Film and Music Video Director Ian McFarland (Rungs in a Ladder: Jacob Bannon, The Outlaw: Dan Hardy, The Problem Solver: Joe Lauzon, Meshuggah, Killswitch Engage, Fear Factory, Agnostic Front) is crafting an intimate portrait of the two industry leaders, two of the most respected individuals in the 35-year history of hardcore punk music. In addition to inspiring and nurturing multiple generations of bands that followed their lead, Miret and Stigma have remained close friends through great adversity that sometimes threatened their very existence.
As a part of a potent subculture, Agnostic Front probably will never sit beside Aerosmith and the Beatles in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Nor have they been showered with platinum records or the rock and roll riches reserved for acts that value popularity over integrity. Miret and Stigma are perfectly happy with the niche they’ve carved for themselves, and the effect they’ve had on an entire sub-genre that had infiltrated both the counter-culture and impacted the mainstream. A recent article in the New Yorker about hardcore music was named “United Blood,” after Agnostic Front’s first album. The band continues to play major slots on high-profile international festivals and their recently-released album, “The American Dream Died,” has earned the band some of its strongest reviews in years.
Agnostic Front’s past legacy is perhaps even more praiseworthy than their present accomplishments. The movement the band pioneered has had a profound effect on millions of fans and musicians, as well as skateboarders, bikers and other individualists who refuse to accept the status quo. In a landscape of increasing apathy and complacency, the messages Agnostic Front presents are as relevant today as they were in the ‘80s when the band members were impoverished, scrappy and ambitious, often fighting for their very survival as well as the perseverance of their volatile but highly inspirational band.
Back in the ‘80s, Miret and Stigma roamed the dangerous streets of NYC’s Lower East Side, fighting those who got in their way and laying down the gauntlet for the music they believed in and were willing to defend with their lives. At the time, they had no idea that the band that meant the world to them and the culture populated by runaways, street kids, punks, skinheads and other social misfits would also resonate with a generation of other music fans and musicians including Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Pantera’s Phil Anselmo, not to mention Cremaster’s Mathew Barney and electronic guru Moby. Roger Miret, 50 (vocalist), a Cuban-refugee from an abusive home and Vinnie Stigma, 59 (guitarist), a second-generation true-blue New York Italian, found each other on the rough streets of NYC in the early 1980s, becoming fast friends and developing an unbreakable bond. Together, over the next three decades, they became the “Godfathers of New York City Hardcore” – creating a vehicle through which three generations of fans could grow, scream and band together as one in the face of diversity, violence and discrimination. Through the strength and bonds of brotherhood, Roger and Vinnie birthed something larger than themselves – they birthed a revolution.
Along the way, they experienced some of the most harrowing blows a band can endure, including various line-up changes, Roger’s incarceration and the subsequent collapse of the band. After Roger was released in the late 1990’s from New York’s Wallkill Correctional Facility, Roger and Vinnie reunited, picking up right where they left off. Still touring and recording today, Agnostic Front is the very embodiment of hardcore: endurance, perseverance, brotherhood, strength against oppression and the will to keep going, obstacles be damned. Agnostic Front exists on a level all their own . . . a level of their own creation.
Today Roger and Vinnie are moving into their 50’s and 60’s, have jobs and families and are gearing up to begin a new touring schedule that will take them all over the world. This film will serve as an up-close-and-personal look into the lives of these different but inseperable musical icons, and in the process will illustrate the tenacity, optimism and enthusiasm with which they both approach their band. Roger Miret and Vinnie Stigma have survived in an ever-changing music scene because they refuse to compromise. From day one, they took on the system with fists clenched, and while they’ve aged over the decades, they’ve maintained the power and youthful – if not as destructive – mindset they had in their youth. At the end of the day, they remain wholly united in blood.
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In the first episode of their series Under the Influence, Noisey goes from the streets of the Lower East Side all the way to South Korea to examine one of the most distinctive genres to sprout from the concrete of New York City: hardcore. Along the way, we’ll meet with everyone from tattoo shop owners to chefs to government workers—all of whom have been inspired by the teachings at musical meccas like CBGB and A7 and found ways to apply the lessons learned from the scene to their own lives. Join us—as well as members of Agnostic Front, Title Fight, Youth of Today, Incendiary, and more—as they explore a world living under the influence of New York Hardcore.
In the first of Noisey’s multi-part series There Will Be Quiet: The Story of Judge, Noisey talks with mythical NYHC vocalist Mike Ferraro, better known as Mike Judge. Ferraro recounts his early days and unforgiving upbringing, his road toward straight-edge, and how an introverted kid found his way to punk rock.
This week Revelation Records had some big news: With the help of the members of the early lineups of Warzone, along with members of Raybeez’ family, Revelation is reissuing some long-out-of-print material, along with extensive liner notes and unreleased photographs and more. Expect more updates soon! If you have any pictures, flyers or other artwork from the ’86-’88 era of Warzone, and would like to be a part of this amazing project, please write to: email@example.com.
Let’s just get the basics out of the way. When/why the band started…how you knew each other, etc. Was there any concrete reason to start a band that fell out of the very regimented sound/idea of Hardcore?
