Here we go, part one of what will be a multi part interview with Warzone/Gorilla Biscuits drummer, Luke “Lukie Luke” Abbey. Big thanks to Luke for putting the time and effort into this one and we look forward to keeping this train rolling.
Also, as a reminder, don’t forget to check out Luke’s eBay Auctions, (seller ID: yebba72) which will be coming to a close tomorrow (Wednesday, February 13th). Until then, enjoy this first installment and keep checking back for the follow up. -Tim DCXX
Where were you born and where did you grow up? What were you into as a kid before getting into music?
I was born during the winter of 1972 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, and grew up in Brooklyn. My folks split up when I was about 3 years old and until my teenage years I stayed primarily with my father, living near the intersection of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Boreum Hill.
Before I became a musician, I essentially did what everyone else in the neighborhood did; hang out, however my first real interest was bicycle riding. I loved that combination of balance and speed and the independence it provided. I rode everywhere and got to know more areas of the city than most adults did who’d lived there their whole lives. It really was an adventure for me. Otherwise, I dug baseball – a result of my father’s love for the game. He grew up going to Ebbet’s Field, and so I became a diehard Dodger and Mets fan, as well as an avid Yankee hater. I even got to see 3 games of the ’78 World Series at Yankee Stadium, where unfortunately the Dodgers got whomped.
As I got older, I got into more mischievous behavior of the urban variety and became increasingly reckless. Honestly, hardcore was what dissuaded me from getting deeper into trouble. I wasn’t a bad kid necessarily, but I definitely wasn’t getting better with age.
What was your segway into punk and hardcore? Who introduced you to underground music and where did this go down?
For a few years in the early ’80′s, lots of kids hung out at a Blimpie’s in the neighborhood. There were video games in the back and it was usually pretty packed out, even though hardly anyone ever actually bought anything. One afternoon, a couple of guys who were in high school called me over to their table. As I mentioned, I was kind of a troublemaker and I guess had a bit of a reputation as such around the school and neighborhood, and these guys were aware of it. I sat down with them and they asked me did I know what hardcore was and could I play the drums. I’d begun playing just a few months earlier and taken only a single lesson from some jazz guy who lived in Red Hook. When I showed up for my second lesson, his apartment building was actually on fire so I just turned around and went home. To this day, that’s been the extent of my musical training.
I told these guys I could play and asked them if hardcore was like the Sex Pistols. At that point I was pretty into the Stones and Tom Petty, and was just really getting into U2, The Clash, and Blondie. They told me no, not the Sex Pistols, like MDC and Minor Threat and Agnostic Front. Then – and I can still envision it today – one of them said, “and this is all you gotta do”, and began banging out a stereotypical fast beat on the tabletop and floor. He had a cool mohawk, leather bomber, and combat boots and I was just psyched. I said yea, repeated back the same beat, and these dudes just started laughing and smiling. An hour later I was back at their house looking through records and drinking gin, amaretto, and ginger ale – a cocktail dubbed “kickback juice”.
When had you started to play drums and what was the inspiration? First kit? Favorite early drummers?
Originally I wanted to play the saxophone, but another friend of mine took it up and I wanted to have my own thing. A group of us in school who hung together were going to start a band and my buddy William, who I’d been friends with forever and whose father was a drummer, was kind of leading the charge. The two of us and another friend named Ari who played bass would get together at William’s where his father’s drums were set up and just jam. We called ourselves “The Third Rail” because we were “electrified”. William was way into Hendrix and I remember our first jam in his bedroom, where I had only a snare drum, consisted of playing “Purple Haze” for probably three hours straight. William, a guitar player, and Ari were miles ahead of me and progressed at an astounding pace, and within a couple of months I was left in the dust. The two of them each went on to become incredible jazz musicians and still perform regularly.
I didn’t do much drum-wise for a year or so after that until my fateful meeting with those hardcore kids at Blimpie’s. I had a black 4-piece Pearl Export kit which my father had bought for me when I began playing. Oddly enough, it came with two rack toms and no floor tom. It’s the same kit I ended up playing for several years in GB and Warzone. After I joined Warzone, Ray gave me a silver floor tom to go with it, and I actually recorded “Don’t Forget the Struggle…” on it. I probably let everybody use that kit during shows at one time or another. I think Drew is playing on it in one of the photos on the cover of the Bold record.
The first drummer who I really listened to and thought about was Mitch Mitchell. As the first songs I ever really tried to play were Hendrix tunes, naturally Mitchell’s drumming was something I tried to copy. He was a jazz drummer playing blues and rock n’ roll, and the way he phrased everything and flowed was unique. He made those songs move, never got in the way, and brought in a whole other dimension of style. He could be incredibly elusive and understated, and also a total maniac. Whereas I think Hendrix could have been just as groundbreaking and influential with almost any other bassist, I feel that Mitch Mitchell was an essential part of what happened.
