Craig Northey and Bruce McCulloch may not be young or drunk, but the two veteran Canadian performers are by all means punk.
“Both of us don’t like to be told what to do,” says Northey, founding member of Vancouver-based rock band Odds, who is once again collaborating with McCulloch, Kids in the Hall member, writer/director and actor.
“That’s my theory about musicians and comedians and why they got into this – because they wanted a job where no one told them what to do.”
Northey was, and still is, attracted to the DIY ethic that came from the ‘80s punk era and how it marked the end of a time in music where, in order to record an album, artists had to overcome a series of roadblocks: a $20,000-price tag and a sound engineer who wouldn’t let you touch any of the controls, he says. Band members were huge stars, unapproachable people living in another world.
“When punk came along, it made it for you and me, and you could do it yourself and you don’t need to spend all that money on it, because it wasn’t the point of the music,” he says. “You could speak about your reality and have a lot of fun, because it’s going fast and it’s going hard and it’s going to be fun. I think that has stayed with anybody who was ever involved in punk rock in any way, or enjoyed even listening to it: you can do it yourself; you just have to do it. Everything that Bruce and I do, we make up. It’s coming from nowhere and then it exists. If somebody says you can’t do it, that’s the reason you do it.”
Northey and McCulloch have been longtime collaborators on a variety of film and television productions. Their latest work, Young Drunk Punk, is a based on McCulloch’s essays, soon to be released in a book by the same title. While the stories are very much from the mind of McCulloch (and directed by Blake Brooker) its writer is quick to credit Northey’s stage presence – not only for his artistic contributions, but simply as a punk from the same era.
“We’re of the same vintage. … I can confirm or deny something he says just by shared human experience,” Northey says. “All of what he does is about a form of the truth, whether it’s comfortable for people to hear or not.”
For Northey, who scored Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, among other works for the famed sketch troupe, the partnership is successful based on their shared worldview and how they complement each other in a “musical way.”
“It’s a strange way to put it, but he understands music and his taste in music complements mine. We give and take and push and pull and come up with new things. What he comes up with isn’t exactly what I would have imagined, but together we come up with something new. We’ve learned that dialectic, as the university kids say.”
Toronto-based musician Brian Connelly worked with McCulloch on an earlier iteration of the show. Building on Connelly’s contributions, Northey worked on Young Drunk Punk with McCulloch in Los Angeles to arrive at its current form, something that will only have been performed a handful of times before it hits UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium.
Much of Young Drunk Punk centres around family and fatherhood, a theme with which Northey, a father of three teens, can identify. And despite any trappings of adult life, Northey, like L.A.-based McCulloch, remains very much a punk at heart. It all comes back to the disdain for being told what to do, while going after an artistic vision.
“You become possessed by music, or in Bruce’s case, a vision for what will make people laugh, about the truth, and about combining the two in your own way. It’s a disease that you can’t shake and I see that in anyone else who’s younger and who’s trying to do a similar thing and make music. … That grassroots thing (about) punk rock – that’s back. Because there’s no giant infrastructure of major labels that you have to jump through all these hoops to be a part of – and it’s all about social media and building grassroots support for what you do – it’s no different than it was in 1979.”
Northey and McCulloch take their grassroots punk rock ideals to the stage at 8pm Jan. 24. Tickets, $28/35, at tickets.uvic.ca.