Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Everybody's Scene outtakes with Gavin Van Vlack


Gavin with Absolution at the Anthrax, Photo: Joe Snow

In our ongoing posting of outtakes from Chris Daily's upcoming book, Everybody's Scene, we bring you some great content from Gavin that was caught on tape. Be sure to grab Everybody's Scene for much, much more -Gordo DCXX


The Anthrax, it was a total grab bag of music...you had no idea what you were going to get. You were going to see your friends' band, you knew what they sounded like, but you didn't know who else was opening or closing or what last minute add ons were playing. You'd see some stuff and be like, "Wow, DRI? What? What is this?" Seeing stuff like that, JFA...stuff that just shaped me musically. DRI invented the metal scene as far as I’m concerned. There would be no Slayer if there was no DRI. There would be no me, musically speaking, if there wasn't The Anthrax. I would not have had a platform to tinker around with music and play with ideas and do weird stuff if it wasn't for that club.

So many things that came out of that club, and influenced not only punk rock and hardcore but rock 'n roll in general.

We don't have that underground anymore. The media is so massive now it's just an expansive web that covers everything. The second a band has a million friends on MySpace or Facebook, they're overnight pop sensations. We didn't have that back then. It was like, "Wow, I found this really awesome little diamond of a thing, that's so incredible. And I’m going to share it with my friends and hopefully it's going to blow up into this really great thing." Well, I remember seeing the Cro-Mags in '84 at CBs and being like, "Oh my God... if the real world knew of this it would be horrible." And the problem was, the real world found out and it became horrible. It wrecked the Cro-Mags. That band is such a part of my heart. Those guys, Agnostic Front, bands like, all that stuff...Underdog - you want a New York freedom fighter - Richie Birkenhead, there you go. If people were getting into fights at Underdog shows or Youth Of Today shows...I always tried to take the right side of the fight.


Gavin hits the Norwalk dancefloor, Photo: Jeff Coleman

I would hear "Well Gavin's a violent person" so on and so forth. I can't say that what I did was right, but I can't say that I would have just honestly stood by and watched some of the shit that I saw get validated and not have something to say about it and not act on it.

I’m kind of built like a manhole cover with feet...and that was before I started fighting competitively. Which is funny. I take a good shot. I don't really roll out, I’ve been hit a couple times by some people where they're sure of it being a knockout shot and it just doesn’t happen. Being that young you have this invincibility. At this point I’m 41 years old, I think competitive fighting took that out of me, knowing that anyone can get hurt any time, it’s not a game anymore. It's something I was doing at hardcore shows, getting into fights, to where, brought into a competitive aspect, I’ve been hurt in training more than I’ve been hurt in fights at hardcore shows... I mean, I’ve been hit with skateboards!

There was a good amount of fighting that went on...I had a big reputation for being a big violent thug. I’m not saying some of it may have been deserved. I tried my best to take the good side of things. My only weakness is that if I'm seeing a guy getting beat up by three other guys, I’m going to jump in on it. I’m going to even it up just a little bit. That’s what was happening a lot. This pack mentality. Oh he's not one of us. Some kid's wearing an Exploited shirt! These guys are wearing Warzone shirts. He’s a punk. We’re skins. That’s the stupidest shit ever. It’s so ridiculous.

Early on, it was an amazing, fun and goofy thing, and it became this juggernaut, this Frankenstein...that was the sad evolution.

The puppy stopped being cute at a point. I think I walked away from the concept of hardcore in '86. I grew up around music. All music was good. Then it became this exclusionary thing where, "You can't like this if you like that." It just didn't appeal. As a musician it's stifling..."You’re only allowed to eat bacon...forever...that's it." Well, it's like 2 o’clock in the morning. I don't wanna eat bacon. Not to offend any vegetarians. I listen to so many genres. I don't listen to anything that I’ve listened to before. Either I hate it, or I learn something from it musically.

The Norwalk Anthrax was a really weird time for me. I loved going to CT because I got to see all my old friends, the Sheridan brothers, etc. It was weird because the scene became something I didn't want anything to do with. When we would play we would bring up a band we loved, like when I was in Absolution, we brought up Nausea, and the kids didn't get it. They just didn't get it...that’s what hurt me, when kids thought, “I have to get it.” They couldn't just accept stuff. That to me was kind of indefinite. I played in Burn after that and we still played at the Anthrax. It’s a typical Gavin thing to drive things into the ground. Even with Burn I was trying to do something different. I was trying to get away from doing the normal hardcore.