As far as non-hardcore drummers go, Stewart Copeland was the other big influence on me. His energy, sharpness, creativity all stuck out to me. He also seemed to really enjoy himself behind the kit, which I loved – and he hit hard. I remember recently when The Police reunited and were playing on some televised something or other, near the end of the song he broke his snare head, mind you playing open handed as well. And he kept on playing with the skin flapping around through the end of the tune with a big smile on his face. So cool.
In terms of hardcore drummers, I’ve gone through a few stages, but the first guy who really blew me away was Al Schvitz from MDC. Drumming on that first record just killed and I thought the recording was amazing. That album was just pissed off and I listened to it endlessly. I also loved the drumming on the Cause For Alarm e.p., but I don’t know who played on that record. I only had a tape of the record and the one time I went to see them I got kicked out for being underage – a trend that unfortunately followed me for several years. I remember not understanding how he could get those fast double hits on his kick and figured he must be using two feet – which he wasn’t. However, I also had no clue about double pedals, and one day borrowed another single pedal from a friend and tried to attach two of them to a single kick drum. Didn’t work. Those two drummers stuck out for me – Jeff Nelson too, whom I just thought sounded crazy and loved the way he double tapped the snare during fast beats. My guess is that came from Earl – another guy who I love but whose influence hit me much later.
As far as guys who were playing around my time, I always thought Ernie Parada was awesome. He’d do this little back-and-forth swishy thing on his hi-hat that was really great to watch. He also played one of the only two fills which I’ve ever completely stolen and incorporated – just a little riff which leads into the skank part of “Gorilla Biscuits” – which he obviously put there first. The other is a snare/bass drum fill on “Degradation” which I stole from Mackie’s playing on “Signs of the Times”. Thanks, guys. I’ve always appreciated Mackie too. For a time, I had an opportunity to work with a bassist named Zowie and he kind of schooled me about the pocket and not overplaying, a lot of which I think he’d picked up from playing with Mackie. It was a huge step in shaping my attitude towards drumming, and in recent years Mackie’s become hands-down one of my favorite musicians. Otherwise, I dug Doug E. Beans, who was a total powerhouse, and Drew from Bold who just rocked – and still does. I got to watch Into Another play in Chicago last month, and Drew just makes it look easy. But truly, there were loads of other exciting and talented players whom I watched and enjoyed throughout the years.
What were any early bands you played in that we don’t know about?
The only band I ever played in prior to joining Gorilla Biscuits was one called Loud and Boisterous, originally composed of myself and the two guys who recruited me that day at Blimpie’s. Mike, who played guitar, lived in a building in Brooklyn of which the top floor was basically a clubhouse in which we practiced and partied almost daily. Our singer’s name was Al Fashisto, who had been taken in by one of our school’s math teachers in Hoboken, though he essentially lived over at Mike’s. Eventually their buddy Dave moved up from Florida to play bass, and finally our friend Eric Fink, who later started Side by Side, began playing 2nd guitar. I was dubbed Luke Warm, and so my punk career began.
I went to my first shows at CB’s with those guys – I believe it was AF and The Psychos on the first bill I went to. Maybe December ’84? Got kicked out no less than 5 times that day and made a permanent enemy out of Karen Krystal. I attempted going in on my own – not realizing I needed to be 16, then had two different guys from the scene try and pretend they were my uncles. Next we pulled some random guy off the street and convinced him to say he was actually my real guardian and apologized for my other attempts, and finally after walking in next to Al hidden under his grey, ankle-length trench coat, I got past the front door. I was inside probably 10 minutes before somebody grabbed me behind my neck and walked me back to the front, at which point Karen put her face inches from mine and told me that I would never, ever get into CB’s again. I spent countless Sundays over the next few years parked in the vestibule or on the hydrant by the door, sneaking in here and there – including sometimes for shows I actually played.
Anyway, Loud and Boisterous played a total of 3 shows, though one of those was with Straight Ahead at their first show ever at February’s in Long Island. The other guys in LAB – except for Eric – were pretty uninterested in going to shows or even playing them, while I just got deeper and deeper into it. By 1986, I’d made a lot more friends in the scene while those guys had gotten into doing heroin. By our final show in Janurary ’87, I’d already joined GB and spent the night before going on a road trip with Youth of Today to Danbury. Our singer quit a few days before the show and so Eric sang instead. I woke up that day in Brooklyn maybe an hour before I needed to be at the show which was out at the Right Track Inn. Craig Setari picked me up on Houston Street and drove us out to the club where everything was already set up and people were waiting. I walked inside and straight onto the stage, played the set, and aside from Eric never saw those other guys from the band again.
Break down the timeline of bands you were in chronologically and how you ended up playing in each one.
