Monday, March 9, 2009

Lars Weiss - Uppercut, Side By Side, AIAC and Judge

Lars with Uppercut

Getting an email from people that were in the bands that we cover here is always cool, so when I got a message from Lars Weiss praising the site, I was definitely stoked. Considering Lars played in some of the greats... Uppercut, Side By Side, Alone In A Crowd and Judge, we decided to hit him up for an interview.

This is part one of a multiple entry interview that Gordo and I did over the phone last Thursday with Lars. Big thanks to Lars for giving us a couple hours of his Thursday night. Part two should be up later this week. Down For The Count... - Tim DCXX

I grew up in Yonkers, north of the Bronx. When I was a really little kid just getting into music I was really into The Who. I also remember hearing early punk/ new wave on WPIX, an old radio station in New York that played stuff like Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Blondie, etc. - a lot of the early new wave stuff. I totally remember hearing "God Save The Queen" probably on WLIR and just loving it, knowing this was awesome. I also really liked The Clash. I remember being too young to go to see The Clash open for The Who at Shea Stadium on their 1982 "farewell" tour. My mom wasn't down with letting an 11 year old go to that. I also remember listening to WLIR, which was an awesome new wave station. They played The Cure, Depeche Mode, a lot of stuff. I really liked early REM, the drummer from my first band had an older brother in a band from Yonkers called Woofing Cookies that did a 7" that was produced by Peter Buck. So I got into REM from hearing about them from Al (my drummer's) older brother. This must have been like 1984ish... I also really liked Husker Du and The Replacements a lot. "New Day Rising" is still one of my favorite records.

What also helped back then there was a great indie record store about 10 blocks from my mom's house called Mad Platters. There was a guy named Tony Pradlik who worked there who was into a lot of hardcore and punk. He turned me on to a lot of stuff. That was such a good store, I mean, before my time I had heard that they had Black Flag do an in-store. That's where I bought a copy of the Bad Brains RIOR cassette and "Victim in Pain." So from hanging out at that store I got into a lot of stuff and eventually started working there when I was 16.

Lars with Judge, Photo: Ken Salerno

You guys asked me if I was this metal guy who got into hardcore (Editor’s Note: That was always both of our impressions – DCXX). But, I wasn’t really from metal. I mean, I could dig it and there was some stuff I was into. Like, my Mom had a great record collection she had everything from Marvin Gaye to Black Sabbath "Paranoid." So I heard that record when I was young, and I loved it and still do. But mostly, I got into metal more through hardcore - not the other way around.

Yes, Yonkers had/has a big metal contingent. I played little league with Will Rahmer from Mortician. And even going back to Mad Platters, they had a great Metal section, like 8 rows of records, compared to 3 rows for HC and punk. They had Motorhead and lot of "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" all the early Venom, Celtic Frost, etc. And I ended up working there. Jim Gibson who started Noiseville Records (he did "Where the Wild Things" with Bill and the NY Inside Out 7") also worked there. He got me into Motorhead. He and his brothers were huge Motorhead fans. He also turned me on to Metallica, Celtic Frost and Slayer. But I got into that stuff because I thought it was like hardcore.

But most of my exposure to hardcore early on was from the kids in my neighborhood. Carl from Breakdown/Raw Deal and Bill Wilson who started Blackout lived a few blocks from my mom's house. I still have this tape that Bill made for me of all his Misfits seven inches. But it was through those guys that I got I really got into Hardcore. AF was my first show…Summer of 1986, it was AF, WarZone, and Underdog at CB’s. That was, I believe, Underdog’s first show after changing their name from True Blue. After that I started going to CB's almost every weekend with Carl, Bill, and Don who was the original guitar player for Breakdown. I was 15. It’s been all downhill since then.

Before I was in a HC band I was in a punk/Replacements/Husker Du type of band. It was with this dude Al Nafz, who I mentioned before, and he was friends with Carl. Carl played with us for a bit, Al left, and then that morphed into first Uppercut line-up. That line-up was me, Carl, Pat, Rob, and Sammy Crespo who would later become a big hip-hop radio promo guy for Def Jam and now Atlantic Records. I always thought it was funny hearing the ex-singer from Uppercut being shouted out on Hot 97 by Funkmaster Flex. Carl knew all those guys from going to Fordham University. So that original non-hardcore type band kinda lead to Uppercut. Later on Sammy would leave and we got Steve Murphy, who was also went to Fordham.

Lars with Uppercut

I was already doing Uppercut before being in Side By Side. I met Jules at a show and he mentioned that Billy was leaving the band and asked me to try out that's how I started playing with them. Before I was in Side By Side, it had been Jules, Sammy, Billy (Bitter), Eric (Fink), and Gavin. Then Gavin left and Alex came in to replace him. Then Billy left and I came in. They had already recorded the Revelation 7". I only played one show with them at The Anthrax on bass. I played with a broken hand, because I had broken it at an AF show. In the photos you can see I’m wearing a cast. I played bass with like one finger. After Side By Side broke up, Eric (Fink) came and joined Uppercut.

