We spent 1984 skating every ramp we could and going to every show we could. These two interests (hardcore/skating) were completely intertwined; a mishmash of Government Issue, bus transfers, Marginal Man, stinky pads, snickers, ditches, stealing wood, Annandale, cassette tapes, super big gulps, and/or Void at the Wilson Center. At the shows we started to recognize familiar faces from ramps, school and the neighborhood, and made new friends from all over the DC area. I feel like being skaters gave us a bit of a late pass, like “oh, how cute! here come those skaters again” as we’d stage dive in train fashion. Our high school had a healthy goofy punk scene (Colin and Roger from BMO and later Dag Nasty, Mike Fellows from GI and Rites of Spring, Natalie and Kate who would go on to form Fire Party, Joel Gwadz, Rob Hardesty, Maureen Gorman, Jen Mercurio, Katey Chase). Many of these older punks took a big-brother/sister interest and helped refine our musical tastes.
The girls were especially good scene ambassadors; I can’t stress this enough… they were very enthusiastic in our musical indoctrination. Hardcore tends to drown out interest in any other sound, but they tried to instill in us an appreciation for other/older bands (Joy Division, Birthday Party, Generation X) that inspired the newer bands we liked… and they were sweet to boot. A very friendly, positive experience overall. Our local skate shop (Bethesda Surf Shop / Sunshine House) was incredibly supportive as well, and adopted us as their team like they did Ian and Henry years before.
Ramps were rare, so word of ours spread quickly, pulling local skaters out of the woodwork. Some we recognized from the records we were listening to: Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat), Tom Clinton (Youth Brigade, Double O), Eric Lagdameo (Red C, Double O). Brian Baker showed up one day with OP Moore from Negative Approach. That was pretty mind blowing for us, even more so when OP did a miller flip on our shitty little ramp. Crossing paths with these people (in and out of shows) further wore down the star effect, and made the prospect of playing music seem more possible, logical, obvious.
JASON, SPRING 1985 AND WITH A METHOD AIR IN 1988
One day Tom Clinton brought a kid named Lawrence McDonald and his little brother Mark to our ramp. They soon became a daily fixture and very much a part of our tight-knit group. Lawrence had played in a band years before (Capitol Punishment with Colin Sears and Mike Fellows), and was starting a new band called Bells Of with himself on guitar, Alec MacKaye (Faith) on vox, Bleu Kopperl on bass, and Peter Wilborne (the 400) on drums. Having started in summer DC 1985 they were heavily inspired and influenced by Rites of Spring. Their first show was ok, in hindsight maybe Alec wasn’t 100% sure of his involvement in the band. At the end of the summer they jumped into Inner Ear and recorded rough tracks for 7 songs before Pete left for college. With their 2nd show approaching and no drummer to practice with, Lawrence asked me (a nubile guitarist with marginal ability) to get my friend Tom Doerr to fill in on drums so the band could stay tight. In exchange, I could attend their practices and maybe get better at guitar.
That first practice was a trainwreck, with Tom and I goofing around like the 15 year old kids that we were. At one point Alec had to whistle like you would at a bad dog just to shut us up. Having come from the Faith, Bells Of probably seemed pretty juvenile… Alec quit a week or so later. Rather than cancel the second show and scrap the recording, Lawrence took over vox and asked me to join as second guitar. The first show I ever played was October 25 1985, opening for Embrace and Rites of Spring. I’m told this show went much worse than their first. I wouldn’t contest that.
We got our show legs under us eventually. Lawrence finished the 7 song tape, but was already moving beyond its relatively simple approach. He just put it down and never did anything with it… I never really understood why; the songs were great, and in hindsight it is a pretty amazing collection of lost songs from Revolution Summer…very much of the era but still very unique. I love that tape. A few of the songs found their way onto cassettes that have been floating around for years, passed between a small group of admirers. One of those admirers, Artist Rich Jacobs, is now making the entire session available as a 12″ on his label The Move Sounds.
Bleu quit Bells Of so I moved over to bass while Lawrence’s little brother Mark took over on drums. I learned all that I could about songwriting from Lawrence, but eventually faded on the project, quitting in 1986. Though you wouldn’t guess it from the sound, Bells Of was a skate band through and through, with many of its future members swapping in from our original tight core of skaters. Bells Of continues to this day, still centered around Lawrence and a rotating cast of players.
