Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lars Weiss - Part II

Lars with Uppercut at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno

Here's the continuation of our interview with Lars Weiss. Kick back, turn up "Forget This Time" and lay into this one. We'll most likely finish this up with part three sometime next week. Again, thanks to Lars for his time and thanks to Ken and Dave for their photogs . -Tim DCXX

Uppercut got going for real after Side by Side broke up. I think we only played like 3 or 4 shows, did the demo, and played on WNYU before Eric from Side by Side joined the band. Uppercut really played a lot – close to 100 shows without ever touring. We never got further west than Buffalo, further north than Boston, or further south than DC but we played quite a bit. When I think back on it I think I was away almost every weekend for my last year of high school. Which then seemed totally normal, but when I think about it now it seems kinda crazy. And if I wasn't playing shows, I was going to shows. But that was the way everybody was.

Raw Deal/Killing Time was like our big brother band. Anthony got us our first show at CB's and they took us wherever they went. That was so cool because they were guys I had grown up with. Later on, we became friends with the Slapshot guys. Everyone including us thought that was weird at first, but they turned out to be really nice guys and we ended up playing with them a bunch. At first we were a little worried because of all the stories, and we weren't exactly straight edge, but we really got along. They were one of our favorite bands. I was also a little in awe of those guys because Choke had been in Negative FX and Jamie was in SSD. I just got an email from Mark McKay the other day.

We also played out with Wrecking Crew from Boston a lot. Those guys were excellent. Boston was an excellent place for us to play and hang out. We always had great shows and always ended up at some crazy house party with the Wrecking Crew guys afterward. There is a very interesting story floating around about someone on mushrooms trying to park the Raw Deal van, but I won't elaborate further...

We played with Outburst a lot as well because we knew them through Raw Deal and they were on Blackout. We did the Uppercut 12" for Blackout when Bill was getting the "Where the Wild Things Are" LP together. There’s some things production wise that I would have liked to have done better, but it wasn't until much later in life that I got to know my way around the studio. I've been listening to the record recently and I really like the guitar stuff that Eric is doing. At the time we did it I thought it was a bit over the top, but now I think his guitar stuff makes the record really interesting. Uppercut has been the hardcore band that has continued for me, as we got back together to play some shows with Killing Time in 2005 and have been averaging a 2-3 shows a year. We pick our spots...

Uppercut at City Gardens, Trenton NJ, Photo: Ken Salerno

To me Hardcore to me is timeless, I didn’t realize it then. I think everyone goes through a stage where you feel like maybe what did you was corny. But now I think hardcore was incredibly real. I listened to the Screaming For Change LP today and I haven’t listened to Soundgarden in a very long know? (Side note: I'm totally in agreement with Gordo on "Staring into the Sun." After reading his review I gave it a second chance. I wish I could get my hands on the multitracks and remix it. There are some great songs under all that reverb and the drum sound is totally fixable with pro-tools). Hardcore was and is real music with real energy. Maybe people from my age grew up and a lot of them at one point thought it was corny, but I don’t think so. It was real.

JUDGE…that happened from doing Uppercut for a while. I had become friends with Sam from Side By Side. And then he went off to do YOT, and then Judge full time. They had recorded the LP and Sam mentioned a they were looking for a second guitar player. They played with Ryan Hoffman some, and then got me in. I knew Porcell from being around and I knew Matt Pincus because my brother Erik was friends with him. I didn't really know Mike before the band. But I was psyched as hell to play with them.

There was the misconception regarding my straight edge status because of Uppercut's song "Am I Clear?" But I was straight edge in Judge. I loved all the youth crew stuff. I don’t think I was ever exactly straight edge before, but with those guys, I was. It wasn’t weird, it was just like with playing with guys I knew, and I respected what they were saying. So it didn’t take much convincing, it was friends playing music. And I'm still friends with Sam - we play basketball every Tuesday.

The "Where It Went" video, I remember Eric Seefranz really hustled to do it. He shot it on 16mm film, which was really tough to do it, for nothing. The video came out so good, it was the spring before the Bringin' It Down tour. With the money we made from that show we bought a van for the tour. That van ended up being Quicksand’s van later. For that video shoot, we played the song a bunch of times before anyone was there, and then we played it at the beginning of the set and the end of the set. Eric did all of the editing. I don’t know what happened to the other footage. Judge was more of Mike and Porcell’s band, so maybe they would know. I saw the video when it came out, but that was it.

Lars hears it from the crowd, post Judge "Where It Went" video shoot, City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno

Judge was a powerful unit and everyone could play. Sammy was great in Side By Side and he was amazing by the time he was in Judge. And Porcell really was playing much more complicated stuff on "Bringin' it Down" when compared to "Break Down the Walls." He even had some full on solos.

I remember recording The Storm seven inch. I think we had gone on tour and came back but I'm not sure. Those are Mike and Todd’s (roadie) Harleys at the beginning of the record outside on Spring Street in front of Don Fury’s.