The very beginning was just talk with my friend Aaron Chrietzberg. We met in North Carolina from going to shows and being into the same type of shit. He was playing guitar in The First Step at the time and was writing some different stuff on the side and we had always talked about doing something that was a little beyond our usual. We used harDCore as a starting point, I think he was real into Subject to Change at the time and I was probably thinking Verbal Assault. We got a few riffs together and improvised the rest in NYC at some rehearsal space in Queens with Steve and Fred from TFS filling out the drums and bass. Everyone was real jazzed on the way things turned out so Aaron and I started trying to scrape together a line-up. He got in contact with Gene, Ahron Reinhard, and Andy Norton who were all old friends of ours and we got going. This was all probably ’05 or ’06. I had known Gene from his days in No Justice. On their tour with The Nerve Agents, they all stayed at my parents house in NC and after that I became friends with Desperate Measures and met Andy and Ahron through them. I graduated high school in spring ’02, joined Desperate Measures on their first US tour that summer and left for boot camp two weeks after that tour ended. So I was in the military and stationed in Mississippi at the time all of the Give stuff started going down and would fly up for practice a few times a year. I finally got out of the Air Force in Sept ’08 and split for Maryland. Aaron left earlier in the year on a Buddhist retreat and Ben stepped in on Guitar and once I moved up we got started right away with Give. Andy and Ahron dropped out around this time so we ended up recruiting Ian and his friend Pat in their place. Pat hung on until about 2010 or so and then Doug joined up on bass. Other than talking with Aaron in the very beginning, I don’t really remember talking about the sound of the band with anyone else that much again, it just kind of happened. It went through a lot of member changes but the style of music was never really a topic of conversation. I think it was just known that we weren’t sticking to a specific style so anything goes and we’ll keep whats good. And no matter what we do, it’s always going to be grounded in hardcore. We can get as stupid as we want and try and twist it as far as we can and at the end of the day, its just going to sound like hardcore to me. It’s in our fucking bones, there is no escape at this point.
GIVE | PHOTO: MIGUEL DEL ANGEL
Prior to starting to play out, record, etc. did you have a certain vision of how you wanted the band to sound, be perceived, etc?
For the image, probably, I can’t remember now. It most likely wasn’t too focused, and changed a million times before anything actually happened. The music for Give I’ve never really had a big hand in, I just take what they create and paste my bark over top as best I can and try and add cool graphics and push it out into the world. I know with the first record, I wanted it to have flowers on the cover and be really colorful. I was probably working against all the dark imagery that it seemed everything had fallen into at the time and I wanted to introduce a more energetic agenda. After that I just kind of built upon that theme. It’s interesting to think what the imagery could have developed into if I had done something else with that first record. But, yeah I definitely spent a lot of time thinking about and trying to control how every aspect of the band would be perceived but quickly learned that it’s impossible. It never matches the vision in your head exactly and that’s the beauty. You nurture something and it grows into it’s own identity. Always reminds me of what Jack Brewer from Saccharine Trust said “Once the music leaves your head, it’s already compromised”.
Where did the idea for the flowerhead thing come from? And why did you choose the flower to use for the logo?
The flowerhead thing was something I have always wanted to do, and finally had the chance to with this band. As a kid there were a lot of toy lines, especially action figures that had their own mail away fan clubs in the beginning and newsletters and mail away shit was big with video game companies in that era. There weren’t any bands that I liked that did it while I’ve been around, but one look at a Samhain mail-order form and you can’t walk straight for a few days thinking about how cool that shit is. Getting and sending mail is such a great experience and doing the flowerhead thing kept me busy and just let me expand the world of Give. I remember looking at the Gilded Eternity album by Loop and it had an address to write to that said “Soundheads”. I thought that was the coolest shit so I called a song of ours “Flowerhead” and created an explanation for what I believed a Flowerhead to be like and then just started sending people stuff in the mail. It was slow at first and I knew I was going to have to do it for free and finance the whole thing, but now it’s up to almost 500 people. I don’t send as many things out now because I do everything myself and it takes forever. These days its mostly stickers, pins, newsletters, etc but I have sent out cassettes, patches, and t-shirts in the past. The free shirts were sent out when we had about 140 members and that was a huge project, but was something I wanted to do from the beginning. I wanted to do free 7″s but thats just not possible now unless I hit the lottery. If anyone wants to join, just send a letter or postcard with your address and shirt size to:
1326 Newton Street NE
Washington, DC 20017
For the “G” flower, I just wanted a strong logo. I’ve always loved that type of thing with other bands, something easily identifiable that could take the place of the band name that you can draw in math class. So to go along with the flowers on the cover of the first record, I drew up a little sketch of a flower with a G in the middle. Most Likely had the Wu-Tang and Faith logo’s in mind and our friend Luiso Ponce from Guatemala took my sketch and created the flower we have been using ever since.
GIVE SING ALONG | PHOTO: TODD POLLOCK
Your vision/aesthetic for the band seems very focused. The uniformity of record sleeves, the t-shirt designs, etc. Do you have any certain bands or artists that you draw influence from to realize your concepts?
