I wish I had gone to Not Dead Yet last year. The Toronto punk festival boasted one of the more memorable lineups in recent years with Hoax, Forward, Marked Men, A Cold World, Earth Girls, Rash, Destruction Unit, Perfect Pussy, and dozens more. And it's run by Greg Benedetto of mutant hardcore band S.H.I.T., a band both unsatisfied with bland punk for punk's sake and unimpressed with your distaste in the disinterested world at large. What's a complaint without a rallying cry but a whine? I'm not saying that S.H.I.T. is some sort of charity band: what I'm saying is that S.H.I.T. ain't fucking blind - they're going to hold the scars of a broken system up to the light and look for some next steps.
But there's also an element of the whimsical in the band, right? I mean, the name S.H.I.T. can be an acronym for a million things, but when you get down to business, it spells out "shit," you know, fecal matter? Ever heard of it? So there's this self-conscious absurd side to the band too, especially if you get down to songs like "Generation Shit," "Mind Fuck, and "Muscle Mag." Sometimes you have to laugh through the ugliness.
But, as Greg says below, getting started with your community is a great way to begin change, and one hundred percent necessary to the upkeep of a positive, thriving DIY scene, which Toronto has, in part because of the band's own venue S.H.I.B.G.B.'s, which is coming up on its first year anniversary. This stuff makes me happy. I'm a cynical fuck who often gets trapped in the idea that things only ever get worse, but hearing about positive community growth gives me hope that my grinch-sized heart can grow three times its size.
Jordan Reyes: Let's start with a little bit about Toronto. Are there any bands that you'd recommend checking out?
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Greg Benedetto: There are a slew of excellent bands right now. Lots of good shit. TRIAGE, VCR, ANTI-VIBES, THE BRAIN, GAUCHO, ABSOLUT, MOCOSO, HASSLER, THE FLQs, FARANG, SEVERE, CONUNDRUM, BELT FIGHT, COLUMN OF HEAVEN, ABYSS, HIRED GOONS, WILD SIDE, STRAIGHT TRUTH, BILE SISTER, NEW FRIES. I'd go on record to say Toronto / Southern Ontario has one of the best DIY punk scenes going in the world right now.
JR: Another question I'm asking out of ignorance. Is there a history of punk music in Toronto? Do you ever feel like you guys come from a "historic line" of punk bands?
GB: Legend has it that, there was a band from D.C., named after a Ramones song, who used to practice playing Viletones' "Screamin Fist" before they had any songs of their own. Toronto had a scene that was on par with first wave punk in NYC, London & LA. We just weren't a major center at the time so it's not nearly as well documented. Only recently has it started to come to light via things like the books "Treat Me Like Dirt," & "Perfect Youth," and the documentary "The Last Pogo Jumps Again." We also have a pretty impressive history of hardcore acts that followed. Unfortunately, a lot of those bands released their works on cassette tapes, so they're still difficult to track down in the age of the download. YYY's "Sin" is a veritable classic though, no doubt. I'd recommend tracking down the TOHC '83 comp that was finally pressed to vinyl a few years back. It's a great snapshot of what was going on here. From 90 onward, Southern Ontario's lineage is indisputable. Chokehold, Left For Dead, The Swarm, No Warning, Haymaker, Violent Minds, Fucked Up, Career Suicide, Cursed, Urban Blight etc etc etc
JR: Toronto boasts one of the best music festivals around in my opinion - Not Dead Yet - do you guys have anything to do with organizing and helping the festival? Do you think it's a positive event for the city?
GB: Yeah, that would be me. My partner and I work on it with the help and support of a number of individuals, some of which are my bandmates. Measuring it's effect on the city is a bit difficult. I definitely think that it's helped the scene in the city grow, perhaps because it gives kids a touchstone and something that is from the city but respected abroad. It also helps embolden relationships with punks outside of Toronto, which is a huge asset. At the same time, festivals are not how things actually are. They falsify the record a bit. They're rarely the best conditions for a gig. Every year we think about what we didn't like about the year past and how we can push the festival to be the best one out there.
JR: You guys have a handful of cassettes and 7"s out right now. Are there any plans for an LP?
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GB: We currently have no concrete plans for anything right now other than gigging here and there. Any future recordings will come when they come. Our latest recording will appear on a compilation on Beach Impediment records, due later this month.
JR: A lot of your songs deal with decay or are along the lines of things getting worse or even just being in a bad situation. Do you think punk is a response to this (even a measure of combat against it) or just another way to keep the trajectory going?
GB: Personally, I participate in punk because of hope not because of want for decay. The world is already shit, why would we want it to get worse? I think we're more interested in drawing attention to the shit, putting it in peoples faces, in the hopes that they realize they need to do something about it.
JR: Do you think it's necessary for punk to be in response to something else or can it be played for its own sake?
GB: In 2015, if punk is being played for its own sake it's just rock music. In 2015, I think playing rock music is about the most boring thing you can do as an artist. Punk needs to be volatile, concerned and done for a reason beyond vanity.
JR: Do you think you guys fall into the category of being "world-weary" and if so, does that affect the music you play? Let's put it another way. If the world were better off, would you still play punk/hardcore?
GB: I can't really answer that because I live firmly in the world that I see. Maybe if the world wasn't so rough these days and we were all at peace and there was no looming food crisis or other apocalyptic scenario we could chill out but that's just not the case.
JR: I got to catch you guys in Chicago last year, which was a really great show. Do you get to tour as much as you'd like? Do you have plans to tour again any time soon?
GB: I'd say we play a sufficient amount for a band that has full time work and other obligations. We are not musicians first. We are human beings living under the same systems as everyone else. We just did some dates in Texas and Mexico. We will likely play out a few more times over the next few months when we can find the time. When we're not doing that, we focus our efforts locally on helping the scene here.
JR: What all is in the near future for S.H.I.T.?
GB: Our venue is approaching it's one year anniversary, so there's a milestone. Beyond that, who knows?
JR:Anything else you'd like to say?
GB: If you're not contributing to your community yet, start!