TODD YOUTH, JIMMY GESTAPO AND RAYBEEZ | PHOTO: BROOKE SMITH LUBENSKY
Todd Youth is a guy that we’ve been looking to add to the pages of Double Cross for quite some time now. If you’re a fan of New York Hardcore, chances are very high that you’re a fan of at least one of the bands (Agnostic Front, Warzone, Murphy’s Law) that he’s played in, if not all of them. Aside from the hardcore bands that Todd has been an integral part of, he’s also played in or had stints with bands like Danzig, Motörhead, Ace Frehley and a slew of others.
We caught up with Todd to not only breakdown his past, but his future as well. With a brand new Bloodclot album due out soon, we thought first and foremost we’d waste no time digging into the now.
First, tell us about this new band and give us all the background on how it came together and what we can expect.
The new band is called Bloodclot. Almost two years ago John Joseph gave me a call on a Wednesday afternoon because current Cro-Mags guitarist AJ Novello had a death in his family and they had a show Friday in North Carolina. John asked if I would be able to pull it off. Now, I obviously knew the songs off of Age Of Quarrel having been a fan and friend since the early days. At one point around 1983/1984 we did some rehearsals with Harley on drums, Kevin on guitar, Eric Casanova singing and me on bass, so I already knew had to play some of the songs. I had to do a similar thing with Motorhead when guitarist Phil Campbell’s mother had passed away and only had two days to learn Motorhead’s set list and I pulled it off. So I sat all Thursday learning all the songs I didn’t know off AOQ, got on a plane Friday morning, landed in N.C. at 8pm and was onstage at 9:15, no soundcheck, no rehearsal, and it was a killer show! After the show me and John sat up all night, catching up, and at some point we discussed writing some songs, I live in LA and John is in NYC so I’d write something, demo it, email to john, and that’s how we started the writing process. As a far as what people could expect…it’s classic American hardcore punk, very influenced by the Bad Brains and the Cro Mags, but with our own spin on it. But like I said it’s straight up hardcore punk, no metal, that’s for sure.
TODD’S WARZONE AND MURPHY’S LAW TATTOOS
What would you say the driving influences are for the band and what are you hoping to do in 2016?
Well we’ve all know each other 30+ years, I started out playing in bands in 1983, my first band I was in was playing bass for Agnostic Front when I was 12. I’m sure most Double Cross readers know John’s background, but for those who don’t he sang on the Cro Mags demo (my personal favorite) and one of the greatest hardcore records of all time, Age Of Quarrel. I met our drummer Joey Castillo in ‘84 or ‘85, he was the drummer in LA’s Wasted Youth. The singer of Wasted Youth, Danny is on the cover of the American Hardcore book, their first record, Reagan’s In, was a great record, so they played a Sunday matinee at CB’s and their van broke down and they ended up hanging out in NY for a few days and I got tight with Joey. I was in Warzone at the time. Fast forward to ’87…I’m in Murphy’s Law on the Beastie Boys Licensed To Ill tour, we had a day off in LA so we did a show at Fenders Ballroom, and I think the bill was Murphy’s Law, Half Off, Wasted Youth and Youth Of Today. Two party bands and two straight edge bands! Joey in my opinion is one of the top 3 hardcore drummers around. To me there’s Earl Hudson, Mackie and Joey! In ‘99 when I got asked to join Danzig, the main reason I joined was because Joey was the drummer. Joey ended up playing in Queens Of The Stone Age and most recently he had been playing in the reformed BL’AST! Phil Caivano, our bass player is the most O.G. at of all of us. He started out when he was 14 playing in a band called Shrapnel. They used to open for the Dead Boys, Ramones etc. and were managed by Legs McNeil, founder of Punk Magazine and author of Please Kill Me. Phil and I spent some time in Murphy’s Law together and most recently he’s been the guitar player in Monster Magnet. When we started talking about who to get on bass, we needed someone who was a cross between Darryl Jennifer from the Bad Brains, Harley, Lemmy and still have their own personality…Phil is the only player that fit the bill – and he’s one of my best friends!
What would you say the driving influences are for the band and what are you hoping to do in 2016?
