Sunday, January 31, 2010

Matt Henderson - Blind Approach / Agnostic Front part II

Blind Approach pose on the roof of a garage, 1988, Photo courtesy of: Matt Henderson

DCXX contributor Nick Gregoire-Racicot brings us part two of his gigantic interview with Matt Henderson. Lots of Blind Approach material here, plenty more to come regarding Agnostic Front and Madball. -Gordo DCXX

Can you shed some light on the history of Blind Approach?

The band started with me and my friend Chip being two of the few punk rockers in our neighborhood in St. Paul, MN, with me playing guitar in my basement while he screamed with no microphone. Probably around 1984, I was 14 years old and we were called D.A.M.M (Drunks Against Mad Mothers). Eventually we met up with some guys from another neighborhood for the infamous “Punks vs. Rockers” battle (the meeting point was on a bridge – we the Punks had about 10 people and were between 12 and 16 years old – the Rockers had about 50 people and were grown men – bikers, etc., with weapons. When we saw these guys crossing the bridge we laughed and ran the fuck out of there. Our day would come later though…) and they had some instruments.

The original bass player we had was this preppy guy who was only doing it because he wanted to be in “a band” and would just get drunk and never tried to learn the songs. We kicked him out and I taught my best friend from grade school, Scott, on a cheap little Sears bass. The only thing he knew how to play was our songs in the beginning but he eventually got pretty good. The point was we didn’t set out to start a band and be serious – we were friends first and did it for the fun of it. We used to play house parties and most of the people there had nothing to do with any hardcore scene. Eventually we hooked up with some people in Minneapolis where there was a more established scene.

Hardcore in MN back then, what was it like?

Before Blind Approach started, the biggest local bands were Husker Du and the Replacements. Later the most popular “newer” style hardcore band before us was Outcry, who had kind of a “7 Seconds” thing going and I dug them. We started by opening for the older bands and at that time were still working out our style. Eventually the scene shifted and New York made a huge impact and we were starting to gain our popularity. We had a strong scene going for a while and had neighboring cities like Mankato, MN, Chicago and Omaha, NB in the mix.

A big deal in our scene was the constant beef between the Minneapolis Baldies, the anti-racist skinhead crew that Blind Approach was aligned with, and the white power crew out of St. Paul, who eventually became Bound For Glory. Because we were from St. Paul we knew all of those knuckleheads but didn’t realize they were actually white power until we started hanging out in Minneapolis and lines had to be drawn. The Minneapolis scene in a lot of ways reminded me of New York where you had a mix of kids from an urban background at shows which was a multi-racial group and a lot were there because they were neighborhood kids hanging out and not actually “hardcore” kids. And with all of that there was the potential for beef, violence, etc., and white power skinheads were definitely not welcomed.

Eventually those guys stopped trying to come around and stayed in their little corner of St. Paul. At our peak, Blind Approach was selling out the 7th St. Entry, the smaller room associated with First Ave., with about 500 people packed into that little room and those shows were amazing. When the bigger national bands came around we would open and play the main room with about 1,100 people in the crowd.

Blind Approach, 1988, Photo courtesy of: Matt Henderson

Any memorable shows (CBGB’s, The Anthrax)?

We played a lot of shows, and eventually we became “the MN band” at one point so if we weren’t headlining a show we were opening for every band that came through. In 1987/88 we played a few times with the Cro-Mags, Youth Of Today, and did a Midwest stretch with Warzone and those are only some I can remember. And we didn’t just play the shows, we all hung out and got to be pretty good friends with everybody in those bands. I remember sitting in a bar in NYC when I first moved there w/ Petey Hines of the Cro-Mags and we were talking about the Blind Approach days. He always said he “felt like he discovered me.”

