Rough Cuts by Kay Renwick-Strange

Oi! trouble makers ROUGH CUTS talk history, culture, the Toronto music scene, and their new split 7” EP with UK’s RED ALERT

7 mins read

Toronto,On’s OI! princes ROUGH CUTS and Sunderland, UK’s stalwarts RED ALERT have recently released a brand spanking new, hard hitting split EP through the freshest, loudest new Ontario label Cursed Blessings, and to celebrate, we sat down with ROGH CUTS to give us their perspective on their local skinhead punk scene, share some other bands worth a check, and a lot lot more!

Check out the new singles “Knockout Saturday” by Rough Cuts (Recorded and Mixed by Byron Pickles at The Farmhouse, Toronto, ON / Mastered by Graham Riddle at Wayfarer Sound, Calgary, AB) & “Too Many Goodbyes” by Red Alert (Originally released in Europe on Dirty Punk Records (France), recorded & mixed: Dave Curle @ First Avenue Studios, Newcastle UK, mastered by Graham Riddle @ Wayfarer Sound, Calgary, AB).

Comment Rough Cuts: “…These songs are from a snapshot of where we are as a band in the current global picture. Knockout Saturday is about our local reggae/ska/soul DJ night here in Toronto that was a staple every month, prior to the pandemic, and what it meant to meet up with friends, listen to great music, and have a good time. We Won’t Back Down is a song about how fascist groups like the Proud Boys have suddenly lost their nerve and started retreating underground. Rough Cuts is about the Oi! scene in general and how our focus is to write music that we enjoy and tells a story that is important to us…”

Rough Cuts are a five piece Oi! band formed in Toronto at the end of 2018 with members of Reckless Upstarts, Bare Bones, The Harmonauts and Dirty Work. They released a four-song self titled demo in 2019 on cassette through H.O.M. Records. 2020 saw the release of their debut full-length album, “Nobody’s Fool,” through Insurgence Records and Contra Records.

In their short existence, Rough Cuts have shared the stage with bands such as Hudson Falcons, Grade 2, and The Prowlers. Their songs combine elements of old school English and French Oi! with hardcore and street punk and span a range of topics, from daily life to homelessness to racism. Whatever the future holds, they have their boots laced up and are ready.

Rough Cuts are: Mike – Vocals, Zack – Guitar, James – Guitar, Scott – Bass, Andrew – Drums

Hailing from Sunderland, England, legendary Oi! punk band Red Alert recorded one album for the No Future label in 1983, We’ve Got the Power. When the label went bankrupt, Red Alert became a ship with no harbor, and eventually disbanded when satisfactory arrangements could not be made with another label. However, the band re-formed and began recording again in 1990; in 1992, the rhythm section of Keith “Stix” Warrington on drums (Cockney Rejects, Angelic Upstarts) and Gaz Stoker on bass (London Red) signed on for the album Blood, Sweat ‘n’ Beers. Other albums from the band’s comeback include Breaking All the Rules, recorded for Dojo.Currently the band can be found on Canadian punk/hardcore/metal upstarts CURSED BLESSINGS RECORDS, with a split 7″ vinyl EP with Toronto Oi! Heavyweights ROUGH CUTS.

Red Alert are: Castiron Smith – Vocals, Mick – Guitar, Dave – Bass, Cal – Drums

An interview with ROUGH CUTS

Walk us through a bit of the history… what is it that stands out for you about the skinhead scene in Toronto?

Toronto used to have its fair share of anti-racist skinheads. They have a storied history in the city and surrounding areas like Hamilton. And while there were always a few boneheads lurking around, they were never welcome at the shows and largely hid among the groups that we’d consider part of the alt-right now – neo-nazi groups like the Heritage Front.

Throughout the 90s the skins, punks, hardcore kids, the LGBTQ community, anarchists, and many other likeminded, anti-racist individuals and groups clashed with the neo-nazi boneheads and their supporters. Probably the best documented case was in 1993 when a group of 200 from the Toronto Anti-Racist Action took the fight to the home of Gary Schipper, who was considered the voice of the Heritage Front. Schipper wasn’t home, but they left their message for him. Smoke bombs, rocks, and even a kid’s bicycle were launched at the house.

While we share in the history of where skinhead came from and draw from it’s numerous influences, we weren’t around for it. When Toronto Anti-Racist Action was marching on Schipper’s house we were just kids. But it’s that anti-racist legacy – and more so, anti-fascist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, and anti any other oppressive ideology – that means so much to us. Paired with honest, gritty street rock and roll, it’s hard to beat.