The driving force for me personally is I feel there’s a giant void in what’s called hardcore these days. Most of the bands I’ve been seeing or hearing are more influenced by metal, metal core or whatever you want to call it, but when I first started coming up it was HARDCORE PUNK! It had nothing to do with hip hop or metal, and no disrespect to those kind of bands or fans of that stuff, it’s just not my thing. I came up worshipping the Bad Brains, Black Flag, Cro-Mags, Void and that’s the sound we are going for. We start recording our debut album in June and it’ll be out hopefully sometime September/October, and we plan on staying out on the road as long as we can, haha. We all have things going on music wise, but this isn’t a “project”…this is our band and one of our main priorities
What music do you find yourself listening to these days and as a guitarist, what do you always come back to?
As far as newer bands, I really like Trash Talk and World Be Free. And whenever I need inspiration I always go back to the Bad Brains. They were the band that from the first 30 seconds of seeing them live, looking back now my life was never the same again. I think we all have these life defining and life changing moments but being able to pin point that moment is pretty cool.
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.
Director Drew Stone (xxx All Ages xxx The Boston Hardcore Film, “Who the F*$@ Is That Guy?” The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago) is slated to direct “The New York Hardcore Chronicles Film.” Centered on the community and culture of the iconic New York hardcore music scene, the film will be produced by Stone Films NYC for a 2016 release.
“My intention is not to make a film documenting the history of New York hardcore, but to tell the story in an episodic format with the thread of New York hardcore running through it,” said Stone. “For example, the ‘Spray Paint the Walls’ segment explores the connection between graffiti and New York hardcore. In ‘The Return to the A7,’ Roger Miret and Vinnie Stigma of Agnostic Front re-visit the legendary A7 club, the birthplace of New York hardcore, for the first time in over 30 years.”
“I’m really looking forward to this film, as a fan of the hardcore genre/culture in general, and of course the special New York hardcore faction we’re all part of,” said Freddy Cricien (Madball). “I go way back with Drew Stone — he actually filmed Madball’s very first video, and I consider him a friend. He has the credibility, the experience and — most importantly — the passion to deliver something super authentic, which for me and I’m sure a lot of folks, is most important of all!”
There will be a 20-minute “excerpt screening” as part of a book release party for NYHC New York Hardcore 1980-1990 by Tony Rettman at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 1 at the Grand Victory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Nihilistics, The High & The Mighty & Altercation will be playing the event.
K-Town when it was K-Town…the first annual Ramp Jam 10/20/85….Highlights include the heat showing up and ordering Crippled Youth to stop playing three songs in on a neighborhood complaint…Ray Cappo winning both the street and half-pipe competitions (Rat Bones 90A wheels and a Skull Skates deck being the respective prizes)…a fledgling member of K-Town’s infamous and notorious “Gashouse Gang” stealing my Agnostic Front “Victim in Pain” Ratcage cassette from the boom-box we were using to provide a soundtrack to the proceedings – upon learning the identity of the thief, word was sent that the band themselves (AF) along with twenty skinheads would show up at his house to beat up both he and his father on their front lawn (the punishment fitting the crime) if the tape wasn’t returned….the cassette mysteriously made its’ way back to me in the halls of John Jay the next day….simpler times. – Matt Warnke (Crippled Youth / BOLD)
RAY CAPPO WITH AN INVERT, WHILE MATT SITS ON THE RAMP AND WATCHES ON | PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT WARNKE
MIKE AND JIMMY WITH JUDGE AT THE ANTHRAX | PHOTO: ERIC BLOMQUIST
As far as records I loved, first and foremost was SSD – Get It Away. As far as a bands as a whole, it was 7 Seconds. Their records were great, I loved Kevin. When I tried out for YOT I remember they told me I was the new drummer and we’re going to Canada in two days. I was like, “what?!” It was crazy. I’d never really been out of NJ or much further than a car ride away. But here I am, now in YOT, and they said, “we’re playing in Canada with 7 Seconds, so get ready.” I couldn’t believe I was going on tour. I was blown away, it was everything I wanted. So to go play with Kevin Seconds in this band I loved? Crazy. So we get to the first club and it’s my birthday and I still haven’t even seen Kevin and we’re in the back of the club. The show had started and some band is playing and the door opens and Cappo walks in with Kevin Seconds and they are holding a cupcake with a candle in it singing happy birthday to me. I remember watching this and in my mind and I was like, “wow, Kevin Seconds is singing happy birthday to me.” I was so floored and trying to contain myself, I just wanted to tell somebody. Kevin was awesome.
