A ridiculous, goofy time

Local punks Under Pressure remember the good times as they prepare to call it quits

Good times, bad times: Winnipeg hardcore band Under Pressure will play two final shows before calling it quits. Candice Giesbrecht

Whether breaking toilets in recording studios, being hassled by Czech Republic border guards or playing shows in a rat-infested squat house in the deep south, Under Pressure have always maintained an obsessive work ethic and genuine passion for hardcore punk rock.

After six years of intense shows, seven releases and tours spanning across North America and Europe, the group is throwing in the towel. Over the odd combination of samosas and coffee, drummer Dan Ryckman and vocalist Cam Popham reflected on Under Pressure’s impressive, prolific and colourful past.

The band decided to pack it in after founding member and bassist Jason Penner announced he was quitting the band. Although the split was amicable, Popham said that the band’s intense writing and rehearsal schedule became increasingly difficult to maintain as band members began new careers and new side projects.

“Maybe certain people’s expectations were just frustrated by our inability to do things the way that we used to do them,” he said.

Under Pressure arose from the break-up of Ryckman, Popham and Penner’s speed-obsessed band, Guns, Liquor & Whores, in 2003. Upon meeting guitarist Pat Short, Under Pressure immediately began writing material for their first full-length record, 2003’s Still No Future. At the time Ryckman was just 15, Popham only 18.

“The first record was just us excited about realizing that we could be a band, we wrote the songs really fast…I feel like we had two or three songs after the first practice,” Popham said.

“We wrote and recorded Still No Future in two or three months,” Ryckman added.

The youthful excitement that fuelled Under Pressure’s early recordings subsided and the band embarked on a grueling year-long recording session, culminating in their 2006 opus Come Clean.

Gone were the one-minute song blasts of their first record. In their place were dark, sprawling, linear punk rock songs featuring a range of outside influences and instrumentation, including piano and saxophone. Despite the change in sound, Under Pressure maintained their punk ethos.

“I think punk is, in some respects, a launching pad right into whatever you want to do, it’s just this transforming ethic that you can take with you wherever you go. But at the same time I don’t think punk need exclude anything. I feel totally comfortable with that tag for everything we’ve done and everything musically we wanted to do I think it was encapsulated under that umbrella, however adventurous it was,” Popham said.

Popham and Ryckman agree that 2006 marked a highpoint in Under Pressure’s career. With two new guitarists, Mike Requiema and Joe Warkentin, the band embarked on a six-week tour of Europe, visiting Scandinavia, Denmark, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and The Czech Republic, where the band was nearly denied entry thanks to passport trouble.

“The Czech Republic took exception to Joe’s passport because he kept it in his pants every night and [had] partied and played in his pants…it didn’t even look like a document anymore,” Popham said with a laugh.
“It looked like he had it in the ocean for, like, a week,” Ryckman added.

It is moments like these that will remain among Ryckman’s fondest memories.

“Mostly when I remember the band, it’s just this ridiculous, goofy time,” he said.

Published in Volume 63, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 26, 2009)

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