Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shaun Sheridan - The Anthrax

A few years back, I did a fanzine called Impact with Pete Russo. Out of all the material we compiled, what I liked the most was a piece in the second issue that covered the history of The Anthrax in Connecticut. While I am sure some people have seen that issue, I figured others hadn't, and I thought it would be cool to reprint some material from that piece up here on Double Cross.

To kick things off, this is the first part of a multi-part interview I did
with Shaun Sheridan, who ran The Anthrax with his brother Brian.

-Gordo DCXX

The idea behind The Anthrax...well, as far as concepts, around NYC there's always been after-hours clubs, the bar is open until 4am or you know the bartender. You could always find a place to hang out for a couple of hours until the trains started running again, when you didn't feel like coming home, but it wasn't really common out in California. I was out there in '81 or '82, for like 5 or 6 months. I ended up seeing a lot of different shows, just for the sheer magnitude of seeing the first Bad Brains show where there was 2-3,000 people, whereas they had been playing little places in NYC, like CBGB would have been a big gig, but this had a bunch of other cool bands on it.

So anyways, I saw a bunch of shows out there, and after this particular show at the Cafe Le Grande, I met this guy who was a doorman and I heard about an after hours club out in Hollywood, that's where I was at the time, and it was really hard to get into, but this guy who did the door at another place was able to get my girlfriend and I in. It was setup as an art gallery, and every week they'd have a different opening or a record release party, just something that was happening, to celebrate and have people there until all hours, they were open past 1 am. And it was $5 to get in, free jukebox, they sold drinks... people were there from all the different bands, FEAR and whatnot.

When I got back from California I brought it up to my brother, thought it was a cool idea, to have aspace that was a gallery and was able to pretty much have people in there all hours of the night, under the guise of a "gallery," and well, how do you exactly define a "gallery?" My brother was an artist in NYC, went to Pratt Institute, so it kind of made sense to him, like, "What the hell, we both live with our parents in a little suburban nightmare." There was nothing going on, so we could at least go see if there was any kind of place out there, a store-front that we could rent for under $400 a month. So we just kind of worked on the place and eventually learned more about doing it.

This was in Stamford, CT. This was my brother, myself, and a friend, John Coletti, who does Dumpster Dive Fanzine, he was pretty much the only other guy as into the bands as we were. We were all listening to different college radio stations, picking up something that looked good in a record store that we hadn't even heard but that was, sometimes, the fun of it. We would pretty much sit around there, drink beers, play the stereo real loud and we had a roll-down gate, so it was pretty much having a place to hang out and party but we did actually open it up to audiences as a gallery for some of the students my brother knew.

This was August of '82 if I remember correctly. We had two bands play, one was The Mouglies from Seattle, whose drummer had also been an artist, and Jim Basnieth, a legend for the pop songs he writes now. We picked the name "The Anthrax" from the Gang of Four song, "Love Like Anthrax," because at that time we thought they were a totally rockin' band. We figured we'd run through the dictionary and find out what the hell this thing is, because we kind of knew, but didn't. We thought it was pretty punk rock, not all that appealing, but it was contagious. The only other name we kind of leaned towards was "STP" because we were all big racing fans at the time, into hot rods and drag racing, and all that.

You know, there was really nothing else to do. You could go to the bars and see some really, really lame cover bands. It was just more to do something, not "If we do this, this will happen or that will happen." Before the first gallery opening, me and my brother were sitting around in the basement, having a beer, and we kind of looked around at the space down there, meanwhile you had the space upstairs that you worked your ass off to keep clean, though it was never all that nice to begin with. There's a lot space down here, so I asked him "Could you imagine bands playing down here?"

After the first time, we wound up getting friendly with different people up around Bridgeport, Joey Diaz from Lost Generation, and we started realizing there were local bands playing, different people putting on shows and things, so we started meeting more people, and we started saying "Hey, we've got this space, we open up at 1 o'clock, and it's just $5 and everybody will be able to drink" and they thought that was a great thing. It was kind of a word-of-mouth, we did some small runs of flyers, but pretty much told people "If you don't want to see people from your school, or those you work with here next week, then don't tell them about it, keep your mouth shut and enjoy yourself."

At that point there were so few punk rockers, or people like that, you just kind of had things develop. Someone would meet someone, and people had heard about it, but they weren't there right away, and now in the heart of downtown Stamford, you don't want to attract attention. People were able to drink as long as they kept it inside, it was much more of a party atmosphere. The idea of seeing people have fun, being able to see bands play, in addition to having a fridge full of beer, that looked good to you.

We'd do something at the first place in Stamford every couple of weeks. It was one of those things that when we closed, in December '82, and I left January 1st to head out to Utah, to start school in Salt Lake, we had given up the place, we knew it was going to be month-to-month, it was a place he had trouble renting at the time. So we always said "no hard feelings," which kind of worked out because over the winter time, my brother started going to shows at Pogo's and continued to see people we met and found that people really missed it and said "Well, why don't you do something like that again?"

