Saturday, May 10, 2008
I remember watching the In-Effect video when I was real young and seeing the dude in the suit talking about hardcore. I was completely immersed in hardcore and figured that my obsession would simply lead to working in a record store or possibly even being unemployed – as a young buck at the time I was naive and just didn’t equate “hardcore kid” with “future professional.” I just figured that if I was that into this, it wouldn’t be “cool” to have a normal job. I’m not gonna say Dave Stein made me want to be an attorney, which I am today, but it was cool back then to realize that it was in fact kosher to be a hardcore kid and have some legitimate “straight world” career goals.
From building the mid 80s Albany Hardcore Scene, to running Combined Effort and Reconstruction Records, to representing major label-level metal and hardcore bands, Dave Stein has been a fixture in the behind the scenes workings of the scene we are all a part of.
When did you become aware of hardcore music, and how? Had you been into metal, punk, skating prior to all of that?
Before I listened to hardcore music, I listened to new wave (Joe Jackson), punk (The Clash) and reggae (The Rockers Soundtrack was a favorite). I listed to college radio and that’s where I first heard music that was not mainstream music, and from there I went to buy the records I heard at a local record store near where I grew up. The guy who owned the record store really loved music (imagine that) and would make tapes for me of stuff he thought I might like. He realized I was drawn to the faster punk stuff and from there he turned me on to the early Dischord stuff. I never listened to metal stuff. JFA was a big band back then, and music just wasn’t as stratified then as it is now.
When people think of Albany Hardcore in the mid 80s, they think of you and Steve Reddy. How did you help put that scene on that map?What are your fondest memories of the Albany Hardcore scene?
When I started going to school at SUNYA in 1983, the local scene was great, but not that many shows were happening with out of town bands. I remember seeing JFA at the EBA Dance Center off Lark Street and at some point MDC came through, but the shows weren’t consistent. Jimmy Romano who owned a flower shop on Lark Street and sang in Capitle was the guy putting on the shows. In 1984 7 Seconds did their first tour and I’d been writing to the band and befriended Kevin but didn’t have anywhere to put on a show. We went to see the band in Syracuse, where Belvy K, a high school kid who played drums in the Catatonics, put on the show. Belvy convinced me to find a VFW hall to put on a show so his band could play, and by the fall of 1984 we had done so. Things were started off by me and Sue Klingle with some help from Allen Seligson. The local kids at first didn’t seem to like the idea that the college kids were putting on shows, but local bands ALWAYS played, and after a few months shows were consistent and great. That’s how it began.
Part of the scene getting on the map was also the Youth of Today connection. I had known Ray and Porcell from Violent Children and YOT became a bit of a house band…other than a show in a basement, Albany was their first out of town show. Porcell went to collge at some SUNY school west of Albany, and in the fall of 1985 starting coming to Albany every weekend as there was no scene at his school. Ray would come up and they’d practice in our basement and played quite a bit in Albany at that time.
My fondest memories are the bands that came back time and again and really loved the scene we built…Dag Nasty, Underdog, Youth of Today, 7 Seconds, Justice League. Mike Rapazzo, drummer for Fit For Abuse, said it best about the scene at that time: if you didn’t know someone when they walked in the door, you knew them by the time they left. The other thing we did that was different was that we had fun, whether it was a twister game between sets or the regular runs to Chuck E. Cheese after the show, we did things a bit differently in Albany at that time.
In no particular order, 7 Seconds, Agnostic Front, Minor Threat, Underdog and Bad Brains.
What was the best show you ever attended?
A few years back, I did a fanzine called Impact with Pete Russo. Out of all the material we compiled, what I liked the most was a piece in the second issue that covered the history of The Anthrax in Connecticut. While I am sure some people have seen that issue, I figured others hadn’t, and I thought it would be cool to reprint some material from that piece up here on Double Cross.
To kick things off, this is the first part of a multi-part interview I did with Shaun Sheridan, who ran The Anthrax with his brother Brian.
The idea behind The Anthrax…well, as far as concepts, around NYC there’s always been after-hours clubs, the bar is open until 4am or you know the bartender. You could always find a place to hang out for a couple of hours until the trains started running again, when you didn’t feel like coming home, but it wasn’t really common out in California. I was out there in ’81 or ’82, for like 5 or 6 months. I ended up seeing a lot of different shows, just for the sheer magnitude of seeing the first Bad Brains show where there was 2-3,000 people, whereas they had been playing little places in NYC, like CBGB would have been a big gig, but this had a bunch of other cool bands on it.
So anyways, I saw a bunch of shows out there, and after this particular show at the Cafe Le Grande, I met this guy who was a doorman and I heard about an after hours club out in Hollywood, that’s where I was at the time, and it was really hard to get into, but this guy who did the door at another place was able to get my girlfriend and I in. It was setup as an art gallery, and every week they’d have a different opening or a record release party, just something that was happening, to celebrate and have people there until all hours, they were open past 1 am. And it was $5 to get in, free jukebox, they sold drinks… people were there from all the different bands, FEAR and whatnot.
When I got back from California I brought it up to my brother, thought it was a cool idea, to have aspace that was a gallery and was able to pretty much have people in there all hours of the night, under the guise of a “gallery,” and well, how do you exactly define a “gallery?” My brother was an artist in NYC, went to Pratt Institute, so it kind of made sense to him, like, “What the hell, we both live with our parents in a little suburban nightmare.” There was nothing going on, so we could at least go see if there was any kind of place out there, a store-front that we could rent for under $400 a month. So we just kind of worked on the place and eventually learned more about doing it.
This was in Stamford, CT. This was my brother, myself, and a friend, John Coletti, who does Dumpster Dive Fanzine, he was pretty much the only other guy as into the bands as we were. We were all listening to different college radio stations, picking up something that looked good in a record store that we hadn’t even heard but that was, sometimes, the fun of it. We would pretty much sit around there, drink beers, play the stereo real loud and we had a roll-down gate, so it was pretty much having a place to hang out and party but we did actually open it up to audiences as a gallery for some of the students my brother knew.
