For more info:Trapped Under Ice in NYC
For more info:Trapped Under Ice in NYC
We're usually pretty adamant about keeping DCXX, "all things hardcore", but let's face it, Cliff Burton knew his hardcore and early Metallica would not have existed with out the influence of punk and hardcore. That being said, early Metallica also had one hell of an influence on a ton of hardcore bands, so I think the respect is mutual.
Can't believe it's been 25 years, pretty insane how fast time flies. I can clearly remember the day the news hit about Cliff's death. I was just starting to take interest in Metallica and had just recently bought "Master Of Puppets" on cassette. I remember skating my friends street ramp and blasting "Battery" over and over again, on my Panasonic boom box. That "Master Of Puppets" cassette was in just as constant rotation as 7 Seconds "Walk Together Rock Together", Agent Orange's "When You Least Expect It", Minor Threat's "Out Of Step" and Corrosion Of Conformity's "Animosity". Somehow or another, Metallica fit right into that mix perfectly.
So in tribute to Cliff, blast a little early Metallica, maybe check out "Cliff 'Em All" for the 35th time. If none of that fits into your plans, listen to some Misfits, I think that would work for Cliff just fine. -Tim DCXX
In the early part of the 2000's Dan O'Mahony and myself were driving to the movies to see a double feature of THE PERFECT STORM and ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE. Well, it may not have been that combo of films but we went to the movies a good amount during that time. On one of these trips I told him about how I wanted to make a documentary on the 1990's Orange County Hardcore scene but I was coming up with reasons not to do it. There was the time factor, the finding footage factor, the editing factor (at this point I don't even think I had an editing system in my home!), etc.
He told me regardless of all that I should still make the film.
Flash forward a decade and I have made a documentary on 1990's hardcore titled ORANGE COUNTY HARDCORE SCENESTER. Is it definitive? No. Was it ever intended to be? Never. This documentary is just that: a document.
Albeit, a highly personal one that goes in many directions and, at times, lingers on events that yours truly was particularly effected by.
At present I have sent OCHS to a few festivals and I am about to start showing it to distributors. Once I have a better idea of how this movie is going to be released, I will start re-editing it for that purpose. It should be available in the next 6-12 months.
Looking back now, I think Dan O' pushed me towards making this movie as we drove to see ROMEO MUST DIE in Anaheim. I might be wrong … but sometimes being wrong makes for a better story.
Raybeez at a pool party, Photo: Brooke Smith
Sunday Matinee is a new photo exhibit / publication of the 1980's NYHC scene, currently on view at Primary photo gallery on Chrystie st. in NYC. The exhibition catalog has been released by Tiny Vices Books and is available either from the gallery or online through:
Sunday Matinee photo exhibit
Sunday Matinee photo zine
John Joseph with the Cro-Mags in London and Klubfoot, 1987, Photo: Dave Charles
Contributions are always welcomed here at DCXX, so when Dave Charles offered up these Mags and YOT shots, I was more than happy to take them. As a matter of fact, anyone out there that has photos, flyers, interviews, stories, ideas, etc., feel free to contribute and get in touch. While we're currently in between wrapping up some interviews and working on starting up some new ones, contributions really help fill in the gaps. Thanks. -Tim DCXX
Harley with the Cro-Mags in London and Klubfoot, 1987, Photo: Dave Charles
Harley and JJ with the Cro-Mags in London and Klubfoot, 1987, Photo: Dave Charles
JJ and Doug Holland with the Cro-Mags in London and Klubfoot, 1987, Photo: Dave Charles
Ray and Porcell with Youth Of Today in London, 1989, Photo: Dave Charles
Ray and Porcell with Youth Of Today in Bristol, 1989, Photo: Dave Charles
Release drummer, Chris Cap, is a master of the X'ed up, hooded straight edge guy artwork and I've been a fan for a long, long time. When Release bassist, Greg Shafer hit me up and told me he found a pile of original Chris Cap artwork, as well as a bunch of flyers, I was pretty stoked to check it all out. Here's a few samples that I got a chance to scan. -Tim DCXX
Most, if not all of us grew up hearing stories from our parents about what is was like for them to learn about John F. Kennedy's assassination on that day in November of 1963. Likewise, for our generation, every one of us remembers where we were and what we were doing on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Personally, I was asleep on two couches pushed together in the living room of a bandmate's house in Santa Barbara. He was getting evicted and our band was falling apart. I was awoken by a crusty punk yelling, "It's the new world order! They blew up the World Trade Center! It's the new world order!" I couldn't believe my eyes when we turned on the tv, and there was a cloud of smoke where the Twin Towers once stood. For me, this terrorist attack hit close to home, but to Mark Holcomb, and several million other New York residents, this attack hit home, literally. The after-effects of the devastation are still being played out a decade later, be they in armed struggles overseas, the ever-changing policies on national security, or in the minds of those personally impacted by the day's events. We all have a story. This is Mark's story.
