Monday, December 28, 2009

Joey Vela - Part III

Joey hangs with the Straight Edge moshing duck, Photo courtesy of Joey Vela

Joey Vela delivers the final installment in his three-part interview. Enjoy this, and go check the previous entries if you missed out. Big thanks to Joey! -Gordo DCXX

What brought forth the demise of Breakaway?

We were all just going in different directions musically. We weren’t on the same page with anything. Jason had already started Dance Hall Crashers and was more into ska than hardcore at that point. Don was more into more melodic stuff and I was the only one who was still into doing straight hardcore. That last recording was with the last drummer we had, Eric Bird, and that guy rocked, I wish we did more with him, great guy.

The last Breakaway recording, which turned into the last 7”, was just recorded so I could have a recording of the songs. Don was away at college, so my friend Jeff Hill from Tyrranicide played bass on the recording. Jason wasn’t into it at all and it really showed in the original recording. I remember him saying stuff like, “do you want me to just play basic hardcore shit or what?” And after the initial tracks were recorded, he said, “uhhhg, we sound like straight edge Anthrax.” I wanted him to do some harmonics or something on one of the songs and he did under protest, but after he recorded the track, he said he wanted it taken out. When Jeff and I were in the sound booth, every time we played the song back to Jason, we would turn the track down and told him it was cut. But one time we forgot to turn it down and we got busted. We just started laughing. I think it was a couple days later, Jeff called me up and basically just said, look, the guitar tracks didn’t turn out the way you wanted or the way they should’ve, how about we go back in and I’ll re-record the guitar tracks. So Jeff ended up playing guitar and bass on that final recording.

Joey fronting Second Coming, Photo courtesy of Joey Vela

Breakaway recording history?

I think we recorded 2 demos and the 2 7” records. We also recorded 2 songs, along with Unit Pride, that are lost forever. Ray asked us to record for a possible comp, so we all went into the studio and recorded 2 songs each. All the songs were released on other recordings, but anyway, we had all 4 songs on the same reel. I sent them out after we recorded and the package never made it there. Victim of the postal service I guess.

Never heard anything of the reel again and we didn’t have any other copies of the songs, nothing on cassette or anything.

Unit Pride and Up Front pose for a group photo in the middle of nowhere, Photo courtesy of Joey Vela

You went on tour with Unit Pride in 1989, what are some of your stand out memories from that tour and what was your relationship with the members?

By the time that tour happened, Unit Pride was pretty much over with. When they got the call to do the tour, they had a band meeting to talk about doing it or not. I remember Eric saying that he didn’t want to do it, but if they wanted to, they could as long as Korri sang. No secret, they were one of my favorite bands, some of my best friends, and I had always wished Eric asked me to sing on the tour, but I was just as stoked to go along for the ride. Before the tour, I drove down to LA and picked up GG Aaron before flying out east. None of us had ever been back east before and were totally excited for the trip. We flew into New Jersey and all the excitement and all the hype we had was quickly shut down as soon as the doors opened up to the outside. I’m sure Jon and Jeff from Up Front can attest to this, but as soon as the doors opened up and we were smacked with that humidity, I don’t think we stopped complaining about the weather for the first 2-3 days we were there. Spoiled California kids.

Aside from the humidity, my first memory of that trip was started by the HUGE “X” that was tanned into Grant’s back. He was talking about how he wasn’t straight edge anymore and this and that, then that first day we were going swimming at Jeff’s house, Grant took off his shirt and exposed this huge X. We all gave him shit for it and he gave us the most ridiculous story of how the X got there. That kind of kicked off our trip.

We got to go to a show at the Anthrax, and we hit up a Gorilla Biscuits/Turning Point show at CBGB’s before leaving on tour. I think we had 2 or 3 cassette tapes for the entire trip...Dag Nasty Wig Out At Denkos, an advance of the GB record, an advance of the BOLD ep and maybe a Descendents, All tape. One of the best things about the tour was 11 guys all in the same van singing along to the same songs over and over. The whole tour was documented by this little hand held recorder that Aaron brought. I only wish I had a copy of those tour tapes, there was some comedy gold on those things. As far as I know, those tapes are gone forever.

Joey with his hands up on the Unit Pride tour, Photo courtesy of Joey Vela

Another memory from tour was the show in Kalamazoo. We stayed at this kid’s house down in the basement. I think they called him Yogurt and he looked like one of those troll dolls, but with a shaved head. Worst sleep ever, the carpet felt wet and in the middle of the night, one of his shitty friends came down with one of those blow horn cans and thought it would be funny to wake everyone up. Shithead. There was a flyer down in the basement for a local band that was called F.A.Q., we asked what it stood for and this kid said in the most ridiculous, Suburbia punk rock voice, “Faaawwkk Yoouuuu.” Even better was that he was dead serious with the way he said it, so punk rock.

