Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Reintroduction by Billy Rubin

Billy and Bessie, early 1986, Photo: Ray Cappo

Half Off / Haywire frontman, New Beginning Records kingpin and Think Fanzine editor, Billy Rubin returns with another entry. This time around Billy fills us in on some recent discoveries as well as some old ones. Like many of his west coast counterparts, Billy delivers the stories. Expect more from Billy in the near future. -Tim DCXX

Some people have wondered where I’ve been for 20 years…I’ve only kept in touch with one person (Doc) from back in the day. Doc called me about a month ago and told me that Radio Silence had come out. My initial reaction was “Oh No”. Then about a week later I got an email from Bill “Nego” Case. At first I wasn’t even sure the email wasn’t spam. Bill turned me on to the Double Cross web site and then I got my own copy of Radio Silence.

I honestly wasn’t prepared for the wave of memories and emotions that came next. I knew half of those people in that book and was involved in a bunch of the music (back up vocals, shows, interviews, etc.). Seeing the page of Radio Silence with THINK fanzine in it was amazing. The address of my childhood home is in that book for the world to see. There is even a comment on that page of THINK/Radio Silence about a trip to the East Coast I was about to take.

When I was 16, back in 1985 I was publishing THINK fanzine. I would go to shows with a tape recorder and interview bands. I was just some kid (and still am albeit 39 years old). Dan O’Mahoney and I (probably Casey Jones too) drove way up the 605 fwy, past the quarries, to some shit hole cowboy bar in some town like Azuza to see a band we had heard rumors of…Youth of Today…I can’t remember the details, but they were either with 7 Seconds or someone from 7 Seconds was with them…I don’t know. I interviewed YOT in the 7 Seconds van. Bessie Oakley was there too. She was instrumental in so much of the early punk scene it’s a story in itself.

Youth of Today were really good, it was the first time I saw anyone mosh (not slam). They were nice guys. We totally clicked. We became pen pals, we started networking. I also became good friends with Bessie. A little while (weeks) after that show, Ray and Bessie came down to my parent’s house (THINK fanzine headquarters) in Huntington Beach. They were just kind of touring around having fun and wanted to pay a punk rock visit. We had fun and were becoming fast friends. In fact, I have a picture of Ray and I standing on the beach (Bolsa Chica for all you So Cal people) looking out at the waves.

Underdog in Albany, Photo: Billy Rubin

I started to get involved with the formation of a new record label (New Beginning) that was going to involve Ray, Bessie, Mike Trouchon and possibly Jordan. That label was going to put out Crippled Youth, Underdog, Negazione and who knows what else. I think they needed someone on the ground in LA that could deal with our contact (Kane) at the pressing plant and I was becoming that guy. As things started to come together Bessie got accepted to art school in NYC. She was going to drive out there for the summer before school started and get settled in.

Bessie wanted someone to share the drive to NYC with and she asked me to do the drive. I didn’t have any money, so I got a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken at the corner of Warner and Bolsa Chica in HB to save up for the trip. Part of the deal was that I had to get to Reno, NV first. We reached a compromise. Dan would drive me to San Francisco and we’d all meet at the Maximum RocknRoll house. Over the years Dan and I made many trips to the MRR house (someone should ask Dan to tell those stories because they are so fucking funny I’m laughing right now).

Bessie and I drove to NYC over the course of about a week and made various stops along the way . The Dag Nasty demo had just come out (with Sean Brown). We’d listen to it non stop. It was the first we had heard of something called “emo”. Later on, it was hard to get used to hearing the same songs with Dave Smalley’s voice. We stopped in Albany where I met Dave Stein (great guy). While in Albany I saw Underdog open for Dag Nasty at a VFW hall. Incredible show! Both bands rocked my world. I also met Mike Gitter who I became friends with. Later on that same trip, I spent some time at Mike Gitter’s place in Boston and also met John Anastas of DYS and Choke from Slapshot. I was on straight edge cloud nine. When we got to NYC we went to Ray Cappo’s apartment at 8th and 15th (or is it 15th and 8th?). Within minutes of our arrival, I was hanging out with Craig (who was about to join YOT), the Crippled Youth kids (who at the time were even younger than me, and I was really young), Ray Cappo and Richie (Underdog). I spent about a month in NYC hanging out with all these soon to be punk rock celebrities. We'd go to St. Marks pizza, the Pyramid club, venture over to Avenue A, etc…I was amazed, we’d be walking down the street and run into Harley Flanagen or Raybeez from Warzone. I also met a very young Todd Youth who became the guitar player in Warzone. Looking back on it, it was crazy. I was 17...all alone in NYC. My parents didn't want me to go, but I told them they couldn't stop me.