This was August of ’82 if I remember correctly. We had two bands play, one was The Mouglies from Seattle, whose drummer had also been an artist, and Jim Basnieth, a legend for the pop songs he writes now. We picked the name “The Anthrax” from the Gang of Four song, “Love Like Anthrax,” because at that time we thought they were a totally rockin’ band. We figured we’d run through the dictionary and find out what the hell this thing is, because we kind of knew, but didn’t. We thought it was pretty punk rock, not all that appealing, but it was contagious. The only other name we kind of leaned towards was “STP” because we were all big racing fans at the time, into hot rods and drag racing, and all that.
You know, there was really nothing else to do. You could go to the bars and see some really, really lame cover bands. It was just more to do something, not “If we do this, this will happen or that will happen.” Before the first gallery opening, me and my brother were sitting around in the basement, having a beer, and we kind of looked around at the space down there, meanwhile you had the space upstairs that you worked your ass off to keep clean, though it was never all that nice to begin with. There’s a lot space down here, so I asked him “Could you imagine bands playing down here?”
After the first time, we wound up getting friendly with different people up around Bridgeport, Joey Diaz from Lost Generation, and we started realizing there were local bands playing, different people putting on shows and things, so we started meeting more people, and we started saying “Hey, we’ve got this space, we open up at 1 o’clock, and it’s just $5 and everybody will be able to drink” and they thought that was a great thing. It was kind of a word-of-mouth, we did some small runs of flyers, but pretty much told people “If you don’t want to see people from your school, or those you work with here next week, then don’t tell them about it, keep your mouth shut and enjoy yourself.”
At that point there were so few punk rockers, or people like that, you just kind of had things develop. Someone would meet someone, and people had heard about it, but they weren’t there right away, and now in the heart of downtown Stamford, you don’t want to attract attention. People were able to drink as long as they kept it inside, it was much more of a party atmosphere. The idea of seeing people have fun, being able to see bands play, in addition to having a fridge full of beer, that looked good to you.
We’d do something at the first place in Stamford every couple of weeks. It was one of those things that when we closed, in December ’82, and I left January 1st to head out to Utah, to start school in Salt Lake, we had given up the place, we knew it was going to be month-to-month, it was a place he had trouble renting at the time. So we always said “no hard feelings,” which kind of worked out because over the winter time, my brother started going to shows at Pogo’s and continued to see people we met and found that people really missed it and said “Well, why don’t you do something like that again?”
I had moved into a fraternity house out there where I really didn’t know anybody. It was a decent scene, people had a reason to get to know me and at least I had a roof over my head, it wasn’t expensive, I had a kitchen at my disposal and all that shit. But, you move to a different city, and you don’t know anybody and it pretty much sucks. Especially, in Salt Lake at the time. There was a very underground scene that had started, but it had gotten broken up. It was kind of interesting how I was out there at the time it was kind of burgeoning around the country. People out there got into the touring thing, like Stephen and Carl from The Descendants are both friends of mine from Salt Lake, this coast to coast scene had developed. You could do a show, like some people did basement shows or parties, but no one wants to have their parents’ house wrecked. But there wasn’t that many people that lived there, centrally, that you could really do a place.
So it was kind of cool that we had a place [in CT] and what happened was, we put on a benefit in April, I actually came back for that. People had talked to my brother, he had gotten in touch with the landlord, because it was still downtown Stamford and he still kept an eye on things. He found that a place in the same complex, twice the size, was going to be vacated. So my brother asked “What’s the deal? How much is rent? etc…” We kind of figured, “hey, let’s give it a go!”
The whole thing behind it for my brother and I was this thing we had seen in an English-punk, glossy-book, sort of thing, a picture of Johnny Rotten, saying “If what I’m doing doesn’t make you wanna do something too, then I’m wasting my time.” We really took that to heart, we thought we at least need to make an effort. We know there’s something out there. We’re people that have always dug music, but we never played, we don’t sing, we don’t dance, but there’s got to be fans! Everyone has different levels, they see a band, buy a bunch of records, eventually work their way into playing… the cool thing was, a lot more people got back into the idea that you could play in a band, just pick up an instrument…and that was catching on everywhere.
Actually, it wasn’t like any particular town had any more than another, it was almost like a few people here, a few people there, some high school age, some college age, some older guys who were music fans who figured it was an extension of the New York Dolls, who had no problem embracing The Ramones and Television, and all that other stuff. When the hardcore thing started kicking in, not everyone was like “Rah!Rah! That’s the greatest music in the world!” It was still the younger people into that, just a sense of something that’s yours, or that people your age created, and that you could hang out and talk to them.
I didn’t have, honestly, that much time to buy records… I probably didn’t even know who Minor Threat was until I got out to Salt Lake City, and then they ended up playing the basement of my fraternity house. That was about the time I started to learn more about the DC scene. When I was living out there in California, that was about the time Rollins had moved out of DC to take up with Black Flag. The first time I laid eyes on him was The Misfits show, at TheWhiskey-Go-Go show, and he got up on stage and did three songs, and it was definitely a cool and interesting thing to see. So that’s when I started to notice more about the DC scene…I realized I had seen more than that over the years, but you don’t realize who anybody is. They’re other punk rockers, but you don’t know if there from this area or that. It was kind of just coming to the forefront, in Las Angeles with FEAR especially, because of the whole Saturday Night Live thing, which a whole bunch of DC people were in the audience for. That was one of the more ground breaking things. John Belushi was really into FEAR and thought the whole hardcore and punk thing was the coolest thing he’d seen in ages.
