[Absolution at The Anthrax, Photo: Joe Snow]
Part three, and at this point, no introduction necessary.
Check out this audio clip to hear Djinji's thoughts on the upcoming Absolution reunions.
The specifics are blurry, but I met Gavin in 1986 as one of the first people I was introduced to in the scene, and we met in Washington Square Park. He was somebody you always would know about. He was a presence, no doubt. On a physical level, I knew about his fighting skills. I didn't know him on a musical level or for his talent. I knew him for street rep. I saw him knuckle up a few people, and when I was out proving myself, I jumped into a few things that a teenager jumps into. Gavin had a lot of anger inside of him, but also a big heart!
I was friends with him way before the band. I knew him when he would squat, he had it rough. Whether he took it rough or it was given to him rough, he survived a lot of shit. And at that time, I didn't even know how much talent he had. Even then, we weren't really concerned with each other's talent as much as we were concerned about each other's energy level. And when we started playing together...man. It was dope...it was just so fuckin' ill.
But before all that, I went to Europe with my Dad after I graduated high school in June 1987. I missed the lower east side so much. I remember that because I was hanging tough with Harley at the time. And man, I just missed it and my friends so much. After I came back, Gavin I think approached me at a matinee or something, because I think he liked my energy in the pit, I'm sure that's what it was. Maybe something else but I don't know. And he posed the question to me about singing. I was so scared, I was reluctant to do it at first. At the time, I really didn't know that's what I wanted to do. But he posed the question.
I actually thought I was gonna go and play drums in a punk rock group with Sergio, because I was trying to play drums at the time. We would go into one of my Father's friend's rehearsal studios back in '86-'87. Me, Sergio, punk rock George, Kimo, and we'd go in there and drink malt liquor and blue wine coolers and play punk rock in front of the jazz musicians. They thought we were crazy. It was crazy! Oh yeah that shit I said about jazz kids being nuts, it's just the pot calling the kettle black, because look at my crazy ass. So no hard feelings, that was just how I felt as a kid.
But I got back in late August 1987 from Europe and that's when he introduced the idea to me. I hesistated, but by September we started rehearsing so it didn't take that long. He found Alan Peters, I think Alan knew Greg, and boom. Alan had just finished doing a recording and some gigs with Agnostic Front but for personal reasons was no longer in the band, he was between bands and he was looking for a place to express himself. If I remember, the name Absolution comes from Alan. My memory could serve me wrong, you know, it's been a long time between now and then, but if not from Alan Peters then it was a collaboration between Alan and Gavin. But I didn't come up with the name. I remember Alan being by far the most philosophical one, the most well read at the time. He was a little older and calmer I was the youngest at 17. Both he and Greg were real laid back. I learned a lot from Alan and Greg on an intellectual and philosophical level.
With Gavin, it was more about the raw execution of it. To me Gavin was Hardcore through and through, he lived and breathed that shit on a daily basis. Gavin did the footwork to get us all together. It was his idea and I think its safe to say it was his baby although Absolution was dear to all of us.
Teenagers don't really think shit out. Teenagers just do shit. I don't remember it being that premeditated. The only premeditation was, "Let's do a band." Most hardcore bands already hung out and were friends. Bands were groups of friends first, let's put that up front. If there is a five-piece, at their high point, at least three of them have to be tight as people and as friends, not just people playing together. With us, as a four-piece, we were all friends, and we were introduced by friends. This was a community, it wasn't a "go to the store and buy it thing." You didn't put it on or just do it as a "for hire" thing. You brought it out of yourself. This was not a "just add water thing." We were friends, and friends go through ins and outs, egos, in such a testosterone driven medium.
When I got back into hip hop, even though there was still a lot of testosterone in it, I found that the vibes and frequencies on a sonic level were a little bit easier. You go through rocking for twenty years up against Ampeg amps and Marshall stacks, stage monitors, P.A. systems and big drum kits...man. That shit is fucked up. Your ears are gonna be damaged, you might even have stomach problems from being up that close to those frequencies. People have health issues from that shit. That's why folks like the Bad Brains, and John, and Gavin, Ray Cappo and countless others, they took their health seriously. They took their health, and diet, and exercise seriously, because they knew what the rigors of the road were. They knew what performing did. It was no fucking joke, you had to take care of yourself.
But we got together as friends and did it as friends. And when bands stop being friends, they break up. Time to go find new friends. You get in a fight on the playground, so you go and find new friends. "Hey, you wanna be my friend now?" That's what happened back then. That's how I remember feeling it. But starting out, it was not premeditated.
For me, I knew who my heroes were. But I didn't say, "Ok, this is how I'm gonna bite their moves." The music just inspired me. Same thing with being a rapper, a producer and DJ. I don't go and copy a DJ or someone’s beats and rhymes, and it was the same thing with fronting a band. It was about me saying, "yeah, thanks brothers, for showing me the light." The Brains and the Cro-Mags, they showed me the light. Especially them, because they had a strong spiritual message. I think I had a different style with the lyrics and singing the lyrics than John had though. I listen now to myself now and I'm like, "Damn, take a breath man, take a breath! Relax!" I was trying to spit like HR. But who could reproduce "Pay To Cum?" Nobody. Nobody could ever spit like that. You know? That's like to trying to rap like Ghostface Killah...yeah right, you know?
After Miami, we have to do New York. Have to. I have a daughter growing up there. I have to do it for her, for Sergio's daughter, Gavin's son, you know? And all the other kids. The spirit of Raybeez, Charlie, Chuck, and all them cats. I wasn't friends with all of them, but they were all there for me in different ways. They were a part of the community. I mean CB’s is gone! A lot has changed in 20 years, you know that’s how it's got to be. So I gotta go back up there and lay it down. I was out of the family, brother! I would venture back in when I wanted to, and not that I didn't care, but I just wasn't there. I didn’t have the desire to go back. What's hardcore without desire? A fire with no flame!
