Sean Muttaqi

This interview with Sean Muttaqi founder of Vegan Reich was conducted in March of 2015 for my third book, Straight Edge: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History. 

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Before we get into anything regarding Punk or Hardcore anything like that, I’m curious about your upbringing. Where did you grow up and what kind of family life did you have? Do you think the way you were brought up had anything to do with getting into Punk?
Sean Muttaqi: I’m from Southern California. As far as family life, my parents were divorced, and things were fairly volatile growing up between them, so I think like many of my generation – when the punk rock explosion happened – the energy and anger of it,  definitely struck a chord we could relate to. As far as the life I ended up choosing long term – my parents ultimately still had an influence there, in that they were both musicians, and into leftist politics – so once the sort of initial angry punk phase wore off, it was a lot of their upbringing that took hold, in terms of being more politically active, trying to lead an artistic life and so on…

How did you initially become aware of Punk?
I was a very young skater in the late ’70s, hanging out with mostly older kids. You couldn’t avoid hearing punk at that time. But it hadn’t clicked with me yet as a scene. I was just into smoking pot and listening to whatever the older kids were playing – Sabbath, Cheap Trick, Marley – with some punk worked in. Mostly Sex Pistols, and The Clash, etc. But I was too young to really connect to any scene at that point. It wasn’t until ‘81 when I got exposed to the local scene, that I actually became a punk, shaved my head, got some combat boots, etc.

Did you actually find a resonance with a band like Minor Threat or SSD initially? From my research, it seemed like you were someone that responded more to the Anarcho punk scene in the UK with Flux Of Pink Indians, Conflict, etc.
I did not find resonance with Minor threat or SSD. In the early 80’s it was all about the California scene to me with Black Flag, Social Distortion, Shattered Faith, TSOL, Circle Jerks, and the Dead Kennedys. Of course, I  had the Minor Threats 7 inches- but in terms of a scene, the straight edge was definitely not something we were into on the west coast in those early days. If anything started actually having more of an influence on some of us, it was the British stuff. I’d already been a big fan of reggae and the whole Two-Tone Ska revival, so for me and my particular crew – Oi!, with its whole skinhead ska connection was a big draw. In fact, my first band was an Oi! band. But politics and vegetarian inclinations ultimately ended up drawing me to the anarcho-punk movement. Flux of Pink Indians Neu Smell 7 inch turned me vegetarian overnight. Conflict’s To A Nation of Animal Lovers made me militant about it.

 

You state that it was the Anarcho-Punk scene that inspired you to be vegetarian, etc. Was it this same scene that made you aware of veganism?
In the early days, it was more of a general vegetarianism that was being promoted – and it took a couple of years for me to even hear about the concept of Veganism. At some point, I got in touch with Jay Dinshah of the American Vegan Society, who sent me out a bunch of literature, and cookbooks – and that was that. Once I saw the connection between the Dairy Industry and the exploitation of animals, there was no way I was going to continue eating eggs and dairy products. I switched from vegetarianism to vegan at 16. As far as how hard it was? Well, in the sense that I’ve always been a very disciplined person – it wasn’t that hard. But in terms of relating it to now, there was no Vegan food industry in the United States at that time; at least not like there is now.. We were able to find Chinese style soymilk, and Tofu – but for a number of years, it was mostly whole grains and beans. So let’s just say – my kids are growing up not knowing how lucky they have it.

When did you start to become involved in actions that some would consider militant in regards to animal liberation?
I think for legal reasons, that’s a question best not answered.

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When did Vegan Reich become a band? Explain the origins as deeply as possible. Were there any bands you were in prior to them?
I was in an Oi! Band in the early ’80s, and as a very young kid, in a rock band in the late 70’s doing cover songs. 

Vegan Reich had it’s initial genesis as an idea and crew, before becoming a band.  As militant animal liberation activists within the Anarchist community, the majority of whom were carnivores at that time – our ideas were constantly derided as being fascist  -albeit somewhat jokingly – by those who felt we wanted to take away their rights to eat meat. In response to that, we labeled ourselves Vegan Reich. At a certain point, we decided to further promote our ideas via music, and Vegan Reich the band was born. We recorded our first song in 1986. 

When did you become aware that the Straight Edge scene of the late ’80s and how Youth Of Today spread the message of vegetarianism throughout it?
Straight Edge was generally off my radar for most of the ’80s. I had some contact with Ian MacKaye in regards to his appearance on an animal rights benefit record we did, but that was long after his involvement in the straight edge scene. Really, the first person I knew that was Straight Edge  – as opposed to just being drug-free – was Dave Stein – a long-time figure in NYHC, who I became friends with in 1987 after he wrote me and bought the ALF Is Watching compilation I had released. 

When I later heard some of the guys in Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Judge were vegetarian, I definitely thought it was cool; especially since they had arrived at some similar conclusions in an entirely different scene.  And certainly, it was that scene that later on became most receptive to Hardline ideas – enabling it to grow from Idea to movement. 

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How did the idea of Hardline come into your mind? Was this concept already hatched prior to finding out about the Straight Edge scene’s interest in animal rights?
The establishment of Hardline as a concept or ideology was really a cumulative process that happened over many years, and although maybe not what someone writing a book on straight edge wants to hear, had almost nothing to do with straight edge. That association was later and had more to do with the genesis from an ideology into movement. But as far as it’s formation, I guess one could say all the influences from my youth onward – growing up the way I did and all the elements that were directly or indirectly around me over the years. Liberation Theology, NOI, AIM, Anarchism, Rastafarianism, Move, Oi!, Punk Rock and so on.

 In terms  of markers in time, where I can see – at least from my own perspective- to have progressed from one mode to another –the following things were pretty formative moments of coming into my own, apart from any cultural or political aspects of my  upbringing – things that would definitely lead up to Hardline. As mentioned before, Flux Of Pink Indian’s influence on becoming vegetarian; Conflict in regards to a more militant approach to animal liberation; Rudimentary Peni’s influence to not do drugs. And my friend Rat from England is a great motivator to stop drinking. 

As far as individual events that were some type of catalyst that started the process of physically forming something new from a lifetime of influences and experiences- I can definitely say that process began at the 1986 Anarchist gathering. It was the starting point of our small group’s discontent within the Anarchist movement over the issue of animal liberation. Two years later, the excessive behavior we witnessed at the 1988 Toronto Anarchist gathering was the nail in the coffin and the realization that we needed to form some new construct to work within. That was essentially the start of the process, and within the next few months, Hardline was born.

I think it’s interesting that the Hardline thing grew out of the Straight Edge movement rather than the Anarcho-punk scene. Was it a conscious effort to spread that message among the Straight Edge scene? Did you think the people involved in that scene had more intensity and energy than those in the Anarcho scene? Who did you first contact within the Straight Edge scene with this idea of Hardline?
Back in the mid-’80s, we had been involved at an ROP (Regional Occasional Program) printing class – basically a trade school – in this case, a program teaching how to use a printing press, old school typesetting, etc. The teacher was sympathetic, and for years let us use the facilities to print a ton of anarchist literature –  the original inserts of the ALF Is Watching LP were printed there, as were earlier anarchist magazines and pamphlets. After being away from it for a couple years, we dropped by to print some Hardline pamphlets and ended up meeting a couple of straight-edge kids, one a skinhead, the other a more Posi-Youth Crew type. Around the same time, Rat from the band Statement started using the term Vegan Straight Edge. He’s actually the originator of that term. 

