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NoMeansNo

This interview with NoMeansNo drummer John Wright was conducted somewhere in Seattle, sometime in 1993, and published in Throwrug #10 in December of that year.

The last album (Why Do They Call Me Mr Happy?) was recorded with just the two of you (John and bassing brother Rob), right?

Yeah, Rob and I did it together last February, Rob playing all the guitars and stuff and I did the keyboards… These boys (new guitarist Tommy [Holliston] and drumming Kenny [Kempster]) weren't involved at that point. We were heavily involved with the Hanson Brothers, though, which was recorded by Tommy and Robby and I, and then Kenny came on tour and played with us. That was a lot of fun for us, and it seemed like a good idea that hopefully we could work common to the band, and Tom was into it, so we tried it out and went to Australia with DOA.

The double drums was an idea that's been kicking around for quite a long time, and now seemed to be a perfect opportunity to give it a try. Come up with something a bit different, people haven't seen us in awhile, so it's maybe a little bit of a surprise. Seems to be going over with the punters, anyway.

When you went back to being a two-piece, was it sort of a feeling of coming around full circle?

Well, you know, it felt a bit reminiscent of the old days, and the writing, I think, even reflects that a little bit. But, yeah, it was more or less "life goes on." Andy (ex-guitar) was through with it, and he's moved on to other things -- which was fine, it was a good decision on his part, I think.

For us it was like "OK." We had no desire to stop playing and stop writing. so it was, "OK, we're back on our own. Let's do an album, anyway, and see about finding someone to play with us." We didn’t want to rush it or push it; it took a little while.

Was that album written all as a two-piece, or was any of it left over from when Andy was in the band?

About four songs were actually written as Mr. Wrong songs, which was my brother's solo bass act that he does. He wrote a bunch of songs for that. And then some were leftovers from when Andy was in the band and that had already been written. And then a couple of brand new songs that we wrote together. So it was a bit of a mishmash, but I think it really was more on-track than 0+2=1, which I thought was a bit vague. You know, a lot of gunfire, but not necessarily hitting the mark.

Are you going to be recording soon with the new kids?

Hopefully. We'll see. We're just taking it one project at a time. We're trying to stay away from heavy-duty commitments, just let things work, let the chips fall where they may, see how things go. Right now we've got two tours under our belt with Tommy, he's getting better and better. It was a big leap for him to go from the music and the guitar playing before to the new styles, whole new level of show. His old band -- well, still going, but now taking a bit of a hiatus -- a band called The Show Business Giants -- is completely different from this. And he's stepping into something that's an already going concern. It's the first tour for Ken, so this was a bit of a trial for us, and it seems to be working great, and we'll just continue from here.

We have about three more tours lined up for next year, maybe four, and we're taking the summer off. And we do have a lot of new songs, and we'll see what the writing situation is when that comes along. I imagine we'll be doing some writing together, it's a lot easier to write songs with a whole band, I find, than with just a couple of people. Our music is really a group effort. I mean, Robby writes a lion's share of the music, no question, and I write several songs to bring up the slack a little bit. Andy did the same. As far as Tom writing for the band, I don't know, we'll see. His style of writing is completely different; it may not fit in, but maybe it will. He's got one song, actually, that we want to do, so… He'll sing it, and that'll help be more comfortable, him singing his own material.

But like I say, I do like the group effort, the end product is always a result of everyone's input. The whole thing comes together and starts to take a life of its own. It's always been that way for us, and I don't really see any reason why we should change that.

You and Rob are known as an amazingly tight rhythm section. How long does it take someone to get into the same kind of groove that you're on?

I don't know...I think some people can get together and hit it off and be amazing right off the bat. With us it was basically longevity. If you play long enough together, you get to know one another, you know?

Did you and Rob do anything before NoMeansNo?

Well, yeah, more or less...we started playing together, writing and recording songs together, about 1978. I turned 16, going to high school, and my brother decided he wanted to write punk rock, so...he moved home and we started playing together. Came up with some very strange songs, heh heh, and then when we wanted to play live, we didn't really know any guitar players, and that's why we started as a two-piece. "Fuck it, let's just play bass and drums." We were heavily into PiL and that heavy bass thing.

I was skeptical, but we pulled it off. Andy and I were in another band at the time, but that band broke up and Andy was a natural fit to join us. He resisted for about six months until we finally convinced him to join us. The chemistry worked perfectly, and it did for eight years, nine years, 'til finally he burned out on it, and we found ourselves back as a two-piece.

Do you ever think there might be a time when you and Rob won't be playing together?

Well, I imagine it's inevitable, but who knows when. I imagine, yeah, I don't think we can get up and pound out punk rock when we're 75 years old or whatever. That's kind of a tough question...we'll play for as long as it's fun, creative, inspiring...

Is it weird for you playing for audiences that are, in some cases, young enough to be your offspring?

I think it's great. I'd be really unhappy if we were not appealing to the younger crowd. I think our music has always appealed to all ages, and I'd hate to start getting pigeon-holed as an "older band" or "the old band."

Why do they call you Mr Happy?

Well, I guess you're just going to have to buy the album and find out. I'm not going to give that away, that's our meal ticket!

 

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