Slow Death: Unknown Coast Records Reissues P.E.I.’s First Hardcore Band
Slow Death were Prince Edward Island’s first hardcore punk band, and after 31 years their sole 1985 recording has finally found its way to vinyl. New Nova Scotia based reissue label Unknown Coast Records is the entity to thank for pressing Slow Death’s incredibly rare demo cassette to 7″ record for the very first time. It feels great to say that you can now grab your own copy of this lost piece of punk rock history from Unknown Coast’s webshop.
Forming in 1983, Slow Death were the Atlantic Canadian embodiment of the first wave of 1980’s hardcore. The worldwide slew of coarse and unembellished bands of this era drew a line in the sand between any perceived superficiality of first wave punk and the emerging youth culture that chose to play harder and faster, and operate in much more of an independent manner. Treading on close ties to the skateboarding community, the initial hardcore movement was for the kids, by the kids, and could be considered the most accurate representation of the spirit of punk rock. Though many of the small bands and labels from local scenes around the world were only ever capable of limited distribution, the music itself benefited from the disinterest of the record business. Unlike the first wave of punks that major labels were eager to try and polish in the 1970’s, the majority of hardcore bands remained untainted and independent due to their uncompromising sound and impugning views of the music industry.
Slow Death are a perfect example of the many “hidden gems” of hardcore. Though the few handmade demo cassettes from 1985 may have gotten lost in the broader documentation of Canadian punk, the rediscovery of bands like Slow Death retains relevance with raw and honest recordings of unabashed and urgent music.
Hailing from the city of Summerside, Slow Death were not only the first hardcore band from Prince Edward Island, but they are also noteworthy for being one of the first straight edge identifying punk bands in Canada. It is almost baffling that such an isolated contemporary of some of the most seminal hardcore bands of the early and mid 1980’s would take over thirty years to catch the ears of even the most thorough punk collectors.
Unknown Coast Records have pressed a limited 500 copies of the Slow Death 7″, but the label assures it is only the beginning of their reissue campaign. Though this first release is a distinct slice of hardcore history, Unknown Coast have assured that their other upcoming Atlantic Canadian projects will not be restricted to a single genre.
We caught up with Unknown Coast founder Davis Brown for some insight into the importance of an Atlantic Canadian reissue label, and why Slow Death is the perfect starting point.
Unknown Coast is a reissue / archival label that is based out of the Halifax area. The goal is to essentially release certain recordings from the four Atlantic provinces that are hard to find or have never been released.
Tell us about the decision for this first release. What is the importance of reissuing Summerside, P.E.I.’s Slow Death?
Aside from my love of raw and lo-fi hardcore punk, Slow Death were P.E.I.’s first punk band and one of the first straight edge bands in Canada, so to me releasing these tracks 30 years after their tape originally came out seemed like a no-brainer. These guys were doing something amazing for their time, on their own terms, all out of Summerside of all places. A lot of people I know obsessed with old canuck punk and hardcore had never even heard of them before, let alone the demo. The tape itself is damn near impossible to track down and the few people I know who have it ordered it from Maximumrocknroll back in 1985. With all that, I figured it would be a good place to start.
Did you have much of a connection to members of Slow Death prior to this project, or was there a process of hunting them down?
My friend Ian had interviewed Dale (their drummer) for his blog a couple years ago, so I knew he was living here in Nova Scotia. We had been trying to touch base with him and his brother Danny (vocalist) once I talked to Ian about my idea to reissue the tape as a 7”. I ended up running into Dale at a show at Pro Skates a couple months later, introduced myself and after that started to get the ball rolling.
What was the course of action for working with these recordings? Were the original tapes from the session accessible?
We had hoped to get the original reels from the recording session, but as far as we could tell they didn’t exist anymore. The closest thing to that was a copy of the original demo tape, which a friend of mine in Hamilton had and was generous enough to send out my way. Once I told the guys that I had located an original copy of the tape, we had it transferred and cleaned up by J. Lapointe at Archive Mastering.
Where can one obtain a copy of the Slow Death 7” ?
Halifax folks will be able to pick up our releases from Obsolete Records and the Taz Records downtown location. All others can head over to http://unknowncoastrecords.bigcartel.com to pick up a copy.
I feel like Unknown Coast and Secret East share a bit of the same passion for uncovering and celebrating the hidden gems and largely underappreciated nuggets from the untapped musical past of the Atlantic Provinces. Personally, what is the main motivating factor behind shining light on these releases?
When I first started getting into music and buying records, I was really keen to know more about the musical history of the area that I grew up in. When I moved back home from Toronto a few years ago, I really dove in head first trying to track down and find out as much about it as I could. It seemed like the eastern provinces didn’t have much as far as documentation of bands compared to the rest of the country and yet, bit by bit I was finding all this great stuff that no one was talking about. Aside from satisfying my own curiosity for the background of certain bands and releases, I’m hoping to shed a bit more light on this sort of thing for other folks who also have the same interest. I like the idea of people being able to walk into a record store here and pick up reissues of old and obscure local music the way you can in other cities.
Any hints or teases of what might be next for Unknown Coast Records?
I’ve got a mental wantlist of things I’d like to work on, but for now I’m not revealing much until I know that things are confirmed. A few folks have called Unknown Coast a punk reissue label specifically, but lets just say that it’s certainly going to be a lot more diverse in style than that.