Here it is, the fourth and final entry of the Lukie Luke interview. Luke was in the process of moving from Texas to Vermont, so we put this on pause for a little bit, but now that he’s settled in, he wrapped it up as promised. Thanks to Luke for keeping in touch and making this happen, this has definitely been a good one and he’s been a pleasure to communicate with. Now dig in, Bidip Bo! -Tim DCXX
How, in your mind, had GB changed or developed by the time the LP came out? Did it feel like a more developed band? What was the reaction, as you recall, to Start Today as an album?
I think developed is a good way to put it. Prior to “Start Today”, GB often existed in the margins of our other bands and so our evolution was inconsistent. After Youth of Today broke up though, Walter honed in on GB and things shifted into a higher gear. We began rehearsing on a somewhat regular basis – at least for us – and everything became more intentional.
Civ also stepped it up during that period and assumed a lot more control on stage. A lot of our earlier shows were sort of like practices with an audience. I remember playing a benefit in Albany when Wally stopped in the middle of “Big Mouth” to tune his guitar – by ear mind you – while everybody else just waited around. Then when he was ready we just picked up in the middle of the song and finished it out as if that was a perfectly reasonable thing to do. There was a unique lack of professionalism that was endearing, but was also somewhat limiting. By “Start Today” though, our sound and performances had gotten more refined, yet not at the expense of our decidedly casual attitude.
For some reason, the release of the record had gotten delayed and wasn’t out by the time we’d left for tour in the summer of ’89. Everyone around NY and California seemed to know a lot of the newer stuff, but for the most part there were a lot more kids singing along to the 7” wherever we went. Then with just about a week of shows left the record came out the day we played Chicago. The show was at some run-down club called Dreamerz, which was a second floor venue in what was likely a condemned building. I’m pretty sure that every single person who showed up that night must have bought the record that morning and spent the whole day memorizing the lyrics. It was absolutely insane. The entire building was shaking and I remember thinking that if the floor gave way I could probably make it to a concrete sill behind the stage and not get killed. The reception of “Start Today” was overwhelming from day one and has been ever since.
By 1989 you were solely focused on GB despite having juggled a few bands at once previously. Was this intended? Was there anything you were trying to do that never got off the ground?
I think playing in GB exclusively was just how everything worked out rather than being planned. I wasn’t going out of my way to play in anything else and GB toured all summer and fall anyway. Even if I’d still been in Judge at that point I don’t see how I would have been able to manage playing in more than one band. I did do Moondog that year but time-wise it was a minor commitment.
Despite all my musical activity in 1989 my interests had begun shifting away from hardcore pretty radically. I’d gone skiing earlier that year, became instantly hooked, and maintaining even one band grew increasingly difficult for me. I also finished high school that spring and for the first time in my life considered what it’d be like to leave New York.
How did playing bass in Moondog come to be and how do you recall that experience?
Moondog was great. It was almost effortless. Walter wrote six or seven tunes and we just hammered them out in maybe two practices. I tried to make the drums sound like a cross between Black Flag and Dag Nasty – really turbulent but mid-tempo. It was the first music I’d ever done that wasn’t straight hardcore. Everything just fell into place and the initial ways we played everything were how they stayed.
I really dug playing bass, and after filling in for Wally after he broke his ankle on the YOT tour I just wanted to give it a shot. Armand agreed to play drums for our first and only show. That show was in the late summer of ’89 – I think just a little bit before GB left for Europe. I was gone from New York basically from the fall of ’89 until the spring of 1990, and by the time I’d returned, Moondog had essentially transitioned into Quicksand.
By 1990 there was a whole new world of sorts that had formed out of the early Revelation camp. Many describe this as a “weird” time. How did the hardcore scene in 1990 compare to that of, say, 1987?
By 1990 I was pretty disconnected from both the scene and increasingly from GB. I had nothing to do with the newer bands emerging from that scene other than being friends with a lot of the guys. Though only three years apart, 1987 and 1990 were different worlds for me. I suppose that’s the nature of adolescence in part, but it really had changed dramatically for me. After the GB tour in Europe wrapped up in the fall of ’89, I cruised around on my own for about 6 weeks and it made a huge impression on me. I traveled as far north as I could into the Arctic Circle, spent time in Leningrad in the immediate weeks following the fall of the Berlin Wall, took a bus to Istanbul, and essentially just got as far out as I could. I loved simply wandering without expectations or an agenda.
When I got back to New York right before Christmas the city just seemed boring to me and I pretty much split for Utah immediately. I stayed with guys in Salt Lake who’d I’d met there on tour, and just skied all day and washed dishes all night. My involvement with hardcore took a back seat to other interests. I still loved the music and playing shows, but I wasn’t really hanging out anymore. Things moved pretty quickly back then and it didn’t take long before I was out of the loop.
What was the reason you stopped playing with GB?
