NoMeansNo is a world renowned punk band that was born in a basement in Victoria back in 1979.
They were a little known band by choice — never wanting to ‘sell out’ and because of that, they are held in the highest regard among those who know of them.
The three-piece punk band retired in 2016, but they made such a mark on music in their career that people such as Dave Grohl, Fred Armisen, and the members of Green Day have all gone on-record saying they are one of the genre’s best and brightest.
They also happen to be the favourite band of local radio host for The Zone @ 91-3, Jason Lamb, who for over a decade also hosted the late-night ‘Punk Show’ which allowed him to first connect with the guys from NoMeansNo.
Lamb is well-known in Victoria because of his long career on air at The Zone, but also because of his work as a standup comedian.
Now, he can add author to his resume as he decided to embark on a journey writing about the history of NoMeansNo back in early 2020 with his book being ready for release sometime before the new year.
The book he wrote, NoMeansNo: From Obscurity to Oblivion: An Oral History, will be printed and available in local book stores and online before the end of 2023.
Who are NoMeansNo?
This now renowned punk outfit was started in a Victoria basement by two brothers, Rob and John Wright back in 1979.
Three decades would see record deals, tours, new members and hundreds of thousands of fans around the world.
One thing that set them apart was their ability to say ‘no’ when it came to mainstream opportunities that might launch their careers to new heights, but would ultimately be sacrificing who they were and their core values as a punk band.
“They intentionally and purposely stayed under the radar, because they didn’t want to sell-out ever, sometimes to their detriment,” Lamb told Victoria Buzz.
“They said ‘no means no’ to almost everything.”
This punk-rock ethos is what captured and inspired Lamb from a young age when he was going to underground shows in Victoria circa the mid-1980s.
From Oblivion to Obscurity
Lamb discovered that no books or history had ever been written or compiled on his favourite band and that didn’t sit right with him.
He decided in 2020 he wanted to put together a book about them and their contributions to music in Canada and around the world.
All he had to do was pitch it to a publisher and get permission from the band who have been widely known to say no to anything remotely self-serving such as this.
“When I had decided I wanted to write this, I knew I would not do it without their permission,” Lamb explained.
“They’re the kind of band that, if they said no to this, then everyone in their world would shut down and wouldn’t talk to me, so there was only one way to do this and it’s with their cooperation.”
“Then I thought wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t just say yes to me, but also took part in it,” he continued.
Lamb succeeded in attaining their cooperation and established a direct line with both John and Rob Wright as well as their former band members and hit the ground running on getting interviews right away.
After he got the band on board, he had to find himself a publisher and had success through UK and US-based PM Press.
“PM came into it about a year later. I knew that I needed something to present and a year in, I didn’t have much,” said Lamb.
“I had a lot of stuff in a pile and a couple chapters half-written so I put that together and made the proposal.”
Lamb felt that PM Press was the perfect match for himself and the book because they specialize in punk-themed and punk-adjacent literature.
Format-wise, Lamb decided the best way to start would be to collect audio from interviews with the band, family members, friends, managers and more — something he was comfortable with through his radio endeavours.
He did countless interviews and compiled hours of audio for the book and then, he would transcribe and compile the audio to tell the story behind the legendary punk band.
Because of the sheer volume of interviews Lamb had done and the hours of audio he had to comb through, it became clear that help was needed.
“I put out a call to friends and people on the NoMeansNo Facebook fan pages like, ‘can anybody help me? If I send you an audio file can you transcribe it for me?’… and all these people happily volunteered,” Lamb explained.
“They’re all thanked in the book, there’s literally dozens of them,” he laughed.
Once he was done arranging the transcribed interviews, Lamb got to work in arranging it all to tell a narrative.
He did this by connecting with a fellow fan, Paul Prescott, who was retired and had ample time to help edit.
Together they put together a 225,000-word document and turned that into PM Press as their first draft.
The publisher said that was way too long and he had to trim it down.
“They were like, ‘this is going to be a 500-page book, we can’t do this,’” Lamb said.
So, Lamb and Prescott got back at it and turned back in a 150,000-word edit that will be the final cut. Following that he had to then go through tens of thousands of images of NoMeansNo from throughout their career to find which ones belonged in his book the most.
“At the end of the day I ended up with over 23,000 unique images, like photos, posters, fliers, stickers,” exclaimed Lamb.
For the foreword to the book Lamb spent the better part of three years on, he wanted to track down someone with some serious star-power who loved NoMeansNo as much as he did.
He set his sights on Saturday Night Live alum and punk connoisseur, Fred Armisen.
To connect with Armisen he tried everything: emailing publicists, reaching out personally, going through friends, but what ended up getting him the interview was another interview for the book he had with Bob 1, a founding member of the American new wave band, Devo.
“So Fred Armisen had drummed for Devo live as part of a tour and he is friends with those guys,” Lamb explained.
At the end of the interview Lamb expressed his gratitude and shared how important it was to him that some bigger names in music be included in the history of NoMeansNo.
Lamb said to Bob 1, ‘I’m still trying to find people like Dave Grohl and Fred Armisen,’ and he said, ‘oh, I know Fred.’”
Bob 1 emailed Fred who contacted Lamb the next day and lined up an interview. Shortly after that, Lamb asked him to do the foreword as well.
Lamb says that although Armisen was trepidatious of doing so, he ultimately agreed to do it.
Now, after around three and a half years of which countless hours were devoted to From Here to Oblivion, Lamb is finally on the home stretch as his book is to be printed by PM Press before 2023 is over.
PM Press put the book up on their Kickstarter page in order to gauge interest on how many books they should print for this with a goal of reaching $10,000 and after only a little over a month, the book has already garnered over $69,000 in pre-sales.
“They do a lot of punk books and social issue books on things like unions and anarchy — pretty important stuff,” Lamb explained.
“The NoMeansNo book is the most successful pre-order Kickstarter they’ve ever had.”
Lamb says this book is for the fans, but also for anyone who’s interested in punk music or the history of Victoria’s punk scene back in the late 70s and early 80s.
“Anything like this, it starts from one thing, one idea and it becomes something and I’m proud of it.”