Monday, May 9, 2011

Bobby Sullivan talks Soulside

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Bobby and Alexis with Soulside at Maxwells in Hoboken, NJ, Photo: Ken Salerno

Crucial John Scharbach, singer of DC's Give, got in touch with Bobby Sullivan of Soulside to get the backstory on the lyrics behind each song off of Soulside's Hot Bodi-Gram. Bobby delivered a great write-up, and John sent it our way. Very cool insights on one of harDCcore's most important bands. This is a multi-part entry, with the explanations to the lyrics coming in part 2. Stay tuned.

Thanks John and Bobby! -Gordo DCXX

At the beginning of the Soulside tour in 1989, it was apparent it would be our last. With 2 months in the US and 4 months in Europe, we played over 100 shows. And in a sense, the recording of Hot Bodi-Gram, just outside of Amsterdam, was the last show of the tour. Many of the songs were composed along the way at sound checks and experimental portions of our live shows. All the energy from the tour went into the recording. It was a great way to express all the things we had seen and felt along the way.

The European leg of our tour took us to the East Block where we were the 1st US band to play in East Berlin and 3 cities in Poland. It was 6 months before the Berlin Wall fell. We went as far north as Oslo in Norway and as far south as Thessaloniki in Greece. We played in Croatia and our shows in Bosnia and Kosovo were canceled because of the rising tensions in the region. This was one year before the horrible war there and the breakup of Yugoslavia. We drove right through Kosovo and had a hard time driving around Albania to get to Greece. The checkpoints were intense.

In Rome we played in a squat that was a former army fort on the outskirts of town. When the police tried to take it back, which happened from time to time, the punks simply locked the gates and dropped the bridge over the moat. We played a show with 5 bands for the equivalent of $5 and Soundgarden played the same night in a club for the equivalent of $20. Needless to say, we had the crowd at the fort. In northern Spain we stayed with anarchists in the Basque Country, where they had a longstanding independence movement. In Oslo we participated in an anti-fascist rally on May Day. People filled the streets with signs promoting their various agendas. The fascists wore white jumps suits and the communists wore red. The squat we played at was bombed by the fascist party a week after we were there.

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Soulside's Scott McCloud at Maxwells, Photo: Ken Salerno

Even with all our adventures, tensions were rising in the group, especially about the direction of our message. I was experiencing a lot of resistance to specifically mentioning the political and social issues I was involved in at the time. Unfortunately we were growing in different directions and I was in a separate camp all by myself. I always felt that the lyrics should represent the whole band – they were getting sick of doing interviews about Mumia and veganism, so I acquiesced, making my references more vague. I could see the potential of value in this approach. Sometimes a message can get out better when you're not putting it right in somebody's face.

After we got back from the tour we had a couple weeks off and then our last two shows. The 9:30 Club and then Ft. Reno 2 days later. The 9:30 Club show was the last one with a nice controlled sound system. The very last show at Ft. Reno was outdoors and it was always hard to get a good sound there. At the 9:30 Club I can't remember who played with us (maybe somebody's comment could straighten me out), but it was a charged set. We played as hard as we could.

The very last show at Ft. Reno was with Fugazi. It was nice to do it there since it was in a park most of us had grown up near. It was a fitting end to the kids we were when we started. It was also probably one of the largest gatherings of people Ft. Reno had ever seen at the time. This was a city funded free concert, which was part of a weekly series of shows throughout the summers in NW DC, in our neighborhood. Members of Fugazi were also tied to this area. The high school most of us went to is across the street. It was a fitting end.

We split on good terms. I moved to Boston and started 7 League Boots and the rest of the guys moved to NYC and started Girls Against Boys. I was glad to move on, as the punk scene was going mainstream and I wasn't going to work for a multinational corporation. The DIY ethic was good for me. In Boston I broadened my musical and spiritual horizons, only to move back to DC a few years later to join Rain Like The Sound Of Trains and then Sevens, with my brother...

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Johnny Temple on bass for Soulside at The Court Tavern, Photo: Ken Salerno

22 comments:

Jim Pitts said...

