Howie Abrams with John Joseph, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams
NYHC staple and In-Effect Records founder Howie Abrams is a recent welcome addition to the ongoing string of interviews here at DCXX. This is part one of our piece with him, great NYHC content here, dig in. -Gordo DCXX
Where did you grow up and around when did you start to get interested in music? What were you into before hardcore and what pushed you in that direction?
I grew up in Queens Village, NY. Middle class and pretty damn boring. I got into music really, really young and the first band I became truly obsessed with was KISS around 1975 (I was 7 years old). I was heavily into wrestling at the time and I remember going with my Dad to pick up the newspaper and checking out the wrestling magazines. One day, I noticed a copy of Creem magazine next to one of the wrestling mags and KISS was on the cover. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
From that point on, I wanted to know everything about them and eventually asked my parents to buy me "Alive." I listened to it from the second I came home from school, until I went to bed for weeks. I read every credit and stared at every photo over and over again. From there, I discovered bands like Aerosmith, Cheap Trick and even Parliament. While I didn't really love or understand Parliament's music, their costumes and the whole Mothership thing blew my little mind.
Around the late 70's/beginning of the 80's, I started getting into metal bands like Motorhead and Iron Maiden. Along with what I DID like, I remember really hating classic rock. The Doors, Led Zeppelin... I thought it was for "old" people and also thought the people I knew who liked it were assholes! Even The Ramones felt like a tired old band.
Hardcore wasn't on my radar until probably 1982 or so and I was completely unaware of what it was. I'd heard about punk from reading Creem and Rock Scene earlier, but didn't pay much attention to it. However, similar to my experience stumbling upon KISS, it was the imagery of bands like the Misfits and the Dead Kennedys that piqued my interest originally.
Lou Koller (SOIA), Richi Cip (SOIA), Howie Abrams, Anthony Johnson (24-7 Spyz), Jimi Hazel (24-7 Spyz) and Pete Koller (SOIA) at the RIP Magazine party 1990, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams
What would you cite as your first real introduction to hardcore? Who were you hanging out with at the time, and where specifically? What was going on around you in your area music-wise?
As I mentioned, seeing the album artwork for the Misfits and the DK's in a record store was what made me notice anything related to hardcore. I would take a 30 minute bus ride and then a 40 minute subway ride into Manhattan several times a week to go to Bleecker Bob's on West 3rd Street and also to just walk around Greenwich Village. Bob's was pretty much the best shop around for underground music of any kind. I payed close attention to who was buying what and it seemed as though the kids I thought were the coolest...or that I was most intimidated by were buying albums by hardcore bands.
Sometimes I would venture into the city alone and sometimes it was with a friend or two from school. Only one or two of my friends at the time could even relate to the music, so as we bought more records, we bonded more. We also started buying fanzines that covered these bands and became exposed to more of what was going on.
Eventually, we noticed fliers hanging in and around Bleecker Bob's, as well as at a few of the other record stores we were frequenting. The fliers were for shows at CBGB, The Ritz, the Jane Street Rock Hotel... We suddenly realized we could actually go see these bands whose albums we were buying and we didn't have to wait 6 months or a year for them to come around.
The first hardcore show I can remember going to was at a really weird spot in Queens called The Subway. It was actually in a subway station on Queens Blvd. and I saw Reagan Youth. I honestly can't remember who I went with, but it very well could have been Mike Bullshit. He and I went to the same school and he was, to my knowledge, the only "real" punk in the school. I had become a fan of his 'zine Bullshit Monthly and we became friendly. Anyway - the "club" was incredibly seedy and the crowd seemed like a bunch of drugged-out weirdos. There were punks, skinheads and a few casual onlookers there; sitting on the floor or against the wall between bands.
Howie In-Effect, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams
Reagan Youth eventually came on at some insane hour and the place just blew up! A circle pit broke out and I was mesmerized. The energy was crazy and out of nowhere it seemed as if everyone there was on the exact same page. I couldn't understand how the band could incite such a seemingly violent reaction, yet no one was fighting. To me - the whole thing was incredible.
