Jules takes the stage with Alone In A Crowd at The Anthrax, Norwalk CT, Photo courtesy of: Jules
Jules returns with part VI of our epic interview with him. Be sure to also check out the most recent items right out of Jules' personal collection that we have up for auction here on DCXX. All money is going to benefit the Japanese Relief Effort:
Japanese Relief Auction
And in case you missed the previous installment to this interview:
Jules Part V
Part VII still to come... -Gordo DCXX
The crowd watches on as Jules brings it down, Photo courtesy of: Jules
Now, I recognize I may be the victim of nostalgia here as I recall my time in the NYHC scene. And nostalgia can be a dangerous thing -- it removes the rough edges of the past, obscures the truth. So much of what I’m about to say may be somewhat romanticized, but I’m going to risk saying it anyway in an attempt to communicate what the scene was like for me and how I perceived its change over a few short years.
In 1986-87, and particularly the summer of ’87, it was an awesome time to be into hardcore in NY. The different “cliques” seemed to get along, shows featured diverse bands on the bills, with little or no problems. There were lots of shows. Back then Raybeez “promoted” Pyramid matinees, which were more or less run by the kids. And for me, out on St. Marks, or Tompkins Square, or at Some Records, there was always someone I knew, and though we may not have seen eye to eye, we sort of looked out for each other. If you found yourself in a bad spot, there was oftentimes someone around who had your back – even if they didn’t know you that well. I mean sure, there was some static, some dispute brewing somewhere – but on the whole, it was pretty peaceful within the scene. There was definitely an “us against them” attitude regarding the mainstream world.
And as I said earlier, there was an inclusive spirit. For instance, Raybeez put the word out at a show, on a whim, for a bunch of kids to play softball the following weekend at the diamonds at Tompkins Square – and a whole random crew showed up. Too bad that the leagues had already booked the diamonds that day (and NY softball leagues take that _ _ _ _ very, very seriously). When all these hardcore kids showed up, and started encroaching on the field, the league teams were, ahhh, rather vocal about it. For being dicks to us, we messed with their game a little bit in the outfield, but one of the teams had off duty cops on it... so that didn’t last very long. We never got to play... but that really wasn’t the point, we all hung out anyway. It was little things like this that made all the difference... that summer there was no pretention, it was genuine. I realize I'm making it sound like the freakin' summer of love ('67), which is a horrible analogy, and I apologize. I hate to say "you had to be there," but given the difficulty I'm having communicating this... perhaps it is true.
As far as the diversity at shows... I can think of many examples, but one that stands out is Side By Side playing a couple of shows with Altercation. Side By Side’s first show was also Altercation’s first show. They had this Cro-Mags/metalcore sound, and had kinda vengeful, street justice/survival lyrics. They were awesome (in fact, after their sound check we were totally embarrassed that we had to play our first show with them... they blew us away... after that show I listened to their demo nonstop for a week), but they were definitely a different vibe. Now, I never had any problems with Jay or any of those guys, I’m just saying they weren’t the crowd Side By Side was caught up in at the time. It didn’t matter back then. In fact, we organized and played a last minute Pyramid matinee with them... I think we may have even created joint Side By Side/Altercation stickers, or t-shirts, or something, to promote that show. It was really small (I think we were the only two bands playing), but it was fun.
Alone In A Crowd at The Anthrax, Photo courtesy of: Jules
Funny story... the one time I invite my old man to come see the band was that show. Now mind you, I was always telling my dad about straight edge and the positive scene and all that. I think it was the norm back then for parents to suspect their kids were on drugs. Deep down, I think my folks thought I had to be on drugs to be into hardcore. Anyway, so my old man is standing by the front door of the Pyramid watching Altercation play. Jay’s up there singing about vigilantism or something, and one of his friends lights a joint and passes it up to the stage – so Jay’s toking up and I’m like... “great, now my dad will NEVER believe me again.” My dad ended up not caring, but the point of all of this is, for at least that summer, it wasn’t like there was just a straight edge scene, or just a skinhead scene, or a just a punk scene – back then, it was one scene... maybe not always a big happy family, but there was a lot of tolerance. A lot more than in later years.
Somewhere along the line, that changed. Throughout ’88 and onward, all kinds of schism, on the macro and micro scale, became the norm. There was a lot of inter and intra band strife. Side By Side broke up. Richie left YOT not on good terms, same thing with Mike Ferraro, and Craig Ahead – if memory serves. Breakdown had a major falling out. Straight Ahead got back together and then broke up again. The Cro-Mags got rid of John Joseph... that was a crazy thing. You’d be surprised how that lineup change affected the whole scene.
I remember this one kid, suburban youth crew type from California, I think, was visiting NY and was at a CB’s matinee. He was hanging with some of the guys from BOLD out front, when John Joseph came around. And this kid got all excited and goes “Hey where’s Harley!” at like the top of his lungs, and Matt grabbed the guy and said under his breath “dude, shut the _ _ _ _ up!” Tensions were that high – you couldn’t even speak of it for fear of, well... something. I am told that the animosity between those two continues to this day.
