Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howie Abrams - In-Effect Records part III

Howie Abrams drops a NYHC bomb with more cool material in his ongoing interview! -Gordo DCXX

Do you view any of the In-Effect releases as being part of distinct eras? (I.E. early releases, later releases, etc.). What is your overall favorite In-Effect project/record? Any you wish you got to do that didn't work out?

I don't really associate any of the releases with any specific eras; especially considering not everything we did could be considered "hardcore." Generally speaking, I think our timing was good with regard to the bands we signed. For instance, SOIA, Killing Time and Madball clearly benefited from coming out AFTER the Agnostic Front album and the Bad Brains CD. We advertised the upcoming releases by the younger bands inside the veteran bands' albums, so that helped a ton.

Further to that, I think a band like 24-7 Spyz benefited from being associated with all of these bands. They were sort of a fish out of water musically and the NYHC scene helped give them an identity. They opened for every other In-Effect band at one point or another before they released Harder Than You. It's crazy because when we signed them, we didn't view them as a HC band at all, but the scene kind of adopted them for a while. Later on, they became more closely associated with bands like Fishbone and the Chili Peppers, which was a more natural fit and made more sense.

Then you have a band like Scatterbrain, which was basically HC vets Ludichrist with a new name. In fact, when they began recording their first album for us, they were still Ludichrist. Basically, 3/5 of their line-up had changed and so did their sound. Aside from the fact that a number of retailers were actually offended by their name and wouldn't carry their records, which is still insane to me, they just became a different band, so...they literally became a DIFFERENT band.

As far as stuff I wish we could have done, we were actually turned down by Vision and also Leeway. We had an opportunity to buy out Profile Records' deal with Leeway and the band wanted an advance that seemed way out of whack. We were about to spend a lot just to get the rights to Born To Expire and were in no position to throw a bunch of money to the band on top of that. It sucked because we all loved them, but we couldn't make it happen. I also really wanted to sign Primus, but there was a pretty outrageous bidding war for the band and we certainly weren't going to be winning any bidding wars against the major labels.

We were at some point in 1990 in negotiations with Gorilla Biscuits, but they wound up breaking up, so obviously that was disappointing. However, Quicksand was born, so I can't complain. One little known fact about IE is that we actually signed Murphy's Law to the label and were going to release The Best of Times album. However, at some point around the time of the recording, the decision by the MAN was to discontinue In-Effect, so the album was eventually released on Relativity, as was SOIA's Just Look Around after I was gone. Sony bought the whole company and folded everything into Columbia and Epic. Buh-bye In-Effect.

While it's tough to say what my overall favorite In-Effect project was, since you're putting me on the spot, I'll have to say it was working with Sick Of It All. Those guys were just fucking great in every way. As people, as a band, their work ethic, their loyalty and appreciation for what you did for them... I can't say enough good things. All they wanted to do was record and play shows for a living and guess what... They're STILL doing that! There's a reason they've been able to do so while so many others haven't.

In-Effect got swept up into a whirlwind debate within HC based on some major label/distribution ties, and many people were very vocal on either side. What were your thoughts then? Who was right and wrong, and what do you make of it looking back now?

Ah yes - the EVIL In-Effect Records... It really started with some of the guys in Born Against and some of their cronies from ABC NO RIO having an axe to grind with Sick Of It All based on things they THOUGHT they knew about them and the label. They basically were calling SOIA sell-outs and saying In-Effect was "big business" that was ruining hardcore and a lot more. Are you fucking kidding me??? They even went so far as to create an anti-SOIA/In-Effect flier and were distributing it in NYC and ripping all of us in various fanzines etc. Needless to say, none of us were too thrilled; especially Pete and Lou Koller. I mean here are these guys judging others from afar, without any facts to back up anything they were saying. They were simply a bunch of holier-than-thou pricks trying to get their "keepin' it real" PC stripes.

I don't mind boycotts or protests of any kind, but at least know what the hell you're fighting against. They were looking inside other people's pockets and complaining about how SOIA was handling their business, which I can say without hesitation, was as pure as pure can be. They (the pricks) didn't realize they were fucking with some hard-working people's livelihoods and I don't know anyone who would tolerate that. For the record, In-Effect and it's parent company were 100% independent, with no major label affiliation whatsoever while this was going down. As far as these guys were concerned, their thoughts were fact and I have no idea where they got their information from. In reality, when Sony DID eventually buy the company, they threw us out the building as fast as they could!

As for the NYU "debate" - that was just stupid. Pete and Lou wanted no part of it, but felt backed into a corner so they agreed to take part. What you heard was basically a handful of idealistic, ignorant kids throwing unfounded allegations at people who just wanted to play in a hardcore band; reach as many kids as possible with their music and not have to wear suits. That's the gist of it really. People can judge for themselves who "won," but nobody won anything. Those ABC NO RIO kids made idiots of themselves in my opinion by directly challenging one of the most respected group of individuals around, in order to make some sort of name for themselves.

