Tommy Carroll

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This interview with Tommy Carroll (NYC Mayhem, Straight Ahead, Irate) was conducted October 18th, 2013 in Central Park for my second book, NYHC – New York Hardcore 1980 – 1990. 

When did your interest in playing music start?
Tommy Carroll: I started working when I was 14 at the boathouse on Nineteenth Street and First Avenue and saved up my money and bought a drum set. I played with a few friends in the neighborhood and my friend introduced me to Gordon Ancis (guitarist of NYC Mayhem) and Tony Marck (first bass player for NYC Mayhem)  They were taking lessons and were pretty decent musicians. Metal was our thing. Sabbath, Priest, Maiden and then, of course, Metallica. 

How did you get into Hardcore?
We were aware of Circle Jerks, GBH and Discharge; the bands the Metal bands liked. I went to CBGB’s and saw Adrenalin O.D. I liked the scene. There were so many restraints in Heavy Metal and these guys were jumping off the stage and dancing around. I wanted to be a part of it. I was a young kid and I was still searching for things. I wanted something more real; purer. 

After that show, we got more into Hardcore and replaced Tony with Craig Satari. I knew Craig through Danny Lilker (Nuclear Assault). Looking back now, it all went by so quick. There was a two-year window and then I was out of music. But I really fell in love with the scene. I ended up meeting a woman through the scene and having a child with her. It became more of a lifestyle after a while. I always thought I was an outcast, so I fit right in with all the other broken toys. 

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NYC Mayhem Practice. Photo: Facebook

What do you remember from the early days of NYC Mayhem?
Back in the day with Mayhem, I used to make our demos by taking my sisters’ cassettes, erasing them and putting our shit on there to send out to all the Metal ‘zines. I was really into the tape trading shit. That was fuckin’ awesome. You had the Metallica demo with Dave Mustane on it and then Death from Florida. It was a great, great scene. You’d be on the phone with these guys and the long-distance bill was building up. I guess the internet is a good thing since it saves these new bands a lot of money on phone bills! 

What bands do you feel best exemplifies NYHC?
Up until this day, Agnostic Front is NYHC as far as I’m concerned. When I see them playing in front of tens of thousands of people, I couldn’t be more happy for them. I used to look at my parents listening to all their 50’s shit and laugh at them. Now, I look at myself and all I listen to is the Bad Brains, Agnostic Front and the Cro-Mags. I came to realize that’s my era. That’s the stuff no one can take away from me. That music is connected to the best memories of my life and I hang on to them. 

I had the privilege of being Roger’s roommate for a couple months way back. When you come into something new, there are guys who are reluctant to befriend you. Roger and Jimmy are still here, so that’s the kind of guys they are. They welcome people in to keep the scene going. New blood, new bands. 

What were some of the more important shows for you at CBGB’s?
The first time I saw Agnostic Front at CBGB’s was a big thing. The vibe was great. But even the small bands that played there made an impact on me like Malignant Tumor and The Neos. There was just so many good shows. 

Wasn’t there supposed to be an NYC Mayhem seven-inch at some point?
NYC Mayhem recorded fourteen songs for a seven-inch that Dave from Mental Abuse was going to put out on his label, Urinal. He didn’t like the way it came out. I remember him telling me he thought it was going to be more Metal. 

You played drums and sang in NYC Mayhem. Barring The Mentors, that’s a pretty unique thing for a punk band.
Yeah, someone who did both those things in Hardcore was hard to find. I had a lot of energy and I could play drums. I have a regret that I didn’t stick with singing and playing the drums because I was actually a pretty decent drummer. Some of that stuff you hear on the NYC Mayhem tapes, I was only playing drums for six to eight months. 

My ego took over and I wanted to be a singer. In all honesty, I didn’t think I was a good enough singer to sing on a record and carry a band into anything further than playing Hardcore at CBGB’s. Back then, I wouldn’t admit it. I think my talent fell into playing drums. It was my ego that got me to sing but also stopped me from playing music. 

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NYC Mayhem jumped from being this super-fast thrash band to being a full-on Straight Edge band with Straight Ahead.
I wanted to be accepted. We started shaving our heads and I admit to losing some of my identity. I was trying to emulate H.R. and John Joseph. I got more into satisfying the crowd and playing something that was the norm. When we did Mayhem, we didn’t give a fuck. We did whatever we wanted to do. Straight Ahead consciously followed the blueprint to be an NYHC band. 

Why did the Straight Edge thing appeal to you at that time?
It was easy for me. I grew up with a lot of alcohol and drugs. I did them at a young age and got burnt out on drugs by the time I was fourteen years old. It was an easy choice for me. It was a better way of life. 

What do you remember about being in Youth of Today?
Ray had been into Hardcore for way longer than anyone and he wanted to get a crowd; he was trying to find the pulse of what people wanted. 

What do you remember about touring with them?
People embraced us. Our van broke down and we were starving and all that, but I guess that’s a typical story for every Hardcore band from that time. People in that scene let us come into our house and fed us. It was cool. Back then, I was very liberal, but then you get more conservative as you get older. You’re a bit more naïve when you’re younger because everything’s new and fresh and the friendship and unity held it together. Let’s face it, people are a lot stronger the more unified they are. That scene was a strength; it was the power of a movement. Everybody tried to grasp that and wanted to be a part of something. I’m a New York guy. I’m cynical. I’m a pessimist. As much as I try to be positive and optimistic, that’s the way I’ll always be. Maybe it was because of the way I was brought up and the things I’ve seen and experienced. But it was nice to take a break from that; even for a small period of time. It was a very enjoyable part of my life. 

 

What can you tell me about the tracks Straight Ahead recorded for the End The War Zone compilations?
Those End the War Zone tracks were really makeshift. I played drums and sang on them and we threw it together really quick. I don’t even think it was mixed. Matter of fact, I don’t even think it was on a reel. I think I sent him a cassette tape. 

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And how about the recording of the Breakaway twelve-inch?
Chuck Valle (Ludichrist, Murphy’s Law) – rest his soul – started getting into the other side of music and started working at Chung King Studios. I was a good friend of his and he was a fan of Straight Ahead. He wanted to start using the studio to record. We had to come in there at three o’clock in the morning to record. We had no intentions of doing anything with it but seeing how it would come out. It was a twenty-four track board and we had Chuck producing. Duane Rossignol (owner of Some Records record store) approached me about putting in on vinyl. Straight Ahead didn’t last too much longer after that. We were already broken up by the time it was pressed. 

What are your memories of Duane Rossignol?
Duane was a good man. I know at one point, he called me down to the store and gave me some money from the profits of the record, which I didn’t really expect. The money wasn’t something I was really interested in. Even today, I’m not someone who cares about money. I probably should! But I don’t! At that point, I wanted to be famous, but on my terms. I didn’t want to be a sellout. I guess I was just too much of a Hardcore communist. But Duane was very knowledgeable about music. He was a big blues guy. At some point, people found out Duane and his politics, made it public and that brought about the store closing. Duane seemed real out there sometimes, but his love for Hardcore was incredible. He was a good man and treated me right. I think everything he did was for the love of the music and nothing else. 

Around the same time, Some Records was in business and pushing DIY ideals, Chris Williamson was putting on his mega-shows at The Ritz. What did you think of those shows?
I was never a fan of Chris Williamson. I thought he was a money-hungry cheeseball, but I did enjoy the shows he put on. I thought the Cro-Mags hooking up with Chris Williamson and recording The Age Of Quarrel did them a disservice. I thought the album was produced horribly. They could have been bigger. They got short-changed I think. I mean, Agnostic Front made Victim in Pain for nothing and that record is still a monster. That record was proof that it wasn’t the quality of the sound, it’s what you capture in the recording and they captured something really special with that record. 