It’s all just comic books, cartoons, magazines, record covers, action figures, video game artwork, etc. I’ve always enjoyed consistency within artwork, so once I used the flowers on the cover of the first 12″, I just tried to build and add on from there. In my mind, Give is visually just a combination of everything I like. For bands, it’s hopefully something near Youth of Today, Nirvana, and Ignition. I’ve also always been a real big fan of live photography. I want a record fucking packed with pictures of the band playing live. The ideal vision would be somewhere near Charles Peterson meets the True Till Death 7″. But specific artists, hmmm…John Pound has always been a dude I’ve enjoyed. He drew the entire first series of Garbage Pail Kids, and basically created the look and design for the rest of the series. His current artwork is real wild. Love his shit. Peter Beard is great, I really like his method. Not sure of names but whoever was responsible for a ton of the design and artwork on Japanese famicom handbills, it doesn’t get any better. Skateboarding also basically handed me my future in the early/mid 90’s and opened up a whole new world for me. I got exposed to a lot of music through skate video’s and eventually found my way here. Alien Workshop and Toy Machine were companies that I loved from the start and Ed Templeton’s art and design is a real big influence. I’m actually in the process of compiling all Toy Machine content from ’93-99 and releasing a zine for each year during that time with all ad’s interviews, pics, stickers, artwork etc. I’ve got interviews with Panama Dan and Donny Barley already and hope to one day help design a full color book compiling everything in extreme detail. If anyone has anything dealing with Toy Machine in the 90’s, please get in touch. Early Nintendo and action figure artwork is also a real big inspiration for me. For the first TMNT action figures released in 1988, the design theme for the artwork was called “Green on Brick”, and for Give I would basically call it like “Flower on We’re not in this alone”.
GENE WITH GIVE | PHOTO: ANGELA OWENS
Thus far, what are you most proud of with GIVE?
I’m really just proud that it exists. I feel like I was scheming about doing a band like this for so long, I’m just glad that it actually fucking happened. But beyond that, it’s probably the lyrics and especially the visual element, the artwork, and aesthetic. The fact that people pick up on that and single it out as one of their favorite parts of the band makes me feel great. I spend a lot of thought and energy on creating and executing things for that side of Give, and that type of stuff is a huge part of the reason I’ve always liked bands, I want it to feel like a cult, you have to join our world, we aren’t adapting, you are adapting to us.
Are there any bands currently going that GIVE would align themselves with? Why?
I would align us with any of our friends bands, but if you are asking which bands feel like a perfect fit sonically or aesthetically, I don’t really know, probably any one and no one. Who we are, what we are, what we sound like, etc. we just do it, you figure out how it fits into your life. Some bands around now that I enjoy and really like how they operate are Omegas, Fury, No Tolerance, Mindset, Intent, Fucked Up, Big Mouth, Turnstile, every new band from DC. Way too many to list, there is just too much good stuff out there to not be excited about something. My girlfriend Emily plays in a band called Big Mouth with Ian from Give and they just released a really interesting record. She also just started a new band called Post Pink that is great. Both from Baltimore and worth your ears. I’m also real excited about this new band Burst of Rage. Four young kids who worship the X marks the spot comp, so a lot for me to like there.
You will be self releasing EFC. Why not do it thru another label? Did you think that it was important to do this album/statement on your own w/o any outside help?
A few labels offered, but we just wanted to keep it to ourselves. I actually did take the record to Ian and talked to him about Dischord releasing it, but in the end he wasn’t interested. But besides Dischord, the only other option in my mind was doing it ourselves on Moonflower. Partially, we just wanted to have control but we also paid a lot for the recording and knew that no other label would be stupid enough to shell out the amount we dropped. I’m not opposed to other labels, it just has to feel right and with a record this big, I just wanted to make sure everything was perfect.
Along with self-releasing EFC, you’re doing two ‘maxi-singles’ for Rev and Lockin’ Out. What was the idea/vision of doing the 12” eps along with the EFC LP?
Revelation and Lockin’ Out had told us they wanted to work with us, so we found a way to do it. We had a lot of songs to work with at the time so we thought doing a record with each could be a fun idea. Doing 12″s had been my plan from the beginning but it’s hard to get a label to take a chance on a new band with a 12″, it was just easier doing the 7″s at first. After all the singles we released, I feel like the 12″ single is the next step and it just gives us more chances to create cool artwork. The plan was for the 12″s to serve as singles to the actual LP. I’m really excited about the artwork for the Rev record. We had a guy, Kinya, write in from Japan and he sent a picture of some clay art that he made with a guy holding a flower and it looked really fucking cool. I got in touch with him right away and asked if he would be interested in doing a record cover. He was game and completed the layout and its one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. He made this huge Rev star logo with flowers behind the star where the yellow would be and Jordan asked Kinya to ship over the full clay piece so they could hang it in the offices, so cool. We made huge posters of the complete clay artwork and everyone should have it hanging on their wall. The Lockin’ Out EP should be out soon, maybe summer but probably not. I just have to finish the artwork, the music is completely done. I just felt like we needed to give people a break after releasing an LP and an EP, let them digest that before we shove something else on the plate. But yeah, we love the way Greg and Lockin’ Out has always operated and obviously being on the same record label with BOLD is a huge plus, so we made it work with both labels.
GIVE | PHOTO: TODD POLLOCK
Lyrically, you definitely write from a more abstract angle than most bands associated with HC? Again, any influence on that method of writing? Are there any songs coming up on EFC, the maxi-singles or just in the general GIVE repertoire that you’d like to highlight and talk about the meaning of?