There are a lot of memorable shows for different reasons. We played a show at this warehouse in Chicago with Warzone and it got raided by a SWAT team and got shut down before anyone even played. The local skins had a hang out called the “Hell House” and so we all headed over to the other side of town. I think it was a squat and I know that we had to break a door down to get in to the place. Warzone setup their gear and played w/ no PA – Raybeez actually played drums for a few songs – while everyone partied.

Chicago had a rough scene back then and there were a lot of fights. The best one I remember was between two girls – one of which had a cast on her arm and was beating the other girl in the head with it. We were counting on the money for that gig for our gas to get home but didn’t get paid because we never played so we were sweating a little bit. Raybeez actually passed a bucket around for people to donate and handed us the cash. Raybeez R.I.P.

Later when I got to know Chris Garver in NYC I learned that he lived in Chicago for a while and was at that same party.

Ultimately Chip was able to reach out to everybody we became friends with and managed to book our first tour in the summer of 1988 and got us all the way out to New York. In those days we didn’t know shit about booking agents or club promotion. We bought a used Ford van, ripped the back benches out and built a bed and a place where gear and bags could go underneath. No hotels, we stayed at people’s houses. We played in a log cabin in Charelston, West Virginia with NOFX. We played Allentown, PA with Warzone and it was FILLED with Nazi skinheads – no beef but it was tense.

We eventually made it to the Anthrax in CT and it was on the same day that AF recorded the live record at CBGBs – nobody was in CT that day for us. The tour ended at CBGB’s to play with Nausea, which had Amy, the mother of Roger’s first daughter Nadia, on vocals. We had a connection there because there was this “crust punk” band Misery from Minneapolis that we played local shows with all of the time and they were tight w/ Nausea. So we were these young kids from St. Paul, MN playing CBGBs on our first tour and Roger was standing pretty much in front of the stage for most of the show. He came up afterwards and introduced himself and we talked for a while. It was cool.

Less than a year later we wound up heading back to the Anthrax to play a benefit for Roger and Amy when Roger got locked up and we got put up at their place in Staten Island. That was a big show w/ Slapshot as the headliners.

Blind Approach released two seven inches. Can you talk about them and the sound you were going for?

The first seven inch was recorded in the 16-track studio at my High School. We got the OK to use it for free after hours. The sound we were going for was the best sound we could get out of a 16 track studio at a high school. At that time we were all over the place w/ influences from AF, Cro-Mags, Metallica, GBH, and some great lesser known bands that would come through our town like Beyond Possession and the Stretch Marks (Canada). In 1986 “punk” was phasing out, hardcore was the shit and cross-over w/ metal was just starting so it was pretty exciting and we were right there with it.

Things moved fast in those days and by the time we did the second 7” the NYHC thing was really starting to kick in, along with the “sneaker skin” style, which was shaved heads and flight jackets but wearing Air Jordan’s instead of Doc’s. Cro-Mags and AF of course, but Warzone’s “Don’t Forget The Struggle..” was HUGE that summer. Boston had Slapshot with “Step On It” and Youth Of Today, even though I wasn’t a huge fan musically, had a huge influence on style, lyrics, etc. (a lot of people thought Blind Approach was straight-edge because Chip wrote straight-edge “like” lyrics, but trust me, we were NOT – not that there is anything wrong with that…). We recorded that and mixed it in one night at this well known indie-rock studio in Minneapolis. It was cool.

Agnostic Front in Argentina, 1992, Photo courtesy of: Matt Henderson

What happened to the band? From what I understand there was a lot of hype around the band and you guys broke up…

Eventually I decided to leave MN for Boston to go to school and that was it. I’m proud of what we did back then but it definitely had its moment and was not meant to go on any further. We were young kids doing it because we loved hardcore and were doing it at a time when the scene was really young and strong. Trying to make it into anything more would have been stupid and taken away from what we had done in my opinion.

Matt and Roger with Agnostic Front, 1991, Photo courtesy of: Matt Henderson

I always heard that you went to school for music. Can you tell us more about your experience there and how it shaped you as a musician? What did you learn there that you could not learn anywhere else? What could a musician never learn there?