There’s an infamous story of you harassing or attacking Kirk Hammett of Metallica at a CBGB’s matinee when he jumped up to play with the Crumbsuckers.
I don’t know, when Kirk came in with his big bouncers, it bothered me. I was there to see a Hardcore show, so I grabbed the mic and said ‘Get this fuckin’ rock star out of here!’ Maybe I was wrong about it, but I was a fifteen-year-old kid at the time. I honestly didn’t think he heard it! But then I saw him make a face at me. He took his guitar and jammed me in the chest with it and then made a motion like he was going to spit on me. I don’t know if he actually spits, but then I spit on him. And then he definitely spits back! Then his two big bouncers grabbed me and Billy Milano said something on the mic. Then one of the guys from the Crumbsuckers said something like ‘It looks like you bit off more than you could chew’. I’m a fifteen-year-old kid, I’m not going to take on two six-foot bouncers. I don’t care how tough I thought I was. Everybody was pissed off at me, but fuck this guy! If he ain’t a rock star, then why is he affected by what I said in the first place? I don’t want to rehash things. Like everything else in Hardcore, it’s made out to be more than it was. There’s no question Metallica is a great band. 

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Why did Straight Ahead break up?
Rob Echeverria is an excellent guitar player and started getting bored with it. I don’t blame him. We were purposely playing three-chord songs because it had to be a certain way. Don’t get me wrong, Straight Ahead was a good band, but we short-changed ourselves musically. We dumbed it down so to speak. I can’t speak for all the other guys, but that’s how it felt to me. I did something to be accepted. I definitely followed the format to be accepted into the Hardcore scene and by the time I was 17, I was done. I’m just being honest. After we broke up, we got back together for a little bit. When Craig was still playing with Youth of Today, Rob and I said to him, ‘Quit and come back to Straight Ahead’, so he did. But we really didn’t have enough steam to keep going. I’m just so glad to have had a part in it. It’s like CBGB’s, everybody puts their stickers up on the wall, and that’s what we did. We put our sticker up on the wall just like everybody else. 

After Straight Ahead, you sang briefly in the band Irate. What do you remember about that?
Sergio Vega (Collapse, Quicksand, Deftones) was a real good kid who had something going on. He brought me along to sing in the band, but I was really done by then and went through the motions. I was washed up at twenty! 

In the present day, NYHC is something celebrated worldwide. From your perspective, why is that?
Back then, I thought NYHC was the only thing on earth. Over the years, people have looked in,  idolized people and I guess I can see why. It made history; it made a wave. To me, it was just about being young, being from New York and our personalities and being what we were as people. I thought L.A. was soft and I think they still are. I was never a big fan of the West Coast and I never will be. New York IS Hardcore, period! Why is NYHC great? Because New York’s great!

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Matt Warnke

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This interview with Matt Warnke (vocalist for Bold, One-Sided War and Running Like Thieves) was conducted in 2013 for my second book, NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980 – 1990  

How and when did you first become aware of NYHC?
Matt Warnke: I first became aware of NYHC bands through various outlets; really it was mostly through osmosis as was much of how we all got involved back then. Katonah, where we grew up, is only forty miles north of the city, and is conveniently located on a commuter railroad which would get you into midtown Manhattan in forty-five minutes. So we were always venturing into the city and couple that with having older siblings and other friends with older siblings who had an ear to the ground, we went from being aware of The Sex Pistols and The Clash and New Wave to wanting to know what was happening in the present of 1985. I remember going into the local paper and smoke shop every week in K-Town and looking through Creem and Circus and Hit Parader and then eventually The Village Voice, and starting to look at the listings for live music, having started the band with Drew and Tim and Zulu and being ambitious, envisioning ourselves up on stage somewhere.  I started to keep an eye on what was going on at CBGB’s and seeing names of bands I recognized from being written on the walls at John Jay High School. Once we started heading into the city on our own as like, thirteen or fourteen-year-olds we had to ask ourselves, “Where do you gravitate?” Times Square may be at first, but then downtown. I remember going to the original 99X and leafing through all of the records in the Punk/Hardcore section. Duane Rossingnol was working there and trying to be helpful. I remember going to skate shops around Washington Square Park and buying my G&S Neil Blender board. Probably on the same day, we went to Bleeker Bob’s and while looking through the Hardcore section, Brad Batmite who went on to play Rhythm Guitar in Warzone told me to buy 7 Seconds The Crew.  Zulu, Drew and I went to Ratcage Records when it was a store because we got the address from an ad for Victim in Pain, and also to look at skate hardware.  I remember walking in and being greeted by Dave Ratcage in a dress. I walked out with Victim in Pain on cassette.  So these are all just snapshots and memories, but they were our early inroads into something we knew we wanted to become a larger part of.

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What was the first piece of vinyl that made you want to be a part of the NYHC scene?
I would say Victim in Pain was the record that initially made the biggest impact on us as far as defining and characterizing the New York sound.  Again, I first heard this record before I met Ray Cappo or John Porcelly, I just heard it as someone who was listening to music and there was something about the production, the tones, the imperfection, the urgency, the relevancy, that transcended. I started out loving Rock and Roll at the age of nine, The Stones, The Doors, New Wave, Punk, but this record was here and now. Now, I will say the same about all of the early Hardcore I was drawn to: Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, but knowing Agnostic Front was a New York band, and just having the experience of walking in and buying their record from the source made it feels more immediate.  Also, and this is something that can’t fully be described or articulated without venturing into cliche and over-romanticism, but just as California bands incorporate their living and breathing into their output whether it’s The Beach Boys or The Circle Jerks, or midwest bands from Bob Seger to Negative Approach, there is some inexorable, just out of reach, undefinable, unspoken yet understood element to regional sounds and bands which is perfectly captured on Victim in Pain.   

How big of a role did Ray Cappo and John Porcelly of Youth Of Today play in your Hardcore upbringing?
Our initial exposure to Hardcore was not through Youth Of Today as I detailed. However, there was an expansion certainly by virtue of them lending us their record collection. Hearing The Abused and Antidote and telling us stories of their experiences at matinees, it was engrossing.  We ourselves were familiar with the music of The Bad Brains, Reagan Youth, Kraut, The Mob, Major Conflict just from our own forays into the city and record buying but Ray and John sped up the indoctrination. I remember early on the first summer we started hanging out, driving into the city with Youth Of Today, Pete from Verbal Assault and Becky Tupper when the Cro-Mags demo had just been released.  We were in the Verbal Assault van, driving down the West Side Highway straight downtown. We bought the tape at a record shop on 1st Ave whose name escapes me and just tripped out on it. A cultural shift. 

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What were some of the first shows you attended in the city?
I remember the first shows in the city I attended were at CB’s in 1985.  However, there is a caveat: Keep in mind I was like thirteen or fourteen depending on the month that year, and CB’s wouldn’t let you in if you were under sixteen, so much of my attending was me hanging out out front.  Crippled Youth played our first show at CB’s in June of 1986 with Rest In Pieces, Warzone, and Youth of Today. I was able to play because Karen called my parents to verify my age, who, despite their strong Catholic beliefs, lied for their son that day. As far as what I remember as to the overall vibe, t was almost surreal in a way because here I was, having read in either Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll or Guillotine about various people in bands and all of a sudden I was ten feet away from them, and soon introduced to them.  There were a mythology and folklore element to it, but at the same time, I felt included, noted.  

When do you feel the Straight Edge thing really took a hold on the NYHC scene?
When Ray and John moved into the city sometime in 1986. Ray got an apartment on 15th between 8th and 9th and it was a great location because it was kind of off the beaten path at that point but a twenty-minute walk from the action. So we would always head down there from K-Town on the weekends and it just became our headquarters.  I remember so many nights just hanging out downtown with those guys. It was an expanding circle with Mark Ryan, Mark ‘Goober” McNeilly, Craig Setari, Tommy Carroll. We would just hang out on Ave A until the sun came up.

When you see pictures from that time, it’s like certain people with X’s on their hands and that did sort of giving an evangelical bent to the whole thing; like loaves and fishes or whatever metaphor you might want to use.  But at the same time, of course, there was resistance and personalities who pushed against it. I think overall, a void was stepped into, and the energy, charisma, message, focus, not to mention songs, infused a great deal of life into what I’m now objectifying in my mind as far as the venue of CB’s every Sunday, but just the Lower East Side in general.  

What are your memories from Some Records?
My memories of Some Records are that of a headquarters. It was right down the street from CB’s so inevitably, it was something of a halfway house for people killing time or getting a pulse of different releases.  Duane was always very welcoming and engaging and avuncular.

