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SNFU

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One of the most striking groups to rise from the North American hardcore punk scene, SNFU were a band who were willing to diverge from the clichés of punk rock even as they built a reputation as one of the finest acts in the hardcore community.
Lead singer Mr. Chi Pig was a thoroughly unique personality, a dynamic stage performer with an intelligently theatrical style to go along with his strong, forceful voice, and the founding guitar combination of Brent Belke and Marc Belke gave the music a muscular, melodic sound that showed they could be tuneful even when they were at their fastest and loudest. Their debut album, 1984's …And No One Else Wanted to Play, set the template for their clever and ambitious sound, and 1995's The One Voted Most Likely to Succeed was a relatively polished and professional effort that still confirmed how unique SNFU really were.
SNFU was formed in Edmonton, British Columbia, Canada, by lead vocalist Ken Chinn, better known by his stage name Mr. Chi Pig, in 1981. Chinn would not only become SNFU's most recognizable figure, he would go on to be the only constant member throughout their career. A youthful misfit who found himself in punk rock and skateboarding, Mr. Chi Pig was a unique natural performer, and when he met Brent and Marc Belke, twin brothers who played guitars and liked punk rock, they decided to form a band. They started a group called Live Sex Show, which broke up after a few shows, but undaunted, Mr. Chi Pig and the Belkes launched another band right away with Warren Bidlock on bass and Evan C. Jones on drums. The group's original name was Society's No Fucking Use, which was soon shortened to Society's NFU, and then simply SNFU. Bidlock left the band due to stage fright after a few months, and Scott Juskiw sat in with the group for the recording of their first demo, titled Life of a Bag Lady. By late 1982, Jimmy Schmitz had become SNFU's new bassist and they began gigging frequently, impressing audiences with their manic stage show and sharing bills with the likes of the Dead Kennedys and Youth Brigade.
Youth Brigade's label BYO Records offered to put out an album by SNFU, and the band traveled to California to cut their first LP. BYO released …And No One Else Wanted to Play in 1985, and their speedy, imaginative music and surreal lyrical perspective made them one of the most talked-about bands on the hardcore scene. By the time BYO brought out the second SNFU album, 1986's If You Swear You'll Catch No Fish, Jimmy Schmitz and Evan C. Jones were out of the group, with Dave Bacon taking over on bass and Jon Card coming aboard as drummer. Yet another new rhythm section, bassist Curtis Creager and drummer Ted Simm, was working with the band when they recorded 1988's Better Than a Stick in the Eye, which was released by another independent label, Cargo Records.
Constant touring and personal clashes were taking a toll on SNFU, and in late 1989, the group broke up. Brent Belke and Marc Belke started a project of their own, the Wheat Chiefs, while Mr. Chi Pig relocated to Vancouver and launched a band called the Wongs. He also came out as gay, and would become a respected activist and advocate for queer youth in the punk community. Under their deal with Cargo, SNFU owed the label a second album, so they put together an anthology, 1991's The Last of the Big Time Suspenders, that featured unreleased live and studio tapes. To promote the LP, SNFU booked a short reunion tour, featuring Mr. Chi Pig, Brent Belke, Marc Belke, Curtis Creager, and Jon Card. Both fans and the musicians were happy with the tour, and SNFU decided to keep the reunion going.
As the group's reputation grew in the punk community, the successful punk label Epitaph Records signed SNFU, and their first album for the company, Something Green and Leafy This Way Comes, came out in 1993. Predictably, the record introduced another new rhythm section, Rob Johnson on bass and Dave Rees on drums. SNFU toured extensively behind the release, headlining clubs and playing larger halls opening for Green Day, Bad Religion, and Korn, and the album became their biggest seller to date. The same lineup returned to the studio for their second Epitaph release, 1995's The One Voted Most Likely to Succeed, which included a vocal cameo from Bif Naked. While the album wasn't the crossover breakthrough the band and label were hoping for, it was still a big seller by SNFU standards, and after a round of touring they headed back to the studio to record 1996's FYULABA (standing for "Fuck You Up Like a Bad Accident"). Mr. Chi Pig, who had been struggling with alcoholism and mental health issues for years, was said to have been difficult in the studio during the FYULABA sessions, and after three albums, Epitaph chose not to renew their contract with the group. As a stopgap, SNFU released a live album, 1998's Let's Get It Right The First Time, through Megaforce Records; while part of the album was cut at a club in Vancouver, most of it was actually recorded in a studio for better control of the audio.
After Let's Get It Right the First Time arrived, Brent Belke and Dave Rees parted ways with SNFU. Mr. Chi Pig, Marc Belke, and Rob Johnson opted to keep the group going with a single guitar lineup, and with Sean Stubbs as their new drummer. The band toured periodically until 2001, when SNFU announced they were going on hiatus. They returned to action in 2003, and a fresh studio album, In the Meantime and In Between Time, followed in 2004. The lineup for the LP was Mr. Chi Pig, Marc Belke, bassist Matt Warhurst, and drummer Trevor MacGregor. The album was warmly received by fans and critics, and the song "Cockatoo Quill" was later named one of Canada's 20 Most Beloved Songs in a 2017 Canada Day poll by the CBC. However, the financial realities of life in an independent punk band as well as personal conflicts led SNFU to break up again. Mr. Chi Pig's health problems worsened, and for a while he was homeless.
SNFU remained dormant until 2007, when at an event honoring the group's 25th anniversary, Mr. Chi Pig and guitarist Ken Fleming played a set of classic SNFU songs under the name asSNFU, with bassist Bryan McCallum and drummer Chad Mareels joining in. The show was well received, and asSNFU would play a handful more gigs before Mr. Chi Pig simply renamed the band SNFU, which displeased some fans and former bandmates. Despite frequent personnel changes, SNFU remained a going concern, and in 2010, the documentary Open Your Mouth and Say...Mr. Chi Pig opened, offering a look into his role in punk rock history as well as his struggle with mental and physical health. A biography of the band, SNFU: What No One Else Wanted to Say by Chris Walter, was published in 2012.
The following year, SNFU brought out a studio album, Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You, with Mr. Chi Pig joined by Ken Fleming (guitar), Sean Colig (guitar), Kerry Cyr (bass), and Jon Card (drums). This edition of the band fell apart shortly after the album's release, and while Mr. Chi Pig continued to tour with various combinations of backing musicians, his health and dependency problems started to compromise his ability to perform. A 2018 SNFU tour was canceled and the band was put on permanent hiatus, and in November 2019, Mr. Chi Pig told a reporter that he had been diagnosed with an incurable disease and was expected to have only a month to live. He beat those odds, but the SNFU story still came to a decisive close on July 16, 2020, when Ken Chinn died at the age of 57. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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