Monday, June 22, 2009

Darren Walters - Hi-Impact / Jade Tree Records, shares his Turning Point memories

Darren and the TP crew outside of CBGB's, Photo courtesy of: TP

Hi-Impact and Jade Tree guru Darren Walters reflects on the Hi-Impact days and his memories of Turning Point- Gordo DCXX

How did the idea for Hi-Impact come together? Was TP an idea for the label from its inception, or something that popped up after the label was already formed?

After years of being in bands and playing music, I realized that I may be better suited for life behind the scenes. The idea for starting a label eventually crystallized while I was at a family event where I was talking to my Aunt about how I was thinking about starting a record label, but that I wasn't sure how to go about doing it. My aunt told me that she thought I would be great at being a business person and basically gave me a pep talk and inspired me to finally get off of my ass. She was the motivation that I needed; someone to believe in me and show me that I could do it. It meant a lot and I immediately started the label after I got home.

I then called up my friend Victor, we became partners, and we started Hi-Impact. We wanted a hard-hitting name and there was this marker sitting in his room that had that wording on it and we loved it. Especially the way "Hi" was spelled. The name struck both of us as really "core" and so that sealed the deal and Hi-Impact was off and running. All we needed was a band!

Once we told our friends that we had started a label, our friend Scott (who was doing Terminal Productions, a tape label that did a bunch of compilations-including one with Pointless) passed us the demo he had gotten because he had worked with Jay previously. In fact, the demo might have even been tacked on to the end of a Pointless demo that Scott had. The important thing is that I recall hearing it for the first time and flipping out. I knew right then and there that this had to be the first record that Victor & I released. We may have even have called the guys up that night-we were that excited about it.

Turning Point at OJ's with Darren on stage in the background, Photo courtesy of: TP

What specifically was exciting about the TP demo? Did it just seem like another young SE band or something special you knew you had to put out?

The energy, the youthful enthusiasm and Skip's voice-it had an edge to it that when combined with the music really made the difference between what Turning Point were doing and many of the other bands of the era. That boy could sing! I ąm biased, but that band was something special. They were clearly talented and not some 2nd generation carbon copy youth crew band that could be easily dismissed. I think their impact speaks to that, as well as the songs that they would write later on in their careers.

In 1988, almost everything I listened to in hardcore sounded alike to some degree, so originality was not something that I heard all of the time, but I knew it when I heard it. Turning Point was not only the real deal-something I think they struggled to prove to other NJ/NY bands-but they were intent on making a real go of being original and almost swimming against the tide of the times. As a band the consistently made strides to move forward and certainly argued about doing so internally as they struggled with their growing pains. They also never tried to be something they were not, which to me, was really important and something which fans picked up on. They were five kids from the NJ burbs and despite all of the noise, they never sang about mean streets or hard knocks (and in fact, we joked about the hard shit that we did love all of the time) but instead addressed the shit we did deal with at that time such as white power knuckleheads at shows, the struggles of growing older or relationships as a young adult.

Darren and Ken, Photo courtesy of: TP

What was your relationship like with each guy from TP? What was the band dynamic as you saw it?

Overall, Turning Point were a fun loving, entertaining and determined bunch of kids. They never let the scene bullshit drag them down and they soldiered forward to really create outstanding music in a generic era of hardcore.

Jay (All Business / Ultimate musician - I remember watching him play the drums and thinking 'why the hell does this kid play the guitar?') and Skip (Sarcastic comedian): These two lived down the street from each other and I spent a lot of time at Skip's house, which was the center of the universe. Things centered around meeting there and typically crashing there as well. There was a lot of sleeping over, watching movies, eating calzones, drinking soda, talking shit and general good times had around their hood.

Steve (Band buddy): I spent a lot of time with Steve. We used to go to a lot of shows together without the other band members and hung out often. This became a problem when the band asked him to leave and I think had some bearing on the band eventually leaving Hi-Impact. I never took sides, but I definitely remained friends with Steve when he was out of the band and from that point on had less and less interaction with the rest of the band.

Nick (The kid with sardonic wit): At the time Nick was in the background more, but as time moved on, Nick moved out of his shell and become more funny and outgoing. Nick struck me as the kid who was along for the ride, but who eventually became a stronger voice within the band. One of the few members I am still in touch with these days. In fact, I have been emailing him the last few minutes.

Ken (The working man): Ken had a job, made a real living and his house was the practice space. He, as the drummer, was the solid one of the band. A good guy that you leaned on when you really needed something done. I recall going over there and spending many hours watching the band develop their new songs and direction. I saw many songs take shape, be played at a show once or twice, and then eventually get dropped.

It was a really interesting place to be, and a great time.

What were your ideas for the 7"? What can you recall about hearing the 7"
recording for the first time, as compared to the demo?

To release the most amazing record ever! The record was done at a studio near where I was born and around the corner from my grandmother's house, so Victor and I attended the sessions and participated (Victor thinks we should have gotten production credits) in the recording process. I recall how while the recording was happening how flabbergasted we both were at how amazing it sounded. It synthesized what we were both thinking about how amazing the band could sound if they were recorded under better than average circumstances. In other words, in a real studio where their nuances could be heard clearly and then not compressed or distorted once transferred onto the vinyl. To this day I ąm proud of the way that the record turned out sonically. Especially for the timeframe of the late 80s when so many awful sounding hardcore 7"s were being released.

To be continued...

Hi-Impact 7" era Turning Point lineup up, Photo courtesy of: TP