Thursday, September 2, 2010

Craig Ahead

Craig Setari with Straight Ahead

You may have read this before but I dug it up again recently and felt it was worth a repost here. This interview took place in April 2002 in Meerhout, Belgium, and was done by Bart "The Flex" De Duytsche and originally appeared in his zine, The Ghent Decontrol, issue #3.

Thanks to Bart and be sure to check out his blogs:

CausingTroubleIn2010 and LionsAndCheetahs2010

-Gordo DCXX

How did you get involved in hardcore? What was your social background growing up?

I grew up poor white thrash in Queens, New York. I had no father, just a mother who worked very hard to support me and my brother. I was a bad kid, I did drugs and stuff. My brother went to junior high school with a guy named Danny Lilker. You know Danny Lilker? The guy who plays in Brutal Truth and Nuclear Assault? Well, he went to school with my brother, so when I was like 10 or 11 years old Danny would come to our house for lunch. Him and my brother had music class together. Danny was the first guy that turned me onto punk and hardcore music. One day he brought me these old punk tapes mixed with some heavy metal stuff and I loved it.

When I went to junior high school there were these kids who were roadies for the band The Mob. They were very young, I was in my seventh grade and they were in their ninth grade. So they would give me old Bad Brains singles and Mob stuff and I just loved it. And they were like "Let's go down to the show this Sunday." And I would go to shows with them and once I went to one I went every week.

And that was in 1983 or something?

I started listening to hardcore in '82 and I went to my first show in '83, maybe '84. I listened to hardcore for a little while before going to shows. I still remember the bill of my first show, it was Adrenalin O.D., Bodies In Panic and Malignant Tumour.

When did you start playing music?

When Danny used to come to my house he was teaching my brother how to play bass and I just picked it up. I was probably 10 or 11 years old and I just started to play it and I liked it. I started to play when I was 11 and by the time I was 13 I was in a band. That's pretty fast.

Craig with Sick Of It All at Gramercy, NYC, June 2010, Photo: Chris Roque

How did your mother feel about you getting involved with hardcore?

My mother's German. She came straight from Germany. She gave me a lot of room to do what I wanted to do. She would understand. She asked what I was doing and I said that it was music by regular people. She came to see me play when I was 15 and she loved it. So I got support. Have you ever seen my old red bass? The one I've been playing forever? She got it for me.

You've been in all these legendary New York bands, like Straight Ahead, Agnostic Front, Youth Of Today and all the others. Do you sometimes feel like a living legend?

No, I just do what I do. I just happened to be in a time and place where there weren't many people that played instruments and who were really into it. I could play well, back then people couldn't really play their instruments. I was already a good musician. I practiced every day because I really like to play bass. So that coupled with the desire I had and the love of hardcore had people wanting me to be in their band. I was sought after. And I jumped really high and all.

But all that other stuff... The whole ego side of things... I appreciate the respect I get, because I put most of my life in it, but there's people who have done more remarkable things than I've done. I'm just dumb enough to stick around.

Don't you come across people idolizing you a lot? Idolizing you because of your past and present.

I get that a little, but I don't really bring that out to people very much. I just do the quiet talk, you know, "How are you doing?" and that kinda stuff. I don't like idolizing. I got into hardcore to get away from that, because everybody else was ego-tripping. When I got into this music it was because you're the same as me and I'm the same as you. Everybody was on an equal foot. That's why in today's music world I still don't fit in. I could probably make a lot of money if I acted and dressed like I was a big shot, but that goes into everything why I do this for. So why would I do that?

Which one of the bands you've been in do you like the most nowadays?

Straight Ahead!

In every aspect?

Every band taught me something different. I liked being in Agnostic Front, I like being in Sick Of It All. All the bands I was in meant something. I didn't like being in Youth Of Today very much at the time. Because they were "Look at me! Look at me!", they wanted to be famous. They said they didn't, but they wanted.

And eventually they got famous.

Well, I guess. Not more famous than me, we're all swimming in the same fish tank. But even that band taught me something. Every band I was in has its place. But Straight Ahead was fun. There was no pressure at that point, you just did what you wanted and nobody was really watching, it was a local thing.

Craig with the Cro-Mags, Photo: Helena Bxl

Was Straight Ahead just NYC Mayhem, or were there different members?

The guitar player for Mayhem quit and Tommy went from drumming and singing just to singing and we got Armand to play drums.

Are you still in touch with the members of your old bands?

