Al Nolan, the frontman for legendary Canadian punk band The Almighty Trigger Happy, and furloughed Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment event staffer Doug Smart have launched a vinyl and digital indie label, Cursed Blessings, based in Toronto.
“The label was started because I wasted so much of my time being an asshole, being drunk, and being full of cocaine and now it’s time to give back. So, I want to learn from every mistake I’ve made and hopefully help these bands onto something bright and beautiful for their future Also no one else was doing it — so there,” Nolan told FYI Music News in what might be the best ever quote from a label head.
The first Cursed Blessings release, which dropped earlier this week, is the 12-inch debut from Toronto hardcore band Dragged In; LP1, as it is titled, is available in two colours from the label’s web site.
All their vinyl is being manufactured by Precision Record Pressing in Burlington, Ontario. “Prices are great and service has been fantastic,” says Smart, the label manager and vice-president.
The second release comes out on Halloween, a digital compilation, Reinventing The Safety Pin, featuring more than 30 unsigned punk, hardcore and metal bands from Canada and the U.S., including Random Killing, Fully Crazed, Revival, and Hotel Murder.
“We put out the word about the comp, that we planned on doing something new and different and bands just started pouring in,” recounts Smart. “Originally, it was supposed to be 15, but we just let it go and it’s sitting somewhere around 35 bands right now.” It will stream for free, each song is $1 to download or purchase the entire compilation for $10, with all the proceeds going to an animal charity.
“The bands have agreed they don’t want any royalties, so every penny from that will go to Dog Tales, which is very dear to my heart,” says Smart of the sprawling luxury-living dog rescue and sanctuary in King City, Ont. Smart adopted Jerry, a senior blind lab/chow three years ago, and just lost him at the beginning of covid.
Nolan and Smart are the only full-time staff for Cursed Blessings and Gabe Koury is handling PR on a per-project basis.
“It started as a labour of love for Al and he brought me in in July to help piece together how he wanted to do this,” says Smart, who has had a strong friendship with Nolan for 30 years since he booked Trigger Happy at venues in Oshawa, Ont.
“We’ve done presales and we’ve had a few product runs of t-shirts and the response has been overwhelming. We’re reaching out as far as Amsterdam and Switzerland and all over the States and Canada. The hype is starting to build and financially we’ve allotted a certain budget for the bands,” says Smart.
“One of the big things is we’ll never ask the bands for money, ever. We’ll give them some money towards recording, depending on their budget and handle all the manufacturing costs and work a royalty deal with the bands at the end. Everybody so far has been happy to be paid in product.”
The day after the Reinventing The Safety Pin release, Cursed Blessings will launch the Digital Safety Pin series, a monthly digital EP of an unsigned band, starting with London Ont.'s Hellaphant, followed next month by Toronto’s Cola Heads.
The second vinyl release is a 3-song 7-inch from Santa Cruz, California’s Seized Up, comprised of members of Bl’ast, Good Riddance and The Distillers, due late Nov./early Dec. The next vinyl release will come in early 2021 from Toronto hardcore act Choices Made.
Future vinyl is on the slate from Victoria, BC’s skate-punk/thrash band Fully Crazed, metal legends Malhavoc, and, of course, something from The Almighty Trigger Happy to recognize the band’s 30th anniversary.
Trigger Happy (The Almighty was added in 1996) had a great run for almost all of the 90s, then got back together twice, briefly, once in 2003 “foolishly,” says Nolan, then again in 2013, when guitarist Mark Gibson died, which Nolan says set him off in a downward spiral. A couple of years later, a now sober Nolan says, “some really nice guys came to me from other bands, namely Brutal Youth, the drummer Dustin Campbell said, ‘This band deserves a better funeral,’ and ever since then we’ve been playing strong. We came back, did some shows with SNFU about three or four years ago, and the band has been playing regularly ever since until covid hit.” The band, which put out one album with Sonic Unyon then four with Bad Taste, will have a new record in 2021 — “the first in 21 years,” says Nolan.
Nolan and Smart are also particularly excited by Indigenous hardcore group No More Moment from Siksika Nation in Alberta, “the most REAL punk band we have seen since Black Flag,” it states in their press release. “This band has a lot to say and we want to give them the platform to say it. Relentless, melodic and honest hardcore. We expect very big things from this band.”