Anyway  – having sort of burnt out on the current state of the Anarchist scene at the time, and being more focused on Animal Liberation issue, we wanted to expand our message to a different scene and started talking to these kids about veganism, and they were really receptive. As a sort of easy descriptive thing, in the beginning, Vegan Straight Edge was used when talking to straight edge kids as a way to introduce them to Hardline. As it grew, some became Hardline, and others felt more comfortable with the Vegan Straight Edge moniker.

And overall, yes – at that stage, the Straight Edge scene was more vibrant and energetic than what the Anarcho-Punk scene had become. That wasn’t something inherently different, it just had to do with at what point in time each scene was residing in, in terms of their arc of ascent and descent. The Anarcho-Punk movement had seen better days even by the mid-’80s. And clearly, the latter part of that decade belonged to the Straight Edge scene. At any rate, It wasn’t long before our initial crew of older Anarchist types, was growing with new blood from a younger scene not originally our own – and in that environment, you can say Hardline began to emerge from idea to action – from concept to movement.

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The Misfits: Teenagers From Mars

misfitsthree.jpegLast December, I wrote the following article for The Hundreds in order to promote the release of the book, Teenagers From Mars: The Misfits Among Us 1978 – 2006. Unfortunately, due to the usual legal horseshit that lingers around Danzig and crew, the book was pulled from the shelves and the article being killed.  (Check out Larry Lingo with the journalistic slang!) 

So, in the non-celebration of The Misfits playing Madison Square Garden this weekend, I figured to run the article here on the site. Maybe I’ll get a cease and desist letter from Glenn himself!  Who knows? In a world where The Damned have to warm up for a band who owe their entire livelihood to them, anything is possible. 

Signing off bitter and broke — TR  

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In the grand pantheon of American punk bands, the image projected by The Misfits looms heavy and large overall their peers. Formed during the late 70’s and working from the cultural bubble of Lodi, New Jersey the band stitched together a truly matchless concept; a dark and twisted celebration of American culture composed from an admiration for low budget horror and science fiction flicks, the production skills of music business pariah Phil Spector, the deep state tragedies from the nations’ past with some of the imported theatrics of David Bowie thrown in for good measure. Self-releasing records on their own Plan 9 imprint put them in the unique position of controlling their image and connecting one-on-one with their fanbase. Holed up in vocalist Glenn Danzig’s basement apartment, the group beamed out rumors about themselves recording in abandoned haunted houses and sleeping in coffins to create an air of intrigue and mystery the deep pockets of major labels couldn’t begin to conjure up. 

 

After their initial break up in 1983, the mystique about the band pushed further. Whether it was merely the masses finally catching up to their genius or the fact Metallica covered their tunes, it was obvious The Misfits would follow the lineage of The Stooges, Big Star and other seminal bands before them. In the late 90’s founding member and bassist Jerry Only along with his blood brother and guitarist for the band Doyle von Frankenstein began touring and recording with a revolving door line-up of the band which sometimes took in a stray Misfits member here and there as well as former members of the Ramones and Black Flag. But it wasn’t until 2016 when it was announced they would reunite with vocalist Glenn Danzig to play Chicago’s Riot Fest that the fans felt they were getting the real deal. Since then, the band has packed arenas with fans ranging in age, all wishing to witness this band which captured their imagination throughout all these different pockets in time. 

 

Aside from the recent live shows, another element that can assist in getting a grip on the Misfits’ history is the recently published photo book, Teenagers From Mars: The Misfits Among Us 1978- 2006. The tome bookends two important eras of the band as captured by the younger brother of Jerry and Doyle and longtime band manager Ken Caiafa as well as renowned rock photographer, Frank White. Caiafas’ photos showcase the band in their formative stages lurking in and around their hometown plus their first trips into New York City to play legendary venues such as Max’s Kansas City and Irving Plaza while Franks’ images begin at the much-publicized and anticipated Jerry and Doyle launched a comeback in 1996. 

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Like many others who earned their bones in the punk scene, Ken Caiafa learned his talents for photography and management at the spur of the moment. “I was the only one there to help the band out so I did what I could,” he says about the dual role he played for The Misfits in those early years. “I was not a trained photographer, but I had a camera and knew how to work it. My goal was just to try and get some useable pictures. It was focus, adjust for light and fire. I was just trying to tie together our love for Horror, Sci-Fi and all things macabre” Ken states matter-of-factly before quickly throwing in, “And hard-hitting music of course.” Caiafa’s photos provide a window into the development of the Misfits’ aesthetic we never had prior to the publication of the book as we witness them futz with and eventually develop their ghoulish aesthetic over time. Coming from the same space of spirit over skill as his brothers and their bandmates, Ken proves himself with these photos to be the unsung element in the Misfits’ everlasting allure. 

 

Where the photos by Caiafa give insight into the evolution of The Misfits, Frank White’s show Jerry and Doyle building upon the already proven framework of the bands’ style. Although a fan of the band from early on, Frank did not get a chance to photograph them until 1995 at a horror convention in Secaucus, New Jersey. “As I entered, Jerry, Doyle, and Ken were the first people I ran into” recalls White. “They had a very impressive horror-themed set up in the hallway of the hotel and you could not miss them. I remember thinking about how I would finally get my chance to meet and photograph them after wanting to since their heydays”. Impressed that Frank got some photos from the day of Jerry and Doyle flanking well-known Horror queen (and Hundreds collaborator) Elvira into the pages of Thrasher, Ken Caiafa made him the official photographer for the revamped line-up of the band; a title he held until 2006. 

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The concept for Teenagers From Mars began when the announcement was made a few years back about the reunion of the original line-up and White was approached by the UK-based Metal Hammer magazine for photos from the Misfits’ nascent days. Although he could not provide these needed shots, he helped them out in their quest by making a few phone calls. Early Misfits guitarist Bobby Steele recalled to Frank how Ken Caiafa took a good amount of photos of the band back in the day.  “Ken never told me when I was working with the band for all those years that he ever photographed his brother’s band,” says a stunned White. A few days later, Ken met Frank at an undisclosed location holding a small black briefcase. He opens it up and out comes all these envelopes with the time period being from 1978 to 1981. I was in a state of shock, and all of a sudden ideas were swirling inside my head. I said to Ken that not only do we have enough photos here for the Metal Hammer story but we have enough here for a book between his photos and my photos.” 

Working quickly, Ken reached out to Ian Christe over at Bazillion Points Publishing who leaped at the opportunity of releasing a book crammed with photos from the two most important historic eras of this much-storied band. Now out and ready for consumption, Teenagers From Mars will not only please fans due to its exclusive imagery but the detailed recounts from both Caiafa and White on their time spent with the band at both these important stages in their career.  

Even though the combination of words and imagery in Teenagers From Mars plainly lays out the reasons behind The Misfits’ legacy and why they transcended the underground to continuously inspire and inform pop culture, I still ask both Frank and Ken their take on why the band still manage to retain and collect such rabid fans into the present day. “I think its a combination of their horror look, the kind of music they play and their time not on stage with original members for many years brings out the masses to their sold-out arena shows now” White responds.  Caiafa – who seems to have a knack for being strikingly direct with his statements – boils it down to the painfully obvious, “It’s great imagery and great songs. It’s hard to beat. Nobody does it better than them.” 