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Out of all the early NYHC releases, which made the most impact on you?
I would say it was both The Abused Loud and Clear ep and Antidote Thou Shalt Not Kill ep’s that made a huge impact on me, and this many years on,  it’s difficult to say which was more significant. I think The Abused ep is less heralded, but in many ways, a pure template for much of what followed. Thou Shalt Not Kill is one of the singular sickest, most perfect blasts of hardcore ever created, but I don’t believe the band itself ever achieved anything close to it live, or had a presence about them in the scene to match the recording.  

What are your memories of Warzone? 
They were integral to the Lower East Side and East Village at the time. One random memory was myself and whoever the fuck I was with walking up Third Ave in the spring of ’86, and a Limo pulls over, window pulls down, and it’s Batmite, Todd Youth and these girls straight out of a Robert Palmer video just having it large; a day in the life.  The first time I saw Warzone at CB’s, I was standing by the side of the stage, this would be the line-up with Charlie, Tito, Brad, Todd, and Ray, and it was just all neighborhood people on the left side of CB’s stage women with big hair in leopard pants and a smoke machine going. It was fucking great.

How important were the fanzines in NYHC?
In general, they were an entry point into Hardcore for us being young kids. It was almost a way for us to research and immerse ourselves while going to our first shows. When we would head into Manhattan, whether it was to Bleeker Bob’s or Venus or 99X we would pick up vinyl and fanzines, and just go home and consume it;  take it to class at John Jay and put it in our Social Studies textbook and play it off like we were following what Mr. Sheeran was saying, meanwhile reading the show review for Agnostic Front and Mental Abuse. Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll was also a then relatively available source, an abundant, monthly overload of information/distribution/releases/scene reports – and as someone just trying to absorb as much as I could about this subculture I was immersing myself more and more into, it was a tremendous resource, albeit one with its own leanings, opinions, and favorites; among the more well known being the fanzine’s back and forth with Agnostic Front, and what the San Francisco based publication felt were elements of the New York scene which bordered on right-wing,violent,intolerant attitudes.  

Among the ‘zines we would pick up on a regular basis, I always loved Guillotine.  It was just chock full of show reports from basically every show that happened in the city, tons of crucial photos. I alluded to Maximum Rock N Roll a moment ago for its International scope, well Guillotine was just basically a weekly chronicle of the NY scene, although if anything, it had a great open ear for out of town bands.  I feel in retrospect it was produced by people who were primarily concerned with good music and message and didn’t play favorites.

Schism, produced primarily by Alex Brown with John Porcelly’s input, was obviously very well produced, with an insider’s access.  However, let’s not forget Alex had put out Loveseat fanzine when he was still living in Iowa, and his first love being graphic design and being an accomplished artist, it set a very high standard.  Boiling Point was great as well, and many of the interviews that resulted from those respective fanzines are definitive narratives and insights into the hearts and minds which shaped late ’80s NYHC.

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Why do you think the skinhead thing took hold in the NYHC scene?
The skinhead thing in New York was manifested and real, but it’s a many-layered thing. I may not be the authority on its origins since I wasn’t around in the early ’80s, but my take on it would be; you have to realize when the NY Hardcore scene as it went on to be known was not very far removed in time from the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Dolls, The Heartbreaker and you had all of those bands playing in the city (with the exception of the Pistols, but Sid de-camping in Manhattan after the band imploded), so a lot of the cats who made up the early scene were around the British bands or those who had traveled and played in England.  Plus you had great records coming out whether it be The Specials or Blitz, Cockney Rejects, who looked cool as fuck, and all of these early elements informed the look of the early scene. Plus, the ethos of a lot of those British bands were working class, disenfranchised which appealed to the hearts of many. So it became a bit of a blueprint or starting point. However, unlike what the term skinhead has gone on to connote, I am certain, in my experience, that among those who even semi-embodied it in the NY scene, it did not in any way, define itself by racial intolerance. It stemmed more from Mod British origins, whose soundtrack was primarily R&B, Reggae, Rock-Steady, and Ska. So it’s interesting, from a sociological standpoint even, how trends or influences shape things.  In New York, the skinhead vibe was there, but from day one, whether it was Ray and Porcell, or us plus Mark and Supertouch, Warzone, and Richie BIrkenhead there was also the aesthetic of like high-tops and hooded sweatshirts and baseball hats. Whether you want to say we co-opted the oncoming hip-hop scene and mixed it with existing skinhead trappings it did lead to what you would now define as Youth Crew. And in some ways it was conscious, but in a lot of other ways, it was just what we rocked every day. That’s where I sort of drew the line with some of what other people were wearing. I was more inclined to go to Orchard Street or Rivington Street and try to pick up sneakers I saw Rakim wearing in the “I Ain’t No Joke” video than I was to wear what someone was wearing on a record from England.  That’s even what I loved about bands from the Midwest who just got up on stage and wore flannel shirts, ripped jeans, or bands from California who looked like they just came from shredding a pool or half-pipe wearing Vans, etc. Represent who you are and where you come from.  

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What was the reaction to Crippled Youth on the NYHC initially?
In the beginning, the reaction towards Crippled Youth was, for the most part, welcoming.  When we played our first CB’s matinee in June of ’86, I was surprised how many people were upfront and singing the words when the record wasn’t even out yet.  So yeah, from early on, there was a groundswell of support for us from a mix of people in the scene. We had immediate support, kinship from people who had been around for a few years like the Death Before Dishonor guys, and then people who were sort of just coming up like ourselves, like Straight Ahead.  Through the aforementioned, and Ray and John we basically met most everyone, and in hindsight, most people were incredibly cool and inclusive. I remember walking down Fourth Street after playing our first matinee, and hearing….”Hey! Crippled Youth!”, looking up and it was some of the Warzone women, as they were then known, toasting us from an apartment window.  

At the same time, there was no doubt, resistance, resentment. I may be forgetting just how much as we all tend to remember the good times as a general human tendency.  One incident, in particular, occurred after Crippled Youth had a feature in Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll right around the release of our first EP,  Join The Fight.  It was a one-page feature which we garnered through our label, New Beginning Records and its’ founder, Mike Trouchon. The piece was fairly innocuous in general, and I was just basically completely psyched, looking forward to being in the ‘zine I had read about so many bands in prior.  One of the questions was something along the lines of: How do you feel about yourselves and other Straight Edge bands getting flack for stating your beliefs? Drew our drummer responded by drawing the analogy between us and other Straight Edge bands championing our beliefs and day to day habits with those of Murphy’s Law, and how they sang proudly of their party-loving ways, and no one minding or questioning them for it.  I remember when the issue was published, and reading it and being psyched, but having this bad feeling in the back of my mind that this would not go unnoticed. Fast forward to say six weeks later. I’m at a show at The Ritz, not sure who headlined, but Murphy’s Law was playing. About midway through the set, Jimmy is introducing a song, I want to say, “Care Bear” and he basically calls out Crippled Youth for having the audacity to say something about his band.  I just remember it felt like a spotlight shone right on me, and everyone who was near me stepped back six feet. I’m thinking, “Thanks, Drew.” Mark Ryan comes up to me and is like “Don’t worry about it, I’ll talk to those guys and straighten it out.” So their set ends and Mark insists we head backstage and iron it out. I just remember the looks I got from Petey Hines (Murphy’s Law drummer) Joe Bruno (Murphy’s Law roadie) I’m trying to be tough, but I’m like fourteen years old facing these cats.  Anyway, nothing was really resolved that night despite Mark speaking on our behalf. So, the next day, I had stayed over in New Jersey with the Death Before Dishonor guys and we head into Manhattan to the CB’s matinee as per usual. I just remember being in the back of Mike Ferraro’s Camaro, I don’t think we really talked about it too much, but there was a sort of underlying concern of what could happen. I just remember walking down Third Ave towards CB’s, I think Mark again had a word with Gestapo, and Jimmy just came over and shook my hand, made a joke, and that was that. 

America’s Hardcore

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This interview with Danny Slam, vocalist for early 80’s SoCal Hardcore band America’s Hardcore was conducted in 2007 for the Double Cross site and was later used in my third book, Straight Edge – A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History. 

