Haida Gwaii punks set up pop-up recording studio, arts collective
'I have my ancestral roots here,' says founder of Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad independent music cooperative
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."
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."
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.
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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