Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eddie Sutton - Leeway/Truth And Rights Part II

Truth And Rights, first show at The Barbary in Philadelphia, 5/23/2010, Photo: Traci McMahon

Eddie Sutton returns - expect plenty more... -Gordo DCXX

What records and artists, from any genre, have had the biggest impact on you? What records would you take with you to a deserted island? Where does the influence of punk/HC fit into this?

The artists and records which had an impact on me started as early as the age of 5. Jackson 5, ABC...right away I wanted to be a singer which I started to do right away. I had good taste from the get-go, hahaha. Partially deaf since infancy, I was always able to carry a tune close enough. My Mom's R&B and songwriting artists had given me a platform to try and sing along with some of the greatest from early on...Al Green, Elvis, Teddy along with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes...too many to actually name.

My Dad turned me onto the more extreme rock of the time but it wasn't too influential, but Zeppelin, early Yardbirds, Zombies...Zeppelin carried into my mid-later school years along with the first 3 VH albums, but again so many different sounds. I also listened to Earth, Wind, & Fire, early KISS, Gil Scott-Heron, Steely Dan...then Marley showed me a whole new world like he did for many others. Sugarhill 12 inches. My tastes were all over the place.

No doubt the first time I heard the Bad Brain' Big Takeover I knew exactly where my interests would lead me. The lifestyle, and calling was...how many have already said this? The Beatles of American Hardcore, which is what HC worldwide is. Punk and New Wave were labeled tags the British and that scrub Seymour Stein coined to make the music sound "more consumer friendly" after the punk phenomenon. American Hardcore is the sound/lifestyle that is worldwide...make no bones about...it has been around long enough now where there are many influential/good bands from all over the world and all of us as a global entity can share this common ground.

The early influence of punk/HC along with my other musical interests stood out loud and proud within this thing of ours. I rarely call it a scene any more which is why I say "this thing of ours"...it's worldwide. The definition of a scene is a local happening, and some cities, states, countries have it better than others. I believe at this time we desperately need to put an arm around the youth and give them more guidance so they can take it to another level for the better. This thing has been around over 30 years and we need to constantly evolve and grow or we're gonna be stuck getting bloated and tired like fuckin' DOO-WOP...I say this a lot to anybody who'll listen.

Truth And Rights guitarist Rey Fonseca, Philadelphia, 5/23/2010, Photo: Traci McMahon

The early DIY ethic, the feeing of being comrades in arms in the trenches against authority, the approachable musicians & frontmen made it feel so intimate and personally ours compared to the egotistical industry standards which always tries to market this and gets everything watered down or bastardized. Yet we all are supposed to act like these stadium bands are emperors...hahahaha. The fact that you could go to a show more than once a week early on in NYC gave it such a community feeling which was a true scene to be recognized.

Most NYHC bands were kept down for the first decade since we had very few labels, and they were all about capitalism and exploitation. I don't care what anyone says about this, but it is the truth. But the bottom line is that NYHC and its scene not only influenced me to no end. Meanwhile, working in dance clubs, early hip-hop made me who I am today...it's in my genes, in the pit of my stomach, and no one can change me or ever will. I'm so blessed to be a part of such a beautiful thing, and makes me the fabulous disaster I truly am...hahahaha.

The one great push labels gave was it gave bands the opportunity to tour and be heard, bringing it to a whole new level in the late 80s where we grew into a much bigger force. Leeway was very fortunate and lucky to come in at an early time and contribute to the NYHC sound as well as set new standards. We had a larger budget than many, and we had the top promoter guiding us. We worked hard...3 days a week rehearsing, doing demos so we could hear where we were, we had a much more heavy sound, but we also had a work ethic which made many bands understand what it takes to become something strong and full-on. We were threatening danger and we were mainly a threat to out of town headlining bands.

Chris Williamson at least got us to co-bill with big named metal bands and we whipped the shit outta them one-by-one. My psyche and mindset was to be recognized and steal the show every time...that was my job and goal. I knew we had so many in the audience that had our backs and I fed on it. I played the little kid, the original B-Boy starting a fuckin' forest fire...hahahaha. Do you know how it felt to blow away some toy-assed metal act in front of 2000 people and I'm walking all over their stage props just messing shit up? A whole lotta fun, and giving out self-esteem issues and putting egos in place...hahahaha.

As much as we were used by Profile, and Rock Hotel, we took advantage as well and made big strides with what we had. As I reflect, each time I see a much bigger picture because now there's fans younger than the songs. This could not have happened without what we were given in opportunity. So many bands ran up to Rhode Island and tried to capture our sound, but few knew that recording is about capturing a moment and perpetuity as well as being tight and cohesive. This is why our songs have withstood the test of time and sound as up to date compared to so many other releases from other prominent bands.

If I was on a deserted island, I wouldn't need any music..I'd bang out beats and sing while foraging and surviving...how can you even power up your iPod or whatever? Sorry, this question never made logical sense to me.

Eddie with Truth And Rights in Philadelphia, 5/23/2010, Photo: Traci McMahon

How did the surroundings of NYC color your youth and involvement in underground music? What was NYC like in the early 80s when you were coming up? How, in your eyes, has it changed?

