Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dave Brown on the Adult Crash photo book

In case you hadn't heard, a new hardcore photo book called Adult Crash recently popped up out of the DC area. We caught up with Dave Brown, the photographer and editor of the book and thought it might make for an interesting entry here at DCXX if we tossed some questions his way. Here's part one of this interview, hope you enjoy it as much as we did. -Tim DCXX

Tell us about Adult Crash. When did the idea come together to do this book, what was the idea you most wanted to get across and out of all the photos that you have taken over the years, how did you narrow down what went in the book?

The initial/original Adult Crash idea that started it all took place in January of 2002. Linas Garsys & Tru Pray put together an art/hardcore event at a place called Hi-Fidelity Records in Northern Virginia. Hi-Fidelity was a small record store run by some younger locals that also held some hardcore/punk shows in the back room of the store. The art show did really well, with a variety of local people showing their work, including Jason Powell & others. Linas made some 2-piece prints for the show, and also sold a bunch of his original artwork there. After the success of that show, Linas got the idea to do an artbook of his own, similar to the Hyperstoic books that Pushead has done over the years.

In 2005, just prior to the final PosiFest, Tru suggested I put out a photobook. He had seen a lot of my photos over the years, and was especially a fan of the ones I had taken at the legendary Safari Club in DC. I was apprehensive, since I have never thought I was that good of a photographer... rather just a guy that happened to bring a camera to shows for the fun of documenting what I was seeing. I was also at a loss for what to call my book if I were to do one, since you really need a proper title for a book like this. I spoke with Linas about my ideas, as did Tru, and we were ready to roll.

The initial plan was to have a book of Linas' killer art from over the years along with my hardcore photos, since we had been going to a lot of the same shows from our earliest days. It just made sense that we could pull it off. I had a couple of ideas of things I wanted in the book, photo-wise, since I had so many unpublished pictures to work with. I also had the idea to include a 7" of current bands in the book doing covers by older bands in the book. The first band I contacted was Kill Your Idols. I have released a few different releases by them on my label, so they eagerly said they would do it. They chose "The Edge" by Token Entry. To spice it up, they came up with the idea to have Timmy Chunks sing the chorus over the phone like how the Bad Brains "Sacred Love" vocals were recorded over the phone due to HR's incarceration at the time. It was all lined up, but by the time KYI recorded the song Tim Chunks was nowhere to be found, and ended up not appearing on the song after all. Down To Nothing picked up the idea, and had Taylor from 4 Walls Falling sing on their cover of the 4 Walls song "The Price Of Silence". The Slumlords got Sab from Gut Instinct to sing on their cover of "Right Wing Hype" too. Damnation AD were going to do a Worlds Collide cover song, since Ken used to be in WC. The song was recorded, but never mixed by the time the record needed to be sent off. My friends in Cloak/Dagger happened to be recording very soon, and quickly pulled off an amazing cover of WarZone's "Escape From Your Society", complete with the funny spoken intro too! This was sent off to the plant in September 2008, over 3 years after the initial book idea was started.

Over the 3 years I worked on the book, I uncovered many photos I had totally forgotten about. I also found a chunk of negatives that had been ruined by the bad way I had been storing them over the years. On one hand, I was happy to be remembering all these great shows I had seen while going through piles of my old negatives. But on the other hand, I was really wishing that I had known back then I would be doing a book later - because I would have taken much better care of my negatives. I didn't have many old prints from the negatives that were ruined, and salvaged what I could from the mess. Luckily the damage was not worse, but it still burned me up to know I lost quite a few cool shows of photos. One of the main things I wanted was to have a lot of Safari Club pictures in the book, since that club is too undocumented for being the important venue that it truly was. Luckily, most of my Safari-era photos survived and were able to be scanned for inclusion.

Insight at the Safari Club, Photo: Dave Brown

By the beginning of 2008, Linas' interest in my version of the book was thinning, and at that point I just had to continue on it alone. The guy has always been a workaholic with a ton of things on his plate at any given time, and for as much as I wish it could have been worked out - the book didn't match his vision and he chose to not contribute to it.

