Dan O speaks, Photo: Jeff Terranova
I'd gone roughly ten years without factoring this music or this underground into my thinking. By that I mean that Hardcore had lost a lot of its relevance for me (truthfully it could never again occupy the space it did in my teens, not for me, not for most). My feeling was that at its essence this movement was largely counterproductive, a study in preaching to the choir. It seemed to me that the high mindedness of this music's social agenda was largely a charade, a stance primarily adopted in spaces hidden from view and rarely expressed in the real world. Did I have a point? Sure. Did that point validate ignoring all the beauty in this space? No, not really.
For those of you familiar with my past, you might find it ironic that saying “no” has never really been my strong suit. I have an exaggerated distaste for disappointing people. So it was that when the request came down via Joe Nelson to participate in a panel discussion that he was arranging to help out the Radio Silence boys and their L.A. release party at the Niketown Theatre in Hollywood, I agreed. Not to give the impression that I had to be dragged kicking and screaming, it's just that I had no intention of promoting my presence, hyping the thing, or expecting much to come of it. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Dan at the mic, Photo: Jeff Terranova
Surreal is an understatement. My old bandmate's leather jacket was displayed in the lobby. Displayed in a glass museum case accompanied by a security guard that is. People I habitually refer to as kids passed by with their male pattern baldness and 40 inch waistlines. A studio setting photo session was conducted on what would be the balcony level, complete with professional lighting, a neutral backdrop, etc. Nothing about this was spelling out HARDCORE to me, not the corporate naming rights on the building, not the drummer's foul weather gear as an art exhibit, certainly not the Annie Leibowitz flashback going on upstairs. Then the panel was assembled. None of us had a particularly concrete understanding of who we'd be sitting with.
It's not a group you could have or would have gotten together 20 years ago. Along with the creators of the Radio Silence book were amongst others Jason Farrell of Swiz, John Roa of Justice League, John Joseph of the Cro-Mags, Gavin Oglesby of No For An Answer, and myself (yeah, NFAA had the numerical advantage!). It wasn't until they sat us all down facing a full house of music fans waiting patiently to hear Mr. Joseph scream “We Gotta Know” that I started to feel something.
The questions asked by both Nelson and the audience were intelligent, topical, and occasionally amusing. The sarcasm I'd feared was completely absent. Most importantly to me it was the first time in more than a decade that I'd addressed a large group and left feeling that they had some idea what the fuck I was talking about. Sure, there were people on that stage and in that crowd I'd rather not share a cab with, but we had context in common. There was none of what a close friend of mine describes as “trying to explain hardcore to a 'civilian.'" My rambling about social responsibility and trying to find an appropriate venue for my sociopolitical values system wasn't greeted by mouth breathing and blank stares. Nothing that any of us had to say was greeted in that fashion and it sent a chill up my neck and over my temples when it occured to me how rare that is in everyday life.
Jordan Cooper, Dan O, Popeye and Evan Jacobs at the first spoken word, Photo: Larry Ransom
On that stage, in that setting, my answer to the ever present “reunion question” spontaneously and unexpectedly ended with a “never say never." Less than six months later my first recorded band and four other Orange County Bands spent one Sunday evening raising our voices to benefit an ailing stranger's fight against cancer. You can't whip that up that easily with a squad of bands 20 years defunct in too many other “scenes."
Later that year I was given a shot to voice my take on days gone by on Double Cross. Given a shot to the tune of 7 installments! The worthiness of my rants occupying that much space can be debated (given the snark that permeates most message boards, I'm sure it was), but what cannot be debated or denied is that experience's impact on me. It's not as if an online interview parted the heavens, a light shown down, and a mission was reborn. I had in fact become more politically focused and motivated (but also more stifled and more frustrated) in the 11 years since I'd roamed this setting.
Still, credit must be given where credit is due. In offering a nod to the efforts of yesteryear, Tim and Gordo made obvious to me the silence that defined today. The Double Cross interview allowed me a long form source of reflection that the panel discussion did not. With each new emailed batch of questions, I found myself more and more enamored with the notion of placing the past in perspective while putting a mandate to myself “make something of the here and now."
Dan interviewing a former elections analyst for the Latin America office of the National Endowment for Democracy, Photo: Ryan Langley
It's not that we of the hardcore scene were preselected to save the world, it's not that we have a right to expect to command any greater attention than anyone we pass on the street. It's that we have first hand experience with being heard, we have intimate knowledge of the fact that truth can be heard and that silence lies.
For me it's not another band, it's not any more reunions. I've always been more verbally than vocally talented, and for that reason I'm writing again, I'm doing spoken word, I'm hosting live issue-driven forums on college campuses, I'm launching a website (silencelies.com) focused solely on art, interviews, and creative writing with a positive social agenda. I'm doing something with my values that couldn't have happened without my history in this music and my connection to these people who love it so much. Credit must be given where credit's due.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 6:59 PM