The band rivalries were also a major downer to me. There had always been some territoriality: Boston v. NY, for example. There always seemed to be some beef (no pun intended) between YOT and Slapshot. But that same kind of stuff started happening more and more just between NY bands. Bands are naturally composed of a lot of egos – my bands were no exception. For instance, Walter and I used to go round and round about who should have “top billing” between GB and Side By Side, which was stupid and just caused unnecessary static. That kind of stuff kept getting worse though... I think one possible explanation is that back in ’87 the bands that this webzine focuses on were simply not that big a deal yet. But by late ’88, a lot of bands had toured, released LPs on bigger labels. And I think on the whole the music scene (which is what it's really all about, right?) became more about me, me, me as opposed to us, us, us.
Even Raybeez, who was a big proponent of scene unity turned more to promoting his band. I can’t say I blame him... War Zone had been around forever. He must’ve gotten very frustrated – he could never keep a lineup together long enough to make the band work. He got Luke to play drums and eventually “cannibalized” Altercation to record the Don’t Forget The Struggle LP, but before that there was no real stability with War Zone. Hell, Walter played with them for awhile, as a favor to Raybeez.
Jules fronting Alone In A Crowd while someone in an Insted shirt goes for a dive, Photo courtesy of: Jules
A turning point with me and Ray came at the end of the summer of ’87. Side By Side played a Pyramid matinee and apparently Nina Hagen, an East German punk rock diva (who I wasn't familiar with at all) heard us and wanted us to tour with her. She told the bartender at the Pyramid, and the bartender told Raybeez. So Ray comes up to me all serious: “I gotta talk to you.” Now normally at this point he would punch me in my chest, he always used to punch me, hard, in my chest. It was his way of showing affection, I guess. Anyway, no punch this time – so I knew something was up. So he tells me that Nina Hagen wants us to open for her on tour, and looking at his face, he was not happy about it. This was no "attaboy." Raybeez resented it--he had a real problem with Side By Side attracting this kind of attention. We weren't on great terms after that. In fact, I don't think I ever played on the same bill as War Zone again. Over something stupid like Nina Hagen talking to the bartender at Pyramid-- which in the end never came to anything.
I gave the bartender my phone number. A week or so later, I got the call from Berlin in my mother's kitchen. Hagen had this thick, thick accent and we had a lot of trouble understanding each other. Right off the bat, she asked if the band name was Ultraviolence -- and I got the distinct impression she hadn't even seen Side By Side and this was all a big mistake. "You're sure you're not Ultraviolence?" She kept asking. She also kept saying "groovy," but she said it with the umlauts, so it sounded really weird in addition to being totally anachronistic. "That's groovy, I'm going to send you a parcel" she said. Then I had to give her my address... what a disaster. You try telling German superfreak Nina Hagen words over the phone like H-a-c-k-e-n-s-a-c-k and W-e-e-h-a-w-k-e-n. Email would have been very helpful, but this was back in the analog world. Needless to say the parcel never arrived. The whole thing was such a bizarre experience I kept waiting for Raybeez to tell me that he was just _ _ _ _ ing with me... that it was all a joke and he put somebody up to calling me. But it wasn't.
At the time I just looked at it as a chance to play. I mean, Nina Hagen and Side By Side would've been a ridiculous pairing... it was stupid to think that it would ever actually happen. But what the hell -- we weren't looking for it, but if offered, why not? But the very thought of Side By Side being offered that kind of opportunity was enough to piss Raybeez off, as if the opportunity was somehow at his expense. That was the scarcity mentality, I guess... the opportunities were perceived as limited, so if one band took advantage it was to all the other bands' detriment. This was the perception, and it went beyond Ray, it seemed to be pervasive. Where bands used to support each other, now it seemed it was every band for itself. Lots of band rivalries, backstabbing, etc. Lots of bad blood. Anyway, it took years before Raybeez and I got to a better place.
And as if all of this wasn't enough, there was an uptick in street violence, and it was not necessarily racially motivated. In addition to the white power skinhead thing I talked about earlier, skinhead types would gang up on kids, take their jackets, take their shoes. Again, I guess it always happened... but in ’88, it just seemed to become like an everyday occurrence. Oftentimes the out of town straight edge kids would be the targets. I remember a local skater kid got jumped, got his shoes vicked -- he was this skinny guy, and he was outnumbered at least 4 or 5 to 1. But a year or so later, he had bulked up (steroids or something) and he caught up with one of them and beat the soul out of him. Not so tough when they are alone, I guess. The hardcore kids were preying on each other -- where it was once us against them, it was increasingly us against us.
And whether or not my recollections here are entirely correct, this was definitely my perception of the scene at the time. I was very disillusioned, and really, really angry. More angry than I have probably ever been. With Side By Side gone, that anger found a voice in Alone In A Crowd...
This song goes out to the Youth Crew, old and new… Lars and Jules at The Anthrax with Alone In A Crowd, Photo courtesy of: Jules
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 10:21 PM