How did you first find out about Hardcore Punk?
Danny Slam: When I was 16 I hooked up with this crazy 19-year-old punk chick at my work. She turned me on to all kinds of cool shit like the Dead Boys, the Cramps and the New York Dolls She was a punk in the real original way. Being cool was about being totally outside of normal society – in the clothes you wore, the attitude you took, the drugs you abused, how and where you fucked. This was 1981 and I was already into Devo, which at the time was really different and attractive. She took me to a live Cramps show at the Roxy in Hollywood and she took me to see the original Decline of Western Civilization – the absolute defining moment of my young life! Man, when I saw these completely crazy and original kids going nuts for this fast, energetic and aggressive music, it turned me on in a huge way.

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What was your first Hardcore Punk show?
My first show that really counts in my mind is Black Flag, DOA, Stains, and Minutemen at the Santa Monica Civic in June 1981. First of all, in preparation for this show, I had gone to a thrift store and bought some fucked-up old army jacket with bright brass buttons. It cracks me up to think of how badly I was being a poser. But what did I know? I took the bus from the Valley to the show. The venue held a lot of people, at least 2000. I remember vividly the following things: an Adam Ant impersonator between bands getting booed and spit on; the magnetic draw and simultaneous fear from being within arms reach of my first live slam pits; almost getting beat up near one of the outer slam pits; people getting crazy after the show and swinging off the flagpole outside on a rope; my ears ringing the next day.

LA had a bad reputation for being a pretty violent scene. Was it as bad as it was made up to be? Please share with us some of the things you witnessed.
Yes, the LA punk scene of the early 80s, which I dove headfirst into, was very violent. At most shows, there were fights, usually ten dudes kicking the crap out of one poor guy. There were a handful of dudes that you did not want to piss off and who loved to fight including John from Circle One, Mike from Suicidal, Oliver from the LADS, Sean Emdy from FFF, Mugger and others. A lot of fights just spontaneously erupted from clashes in the pit. At most big shows John from Circle One would lead packs of kids and rush the doors against the bouncers. There were several big riots at shows, where tons of cops showed up and closed down shows at SIR Studios in Hollywood, Mendolis Ballroom in Huntington Park, and a big show in Wilmington.

And there was a gang mentality. Indeed many kids grew up familiar with gang life in LA and took to creating copycat punk gangs. Partly, the gangs were justified, as being punk at home was a bit treacherous. I went to a huge high school of 2000 kids, and there were about 10-15 punks. Not a day went by when I wasn’t fucked with by somebody. But also, the gangs were just another way of being anti-social and having safety in numbers to do stupid shit like spray paint walls, break shit, steal shit and fight with other punks at shows. I was most familiar with the FFF gang, which was made up of all the punks and my friends where I lived inNorth Hollywood. FFF copied the style of Mexican gangbangers with khaki pants and buttoned up Pendelton shirts, with nicknames like Oso, Flaco, Shorty, and Woody.

How much time was there between you started going to shows and starting the band, and can you give us the full scoop on how America’s Hardcore came to be?
Less than a year. My best friend and original AHC bass player Scott Kosar started fucking around doing covers of stuff like “Wasted” by Black Flag pretty much right away. I guess it was the spring of 1982 that we formally formed Section 8 with guitarist Raffi Agopian and different drummers. We had a difficult time finding a drummer who would stick around. We even practiced with a 16-year-old Bobby Shayer from Bad Religion who we fired after his dad grounded him on the day of a big show we were supposed to play. By the fall Raffi left and I met Drew Berstein to play guitar who knew Pat Muzingo the drummer from the Atoms and Decry, and the original AHC lineup was set. We played our last show as Section 8 in January 1983.

I was hugely influenced by SOA from D.C. Early on we covered their song “Public Defender” and I think this shaped our style to be very much in that mold of aggressive Hardcore. We were also influenced by Minor Threat, plus local bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Descendents, TSOL, Wasted Youth and the Dead Kennedys of course. During the same time, we started the band I was already starting to buy seven-inch records from Hardcore bands from all over the states at a great Hollywood record store called Vinyl Fetish. I would buy anything that had eight or more songs on a 7 inch, that pretty much guaranteed that it’d be fast!

I ended up with great stuff like the Necros, Negative Approach and of course, the compilation This is Boston Not LA;  all was highly influential to us. The degree I was into all of this music was nothing short of Hardcore itself. I went to every show possible – at that time in LA that could mean multiple gigs per week. I slammed pretty much for every song and every band. So the idea of making that kind of music and playing gigs with our favorite bands was a big dream and for me the driving force behind having a band.

Our good friend Darin Price showed us the ropes and acted as a manager, giving us advice and ideas at all of our practices. Darren was great, he was totally enthusiastic and pushed us to keep going for it. We practiced seriously only for a few weeks by the time we played our first party/show in April 1982.

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Why the name change from Section 8 to America’s Hardcore?
Once Drew joined the band we started getting a lot more serious. Drew would often say we have to be dedicated. He, too, was very Hardcore about what he was into, and he was the driving force behind making America’s Hardcore stickers and t-shirts. After a while, we thought our band name was too generic and didn’t really have any personal connection to any of us. It was my little brother, Jason, who suggested we use America’s Hardcore when we talked about finding a new name. The name comes from the labels I would put on these cassette tape recordings of all that great music I was buying. I had America’s Hardcore Volume 1 and so on, and I would give these tapes to my friends. The name was perfect for us.

How did you and your friends in and around the band find out about the bands coming from the midwest, D.C., and Boston at the time?
In addition to what I said above, Flipside and Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll were the main ‘zines around, plus We Got Power later on. Also, through correspondance, I started getting copies of Touch & Go and Forced Exposure. We also did mail interviews with some small zines like Positive Charge from Phoenix and Stage Dive from San Jose. Seems like there were others.

What was America’s Hardcore’s 1st show? Any memories from the show?
With the original AHC lineup, but as Section 8, our first real gig was at a huge two-day punk fest at the T-bird Rollerdrome in Pico River. We played the second day in the middle of about 20 bands.

How did the people in the band become aware of Straight Edge? Did you or anyone in your band consider yourself Straight Edge?
We first heard about it through the Minor Threat song, naturally. Drew got serious about being Straight Edge for a while, but it was never my thing. I liked to drink then, and I still do. But we definitely picked up on the positive attitude vibe that Minor Threat was singing about. That was always a big theme with us, that and not being a rock star – meaning get up there and rage through our set without fucking around between songs like rock stars do.

What were some of the more memorable America’s Hardcore shows and why? What were some of the more memorable shows you saw back then whether or not AHC was on the bill?
Memorable America’s Hardcore shows include early April 1983 opening for Minor Threat, Suicidal Tendencies and others at the Rollerworks. This is our show that is seen on the Flipside video. Huge place, big crowd with people stage diving during our set, even though we were the first band on. Two weeks later we played in Frisco twice, the first at the Tool & Die with Secret Hate. I remember this show because I got in a fight with Bob Noxious of the Fuck-Ups while slamming during another band.

The second show was at the On Broadway with Minor Threat and 7 Seconds. That trip was an incredible experience. We felt like we had “made it” playing shows away from home. Also memorable was our little mini-tour with the Circle Jerks to Las Vegas, Phoenix (where I sang from the top of the wrestling cage) and Tucson (playing to a packed house!) in September 1983. I remember all gigs as being a huge rush with tons of butterflies as we got on stage and prepared to start. Then an amazing feeling of letting go and raging through our set with unabashed enthusiasm, screaming the lyrics as loudly and energetically as possible.

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What about memorable shows in general that you attended?
Memorable shows for me are too many to count. Fear at the Whiskey with a line of crazy fuckers from Venice around the front of the building; the most crazy slam pit during Suicidal at the Olympic; driving with Circle One to Frisco for Eastern Front and seeing Wasted Youth’s drummer get knocked out by a flying whiskey bottle; getting beat up by the LAPD outside a Hollywood show; my first slamming at the Whiskey for the Circle Jerks; punks doing the frog stomp during the Vandals in San Pedro; the first time I saw Minor Threat at Alpine Village; slamming on a manic dust high during the Necros; stage diving and breaking my wrist during the Misfits at Mendiolis; the last two Bards Appollo shows with Vicious Circle in the crowd and John from Circle One stomping through the pit in his trademark plaid pants – that dude was bigger than fucking life.

