Anthony hits the crowd with Raw Deal in DC, Photo: Ken Salerno
Drago returns with more on the history of Raw Deal/Killing Time! -Gordo DCXX
When Raw Deal got moving, how quickly did the band make progress in the NYHC scene? It seems like you guys literally hit the ground running overnight. What was the response to the demo? Do you remember how many were made?
Looking back on it, it was really insane how quickly we got our shit together. I’m sure it seemed like forever back then though because a month used to seem like a year to me. In reality it was a little less than two years from our first practice as a band until the debut release of “Brightside.”
The band’s first practice with Anthony & Mike was November 27, 1987. Me, Carl and Rich had been in the garage for maybe two months prior and had written “Telltale,” “Wall of Hate,” “Nice Guy” and “Only The Strong Survive.” Mike came into the first practice with “My Reason” which the band still refers to as “Mike’s Reason” and Anthony showed us some lyrics to a song he had just written called “New Release.”
Our first show was a CBGB’s matinee with Sick Of It All on January 22nd, 1988. We played the first “Super Bowl” that February, which I believe was around the same time that we recorded and started distributing the first demo.
The demo was in huge demand but doing it ourselves was hard to keep up with. I don’t think that we could have made more than 300 copies of the original demo. We would burn off copies of it ourselves and bring a bunch down to Duane at “Some Records” on 6th Street which was a must stop during any CB’s matinee Sunday. He would always let us know when he needed more. We also had them with us at every show and there were some kids who hit us up through mail order.
We only played as “Raw Deal” for about a year and a half. During that time, we auditioned for Chris Williamson, owner of “Rock Hotel Productions” and producer of the Cro-Mags and Leeway. He heard the buzz about us and wanted to hear us in a downtown studio. The entire time that we were playing our set, he was reading the newspaper. I don’t know exactly what that was all about. The only thing good that came out of that night was that the studio had a vending machine that had Bud tall boys.
I don’t know exactly when we signed to “In Effect.” I just know that it was sometime after hearing nothing back from Williamson. The next time I spoke to him was after he heard that we had just finished recording “Brightside” at Normandy Sound with Tom Soares. He called me up and starting screaming at me that my band wasn’t shit, that we couldn’t duplicate his sound and all types of arrogant crap. I had to hang up on him after a while.
Signing with In Effect turned out to be one of the band’s wisest decisions and “Brightside” was released in November of 1989.
Drago on the skins, Photo: Ken Salerno
What were the first few Raw Deal shows like? How did they differ from the Breakdown shows you had played? Can you recall some early stand out memories from playing live and traveling?
The first show at CB’s was unreal. Everyone wanted to see Anthony’s return to the stage and I guess it didn’t hurt that “Breakdown” was his back-up band. The kids went fucking crazy.
The early Super Bowls were awesome. Playing the Ritz was a real trip. Up until then, I had only been bouncing around the dance floor. It felt great getting on that stage.
We used to love playing the Anthrax club in CT. It was always a great time and the crowd there was unstoppable. We used to trash the band room every time we played, then apologize to Brian and Shaun. One night, Anthony brought pieces of the couch onto the stage.
As Raw Deal took off, who were the bands you felt most aligned with? Who did you like playing with, and who personally were you tight with from other bands in the scene? Was there any bad blood with other bands due to the Breakdown split?
We used to play a lot with Sick Of It All. Anthony was really tight with the whole band. It was always an experience taking road trips together. It was relentless ball-breaking from start to finish with Anthony and Armand as the ring leaders. The antics were funny as hell as long as you weren’t the subject of the abuse.
We also played often with Sheer Terror, Uppercut, Krakdown, Stillborn, Gorilla Biscuits, The Icemen, Warzone, Maximum Penalty and Outburst. All of which were great bands and good friends.
I guess the only bad blood we had with any one over the Breakdown split was with Breakdown themselves and even that was short lived. I guess we all just realized that it was pretty stupid trying to ignore each other forever.
You guys seemed to really ride the crest within the NYHC scene(s). On one hand, the Revelation "youth crew" crowd embraced you (GB, YOT), and the larger NYHC scene (SOIA, Leeway, Maximum Penalty, Outburst) also seemed to. How did you feel about this? Where did you feel like you fit in?
I never really thought the scene at the time was segregated by anything. If you were in a band, you would be at your friends’ bands’ shows and you would expect them to be there for you. We were friends with everybody. Anthony was like the Good Will Ambassador for the NYHC scene. Raw Deal fans ranged from straight edge kids fresh out of middle school to old, crusty punk rock types that you wouldn’t want to sit next to on the bus.
What do you remember going down with the name change and how did everything unfold? Were you bummed on losing the name Raw Deal? Who had come up with that name, and who decided on Killing Time? Did it seem like a set back to have to change your band name after establishing yourself in the NYHC scene?
As I remember, Howie Abrams first told me that In Effect had found out that there was a metal band in England using the same name. This is after we were signed to the label. He said that he was going to call them and tell them that they had to stop using the name. I guess the phone conversation didn’t go exactly as he planned because after speaking with their management and In Effect’s legal department, he called me back with the bad news.
I was pretty devastated. I always thought we should have kept our mouths shut and put the fucking record out, but I really didn’t understand the legal hassles that it would have caused for the band and label.
The band considered it to be a huge set back but we were fortunate enough to already have a great fan base and record deal, so we just pushed forward like nothing had happened.
I wish I had a nice story about how we came up with the name “Killing Time" but to tell you the truth it was just me and my thesaurus and three other band members who were sick of talking about it anymore. As soon as they agreed to it, I asked my brother John to quickly draw up a logo for us. It took him about an hour to do and we’ve been using it ever since.
Rich with Killing Time at CBGB, NYC, Photo" Ken Salerno
By 1989, what types of things were influencing you and the band and the writing of "Brightside?" What styles or influences were creeping in, and what did you want to accomplish with the LP before it was even recorded? Did you want to re-record the demo songs for a specific reason?
We had numerous influences between us all ranging from punk and early hardcore to crossover and metal bands.
I think that all we really wanted to accomplish was to finally have a physical piece of vinyl with our name on it that we could hold in our hands. Something tangible to represent all of the hard work that we had put into this thing.
Re-recording the demo songs was always the plan. That’s how everybody did it. You’d scrape up enough money together to record a 4-track live recording. Get it out on cassette to as many people possible. Build a following and then hopefully get to re-record them in a good studio with somebody else’s money.
When we recorded “Brightside,” it was the best of the best of what we had to offer at the time. It wasn’t a lot but we loved each and every one of those songs.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 9:18 PM