Gavin with Absolution, Photo: Dave Rabenold

I think the end of it for me was one of the last shows we played there at The Anthrax. I had become really...we were living in Williamsburg, way before hipsters were living in Williamsburg, this was like 1989, I had become a recluse, I didn't even really talk to the guys in the band anymore. I remember we were playing at the Anthrax and this young skater kid came up to me and said, "You're the guitarist form Burn, right?" And I was just sitting there like, "What the hell do you want from me?" And he goes "You made me want to play guitar" He grabbed my hand, basically forced me to shake it and was like "Thanks." At that point I realized how much of a jackass I was.

I was really really angry. That kind of killed things for me. I realized I can't do this anymore. I quit Burn. I had gone back to living in abandoned buildings. I was living in between Avenues C and D. I actually still live in on 6th St. I mean, it's really nice. I hooked it up. But back then, when I moved back, I stayed inside for the rest of the week, ordering food from Chinese restaurants. I was like, I can't do this kind of music any more. It’s just killing me. I just hated everything. This kid came up to me with the biggest compliment I had ever heard in a really sorry existence, I was the reason this kid wanted to do music. And I had the nerve to feel spite for him...just to see what I was turning in to...and that was at the Anthrax, it was sad. That was the club that had made music so amazing for me, but at the end of it, it was the death of all things for me. I didn't want anything to do with it. It had become a Frankenstein.

Another thing was that the friends that I had couldn't come to Burn shows or they would get beat up. I have a lot of friends from the gay and lesbian community, from different walks...there's a lot of violence going on there, and they can't come to my shows. That's what hurt...I remember when I first started going to shows...it was a lot of kids who, honestly didn't know their place in high school, a lot of them were gay and lesbian or just didn't fit in, and then it became this place where you had to fit in, you had to fit this mold. That was the death of it for me, because I had become so resistant to anything, to anybody. I mean, this kid who gave me the biggest compliment, inspiring him to play guitar, and all I could feel was contempt. My attitude was just, “How dare you talk to me?” I could have just taken him aside and said, "Go buy this record, this record, this record, here's a thousand better reasons to play guitar." I couldn't even be that constructive.

So I stopped playing music for probably 6 months, just did a lot of drugs...and then started this band called DIE 116 which was a whole different change all together. We never got to play the Anthrax; I don't think we would have been accepted. We were ballistic way beyond anything I ever wanted to do. That record was my favorite record I had ever done in my life. That includes the Burn stuff.



An X'ed up Gavin with some Stamford Anthrax follies, Photo: Chris Schneider

13 comments:

Dave said...

I met Gavin early on at the Anthrax and was lucky enough to put out the Absolution EP many years later. Gavin's good humor and honesty have always impressed me and this piece is great. I'm happy to still call him a friend 25 years after Ray told me I had to meet this big jock kid who had fingers so big nobody understood how he could play guitar---and we were all convinced that Ray was just joking with us until we want to Gavin's house and watched him play. Amazing.

-cja said...

very cool entry. thanx for posting this!

Anonymous said...

easily one of the best entries on double cross.......and that is saying a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! awesome!

Anonymous said...

GREAT. Gavin is my favorite person to ever come out of NYHC. Calls shit like it is. A true musician as well. Gavin rules all.

nagus-dfps said...

Out the NYHC scene, Gavin Van Vlack was one of the most vibrant people there. I'm glad to have known him and be friends. Say what you wish about the man, but at least he had the nads to mix it up when needed, not like some of us too scared to get hurt. The only thing you needed to worry about when hanging out with him was his unpredictability. It was wise to be past his arm's length because at any given moment, he might just put you in a head lock or pick you up and carry you around like a sack of potatoes for no apparent reason at all. This was if you were a friend...

