Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mark McKay with some SLAPSHOT in your face

Choke with Slapshot at the Country Club, Reseda CA, Photo: Dave Sine

Slapshot drummer Mark McKay brings us the first round of answers to our never ending questions about one of Boston's baddest. Expect tons more to come - STRAIGHT EDGE IN YOUR FACE. -Gordo DCXX

When did the original idea for SLAPSHOT come together? What was the idea and outlook for the band?

Slapshot was born in September of 1985 out of sheer willpower from Steve Risteen. Steve and I (friends from high school) were determined to start a hardcore band, after Steve’s previous band (with later Slapshot cohort Chris Lauria), TERMINALLY ILL, broke up. He had been meeting up with Choke on occasion and had the guts to ask him if he wanted to start a band and get back into it. Much to our surprise, Choke was into it and we had become pretty good friends (after a ROCKY start!).

Boston was pretty dead for hardcore (no offense to anyone who was keeping it alive!!!), as a lot of the original bands we followed had imploded or just disappeared. Back On The Map was our manifesto and “call to arms” for all the kids in Boston to rally round their dying (but proud) scene and kickstart it again. It was a lot of hard work, but we all had been going to shows and supporting the scene since the early days, and had lots of friends to occupy the early shows – and they were really needing some release!

Not sure if we would even catch on, Slapshot just did everything as best we could – we often said (and still often say) “any show could be our last, so make it good!”

Was SLAPSHOT meant to be a continuation of the early Boston spirit or a new birth of sorts?

I would say both. We wanted to take that utter menace that existed in the early scene (perceived or real) and give it new life. We didn’t want the music to be all that different, though it came out a little more “Oi” sounding than the previous owners – we LOVE(D) that old sound: Minor Threat, Bad Brains, SSD, Negative Approach…

Mark McKay on his 21st birthday with a straight edge birthday cake. Choke, Steve Risteen, Jon Anastas and others cheer him on, Photo courtesy of: Mark McKay

How much of a focal point was Straight Edge for Slapshot at the beginning? Was it something immediately made part of the band's identity, or something that just clicked once things got moving?

We were VERY focused on the Straight Edge as that was the way that we were. Of course we had some fun with it (the “Straight Edge Chant” and some REALLY exaggerated early interviews), but we were all straight edge and wanted to have that be a piece of who Slapshot was. It was a real source of pride in Boston back in the day, and was still very important to us. So as soon as we said, “We’re Straight Edge” and the rumours started back up about Choke and the knocking of beer bottles from drinkers' hands, and tales of “drinkers and smokers being on the WRONG end of the hockey stick,” we ran with it.

In retrospect, what was the climate of the Boston HC scene at the time of the early Slapshot shows? What was Slapshot's "role" in Boston, and elsewhere?

I have a different tale to tell than the other guys, and I would imagine that everyone would have a different tale. In Boston, the pits were really hard. The shows were PACKED and hot. The music was WAY too loud, and the venues could not possibly have sustained this pace for as long as they did. But it was more excitement than menace, you know? There was no feeling that you would be beat up for doing your thing, and every freak had each other's back.

When we went to other cities, we knew a few kids in most places. But they were propogating the “myth” of Slapshot too, so when we pulled up to places like Buffalo, Detroit, Kansas and piled out of the van all wearing identical varsity jackets proclaiming that we were from Boston – it looks pretty weird, and most folks did NOT know what to make of us. The music eventually spoke for us, but the image of this gang of hoods invading your town was just classic to me – especially when we became friends with folks in the towns, and they were telling us, “we had NO idea what to expect." Just great! I hope we brought a bit of show, a bit of entertainment and a bit of menace back into the scene – that would make me happy.

Who were the bands Slapshot identified with most? How did you gel with others in Boston at the time? What about elsewhere?

Well, we did not identify with too many bands out there that we came across (again, apologies to those that we LOVED) – we were just too busy being ourselves to care. We have ALWAYS (well, nearly always) enjoyed each other’s company, and music was kind of second to our having a good time traveling and hanging out. Of course, we saw TONS of great bands, but usually would forego opening bands sets for just goofing around town or eating, etc. That sounds totally crass, but that’s the way it was…

Boston was always GREAT for us – we were playing to our friends, people we had been going to shows for years with – all of a sudden, we have a band of our own! I see some old pictures and all the kids up front were kids I had seen every show I had ever seen with! On show days, we would meet in Kenmore Square and hang out. Then we would grab our gear, set up and play. Then after the show, we would return the gear, and back to Kenmore Square to hang out some more. No separation, a good team of friends.

As for influences musically, well I think you can hear a LOT of the English “Oi” bands in our songs, a bit of Minor Threat and Negative Approach. I WISH we could claim that our stuff was influenced by Bad Brains (as we all worshipped them) but we were not able to play anywhere NEAR their level to even qualify…

Steve Risteen, Choke and Mark with Slapshot at The Paradise, Photo courtesy of: Mark McKay