See…I knew I was not a nice guy. But in my mind, I had it worked out that I knew why I wasn’t nice and I always told myself I was justified in why I was not a tolerant guy. A lot of the bands I liked fed into and fueled that side of me. But 7 Seconds made me wish I could be that positive, and be like him. I wish I could feel the way he feels…and mean it. Because he really does care and he really means what he says. I was like, “I wonder what it feels like to give that much of a fuck.” Because I spent three quarters of my life not giving a fuck…because nobody gave a fuck about me. What is it like to feel like that and have those thoughts? Because when I would write a song I never wrote a few lines at a time and put it away and come back to it later. When I wrote a song it was like I had a terrible headache and once I started writing the idea down it comes out of me like I’m being sick…and then the song is done. It’s not a good feeling. But when I’m done with the song, I love it. It would be weird if that feeling was a good feeling, you know, like…what if I had a really nice message, and I feel really good about it, and I’ll write it down, and then, when everyone listens to it, they’ll feel really good too??? It is such a nice, pleasant idea. I never had that because I was just a ball full of hate all the time. That whole first Judge record is one big ball of hate. I wrote most of it in a junk yard in Florida being miserable. I didn’t even like the people I was with at that time. I felt castrated and miserable. I couldn’t wait to come home and just hatch this thing I had in my mind. I couldn’t wait to fucking cut that loose. I was so angry.
Negative Approach and John Brannon fed into that dark feeling I had. I loved them from the moment we got the Process Of Elimination record. Because even though that song was so short, that picture of Brannon told me what I needed to know. I loved the Necros. Before Cro-Mags, there was Mode Of Ignorance. They were a fucking great band and one of my favorite NY bands. Those bands were angry. But bands in that 7 Seconds attitude, nobody else came close to 7 Seconds. And yet the same things that made me love 7 Seconds and Kevin sort of rubbed me the wrong way with Cappo. Because they were a lot alike with similar personalities, but it bothered me being in YOT with him at the time.
JOHN BRANNON AND THE MIGHTY NEGATIVE APPROACH AT THE FREEZER, 1982 | PHOTO: UNKNOWN
Any New York band, I loved. I was just in love with NYHC. There were lines being drawn early on. Boston said their bands were the best…heavier…harder. If there was ever a mixture of the bands, I was for NY. I loved Reagan Youth. I loved Kraut. As good as Adjustment To Society sounded, they sounded better live. They were professionals. The Abused were intense. Antidote were intense. At first in NY it was real cliquey. That NY Crew was tough to crack, especially being from NJ. John Watson, Vinnie, Jimmy Kontra…those guys were friendly, but being from NJ, not everyone welcomed you. Vinnie would always lend a hand or let you crash at his spot. But initially, there were guys that were standoffish. There was some fashion criticisms going on. “Who are the NJ guys wearing sneakers? Why do they have their jeans rolled up?”
It wasn’t until I met guys from Queens coming in that I had a connection. Those guys were friendlier and we got along really well and I think it had something to do with them being sort of a suburb and both of us being sort of on the outside. This guy Ken Wagner from Queens was one of the original Queens guys down with Major Conflict and Urban Waste and Reagan Youth. That initial Astoria Crew were cool, that original Gilligan’s Revenge crew. We hung out, talked on the phone, met at gigs, supported their bands. Reagan Youth had their own crew from Rego Park. It was like after banging heads in clubs for a while, we became a united crew and a part of the actual NY Crew. John Watson saw that. He saw our support and we got accepted into that real NY Crew. New Jersey people got mad at us. Sand In The Face got mad and would cross out the “Y” and make a “J.” Not so much Adrenalin OD, but the people around them would call us posers because they thought we were trying to keep where we were from hidden. I told everyone I was form NJ. Cause For Alarm were from NJ when they first started. It seemed like we were really trying to be a part of the NY scene and when we stopped catching hell in NY for being for NJ, we started catching hell from NJ people for us being so into NY. The WFMU crowd was rough on us, and we got no gigs in NJ at the small places. City Gardens doesn’t count, but places like the Pipeline told us, “look…you wanna be from NY? Then go play NY.”
There were a lot of great bands back then. Stetz was a great band. I just listened to that demo again. It’s so fuckin’ good and ahead of it’s time. There were a lot of great NJ bands. AOD were really fuckin’ good. I remember running into them on a Judge tour, in like Phoenix or something. We had already played all the way out to the west coast and were on our way back and when I walked into the club AOD was on the bill. I was like, “man that’s cool, I really like them and haven’t seen them in a shitload of years.” So I had all these battle scars from the gigs we had played on that tour so far, and when we met up with those dudes to soundcheck the guy from the club asked if we wanted to soundcheck and we were like, “Nah,” – because we had been through the mill and playing so much. AOD looks at us and can tell we’ve been on the road into all sorts of shit, and they were like, “uhhh, what the hell happened to you guys?” And we were like, “well…shit…Judge tour.” They realized we had been dealing with some tough crowds and all sorts of people showing up to instigate shit. They said, “will it be bad here tonight?” We were like, “umm, yeah…probably.” The club guy right then was like, “yeah, so and so local gang have been calling. They are only gonna come here to fuck with you if you are here.”