Things are never gonna be the same again. - Ben Merlis, September 11, 2011
Mark with Undertow at The Glasshouse, Pomona CA, 2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
I did want to ask you about that. Tell me exactly what happened on September 11, 2001. YOUR experience on that day. Where were you living? Brooklyn or Manhattan?
I was Manhattan. I was about two and a half miles away.
So what streets were you living on?
I was on 7th Street, next to Thompkins Square Park . . . Saturday night! (laughs) I was on 7th Street between A and B.
Oh. 7th and A. Friends worked the door so we didn't have to pay?
Yeah! I really felt good. I was like, "Fuck, I'm really a New Yorker living in this fucking neighborhood." And I was actually at a doctor's appointment on 14th, Union Square. Do you want me to tell the whole story?
Yeah. The whole story.
I had a doctor's appointment, it was my last doctor's appointment. I broke my hand in a fight.
Mark with Shift in upstate, NY, Photo courtesy of: Shift
Who were you fighting?
It wasn't a . . . you know . . . they had it coming. And I broke my hand and, so the last doctor's appointment, the nurse runs in and was like, "Wow, a plane just hit one of the Trade Towers." Me and the doctor were like, "What kind of plane? What happened?" She's like, "I have no idea. No idea. I just know a plane hit it." And in my mind it's a fucking little Cessna. Not a big deal. Me and the doctor weren't joking about, but it was like, that's fucking weird. We were curious. What the hell's going on? So she's assessing my hand, and 15 minutes later when the doctor appointment was over, the nurse runs in and was like, "Another plane, a jumbo jet just hit the second Trade Tower." And my doctor was like, "You're fine, no more appointments. You're fine. We're going Downtown." And as I'm leaving all the nurses and doctors are getting all their shit together and they're all heading Downtown. And at this point you kind of realize something massive is going on.
Why are they [walking] towards . . .
They're doctors and nurses and they're getting reports that two jumbo jets . . . they know more information than . . .
They're going to help people . . . okay.
Yeah, they need to go Downtown. They're kicking everybody out. I walk out, and for anybody that doesn't know Union Square, it's fucking crowded ALL the time, day and night, 24 hours a day, it's a hub of New York. And I walk outside and it's like a Godzilla movie where there were barely any cars, any traffic. Everything had fucking stopped. Barely anybody is on the street, and this is about 9 am so it should have been packed at this point. But everybody is looking up, and I can see both towers on fire at this point. Everybody's looking up with jaws dropped, and it looked like fucking Godzilla had just hit the Trade Towers. And it was totally this surreal experience. My first impression was, "I wonder what these buildings are going to look like when they put out the fires. Are we going to be able to see all the way through?" And so at that point, I'm married, and I'm about 7 blocks, about 15 minutes away from home, so I rush home, call my wife who is working across town, and was like, "Do you know what's going on?" She's like, "Yeah." She was a manager at Starbucks. She was like, "Well I'm not sure what I can do." And I was like, "Well you should come home as soon as you can." I turned on the news and it's like horrible. Basically my whole day was just chaos, and I saw both towers come down from the roof of my building, and it's about two and a half miles away. Family called, but at that point I kind of knew the phones wouldn't be working, so I just got a hold of my wife and said, "Come home. Don't ride the subways, just fucking walk. I'm going to go buy water and supplies, and we're gonna figure this out." So that was that day. I remember later that day, we walked as far south as we could, and we saw people walking up and they were just covered in dust. And everybody's crying, and we see people's grey faces, just ash all over them - people that had been Downtown. Ash all over them, but you see like their faces clean right here . . .
Yeah. Just fucking horrible. Horrible. I imagine it's what it's like seeing somebody get dumped with napalm. You know what's going on. People are getting fucking killed. And the news is telling you all sorts of shit. It was madness. It was really a rough day.
What about the several days and weeks following September 11? What was that like living in Manhattan?
