Photos by Michelle Ford
Every neighbourhood has "that guy". The kind of crazy looking eccentric you see playing a keyboard with a peg leg or some woman in a cape who sells the most amazing jewelry known to man kind for chump change. In my neighbourhood, Mount Pleasant, just south of Downtown Vancouver, that guy is a bleached-out old punk dude named Mad Dog.
I didn't know much about Mad Dog when I first saw him around. All I knew was that he rode a old, suped-up motorbike with a side car that held his tiny pug who wore goggles and a black vest. Then Mad Dog came into my work place and noticed my Germs circle tattoo. "You're a little punk!" he yelled at me. "That band was great." I was immediately intrigued. Asking around, I found out that Mad Dog was not only an artist who did everything from rebuilding old bikes to revamping baby dolls into Chucky-like sculptures to creating miniature replicas of now-destroyed hotels and clubs in our city, he also used to front one of Vancouver's early '80s hardcore punk bands, Slaughter Squad. For a tall can and some smokes, Mad Dog let me come over to his place and listen to his stories of what it was like to be a broke, starving, junkie punk in the days of D.O.A., shooting galleries, soup-kitchen handouts and moneyless freedom.
How did Mad Dog become your name?
Mad Dog: I was in a band called Slaughter Squad and we were basically an anti-religious band. If you spell Mad Dog backwards what do you get?
I got labelled.
When did Slaughter Squad start?
I think it was 1982. My first band was called O.D., but it later turned into Slaughter Squad.
Who else was in the band?
Pork Face, Randy Bowman and this guy Martin whose last name escapes me.
How did you become a front man?
Just like everyone else; I got up on stage and did it. But after two bands I realized I would rather be in the audience. I liked it, but it wasn't for me. I did the whole dice n' slice thing. [Lifts up his shirt to show long, scars on his chest]
Iggy style. Did you ever get hurt?
I cut myself up and you ask if I get hurt? [Laughs] Never serious, but you couldn't go to a hospital back then with cuts like that because they'd lock you up. You had to medicate yourself when you got home.
What was the punk scene like in the early 80s?
I came into the scene in about 1978 and it was completely different then, because it was so small. Everyone was starving. There was no such thing as a punk with a good job like there is today. We used to steal 250 cases from Carling O'Keefe, we'd clip a hole in the fence, you know, show up at a party and give everyone beer. I remember this one time my friend Simon Snot Face broke into a meat truck and stole legs of ham. It was Christmas time and he called everyone up and we had a feast. That was how it was. Even though we were all broke, there was a weird aura in the city where you couldn't wait to go out at night. There were so many after-hours clubs, yuppie high rise Yaletown was just empty warehouses. We'd get some money, rent a warehouse for almost nothing and throw parties to sell beer and make our cash.
What was the best venue?
The Smiling Buddha. It's boarded up now, but that was the best club ever. The acoustics in there were second to none.
Was it a legal venue?
Yeah. 54-40 named one of their records after the place and I don't even think they played there.
Who did play there?
My band, The Dils, The Dishrags, The Go-Go's, lots of San Francisco bands, Cheech and Chong used to do their comedy acts there … [pauses] Sorry, I'm trying to remember the actual names. Everyone fucking played there. Everyone. It was a long fucking time ago. Every night I was there I was so drunk I could barely remember what happened the next day, let alone 40 years later.
Who ran the place?
This old East Indian guy named Latchman, he's dead now, but back then he had an arranged marriage with his wife, Nancy, who we couldn't believe was his wife. She was 30-years-old when he was in his eighties. I remember Latchman had an original Jimi Hendrix poster up on the wall from when Hendrix played at the Smiling Buddha. Actually, Latchman fired Hendrix because he was playing too loud. He kicked him off stage. We laughed about that and we all wanted that poster.
Who got it?
His wife maybe? She probably put it on eBay. The Smiling Buddha was the place everyone went, plus it already had a history, right? Watching bars like The Cobalt go under, I was there the last night, talking to people who were saying, "It's the end, it's the end" because The Cobalt is going under, but every place ends and soon a new one opens. First it was The Star Fish Room, The Wind Mill, John Barley's, Smiling Buddha, you can close whatever club you want and we'll just make a new club. The city would love it see punk go away, but it won't.
Will punk ever die?
Well, we thought punk was dead in 1986 when The Bay put mohawks on their window mannequins. [Laughs]
At this point, Mad Dog pulls out his photo album which is a collection of black and white's taken by original Vancouver "punk photographer" Bev Davies. She still shoots shows around the city and has been doing it loyally and successfully since the late 70s.
