Janick Langlais was willing to take time to answer my questions about the Katacombes in Montreal, the venue she is a part of. I’ve looked up to Janick since seeing her band AFTER THE BOMBS when they played a Crust Massacre gig in Brooklyn years ago. Shortly there after I wound up in Montreal at her fest, A Varning from Montreal II, which was a blast! You may know her from her slew of previous bands, prior venue work in Montreal, her annual A Varning from Montreal fest, or her most recent band where she was singing in TRUNCHEONS. Whether you know her or not, she is worth knowing. Here is Janick…
Where are you from?
I’m from Montreal, Quebec, Canada
What was the first punk show you ever went to?
BARF (Blasting All Rotten Fuckers) and a bunch of other local bands in a high school basement back in 1989 with my sister.
How did you start booking shows?
I started booking show when I started L’X, my first venue in 1998, but I was already singing in bands for a few years prior to opening L’X, so I knew the basics of booking shows and when I joined Led By The Blind in 1998 I had the chance to put my skills to the test by booking my first US tour… and totally by telephone!!! It’s probably hard to picture today with the internet and all…haha.
Have you ever gotten shit for being a woman or had people not take you seriously because of this?
Well, I was lucky to have been “punk raised” in the ’90s where values were shaping our daily lives, not fashion, and guys in the scene were making more room for women to participate in building the scene. I was also lucky to be involved in a collective like L’X, surrounded by great friends and people that were (some still are) in the scene at the time. There were not really any women booking shows back then, at least not that I was aware of, so I kind of learned on the spot observing people that were involved booking gigs.
So, yeah, I don’t remember getting shit because I was a woman, but I guess I might’ve felt a bit apart and sometimes like some people were not taking me very seriously — but these people are long gone today, ha! Also, being part of the scene, being myself in a band and knowing a lot of people already made it easier, I guess, because people knew me. The one thing that was annoying I’d say was that with my name people either thought I was Yannick from Tragedy or that I was a guy, anyways (with my hoarse voice) hahaha…
When did you start a venue?
After travelling and living in Europe for a year I was really inspired by the punks and the DIY ethics and how they were organizing their own gigs and such. So when I came back to MTL in 1997 I got back to getting involved in a project of putting up a live venue, a project I started before leaving for Europe in early 1996 with a dozen of friends. The venue was called L’X (like mentioned above) and we opened in May 1998. We ran it until we got kicked out by the University in 2004. Then I continued with my friend Claudie, who was also working at L’X, and we wrote a business plan and all that jazz — it was pretty intense. After two years of hard work we were ready to finally open the Katacombes, which we did on November 3rd, 2006.
Was it always where it is now?
No, we got kicked out again in the summer of 2009 (the story of my life, haha) by some real estate promoters who wanted to gentrify the area. We found another space a couple of blocks north of the old location, which was a good thing ’cause it really wouldn’t have worked out to be pushed away, let’s say, in the east part of town.
How does the community support it?
Since the community knew us from L’X, most of the neighbors were okay with it, but there were other people that weren’t too keen about it. We had to do a bunch of meetings and even radio interviews to talk about the project and smooth out stupid prejudices and fear of the punks opening up a new space downtown. It was a hard battle but we did it and now even the cops like us because there never were any problems…not bad for a punk venue…haha!!! As far as the punk community is concerned, I think people are happy to have a space they can relate to and that understands and welcomes them without prejudices and that sounds good.
Do you hire punks?
Punks mostly, a couple of metal heads or people with similar values, but 98% are punks!
How did you get the money together to start your own business?
Claudie and I didn’t have a penny of course, haha, so, like I said ,we had to write a business plan to get some financing from the city and we also got a loan from the Canadian Foundation for young entrepreneurs.
Is it stressful? What’s it like having to deal with government permits, etc?
Yeah, it was stressful because you never know if you’re going to be granted the money or if you are doing all this work in vain. But most of all we felt like we were getting a bit too deep into the “machine” dealing with legal stuff, permits, government representative, city officials and all. But we told ourselves we knew why we were doing it and we came to the conclusion that the results were more important than the way to get there. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think we “sold out,” at least to me we did what we had to do to have a space of our own and keep putting up shows and keep the punk scene alive and I’m damn happy we did. I have to mention that Katacombes is a working co-op so it made it a little easier to get financing than, let’s say, a private enterprise.
What events do you host at the club?
We mostly host shows anything that’s alternative and underground so punk, metal, goth, deathrock, post-punk, alternative rock, electro, industrial and some folk. We also host a few DJ nights, like POMPe Night, which is a queer electro/disco/punk night every month, as well as MINIMALE Night, which is a minimale/synth/post-punk/deathrock night that is also a monthly event. We even have stand-up comedy shows once in a while.
What bands have you been in?
My first band was TEMPER TANTRUM (1993, NYC – all girl band, we didn’t last long enough to play shows), 86’D (1994, NYC — also all female band, I replaced Tamika for a year or so then moved back to MTL Kendall took over the vocals), FIERCE (1994–1996), PCP (1997, Holland), LED BY THE BLIND (1998–2000), HELLBOUND (2000–2004), AFTER THE BOMBS (2004–2008), TRUNCHEONS (2011–2013)…to be continued…
Any good new bands in Montreal (besides SEX FACE)?
PROXY, METALIAN (metal but fucking awesome!!), ABYSSED (they are a bit more metal à la VENOM), DEKODER, COMPLICATIONS, MALOKIO, SEPTIMO CONTINENTE, TALK SICK, DETHFOX, KONFRONT, BLUDGEONED, DEAD FUTURE…..and more…
Tell us about Varning….anything in store for 2014?
A Varning From Montreal Festival is a festival I put on for the first time in November 2007 to celebrate Katacombes’ first anniversary, and it became an annual festival. I really wanted to bring more international DIY bands to Montreal and make it a crazy weekend where everyone from around the globe that you know would be there and we’d all hang out together! Varning will be back again this year in November, precisely on the 6th, 7th and 8th, but the line-up is not 100% confirmed. But I can give you hints: there will be bands from Japan, Italy, Usa, Canada and Mexico. Keep your eyes open for the complete lineup TBA very soon that will be put up here.
What advice do you have for people thinking of opening their own venue?
First of all make sure you do not mind not having a life..haha… but seriously, it takes a lot of passion and time and dedication to run a venue and if this is a hobby it might not be for you. Second, I’d say try to find the best location and cheap rent (which is hard to find), be patient and make sure you can get all the right permits at the location you want to establish your business. Get well informed on different structures available (non-profit, coop, private business). Also, make sure you have the right competences, if not learn the basics and/or surround yourself with friends or people that do (e.g., accounting, financing, booking, promoting) and believe in yourself…because anything is possible!!!
Any last words, punk?
DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU CAN OR CANNOT DO…JUST BE!!!