Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Uniform Choice – Staring Into The Sun
Christmas 1988 my mom asked me what I wanted, I picked 3 albums; Boogie Down Productions – By Any Means Necessary, 7 Seconds – Walk Together Rock Together with the re-done cover art by Pushead (had the original version on cassette) and Uniform Choice – Staring Into The Sun. I already had Uniform Choice’s – Screaming For Change LP and the Region Of Ice EP and although I liked Screaming For Change much more than Region Of Ice, I still sort of liked at least 2 out of the 3 songs. Because I generally liked Region Of Ice, I was optimistic about Staring Into The Sun, hell… I even bought an A Wish To Dream shirt prior.
So anyway, Christmas comes, I get all three records (I picked them out, so there wasn’t much of a chance of me not getting them), brought them to my room, took a seat on my bed and listened to each. The B.D.P. record, I loved it beginning to end, 7 Seconds, already knew it well and loved it, but finally had it on vinyl, then came Staring Into The Sun… hmmm… interesting. Sounded like they put a couple of the more hardcore sounding songs on Region Of Ice. Dubar’s voice… although it wasn’t bad and still sounded great at times, I wasn’t all that into some of the rock ballads and his attempt at singing them. Musically some of the tracks were pretty damn good and still heavily hardcore sounding (Cut of a Different Cause, I Am… You Are, etc.), but the drum sound and the production… oh man the production… what a bum out. Aside from some of the music, some of the vocals and the production, the look of this record was also a bum out. The cover looked like it could have been used for a Rush album, the back cover with the rose and barbed wire fence, although not terrible, not particularly great either. I did like the gatefold and the large photo of the band members silhouettes and of course the live photos were pretty cool as well, but all in all, this record was pretty much a let down and got limited play on my stereo. I guess if you compare it to Screaming For Change, it falls very short, but then again, if you compare a lot of records to Screaming For Change, they fall short too. Ultimately in my opinion, following up Screaming For Change was Staring Into The Sun’s biggest short coming.
When Gordo told me he wanted to wanted to do this piece on this record I was definltey into it because I know he’s got a real knack for breaking down and dissecting records like no other. Although I may not share his opinion on everything, I can definitely respect it and at least be entertained by it. Hopefully you the readers can do the same. -Tim DCXX
Pat Dubar with Staring Into The Sun era UC at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno
Since day one, Tim and I have wanted to get Pat Dubar on here for a definitive UC interview. No question, part of that interview would be discussing the Uniform Choice post-Screaming For Change era that has become lengendary fodder for snickering…the era where bic bald heads were covered with long flowing hair, 4 sided Use Your Head shirts were traded in for denim button downs with tassels, and songs about screaming for change and staying straight and alert were replaced with songs about taking long drinks of silence and vast regions of ice. It’s one of the most discussed transformations in the history of straight edge hardcore, the “about face” that has been blasted by so many people. And the epitome of this drastic band growth/transformation punches you right in the face every time you look at and listen to the band’s 1988 follow-up LP, Staring Into The Sun. It’s no secret that many people despise this record.
But I’m here to defend it to the fullest and explain what I love it, and why you should too.
First, let me clarify that I was born in 1982 and I grew up in Pennsylvania…so I am surely not trying to come off as some Orange County dude who was going off at the very first ever Unity practice, ok? If you feel that my life position automatically invalidates what I’m about to write, then please move along. I’m simply going on my own observations, and all the great HC tales and folklore that has come my way through the years.
John Mastropaolo on bass for UC at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno
Second, let me say that I LOVE everything UC did up until Staring Into The Sun. I’m not arguing that the original demo material or Screaming For Change isn’t great. No question: UC circa 1984-1986 is some of the best HC ever. I’m also not saying that Staring Into The Sun is a better record (though I have said this in the past to spark a little controversy amongst friends). But I am saying that I love this 1988 record, it makes perfect sense to me, and I probably listen to it more than any of the band’s other material. Ultimately, I think my favorite UC recording is one I have never heard: the elusive demo of Staring Into The Sun songs that was recorded after Screaming For Change, but before the actual Staring Into The Sun LP. I have heard this described by Joe Nelson as being “more HC versions” of those second LP songs, and to me it sounds perfect (and if anyone has this, please get in touch, I will pay good money just to hear it). But for now, let’s focus on the controversial second record.
For starters, you have the record cover itself. I’d have to say that even though I love this record, the artwork is a total weak point. Considering the great imagery that was always associated with Wishingwell, with great color combinations, design cues, and just that awesome west coast “seasonal” vibe, it seems like the cover of Staring Into The Sun got outsourced to someone completely disconnected who wanted to make it just look like safe commercial rock. I can see the description for the cover that was given to the band when they got it back from the designer, “gentlemen, please find enclosed artwork. Per your request, drawn is a large strange red eye, devoid of any eyelashes above the eye, that is shooting down hot retina juice from the clouds on what appears to be grey, stone like figures that are gathered to discuss varying neck problems. We worked on this piece for a total of 4 minutes and are certain you will be happy with it.” Twenty years later, it just looks like the type of LP you blow past in a dollar bin, possibly only looking at the back cover to see if there is in fact a unicorn running away from a castle, as you may expect from the front image. This is unfortunate for a band that visually could have had such a strong impact with this LP. Getting past that, the rest of the artwork isn’t that bad. I’m sure people were floored to see the inside of the gatefold and find the long haired, standing-on-rocks-at-sundown photos where a plethora of denim and boots are visible (if the last thing they saw from UC was Screaming For Change). I think it’s perfect. In fact, I think that type of thing should have been on the cover.
Uniform Choice – Region Of Ice
On to the music…”Indian Eyes” kicks things off. This song was also released on the Region Of Ice EP, which came out before this LP and was two Staring Into The Sun LP songs as well as the track “I Am…You Are,” which is pretty much an older style UC thrasher that really should have appeared on this LP too. As an album opener, Dubar’s first line, “I remember never letting pain remain,” seems to clearly signify that this is a group of guys that have obviously transitioned to a different time and place from where they were in 1985. Some have said they turned into soft, money hungry long hair rockers with hopes of an audience outside of hardcore by the time this record hit. I can’t say exactly what the reality was, but I know enough to say that I’m pretty sure that even with a velvet vest and skin tight Wranglers, Pat Dubar was still capable of beating your ass and probably stealing your girlfriend. Does that even make sense? Umm, anyways, that’s the cool thing about this era of UC…they weren’t pussies. The songs are what they are, but I still perceive images of dudes who would smash your face in if you stole their wave or threw a bottle at the stage. But yeah, “Indian Eyes” is to UC what “The Night Away” is to 7Seconds, and I think it’s a great opener for what is on this record.
Next, “Same Train” rings through your speakers, and I have always heard a real Brian Baker “Wig Out” vibe in this song (not that this is news with UC on this record, in some ways to me it is the west coast counterpart to that second Dag LP). The best part of this song to me is the bridge and then the sing-alongy chrous, it’s just classic introspective Dubar that comes out again and again in these songs…the formula here seems to be to take the sing along in “Use Your Head” (you know, the line “Times change, and people change…”), slow it down a notch, and really sing it and “sell” it as much as possible. Whether or not you think that actually works is up to you, but I think that for the style it is a bullet-proof recipe that gets exploited to the fullest in some of these songs.
“Staring Into The Sun” is the third song and the title track. My guess is that this was one of the last tracks written for this record, considering the record was originally gonna be called “A Wish To Dream,” and stylistically, this is one of their more “progressive” songs – with acoustic guitars, wind chimes, and dream catchers lurking all over the place. It just seems to have that vibe where maybe Maynez showed up at practice one day and said “dudes, I know we weren’t gonna record any more songs, but check this shit out, it’s the perfect mix of The Cult, U2, and 7Seconds,” and everyone totally dug it. I’m most likely totally off on that, but that’s my guess. Around the two minute mark in this song, the whole thing changes into a different type of jam for a second, and it is just more classic later era UC with Dubar’s vocals at his best. Definitely one of the absolute “softest” on here.
Uniform Choice – A Wish To Dream sticker and T-Shirt art
“A Wish To Dream” showcases some of Dubar’s older style vocal power…at times he actually sounds pissed and like he may still have giant tattered X’s on his hands, and the whole number is pretty straight forward without any strong hints of strange footwear, buffalo soldier style trench coats, or any other various later-period UC trickery that people associate with this record. Again, my guess was that this may have been an older UC tune that was held onto for this LP. It works.
Moving on, “She’s Locked In” sounds like it was straight up influenced by later-era Scream, mixed The Breakfast Club soundtrack. If I was told that UC was approached by John Hughes to write a tune for Say Anything 2, I would completely believe it. And the funny thing is, this may be my favorite song on here. Just a great “bummed out because of a girl” type of song…you can almost picture Dubar walking on the beach late in the afternoon wearing a black t-shirt, dog tags, and a lot of interesting necklaces and looking at old photos of his ex as he’s singing this shit. And the best part is the echo-vocal outro on top of Longrie’s ludicrously reverbed drums…it just screams 1987 radio pop, I love it.
