Sunday, November 2, 2008

John Pettibone - Undertow

Undertow, Seattle Straight Edge

We've been itching to get some tidbits from the Seattle hardcore scene up here on DCXX, so we figured what better source than former Undertow frontman, John Pettibone. Try to cut me down, try to break my spirit, but you will not break me down... -DCXX

When/how did you get into HC? What was the Seattle music landscape like at the time?

Around 1984 I would say, and it was from skateboard magazines. Thrasher would have interviews with bands and my favorite skaters would have band stickers on their boards and they were wearing their shirts and that's how I would find out about Suicidal, Black Flag, Negative Approach, AF, Minor Threat etc. My first show was Black Flag in '85. I was lucky to see the tail end of the first era of hardcore. Seattle had a great local punk/hardcore community...tons of bands, great record stores and a local access punk show called Bombshelter videos. The downer was shows were shutdown so fast that touring bands had a hard time coming here. We went across the water to shows in Bremerton at Natasha's Ballroom.

What was your first dabblings with a band and when was this?

Some friends and I started a straight edge band in high school called Point of Honor and we were a bad version of Youth of Today. This was 1987.

What were the first incarnations of Undertow and who was involved?

Undertow came out of the ashes of Refuse and what happened was they kicked their bass player out and asked me to play with no knowledge of how to play. We were all the little side kicks from the dudes in Brotherhood and Refuse would play with them every weekend. I was a senior in high school and the others were 2 years younger, this was '89.
I played bass, Mark guitar, Ryan drums and Joel vocals.

Brotherhood is the band most think of when it comes to Seattle straight edge. Any good Brotherhood stories? Ever see them play? What type of legacy (if any) did they leave behind for Seattle SE kids?

Saw them play a bunch and Ron the vocalist opened me up to so many bands and records. He would tape me a ton of stuff every weekend. He had the best record collection. Brotherhood came out of False Liberty and they put Seattle on the map. They did a couple US tours and were known all over. If it wasn't for Brotherhood there would be no scene here, but only a handful of kids today even know or care, which is sad.

John hanging with the almighty Danzig

On the opposite end of the spectrum, most people would assume that if you were into music in Seattle in the ealy 90s, you had some involvement with Sub Pop/"grunge". Did you ever take any interest in this? What was that time there like?

I always liked the "heavyer" sounding bands like Soundgarden, Melvins, Tad. Saw all of the bands that "broke out" in small clubs and basements. That was a great time for Seattle. The music scene was rich and very diverse. No two bands ever sounded the same.

What were your favorite shows while in Undertow and why?

So many! In Seattle, I could say the best was when we played with The Accused, Poison Idea, Neurosis, Born Against and Rorschach. These were bands I loved and we were able to play with them and become friends. Our first tour was with Jawbreaker down the West Coast and that was awesome. Their first record "Unfun" was just coming out. Playing with Deadguy was huge cause Tim Singer is one of my biggest influences along with Dwid from Integrity who we played with a year before in Chicago. The tour with Unbroken was the best time though...we were brothers and just going for it.

John with Himsa

Favorite bands to play with and good stories from being on the road?

Just named some but others are Heroin, John Henry West, Crud is a Cult, Statue, Bloodlet, Struggle, Clikitat, Antioch Arrow, Lifetime, Channel, His Hero Is Gone, Grief, Final Conflict, so many. It was just awesome to drive across country and lose yourself and make your own rules and meet new people by this common thread.

What are your favorite Undertow songs years later and why?

There all a piece of me at that time and I cherish them.

What are you doing musically today, and where does your time in Undertow fit into that?

Well I was in Himsa for the past 9 years, we just played our last show a month ago. I play in a 2 local bands now called I Am the Thorn and Heiress. Undertow was the biggest and brightest part of my past. Why that band existed is the same reason I am who I am today... still straight edge and still pissed at the world. Days slip....


ERIC SXE said...

Fuck yeah! UNDERTOW! Definitely one of my top 5 sXe bands ever. I was fortunate to have seen them a number of times in Nor Cal over the years they were around. Always a great show, cool guys to talk to and I surely missed them after they broke up. 'At Both Ends' is still in regular rotation at Casa De Eric! My old band DOWNSHIFT even covered Cutting Away on our first demo and at shows.

Ben Edge said...

There's a lot to the Undertow story, that I find out little by little everyday. More on this later...

mel said...

John looks like a crusty kid now in that photo with Danzig

Anonymous said...

pettibone rules!

Anonymous said...

i jammmed with pettibone in early 90s with other buds froms nortth bend i played drums and he was on bass isreal osborne was on the guitar it happened once so very long ago

Anonymous said...

all hail high to my freinds ryan cox, derick (subidral) rivera, isreal osborne, mike albert, bob antone, rodney weisenbach, darren williams (r.i.p.) remember 1992 undertow w/ subidral live at high

John H said...

JP is one of the very few OG Seattle hardcore heads still visible in the scene. Think I met John when he was about 15, way before Undertow, back in the days when Mudhoney and Danzig would play a show together. Styles and fads come and go, but John is as legit as ever today, best dude.

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