Fred Fortin popped his head up from the Quebec underground in 1996. Since then he has worked slowly, releasing a record every two years, but toured constantly. And despite a cruel lack of support from commercial radio and TV stations, his songs have galvanized the Quebec rock underground, stirring up a small revolution only comparable to the impact of Robert Charlebois' transformation from a clean-cut folk singer to a psychedelic rock beast back in 1968.
Fortin was born in Dolbeau (rural Quebec) on May 5, 1971. He picked up the electric bass in his teens and obtained a college degree in music from the Cégep Saint-Laurent in 1991. Slowly he polished his songwriting style -- which actually means that he roughed it up. Writing crude lyrics that can be surprisingly poetic, linking him to mavericks such as Plume Latraverse and Richard Desjardins, Fortin jumps from style to style, melding bluegrass to hardcore, psychedelic folk and acid rock to grunge. After shopping his songs around for two years he landed a contract with the label Musi-Art and recorded his debut Joseph Antoine Frédéric Fortin Perron (his full name). It featured guest appearances by Les Colocs' lead singer Dédé Fortin (who is said to have discovered him) and avant-garde guitarist René Lussier.
Things went slowly as radios ignored the album, but constant touring helped to build a dedicated fan base. Yet, one thing was obvious: Fortin live produced a lot more decibels and adopted a resolutely dirtier attitude than what the album hinted at. In 1998, the singer formed the Melvins-inspired trio Gros Mené with Colocs drummer Martin Bureau and guitarist Olivier Langevin, a close collaborator of Mara Tremblay. The group's debut Tue Ce Drum Pierre Bouchard came out in 1999 on the newly incepted label La Tribu which quickly garnered a roaster of like-minded artists (WD-40, Urbain Desbois, Martin Lapalme), redefining the alternative rock scene in Montreal. This CD of garage/hardcore rock was a slap in the face of the bourgeois listeners, those charmed by the softer side of his first solo album. For his solo follow-up Le Plancher des Vaches (2000) he came back to something more sedate but still quite gritty. This album was awarded the 2000 Mirror prize (Festival d'Été de Québec) and a MIMI prize in 2001.