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Andy Strachan

 

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This interview with DYS guitarist Andy Strachan was conducted in June 2015 for my third book, Straight Edge: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History. 

Where did you grow up around Boston?
We grew up in a little town called Marblehead, which is twenty miles north of Boston. We were all skateboarders who smoked weed and listened to the Rolling Stones, and that was basically it. That was the whole of the ’70s for me. 

One of my friend’s fathers was a Boston artist and he had known about New Wave and Punk Rock. He had a Ramones album and told us “You guys love this stuff!” and we were like, “Eh, whatever”. We just figured it was some artsy band. Through skateboarding, we found out more about punk rock. Then, the Ramones came and played live and it was so awesome. 

How did you find out about Hardcore?
Black Flag played in July of ’81 in Boston. There were fifty or sixty people there and there was instant thrashing. My friends and I couldn’t believe it. We had just cut off all our hair with scissors. 

Al Barile was there and he was handing out flyers for an SSD show going on in a couple of weeks. We all went to that show and met the rest of the Boston crew and they were blown away we came from Marblehead. There were maybe twelve of us, so they thought we were some big punk rock gang. Little did they know we were these little kids who didn’t know anything. 

How did the Straight Edge thing come to define the Boston Hardcore scene?
Al from SSD was in contact with the guys from D.C. and told us there were these guys down there who didn’t drink and we thought that was so cool. I grew up in the ’70s where everyone was stoned; even people’s parents. It just seemed like such a new, fresh idea in the context of how kids were growing up. Anything to get out of that lame hippy shit!

But I just want it to be known that not every band out of Boston was completely Straight Edge. That was just impossible! 

We could count the numbers of people who were Straight Edge in the Boston scene on our hands. There were drinkers and partiers that we knew all through growing up that were part of our crew and it wasn’t like we were going to stop hanging out with them.

All that stuff you hear about the Boston crew shining flashlights in peoples’ eyes and kicking beers out of peoples’ hands might have happened once but got blown out of proportion. For me, it was just about breaking out of what we grew up around. 

We started smoking weed when we were thirteen, so Straight Edge was new and fresh compared to the context of where we were coming from. So many people were blown away that we didn’t smoke or drink. It was so radical to them. We would go to parties and people would tell us we were bumming them out because we were not high. We would roll into these parties with shaved heads and hi-top Nikes and our jeans rolled up with sweatshirts. It came along at a perfect time for me and I was so ready for it. I was so tired of partying. 

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Did you continue on being Straight Edge?
I wish I had a commitment to keep it up as the other Boston guys like Jamie, Al, and Choke. I was a bike messenger in Boston and got caught up in partying more and more. It took me years to get out to it. Some friends and I became Sikhs through practicing Yoga. I currently live in Espanola, New Mexico where there is a large Yoga community. There is no meat, no alcohol, and no smoking. I started that about fifteen years ago. That got me back to the tenants of Straight Edge and I was like “Thank God!” So, I guess I’m Straight Edge again. It’s a much more preferable and easy way of life compared to others. 

 

How important was Al Barile in forming the Hardcore scene in Boston?
Al was a big leader for our scene. He drove us around in his black van and put so much work into building that Boston scene. Seeing Al play in SSD definitely was an inspiration to learn to play guitar. I was like, “Look at that guy! Look at the way he holds the guitar like a gorilla!” If he could do it, so can I. Four months later, I got a guitar and I joined DYS only after playing guitar for eight months. SSD were the leaders of the Boston scene to us. 

How was the Hardcore scene accepted on the rest of the Boston music scene?
There was already a New Wave scene in Boston that had been going on for a number of years, but they looked at us these funny little kids who played this super unlistenable music. Some of them were really intrigued by us though. Mission of Burma were big fans of what we were doing and had Negative FX open their last show where there was that classic riot. We would drive around in the black van with the Boston crew. Al wanted a lot of people. He wanted a Hardcore Punk gang.

 

How did you come to join DYS?
DYS was playing for a little while before I joined. They had a guitarist before me, but he was getting drunk, so they had to get rid of him. Our first show was in a church in Cambridge opening up for The Misfits. 

I remember DYS did a little tour that was super fun during Christmas of ’84. We played Richmond and New Year’s Eve in Philly at the Love Hall. It was freezing in that place with ice on the walls. 

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Looking back, what’s your impression of DYS going Heavy Metal?
When we wanted to start playing Heavy Metal, it seems so lame now. We saw Metallica and were like “Oh my gosh!” and suddenly decided we wanted to go in that direction. We took a real beating for it. I recently listened to that last SSD record  Break It Up and I was like, “Wow!” They really took it as far as any band at that time who were going for the Heavy Metal thing. That took some guts. You gotta hand it to them. 

They flew out to L.A. for their last show and played this music to a group of kids expecting Hardcore Punk. Springa had all these bandanas and everything. He was such a nightmare under any circumstances. SSD and DYs, we all jumped too far too quickly. Bands get really into growing, but the people in the scene moves slower. People weren’t ready for it. Brotherhood came out in ’83 and the second one came out in ’85. It seemed like a long time to us, but not to others. 

I remember looking out into the crowd when we played that ballad off the second record “Closer Still” and seeing my friends with their jaws on the ground. It started out as a joke at practice. We really into solo Ozzy at the time, so we thought it sounded like something off one of his recent records. When we did the second record, we had these producers come in telling us to practice every night. We started doing “Last in Line” by Dio and “Everybody Wants Some” by Van Halen. We were growing our hair out. It sounds so lame now. We really wanted to be a rock band. The back of the second record was so lame. Jon had the make-up on and Dave had that salamander on his shoulder. Me and Ross, the other guitar player, didn’t know what was wrong with them! 

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Carl Porcaro

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This interview with Raw Deal/Killing Time guitarist Carl Porcaro was conducted on March 6th, 2014 for my second book, NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990

Who were the first people you knew in Yonkers that were into punk?
Carl Porcaro: It was me and this guy, Don Angelili. We had known each other for a little awhile and started getting into Hardcore in the mid-’80s. You could pretty much identify someone who was into Hardcore back then when they were walking down the street. The subtle difference of what they were wearing would peg it; like patches or t-shirts or whatever. 

Did a small crew of people start to gel together up there?
There was a small crew in the Yonkers area who found themselves through hanging out in record stores and other places. Bill Wilson from Blackout Records was a lifeguard at the public pool in Yonkers and Don hung out there too and I think that’s where we met Rich McLoughlin. Jeff Perlin and Anthony Drago we met through a record store called Mad Platters. That’s pretty much how Breakdown came together. We started jamming in my parents’ basement or Rich’s garage and then we eventually settled into Drago’s garage and spent decades there. 

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Was Breakdown a band that once you got together, you knew it was special?
You could say it really took off, but we had to play fourteen shows outside of New York City before we could even get a show in New York. You could say it took off simply because there was a scene there to play in. If you go play the Right Track Inn in Long Island or The Anthrax in Connecticut, there are people hanging out and they’ll watch you play, but it took us a minute to get gigs in New York. Ray Cappo and Raybeez were the first guys to get us a gig at the Pyramid Club. Then we got a gig at CBGB’s with Uniform Choice and when we played that show, everything kicked off. The crowd knew the lyrics and it was off the hook. But we didn’t play too many more shows after that. 

