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Listen to Lowlife's Rare and Long Out of Print 1979 Punk Classic

It looks and sounds very much like something a young punk band from Winnipeg would release in the late 70s.

Tim Scott

Tim Scott

Image: Hozac

Richard Duguay is a guitarist who appeared on Guns & Roses' covers album The Spaghetti Incident and toured the world with Duff McKagan and his band. But before hanging with the Gunners on Sunset Strip, and his current gig, performing in the modern lineup of The Pagans, Duguay was a punk rocker from Winnipeg, Canada who played in bands Personalty Crisis and the short-lived Lowlife.

Originally released in 1979 on the band's own Airout label, Lowlife's sole 7" Leaders mixed the right amount of melody with raw punk and humor. With a black and white cover featuring the faces of Jim Jones, Idi Amin, Charles Manson, and Hitler, the album looked and sounded very much like something a young punk band from a smaller Canadian prairie city to release in 1979. But the three tracks, particularly the b-side "White Lightning" and "Thinking Naturally" hold up surprisingly well and even have an obnoxious 80s hardcore vibe to them.

Long out of print, the record is now reissued on Chicago label HoZac. We tracked down Richard and sent him some questions.

Noisey: Had the band broken up by the time 'Leaders' was released?
Richard Duguay: It was a busy summer. We recorded the 'Leaders' single in July '79. We broke up late August and the record came out late September.

What was the punk scene like in Winnipeg at the time? Were there many bands from Toronto or Vancouver coming through?
It was a small and fairly tight scene. Lowlife, Discharge (no, not the UK band), and The Psychiatrists, and maybe a few others. But there were a lot of curious people checking it out.

The only band that came through were The Dishes from Toronto who played the Winnipeg Art Gallery. They were billed as punk or new wave maybe but they were more of an art band.
It wasn't until 1980 when bands started coming through.

Vocalist Rick Sprung seems like a character. Is the song "Leaders" really about him?
Oh, he was a character all right. After the band broke up he was singing in an all cover band in Winnipeg. Doing Bad Company's "Shooting Star" as well as Greg Kihn's "The Breakup Song" to name a few. He moved to Vancouver at some point and coincidentally lived in the basement suite of a house that Jon Card from Personality Crisis lived in. I wrote the lyrics to "Leaders'" and Brad Hrushka wrote the music a few months before we recorded the single in July '79.

It was all about Rick Sprung and I don't think he ever realized. I just was listening to the song while writing this and realized that the line "and you don't even know my name" is the reason that I can't stand people calling me by my last name to this day.

Richard Duguay. Image: Hozac

Was there much reaction of having Jim Jones, Idi Amin, Hitler, and Manson, on the album cover?
We never got any grief. Most people thought it was funny. It was different time back then before internet.

I really like "White Lightning." Was it named after the cider?
It was our term for speed. We had no time for cider in those days.

Did you cover the Sex Pistols' "Belsen Was a Gas"?
Yes, and most horribly I might add. We did it on our first (and only) demo. We also played it wrong so....

Have you played Duff McKagan Leaders?
I most certainly did and I'm still pissed off that Guns & Roses didn't do a version on The Spaghetti Incident.

'Leaders' is available now on Hozac.

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