THE FURIES: An Exclusive Interview With Vancouver's First Punk Rock Band
FRONTMAN CHRIS ARNETT TALKS BRINGING SPEEDY, DISTORTED ROCK AND ROLL TO 1970'S VANCOUVER, AND HEADLINING THE CITY'S FIRST PUNK ROCK SHOW.
Written by Johnny Papan
Before Vancouver’s punk-rock boom of the 1970s, it’s alleged that the city’s currently flourishing music and entertainment scene was once lacking in original songwriters. That all changed when influential Vancouver bands like Pointed Sticks, the Dishrags, the Shades, Subhumans, and D.O.A. famously caused “complications” in our music scene with aggressive, fast, distorted original songs in the late 70s. Preceding these well-known artists in bringing punk rock to the Lower Mainland was a group of misfits that lasted less than a year before breaking up. Vancouver's first punk band: The Furies.
The band first started when Furies frontman Chris Arnett met Kat Hammond at this “hippie place” on Fourth Avenue in Vancouver. He was putting notices up looking for members and Hammond introduced him to musicians who shared his intrigue with the growing “New York Sound."
"There was sort of this 'punk culture' starting everywhere," Arnett says. "This is the days before the internet. So you had to find out everything through, you know, maybe the odd, cool record store or some magazine you came across, because you wouldn't hear it on the radio and there was no internet. It's hard for people to imagine today. Kat was plugged into scene and she saw my note saying that I was a guitarist looking for band members who were into the New York Sound, rockin' songs. I'm a big fan of New York music like New York Dolls, Velvet Underground, all that stuff. It was music most people didn't listen to, it never played in radio. But it had a big influence on me and my friends, our music, and our bands that we put together."
Hammond introduced Arnett to Vancouver bands with similar taste in these distorted, garagey sounds. A group of note being The Skulls, who had members like Joe Keithley from D.O.A. and Brian Goble from The Subhumans.
Eventually, Arnett met bassist Malcolm Hasman (who is now a top Vancouver luxury real-estate agent) and drummer Jim Walker who moved to the U.K. and joined Public Image LTD, a band famously fronted by John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols. This trio would perform at Pumps Art Gallery before playing Vancouver’s first ever punk show at the Russian Hall alongside The Dishrags. The band would also record the first punk song on Vancouver soil with their debut single “What Do You Want Me to Be?” - though the song wasn’t officially released until 1991.
“People really dug it. We were rock and rollers, and that's what it's always about. To me rock n' roll is an art form,” Arnett says. “Music has always been the most important thing, creating it and performing it forever.”
Not long after bassist John Werner replaced Malcolm Hasman, the Furies broke up in September 1977. Members would go on to form and join bands like the Shades, the Pack, and the Straps. In 2007, the Furies got back together under the lineup of Arnett, Werner, and Taylor Little.
“We went to a Pointed Sticks reunion show. It was fabulous, it was over the top. A promoter person just said, you know, ‘Hey, are you interested in re-forming the Furies?’ I said, sure, why not?” Arnett continues: “Then we open for D.O.A. two weeks later something and it was a great show. We played two shows there. them and then we just started gigging ever since and we've never quit.”
In the Vancouver punk rock scene for over 40 years, Arnett is asked what the biggest differences and similarities are between the scene then and now. He concludes:
“In the beginning, punk was was more anti establishment, anti commercial, make your own stuff,” Arnett says. “Within a few years, it became kind of formulaic. It still is to this day, it became a style. A certain look. At the time it wasn't that way. But the really big difference is, I mean, there's a zillion places to play in Vancouver, I can always see people to play. Back in my time, there was absolutely nowhere to play. You literally had to go and carve it out. And that's why, you know, we found a place like Japanese Hall, which you know, I'd never even heard of before we performed there.”