But when Side By Side broke up, Jules said he wanted to do another band. We got together with Rob from Uppercut and Carl from Raw Deal, and Jules’s friend Howie. That was Alone In A Crowd. We wanted to be a real band. But we just ended up doing the one show at The Anthrax and recording the single at Don Fury's. We wrote the songs and recorded immediately, we didn’t waste much time, the momentum was there. But strangely, we just didn’t do anything after that. It wasn’t intentional to do only one show. The intention was to be a band. Those guys had other bands, but Jules wanted to do a band, it wasn’t meant to be a one-shot deal.

We even had a color – remember how everything Chain Of Strength did was like green, Jules wanted everything to be maroon. I remember we had a cassette of rough mixes from Don Fury's before we played that one show. So before the 7" came out, the tape had gotten passed around and when we played out people were really into it, knew the words and were singing along. Jules wrote all the lyrics, I wrote most of the riffs. Overall, I think Jules, Carl, and I wrote everything. Carl wrote the bass intro to When Tigers Fight (Editor’s Note: AKA The hardest bass intro ever written).

We practiced a bunch in my Mom’s basement. And then we were ready. After that one show I don’t think we even practiced again, it was weird. I don’t know what happened! I thought it was great. After that show, it wasn’t like “we aren’t gonna do this again,” at most maybe we needed someone to play bass for Carl since he was busy with Raw Deal.

I think Jules was at a transitional point. Maybe he felt like he did everything he wanted to. By the fall of 1988 he was onto something else. But I thought it would continue. I wish it had.

Jules was a really cool, smart, intense guy. We were like 18 but he seemed a little older and really smart. I mean off stage, he was more serious and intense than the kids I grew up with, he could be goofy, but he was definitely on a mission. Just an intense personality. He has more of a perspective on stuff today than you might think. He was really psyched on the re-release of AIAC. He really seems psyched that people still are into this stuff. He called me out of the blue about 6 months back. Now he is an attorney practicing maritime law in Florida.

Lars with Uppercut at CBGB, NYC

After AIAC, Side By Side did play one more time at a benefit show for Roger Miret at CB’s with Raw Deal and Straight Ahead. I was in college at the time, and the line up was me and Eric on guitar and Billy on bass, with Sammy on drums and obviously Jules singing. Alex didn’t play for some reason. Strangely, that was after the one and only Alone In A Crowd show.

As far as the AIAC re-release, I've been running my own label, Home Style Cooking, since 2000, so I decided I wanted to do it and do it right. Other people wanted to reissue it, but I thought I should do it. My friend Brian Simmons originally put it out on Flux. He also did Constant Change Records and promoted shows in Providence and in Newport. So when AIAC wanted to put out the 7" we wanted to do it as our own thing, not on Schism or Rev, but do it with someone outside of the New York scene. I think that lead to the record kinda getting lost in the shuffle over time (and being much rarer!). But I'm really happy with how the re-release came out. I think it is a great record and it means a lot to me to know people still dig it.

More to come...


Anonymous said...

fuckin awesome man. i wish there was a proper uppercut discography, the blackout one with the record ripped to cd is pretty awful.

Billy said...

New Day Rising is a great Husker Du record

Anonymous said...

Once again great job. You guys never fail to impress. My only complaint is that you always leave me hanging for weeks. It's annoying but I always got something good to read. Thanks fellas.

Ben Edge said...

FINALLY, we all find out what happened to Jules!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, interesting about Jules, I always thought he wanted nothing to do with hardcore and thought it was stupid. "I'd rather be a nobody in real life than a somebody in the hardcore scene" -- I think that quote was always attributed to Jules.


Anonymous said...

Wow, a Les Paul with three pick-ups!

D. Sine said...

A very good read. I look forward to the next installment.

Larvik said...

There HAS to be a Jules interview at some point. Fuck.

Anonymous said...

Man, you learn something new here everyday. Have known Lars for years and had no idea he had ever played with Side By Side. I remember boxes of the AIAC 7" casually strewn about the Blackout! Records offices back in the mid-90s and they couldn't give 'em away. Shoulda snagged one.

Tone Loki said...

Didn't Lars end up in GIVING TREE? Did that one 7" with Kate (pre 108) on vocals? That was a bad record...

Anonymous said...

everyone of those bands was over- rated. and he got in them all after the fact. did he ever START his own band?

this kid ruined judge.

can you interview the kid from Sumfin' Ta Prove packing the 9mm on the Victory comp? might be more interesting.

stop sucking so much east coast dick, even if you are east coast kids.

just kidding, good read.

Anonymous said...

"It’s been all downhill since then." This quote reminds me of the old Lars. Dude was so funny when he was putting everything else down...especially Krishna. Great guy, great interview....great neighborhood characters to grow up with!

Anonymous said...

Didn't Lars end up in GIVING TREE? Did that one 7" with Kate (pre 108) on vocals? That was a bad record...

Yes. Haven't heard that record in a million years but I remember it being good if not-hardcore melodic alternative rock.

Anonymous said...

Dunno Dirtysteve, I think the ship has sailed on the digital remaster on the Uppercut. Lars, feel free to chime in anytime.

Anonymous said...

yes bill, I agree. One thing from the archives I'm trying to find this live in the studio thing that Uppercut did for WFMU in 2005. From what I remember, it's really good... will try to locate it and get that posted somewhere.