DS Exclusive Interview: Jay Epinat (Music 4 Cancer founder) talks about the foundation, punk rock and dealing with the disease

Music 4 Cancer started as a result of the diagnosis of a loved one and hasn’t slowed down since.  When founder, Jay Epinat’s mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer he decided to do something.  That something was collecting money for cancer research, a cause which the punk rock community has jumped behind.   With support for the foundation coming from around the globe it has gone from strength-to-strength since it’s inception collecting donations through the release of an amazing compilation album, shows, the soon to be release Music 4 Cancer DVD and in the works is a Music 4 Cancer Festival in the Montreal area.  All the funds raised by the Music 4 Cancer project are donated straight to the Canadian Cancer Society to further their research for a cure.

Through Jay’s love of punk the community has thrown their support to the project donating tracks, including unreleased material, their time at Music 4 Cancer shows amongst other things.  Tony Sly is the American Ambassador of the project while Matt Collyer from The Planet Smashers takes care of Ambassador duties on the foundations home ground, Canada.  In addition to this bands including Nofx, Strung Out and Millencolin to name a few who endorse the foundation.  DS spoke to Jay Epinat who founded the organisation and continues to run it with the help of many who volunteer their time and talent to help build awareness of the Music 4 Cancer project.  We discuss how Music 4 Cancer came about, the work that’s been done and the foundations plans for the future along with how punk rock can inspire people to do better things.  The foundation is always looking for help and if you want to get involved check out the details of how to get in touch with Jay in the interview.  Read the full interview here.

Can you explain what Music For Cancer is all about? How did it get started and what’s it’s overall goal?

Music 4 Cancer is a non-profit organization working in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society. All our work is done on a voluntary basis. The idea came 6 years ago. I was studying in Music and my mom was diagnosed with a rare aggressive form of cancer. I remember seeing my mother in her hospital bed. She was only 78 pounds. It was horrible. I couldn’t do anything. I felt hopeless and alone. Her oncologist didn’t give her much hope for survival. She received chemotherapy and radiotherapy and she started to feel better and better. A treatment found 5 years earlier saved her life. I was so thankful that I decided to start a project to collect money for cancer research. I wanted give hope to cancer patients fighting for their lives.

Who is involved?

A lot of people are involved in this project. First of all my good friend Francois-Philippe Dupont. He has his own artwork/design company called Arnold-Media. We launched the comp cd Music 4 Cancer – The Cause, under Arnold-Media. Frank is in charge of the website, flyers, artwork, logo, etc. Martin Arpin is also behind the website and many designs. Steve Labbee is in charge of the sponsors and finding money for our shows and projects. My Dad René Épinat, is the President of Music 4 Cancer. He works directly with the media, contracts, press kit etc. Richard Purenne is in charge of the DVD, footage and live interviews with bands. As for myself, I am in charge of booking shows/festival, bands and dealing with labels. Its a team project. We have 2 official spokespersons. In the USA, Tony Sly (No Use for A Name) asked us to be the official spoke person. One day I received an email from him saying “hey Jay, I am Tony Sly and I love your project. I would be interested in being your official spokesperson … etc” I was stoked because he is one of my idols. I met him in Montreal a couple of months ago, and he is one the coolest person I’ve met. I love his music, his lyrics, his voice … I am happy that he’s part of my project.

In Canada, Matt Collyer (from the Planet Smashers) is our official spokeperson. I have met him at the Vans Warped tour 2011 in Montreal. He said “Man I want to be part of your project!”  So we did an interview and we filmed his entire show. Two days later I asked him if he would be willing to be our spokesperson. Since his mom, dad and uncle battled cancer, he said yes.

How did you go about choosing the bands for the compilation and how you coordinate it all? It’s got some amazing bands!

I started to send emails to all my friends in bands in Montreal. At that time I was a nobody. A couple of bands answered my messages. Five years earlier Doni Blair (Only Crime, Hagfish, The Toadies) gave me a contact at Fat Wreck Chords. Her name was Melanie Kaye. She gave me a hand on a lot of things, and last year she became our PR person. I asked her if Nofx would be interested in joining Music 4 Cancer the two weeks later I got a positive message from her and Nofx’s manager Kent Jamieson.

It was the first known band to join the project. Then I sent other emails to other known bands and all of them agreed. Since I am a punk rock fan I sent emails to bands I loved. In 4 months, I received more than 250 songs from bands around the world. There are two people I would like to thank for their help. They are Jordan Burns (Strung Out) and Fred Larzon (Millencolin). They helped me in finding bands and gave me a lot of contacts. They invited Music 4 Cancer at their show in Montreal. It was a dream come true.

I tried to have an exclusive comp album. That is why 33 songs out of 47 are unreleased or rare tracks. For example : Tony Sly’s song is a song that didn’t make his ”12 songs program” album. I have chosen all the songs from the bands I loved. A couple of bands like Face to Face agreed to be part of the album, but they had no new songs at that time, but they will be part of the upcoming Dvd Music 4 Cancer. Less Than Jake joined the project, because Vinnie Fiorello had a tumor in his brain. He also wrote his story in the cd booklet.

I understand that Music 4 Cancer has been responsible for putting on several shows in support of the cause. What can you tell me about that?

Presently I work in a Punk/metal/ska bar called “Le Monte Cristo” as booker. Each Month there’s one big Music 4 Cancer Show. At first it was with local bands then after the Vans Warped tour, I asked myself the question … why not a Music 4 Cancer Festival. I called a couple of Canadian bands such as Grimskunk and Ripcordz as well as local bands. They all agreed to be part of the festival. In total, there will be 20 bands in 5 days!  The legendary Canadian band “The Real McKenzies” will be performing on October 14th, Steve Rawles and This is a Standoff will be part of a Music 4 cancer show and The Planet Smashers also… there’s no official date as of now, but we are working on something.

