Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.
David and I went to tons of shows in the 1980s, but seeing D.O.A. was always special. They were stars. I recall seeing the Industrial Waste Banned—all women—quite a few times, which would have been the only all-women band around other than Emily (Faryna), who was a solo act. I think there was a show on East Hastings where she opened for NoMeansNo (when they were still a bass-and-drums duo), but this is all much later than the official punk scene that, while it was only a few years earlier, I felt like I’d missed this incredible time. Having said that, maybe there’s always a bit of mythology about previous eras and their importance. I get the feeling that younger people now regard the time when we were most active (the ’90s) in the same way—they feel like they missed everything, that there’s nothing now. Maybe it’s a way to abdicate responsibility to thrive in one’s own era.
We’d only played a handful of shows at the point when we went into a studio in 1985 to mix tapes we’d made on our Fostex four-track in a garage a block off Commercial Drive in Vancouver. After we released our first album (on our record label Smarten UP! Records), someone “in the scene” said we shouldn’t have released it because there were bands more deserving than us. I recall someone saying that we hadn’t paid our dues. That phrase really stuck with me. From time to time, 30 years and 16 albums later—13 Mecca Normal, one Jean Smith solo (Kill Rock Stars, 2000), two as 2 Foot Flame (Matador)—I still wonder if I’ve paid my dues.
“Phone’s Unplugged” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):