Eddie with TRUTHandRIGHTS at their first show in Philadelphia, Photo: Richie Tuffini
Eddie Sutton, the undisputed bantamweight champion of the NYHC scene, returns standing tall for Round 3 in our ongoing piece with him. Enjoy! -Gordo DCXX
Tell us about the transformation from The Unruled to Leeway. How did Leeway come together and what type of momentum was there at the time? What were the early songs, and how did you see the band coming together in terms of sound and style? Tell us what you remember about recording the demo.
That first show at The Coventry, right off of Queensboro Plaza. This was where KISS played their first show as well as the early bands which made up the makings of New York and punk early on which Malcolm McLaren stole for the makings of english punk...bands like the New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers, and so many other bands around that '73-'75 period. We needed a real name, and we bounced a few around. The two we looked at seriously were JUGGERNAUT or LEEWAY, and we got the name and idea from a friend who went by the name of EJ Vodka. Leeway fit the pattern of what we felt was hardcore... the margin of freedom to do things your way. It made sense to us so we ran with it.
Our very first demo was done in one of the big NBC studios which I believed Saso's father made happen for us. The songs never lasted except for maybe Be Loud? I'm not sure. My memories of the main ENFORCER demo are what I consider our real debut in many ways as we began establish our sound and style. I was never into having one of the hard names....I went for what I went for and did my thing with my band and let the music and show speak for itself.
The momentum and style grew all through that first year...not too many good shows, but Astoria boys were showing up in these half-ass venues stirring shit up and they were funny as well as enjoyable. I don't have too many memories of recording the demo, but I believe we were much more serious than a lot of bands who were happening because we worked hard and rehearsed steady. We had a work ethic beyond the average fantasy, and half-ass bands just going through the motions and this of course helped us to improve and progress real quick. You can easily hear the growth from The Enforcer demo into our revised Enforcer demo with live tracks from our first BAD BRAINS show at The Ritz on I believe December 27th, 1986?
Once we started doing real shows at CBGB's in '85 we could see we had a following and it inspired us more to work harder and bring something real to the growing scene which at 5+ years old was really starting to grow. The growth up to '86 and into '87 was as steady like a boy growing into a man right before your eyes, getting taller, stronger, and more confident in his actions. By the time we played that first Rock Hotel show in June of '86 with Mackie on drums it really paved the way.
Once we experienced a true percussionist like Mackie in the band we knew what we needed which was a strong backbone. That's what I think of when I look at any band. Without a solid drummer, or the cut above which I call a percussionist, you're simply spineless and you ain't got it. You can't stand tall and bring it. Saso was good enough for the early start, but with his wieght training, and getting bigger in mass he wasn't growing as a musician like the rest of us which is why he walked away. He was no longer loose nor did he have it. I then took the task of letting go of Jose, which broke his heart, but I was determined to be recognized and take this band to the next level....thankfully we moved on and the rest was history.
Eddie pulls himself out of the City Gardens crowd during pure Leeway mayhem, Photo: Ken Salerno
During this time ('86/'87), who were your favorite bands in the NYHC scene? What were some shows you remember standing out? How had hardcore in NYC changed in your eyes from a few years prior, and where did you see Leeway fitting in at the time?
The whole NYHC scene changed dramatically to become a force to be reckoned with from '85-'87 in my opinion. I of course was so impressed with the CRO-MAGS demo. Mackie sounded like an automatic rifle and a runaway freight train. I also heard him on the early ICEMEN demo. Phenominal. You could hear how he came from the Earl Hudson school and method, but he had a style all his own as well. You also knew a band couldn't be as powerful without such a backbone.
The younger bands coming up just after or with us, Sick Of It All, Breakdown, Underdog, Ludichrist/Scatterbrain, Carnivore...you could obviously hear the dfferent styles along with the stalwarts like Murphy's Law, AF, and others like Icemen, Urban Waste, Frontline, Kraut etc...this was becoming something you had to be a part of. I remember some great shows as a fan and of my own with Leeway. The 2nd time we opened C.O.C with Scott Ian up front and he kept catching a ton of stage dives on his head, but not because who he was, no one knew him and he just got rid of his leather pants just recently for a dress code more in line with the NYHC style. It was the first show where Chris Williamson saw us and he was floored. That set was one for the books...those early CBGB shows were so special to me. I feel so lucky to have witnessed it as a fan/musician/vocalist and to be doing it at this time in my life makes it even more precious since I'm again inspired now as I was then. I can write songs all day. That's such an incredible and beautiful feeling to have and hold at this point in my life.