Where do you allocate the funds that you raise after selling the album, putting on the shows etc and how do you decide where it goes?

All the money (100%) from the sell of the comp album will be given to the Canadian Cancer Society for cancer research. At the end of each fiscal year Music 4 Cancer decides what cause we choose. This decision is made during the board of directors meeting.

Who would you like to help get involved with this project and how can they help besides buying the album?

Any known bands willing to be part of the project. I would love to have Rancid, Bad Religion, Blink 182, Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly on the project. The more known bands we have, the more exposure and credibility Music 4 Cancer will have. Music is a universal language. People can buy the album, the upcoming dvd and t-shirts. We have a store on Bigcartel and on our website. We are also looking for sponsors.

What are some cool experiences you’ve had while working on Music 4 Cancer?

I had the chance to meet a lot my idols, NOFX, Millencolin, Strung Out, face to face, Tony Sly, Joey Cape, Russ Rankin, Scott Russo and Unwritten Law etc. I have met new artists that I didn’t know before, Steven Rawles (ex-Belvedere, This is A Standoff), Pour Habit, Jon Snodgrass, We are the Union, Mute, Pepper etc. A lot of them learned French with my help and said a few words in French during their sets. Fat Mike sent me a signed photo of him. That was awesome. He said good things about Music 4 Cancer, but he would have liked the project to be called Music Against Cancer, so he wrote on the photo – Music ”Against” Cancer — Fat Mike.

What are some of your favorite bands?

Nofx is my favorite band of all time. I have all their cds, casettes, 7 inch, all collectables. No use for a name, Lagwagon, Propagandhi, Strung Out, Millencolin, Rancid just to name a few. I’d like to meet No Doubt and Gwen Stefany one day or Tim Armonstrong, Lars Frederikseen and Greg Graffin.

You seem to live and breathe punk rock. How has punk rock music impacted your life?

Punk rock is my life. I live through it and I live my emotions through music. When my mom was sick, I used to listen to bands that are now part of Music 4 Cancer. It is a dream come true everyday. When I used to play hockey I would would ask my dad to put on Punk Rock music while we drove to the rink.

Do you think Punk Rock can inspire others to do positive things in their life?

Of course! Music 4 Cancer is an example. Rock Against Bush is another one. Our next project we are working on is to organize a Music 4 Cancer Fest in cooperation with the city I live in. The city seems interested in the project and has the intention of meeting with Music 4 Cancer to have more details on this event.

What advice would you give to someone who has a loved one that has been diagnosed with cancer?

There is hope when we speak of cancer. My mother had less than 10% chance to beat her cancer. The prognostics were against her, but she won her fight. You can call it a Miracle or chance, but she is now in full remission. Cancer patient must visualize their victory against cancer. They must accept the fact that they will have to fight the battle of their life, but with the love of their families and friends, they can overcome this terrible disease.

I also understand that you’re trying to put together a DVD of some sort. What can you tell me about that?

The dvd, is a sort of documentary about Music 4 Cancer. We work with a known producer here in Montreal. There will be exclusive video footage of a lot of bands such as Nofx, Tony Sly and many more. I cannot tell you more about it because right now we are not sure how it is going to be released.

Aside from Tom Petta being an amazing musician, why did you decide to put Bigwig’s front man on the album cover?

Tom Petta is an amazing person. Bigwig are one of my favorite bands. The photo was great and we used it. We received more than 50 photos and we used this one. We didn’t want to have a known bands like NOFX or Strung Out on the cover. We wanted people to buy the album because they believed in our cause, not because their idol is on the front picture of a cd.

So far the Music 4 Cancer shows have been put on in Canada. If there are any videographers, musicians, booking agents etc what are willing to help out across the world, how can they get in touch with you and what do you suggest they do to help out?

They can send an email to my attention [email protected], I read all my messages. People must understand that all those who work for Music 4 Cancer are doing it on a voluntary basis. Therefore all those who wish to participate or willing to help will have to do it on a voluntary basis also. I do it on a voluntary basis because I believe in the project and I have been putting at least 30 h/week, since April 2010.

What is the punk scene like in Quebec and how does it differ from the rest of Canada?

There is a great demand for underground bands but when bands like Nofx, Strung Out, Millencolin, Pennywise come, it’s totally awesome. All the shows are always sold out ! It’s a big party. Montreal is a Punk Rock town as compared to Toronto who is mostly a Soft Indie Rock city. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Joey Cape has a song called ”Montreal” .

What are your interests outside of the foundation and music?

I play hockey with a couple of NHL players. I was a prospect goalie when I was a kid. When my mom got sick, I decided to stop playing for many personal reasons. I was drafted in the LHJMQ. I love nature, fishing, but most of my days are filled with music. It’s like a drug.

Do you have any last words for anyone out there? Anything funny to say or serious? Tell ’em Jay!

You can visit our website. On Youtube there are a lot of videos featuring known artists. Check them out. If anybody wants to help, just write us a message. What we need the most right now are sponsors willing to contribute in our cause so we can organize bigger shows. If you think big you become big. This is the Music 4 Cancer moto. To finish, I would just like to say to all those who will read this article and whoever wants to hear what I have to say, that….. An earthquake is a force of nature… but it’s the human being that moves the world. Thanks to you we are saving lives. and by the way…… my name is Jay and I am a punkaholic !

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