Local quartet The Chain keep straight edge hardcore alive
Week in and week out we’ve seen that Calgary’s undergoing a punk and hardcore revolution. While there are plenty of impressive booze-and-drug-addled hardcore punk bands making a mark the emerging scene is also home to a tried-and-true quartet of NYHC-worshipping rare Nike-collecting streetwear-sporting straight-edge hardcore kids. I’m talking about the heavyweight sounds of local crew The Chain.
Like all hardcore band interviews my time with The Chain is full of truths half-truths and flat-out lies. If I’m to believe drummer Stuart Ghanam guitarist Nolan Hernandez is from Hawaii (“aloha amigo”) bassist Braydan Rodwell is from Brandon Manitoba (“He’s still struggling with the adjustment to civilized society”) and frontman Dereck Burns was born and raised in Calgary and his real last name is “Carey.”
Burns clarifies that neither fact about him is true. “Contrary to what Stu would have you believe I’m actually from Winnipeg” he says. “But I moved here when I was 13 with a vision of starting the hardest NYHC-influenced straight edge band this city has ever seen. Eleven years later it may be a reality.”
Despite taking their name from the beloved Fleetwood Mac song The Chain cite Straight Ahead Warzone Youth of Today Confront Brotherhood and Breakdown as influences. “It’s hardcore influenced by hardcore” Ghanam says.
Burns first came up with the idea for The Chain in 2012. “I was working a shit job washing dishes and wrote some lyrics about hating my boss one night then went home and wrote one of the songs on the demo on guitar” he recalls. “I told Stu about it and me him and Braydan jammed a bit. Then Nolan showed up told us we sucked rewrote the songs and we rocketed to superstardom.”
While superstardom might be a bit of a stretch the band have certainly been embraced by the local punk and hardcore communities even if there is a tangible divide. “In Calgary just like in every other city there’s this split between hardcore and punk” Ghanam says. “We play both types of shows to both crowds.”
“I think as a group we can agree that we’ll play with whoever” Hernandez adds. “The Chain can pull that off because it could be punk music for hardcore nerds or hardcore for punk nerds. It depends who you ask.”
Another reason The Chain are a local anomaly is the fact that all four members are outspokenly straight-edge a lifestyle choice that’s not quite as popular as it once was. “I can probably count on one hand the other straight-edge kids in this city that aren’t in our band” Burns says. Fortunately there’s no hostility from or towards the band over their status as edgemen. “It’s not like any of us are assholes about it or whatever so it’s fine. I usually try and mention it onstage at most shows just in case there’s a younger kid in the crowd that doesn’t realize there’s a straight-edge band from here. That’s probably unrealistic.”
On Thursday March 20 The Chain will follow up two cassette tapes with the release of their debut 7-inch Steppin’ Out of Line . The seven-song release which arrives via Ghanam’s own Mind Control label is packed with terse aggressive blasts of timeless hardcore. Recorded with local musician and producer Luis Ergon who’s been a key figure in documenting the local punk scene it’s easily the best thing The Chain have ever done.
“It was a long process” Burns recalls. “We probably wrote 12 songs all together over the course of a year or so and scrapped a bunch because they sucked. Luckily Nolan — a.k.a. the Mozart of Mosh a.k.a. the Sultan of Slam — always seems to have more riffs ready to go.”
“I just want to write fast and mean straight-edge music” Hernandez adds.
Then just as every good hardcore interview traditionally ends Burns offers up some positive advice. “Start more bands. Mosh to local bands. Support your friends and just as importantly support people who aren’t your friends” he says. “Hardcore lives. XXX Chain Crew 2012 to infinity.”