When I first started going to shows, and then breaking night at 15 and going to A7 shows, traveling out of state with Kraut, LES was dark and dangerous and felt like Riker's Island...hahahaha. Nowadays I feel like it's some safe, hipster community and it seems like it never existed because everything's gone. Anyone who grew up in the impoverished areas in NYC 25+ years ago knows that they were some cautious, hard times, and you needed to stay close to your peeps and try to keep your head down. At least this is what I did. I usually took the subway. Once in a blue moon I caught a ride if I was downtown bound.

There were so many clubs to go see bands. It was purely exciting and dangerous at the same time. It truly colored my life and style and taught me how to handle myself in such surroundings. I'm a small man, and I learned right away to not talk shit unless I was prepared to take the smack if it came to it. This is how I was able to be respected along with the fact I was running around all night in my mid teenager years and proved my real commitment to this thing of ours.

I moved to the Lower East Side in '85. Rent was $350 a month! The old tenements had bathtubs in the kitchen. Me and Doug Holland eventually had a shower head put in. We always had the early HC bands crashing when they were in town. I worked at Palladium and was running around chasing tail from debutantes to heiresses and chicken heads...what's a growing boy supposed to do? I also was getting well-paid for the games I played with that crowd of coke fiends, freaks, and gullable slobs...hahahaha...great times, great shows, beautiful to be young and burning both ends of that life candle. That was my world within my love for everything and living a HC lifestyle.

Nowadays, everything is so different, again it's like it never existed. NYC is one of the safest cities in the world with well over 30,000 police officers, but I don't believe they'll save us from another inevitable terrorist attack. They'll stop many, but it's an impossible task. The clubs suck. I rarely go out because I did what you can't do in them...it's all sterile now. It's like they put a condom on the whole thing! You can't go back anyway or it shows you've never grown, evolved, or moved on...too many sad fuckin' cases out every night - it's like they never left that spot since you were there last. I do get to do a ton of fun things, great nights, but most of the time I'd rather stay home than just constantly run around chasing things. I'm better than that, you know?

Truth And Rights in Philadelphia, 5/23/2010, Photo: Traci McMahon

Give us a rundown of all your musical dabblings pre-Leeway. Did you always know you wanted to be a frontman? Who were people you played and jammed with along the way? How did the color what you wanted to do with Leeway?

I dabbled and tried many things before Leeway. I wrote songs for a quick-quick minute, I sang with Gilligan's Revenge which became Token Entry. I wrote two of their early sing-alongs, but never took credit. The kid who did their first show is a C.O. now. The show was at A7 and I went up and sang a song as well.

I checked out all these seriously lame, toy-ass rock bands that called themselves metal that wanted to be Rush...hahahaha. This kid Dwayne played synthesizer and the whole look and vibe was a big chunk-bite from Tom Sawyer...hahahaha. So I went down to their basement, and literally, Dwayne's Mom hands me an APPLICATION!!! I tried so fuckin' hard not to laugh, but I went through it. It was multiple choice! Hahaha...it was such fuckin' sketch-comedy, I must write about it someday. They had this list of songs which I wasn't down with and I bounced in less than 40 minutes if that...hahaha.

These mutts started going to shows later, but that didn't last long. Dwayne would be all loving it, drunk, but the surrounding mutts with him were so fuckin' intimidated, it was riotous watching them try to stay close to me thinking I could keep them safe or some shit. ME! As if I'm some muscle from Astoria who could change the world and blanket them...hahahaha. Dwayne was the smallest and the geek of the bunch, but he turned out to have much more character than the hack, so-called musicians he played with. I'm sure they're holding down some career they don't want to be in, and either have some wife on their back, or they're in debt with alimony and/or some other misery. In the end looking at it now, I actually feel sorry for them because they never were enlightened on any capacity or level. Just teenage dreams flushed down the toilet of lost opportunities...

Checking out metal/rock bands to play in happened within the first 6 months of '82. I wanted to sing in hardcore immediately, but at the same time I felt it needed to be a strict form, which is what so many believe early on so I checked out some metal bands, but they were all about looking good and posing instead of putting your balls on the table and going bang-bang-bang.

Eddie in Philly, Photo: Nicki Hunter

I started doing Sugarhill Records and rapped over them before Leeway, and it was mainly for the locals and I was having such a great time with it. Just like the fun you get playing HC as a kid. It gave me a lot of confidence, and I was able to work my performer side helping me do what I do working the crowd, and not being way too serious like I'm at the fuckin' Roxy or have some stupid-ass image. At the time, the Beastie Boys weren't even doing this yet. Their HC seven inch just had just come out recently.

A lot of underground metal shows were popping up in Astoria. I got to see that ridiculous fool THOR make an ass of himself with like 5 other egomaniacs who couldn't play for shit. One band, "The NY Outlaws," even had a fuckin' comic book! Believe that! Again, all pose, dress, and attitude with no fuckin' chops or talent whatsoever...hahaha. Thor came out and flexed and bent bars and shit like a Coney Island freak show with his girlfriend/wife doing backup vocals...she was horrible! Couldn't hear her, she was just whispering outta tune, outta key, she was barely heard or even in the mix, and she wasn't anything worth looking at...hahaha...that's one show I'll never fuckin' forget.