I don't care for reunion shows from many bands who just play 10-20 year old songs without anything new. I get the fact that kids haven't seen these bands, but it goes beyond the reunion and they play out and tour too much without giving the fans something new. I have my memories and I'll keep them over too many reunion shows. The majority are either past their prime or just can't create/write anymore or even relate to these kids more than half their age. I only enjoy it when I havn'nt seen the bands in ages like Supertouch at the BnB Bowl, you know? It's just how I feel since I've been a part of this for almost the complete existence of NYHC as a fan as well as contributor to it.
TRUTHandRIGHTS at The Barbary, Philadelphia, PA, Photo: Jack McGettigan
Tell us about getting onto Profle/Rock Hotel and recording "Born To Expire" at Normandy. What was that studio experience like, and how do you remember feeling as you heard things being tracked? What type of sound and feel did you want to capture on that record? What were you all influenced by at the time that may have showed on that record? Favorite song on the record?
The introduction to such a professional studio like Normandy Sounds was a bit overwhelming, but I was focused enough to hold myself, and we as a group and team were more than ready to go in there and do our thing. I always understood the fact that recording was about perpetuity by that point of my experience in this music. You're there to actually capture a moment in time which will be there until the end of civilization or at least until the relevence of such a sound when it's long gone. Even when that happens man will still go back to see what was happening in the world in the past. I remember being up in Rhode Island for more than a week as we all put it together. We had our sound already and we just went in and made it happen right, and happen in a such a big way together.
Tony Fontao was a machine. Zowie was older and he gave me a feeling of confidence and I felt the support without discussing such things. I miss him in my life. I felt grounded with the team we had. Mikey was young, but you have to give him props for his talent, and AJ and I wrote all these songs and we were so tight in mindset and what we created together. This is why BORN TO EXPIRE has withstood the test of time and if we just came out today I think it would do well. Obviously though it came out at a time where we broke so much fuckin' ground like an earthquake does.
I can hear us in so many of the bands across the world today and I feel lucky to have been a part of that. Mainly I'm meaning Leeway's sound and approach and not so much my skills as a vocalist. I think a lot of the bands who went up there to Normandy Sounds after we set the standard were expecting to carbon copy our sound and expected it to just come out that way, but how many of those releases have withstood the test of time? You can't just go into a million dollar studio in that period in time and just lay your tracks down, be tight and expect the true musicianship and emotion to just be there. The approach is wrong. Your total being, passion, hunger and feeling isn't there because you're just trying to do it clean and in proper timing. Your being and talent just doesn't shine like it should.
Eddie with Leeway at the City Gardens Bad Brains sweatbox show, Photo: Ken Salerno
The whole Normandy experience opened my mind to what and how recording a full length actually is. Many don't get it. Again, so many fortunate lessons as I grew into who I was and what I contributed to this thing of ours. I've been truly blessed in so many ways and the fact that when I leave this world I'll still be here and be heard. That's a priceless gift to know and have.
The approach and sound was a group thing. My job was easy compared to the rest of us. The influences I had at the time I cannot put a finger on. I'll leave that to the armchair quarterbacks who think they actually know what's in my head. It's all appreciated by friends/fans so isn't that all that matters? We all had a role and position to play and we killed it. It was instinctual and not too planned or well thought out. We worked hard and prepared ourselves which is why it is what it is. When I go back and listen to it after a long period of time it takes me back to a day and age where we were all just going for it, all of NYHC when I say this.
I believe what Leeway did as well was set new standards and influence the sound of hardcore to let other bands and future musicians know that you had to work hard to get somewhere in this thing of ours from that point on, and that still goes for the new listeners of today. You could no longer just half-ass it and not practice to get somewhere. It just ain't gonna cut it from that point on. It seperated the real from the fantasy of playing in a good band/group. This was our statement in regards to performance, the work and passionate energy you put into writing songs and making them stand out to be a cut above the majority.
It's similar to an alpha-male animal in a pack, or in a den of wolves, if you know what I mean...each time I listen to Born To Expire I appreciate another song more than the other, but I guess the opening rounds of that release...Rise & Fall and Mark of the Squealer are what makes that record open up and and make one bleed...TRUTHandRIGHTS will pretty much only do Rise & Fall with the complete bass intro and the whole song since many bands copy it. I want the audiences to hear it the way it's meant to be.
We don't plan to use Leeway's legacy to get attention, but we will do that one song to give everyone a good representation as to how it should be done and done fuckin' right. That's all. TRUTHandRIGHTS has great songs and we dont' need to do other Leeway songs. The Eddie Leeway Show is my vehicle to go solo, and of course go out and play Leeway songs with a new lineup behind me. I always planned this, and now it's simply on for the late summer to start and play out.
Eddie Sutton says, "What's up!", Photo: Jeff Pliskin
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 9:41 PM