Updated: May 14
By Scott Roos
photos of Clay Cottingham by Deanna Roos
Tadoma photo by Scott and Deanna Roos
Clay Cottingham has mad plans. It’s pretty damn evident upon entering his recently purchased house in Prince Albert. He’s not new to the area. He was once a disaffected youth, trying to make sense of things in the 80’s when Reaganomics were king and Brian Mulroney ruled these northern lands. But He left P.A. and in 1987 arrived at the bright lights and big city of Vancouver. It’s uncertain whether or not he thought at the time that he’d “never return again” (said in an ominous voice) but yet here he is, standing amongst the chaos created by the tearing apart of his basement in an attempt to build a recording studio. Cottingham’s back in his old stomping grounds, hell bent on helping to rekindle the magic of a local punk rock and metal scene that was once much beloved and charished.
“I love this old quote that my friend once sent to me which is that ‘new ideas require old buildings’ and it's kind of a thing that gets stuck in my head when I'm looking for places,” remarks Cottingham as we walk through his house.
Initially, Cottingham was looking into properties to buy or rent in Vancouver when he realized that prices within the city proper were at a completely unmanageable high. That’s when he got the idea to triumphantly return to P.A.
“It was cheap to do things (in Vancouver in the 80’s and 90’s) …. and now it's not. That was definitely one of the facets of why I moved back. I was starting to get into my own studio stuff again and I needed to find a place with a better situation to do studio work. So I started looking out there for rentals and what was out there to buy that was not stupid expensive and then on a whim I just decided to check Prince Albert. And holy shit the prices are like a quarter to an eighth of the price of stuff in Vancouver, ” explains Cottingham.
Cottingham has a long and storied past in the Vancouver scene. It’s one that would take a whole separate article to unpack. Suffice to say, with some education from the famed, now defunct Columbia Academy (it closed its doors in 2011), which provided training in recording and sound design, on top of his “real world” experience running sound boards at Van City shows in the 90's, Cottingham is well suited to a return to P.A. and create something truly special. He’s essentially filling a void that’s been in desperate need of filling.
"This place I got (in Prince Albert) is fairly good,” Cottingham continues excitedly, “The basement has no windows so it's perfect for putting in a studio. The soundproof aspect of it is great.”
Walking through his newfound home you can tell it’s a work in progress but it’s also teaming with potential. However, this is only one aspect of what Cottingham has planned. He’s also started up his own booking company called “Threadbare Productions” and slowly but surely, via The Spice Trail restaurant, has started to book all ages punk and metal shows and run jam sessions. The Spice Trail has since evolved into a bonafide venue in its own right. Cottingham credit’s Cupid’s Heart guitarist Emma Jean for recommending the place.
“(Cupid’s Heart) got a gig at Spice Trail and (Emma Jean) knew I was looking to do a jam night (and suggested the place). So we threw the first one on there in due course due to her doing the sleuth work basically and then from there it just sort of snowballed,” Cottingham recounts.
The bands, and also the folks who have since attended the shows have been very appreciative and grateful for the opportunities afforded them by The Spice Trail and, to be perfectly honest, they also have great food there.
“The attendees, the fans, the actual scene is just so respectful of the(The Spice Trail). I hear that every time I go to drop off whatever or just get food from Spice Trail. We just want a place where we can listen to the music that we like and that's the main core of it all. We all like heavy music for different reasons. But that's been the great thing about Spice Trail too is (Sheena, the restaurant’s owner) has just been so good (to everyone),” says Cottingham.
So the plans are in motion. Cottingham’s home is still a construction zone. The shows at The Spice Trail continue to be produced. The wheels are in motion for some serious punk rock and heavy metal magic to happen in the “Gateway to the North”. Perhaps soon enough, Prince Albert will be better known as the “Gateway to some seriously fucking heavy music”. One can only hope. For now, though, it’s given the people here an outlet that they’ve seriously needed - especially for the youth.
“We all like heavy music for different reasons. Some people just hearing the music is an outlet for whatever rage they have inside themselves or whatever. There's a multitude of reasons,” muses Cottingham, “I see a lot of people complaining about how the youth are dejected and they’re just delinquents and all they do is (bad) shit. Well, my response is, you're not giving them something to do that they wanna do. They don't want to go see fiddle contests. They don't want to go to country music festivals. I'm all for that if you're into that but we're saturated here with that. If kids are into that they have a wealth of choices on any given night. But if they're into punk and metal they have nothing besides begging their mom to go down to Saskatoon on the weekend….”
“There's always been the disaffected youth around here you know? Back (when I lived in P.A.) there wasn't much to do either and nowhere to go. I see the same things repeating themselves and it usually just takes one person to start things going right? All I had to do was just start a Facebook page and then all of the sudden it just started rolling.”