Then there was the breakdown. I don’t remember where we were, but the van had broken down and we were towed out to the middle of nowhere. Seriously, we were on the road to no where and GG Aaron and I kept on talking about how it seemed like we were being driven out into the country to get murdered. Definitely had the Deliverance sound track running through my mind. We were brought to this house to hang out while the van was being fixed and a rental was getting handled. The people were extremely nice, they fed us and they had us completely cover their car in bad graffiti. Good times out in the sticks. Once we got a rental, we drove on.

Brandt, GG Aaron and I had to leave the tour with I think only the Anthrax show left. We had to take a hellish bus ride from Buffalo to New Jersey to catch our flight on time. As we were getting off the bus, there were a couple hustlers waiting for suckers to get off the bus and Brandt got right in line. Aaron and I got off first and they asked if they could help with our bags. Yeah, hell no, but thanks anyway. So then Brandt gets off the bus and with a big smile on his face, hands over his bag and guitar case. Uhhhhggg!!! Are you kidding me? So the guy starts to walk away with Brandt’s guitar and says that he would only give it back if we payed him. I think it was about 20 minutes of talk and about $12 later, Brandt had his guitar back. That tour wasn’t so much about the shows played as much as it was about the travels with awesome people.

More Unit Pride / Up Front hang out sessions in the middle of nowhere, Photo courtesy of Joey Vela

After that Unit Pride ’89 summer tour, their was talk of a new band called Double Cross that consisted of ex-members of Unit Pride, plus you and Korri Sabatini sharing vocal duties. Was this purely a rumored band or was their any substantial talk / action going on with this project? If so what can you tell us about it.

We did start a band called Double Cross, but no one from Unit Pride was in it. It was to be me and Korri on vocals, Shawn Lopez (Inner Strength, Far) on drums, Blair (Downtime, Knapsack) on guitar, and Tony Valladares (108) on bass. I think we had 1 song and that was it. We were all spread out across northern California, so we met up at Shawn’s house to practice. The couple times we actually tried to practice most of the time was spent with Shawn and Blair arguing over something stupid and making fun of each other, then all of us going outside to play basketball. It just fizzed out before it got started, it was too much work to get everyone together to just sit around and make fun of each other.

Of all the people from the Califnornia SE scene of the late 80s, you are one of the few still involved in hardcore, and you are still straight edge. What are your thoughts on straight edge today?

Although I am still straight edge, I don’t identify with it anymore or relate to it. I think that straight edge is a great thing and has helped a lot of kids, and will always have a value in the scene, but the 90’s kind of ruined it for me. The 10 on 1 beat downs on some kid because he was drinking or smoking or dancing different. It was just stupid. Just a horrible mentality. Not saying that all straight edge kids were like that, because obviously that was just a small percentage, but it was a real bummer dealing with that shit. It’s not what I was about and nothing I wanted to be a part of. Kind of funny that many that were involved with that shit have since gone extremely the other way.

I don’t care if anyone smokes, drinks, or whatever. And don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are plenty of people that think I was an asshole too back in the day, but not from violence. When we were younger, I’m sure our crew of friends were perceived as having the elitist attitude, but we weren’t exclusive to straight edge kids, our crew of friends had a mix of everybody. Just part of being young I guess.

I also remember going to parties and all of the sudden, you would hear something like, “don’t let anyone else with an X on their shirt into the party.” Not because we were fighting people, but because we would do shit we thought was funny, like pour liquid laxatives in people’s drinks and lock all the bathroom doors. That kind of stuff. But then again, we used to do that kind of stuff before we were straight edge and it wasn’t because they were drinking, we did it to the jocks in high school, and to people we thought were assholes. Sorry to say, watching someone scramble around, struggling not to shit their pants in a crowded room is funny to me. It works great at corporate functions as well. Maturity is over rated.

Joey with Second Coming, Photo courtesy of Joey Vela

Where did you see the scene going by the early 90’s and at what point did you start the band Second Coming?

The early 90’s were brutal. There was nothing going on at all, not much of a scene happening, at least in the bay area. I think it was sometime in ‘91 when the initial stages of Second Coming started. The very first time we started jamming, it was Jeff Hill from Tyrranicide on guitar, Tim Narducci, who played guitar in Tyrranicide on drums, and me “playing” bass. OK, I could barely play guitar and I played bass on a bass that only had 2 strings, but at least we were working on some songs. After trying quite a few different line-ups, we finally got it together with a solid line up and thankfully I was not playing any instruments.