All of this gave me a head start for when Leeway played with Gilligan's Revenge. We had been a band with no name, and we had less than 3 weeks to come up with songs. But, I was a bit more together than most wet-behind-the-ears newbies. June 14th, or 15th was the date, 1984. We called ourselves The Unruled...hahahaha. What I do know is we stole the show and caught a quick buzz in NYC. Some great guys were in Gilligan's Revenge at the time (Anthony C. and Johnny Stig are the 2 that matter to me), and they were an experienced 2+ year band that changed their name to TOKEN ENTRY not too long after that. It took Leeway at least 10-12 more months to start sounding good and get the oppotunities we needed to be recognized, but we had notoriety from the get-go.

I knew where I was going in music for the first time after dreaming about doing it for my whole life. All the boys I jammed with were in their early stages as well as all the GREAT ASTORIA ENERGY & BANDS that helped make NYHC what it is. What a ride it's been, and I still ain't fuckin' done nor is the ride.

I know now I can come off better than ever, and I can. It took 4 years to get my chops back after breaking my neck, and I'm strong and blessed with a new calling in this thing of ours. I want to put an arm around these kids. Now with the men who form TRUTHandRIGHTS...I, WE can do great things, and I know it's gonna come faster than we anticipated. To be doing this when so many are normally outta gas at this point in life, I feel so fortunate and lucky to have this chance to dance...


Eddie Sutton at the front of the stage with Truth And Rights, Philadelphia, Photo: Traci McMahon


Roa. said...

Eddie comes on pretty strong in these posts. I was expecting something different but he seems real progressive. Kudos.

Justin M. said...

Why the fuck is he wearing a BoSox hat????????????????????????

Ben Edge said...

I've always wondered why does he wear Red Sox and Celtics gear since he's from New York. Also, he claimed that he was never paid for the use of a Leeway song in the Grand Theft Auto video game. Story here: http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/story/rockers-claim-theyve-been-shortchanged-by-grand-theft-auto-iv_1067774

I wonder how that was resolved, if at all.

Anonymous said...

great piece!

Brian said...

awesome interview but i have to ask...is it a requirement for all old school NYHC heads to talk about how dangerous and scary and drug infested and crime ridden and crazy the LES/alphabet city/A7/etc was. from JJ to harley to jimmy g. to eddie leeway to roger, they all say the same thing in every interview ever. i love em all but i mean, it just seems like it's been talked about to death and everyone says the same thing over and over. we all know manhattan has been gentrified and all that and i definitely know it was not a place to fuck around with in the 80's, i got it.

.FknLes. said...

How did the surroundings of NYC color your youth and involvement in underground music? What was NYC like in the early 80s when you were coming up? How, in your eyes, has it changed?
You get what you're asked for..

Anonymous said...

yea, call me crazy...maybe it's the fact that i didn't grow up there and didn't witness the change in NYC over the last 30 years, but i am always interested to see what dudes from this era have to say about NYC. even if its always the same stuff, it's interesting.

very cool read so far, looking forward to part 3

Anonymous said...

holy shit eddie's doing the boston outfit again, i have to go see this band asap. Plus, everyone know Paul Pierce is "The Truth." Or switch it up with an Adrian Beltre jersey and celts hat. Also, what's up with the "eddie leeway show" which i'm guessing is different from the new band??

Lars said...

Btw, "Truth and Rights" is the name of an old song by Johnny Osbourne:


Bobby Konders re-did the riddim a couple of years back. Richie Spice had a pretty big hit on it..


Wonder if Eddie is a big reggae fan...

Anonymous said...

awesome shit!!!!!!!!!!!!

Matthew said...

That THOR show was at the Beer Garden in Astoria. I saw that. it was pretty ridiculous but his band wasn't quite that bad. Steve Price, the guitar player for THOR at the time was a really good player with chops.
NYC Outlaws changed their name to Battalion I think. They were good guys but yeah they definitely had the 80's metal thing goin' on. Good times. It's wierd that I know quite a few people who went to that show, but in Astoria at the time, a show like that was really just wierd and everyone went.

Anonymous said...

Rey Fonseca used to play in Agents of Man, right?? Nice dude, best of luck to them!!

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Anonymous said...

I never rated leeway but Eddie sutton is a nice dude. Nyhc as much as they profess were never part of the Les. They were passing through and the real folk from the area were downright angry that people from nice parts of queens, LI, uptown, and jersey would want to squat or tough it in the hood. Our goal from day one was to earn so we can move to nicer areas
I've only ever met one other person in nyhc that actually grew up in the les.

The bad brains also converted me to the scene ans loved the days of A7, king Tuts, CBGBs, cherry tavern, 171a , max kc,Danateria and some of the other spots

Next time I read a nyhc interview talking bout the Les as being bad, crazy, and their hood I will remember that it was a place that I lived, ate, schooled, churched, and loved in a place that is truly missed