Pat Longrie on the drums, UC at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno
“Region Of Ice” re-appears from the Region Of Ice seven inch, and I’m saying this should have been the album opener. This song rips up and down, start to finish. It’s the absolute perfect blend of UC old and new…Dubar sounds 110% into it, just that pissed, earnest, frustrated vocal sound with all of those signature “deep” parts. Maynez gets some much-deserved shine time with a great semi-face melter that just envokes visions of him putting one foot up on the Fender’s stage monitors and laying into it as people in the crowd try to grab his guitar in excitement. Girl issues seem to be the catalyst again here too, I don’t know what these little ladies did to my man, but he was definitely not happy about it when these tunes got penned. But it made for some great tunes, this being one of the best.
“Cut Of A Different Cause” is a straight up hardcore song that just shreds. I have never known if this was just left over from the Screaming For Change album or what, but I think this is one of best straight ahead HC rippers UC ever wrote. When kids today decide they wanna do a 1987 style melodic OC hardcore style band, they should just reference this song. Easily an album highlight.
“Miles Ahead” is definitely the later UC sound these guys were totally after when this record came out. Tons of melody, strange whispering, Pacific Ocean surfer vibes, Maynez showboating, bandanas and non-ironic berets, classic sung back-ups, and just a dash of some signature Dubar gruffness.
Dubar and Mastropaolo at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno
“What Is Stone” definitely is one of the more HC jams on here, and while it isn’t a break-neck thrasher, it proves that even on this record these guys can still tear – especially Longrie, who really doesn’t get mentioned enough as a GREAT drummer – dude is super tight, has a really fast right foot (and hands for that matter), and isn’t at all afraid to mix it up. Same goes with his beat-counterpart, Dave Mello, who was a hell of a bass player. If this whole album was made up of tunes like this, you would honestly have a much different record. Am I the only one who thinks that this song could have been the soundtrack during the beach volleyball scene in Top Gun had it been written a few years earlier? Ok, maybe that would give it a strange sexual slant that goes along with that scene, but whatever, that’s what I hear.
“Long Drink Of Silence” reverts back to that acoustic intro/U2 meets The Cult/blasting down the Pacific Coast Highway in a CJ7 Jeep type of vibe. Again, the song seems to hit on the loss of a female. I’m always picturing that the girl being written about in these tunes was some hot brunette 80s style chick that did modeling for O’Neil and was just OC personified. It’s also a fitting album closer, ending on signature Maynez high notes and Longrie bashing.
Region Of Ice back cover
To me it is sad that this record seems to be loved by a few and ignored by many. I honestly think that if the vibe and look of the band was a bit more low-key, it was an official Wishingwell release with more classic styled UC artwork, and maybe just a couple parts in the music were swapped out, this would be a much more respected rockish HC album…dare I say a classic. UC is such an important band in the history of HC and it has always bummed me out that this record is such a black eye, and that UC really gets reduced to being considered a “one record band” because of it.
Then again, I know I am clearly in the minority, and a lot of their (tarnished) legacy has to do with how many in the HC scene felt that UC really just changed way too much for their own good at this time and was on a totally different trip.
Whatever the story was, I have had a soft spot for this record since I first heard it. To me, great music takes you to another place and puts you “in” the song and the story. As absolutely ridiculous as I know this sounds, every time I listen to this while driving at night when the weather is warm and the windows are down, I automatically think it is 1987 and I am wearing Ray Bans and blasting down Beach Boulevard in a black ’67 big block Corvette to a really cool and weird party with a ton of hot girls in Huntington Beach, thinking about how I need to grow my hair out longer and do a band that is a mix of The Cult’s “Love” and Can I Say. It’s just so simple and clear, and damn it seems so cool. And that’s why I love this record. – Gordo DCXX
Longrie getting aggro, Photo: Ken Salerno
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Nardcore authority and It’s Alive Fanzine editor, Fred Hammer, brings us a great interview with long time punk drummer, Greg Cameron. If stories about the Descendents and Black Flag are your thing (which I sure hope they are), this is a damn good read. -Tim DCXX
Can you tell us all the bands you have played in, what type of drums you learned on, what you are playing with now, and what was the 1st punk band you ever saw live?
The bands I’ve played in are (in order): Bulimia Banquet, October Faction, SWA, Chemical People, Punk Rock Vatos, Jeff Dahl, Marc Spitz Freestyle, Cüddle, and the Nip Drivers. Very technically speaking, I was in the Descendents at age 15 for about 2 weeks. But I wasn’t really up to snuff then and the band was pretty much finished for that time when Bill Stevenson left to join Black Flag.
There were attempts to form bands with various other people. Notably, I tried several times to form bands with Tony Lombardo and Ray Cooper from the Descendents over the years, but nothing ever came of it. I also jammed with Greg Ginn for about year after Black Flag & Gone broke up, but he wanted to head in a different direction and we parted ways. London May, ex-drummer of Samhain, had a band project called “Carbonation” which never came to fruition. He wrote and played guitar, his girlfriend Carrie Hale did vocals and Larry Schemel (Patty Schemel’s from Hole’s brother) played bass. It was actually promising material and Carrie was a great singer. But there was some internal conflict and it didn’t work out. I’m sure there’s a few other attempts at bands that I’m forgetting…
I’m currently playing on DW drums. It’s a 4 piece kit with a 24″ kick, 14″ rack tom, and an 18″ floor tom. I purchased the kit shortly before joining up with Jeff Dahl on a tour back in the late 90s. For cymbals, I’m using a mix of Zildjian A series and Paiste 2002 Rude series. Four crash cymbals consisting of 18″ Zildjian Rock crash, 19″ Paiste Rude Crash/Ride, 20″ Zildjian Ping Ride (yeah I use it for a crash), and another 19″ or 20″ Rude Crash/Ride. Hi Hats are Zildjian 15″ Rock. I need heavy cymbals because my sticks are as big as they make them, 3S’s. I usually use Pro Drum’s house brand or Vic Firth. I used to play with Pro Mark DC-17’s but they became hard to get. My hardware is all Tama Titan, their stuff is by far the most robust of any hardware I’ve used and I have yet to find something better. My pedal is a Tama Iron Cobra. Once again, very heavy duty and great action.
My kit prior to the DW’s were Tama Imperial Star custom sized with a 26″ kick, 16″ rack tom, and a 20″ floor tom. I had the same set up of stands and cymbals. This was to match the kit I played on most often and did a lot of my learning. That was a Slingerland kit of the same dimensions owned by Bill Stevenson. That was his main kit with the Descendents and Black Flag. I practiced at both bands’ practice rooms for some time. The other kit I really learned on was Bill’s small drums that were at the Decendent’s pratice room in Lomita, CA. It was a small Slingerland kit with a 22″ kick, 13″ rack tom, and 16″ floor tom. When Bill joined Black Flag in ’83, he let me take the kit to practice on my own. He took the 13″ rack tom with him, so I purchased a 14″ Slingerland tom to replace it. I took those drums on tour with me for the SST’s “The Tour” with my band SWA. The Tama kit went out on the Black Flag ’85 “Slip it In” tour with SWA and that was my main kit for a long time.
As far the first punk shows I went to, I believe it was the Ramones in 1981 at the Hollywood Palladium. Great show. That was followed up by the Dickies at “The Barn” at Alpine Village. Then shortly after that, a big BYO show at the Palladium headlined by TSOL with Adolescents, Seven Seconds, Wasted Youth, and a couple of other bands. I saw a drunk punker couple fall off the balcony that night right in front of me and my best friend from high school – Ray Cooper. He later went on to play in the Descendents and SWA for a bit. Then I saw the Descendents at a Circle Jerks show at Alpine Village. It was a life changing show for me in terms of my drumming direction. I’d never seen anyone hit as hard or play as fast and tight as Bill Stevenson. He was maniacal and amazing. That got my attention. My next gig was the Descendents and China White at Dancing Waters in San Pedro. It was a low key gig, but it was early Descendents at their prime. Frank Navetta (RIP Frank) came out wearing pajamas and a beanie. He played his guitar so hard that his pajama pants fell down around his ankles during a song called “Russianage”. It was an unforgettable show for me and the Descendents became my favorite band of all time.
How long did you know Greg Ginn and the SST crew before you joined OCTOBER FACTION and can you give us a little history on the band OCTOBER FACTION? You told me you were the opening act for Black Flag on two tours. Let us know some great tour stories please.
I had met Greg and company through Bill Stevenson, who I had met through Ray Cooper. Ray and Bill went to El Camino college together. They were introduced by a mutual high school friend of myself and Ray, Christian Matjias. Christian had been asked to manage the Descendents by Bill but it never happened. Bill had asked Ray to sing for the Descendents when Milo went to college. Milo wound up sticking around a bit longer and Ray switched to guitar. He actually only did 2 gigs on vocals before moving to guitar. Bill left the Descendents shortly after that to Join Black Flag full time.
Since I had become friends with Bill as well as being one of his biggest fans, I started going to Black Flag practices and and tagging along to shows. I had tried to fill in with the Descendents for Bill, but I was only 15 at the time and my chops weren’t solid. I had only been playing a year at that point. Frank & Tony were upset with Bill. Frank left the band. So Tony, Ray and I jammed for several months. But I could tell Tony was disenchanted with my novice playing. I showed up to practice one evening after not getting a call that we were jamming and they were trying out another drummer. Needless to say I was very bummed. I got ahold of Bill on the road with Flag and asked if I could take his practice kit so I could jam alone at my grandmother’s house. He give me the thumbs up. For about a year I practiced almost every day by myself. My playing improved considerably. I was motivated by the “I’ll show you” type of anger from being betrayed by my friends including my best friend.
