Mr. Chi Pig and his legendary punk band SNFU could play You Make Me Thick along with other hardcore anthems in Red Deer next week.
The Edmonton-born Vancouver-based group, which performs Thursday Aug. 25 at the International Beer Haus, has gone through an impressive roster of more than 30 musicians since forming in 1981.
The one constant has been lead singer Ken Chinn, known to fans as Mr. Chi Pig.
Chinn grew up Asian and gay in Edmonton. He was an outsider, who credited The Sex Pistols with fuelling his growing escapist interest in punk music in the late 1970s. Like those seminal English punkers, Chinn also came from a troubled background. He was the second oldest of a dozen children in a family that was destabilized when his father was sent to jail when Chinn was 12.
His mother suffered from schizophrenia and remarried an abusive man. Chinn described his stepfather as a weekend alcoholic. At some point, Chinn also began hearing voices in his head, which would have a profound impact on his songwriting.
In 1981, he formed the band Society’s No F—king Use (better known as SNFU) along with twin brothers Marc and Brent Belke, whom he met through the skateboarding subculture.
If the Belkes had the work ethic, business savvy and talent to succeed, then Chi Pig had the charisma and driving need to make music.
He stated after yet another shake up of the group’s musicians, that SNFU will always live on. “These songs are my life. I’ll f—king play them ‘til I die.”
The band first rose to North American influence with its debut studio album …And No One Else Wanted to Play from 1985. The recording was called a “scorcher” for pushing the limits of musical energy and “excitement.”
It wasn’t long before musicians began dropping from exhaustion — including original drummer Evan C. Jones, who left the band for health reasons. A series of other instrumentalists also bowed out, either due to the punishing performances, musical differences or internal tensions.
SNFU had been rising the crest of fame, touring with the Dead Kennedys, Youth Brigade, Dayglo Abortions and Voivod. But discord led to the group disbanding in late 1989, after the album Better Than a Stick in the Eye. During this time, Chinn relocated to Vancouver, started a few short-lived groups, experimented with drugs and began to openly identify with being gay.
He was invited back for a successful SNFU reunion tour in 1991. The re-invigorated band signed with Epitaph Records, attained six-digit sales with its new albums, and toured with Green Day and Bad Religion.
But 2001, SNFU went on hiatus after the departure of yet more band members and the end of its deal with Epitaph. This was an off-and-on period for the group. SNFU reformed to create the album In the Meantime and In Between Time, which got rave reviews in 2003. But the group again disbanded in 2005, with Chinn descending into depression, poverty, addiction and, ultimately, homelessness.
Work on a solo album likely saved Chinn’s life. He agreed to start taking meds for his mental illness, entered assisted living and a drug treatment program for his crystal meth addiction.
He and former SNFU bassist Ken Fleming, who had switched to guitar, began playing sets of SNFU material with a new rhythm section in 2007. They decided to reform the band, leading to a third incarnation of SNFU, which toured Europe, Canada and Central America in 2007, while continuing to record new material.
The group has stayed active ever since — albeit with an evolving roster.
The band has been the subject of a biography (…What No One Else Wanted to Say by Chris Walters) and a documentary (Open Your Mouth and Say… Mr. Chi Pig, by Prairie Coast Films).
Fans might hear some of their favourite SNFU songs played in Red Deer, such as Painful Reminder, about a boy’s romantic obsession with his homeroom teacher, She’s Not on the Menu, or Drunk on a Bike.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $15 from www.ticketfly.com or the venue.