Just days after the world learned of the death of 57-year-old Canadian punk rock icon Ken Chinn, friends of the late singer of SNFU are already mounting an effort to publicly honour the musician in his hometown of Edmonton.
Cameron Noyes was a longtime friend of Chinn’s. He met him as a young teen in the 1980s and lived with him at times, including at a downtown Edmonton house known as the Nosedive.
He is part of a small group that includes the local concert venue the Starlite Room that is working on a pitch to the city to have a mural painted and a statue erected in honour of Chinn, and also to organize an online memorial for him.
“For the punk scene, the art pieces will be a shrine,” Noyes told Global News on Wednesday. “But he meant a lot to people beyond punk. Especially to Edmontonians.
“His connection here runs deeper than local icons like (pop and country singer) k.d. lang or (blues and jazz musician) Big Miller.
“Love him or hate him, he was ours and we knew it.”
Noyes, a community activist, musician and promoter who says he has spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic trying to help vulnerable Edmontonians in the Old Strathcona community overcome various challenges, said he thinks it’s important his late friend is honoured in a public way.
Chinn’s SNFU bandmate Dave Bacon publicly broke the news of the death of the charismatic frontman on Facebook late last week.
“It breaks my heart to say this, but our beloved friend has left this mortal coil just a short while ago,” the post reads in part. “He is now at peace. May he live on in our hearts and memories forever.”
Chinn, one of the most well-known punk rock singers of his era to be openly gay, had struggled with addiction and mental illness for much of his life and later other chronic health issues. Noyes, who told Global News Chinn’s death relates to a bout of pneumonia, said he was not shocked when he was called about his friend’s death last week.
“I thought I was prepared but it was still difficult. I think I’ll carry that around for a long while.”
Since Chinn’s death became public, tributes from friends, fellow musicians, fans and others have flooded social media to pay respect to the man known on stage as Chi Pig and Mr. Chi Pig.
Former Alberta premier and current opposition leader Rachel Notley took to Facebook last week to tell Albertans they “lost a trailblazer in independent music last Thursday in Ken Chinn, lead singer of SNFU.”
“My condolences go out to his family friends and many fans,” her post reads in part.
“This breaks my heart,” Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong wrote in a post on Instagram. “Chi Pig was one of the greatest front people I’ve ever seen. I saw SNFU at Gilman when I was 16. I thought he was going to jump through the ceiling. Super smart. Great lyrics. Amazing album titles.
“Sending love to all the Edmonton and Vancouver punks. What a loss.”
Jello Biafra, former singer of the seminal punk group the Dead Kennedys, who called Chi Pig “one of the greatest frontmen ever.”
The Dead Kennedys were just one of some of the punk genre’s most recognizable groups that toured with SNFU, a list that includes Bad Religion, another pioneering punk group from California.
Anyone who saw SNFU in the band’s heyday will likely remember Chinn as a wildly acrobatic frontman who spent much of the band’s sets airborne and often played with the crowd using props like bags of popcorn.
Noyes told Global News that as a musician, he thinks Chinn will be remembered “as one of the most dynamic, athletic frontmen in the history of rock and roll.
“The photos speak for themselves.”
He said that despite Chinn’s struggles with addiction, he doesn’t believe the musician let it interfere with his craft.
“He was incredibly well-focused on any matter at hand, whether it was writing, art, performing or anything else,” Noyes said. “When he didn’t have those things to keep him on his game, he could lose himself.
Chinn was born and raised in Edmonton. According to Noyes, he was the second youngest of 12 children whose parents were Chinese and German.
“His childhood could be described as difficult. Even exceptionally difficult,” Noyes said. “I think his family were the last in Edmonton to have no running water.
“I’d say he and his younger brother were primarily raised by their older sister Peggy. It was beautiful that she stepped in to do that. His life would have been very different without her influence.”
It was in Alberta’s capital that Chinn helped form SNFU before moving to Vancouver where he spent the last few decades and where he died last week, surrounded by a small group of loved ones.
Noyes noted that the musical legacy left behind by Chinn and SNFU is significant beyond Canada as well.
“I don’t think I’ve been in a European city where there weren’t people wearing SNFU merchandise,” he said.
Noyes said he will fondly hold onto the memories he has from his friendship with Chinn.
“I will remember Ken as one of the most hilarious, mischievous pranksters I will ever meet,” he said. “His charm is unique, and although he could be prickly when situations called for it, he was one of the warmest people you could ever meet.
“I’ll remember him in more recent years too. That will always sting a little.”
SNFU recorded eight studio albums during the band’s long run. In the early 1990s, the band was signed to Epitaph Records, a record label that was putting out albums by bands like Rancid and The Offspring as punk rock was suddenly seeing massive commercial success.
Chinn was the subject of a 2009 documentary called Open Your Mouth and Say… Mr. Chi Pig.
An online petition has been launched to have Chinn included on Canada’s Walk of Fame. As of Wednesday night, it had over 10,000 signatures.
Last week, SNFU posted a moving final song sung by Chi Pig on Facebook called “Cement Mixer (to all my beautiful friends).” In it, the late singer sings about his death and finishes the song by simply saying the words “gonna miss you guys.”
You can hear the song by clicking here.
