British Columbia

Haida Gwaii punks set up pop-up recording studio, arts collective

A new arts collective set up by a pair of punk bands is hoping to foster a DIY music scene off B.C.'s northwest coast.

'I have my ancestral roots here,' says founder of Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad independent music cooperative

Jason Camp and the Posers are one of the founding members of Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad, a new arts and music co-op set up on Haida Gwaii. The name translates to "do it yourself" in the Haida language. (Sydney Claire)

Haida Gwaii's SG̲aan Kwah.Agang (James McGuire) says the do-it-yourself culture of punk rock is a perfect fit for life off the coast of northwest B.C.

He's joined others in the Haida punk scene to form an independent music collective aimed at providing new creative and economic opportunities for his ancestral home.

"That's how Haida Gwaii has to work," he said.

"We cooperate with each other to make things happen because we don't have the resources or the connection to the mainland that other artists have."

Jason Camp & the Posers frontman SG̲aan Kwah.Agang (James McGuire) plays punk rock guitar and is also a traditional Haida dancer. (Jason Camp & The Posers)

The Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad Independent Music and Arts Cooperative takes its name from a Haida phrase that translates to "help yourself," and that's exactly what SG̲aan Kwah.Agang has been doing for years as the frontman of a punkabilly duo Jason Camp and the Posers, recording in a half-built house in Skidegate and hawking CDs to tourists visiting the region over the summer.

"A lot of [tourists] are pretty surprised to learn that there's some sort of alternative art here and you go, 'Well, you know, I do have a CD in my car," said SG̲aan Kwah.Agang who jokes he is a "shameless self-promoter."

The Dub Jackson Band perform at event for the Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad Indpendent Music and Arts Cooperative on Haida Gwaii. (Dub Jackson Band)

SG̲aan Kwah.Agang and his drummer Jaahljuu (Graham Richard) are both of Haida descent, and say their music fuses Haida Gwaii myths and legends with punk rock guitar and good times.

The other key players in the collective are the "anti-capitalist nerd punks," Dub Jackson Band.

The bands first teamed up two years ago for the annual Guy Fawkes Yourself concert on Haida Gwaii, which brings together disparate genres — from rap to metal to experimental —  showcasing music that goes beyond "old guys playing rock covers," said Dub Jackson Band bassist Alan Moore. 

From there the bands began collaborating, touring the province and recording a joint album, gradually bringing other musicians into their fold in an effort to make "shameless self-promotion" a little easier. 

Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad is a collective of artists dedicated to promoting an independent "do it yourself" music community on Haida Gwaii. (Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad)

The Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad collective just held their first general meeting and they are setting up a pop-up recording studio, complete with gear and engineers from Vancouver's Orchid Studio, in a cedar house in Skidegate for ten days following the 2017 Guy Fawkes Yourself festival happening Nov. 4.

Moore hopes the collective will lead to even more cooperation and greater success for alternative musicians and artists who call Haida Gwaii home.

"It's about diversifying your economy," he said.

"Treating arts and music and original ideas as renewable resource... that can provide seasonal or part-time work for local artists."

For SG̲aan Kwah.Agang, it's important to foster the creative spirit on Haida Gwaii because there is no other place he'd want to be.

"I get to sleep in the same village where my ancestors ate and slept, and eat the same salmon families that sustained my family for thousands of years," he said.

"It's the only place that's really a home."

With files from Audrey McKinnon.


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About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.

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