We had a lot of fun. Ray turned me on to some great music. The Cro-Mags (Age of Quarrel) had just come out, and he turned me on to the Abused. He also turned me on to possibly the single best hardcore song ever...”Something Must Be Done” by Antidote. I went to Raybeez's apartment. I was blown away. I was a rich kid from the suburbs and this guy was living in a dump of an apartment with the interior walls and ceiling painted blood red. He had pit bulls living in his apartment with him. I went to CBGB’s, Bleeker Bobs, Some Records, Ray’s Original, etc, etc, etc. We also drove up to see a few shows in CT. At one of the shows, I think it was a roller rink (maybe in Enfield) I saw the Melvins. We also saw the Adolescents in Rhode Island, the same show that is pictured in Radio Silence. After the show the battery in Bessie's car had died and Casey from the Adolescents gave us a jump start. I think he recognized me from DI shows at Fender's. There were so many highlights of this trip I really can’t remember all of them. I made friends with people like Gitter and Al Quint who I stayed in touch with for years after that. I came back to the West Coast feeling like hardcore was really up and coming!

Half Off at Fenders in Long Beach, with a young Issac from Chorus and Zack De La Rocha watching on


Anonymous said...

where the hell is vadim???

cool stories billy.


Anonymous said...

How many collector scumbags and euro-pos-dudes are trying to get Billy's address right now to ask about New Beginning test pressings...? I'd guess a ton.

Anonymous said...


Patrick said...

Glad you got some stories from Billy! I loved Half Off, went to see them every chance I got!

I scanned a couple of old issues of Think fanzine and put them on my Flickr page if anyone is interested in seeing them:


but its vegan said...

For what it's worth, in the picture of Underdog from an Albany VFW show, that's Glynis sitting on the speaker. Gylnis was a staple of Anthrax shows in the mid-80s and then spent a good amount of time hanging out in Albany.

Good to hear from you, Billy.

sue snow said...

Cool interview!
I was at that Underdog show. There were so many great shows there!
It is nice to hear Bessie talked about too. It would be cool for Double Cross to interview her sometime, I'm sure she has a lot of stories.

My friend Kristen used to be pen pals with Billy. I think after he came out here? She'd get a letter from him and show me some "gum Billy sent me". It was fun the silly stuff we all did back then.

Close but that is actually a girl named Becky in the photo in Albany.


Yeah I'm pretty sure that's Becky Tupper, not Glynis in that Underdog pic.

Jake Jacobs said...

L'Chaim from a fellow lapsed Jew.

Anonymous said...

look at Isaac and Zach in that pic.... Holy crap!!!

Thats weird.

Pedro Carvalho said...

Please post the second chapter soon!!!
I remember when I was getting into hardcore hearing so much about Half Off, who were supposed to be the Youth Crew's nemesis band.
After so many rumours and stories from the other side, I'm dying to read Billy's side of the story!

Bill "Nego" Case said...

I can die a happy man! I got a shout-out on Double Cross from Billy Rubin! YES!

Honestly, thanks man!

Good stuff.

Brushback said...

I was at that same Underdog show in Albany, too... the shows that Dave Stein put on at the Albany VFW were really cool.

I don't remember Jordan being involved with New Beginning (which Billy mentioned), but I was the other person from Ct. who was involved. It was me, Ray, Porcelly, and Bessie at first, and then Mike Trouchon and I guess Billy were looking to do a similar label on the West Coast, so we put our efforts together. New Beginning did help Jordan with the start up of Revelation in one respect; the Warzone 7" was going to be the third New Beginning release, but Bessie and Mike felt that (after Underdog and Crippled Youth) New Beginning would get stereotyped as a "Youth Crew" label, so Warzone became the first release on Revelation instead.

Billy mentioned visiting Ct. a few times; one of those times, I brought him to a record store in the town where I lived (Brass City Records), and he bought a huge Pink Floyd poster. Surprised the heck out of me.

Jake Jacobs said...

Any possibility of a Half Off discography, Billy?

Aaron Fichtelberg said...

Wow... Billy Rubin. I hope you're doing well nowadays. I'm Aaron, the Haywire stalker and editor of "Shoot Guns fanzine" back in the day. You were really cool and something of an idol to me in my misguided youth.

Anyways, I'm glad you're still around and I hope you find being a grownup as cool as I do.

Bessie said...

Billy Rubin!! hooo hoo. It was great and hilarious to read your account of that cross country trip. ack. how long ago was that, sonny boy? a long, long time. Do you remember when you cooked Spaghetti O's on the camp stove in parking lots across the country? You were a tad *too* excited. But charming, very charming. Or when you asked me really loudly (and sort of embarrassingly) why a gentleman was wearing a plastic shower cap in a supermarket in the outskirts of Detroit (he was doing his Jeri Curl underneath)? Or when the car broke down in Norwalk Connecticut? Or we stayed at Dave Runit's house? (Ask me for his classic line about sleeping on his couch). Looking forward to your next installment. ; )