I don’t really know specific things that influence me, I just know what works for me. lyrics have always been a huge deal to me and I think a lot of film dialogue influences me, but I like when a song title alone draws you in and I really like when the music and lyrics work together to create a complete thought. Like in the A.R. Kane song “Haunted” the simple line “you feel so far away” is repeated a few times and it works so well with the music, it elevates a common phrase to a place that just knocks you out. I’m not really sure how to do that, I just write lyrics and hope for the best. One of the best examples is that song “Talk to me” by Porcelain Raft, extremely basic words but when they are combined with that music, that song is so beyond. There is probably a lot of trance influence seeping in Give lyrics, Pet Shop Boys and New Order are also a big deal for me. I really like Greg Dulli and think he is one of the most consistent lyricists. But for the LP, there is a song called “Paint my life” on the LP, I had the song title bouncing around in my head for awhile and was slowly chipping away at a lyrical theme. It eventually locked into place and now kind of seems like a song I have been meaning to write since the beginning. It’s me trying to describe how a major theme running through lyrics within hardcore is thinking for yourself, forming your own identity, knowing what you believe, sticking to your ideals, never changing what you stand for, etc. and how that never really felt like me. I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m doing or what I’m thinking and I’ve always pretty much felt like that. My opinions and ideas are constantly changing. I’m being pushed and pulled through the world at every moment by people, places, things, etc. It seems so basic, I don’t know. There is another song “Welcome to Dust” that is about my friend Chad’s father. He died a few years ago and I had Chad tell me the whole story and constructed the lyrics from everything he told me. I really like how that one turned out. I recorded the whole conversation and we intended to use a clip of it somewhere in the song, but the iphone it was recorded on was stolen a few weeks before recording. “Voodoo leather” is another song that is going to be on the LP. It’s from an earlier recording we did for a Heartworm cassette, but we shortened and changed it a bit. I’m really glad it’s making a comeback because it contains some of the favorite lyrics I’ve written. It’s about violence. “Sonic Bloom” is a song that we have been playing for about 3 or 4 years and we finally found a place for it on this LP. It’s about always pushing forward with new idea’s, sounds, scenes, etc.
GIVE | PHOTO: TODD POLLOCK
Talk about the origins of Moshers’ Delight. Please tell us how and when it came to be, who is involved, etc. Is it a collective? How big of a role does it play within the band? Is there a certain role/aesthetic the label has?
Mosher’s Delight started a little bit ago, maybe 2012. It was basically just born out of friends talking about hardcore. At the beginning it was Me, Zack Wuerthner, Chad Troncale and Austin Stemper from DC, Mike Fairley, Matt LaForge and the Demolition guys from Canada, Gil Sayfan and Kenny Fontaine from Boston, Mir Ali from Texas, and Ned Russin from PA. I brought up the idea to do a fanzine and just make it a one pager with demo reviews backed with an interview that we could bang out quickly and give away for free. Everyone was down. Not a huge project so we could keep it easy and I really missed doing layouts in the fanzine format. Mike the Mosher from Toronto did all the reviews in the first one so we called it Mosher’s Delight. I got Chris X to do some artwork and he came through beautifully like he always does and that was it. In the beginning there were more people directly involved but now it has thinned to just myself and Zack doing most of it. Picking bands, mailing shit, deciding on shirts, etc .We still get a lot of help from our friends with reviews, writing, support, etc though so thinking of it as a collective wouldn’t be wrong. After a few issues of the zine Zack came to me with the idea of expanding into a record label in addition to the zine, so we pushed ahead with that. And just like anything, it’s ballooned into what it is now. It doesn’t really have anything to do with Give, I’m just involved in both. My main concern is the look and design of everything, I want everything to look as cool as possible. Obviously zines like Boiling Point, Open Your Eyes, Schism, Hardware, Dear Jesus, Sold Out, Town of Hardcore etc provide a lot of the inspiration and Zack and I love a lot of the smaller labels that operated with impeccable style like Schism, Axtion Packed, Step Forward, Hi-Impact, so that’s the goal really. Take all the amazing shit that came before and add our spin to it while supporting current hardcore and releasing our friends music. For upcoming musical releases we got the Burst of Rage demo coming very soon . The biggest thing coming up is Issue #10. It would have been out sooner but I stumbled into a BOLD article that is just too good to not include. I got like 20 pictures from Revelation from the ’89 summer tour BOLD did and Matt Warnke hooked me up with like 50 more never before seen pics from the same tour that are mostly shots of everything that happens between shows. So I’m interviewing each member about the tour and gathering memories from people who were at the shows and it’s turning into a great piece. Look for that soon, we are real excited about it. After all this and all the new Give releases I’m also helping John White on an Open Your Eyes fanzine anthology.
CRUCIAL JOHN WITH GIVE | PHOTO: ANGELA OWENS
Last words, where to get the record, what else, etc
Our LP “Electric Flower Circus” is available now. We are sold out of the fist press, but distros and record stores hopefully should have copies. You can buy it digitally from us at www.givemusical.bandcamp.com and you can just download it for free from a bunch of places. We are headed to Europe again this summer and Adagio 830 from Germany did a press of the LP with a whole different layout and you can order those too, I think they are still available, maybe a second press. Amendment Records is also doing a small South American press of the LP with a new layout and everything, should be available soon. The “Sonic Bloom” 12″ on Revelation is out and we have copies on black vinyl plus a poster that you need to own. I also started an instagram account with Tim from Double Cross and Zack from Moshers Delight that is dedicated to posting images of Youth of Today and it’s the first step towards a book about the band we are doing with Ray, Porcell, and Jordan. Check it out at @youthcrew88. We are collecting photos, stories, etc now so if you have anything, get in touch.
