No Warn­ing

re­turn of the hard­core he­roes

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - Branan Ran­janathan

BEN COOK HAS EARNED HIS REP­U­TA­TION as one of Toronto’s busiest mu­si­cians. Known for his roles in Fucked Up, Yacht Club, Mar­velous Dar­lings and by solo moniker Young Guv, few can suc­cess­fully don so many mu­si­cal hats, and even fewer can make an im­pact on a genre of mu­sic the way No Warn­ing — his first ven­ture into the world of punk and hard­core — have.

In 2002, the unit of­fered up what would be­come their mag­num opus, Ill Blood; that record shifted the tide of the New York hard­core sound and gave rise to a great many of the bands that make up the NYHC scene to­day. Tor­ture Cul­ture, the band’s first full-length in 13 years, draws from and builds upon the leg­endary sound the band har­nessed over a decade ago — but their rise in the canon of hard­core was not one that took place overnight.

“If you dig it enough to put it out there, and put your­self on the line a lit­tle bit, then that’s as much as you can do,” Cook ex­plains, re­call­ing the ear­lier days of the band. “Peo­ple didn’t re­ally even get into [ Ill Blood] un­til we were long gone. But some­times that’s just what it’s like in mu­sic. Look at Fucked Up — the band didn’t even get rec­og­nized un­til they were around for seven years or so. Peo­ple are un­pre­dictable and time is a strange thing.”

As a young band, tack­ling the United States was the quick­est way for the five-piece to cut their teeth; Toronto at the time was not the hub for punk and hard­core that it has grown into, but even then, ex­po­sure did not come easy. “We never even re­ally did a tour for Ill Blood; the only tour we ever did for that record was with the Cro-Mags, for like two weeks, and I don’t think it was even out then.” Lead­ing up to the re­lease of their lat­est record how­ever, No Warn­ing made their first ma­jor trek in years, see­ing older songs met by new faces, with re­newed en­ergy since their de­par­ture. “We sort of just saw it as an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing a lit­tle bit be­yond what we’ve been do­ing, like hit­ting the ran­dom fes­ti­vals in each ter­ri­tory,” Cook says of the re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence. “We thought it would be fun to get out there and get dirty with it again. Go for real and have a record come out off the back of that ex­pe­ri­ence.”

In 2004, with the re­lease of their Greig Nori-pro­duced sopho­more record, Suf­fer, Sur­vive, and their sign­ing to Linkin Park-af­fil­i­ated Ma­chine Shop Records, No Warn­ing made a shift in sound and a leap in au­di­ences, a more main­stream push or­ches­trated by out­side forces that led to the col­lapse of the band.

“I think I feel luck­ier now. Back then, we were just ra­bid, young lit­tle pricks you know? Teenage boys. Some­times that’s the most dan­ger­ous thing you can be, just lit­tle, white, mid­dle­class sub­ur­ban boys with no fuck­ing fa­ther fig­ures or any­one to tell them no. That’s kind of why that train de­railed at some point — it was just get­ting ridicu­lous. We came from play­ing Who’s Emma in Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket and all of a sud­den we’re in this place where ev­ery­one’s do­ing drugs and par­ty­ing like they’re Guns N’ Roses. Now, af­ter all of these years, tour­ing with Fucked Up and be­ing around the world and still be­ing able to make a liv­ing from mu­sic, I just feel way more ap­pre­cia­tive. I still have no idea where this road is go­ing, but I’m hap­pier to be on it.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence of mak­ing Tor­ture Cul­ture with com­plete con­trol was al­to­gether re­fresh­ing, and re­in­forced the group’s de­ci­sion to re­turn to the project. “I’ve def­i­nitely been en­joy­ing my­self,” Cook says. “We were lucky enough to be able to col­lab­o­rate with our friends mak­ing this, and noth­ing ever felt forced. There’s no la­bel breath­ing down our necks or any­thing, we’re just left to do what­ever we want.”

With the free­dom to take the project in any di­rec­tion they pleased, the mem­bers of No Warn­ing wrote the record ex­clu­sively fol­low­ing in­tu­ition. “We wanted to make a sort of greasy, street metal record that sounded sketchy and ref­er­enced all of the best parts of ’80s hard­core and thrash. We kind of went into it think­ing about it be­ing a mo­saic of heavy mu­sic from our en­tire lives, rooted in the No Warn­ing sound. There’s a hard rock Alice in Chains-style bal­lad on the record, for in­stance.”

The group’s col­lec­tive mu­si­cal growth fac­tored greatly into the writ­ing of the new record, says Cook. Each mem­ber played their role per­fectly and their com­bined ex­per­tise made the process more nat­u­ral and ef­fec­tive than ever.

“I think first and fore­most I’m re­ally com­fort­able in the stu­dio — now I know what I want. Back at some point when I was in my 20s or in my late teens, I would think that I needed help or couldn’t quite ex­plain to some­one what the sound I wanted was, but now I know ex­actly what the peo­ple around me can bring to the ta­ble, and it is just a mat­ter of putting to­gether the puz­zle,” he says. “I don’t touch a gui­tar when it comes to No Warn­ing — that is all Jor­dan [Pos­ner] and Matt [De­long] — but I would con­sider my­self the pro­ducer of the band. Af­ter be­ing in­volved with Fucked Up, do­ing my own records as Young Guv, and just be­ing blessed to have been able to work in a bunch of great stu­dios with amaz­ing peo­ple, I know what’s up now. I have so much more ex­pe­ri­ence. But that be­ing said, that ex­pe­ri­ence didn’t make it any eas­ier. It’s al­ways a painstak­ing process, bring­ing some­thing to your de­sired level of per­fec­tion.”

Lyri­cally, Tor­ture Cul­ture touches on myr­iad top­ics Cook has an axe to grind about, but more than any­thing ref­er­ences the self-de­struc­tive na­ture of mod­ern life, he ex­plains.

“I feel like the record ti­tle says it all. We’re liv­ing in this time where we tor­ture our­selves, it’s all com­ing from within us. We have the power to change that, but there’s a ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion that don’t have the fore­sight to see what the fuck is hap­pen­ing, and maybe that’s all we’re des­tined for — to be in the dark and kill each other off. It speaks for it­self. It’s a No Warn­ing record. When you have that shit blast­ing, you’re go­ing to know what we’re try­ing to say.”

“Some­times that’s the most dan­ger­ous thing you can be, just lit­tle, white, mid­dle-class sub­ur­ban boys with no fuck­ing fa­ther fig­ures or any­one to tell them no.”

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