During the time I was working on the book, I was also contacting people in some of the bands, as well as people from notable record stores & zines, and even an old show promoter. I wanted to have them all write something about why they are still hear after all of these years. The title of the book (and art show) is from the song Minor Threat by Minor Threat. The lyrics to that song have always meant a lot, and they went well with the question I asked these folks. Out of 35 requests I sent out through various outlets (MySpace, email, and even a couple of snail mail requests), I ended up getting almost every one I hoped for. All of these people were willing to share an old story or reflect for a moment JUST for my book, and it meant a lot to me as each one arrived. Some took months to write theirs, while some were fast as lightning. The fastest by far was Walter from GB. He got my MySpace message about the book and within 5 minutes had responded with the anecdote that is featured in the book. His written piece was just as interesting as the others and even kind of funny, too.

I simply wanted to make a book that looked like a hardcore book that I would pick up if I saw it somewhere...something jam-packed with photos and stories from the people that were there. I think I succeeded. Having Dave Walling from Six Feet Under Records come along at the perfect time to co-fund the costs with me was something I could not have planned better if I had tried. He just let me do my thing how I wanted, and helped make it a reality.

Rich from Sick Of It All at the Safari Club, Photo: Dave Brown

The cover is a great photo of 4 Walls Falling, to me it captures a specific time and place for hardcore. The Fall Brawl, Taylor in a Smorgasbord shirt, Skip Turning Point on top of the crowd singing along, Rob Release, Annie and Tim Axtion Packed on stage, etc. Tell us anything and everything about this photo that comes to mind and why you chose it for the cover of Adult Crash.

I think you really nailed it with your description. It was the most out of control show I had been to at that point. It was my first time at WUST Hall, even though many insane shows had already taken place there without me in attendance. I was used to the old/small 9:30 Club, the high-staged hallway that was the BBQ Iguana, and the aforementioned Safari Club. But WUST Hall was this big hall with a balcony, with a crowd full of maniacs from all sorts of different backgrounds. You had such a big mix: burly skinheads, clean-cut edge people, mohawked punks, drunk metalheads, and many others. It was a lot for my brain to take in all at once, and I am glad I brought my camera. I was lucky enough to be seeing lots of my favorite bands all on one bill for (I think) $12. There had been numerous variations of flyers for this show, with a variety of different bands listed. Some that were listed (but that didn't play) were Judge, Rest In Pieces, and Underdog. But Token Entry, Release, Outburst, 4 Walls, Gut Instinct, Turning Point, and others DID play, and I caught much of that evening on black & white film.

I chose it for the front cover since it brings back a whirlwind of memories from that Fall Brawl event each time I stare at it. It speaks for itself, and is a great example of what else the reader will see within the pages of the book. I have always liked that photo, and showcasing it on the cover made perfect sense. Taylor was stoked when I told him he was on the cover too - so that was an added bonus.

Alex Pain from Chain at the BBQ Iguana, Photo: Dave Brown

There are a lot of photos in the book that were taken at what I believe to be one of the best clubs ever, the Safari Club in Washington D.C.. Tell us about the Safari Club, some of the best shows you went to there, any particularly interesting memories and or stories.

The Safari Club was located near Chinatown in Washington DC, near the corner of 5th & K Street. At the time it was not a very pretty area at all. It was a seedy drug/violence riddled neighborhood, like many others in the Nations Capital. The Safari Club was not originally known for hardcore music either. It was a place better recognized by the local underground Go-Go music scene. In the 80's, Go-Go music was totally unknown outside of DC. It was a staple of the black community as much as Ben's Chili Bowl still is today. It was as much of a party-like atmosphere as the A7 Club on the Lower East Side in NYC was for hardcore in the 80's. It was not a scene you could just jump into, as the shows were usually held late at night in bad areas like 5th & K Street's Safari Club. Before cd's became the norm, the only way you could find a Go-Go release was by finding it on cassette at a local liquor store or flea market in DC. DC's hardcore and Go-Go scenes have overlapped many times over the years. As far back as Trouble Funk playing with Minor Threat.