CLASSIC RAY OF TODAY WITH YOUTH OF TODAY AT THE RAT, 1986 | PHOTO: BRUCE RHODES
When Break down the Walls came out, we became a national band pretty quick. We did a tour around America and instead of getting a heroes’ welcome when we came home to New York, we found out there was envy. As much as I was upset about it, you come to realize that exists everywhere. In the corporate world, there’s always some new guy who is better at what the old guy there has been doing for years and it causes a rift.
We sold maybe six thousand record and toured America in a crappy van while constantly being broke. No one ever left New York pretty much, so maybe there was an issue with that. Whatever it was, that was the first time I felt a backlash. Straight Edge got so many people excited, that there was a natural backlash where people said ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want to be Straight Edge’.
I didn’t grow up in the Straight Edge scene. If anything, we created that scene. But at a point, I could see where some people were coming from. The Straight Edge scene seemed kind of dumbed down. It bummed me out. Straight Edge created a bubble that was a scene within a scene that wasn’t really interested in anything that wasn’t Straight Edge. That made me sad because I loved the Buzzcocks, P.I.L and other things. It was sort of sad that newer kids who were just getting into Youth of Today or Uniform Choice didn’t care about anything else. They would buy any record that was Straight Edge by these bands like Wide Awake and Aware, but if some other punk band would put out a record, they would be like ‘They’re not Straight Edge, who cares?’ It narrowed their whole view of the Hardcore scope.
YOUTH OF TODAY ON THE BREAK DOWN THE WALLS TOUR, 1987, RICHIE, WALTER, RAY, RJ (ROADIE), CIV (ROADIE) AND PORCELL | PHOTO: MIKE JUDGE
I always had this pull towards spirituality and a truth quest. I got a calling to be a vegetarian. I always want to improve what I can do in this world. I want to be very careful about what I put in my mouth and be concerned if it harms other beings. I made the public statement that I was a vegetarian and decided Youth of Today were going to preach that as a part of being Straight Edge. I remember telling Porcell that and he was like ‘Oh man! We’ve already stirred up so much stuff with Straight Edge, now we’re really going to piss people off!’ And it did!
After that, I read books about yogis and Buddhists and Christian mystics. I would get inspiration from them and write lyrics. Look at the lyrics of Youth of Today. They are influenced by words of literature. I got inspired by this literature. All the things about the material world that all these great yogis and mystics would write about, I felt like ‘I’m over that shit. I’m not greedy. I’m not envious. I’m not competitive. I know the material world is temporary’. But I was immersed in the success of this micro-world where it was all there. Greed, envy, lust, ignorance: it was all there. I thought I was above it, but I was immersed in it. My success had made me suffer even more. I was really burnt out on it and then I had my father die unexpectedly. That’s when I understood the temporality of the material world. In the Straight Edge scene, everybody was looking up to me and truthfully, I didn’t know what I was talking about. There were tenets of the Straight Edge thing like you should strive to be a better person and be forgiving and not kill animals. But, you know, my mom could tell you that! It’s not like I was some Dali Lama for saying something as simple as that. The Straight Edge scene became too much of this thing where kids just thought they were perfect. They didn’t realize it was a stepping stone to do greater things with your life. I felt that the Straight Edge scene was limiting itself. There was an arrogance in it that you find in religion or anything where you do something for your self-betterment. But instead of doing it for yourself, you do it to lord over other people. In the name of doing something better for yourself, you end up hating other people. It defeats the whole idea of self-betterment. This was what I was watching happen and it was super bumming me out.
RAY AND PORCELL WITH SHELTER AT CITY GARDENS, 1990 | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
I thought it was crazy. It got me to thinking ‘What do I want? Do I want to get ten times bigger in Hardcore? Will that make me happier?’ I wanted to know what would make me a happier person. I thought nothing would make me happy except for some sort of God quest. So, I quit music.
When I came up with the idea of Shelter I thought ‘How can I refine what I’m doing?’ I wanted to tweak the basic message I’ve had all along, but make it more spiritual.
The first Shelter record was supposed to me my final record ever. It was a project I did with Tom Capone from Beyond and Quicksand and some older guys I knew from Connecticut. They helped me record this music that I wrote and that was supposed to be my ‘Goodbye’ to Hardcore so I could go away and become a monk. Later, the more I studied Indian philosophy, I learned a big part of that philosophy is you don’t quit what you were born to do. You take what you do and do it in a spiritual way instead of the material way and that’s how Shelter was born as full-fledged band. It took me to give it up to get me to refine it.
RAY ENGULFED IN SOME SHELTER MAYHEM AT CITY GARDENS | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
IVAN WITH POWERHOUSE | PHOTO COURTESY OF: NEW AGE RECORDS
Huge thanks to Burst Of Rage vocalist, Jack Doubt for the contribution of this interview with Powerhouse vocalist, Ivan White. – Tim DCXX
What got you into punk or hardcore?