JASON WITH SWIZ ON THE SWASIDE TOUR, 1988
Around that time we were skating regularly at a huge new metal vert ramp called Cedar Crest. I picked up a sponsorship from Powell Peralta in 1987 or so… It was just the B-team (or “flow” team), meaning most of what I got was seconds and/or boneite, but fuck I couldn’t believe it. When all you had to do was pick up the phone and call some dude in Santa Barbara to have a box of decks/wheels/jackets delivered to my door, you didn’t notice the little number “2” branded in everything.
As much as I loved skating, I still wanted to play guitar in a band—something that bridged my twin loves of Metallica and the Faith. In early 1987, Shawn Brown and a guy I vaguely knew (Ramsey Metcalf; a Mod who had recently transferred into my school) walked into my job at the photomat. I had already known Shawn for a couple years; we had skated together a few times and went to all the same shows. I had watched him sing in Dag Nasty (and later watched him stand front-and-center, dead-still, enraged as Dave Smalley sang his words). They were there to ask me to join their new band; something Bad Brains-esque. Sounded perfect to me, so fuck yes. Days later I dragged a borrowed amp into Ramesy’s living room where the rest of the band was setting up for the first time: Nathan Larson (NFC) on bass and Alex Daniels (Carpe Diem) on drums. We kinda knew each other from shows our previous bands played together, but within minutes of playing, we quickly recognized that this new band was something we definitely wanted to pursue. A few weeks later we called it Swiz.
Though my interest in skating didn’t die that day (I still skate), it did get pushed over to shotgun status.
JASON CATCHES SOME AIR WHILE ON THE SWASIDE TOUR, 1988
Finally getting around to posting part II here with Jason Farrell (Swiz, Bluetip, Sweetbelly Freakdown, Retisonic, Red Hare, etc.) and it’s a good one. Much more to come from Jason, but in the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and pick up the Red Hare – “Nites Of Midnite” album, out now on Dischord. Total cool, total power. –Tim DCXX
What was going on in your area as a kid and how did the impact you finding your way into punk music? Can you recall your first encounter with punk and what that was like at the time? Early records, first shows, etc?
In 9th grade this skater from California moved to my school. We had an art class together and both wore Vans so we struck up a quick friendship. His name was Richard. I invited him to the (also-horrible) halfpipe we had just finished in my friend Marcus’ back yard. As if to christen our shitty little ramp, he spray painted a bunch more band names we didn’t know. But rather than leaving, he stuck around and joined our modest B-town skate crew, schooling us on skate rock and punk in general: Black Flag, JFA, Adolescents, Agent Orange, DK’s, Circle Jerks. He gave us cassette tapes and even sniffed out a killer record store (Yesterday & Today). On one Y&T outing, crew member Dave Stern happened across Out Of Step and bought it on a whim. Later, he called me up, floored; not just by the music, but by the seemingly unending stream of profanity… “This HAS to be illegal” he said. Poring over the cover art, he realized the band was from our area, and that’s when we realized our town had quite the booming music scene.
JASON GOES BACKSIDE, 1983
When Marcus’ grades slipped, his dad got out the splitting axe and threatened to reduce our ramp to splinters. It had to go: immediately. We cut it in half and walked it across 4 lanes of traffic, deep into a wooded lot nearby. This desperate, random choice turned out to be an amazing spot where we could pretty much do whatever we wanted…burn shit, build tree forts, camp out, smoke, have bottle wars, and skate everyday. Armed with a boombox, a ziploc freezer bag full of D-cell batteries, and a Minor Threat cassette on terminal repeat, our musical taste got honed and refined down from “Hardcore” to pretty much just harDCore.
In the spring of ’84 our Cali-friend Richard found out Black Flag was playing downtown. He was really relishing his H.C. curator status, and thought it would be the ideal first show for us. I imagine ours wasn’t the only mom-driven station wagon to pull up in front of Pierce hall and dump eight obviously green 13-to-15-year-olds out on the sidewalk, but I still felt over-dressed. Inside we started to blend a bit into the crowd, taking it all in while huffing the heady mix of rit dye, cloves, and B.O. Scanning the crowd, we recognized Ian Mackaye from his album mugshot and were genuinely surprised to see him right there amongst everyone. Whatever star separation thing that may have lingered from rock/Rush/Eddie Money started to die in that instant. Black Flag was my favorite band at the time… I had never heard of the other bands they were touring with (Meat Puppets and Nig-Heist). Local champs Government Issue opened, and the middle of this old church space immediately erupted into a fucking frenzy. Richard quickly coached us on pit etiquette and the finer points of skanking before sending us in like a rookie JV-squad.