I'll never forget it. I don't know how to put it into terms . . . it was terrifying, but also I can look back at that and say the sense of community was unreal. To see people on the street and everybody had been through the same experience that was terrifying, it was really heartwarming. New Yorkers really came together. I'm sure they did in New Orleans and all these places, but this is the only thing that I have. My own experience was that it was just wonderful to see people out, but it was terrifying at the same time when you smelled the city burning for MONTHS. A good three months you'd walk outside and it smelled like a campfire, with Downtown burning. The days immediately after it was just smoggy and crazy, but you saw businesses opening and people trying to go out and live their normal lives, but things they don't talk about were it was constant rumors that on Halloween they're going to gas or bomb the subways - don't ride the subways. That's a terrifying feeling that Halloween, Thanksgiving, Ramadan, any of the Jewish holidays, Christmas, for a good year, it was, "They're going to bomb the subways," which to me made sense because they do it in London with the IRA all through the years. It wouldn't be a big deal to fucking toss a bomb.
It happened in Japan.
Yeah, it fucking happens, and I'm surprised it hasn't happened to this day, because it happened in London. It fucking happens [six days after this interview was conducted, Moscow subways were bombed, killing 39 - Ben]. It was pretty terrifying to . . .
Ride the subway?
I mean rationally, you're like, "The odds of this happening to me are not that high." Manhattan's an island, so if you were to fucking bomb either of the tunnels or the five bridges that are leaving Manhattan, all the food that can't come in, all this other stuff that can't come in, you're trapped. And we're supposed to walk the bridge to Brooklyn? It was sort of apocalyptic in a way.
Shift at Rennes Rock Festival, 1997, France, Photo courtesy of: Shift
You said you'd walk by fire stations and you'd see missing person signs?
Oh my god, that brings back so many memories. That was personally really, really upsetting to me. I don't think I walked by a fire station or a police house, and I knew where they all were, for a good four to five months, because there was just a bed of flowers, probably half a block. A lot of lower Manhattan, you'd walk by just xeroxed copies at Kinko's of peoples' faces "MISSING." And at this point they just didn't know. They estimated 3,000 people upwards to 7,000. The first day I think they said there were 30,000 people that could have been in the building. It was terrifying and also everyday you're walking by any chain link fence, I mean Manhattan's covered with the posters right? It was just covered with "MISSING." "MISSING." You know? You don't know, and at a certain point, everything was on the news, and you can't really watch a sitcom or anything else to take you away from this, so it was just a good two or three months of solid . . . I don't think I was normal for quite a while, but especially walking by fire stations, or the hospital, or a police station. These were the places where people went. "MISSING - PLEASE CALL . . ." a photo of someone you don't know, but still they haven't found them in two months, they're gone. They're gone. It would be new flyers as well. I swear to god it would be a block long of people papering, "MISSING." It was like, fuck.
There was a huge patriotic fervor that happened right after that. Were you swept up in that, or what was your attitude towards, "Let's get the guys who did this!" Did you have that kind of attitude?
Well I thought that if we could find the guys who did this, yes. But there's no country to attack. I knew there needed to be a response. And I think at that time I was comfortable of there needing to be response, but I wanted it to be an educated response.
Do you think there WAS an educated response?
Well I really don't have a problem with them GOING into Afghanistan. I don't really necessarily think we need to be there, because it seems like the plan is, "Let's build permanent bases there." I don't think that's appropriate. If we need to go out and drop bombs on people that are trying to kill me, then yeah. I'm okay with that. But looking back at it, I think it was an isolated incident of 2,000 people who wanted to destroy my way of living. And I don't think that dropping bombs on somebody who wants to go to school and is farming goats is an appropriate response. If you can find those 2,000 lunatics, and suppress that, I'm okay with that. If you're trying to kill me, then yeah, I'm okay with someone killing you first. I have no problem with that. I understand what they did. I think going into Afghanistan, I'm okay with that. I don't think going into Iraq was a good idea from the start, and I don't think staying in Afghanistan as an idea that we're suppressing terrorism is a good idea. It seemed to me that the U.S. was liked before, and now we're a lot worse off. I agreed with the immediate response.
The invasion of Afghanistan?
Yeah, I mean there are camps there, this country [Afghanistan] is allowing these camps, these camps will do more, because they did shit before. I mean they bombed the Trade Towers in '93 I think it was.
That was someone else, but, yeah, the fanatic Muslims . . .
