The Subhumans

subhumans live 1979

The Subhumans were one of the most dynamic, talented and prolific bands of the Vancouver punk scene; but they were destined to spend much of their career in the shadow of DOA (and afterwards, in the shadow of a UK band of the same name). They released two albums, but folded in 1982. In 1983, one of their members became a household name in Canada, and briefly the Subhumans were more famous than ever, but not for any of the right reasons.

The Subhumans began after the break-up of the Skulls, when former members Joey Shithead, Ken Montgomery (aka Dimwit) and Brian Goble (aka Wimpy) returned to Vancouver in early 1978. While Joey started recruiting members for his new band DOA, Wimpy and Dimwit formed the Subhumans with former Stiffs members Mike Graham and Gerry Hannah (aka Gerry Useless). From the beginning, the band’s strengths were their musicianship and their songwriting. Wimpy, Gerry and Mike were all songwriters, so the Subhumans had a wealth of material. Gerry had already penned future classic punk anthems for the Stiffs, including “Slave To My Dick” and “Fuck You.”

subhumans incorrect lp

They released their debut single “Death to the Sickoids” in December 1978. In summer 1979, Dimwit left to join the Pointed Sticks, and was replaced by Koichi (Jim) Imagawa. The Subhumans released an eponymous 12-inch EP and the “Firing Squad” single, then released debut album Incorrect Thoughts in November 1980. In 1981, Gerry Useless and Jim Imagawa left the band, and were replaced by the new rhythm section of Ron Allen and Randy Bowman. In 1982 the Subhumans recorded their second album, No Wishes No Prayers in Los Angeles; but by the time it was released in early 1983, the band had split up. Upon their return to Vancouver, Wimpy began playing bass with DOA; temporarily at first, but eventually he decided to join full-time, which meant the end of the Subhumans. They staged their “Last Stand” in September 1982.

In January 1983 Gerry Hannah and four other self-styled urban guerillas were arrested on a stretch of highway near Squamish, B.C., with a truck full of explosives and firearms. Brent Taylor, Ann Hansen, Doug Stewart, Gerry Hannah and Juliet Belmas spent the next several months on trial. The “Squamish Five” faced a laundry list of charges, topped by blowing up the Litton factory near Toronto (which manufactured components for the Cruise Missile) and conspiracy to rob an armoured truck. All five received prison terms; Gerry was sentenced to 10 years and served five. In 2006, Brian Goble, Mike Graham and Gerry Hannah reunited the Subhumans (with drummer Jon Card) and released the New Dark Age Parade CD.

Les sez: I went to UBC with Mike Normal, and we used to talk about punk and new wave. He told me about his band Wimpy and the Bloated Cows. Thankfully, they changed their name to Subhumans. Firing Squad remains one of the top five best pieces of work to come out of Vancouver.

subhumans tree