Loud and Boisterous lasted from 1984 through the end of 1986. Then came Gorilla Biscuits, but I’m honestly not sure how all that originally began. Maybe through somebody around the Youth of Today circle? I actually tried out for YOT also before they got Mike. I guess that must have been some time in the end of ’86, but the band was about to go to California for a while and I was in school. But I’m not sure where the offer to try out for GB came from. I remember meeting them at the Birth of Unity show in November of ’86, and thinking the singer’s name was Sid, and that Gus Pena was actually Sid. Then they played, and I realized neither Gus nor “Sid” were a part of it. But I ended up trying out for them at Giant Studios shortly after that show and that was it.
Just about a month later, I was leaving practice with Walter and he asked if I wanted to tag along with him to Warzone practice at Tu Casa on Avenue B. Warzone had sort of broken up at the end of ’86 after Todd split to join Murphy’s Law, and I guess Ray was getting it going again with Wally on bass, Arthur playing 2nd guitar, and Brad playing lead. They’d actually had some drummer shuffling recently, with Tommy Carroll playing one show, then their old drummer Charlie from Ultra Violence coming back to play their final show at the Ritz. At the time Warzone were my absolute favorite band and I was beyond stoked to go see them practice. Whoever was playing drums for them at this point didn’t show up to practice, and after a little while Walter suggested I sit in. I told Ray I already kind of knew the songs and he was all for it. He’d sit down himself at the kit, play through a tune once with everybody, then I’d take a turn. After about two hours I’d pretty much played a whole set, and then Ray and Brad went out of the room for a few minutes while the other guys packed up. We all left the studio and headed up towards the Pyramid where Ray worked, and along the way he told me that the practice was really cool and asked me if I wanted to join the band. I don’t remember what I said, but obviously it was ‘yes’ and we stopped off at the Pyramid where he gave me his number and I left there on cloud fucking nine.
Warzone and GB took up all my time in 1987, especially Warzone in which we practiced religiously and played out a lot. Around early ’88 after Mike Ferraro had started Judge I think I just asked if I could play with them. I want to that say Drew had already played a show but since he wasn’t living in NY it was kind of difficult. Anyway, I’m not sure how that all started either, but I played in Judge for maybe 8 or 9 months, did a bunch of shows on the east coast and a trip out to Cleveland and Buffalo. I remember putting together a few songs like “Hear Me”, “Bringing it Down”, and “Hold Me Back” – and apparently “Just Like You” also because I’m credited with it on that Revelation discography, but of that I’ve got no recollection.
During the summer of ’88 I also roadied for Youth of Today on their US tour. Somewhere in the Northwest, Walter broke his ankle skating and had to fly home. At the time, Alex Brown and I were driving from his folks house to hook up with everyone in California, and when we met them in Chico the first thing Ray Cappo asked me was if I could play bass for the rest of the tour. I remember the 2nd show I did with them was at the Covered Wagon in San Francisco, and I’d try to jump around and go off. Every time I got more than three inches off the ground, all those California guys would cheer and make a big deal out of it. Let’s just say I wasn’t the most aerodynamic person at the time. But I played the whole way back across the country and really enjoyed playing bass.
Moondog was the next project I got into, though it was pretty short lived. The idea came up during a drive back to NY from a GB show in DC with Walter and our friend Howie. In the spring of ’89, Wally and I got together at a practice space and put together everything in just two or three sessions. Then we went over to Don’s and spent a few hours recording everything. I don’t think we’d originally intended on releasing that. After our GB tour that summer, we decided to play a show and asked Tom Capone and Howie – who played in Alone in a Crowd – to play guitars, and then got Armand to play drums. I think I just wanted to play bass again. We practiced twice as a group and played a single show at CB’s. I split NY for Utah that winter and by the time I’d returned I think the band had become Quicksand – or maybe it was still Moondog. Anyway, I saw them play one show at ABC No Rio, their 7″ came out pretty shortly thereafter, and those guys just took things to the next level. Seeing them play again back in June at the Revelation Fest was one of the best times I’ve had seeing music in quite a while. I unfortunately missed all the shows from their recent tour, but I hope they’ll do more in the future so I catch one.
As far as hardcore history goes, that was pretty much it. I practiced with Alone in a Crowd a bit and we were going to get that going, but I don’t think Jules was into doing anything else at the time. I played my final show with GB in Boston at the end of 1990, and was kicked out a few days later. It was bound to happen by that point for various reasons, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time and was pretty broken up for a while. A few days later I moved out West and immersed myself in the mountains, spent all my time skiing and riding, and essentially left music behind for the next several years.
Between 1995 and the present, I’ve done several bands to varying degrees of success all over the country. I did some projects that never saw the light of day, one with Alex from Chain of Strength, and another with Zowie from Leeway. There was a band called Alpha Jerk led by Derrick Green, whose now been singing for Sepultura for the past 15 years. I filled in on a Hatebreed tour just after moving to Texas in 1998, played with a local punk band called Dropkick for a while, and also spent several months with The Riverboat Gamblers in 2007. I worked hard on two bands also here in Austin; one called Velorum, which I loved but went nowhere, and another more recently called Ratking. And then of course, since 2005, I’ve been active again with Gorilla Biscuits, which has just been incredible.