Why didn’t the band ever do a 7″ or something in their time of existence?
That’s a sad tale. We were practicing a lot at Sin 34’s Spinhead studio, getting ready to do some sort of album when I quit the band. I blame myself for the band’s demise. I was in a weird space and thought, foolishly at 19 years old, that I needed to be a responsible dude and not go running off on a big US/Canada tour that we were planning and leave my live-in girlfriend and our 4 dogs to fend for themselves. Funny thing is, that girl was out of the picture not all that long afterward. It’s a big regret in my life, not going on that tour and doing the album.

Please, breakdown the recording sessions AHC did.
We recorded at two separate studios. To be honest I don’t remember why we were recording, only that it felt like we had really made it for real. Each time we recorded a handful of songs, maybe three or four at each place. Once was at somebody’s professional home studio and the other was at Mystic with Doug Moody. I remember it was weird to sing the songs by myself while listening to the rest of the band. Very weird. Took some getting used to. It’s a real bummer because I’m sure there are more studio recordings than just the three songs.  “Open Your Eyes”, “Cops are Criminals” and “Born Prejudice” were all put on Mystic comps. I have no fucking idea what the other songs were, or where those recordings are. I remember going back to get our shit from Mystic after Drew’s brother, who was a lawyer, told us that the contract we signed was lame. But it went nowhere.

Dan Kubinski

dk dark.jpgThis interview with Die Kreuzen vocalist Dan Kubinski was conducted sometime in 2009 for my first book, Why Be Something That You’re Not – Detroit Hardcore 1979 – 85. It was never used for the book and this is the first time it’s been released to the public. Enjoy! 

How did you get turned onto Punk Rock?
I grew up in Rockford, Illinois, a small town with not much going on. I carried an A.M radio with me everywhere when I was very young and I loved music from the get-go. I would save my allowance to buy 7-inch records of the latest Top 40 hits and I had a pretty big collection by the time I was nearing my teen years. Then, sometime in 1977, I started to read about Punk music from NYC and Great Britain in Creem magazine and in Trouser Press. At some point – more out of curiousness than anything else – I stole a copy of Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols from a K-Mart type department store. Don’t ask me how I stole it as I still don’t know how I got away with it but damn if I wasn’t completely blown away by the music! It was music that for the first time seemed to speak directly at me. It was real, tangible stuff that wasn’t all “rock starred” out like Boston, Kansas, and Journey, which most of my peers were listening to. From there, I started to find other stuff going back to the New York Dolls, Stooges, Sparks and finding the Ramones and The Damned. I just kinda did an about-face and I was purely interested in the Punk style of music.

How did you move on and find out about Punk stuff that wasn’t on major labels?
We were lucky enough to have a store called Apple Tree Records in Rockford. They carried a ton of indie stuff as well as major label junk. They also had many imports. I remember hearing the first X record in there and being blown away by the guitar sound on that record. I bought my first Damned singles there and when the first Public Image record came out, I got it there. 

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Give me the skinny on The Stellas, the band that predates Die Kreuzen that you all were in.
The Stellas came from the ashes of my first band. At the time, we were unaware of anything else going on in the Midwest. It wasn’t until we moved to Wisconsin that we started to do more gigging both in town and out of town that we discovered bands like Husker Du or The Effigies. The Necros opened for the Dead Kennedys which led us to their 7 inches and then from there, we discovered other bands on Touch & Go like The Fix and so on. 

What was the music scene like at the time in Wisconsin?
There were tons of bands playing out; most of them we loathed. We thought of ourselves as Punk Rockers, and there really didn’t seem to be any ‘true’ Punk Rock bands playing out by our standards. Some of the bands that were artier or Avant-Garde that we liked around there were the Oil Tasters, The Amadots and The Prosecutors, who later turned into Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’. We felt shunned by the music scene though. We were taken as little kids that were still into the Sex Pistols and The Stooges. People felt we should move on. I would regularly insult the audience when we would open for other local bands. People truly hated us, but some really liked us as well. 

 

How did you eventually find out about the stuff coming out of L.A?
The first records I heard from L.A were X, The Germs, Geza X and the soundtrack for The Decline of Western Civilization. That Decline soundtrack had so much fucking power to it; it blew my mind to bits! That’s when we decided to start taking this Punk thing a little more seriously. decline

What were some of the first Hardcore bands to come through your area?
DOA was the first band I remember seeing. Fucking killer band! Black Flag was next and we opened for them. There was a very dark and violent feeling to that show; like the world was going to end. And we LOVED it!

When did you make the connection with the Touch & Go crew?
We were lucky enough to play on the same bill as the original Necros here in Milwaukee. I remember Barry and Corey being blown away by us. Tesco I first met at Corey Rusks’ wedding. 

What was it like meeting the Necros guys for the first time?
Corey was very friendly and wanted to talk about music. He was really into Sisters of Mercy and Savage Republic when I first met him. I had a couple of those records, so we hit it off right away. Tesco was this seven-foot tall somewhat jock type dude that we never figured would be Tesco when we first met him. He was very nice to us and had a string of jokes that seemed to go on forever. A very funny and friendly guy.

How did you become aware of what was going on in D.C?
Somewhere I bought the first Minor Threat 7” and we all loved the sound they had. The double vocal track had a ferocious effect and I love it so much I still use it to this day! When we read that Minor Threat was going to tour the country, I simply called them up (Their number was in the back of Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll) and set up a show for them here, but it fell through for one reason or another. 

dk lp ad.pngTalk about that first U.S tour you guys did.
Our first tour was magical! We played living room parties in Kansas City, we did San Antonio, Austin, and Houston with our soon to be great friends, The Offenders from Austin. At the San Antonio show, I was smoking some weed with a skinny, long-haired kid who introduced himself as Gibby. Of course, later on Gibby would have his world-famous band, Butthole Surfers. We played The Vex in LA with the original Social Distortion. The bouncers at this gig had guns! We found it all very scary. There’s a video of this gig floating around and I saw it a while back. We all look like we’re twelve years old! We drove to San Francisco and stayed there for a month or two and did many gigs at the Mabuhay, On Broadway and Tool & Die. We played with Crucifix, Dead Kennedys, Articles of Faith and many more. We were very poor and stayed on the floor of our friends Mike and Quey, who later put out the Loud 3-D book. 

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Was there a certain point where you felt disenchanted with the Hardcore thing?
Yes. It would have been on the tours following our first U.S. one. We were playing different sounding stuff. We thought we were being Punk by trying out new things. These changes and experiments were unacceptable to Hardcore kids. All they wanted was the first LP and nothing else. By that point, we really didn’t care what people thought of us and started to do whatever we wanted musically, which to me was truly Punk. These kids just seemed stuck in a rut and they didn’t want to see their way out of it. We felt like Punk had abandoned us, but in actuality, the whole movement just turned stale and we had nothing in common with it anymore. 

Anything you wanna bring up that we didn’t in the interview?
Just be yourself. Be creative. Push the envelope. Don’t be afraid of art or music that is different or new as it is those things that bring about creativity. Be unique in your life!

 

Ron Guardipee

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In remembrance of Brotherhood and Resolution vocalist Ron Guardipee who recently passed away from cancer, here is the uncut interview I conducted with him for my third book, Straight Edge: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History

How did you first find out about Straight Edge?
The first Straight edge band I heard was Minor Threat, but I didn’t take them seriously! I thought the lyrics were a joke. 

So you thought the lyrics were just making fun of puritanical type people?
Punk bands used a lot of sarcasm, and I just took the lyrics as jokey punk lyrics. I thought it was a gimmick like The Mentors or something. It took a long time for me to figure out Straight Edge in Hardcore was a real thing. I collected a lot of Metal demos and it wasn’t until NYC Mayhem became Straight Ahead that I realized Straight Edge was real. 

So it was the late 80’s version of Straight Edge that caught your attention.
I learned about Straight Edge through the Youth Crew thing. At the time, I was partying really heavy. I was fucking up and going to jail. I had some buddies who were on the same path as I was but started embracing the more positive aspects of Hardcore. 

Then, I pretty much fell in love with Youth of Today. I thought Ray sounded so much like my favorite singer at the time; Blaine from The Accused. After many years of listening to Youth of Today while nursing raging hangovers or just getting out of jail, I thought “You know, maybe Straight Edge is something I should do”. There was nothing cool or positive about what I was doing. I was just screwing up all the time. I had begun cutting a lot of things out of my life, but when I saw Youth of Today for the first time, I came to a realization and said, “Screw it, I’m done with all that shit”. That’s when I started hanging out with everyone who was Straight Edge in Seattle and shortly after that, I was asked to join Brotherhood and there was my support group right there.