With the second Stamford club, at that point there were so many bands calling that wanted to play, with more bands coming through, they’d play on Monday night, Tuesday night, but during the summer it didn’t matter. That’s when we opened. I actually came back with one of my fraternity brothers in his little diesel pickup, drove east, and I was there for the opening show. It was kind of interesting I left at the end of December/beginning of January, I’m out there, made one trip east for Minor Threat, then it’s like a day or two later, I went east for the weekend to take care of business, work on the benefit and also see a bunch of bands. That was the benefit that Moby’s band Awol played, and Rick Rubin’s band Hose played. It got busted up by the cops and Moby wound up under the stage.
Moby at the time was real into Orange County hardcore and punk, he’s somebody that went through musical phases. He went into the post-punk thing with Awol, Mission of Burma, that kind of influence. He was also real into that and even started DJing before anyone was even near that shit. He can play everything. He used to watch the gallery, and when bands would play, he’d go down and play all their instruments. He had his guitar, he could play Jim’s bass, he could play Chip’s drums and would try different heads and see all the sounds he could get. It was a cool thing for him and for us. It only took a week or so, after school had let out, to have the first show, to clean up the basement, set up the PA or whatever.
The bands that played a lot were definitely CIA and Lost Generation, Seizure once they got going…I remember their first big show was after they opened for The Dickies, the first time we had them. That was our first “big band,” where we had a contract and we said “Hey, we get 100% at the door!” They didn’t care, they just wanted to be close to NYC to take care of their drug habits. They were in Buffalo, their next show was in Ohio, so they were like “sure, we’ll come down” only to make like $26. But they were really great guys and we did everything we could to “rock star” them, all their rider stuff, their donuts and coffee, my mom made them sandwiches and stuff. They were real happy being treated nice.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
Friday, May 9, 2008
[Above: Absolution @ CBGB – Photo by Boiling Point]
This piece picks up where we left off earlier in the week, and is the second chunk of a multi-part conversation between Djinji Brown, Ed McKirdy, and me. Stay tuned for more next week as Djinji gets into the beginnings of Absolution and how they busted it live in NYC.
I left hardcore because it was time to go. I’m a romantic. When my heart is broken, it is time to get the fuck out. I don’t want to see the broad who broke my heart for a while. And then sometimes it is time to move onto the next thing. When I set that chapter down in my life, I didn’t really open it for a long time. Yet had it not been for that chapter in my life, I would not have been able to get to where I am now. And now I really understand that on a performance level, on a confidence level, on a level of just being able to get on stage and hold the attention of people who are looking to you for something…you might not even know what the fuck you are gonna give them, but you do it.
I’ve been a DJ now for 8 years, after Absolution I got into hip-hop again and started rhyming, rap poetry, and went from performing on the Bowery at CBGB to going down the street to Lafayette, doing the same underground shit. It was about getting on stage with a microphone and lyrics. Being around Jerry Williams, he inspired me to professionally take the route of audio engineering, and it was because of his influence that I went and got enrolled in the Institute of Audio Research, and then in 1991 I got an internship at Greet Street Recording Studios. Once again, God put me in an incredible place at an incredible time.
The 80s were over. I didn’t consciously know it, but I was the dude that didn’t want to be in the past. I wanted to be the dude that was in the shit that was pumping off now. Even when I was in the hardcore scene in the mid to late 80s, Harley, John, my man Mike, Jerry, everyone talked about ’81-’83 really being the shit. When it was just, “Oh My God.” So I felt like I had missed the boat to be honest with you. I didn’t feel like I was in the middle of something. I was trying to catch up. In my mind, it was already laid down. Fuck it, HR and John already did it, you know? Who else could do it? So I was lucky just to catch the tail end of the ’80s. I was like the grafitti crew who caught the last subway train. Like the AOK crew and them cats, Reas, All Out Kings, I knew them cats. But it is such a story that I did get to be there. I’m happy that I had it, though. I’m glad I got to take that blind leap. It made me who I am am at 38. Going into squats, hanging with Gavin…Shit I haven’t even gotten into talking about him! But we’ll come back to that. I got into some shit, you know?
That makes me think of a funny story about Sergio and me, early on like we were talking about earlier, about how this shit was crazy. We were going to see my Dad who lived up in New Jack City, you know, Crackville, just nuts. We took the #6 bus from the South Bronx across 161st street by Yankee Stadium, into the Polo Grounds over to Sugar Hill and Washington Heights. So we are on the #6 bus. Sergio has a mohawk and I have a leather jacket with studs, freshly painted “Bad Brains,” “GBH,” “Cro Mags,” skulls and cross bones and shit. Sergio always had a cool grimey punk look. Me, I was still trying to style you know? You might call me a poser, but my shit was trying not to be that grimey. Deep down, nah, I wasn’t grimey. It was painted fresh. Like a grafitti jacket but painted fresh and hardcore. I was proud of that shit. Sergio had spikes, but I didn’t have spikes.
So we stop, and boom, these sisters get on the bus. And they are looking at us like, “Yo dem niggas is crazy! Ugh, look at them!” I’m like, “Nah, yo shut up bitch! Fuck you! You ugly bitch! Look at your nappy headed ass!” I reverted right back out of the hardcore shit into just junior high shit, going back and forth with them just snapping. My lingo was straight that. I let ’em have it. So whatever, we went back and forth. Bus stops, they get off, whatever. Sergio’s like “Damn, dude, cool out.” I’m like, “Nah, fuck them bitches!” You know, Sergio was way more laid back.
So anyways, at this point we are in Forest Projects. That is where Fat Joe is from. Do your research on Forest Projects. So this whole crew of brothers gets on the bus. And with them are some five percenters, from the five percent nation, who believe a whole bunch of things, one of which is that we were now devils. And I have all these skulls and bones on my jacket and Sergio has a mohawk. So they get on and are like, “damn yo look at these devil niggas back in the bus! Oh shit!” And then we realize that the girls from earlier must have gotten off and told these dudes. And they were a little younger, so they have a lot to prove. They start moving in on me, saying “Oh you think you a white boy, huh nigga? Devil shit huh?” They started getting loud with Sergio too. We were done. Then out of nowhere, in the back of the crew, some dude is like “Yo Djinji what’s up!? It’s Jerry dude from junior high! Yo don’t fuck with this cat, he’s cool, he’s just on some different shit.” And the crew backed off. Damn.