The Safari Club started hosting hardcore shows thanks to people like John Galbrath (aka John Cornerstone), as well as the girls that did No Scene Zine: Shawna Kenney & her friend Pam. The Safari Club was run by a older guy named Halliel, though I probably botched the spelling of his name. He knew nothing about hardcore/punk, but saw a chance to fill his club on otherwise empty weekend afternoons for matinee shows there. He was known for being shady, and rarely being honest with the money that came in from those attending. There were always problems with him even showing up on-time to get the club ready. But it was a place for us to go, and since most of us never knew the headaches behind doing shows there - we just kept showing up to see our favorite bands that were being mostly ignored by the more established clubs in the area. The 9:30 Club had been steadily distancing itself from hardcore since its heyday, partly due to the violence, as well as alcohol sales not being very strong at the hardcore shows. You gotta pay the bills, right? So bands like Raw Deal, Judge, Bold, Gorilla Biscuits, Absolution, and others were playing the Safari stage to rabid audiences eager to go nuts on a Saturday afternoon.

A funny story I remember about the first Safari show... Swiz played with Gorilla Biscuits. During the show, Halliel was freaking out because there were all these crazy white teenagers going wild & he didn't know what to make of it? Supposedly, Shawn Brown from Swiz went to him and calmed him down quickly. Supposedly he was put at ease with Shawn not being one of these crazy white kids explaining it was all just part of the type of music being played. How accurate is that story? Who knows?! But the Safari hosted some of the best bands at the time in that grimey club where the toilet was either broken or cracked off the wall every show.

Here's another humorous Safari story I was actually a first-hand witness to: there was a crackhouse directly across the street from the entrance to the club. Like a REAL one, with shady dudes hanging out outside at all hours of the day, rain or shine. One day, me and a couple of my friends were standing in line to get into the Safari. We see this chubby hispanic guy walking into the crackhouse, and we all looked at each other at the same time. We went to the same high school together, and it was the security guard from our school going in the crackhouse! When he came out, we just stood there with our jaws hitting the sidewalk...then we burst out in laughter, which was pretty confusing to the other showgoers waiting to get in, but we didn't care.

That was the late-80's in DC for you. Nowadays, the block is about to be leveled for a mini-mall, and a Starbucks will soon reside on the plot of land that once was the Safari. Over the years since the Safari closed, there have been attempts to reopen it. It made a brief comeback as 'The Chamber Of Sound', but closed again soon after. The Verizon Center sits in the gentrified neighborhood in Chinatown now too, as well as tons of hip bars on blocks that used to be pretty scary 20 years ago. The old 9:30 Club moved from 930 F Street into the renovated WUST Hall. It is much more of a professional rock club now, and the real 9:30 Club was torn down over a decade ago. There are no pictures in my book from the 'new' 9:30 Club out of respect to the 'real' 9:30 Club for that reason. Also, the 'new' one has lots of rules about either no cameras most of the time or the 3-song photo rule which is just lame in itself. I miss that stinky spot on F Street. It had a history that could never be carried to a new place - even if the name is the same.

To be continued...

Matt Pinkus from Judge filling in on bass for Gorilla Biscuits at the Safari Club, Photo: Dave Brown


Neckdeep said...

So, how do we buy a copy?

shanexedge said...

The original "Adult Crash" art/hardcore show was one of my favorite shows we ever had at Hi-Fidelity. From the minute we opened the store, I wanted to do shows, and it made perfect sense to me to do something like this
(it was actually the second art show we did, though the first wasn't hardcore related at all).

I would have loved to see what the book would have turned out like with Linas and Dave collaborating on it, but it's still a great book. It was great to see so many pieces of DC and Virginia hardcore history, a lot of which was before I was able to start going to shows.

It's a damn shame my copies of the prints made for that show were stolen, maybe I can get Dave or Linas to make color copies for me haha


M said...

I'm dying to get my hands on a copy of this book. I was at the Fall Brawl and practically lived at the Sunday Hardcore matinees at the Safari in the late 80s.

Where can I find it? I would be shocked not to find pictures of myself and my friends in it that I really wish I had taken 20 years ago. If only I had known then how much those memories mean to me now.

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