But I can't say the U.S. doesn't do this shit. The U.S. is in control, so if they see somebody they think might be a threat maybe they'll go fucking drop a thousand 500 pound bombs on a fucking village, then innocent people are being killed. But war has been going on forever. If somebody puts a gun to my head, and I have an opportunity to shoot at them, I will. It's uneducated. It's a very emotional response. I don't like the U.S. involvement in outside countries at all right now. At all. And the fact that the U.S. had no plan . . . if they were going to go and be like, "We're gonna fuck up the dudes that did this to us," then yeah, I have no problem with that. But we're going to stay there and never leave? That's fucked up.
How did 9/11 affect your personal life?
My personal life before that was in transition. I wasn't happy in the marriage and I think anybody you talk to from '90 to 2000 would say that I was a very fucking angry dude, and stressed out all the time, and unhappy. For me, 9/11 was kind of a wake up call: "Have you done everything in your life you thought you would?" And I hadn't, but I think I was already leaning . . . I mean we're coming to the question of being straight edge.
Right? I mean if you want to talk about that.
Samantha and Mark with Shift in Washington DC, 1998, Photo: Mike Dubin
I mean yeah. Yeah, I was going to ask you that.
So I think I was unhappy with marriage, unhappy with my life, and then September 11 happened, and for the first time I faced, not that a plane was gonna land in the East Village, but kind of faced with the fact that someday you're gonna die, and am I living the life I want to? And those next two months were definitely . . . I did a fucking 180 with my life, and was like, "Okay, I'm gonna live my life like it was my last day," because according to all the rumors, on Thanksgiving we're gonna be fucking killed on a subway.
Retrospectively, do you think that was a smart thing to do? Living your life like it was going to be your last day?
Not necessarily. I'm not sure, but I don't know if I'd go back and change anything, because I've met so many people and had such great experiences, and bad experiences, but I feel like I've kind of lived a fuller life since then. And it's not all good. I don't want to give that perception.
When did you start drinking?
It was about two months later, but I think I had been leaning towards that a bit earlier. I remember being really unhappy July 4, and the reason I remember this is I went to my friend's wedding. I was just feeling incredibly unhappy. I think I had been leaning towards a lot of shit that I hadn't experienced, and was feeling very stagnant in my lifestyle. September 11 kind of gave me cause to experience other things, for better or for worse. If this is related to being straight edge, I don't think I wore X's after age 21. And for me it was a very personal thing. I kind of reached the point where I didn't think it was all that important to not experience other things.
I noticed just from having lived in the same apartment as you, when every September 11 comes around, you get really bummed out for that whole week. Why is that?
The fall is always kind of a rough time - a lot of birthdays and deaths, and September 11. It seems to be week after week there is a date that I remember that was important to me in my life. From about August 14 'til October 2, I would say there is not a week that goes by where I don't know somebody's birthday, somebody who died, September 11. Even going back to high school, going back to school. September sucks. Everything is getting cold again, it's just shitty. So there's more than just September 11 involved. There's ex-wives' birthdays, wedding anniversaries, ex-girlfriend's birthdays, deaths. It's just a cavalcade of bad memories.
Demian and John with Undertow, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
So now [February, 1996] you're living in Manhattan or Brooklyn?
Shift already has an EP and an LP out on Equal Vision. By the time you join the band, are they now on Columbia Records?
No. I knew that was gonna happen. I wasn't sure what label it was going to be, but knew that there was major label interest when I moved out. I'm not sure I would have moved out without that, because Manhattan's so expensive. So I moved out, and we were at the beginning phases of meeting with labels.
Do you think there was some sort of DIY underground hardcore ethic that you adopted with Undertow that you had to abandon with Shift? Or did your experience with Shift not conflict with any of your ethics?
Good question. I knew what was going on and what was at stake. I wanted a major label. That sounded fucking great to be able to play music for a living. And I don't think that there were any ethical things that I had issues with. It was just sort of a surreal experience where Undertow never had management or any of this stuff, and when you're having those meetings . . . you're going in a room, people are feeding you and they're taking you out to dinner and all this stuff. You're really being treated well, and they're telling you how great you are. This is surreal. This is what I thought a sitcom about signing to a major label would be. Everyone tells you how fucking great you're gonna be. My background was different than Shift's. I think Shift knew what they wanted to be. They wanted to be not necessarily rock stars, but I don't think with Undertow, none of us ever really gave a shit. We want to play music, we like playing music with each other, we liked being a part of a scene. There were big differences for me personally. You're used to sleeping on floors, when now you're like, "Well we can afford hotel rooms." It was a completely different world, but one that I came into with open arms, because it was exciting. I never knew what I wanted to do for a living, so the idea of being in a band and getting paid for it was pretty impressive.
