Bad Skin, at their genesis, were known as The Jollies. My old band had the misfortune of playing with them at a show in Peterborough, along with a GWAR tribute band (I think), some Lilith Fair menstruating performance art nonsense (probably), and funnyman hobo garage rock headliners. It was likely the second or third show for each band, and pretty much the worst sort of high school battle of the bands shit imaginable. A few years later, the guy who drew the poster - which was easily the most awesome one my band ever appeared on - wandered off at a metal fest, possibly on acid, then climbed a mountain and fell to his death (is it wrong that I'm humming "Ride of the Valkyries" in my head as I write this?). The last few people he was with may have been the singer and bassist from my old band (I don't know... I'm assembling bits and pieces from memory, half a decade after the fact). You're probably thinking that he bought the acid from one of these two, who probably scored it from someone in Bad Skin, and that's where the story is going. If I were prone to bullshitting (I am), I'd probably take the easy road and take things in that direction, and this exercise in gratuitous hyperbole would start to sound like the beginning of Magnolia when Ricky Jay recounts the infamous Ronald Opus urban legend (kid commits suicide by jumping off the roof of his building, gets shot by his arguing parents as he passes their window, is saved from the fall by an awning, but is already dead on impact and his father is charged with his murder). But this ain't Hollywood, and you should probably take everything I say with a grain of salt.
The guys from Bad Skin - a butcher thug with a heart of gold; a walking Dashiell Hammett book, currently wandering some desert in either Tangiers or Dubai; a secret genius degenerate Good Will Hunting who solves problems on the chalkboard while he sweeps the floor beneath it; and a giant, gay skinhead, like Nicky Crane crossed with King Kong Bundy - came together through a teenage cataclysm of drugs, angst, poverty, and (of all things) Rancid. Maybe. I don't know, I'm not really a biographer. But they had a van, or Todd did at least - as long as he could afford registration - and they'd turn up in all these towns across Southern Ontario, from Guelph to Oshawa, to play wherever they could hoodwink a promoter into letting them on the bill. After the gas tank had been filled with diesel one too many times (I imagine), the van broke down. So, responsible Jay bought a sensible Taurus station wagon, packed up the kids, and they all finally left Gananoque (GOHC, lol!) to move to the big city.
A few of them rented a complete piece of shit den of depravity (or a "totally fucking awesome house with a basement," depending on your perspective) that they dubbed the "Bad Cave" (again, lol!). On any weekend night in the summers of 2007 or 2008, the place would be literally teeming with Arab terrorists, barking wolves, attempted murderers, actual murderers, Oakville union thugs, etc. (Again, I'm prone to hyperbole, and you can likely count everything I say as complete and total bullshit, but anyone who was there will back this up.) One of the more indicative experiences I had there happened one evening, as I was sitting in the Bad Cave basement on a bedbug-infested couch, listening to some stoned jackass play Ben Harper and Misfits jams on an acoustic guitar, thinking I was talking to Jerry the butcher and blathering on about something specific to him, until I realized that I was, in fact, talking to his brother (who I'd only recently met, and seemed about as sharp as a bowl of potato soup). So, I'm sitting there pondering my life, wondering what I'm doing nearing thirty hanging around with retarded teenage savages in a basement that smells like salad dressing, and then potato soup whips out a rubik's cube, scrambles it, and solves it in twelve seconds. Incredulous, I ask him to do it again, which he does in probably one less second than the first time. Never judge a book by its cover, right. (And just so Jake, who I'm sure will read this, doesn't think that I think he's a meathead, I want to state on record that he's one of the nicest and most thoughtful people I've ever met in Toronto, and I wish he still lived here.)
Gradually, the band and their entourage began endearing themselves to me. One night in Montreal, during a failed set, Sinan, a Bad Skin groupie/Palestinian agitator/Muay Thai teacher, took a broken cymbal to the top of his bald scalp, opening up a gash the length of a hand. Aaron (Bad Skin's drummer) panicked, fearing that Sinan would get denied medical attention because he didn't have any health insurance and end up bleeding to death on a curb. On the way to the hospital, we hatched a scheme. I would wear Aaron's glasses and pretend to be my own brother "Simon" while Sinan would take advantage of me being one quarter Lebbo (and occasionally passing for a fairly white Falafel slinger) and use my health card to impersonate me (with me beside him). While I translated questions from French to English, with Sinan hunched over, his head in his hands covering his face, grunting to answer queries like "hey, me, what is your birthday again... it's January 1st, 1977, right???," we managed to make it past two paramedics, an intake nurse, and eventually a doctor who stitched him up. It took an extraordinary amount of impromptu acting, but it worked. While we were sitting in the emergency waiting room, Sinan was wrapped with a white and blue blanket that very strongly resembled a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). With a blood-soaked white bandage taped to the top of his head as his kippah, Sinan grabbed a Paris Match from the pile and started rocking back and forth, murmuring in broken, cobbled-together Hebrew, while Aaron paraded around with no shirt and a pair of happy face boxer shorts. It was nothing short of outrageous, but this, my friends, was a typical Bad Skin experience for me.
The band flamed out after opening for a big flash-in-the-pan oi band called Hard Skin which, at the time, had every two-bit goof journalist from MRR to the "personal blog" writing hackneyed tributes to them as if Hard Skin had been around since 1977, and the writer had been listening to them since diapers... blah blah blah... that kind of shit. This was around the same time that so-called punks and "hardcore kids" (ha!) were honestly buying records by bands like Hunx and his Punx and Lost Sounds. Seriously, the fucking worst era. Just total New York Dolls "rock n' roll" crap, or no-substance hype bands being spoon-fed to all the lapping dogs. All these dipshits were yammering on like Hard Skin was some non-racist Skrewdriver or something when, in fact, they sounded an awful lot like AC/DC crossed with Dropkick Murphys. Anyway, the show was at a giant nightclub with bouncers wearing headsets, fake-breasted bartenders... the whole nine yards. Nobody knew what the fuck to do when Bad Skin played. All the costume party punks, who had showed up to see the MRR cover hype crap, booed when Bad Skin violently assaulted their ears and taste. But that's Toronto - fickle, fair-weather, trend-hopping city that it is. Fucking white pooves dressed up in 100 dollar t-shirts yapping about "meeting up at the pub" and listening to Cockney Rejects to "get warmed up" before such a show, then dressed up like Mad Max Native American Gypsy bikers when bands like Masshysteri came around later. They're all Austin crusties now. Just disgraceful.
In time, I realized that Bad Skin could have covered "Screaming Fist" and the crowd would have had no idea what song they were playing. But they were the only band that could actually pull something like that off. Like the drunk, uninvited uncle at your sister's wedding, they would get progressively funnier and more vulgar (in this case, "funnier" stands in for "better") as the night goes on, until you tell your sister to go fuck herself and throw a glass of wine in your father's face. They were the closest thing this city has seen to real, honest, raw punk in decades.
As it stands, I still have no idea what a single one of their songs is called, and I probably couldn't string two words of their lyrics together if you paid me, but that's the way it should be. They were faster, harder, and more dangerous than most before or since. Their collective members frequently flew too close to the flame. Out-of-tune guitars. Broken, blood-covered cymbals. 2-song sets. Flying shoes. Ranch dressing. BAD SKIN. Who cares where they are now. Like they say: if you were there, you were there. Some of you got it. Most of you never will.