ADRENALIN O.D. | PHOTO: UNKNOWN
As far as moshers back then in the early eighties and who could dance…number one was Watson. Man I don’t know dude, there should be a way to film that so people could learn how to do it. He looked fucking cool. There was also Diego, who played in AF when Watson was signing. That dude was like a hard, hard dancer. Eric Casanova, he danced really good. Carl Mosh was really good. All I did was stand in the middle and wait for shit to hit me. I just let the music hit me. If it was a great band like the Abused, then man…forget it. Early on there were some hold-outs still doing this pogo deal, they were quickly washed away. It was all way too violent. That circle thing happened for a while, and then John Watson was one of the first guys to not go in a circle. He’d do this thing like right in his own space. Especially if it was like the Bad Brains, it just matched the music and looked cool. It was total style. At the time, I thought it was violent. I had my nose broken by Jimmy Gestapo.
Whatever is going on now on the dancefloor and in the pit, I don’t understand it. It looks rough. I don’t understand how people aren’t being taken out on stretchers. It’s not like it was. There was a big chunk of time I missed in NYHC when I was gone after Judge. I don’t know what’s going on now but it looks like karate out there. I don’t know what happened in that time when I was gone. I’ve been told about something called “beat down” as a genre of music or dancing. I don’t know what that is. I know what a “beat down” is…but whatever this is, I don’t know. That type of violence was what ruined Judge the first time.
In the beginning in NY, there was a fight at every show. By the time I got into YOT, the fighting was crazier and crazier. From like ’82 on, certain people were getting older and bigger and stronger, and the fighting was getting worse. There were incidents that made me be like, “woah…fuck. I wish I didn’t see that.” I’m not saying names. There were things I saw that I’m not going to talk about. New York was a scary place. In the beginning it wasn’t fights amongst each other, it was fights in the neighborhoods where the shows were. DBD played this place called the Sin Club on Avenue C and I was standing there and these two girls were lined up at the bathroom. This one girl Polly who was at all the shows was waiting for the bathroom and this Puerto Rican girl who wasn’t a part of the NY scene at all started this fake thing where she said Polly was banging on the bathroom door. Out of nowhere, she stabs Polly right in the stomach. It was absurd, nothing had been going on. So she stabs her and takes off. The ambulance shows up and takes Polly away. All of us are out front and these neighborhood people start coming around us and one guy starts saying, “yo who stabbed my sister?” He had no relation to Polly and was just using that line to start trouble. All of a sudden he pulls out a gun. I was with Harley and we run into the club, diving over tables and taking cover as this guy is actually opening fire on us. We got the fuck out of there. At first in these neighborhoods, the only white people were punk rockers. Nobody went on the other side of the park past Avenue C. Eventually gentrification pushed things down. Later, Avenue A had nice parts with people eating dinner on sidewalks where I used to see broken heads. So we started fighting each other as cliques popped up. Even with us, it got to a point where if YOT was playing you knew who was coming in and who was staying outside. We were guilty of it too because if it was a band we didn’t want to hear, we stayed outside. We spent years preaching to the choir.
There were some bad fights. I was in some dust ups. Dead Kennedys played Staten Island and we had never been there. We wanted to go to the show with everyone from the scene. So instead of going straight from NJ, we go to NY first and take the ferry over. We could tell shit wasn’t right because once we get there and start walking to the club people were coming out of bars and yelling shit at us. By the time we get to the club the whole town was out for us. The gig turned into a riot, and we have to run down the street to get back to the ferry and the bars empty with people trying to kill us. They were out for us because we weren’t wanted there. There was all sorts of shit there.
There’s still grudges from back then. Pool balls in socks on the dance floor…I’ve seen that. There was Boston shit. At Great Gildersleeve’s, Rosemary’s Baby played and there were a lot of Boston people there. Alex from Cause For Alarm’s girlfriend Kim was on Alex’s shoulders. She had a shaved head. Supposedly this Boston dude didn’t know it was a girl and he grabbed her and pulled her right down to the floor on her back. People went crazy and wanted to kill each other. It wasn’t SSD guys. I don’t think they were in any bands. They all had floppy fishing hats on, acting crazy.
