It's a common story to be a teenager, and make your cultural transition, but not really change. It's an especially common thing when you decide to be a punk, or a hardcore kid. In many ways, the punk and hardcore thing is a parallel world - the look is a bit different, the music is kind of harder, but generally people think and act like they did before their lifestyle changed. The common complaint where we're from is that there are a lot of "jocks" in hardcore bands. It's something I'm sure cuts across every subculture - it's easy to change the way you look and the kind of music you listen to, but it's hard to change the way you are inside, how you relate to life, and treat other people. That's why it always seems weird when we'll meet a punk kid who is training to become a cop - it's weird, but it really isn't, because for the most part what we're involved in for most people is just something they are doing while they are young, and don't have the intention of taking any sort of lesson from being punk. Which is fine too.
I had a really normal upbringing - I played baseball and hockey, collected hockey cards, sometimes thought about what it mean to be nice to people, but mostly had a non-proliferation pact with life - I didn't throw life any curve-balls, and it life didn't throw any back at me. I became a punk because I liked the way it sounded, not because I grew up on the streets, so there was no great urgency in the gradual lifestyle choices I was starting to make. When you start listening to hardcore, if you do it for long enough, there's a few decisions you'll inevitably come up against - being vegetarian and being straight edge. It often doesn't really go much further than that. After that, it depends on the people you have around you to help you consider breaking things down even more, and confronting the larger issues.
When I was still only listening to Youth Of Today and the first Victory Style CD, me and a friend started to volunteer at Who's Emma, an important place that's been mentioned here a few times. It was here where we started to come up against some of the greater issues and questions in life and to really start to understand what it meant to be part of a real progressive subculture. We met anarchists, homeless people, natives, womens rights activists, old people, anti-psych activists, unionists, gay people, people that listened to different types of music, people that wanted to destroy all technology. But most importantly, we met people that were able to incorporate a bit of everything into cohesive and impressive personalities, and we could sense that it was those people who were demonstrating how life was meant to be lived, and that it was those types of people you talked about when you said stuff like "Community leader".
Will Munro was one of those people, and he died today. I met Will in 1998 or 1999 at Who's Emma. He was a straight edge punk who was also gay, which blew my mind. He carried with him such a grinning confidence that I didn't have to wonder for even a second if being straight edge but also gay was something that made sense. He listened to hardcore music like me, but also dance and electro music, which is something I didn't understand. Over the course a summer , I'd gone from someone who only wanted to listen and talk about punk bands to hanging out at like the first 10 Vaseline's, Will's gay disco parties. To me, Will was one of the people who most helped break down in my mind those internal divisions it's so easy to give in to. I've always felt like Toronto was the perfect place for us to grow and develop as a band, because there is such a blurring of these lines, because of people like Will. RIP.