We got to my Dad’s house and I told him about it. It was real 1986 shit. He lets me and Sergio into his crack infested building. And he lays it on us. He told us how you know, we we went into enemy terriorty with our colors on. He broke it down on some gang shit, because he used to be in a gang back in the late ’40s in Harlem, up in Sugar Hill. So my Pops was like, “Don’t wear crazy on your sleeve, but be as wild as you want.” My Dad was a jazz musician, he played with all the avantgarde cats. On a jazz level, he did what hardcore did in our time, just distorting the fuck out of what came before it. But he said, “if you are gonna survive and be a warrior, don’t wear your colors. Don’t wear crazy on your sleeve. You gotta conceal that.” But it was tough being a punk or hardcore kid regardless of your race, it wasn’t a part of the culture then. The whole rocker, tattoo, punk thing that is cool now, it wasn’t like that. That bravado that is ok now, it wasn’t cool then. There wasn’t no black girls in my hood trying to give me no pussy at all! What?! I’m just keeping it real.
My Dad supported me though. He was glad we weren’t into drugs and all this other shit. My Pops though used to run in the east village in the sixties. So he knew what I was doing and what I was up to. He knew the streets, he knew the Bowery. But my Pops at least, on a musical level, to me he was just like, “man, your shit is crazy. You niggas is just nuts. You don’t know shit.” But he supported it, came to shows, and he never forced me to be a jazz musician. He recorded with and shook hands with John Coltrane. Coltrane to him was like my HR, on some real shit. I didn’t fully embrace jazz music though.
My Mom on the other hand, well my parents seperated but even on welfare my Mom got a degree from Smith College and then her Master’s. She was real educated. And my Mom was a hippie in the 60s, with an afro walking barefoot on the subway, people were like “what the fuck are you doing?” She was going to sit ins. My Mom was like the soul sister, younger than my Dad. My Dad was way more serious with jazz, older. She didn’t want me growing up listening to this crazy avantgarde jazz music though. She liked my Dad playing it, but she didn’t want me listening to it so much. So she would spin The Jackson 5, and shit with a beat. Yeah, shit with a beat! She would say, “you want to listen to rock and roll? Listen to Muddy Waters first.” She was very universal, but also very proud of her culture. She wanted me to be a man of color who could operate with all groups of people, who wasn’t ashamed of being black, and wasn’t just a street hoodlum.
So there was a balance. But with jazz, at times I thought I should play jazz, but I never really wanted to. Now as a DJ I kinda think maybe I should have. But back then, no. To me I though all the jazz musicians kids were nuts. I hate to say that and I don’t mean any ill will to those kids who grew up with jazz parents, but they all seemed nuts. For me, I just wanted to play. To be into jazz, you had to be a serious motherfucker. And kids weren’t listening to jazz. I wanted to speak to people my age. So instead I did hardcore, hip hop and house music, because I wanted to speak to my generation. By then, black people stopped dancing to jazz and started studying it. I didn’t want that. I want to dance to the music. I want to make people dance to the music. I don’t want to look at food and study it, I want to eat food.
Still, I remember I took Harley and John one night to see my Dad play with these cats, and we went and checked it out and hung out in the back dressing room, drinking, smokin’ hash with the jazz musicians, just chillin’. It was a trip. I was bringing my mentors to meet my Dad.
But still, jazz was such a mental thing, and instead, I just wanted to get out there and just hit it. Go out and get it. Fuck the rest, go get it. That was what hardcore and punk rock did, so did hip hop. Fuck learning it, go out and get it. Do it. So many musicians from that era were self-taught, they just did it, just picked up their instrument, and it turned out incredible. Whether they were playing guitar, making beats, painting trains. They went out and did it, they didn’t study it and read books, and all that. And it was colorful. And that was what the hardcore experience was. Think about the colorful people! It was living graffitti, physical grafitti. Shit coming to life. And I had to be a part of that.
When I met Gavin, man, he was a terror. That scene was a safe haven for kids who didn’t just go there for fun, but instead because they lost very important things in their lives. Like love. There was a lot of kids who didn’t have families, had abusive families, learning disabilities. Some of us made it out, and survived those problems. Some didn’t and passed away, and rest in peace to the ones who didn’t make it. There was some deep shit. To see John Bloodclot at 45, doing what he is doing, knowing the shit he made it through, that is a testament to the fact that there is a spiritual life out there that anybody can find. And to know what Gavin had been through, you can apply that story to so many other kids in the city and the world.
And to think of it as just a part of humanitarianism, those kids needed a vessel. And that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to be able to touch those kids, to get on stage at CBGB and be part of that vessel and touch people. I could touch them, and they could touch me. I could jump, and they would catch me. And that went for everyone. How fucking incredible is that? That trust… you are so safe that you can jump and people will catch you, they won’t let you fall. We didn’t have that fear of people not catching you in the hardcore scene, even if nobody else anywhere in your world would catch you. We could close our eyes, and fall blindly, and be caught. How fucking beautiful is that?
You can’t even do that shit in hip hop. I’m gonna keep it really real. But in hardcore, you could close your eyes, do a front flip off the fucking stage, and you could get caught. A few kids got hurt, and paralyzed, and fucked up. But most all of us were ok, and we kept doing it. Because we trusted each other. That’s something that most people on the outside looking in didn’t see. They saw crazy and violence. They didn’t see the honor amongst us. They didn’t see the battle, and how we didn’t let our men get hurt. We all had that shit for each other. I couldn’t articulate it then, but I can now. I have an 11 year old daughter, and so much with her as she is growing up makes me think of when I was young. So, it brings it back.
