HEARING TOM HOLLISTON talk about NoMeansNo, you'd think his band was still riding the high of selling out their first run of 7-inches. "We don't have any long-term plan," he says. "None of us are aspiring to reach that coveted level of playing in-stores and waking up at 8 am and being photographed with models." NoMeansNo don't play in-stores, but they don't exactly play your neighbor's basement either; 2013 marks the Canuck punkers' 33rd year of playing consistently challenging, frightening, and always wonderful punk.
Over those 33 years, the trio has forged a unique path, more apt to record elaborate album-length puns rather than play on MTV (or MuchMusic, or whatever it is that Canadians watch). NoMeansNo's bizarro jazz-infused punk hit a sweet stride around the late '80s to early '90s, but recent surprises like a faithful rendition of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" and 2006's surging All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt reveal the band hasn't lost any steam—they've just added a few more words to their bass-heavy punk lexicon.
The band isn't oblivious to their reputation as outsider weirdo-punks. "We've always gone at our own speed. We've never said, 'We need this disc out by this date and need to get this article in this magazine,'" Holliston says, not as an admission of guilt but as a simple truth. He makes sure to add that "[it] can be frustrating for everybody at times," but it seems like the do-it-whenever ethos works best for NoMeansNo.
It's the simple goals that propel them. "We've never aspired to get into bigger venues where it's just a pure business transaction," Holliston says. He adds that bands that vault into that next tax bracket "lose control really, really, really fast, the further [they] get embroiled in the music industry, just like if you were in the soft drink industry or making shoes."
Holliston's knowledge of the inner facets of the music industry might seem odd coming from a man that repeats, "There's no grand plan." Then again, he only professes one real desire: "We're in a band. We want to come up with songs... sometimes."