SNFU frontman Mr. Chi Pig remembered by Edmonton fans and musicians

Mr. Chi Pig, whose real name was Ken Chinn, has died at 57. He was the eccentric frontman of Canadian hardcore punk band SNFU, which formed in Edmonton in 1981.

'An absolute tornado on and off stage,' eccentric punk singer dead at 57

Ken Chinn [Mr. Chi Pig] was the frontman of punk band SNFU, which was formed in Edmonton in the '80s. His death was reported by a band member on Thursday. (David Jacklin)

Fans of the punk band SNFU are remembering its lead singer Ken Chinn, also known as Mr. Chi Pig, as news of his death circulated on Thursday night.

Dave Bacon, SNFU's bassist, confirmed the death of the Edmonton-born singer on Facebook Thursday.

Chinn was 57.

SNFU, a Canadian hardcore punk band, formed in Edmonton in 1981 before relocating to Vancouver in 1992. 

The band released 10 full-length albums after its debut album And No One Else Wanted To Play was released in 1985. SNFU built a skate-punk fan base across North America.

Chinn was an eccentric singer and lyricist who put on unpredictable live performances.

"He was an absolute tornado on and off stage — like, in the room even before they would go on stage you could just feel this real intense energy. It's kind of hard to describe," said Sean Shaul, a documentary producer and director.

"He was like a stand-up comedian on stage. So hilarious, but also had the most insightful and thoughtful lyrics."

Shaul grew up in St. Albert, outside of Edmonton, and was a fan of SNFU.

When he was living in Vancouver he approached Chinn about the possibility of a documentary based on the singer's life and influence in the music scene across North America.

Chinn agreed, but on one condition: he would draw a picture of Shaul and Shaul would pay him $5 for it.

Shaul was shocked by Chinn's willingness to be involved.

"Sometimes he was a real saint of a man and other times he would be a total jerk, which was part of the allure and part of the charm of his whole persona," Shaul said.

The documentary, released in 2009, was called Open Your Mouth And Say … Mr Chi Pig.

It featured musicians like Matt Good, Corb Lund, and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys. All were fans of Chinn and spoke about his influence.

But the film also touched on the darker side of the lead singer's life — his mental health, drug and alcohol addiction. He also opened up about being a gay man in the punk scene.

Ken Chinn [Chi Pig] was featured in a documentary released in 2009 called Open Your Mouth And Say … Mr Chi Pig. (Craig Laviolette)

"I can't imagine being like a mixed-race gay punk from Edmonton in the early '80s and to not shy away from it," Shaul said. "I think he came out maybe in the early '90s, 'late '80s, and completely owned it.

"He loved to talk about it and was very open about it. Somehow he became a real strong figure for that end of the punk scene even though he wasn't trying to be like a spokesperson."

Shaul reflected on the last time he saw Chinn, last year. He spotted the singer wearing his signature fur hat in Vancouver and was greeted with a hug before the two caught up.

"I'm so happy that was my last experience with him because sometimes I'd run into him and he would have nothing to say to me and wanted nothing to do with me. So I'm glad the last one was a real heartfelt encounter," he said.

Social media posts by Edmonton fans and musicians reacting to the news of Chinn's death flooded in.


Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.