“Boston Came Around One Night” – that wasn’t a specific action, which is what Choke and those guys thought. I was summarizing things in that line. There was a rivalry. It went back and forth. Although I wasn’t there, I was told of Jimmy Gestapo fighting Dicky Barrett. But I was a fan of all those bands. When Choke was so mad at me for whatever he thought I said in Judge, it bummed me out. Last Rights was like my favorite band. I wanted to sing like him, I thought he was great. His vocals on that record were everything I wanted to do. When I wrote the New York Crew record I had all these words in me. All I did was sit in Porcell’s apartment in Brooklyn with the Last Rights record, SSD, and Negative Approach…listening over and over, psyching myself up to piss people off, just by mixing those three bands to come up with what those three guys would sound like if they had one voice. That’s what was in my mind. So it really bummed me out when Choke wanted to throw down with me because he thought I called him out. That song was supposed to just be a retrospective on everything. When I first wrote it the words were different and there were other specific instances included. Porcell said, “look…you can’t say this shit. You can’t say this, some of this stuff is detailing crimes. You can’t cop to this stuff.” Why? Because people got hurt. There were summertime nights in the early eighties of NY, and a lot of fun things happened. But man…things could be heavy. So Porcell talked me out of it. Looking back he was totally right. At the time I didn’t think anybody would hear it. I figured I’d record this and the only people that would have it would be Porcell, Al Brown, and me. The way it caught on took my by surprise. Then it dawned on me: “Now I have to go up and sing?”
MIKE AND JIMMY WITH JUDGE AT CBGB | PHOTO: JEFF LADD
Here it is, part two of our all-encompassing interview with Mike Judge. We’re hoping to post at least two entries a week from this interview, so stay tuned and keep checking back often. -Tim DCXX
So in my freshman year I’m in the lunch room and there was a table of punks. Loud, crazy, obnoxious. They don’t give a fuck, they are throwing shit, people are making fun of them but they don’t even care that people are making fun of them so they start throwing shit right back at them. Here I am, and I am scared of my own shadow. I’m a total wallflower hating myself and I’m just like, “how can I be like THOSE guys? Because they don’t give a fuck.” Any chance I could get I went out of my to run into them. Eventually I got to meet them. Paul Schraft was one of the first ones I met. I remember talking to him and he’s like, “I have my own band.” I’m like, “what?” He says, “yeah, I have a band called Sand In The Face.” I’m like, “you’re a kid, you don’t have a fuckin’ band.” He was like, “dude, come over to my house. We’re gonna practice on Friday night.” So now I’m stoked because I’m gonna tell my dad I actually have something to do on a Friday night for once in my life. Like, shit, things are looking up.
So after school that day I’m walking home and I see Howard and he’s like, “what are you doing?” I’m just walking home and he says to walk with him because his house was by mine. He’s like, “come on in and we’ll listen to music.” Well that’s all I did anyway so that sounded great, I can actually listen to music with somebody. So he puts on music…these bands called Suicide, Television, Blondie, Devo…I’m like, “is this punk rock?” He says, “yeah new wave, punk rock…but do you wanna hear punk?” He puts on Never Mind The Bollocks. I’m like, “WOW.” It doesn’t sound as good as a band like Creedence in terms of the quality and recording, but it sounded awesome and powerful. It sounded like it was saying “FUCK YOU.” And I wanted to be the guy saying “FUCK YOU.”
So I go home and I have to talk to my brother immediately because even though he’s a dick, he has a car. So I say, “listen I need you to take me to this record store to buy this record I heard. He’s like, “what record?” I tell him “Sex Pistols.” He’s like “what the fuck is that, punk shit?” I’m like, “yeah punk rock.” He’s like, “you’re not gonna go buy that punk shit. You’re not gonna go listen to that faggot shit.” Just total hillbilly attitude, he had this whole “not in my family” thing. I’m like, “dude…just take me.” So we go a few towns over to Wayne to this record store called Looney Tunes. I spent all the money I had. They didn’t have Never Mind The Bollocks but they had Flogging A Dead Horse, London Calling and some others. I took those home and listened to them in my brother’s room because he had record player. And he’s saying “what the fuck…that shit sucks”…which makes me like it even more. I wore those records out, especially London Calling. I listened to London Calling so many times…and was just obsessed with it. If there was ever an opportunity in school to do anything where I could bring up that record, I would. It was major.