During that time, Black Flag had been engrossed in a lawsuit with Unicorn/MCA records. They were flat broke, living in their offices at SST. All of Bill’s drum hardware and cymbals had been broken or stolen out their practice pad in Long Beach. They moved to a new place in Redondo Beach to both practice and run the booking. Bill asked if I could bring over my nice new shiny hardware and cymbals which I had acquired while they were touring so he could borrow it for practice. In exchange, I would be able to practice there when Flag wasn’t. That is how I met up with everyone in the SST crew.
Black Flag with Chuck Dukowski
How I got to playing in SST bands is because of Chuck Dukowski. Chuck had left Black Flag and Kira Rosseler had replaced him. He had gone to Germany for a while to visit family. When he returned, he still worked at SST booking Flag tours. He was still doing some writing for Black Flag as well and still had an ownership stake in the label. He also reformed his old band Würm. He would hear me jamming by myself downstairs from his desk and started bringing his bass to jam with me. Those were some fun angry jams. One day he was on the phone chastising one of the Würm members for being flaky about pratice and life in general. He said that he was tired of dragging them along and decided he would jam with his new “young and excited” friend instead. So we jammed just about every day.
He wanted to start a band that would be SWA. We tried out various guitar players including Ted Falconi from Flipper. It didn’t work out with Ted, but he was a great guy. By that time the ’84 Black Flag tour was ramping up. Chuck really wanted to hit the road, so he came up with the concept of October Faction and got Greg Ginn onboard. It would be a freeform jam band with myself, Greg, Chuck, and Joe Baiza from Saccharin Trust. So that’s what we did, we opened the ’84 Black Flag tour with a 30 minute set of freeform jamming. People either loved it or hated it. There was no middle ground, haha.
Our first show was at the Metro in Chicago. It was my first time ever playing in front of a real crowd. It was quiet the high for me. That was actually the only tour the “Faction” did, and we played a few sporadic shows around L.A. when the tour was over. Tom Troccoli joined us on the second night for vocals and became a permanent member of the band since he had a lot of energy and was really into it. He had come on the road as a crew member, but then became a band member too. There weren’t really clearly defined roles in those days. Everyone in a band was a roadie, and some of the roadies were in bands. We didn’t discriminate.
We recorded two albums. The first was at the Stone in San Francisco. It was a week after the end of the ’84 Black Flag tour. Bill and Kira had contracted a really virulent stomach flu. The day before the show, I contracted it and became bed ridden for the next several days which meant I missed the show. Chuck didn’t want to miss the gig or the recording that was to take place, so he enlisted Bill to fill in for me. Chuck didn’t tell me about that and I was a bit upset at the time. But it was a last minute decision and everything was in place. So it was the right thing to do.
The second album was recorded at Mystic Records in Hollywood which was a run down studio with very old gear. It was apparently the place that Led Zepplin recorded the song “Whole Lotta Love” which is some neat history. It’s now the DMV building at the corner of Gower and Vine St.
As far as tour stories go, I’d say my first gig playing live in front of a large crowd was quite a high. The was the one at the Metro in Chicago with October Faction on the ’84 Black Flag tour. The venue was packed, and they had recently acquired a chunk of AC/DC’s tour PA system which was very powerful for the time. We got up there and jammed our asses off. The PA had so much punch that piece of the ceiling started to fall onto the stage when I hit the kick drum. It just made me play even harder and the crowd really fed into it. Even though our music isn’t the average crowd’s cup of tea, most of them seemed to be really into it and it made for a killer debut performance for both myself and the band.
Another one of my favorites is the time in 1985 when I was drumming with SWA. We had a caravan of vehicles for the tour, three vans and a large Ryder truck. We stopped off at a 7-11 as we were leaving Walla Walla, WA on our way to Portland. One of the problems when traveling in caravans with members of band and crew shifting to different vehicles is keeping track of people when making food and gas stops. A couple of hours after taking off from the stop, we realized we had left Merrill Ward, our singer, back at the 7-11. Back then there were no cell phones so there was no way to communicate with Merrill. We had to finish the trip and try to figure it out from there. When we got to the venue, Merrill had been trying frantically to get ahold of us. He was extremely upset to say the least. He was able to get on a plane from Walla Walla and get to Portland just in the nick of time for the show. He was so angry he didn’t want to talk to any of us. But that anger made for one of the best shows of the tour. He put on such a high energy fun show that it really got the crowd going. It was really our night as Flag couldn’t match the energy of our set that night. It also cheered Merrill up quite a bit as I recall. How could he stay mad after such a killer show? He got all the groupie attention that night which detracted from the attention of another particular lead singer of the headlining act.
Greg Cameron, Photo: Fred Hammer
How many shows/tours did you play with OCTOBER FACTION and can you go into detail about playing with other SST bands? Was it as crazy as everyone says it was? I saw OCTOBER FACTION a few times and I remember people being very hostile because you were not playing traditional Punk/Hardcore music.
October Faction was a one trick pony for tours. The band was put together for the purpose of opening up just the one tour and wasn’t necessarily meant to be around for a long time. After that tour, we did play a bunch of gigs around L.A. though to mixed reactions. In all truth, it was a totally self-indulgent quagmire of noise. How could it not be? It was comprised of two lead guitars of eclectic style along with lead bass of eclectic style. And we were really fucking loud. It was bound to be turn-off to all but the most diehard Ginn/Dukowski/Baiza fans. I was there to try and hold it all together as they jammed insanely, going off on their own tangents. The addition of Tom Troccoli on vocals also helped keep things more cohesive as he formed lyrics. It helped reign in the jams so that there was more structure and some songs actually started to form. The difference is apparent on the two October Faction albums from the first to the second.
Playing in SWA was a lot different than October Faction. We had real songs, it was rock and roll, and it was hard. But there was still some hostility towards us mainly due to our singer, Merrill. He had a flamboyant style along the lines of Iggy and Bowie which turned off a lot of people that didn’t appreciate that style or were simply unfamiliar with that style. It’s ironic because punk in general was rooted a lot in that style ala New York Dolls and the aforementioned artists. But many of the SST fans weren’t hip to it. I think that anyone who might have been in doubt of Merrill’s rock abilities needed to check out his vocals on “Triumph of the Will”, Overkill’s one and only album on SST records. Those are some great vocals. If you never saw Merrill in person but heard that record, you’d think he was as hard as they come. He’d wear pink tights on stage with Overkill which also didn’t go over too well. But those guys rocked!
SWA did a few of tours, one with Black Flag in 1985 and also SST’s “The Tour” which was a small west cost tour featuring us, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Saccharin Trust, and Hüsker Dü. That was a really fun tour and being an opener, we and Saccharin knew our place and had our egos in check. However, every night was a debate with the other three bands about who was going to close the show. At that point they were all hot on the college circuit and all wanted to headline. It wasn’t a big fight or anything, but there was a bit of ego throwing and rivalry. It was still a lot of fun and the atmosphere was very family like. I would say that those days were the highlight of the SST days. The bands were all friends, we did a lot of shows together, and it was a family. We all looked forward to the releases of each other’s albums. Of the bands that lived in L.A., we’d get together once in while for impromptu jams and such. It was a good environment and they were my second family.
I know you were involved with the Black Flag reunion. Can you tell us what involvement you had in it. I believe you did the sound for the show.
Yes, I was involved doing sound for the “Benefit for Cats” Flag “reunion”, if you want to call it that. Many of the key players were not invited to participate though I know they wanted to. I wound up mixing sound for the show both nights which didn’t go all that well, mainly the first night. I had wanted to be at the practices for the shows so I’d have an opportunity to mix at the practices so I knew what to expect.
I didn’t get the call to do it until the night before the first show. I showed up to do the mix. A few issues made the sound the first night pretty bad. The first is that the Hollywood Palladium is a difficult room to mix in due to it’s shape. There are various reflections and hot and null spots that make it tricky. It was designed to be a big band ballroom and the acoustics don’t lend themselves very well to rock music. Then there was an issue with the PA where it needed some more tuning to get rid of some muddiness in the low end. That issue was corrected the second night. The third issue was Ginn’s guitar stack. It was pointed right at mix position so literally all I could hear was his guitar even when it was all the way off in the mix. It made it very hard to get a good balance in the PA as I had to constantly walk out from behind the board and listen to make adjustments. So all in all, it wasn’t the best mix I had ever done. I got complaints along with some thumbs up. But I’ll be the first one to admit it could have been a lot better.
Can you tell us about the most violent show you ever saw in Southern CA?
The first BYO gig I went to at the Hollywood Palladium was one of the most violent. Beside the couple that fell of the balcony, that gig got off to a rough start. I can remember waiting in line to get tickets. They were moving very slowly which started to piss of the more agro fans. They started breaking lighting fixtures on the outside of the building with rocks and bottles. Then they smashed the box office window. That really slowed things down trying to get it. They then opened up another box office and everyone got their tickets. Then the door opened. It was a mad rush. People were charging in yelling and screaming. I was 14 at the time and had longish hair which made me a target for the skin heads. Ray Cooper, my best friend from high school who had driven us to the gig, had relatively short hair and was likely safe. But he was also intimidated by the skins. So we made a dash for the upper level and found a nice dark spot where we wouldn’t be harassed.