Could you tell me something about that first demo you guys did?
We made a fuckin’ shitload of those demos. We made them all by hand and our friends and girlfriends were dubbing the cassettes. The original line-up didn’t stick around too long but we got to play some good shows and document it with that first demo. 

Breakdown’s style was unique and was quickly emulated throughout the east coast. What were your influences?
It was a combination of the Metal stuff we were listening to just a few years prior and the hip hop stuff at the time. We wanted to make songs that would make people move. That was the essence of it. And Jeff had some lyrics everyone could grab onto. 

Why did that first line-up of Breakdown break up?
There was clearly other shit brewing that was used as the flashpoint for it to happen. Things are different at that age. People get on your fucking nerves really easily. When you all have different ideas on what to do with the music and all of a sudden, one band member is hanging out in the backseat of a car with another band members’ girlfriend, that’s what sets it off. It all seems so silly in retrospect. 

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How did you guys bridge what you were doing into forming Raw Deal?
We just wanted to keep doing what we were doing. Me, Rich and Drago just assumed we had as much of a right to play songs as the other guys left in Breakdown. There were three of us and only two of them! We had a show booked up at VFW Hall in Albany with Gorilla Biscuits and we hung out with Steve Reddy, who booked shows up there and was in the band Wolfpack. We asked him to sing for Breakdown at that show and played one gig like that. We wondered what we were going to do for a week or two and Duane at Some Records said ‘You should talk to Anthony, Communale he’s looking for a band’.  Anthony came over to Drago’s backyard the day after Thanksgiving in 1987 and it kicked off. 

Can you tell me anything about The Loft, the studio where you recorded both the Breakdown and Raw Deal demos?
One of my buddies older brothers’ had a jangle rock type band in the early eighties and they recorded at The Loft, so that’s how we heard about it. We recorded everything live with one take. It worked out for us. There was this hippie guy behind the board who had no clue what we were doing. He seemed annoyed by it all, but it worked out. It was cheap guitars and cheap amps and a lot of energy with all your boys in the studio singing background vocals. It was a free for all. 

Do you remember the first show you played as Raw Deal?
Our first Raw Deal show was in early ’88 with Absolution. We picked up where Breakdown left off. Anthony knows everybody, so we were getting great shows right off the bat. 

By the end of ‘88, there really seemed to be a division in the scene where there’d be bills with only Straight Edge bands
There was a point where the Straight Edge scene would only have Straight Edge bands on their bills and that changed things. All of a sudden, you’d see a bill with bands like Raw Deal, Maximum Penalty and Sheer Terror. Basically, there’d be these line-ups with every band that wasn’t on that The Way It Is compilation. There shouldn’t have been any division, but there was and it just went further in that direction as time went on and things became more subdivided. 

Looking back, what’s your take on the reaction bands like Born Against and Rorschach had towards Raw Deal signing with In-Effect?
We took a lot of shit from the next generation. They would pass out flyers at shows protesting us and shit. If there was anything on of those flyers that was true, is that we got new gear. In terms of anything else on there, it was bullshit. We weren’t on a rock star trip and we didn’t have our own bouncers beating anyone up who got on stage or anything like that. 

Was there anything about the deal with In-Effect that seemed a little off or not something you were used to coming from the Hardcore scene?
In-Effect recommended their lawyer to look over the contracts. We were these Hardcore kids sitting in some music industry lawyers Midtown office where there was a gold record from Salt ‘N’ Pepa on the wall. The guy had no clue what we were talking about and it was bizarre shit at the time. 

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What are some of your fondest memories from those early days of Breakdown and Killing Time?
It’s the first time I got to play live shows. There was a lot of excitement. Everyone was doing something whether they were in a band or doing a ‘zine or putting out records. It felt like this music was new and different and never done before. That’s what it felt like. It was a powerful movement, but it was devoid of any commercial aspect. It was of its own world. There wasn’t any money machine fueling its existence and that’s what was cool about it. 

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Kevinsted

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Photo: Traci Bergman McMahon

This interview with Kevin “Kevinsted” Hernandez was conducted in the fall of 2015 for my third book, Straight Edge: A Clear-Headed Harcore Punk History. 

How did you get involved in punk?
Kevin Hernandez: I played basketball in my neighborhood with two guys, Chris Smith, and Brad Xavier; Brad ended up forming the band Doggy Style. They were really good friends with Pat Dubar and Pat was a really well known local high school baseball pitcher in our area; his photo would be in the newspaper regularly. So, when they told me I had to see this band Uniform Choice and he was the singer, it sparked my interest. It was interesting to me to see guys who played high school sports, yet were into Hardcore. 

How important was Uniform Choice to bringing Straight Edge into the Southern California Hardcore scene?
Uniform Choice took it to the next level. Not only were they playing shows regularly, but most importantly, they were at every show supporting bands. 

Pat Dubar could always be found in front of shows passing out flyers. I remember he’d do this thing where he would look someone up and down, and then hand them a flyer. Almost as if he was surveying who he would allow going to his show. We’d mimic it a lot and laugh afterward. 

I remember there was a Uniform Choice show at this club Flashdance on a Sunday where for the whole night, Pat Dubar wore his hoodie over his head. The band started playing an intro and Dubar was still in the back of the venue. Then he ran up, jumped over the crowd, landed on stage and ripped his hoodie off and his head was completely bald. The place went fuckin’ nuts. 

Go back and look at Uniform Choice. You had Pat Dubar with a shaved head wearing Vans. But then you had Vic Maynez the guitarist who was this average joe and then you had Dave Mello the bass player who was a surfer. The drummer at the time Pat Dyson was an ex-football player. The mix intrigued me because you could get a surfer guy coming to the show and saying “Hey, that bass player looks just like me” and then some jock could see Dyson and be lured in and get into the message. Not everyone was wearing Jordans and shorts.

How about Stalag 13?
Stalag 13 was one of our favorite bands. We’d drive up to Santa Barbara to see them quite often. I think they are a very underrated band who don’t get the accolades they deserve. 

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How did Insted form?
I was going to shows, buying records and trying to be involved in the Hardcore scene as much as possible. It was my entire life at the time. Everything revolved around Straight Edge and the Hardcore scene. I always thought it’d be cool to get a band going, so with a couple buddies, I formed Insted. I think our first official show was playing with Doggy Style at a pool hall in Anaheim. 

Playing parties in Orange County is where you would build your name. Most of the time you’d get more people at a party than a show, but most importantly, you’d get this diverse crowd. You got skaters and punk people and jocks and high schoolers; a very wide range of people. And that’s the way a lot of people in Southern California got into Straight Edge or Hardcore.

We sold our Be Someone demo out of our car trunks at parties or shows just to get the word out. We tried to replicate what Uniform Choice did with their demo by putting it in a small manilla envelope with a lyric sheet and a sticker. 

