19. I was nervous because it was my first time, and also a little late for the show after eating poutine at an alley picnic with my friends.
When we entered the venue, I could see the band and hear the singing, but had no idea where that crazy voice was coming from. Then through the mosh pit I noticed a microphone cable leading from the stage into the crowd of people going wild. And there he was, Diamond Brent Panther (aka Brenton Ellis) thrashing about in the middle of the pit like the sun with the planets moshing around him in crazy-sweaty unison.
I was thoroughly impressed with a man who can mosh, get hit, physically pick up an audience member, and belt out an amazing tune at the same time. Maybe he is a true professional, or maybe he's just crazy, but the way Diamond Brent strutted about, you would have never known that he injured his back at the Dwarves show the night prior.
Unfortunately, I was only at Underworld long enough to hear two Maximum RNR songs, which is certainly not enough to truly experience what a band has to offer. Plus, Max rarely performs in Montreal these days, is unsigned, and totally punk rock DIY, so I just had to see an entire set. Lucky for me, with the cancellation of Poison Idea, Maximum RNR were booked to headline at Katacombes on May 20, the last night of Pouzza Fest.
So off I was to Katacombes the next night.
I got there super early, and with the police and protest chaos outside, I played with the idea of spending the whole night at one venue so I wouldn't miss any Maximum RNR. However, after seeing yet another ska-punk band that sounded just like every other ska-punk band at Pouzza Fest, I escaped to the terrace outside and debated whether to leave and catch Machinegun Suzie at Underworld.
As I was drinking my pint of brew, I noticed several different people come out to gather their friends inside. "This guy is amazing, you have to see this!" they raved. "This guy" was Jah Cutta, Canada's King of Reggae, accompanied by deejay John Lee of Foufounes Electriques infamous Ska Tuesdays! I felt so lucky to catch the legendary performer of over 30 years spread the Rastafari love in song. Jah Cutta created so much happiness, and his energetic performance made even the roughest looking dude at Katacombes dance to the beat.
Jah Cutta really showed those stereotypical ska-punk bands how it's done, and I have him to thank because I ended up staying the rest of the night, finally getting my chance to see Maximum RNR in its full glory—well, almost. Lead guitarist Keith Carman was absent from their second Pouzza show.
Though he started on stage, Diamond Brent Panther quickly made his way into the crowd screaming, "Trust Us!" and everyone gathered around him once again to sing along and make rock poses through the entire set. There was lots of alcohol splatter and whisky drinking during the performance, and someone in the audience poured beer in Brent's mouth, all over his face, and into his eyes. But as usual, nothing stopped him.
With Brent in the pit and Keith C. MIA, Curtis Faux made sure that no void was left on stage by thrashing around, his hair flying, slapping that bass so hard that I could literally feel the vibration in my heart and stomach. His last name is pronounced "fox" by the way, and Curtis certainly lived up to it by injecting the band with lots of musical talent and sex appeal.
Keith Maurik, usually on rhythm guitar, proved more-than capable and make up for the lack of a lead guitarist, as he seamlessly plucked the strings on my favourite songs of the night: the super-heavy "Ire of the Ram," and that catchy hard-rock tune "Lucky Charm," both of which have those great guitar riffs that always make me bite my bottom lip and rock out like a West Island girl should.
There was a heat wave in Montreal that weekend, so drummer Mike Childs performed wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a tattoo around his navel. I've always felt that the drums have got to be the most physically demanding instruments to play, and Mike kept up the energy by banging the skins non-stop for over 38 minutes, his enthusiasm making it seem so effortless.
Their set ended with the brand new Maximum RNR tune "Attack Panther," and for the encore we once again heard "Trust Us," a fan-favourite requested by some late-comers that missed the first few songs of the performance.
After the show I did a little investigative reporting to learn more about the people behind the band. Keith M. describes his band mates Diamond Brent and Curtis as "grifters" who "make things happen." When I asked Keith how they describe him, he replied, "Oh, I'm just the asshole that keeps them in check"—banter seems to be par for the course among the guys in Maximum RNR. Hanging out with Keith was so cool! He told me a bit about his life in music, and how at one point he went to build houses in Indonesia. I really appreciated his openness and sincerity, and could totally tell he has a kind soul.
To end off the night I partied with the band, Curtis gave me a sticker, and I bought a copy of Maximum RNR's The Black and White Years, which features their entire catalogue to date, for only five bucks. The CD has been on repeat ever since. Like Angelica and Diego before me, I am smitten!
Maximum RNR Katacombes set list:
01. Trust Us
02. Say What
03. Train Wreck
05. Speaking in Tongues
06. Lucky Charm
07. Deep Inside the Tracks
08. Kill Tom Cruise
09. Welcome to Sodomy
10. Ire of the Ram
11. I Hate the Cold
12. I Turn My Back
14. Attack Panther
15. Trust Us (encore, by request)
Stephanie hosts Twee Time, every Friday from 8PM to 9PM