As we sat there with people still rolling in the doors, a few skinheads up the balcony grabbed chairs and phone books and threw them into the chandeliers. They broke apart and hit the floor. Fortunately nobody was standing below. That would have been pretty ugly.
Then just before the first band went on, a guy with long hair up by the stage was approached by some skinheads who grabbed him by the hair from behind and threw him to the ground. They starting beating the crap out of him until he was bloody and busted up. It reinforced my desire to stay hidden in the balcony. Then the bands started. They were kicking some ass and the energy in the mosh pit was high. Lots of people were getting hurt. Lots of fights were starting. I remember people climbing the PA stacks and swinging from the curtains on the sides of the stage. It was wild. It was scary.
TSOL closed the show. It was during their set that a drunk skinhead dude pickup up his drunk girlfriend and held her over the balcony to scare her. He lost his footing and they both went over and hit the floor below. That’s when Ray and I decided it was time to leave.
Greg Cameron destroying the drums, Photo: Fred Hammer
I know you have been involved with sound recordings for a long time. Can you tell us exactly what you do and what advice would you give to a new band recording? What are the most common mistakes you see bands doing when they record or even what mistakes bands make when they play live?
My advice to any new band recording is to practice, practice practice. And have your instruments in good working order. Studio time is expensive. If you don’t have your shit together when you walk in, it’s going to cost you time, money, and piss people off. It will aggravate whoever is producing and/or engineering. The same goes for live performance. Practice and have your gear in working order. Nobody wants to see a band that’s really sloppy and acts like they don’t care unless that’s what the act is really supposed to be about. Even then, there’s a certain order to things.
One of my biggest pet peeves with new bands, and even some old ones, is how they get their gear on and off stage. Drummers: do NOT set up your drums on stage. Set them up when you get to the gig or at least well before your band has to be on stage. It slows down the band change over process immensely. You get in everybody’s way. You cause problems. You are rude. And when you’re done, get your shit off stage right away and do NOT break your drums down on the stage. Break it down OFF the stage as you cause the same problems stated previously.
Guitar & bass players should have their instruments tuned just before it’s time to get their gear on stage so they’re ready to plug in and go. Tuning on stage slows everything down. Really nobody wants to see you tune your guitar & it kills momentum for your band. And get your amps off stage right after playing. Don’t go grab a beer and chit chat. Once again it slows everything down and screws the next band in line. The gig is not about you. It’s disrespectful to the next band, the fans, and the club. It does little to further your reputation with your peers and makes it less likely that you’ll be asked back to play again.
Bottom line, treat your set up and tear-down as you would want the band before you to treat it. Egos be damned. If you get on late, cut your set short. Don’t screw the other bands down stream. Be the “bigger” band and do the right thing. It will be better for you later down the road.
I can remember a Black Flag show in 1984 at the Ritz in NYC. It was the “New Music Seminar” where new bands get to showcase themselves for “industry” people. It was Sisters of Mercy, General Public, and Black Flag. Talk about an interesting mix eh? It was the first time I had seen the Sisters of Mercy and GP. Sisters of Mercy were a bit boring as they were just getting going then. General Public was also just starting out. I was a fan of the English Beat, but this band just didn’t do it for me.
But what really put them on my shit list was the fact that they played almost a half hour longer than they were supposed to which cut right into Flag’s set time. Then they left the stage and nobody from the band or crew came to get move their gear. It was a big snub. So Greg Ginn grabbed me and we headed up to the stage. Ginn was so pissed that he started breaking the guitar cords off in the amps by dragging them with the cords and then shoving them over on the side of the stage. Guitars, drums, and stands were literally thrown across the stage. It was the most pissed I’d ever seen Greg. Then we got Flag’s gear up fast and they started playing angry. It was a good gig.
Last question…Feel free to say anything you’d like.
I’d just like to say thanks to the SST crew over the years and in particular Ray Cooper for introducing me to “punk rock”, Bill Stevenson for being a good friend and mentor, Chuck Dukowski for being a generous friend and mentor, and Greg Ginn for starting SST which made a large part of my life possible. And thanks to Mr. Fred Hammer for asking!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Who would have ever guessed Billy Rubin would end up becoming a regular contributor to DCXX? Surely not us, but we’ll take it every time. The guy simply steps up and delivers quality contribution after quality contribution and we couldn’t be happier about it. This time around Billy fills us all in on the back story of New Beginning Records. -Tim DCXX
I don’t want to come off as a guy that writes stories about back in the day, when I walked barefoot in the snow, uphill, into the wind, etc. However some of the things that went on back in the mid 80s are really comical (and interesting to some) with the benefit of 20+ years of hindsight. This is a story about what it was like putting records out. Back in 1985/86-ish I was sort of drafted into New Beginning Records. I thought I was just helping out some friends. Bessie Oakley and Mike Trouchon (as well as Ray Cappo) were going to put out records on this new label called New Beginning.
The first release was going to be Crippled Youth and shortly after that Underdog. I was the only person in LA and that is where all the actual mastering/manufacturing/printing was going to take place. Coordination of projects was difficult. This is before cell phones, email, scanners, laser (or ink jet) printers, fax machines…Hell, it was before PC’s. We’d mail things back and forth. The Crippled Youth 7″ had a lot of technical issues. None of us knew what we were doing. The first batch of sleeves for the Crippled Youth 7″ came back from the printer with a test strip (a strip of tape with sequential numbers) across the back of the sleeve. Mike and Bessie didn’t want to release a half ass single so they demanded a reprint. Mind you, all of this stuff had to be paid for, and if my memory serves me right, the sleeves were about $0.75 each. We sold 7″ records for $2.50 each.
The task of connecting the various pieces of a record’s release took me on a wild goose chase of sorts. The printer was one of the unique situations. The place to get 7″ sleeves printed was some shithole warehouse/printer up in the San Fernando Valley (I think it was Tarzana). After the first batch of Crippled Youth sleeves came back screwed up, I had to drive up there to approve the next printing before they ran an entire run. When I got to the printer, this guy that looked like Garth from Wayne’s World (but all coked up) took me back through their warehouse to find the Crippled Youth sleeve.
This printer turned out to also be the printer of choice for VHS porno sleeves. Keep in mind, I was 16 years old. I had barely seen porn in my life. I was taken back through a literal maze of stacks of different cardstock porn video sleeves with super skanky porn chicks. This is the 80’s…We’re not talking Jenna Jameson. I seriously thought I was in the twilight zone. Amongst all the porn were the Crippled Youth sleeves. I gave them the thumbs up and the Crippled Youth 7″ was born.
I should point out that the screwed up sleeves were used for the 2nd pressing (I think) but we put a stamp on the back side of the sleeve. I simply can’t remember some of the specific details about these early releases. Bill “Nego” Case (a regular on DCXX) actually drove me up to Davis California to help stuff the singles at Mike Trouchon’s place. He might remember.
Underdog 7″ Test Press Sleeve
When the Underdog single was released, Mike Trouchon made a custom test pressing sleeve to mock all the trouble we had with Crippled Youth. The artwork for the test pressing sleeve incorporated the real artwork, some paperclip images and various other crap. There were ten of these test pressing sleeves. I am sure that Mike, Bessie, Ray, Richie, and the rest of Underdog all got one of these. The back side of the sleeve is stamped with the person’s name that the test pressing belongs to.
Our experience with the Crippled Youth and Underdog releases prepared us for the multi color Negazione “Nightmare” 7″ (New Beginning number 3 released in 1987). Back then, multi color meant a color separation. There were these huge sheets of transparency with each color printed on a separate sheet. The different sheets laid on top of each other to create the final image. It seems like a cave man process compared to what is out there now. I think the Negazione cover art (by a guy named Dumbo) is one of the coolest pieces of art I’ve ever seen on a 7″.
Our pressing plant contact in LA was this guy named Kane Boychuck. Kane worked at Macola Records in Hollywood. Macola was the place that actually made the vinyl records. I don’t know if it’s still there, but it was an anonymous white building on Santa Monica Blvd. It was always interesting to go to Macola and see the big machines stamping out vinyl records. It made it all seem so real. There were always boxes of records laying around in various stages of the production process. Sometimes just sleeves waiting for vinyl and other times, the finished product.
I was really young back then and it was a bit intimidating to go to Hollywood on my own. There were street walking prostitutes, homeless people and occasional gang bangers. On one trip to Macola, I saw these boxes of a really wild looking sleeve for a band called NWA. The cover art was a photo of these hardcore bloods or crips or whatever they were. These guys looked like the real thing and they were super scary. I had no idea what NWA meant, but when Kane saw me examining the cover he told me what NWA meant and that these guys were as scary as they looked. Kane gave me one of those 12″ NWA records and I’ve kept it to this day. It was actually a pretty good record and as it turns out, NWA became a huge band (as you all know). I actually have the first pressing of the first NWA record. For years that record was a novelty that I would take out and play for friends as a joke. I had no idea that NWA was going to be so enormous. The joke was clearly on me.