What do you think of the impact Insted left on the Hardcore scene?
It seems like Insted gets lost sometimes in the history of hardcore and I think it’s because we didn’t stir up any controversy. Everyone in the band was friends and we had a pretty straight forward message. We were just guys who loved Hardcore, loved Straight Edge, loved the music, loved the message. I don’t think we were some great band musically, but I do think people could see we were one hundred percent invested in our message and the scene. We ate, slept and shit Hardcore twenty-four seven. I’m just thankful to have been a part of it. 

Back then, it always seemed to be some controversy around Billy Rubin, his band Half Off and whatever issue they had with Youth of Today. There was always something in Schism or It’s Alive fanzine ragging on either side.
I was never a fan of Half Off, but those guys were at every show and very involved in the scene one hundred percent. Billy Rubin probably doesn’t get enough credit. He was involved whether it was his ‘zine Think, Half Off or putting on shows. 

Let’s talk about the first tour of the U.S Insted did in 1988.
It was Insted’s goal to see the country and play shows. So we loaded up the van with about a hundred shirts and left on our first tour of America in the Fall of 1988. We were gone for three months. We stayed for a month in New York at Roger from Agnostic Front’s house. Roger would come to shows with us when we were out there, and I remember people being confused by it, “Wow, why is Roger at an Insted show?” He had all these pit bulls and I’d never seen a damn pit bull in my life at that point. He had one chained up and had some word he’d say that would make the dog attack a person. It was nuts! That’s when I started thinking, “This ain’t Orange County, man!” 

The middle of the week shows on the tour was always my favorite. You’re playing Denver to fifty people during a blizzard or Omaha on a Wednesday night with SNFU. Those shows were the best because you knew those people wanted to be there. 

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In the late 80’s when the Orange County scene had a ton of Straight Edge bands, did you ever think it was just too many bands with the same message?
I didn’t think the scene in Southern California was oversaturated with Straight Edge bands. When Pushed Aside and Against The Wall were opening up for us, I thought they were good bands. My attitude was always the more, the better. 

Was there a point where you got disenchanted with where Hardcore and Straight Edge were going?
The scene was changing. Bands were trying to one-up each other and make money. You started hearing bands asking for guarantees at shows. They were thinking they could pay their rent through Hardcore. I always said this: If you need money so bad, go get a job, you know? Wouldn’t you make more money at a job than playing Hardcore? C’mon! Why would you ruin what you worked so hard on to sell out for a few thousand dollars?

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Chain of Strength was the beginning of the end for me in that era of Straight Edge Hardcore. They were a manufactured band. When I look back on them, I consider them almost a fraud. They set up a show just to take pictures for the first seven-inch. They stopped in the middle of one song and told people to stage dive on another side of the stage so the photographer could get better pictures. This isn’t second-hand information, I was at that show. You can see me in the pictures on the record. They were as fake as you can get. If that was five years prior, that wouldn’t have been accepted. The word would have got out about them and no one would want them to play shows. They probably would have got their asses kicked.

After that, bands started to go Metal and I didn’t understand that. Why didn’t they just go off and start Metal bands? Then, the Hare Krishna thing came in and I was like “What is this? Are you serious?” So, combined with Judge going Metal and Ray doing the Hare Krishna thing with Shelter, there was a feeling of disconnect among some people who were really into Straight Edge and Hardcore. 

So were those some of the reasons Insted break-up?
We were starting to burn out because we went full throttle for so long. We’d do a record, then a tour, then local shows. There were no gaps with Insted. We were getting tired and it had to be one hundred percent or nothing at all. Ninety-five percent was not going to cut it. 

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Pete Koller

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Photo: Ken Salerno 

This interview with Pete Koller of Sick Of It All was conducted in the fall of 2013 for my second book, NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980 – 1990 

How did you find out there was a Hardcore Punk scene in New York?
Pete Koller: Me and Lou always hung out and we into heavier music like Deep Purple and stuff like that. We were always looked for something more extreme, heavy and basic. Lou would bring home Motorhead records and from there, he started buying records by G.B.H, The Exploited, and Discharge. The first year of high school we met Armand (Majidi, drummer for Sick Of It All) and he said ‘You know, there’s a club in the city that always has Hardcore Punk shows’. He turned us onto it, but we all went down at the same time. 

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Do you remember the first Hardcore show you went to?
The first CBGB’s matinee we went to I’m pretty sure was the release party for Victim in Pain. We took the 7 train to the E train and then we get off by Bleeker Bob’s.  We were coming down the street and we see this chubby dude with a shaved head and a huge eagle tattooed on the back of it. I never saw anything like this in my life, ever, so my first instinct was, ‘Holy shit, this guy is going to kill us!’ Of course, it was Billy Psycho (Drummer for The Psychos) He was super cool! He was like ‘You guys coming to check out the show? Cool!’ He accepted us right away and as kids in high school who weren’t accepted at all or into what everybody else in our school was into, that was what we needed. We weren’t wearing Capezios and Cavaricci pants like everyone else. We were the outcasts from where we came from and we finally found our place with the first person welcoming us being this big tough-looking guy who I thought was going to kick our asses. From that minute on, I thought Hardcore was the greatest thing ever. 

After that, we went to every single Sunday matinee at CBGB’s. Even if some band like Beefeater were playing with six people inside the club, me and my friends were five of them. Whether it was fucking pouring rain or freezing cold, we’d take the bus to Main Street in Flushing, get on the E train and walk over. Craig would meet us at the show because he would always get a ride in from Danny Lilker.  It didn’t matter about school, it didn’t matter about work, you had to go. 

Are there any bands from that time frame that you feel don’t get the recognition they deserve?
Mental Abuse is one of my favorite bands. I never really bought records because I never had money and I still don’t! But one of the first records I bought with my own money was Streets of Filth. What a great record! That band is Hardcore to me. 

Reagan Youth had their niche in Hardcore. I loved the Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front, but Reagan Youth was real. I guess they were the start of the crusty punk thing in New York, but the delivery of what they did was so raw and mean sounding. Like I said before, we would go to every matinee. If bands were coming from upstate New York. It would blow my mind. ‘These guys came all the way from Poughkeepsie? Wow!’ Also, those first Sheer Terror demos were amazing! 

What do you think it was that allured you to CBGB’s and that scene?
Let me explain something to you: Everybody in Sick of it All came from good families. Mom and Dad stayed together and everyone in the band had jobs as kids. But that scene just before us, that was Hardcore. They all had mental problems and they all lived in the street. That’s Hardcore to me. I guess in some ways, we have our own mental problems as well. I mean, we threw our whole life into a form of music that a lot of people don’t even consider music! But now our families live off of it. But those earlier bands were kind of crazy and that’s what gave the music that fire and that edge. 

I mean, I know I have mental problems. I know my brother Lou has mental problems. I know Armand has mental problems and I know Craig has mental problems. Bu the newer bands that are called Hardcore kind of make me mad because I don’t think they have that mental curveball thing going. We came from good lower-class to middle-class families, but I’d say we’re all mentally disturbed. Even to this day, I just turned 47 years old. So that means for the past 26 years, I’ve lived off my band. You got to be a little crazy to take that step and every day I thank God that there are people that are a little bit crazy too that have to hear this music. Without them, I would have never met my wife. I would have never had the gorgeous baby we had and these things make my life perfect. I know Lou feels the same way and Armand feels the same and Craig and Civ and everyone else because if it wasn’t for this style of music, we wouldn’t have our friends and we wouldn’t be doing the careers we have. We’ve covered the entire earth meeting people like us. 

