When the Straight arrives at David M.’s co-op off Commercial, his little dog, Ozzy, immediately runs up, sniffing and licking. “Don’t be apprehensive,” M. says, as Ozzy leaps onto my lap and sticks his snout in my face. “Would you like a Coke, or a Diet Coke?”
The M in David M. stands for Matychuk, a good Ukrainian name, which he never uses when performing. He puts on Unreleasable Vol. One, one of 10 CDs in his self-made No Fun box set, which he has been letting out into the world one package at a time. “Mindless Aggression” kicks things off, from the 1979 Vancouver Complication LP.
In many ways, the song is typical No Fun: playful, catchy, guitar-driven pop, with an undercurrent of wry sarcasm. Unless you collected their cassettes—the medium of choice for No Fun’s output—or saw them open for people like Robyn Hitchcock or the Violent Femmes back in the day, you might conclude it was one of a mere handful of songs they wrote.
You would be very, very wrong.
No Fun was only ever paid for its contribution to Complication in copies of the album, Matychuk notes. “They gave me three, because there were three of us”—him on vocals, Dan Vere on guitar, and cofounder Jimmy Hamelin on bass.
Guitarist Paul Leahy, the man besides M. most associated with No Fun and current leader of hard-glam band Polly, would join in 1980. By way of explaining the band’s family tree, Matychuk says in a characteristic deadpan that “the real key is bored young people.”
“We were all out in Surrey, bored out of our minds” in the mid-1970s. “So we were suggesting things to each other to not be bored,” like going to see heavily censored midnight screenings of John Waters’s Pink Flamingos, Matychuk’s favourite movie, in “a tiny theatre in an L-shaped mall beside the Rembrandt Hotel on Davie”.
One such trip inspired Leahy to name an early band Babs Johnson, after Divine’s character.
Leahy had played on an early No Fun track, a 1975 recording of “Be Like Us”, which would later be rerecorded for the 1985 cassette, 1894. But the Pink Flamingos pilgrimages really cemented Matychuk and Leahy’s friendship. After Hamelin left the band, Leahy was quickly recruited.
“Paul is the only person I ever told, ‘If you want to join No Fun, the group will be you and me,’ ” Matychuk remembers.
Leahy hasn’t performed publicly with Matychuk since 2006, though the two remain close. Matychuk still does periodic themed shows like “Christmas Alone in No Fun City”, with new collaborators such as the Wardells’ Pete Campbell, but “nothing I’ve done myself has been called No Fun.”
His Khatsahlano Street Party appearance this weekend may break that pattern. Leahy has said that he “won’t be able to perform”. Matychuk explains that he accepted the invitation to play “only because I have Paul’s approval—well, his insistence on this, that the show should go on. He said, ‘Go ahead and book the thing while I’m thinking; don’t not do it, even if I don’t want to.’
“He’s free to change his mind up to the last minute,” Matychuk adds. “No Fun is me and Paul, and has been since 1980. Whatever I do, that won’t change. But I’m hopeful it will be he and I, playing songs from the box set.”
The set—which actually comes in a baggie—does, in fact, feature other lineups of the band, for instance on a recording from the same 1978 Georgia Straight Battle of the Bands where D.O.A.’s Triumph of the Ignoroids was recorded (on David M.’s four track!).
But the vast majority of material also features Leahy, including digitized versions of No Fun’s best-known tapes: Ghost Paper Boy in Robin’s Gay Trailer Park, Snivel, 1894, The New Switcheroo, The Night Smells Like a Dog, and more, all presented with bonus cuts (“boner cuts”, in M.-speak). Liner notes are posted on the No Fun: The Beatles of Surrey Facebook page.
There are too many stories for one article to tell: like when the band played the hippie satire “Paisley Brain Bolts of the Mind”, with lyrics about shooting up with “heroin or mayonnaise or anything at all that I can find”, to an enthusiastic audience of elementary-school children in Ladner.
Or take the version of “Old” that ends Unreleasable, with Matychuk and Leahy shouting a cappella in their bloody underwear from the sidewalk outside the Railway Club to the windows above, before the cops pulled up, at the end of a highly theatrical, kidnapping-themed Tribute to No Fun.
And of course, there are the songs: “I’m Not Taking Suzy to the Be-in”, “Work, Drink, Fuck, Die”, “To Hell With the Past”, and a vast hoard of material not even the most devout No Fun follower has heard before, ever.
There’s at least a bit of perversity in releasing such a cornucopia on CD at this late date, Matychuk acknowledges happily.
“After all those years—decades—of being ‘the group without CDs’, which I always dug, now that CDs are totally discredited there’s this massive thing on CD,” he says. “And it’s just the start.”
No Fun plays the Khatsahlano Street Party on Saturday (July 11).