Sunday, August 24, 2008

Andy Guida - Altercation / Supertouch

Andy with Supertouch, Photo: Eric Fennell

Andy Guida is probably my vote for one of the most underrated drummers to have played hardcore. First leaving his mark by playing in Altercation, it is Supertouch that most people probably think of when his name pops up. Yet even after Supertouch, Andy has stayed behind the kit for a slew of rock and hardcore bands, continuing to be a total beast of power and style. And make no mistake, this guy still loves hardcore. I thought it would be cool to catch up with him, and luckily, it turns out that he has some great, crystal clear memories to share. There will be a few parts to this one, and I assure you it just gets better and better.

-Gordo DCXX

How did you find your way into hardcore? What are your earliest memories of hearing hardcore records or going to shows, and where/when was this? What were your favorite bands early on?

My intro to hardcore/punk/new wave started with my best friend Bryan's older sister. It was around 1979 or '80 when she turned us on to the first B52s album, Gang of Four's Entertainment record and DEVO's Are We Not Men. I
remember knowing that there was something different about the sound, but at 9 or 10 years old I didn't know what that meant, I just loved the sound. I started buying records when I was 6 years old but that was all rock, like Kiss and ELO, so it was definitely a different sound from Gang or Four or the B52s. Today those bands sound tame compared to what's come since. Not to say that I stopped liking straight up rock, but I really liked the newer sound of these other bands. Also, growing up in Flatbush, Brooklyn in 1979 / 1980, all I heard coming out of cars was stuff like Zeppelin and Sugarhill Gang so it made Gang of Four and B52s records sound even more different.

In 1984 my best friend Bryan and I were 13 or 14. Bryan's family had a college student who was a friend of the family living with them while he was in school. He turned us on to hardcore. This kid Walt turned us on to Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies, DRI, The Minutemen, The Butthole Surfers, and a lot of other bands. We bugged out when we heard all this new music. I still didn't turn away from the older rock stuff but these new bands were the shit.

Of course the absolute turning point was when we found Bad Brains Roir cassette. I still clearly remember the moment I first heard it. I was 14 and it had such a huge impact on me. IT FUCKING CHANGED MY LIFE!!! Bad Brains, Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane, Black Sabbath, Miles Davis, and Scream are all on the same level to me.

The first hardcore show I went to was PMS, Cro Mags, and Bad Brains at the Jane Street Hotel on the west side of Manhattan. They called it the Rock Hotel when they had shows there. I still have the original Village Voice ad for the show. The date was July 20, 1985, it was a week before my 15th birthday. Talk about a life changing moment. The club was hot as hell. The pit was huge. The place was packed. I wasn't brave enough to go in the pit, but I loved the whole experience.

The next show I saw was a hardcore matinee at CBGB. That was Ultraviolence, Ludichrist, Crumbsuckers and Cro Mags. That was during the same summer as my first show. It was intense, Crumbsuckers and Cro Mags were amazing. When the lights went out and Beethoven's 9th Symphony (which everyone knew from A Clockwork Orange) came on I knew there was about to be something intense. Then Cro Mags came on and holy shit was it intense! That day I was brave enough to go in the pit and I loved it. What is so funny to me is that I didn't have the hardcore handbook approved moves down yet so half the time I was standing at the edge of the stage playing air drums and watching Mackie. I must have looked goofy but I loved every minute of it.

My favorite bands were Cro Mags, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, COC, Suicidal Tendencies, Flipper, Dr. Know, Minute Men, Butthole Surfers and DRI. There were more but the list would be too long. It's unfortunate how closed minded hardcore got to be by around 1986. The definition got very narrow and rigid. Now no one would consider the Butthole Surfers, Flipper or the Minute Men to be hardcore. Early on they were. Of course they all moved away from one type of sound which I'm sure was a rebellion against the narrow definition.

Flyer of Andy's first show

When did you first get behind a drum kit and why? Who did you play/jam with before Altercation? Influential drummers early on?

First off, drums suck, I gave them up and now I play triangle. So much easier to transport and set up. I first got behind a drum set when I was 11 years old. I actually played guitar first, in fact I still play guitar a lot, but I was more drawn to the drums. I actually destroyed some of my mom's plastic food containers by using them like drums before I ever got a drum set. I would set them up on my bed in a mock drum set configuration and play along to whatever came on the radio. When I was 11 a friend of mine got a drum set. He lived in a house and we lived in an apartment so there was no way I was getting drums. I thought his drums looked so cool. It was almost just felt in my bones that I could play drums. The first time I sat down and played I was able to play a basic rock beat. I'm not saying that I was particularly good, but it did come naturally to me. I finally got a drum set when I was 14. Once I got a set I played every chance I got. I played for hours every day. Ahh...being 14 with nothing to do was great.