What’s the punk/Oi! scene like in Toronto now? How has it changed with the pandemic?

The Toronto alternative music scene is vibrant – or at least it was. The gentrification of this city over the years, coupled with shady landlords and skyrocketing prices, has shuttered many of the venues we called home (RIP Coalition). We still have some staples like Bovine Sex Club, Sneaky Dees, Hard Luck, and Velvet Underground, as well as newer venues like See Scape, or even The Grand Gerrard, a renovated movie theatre that doubles as a live music venue. The music is still here, there’s just a lack of space available to showcase it now. But that’s the nature of this city these days. Everyone is getting priced out and it’s making it harder and harder to live here. The silver lining is that it’s given us more ammunition for song writing.

Tell us about the band… how did you guys get together? How would you describe your sound?

Rough Cuts started in 2018. We all knew each other from playing in other bands over the years (Reckless Upstarts, Dirty Work, The Harmonauts, Bare Bones), and recognized there was a void in the local Toronto music scene for Oi! music. Toronto has seen a number of Oi! bands come and go – bands like Overpower and King Size Braces. We’ve also had so many great punk and hardcore bands in this city, but few Oi! bands. Our sound is a mix of a lot of influences. We certainly draw on the influence from the classic UK sound with bands like Cock Sparrer or The Business, but we also take influence from French Oi!, contemporary brickwall Oi!, as well as hardcore, and even bands like the Rolling Stones.

You’ve mentioned a couple Oi! bands from Toronto. What are some of the other great bands in the city right now?

There’s so many. If you don’t know these bands, you’re missing out: The Bare Minimum, The Slime , Dragged In, Damagers , Choices Made.

This pandemic has been hard on so many people. How has it affected Rough Cuts?

We had only been active for a year before the pandemic hit. In 2019 we shared the stage with bands like The Prowlers, Grade 2, Hudson Falcons, and The Lucky Ones. We put out our debut full length LP, titled ‘Nobody’s Fool’ on Insurgence Records (Canada) and Contra Records (Germany), and we were lined up for a number of shows in 2020, including Canada’s largest Oi! festival, the Montreal Oi! Fest. Like so many other bands, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to slam on the brakes just as we were picking up steam. We went from spending our free time playing shows and going to weekly reggae nights, like Knockout, to having almost no contact with each other for months on end. We joke that the skinhead scene existed in each other’s backyards, drinking and listening to music six feet apart from each other, but that was the reality once the pandemic happened.

Assuming we’re getting back to normal again, what plans does the band have going forward?

We’re just going to try to pick up from where we left off. Having this much downtime has only reignited the drive to play shows and get our music out. We’ve started planning for the rest of 2021 with a few shows already lined up in Ontario. We’ve also toyed with the idea of hitting the east and west coasts in Canada and hopefully Europe.

The band has an upcoming split EP with the legendary Red Alert. Tell us a bit about this record.

In January 2021, Al from Cursed Blessings Records, and singer of The Almighty Trigger Happy, approached us for a project. Al proposed doing a split 7” EP with Red Alert, with two tracks from each band, plus an additional bonus digital track from each band. It had been about five months at that point since we had been able to get together to practice because of the pandemic. We had a couple new songs written already that we had been working on prior to that, so it was just a matter of writing one more track, getting some rehearsals in, and getting into the studio to record it. It’s been great working with Al, Doug and Gabe at Cursed Blessings and we’re excited for this record to come out in a couple months.

Red Alert
Red Alert by Deb & Dave

The split features two tracks from each band as well as a bonus track from each band. Can you give us some insight into what your tracks are about?

Track one is titled ‘Rough Cuts’. It’s a self-reflective song about what this band is and isn’t. That is to say, it’s whatever the hell we want it to be. As with any genre, there’s so many Oi! bands that are trying to fit into a mold. We’re not buying that. What’s the point of trying to be something you’re not? We’re just going to keep doing things our way.

Track two is titled ‘Knockout Saturday’. One of the great things about Toronto is that we have so many great reggae, ska, and soul nights that happen on a weekly basis. One of those is an event called Knockout. There’s nothing better than wrapping up a work week, putting on your boots and your best shirt, and hitting the town for drinks and good music. This song is about those nights with friends.

The bonus track is called ‘Won’t Back Down’. When groups like the Proud Boys got labeled a terrorist organization by the Canadian government (and rightly so), they retreated underground pretty quick. It’s clear that these clowns are still around and will resurface under some other moniker, and that means we can’t let our guard down.

Where can people pick up this record?

If you’re in Toronto, check out the local record shops, or grab a copy from Cursed Blessings Records.

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