cEvin Key remembers his initial visit to the Luv-A-Fair as a formative experience. In 1980, the former gay disco switched formats and quickly became Vancouver’s premier new-wave hangout. Already a fan of punk and early hardcore, Key had his mind blown when he stepped through the door of 1275 Seymour Street for the first time.
“It was this life-changing club,” he recalls, reached at his studio in Los Angeles. “The first time, I was taken there by a bunch of punk rockers. One of them was Al Nelson—Illegal Youth was the name of the band. ”˜Let’s go, let’s go. They play D.O.A. and the Dead Kennedys at this club, I’ve heard.’ You go in and it’s like these people from Mars dancing to this alien music.”¦But then all of a sudden the Dead Kennedys would come on, and D.O.A. and the Subhumans, and it would be this mixture. And it was like, ”˜Oh my god, this is a whole new world.’ ”
Key became a regular at the club, which is where he befriended the like-minded Steven R. Gilmore, who deejayed there from ’80 to ’85. This turned out to be an auspicious meeting: Gilmore was also a graphic artist, whose designs would grace the early efforts of Key’s pioneering electro-industrial outfit Skinny Puppy. The pair’s friendship continues to the present day, and though both are now based in California, they’ll be returning to Vancouver for a DJ set celebrating their favourite tracks from the heyday of the nightclub that changed their lives.
“When I got together with Steven Gilmore, we were discussing this whole Luv-A-Fair period and how inspirational it was,” Key says. “Like, the first time you ever heard, say, ”˜Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division was there. You didn’t hear it at home on your iTunes; you heard it at this club because some DJ went all the way to Seattle and picked it up. And so it was like, ”˜Oh, my god!’ You’d run to the DJ booth so many times it was tiring.”
Together, Key and Gilmore came up with a list of close to 200 era-defining cuts, among them “Warm Leatherette” by the Normal, “Being Boiled” by the Human League, “Ricky’s Hand” by Fad Gadget, and “Electricity” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. And what of Key’s old new-wave band, for which he assumed drum and electronic-percussion duties back when he was known as plain old Kevin Crompton?
“Yep, there is some Images in Vogue in there,” he confirms. “ ”˜For Germans’ was a song that was played in the Luv-A-Fair. Our list was determined by whether or not we actually remember it physically being played in the club.”
Images in Vogue is ancient history, of course. Key left that band in 1985 to focus full-time on Skinny Puppy, which is still a going concern. In fact, Puppy’s current incarnation—which features coconspirators Nivek Ogre and Mark Walk—has a new album slated for October. Recent Skinny Puppy tours have failed to bring the group anywhere near its erstwhile hometown, but Key closes his conversation with the Straight by uttering a promise that local fans have been waiting almost 19 years to hear: “I will do my best to also visit Vancouver with Skinny Puppy in the fall.”
cEvin Key and Steven R. Gilmore will perform a DJ set at Celebrities on Thursday (May 28).