Monday, December 14, 2009

Joey Vela - Breakaway part II

Breakaway at Gilman Street with Tim Monroe of Unit Pride on guitar, Photo courtesy of Joey

More NorCal love from Joey Vela - dig in! -Gordo DCXX

When Breakaway is coming together, give us the vibe / climate of the scene at that point. How had things changed from the Rabid Lassie days to the Breakaway era?

The straight edge scene was growing huge back then. I’d say there was definitely a huge influence of both straight edge and New York hardcore. With that, I guess there was also quite a bit of segregation in the scene, where as before, in the early-mid 80s, you would see a pretty diverse crowd at any given show.

Funny story, in the late 80s, Brotherhood had come through and had the Fuck Racism shirts. Lawrence Livermore and a few other MRR people that had a bit of a distaste with the straight edge kids thought it would be funny to make shirts mocking the Brotherhood shirts and they looked similar, but said, Fuck Straight Edge. It was at a 7 Seconds show at Gilman when they brought those shirts out to sell, thinking that they would bum out all the sxe kids. We thought they were the greatest things ever. All the SXE kids bought them and put them on right away. I’m sure that wasn’t exactly the reaction they were hoping for.

Joey with the Gilman Street crowd, Photo courtesy of Joey

Tell us about the impact Youth Of Today had on the Bay Area? Their Gilman Street sets have been talked about as legendary, your opinion? What about other east coast straight edge bands of the time, any stand outs?

Like I said, the straight edge scene was blowing up in the bay area. Youth of Today had played the bay area long before Break Down The Walls came out, but that was the record that just blew people away. Their first show in the bay area was before Can’t Close My Eyes came out. We hadn’t even heard of them before, we went to the show to see Violent Coercion’s last show at New Method. When we got there, there was talk of some band Kevin Seconds was touring with, and he was playing drums. Honestly, we didn’t care, we were just there to see Violent Coercion's last show.

So this band Youth Of Today takes the stage. I don’t think anyone there knew anything about them other than Kevin Seconds was playing drums. Love them or hate them - and I know people have their opinions, but there was something about them that just commanded your attention. They just went off, so much power. Ray is very charismatic and I think one of the greatest frontmen in hardcore. Ray had everyone there singing along to almost every song they played, and we had never even heard of them before.

After that, I think I went to Rough Trade asking if the 7” came in yet pretty much every weekend until it was in. By the time they came back to town, people were way into them. Their stage presence was just as energetic as their music, it was very powerful. The Gilman shows are among some of the greatest shows I’ve ever been to and we were lucky enough to play with them there. As far as other east coast straight edge bands having an impact, or standing out...there were so many great bands from that time that it is hard to single any out. But I will say that I think Walter Schreifels is a brilliant musician and there is no denying his influence on the hardcore scene and its growth over the years.

How did Breakaway hook up with Soul Force Records for the release of the 7”?

I don’t really remember. I think I talked to Eric Astor who was putting out Unit Pride, and he gave me Jeff’s number and said that he was starting a label and said he might be interested. Not too sure though.

Joey and Eric Ozenne of Unit Pride up front for a Breakaway sing along, Photo courtesy of Joey

The 7” had a song titled ”Competition," was there band competition going on at that time and if so, give us some background to it.

There have been rumors over the years about some kind of rivalry between us and Unit Pride. If anything, I think Eric and Grant from Unit Pride didn’t really care for Jason at some point, and he probably felt the same about them, but never any band rivalry or anything, that was just between them personally. Unit Pride was one of my favorite bands back then and we were all close friends. We all hung out all the time. Pete and Tim also played in Breakaway for a while too.

Favorite local bands of the time and why?

Again, going back to Tyrranicide and Unit Pride, and Operation Ivy were fun to play with too. Unit Pride were close friends and I loved their music, so that’s a given. Tyrranicide was a local thrash band. Solid guys, great musicians, amazing band. Jeff Hill kicks ass. Cool guy to hang out with, definitely a pioneer in the D.I.Y. ethic in our area. He started his own label, put on shows, booked tours. He really opened my eyes to a lot, I have a lot of respect for that guy.

Brian Wentrup and Joey Vela hanging out for the Unit Pride 7" recording in San Francisco, 1988, Photo courtesy of Joey

How important was and still is Gilman Street to the Bay Area scene? What are some of your best memories from Gilman Street shows?

No doubt that Gilman is extremely important to the Bay Area scene. When other clubs were shutting their doors to punk rock and hardcore shows, Gilman has been there for over 20 years. That’s amazing when you think about it. Like a lot of people, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with that club over the years. Since it’s a volunteer run club, you get a mix of people running it, and that mix hasn’t always been good. There have been times where I hated that place and looked at it as nothing more than a place to play.

But overall, politics aside, it's one hell of a place and I think the people that run it have a lot of heart and truly believe in what the club was initially started as. I remember going there before it opened when they were setting it up, building the stage and all of that. It’s crazy to think that it’s still going strong after all these years. When they first opened, they didn’t advertise who was playing the shows, they wouldn’t even tell you who you were playing with when you got booked to play. The thinking was, that if you were truly down for the scene, you would go regardless of who was playing. Not exactly the best business plan, but I can understand the thinking.

We played the second night, the second show ever there and were stoked when we got there. I think the first thing we saw when we came in was an Orange half stack. The only band we had ever seen with an Orange half stack was Justice League, and they were booked on the show too. We were stoked because we were really into them, so it was a nice surprise. After the show, they had a meeting to discuss how the show went and how things could be improved. It was pretty much a common theme that everyone thought they should start advertising the shows.

I think it was a week or 2 later, Unit Pride played their surprise show with BL’AST!, so we got pretty lucky with our first shows at Gilman. I have so many great memories of shows there though. Gwar at Gilman was amazing, all the Op Ivy shows, all the big straight edge shows, OBHC shows, and that one show Sammy got into a fight at. If I remember correctly, the first Youth Of Today show we played there, was kind of an odd line-up and I’m pretty sure it was this show, a band called No Trend played as well. They had some song that was in some porn movie, “Between The Cheeks” or something like that. Horrible music, but when they played, they had a couple naked ladies “dancing” on stage in nothing but saran wrap. Then there is the whole stolen corpse up in the sound booth story. Some crazy shit has gone down at that club over the years.

To be continued...

Breakaway at Gilman with chaos about to erupt, Photo courtesy of Joey


Damaged said...

I left the first comment!

Anonymous said...

great stuff, this norcal scene def deserves some recalling and joey is the right guy for the job. psyched to read part 3

Jim Pitts said...

So killer to get to see all these great pics from Murray B. and Trent Nelon. Breakaway at Gilman, Rabid Lassie at New Metohd or The On Broadway, or Second Coming, Joey is one of the great Bay Area hardcore frontmen of the past 20+ years! I saw every step of his bands and he ALWAYS blew me away!

ERIC SXE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ERIC SXE said...

More great stories! Joey is the man! I love this stuff. Keep it going! Once again, I'm bummed that I missed all that fun by just a couple years!

Any chance of a BREAKAWAY discography CD like the Unit Pride one?

Anonymous said...

Y.O.T. and No Trend!?!?! So amazing! I am assuming it is the D.C. No Trend? Granted, by the time YOT was around they sucked, but early No Trend is basically Flipper funneled through Void (though not fast).

Granted, Girls in Suran Wrap is kinda bogus...

Jim Pitts said...

Yes it was the No Trend from DC, at the end of their run.......

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