20 Years of Calgary Rock: Shot from the heart

By Mike Bell, Calgary Sun

Chad Saunders has a thought about those who complain the new compilation CD, 90.9 With A Bullet: 20 Years of Calgary Music on CJSW, attempts to define the local music scene in entirely too narrow a manner.

“If you depend entirely on CJSW for all of what this city is about for a music scene, then you’re pretty sad,” Saunders says.

And keep in mind he’s station manager of the University of Calgary’s exceptional community radio station.

His point is the station never set out to define Calgary music with a 28-song compilation — which was made to coincide with the station’s 20-year anniversary on the FM dial — and they know it’s not the final word on what we’re all about.

“It was to see if we could take a snapshot of 20 years of Calgary music as best we could,” he says.

More specifically, two decades of Calgary rock ’n’ roll, which played a large part in building up the radio station — and vice versa.

For the most part, the first disc contains the early days and features classic local acts such as Colour Me Psycho, Golden Calgarians, Gravity Thugs and The Ripchords.

The second disc features names more people — i.e. a younger audience or those relatively new to this city’s music scene — might recognize, such as Hot Little Rocket, The Dudes, Falconhawk and Chad Van Gaalen.

“A lot of people who pick up the CD will look at the second disc and say it’s the better disc,” says Saunders. “But they have no idea that the first disc actually has more significance.”

The reason, he says, is because obviously those first acts are those who paved the way, hacking it out in the nasty old National Hotel in the early ’80s so those who came after might have the audiences they do at Broken City, the Hi Fi and The Ship & Anchor.

“I was never part of the scene of the National Hotel, but I was fortunate enough to experience the Republik and the Westward Club,” he says of the hotspots of the early to mid-’90s. “And as Calgary moves into this new phase of live music I hope people have a really solid appreciation of what happened in the past.”

On that point, there certainly are some notable absences from the past on the disc, such as, say — off the top of my head — Forbidden Dimension, Skin Barn, Beyond Possession, Placebo and Jonestown Punch to name but a few.

Saunders is more than aware there are some important names missing, but also became aware while putting together the compilation — with a host of station volunteers as well as the folks at local label Saved By Radio — how difficult it is tracking down masters, getting musicians to return phone calls, and getting past every other hurdle that 20 years and limited resources can throw in your way.

And as for the debates the discs will start, and the criticisms that are already starting, he welcomes them.

“I suspect that, with the right amount of criticism and feedback, there’ll be a Volume II,” he says.

That’s something anyone who cares about local music should also welcome. For now, 90.9 With a Bullet Vol. I is available from local record stores Megatunes and Sloth.