Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chris McGill - Vision

Chris McGill with Vision at CBGB, Photo: Ken Salerno

If there's any band that is synonymous with New Jersey Hardcore, it's Vision. On Saturday April 4th at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Vision will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their classic, "In The Blink Of An Eye" LP. To go along with the celebration, original bassist and NJHC veteran, Chris McGill will be handling bass duties. We caught up with McGill to talk a little history. This is part one of a multiple entry interview that is sure to please the Jersey die hards. -Tim DCXX

How and when did you discover punk / hardcore? What are some of your earliest show memories?

I was born in Long Island, NY in 1965, but grew up in NJ. Most of the music I listened to growing up was from my parents. My father was a musician and was mostly into jazz, and rhythm and blues. He played the saxophone, but unfortunately stopped playing when he had us kids. I had 5 brothers and it was pretty busy around the house so I guess mom turned the screws on him. I still have his circa 1935 SG Conn “Naked Lady” Sax and it’s a classic. He loved music and did not mind playing albums by musicians like Stan Getz, Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, Chuck Mangione, and countless others. I enjoyed the sound of jazz and ska. At the time I did not realize that when all of my musical transformations would be complete, it is the early ska sound that remains my favorite to this day. Listening to this music eventually got me listening to bands like Madness, English Beat and The Specials, which crossed over to listening to bands like The Clash, The Stranglers, Generation X, and the Angelic Upstarts. I am not sure where it all came from, but it just happened that way.

I had friends who introduced me to some bands, and other bands I heard on college radio. It was in 1980 when I went to see my first punk show. I managed to squeeze a ride out of my neighbor to see the Clash at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ. It was a phenomenal show and I remember it like yesterday. That show was huge for me, but at the time it seemed like no big deal. It did however change everything as far as what music should be about. At the end of 1980 my father died and I started to go through a change in attitude. I was pissed off and bitter, and was lashing out.
In 1981 I started listening to bands like Black Flag, The Minutemen, Circle Jerks and The Dead Kennedys, the usual suspects. I remember blasting "Holiday in Cambodia" in my basement and thinking “this is dark, just like my mood”. I craved the energy and the anger of these bands and I wanted more. So eventually I was listening to all the California bands and then the NY bands followed.

In was 1983 when I started going to shows on a regular basis. We were taking the train into the city on a regular basis to different venues like the Ritz and CBGB’s, or going to shows in New Brunswick at a place called Patrix. I remember seeing Kraut and Bedlam there. North Jersey had a place called the Showplace.

One of my favorite shows was in DC on New Year's Eve to see Reagan Youth, Black Market Baby, Scream, and a few others at a movie theater. It was a rather strange venue. Probably 1984. It was packed and the insanity of everyone slam dancing on top of theater seats was a sight to behold. All the bands were great and it was a long weekend of walking around the city, meeting other punks and mixing it up with some college pukes. I remember someone was killed outside the show. He was walking across the street and a car ran him over. The same thing happened to a friend of mine at CBGB's a few years later.

McGill mixing it up on the City Gardens dance floor, Photo: Ken Salerno

Who were some of your favorite punk / HC bands early on and why?

If I had to throw one out there, it would be the Stiff Little Fingers. I think they have influenced me the most, from the music to imagery. In Sinn Fein we had a song called Nobody’s Heroes and of course there is the album cover design for “In the Blink of an Eye”. Even my new band Slowburn has the flammable materials flame in the “O” of the logo. Their Inflammable Materials album was all about Northern Ireland and the troubles. I could relate. My family was tied into the troubles and the Fingers meant everything to me at the time.

I remember watching a show on television called Night Flight. Night Flight was a variety show on the USA Network. An eclectic mix of short films, cartoons, B movies, stand-up comedy, documentaries, music videos and more. It was on late at night and they showed videos of bands. One night when I was watching, a video comes on by SLF. That was the first time I ever heard them and I nearly shit myself. They played Alternative Ulster and I was blown away. I never looked back.

A note of disappointment: I contacted Jake Burns a few years back about taking his Roaring Boys tune and transposing it for bagpipes. I was going to incorporate it into a competition set our pipe band does. I asked him about the chord arrangement and he was a prick about it, but I don’t think I expected anything less. Despite Jake, I managed to do it, but I would not put it in our set.

Tell us about the early City Gardens days, The Family (who and what it was) and where the nickname "Ivo" came from?

City Gardens was our answer to CBGB’s as far as a place to call home. We loved CB's, but this was more convenient, it was New Jersey, and the bands that came through were becoming the same and just as frequent. I wish I had kept track of all the bands I have seen, and most of them would have been at City Gardens. It was also a bigger venue and there was a parking lot to hang out in. I can’t remember the year they started shows there, but it was either 1984 or 1985. We forged friendships in the parking lot at our tailgate parties, and that was the beginning of The Family. There were no colors, no letters, no patches, no hand signs, and no initiations. There was a trust that was tested and proven at any given show, or anytime a friend was in need.

When I joined Vision that was the end of the Family for me. Some of the guys were pissed that I joined a straight edge band and were critical. To me, it did not matter because I was on the wrong track. I needed to straighten my shit out or I would end up on the wrong side of the mud, just like a few of them did. It is actually why I wrote “In the Blink of an Eye”. It’s never too late to change and it’s not difficult if you want to.

Where did Ivo come from? Funny, I had that name prior to the chaos and controversy. Everyone needed a nickname, and it always provided a great escape. The name comes from Saint Ivo of Kermartin, the patron Saint of Abandon children, among other things. I learned about Saint Ivo through my religious upbringing, and always liked the name and his cause. You have to love a guy who resisted the unjust taxation of the king. In those days, it seemed like everyone had a nickname. So I don’t know if it was just a form of rebelling against your parents, or because musicians in your favorite bands had them, or if you just didn’t like your given name. For me, I wanted to be a musician and it made sense at the time. Later I would be given the nickname “Pit-bull Attack”. It’s odd, but Lou Koller gave it to me. I wonder why? Hmmmm. Maybe Lou could answer that.

To be continued...

Old style Vision in their practice space, Photo: Ken Salerno


Benj said...

YES! Stoked for more Vision material. Thanks Tim...

Sue Cosby said...

Such great guys. Love you Chris. Gotta figure out if I can get to this upcoming show. Oh, the days when getting to shows was way more important than eating, sleeping and making a living.

And the Family scared the f*ckin crap out of me at City Gardens. I'm not afraid to admit it.

Anonymous said...

Damn I love vision but that was boring ass balls

Anonymous said...

I wonder what his father's favorites Jazz bands were and what he like to play on his circa 1935 SG Conn “Naked Lady” Sax.

Anonymous said...

I loved the Blink of an Eye LP growing up. It seemed like they were better musicians than most of their contempories at the time (with the exception of Beyond and of course the Bad Brains), but I went back a listened to this a few months back and the vocals really bring this record down. So freaking boring!

Ben Edge said...

@BEN DREGE: Who cares?

Anonymous said...

just cut to the fucking chase. about the Harley confrontation! haha.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.