They kicked me out at the end of 1990. I don’t blame them, but it still was a tough pill to swallow. My drumming had completely fallen off and I was just kind of coasting along. I was going to school upstate that fall and occasionally practicing with Walter on the weekends, but it was going terribly. I dropped out at the end of the semester to move to Colorado presumably thinking GB would just get put on hold. I’d wrestled with the idea of quitting off and on that year, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. In the end, the most difficult part of it was simply the feeling of being rejected on a personal level. Once the initial sting wore off though I felt surprisingly liberated. In hindsight, I wish I’d recognized how my actions were affecting the band and not put myself first, but at the time I simply didn’t know how to handle the situation.
After GB, what type of connections did you keep with the hardcore scene? Were you drumming or playing with any bands?
Pretty few – at least for a while. I got so deep into skiing and being in the mountains that there was little room for anything else. I still listened to the music and identified with the feeling, but there was nothing remotely close to a scene where I was living. I saw Quicksand play at Red Rocks in 1993, but that was the only show I saw until 1995 when I moved to the Bay Area.
One day in Berkeley I randomly bumped into Zowie from Leeway who’d landed out there too and we began jamming. My confidence in my musical abilities had taken a bit of a beating after getting kicked out of GB and he really helped restore it. I began going to shows again and hanging out some, but still had every intention of returning to skiing full-time. It was the winter of ’96 and I was about to move out to Tahoe when I blew out my second knee and had to return to New York to get surgery. I ended up staying in the city for almost two years and played around a bit, mostly with a band called Alpha Jerk, but all I really wanted to do was get back out west and ski again. Eventually, Alpha Jerk broke up when Derek left to join Sepultura and I moved to Austin, Texas.
Austin was only supposed to be a temporary stop. I’d gotten into some unhealthy shit being in New York, needed to get away, and I had a good friend living in Texas who’d said I could move in. I thought it would be a great place to go and take some time to get my head straight before going back to the mountains. But I really dug Austin and got caught up in playing music there and the whole environment in general. My pit stop ended up lasting over 15 years though, and I got married along the way and had three children. In fact it was only weeks ago that we all finally split and moved back east to Vermont.
Having been the predominant GB drummer, what did you think of CIV (the band)? Was it a bummer to see something that connected to GB without your involvement, or was it cool? Did you dig the songs/see them live/etc.?
I thought they were great. I don’t think I was even aware they were a band until my friend Eric Ozenne gave me a promo cassette of “Set Your Goals” one day. It knocked me out. Obviously it was easy to make the connection to GB but I didn’t harbor any ill will – it was actually to the contrary. It had been tough knowing GB was continuing on without me after I’d invested so much of myself into it, but with CIV I felt that I could enjoy the band without any hang-ups. When they came through California on the first Warped Tour, I went out to see them and had a great time. I sang “Sitting ‘Round at Home” with them and just got to reconnect with everybody. The following day Wally and I talked for the first time about everything that had gone down with me getting kicked out and it really hit home. Until that point, I don’t think I’d realized how much it had all weighed on me. It was a welcome and unexpected relief to patch things up and just let it all go.
In 1997 GB played a few songs at the Raybeez benefit at CBGB. Was that the first time you played with those guys since leaving GB? What do you recall about that show?
That was a crazy afternoon. I was out in Greenpoint practicing with Alpha Jerk and out of the blue Walter called and told me what was going on. The show was already well under way, but Derek and I raced into the city and met up with Walter at some practice space in midtown. We practiced for maybe 20 minutes and then just headed to CB’s. When we got there it was beyond packed and the only way we got in was behind Derek, who pretty much just plowed through the entire crowd. I think we made it to the stage right as CIV was finishing, hopped up there, and a few minutes later it was on. As chaotic as it was, it felt so good to play for that kind of crowd again and to be a part of what was happening. They could have just as easily done the set without me – in fact it probably would have been easier to have Sam play. Between those guys reaching out to me and getting the opportunity to pay a little tribute to Ray, I was incredibly grateful.
Any closing comments regarding GB’s current and or future status? Any closing comments in general that you’d like to sign off with?
Getting back together as a band has been terrific and wholly unexpected. None of this was premeditated, but after that benefit we played to keep CB’s open in 2005 everything just kind of snowballed. Almost every show we’ve played since has been unbelievably fun. The feeling of being on stage together is unparalleled for me. We’ve just taken it one step at a time, allowed it to unfold naturally, and it’s surreal how people have responded to us.
Despite the fact that we’ve been playing the same tunes now for eight years they always seems fresh to me. I feel the sentiments and attitude of the band are about as relevant now as they were 25 years ago. Civ has made sure that we’ve only played venues where kids have been allowed to stage dive – with maybe one or two exceptions – and it has been a huge factor in making our shows as much fun as they have been. And despite the changes in scenery and our relatively ancient ages, I think we’re playing better than we ever have before. As far as the future goes, I imagine we’ll play again next year. I had a pretty severe surgery on my shoulder and biceps in January and the rehabilitation has been a slow process. I’ve been able to start playing drums again just this past month. I still have a ways to go but I’m feeling good about regaining full strength and mobility again.
And a word of thanks to you guys at DCXX for giving me this opportunity – and apologies for taking so long to get this last section to you. It’s been cool digging out a lot of memories and having a chance to add my perspective. In some ways it blows me away how influential hardcore has become, but it also makes sense. It just took the rest of the world a bit longer to catch on to what we were doing.