One of my best friends, Don Rossington, who was also in Breakaway, played in Second Coming for most of the time we were a band, and was actually in the band 3 different times. He was one of the first bass players, then he went away to school. Then he came back and played bass again, then came back on guitar. Then we met the Powerhouse guys and things started to take off again in the mid 90’s. Powerhouse was extremely instrumental in getting the bay area hardcore scene to thrive through the 90’s. Some of my favorite shows ever were with Powerhouse. Some of the best dudes ever. R.I.P. Ernie Cortez, never forget. I miss that guy.

What are you up to today with your personal life and what part does hardcore play in it if any?

I’m married now and have 2 great kids. I still go out and see shows from time to time and still check out new music all the time. Definitely not as involved as I used to be, but still enjoy it. Most of my time these days is spent with family, skateboarding or doing art.

Hardcore has been a major part of my life for the past 26-27 years. Its totally cliché, but its made me who I am today and is something I really value, something I take very personal. Over the years, you see people come and go, you see who is really in. It's way more than the music, more than the fashion, it’s something that is either in you or it isn’t.

Anything you’d change or do differently if you could? How would you like to be remembered by the hardcore scene?

Yeah, I wouldn’t have played “one more song” at one of the first Second Coming shows. We were asked to play one more and half way through the song, I jumped up and when I landed, I dislocated my knee and shredded my ACL. I finished the song laying on the stage in brutal pain. I haven’t had an ACL in my right knee since 1992 and have re-injured it countless times since then. I’m sure skating big pools and ramps doesn’t help, but what can you do? Aside from that, I wish I toured more.

I'm not going to pretend I have been a big enough player to be remembered. Especially considering you see stuff on message boards and the kids talk about “old school” shows from way back in the day and they are referring to shows that happened in 2005, I can assume most of those kids don’t have much appreciation for the history of the local scenes anyway. I remember going to shows when I was a kid and we would see the creepy old guy at the back of the club. Looking back, the creepy old guy was probably in his late 20s. I passed that status long ago but I’m far from writing my hardcore obituary.

Second Coming at Gilman Street, Photo courtesy of Joey Vela


ERIC SXE said...

Great stories as usual! We played many shows with Second Coming through the late 90's. Always a good time. Great band!

For those of you that don't know, Joey is a ripping skater!

Anonymous said...

Joey your Breakaway recollections have been an awesome read. Your ACL story really hit home. At a Brotherhood, Wrecking Crew, Accused show Greg came running across the stage and jumps on top of me for a little HC singalong tearing my ACL. F'd up when it happens but I've loved over the last 20 years when people ask how it happened just saying punk rock.

HYG brother.

Ron G

Anonymous said...

Yes, these have been great entries start to finish. Didn't know much about Breakaway or Joey but now I feel like we are old pals! Great stuff!

Jim Pitts said...

Great stuff from one of the Bay Area's "Best" hardcore frontmen ever! Glad I got to see all of Joey's bands. From when I was promoting shows and would book Rabid Lassie, to when I was SXE and singing along to Breakaway, to the one time I saw Second Coming (they opened for a little band you might have heard of....Hatebreed) Joey always gave 110% on stage!
He is a guy who will be remembered for a long time!
I just found a great pic of me at 17 singing for Anxiety, and 15 year old Joey jumping up on people to sing along with me!
Wish we could all be kids forever, and live those times over! Hardcore was just sooooooo different 25 years ago!

Anonymous said...

'bout time Sabatini got some juice up in this piece. He hella ran the Nor. Cal. SXE scene.


Vintage Richmond said...

Damn Joey, you covered pretty much everything from that tour. I think the only thing you missed was the WNYU set by both bands. Oh, and the fact that the whole inside of the van was rust colored shag carpet (ceiling too), and the raised "bed" in the back had an opening in the shape of a heart. That's why we dubbed it "The Love Van." In reality, that was a failed tour b/c of all the shit that went down, and shows that were missed/cancelled. But it was one the best tours I've been on! We had a blast despite the problems.

I still remember the feeling of driving the van at about 70 MPH on the highway, and suddenly the engine was revving and we were slowing down...DEAD transmission. I guess we got our $500 worth out of that van. It sat for sale in my parent's front yard for months in the Fall of '89 before someone finally bought it.

I'd love to hear GG's tapes if he ever finds them. And we need to exchange pics someday. I have a ton, but most are Pete's so you may have seen them.

Anonymous said...

one of the most underated bands ever, rabid lassie and breakaway were so awesome, such a shame material aint avaiable for kids to check out, hell even the cd on lost and found are pretty much impossible to find for people. Wish more bands were like them