Long time friend and occasional DCXX contributor, Lenny Zimkus, spent a good portion of the 90’s as a roadie for Sick Of It All, CIV and Shelter, as well as a handful of other bands. Through out those years of touring, Lenny got to know Sick Of It All bassist, Craig Setari, pretty well and has kept in touch with Craig, long after the roadie work has stopped.
Craig has become a veritable New York Hardcore icon, having played in some of the biggest and best bands (Straight Ahead, Youth of Today, Agnostic Front, Rest In Pieces, Sick Of It All, etc.) to ever emerge out of New York. Lenny pitched the idea to me that he’d like to interview Craig for DCXX, so naturally I told him that the floor was all his.
This is part one of a multiple entry interview. Huge thanks to Lenny and Craig for making this happen and of course Ken for the photos. -Tim DCXX
I grew up in Bayside Queens where I was born and lived until I moved to Jackson Heights when I was 18 and got my first apartment with Armand and John Devil Dog who I would consider the sheriff of the Alleyway Crew. I lived in Rhode Island a bit and all over the world living out of my bag, sleeping on floors and tour buses. But when I’m not touring I split my time between upstate NY where I have a farm and Queens. Ultimately, Queens is my home, my family is there.
What was your childhood like?
My mother was a very loving, caring and supportive person. Very understanding, but we were very poor. My father was an alcoholic so things were rough in the sense that we didn’t have money so we had to make do with what we had. He wasn’t really around so he wasn’t much of an influence on me. What I do remember of him is that he was a rough character. There wasn’t a lot of money but there was a lot love.
Do you remember when you started taking an interest in music?
I was probably 6 years old and I remember hearing some radio hits that I liked, then my brother’s friend played me the first Black Sabbath record and that intro with the rain and ominous sounding music made me think of a graveyard. That scared the shit out of me that I almost cried. But I would keep going back to listen to it until I wasn’t scared any more. Early rock and heavy metal was the music that I latched onto. My brother was into Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, etc. I would listen to whatever he brought home, I loved the energy and the excitement of it. I really liked the heavy metal stuff that I was listening to but when I found punk rock it was like heavy metal in the energy but it had a message that really balanced it out and took it to another level. They weren’t singing about a bunch of nonsense. Certain metal bands like Black Sabbath do have decent lyrics but that brought in a whole new wrinkle to the music. It wasn’t just a feeling or the sound, it was a philosophy.
What made you pick up an instrument?
I was really into playing drums when I was younger, around 8 or 9 years old. A guy in my neighborhood had a drum set that he was selling but he would never sell it to me. I couldn’t figure out why not, I wanted to play drums. Later I found out that my mother and brother who were friendly with him told him, “we live in a small apartment, you can’t sell him those drums.” So he would say “I don’t know if I’m going to sell them.” He would just play it off. He told me “why don’t you play bass, there are no good bass players.” I didn’t want to play bass, I wanted to play the drums.
So eventually my brother’s friend Danny Lilker who is a hardcore and metal musician would come over my house for lunch when I was a kid. Danny and my brother were in junior high and I was probably ten. He brought over a bass and left it there so my brother could play for Anthrax when they were first starting. I picked it up and watched intently as he taught my brother. My brother didn’t really care to play but I learned from Danny. He would bring over metal, punk and hardcore seven inches for me to listen to – like Discharge, GBH, the Bad Brains, and then a little later Black Flag and early NYHC records like Agnostic Front.
From being raised on metal and rock I went to the dirty end of that with hardcore. Not like The Clash, who were more melodic. That interest came later. I was more interested in the really aggressive sounding music and not the typical sing along. I went through a phase as a kid where I was into fast aggressive music, I wanted the music to be hard, heavy, and dirty. So around 11 or 12 years that was what sparked my interest in hardcore. This guy Dave Dicuzzi who I went to school with was a roadie for The Mob. Also John Omen turned me onto a bunch of music.
Really once Danny got me going and I met those other guys, who were part of the scene before me, was when it began. They would say “go check out this band at CB’s” so then I started going there. Everything just seemed like a natural progression, but in such a short time, like a year or two. From first being exposed to it to being being fully immersed in it, it was fast. The first show that I went to was in early 1984 and that was A.O.D, Bodies In Panic, and Malignant Tumor which I believe was their first show at CB’s. That was the first time I had ventured down there. Now you have to remember I was 14 years old and the city was a different place than it is now. I was pretty much allowed to do what I wanted but I was respectful of my mother and she just said be careful.
So on my own I went to a Mets game and then started taking the subway to CB’s…