Um, are we on? Are we live?
We are live with Ivan White of Powerhouse, it is March 31st in Doughnut Plant of New York City
Alright! I’m here, I made it to the Big Apple.
So, what got me into punk or hardcore, um, I would say that Suicidal Tendencies record with Institutionalized on it. I think I caught that video on MTV back when MTV had videos and that was probably my first punk exposure. I went out and bought the record and listening to it in secret in my bedroom and just got exposed from there. I started skateboarding and started going to shows after that and everything, I’d say, started from that record.
Can you tell me about your first hardcore show and some early south Florida punk or hardcore?
First show is…I don’t exactly remember what show was the first show. Um, since I was a skater kid, I was real poor and I hung out in front of shows before I actually went in because I never had any money. So there was this place called Flynn’s on the beach, down on 71st Street on Miami Beach where I met some people, couldn’t tell ya who they were; they were punkers and skaters. There was a pool that I skated in the back of the hotel that this little club was in, so whenever there was a show, I would roll around and be like, “Hey, there’s a pool in the back, let’s go skate it.” So, that’s how I got exposed to it, met some punkers and some skins. Bands came through in and out of town. I don’t remember who they were. Can’t say I ever met any of them again at the Cameo or later on, not sure. But that was my first exposure of shows. Flynn’s wasn’t open that long, and then the Cameo Theater was opened. I was in high school and there was some other kids, that were punkers and went to this venue, so I started going to that venue. All started from there, man. Cameo Theater.
Fuck, that’s sick.
Two thousand kids every weekend for a show. That’s how shows used to be, cause that was the only place to go. It was a big movie theater. The seats were almost to the stage. It was maybe- seats then 20 feet, then the stage. So with each show, the rows of seats got ripped out. Kids started tearing the seats out because they were stage diving and hitting the seats. The seats kinda got torn out then they came in and took a few rows of seats out and little by little they took all the seats out on the big main floor.
POWERHOUSE | PHOTO COURTESY OF: POWERHOUSE
[Clerk calls Ivan’s order]
That’s my order, I’ll be right back.
Ooooh, what donut is that? It’s a square one.
Peanut butter and banana cream.
Square doughnut and a small coffee! I gotta get a photo of this square doughnut too. So let’s see, where was I….started off at the Cameo.
Can you tell me about meeting Tim?
Tim and I met through skateboarding, we were both skaters and there was a place called Island Water Sports in North Miami Beach, and there was also a big ramp in someones backyard, a kid named, uh, two brothers Jeanie and Kevin. There was a big ramp in their yard, so I started hanging out there, Tim and I started hanging out there.
What inspired you to start Powerhouse?
Tim played guitar and we both were young in the scene, we were like, “let’s start a band.” So we started a punker band and it was called Bad Influence. Our first show was a backyard party at a friend of ours, her name was Leck. Our first experience was a few songs in and the cops showed up. So that was our first show. We played half a set in a backyard. I’ll continue the story, we were Bad Influence, we had a batch of songs, we did a couple of Agnostic Front cover songs, then we went through a few bass players and a couple drummers, then we changed the band name to Just Cause and that was real short lived. We then got exposed to that first Revelation Record, the WarZone 7″ came out and we got rid of all those old songs and we started writing new songs in that New York Hardcore vein. Dropped the boots and punky hairstyles and dawned the sweatpants and the Nikes that are on the back of the record. We started off as the Straight Edge band but we dropped the Straight Edge logo pretty quick and just were Powerhouse. We found our groove writing those positive songs, you know; brotherhood and all that stuff. Against racism and all that. We were in a type of scene that was mixed kids from everywhere, you know, you grow up in Miami and everyone’s from everywhere else. Everyone was Jewish or Spanish, everyone came from everywhere, we all had to get along. The south Florida scene was anti racism, everyone still holds to that today, no boneheads to speak of that you really see anymore at all.
Remember any favorite shows you played?
Lets see, we played at the Cameo once and that was with Brotherhood, SNFU and The Accused. That was our one and only Cameo appearance. We played with um…agh, it was so long ago I can’t even remember all the bands we played with. We played with Quicksand in Tampa. That was a messed up kinda show. They played before us cause they’re time frame was off so we played after them, maybe six songs but no one was there besides Quicksand. They stayed and watched us and liked us. Tim and Walter are friends to this day, they see each other regularly.
Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Powerhouse play a show with Up Front and Release? Isn’t that were the picture came from?
Yeah, the ones on the sleeve, whichever pictures you can see the ceiling tiles in. The picture on the back of the shirt came from that show. [Looking at Powerhouse classic shot] see the ceiling tiles and the gym lockers in the background? It was a rec center in the middle of a housing complex and this kid [pointing to kid on back of shirt], stole Publix crates for about a week. He kept going there and getting crates and crates and crates. And we made the stage out of crates and plywood. His name is Tommy Bretthauer. [points to kid with FWA shirt], Evan was the drummer for FWA, I haven’t seen him in ages.
I always liked how he is smiling in this picture, you always see these pictures with people angry but he’s having a lot of fun.