So Paul Schraft knows I bought these records and am listening to this stuff and he says “Oh you like that? Man, listen to this.” And he lets me borrow Jealous Again. So I take that home and that was just like…man…that was IT. When I listened to the Sex Pistols, they were a group of guys that gave off a feeling of “FUCK YOU.” But now I have a band who is flat out saying: FUCK YOU. Like, “Look, maybe you don’t quite get the drift. Maybe we aren’t spelling it out enough for you, OK? FUCK YOU.” It was right there. “It’s not my imagination, I got a gun on my back!!!” Listening to that…man, I don’t even know how to describe it…I felt reborn. It was amazing.
I begged my brother to go back to the record store and I didn’t even wanna fuck around. I told the guy I needed Jealous Again. He’s like, “we don’t have any more copies of that, but their new record is out, you should try it.” He brings me a copy. It was the Damaged record. As soon as I saw the cover…the shaved head and the mirror and everything…man, it changed my life. Right there. I went home and listened and that thing just defined the way I was thinking, the way I was feeling, everything. Especially that second side. There’s never even been a drug that could get me as high as I felt listening to that record. NOW I knew why I was breaking everything. NOW I knew why I wanted to stomp everything in sight. NOW I knew why I would drive past the high school and think to myself that I wanted to just drive the car right into the crowd of jocks. It was all defined right there in that record and in those lyrics. That was it.
Paul Schraft took me to my first show soon after that. It was Misfits and Necros and I thought it was also Kraut, but I’m not sure if it was Kraut because Doug Holland says it wasn’t. That was at Hittsville in New Jersey. A few nights later I went into NYC for the first time and saw the same bands at Irving Plaza. I was fucking hooked man. It was like a big room of people who were kinda just like me. And everyone was talking. I’m thinking “no wonder I couldn’t fucking meet anyone, because none of those guys in school are like these guys.” Now it was easy to meet people…you just show up, AND bands play. I was blown away. All of that was awesome.
Paul Schraft had a girlfriend and she tells me she’s ordering some records. That she was just going to write to Minor Threat, to the guys in the band, and get some records. She asks me if I want anything. I’m like, “what?” She’s like “yeah I just write them, and order their records.” So I told her sure, I guess? It was so weird but awesome. So I’d start to write them. I still have those letters…letters from Jeff Nelson or Burt from Double-O. So I was writing a band directly and getting their records, and they were writing me back! A year ago I was talking to the fucking wall in my room and pretending the wall was talking back to me. Now I’m talking to a guy a couple hundred miles away in a different state…and he knows my name! It was fucking intense. I was hooked.
My next breakthrough moment was a CB’s matinee. That set me on the path that I’ve been on since. Because at that point I love these bands like Black Flag…but I go to CB’s and I see AF with John Watson. It was a Saturday matinee. During AF’s set John Watson says something like how they’re ending the show early because they have to play tonight out of town, there’s cars leaving and we should all go and support them. They were playing in Camden, New Jersey at Buff Hall. So some of these guys I had known that I came with drove, and I definitely wanted to go. So we pile in and we followed out the cars from NYC to Camden…we were going to support AF, like as their crew. It was the Philly BYO doing the show and it was AF, SSD, Minor Threat, and a Philly band. That was the show people talk about because Ian got run over and SSD’s van got into an accident. Al’s wife Nancy put on the show. That was my first out of town show and everyone was there to support THEIR band. It was like going out of town to an away game to support your football team, but without the dumb drunk jock bullshit. It was this network. I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t been at CB’s. After that, I didn’t miss a matinee for a long time…
CRAIG SETARI WITH SICK OF IT ALL IN SINGAPORE, 2007 | PHOTO: MAGNUS CALEB
So here we are, the final entry to this killer interview with Craig Ahead. It took awhile to get it all posted, but I think in the end, it was well worth the wait. Once again, big thanks to our friend Lenny Zimkus for orchestrating this interview for us and of course, huge thanks to Craig for delivering mind blowing story after mind blowing story. Now without further ado. -Tim DCXX
Tell us about Rest In Pieces.