A lot of people say they’re ‘Down for Life’. It makes a great tattoo and it makes a great saying, but it is our lives and we honestly owe everything to it. If we wouldn’t have been in this place in the country at a certain time, some of us wouldn’t have met our soon-to-be wife. It’s a strange thing. I don’t know what I’d do if my daughter finishes high school and says ‘I’m not going to go to college. I’m going to put out a seven-inch and go on tour making fifty dollars a night for two months’. I’m going to be like ‘Yeah right, get the fuck out of here!’ But at this point, I have to stick with it. What am I going to do? Get an entry-level mailroom job? 

What was it about Hardcore that inspired you to start Sick Of It All?
If you listen to the Victim in Pain record, it’s great, but if you’re a musician – which I am not! – you would say ‘These guys can’t play! The guitar is out of tune!’ But when I heard it, I thought ‘I can do this’. See, when I was a kid I got an acoustic guitar and a book on how to read music. I could barely read fucking words and you want me to read music? So, I was like ‘Fuck this’ and that was it. But then I went to Hardcore shows and I was like ‘I can do this’. I was able to make a bar chord with my fingers and I wrote the songs ‘My Life’ and ‘Friends Like You’ on the same day. I mean, they’re basically the same fucking song, but fuck! That’s when I was like ‘We should make a band’. At first, Lou was learning how to play bass and our friend David Lamb said ‘Fuck it, I’ll play drums’. Then Lou started singing and my friend from high school Mark McKneely would play bass and we wrote a couple of songs. 

At first, I could not tune a guitar at all and I didn’t have money for a tuner, so Craig or Armand would tune the guitar for me in between songs. I think even at our first show at the Right Track Inn on Long Island, those guys came up between every song and tuned my guitar for me. But the cool thing in Hardcore is, who gives a fuck? And it also maybe gave us some cred, you know? ‘Hey, it’s the guy from Straight Ahead helping him out!’ Matter of fact, it was Craig who actually got us that show. I think the bill was Straight Ahead and Youth of Today at the Right Track Inn on Long Island. 

What happened to David Lamb and Mark McKneely from the first line-up of the band?
Mark McKneeley left the band because he was one of those guys that immediately went Straight Edge and didn’t want to hang out with anyone who wasn’t Straight Edge. He left the band because he wanted to be down with Crippled Youth and Youth of Today. David didn’t give a fuck about anything, so Armand said ‘Well, I’m learning to play drums in Straight Ahead, why don’t I play drums for you guys too?’ Richie Cipriano was just hanging around with us and he could play bass, so he said ‘Fuck it’ and joined too. That’s when we started writing songs like ‘Injustice System’ that was a bit more musical. 

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What were those early Sick Of It All shows like?
Every show that Straight Ahead or Rest in Pieces would play, we would be on the bill with them because everybody was in the same band! Armand would drum for us, drum for Straight Ahead and then sing for Rest in Pieces. That was our little crew. Then, when Raw Deal came around, we fell in with them because we were really good friends with Anthony when he was in Token Entry before Tim took over the vocals. 

At our first show, we were really generic and really sloppy, but all our friends were there at the show, so they all went nuts. We covered a Cause for Alarm song I think, so that made everybody go crazy, even though we probably fucked it up big time. 

I was under my house yesterday looking for a title to one of my scooters and I found photos from the first Sick of it All show. There’s a pile-on and its Tommy Carrol, Craig, Armand, and Rob. Basically, all of our friends. That was the pit, our friends! 

What were your first impressions of The Cro-Mags when came onto the scene?
The Cro-Mags is what really sucked you in. They were great like Agnostic Front but could play much better and they had a better sound. A powerful, mean sound. I saw them with Lou and Craig one time where there weren’t that many people at the show and there was no P.A. so John sang through a bullhorn. The shit was crazy! Now, that’s hardcore. You wouldn’t see any other shit where someone would just be like ‘No P.A? Well, I guess I’ll just scream through this bullhorn’. The sad thing is, if you didn’t see it then, you’ll never see it now because it’d be contrived if it was done now. That was real. 

I remember the record release party for The Age of Quarrel. They were giving out free Krishna food. Everyone ate free food, danced and it was brutal! I was feeling all fucked up from trying to dance while being overloaded on food. 

What do you recall from when Metal crossed over into the NYHC scene?
When the metal guys came to see what these guys were playing, it was cool to me. A lot of people were like ‘This is our scene!’ and that mentality ruined the scene. The crossover thing was good for musicianship at least. Better equipment came in and people learned how to use their equipment instead of showing up and borrowing everybody’s shit. I learned how to get a great, powerful sound. To this day, I have the same sound and I got it from that. 

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It was also around that time the Straight Edge thing got big in NYHC.
Ray and Porcell from Youth Of Today were always cool with me, but I never fell into something where I declared ‘This is what I am now!’ I guess I followed something because I was part of a scene and dressed a certain way and shaved my head, but I didn’t change to suit anyone. If I wanted a fucking drink, I had a fucking drink. I stopped drinking a long time ago, but I don’t consider myself Straight Edge. I didn’t like having to label yourself in a scene where there was supposed to be no labels. Hence, the song ‘No Labels, No Lies’. I’m sure it was written about that movement coming in. 

What are your memories of Some Records?
Duane Rossignol was the one who pushed us to our height at that time. Lou was really good friends with Duane. He would cut school and hang out down at the store. When we had the demo, we were just so psyched we had this thing. We brought a box of fifteen cassettes down to the store. In between bands, the whole crowd of CB’s would go down to Some Records and back. As soon as people would walk in, Duane would just push things on people. ‘You got to buy this record. You got to buy this demo.’ He really pushed our demo and we sold fifteen or twenty cassettes in the first day. We had to keep making more and more. He pushed it to anyone who came in. 

Do you remember anything about the recording or layout of the demo?
Maybe we recorded it on Long Island…or was that the seven-inch? I honestly don’t remember. All I remember is Rob from Rest in Pieces came so he could tune my guitar (laughs) Our mom would help us cut and assemble the demo tapes. I have an actual copy of the original demo and it has my mom’s handwriting on it. 

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What led to the seven-inch coming out on Revelation?
Ray Cappo was really into us and that’s when he was like ‘Dude, you got to do a seven-inch with us’. We said ‘Sure’. We were being asked to record a record. It was great. That was around the same time we first headlined a CB’s matinee. Our friend John would drive us with seven or eight of us packed into his car coming from Queens. We pulled up and there was a line that went around the block. It was insane. It was sold out. To us, that was like selling ten million records. 

Did you ever have to deal with the rivalry between New York and Boston that happened earlier in the ’80s?
We were asked to play Boston and I guess people still wanted to keep up this New York/Boston Hardcore rivalry. We were one of the first bands who didn’t give a shit about that. We knew about the older guys and what they did and we were just like ‘Well, that’s great for them’. We went up there to play with Wrecking Crew at Green Street Station and there were a few older Boston guys there who wanted trouble and there were a few older guys who came up from New York who wanted trouble and then there were 400 kids who were like ‘What are these old guys talking about?’ No one cared! 

