by Sheldon Birnie
Founded in 1980 in Cerritos, California, Channel 3 were among the first wave of hardcore bands to burn thousand and thousands of miles of highway to play in basements, sketchy clubs, and backyards long before Warped Tour made such doing so seem like a rock n roll circus. After slowing down during the 1990s, CH3 have been ramping up their game since the release of their eponymous LP in 2000. For the first time in almost 30 years, CH3 will be returning to Winnipeg for two shows this weekend. Stylus caught up with founding member and guitar player Mike Magrann via email to discuss the changes he’s seen and the places he’s been living the hardcore dream for over 30 years.
Stylus: Channel 3 has really been cranking it out over the past few years.What prompted CH3 to hit the road hard again, particularly after slowing down in the 90s and into 2000?
Mike Magrann: Seems there was a great old school punk resurgence around 2000, especially in Southern California, and we couldn’t help but notice all of our old chums out there doing great gigs again. We do take it for granted, that on any given weekend around here you can catch sets by TSOL, Adolescents, The Crowd, Youth Brigade…etc! I mean, So Ca has a weirdly rich supply of punk musicians that somehow survived the 80s. And we can’t deny that we were attracted by the chance to play some great venues (finally) and get proper pay, but especially to play in front of a new young crowd that seemed to have a real interest in us old guys! Just seemed like the time was right, I guess. That being said, we did realize that do go out there and tour, and not just be a Vegas Oldies act (though we’d love to be that eventually–come on!) we’d have to record new material, put on a proper show….. hide the bald spots!
Stylus: Your last disc was 2002′s self-titled release. Does CH3 have any plans to record/release anything in the next year?
MM: Actually, yes! The new EP is at the pressing plant as we speak, it will be a vinyl single from Hostage Records that comes with a download card for a 7 song EP. We’re excited to be releasing some new stuff, especially on this new format. Seems like CDs are just dead nowadays, so you have to offer something unique.
A couple years back TKO released a vinyl collection of our old demos predating the Posh Boy recordings. We really had no idea who would be interested in those old tracks, but the run sold out pretty quickly. Probably to record geeks that are just waiting for one of us to die spectacularly and jack up the Ebay prices, but what do we care?
Stylus: CH3 is a band whose sound evolved steadily over the years, fromstraight up hardcore to more experimental “post-hardcore” sounds of late 80s. How has your sounds changed since then, and how has CH3′s sound changed much since 2002′s “CH3″ album?
MM: I think we’ve settled into our sound now— we won’t be dropping any Aerosmith covers on the kids anymore, if that’s what yer trying to ask! People always point to us as one of the punk bands that sold out and went Metal, for lack of a better term. Sold Out, I wish! I assume that requires you get some money in trade for your dignity, am I right? And if you listen to those big hair Enigma records, we weren’t Metal by any means—we wanted to be The Band, not Cinderella…..
Through playing so many goddamn gigs, we’ve seen what songs work and what songs don’t–though we play those too anyway, if only for our own amusement! That gets reflected when you sit down to write a new song. We’ve come to a point where we just write CH3 songs, ya know? Never fast enough for the punks, never slow enough for the rockers. It’s that certain delicate balance that alienates us to all but the geekiest drunks—our kinda crowd!
Stylus: Do you think it would be easier today for a group coming out of the hardcore/punk trenches to make a go at morphing into some sort of hardcore version of The Band? Or do you think they would face a similar push-back from many fans?
MM: Well, I think the fact that there are so many commercially successful “punk” acts nowdays may attract a lot of musicians who may not’ve gotten into an alternative music before, yeah? Back in the day, there really wasn’t a realistic goal of getting radio airplay or festival slots for punk bands, but that’s all changed. I guess young bands today can’t help but be a little more business savvy than we were — for better or worse! — so they’d probably handle a change of direction a helluva lot better than we ever did.
Stylus: You mentioned new formats (ie. CDs being on its final deathbed). Do you think this will provide CH3 with some more interesting ways of connecting with old fans and also turning some new fans onto your tunes?
MM: CDs just seem to be a big bulky way of getting the digital tracks into your phone or iPod, so we figure we may as well cut that out and go straight to the download codes and iTunes. But it’s been really interesting lately, to see how vinyl is the hot seller these days! We can sell as many vinyl records that we can manage to lug around to shows– it’s a heartening trend toward unique packaging and product. But we’ve never made any substantial money off our our recordings, so we’re all for any devious methods of force feeding the youth with our songs….. We’ve been on video games, cheesy YouTube videos–we really have no shame!
Stylus: When’s the last time you folks were up in Canada (and Winnipeg)? What are your memories of the early days touring up this way?
MM: I think our last stop in Winnipeg was a 1984 Summer tour, a quick little jaunt that saw us in town for a night. We’d met up with the beloved Stretchmarks a year earlier on a tour, and had a blast playing in 1983. I recall being baffled by the strange Canadian liquor laws, the cult-like Salisbury Houses, and how the Stretchers insisted we guzzle case upon case of Extra Old Stock — a feeble plan to get us to pass out first! We’ve always had a great time up yonder, so it’s a real treat to get back before the wheels fall off of this thing, ya know?
Catch CH3 Friday August 3rd at the Zoo (18+) with the Afterlife, Zero Cause, and the Potatoes, and again Saturday August 4th at the all ages Punk Douglas Club (49 Euclid) with Zero Cause, the Potatoes, and the McNasties. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see legends in the hot, sweaty flesh!