Agnostic Front played from ’87-’89 and then Roger got incarcerated for 18 months and during that time I played with Rest In Pieces. I was working as a furniture mover and playing with the band. It was a serious band but not one that was going to go on tour – we were more a local band with shows in the area. I would say that we were very professional musician-wise and we took a lot of care and time into the music that we were creating. We had written the record which would become Under My Skin and recorded in Long Island for one day. We thought it sounded like shit and we just left without paying. Then we went to Normandy and it came out really good, except that me and Rob were telling Armand his vocals were out of key and they sound really bad. In typical Armand fashion being headstrong he didn’t listen to us. Then two years later he told me and Rob, how come you didn’t tell me it sounded like that.
How did you end up in Sick Of It All?
After the last AF show in Czechoslovakia I flew home and Armand called me to let me know Richie quit and they want me to go on tour. I couldn’t do it after that AF tour. I was going to stop doing this and go to school to be a chef. I wound up doing the tour with SOIA for 6 weeks with one day off after being in Europe for almost two months with AF. I came home, did my laundry and left. This was the tour after Just Look Around came out. We brought Ezec and Toby with us and it was so much fun, it was like being on tour with AF, but a light hearted version.
After being with those guys for that time I said fuck school I’m in the band. I knew them forever, I helped them out with writing songs or playing so it was a natural fit. So all of ’93 I played with them then we wound up signing to a major label and recorded Scratch The Surface. That was the point where my career really blew up and I felt like we were becoming a worldwide phenomenon- not just the band but hardcore as well. With hardcore I’ve been able to travel the world. I think I’ve pretty much been everywhere that there is a scene, except China, India, and Hawaii – I would really like to go those places.
I wake up and thank God with a smile for the life that I have. I am so grateful to be living the life that I live with the disposition I have to be able to appreciate and understand everything that I do. I have always understood my position and have realized how fortunate I am, and how great my karma is. I say this without being arrogant: I live a great life, all of my dreams have come true. When I think about it I get choked up to this day. I have a farm with amazing views of the mountains which is something that I always wanted. I love my job which is what I always wanted to do – and people respect me, they thank me. I just did what I wanted, I didn’t have a safety net under me and it worked out to be this great thing. How amazing is it?
I was always into boxing as a hobby, and I dedicated myself to it for a year. I went on to be a trainer and I coached guys who went on to win amateur championships and titles. I was the assistant coach under my coach making good money training these guys. This was the ultimate fulfillment of the hobby to reach this peak in something I loved to do. I keep repeating it but I appreciate everything in my life and I am so thankful. Earlier I had mentioned that Hardcore was my life and I have to say it still is. It might not be as tight knit as it was then with going to shows and then hanging out in the park. But for me it’s an adult thing and I’ll be friends with these guys the rest of my life. Back then all I cared about was getting in a van and going to a show and being with my friends – nothing else mattered. And still to this day it’s the main focus of my life. If we have to get on a plane and go to a show that is our main focus…the four of us, there is no stopping us. With Sick Of It All we realize that this is our thing and nothing at all gets in the way, 100% dedicated 100% of the time.
CRAIG, ARMAND, PETE AND LOU OF SICK OF IT ALL
What was the best and worst part of being in Youth Of Today?
The live show was the best. The worst part was the jock hazing they gave me because I was the kid from Queens without the right sneakers.
What was the best and worst part of being in Agnostic Front?
The best was the experience and the wild abandon that any situation was handled with, and the worst was the experience and the wild abandon that any situation was handled with, without a safety net, just taking a chance and seeing what happens.
What was the best and worst part of being in Rest In Pieces?
The best was it was a professional band with my friends and we all completely understood each other as musicians. We were confident that we’re trying to sound as powerful and intense musically as possible. The worst was it was a purely musical thing and we didn’t have the charisma to do what my other bands could do in a live show.
CRAIG WITH SOIA IN SIGAPORE, 2007 | PHOTO: MAGNUS CALEB
What was the best and worst part of being in Straight Ahead?
The best was that it was my baby and I was writing songs in the most natural primitive way I could. Those early days in Hardcore were such a thrill for me. The worst was the instability.
What is the best and worst part of being in Sick Of It All?
The best is these guys are my friends and my brothers since I was younger. It’s my home. The experiences we’ve had, the friends I’ve made all over the world…I really can’t describe it. If you could take my memories and put it on paper it would be like War and Peace of Hardcore. It has totally cultured me about any preconceived notions I’ve had about people. It’s opened my mind, eyes, and soul in this lifetime. I have nothing bad to say about it at all.
I never thought this would be my life but I took a chance and so far it’s worked out. I have no regrets.