Yeah. We got a video of this whole show too that we gotta find; Up Front, Release, Brotherhood. Tim found it and then he’s like, “I don’t know where it is now.” But it’s in his stuff so we gotta dig up that tape and we wanted to send it to Sunny Singh of hate5six so he can digitize and put it out. I’m really looking forward to seeing that video again.
You’ve seen it before?!
Oh yeah, a long time ago.
Was it crazy? One of the craziest shows?
Yeah it was a lot of fun. You got the knee high stage so everyone was stagediving and moshing. Back when no one cared if they got hurt, and no one even cared if they got hurt!
Favorite hardcore shirt?
Ah man, um…we all bought a shirt from every band that came down, especially Tim, he would scoop up two or three shirts from each band. Tapes were big too, I tossed out an enormous duffel bag of demo tapes.
Just tossed it in the trash?
Threw it away. I was tired of carrying it around. It was this duffel bag with hundreds of cassette tapes in it. I didn’t listen to it. I’m so mad I threw that away, original demos and stuff from all these bands, some of them went on to do bigger things and some never did anything except a demo. I had live recording from soundboards at the Cameo. I had so many good live recordings of bands that I just threw out man. I threw my history away. I threw a part of me away. I just didn’t know what to do, I was tired of carrying it around. There may have been 200 cassette tapes in there. Not all of it was hardcore bands, but I bought a lot of music over the time, back when it was tapes and records, you bought the record and you bought the tape or you bought the record and you taped the tape. I never threw any records away. I never threw any away, I don’t have that many. Tim’s is huge, he’s got a lot more 7″s and stuff than I do. He, years ago, had to sell all his stuff for money. He had everything, a few copies of everything. Test presses and colored vinyls.
IVAN WITH POWERHOUSE | PHOTO COURTESY OF: NEW AGE RECORDS
Back to this, favorite hardcore shirt?
I used to wear the Brotherhood shirt which said Brotherhood on it a hundred times and Fuck Racism on it. Project X shirt, we wore that out for sure. The one with the Schism Records pocket, which is where I got the tattoo idea from. Bands came down with longsleeve shirts with the logo printed on the sleeves and we were like, YEAH! So we started making our hardcore shirts like that too. You know, you live in Florida, you’re not thinking about a longsleeve shirt very often. We had those shirts made with Mike Hartsfield of New Age Records, he made all the shirts and records in a bunch of different colors.
[I show him my OG longsleeve]
I don’t even have one of those. I have an original blue short sleeved shirt with the gold ink and the classic picture on the back. I keep it in a ziploc bag so it stays nice. I wore the hell out of it.
You couldn’t choose just one shirt? Or is it just too hard?
Well see, back then, Tim and I were big on Nikes. We wore Nike head to toe; the silk hat, two Nike shirts, the shirt and then the tank over it, the Nike shorts and then the Nike shoes. I wore the red stuff, he wore the blue stuff. I even had the Nike fannypacks. We couldn’t get enough Nike shit all over us. We were hardcore kids with Nike stuff all over us. The Nike shirt with the swoosh, the classic logo. Maybe you can boil that down to my favorite hardcore shirt, the classic Nike shirt with the swoosh.
Definitive hardcore releases?
Man, Black Flag, Misfits. Granted they were a little more punky, you know they wouldn’t be consider hardcore, more punk rock. I’m still a big Black Flag fan, Henry Rollins. Straight up hardcore from those early days that just killed it were Life’s Blood, Project X, Gorilla Biscuits, all of those. Revelation 1-10 were regularly rotating on the turntable. Insted too, Killing Time, Agnostic Front. Then later years, 108, love 108. Still love them to death, Rob and Vic and the boys. Quicksand too, they were killer.
Definitive non-hardcore releases?
I listened to The Smiths and Morrissey as well as The Cure. Those were big influences on me. It was just a different kind of vibe, but lyrically and musically I really liked it and I could connect with it, I would say some stuff I wrote, even music wise. I may have taken a part from a song one of those bands did and used in one of our songs in a way. Also like Sade a lot, she was cool. I was big on Sade, got all her records, got all her DVDs. She’s timeless, with vocal skills that are just killing it.
IVAN DOING THE ROLLINS WITH POWERHOUSE | PHOTO COURTESY OF: POWERHOUSE
Was there any other Powerhouse recordings besides the 7″ and the tape?
We did two songs that are off the demo for a compilation, I think we had different recordings for those. One song was Growing Strong and I forgot the other one. They weren’t new songs, just different recordings. They were different sounding, nothing too drastic. But other than that we had like 6 or 8 different songs as Powerhouse; we had a new batch of songs we were slipping into just before we split up, they were more in the vein of Sick Of It All and Killing Time. Mid tempo beats, longer songs, darker lyrics. The lyrics weren’t so posi, they were about living on the streets and the shit you see everywhere. It got darker and heavier. We never recorded them, but they are on that video, ‘X Powerhouse X at West Palm Beach’.
I like how you aren’t wearing shoes in that one.
Yeah I started the ‘no shoes and no shirt’ when Henry Rollins played like that. In an interview he said, ‘It’s not the look, I just don’t wanna do laundry’. I started thinking that’s a good idea, because I’d go to a show and play and then I’d have to swap shirts. I thought it was cool, no shoes and no shirt.
You talked about the breakup, what caused it?