I talk to Tommy Straight Ahead a lot and that's about it. He's a construction worker. I see Roger and Vinnie sometimes. I see Matt Henderson a lot. I just see the Agnostic Front guys a lot and Tommy Carroll. I run into Porcelly once in a while.

How do you feel about the zillion Straight Ahead bootlegs?

Well, whatever. I never put it out, I planned on it, but I never did. But nobody knows about that band, what that band was and it's kinda cool like that. Though if it ever gets put out I will do it...but it won't.

Do you still have Straight Ahead recordings laying around that never got released?

Oh yeah, I have a whole demo tape that no one has actually heard, no one but me. Knock Down is on it and a couple of other songs.

Sick Of It All has gotten a lot of shit for being on a major label from the hardcore in-crowd a few years back, nowadays kids don't bother too much anymore. Do you think kids don’t care about that anymore or is there some other reason?

I think these days so many bands are on majors that nobody cares anymore. When you do something first people complain. But not any of these people are paying my bills and food. They shouldn't tell me how to live, I make my own way. But it was a good thing. People judge things without knowing. That's what ruins hardcore. Everybody's trying to blame, make comments. There's no respect anymore. I never disrespected my elders back when I was a kid.

Tell me a good fight story from back in the days.

I wasn't really a fighter. I'm more a lover than a fighter. But I've witnessed a lot. One time outside CB's these skinhead kids came from New Jersey and they were fucking around. So after the show Russ from Underdog had a fight with this guy and they argue a little and they fought. So Russ and the guy are fighting and Russ grabs the guy around the waist and throws him on a car. And the guy is punching Russ on the head and they were going at it, when all of a sudden Todd Youth picks up a skateboard, brings it over his head and the guy's with his back on the car and hits the guy with the trucks of the skateboard. Right on the bridge of his nose and the guy's whole face explodes, there was blood everywhere. The guy was knocked out. And then all the bums that lived in the building on top of CBGB's started throwing bottles at everybody and newspapers that were on fire landed on people and stuff. There was this big riot. And we all ran away. That was in '86.

Tell me about the very first tour you did.

That was with Youth Of Today in 1986, before that I had done like five shows in a row, during summer. I had done stuff with Mayhem and Straight Ahead, but it wasn't more than four or five days in a row. We didn't have cars, nobody could drive. With Youth Of Today I went down south and back and that was pretty fun. Tommy was in the band playing drums, but then he quit. He said he didn't like the other guys in the band.

Was Straight Ahead still around then?

Yeah, we had it both going on. For a little while. In the end I quit Youth Of Today to join Straight Ahead again.

Had Straight Ahead broken up?

For a little while, me and Tommy had a fight and we broke up. But we were friends no matter what.

So you weren't replaced by someone else?

In Straight Ahead? No way, I'm Craig Ahead, you can't replace me. That was my band, I wrote all the songs.

Craig, Arman, Pete and Lou, Photo: Cotecho x


lenny zimkus said...

I'm craig ahead, you can't replace me.
spoken like a true champ

John Cowell said...

Just like Lenny said. That was one of the best lines I've read on this site yet.

breadman said...

he is the nicest dude. I took my kids to see AFI and Sick of it all were supporting. we were up on the balacony watching and Craig was stood watching. I took them over and he chatted to them and was such a good dude. my 12 year old son was wearing a mags hoodie and a bad brains tshirt. that blew his mind.

Angryaholic said...

Man - Setari is just a fucking amazing bass would be so awesome to see him the the Jo-mags.

smegma said...

thanx d.c. for this interview. straight ahead is my favourite second half 80's hardcore band, and craig is the best bass player ever!!!.

Anonymous said...

Yes, everybody, everywhere, tear this place doooown!

Anonymous said...

All of the Sick Of It All guys have always been super friendly and down to earth and willing to talk. I wish they made an album like Scratch the Surface again, but their new album is way better than the stuff they've been doing.

Anonymous said...

That bass line on Y.O.T.'s stabbed in the back on B.D.T.W. is what playing bass is all about!

Anonymous said...

Craig is a great bassist. He played with just about all the bands at time.
I remember the fight outside CBs well. But for the record, it wasn't Todd Youth who smashed the guy with the skateboard. It was Danny Dog!! And yea, we all ran away cause the cops were coming and it was sheer mayhem.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Craig on the YOT comments. Having been involved and in a band at the time I can say that the yot crew became a slow growing cancer on the scene that the DMS crew finally killed.