Towards the end of the Bringin' It Down tour it seemed like those guys were leaning towards something else, getting tired of it. I just kinda felt that we weren’t gonna keep doing it, and they were older than me. I was 19 and they were like 23, so they were in a different place. If it was up to me I would have kept doing it. But those guys were a little older. Mike was a cool, nice guy. But he was also intense and you knew if you got on his bad side he would be scary. I didn’t really know him before the band, but I definitely got to know him in the band. But he was definitely an awesome guy. We both really like Neil Young and listened to a ton of him on tour.

That tour was excellent. Sammy booked it, which was pretty funny having a kid from Manhattan who had never driven a car book a tour that required calculating driving times. But he did (for the most part) an amazing job. We had a solid run from New York all the way out to Minneapolis. All the shows were awesome. We played in the club where they did Purple Rain, we played in Omaha, then we went out to California. We hung out out there a lot with the Sloth Crew guys. That was my second trip out there with Judge.

Lars with Judge at Spanky's in Riverside CA, Photo: Dave Sine

The first time was when we did the West Coast Weekend right after "Bringing it Down" came out. That was such a combination of awesome shows – a two car garage on a cul-de-sac in Chula Vista with kids stage-diving off of the washer/dryer and the pit set up in the driveway. The next night was a huge show at the Country Club. Then we played Gillman Street. Such an awesome mix.

On the summer tour we played Spanky’s in Riverside. Also, when I was out there on the summer tour we got to see Killing Time and Sick of It All at the Country Club which was the only time Killing Time played LA. It's the show that they did the live seven inch for. (Weird little side note: Killing Time and SOIA were put up at this random motel in Inglewood called the Cockatoo Inn. If you ever watch "Jackie Brown," the Quentin Tarrantino movie, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) hangs out there too).

But the tour, we had some insane drives through the south – 36 hours straight I think from LA (missed our Texas shows due to van issues) to Louisville, KY. After that show, we ended up staying at some kid's house, might have been the promoter. Anyway, this can be hit or miss type of thing. Sometimes, you have to be quiet because Mom and Dad are asleep, and other times there are other issues. Anyway, I've slept on many a floor playing in hardcore bands but this was one of the most memorable. So we get to the guy's house and I think Sam and I ended up in the same room together. Anyway, it was dark when we went in there so we just passed out on the floor. I wake up the next morning and the room we were in was like the snake/porn room. There were like 10 fish tanks floor to ceiling with snakes in them and then one of the largest collections of porn magazines in Southeastern United States. Dude had porn like I have records (and I have 5000-6000 LPs in my house). I just remember getting up, being like, "this is strange..." and waiting around in a "Steak N' Shake" parking lot until we left.

That was the other thing, being vegetarian (I still ate a little chicken on this tour but everyone else was a vegetarian), it was always hard find a spot to eat. This was in 1990, before you could find tofu and soy milk in every supermarket. So Porcell had this "Guide to Eating Vegetarian in the USA" book that was like a health food Zagat's that was supposed to get us to California and back. One of the best spots that we ended up at because of this book was an all vegetarian Soul Food restarant run by the Nation of Islam in a not-so-nice part of Detroit. Totally excellent BBQ Seitan ribs.

Tampa I think was the last show. We saw some really bad fights, I mean, really bad. I've been in New York my whole life, and I saw the illest fight ever outside some bar in Ybor City in Tampa and that wasn't even related to our show! At our Tampa show there was only a mini race riot...lots of skinheads and all around bad vibes. Oh, one more thing, that photo of Mike in "The Storm" seven inch with the lightning and the tanks was from a truck stop in the middle of Iowa on that last tour. Great memories.

Lars breaking down the machine with Uppercut at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno


Tim said...

Cool to read his memory of Chula Vista. That was an awesome show - one of many in "Del Mar's Garage". Imagine how quickly a sweaty room of kids at a hardcore show can get silent when someone throws a beer can at Mike Judge. The Spanky's show was great too, but it's hard to top after seeing them in a garage.

Ben Edge said...

What Neil Young records were Mike and Lars listening to on that tour?

Anonymous said...

melbourne fl, was the last show.

Anonymous said...

Awesome read. I like this guy.

Anonymous said...

Does it seem like a lot of hardcore kids turn out to be lawyers? Jules, Gordo, Stein, Jeff Banks...others?

chad said...

i knew Judge had come out to the west coast twice but i was getting the west coast weekend and the regular west coast tour confused... and now this is confusing me even more. i swear on the west coast weekend they had played spanky's cafe on a thursday night. i know they played spanky's twice and i saw them there the first time, but not the second. the second time was with shelter and vic's one-off Rage band.

Anonymous said...

Attorney is a popular profession. I know a half dozen other SoCal HC guys who became lawyers (including Regis of Disapproval).

Anonymous said...

there was a fight between the Sloth Crew and some Skins after the Judge Spankys show.
First round KO all caught on tape.

Anonymous said...

I know Greg Brown from Blackspot clobbered one dude and Isaac from The Chorus got a skin in a chokehold and was delivering massive uppercuts...

Speaking of Blackspot and The Chorus, these bands are playing a reunion benefit at Chain Reaction March 22, 7pm. W/ No For An Answer, Headfirst and Ice.

Anonymous said...

@Ben Edge Who cares???

hottdogg9000 said...

Incredible spoken word history, recognize fools!!! TOTAL RESPECT!!!!