Music 4 Cancer: A Genuine Cause

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Today, there are an incredibly few people who are able to say that they either don't know someone currently battling a form of cancer or have lost a loved one to it. The joyous tones in which most people speak when describing a survival case are remarkably affecting, and just as affecting are the efforts to raise funds for cancer research. Jay and Rene Épinat have both: a heart-wrenching tale of battling cancer, and a story of a grassroots effort to help cure cancer with the power of music. “In January of 2005, my wife, Louise, started having these stomach pains so she went to the doctor,” begins René Épinat as he begins to lay out his family's most remarkable story. “Upon examination, the doctor said there was nothing wrong with her, gave her a couple of pills and sent her away.

“Six months later, she was diagnosed with cancer,” continues Épinat. “She had a ten-by-twelve-centimeter mass located in the space between her heart and her lungs that was compressing her lungs, her esophagus and her stomach. When she began in January, she weighed one hundred and twenty-three pounds, by June she was at 105 lbs, and by October of 2005 – at her worst – she weighed just seventy-eight pounds. Thanks to cancer research, they found something that helped her, and December 28, 2005, the doctors told us she was in remission; the whole mass was gone. It was then that my son Jay decided that he wanted to found Music 4 Cancer because, he thought, the least he could do was try to help other people in a similar position to the one his mother had been in, somehow.”

Early response to the Music 4 Cancer project was gradual as the Épinats got acclimated to working in the music business but, as they would find out, it only took one email to really kick the project of putting out an album to benefit cancer research into high gear. “The idea for the album started because my son Jay listened to a lot of punk as a kid,” explains René of how the seeds for the project first began to germinate. “He used to play hockey too and a lot of that music was our soundtrack going to and from the rink all the way through to when he graduated into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Punk rock has always been part of his life, all through that. Because of that background, while this album was started originally to be an compilation album of bands, primarily from Quebec, Jay decided to take a chance and send a message to NOFX not too long after we started. He figured it'd be great if they replied but, if they didn't, that would be the end of that and we'd continue on. They responded positively though and, after we explained why we were doing the compilation, they were happy to send us a song. After that, we sent another message to another group including that NOFX wanted to participate, and it just sort of snowballed from there. Now, Music 4 Cancer is fully registered a non-profit organization in Quebec, and our mission is to raise money for cancer research in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society. We have a contract with them and we are partnered with them, and we have a two-disc album with forty-seven songs, thirty-three of which are either unreleased songs, or were songs written for Music 4 Cancer: the cause.”

Organizing such a massive undertaking and having it fall together so easily is incredible but, according to Épinat, the assistance offered to the project by the punk community has continued from there and the volume of it has proven to be flabbergasting. Since the project first really started to gel, musicians, publicists and even a photographer have opened their hearts and repertoires to both the Épinat family and the Music 4 Cancer project. “We've been really amazed at the assistance we've been offered for the project so far,” gushes Épinat, genuinely flattered by the outpouring. “Since we started, it has really been a concentration of efforts from everybody. Lisa Johnson, who is a rock photographer, donated some photography that we used for the liner notes on the album and Tony Sly volunteered to be our spokesperson on the internet. It's been incredible how people responded to this effort; eighty percent of the artists and musicians who contributed to this first set are from California, but we have bands from Sweden included as well and the drummer from Millencolin as well as Jason Devore from Strung Out helped throughout the process of putting together the album. On top of that, Nikola Sarcevic from Millencolin gave us a song from his solo album that he sang in Swedish and it isn't available anywhere else right now. All of that has just been really incredible and touching for us, because we're nobodies in the industry; we sent the message out because we were trying to organize something for a cause and, to our amazement, everybody answered very, very positively.”

With the first hurdle cleared and the first Music 4 Cancer release now on store shelves, while Épinat is very gratified by his company's first experience releasing an album, he's also quick to assert that Music 4 Cancer is already beginning work on a follow-up release and a concert series. “This will not be a one-shot deal; we've registered our name as a non-profit organization and we're already planning for another album,” says Épinat, obviously emboldened by the first successes of the project. “We're not sure how it's going to be made and what it's going to consist of right now, but it's a project that we're planning for 2011 and it won't just be punk. This first one was where we focused on punk rock, but we are planning on expanding. I'm just saying this out of head right now, but we're probably going to do jazz, rock n' roll or rhythm & blues in the future. We're not sticking to just one genre. The punk aspect is mostly Jay's specialty; he's involved in punk rock music and he's going to do more albums of that kind with punk rock while I take care of future releases in musical directions.

“Beginning next January, we're going to try to organize a series of concerts in support of the release, as well as benefiting cancer research,” continues Épinat. “See, the artists who contributed to the first album have asked us to promote their shows when they come through Montreal so we're hoping that Tony Sly – whom I know wants to come back to Montreal – Millencolin, and a few others will in fact come back like I know they're wanting to, and a portion of the money raised from the door entry will be given to the Canadian Cancer Society, as are thirty percent of the proceeds from the records.

“We're also looking at other avenues in the effort to expand into; we're trying to raise awareness in general, but we're also working in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society. What we're doing for the Music 4 Cancer: the cause album is we're giving all that money back for cancer research as well as other ways to help with relief. When people get cancer, they lose their hair with the treatment so we're looking at maybe helping to fund wigs and things. The Canadian Cancer Society also helps people who might be unable to drive themselves to their treatments with assistance, and we're looking into assisting in that way as well. It's all for one common goal in the end; we don't want anyone to hear from their doctor that they have cancer but, if they do, we want to do everything we can to make sure that treatment is possible and that those who do receive such a diagnosis do not lose all hope.”

Further Information:


Music 4 Cancer: the cause
is out now. Buy it here .

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