This Absolution thing, it is a family reunion. We are still connected as a family. And with family, there is a lot of pain. And in the New York Hardcore family, there has been a lot of pain over the years. And I haven’t been there for 20 of them, you know? Hopefully, if I can go on stage and make some people happy, and maybe heal some of the wounds in the family and the pain, and bring us together again, then let that be the first order of business. From the bottom of my fucking heart. I want to be able to look at Gavin on stage and bug the fuck out. And I gotta heal some of my own wounds. That’s the mission with the music.
[TO BE CONTINUED – DJINJI MEETS GAVIN / THE BIRTH OF ABSOLUTION]
Thursday, May 8, 2008
[Above: YOT at The Anthrax, 1987. Photo by Boiling Point]
This is part of an ongoing piece where we asked various people from bands over the years what they recall as the most memorable show they ever played (or attended, if they were never in a band), and why. What is posted here is only a sliver of what is to come, so be sure to check back. -DCXX
Every YOT show was a success, but one especially comes to mind. Youth Of Today, Uniform Choice, 7 Seconds, Aggression, and DI. This was our first really big show, and our first southern California show. We had no material out…our first single was not even out. Troy Mowat and Kevin Seconds split the set and played drums for us on the entire tour. For a young kid it was a chance to live my dreams to play with such great bands that had musicians I loved. Not only that, but my favorite musicians were playing in my band! It was the first time I got to travel, really be on my own, and live my life. I think my intentions were in a good place, and because of that, everything worked out perfectly with the band. I remember at one point down the road in YOT I thought to myself, “Wow, we’ve never had a bad show…ever.” I really think we never did!
Schism… the epitome, the all-encompassing, the complete collection and package. From the fanzines, to the t-shirts, to the records, it was all done with a unique style, attitude and quality that’s often imitated, but rarely matched.
There’s no question, Schism’s influence weighs heavily on all that is Double Cross. Creatively and design-wise Schism packed a punch and left an impression. A mixture of strong, bold fonts, with relatively well done hand drawn artwork and sick photography made for a killer combination. Sure, Alex and Porcell borrowed from the zines and labels of the early 80s that set the ball in motion and did a hell of a job in capturing the energy and style of ferocious hardcore music in print. Schism really seemed to know how to capitalize on it though. Whether it is Schism issue number 6, the navy Judge longsleeve, the Wide Awake seven inch, or anything in between, everything has left a lasting visual impression on us. As far as we are concerned, this shit is priceless.
While we could probably devote the rest of this site to every little Skiz artifact, and surely intend to do just that over the course of time, we figured we’d formally kick things off here with a little info on where it all began. And as many may already know, it wasn’t even in New York City, or on the east coast. The story goes that Alex Brown was a hardcore kid trapped in Iowa, playing in the band Children Of The Corn. He started a fanzine called Love Seat, and as he increasingly grew more attracted to the growing straight edge scene across the country, his zine reflected it. He ended up moving to NYC to go to school, and Love Seat issue 5 showed that without question he was now a part of the NYC Hardcore scene. A tough piece of literature to dig up, the final issue of Love Seat has the Schism attitude and look, even if it didn’t use the name.
After meeting Youth Of Today and becoming fast friends with the band upon arriving in NYC, Alex decided a new name for the zine was necessary, especially in light of the ball busting he took for his title selection. Having heard Raybeez say, “There’s schism in dem beads, bo!” in regards to Hare Krishna neckbeads, the name “Schism” got tossed around by Cappo and Jordan for a new record label. They went with Revelation, and Alex was quick enough to snatch Schism as the name for what was formerly known as Love Seat. From there we got Schism issue number 6, then a guy named Porcell, the PX seven inch…and as they say, the rest is history. But don’t think that means we aren’t going to document the living shit out of it. Consider this a trailer for what is to come very soon. -DCXX
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Big ups to our boy Tony Rettman for doing this interview with Danny Slam, singer for California pioneers America’s Hardcore. We hope to have Tony aboard with us more in the future, and this piece kicks off his contributions with a bang. Be sure to check back for the second half of this interview real soon.
Thanks Tony, and start slamming. -DCXX
How did you get into/find out about Punk/Hardcore?
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, the New York Dolls, etc. 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 new 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.
What was your first show? Please describe the experience in the fullest detail possible.
My personal (not AHC) first show that really counts (not the Cramps earlier) in my mind is Black Flag, DOA, Stains, and Minute Men 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 how badly I was being a poser. But what did I know? I took the bus from the Valley to the show. The venue holds 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 (never knew why); people getting crazy after the show and swinging around the flag pole on the rope; my ears ringing the next day.
LA had a bad reputation for being a pretty violent HC 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/HC scene of the early 80s, which I dove headfirst into, was very violent. At most shows there were fights, usually 10 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 were known to love 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 ganglife in LA and took to creating copycat punk gangs. Partly, the gangs were justified, as being a 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, fight with other punks at shows, etc. I was most familiar with the FFF gang, which was made up of all the punks (and my friends) where I lived (North Hollywood). FFF copied the style of mexican gangbangers (cholos), with khaki pants and buttoned up pendelton shirts, and knicknames like Oso, Flaco, Shorty and Woody.
How much time was there between you started going to shows and starting AHC, and can you give us the full scoop on how AHC came to be?
Less than a year. My best friend Scott Kosar (original bass player) and I 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 (later of Tourist) 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 (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 (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 DC. Early on we covered their Public Defender and I think this shaped our style to be very much in that mold of aggressive HC. We were also influenced by Minor Threat, plus local bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Descendents, TSOL, Wasted Youth and the DKs of course. During the same time we started the band I was already starting to buy seven inch records from HC bands from all over the states at a great Hollywood record store called Vinyl Fetish. I would buy anything that had 8 or more songs on a 7 inch, that pretty much guarenteed that it’d be fast!