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Looking back on all those old photos, it’s really apparent Brotherhood had the Youth Crew look down pat.
I have to admit, I was really into the Youth Crew look and thought it was so cool. I had already been wearing white hi-tops my whole life because I was a Metalhead, but instead of wearing them with Levi’s, I started wearing camo shorts. I got every Champion sweatshirt. I moved all my Metallica and Slayer shirts to the back of the closet and starting wearing Wide Awake shirts. To me, the look went along with that feeling of comradery; that feeling of brotherhood. Brotherhood was really fortunate to tour early on and it was just so cool to me that every town you rolled into, you just ran over to the Straight Edge guys. It was an instant brotherhood. 

Let’s talk about the tour of the U.S Brotherhood did with The Accused.
We had been friends with The Accused guys for years. They were our buddies. On the first Accused LP, there’s a picture of Greg at thirteen years old singing along. They weren’t stupid. They saw the writing on the wall of the state of the Hardcore scene at the time. They knew they could get new kids on the east coast to come out to see them if they brought a Straight Edge band with them. It was a no brainer for them. They got to go on tour with their friends and they got a whole new crowd of kids to check them out. To this day, I randomly run into people who tell me “I still love The Accused and I only know about them because they went on tour with Brotherhood”. The Accused fans loved us. Whether they knew what we were about, I don’t know. But I know people lost their shit when we played. 

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Brotherhood was one of the few Straight Edge bands Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll championed in the late ’80s. Why do you think they took a liking to you?
Even though we obviously really embraced the look of the Straight Edge scene, we went out of our way to distance ourselves from the trappings of the scene. We were all guys who had been in bands for a long time before Brotherhood. We had strong opinions on music and there was a lot of stuff that I thought was total shit. We always wanted people to know that we had history; that we weren’t kids who just showed up in a Champion hoodie. 

Although a few Straight Edge bands popped up in Seattle after Brotherhood, you were the only game in town for awhile there. What was it like operating out of the Pacific Northwest?
We were so far removed from the scene on the east coast or anywhere else, that it was easier for us to spot the trends. We didn’t answer to anybody if we thought a band was shit. We weren’t going to run into everybody at a show at The Anthrax. We could form our opinions out here in the boondocks of the Pacific Northwest without having the influence of being tight friends with all these people. We could witness their stupidity and call it for what it was. hsf1988014

Brotherhood was very vocal towards racism. Did Seattle have a white power skinhead problem like every other Hardcore scene in the country at the time? We had skinheads everywhere. We have a really large naval and army base in Seattle which brought in tons of guys. We had legendary punk rock ass-kickers back then that would maul people. Ninety percent of shows ended up with a one group chasing another group out of the hall. For us, it was right there. 

One of the biggest things Greg Anderson and I bonded on was going to see Ice T in ’85. Listening to a lot of hip hop and having all these skinheads around added to it. They’d have these annual marches out here by Hayden Lake in Idaho against the Aryan Nation. Greg and I and our girlfriends and buddies would come out and take part in them. It was pretty sketchy because we pretty much always had shaved heads at that time, so they thought we were infiltrators. 

When Brotherhood broke up and you were doing the Overkill label, you went up against the emergence of Hardline and the vegan straight edge guys around them.
When the veganism thing started in Straight Edge with the Hardline guys, that just pissed me off. I thought they were the biggest buffoons ever. The Straight Edge scene was already getting a bad name and they were just making it worse. At first, I thought it was all made up by a bunch of crusty punks to make fun of Straight Edge. 

I remember being on the phone with you once back then and we were both conflicted because we thought the message of Vegan Reich was so lame, but that first seven-inch was so damned good!
I loved Vegan Reich; their music was great. But everything they said and every interview they did and every letter they wrote into Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll was ridiculous. So, I went out of my way to make sure that people knew I had nothing to do with it. I just wanted to call them out on their shit. 

I might be wrong, but wasn’t Vegan Reich just one guy? In that way, it’s the same thing as Bathory or Burzum or any of those one-manned Black Metal bands. Sure, he’s got some good riffs. But it’s just one fucking guy sitting in his fucking bedroom coming up with all these crazy ideas and theories who can’t even get enough people together to play in a fucking band with him. 

At the same time the Hardline thing was coming around, so was the Hare Krishna thing.
I thought Krishna was fucking stupid; I was never into it. I booked a bunch of Shelter shows here in Seattle in an actual temple. I think about it to this day and feel bad. I allowed these children to go to this temple and four or five of them got really into it. I hope I didn’t screw these kids’ lives up by introducing them to Krishna-Core. 

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Looking back, what did you take away from the Straight Edge scene that you still hold dear in the present day?
From the Straight Edge scene, I gained some of my greatest friends; many of them I keep to this day. I am still completely into that style of music. I’m in a band right now that is as short and pissed and loud as any band I’ve ever been in my life. 

I was at a Straight Edge show this Saturday and I’m almost 50 and I was wearing a pair of Nikes and camo shorts while wearing a Cro-Mags shirt and every twenty-year-old kid there was dressed like me. It was kind of weird. In my case, it’s a bit of arrested development. For these kids’ case, it must be some serious hero worship or something. The other thing I like about the Straight Edge scene is all of the people I met through it are still involved. They may not be involved in Straight Edge or Hardcore, but they’re still involved in making music. 

I still totally love Straight Edge shows and ninety percent of my friends of Straight Edge still. It was one of the coolest things to happen to me in my life as far as meeting people.

From actual Straight Edge itself, I learned to know what the limits are and to live within those limits and not be a slave to anything in particular. Don’t be a total asshole and try not to be a slave whatever is around you.

Jules Massee

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This interview with Side By Side and Alone In A Crowd vocalist Jules Massee was conducted for an article I wrote for Down For Life magazine covering the band and their one-off reunion to help the medical costs of their bass player, Howie Wallen. You can still donate to Howie via this Go Fund Me page and copies of the magazine can still be purchased here. 

I guess the most intriguing thing about Alone In A Crowd is you started a Hardcore band to voice how irritated you were at the Hardcore scene. 

Yeah, I guess that’s kind of ironic, huh? What do you do when you’re fed up with the scene? Contribute more to it! I had given up at that point, but I still had some things to say. I just wanted people to hear how pissed off and disillusioned I was and a big part of being in a Hardcore band for me was letting your voice be heard, and heard loudly. So, I gathered together what troops I could to start a band made up of people from other bands, except for Howie actually. 

Could you give me your interpretation of what the New York Hardcore scene was like when you first came into it? 

I was a 14-year-old kid when I started going to Hardcore shows at CBGB’s. I did all the rites of passage that we did back then like passing off a fake ID that wouldn’t have passed muster anywhere but there and all of that. 

The Hardcore scene that I became a part of was very tolerant. In my experience, it was a lot of people from very different backgrounds and ideologies. Bands with different sounds and ideas would play together. And yeah, sometimes it would be weird, but overall, it was still cool. 

The Revelation compilation (New York City Hardcore: The Way It Is) is a good example of this. One of the things I love about that record is Nausea and Trip 6 are on there which is an example of what ‘86 or ‘87 was like in New York. After that, a lot of divisive shit went down. You didn’t see that anymore. You didn’t see an acceptance of each other anymore. Being in a band called Side By Side meant something to me. When we named the band, I meant it. We have more in common than in differences and to turn on each other is nuts. And then all of a sudden, it happened. The very thing Side By Side was against happened and it wasn’t for me anymore. 

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When you decided to start Alone In A Crowd, where did you go to find members? 

The very first thing I did was try to reach outside of my tight circle of friends in the scene. Mark Pingatore of the Pagan Babies from Philly was the first person I asked and he said yes, but the distance and the timing were hard to bridge. 