I went to Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. All I knew how to do since being a kid was play music, and I thought that’s what I would do forever. And once I heard that you could go to college for it, I figured that was what I needed to do. I went there for a semester and a half in 1989-90 and then got a call from Roger to join AF, tour Europe and write and record with them. Before that call I was in the mindset of ‘I’ve probably already done everything I can do with hardcore’ but I wasn’t expecting to get that opportunity, so I left school.

When AF originally broke up in ’93 I decided to go back and finish the degree because I didn’t know what else to do and I had already started it. In the end I got a bachelors degree in Music, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. If you want to be a musician, learn your instrument any way you can and network with other musicians. The "music industry” does not give a shit if you have a degree, so college for music is kind of a joke. My goal was to master the guitar and study recording/engineering, but again, if you want to become an engineer I suggest you bypass going to a 4 year college and become an intern at a studio in your area. You will learn much more and it won’t cost as much.

Matt and Stigma with AF, 1990, Photo courtesy of: Matt Henderson

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howie Abrams - In-Effect Records part III

Howie Abrams drops a NYHC bomb with more cool material in his ongoing interview! -Gordo DCXX

Do you view any of the In-Effect releases as being part of distinct eras? (I.E. early releases, later releases, etc.). What is your overall favorite In-Effect project/record? Any you wish you got to do that didn't work out?

I don't really associate any of the releases with any specific eras; especially considering not everything we did could be considered "hardcore." Generally speaking, I think our timing was good with regard to the bands we signed. For instance, SOIA, Killing Time and Madball clearly benefited from coming out AFTER the Agnostic Front album and the Bad Brains CD. We advertised the upcoming releases by the younger bands inside the veteran bands' albums, so that helped a ton.

Further to that, I think a band like 24-7 Spyz benefited from being associated with all of these bands. They were sort of a fish out of water musically and the NYHC scene helped give them an identity. They opened for every other In-Effect band at one point or another before they released Harder Than You. It's crazy because when we signed them, we didn't view them as a HC band at all, but the scene kind of adopted them for a while. Later on, they became more closely associated with bands like Fishbone and the Chili Peppers, which was a more natural fit and made more sense.

Then you have a band like Scatterbrain, which was basically HC vets Ludichrist with a new name. In fact, when they began recording their first album for us, they were still Ludichrist. Basically, 3/5 of their line-up had changed and so did their sound. Aside from the fact that a number of retailers were actually offended by their name and wouldn't carry their records, which is still insane to me, they just became a different band, so...they literally became a DIFFERENT band.

As far as stuff I wish we could have done, we were actually turned down by Vision and also Leeway. We had an opportunity to buy out Profile Records' deal with Leeway and the band wanted an advance that seemed way out of whack. We were about to spend a lot just to get the rights to Born To Expire and were in no position to throw a bunch of money to the band on top of that. It sucked because we all loved them, but we couldn't make it happen. I also really wanted to sign Primus, but there was a pretty outrageous bidding war for the band and we certainly weren't going to be winning any bidding wars against the major labels.

We were at some point in 1990 in negotiations with Gorilla Biscuits, but they wound up breaking up, so obviously that was disappointing. However, Quicksand was born, so I can't complain. One little known fact about IE is that we actually signed Murphy's Law to the label and were going to release The Best of Times album. However, at some point around the time of the recording, the decision by the MAN was to discontinue In-Effect, so the album was eventually released on Relativity, as was SOIA's Just Look Around after I was gone. Sony bought the whole company and folded everything into Columbia and Epic. Buh-bye In-Effect.

While it's tough to say what my overall favorite In-Effect project was, since you're putting me on the spot, I'll have to say it was working with Sick Of It All. Those guys were just fucking great in every way. As people, as a band, their work ethic, their loyalty and appreciation for what you did for them... I can't say enough good things. All they wanted to do was record and play shows for a living and guess what... They're STILL doing that! There's a reason they've been able to do so while so many others haven't.