That's "Fetus". That's back in the early days when it was hard to be a punk because you'd go out for a pack of smokes and come home all beat up because some red necks got you. "Fetus" was in a bunch of garage bands.
That's Simon Whiles and Roger. They were the very first Skinheads to come here from England and we didn't even know what a Skinhead was, you know? When the grease balls would come into our clubs and try to beat us up, they would clean about 10 people's clocks at once, then we figured out what Skinheads were all about. Roger died of a brain tumor. Simon Snot Face was infamous for being violent. He never played in any bands, he played crowd control.
You know who that is. Darby Crash. That was in San Francisco.
Iggy Pop with his dick hanging out. The first time I saw Iggy, Blondie played as the back-up band and they didn't even have a record out.
That's Candy and the girl on the right was our drummer's girlfriend. She died of a heroin overdose around the age she is in that photo. That was the thing, when the punk scene first started hardcore drugs were a big no-no, but as the scene progressed they just got big. Eventually half the scene were junkies and the other half were really against it. It was a big split in the scene.
That's the Subhumans when they were kids. Dimwitt, he's dead now, Jerry "Useless" Hannah, he was one of the Squamish Five which were a group of punks who tried to blow up a dam with submachine guns, dynamite, they all got 15 years. He did his time and got out, but one condition of getting out of jail was that he wasn't supposed to play for the Subhumans, but he still does. They wanted to blow up the dam because it was going to flood an entire lake, stop the natural salmon flow and shove people off the land, it was a big political move. They were secretative about it, none of us knew and we were all close friends, but the Squamish Five was already under the radar of the CSIS. so they got busted. I mean, I hung out with Jerry Useless everyday and I had no idea until they got busted.
That's me, back when I had good looks. I'm with Agida. She was my girlfriend for a while. One day she left Vancouver with some biker and nobody ever saw or heard from her again. It was weird because she was close with her family, so we all assumed that she is dead. They never found the guy she split with. I never met the guy, I just heard about it after we broke up.
That's me with Mary [Jo Kopechne] from The Modernettes.
How did being a drug addict affect your life?
Well, first off I used to have an amazing record collection which I no longer have. Whatever kind of cash I had, I spent on records. Then, I became a junkie and I'd sell 20 rare albums for a hit. At the time I was selling off my records, CD's were coming in so everyone assumed it was the end of vinyl. Little did I know, it would go the opposite way. [Laughs] I could never get that collection back to where it was… I'd have to get six numbers right out of 49.
Doesn't that bum you out now that you've cleaned up?
Sure, but what can you do?
What did you use?
Coke, heroin and a lot of M.D.A. M.D.A. was my favorite drug.
What did you like about it?
Being horny for three days straight. [Laughs] I don't know, it made me feel good. Being broke and depressed, well I wasn't depressed because I was high all the time [laughs] but if it wasn't for M.D.A. what else would I have to live for? I had no money. Nothing. I mean, I used to poster all day so I could get into certain shows so you could save $3. M.D.A. was my drug of choice but I did whatever landed on the dinner table. My apartment became a shooting gallery. Today, you go down to Hastings and everyone is shooting up on the streets, in front of the Cop Shop! You would never do that in my day! Cops would be on you like flies on shit. They would be rough on you too. They treated you like shit, they'd just beat you up. The other thing to is that back when I was a junkie, rigs were the hardest thing to get. Everyone knew that you had to make friends with a diabetic because they could get you bags of rigs. Just talking about how times have changed, there was no where to get a clean rig like we have in Vancouver today with Insite and other places. So, you know, if you had rigs then some friend with dope would come by and say, "I'll give you a spoon full of dope if you give me two clean rigs". Fine. Back then I lived in the West End in a building called The Mayfair, which is still around -
I know it. I used to live by it on Nelson St.
Yeah, that's it. When I lived there it was the junkie building of all of Vancouver. The landlord was this full-on drag queen. There was this Madame on the top floor. Her cliental was doctors and lawyers and she'd invite you up for a cup of coffee in the morning, but you'd have to be super quiet because she'd have one of her clients sitting, blind-folded on a block of ice or whatever weird shit was going on. The whole place was a drug-fest, but it was also the place where a lot of song-writers, artists and poets lived because it was weird and we all liked it.
Any one of note?
Come on. I would like to keep the few friends I still have.
Fair enough. I only have one more question, for now. What does it mean to be a punk?
I don't even consider myself a punk anymore. Back when I was living the life, it meant everything to me. Live by the three "F"'s: fucking, forging and fighting.
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