How did you end up on Columbia?
They just seemed to offer the best deal and the best scenario. We didn't have management at the time, but we had a great lawyer, and he laid it out for us that 90% of bands that get signed don't make it, and not [that we] should get the most money, but it is kind of what that's all about. Our A&R person was like, "I'm hands off. I'm business, I'm here for the label, but you guys can kind of do whatever you want to do." So it seemed like a good environment where they kind of gave us free reign to do whatever we want to do . . . and maybe pushed us in certain directions. I think I was 21 when I moved out there and I was the oldest member of the band. It's a lot of young kids looking forward to what they can do with this opportunity. My experience back then, this was '96, '97, was a lot of business people from a business background telling you how to make money at playing music. Looking back at it, we were all so young. Some of that influenced us, some of it didn't, but it's very surreal having an adult tell you [that] you can make millions at the age of 21 if you follow these patterns. And I don't think it was ALL those things. I think there was us wanting it. If you write a great song, you could have a career and not ever have to fucking work again, and live this lifestyle you're living.
Mark with Undertow, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
You told me a long time ago there was a meeting with Columbia, and Tommy Mottola stuck his head in the meeting, and he was the president of Columbia at the time, or [Columbia's parent company] Sony.
We should probably skip that.
Okay . . .
It's a good story. Okay, ask the question, I'm going to give you a real . . .
He messed your name up. He called you guys something other than Shift.
No no, he knew the name, but he missed one of the names of the songs.
He called [the song] “Spacesuit” "Spaceboy."
Mark with Shift at Lost Horizon, Syracuse, NY 1997, Photo: John McKaig
I think that goes to show how the music industry CAN be. People have had success, and I think Shift came into it at the time when there was a lot of rebellion. "We don't want corporate to be involved in the hardcore scene." And Shift was part of the hardcore scene. Maybe not a hardcore band, but they were part of the scene. Us with Orange 9[mm], CIV, and Quicksand . . .
Sick Of It All . . .
Yeah. This is what I remember. There was kind of a turning event where we were getting called sellouts, and you shouldn't sell out your scene and all this shit, but I think as 21 year olds we saw it as an opportunity to have a career. And then you go to the opposite end with people telling you, "Texas Is The Reason might get signed,” and “All these bands are getting signed and it's corrupting the scene," to go to the opposite end when you meet people that they are SO fucking business that they mess up your name or they mess up the song at the moment when they're REALLY not supposed to. And you're meeting these people that are like married to Mariah Carey. You're treated with such opulence. You go from this world of being DIY to it being business, and my experience is that overnight you're being taken out to dinner and all this shit. It was overwhelming. I think that the right intentions were there, but we had experiences that were very surreal and I can't believe the bullshit that people were telling us.
John hits the crowd, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
Who was your lawyer?
This guy Richard Grabel who did Quicksand, Shudder To Think, Sick Of It All, everybody in New York. He was probably the best. As far as management, A&R, or anybody at the label, he was taking care of us more than anybody. He was really good about his job, and really sincere. Everybody hates lawyers, but he was the best person in that he looked out for Shift better than anybody I think.
So Shift recorded one album for Columbia [1997’s get in] - the only thing that you play on. And you wrote how much of that album?
One riff in one song?
Correct. Me and Josh were writing completely different stuff. I was really into Drive Like Jehu and Chavez, and I joined a band that already existed and already was successful before that, and Josh said, "If riffs apply, they'll get in," and most of my riffs didn't, because I was on a different page. But I wrote one riff for that record. And I didn't think I did it on purpose. I didn't introduce it. I think Josh actually heard it and was like, "That actually works real well as a bridge for this song." [The song is titled “In Honor of Myself” – Ben] He was trying to incorporate me in. I was really into Bluetip, Chavez, and Jehu at that time.
Why do you think the last Shift album wasn't successful?
Um . . . I don't know.
Ryan bangs it home with Undertow, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
You think you weren't handled appropriately by the label?
