I’ve been working on this interview with Charlie for awhile now and I am happy to finally be able to present part one to you. Lots more to come! – Larry
Where exactly did you grow up and what music led you towards punk and hardcore? What early records had an impact on you and when did you first hear them?
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. My father was from East Cleveland and my mother came over as a nanny from England in the 1960s. My mom had a great record collection. All the Beatles records, Rolling Stones and other cool 60s and 70s records. My dad also had a pretty bad ass eight track tape collection. Some of my earliest memories were putting records on the record player. I remember going to visit my family in England when I was pretty young, maybe 10 years old and my cousin was a Mod. I remember her talking about how much she wanted a Vespa. I thought she was so cool. She turned me onto The Clash, The Jam and Public Image to name a few. She gave me a 7″ that had This Is Not A Love Song on one side and Public Image on the other side. I wish I still had that. I remember when we went to Piccadilly Circus and saw the punks hanging out and I thought they were cool. They yelled at you if you tried to take their picture. You had to give them a few pounds and pents and they still told you to piss off. It was great.
Right around that time MTV started and my sister and I got into Adam And The Ants and the other bands that we thought looked punk. So pretty much through the 1980s I was into new wave and The Clash. I was also into Hip Hop from its early stages. I had Kurtis Blow “The Breaks” on a 45 and got really into RUN DMC and LL Cool J. Of course I used to break dance with friends in my neighborhood but I was also into Van Halen. We had the first album on eight track and I listened to it all the time. I was really into everything.
Once I got into high school in 1985 I really was leaning towards alternative and punk music. I was into BMX racing and eventually got way more into skateboarding. I think that opened me up to what would eventually be hardcore music. I remember skating with the older guys and hearing Black Flag, Minor Threat, Circle Jerks and Suicidal Tendencies… I think that’s when I started considering myself punk. I went to an all boys catholic high school that was about a 45 minute bus ride there and back every day. I became friends with a kid named George Milton and he really got me more into punk music. He had a lot of vinyl. I remember listening to the Germs and seeing that first Suicidal album. I thought it was so crazy and cool. He was also friends with these older dudes that had a band called Civilian Terrorists. I heard their demo tape and they were awesome. I couldn’t believe George was friends with them. I am pretty sure they were one of the first shows I went to. I cant remember if was at The Cleveland Underground or a place called JBs in Kent Ohio. Either way I was really young and pretty scared when I saw the people hanging out and slam dancing but I couldn’t wait to do it again. I met the guys in Civilian Terrorists and saw them open for Suicidal Tendencies at the Variety Theater. I had my home made Suicidal white button down like the ones I saw on the sleeve of the album. It was mind blowing to see them play those songs and it sounded just like the record. That’s one of my earliest show memories.
I also saw Agnostic Front and Negative Approach play a Knights Of Columbus Hall in ’85-’86. There was bunch of skinheads and really punk people. There was probably 40 people there but it seemed so crazy and Agnostic Front was just scary to a 80 pound skate rat like myself. Haha. That was terrifying but once again I was drawn to it. After that I would pretty much go to every show I could. I would have to get a ride and pitch in for gas but where there was a will there was a way. Going to JBs in Kent was always a risk because it was far and the shows weren’t all ages so sometimes they were strict and you wouldn’t get in so we would just skate outside and listen to the bands.
When did you start playing guitar and what were your early influences?
I don’t remember really asking for a guitar. My dad had an old acoustic and we had a piano in my house but one year my parents got this cheap ass guitar and a cable that plugged into our stereo. The cool thing was I could play the eight track tapes on the stereo and play the guitar along with them. It sounded like shit but it was fun. I had a friend down the street that would tune the guitar and taught me a basic bar chord. I would sit in my basement and try to play along with Van Halen. That wasn’t good but I would play along to the first Cars album and that started to sound good because it was basic rock n roll. My buddy George had a guitar and an amp that sounded great because he had a distortion pedal so he would figure out some songs and show me how to play them. To this day I can’t read music. I never learned. I have always played by ear. I never took a proper guitar lesson. Early on I figured I wanted to play what I wanted to play and didn’t want to waste time learning Stairway To Heaven. Subliminal by Suicidal Tendencies was one of the first songs I remember being excited about playing. I could also could rip Just What I Needed by The Cars. Haha.
What was the hardcore punk scene like where you lived and what were some of your early encounters?
One day my buddy George got a hold of the Cro-Mags demo from Jim, the singer of Civilian Terrorists. He was like you have to come over and listen to this band. So I did. Annnnd. Wow. Mind was blown. He said they were going to open for G.B.H. at Peabodys Down Under. I can’t even tell you how many amazing shows I saw at Peabody’s. Honestly too many to name. Also I loved G.B.H. so I was psyched for the show. Let’s just say I felt bad for G.B.H. having to follow the hardcore onslaught that the Cro-Mags brought that night. Anyone that was there will tell you the same. They were on fire. So they became one of my favorite bands right then and there.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO – COMING SOON
Be sure to see Charlie playing with the almighty JUDGE this month…
February 18 – Buffalo, N.Y. @ Waiting Room
February 19 – Philadelphia, PA. @ Voltage Lounge
February 20 – Boston, MA. @ Hardcore Stadium