Nick Smash

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UK-based writer/musician Nick Smash shares his experiences in Toronto’s vibrant yet forgotten post-punk scene in the early ‘80s, as recounted in his self-published book Alone and Gone, and discusses a new collective effort to get this lost music heard.

On May 10, 2018, Wavelength Music will continue its year-round Music Talks series with a deep dive into the little-known corners of Toronto music history. In association with the Toronto Public Library’s “Make Some Noise” series, Canadian Music Week (CMW) and Myseum of Toronto, Wavelength presents a talk by London, U.K.-based writer/musician/publicist, Nick Smash. A Toronto native, Smash was deeply involved in the city’s vibrant DIY post-punk scene in the early ‘80s, as the creator of the fanzine Smash It Up! and a member of the bands Rent Boys Inc. and the Dave Howard Singers. Nick Smash has called the U.K. home since the mid-’80s but continues to keep the memory of this vital era in Toronto independent music history alive and relevant.

Between 1979-86, a group of defiantly independent bands, also including A Neon Rome, Breeding Ground, Fifth Column, the Hunger Project, Kinetic Ideals, L’Etranger, Sturm Group, Tulpa, Vital Sines, the Woods Are Full of Cuckoos, Young Lions, and Youth Youth Youth, dominated Queen West clubs in the years after punk’s initial explosion, devoutly in opposition to their music’s commercialization as “new wave.” Heard mostly through self-published fanzines, cassettes, and campus radio at the time, these groups are now mostly left out of the historical record, discoverable only through used record bins and YouTube rips. Yet these bands laid the groundwork for the Toronto indie-music explosion, and their immediate descendants included civic icons Blue Rodeo, Change of Heart, Cowboy Junkies, Rheostatics, and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet.

This multi-media talk will reintroduce a new generation to this long-forgotten scene, as documented in Nick Smash’s 2015 self-published book, Alone and Gone: The Story of Toronto’s Post-Punk Underground, which is being reprinted in conjunction with this talk. Smash will also discuss a new venture to get this lost music heard by new ears in the 21st century.

NICK SMASH ON “GONE TALKING” - TORONTO POST-PUNK IN THE EARLY ‘80s:

In the summer of 1977, I got a job at Music World on the corner of Yonge Street and Gould. It was while filling the bins with vinyl import singles from the UK that I got a taste of punk rock. An introduction to the world of underground fanzines and weekly copies of the NME soon inspired me to publish my own fanzine called Smash It Up.

The dingier clubs of Toronto beckoned and trudging up the terrifying staircase at the Turning Point, or negotiating the equally terrifying clientele of Larry’s Hideaway meant I was making connections and meeting people of a like minded DIY philosophy. It was an eye-opening experience, as the strict rules of punk rock soon fell away to the broader post-punk worldview.
Fanzines gave way to record-it-at-home tape zines, which led to a stint of percussive clattering in Rent Boys Inc. The inevitable move to London UK was soon followed by the band splitting up, which was followed by a busy year with The Dave Howard Singers.

A stint writing about hip-hop during 1986-89 introduced me to the core of the UK music machine and soon I found myself working at Island Records in their press office. Fast forward to 2010 and all those photos me and my brother Simon White took during the post-punk years were presented as large format posters at the Steam Whistle Brewery, for an exhibit called Toronto Calling. Writing about all those experiences for a self-published book called, Alone And Gone: The Story of Toronto’s Post Punk Underground, has now brought me here: Thursday May 10 at the Lillian H. Smith Library, 239 College Street, Toronto, M5T 1R5 from 7-8pm.

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