That night it seems like we did everything en-masse; a blob of skaters entering the pit for the first time, a blob of skaters smoking cloves on the steps between bands, a blob of skaters going to the bathroom, a blob of skaters buying snickers and Cokes at the nearby 7-11. About the only time we weren’t a blob was when stagediving (…for that we were a synchronized line). I didn’t know this then, but me and my friends were among the deluge of suburban kids flooding the already swollen DC scene. To us it was chaotic and amazing; we felt like we found a special place where we truly belonged. To many of the older scene vets it was a disaster; they felt like the special place they had built was being overrun by unruly children, quickly becoming a place they no longer belonged.
I may not be remembering this correctly, (so forgive me if this never actually happened…) but I recall seeing some kid kinda spazzing around on stage, hopping in place as he tried to figure out the softest place to land his stage dive. Ian MacKaye noticed him too, and began waving to him welcomingly, as if to say “jump here, it’s perfect! we’ll catch you!” Relieved his mind had been made up for him, this kid curled his lip in his best skank-face expression and dived with confidence. That expression instantly changed to pain and confusion as he hit the floor uninterrupted. Ian had put his hands down and stepped aside, then stepped back in with a wagging finger, I guess to tell him stagediving was dumb. I made sure not to jump near him that night. I know shit was kinda bad in comparison to 1982 or whatever, but not nearly as bad as it would get when the whole skinhead thing reared up a couple years later… in hindsight it was still a pretty fucking amazing time to be in/near DC.
Jason Farrell, a guy that needs little introduction. Everything he does, he does well… really well. Whether he’s writing, recording and playing music, riding a skateboard, designing a record, directing videos, creating art, or whatever, the list just goes on. Bottom line, the guy is a true talent and we’re more than stoked to have him on board for an interview.
Simultaneously, as this interview is dropping, Jason’s latest band, Red Hare are smack dab in the middle of a tour and their album, “Nites Of Midnite” was released today. We’ve been trying to keep the readers here up to date with everything Red Hare related, so it should be no surprise that we highly recommend you snatching up a copy of “Nites Of Midnite” and check Red Hare out if they’re rolling through your town. Stay tuned for more to come. –Tim DCXX
JASON FARRELL, 1991
Can you give everyone a discography/timeline of sorts of all the music you’ve done over the years.
Bells Of: 1985-present http://bellsof.com/
Guitar / Bass from 1985-86
7-song lost album (soon to be released)
4 song demo 1986
Swiz: 1987-1990 www.jadetree.com/bands/artist/swiz
“Down” (4-song 7″ self-released on Hellfire records, 11.87)
S/T (8-song 12″ on Sammich Records, mid/late 1988)
“Hell Yes I Cheated” (12 song 12″ recorded summer ’89, released on Sammich records, late 1989/90-ish)
“With Dave” (4 song 7″ recorded summer 1990, released on Jade tree in ’92)
“Rejects” (2 song 7″ recorded during “Down” sessions 1987, released by THD records in ’92)
“No Punches Pulled” (complete discography CD released in 1992 on Jade Tree)
“With Ramsey” (6 song demo, recorded spring 1987, released as digital download thru jadetree.com)
“No Punches…” remastered (3xLP box set plus unreleased bonus 7″, to be released in 2013)
Black Top (DC): 1991-1994
some demos recorded
short-lived side project with Sergio Vega: bass / Alan Cage: drums / Chaka Malik: vox, 4 song demo recorded
Bluetip: 1995-2001 www.dischord.com/band/bluetip
Guitar and Vocals
“Ohio” (2 song 7″ Hellfire/Dischord split 1995)
“Dischord no. 101″ (13 song album, Dischord, 1996)
“Join Us” (2 song 7″, Dischord, 1998)
“Touring Japan” (2 songs on 4-band split, Time Bomb recordings, 1998)
split 7″ with NRA (1 song, Bcore records 1998)
“Hot Fast Union (5-song ep Slowdime/Dischord split 2000)
“Polymer” (10 song album, Dischord, 2000)
“P.M.A. (Post Mortem Anthem)” (10 song collection, 2001)
Sweetbelly Freakdown (Swiz reunited): 1997-? www.jadetree.com/bands/artist/sweetbelly_freakdown
S/T album and 7″ (8 songs on Jadetree, 1998)
“Touring Japan” (2 songs on 4-band split, Time Bomb recordings, 1998)
3 songs (title / format / label / release date TBD)
Retisonic: 2002- www.retisonic.com/
“Lean Beat” (6 song ep, Modern City (france) / Silverthree (us) / Inherited Alliance (japan))
“Return To Me” (11 song album, Silverthree, spring 2004)
“Judas Discharge” (2 song 7″ of covers, Semilla del Diablo)
“Cooling Card” (song on Jawbox tribute comp “Until the Shaking Stops”, two Sheds Music, January 2005)
“Levittown” (6 song cdep on Ascetic Records, May 2006)
“Robots Fucking” (12 song cd/lp on Arctic Rodeo, February 2012)
Back to the beginning, where did you grow up and what was the music you first fell in love with? What bands (even before punk) really spoke to you and moved you? Anybody you still love all these years later?