I knew I didn’t want it to be a New York Youth Crew band. I didn’t want it to be some definable thing. I  still don’t know if I succeed in that. Lars was an easy approach because he had joined Side By Side and as soon as that happened,  the band evaporated after one show. So I just asked, “Do you want to keep going with me?” and he said yes. Carl lived three blocks away from him and he was in Breakdown and he said he wanted to do it. The way I met Howie was my friend Steve brought him over to my house and I was taking aikido. I wanted to show off some of the stuff I learned and Howie and I ended up throwing each other around in my backyard. So, his first impression of me is meeting this crazy dude saying ‘Hey! let’s throw each other around!’ Everyone was having a good time because there weren’t the stresses of having a real band. We weren’t trying to book shows or build a huge repertoire of music it was just like ‘Hey let’s make a record’ and we did that and it was great fun. 

That was the way you approached everyone? “Hey, let’s do a band that’s not really a band!” 

That’s how I remember it. I remember I pitched it as a project that you didn’t really need to be committed to and that’s how I got so many people on board. 

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So after that one show at The Anthrax, was the project immediately over? 

Well, it’s not like these guys abandoned me. It was simply due to them having other responsibilities. Carl had gone from being in Breakdown to Raw Deal and they were taking off like a freight train at the time and Lars and Rob had Uppercut who was coming up too. So, they just went on to do their thing. If those guys had more time on their hands, would we have done more? Probably. 

Was there any attempt to keep the band going? 

It ended up being just me and Howie and we recruited some other folks like Luke Abbey to play drums, but he had a much bigger band in Gorilla Biscuits. 

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Could you let me know the motivation behind the song, “Is Anybody There?” 

“Is Anybody There” is one of the more clearer songs I’ve ever written. It felt to me like everyone had drunk this kool-aid and we weren’t all seeing the world the same way anymore. Mike Judge was singing about how he wanted the scene to be tight again like it was in 1982 with the song “New York Crew” and I was singing, “You don’t have to go back to ‘82, just go back to two years ago!” Mike had the same disillusionment that I did, but it was just coming from a different reference point. It felt like I woke up and the world was different. We were just singing about unity and now everyone is at each other’s throats. And then it became really violent I”m glad I wasn’t a part of that. 

The white power skinhead thing became so weirdly popular then. I’m guessing that played a role in your disillusionment. 

Yes, the media darlings – the white power skinheads-  became a huge thing in the late ’80s by going on Geraldo and the Morton Downey Jr Show and all of that. All of a sudden, you’d go down to the Lower East Side on the weekends and there’d be 150 skinheads that nobody knew hanging out and they knew nothing about the music or the scene. They just saw these people on TV and said, “That’s what I’m about.” They’d come to New York, find some poor fuck to beat the crap out of and leave. 

Let’s go back to Mike Judge since he seemed to play a large part in inspiring you to start Alone In A Crowd. 

Well, the first and only show we ever played was opening for Judge. Mike was an inspiration and a friend. I always admired Mike because he’s his own guy. 

I met him when he was in Youth Of Today and he was very serious about Straight Edge and had very personal reasons for being Straight Edge. He was an intense individual who wouldn’t talk and it took time for me to get to know him. But we both lived in New Jersey and that bonded us. One night, he came over to my parent’s house and came down to the basement where I had my dubbing deck and my big speakers and said: “I want you to hear this”. He put in a tape of what would be the New York Crew seven-inch and it blew my mind. This quiet guy had a whole lot to say! 

It was an inspiration since it was just him and Porcell. It gave me hope that I could do this without a band. I don’t know if Mike knew it was going to be a thing but when I heard it, I knew it was going to be a thing! 

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Please explain why Alone In A Crowd getting back together to play this one show? 

Howie is our brother and he has a tumor growing in his head. He’s a father and a husband and living with this thing that’s pressing on his brain that gets a little bit bigger every day. It’s not fast-growing and it’s not spreading all over his body but its growing and pushing on his brain. The sad thing is he’s had surgery already and it wasn’t successful. So this time he has to do it again and this time it’s even more dangerous. It’s pretty evasive when they go into your ear canal and cut near your brain. He can’t work right now or support his family. Howie is one of us. It doesn’t make him more deserving, but he’s one of ours and if you don’t take care of yours, what are you? 

The one thing I like about the reunion is you’re making a point to say it’s a one-off thing. Sometimes, these permanent, on-going reunions get ridiculous. 

I was surprised to see Antidote or Negative Approach playing out, which is something I never thought would have happened back in my day. My opinion on the whole reunion thing is if you get a band back together and you smoke the younger bands opening up for you, then go for it. But if you’re just taking a name and cashing in like all these older rock bands before you, then I’m not down with it.

Pat Longrie

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Photo: JJ Gonson 

This interview with Unity, Uniform Choice, and Winds of Promise drummer Pat Longrie was conducted in December of 2015 for my third book, Straight Edge: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History. 

How did you first get into punk rock?
I went to a Catholic high school where I met Pat Dubar and Dan O’Mahoney. Strangely enough, it was freshman football that brought us together. We all shared a liking for this aggressive music with a singular voice and we liked the idea of a positive, gang-like thought pattern. We were young people rebelling against parents and trying to figure out who we were. At that point in your life, you’re not really a kid anymore, but you’re not an adult yet and Punk Rock was this wonderful outlet for what we were experiencing at the time. 

I always love hearing these stories of people being turned onto punk not through the usual outlets of record stores or being some high school pariah, but through organized sports. I’m hardly a jock, but I just think it’s a refreshing alternative to the typical avenues.
Punk Rock wasn’t shunned in my high school strangely enough. It was embraced like you wouldn’t imagine and it was for the fact that Pat Dubar and I played football, baseball, and basketball. When Unity played shows in peoples’ backyards and garages, the whole football team would show up, which was a very unique thing for Punk Rock. We had none of these negative experiences where we got beat up for being into Punk or anything like that. It was a positive vibe. 

Prior to finding out about straight edge, had you tried drugs or booze?
No, I never experimented with any kind of drinking or smoking ever in my life. 

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So how did straight edge come into your world?
It was initiated with Minor Threat obviously and I gravitated towards that. But, for me, it was 7 Seconds that got me deeper into it. I had been corresponding with Kevin and Steve and when they came to play Southern California for the first time, we hit it off really well. When they came back a year later, they stayed at my house. 

How was straight edge accepted in the punk rock scene where you grew up?
In the Southern California scene, Straight Edge started small and exploded very rapidly. It was such a positive message of empowerment. 

The people who were first interested in it like Pat, Dan, Billy Rubin and I weren’t weak minded people by any stretch of the imagination. It was something that we could gravitate towards but expand upon it in our own way. Growing up in D.C. or Boston or New York or Chicago I’m sure was uniquely different and Orange County was shockingly different from all of those. The embryonic stages of Orange County Straight Edge were informed by Minor Threat and 7 Seconds, but it germinated by our own thought pattern and how it affected our lives. 

When I spoke with Pat Dubar earlier in the year, he really made it known how that the early Southern California punk scene was gang-ridden.
In the Southern California Punk scene you had gangs like The Family, which revolved around the band Circle One and you had the L.A. Death Squad. At Uniform Choice shows, there was violence but that didn’t stop people with a positive attitude, long hair or a shaved head from showing up to the shows. But there were fights all the time. In the middle of the set, there’d be fights on stage where we’d have to jump in and grab people. If no one got stabbed, then everything was fine and we moved on with our set. It was just a way of life. But in the beginning, that violence wasn’t focused on the Straight Edge message. They weren’t there to fuck with us. They were there to enjoy the show in their own way. It just so happened that violence was a part of their life. They didn’t know any better. 

Can you guide me through the lineage of bands you and Pat Dubar started that led to you eventually ending up together in Uniform Choice?
Pat Dubar and I started a band earlier for fun. We flipped a coin to decide who was going to buy a P.A. and who was going to buy a drum set. Pat ended up buying the P.A. and I got a drum set and that was it. I bought a drum set and started hammering on it. He bought a P.A. and we found a couple of guys together and played some shows. We got better, but Pat was asked to join the original line-up of Uniform Choice on vocals. That original line-up was a totally different bunch of guys that didn’t last. So, while Pat was singing in Uniform Choice, I started a band with Joe Foster and a kid named Rob Lynch and a bass player and that was the beginning of Unity. We would always go to Uniform Choice shows and he would go to the Unity shows and it was a real family thing. Uniform Choice and Unity were the ones that started the Orange County Straight Edge scene. It was all around 1983 when Uniform Choice started playing out and 1984 when both Unity and Uniform Choice started playing bigger shows.  