I was a dreamer. I was really wishing at the time that the hardcore scene was more balanced on an ethnic level. During my travels in life, I have been around so many different mixes of people. When I say mix, I don't mean just more black Americans per se, I just mean more ethnicities being present at the time. That time in the late 80s coincided with the birth of rap groups like Public Eneny, Eric B and Rakim, KRS-One and BDP. Their messages to young black men were loud clear and straight to the point. And at the time I was getting into more of my own search of cultural studies that lead me out of the hardcore paradigm, if you see what I am saying. And those cultural studies led me to doing more reading and exploring of Afro-American culture, Afro-Caribbean culture, Afro-Brazilian Martial Arts, etc.
I never really paid attention to my own black history seriously growing up. It was like jazz and black culture - I was so surrounded by it as a baby and as a kid that I didn't give a fuck about it in my late teens. Deep down I was trying to escape the visual manifestations of racism. In the hood the imbalances are very frustrating and the challenges can definitely defeat a brother. And that’s what those hip hop groups I mentioned were talking about. Crack killed a whole generation, it stole their spirits and left them empty. So many brothers were getting locked down and fucked up from the drug game. Even if you weren’t in it, it affected you. I grew up with some dudes who thought “real niggas go to jail, come out and get more ill!”
That's one of the reasons why I left the Bronx and went downtown. I knew it was a ghetto too - the L.E.S. I wasn’t that naïve. Nah, I knew about alphabet city, but I thought the hardcore scene was gonna be a safe haven from racism and other imbalances. Then over time you start to see that’s not the case. And then you have to start to deal more with the nazi or white power skins, then other counter factions. It goes on and on and with that, at a point it just got too extreme for me. Like, why am I even playing for these motherfuckers? Just the fact they exist, why am I even putting myself into a scene where they even exist? And racism is always an issue that I have to deal with, no matter where I am. I was always trying to escape it, on some real shit.
Then I remember The Black Rock Coalition, a collective of black rock bands started to make some noise and gather some attention. 24-7 Spyz, Vernon Reid’s Living Color, to name a few. A lot of talented bands but I wasn’t into that thing either. I understood where they were coming from but I didn’t want to see more separation in the music. Plus in my mind, if Jimi Hendrix and the Bad Brains didn’t label their shit Black Rock, then why should they? I understood it, but I wasn’t with it. And there were some things with the scene, like why am I even putting myself in the middle of this shit? I had experienced racism other places. But honestly at the time I had my own insecurities, confusions and questions about being black. I had my own imbalances and they all came to a head. I kinda had to go back home and look for some answers. And that's what I did when I didn't have a band anymore.
Ironically I after I left ‘the scene,' I began to work at The Caribbean Cultural Center where Sergio’s mother Marta Moreno Vega was the founder and director, and my boss. She’s been a community and educational activist since the 60s. El Barrio, LES, The Bronx, Brooklyn... she was a fighter for the people and she still is. So I worked there while I was in engineering school. I learned a lot about culture, art, music, politics, African belief systems and the many contributions that were made to the “New World” from Native Americans, Asians and Africans. This time I wanted to learn on my own, I felt it wasn’t being forced on me, my culture that is. I began studying Capoeira, a martial art developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil. As a result I traveled to Brazil in December of 1990 and enjoyed Carnival 1991 in Salvador Bahia. If you think CBGBS got sound, check out a Samba school live!!! That’s a whole other story.
But Absolution was my first and only hardcore band. That was my only girl. And I'm glad, too. Because even in the past few years when people would ask about it, I didn't wanna go there. I wanted to keep her pure, I didn't even wanna go back there. So many fallouts happened after that with people I knew, with myself, and Gavin at the time. I saw a lot of falling outs with friends I knew and that shit was wack. I didn’t want to be in the middle of my people talking shit about each other or fighting each other. Taking sides and shit, all wack for me! I just wanted to get the fuck out.
But with Gavin and I getting back on stage in Miami, I'm just gonna rock on that vibe. We are gonna represent for Alan, Greg , Jerry Williams, Brian Childers (R.I.P.) and so many people we want to rock, and it's like BOOM!!! I'll just let that shit explode.
"We were the self taught, street educated, self determined, drug medicated, thugged out or punked out we still regulated, from the heart from the start, out the gutter with art we elevated! R.I.P to those who never graduated out the class of the underclass and remained heavily sedated, as their souls pass the memories fill just a half full glass. Inhaling off a pull then pass, I stage dived and stayed live when I busted my ass. What a blended time, at times too bitter sweet to remember we used to pray for Absolution to make a bold heart tender, as our sound warmed the floors of cold squats in December!
I'm not advocating the use of drugs…it's an unfortunate truth, that the use of drugs is often a sign of missing love and hugs. No one to talk to that really understands, a trip becomes a vacation to a far away land. A place to go anywhere but here, anywhere but home with no round trip fares. Only one way streets with dead end roads, and broken glass when a brain explodes, then when a brain erodes from too much stimulation it's too late to go back and change the situation. Extreme mind elevation leads to bleeding nations. They used to feed negroes cocaine after Emancipation. Work harder and longer, eat less but work stronger, some coke and a drink, makes you smile and wink even when they got you hauling sweet grass the heat makes your ass stink. Holmes 7% solution was an elixir for solving crime, so they made him a hero and me a zero when I got caught copping a dime. But it's all good cuz the world is a hood full of clichés, although I do smoke weed, I do take heed and stay away from the cold drug craze!!!!!!!!!!!!"
[INTERVIEW TO BE CONTINUED]