I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland (suburb just outside the city). Like everyone else in my elementary school my first love was KISS. I am still amazed by the dumb brilliance of the band (concept and music). Ace Frehley always struck me as the coolest, and was one of two main inspirations for me to pick up a guitar. When I was 9 my dad took me, my best friend, and my sister to my first concert: KISS at the Capital Center. By then I was already fading on the band, slowly replacing them with standard FM rock that became my BMX-and-stolen-cigarettes soundtrack (Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Ozzy). But it felt pretty epic, and was yet another sign of the serious level of support I could expect from my dad (who was my second main inspiration for picking up a guitar: his).
JASON WITH A FOOT PLANT, 1984
Spent the summer after 8th grade in OP shorts and surf apparel learning how to skateboard. We built a truly horrible quarter pipe behind an abandoned car dealership and decorated it with hand-painted skate logos. We felt like our new found love of a dead sport was unique; an isolated incident. But word of our our little ramp spread, and soon some rather gnarly people started showing up.
They skated well, but were obnoxious, aggressive, fearless. Somehow mocking and supportive simultaneously: “don’t be a pussy, drop in… you can do it!… or I’ll punch you in the fuckin’ face.” As if to piss on our shitty little ramp, they spray painted band names we’d never heard of over our Variflex and Bones renderings and left. (These intimidating Potomac skate punks turned out to be the not-so-scary Wiggy Austin, Kenny Griffin, Keith Davidson, and soon-to-be GI drummer Pete Moffett). In a pattern that would sadly repeat itself far too often, the ramp was torn down by the property owners…
CERTIFICATE OF PATIENCE TO JASON TRAEGER FROM MINOR THREAT
Sometimes a quick, google search will produce gems, today was exactly one of those days. While checking out random Minor Threat images online, I came across this here certificate of patience, which brought me to Jason Traeger’s Tumblr page and the full story on this certificate. I had never seen or heard about this until today and thought it was pretty damn cool. Check out the full article here: jasonotraeger.tumblr.com. –Tim DCXX
2012: It's been a good year. First Chain Of Strength returns and completely decimates New York City for Rev 25 then Dag Nasty comes back and delivers in D.C. for the Salad Days show at the Black Cat. Dag and Chain are two of my longtime/all-time favorite bands and neither were a disappointment.
I know rumors have circulated for years about Dag Nasty reuniting (especially after they recorded "Minority Of One" for Revelation) but the word was always that Brian Baker was too busy with Bad Religion to make it happen. Well I guess there was a break in the Bad Religion action and Brian definitely made the most of it. The issue of vocal duties took an unexpected twist when original Dag singer Shawn Brown was handed the mic instead of Dave Smalley who most expected to sing in the event of a Dag Nasty reunion.
Now I can't lie, Dag Nasty to me has always been all about Dave Smalley's performance on "Can I Say" and Peter Cortner's work on "Wig Out At Denkos." I knew Shawn Brown was the band's original vocalist and had the "85-86" release on Selfless Records from 1991 but I never ranked it up there with Smalley and Cortner's contributions to the band. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Swiz fan, I love Sweet Belly Freakdown and Jesuseater is easily one of my favorite bands from the 2000's. I definitely hold Shawn in the highest regard, but as far as frontmen go, I just never felt like Shawn was the perfect fit for Dag.
SHAWN BROWN IN FRONT OF THE DAG NASTY CROWD AT THE BLACK CAT, 12/28/2012 | PHOTO: NALINEE DARMRONG
Then Dischord went and changed all of that with the release of “Dag With Shawn.” For whatever reason, although it wasn’t that much different from the Selfless release, this new Dischord release really impressed me. Since I picked it up last year, “Dag With Shawn” has been in constant rotation. So when the announcement was made that Shawn Brown would be fronting Dag for the Salad Days show in D.C. I really looked forward to it.