I stand by everything we did as a label and know we were as thoughtful as possible when it came to every decision we made. You can't please everyone, but we NEVER screwed over ANYONE! To this day, I've still never met any of those guys who hated In-Effect so much. Hopefully, they're doing productive things with their lives. Again, if they had issues with us, cool. I'm fine with them stepping up and voicing their opinions, but they were so off-base that listening to it's just dumb. If I still had the label I'd put the debate out as a 7".

Howie and crew on the set of the 24-7 Spyz video shoot
, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams

Tell us about the In-Effect video. Whose idea, how did it all work out, where was the interview footage shot, and what was the goal of the video? Funny memories or stories, any good outtake footage still in existence?

The video was a lot of work and a lot of fun to put together. I'm not sure where the idea came from to tell you the truth, but I think a bunch of us (including the bands) felt that so much had changed with the scene in NY by that time ('90/'91) that there needed to be some sort of time-capsule to remember it by. Some of those who were interviewed touched upon it (increased violence at shows, fewer small shows, apathetic kids...). George Seminara, who directed it, had done a number of videos for us, including the AF "Anthem" clip and the SOIA "Injustice System" video and we felt that he would know how best to capture the whole thing. We thought it was really important to interview as many people from the scene as possible and let them speak for themselves. None of them were really ever given that type of forum before, so we knew it would be tremendous...and it was.

For me the best part of making the whole thing was doing the interviews. Most of them, many in the same day, were done in an editing suite at the production company's offices. All of them were fucking great, but only a fraction of what was shot made it onto the final video. The interview with Harley and Jimmy Gestapo is one of the best things I've ever been involved with. It's common knowledge what characters they both are, but to have been able to put them together on a couch for 2 hours and ask them whatever I wanted to was priceless! Absolutely priceless! I never thought anyone could dwarf Harley in terms of sheer presence and charisma, but Jimmy just killed it! He had tons to say and made some great points as only Jimmy could.

There's so much incredible interview footage no one has ever seen, plus we have all 3 bands' entire sets filmed and edited. George and I reconnected recently and we're exploring the possibility of putting it out on DVD with shitloads of extra footage. I swear - I want to put the entire Jimmy and Harley interview on there somehow. It truly amazes me how bootlegged that video became, but that's what Relativity gets for dropping the ball so badly. If kids want something, you can't stop them from getting it. Hopefully we'll be able to follow-through with our idea to re-release it.

Howie Hangin' with The Straw Dogs and Anthrax, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams


Bella's Book Boutique said...

Man, 20 years later and there is still so much hostility over this issue. I do wish I went into more detail in the unfinished book about the whole "debate" affair and all the behind the scenes/reasons why I helped plant the seeds for this. We all just had different viewpoints on the issue.

-Dave K.

Anonymous said...

who is hostile?

Anonymous said...

Loved that video. Remember Vision getting as big, or bigger response than AF and SOIA at The Ritz. Seemed 'everyone' had a Vision shirt on, including me. That would of been great if in-effect put out Vision's second album. I love that album, remember hating it when it came out, but listen it probably more than ITBOAE.

Anonymous said...

The whole In-Effect Vs. ABC No-Rio thing is comedy in retrospect. I think Born Against and crew did raise some good points but when you listen to the debate itself they just sound like vindictive know-it-all nerds. And ultimately they both created their own monsters: What does SOIA-style major label hardcore get you? Hatebreed. What does holier-than-thou D.I.Y. PC core get you? Insert terrible condescending D.I.Y. PC hardcore band name here.

Anonymous said...

The arguement that SOIA is still around is fucking comical. Who cares? When is the last time they put a decent record? It's been well over a decade.

Anonymous said...

Howie taking us back. I'm glad I'm no longer the only contributor with Anthrax in their piece. LOL

eric said...

The fact that SOIA is still around has nothing to do with whether you like their music now or not. They set out to play music for a living back then, which was unheard of at the time for a HC band, and they are doing it. My hat goes off to them.
As far as the debate goes, Steve Martin won, end of story.
Best line - "You want to do something about my football jacket."

How*Nice said...

I don't think there's still hostility over the issue at all...just passionate opposing viewpoints. Speaking for myself; at the time this was going down, people I didn't know...people who didn't know me, were pointing their finger saying "you are wrong." It's like politics. Both sides believe they're right and will not relent.

However, in this case, one side took it upon themselves to attack the other in a manner that was offensive to the sensibilities (of the other side). This, unlike politics, was not some pseudo-civil political debate. It was real people with real emotions and beliefs and one party wound up feeling pushed to the brink with not just criticism, but
nagging, overbearing self-righteousness.

If the Born Against faction just went ahead and further developed their thing at ABC and their bands without choosing SOIA as their scapegoat, the result would have been the for the retarded "debate" and demonizing of good, hard-working people who didn't deserve to be targets. Plus, we wouldn't still be talking about it, so i suppose in that sense, it was worth it...for the ABC crew. Overall - not worth it whatsoever.

- Howie

Anonymous said...


Shoot me an e-mail if you read this:

I'll fill you in on some back story you may not know about. We (you and I) did discuss this briefly before on that site from Albany who posted the debate a couple of years ago.

Dave K.