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You’re one of the few bands who never took a break from recording or touring. What are your feelings on all the bands jumping on the reunion bandwagon these days?
These kids have to realize you’re not seeing these bands in the ’80s, you’re seeing them thirty years later. You’re going to be severely disappointed! 

Well, most of the people interested I think are younger kids who really wouldn’t know the difference since they didn’t see these bands in the ’80s.
Actually, I’d think it’s more for the people who saw the bands. It’ll bring back memories and the songs will make them feel like a kid. It’ll make this guys’ fucking year and then he’ll go back to his job the next day and think ‘They were a little fat and a little bald, but they were still great’. And maybe he’s a little fat and a little bald and he’ll connect with that the same way he connected with the band he did as a kid. That I understand. But the young kids that want to see these bands so bad, they must go to these shows and think ‘Man, these guys suck!’ but they don’t realize, they sucked back then too!

We should get into the bands’ signing to In-Effect and all the controversy it stirred up.
When we heard that someone would want to pay us money to make a record, it sounded great. I’m not putting them down, but the labels that were being run out of some guys’ moms’ basement weren’t prepared to do that. This was a step in a different direction for this type of music. We signed a contract to make ten albums, which is ridiculous, but we didn’t give a shit. They gave us ten grand when I didn’t even know what one hundred dollars looked like. We took all of our friends with us up to Rhode Island and recorded the record in twenty-one hours or something like that. Or maybe that’s how many songs there were on the record? 

The main thing was the people who were coming to our shows didn’t give a shit about anything but having fun and going to a great Hardcore show. But the people who were acting holier than thou were all coming from well off families and had the loudest mouths. Where are they today? Everything in my life is Hardcore and these guys were trying to shut us down because we were on a label that they thought was corporate. Where the fuck do you get your electricity from? Do you have a bicycle with a generator on it or something? Where do you get the gasoline for your fucking car? Shut the fuck up! You can be whatever you want to be. Eat vegan. Eat raw. Grow your own vegetables. But you always got to pay somebody for something. I remember they had some issue with us having these jackets that In-Effect gave us. They really took us to task for that. To me, it was just a free jacket, you know? It’s not like I had money to spend on clothes so I was like, ‘Wow, a free jacket!’ Here’s the thing I never understood: A band is playing this music that you supposedly love. This band is going to try to make it their entire lives and take it another level. Why wouldn’t you support that? 

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Sick Of It All were one of the bands to revive this concept of Hardcore bands playing on bills with Metal bands. Do you recall how that came about?
Rest in Pieces was asked to play the Ritz to open for Exodus, which we thought was weird. Rest in Pieces was going to open for a Metal band? That’s fucking crazy! At that point, we thought Rest in Pieces was on the way of being a huge band. The next day, we get a phone call from Chris Williamson and he said him and Raybeez were setting up the Superbowl of Hardcore together. We were like ‘We’re going to play the Ritz too?’ We were so psyched! We played in front of 1200 people on an all Hardcore bill. That was crazy. 

Exodus was on Combat and they wanted to take a new band on tour with them when we just signed to In-Effect. Howie Abrams said ‘Take Sick of it All, their record will just be coming out’. We did five shows with them to a crowd who had no idea what we were at all. There was all these big hair metal guys and girls saying ‘Look at these guys. They got shaved heads and goatees and tattoos’. After two songs, everybody was into it. It was a really great thing. It was our turn to crossover to a different audience. 

After that, we went on tour with D.R.I. That’s the one where we got paid fifty dollars a night for two months straight. It was pretty rough, but we were kids. In our minds, this was going to be the last time we were ever going to see Florida or Texas. We thought we were going to go home and have to get jobs. We never thought we were going to be Hardcore and make a living from it. We knew it wasn’t Metal or regular rock music where people would sell hundreds of thousands of records. But we were wrong! And thank God we were or I would have killed myself a long time ago!

I remember hearing a story about some melee that happened the first time Sick Of It All played Gilman Street back in ‘89, but never got the full story.
The people who ran the club had an issue with us as soon as we got there. There were sixty fucking people there and we were getting paid one hundred dollars. They had these guys who were supposed to be bouncers in front of the stage and everything out of their mouth about us and the kids that came to see us was ‘These Straight Edge faggots’. We were like ‘Who is Straight Edge here? Do we being on Revelation make us a Straight Edge band?’ Maybe the kids who came to see us were the local Straight Edge guys. Who knows. People started throwing shit at the bouncers, they would throw kids out who were into the band. I’m playing and the bouncers’ girlfriend literally grabs the neck of my guitar and starts trying to pull the strings off of it screaming, ‘Get the fuck out of here you Straight Edge faggot!’ I soccer kicked her in the face and she fell down. Her boyfriend just thought she fell off the stage. When he finally figures out what happened he came towards me and our roadie Squirm jumped over me and started beating the fucking shit out of the guy. But wait, it gets crazier! From the right side door, forty Nazis come charging in and start beating everybody up! We just stopped playing and stood there asking, ‘What’s going on?’ It was like the Nazis were just waiting outside for something to happen because they already hated the people who ran the club and they were just looking for a reason to start a fight. Years later, I talked to Tim from Rancid who was there and he just said ‘Yeah, I don’t know why the Gilman people were fucking with you at that show’. 

What was the point where you decided as a band that this was going to be a lifelong thing?
We started going to Europe in ’91 and that’s when it became a career. People love NYHC in the states, but outside of the United States, people think it’s the greatest thing ever. We just played in Germany to fifty-five thousand people. This wouldn’t exist without all the tape trading that went on, meeting the people that were doing it and writing actual letters back and forth. That’s when we realized we could actually make a living from this and we did.

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What keeps you doing Sick Of It All after all these years?
It’s our lives. Armand wouldn’t have met his wife if it wasn’t for this band. We recorded Built to Last in California and somehow they met up out there. I wouldn’t be living where I live with my wife with a beautiful baby. This is our lives. It’s really crazy to think I wouldn’t own this house if I didn’t go to CBGB’s to see an Agnostic Front show. That’s how it affected me. Every few years we put out a new record and we tour the entire earth. We’re not tooting our own horn, but everyone knows NYHC because of us, Madball, Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front. That’s it. 

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Adam Nathanson

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This interview with Adam Nathanson (Life’s Blood, Born Against, Young Pioneers) was conducted in September of 2013 for my second book, NYHC – New York Hardcore 1980 – 1990 

So, I’ll guess we’ll start with why did you start coming from New Jersey into New York for shows?
Punk for me was an escape from New Jersey. New York was just way more exciting. It was a real city and I had enough of New Jersey as a state.

I don’t know if you’d feel comfortable saying Life’s Blood had a motto, but something the band put on their seven-inch and flyers was: “Hardcore – Love It Or Leave It”. What was behind a sentiment like that?
I had this crazy Stalinist type of view that you were either with us or against us when it came to the scene. If I didn’t see you at Some Records or at Sunday matinees at CBGB’s every week, then you clearly weren’t dedicated to Hardcore. That was my teenage interruption. So if there were people in my high school who maybe liked that kind of music, but I didn’t come down to the Bowery every Sunday, then I wanted nothing to do with them. I just felt like I had no time for these people. I had an extreme view and most people from New Jersey didn’t fit into it, so the people I picked and chose to be around other people from New Jersey or the Bronx or Long Island or Queens who knew the only place to be on a Sunday afternoon is on the Bowery or walking around the village. I think a whole lot of other people had the same mindset at the same time to converge on this place. 