CRAIG WITH SICK OF IT ALL AT THE COURT TAVERN, NEW BRUNSWICK NJ | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
Do you remember the first time you saw AF play?
The first time I saw them was at CB’s in 1984 and my memory of them is that Roger had his arm at a 90 degree angle gripping the microphone, the whole show his arm did not move no matter how many people carried him around or how much he got mixed up in the crowd his arm stayed at that angle with the microphone in his face singing. To me they were the quintessential hardcore band with chains around their waists, boots, cut off sleeves, army shorts…Hardcore, straight up hardcore. Later on when I made it into the band, I couldn’t believe I was in AF. I remember calling Armand, Pete and Lou and saying “yo I’m in Agnostic Front!”
It was unbelievable how I rose through the ranks and to be in the number one hardcore band. I had worked my way up playing in all these other bands but it happened so quick that I was playing with them. The band that I worshipped and idolized, the pinnacle of NYHC, something that I aspired to be…I was in the band. The band that made NYHC what it was…when Victim In Pain came out they took NYHC and put a flag and a stamp on it. I was in the band now and I couldn’t believe it.
CRAIG AT THE COURT TAVERN, NEW BRUNSWICK NJ | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
AF shows were always packed we would do east coast tours, head out to the west coast, and after about a year and a half we went to Europe in 1990. It’s my first time out of the country and Roger gets deported in Switzerland 3 days into the tour because he had a criminal record. We had the roadie sing and I had to teach him all of the lyrics. That was a crazy tour. Afterwards I was sick from stress for 6 months. It was like being in Vietnam and coming back totally shell shocked. It was right around the time that the wall came down in Germany and East Germany was no longer communist. So the guys who booked the tour were these two Italian anarchists. We are sitting in a restaurant eating and we go outside and they are fighting with the cops getting the living shit beat out of them. We go outside and they arrest all of us, they tell us our van is stolen. We don’t know what they are talking about so it turns out the van was stolen a few months ago and it was never taken off some list so here we are driving around in a stolen van and they put me in a cell which just a couple months ago was an East German communist jail. I’m put in a chair facing the wall, one guy puts on a pair of leather gloves and starts punching his hands and he’s laughing in my ear. The other guy is speaking Russian to me punching his hands. Roger is saying “fuck this!” I’m laughing because by that time I’m hardened and I’m saying you’re not going to do shit, you’re all talk. They put each of us in our own cell for probably five hours and they eventually let us go but they stole all of the money we had in our brief case. That tour I made no money – they robbed thousands and thousands of Deutsche Marks from us.
CRAIG WITH SICK OF IT ALL AT WEBSTER HALL, NYC | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
I had been in this band for years and was put in crazy situations. I was in the middle of knife fights – people getting stabbed right in front of me…this was nothing to me. I slept on rotten squat floors with no ceilings next to junkies shooting up next to me the whole tour. The conditions on that tour were unimaginable, it was like being a homeless person except that you were being given a tour of European junkiedom, it was fucking crazy. At one show the Italian promoters are arguing with the German promoter and they smash a yogurt container against the bar, yogurt goes all over the German guy’s girlfriend and immediately the lights go out. The place is pitch black and they knew what they were doing. I knew the drill from being with these maniacs that we were in trouble. So I get down on the floor with one hand ready to sprint in any direction and the lights come on and five feet from my face everyone in the club has bats, pipes, sticks ready to beat the life out of us and throw us in a ditch and the one guy had a gun. So I yell out “back door! Run!” We’re running away from our van and they chase us about 100 yards and finally stop. We get back to the van and laugh how we almost died. These Italian guys started trouble everywhere. Roger would put me in these situations that I would have to get out of. He would say “Look what I’m going to do to Skully,” which was what they called me.
I would be outside a 7-11 and he would set something up where a group of grown men thought I did something to their car and I would have to deal with these guys wanting to fight me. This was the first time that I was making any money being in a band. I was an 18 year old kid making thousands and thousands of dollars. I would make three grand for ten days of work. But then I would sleep at Vinnie’s house for a week straight, eating sushi everyday until I spent all of my money. Agnostic Front though was great and I really enjoyed it. I was in that band until 1993. AF broke up due to a managerial situation that I won’t go into detail about. It is about the most insane story I could tell you that you wouldn’t believe. Next to me telling you that they had a contact with aliens, it’s about the next most shocking thing.
To be continued…
CRAIG TAKE THE MIC WITH SICK OF IT ALL AT THE COURT TAVERN | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO