The genesis of NoMeansNo occurred in 1976, when brothers John and Rob Wright found themselves in attendance at a Ramones concert in Boulder, Colorado. Their father, Raul, was a lighting tech for a traveling musical troupe that happened to be sharing the stage with the up and coming New York quartet. Though no one realized it until years later, future collaborator and co-conspirator Jello Biafra was also in attendance at that monumental event, as well as Ministry's Al Jourgensen, a fellow named "Rhino" from Hygiene, CO, and the embattled Tommy Bolin. Rob and John left that event, ears ringing and ideas brewing.
Their first professional musical endeavor was a Vancouver Island favorite called Castle, which played towns such as Port Hardy, Port Renfrew and any other port of call that would accept their political charged brand of Led Zeppelin infused ethnic rock. Rob played guitar and bass while John handled the drums and keyboards, often simultaneously, much to the astonishment of audiences, who were far more acclimated to lowbrow acts of the late 70s. Intellectualism Within the Context of Hard Rock took Vancouver Island by storm. However, the other members of Castle quit the band in a huff in a dispute over the seating arrangements in the tour van. They have done very little in music ever since, except for session work for SNFU and Zebra.
Refusing to give up on their dreams, Rob and John retired to their mum's basement and began recording songs as a two piece at a dizzying rate! Their first release was a 7" called Look Here Come the Wormies, a song that incoporated heavy doses of heterophenomenology in the extensive lyrics. Sadly, due to some flooding after a tropical cyclone, few copies remain extant and the master tapes were sold by the Wrights' younger sister Gwen. She is still asked to pay full price for admission to concerts. Undaunted by the Wormies failure to chart in Casey Kasem's hot 40, NoMeansNo quickly released another single called Fear, Betrayal, Anger and Hatred, opting to avoid Foyer Records' strong armed publishing rights tactics and released the album on their own Shuttlerock Records label. Collectors and completists alike may recall some of the fine acts that came out on that grass roots label: D.O.A., April Wine, and the Grant Lawrence Three. Success immediately befell NoMeansNo, who used the influx of capital to record their first full length album Mama, a title of which Mrs. Wright still disapproves. She raised her boys better than mocking one's elders.
In the fallout over the naming of Mama, Mrs. Wright sold her house in order to buy a condo that lacked a basement, leaving John and Rob quite out of sorts and unable to record their dozens of would-be hit songs. During this time, the master tapes to Mama were lost and this caused much consternation and dismay. The duo considered quitting music altogether, but a rather rabid fan from Alberta named Andy Kerr (ex One Horse Blue and Red Riders of the Dark Prairies) convinced the rhythm section to continue as a band. Kerr, whose connections within the music industry are quite well known for their width and breadth (emphasis on breadth), managed to help John achieve gainful employment on a Broadway musical called Haberdashery Peculiar. NoMeansNo lay fallow while Andy and John tripped the light fantastic night after night in small dinner theaters across Canada. There's an amusing bit about a rather snowy evening in Moose Jaw, but I have neither the time nor patience to relate it to you right now.
During this time, Rob teamed up with guitarist Andy Kerr and basement owner Kevin Lee to form the populist entertainment collective "The Alcove". Part studio, part rehearsal space and completely bananas, "The Alcove" served as a home base for NoMeansNo, who were being managed by a former street corner preacher named Guy DuPree. Once John's Broadway tour ended, NoMeansNo expanded into a trio with the arrival of fresh-eyed and bushy-tailed Andrew Kerr (ex Thor's Squadron of Vengeance, a heavy metal who would belatedly receive recognition as a major influence on Scott Ian...ask him, he'll tell you). The trio quickly recorded the You Kill Me EP, whose proceeds went to benefit suffers of congenital central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome. "Body Bag" spent a little time on the charts with the timeless refrain "Undying love, yeah/Give it to me, yeah!". A Juno quickly followed. Riding the success of the EP and its benevolent intentions, NoMeansNo quickly returned to the studio for the tour de force Sex Mad. With its cover art reminscient of Virgil Ross, Sex Mad's popularity helped the band embark on their first world tour, taking them through new territories such as Albania, eastern Poland and Spartenburg, SC. It was at that latter location where the band learned "The Alcove" had been sold for a song (quite literally, the song was "Hunt the She Beast", which undoubtedly you've heard in a blue jeans commercial on CBC Radio 3), leaving the band essentially homeless. It was then that media giant Jello Biafra, who had unknowingly crossed paths with the Wrights all those years ago, stepped into the picture, offering the band a multi-album recording contract, a tour bus named "Bessie" and took them out to an IHOP to consumate the deal over a strawberry waffle topped with imitation dairy whip.
Jello's nephew Scott Henderson, who had emigrated to Victoria, BC, in his youth, offered to allow the band to set up shop in his home studio, "The Rat's Nest". It was there that the band recorded demos and ultimately laid down hot tracks for Small Parts Isolated and Destroyed. Unfortunately, a mixup at Jello's label caused the the LP to be compiled together with another band called NoMeansNo (from Ogallala, Nebraska) who had just submitted their own EP called The Day Everything Became Nothing. Since the Nebraska band had just broken up with great acrimony and turmoil, Jello suggested to Rob, John and Andy that they quietly take ownership of a large shipment of merchandise that had arrived at label headquarters and learn the other band's songs. Rob once again left the band to assume a job as the curator of the Toronto Museum of Natural Art History, leaving Andy and John to forge on with touring bassist phenom Ford Pier, a precocious lad of 17. However, his mum had quite a strict curfew and he was forced to leave the band. Fortunately, the NDP eliminated funding for the museum and Rob found himself needing a new occupation just as Ford returned to air conditioning college.
Not much happened until 1991, when NoMeansNo released a pair of albums on Sept. 17, 1991: Wrong and 0+2=1. The duality and dichtomy of these two albums produced some of the most rip-roaring hardcore fury that the trio would ever summon. In fact, the subsequent tour found Andrew Kerr spraining his pinkie on a barre chord and the injury led to his eventual retirement. Being a financial wizard whose copy of Fortune 500 was never far from hand, Kerr invested his earning wisely and became the Carpet King of the entire southeastern section of the United States.
Despite the press blitz and hoopla surrounding Wrong, this album was a commercial favorite and was almost immediately put out of print by Jello's label, who refused to lose any more money on the project. The failure of the record has long been blamed on the inaudible guitar production.
The staggering setback of Wrong's failure and Kerr's entry into the world of flooring would have ended a lesser band. Yet, as John has often said, "Each time Divinity closes a window, she leaves a door open." These words would ring true as the band relocated to the small port village of Vancouver, British Columbia, and immediately fell in favor with the "in crowd". A couple of years of musical activity was supplanted by John's newfound career as a food critic for the weekly entertainment paper The Georgia Slate while Rob rubbed elbows with the likes of Craig Bougie, Joe Keithley and William Richard Bennett. They recorded a one off project called Hissanol. Eventually the ol' musical itch hit John and he enlisted his brother to record a solo album called Why Do They Call Me Mr. Itchy, which was later retitled Mr. Happy. At the behest of label president Jello Biafra, the duo released it under the NoMeansNo masthead and boy, did sales skyrocket! The record buying public had forgiven the misstep of Wrong and welcomed the band with big hugs and kisses. After a bout with mononucleoisis, Rob put together a touring band including guitarist Ken Kempster and Nashville session player Tom Holliston to once again tour the world.
While on the road, Rob penned a new album based on John's years as a sitcom actor and called it Worldhood of the World (as such). Kempster had already left the band to pursue his budding curling career, so Holliston switched to guitar and John returned the band a humbled, failed restauranteer. The Burger Shack concept simply never did catch on there in the mainland of BC. Nevertheless, NoMeansNo built on their strengths with more strengths and sales surged into the five digit mark. The album featured the sultry vocals of John Wright, providing his recorded singing debut on "Humans", a song about the joys of anthropology. The big hit from this album was "The River", which originally was meant to appear on a Night Ranger tribute album.
There are some deliberate omissions regarding the period from 1996-2000. The band embraced "glam metal" and that's about all that needs said.
The final release of the 1990s was One, which found the trio slimmed down to a mere three members: Rob, John and newcomer Tom Holliston. The sprawling opus is a magnificent testimonial on the exigency of suburban sprawl and got rave reviews from Architectural Digest Monthly. Ford Pier was rumored to be "unamused". Around that time, Rob again left the band to join a survey to definitively map the Arctic boundaries of Canada. He was thought to be lost at sea for some time, but it turns out he was simply three sheets to the wind in an Inuit village. His northern adventures led to the musical inspiration behind 2006's All Roads Lead to Churchill (which was later retitled by their German office to something more in touch with their worldwide audience, despite ignoring their British one). This album featured some songs, as well as a few tunes followed by a single ditty. Audiences roared their approval, particularly in Latvia.
And now, in 2010, NoMeansNo is set to set the musical world on fire with the upcoming 12" EP, Faceless May/Old. Despite the band's bitter tour experience in Des Moines in 2007 (less said about that the better), the band feels their best days are still ahead of them. Having cut the musical fat to perform as a "power trio", NoMeansNo seems primed and ready to recapture their glory days one last time!