Eventually, I made it to my first CBGB matinee and saw Adrenaline OD I believe. This was the Subway experience on an entirely different level. People forget what The Bowery was like in the early 80s. It was fucked up, and having a bunch of kids come in from all 5 boroughs, NJ, Long Island and elsewhere every weekend wasn't exactly welcomed by the mostly homeless locals; many of whom lived upstairs from the club in the Palace Hotel.
However, the fact that it was located where it was, was the reason the club was able to be the primary hub for hardcore in NY. The rest of NYC barely noticed. I probably went there every single weekend for the next several years. Seriously...I think I missed fewer matinees than I have fingers on one hand until around '88/'89 when I became less of a "regular."
Howie over Carl's right shoulder, watching on as Raw Deal tear up CBGB, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams
What were you favorite hardcore bands and records early on? What still stands the test of time to you? What are some memorable shows and experiences? Who were your friends in the scene?
New York had such an incredible hardcore scene and I was extremely NY-centric when it came to bands. I liked some "out-of-town" bands such as D.R.I., Minor Threat, Discharge, 7 Seconds etc., but I loved the gritty, dirty NY sound. Agnostic Front were the undisputed kings of NY at that time and Victim in Pain was the album that without question defined the sound of the NY scene. United Blood served as the appetizer, but VIP was just the greatest 15 minutes of sloppy, out-of-tune brutality I'd ever heard. AF was just a tornado of a live band and the atmosphere at their shows was dangerous and volatile. I saw them so many times and they were always best at CBGB.
Murphy's Law were the other really big band then and their sound was very different...way more punk rock and they were, dare I say, a party band, but their shows were no less chaotic. One of the best live bands around.
The Cro-Mags came to be a big factor a year or so later and were always incredible to see. They eventually became one of my favorites,
I also loved Cause For Alarm, Token Entry, the Crumbsuckers, Reagan Youth, Ludichrist, Damage...I'm sure many others too.
Of course I worshiped D.C.'s adopted sons the Bad Brains. In fact I'd go so far as to say they are my favorite band of all time! There were numerous bands I dug that came along a little later which were heavily influenced by early 80's NYHC such as Sick Of It All, Madball, Leeway, Raw Deal, NYC Mayhem/Straight Ahead, H20... All of these bands' shows were incredible to me and I mean that sincerely. The only time it sucked was if they cancelled.
As far as records that have stood the test of time, there are really very few to be honest. Very few HC band recordings lived up to their live ferocity. Some of the earlier stuff that still holds up for me is (of course) Victim in Pain, the Bad Brains' ROIR cassette, the Cro-Mags' Age of Quarrel cassette album, Reagan Youth's Youth Anthems for the New Order, Cause for Alarm's first 7"... As far as albums that came out later on, SOIA's Blood, Sweat And No Tears, Leeway's Born to Expire, Killing Time's Brightside, Madball's Demonstrating My Style...
During the early to mid-80's, the camaraderie in the NY scene was pretty incredible. There was definitely an "us against the world" vibe. The scene was still relatively small and insular, so helping each other and supporting one another was crucial. The bands, the 'zine writers, the tape-traders, the kids - all seemed to feel as if they were on the same team...working toward a common goal which was simply to keep the scene alive. This was even more evident when bigger bands came to town to play bigger venues like Irving Plaza or The Ritz. When you saw someone at those shows, even if you didn't really know them that well, but were used to seeing them at CB's or at the other smaller shows, you felt a connection to them that you didn't have with the more casual fans.
Eventually, these people became your friends and almost everyone was in a band at one point or another. There are really too many friends and acquaintances to name individually, but some became really close friends of mine and I got to work with a number of them later on. The amazing thing is that I'm still friends with so many of them. I love running into these people at shows now even more than I probably did at the time.
Nuclear Assault and the Cro-Mags at L'amour, Brooklyn NYC, 1986, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 10:49 PM