Jules fronting Alone In A Crowd at The Anthrax, Photo courtesy of: Jules
No intro necessary, here's part VIII, more to still come... -Gordo DCXX
I don’t really like to explain songs – I always thought they’d speak for themselves – but I think after all this time some of the songs might deserve a little discussion. Is Anybody There and Commitment are pretty straightforward, so I’m not going to spend any time on them, but I caught some flak for the other two songs on the record. To the extent that people didn’t or don’t now get where I was coming from, here’s my two cents.
Who You Know was always, and still appears to be, a misunderstood song. I wrote it about some very specific people more than twenty years ago that happened to be female. Listen, that the hardcore scene was predominantly male was not by design, believe me. I’m sure if you asked any guy from back then they would have welcomed more girls. Hardcore in the mid to late 80’s just wasn’t that big of a female draw. But there were absolutely girls who were into the scene, the music, and many of them were real contributors. For example, Amy was in a band (Nausea), Alexa would terrorize the pit, Spermacide got hardcore on the airwaves live in the studio at WNYU, and there were a whole bunch of artists and photographers, like BJ Pappas, who would always be helping bands out with photos and artwork for flyers and record covers. So, if anyone has the misconception that there may be some kind of misogynistic or chauvinistic message contained in Who You Know -- this was a song about individuals, not about an entire gender.
And then there was When Tigers Fight. Where do I begin? It’s generated more discussion than the other three songs on the e.p. combined. I guess I’ll start with where I got the idea for the song. Positive hardcore was anti-violence: Violence To Fade, Time To Forgive, Better Than You, etc., etc., etc. One of the things that used to irk me was when the bullying types would threaten the positive kids, who were coming to shows to hear bands singing about non-violence! I mean, here are kids trying to do the right thing, and they’d get threatened (or worse). And it was inevitably some skinny kid who wasn’t looking for a fight, and he’d always be outnumbered. It actually makes me mad just thinking about it so many years later.
Carl faces the Anthrax crowd, Photo courtesy of: Jules
Now, Alex (Side By Side) was kind of shy. He generally kept to himself, and didn’t go off in the pit much, if memory serves. He was tall and skinny, totally not intimidating. But, on stage, Alex was different. I recall a Side By Side show where kids were slamming into him on stage and I think one kid was diving and I think grabbed Alex on the way down. Alex stopped playing, clenched his teeth and his fists and started wailing on the guy, punching the guy right in the face again and again! He was freaking fierce! Alex of all people -- who’d have figured?
Seeing that got me thinking... bullies took advantage of the positive scene by picking on kids who don’t want to fight. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t fight. What would happen if one these kids just snapped and took on one of these tough guys? He’d probably be in for the fight of their life if the kid put it all on the line, one on one. So I came up with When Tigers Fight; it is the only song that is truly mine. I wrote the music – just kept putting two fingered chords together until something sounded right. Once I had it down, I “played” it for Lars and Carl, and we came up with the bass/drum intro.
Now I am not a tough guy, never was, never will be. I was a skinny kid, you’ve seen the pictures. Tried martial arts – was great at forms, got my ass beat sparring. What few fights I’ve been in were usually interrupted before any real damage, save for one spectacular beating I took as a 13-year old when my earring caught the shoulder of my leather jacket as I tried to avoid a hit. Nearly tore my ear off – and I still took the shot to the face! Never did wear an earring after that. Luckily for me, I was always pretty good at defusing fights before they happened. I was never bullied. In fact, I never got into a fight at any shows or with any other hardcore kid. The only “fights” I ever got into back then were with drunk yuppies in suits who couldn’t be reasoned with.
So When Tigers Fight is really not about me. It also was not a “pro-violence” song. It was about the positive kids who were getting picked on, and the emotions that I knew they must be feeling. So I put myself into their shoes, and imagined being a kid like that and psyching myself up to confront a bully. That’s what I was going for. I may not have done so very artfully, but I was not a poet. This was not spoken word, and I had no aspirations that it would be construed as an attempt at literature or high art. Hardcore lyrics generally weren’t done in the voice of a “character.” Hardcore lyrics were meant to be simple so kids could sing along at a show. Profundity wasn’t the point, giving a voice to the anger was the point.
A blur of Jules with Alone In A Crowd, Photo courtesy of: Jules
As far as the title, there is a saying, I believe it has its origins in China, which goes: “when tigers fight, one ends up hurt, the other dead.” There is another proverb which goes “even with those shy as a mouse, you still have to beware the tiger within.” That seemed in keeping with what the song was about. The kid stands up to the bully, and even if he can’t win, he’s going all out and someone’s going to get hurt.
And then there’s the ding. We were at Don Fury’s and Drago, the drummer for Raw Deal, was listening to us record the song, and Drago’s like “you gotta do the ding! You gotta do the ding!” And I was reluctant at first, but he was insistent – and I figured we could always take it out. So we set up a cymbal in the studio and mic’d it, and Drago put the headphones on. Don played the tape and there Drago was... alone in the studio... listening, getting ready... and then ding! Maybe you had to be there, but it was freaking hilarious. We were in the booth laughing our asses off. After that moment, I just couldn’t bring myself to take the ding out. It was just too good a memory. It may have cheesed up the song a bit, but the look on Drago’s face was worth it.
After recording the e.p., everybody but Howie returned to their own bands. With AIAC, things had gone so well thus far, Howie and I decided to make a go of it. We found a guitarist, Glen from Linden, NJ. He had some good riffs and he and I started working on some songs together. We got a drummer – who came to one practice to jam with us and was like “this blows.” I think Lars stuck around a bit here and there for some practices – but he was full on into Uppercut. Luke helped us record some new material of Glen’s at a rehearsal at Don Fury’s. But we lost momentum fast. I got very fed up with the whole thing. I could stand here and blame other people, or say it was the circumstances that prevented AIAC from being a real band... but in the end, the simple fact was I just didn’t have it in me. AIAC just kind of died on the vine. And it was just as well, if deep down I wasn’t really into it, it would’ve really been unfair to the other guys. I don’t know what happened to Glen, but Howie went on to play with Walter Schreifels and I think he toured with Judge. I haven’t talked to either of those guys in 20 years.
By the time AIAC wound down, I had really stopped hanging out. I’d go to shows when my friends were playing, but I had graduated high school and was working full time in New York Harbor. Never say never, though... Side By Side would play one last show, at, of all places, CBGB...
The classic stage banter unwinds, Photo courtesy of: Jules
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 11:41 PM