View some online tributes to Chinn (a.k.a. Chi Pig) below:
View this post on Instagram
Oh man. This breaks my heart. Chi Pig was one of the greatest front people I’ve ever seen. I saw SNFU at Gilman when I was 16. I thought he was going to jump through the ceiling. Super smart. Great lyrics. Amazing album titles. So funny. He had an amazing mask collection. lead singer for SNFU. What a bummer. Sending love to all the Edmonton and Vancouver punks. What a loss. #snfu #mrchipig
A post shared by Billie Joe Armstrong (@billiejoearmstrong) on Jul 16, 2020 at 9:59pm PDT
View this post on Instagram
RIP Chi Pig. Frontman extraordinaire for SNFU – one of the few out of town hardcore bands that came all the way to Halifax in the 80’s and Halifax really appreciated it. Sloan opened for them twice. Once in Halifax at the Flamingo Jan 12th/1992. (Thanks to Ian Hart for the exact date). They were encouraging to us. And less than 6 months later on May 3rd, 1992 at the Cruel Elephant in Vancouver. Sloan was a buzz band in the wake of all that was grunge and it was clearly an eye roll to Chi Pig. It was embarrassing to me how lightweight/green/undeserving we must have seemed to him because I loved SNFU. The rest of the band were probably rolling their eyes too but they were still encouraging to us. I remember Chi was doing all these stretches before the show and at the time I thought it was a bit much. Older me realizes he had to do that pre show routine. He really went crazy during the show. He was fantastic. #snfu #chipig
A post shared by Chris Murphy (@sloandude) on Jul 17, 2020 at 6:23am PDT
💗OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND SAY MR. CHI PIG💗 Like a God, Mr. Chi Pig has transcended. MAY PEACE BE UPON HIM AND ON ALL OF US WHOSE LIVES HE TOUCHED💕Not a moon departing, but He is The Forever Rising Sun✨ https://t.co/3S5HA8kSF3pic.twitter.com/fJrTmfk57j
— Bif Naked (@bifnaked) July 17, 2020
— corblund (@CorbLund) July 17, 2020
— Cadence Weapon (@cadenceweapon) July 17, 2020
We got to open for @SNFUofficial twice: Jan 92 in HFX, & May 92 in Vancouver, on our 1st tour. We learned so much about playing a “show” from performers like Chi Pig. Indimidating as he seemed to us, he was a hardcore punk legend. #RIPChiPig#SNFU#HARDCOREPUNK#LEGEND#HFXNSHCpic.twitter.com/xZXJ5wOdyV
— Sloan (@Sloanmusic) July 17, 2020
RIP Mr. Chi Pig. A front person on a different level and a Punk god. Thank you Ken Chinn for all you did pic.twitter.com/2jPsUfBTBn
— Damian Abraham (@leftfordamian) July 17, 2020
We are very sad to hear about the passing of Ken Chinn, aka Mr. Chi Pig, the extraordinary lead singer of the legendary Edmonton punk band SNFU. His influence on generations of punks was and will remain monumental. We are very honored to have been a small part of his legacy. pic.twitter.com/v18f4kn8cu
— Epitaph Records (@epitaphrecords) July 22, 2020
— Fishbone (@FishboneSoldier) July 17, 2020
Damn such sad news to hear that Chi Pig from the legendary SNFU passed away yesterday. He was such a great guy and an old friend… this photo was taken by dobsparrer at Punk Rock Bowling when he showed up to hang!… https://t.co/UMBtbsOy0f
— Roger Miret (@rogermiret) July 17, 2020
I heard “Big Thumbs” by SNFU on Noisy Mothers when I was a kid. The chorus stuck in my head for about 3 years until I could track down a copy of the album. I met Mr Chi Pig once at a show, lovely guy. Sad to see him check out. RIP.
— Frank Turner (@frankturner) July 17, 2020
If you care about art, spend today honoring the life of Ken Chinn. Chi Pig was the best frontperson in punk. He was a cultural icon. He was an Edmonton music legend.
You'll never be forgotten, Chi Pig! pic.twitter.com/7x0FaGNYKu
— The Buckingham (@BuckOnWhyte) July 17, 2020
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Chi Pig / Ken Chinn. Our hearts go out to his family and friends, and everyone who was touched by his music. 🖤
Pictures from the last time SNFU played the Rickshaw in 2010, courtesy of Mike Chow. pic.twitter.com/1zGatpbfWG
— Rickshaw Theatre (@RickshawTheatre) July 17, 2020
I met Chi in Vancouver at one of our shows years and years ago. We had a nice chat and he was kind and gracious with his time. He brought me an SNFU shirt that I wore almost everyday. Sad day for Canadian Music. #RIPChiPig
— Ben Kowalewicz (@BenKowalewiczBT) July 18, 2020
RIP Ken “Chi Pig” Chinn. An absolute legend and the greatest frontman ever. pic.twitter.com/pBBjI2tAFU
— 88 Fingers Louie (@88FingersLouie) July 17, 2020
RIP Chi Pig ❤️ First show I ever played we had 3 songs, one was a cover of A-Bomb by SNFU. His voice and those words still impact me deeply, thanks for the tunes and inspiration. pic.twitter.com/nTkE2LtmK1
— Benny Horowitz (@bennyhorowitz1) July 18, 2020
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