I don't think anybody's to blame. There was an idea of what we COULD do and maybe that wasn't achieved, but I don't blame the label. I don't think our management was terribly supportive, but there was a transition there where I think we were trying to write a record, I don't want to say for mass appeal, but we saw an opportunity for what it could be, and we wrote accordingly I guess. I don't think there's anybody to blame, but in my mind there is a difference between [the debut Shift LP] spacesuit and get in.
The difference being what? That get in is more accessible?
Yeah. We were young and we saw an opportunity and I think a lot of people in the band wanted . . . this is what they were moving towards. And maybe I'm naive but I've always been the guy that I just want to write a hot riff that impresses. People hear that riff and they're stoked on it. I've never had a perception of . . . money or fame or wealth has never been anything that I've been concerned with. Maybe there were people in the band that saw that, maybe there were people in the band that didn't give a shit. I mean at 21, looking back at that now, I'm almost 36, it's hard to say. You're tossed with the opportunity to make millions of dollars. People hadn't done this before us. There was Quicksand and Texas Is The Reason, this was all up and coming, but it was just a time when it was very confusing. I think Josh is the person you need to ask more about what was going on. He wrote music and it was his band. He would be the guy to ask about some of that.
Did you make money playing music with Shift?
I don't want to get into specifics . . . but what can be done is you get signed for a certain amount of money. Your lawyer takes 10% off the top. Your management if you have it at the time takes 10 to 15[%] off the top, and you're left with this chunk sum. Shift got a bit of a budget to buy new guitar equipment and drums with, and we got a signing bonus, which was minimal for living in Manhattan, and the expectation that, let's say it's $5,000, for you to live off that $5,000 for the next two years, which involves recording and touring. So another great route to go is publishing, where you're signing a deal that this publishing company will promote you, but they get half of your money. So they gave us a bunch of money . . .
Demian and John with Undertow, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
Yeah. They're giving you an advance, which was a great deal for us. That gave me money to live off of for a long time. Shift being on tour was pretty self-sufficient I think. I was able to pay rent after coming off tour, and I didn't really touch that [publishing advance] money for a long time.
So signing a publishing deal is betting against your own success?
It is. And the examples they gave us were Smashing Pumpkins and Hootie & the Blowfish. [They] were two bands that said, "No, we think we're going to be successful. We don't want anybody else touching our money." So every time you hear a Hootie & the Blowfish song or a Smashing Pumpkins song, 100% of that money is going to Billy Corgan or uhh . . .
(laughter) I know that's not his name. And then the majority of other bands . . . I don't know what it's like now, but the majority of bands back then [would] get this publishing deal that you can live off of . . . so you had money.
Shift in Washington, DC 1998, Photo: Mike Dubin
Well you made the right choice. Obviously. Because if you hadn't have signed the publishing deal, you WOULDN'T have made money from the band.
Yeah, but who knows at that time. It's survival. It wasn't about we're banking against ourselves, although our lawyer told us, "These are your options. This is what it actually breaks down to." It was more about I'm living in Manhattan, I'm paying an obscene amount of rent, and I can't keep a job because we might go on tour in two weeks. If I have to survive being in a band, I’ll totally, totally fucking get that.
When you moved out to New York, you moved with your girlfriend?
This was your girlfriend from high school?
You ended up marrying her?
Yeah. We were together for a total of ten years. I met her when I was 18 and she was about 17. She was around for all of the Undertow stuff. I think after four years we did the math to figure out how much time I was actually around, and I was around for half of that time. Not like we did a lot of touring, but she put up with a lot of shit, and I don't think I could've moved to New York without her, and we were together until . . . 2000 we got married, and 2002 we got separated after ten years. If you want to interview her (laughter) she knows a lot about Undertow and Shift.
What happened with that? It's kind of a personal question, but it's a big part of your life.
No, it's alright. after ten years and starting out so early on I think we just moved in different directions. Me being 18 and her being 17, and me being 28 and her being 27 we were kind of on different pages at that point. I think we loved each other, but maybe weren't IN love anymore. I don't know what the follow up question is, but September 11 happened for me.
Demian and John with some Seattle Straight Edge, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
We just wanted to bring everyone up to speed on how the latest DCXX shirt orders are progressing. For some reason, both our shirt distributor and the t-shirt manufacturers themselves are completely out of the brand/model of the shirts we have been using. We decided not to switch shirt brands because the look and feel of our current model (Next Level) is unparalleled.