I had early great stuff like the Necros, Negative Approach and of course, “This is Boston Not LA”, which all was highly influencial 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, who originally formed the band FFF (pre-dates the gang) and later Disability, and after that Tourist, sort of 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.
Why the name change from Section 8 to AHC?
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 AHC 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 AHC volume 1 and so on, and I would give these tapes to my friends. In fact, we had already written the song AHC about the incredible HC bands from all across America. 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? What fanzines other than Flipside and MRR were you checking out? Did ‘zines like Touch + Go and/or Forced Exposure make it out to the west coast easily or did you have to mail order them?
In addition to what I said above, Flipside and MRR were the main zines around, plus We Got Power later on. Also, through AHC correspondance I started getting copies of Touch & Go and Forced Exposure. We also did mail interviews with some small zines like Urban Waste, Positive Charge (Phoenix), and Stage Dive (San Jose, CA). Seems like there were others.
What was AHC’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 punkfest 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 AHC become aware of Straight Edge? Did you or anyone in your band consider yourself S.E.?
We first heard about S.E. through the Minor Threat song, naturally. Drew got serious about being S.E. for awhile, 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.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
Monday, May 5, 2008
[Above: Absolution @ CBGB – Photo by Boiling Point]
If you haven’t heard, Absolution is reuniting to play in Miami on May 30. Pretty shocking news considering Djinji Brown has not really re-surfaced in anything hardcore related since the band’s demise in 1989. But in light of this reunion talk, we had to catch up with him.
Ed (McKirdy) and I called Djinji up and talked with him yesterday fornearly three hours. I don’t think we can really call it an interview, because having already talked to Djinji, I knew the conversation just flows naturally. At some point I think we will include some audio of certain parts of our chat, because you really need to hear the absolute REALNESS in this guy’s voice. I’m actually afraid that reading it in print won’t do it justice. Everything he talked about was cool, thus it is tough to edit out anything. And just to give you an idea, the below is about 1/10 of the entire conversation. So this is the first of MANY parts we will be posting up here. Very big thanks and praise to Mr. Brown himself.
It started in the Bronx. So the question is, how did we get to the Lower East Side if it started in the Bronx? One of my oldest friends in the world, Sergio Vega, from Collapse and Quicksand fame, he took me downtown, you know? 1986 I believe it was. Sergio was one of my childhood heroes, cuz he was this great graffiti writer, someone I looked up to and wanted to be like. I first met him when I was 12 or 13 in 1982, in junior high school. I kinda knew who he was, you know, like “man who is that dude, that cat is cool.” So we started hanging out and became friends, and he was going downtown in like ’85 and ’86, to Danceateria and places like that. He had already been going down, I mean in like 1985 he was already punked out. He was like the only Punk that I knew of in the Bronx rockin’ a mohawk, and on top of that was a Puerto Rican punk doing it. I mean he was one of the first to bring that shit back up there.
So he was going to Danceteria, a crazy club with like four floors you know? A dance floor, hip hop, dance music, and a new wave floor with some punk. From there it just got harder and harder. So I started following him downtown, and while he was more into the punk side of it, I started gravitating towards the hardcore part of it. The skinhead vibe, even though I wasn’t a skinhead, I just liked the energy of it. I appreciated the punk, and the political stuff, but I liked the harder side of it, even though I was a softer guy. You know…yeah, straight up, you know what, fuck it…I liked the harder side, the machismo shit, the manhood, the maleness, straight up. We were all young boys at the time, and with hardcore kids and the skinheads at the time, there was this vibe of “we’re soldiers.” I needed that, definitely growing up in the Bronx. To avoid getting beat up, shot, stabbed, yeah, I needed that. I felt like with hardcore I had someone watching me.
So I made the transition, and I went down with Sergio. And from there we were always like two peas in a pod, even though he would break off with a different crew of more punk type dudes, and then I would go off with more of the hardcore and skinhead types, that was who I gravitated towards.
Around that time, like late ’86 or early ’87, somehow I met Harley. I don’t even really remember how. But I met him and we started hanging out, and of course I was just mesmerized, because obviously I knew about the Cro-Mags. My first favorite band of course was the Bad Brains, and on that whole level it was just like “Wow!” But now I felt that I had a place in the hardcore world. Even though it didn’t fit where I came from on a physical level and ethnically, if you feel what I am saying, but that didn’t really scare me. Because even before I moved back to the Bronx in 1980, I lived in Massachusetts and was raised there. And I was around Caucasians. So even though now coming downtown it was a new dynamic, the kids were rough and tough, and I was like “yeah you know this is just like some up town shit.” Just a different vibe, but still you can’t be a sucker. You gotta find your vibe, find your niche, find your crew, get in where you fit in.
It was an open door, but at the same time it wasn’t an open door because at that time I think the scene was so close knit. In 1986 New York Hardcore was maybe 8 years old or less. Punk was older. But AF, Cro-Mags, Bad Brains, those were the cats that really put it down like, “that’s punk, but this is some hardcore shit.” I don’t know who coined the term, but I’m sure a lot of people would agree that the Brains were on a whole different level. They came in as punks, as rasta punks, but their shit was so different that we just had to learn. With the Cro-Mags and AF…it was hardcore. You knew you were entering… a war. It was a war. It was a rite of passage. It was a question of who could hang and who couldn’t. Motherfuckers would get beat the fuck up at CBGB, whether it was off some bullshit, or just even from the pit.