In-Effect got swept up into a whirlwind debate within HC based on some major label/distribution ties, and many people were very vocal on either side. What were your thoughts then? Who was right and wrong, and what do you make of it looking back now?

Ah yes - the EVIL In-Effect Records... It really started with some of the guys in Born Against and some of their cronies from ABC NO RIO having an axe to grind with Sick Of It All based on things they THOUGHT they knew about them and the label. They basically were calling SOIA sell-outs and saying In-Effect was "big business" that was ruining hardcore and a lot more. Are you fucking kidding me??? They even went so far as to create an anti-SOIA/In-Effect flier and were distributing it in NYC and ripping all of us in various fanzines etc. Needless to say, none of us were too thrilled; especially Pete and Lou Koller. I mean here are these guys judging others from afar, without any facts to back up anything they were saying. They were simply a bunch of holier-than-thou pricks trying to get their "keepin' it real" PC stripes.

I don't mind boycotts or protests of any kind, but at least know what the hell you're fighting against. They were looking inside other people's pockets and complaining about how SOIA was handling their business, which I can say without hesitation, was as pure as pure can be. They (the pricks) didn't realize they were fucking with some hard-working people's livelihoods and I don't know anyone who would tolerate that. For the record, In-Effect and it's parent company were 100% independent, with no major label affiliation whatsoever while this was going down. As far as these guys were concerned, their thoughts were fact and I have no idea where they got their information from. In reality, when Sony DID eventually buy the company, they threw us out the building as fast as they could!

As for the NYU "debate" - that was just stupid. Pete and Lou wanted no part of it, but felt backed into a corner so they agreed to take part. What you heard was basically a handful of idealistic, ignorant kids throwing unfounded allegations at people who just wanted to play in a hardcore band; reach as many kids as possible with their music and not have to wear suits. That's the gist of it really. People can judge for themselves who "won," but nobody won anything. Those ABC NO RIO kids made idiots of themselves in my opinion by directly challenging one of the most respected group of individuals around, in order to make some sort of name for themselves.

I stand by everything we did as a label and know we were as thoughtful as possible when it came to every decision we made. You can't please everyone, but we NEVER screwed over ANYONE! To this day, I've still never met any of those guys who hated In-Effect so much. Hopefully, they're doing productive things with their lives. Again, if they had issues with us, cool. I'm fine with them stepping up and voicing their opinions, but they were so off-base that listening to it's just dumb. If I still had the label I'd put the debate out as a 7".

Howie and crew on the set of the 24-7 Spyz video shoot
, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams

Tell us about the In-Effect video. Whose idea, how did it all work out, where was the interview footage shot, and what was the goal of the video? Funny memories or stories, any good outtake footage still in existence?

The video was a lot of work and a lot of fun to put together. I'm not sure where the idea came from to tell you the truth, but I think a bunch of us (including the bands) felt that so much had changed with the scene in NY by that time ('90/'91) that there needed to be some sort of time-capsule to remember it by. Some of those who were interviewed touched upon it (increased violence at shows, fewer small shows, apathetic kids...). George Seminara, who directed it, had done a number of videos for us, including the AF "Anthem" clip and the SOIA "Injustice System" video and we felt that he would know how best to capture the whole thing. We thought it was really important to interview as many people from the scene as possible and let them speak for themselves. None of them were really ever given that type of forum before, so we knew it would be tremendous...and it was.

For me the best part of making the whole thing was doing the interviews. Most of them, many in the same day, were done in an editing suite at the production company's offices. All of them were fucking great, but only a fraction of what was shot made it onto the final video. The interview with Harley and Jimmy Gestapo is one of the best things I've ever been involved with. It's common knowledge what characters they both are, but to have been able to put them together on a couch for 2 hours and ask them whatever I wanted to was priceless! Absolutely priceless! I never thought anyone could dwarf Harley in terms of sheer presence and charisma, but Jimmy just killed it! He had tons to say and made some great points as only Jimmy could.