As a result of these inventory issues, the latest orders are taking longer than we had planned to get shipped out. Our hope is that we will have the shirts printed and ready to ship out by the end of next week but this is still to be determined. We hope you guys understand the delay and we really appreciate your patience. -DCXX
John Pettibone with Undertow at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
What were the [post-Undertow] projects everyone was doing?
I started a band called Dempsey with nobody in Undertow.
And you were the singer AND guitarist, right?
Yeah, and I apologize to anybody who owns that record. Send it back to me and I will send you (long pause)
Send it back to you and you will reimburse them?
(whispers) Yeah. (laughter) Please don't, because actually, I won't.
I was going to say, people actually WILL take you up on your offer. You don't want that to happen!
No. I would like to have as many Dempsey records as I can have, but I will not reimburse you. I feel bad for Dave Mandel for putting it out out of faith. God bless him. And then Demian and John started Nineironspitfire with nobody else from Undertow. And Murph and Demian played in this band Nothing Left, that was a little bit more crusty, but they were fucking really good. Everybody loves Demian. Demian is like our baby brother. Everybody loves Demian, so all the bands, everybody seemed to have Demian in it. I was doing Dempsey, and I was either hanging out with John or Demian, probably Demian, and Demian was like, "Yeah, do you want to play second guitar in the band?" And I was like, "Yeah, but I don't want to write anything at all. I got my own thing going on, but I like playing together." John was totally into it, so I ended up playing with those guys.
Yeah. And Demian actually left town to go on tour with Deadguy. While he was away I ended up writing like five songs or something, so I became kind of a part of that band.
You wrote songs for Nineironspitfire?
Yeah. The demo - if anybody has got it, I wrote four out of the five songs.
Mark Holcomb with Undertow at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
And what percentage of the music would you say for Undertow you wrote?
It's hard to say. I wrote the majority for sure, but I don't think the songs would have been the same without anybody in the band. And there would be weird moments where Demian would just be fooling around on the bass, and I'd be like, "Holy shit, what's that riff?" Take that riff, and then I'd write two riffs around it. And without Murph playing drums . . . Murph would be like, "That song is too slow. I'm going to play this fast beat." And it would change the song. I usually came to practice with an idea for a song, and it would happen organically. I probably wrote 80% of the music, and 50% of the lyrics, I guess.
What's Digh Down?
I was really into Burn, and I felt like with Undertow, I was writing straight up hardcore riffs or whatever. I had my own style, but I was trying to branch out and do something more clever. And I wrote two songs with Dave Excursion on bass, Murph on drums, Ron Guardipee singing. I think at the end we had four songs, but I just couldn't write that well. I could write Undertow stuff.
Did those songs ever come out?
One of them got released on an Excursion compilation, but I don't think any of the other songs did. I think I wrote good song, and I thought I could write more, but I just couldn't.
What year was that?
That would be '93.
How did Undertow get back together in '95?
Somebody from California, I can't remember his name, called and said, "We'll fly you down. Do you want to come down and play two shows with Snapcase, and we'll pay for the trip?" We were like, "Yeah, fuck it."
Was it Igby?
Yeah! We felt like we had never played a last show, and at this point everybody in the band is getting along great; we all go see each other's bands . . . and free trip to California so . . . and [with] Snapcase who we really liked. So yeah, fuck it, let's do it. I think we all felt like we needed to play a last show in Seattle, but we were like, "Let's go to California."
Demian Johnston with Undertow at El Coazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
And then that summer you toured Europe. How did that happen?
I think both [California] bills were different, but both shows we played with Snapcase. Maybe Strife as well.
Yes. Strife definitely.
Played both shows?
I don't know. I went to the one in Hollywood. They played that one.
We played with Ignite, and they were going to Europe. I think their drummer and Murph became friends, and they were like, "Do you want to go to Europe? We know you're broken up." And we were like, "Well fuck it. We've never been to Europe and probably will never go, so why not? I want to see Europe." Everybody in the band is getting along, we don't have to write new music. There's no reason to not go. So we did it and it was fucking horrible.
What was horrible about it?
I don't think that anybody got along with Ignite. Everybody in Undertow I think got along with one member, but not the same member.
Yeah. Those guys were like college dudes. They were all from the scene, but we were on a totally different page, and nobody got along morally or ethically or anything. I think their drummer quit twice. They got in fights every night. We were on a bus and they treated it like they were fucking Mötley Crüe. Everybody was there to see Ignite and they were like, "Who is this fucking Undertow band?" The reception wasn't well . . .
John and Mark with Undertow at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
Because they had already been to Europe.