When I was working on my book, I wrote this paragraph in the Some Records chapter:

"Gavin Van Vlack, of Absolution was totally in your face and on all the time. He liked to fuck with new kids all the time, scaring the shit out of them and then make friends with them. One evening at Some Records, I remember there were these two new kids from Long Island that were coming around. Gavin was looking at one of them and was like, “Hey Kid! Come over here!” (I can even hear Duane, in the background and in a fatherly manner…”Gavin…”) The small and obviously frightened out of his fucking mind kid came over. He had one of those insulated hunter’s caps on, the kind with the pull down flaps on the side. Gavin was like, “That’s a fucking stupid hat!” This poor kid has no clue that he is just screwing with him big time and is shaking like a leaf. Then Gavin asked what bands he and his friends were into and he replied with whatever bands were cool at the moment. Gavin then lightened up and “That’s cool…you guys are alright. If anybody fucks with you, let me know.” Those two went away feeling pretty good."

That pretty much sums it up...

-Dave K.

Billy said...

20 some years ago, Gavin met me at Bessie Oakley's NY apartment and took me on a walking tour of the lower east side. He had a back pack with a heavy gauge link of chain in it (just in case we ran into trouble).
He was an incredibly nice guy and gave me a glimpse of street life in NYC.
Thanks Gavin!

Anonymous said...

Gavin was a great interview and super flexible. I called him 3 days before coming to NYC to do interviews checking what his schedule may be. He made adjustments to meet with us was gracious when he arrived and we were slightly behind schedule. He was candid and told awesome stories. He was one of the first people that befriended me at the Stamford Anthrax at an early Verbal Assault show. I was standing there buying one of the screaming tongue guy shirts and looking at "The Masses" demo that just came out, trying to figure out if I should buy it or not. "Look kid, just buy it, you won't be disappointed." Of course, I bought it.

-Daily

Smitty said...

Good to see an interview with the big guy where he displays the insight and intelligence those of us who've known him for years know is a big part of him. In a scene full of copy cats he was always an original. And as a guitarist, the guy is a real stylist. No one plays like him, certainly not in the NYHC scene. Other cats tried to use those Alex Lifeson and Andy Summers chords in hardcore and it came off weak and diluted. When Gavin did it they sounded powerful and complex. I remember playing a show with Die 116 one time and me and the other guitarist in my band were carrying in a Music Man 1x12 combo (I swear to God, it was really heavy) and Gavin screams out in front of everyone "LOOK IT TAKES TWO OF THEM TO CARRY IN A COMBO HAHAHAHA!" Needless to say, we carried it solo from then on. AND he looks great in a spray-on latex rubber shirt.

Anonymous said...

I was 14 when I first went to the Anthrax in Norwalk. I think Dr. Know was playing. I loved that place & me & my friends would go ALL the time till it closed. Reading articles like this make me think back to when I was a teen & how it was back then. Nothing will ever be like the Anthrax,Joe Dias & Lost Gen.I saw so many bands from hardcore to metal to punk. I miss it so much.

adam said...

Gavin always was an in your face honest guy in my experience and this interview (and the ones in the book) will be some of the best reads..

As a ton of other people probably do, I could go on and on about crazy Gavin stories I've seen from him breaking up fights in front of CB's to staying up all night in Boston with him telling old NYHC stories to Glenn and I at Celia's...

Brushback said...

Yeah, this post was great. I remember the first time I ever hung out with Gavin, it was after an Albany Style/Y.O.T. show and he let us all crash at his parents' house, playing Motorhead on the record player and reading some reviews he was writing for a zine (this would've been 1986)... he seemed like a real up front, likeable guy, even back then-- a bit different from a lot of other people in the scene at the time. Everyone was so reluctant to break ranks and act in any way slightly different, but not Gavin...

Brushback said...

Albany Style were a friggin' cool band for back then, by the way-- I wish there was more on the 'net about them... they were really among the first wave (along with YOT, Crippled Youth, and some others back in '85/'86) of what would become the whole Youth Crew/straight edge thing..

Just figured I'd mention it, seeing as Dave Stein put up a comment here.

William Patrick Wend said...

This is one of the best posts DCXXX has done so far. And I totally know what Gavin means re: gay/lesbian friends and how they couldn't really come around to shows, etc. That was one of the big reasons I kind of stopped going to shows for awhile earlier in the decade...