There's so much incredible interview footage no one has ever seen, plus we have all 3 bands' entire sets filmed and edited. George and I reconnected recently and we're exploring the possibility of putting it out on DVD with shitloads of extra footage. I swear - I want to put the entire Jimmy and Harley interview on there somehow. It truly amazes me how bootlegged that video became, but that's what Relativity gets for dropping the ball so badly. If kids want something, you can't stop them from getting it. Hopefully we'll be able to follow-through with our idea to re-release it.

Howie Hangin' with The Straw Dogs and Anthrax, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sammy Siegler dips into his collection

Youth Crew drummer extraordinaire Sammy Siegler is selling off some classic items and we are giving you first crack before they hit Ebay. Just when you thought your 401(k) was safe... -Gordo DCXX

The drum set is a 60's Slingerland, belongs to my Dad, I used it for all my gigs before getting a Yamaha in '88, it's great. It was tossed by Cappo a few times, much to my Dad's disgust, but not injured. It can come with cymbals, stands and cases, or not.

The Chung King Can Suck It is #33.
The No For An Answer and Side By Side are both test pressings.
The Project X and everything else are all super rare originals.
The Ol Dirty Bastard shirt was a gift I got at a show, and is super cool and rare to anyone who is a fan.
The record on I Risk is a first pressing Straight Ahead record.
The Side By Side shirt is one of about 20, made by our bassist Billy.
I could go on and on...

Contact me regarding this at or wait until it's up on Ebay.
Thanks -Sammy

Monday, January 25, 2010

Matt Henderson of Blind Approach / Agnostic Front / Madball

Vinny and Matt in Europe with AF, 1990, all photos courtesy of: Matt Henderson

DCXX gladly accepts solid guest contributions.

Here's one we really dig - Nick Gregoire-Racicot from Ottawa caught up with Matt Henderson, guitarist from Blind Approach, Agnostic Front, and Madball. I'm not sure we ever would have caught up with Matt on our own, and this is some serious NYHC information and history here from a guy who grew up a huge AF fan in the mid-west, finding himself playing in the band a few years later.

Super cool and massive interview with tons to come, so stay tuned. Big thanks to Nick and Matt! -Gordo DCXX

11 years old in my first band, playing for some outdoor party at my grade school.

What are you up to these days? How’s life on the West Coast ? What keeps you busy?

I am married and the proud father of two boys, Tanner (4) and Riley (2). Working and taking care of those two basically takes up all of my time, but it’s great. Southern California is cool. I’m not passionate about it, but my wife and I moved here from NYC to be near family and start our own. We just finally bought a house and it’s all good.

Do you miss playing music? What do you miss the most? What don’t you miss?

I definitely miss playing music. I only started feeling that way recently though. I was a little bitter for a while and didn’t even want to touch my guitar after I quit playing in Madball, not because of the band but because of all of the nonsense that comes along with trying to make a living as a musician. What I miss most is playing music and getting enjoyment out of just that and not worrying about any bullshit. What I don’t miss is being forced to travel and to try and make enough to pay the bills.

Me in my punkrock/pre-skinhead days.

Any projects going on?

None at the moment, but I want to try and get something started. I’ve been talking to a few people but everybody I want to work with is just as busy as I am so it’s hard to get it going. We’ll see...

How did you get into HC?

I got into hardcore at the very early stages when it still had a lot of punk influence. When I was a little kid in the 70’s I was a HUGE Kiss fan and I was used to listening to ‘harder’ sounding music because of it. People would always tell me how much Kiss sucked, and they all listened to Styx or Supertramp and those bands sounded weak to me, so punk and its ‘fuck you’ attitude was a natural transition.

