Photo courtesy of Rick White
The same year The Ramones were forming in Queens, another experimental punk band was laying the foundation for Canadian music in a Moncton kitchen north of the city. Purple Knight began from the mind of legendary drummer Mark Gaudet, who raised the city’s youth on everything from Celtic Frost to Black Flag during his 36 years working at Sam the Record Man, now Frank’s Music. These stores were an institution in New Brunswick, hiring the most knowledgeable staff and local musicians, our Tower Records equivalent.
In 1974, he and childhood friend Raynald Leger took their love of Deep Purple, an acoustic guitar, and a broken down drum kit and started a band. With a do-it-yourself attitude, they wrote songs like Purple Ocean of Hate, Foot in the Shit and Pus. Mark’s grandmother even filmed a short video. The seeds of Moncton’s independent spirit were planted, as Mark and Raynald were just turning eleven.
Gaudet would go on to form more bands: The Whoremoans, Funeral Fog, and The Robins. They would influence generations of musicians like Ray Auffrey (Bad Luck #13), PJ Dunphy (The Monoxides), Dana Robertson (Hope) and Rick White(Eric’s Trip). This music would help form the next wave of Moncton scenesters.
Photo courtesy of Ray Auffrey
Like future punk bands on the West Coast and in the US, Mark’s bands laid a footprint of how tos. Where to play, how to book shows, how to poster, a real punk starter kit. For those who’d only seen it in magazines or on old dubbed VHS tapes, Mark Gaudet was making it happen. For those of us lucky enough to have seen it, eventually we started asking ourselves; “Could we do this too?” His ‘Zine, Venison Creek, provided a list of all the new bands and new albums he was listening to. A huge vinyl collector, he only listens in the order he buys them. Playing in bands, touring and working full time, he doesn’t always have as much time for listening as one one would like. So Mark started getting getting behind. Six years behind to be exact. He is only listening to albums now he bought in 2010.
His ‘Zine also helped keep track of bands that came through the city. He wanted a way to share his knowledge and information with friends but also with those he was making contact with in other parts of the country. This was new to kids who were now interested in following bands. Skateboarding had hit the city hard and the world was catching up with what Mark already knew. Youth culture was changing, originality was king and everyone was realizing the punk rock world we now idolized was a whole lot closer than we thought.
Hundreds of kids began making their weekly pilgrimage to the mall to talk with Mark on the weekends. Thrasher Magazine was now justifying everything he already knew. He was like the local preacher of music, art, culture and everything cool. My friends and I would stand around, admiring the posters and album artwork, as Mark held court, playing whatever new import he got his hands on. Then we would all scramble to buy it, fighting with every other kid in the city.
Photo courtesy of Rick White
Kids like Steve Hickox, Ken Kelley and PJ Dunpy would eventually go on to form the Monoxides and sign with BMG Canada. Guys like Chris Lewis and Jon Flanagan would start bands like Zaum and Iron Giant. Girls like Julie Doiron and Tara Landry from Eric’s Trip and Elevator to Hell were all mall rats and went on to sign with Sub Pop.
"Mark sold me my first GG Allin record.” Landry said. They would go on to play in Elevator to Hell together with another musician and mall enthusiast. Rick White began skateboarding in Moncton in the mid 80s and met Mark Gaudet the same way we all did. Rick would eventually start his own bands, influenced by Purple Knight, The Robins and Mark’s anti-commercial taste in punk rock music. His first band called The Underdogs played house parties and a few recreation centres and caught the attention of guys like Mark and Ray 13.
Ray’s band, Bad Luck #13 was the next generation of in your face provocative rock and roll. Their singer, Batman, would challenge the often blue collar crowd with everything from cross-dressing to aggressive behaviour. They liked to provoke crowds in the same ironic way Jello Biafra would, challenging the tough guy punk persona with taunting sexual innuendo, young rural kids were not ready for. Made up of art school performers, they would often have people play dead on stage, play a triangle or Batman would fly out into the crowd in a dress. All behind a wall of straight ahead punk. And they saw something in Rick White and The Underdogs and their hardcore approach right away.
Photo courtesy of Rick White
Moncton was a wash of conformity in those days. Struggling to find an identity after the closure of the railway shops and tough economic times. Bigger populations to the east and the lure of the west was always on everyone’s mind. Moncton was lost in its own isolation. Jeans, plaid, toques and sneakers and the rise of new venues, brought communities together and made those on the fringe feel welcome. In the basement of a house in the west end of Moncton, Rick and a few pals were experimenting with a new sound. A mix of distortion and adolescent love, Eric’s Trip put together their first demos, before inviting Mark Gaudet to play in the band. Almost twenty years after Purple Knight, he joined one of the county’s most progressive, cool and artistic foursomes.
Julie Doiron, Chris Thompson, Rick White and Mark Gaudet would be the first Canadian band to sign with Seattle’s highly talked about Sub Pop records. Known as Nirvana’s first label and the home to the coolest bands on the planet in the 1990s, Eric’s Trip and their eventual second life, Elevator To Hell, would redefine what being a successful band can be on your own terms.
Now, over 40 years later, Mark Gaudet is still playing with Purple Knight and others in the city. He’s still working at the same record store and continues to help define the scene by mentoring new musicians and giving advice to anyone who asks. He’s also bringing in Fu Manchu, Minor Threat and Gun Club imports so kids don’t have to listen to top 40. A few weeks ago, he played a show with his new band at the city’s oldest punk venue, The Esquire. He played with two other bands that included PJ Dunphy and Richie Bourbon. PJ is 43 and was the next generation after Mark to start a band in the city and continued Mark’s status as musician, mentor and legend to the next generation.
Richie Bourbon is 25 and the third generation of Gaudet’s following. He opened the show, stoked to be among the huge crowd of people, holding up a glass. Mark stood to the side of the stage, his hair is short now, sideburns still long, with more grey than I remember. He’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt and a huge smile. The crowd is a mix from 50 to 19, leather jackets, pins, blue hair and beards. Mark wouldn’t even think about the influence he’s had on all of these people. He’s just tapping his hand on his thigh, trying to keep time for his upcoming set.
Look for Jason Murray’s book 'A Distorted Revolution: The Story of Eric’s Trip' by Nimbus Publishing next year.