Documenting a scene

A new punk and hardcore compilation is attempting to pin down that section of the local music scene. Martin Connelly talks to the people who put it together.

Davey Zegarac is smiling, triumphant even. He just finished putting together 709 Punk/Hardcore, a 32-track compilation from the St. John’s punk and hardcore scene.

“We didn’t even look at Corner Brook or Labrador,” he smirks.

Zegarac, originally from Winnipeg, first came to St. John’s on tour with his band Brat Attack. Two years ago, after the third or forth visit, he came for good. At that time, St. John’s had a big punk/hardcore scene, but it was fairly fragmented – groups were divided by where they played as much as by what they played. Now that’s mostly changed. “It’s really cool now,” he says. “Everyone’s really unified.” In other words, it’s a perfect time to put out a compilation.

It’s something that music scene veteran and project funder Ian Newton, owner of the punk/hardcore mainstay Distortion, has wanted to do for a long time. “It started off with [tireless promoter, musician, and founding member of Giver] Fred Gamberg, when he put together the compilation Danger of Falling Rock back in 1994, just before he died,” says Newton. “Fred got me into this, and I’ve been doing different things to stay in the scene since then.”

The idea is to honor what Gamberg was doing while giving the underground St. John’s scene some above-ground attention, in hopes of attracting more bands to play here. “It’s about cross promotion,” Newton explains. “About getting more and more bands here, about bringing business and record contracts. [Funding] this compilation was the best way to do it.”

Zegarac doesn’t see himself as any kind of keystone in the music community, but he plays pretty much every week with at least one of the four local groups he’s part of. And he’s done this sort of thing before.

“I put together three compilations back in Winnipeg,” he shrugs. “I just really love organizing this stuff.”

Zegarac also has experience with the distribution side of things, something that’s important if this CD is going to bring people to Newfoundland.

The project came together in under two months. Zegarac and fellow band mate, Kyle Molotov, from the Class War Kids, put together a list of potential tracks. Newton put up the money, and Molotov helped put the word out. Bands had a few weeks to get a track submitted, and almost all of them made the deadline. After that, Newton was hands-off. “I let Davey do all the work,” he says. “I just passed him the money when he needed it.”

Zegarac opted to leave out a curatorial process and left it up to individual bands to submit something good. He also opted to avoid arranging the tracks by categorizing them. “I like my mix tapes to be all broken up,” says Zegarac. “So they don’t have a metal section or anything, I try to keep it so every song sounds different.”

709 Punk/Hardcore will be released at SLAMFEST, which runs from February 12th to February 14th, featuring 20 bands from the punk/hardcore scene over three nights at four venues. Check music listings for details.