Yeah, a bunch. And they were big in Europe, and they were a little bit more poppy than us. And then we would open up for them. The reception wasn't well except for the people who knew who we were. We should have been on a different tour. We should have been out with a hardcore band, not Ignite. And just nobody got along.
You're trying to say Ignite ain't a hardcore band?
Not in my eyes. They served a purpose, but in '95 you're playing what you did in fucking '86. I think they were more a pop punk band than they were a fucking hardcore band.
What gnarly shit did those guys do on that tour?
Oh man. I don't even want to say. It was fist fights. It was what I imagine a fraternity being like. Dudes spraying themselves with whipped cream and climbing into your fucking bunk naked. One member of the band bet us to see how many grapes he could stick up his ass and got up to nine, and only eight came back out.
Oh my god!
One member of the band tried to stick an orange up his ass, and there's money involved. He was like, "I want to get this money," so one of the other members then proceeded to push the orange up his ass with the heel of his foot, and the orange broke open and all the citric acid went up in this guy's anus. For days he'd be like "my ass is still..." (laughter) Edit that as you see.
It will not be edited. [Some Ignite tour stories were actually edited out per Mark’s request – Ben]
God bless those guys. If you like Ignite, you like them. My experience with them was I liked one member, I was mildly okay with another member, but it was just MADNESS. It was madness man. It was what a fraternity was like, and to me that's not hardcore.
I've heard other stories regarding them on that tour that also involved anal pranks, if you will. I'm sure there were plenty.
Yeah it was being in a fraternity.
Ryan Murphy sets up the drums with Undertow at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
Tell me if you recall this. Someone told me this a long time ago. Maybe you were there. One of them lit his own pubic hair on fire and turned the lights out in someone's house. Might not have been Europe.
They definitely lit their pubes on fire. I haven't thought about that in a while.
And then one of them defecated on a girl’s car as she was trying to start it and get away from them. Know anything about that?
Could be. I know there was a guy [with] a girl in the mud. He came back after playing a show, and I think we were in Germany somewhere, came back out of a field covered in fucking mud." And then he came back and asked everybody if they wanted to fight. Just out of fun. He wanted to fight, and everybody in Undertow was like, "Nope. We are cool." And their roadie was like, "Yeah I'll fight you." Just out of fun. And he proceeded to beat the shit out of this fucking roadie. Boxing, fistfight, it wasn't like he was on the ground kicking him. Hit him a good six or seven times in the face. His face was swollen for days.
And then Undertow broke up for good when you got back from Europe, as a real functioning band.
Yeah. Everybody in the band was getting along great, especially because we didn't like the guys in Ignite, so everybody in the band was getting along great. Murph really wanted to move to the east coast, which I guess we'll get to, but everybody was in transition, and was like, "This is great that we're all still friends, but let's do our own thing."
Around this time, I guess at the end of that year, you moved to New York City.
Well Murph actually moved to New York. We met Shift on tour. I guess we're getting into that phase.
You met Shift on what tour?
Europe. We were supposed to do a U.S. tour with them, but this was a time when we didn't know if we were still a band or not. We were thinking about getting back together, but thought we shouldn't. And then we played shows with Shift in Europe. Two shows I think? Might have been three. I was a huge Shift fan, so I became friends with Josh [Loucka, Shift singer/guitarist] pretty quick, I guess. And then when we came back, Sam [Maloney, Shift drummer] quit. In the European tour she said when she gets back, she's done doing the band. So Norm from Texas Is The Reason calls me and says, "Hey, I heard Murph is moving to the east coast. Do you think he'd want to play for Shift?" I called Murph and told him, "Here's a free trip to New York. You can stay on the east coast." So Murph took it, did a U.S. tour with Texas Is The Reason and Shift. And Sam I think at this point said she wanted back in the band. And Murph was like, "I don't want to be in this band." So it was mutual. I think the whole time Murph was like, "If you guys need another guitar player, Mark will fucking move out in a second. He loves you guys." So Murph hooked me up. So I moved to New York. Josh called me, and said I had about a week to decide. I think it was the end of January. So I moved to New York, February 1 .
John with an Undertow sing along at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb
Such a classic video, looked like a hell of a fun time to film. I never particularly loved the song, didn't hate it, but the video clearly makes up for any shortcomings that the actual song might have. If this video doesn't make you want to pull out the old wood and wheels, I don't know what will. -Tim DCXX