In search of Mr. Chi Pig

Since the early 1980s, SNFU front man and Canadian punk rock pioneer Mr. Chi Pig has been delivering high-energy performances to crowds the world over. Starting in 1984, SNFU released nine full-length albums, a handful of EPs and earned a name as one of the best live bands around.

“Chi Pig is, in my opinion, the best punk front person of all time,” says Todd Kowalski, bass player and singer in Propagandhi. “[He’s] a charismatic and exciting performer who puts himself on the line every night making sure he’s putting on the most unforgettable show possible. He’s unpredictable and dangerous which is something really lacking in punk music today.”

Kowalski first saw SNFU perform at The Venue in Regina years ago. “I have a fond memory from back in the ‘80s when my friend thought he could watch the show sitting on the side of the stage and Chi blew a giant snot string across my friends chest. My friend looked at me with the most ridiculous and disgusted smile,” he recalls.

But things didn’t always run smoothly for SNFU or Mr. Chi Pig. The band broke up and reformed a number of times until founding guitar player Marc Belke left the band for good in 2005. Chi Pig involved himself in a number of other projects over the years, briefly fronting the Wongs and Slaveco to keep busy. However, Chi Pig has still been at a loss while not performing and has found himself more than once on Vancouver’s notorious streets, fighting to stay alive.
Chi Pig’s creativity has kept him going, however, despite years of hardship. “He speaks right to me,” says Kowalski, who grew up in Regina’s North End. “He’s a genuine eccentric and misfit combined with a first-class lyricist. He shares his problems with you straight up and honestly through his music.”

After nearly thirty years on the stage, Mr. Chi Pig is now the subject of a new documentary, Open Your Mouth and Say Mr. Chi Pig, which is set to screen in Winnipeg on March 13 at Ozzy’s. The film documents the feats and foibles of a man that Canadian punk bard and historian Chris Walter calls “an enduring punk legend” and “an enigma, even to himself, I imagine.”

Walters, who has written biographies of seminal Winnipeg rockers Personality Crisis and Victoria’s Dayglo Abortions (forthcoming), says he’s “been contemplating an SNFU biography for some time now, but the idea of sticking to any kind of a schedule would be virtually impossible, given Chi’s reclusive nature and eccentric lifestyle.”

After a half-dozen long distance calls, I managed to track Mr. Chi Pig down for a brief phone interview in downtown Vancouver’s Pub 340 — where he usually takes phone calls, according to the band’s manager — on the afternoon of March 1.

“I just woke up,” he told me. “So I might not be as witty as I usually am.”

“There was a big fucking party here last night, holy shit,” Chi Pig continued, referring to the post-Olympic gold men’s hockey game crowd. “I went downtown after the game, there was about a 100,000 people down there.”

Asked how he’s doing these days, Chi Pig answered, “Good. Pretty good. But I’m getting bored, and that can be dangerous.”

“We’re doing about 11 or 12 shows from here to Halifax and back,” he continued. “And we’ll be playing every night, and showing the movie. Then we come back and we’re off to Costa Rica for about four or five days. That’ll be the second time we’ve been down there. Then we come back and do some more Canadian shows and then we’re gonna go down to Australia for about three weeks in June.”

On top of getting back on the road, Chi has a few surprises lined up for record collectors and fans as well. “I got a Wongs record coming out this year, and a Mr. Chi Pig 7” on Skull Skates,” he confessed. “It’ll be a limited run, but it’ll be fun.”

Mr. Chi Pig says he’s looking forward to hitting Winnipeg on March 13 for the screening of Open Your Mouth and Say Mr. Chi Pig. Following the film will be live performances by SNFU and the Unwanted, two legendary groups who have a long history.

“I think I met them in 1984,” says Chi Pig of Winnipeg’s Unwanted. Ken Flemming, current guitar player for SNFU, was also the original bass player for the Unwanted, and current Unwanted drummer Ted Simm manned the skins for SNFU during the late ‘80s.

“I just look forward to coming to Winnipeg, seeing old friends,” admits Mr. Chi Pig. “I hope people will be excited to come and see the movie and have a good time.”