Never really broke up. We just played a show and never played again. There was no breakup show. It was just difficult to get everyone together as far as commitment and stuff like that. It started to become a chore, and too much work. Some people weren’t committed enough to want to stay in. So we just quit, we moved on. We all left high school and life was just moving forward. Powerhouse came in my senior year and we were only around maybe 2 years. Maybe around 91, we played our last show, I think at the Thrash Can or something like that. It may have been the Quicksand show in Tampa. They had just got out and they just got big. I was a senior when we started the band.
Remember any stories about playing with bands that came down from New York? Youth of Today, Judge; they all came down for a show at the Cameo Theater.
They did, we didn’t play with them. We couldn’t get on the bill. I remember there was a big show the first time everyone came down and it was Thanksgiving weekend and I was out of town with the parents. No getting out of it. So I missed that big show. Then they came back, Youth Of Today and a few other bands came back. It wasn’t as many bands. We did met most of Youth Of Today, Ray, John, Sammy and Walter. We got backstage, I remember us after the show, all of us sitting on the stage, everyone was talking. Tim was the mouthpiece of the band, he did a lot of talking about the band. I was a little quieter. I met them all and it was cool.
ORIGINAL NEW AGE RECORDS POWERHOUSE 7″ AD
The Crew, Walk Together/Rock Together or New Wind?
Three different records, three different sounds. I loved all of those records, those were my favorite 7 Seconds records. When New Wind came out, we loved it but everyone hated it. Tim and I wore it out. New Wind and Praise were our golden 7 Seconds. I wanna say The Crew because it was first and it was really influential and that is what got me listening to 7 Seconds. I remember when they came down the first couple times to the Cameo. We hung out with them immediately. We made a point of meeting them, got to eat with them at Denny’s. Walked around South Beach with them. Tim stayed in touch with them. They talk often. Music is real inspirational. Not electronic, real bands with instruments. Mollys and flashing lights, not into that.
Can’t Close My Eyes, Break Down The Walls or We’re Not In This Alone?
I gotta go with the 7″, because that was the first thing, first exposure. Big part of the influence. Certainly influenced us. We were punkers in our boots, jeans and our flannels and then suddenly we heard THIS. We threw all the boots and flannels away and we wore the Nikes and the sweats. Thats when we started bouncing around on stage and trying to jump and touch our toes, or jump and do the splits. Those bands changed the whole mosh pit too. They changed it from the circle pit to the push’n’shove to the cherry picker/floorpunch, the elbow throws and the crowd killing. The pit got tougher. We did that first, in south Florida, we were the one Straight Edge, New York hardcore style band with that definitive sound. The fast drums and the mosh parts. The sing alongs, short and sweet. Tim, I would say, was the best hardcore guitarist in the scene. He just had that riff city. He could come up with a dozen songs in a second. Straight fuzz on the pedal, crunch too. Catchy song after catchy riff. We were like a pair of shoes when it came to writing songs, he would do the music and we would both do the lyrics. We’d both do musical changes. I did a lot of instruction with the drummer on little fills because I was big into the beat of the song. I had to have the flow and the cadence of the song. I did a lot of orchestrating of the drummers, Tim basically would tell the bass player. Him and I orchestrated the band the whole time.Powerhouse was Tim was I. We were a five piece for a short time. We had a couple bass players and drummers.
Do you have a personal favorite from the Powerhouse 7″?
I spent years and I mean years hating the 7″. I hated the recording, I hated the way it sounded. Everything was played too fast. But every musician is gonna say the same thing, and then some people are gonna the opposite. It boils down to different peoples taste. That Judge – Chung King Can Suck It came out and he trashed it. I had the recording of it, I loved it. I loved the way it sounded and how it was gritty and raw. I loved how it sounded like a recording of a live recording with one mic in the studio. He hated it so I guess, musician-wise its personal preference. Favorite track off the 7″, I would have to say Still Friends because it was Tim and I’s song. He wrote it about me, about us and how we were friends through the ups and down, thicks and thins. The song I hated most on the record was You’re Not True. I hated that song. I didn’t want to ever record it again. It was on the demo. You’re Not True was not a Straight Edge song, it was written about a friend, who was a good friend, who had to constantly lie or embellish all of his stories. Simply to impress me. In our minds we always thought, “you don’t have to bullshit us man, we’re friends. We know that’s not true.” People always thought it was a Straight Edge song, it wasn’t.
I didn’t even think you guys were a Straight Edge band, just a hard posi band.
We started with the Straight Edge label but angry straight edgers popped up. The Boston beatdown thing, “I’m gonna beat you up because you’re drinking.” We thought that was the lamest, dumbest thing. People are gonna do what people are gonna do, you can’t bash someone because they’re eating meat or wearing leather shoes. These are not reasons to beat someone up. We just decided to not categorize ourselves and stopped wearing X’s on our hands. So we stopped claiming Straight Edge. It came and went and we were just a positive hardcore band. The Straight Edge got real limiting and too militant. It got too hardcore about beliefs and all that. It got too extreme.
Thank you for your time, people I encourage you to listen to the Powerhouse 7″, New Age Records #3, if you haven’t heard it. Thank you Ivan.
NEW AGE RECORDS POWERHOUSE VINYL AND TEST PRESSING