Memories from Misdemeanor

When a band lasts as long Edmonton's Our Mercury did, it's bound to change a few lives over the years. Mine was one of them.

They were known as Misdemeanor at the time, a bunch of young punk rocker kids taking the local scene by storm. I was a weirdo eighth grader at a vaguely cult-like rural elementary/junior high, bored out of my mind, obsessed with the music I could get my hands on and looking for something different. We used to get the Edmonton Journal, and one day there was a photo of these cool guys around my age who played in a band, along with the address for Spruce Avenue Community Hall and the date of their next show. I convinced my uncle to give my two friends and I a ride, and he was genuinely shocked when he saw all the kids with studded leather jackets and Mohawks hanging around outside. He hesitantly unlocked the truck; I leapt out and probably had more fun that night than I’d ever had in my life. It was the first time I really felt like I belonged somewhere.

The impending Our Mercury reunion has brought back some wild memories for its members, too. They were kind enough to share a few of them with SEE Magazine.

John Watson, Misdemeanor/Our Mercury drummer: The best memories are the road trips, driving rickety old vans on dangerous highways at way too young of an age. I remember thinking our parents were so unreasonable to not be wanting us to do things like drive to Vancouver at 15 and 16 years old. Now I have a little boy myself, and it seems absolutely crazy that we did stuff like that, and that they let us. It was like a domino effect; one parent would say yes and the others would all cave cause they figured, "hey, if Ben's parents are okay with it, what the hell." And my parents would be like, "well if Dan's parents are letting him go I guess you can too." Ben could really talk a good game, see? But yeah, by far, the best times were on the road, even when the tours sucked. We'd just get up there and rock it out whether there was 10 people or 200.

Daniel Laxer, Misdemeanor/Our Mercury bassist (first period): One of my favourite Misdemeanor memories took place in the Spring of 1999 (May or June I think) when Misdemeanor opened (with Choke) for the Edmonton date of AFI's Black Sails in the Sunset tour. The show was at the Rev (the old Starlite room). We were still a bunch of teenage punk rockers - we had some friends with us too, including Willie Zimmerman (later Wolfskin from Shout Out!). When we arrived backstage in the “green room,” I remember vividly the filthy couches and dirty floors. Yet there was a bunch of new exercise equipment in one corner, including a bright red exercise ball. We made our way over to these curiosities, and started playing with the weights, bouncing the exercise ball all over, against the walls, throwing it at each other, causing chaos. During this playful stupidity, AFI returned from their meal, and a very soft spoken member came up and said to me very politely: "When you're done with the exercise ball, do you mind putting it back in the corner?" I didn't recognize him; we heeded his request. When AFI played that night - a legendary performance - I was horrified to discover that the polite soft-spoken man was Davey Havoc himself!! We had violated his exercise ball, as well as the rest of his exercise materials. But it didn't throw him off much, as he stunned us with his epic standing-on-the-crowd encore of "God Called in Sick Today." I was a huge AFI fan ever after.

Ben Stevenson, Misdemeanor/Our Mercury singer/guitarist: I was in Grade 8; I went to Vic at the time. I walked over to Punk n’ Junk, which used to be right across the street from Vic, it was a record store with a venue in the back. It was short-lived, but it was lucky for us at the time when we were just starting our band in ’95. I just walked over to the place and said, “Yeah, I got this band, we wanna play some shows. How do we go about getting a show?” I just asked the guy. He said, “Well, I’ll put you on, I can get you a show.” He was doing shows 3 or 4 days a week and so he put us on, I think it was a Sunday afternoon opening for this pretty awful metal band. There were maybe three people there; it was wild. Punk n’ Junk was a really cool place because it was the centre of what then was a pretty small scene. People were cool; the older people who were in bands and involved in other ways were all really warm and welcoming to us. You just felt included, you never felt like you were not cool enough. From that summer, we got on stage so many times and just continued on. That was kind of the launching point for what became Our Mercury, just getting known in that scene first. Punk n’ Junk closed and obviously the punk scene lived on. It was a lot smaller back then. It seemed like there was just a handful of bands and people that went to shows; it was a much more insular thing. Back then you would go to a show, any show, a bunch of local bands were playing and it would be every style of music that could be called punk rock. There was pop-punk bands playing, crust bands playing, streetpunk bands playing. It was neat back then, how the scene had this unity. If you were a hardcore kid of a pop-punk kid you were gonna be at the same show – you didn’t have those distinctions as much as you do now.

Eric Budd, Our Mercury keyboardist: When I was playing in the Operators we met up with Our Mercury on our first tour across Canada in 2003. We played a bunch of shows together and had some down time in Montreal while the Merc van was getting repaired. We hiked up to the top of Mont Royal to the lighted cross that overlooked the city. We all started scaling the wrought iron fence that prevented trespassers away from the climbing the cross. Ben made it halfway up the 100 foot cross before setting off the security alarm. So here are 10 of us covered in tar from the security fence, now bombing down the side of the mountain with this crazy air raid siren blaring. Ah, to be young and invincible on tour! That is when I first hooked up with Ben, John & Dan. The bands (Operators & Our Mercury) were always playing together and supporting each other. I was on a hiatus from playing music and Ben Stevenson is that reached out and helped me find my way back. Our Mercury asked me to record some organ and piano for the “From Below” album. As I recall it took them 9 months to finally convince me into joining the band full time. We always had a wonderful time together as friends so it made nuff sense to join the band. There are a lot of great memories. The basement party shows, touring across the prairies in blizzards with no heat in the van, the recording sessions with Nik Kozub, hanging out with Henry in Regina, Micaela's home-cooked band dinners, Newports, non-stop inside jokes about reggae. And how could we forget all the times with our illustrious roadie Caleeb driving us crazy! And we always had a designated spot to eat at every stop on tour. Man, we ate so much fried chicken.

Joseph Lubinsky-Mast, Our Mercury bassist (last period): My favorite show with Our Merc was definitely at the Starlite Lounge. We were opening for the Wednesday Night Heroes - we had been opening for them on a small Western Canada tour. I don't think we played a heavier set, Ben tore his pants one song in, we busted out into a jam of Tribal War. I think it was one of those shows where everything clicked for us and felt right. During the tour Randy Rampage wanted to fight Eric at our show in Banff. Personally, when I first started playing with them I was listening to a lot of jazz and hip-hop. The records that John, Ben and Eric were listening to have definitely stuck with me. The way they liked to hear the bass play with the drums influence the way I still play bass. Writing songs with them was much more organic than any other band I've ever played with. John and Ben were really connected to each other in a crazy way that can only come from the years that they played together.

John listened and locked into the bass with an intensity that I had never experienced. That was really only matched by the passion that Ben always brings to everything that has to do with anything musical whether it is writing, rehearsing or performing. Eric was the same way, he has great ears and a great musical mind that lets him play with anyone and push their tunes to a new level. With Eric it was cool because I think we really locked into each other musically which allowed us to try new things on the fly constantly. I can't say that I've ever really played with a group of people that were as passionate as those guys were or have I played with people that knew each other musically the way they knew each other.

more in Music Feature     |     posted Dec 22nd, 2010 at 5:41pm     

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