The first time I even went to CB’s I went by myself. I wanted to take Sergio with me to see Murphy’s Law, and he’s like, “Nah, thanks, I’m chillin’.” I mean, like, “why would you wanna do that?” A Murphy’s Law show was just crazy. I was a baby-faced 16 year old, I probably looked 14. But I ventured into that shit, balls to the wall, and by the time I started hanging with Harley and them cats, I felt like, “Ok, yeah.” And from hanging with them I started going to the temple, and I got introduced to Hare Krishna, vegetarianism, and tattoos and the whole nine yards. And then I met John Bloodclot, and I was like “WOW.” I was a kid. They had lived lives I hadn’t lived. Reading John’s book, it just blew my mind and brought back a lot of recollections of what that world was like, even though I was a little later and not completely in it like them. It’s really crazy. All this stuff, it’s like a file I have kept close to my heart and have just recently reopened to look at all these memories. So, it’s like a floodgate right now with all these times.
I had a concept that I thought about that I want to share with you guys. The reason why Gavin and I took hell and high fury to the stage, and Alan and Greg, too, on an animation level, is this, what I am about to say. These are my ABC’s of hardcore. This is just mine, Djinji Brown’s, and it isn’t in an order, but it is Absolution, Bad Brains, and Cro-Mags. I want you to draw a triangle. At the top of the triangle is my A, Absolution, because that was my vessel. If you look at the triangle, it is like an arrow, or a spaceship even. At the top was Absolution. At the bottom left is Bad Brains, because I heard them first. And reading from left to right, the right bottom corner is Cro-Mags. So, those two were my basis, and those two specific bands had an unmatched musicality at that time. I mean, nobody could fuck with them cats! On a musical level they were like “WHAT!” And on an energy level, and a spiritual basis, those two bands were my propeller. I fed off of that.
With Harley and John, I felt like I was one of their younger brothers per se. I didn’t get to really meet and know the Bad Brains, but I was taken under the wing of their engineer and producer Jerry Williams. He taught me so much. So I had that direct connection to the Brains from Jerry. What a feeling, I felt so…safe. Back then, I didn’t really know it. Maybe I did. But I couldn’t verbalize it. Now I can. It is so heavy. And that’s why I went out there, and I took some of John’s moves, and some of HR’s moves, because I wanted to show those cats that I wanted to continue in what they were doing. And I put my own shit to it. Now, inside of that triangle, you can put every hardcore band, rock band, jazz band, punk band, and they all influenced me too. But for me, that’s what was driving me. I wanted to show them and thank them for letting me be the little brother and accepting me. And those cats didn’t just accept anybody, you know?
That makes me think about late May or June 1987. I remember this whole fuckin’ day because I was graduating high school that day. And the Cro-Mags were opening for Anthrax at the Beacon Theater, it was so fuckin’ ill! Like on some hip-hop shit, it was as if some dude from your hood was playing at The Garden. You know? What! NYHC cats, and the Cro-Mag Krishna army man! They had devotees up in the spot! They had prasadam and all this vegetarian food! We were all smoked out on the greenest of the green! What! And I was the only young brother in that whole camp! And it didn’t even matter man with all them cats, I felt like a prince.
I called my mother that night and told her I wasn’t coming home, I was gonna hang with Harley all night. She said, “Oh you aren’t coming home?” Oh hell no. I’m staying out tonight. I’m with the Cro-Mags! You know? I remember I had a cast on my hand because I had broken some knuckles knocking out this nazi skin a couple weeks before. But the show was crazy, the show was nuts. The Beacon Theater with the Cro-Mags in it in 1987…excuse my language…NIGGA WHAT!? WHAT THE FUCK! WHAT THE BLOODCLOT MAN! That shit never went down again. So anyways, I go home the next morning, fucked up, high, whatever. My Mom threw the book at me, literally. I got in the door, put my book bag down, and she threw that shit at my head. I ducked. My mother at the time was 37, I’m 38 now, so I understand now. She was furious, “What the fuck!” But I was pissed too, you know, saying, “I ain’t done drugs! I ain’t been locked up! I ain’t sold drugs! I graduated high school!” She didn’t care you know, telling me them crazy ass white boys downtown was gonna get me beat the fuck up. She flipped out.
You gotta understand where I’m coming from. My mother and Sergio’s mother ventured out into CB’s a couple times with white head wraps on, and African spiritual beads and their whole thing. And they came down to the village, with incense and everything. Before Erykha Badu was lighting incense on stage, my mother and Sergio’s mother were bringing incense to CBGB to watch their sons. So overall my Mom was usually like, “Ok, be careful.” But she wasn’t feeling it that night. She didn’t see it, saying to me, “Why are you doing this?! You have holes in your clothes! Tattoos! Piercings!” My grandfather was like, “What are you doing? Piercing your ear like a faggot!?”
And that’s not to mention the brothers in the hood. I was coming back with tattoos before it was hip to have tattoos. Shit was not cool, unless you were in the army or in jail, and I wasn’t in either. So when I came off hard, and carried myself hard, it was because I had something to prove to myself, personal reasons I won’t get into. I was trying to prove something. What I wanted most was for people to say, “HR, John Joseph, Djinji Brown.” I wanted that at 17. And I only mean that to those guys and their bands as a sincere compliment. When you are young you pick your heroes, and you run after them. I was just lucky enough to have them at my fingertips. We all did, but maybe we didn’t know it then?
[TO BE CONTINUED]
Sunday, May 4, 2008
In talking more to Vic we realized some things were lost in email communication and Vic was actually referring to his own answers as “a bit assholish,” and not DCXX. So, we stand corrected, and apologize to Vic. Ahh, the joys of email.
Further, Vic wanted to respond to what some of our readers had said in the comments section of his interview and on the Livewire message board. This is what he had to say:
“HELLO HARDCORE PEOPLE:
1. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
2. Stop taking your “heroes” (but OH NO they’re not “heroes”) so seriously.
3. Relax. Floorpunch on gold, you’ll get it in your next life. It’s ok. Nothing else matters in the end.
4. I said that I was annoyed by youth crew straight edge since very early on. Does that really bother you so much?
5. I apologized for coming across a bit assholish in my answers.
GO PRACTICE A MOSH.
And now, we bring you some more questions and answers with Vic regarding 108.