The first formal band I played in was a hardcore band called Still Born. I played guitar in that band. I played on their first demo which was called Dying for Progress. That was in 1985. I jammed with all sorts of kids from my neighborhood on drums.

The first drummers that influenced me were John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, Bill Ward from Black Sabbath, Stewart Copeland from The Police, Mitch Mitchell from The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Clive Burr from Iron Maiden, Billy Cobham when he was in Mahavishnu Orchestra and Bill Bruford on the King Crimson stuff from the early to mid 80's. When I got into hardcore I was influenced by Mackie and Earl Hudson, George Hurly of The Minutemen. There was also a noisy art rock band from New York called Live Skull. Their drummer was James Lo, he played amazing tribal grooves. I also grew up hearing a lot of funk and disco so I have always liked beats with a groove.

How did you get into Altercation? A short lived band that is still loved/appreciated by many, what memories do you recall playing out and recording? How did you know those guys, and what do you think of the demo songs today?

I went to high school with Myles, who played rhythm guitar in Altercation.
He and I were trying to start a band. We had some songs and we practiced in my parents' basement. He knew Eddie, who played bass in the band, from the hardcore scene. Eddie knew Jay (vocals) and Paul (lead guitar) and the three of them were trying to put a band together. We were all kids from Brooklyn so we got together at a studio that was called Gridrock, in Brooklyn.

I still remember sitting in McDonald's after one of our rehearsals trying to come up with a name. I was looking through the newspaper and I came across the word "altercation." It seemed a sufficiently angry word which fit our collective mindset. We were a study in varying degrees of teenage anger and frustration. Some of us started or got into a lot of fights and did a lot of drugs. Altercation rehearsals were a cloud of pot smoke. Amazing we remembered our songs because we smoked a shit load of pot. How were we so stoned and still so angry? Amazing.

I remember some things about our first show pretty clearly. It was a double record release for Warzone's Lower East Side Crew 7" and Youth of Today's Break Down The Walls LP. I still have the Warzone 7" I bought that day. Of course it was a CBGB hardcore matinee. Side by Side was also on the bill. I remember taking the subway to the show with my friend Jack Johnson (no, not the pop star). Jack drew the cover of the Altercation demo. I only brought cymbals to the show and I carried them in a postal mail bag. I was 17 and I had such shitty equipment. I don't remember who let me use their drums. CB's was packed. I think we went on first and there were already a lot of people there. We had a bunch of friends there and they all were going off when we played.

We only played 4 shows, 2 at CB's and 2 at the Pyramid. It was great, both clubs had matinees for a while, Pyramid on Saturday and CBGB on Sunday. At one of the Pyramid shows Paul's guitar head cooked itself onstage. It literally had smoke coming out of it. He and Myles traded songs for the rest of the set. We also played "As One" with Raybeez at the end of one of the Pyramid sets. I have always assumed that was when the seed for Jay and Paul joining Warzone was planted. At one of those Pyramid shows Raybeez wanted to take some photos with all the kids at the show in Tompkins Square Park so there were maybe 40 or 50 kids crossing Avenue A to the park, blocking traffic and the cops showed up and told us to go back into the club.

I remember bits and pieces of recording the demo at Don Fury's but nothing worth nothing. Vague memories of listening back to each take and sitting in the tiny shit ass drum booth he had. We tried to record a second demo at some studio in Brooklyn but I think Eddie didn't show up and I don't know what happened to the tapes. I should call Jay and see if he has a copy.

I transfered the Demo to CD and cleaned it up in Pro Tools so I can listen to it without destroying my tape. I only have one copy of the demo and it has some damage. I think the songs are great, the lyrics are pretty stupid but we were kids. Actually Paul's girlfriend at the time wrote the lyrics. I think we played really well for a bunch of kids. I still listen to it for enjoyment once in a while. We were so short lived but we got to leave a mark. We were lucky. I still meet new people who tell me that they really like that demo. There was a time when I was embarrassed by the band but I am grateful now that I was a part of it.

Andy with Supertouch, Photo: Eric Fennell


Ben Edge said...

My dad is from East Flatbush. What intersection did Andy grow up on?

Anonymous said...

I'm liking this interview a lot. I look forward to the rest of it.

An Attitude Exhumed said...

Pro Tools copy of the demo is a must.

juho said...

Such a great interview, can't wait for more!

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