What are your memories of Some Records?
When Duane set up the store, I went in there and bought the Youth of Today Can’t Close My Eyes 7”, some fanzines and maybe a Sheer Terror demo tape. He was so friendly. We were always going into the city to practice with whatever band we had at the time and Duane would always let you leave your guitar, backpack and all that stuff at the store while you went to the show or got pizza. I thought it was a big deal when he would say ‘Adam, I’m going to take a break. Can you sit behind the counter for a while?’ I thought I was the king of the world because I was sitting behind the counter at Some Records. When I’d get home, I would tell my mom that I was in charge of this store in Manhattan for thirty minutes. I don’t have any stories about beat downs or anything, but I have that. 

What are your memories of the formation of Life’s Blood?
For a while,  I had a few bands that would coalesce at Giant Studios on 14th Street and after a couple of weekends, they would usually die. With Life’s Blood, I can’t say there was some special moment where we glanced into each other’s eyes and became transfixed. All a group is getting people to show up at the same place at the same time and that’s all a band like Life’s Blood was.

Didn’t you have other bands before Life’s Blood?
I did have a band briefly with Anthony Communale from Raw Deal and John Wrecking Machine. But right around that time, Anthony stared Raw Deal, Wrecking Machine started Burden of Proof and I started Life’s Blood. 

Was that band Mister Softee?
Yeah. Wrecking Machine’s idea was people would come to a show, see the name Mister Softee and think the band would be wimps that sound like The Cure, but then we’d shocked them by being the hardest band in New York. 

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It seemed right off the bat, Life’s Blood made a conscious effort to run against what people perceived to be the standards of what NYHC was at the time.
We wanted to be a part of what was happening at the time, but we were anachronistic to the anachronism of the time. We were one step removed from what was relevant. We wanted to present something that would come off like the Cause For Alarm 7”. But some of the craziness my next band Born Against would be known for starting in Life’s Blood. There was some vandalism of Venus Records related to them selling collectible punk records for a lot of money. 

I remember hearing about Jason O’Toole (vocalist for Life’s Blood) calling out Youth of Today for making the music video for the song “No More” and Ray Cappo having issues with that.
I guess he was asking around about us the weekend after that happened. Do you know what he said? He said, ‘What’s up with this band Wolf’s Blood?’ Again, some of the stuff we would get known for in Born Against was already starting to bubble. We started to make ourselves stand out on purpose based on nothing that had to do with our music. 

Nonetheless, were you a fan of Youth Of Today?
I was interested in Youth of Today because they were in Violent Children and I thought they were really good. I was always really into being Straight Edge, but I just didn’t like the Youth Crew aesthetic.  The whole jock look didn’t flow with me. But Youth of Today was a really good band and when they put out We’re Not In This Alone, I thought it was cool they had a song about vegetarianism on there with  ‘No More’ but the song I especially liked on that album was ‘Live Free’. That song was a watershed moment in the scene to me because it opened the floodgates for people to finally feel comfortable in saying,  ‘We don’t want any more of this right-wing bullshit in our scene’. They were a band that was really looked up, so they really stuck their neck out doing that song. So, I give them a lot of credit for that. 

Why did Life’s Blood break-up?
We would have gone farther, but the singer didn’t really stick with it and we never recovered. There was a time when I thought it was going to work out right around the end of ’88 when Jason from Krakdown said he’d give it a shot to be our singer, but that didn’t materialize. 

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After Life’s Blood, you formed Born Against. You already hinted at how that band got known for stirring things up in regards to your opposition to larger independent labels getting involved in punk, how do you feel about all that stuff in the present day?
Well, we never had a plan to be as crazy as we were in our behavior. It just seemed at some point, the concept of observing typical social relations ended for us. We might have developed big platforms to justify the things we ranted and raved about, but there we had no impulse control or filter. 

When we started Born Against, Sam was doing a lot of work for the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador and Nicaragua and Guatemala. They had an office at the War Resisters League on Lafayette Street. The very first song Born Against put on a record was called ‘The Good Father’ and it was about the war in Central America. I had always been concerned about that going back to the time sending away for information from the addresses on the back of MDC records. So, I don’t know why we tried to do all of these fratricidal weird scene politics type stuff when we should have been concentrating on issues like that. What I’m trying to say is I don’t know why we thought the main thing we needed to address was records labels coming into the punk scene. There was stuff that was right up in our faces like the poor and homeless people getting kicked out of Manhattan or tax dollars going to the war in El Salvador. In the present day, I  don’t know what was up with us wanting to scrutinize other bands. I just thought everybody else through telepathy was going to come with us in that pursuit. I guess I fancied punk to be some monk-like experience or something. 

Were there any bands in New York during that period that inspired you to be as abrasive as you and the band were in stating their opinions?
I always admired the confrontational assault of Missing Foundation and the stance they took against gentrification. I liked the theatre of it all and the concrete actions they were taking. It was so hostile and mysterious. 

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For someone inspired by bands like MDC, did you feel there was a more right-wing element to the NYHC scene?
One time in ’86, I was at a CBGB’s matinee and the singer for one of the bands playing said ‘Yo, I was Washington Square Park the other day and this guy was saying all this stuff about how America is fucked up with a hammer and sickle button on his jacket. I’m not telling you what to do, but his name is Stefen and he’s the singer from the False Prophets. If you see him, you know what to do!’ And everyone in the audience was like ‘Kill him! Kill him!’ It was like a scene from Frankenstein or something. 

I hate to keep sticking to this theme, but is there a main regret you have with Born Against?
I really liked doing Born Against for the simple reason the songs we were coming up with were good. I just wish we could have been known more like a really good band, but I guess we sabotage ourselves on that one. 

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One thing you got known for were the flyers you would make with the title War Prayer that railed against your issues in the Hardcore scene. Where did the inspiration for those flyers come from?
Abraham Rodriguez from the band Urgent Fury had this fanzine called State of Fury in the mid-’80s that was a one-sheet filled with his rants about the scene and politics. 

In the end, would you say the all-or-none attitude of Born Against bit the band in the ass?
I would say by late ’91, there was a realization things were going whacky and by ’92 a lot of people from our scene at ABC No Rio took their cue and turned on Born Against. We were a bunch of little monsters who created a bunch of other little monsters that ended up rejecting us. By 1992, I was totally over with that stuff and just wanted to be in a band. In a way, they were biting the hand that feeds because we were one of the last bands that did anything in that scene worth listening to. Honestly, who goes around listening to those bands who played ABC No Rio matinees? No one is putting Animal Crackers songs on mix CDs to impress people. 

I think the funny thing about ABC No Rio was the misconception the place was some politically correct gulag. You’d travel around the country and meet people who thought they were adopting some rule book for the place that was totally out of whack.
Yeah, that’s right. I always found it entertaining when you’d go somewhere like Santa Barbara to play and someone would bump into somebody and all of a sudden the music would stop with someone getting on the mic saying something like, ‘Stop the show! There’s oppression going on in the audience!’ It was like they wanted everybody to sit cross-legged and hold hands. I’m not a big proponent of violence, but I just found that whole thing really weird.