I had moved into a fraternity house out there where I really didn't know anybody. It was a decent scene, people had a reason to get to know me and at least I had a roof over my head, it wasn't expensive, I had a kitchen at my disposal and all that shit. But, you move to a different city, and you don't know anybody and it pretty much sucks. Especially, in Salt Lake at the time. There was a very underground scene that had started, but it had gotten broken up. It was kind of interesting how I was out there at the time it was kind of burgeoning around the country. People out there got into the touring thing, like Stephen and Carl from The Descendants are both friends of mine from Salt Lake, this coast to coast scene had developed. You could do a show, like some people did basement shows or parties, but no one wants to have their parents' house wrecked. But there wasn't that many people that lived there, centrally, that you could really do a place.

So it was kind of cool that we had a place [in CT] and what happened was, we put on a benefit in April, I actually came back for that. People had talked to my brother, he had gotten in touch with the landlord, because it was still downtown Stamford and he still kept an eye on things. He found that a place in the same complex, twice the size, was going to be vacated. So my brother asked "What's the deal? How much is rent? etc..." We kind of figured, "hey, let's give it a go!"

The whole thing behind it for my brother and I was this thing we had seen in an English-punk, glossy-book, sort of thing, a picture of Johnny Rotten, saying "If what I'm doing doesn't make you wanna do something too, then I'm wasting my time." We really took that to heart, we thought we at least need to make an effort. We know there's something out there. We're people that have always dug music, but we never played, we don't sing, we don't dance, but there's got to be fans! Everyone has different levels, they see a band, buy a bunch of records, eventually work their way into playing... the cool thing was, a lot more people got back into the idea that you could play in a band, just pick up an instrument...and that was catching on everywhere.

Actually, it wasn't like any particular town had any more than another, it was almost like a few people here, a few people there, some high school age, some college age, some older guys who were music fans who figured it was an extension of the New York Dolls, who had no problem embracing The Ramones and Television, and all that other stuff. When the hardcore thing started kicking in, not everyone was like "Rah!Rah! That's the greatest music in the world!" It was still the younger people into that, just a sense of something that's yours, or that people your age created, and that you could hang out and talk to them.

I didn't have, honestly, that much time to buy records... I probably didn't even know who Minor Threat was until I got out to Salt Lake City, and then they ended up playing the basement of my fraternity house. That was about the time I started to learn more about the DC scene. When I was living out there in California, that was about the time Rollins had moved out of DC to take up with Black Flag. The first time I laid eyes on him was The Misfits show, at TheWhiskey-Go-Go show, and he got up on stage and did three songs, and it was definitely a cool and interesting thing to see. So that's when I started to notice more about the DC scene...I realized I had seen more than that over the years, but you don't realize who anybody is. They're other punk rockers, but you don't know if there from this area or that. It was kind of just coming to the forefront, in Las Angeles with FEAR especially, because of the whole Saturday Night Live thing, which a whole bunch of DC people were in the audience for. That was one of the more ground breaking things. John Belushi was really into FEAR and thought the whole hardcore and punk thing was the coolest thing he'd seen in ages.

With the second Stamford club, at that point there were so many bands calling that wanted to play, with more bands coming through, they'd play on Monday night, Tuesday night, but during the summer it didn't matter. That's when we opened. I actually came back with one of my fraternity brothers in his little diesel pickup, drove east, and I was there for the opening show. It was kind of interesting I left at the end of December/beginning of January, I'm out there, made one trip east for Minor Threat, then it's like a day or two later, I went east for the weekend to take care of business, work on the benefit and also see a bunch of bands. That was the benefit that Moby's band Awol played, and Rick Rubin's band Hose played. It got busted up by the cops and Moby wound up under the stage.

Moby at the time was real into Orange County hardcore and punk, he's somebody that went through musical phases. He went into the post-punk thing with Awol, Mission of Burma, that kind of influence. He was also real into that and even started DJing before anyone was even near that shit. He can play everything. He used to watch the gallery, and when bands would play, he'd go down and play all their instruments. He had his guitar, he could play Jim's bass, he could play Chip's drums and would try different heads and see all the sounds he could get. It was a cool thing for him and for us. It only took a week or so, after school had let out, to have the first show, to clean up the basement, set up the PA or whatever.

The bands that played a lot were definitely CIA and Lost Generation, Seizure once they got going...I remember their first big show was after they opened for The Dickies, the first time we had them. That was our first "big band," where we had a contract and we said "Hey, we get 100% at the door!" They didn't care, they just wanted to be close to NYC to take care of their drug habits. They were in Buffalo, their next show was in Ohio, so they were like "sure, we'll come down" only to make like $26. But they were really great guys and we did everything we could to "rock star" them, all their rider stuff, their donuts and coffee, my mom made them sandwiches and stuff. They were real happy being treated nice.


1 comment:

jsn $#!T#E@D said...

i missed all of the stamford years of the anthrax. so that was great to read. would love to hear the rest. the norwalk years, and from there to the brothers taking over THE BEAT a bar in portchester, ny. gimmie more! my first show was at the norwalk ANTHRAX...DESCENDENTS & M.I.A.