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From there, how did you end up playing drums in Uniform Choice?
I was a freshman at UCLA and Pat Dubar was at Pepperdine but we still hung out all the time. I was sitting in my dorm room on a Friday night and I got a call from Pat Dubar saying they kicked their drummer Pat Dyson out of the band permanently. He said “We need to play a show in Riverside tonight and you need to play drums for us” and I said, “I’m in L.A. and I don’t know your songs”. Pat said “Whatever. We’re going to stop by your house and pick up your drums, so call your dad and tell him we’re coming over. We’ll play you the demo tape on the way to the show and you’ll learn the songs”. That was how I joined Uniform Choice. 

How and why did the label Wishingwell come into action?
There weren’t many labels around. There was Touch and Go and Dischord, but nothing out here except B.Y.O but we weren’t gravitating to that at the time. So we said, “Let’s do this”. There were plenty of shows where Unity opened for Uniform Choice. When Pat and I decided we wanted to start Wishing Well, we decided the first thing we would do was the Unity You Are One 7”. On the Unity 7”, my mother used her calligraphy to write out the song titles. 

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Since Pat wasn’t the original singer for Unity, how’d he end up singing on You Are One?
There were two kids who were stalwart to the Orange County Straight Edge scene that was brothers: Rob and Peter Lynch. They were at every fucking show and they were the coolest guys you’d ever want to meet in your life. But Rob came home one day and opened the garage door and his brother was hanging there. That was shocking for Rob and Unity kind of ended there and Rob and Peter moved away to Arizona. 

Joe was cool with it and we got John Lowe to play bass. We practiced a bunch and went into the Casbah with our friend Chazz and recorded it all live. That was the first Wishingwell release.

We needed someone to help with distribution and someone to give us credit to get lyrics sheets and covers printed. We went up to Hollywood and met with this character named Tabb Rexx. We brought our stuff to him and we made a deal with this guy and he was going to extend us credit to the places that he had and pay us a certain amount of money. He was fascinated with the Hardcore stuff. He ripped us off of course, but we knew that going into it. We just wanted to be able to have a record in our hands that was ours. 

After we got back from making a deal with Tabb Rexx, he called us and said “I have a proposition for you. I have a rap band that I want you to collaborate with”.   I asked “Who is it?” and he said “They’re called N.W.A”. He described them as just really aggressive rap music and saw a connection between us both, so I said: “Sure, we’re in”. NWA said yes because they were intrigued by us too. But it never worked out. 

We made zero money off anything we did, but it was so exciting to do something and get it out there. So, the impetus was there was no one else who wanted to put it out, so it forced us to do it. 

One thing Uniform Choice is known for is their merchandising, which really paved the way with the aesthetics of shirts in the straight edge scene.
Our take was if we’re going to charge someone $7.50 a shirt that we make nothing off of, we might as well make it worth their while. When you’re talking about a Hanes Beefy T with four colors printed on the front and the back and the fucking sleeve…come on! It’s a steal! But we paid Pats’ brother Courtney fifty cents a shirt to print them and that little psychopath is now a billionaire! He was 14 in the back of his parents’ house in Fountain Valley in a shed he made out of plywood and bought an eight-color press. Now, he’s an entrepreneur. 

When we went on tour, all those shirts saved our asses. You’re in Green Bay, Wisconsin and you only made $125 but you can sell t-shirts for sure at every venue. We were in Saskatoon and Pat’s mom and dad camper we brought with us blew up. Well thank God we had money from selling shirts or we would have to cancel the tour. The t-shirts were a lot of fun and they also helped me us out. 

On that first tour, we played at the 9:30 Club with Die Kreuzen and Ian MacKaye was not happy that we had all these t-shirts designs because he didn’t believe in merchandising and all that. I was like “Motherfucker! I’ve been eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day and drinking cases of warm Shasta soda we brought from home with us on tour. Are you serious?” We were selling these things for $7.50 and they were $6 to make. 

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When Uniform Choice changed their sound appearance and all that, I remember people being really pissed off about the whole thing.
We were not people who gave a fuck what anybody thought. Getting our feelings hurt was never in the equation. I mean, I was probably wrong more than I was ever right and I don’t give a fuck. That’s a process of growing up. You make mistakes and you learn from them. That’s just a progression of who you are. I probably would have changed a few things with Staring into the Sun, but so what? Who gives a shit. I look back and laugh at that stuff. It was just kids being kids. 

How did the change in sound for the band come about?
Myself, Pat Dubar and Vic Maynez said: “I don’t want to keep writing the same stuff over and over again”. So we tried something new. It was that simple. We just wanted to try something a little different. 7 Seconds did New Wind and got shit for it. We could have done Screaming for Change Part Two, but what would have that proven? We didn’t think this was a band that would last thirty years. We were just trying to have fun. Sorry if we broke anyone’s’ heart. 

In the present day when I listen to Staring Into The Sun, it’s not the music that bothers me so much as does the production. Some of the songs sound like Hardcore songs to me.
Listen to songs like “Cut of a Different Cause” and “I Am You Are” and tell me they’re pussy songs. If you put those songs on Screaming for Change, people would have loved them. 

When Uniform Choice came out to the east coast for the first time in ‘87, I just remember being so confused. You guys came out on stage at City Gardens and I was this 15-year-old kid thinking, “Who are these long-haired weirdos?”
(Laughter)Yeah, on that first tour, Pat and I had grown his hair out a bit and it confused some people. It made the whole tour very difficult. It’s hard enough to get up in front of people in itself, let alone to get up in front of a crowd of 3000 miles away from home that expects you to be bald with huge X’s on your hands. 

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The change in sound and look also seemed to cause a schism between you and Youth of Today.
Youth of Today had a problem with us and it was just funny to me. This wasn’t Aerosmith or Whitesnake and we felt no competition with them. We were of the mindset that we were all guys in bands with like minds. I remember times on tour when they wanted to headline over us and it was very tense. It just left a bad taste in our mouths since it was not initiated by us at all. 

Yeah, after that tour, I just remember there was a lot of Uniform Choice bashing in ‘zines.
I never met some of these bands, so why are they telling other people that we’re assholes when they’re interviewed? We always ended up doing what we wanted to do. If you don’t like the change in our music, that’s fine. I just don’t get why people were so mad because we slowed down a few of the songs. At that time, I was trying to graduate from college. I wasn’t worried about kids who were three years younger than me that weren’t happy with our music. Then there were people out here on the west coast who turned on us too; people that we were instrumental in empowering. 

When you say that, I think about the first No For An Answer seven-inch with the song on it about Uniform Choice, “About Face”
Dan was not happy with Uniform Choice at the time, but we all laugh about it now. I don’t hold any grudges. It’s just boys being boys. 

What about the Unity LP that came out in ‘89, Blood Days?
We tried to have some fun when we did the Unity Blood Days LP. That record wasn’t for anyone else but us. 

For the record, I loved that record from the first time I heard it. I like it way more Staring Into The Sun.
Yeah, we got some negative thrown towards us for that record too. I never took that stuff personally. 

In that later part of the 80’s, the straight edge thing in Hardcore got really big with tons of bands looking and sounding the same. How’d you feel about that?
It just felt like it warped into something that wasn’t truly from the heart. It became an us against them thing and that’s what I rebelled against in high school. We never pointed at a guy who paid his eight dollars to see Uniform Choice and said: “Fuck that guy because he doesn’t look like us”. I never understood when it morphed into this militant thing. It just made me think “I don’t want to get lumped into this pool”. I made it crystal clear. When it became a code that you could put in your pocket and look at someone and say “You’re not fitting the commandments of Straight Edge”, that was something we didn’t embrace at all. With Uniform Choice, we never said: “This is the right way”. We wanted to express ourselves about anti-obsession. With Pat and me, it was an anti-obsession thing. I’m not obsessed with school, I’m not obsessed with my girlfriend or certainly not with drinking, smoking or fighting. 

How and why did Uniform Choice come to an end?
Pat wanted to pursue more of a rock thing. and Mike Gitter had some connections got him into Mindfunk. There wasn’t any bombastic fist fight or anything. We just knew it was time to move on. 

Through all the crap you went through with Uniform Choice, what’s the most important thing you learned?
Don’t be afraid to stick to your convictions. 

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