As everyone knows, tickets sold fast for the Dag Nasty night of Salad Days. The minute I heard about them being available (which was minutes after they went up) I kept coming up short in my efforts to score two tickets. Luckily, my friend Jeremy Dean landed two tickets and offered the second one to me. At the very least, I was able to secure myself a trip to the show. As much as I would have loved to catch both nights and all the bands, a full weekend in D.C. just wasn’t in the cards. Instead it was going to be a whirlwind trip back and forth in a day to Washington D.C. for a healthy dose of Dag.
I ended up riding down with Jeremy and two other friends; DCXX’s Ed McKirdy and NJ local, Karl Sadowski. We got down to D.C. about two hours before the Black Cat opened their doors so we grabbed a meal at Whole Foods before heading over to the show. Once we made it over to The Black Cat we stumbled upon a massive line piled up in front of the venue. Word was spreading that Dag Nasty was slated to play second as opposed to headlining as everyone previously expected. Kingface were the opener, Dag second and the headliner was now Black Market Baby.
BRIAN BAKER WITH DAG NASTY AT THE BLACK CAT, 12/28/2012 | PHOTO: JIM SAAH
Once we made our way inside, it wasn’t long before Kingface took the stage. I tried to watch them as much as I could but it was tough to really soak them in considering I kept running into a lot of old friends that I hadn’t seen in years. Kingface did sound great though and I was pretty stoked that I was finally getting the opportunity to see them.
Dag Nasty was up next and I quickly made my way to the front of the crowd and as close to the stage as I could. The last time I saw Dag Nasty was July 17th, 1988 on the “Field Day” tour with Peter Cortner fronting them at City Gardens so it had been a long, long wait for my second chance at seeing one of my favorite bands. I knew I definitely wasn’t going to sit this one out or watch them from a distance, I had to be up front and in the mix.
Colin, Roger and Brian took the stage first and prepped their instruments then started into the instrumental, “Mango” which served as a nice little warm up tune that got everyone packing up front and ready for the Shawn Brown experience. Shawn took the stage and the band blasted into “Can I Say”. The crowd naturally packed tighter and erupted into flying fists and sing alongs.
As you would expect from a collection of veteran musicians like Dag Nasty, the band sounded great. As the set continued, it became pretty obvious that the guys in Dag Nasty were really enjoying themselves. Brian clearly looked to be in the Dag zone and every note seemed to be played just as it was recorded, all those years ago. Shawn Brown also sounded incredible and delivered those “Can I Say” lyrics with conviction and heart, while still sprinkling humor in between songs.
COLIN SEARS WITH DAG NASTY AT THE BLACK CAT, 12/28/2012 | PHOTO: JIM SAAH
The set was packed with all the “Can I Say/Dag With Shawn” hits. Every song was pretty much a highlight considering all of those songs are pretty much flawless. As the set went on and I sang along to every song, I realized just how special it was to be able to see one of my all time favorite bands again and how those songs and lyrics still move me as much today as they did 27 years ago. As an encore, Dag popped back up on stage with the Flex Your Head comp. classic by Red C, “Pressure’s On” then one more Dag song and it was over.
As Black Market Baby set up, I stood there reflecting upon what Dag Nasty had just wrapped up. I’m sure the crowd could have been a little more intense but I think the Black Cat’s no stage diving policy kept the crowd slightly toned down. Regardless, I was grateful the band was able to pull it all together and that I could be there and be a part of it. Considering I’ve now got Cortner and Brown Dag sets under my belt, all I need is a Smalley-fronted Dag set and I’ll have all the bases covered.
Next up, Black Market Baby got underway and they were surely not a disappointment. One of D.C.’s early punk outfits, Black Market Baby tore through their set and held their own. Unfortunately, because my friends and I had a three-plus-hour drive ahead of us and it was already well past past midnight, we rolled out a little early (and we still didn’t get home before 5:00 am.)
Thanks to all those associated with the Salad Days shows and of course the bands for bringing it back together. Also, a personal big thanks to Jeremy Dean for the ticket and ride hookup, both were much appreciated. I wish I could have stuck around for show two with Scream, D.C.’s Youth Brigade and Government Issue, but I’ll take what I can get and I can assure you, what I got was memorable to say the least. -Tim DCXX
ROGER MARBURY, SHAWN BROWN, COLIN SEARS AND BRIAN BAKER WITH DAG NASTY AT THE BLACK CAT, 12/28/2012 | PHOTO: TIM DCXX