Back to the New Beginning releases…at first, we had to pay for and sell these records ourselves. Those early contacts put me in touch with hardcore enthusiasts all over the country. In each city there would be one record store that we’d ship 10 records too. Once they sold out they would send us a check and we’d ship 10 more. We also ran ads in various fanzines like xXx, Suburban Voice and MRR to sell the records via mail order. You’d end up with pen pals all over the world. It was really cool to be a part of a DIY scene. In the late 80s, Kane became the key person for pressing and distribution deals. These deals allowed us to simply hand Kane artwork and a reel of tape and say “make this a record and sell it for us.” Kane put up all the money. Many records including New Beginning, Workshed and Nemesis were all pressed and distributed through Kane and his contacts.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Just when you thought we might have been out of Icemen material here at Double Cross, we bring you something new. Our friend Patrick Kitzel over at Reaper Records had silk screened some sick 18 x 24 posters for the new Icemen record (of old material) out now on Reaper (reaper-records.com). There were only 50 of these, all hand numbered and signed by guitarist Marco, made only available through the Reaper webstore if you bought the Icemen pack (record, shirt, sticker, etc.).
Patrick has teamed up with us to give away the few remaining posters, which are not available for sale. Want one? If so, email me any and all Icemen photos you have. Whoever submits the coolest photo(s) that we don’t have will get one of these in the mail pronto. This way everyone is happy – the band gets some photos I’m sure they are itching to see, and you get a great piece of artwork to frame. Obviously, Icemen photos aren’t a dime a dozen, but I guess neither are these posters. We’re psyched to see what anyone can submit.
So dig up those photos and email them to me at:
Thanks! -Gordo DCXX
Monday, February 16, 2009
These poll results never cease to amaze me. Going into this, I had no clue whatsoever that the Turning Point / No Escape split would take the crown. Of course the “It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn” LP came in at a close second, but still, to think that a two song split EP with the band’s most unconventional material would win was a complete surprise to me.
My pick was the demo, it’s always been my favorite Turning Point release since the day I got it. I’m not going to get into my feelings on this demo again since I did do an entire entry on it last year on here at some point, but I will once again note that it’s my favorite demo ever. Flawless straight edge hardcore done to perfection. Doesn’t hurt that they came from New Jersey, but that by no means sways my opinion in any drastic direction.
As for the Turning Point / No Escape split EP, when I first heard it, I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Gone was that Youth Of Today junior sound that I knew and loved and in came a much more melodic, heavily D.C. inspired sound. I will say, the transition between the “It’s Always Darkest…” LP and the song “Broken” from the Rebuilding comp definitely gave me a taste of what was to come with the split material, so I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. Also, I can distinctly remember hearing Turning Point play “Thursday” live prior to it being released…but still, hearing it recorded for the first time was a whole new thing.
I don’t remember exactly when the split EP was released, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until the band actually broke up. The reason I say that is because I seem to recall being excited to hear Turning Point play “Behind This Wall” and “Thursday” at their 1994 reunion. In those years after the release of the split, those two songs fully grew on me and although they sounded nothing like the band I was introduced to in 1988, I couldn’t deny their greatness. Thanks to Jade Tree, I never have to choose which Turning Point release to listen to…it’ll be the complete discography every time. -Tim DCXX
I don’t have much to add beyond what Tim just wrote, but I did want to comment on one thing here that I don’t see discussed much, and that’s the fact that out of Turning Point’s seven recording sessions, I’m not sure they ever got a bad recording. Pretty much every actual recording sound (I don’t mean the band’s style/sound) is distinct from the rest, seems to fit the music perfectly, and can still be considered at the very least, a decent recording…and for some records, a perfect recording.
The demo is rough and demo quality, but there is something blistering and raw about it that just seems perfect for a demo of pissed SEHC. The seven inch may in fact be perfect, everything on it is just in your face and crushes…I’m not an engineer or an audiophile, but if I did a recording of hard, pissed of straight edge tunes, I would hand the TP 7″ to the dude at the controls. The recording of “Insecurity” to me sounds like a cleaner and beefier version of that seven inch recording, maybe with a little bit more time tweaking some levels and playing with some effects (as well as some better musicianship)…and I think it kills. When Skip yells out “THE PAAAAAINNN!!!” over one of the best transition-into-mosh parts ever written I wanna bash my elbows over someone’s head.
I’m already getting carried away here, but even though I don’t dig the Words To Live by comp song or the LP recording qualities, I’m not sure you could say these are bad. And the later material really does capture that whole DC/Jane’s thing they were going for really well.
These dudes could play their instruments. Vince Spina from Edgewise was recently telling me and Tim that his drum teacher was Jay from TP’s drum teacher, and this drum teacher told Vince that Jay was one of the most talented drummers he had ever known (and I’m guessing Jay was maybe 18 years old?). For those unaware, Jay played guitar in TP (and he could play) and on the drums was Ken, who in his own right was/is a GREAT drummer. So yeah, these guys were not short on talent by any means. One of the best…
“Behind This Wall” and “Thursday” from Turning Point / No Escape Split: 109
“It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn” LP: 101
“Broken” from Rebuilding comp: 44
“Insecurity” from Forever comp: 24
“My Turn To Win” from Words To live By comp: 5
“Behind This Wall” and “Thursday” from Turning Point / No Escape Split: 109
Nick with Turning Point at City Gardens, 1990.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Isaac and Jeff Banks in Europe with A18
Ike returns after some time off, and gives a funny tale from the Chorus days – enjoy. -Gordo DCXX
Recruiting for your band can be a daunting process. How bad do you want to play shows? How good does he or she have to be? Should all the members share the same views? Do they have good gear? I think most bands start with a guy who wants to sing who is friends with a guitar player, at least that’s been the case with every band I have done. Hardest member to come by is the ever-elusive kick ass drummer. I think most band nerds will agree that the drummer MUST shred. Or, well…SHOULD shred. Ok… It would be nice if they were sorta good but had heart.
In the early days of The Chorus me and Banks thought that we might pull the ‘mysterious project band’ card, do a pissed off record and be semi elusive just to cause controversy. We realized very soon that there was just no way we could do that. Banks’ time in Visual Discrimination was at an end, Chorus songs were recorded, we needed dudes…. Fast! There was never a doubt about Regis. He was our one and only choice, we knew he was going to be an important element even as Banks and I recorded the LP. He was in this band before he even agreed, period. But we were at a loss regarding a drummer, we had no clue.
We both adhered to the one band at a time creed so finding a guy already doing something was simply out of the question. We tossed some names around just the same thinking we could steal them outright, or is that ‘kidnap’ them outright? Neal from Hard Stance? No, not a very good fit. Casey Jones from No For An Answer? No, the hand-cuff drum style would not satisfy Banks. We even thought we might heist Bratton and Frosty from Chain of Strength to round out our powerhouse. But to no avail, we were just talking out loud and needed to get serious, then Banks suggested someone I couldn’t believe. He says, “I know this kid in my class, that might do it. His name is Jerry.” I thought nothing of the name, until he told me what he had done previous. “He was in Grudge,” he says dryly. I paused so as not to upset an already stressful drummerless situation. “You mean the joke band, make fun of straight edge, we pull someone out of the crowd to do a milk bong instead of a beer bong at our live shows Grudge?” I asked. Banks looked me in the eye without a blink and gave me the patented side smirk-bite his bottom lip-with two nods. I smiled knowing EXACTLY what that meant and said, “Slammy?” He said, “We’ll claim it as a victory if anyone asks.” I said, “Word is born, I’m in!!!”
Jerry Hohman supplying the Chorus beat
So Banks set it up. I was to come up to Cerritos right before his class and accompany him to his afternoon class, then scoop up Jerry and head to Carl’s Jr. I met Jerry. Very unassuming, skinny, sorta shy dude, no attitude whatsoever. We are about to pull a 3 in the cab trip to Carl’s, but before we even pull out of the parking spot Banks slides in The Chorus tape, pulls his ever present drum sticks from between the seats, and begins to kick beats along to the tape. Steering wheel: high hat. Horn cover: snare. Light tap on the brake pedal: bass drum. Cerritos parking pass hanging from the rearview: crash cymbal. Jerry is coyly sitting bitch while Banks pounds away, and at 100% volume, I sing along to my voice, while the stock speakers try their best to not crumble. It’s quite a scene.
Just as quick as Banks began, he stopped, calmly turned the volume down, looked at Hohman and inquired, “Well, what do you think?” Jerry, still unphased by our antics paused and lifted his head eerily slow and said, “Yea, I can beef that up.” FUCK!!! That was a perfect answer and EXACTLY what I wanted to hear. As far as I was concerned Jerry Hohman was in, and I think Jerry thought the same thing. But Banks has a way of bringing you back down to Earth and then cutting you down to size as soon as you land, it’s a talent. And in that moment Banks takes off his glasses for a quick clean, puts the drum sticks back, checks his blind spots and slowly backs out and onto the road. At the first stop light Banks turns to Hohman, looks him accusingly in the eye and says, “Just remember…no rolls are better than shitty rolls.”
Jeff Banks doing the Suicidal
Thursday, February 12, 2009
This time around I dissect BOLD’s swansong release… -Gordo DCXX
I know I know…we love BOLD too much, talk about them too much, worship them too much, and DCXX doesn’t need any more of it. Well I’m gonna disagree with you. While we definitely love BOLD and have made our opinions on them clear, there really hasn’t been any excessive coverage of them here, believe it or not. Ok, there have been some minor Drew snippets and photos, but nothing too crazy. So if you dig BOLD and wanna read about them, hang with me here. If you are of the crowd that despises this band, thinks they wrote terrible hardcore songs, were a boy band, or whatever the common slam is, then by all means, please skip this post. Ultimately what this piece will boil down to is me doing excessive worshipping of the last BOLD ep and talking about it in disgusting detail and you agreeing, or you thinking that I must be masturbating while I write this and and that I’m a total moron with terrible taste in hardcore and way too much time on my hands.
BOLD Revelation promo photo
The BOLD backstory is pretty straightforward leading up to the writing and recording of this ep, but I’ll include it here for totality purposes. Four super young kids from Katonah, NY start thrashing in their basement, become heavily influenced by early U.S. hardcore, play under the name Crippled Youth, become the little bros of YOT, enter puberty, become Connecticut and NYC scene upcoming staples alongside Underdog, Straight Ahead, and GB, change name to BOLD, release matured LP on Revelation, and start to plot their next move. That next move would basically develop with the addition of Beyond’s Tom Capone being asked to join the band on guitar after their summer 1988 west coast tour. A Long Island shredder whose brilliance in Beyond and beyond has been well documented, it’s no shocker that BOLD’s sound would develop dramatically with him in the band. The story goes that Tom started practicing and playing with the band, the writing core being him, Drew, and Matt. Instantly, old songs were made heavier and bigger, with Jackson whammy bends, tasteful soloing, and all sorts of feedback and high notes sprinkled about, breathing new life into the band. But what about new songs?
Prior to the recording of the last BOLD ep, one track was penned and played live, titled “Start Again.” Diehards will recognize that this ended up actually being the music for the song “Looking Back” but with different lyrics (interesting for us to again note the odd similarity between the music of this jam and Alone In A Crowd’s “Who You Know”). Other than that, it doesn’t seem to appear that any songs were played live before BOLD went to record that final ep in the spring of ’89.
Which brings us to the actual ep. The story again goes that time was booked at Baby Monster in NYC for February ’89 despite the fact that Tim Brooks and John Zulu wouldn’t be able to record due to plans to go on spring break for their senior year of high school. Some minor tensions developed, and BOLD kept the date despite the absence of Brooks and Zulu. Capone has recalled practicing the songs in Katonah leading up to that recording…unfortunately no rehearsal tapes have ever surfaced of the ep tunes in raw format, something I would love to hear. Whatever they did or didn’t do, the actual ep recording makes it apparent that these guys (or kids, actually), went into the studio very much with their A game.
Matt with BOLD at the Safari Club, Washington DC, 1989, Photo: Thunderlizard
Running Like Thieves could be considered the ep “single” and crowd favorite. Five seconds into this song, it is made abundantly clear that this is not the same band that wrote the song “United We Stand.” Capone’s chorus-soaked power chords ring out underneath his Maiden-esque soloing right off the bat, Drew’s snare assault marching everything forward. And let me get this out of the way right now: Drew absolutely kills on this whole record – tons of sick fills, tasteful yet skilled double bass usage, and all sorts of style. Please email me if you find any faults in his drumming here, I really would like to know what I’m missing. To me it is some of the best hardcore drumming ever, and the improvement he made between Speak Out and this is nothing less than dramatic (it also doesn’t hurt that this time around he got a great drum recording).
Back to the song…as it kicks into the verse, it’s not anything super bizarre, but the hints of double bass kicking, guitar harmonics and leads, and Matt’s much matured and somewhat pissed yet “singy” voice again confirm that this isn’t paint by numbers hardcore. Throughout this song and the entire record, there are definitely touches of harDCore, Verbal Assault, Cro-Mags, Metallica, Maiden, and of course just the straight forward BOLD hardcore sound (which is basically just a slowed down reincarnation of early DYS and early NYHC).
Matt belts out Drew-penned lyrics about a relationship with Richie Birkenhead’s sister Alison, and his vocals seem to build stronger up to the break/mosh, with TC3’s crunching and Drew’s tribal pounding providing the perfect segway to perhaps the stand out lyric of the entire record, “We never know who to blame…why wouldn’t things stay the same?” That line has always just seemed heavy and real as hell to me. You just get the feeling these are guys headed in different directions after this and being kinda bummed about it, growing up and having to actually grow up…I don’t know, that’s just what I hear.
BOLD alternate photo from final 7″ photo shoot, Photo courtesy of: Matt Warnke
That’s a hell of an opener to follow, but You’re The Friend I Don’t Need comes in and crushes. The longest song on the record (of four songs all ranging from three to four minutes), it opens with the hardest part on the record…a legitimate mosh part, and I don’t care what anyone says, shit is hard (which is interesting considering that on the original ep it is unmixed). The only time this song can sound better is when it is played directly out of Accept The Blame, as done live. What you have here is a great intro part that either makes you want to mosh, stage dive, or just bang your head, then kind of a slower funky-ish part (“Try to pretend, that you don’t see”…), and then boom, a great verse/chorus combo that has Drew speeding all over the place and you singing along. They easily could have extended that, then maybe came back to the intro and closed it out in a basic textbook style…but no.
What do they do? They let the song ring out, go completely silent, and all of a sudden you are hearing Capone on his clean channel with an almost bluesy type thing that could have been lifted from the first Danzig record. Drew keeps a Bonham-esque beat that you know is gonna start building. And then boom…the whole song explodes out of the weird type of trippy mellow blues bridge and into Capone laying down the best whammy bend to ever exist, and then just destroying it at 100 mph. Easily my favorite part of the whole record, it’s the perfect hybrid of rock, metal, and hardcore ever done by straight edge dudes. I won’t even comment on the rest of the song other than to say it’s awesome until the end. And oh…the lyrics. Yeah, Matt wrote them about Drew. Weird right?
Side B opens up with what many consider the weaker track of the four – Hateful (not by The Clash). I think Hateful is a great song, it feels a little softer and more daring than Side A without being as explosive. Don’t get me wrong, this song is a strong A- on a record of As, but to me it doesn’t pack the punch the others do. Earlier I wrote that no songs on this record were played live prior to its recording, but now I am starting to remember an early incarnation of Hateful being played at some point. If not then, then soon after it was recorded. The big standout in Hateful is just the full out jamming that seems to occur when the song opens up…it feels like Capone goes back and forth with Drew for a little before he just solos the shit out of it…like you know when you see a guitarist standing on a drum riser having that weird sexual look on his face as he locks eyes with his drummer and they just enter that zone? That seems to be what is going on here (Neil Young did this a lot when he played some of his more aggressive tunes if you need a reference).
Tom Capone with BOLD at the Safari Club, Washington DC, 1989, Photo: Thunderlizard
One thing I gotta say is that even though Capone opens it up on this record, I think he actually shows really tasteful restraint. I’m sure these dudes had to have thought at times, “yo let’s just go bonkers on this record, you know we’re capable.” Considering some of the wild stuff Capone pulled out live, too, he really kept things under wraps on this whole record. Might I add that he and Matt shared the bass duties and the bass lines are great on this? But yeah, Hateful, great song, maybe the weaker one here, but that still means it’s better than 98.4% of all other hardcore songs ever.
Today We Live closes things out, and I guess you could say this is BOLD at their creative peak musically, vocally, and lyrically. Pretty much the darkest song on the record, the whole feel of this tune is just brooding, uncertain, and eerie (“We don’t know what it means…to die!”), while still retaining that uplifting BOLD feel (“I just gotta live…”). Even going back to Speak Out, Matt seemed to have a theme of searching, growing, changing, and questioning that ran through a lot of his lyrics. With that as a unifying lyrical theme of sorts, Today We Live seems to be the perfectly written final chapter on the topic and also the most introspective one (along with the song Looking Back which would appear on the later 1993 release, which I’ll get to in a second). Look…I’m not trying to make it sound like the dude was writing the new testament here, but I think these are great lyrics, especially considering typical straight edge lyrics of the time and the fact that he was barely 18 when this was written. Aside from maybe the Pressure Release ep, I can’t think of many contemporaries who pulled this off. RESPECT (in Ali G voice).
Vocally, I think this is also his shining moment. I’ve never really found out exactly what he was going for, but in the acoustic part towards the end of Today We Live, the Jim Morrison/Danzig comparisons have always been pretty evident. The final outro of the song, with Drew countering Tom’s solos and squeals with the appropriate double bass, is a nice nod to anything on Ride The Lightening and yet seems to perfectly characterize that later BOLD sound. Throw in the final quip of the strange backwards soundclip of Capone saying, “What are you guys, a bunch of saps,” and somehow everything comes together.
Another alternate shot from final 7″ photo shoot, Photo courtesy of: Matt Warnke
I think the actual record layout and design has been documented enough, but I still think the off center “drug splatter” logo, just standing on its own without any longer being surrounded by live action shots or strong slogans is just absolutely brilliant. It’s like these guys were saying, “we’re BOLD…and umm, yeah, that’s enough.” And the back cover…classic. While it’s never been exactly revealed what they were going for with this, to me it doesn’t matter…it’s incredible. No instruments, no action, staged white backdrop, no indication of straight edge or hardcore, flat, bored looks on their faces and basically just being cool…genius! I just showed this to my fiance as I was writing this, and I said, “What do you see when you look at that?” Her, not being into hardcore, said, “They look like New Kids On The Block.” I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s awesome.
The whole thing just adds up perfectly. To me, it is the record of the era that bridges the gap between 1988 SEHC and everything that came afterwards that was connected but yet so much different and sometimes so fucking weird. If you play Break Down The Walls for a normal dude who is into music but isn’t familiar with hardcore, and then play them the first Into Another record, they won’t think they come from even the same galaxy. But I bet that if you played them the BOLD ep next, they could start to connect the dots and see the transition between 1987-era Drew who was wearing army pants, Jordans, and a reverse weave Champion, and the 1991-era Drew who was wearing pirates blouses, 17th century jewelery, and a cape. It’s all there.
Drew with the Josh Says Mosh shirt at the Safari Club, Washington DC, Photo: Thunderlizard
These days there are young straight edge kids all over who are dangerously good at their instruments really trying to push hardcore, but from the entire late 80s SE scene, this record to me always stands out as being the first to do that type of pushing. And look, I’m not trying to make it sound like this record was totally next level or that this was the first time a hardcore band progressed, but I am saying that for the Revelation scene, and the band’s own course, it’s a pretty big step up creatively, and to me best exemplifies hardcore that goes a little out of the box and succeeds.
Technically, the 1993 “Looking Back” release is even better than this ep, since it nicely remixes some things (notably “You’re The Friend” which was unmixed on the ep), and adds three other stand outs – the re-done and more dynamic “Always Try”, “Speak Out” (an older yet unreleased tune done properly here, maybe the most underrated BOLD song), and “Looking Back,” which has probably the best break down in any BOLD song ever. But since that record is a posthumous re-issue of this ep with some bonus stuff, I never have viewed it as a real release from during the band’s existence. Still, because of the extra killer tunes, it trumps the ep.
So that’s that. Back in 1989 I’m sure this four song slab of vinyl certainly caused a ton of head scratching, but looking at all the influences today, it seems to have made perfect sense. And I still put it damn near the top of my list of favorite records ever.
Matt conquers the Safari Club crowd, Photo: Thuunderlizard
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Bad Brains in Santa Barbara. Mouse is in this picture too. You can see the other half of her. This might be the single best hardcore show I have ever been to. Photo: Billy Rubin
Billy Rubin drops a bomb on us with BL’AST! and the Bad Brains. This is heavy… -Gordo DCXX
Way back in November of ’86 or ’87 Vadim Rubin and Jim Burke got wind of a show that was going on at the Westside Community Center in Santa Barbara. The Bad Brains were going to be in town and better yet, BL’AST was going to open for them. I am not going to type that apostrophe for the rest of this story…forgive me. Santa Barbara is a long way from Long Beach and you have to drive through terrible traffic to get there on a weekday, but the three of us decided to go up there in my Toyota Tercel.
We had all seen both bands before, but lets face it, nothing compares to seeing the Bad Brains. I still remember the first time I saw the Bad Brains. They came on stage and played “Coptic Times,” “Attitude” and “We Will Not” back to back without so much as a pause between each song and then HR did a backflip like he was in the Matrix or something. He made it look that easy. I was about 16 at the time and I knew right then (3 songs into their set) that this was something I needed more of. I also remember seeing BLAST a zillion times. To this day, when I listen to “The Power of Expression” (which I actually have on CD from when it got re-released on SST) I go absolutely nuts during the drum break/bridge between “Time to Think” and “Surf and Destroy.” That is what hardcore is all about.
As we drove up to Santa Barbara we listened to the Bad Brains ROIR tape on my piece of crap car stereo and got ourselves pumped up for the show. When we arrived, we realized this was going to be a unique show. Santa Barbara is one of the prettiest cities in all of California and the Westside Community Center was a beautiful building. It didn’t seem possible that a dirty, gritty punk rock show could happen here. When we got inside the place it was weird…The bouncers and security that you found at a typical show were all missing. Even stranger was the stage. It didn’t have a big drop off down to the floor. It had three or four steps. We started to get excited at the prospects of getting up on stage.
Me and BLAST. Notice I am wearing intentionally randomly bleached jeans, a Walk Together Rock Together shirt and combat boots. I think it is from backstage at Fender’s. I am holding up an ancient tape recorder (to block the light). I had just interviewed them. There is a pair of sexy lady legs going across Clifford’s lap. Those legs belong to a woman named “Mouse”. She was a photographer from back then. She used to follow BLAST around because she also took skateboarding pics.
There were some differences with BLAST that we noticed as they started to set up. They had a new guitar player in the band. It was Kip from NEON CHRIST. NEON CHRIST was one of those bands that put out a 7″ that was on every record collector’s want list. Kip was different from the rest of the band…he is black! We thought it was a trip that we were seeing a hardcore show with so many black people in the bands in such a white city. The other difference was that Bill from BLAST had a new drum kit. It was this big silver Ludwig kit with a massive bass drum. His snare was huge too. It was as deep as most toms. As BLAST was warming up, when he hit that snare, it scared me. Like when a car backfires! His kit was really similar to Bill Stevenson’s (Black Flag) in the Live ’84 video.
When BLAST started playing I knew right away that before the night was over I was going to be hoarse and my ears would be ringing for days. I really didn’t care. BLAST played an absolutely incredible set that was highlighted by an awesome version of “Our Explanation.”
There was another band that played that night but I can’t remember who it was. During that “other” band’s set Vadim, Jim and I recovered and got ready for the Bad Brains. Over the years I had met the Bad Brains a few times. I met Darryl about a year earlier at a place called Camel Records in Huntington Beach (Beach Blvd and Adams). This is a strange side story, but this guy Matt that was friends with Casey Jones called me and told me that the Bad Brains were going to make an appearance at Camel Records. Matt was into cycling and he rode his bicycle over there and I drove to meet Matt. As it turned out, Darryl was into cycling and he spent the whole time out in front checking out Matt’s bike and talking about a ride Matt had done across the country.
Not long after that, the Bad Brains played at Fender’s and I used my previous intro to Darryl to get back stage and hang out with them at Fender’s. Anyone that remembers Fender’s will remember that there was no backstage accept for a little room to the left of the stage (as you’re facing it). I was the first straight edge kid to get a massive contact high from being in that teeny room with the Bad Brains from all the dope they were smoking. I really couldn’t understand most of what they said and I suppose I lost my edge (heh heh) but it was worth it.
Bad Brains in Santa Barbara, Photo: Billy Rubin
Back to the show in Santa Barbara…I brought my camera to this show and used my rapport with the Bad Brains (and the fact that there were a few little steps up to the stage) to land a spot on the side of the stage to take pics. By the time the Bad Brains started playing, this pretty little Westside Community Center was full of dirty punks. The Bad Brains played an incredible set that included some “I Against I” material way before “I Against I” came out. About half way through their set, the cops busted into the place and were hanging around in the back. I was up on stage, and I could see that more and more cops kept coming in. Finally one of the cops (I guess he was in charge) came up on stage to shut the show down. This is when something totally strange happened.
When the cop started telling HR that they had to stop, HR spoke to the cop in a completely normal voice. He didn’t sound like a rastafarian…he sounded like me…or for that matter, my Dad. HR told the cop (in a perfectly normal voice) that if they didn’t keep playing there would probably be a riot. He reasoned with the cop and finally persuaded him to let the Bad Brains finish their set. The next song the Bad Brains played was “Riot Squad.” We went completely nuts!
That night, on the three hour drive home in my shitty Toyota Tercel, we couldn’t stop talking about what an incredible show it was. Years later, when “I Against I” came out I was going ape shit listening to it in that same Toyota Tercel and I ran a red light and totaled the car. I remember that even after the crash, “I Against I” was still playing on the cassette deck.
The infamous Toyota Tercel, Photo: Billy Rubin
Hate to turn DCXX into an advertising spot, but I figured some readers would be interested. I’m selling some HC records, hate to do it but other endeavors call. Check out the full list here:
Thanks! -Gordo DCXX
Monday, February 9, 2009
As many of you may have already noticed, a toy company called Super 7 released a Gorilla Biscuits toy that the band sold on their Japan and Australian tours this past December 2008. Naturally, we here at DCXX thought it would make for an interesting entry if we tracked down the creators over at Super 7 and got the inside scoop on this highly coveted toy. In contacting Alex and Brian from Super 7, we came to find out that they both were readers of DCXX, so they were more than happy to get on board. Check out what both Alex and Brian had to say and if anyone out there has an extra GB toy they want to get rid of, let me know, I’m still trying to get my hands on one. Better than you… -Tim DCXX
What exactly is Super 7 and who is behind it?
Brian: Super7 started in 2001 as a magazine about my obsessive/compulsive collecting of Japanese Monster toys from the 1960s/70s. Basically, it was a glorified ‘zine. I took the exact same things I did when I made punk ‘zines, but made a japanese toy magazine instead. As it was the advent of digital photography, which dramatically cut our production costs, and I was able to do all the back end technical production, so the finished product looked pretty professional for a home grown magazine. I figured there were probably about 20 other people who would care, but if I could break even, then why not make it? The response was overwhelming from the start, and the magazine took off. We started making our own collaborative figures with Japanese manufacturers, and then designing toys for their companies, eventually designing and manufacturing our own toys.
Along the way, we befriended a lot of artists who were into the same things, and started making toys with them as well. We eventually opened up our own store, started making clothing, published a few books, and generally have nerded out to the highest degree. Originally, all the product ideas were mine, but as we have grown, the staff here has really started pitching in with their ideas as well. Right now, it is me (Brian Flynn), Glenn Pogue, Josh Herbolsheimer, Alex Zavaleta, Chad Hensley and Aaron Gonzalez.
Alex: Super7 is Flynn’s baby and he has done some amazing things with it. Before I worked for Super7, it was my favorite toy company. Everything about it felt like a small hardcore label. He was releasing toys in small numbers for a small subculture of fans. You had a good idea of what Brian’s style and tastes were by the toys he made, just the same way someone like Sean O’ Donnell(Youngblood) or Alex D (Grave Mistake) puts out records. Once I started working here, meetings turned into Brian and I talking about the Cro-Mags on a pretty regular basis. We aren’t a huge company but we’re also not trying to be Hasbro. I believe we do what we do well, on our terms, we have a very solid and dedicated fan base, and for that we are grateful.
Prior to doing this GB toy, what had you made?
Brian: We have been making toys for almost eight years. At this point we have made over 250 figures, but the GB figure was the first “non-monster” oriented toy we have made. Previously, everything was centered around classic monster toys, like Godzilla, our original monsters, as well as collaborative figures we had designed with companies like Secret Base or Gargamel or other artists that were friends of ours. Last summer we started a new “fight series” of monsters, called the Snakes of Infinity. This size and scale was perfect for what the Gorilla already looked like, so we decided to see about making it into a figure that could stand next to them. They have a mascot who was already a character, we just made it in to 3D.
Alex: I guess it was a small departure from what we “normally” do but the toy fits in well in relation to the rest of the toys we make. It came traditionally packaged, the way all Japanese toy have been since the 60s, with just a plastic bag and a header card. Even a few of our regulars, who have no idea who GB is, bought them. We released about 40 different toys last year alone and it looks right at home with the rest of our toys. Although I would say, of all the projects we worked on in 2007, this was by far the one I was MOST excited about. That is saying a lot considering we had the pleasure of starting a project with Lucasfilm at the same time.
Civ with GB at The Anthrax, Photo: Jeff Ladd
Who approached who in regards to doing the GB toy and what were the steps to making this thing a reality?
Brian: I actually approached Civ about it. I was not sure what he was going to think about the idea at first, but he was really into it, and liked the idea of making it, as long as we did it for fun, and not to make a really big deal out of. He was in SF shortly thereafter tattooing at Grime’s shop, so we were able to meet up and talk about it further in person. Once we met, it was easy to get started. I got into Hardcore and Punk Rock in 1985, at the age of 14, and Civ is close to me in age, and I saw GB and Bold on tour back in ’89. We had much of the exact same upbringing within the punk and hardcore world, just in different locations, so we thought about these kind of things much the same way. The last thing I wanted to do was make some crappy watered down mall punk version of my past, much less his, so he was not really worried about me doing the wrong thing with it. If the toy had come out crappy, we would not have made it. That said, the sculpt took a few rounds to get to where we both liked it. As an obsessive toy collector and manufacturer, little things that bug me are lost on most people, but I had to make sure it was right on our end as well. It had to function as a toy first and foremost, not just be a statue, and that translation was a little tricky.
Who made the actual artistic/design changes to the original gorilla that appears on the cover of the seven inch, and why were these changes made?
Brian: A couple of the changes were due to the actual manufacturing process, and a few were aesthetic. The feet had to be smaller to actually be able to pull out of the mold. The super wide feet in the illustration would not distort/compress enough to pull through the ankle widths without stretching or tearing. We made the feet as big as possible before we ran into production issues. The arms were much the same way, and we made them as big as possible. The other main change was the head. The original drawing has a tiny head, and on the sculpt it looked ridiculous. A lot of the things that make the 2D drawing amazing – the distortions of proportion especially, actually look horrible in 3D. Also, it is a flat view, so you really have to imagine how these shapes play out in 3d, and how they connect, which changes things immensely. Believe it or not, the hardest thing was the shorts. If you really look at the drawing, the shorts are crazy. Super short, high waters with a rolled cuff that are high enough that you can see half of the thigh. Getting that to look correct was the hardest part. I think I changed the sculpt four times just on the shorts.
Alex: It’s funny because I think people forget how small the head actually is in the drawing. One of the first things people asked me about, in respect to the sculpt, was “Why isn’t the head huge the way it is in the drawing?” As Brian mentioned there are limitations with the manufacturing side. So much care goes into the sculpt in regards to such as manufacturing, size, balance and even how it will eventually be painted. We were dealing with something iconic and so revered by many people so we took our time to get it right.
What type of input did the guys in GB have? How close did they work with you?
Brian: Mostly Civ, and he was really laid back. He said “I know you are more picky than I am, so make what you think is right first, and then I will make the changes I feel are necessary”. It went really well. Ultimately, we made the toy to have fun, not for a business outlet, so we just worked on it back and forth until we were happy. It was a very natural process, nothing forced. Brian Clark, who actually drew the cover, was really psyched on it as well. Once it was finished the band was really into it, and the reaction from the fans on tour took them by surprise. I think it was more popular and unique than either of us expected it to be.
Alex: The reaction from fans and kids was great. From the day the prototype was debuted at comic con, we got phone calls at the store about it. I also tried to post on message boards about it as much as I could to give people the straight info on it. I think people were excited to see that there were hardcore kids behind it and it wasn’t just some faceless company trying to make a buck. As Brian said we made the toy for fun and not to make money. If we wanted to do that we would have made a Metallica toy.
How many total were made and where were/are they sold?
Brian: Normally, we never tell how many we make of any of our toys. That way people buy the toys because they want them, not because they are rare or collectible. How many horrible records have you seen made in editions of 15/25/50 and then touted as “rare”? Something is only rare if 200 people want it and you make 50. If you make 50 and only 10 people want it, it is common. If you look at record (and toy) trade lists, they are full of “only 20 made!!” descriptions next to records/toys you wouldn’t want anyways, but people still bought them. People end up buying things not because they want them, but because they are limited. So, we don’t say how many we make of anything usually, we just make them. If you want them, cool, if not, that is cool too. Only time will tell if it is rare or not, the edition size is irrelevant. Just buy what you like.
The figures were sold on the Gorilla Biscuits Japanese and Australian tour in December of 2008. For the Super7 fans and collectors, we sold a certain amount of the figures through our store in San Francisco, that way both the fans of the band, and the fans of Super7 had their chance at getting them. The first version was a white vinyl with a blue sweatshirt and grey accents that was made to match the first pressing cover of the 7″. There were also secret unpainted black figures for sale unannounced during the Japan part of the tour, and secret clear unpainted figures in Australia. The unpainted black is a tribute to many Japanese toy companies who always make the first edition of a toy in unpainted black vinyl, as a “prototype” and make it only available to the hardcore fans. Since we make all of our toys in Japan, we usually make unpainted black figures that are only available to our Fan Club. The unpainted clear is a tribute to a now-defunct shop called Base Xero Xero in Osaka. Their signature was exclusive all clear editions of toys for their shop. The shop owner Ussun now works at Three Tides tattoo in Osaka, where Civ has tattooed and was the first stop for them when landing in Japan for this tour as their “home base” of sorts. Both the black and clear unpainted were also made available to our Fan Club here in the states.
Alex: This was probably the most asked question over the months before the toy was released. On a daily basis I received frantic emails that just said “HOW MANY ARE BEING MADE??” As Brian said, we encourage people to buy what they like. If you like it painted, buy it painted. If you like the unpainted, buy that one. I would agree that is pretty uncommon for American toy companies to not release run numbers but we do things on our terms. I think our customers respect us for that. At the same time I understand the need of a manic collector to want every version we made and just wants to know what his chances are of getting them. So I did my best to give the people who emailed me about it before hand a heads up when they went on sale. Although the ones we did sell out of our store, sold out in hours.
Any future plans to do more GB toys or other toys like this that are HC related?
Brian: We are working on a couple other GB editions right now. We have a banana yellow vinyl with purple sweatshirt 2nd press edition in the works now, but that will probably be the last version that is tied to the 7″. Civ is really into making a few versions that are just toys, not repackages of the record. You have to remember all those guys collected 12″ GI Joe back in the day, so they have a history with toys, which is why I think this toy has not felt forced or fake.
We have talked about a few different toy collaborations beyond the GB figure, but I think we (Super7) have to be wary of making too many band toys, otherwise you end up looking like Hot Topic or something. We make monster toys first and foremost. We have been trying to do one other collab project, but have not worked it out quite yet. We have a few other ideas as well, but I want to wait until later, after we are done with the GB figure to make them. I think one HC toy at a time is enough for now, otherwise we end up diluting how cool and unique of a project this really is for both of us. If every band had a toy, how lame would that be? I wish I could tell you what the other projects are, but the moment I do that, a ton of crappy companies that copy everything we do will try and come along and swoop it up, making fake junk of our history instead of something nice. I would rather keep those ideas where they belong.
Alex: Yes, our lips are sealed about future releases. Too many snakes in the grass. Although we have some great things planned for 2009.
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