Ok you guys just got back from South America – how was it? Any stand out stories or experiences? What are the biggest differences between the hardcore scene there and what you have experienced as of late in America?
The first half was great. Ecuador, Columbia, Chile, Argentina. Especially Chile. Brazil was somewhat lame until the very last show in Sao Paolo at the Animal Liberation fest.
The stand out story was staying in the home of a Christian hardcore band in Vittoria, Brazil and having the father say a prayer for us – a LOOOOONG ass prayer – on our way out – all the while with his arm around the great Atheist / Agnostic / Christian-hater Alan Peter Cage.
Big differences… not many… especially considering it’s so far away. Hardcore is disappointingly uniform from scene to scene for the last 20 years or so. One thing was that girls were in the pit en masse doing their thing and there was no big debate about it, and no big issues surrounding it. It was completely normal and natural.
South America also saw the inclusion of Alan Cage on drums in 108. How did this come about, and what was it like playing with him again? Did it take him any practice at all to nail the songs? Where would you put him on the list of drummers you have played with over the years? Any drawbacks to playing with him?
It came about because Alan and I have been musically connected for about 20 years now. It was amazing. He played everything really well, very heavy and mid-tempo – not rushed or fast. Alan gets the energy from hitting the drums really hard and badass, he doesn’t need to make energy from speeding things up.
We practiced for a day in Ecuador.
I put Alan not only at the top of the list of drummers I’ve played with – but also at the top of the list of Drummers… period.
There were no drawbacks except that it was an awful lot of songs for him to learn in a short period of time. Alan is a great player and a really cool guy. The band got along great with him in it.
You sold some of your guitars on Ebay recently – some of these had seen many stages over the years and withstood a lot of damge (or, maybe they didn’t). Was it tough to let them go? What are you currently owning/playing, and how long is a guitar typically lasting you these days (considering some of your on stage antics)?
It wasn’t hard to let them go at all. I’m not really into “things” that much. I don’t collect stuff, and I don’t care that much about equipment. I guess that’s part of the reason I got into spirituality, I’m not particularly into material things. It was fun to let them go. I’m glad that the guy who got them was really into them and happy to have them.
I have an endorsement from B.C. Rich. Right now I have a black Mockingbird special and a spalted (or something) maple Bich Exotic Classic. They are both excellent guitars. I can keep a guitar working indefinitely provided I don’t crack the neck, which has only happened 2 or 3 times in my life. As long as the neck doesn’t break I just work with whatever else goes wrong. I don’t fix it, I just make it a part of the sound. Like if the frets get jagged indentations it stats to make cool sounds, buzzes, what have you. I do need to fix jacks though. That shit sucks when it breaks. These two guitars I have now have proved to be really strong so far.
Although it isn’t new at this point, how do you feel about the new record now that it has been out for a bit, has been received, and you have played the new material quite a bit? How much new material has been written, and where will you try to push 108 in the future creatively?
I like the new record a lot and enjoy playing the songs. For the next record I would like to go a few steps further and create something I actually want to LISTEN to a few times a week. We’ve written about two albums worth of new songs so far. I am not sure if we will actually use more than one or two of the songs or ideas. As soon as I settle down a bit and get my studio together (I just moved), I want to start writing some things that are a LOT different than New Beat…, and more like Curse of Instinct, drawn out in a new direction.
The band really seems to have been moving at full charge. Record, touring, etc. What are you doing outside of the band? You guys aren’t 18 anymore. How do you manage to do this as much as you do and still balance it out? What happens in your life if 108 breaks up tomorrow?
It’s full charge considering I’m 38. It’s not full charge for an 18 year old. Outside the band I do my thing and tinker my way through life. If 108 breaks up tomorrow I’ll regret it and get it back together in a few years to really piss you motherfuckers off. 😉
Since “returning,” what 108 show stands out the most to you in terms of importance? The type of show that solidifies why you are still doing this?
I have a weak memory for that type of thing. I would say the shows in Chile. The show at the Knitting Factory in New York. I don’t really know. 108 reorganized my life in a huge way. It’s more than just shows. It actually realigned my entire life in a huge, huge way.
Similarly, you guys have played all over the country in the past year or so. What do you think of the modern hardcore scene in America and the average hardcore kid? How is this different from 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago? Do you still connect with a 17 year old whippersnapper who is mad at the world and jamming on power chords?
It’s kinda tiring to be around “hardcore” kids – – – they are always checking you out. Estimating you. Evaluating you. Measuring you. Seeing if you are “true.” Seeing if you are “cool.” Seeing if you are still cool to think of as someone who is thought of by others as cool, etc. etc. etc. There just seems to be SO MANY rules that are potentially broken that it’s just tiring. I don’t really smoke pot myself, but I think a few dozen bong hits would do the collective hardcore scene a bit of good. Relax. Shit is not important. People are people. Music is music. Let it be.
Age doesn’t matter. You are either 14 or you are 84…that has nothing to do with it. I could connect with you or not connect with you regardless. What’s more important is if you have a broad mind or a narrow one.
Which current bands are your favorite? A lot of people who came up in the hardcore scene you came up in will say that there aren’t any good bands today, they aren’t the same, etc. etc. How do you feel? Are young hardcore bands today just as powerful as they were in 1987? Is it tough to be objective considering you aren’t the same person?
I like Rise and Fall. I like Converge live. I like Blacklisted live. There are still good bands, but there isn’t a lot of newness. Newness seemed to go out of style with the breakup of Quicksand. I like Ceremony live. I like shit that is at least slightly different. Musically, play something different. Yeah, it’s powerful. And probably for a 17 year old from Boston, Have Heart or something is really powerful. They are just as sincere and better musically than the bands they are based on were. But the thing is for me, I’ve heard it over and over again for 20 years. So it’s great for a kid hearing it for the first time, but for me… I’m more interested in a band doing something DIFFFERENT, saying something DIFFERENT.
PS – I love you.
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