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