Soulside was great at Gilman in 89. I believe Amenity opened, I forget who else played.....

Anonymous said...

That is Johnny Temple on bass not Chris.

Anonymous said...

Yawn.

Dave B said...

Yawn? Maybe for some. For me, SoulSide was a very important band that is as important today as they were in 1988. SoulSide, RLT/SOT, 7 League Boots...so good. And that song Bobby did on the Regulator Watts lp....AMAZING. Bring on PT 2.

Anonymous said...

Bass Is The Shit!!!!

Anonymous said...

Way more interesting than any of the "Jules, did you drink Coke or Pepsi or 7Up before that one show at the Anthrax?" questions.

Thank you!

And yes, "Bass" is awesome!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for part 2.

Anonymous said...

i saw them in playing in a squat in Milan, back in 89, great show,unfortunately they played 1 song for the 1st lp, and then all the trigger lp.
i may still have a shirt i bought at the show somewhere at my parents house...

ken salerno said...

it is in fact johnny temple, and it's not maxwells...that photo was taken at the court tavern... also just curious as to why someone who wants to remain "anonymous" would take time out of their "obviously" busy day to post a yawn...

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said it better Dave B.

dangerclose said...

Nice write-up---can't wait for part 2---bad ass 3 shirt---Dave B I totally agree with you about everything you said, but you already knew that--and I was hoping you'd comment

dirtysteve said...

even if you don't like this band, interesting interview. but a great band, of course. always though the split between them was pretty interesting. girls vs boys was so college rock, and sullivan went roots reggae. some lunchmeat questions would rule.

Anonymous said...

Scott Mcloud is a piece of shit drunk
and total has-been who knows it and therefore acts like a drunk fool.

Major disappointment, being a Soulside fan..

Bobby RULES though.

Anonymous said...

Excellent entry. The show in Oslo was at the Blitz squat. The Blitz is still doing well, Tragedy will play there next week!

Kevin SLC said...

Geez, some of you people are such ungrateful, disrespectful dicks! Can't believe I see comments like "Yawn" and backhanded compliments that diss the Jules interview. Jerks I tell ya!!! I say thanks Double Cross for giving me interesting shit to read day in and day out. Whether an entry is my thing or not, I still respect the effort and appreciate what these guys do here.

slate said...

7 league Boots were such a kick ass live band.Bobby is not the only one still playing.Drummer Mike Press is out in southern Cali playing in a couple of bands and doing solo stuff.Guitar player Bow Thayer is kicking ass with his band Perfect Trainwreck and an acoustic trio also.Bow Thayer & PTW new cd Bottom of the Sky is still on the roots rock report chart after many months. bowthayer.com

Anonymous said...

The HOT BODI GRAM lyrics have always been a mystery to me yet his words haunt me to this day.

"This is God City
This is love parade
This is Mr. Fuckers last rites
There are no names
There is no pain
These walls have been pissed on
the train is leaving..."

Emil said...

I like that 3 sweatshirt!!!

Anonymous said...

Finally a Soulside interview! Thanks, Double Cross! Would love to see a Statue entry as well.

Justin said...

Met and talked with Bobby a few times when he was in 7 League Boots in Boston, and he seemed like a nice, cool and pretty smart guy. Even saw Girls Against Boys (ex-Soul Side members) open for them a couple times.

And I loved Soul Side. Listened to the Trigger album and Bass EP so much, I wore out my vinyl.

As always, Double Cross rules.

Matt Berlyant said...

This is probably my favorite thing ever posed so far on Double Cross. I've been listening to Hot Bodi-Gram for almost two decades now and had no idea what those songs were about. Amazing stuff.

Tim said...

great post for a great band. Soulside, Rain Like The Sound of Trains, 7 League Boots, etc all capture what I loved about the variety of hardcore growing up on the East Coast. Bands were unique and interesting. I still go to a lot of shows and would love to see that kind creativity make a resurgence. And damn, what a sweet 3 sweatshirt!