Plus, I have parents from the sixties with a Mom who really did protest in the streets and called bullshit when she saw it, and a Dad who liked music that was genuine and steered away from the mainstream crap.

All of that led me into punk and by the time I really started to join in, it was around ’82-’83 and bands like Black Flag, Agnostic Front, Bad Brains and Minor Threat were defining the newer generation which was true hardcore, a separation from punk.

If not the first, the second show we played at 7th Street Entry before we knew anybody in Minneapolis. I had just turned 16.

So which came first in your universe: metal or hc/punk?

Well, the classic rock that I was exposed to by my dad came first like Led Zeppelin, The Who, Deep Purple, etc. Then there was Kiss, so I liked metal but I was never a ‘metalhead.' Then once I got into punk rock in ’82-’83 and had a mohawk every metalhead in my town wanted to beat my skinny-little-kid ass so I hated metalheads, and metal.

Hardcore was talking about real shit and metal was either a bunch of dudes wearing women’s makeup and singing about love or Satan. So punk/hc was first for me. After I became a skinhead in ’86 and the tables turned a little and I had a crew that could compete with the metalheads, I could tolerate metal a little more, but I still thought it was corny. I couldn’t get into the ‘666’ ‘bow down to Satan’ bullshit. I didn’t start really getting into Slayer until ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ which is a record most Slayer fans hate.

A flyer for a show that we threw by renting a YMCA in downtown St. Paul – the only way to get a show in St. Paul for us back then. We knew that there could be trouble and asked a friend of ours to handle security. He wrangled up a bunch of his East Side metalhead buddies that wound up trying to beatup everybody there.

What were your favorite bands back then, and where did did you draw influence from as an active musician (HC or not)?

My favorite bands as a young kid started in order like this: The Beatles>Kiss>Van Halen>Sex Pistols>Various Punk/early hardcore (GBH, Discharge, DKs, Black Flag, Jerry’s Kids, AF, Bad Brains, Misfits, Minor Threat, Negative Approach, etc.)>Cro-Mags>late NYHC (Killing Time, SOIA, Underdog, etc.). I hated metalheads for most of my younger punk/hardcore days, but Metallica were basically considered a punk band with long hair. They were the shit back then too.

As a whole I’ve always loved all kinds of music from classic rock to blues, jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop, which I think helped shape me as a musician overall, but for influence on the bands I played in it would have to be early punk/hardcore like the bands I mentioned above, and early Metallica. Later influences were definitely AF, Cro-Mags, Killing Time and Obituary (Cause Of Death is a damn good record and their live show back in the day was the shit).

Some skateboard event that let us play on Lake Calhoun in Mpls.

Did you realize that you were a part of a movement (hc, punk or straight edge) or was it something else?

I definitely realized that HC was a movement and that was part of the attraction. Like I said, in my town, St. Paul, MN, there was a lot of fucked up white trash that thought Motley Crue was the shit and they could not deal with me and my punk rock friends. They would call us ‘fags’ and we were like ‘have you looked at those pictures of Vince Neil and Tommy Lee??? Those dudes are wearing lipstick and fishnets and we are the fags??’ Plus, listen to Minor Threat or AF and tell me that is not way tougher than ‘Too Young to Fall in Love’ or some other bullshit metal song.

Eventually after the Cro-Mags hit MN all the metalheads were jocking us and our scene. And as a movement, because we as punk/hc dudes were a minority we had to stick together, and we did. You could go to any city in the country back in the day and when you found a group of guys that dressed like you, you knew you were brothers. You knew that you got into the music for the same basic reasons and had the same experiences. It was cool.

Just hanging out in Mpls.

Any shows that stand out in your mind from back then?

Shows that stand out for me (in no real order):

1. GBH headlining with the Cro-Mags opening at First Avenue in Mpls, MN, 1986. I was a real big GBH fan and even had the big bleached spiked hair. I recognized the name Cro-Mags on the flyer because I had just seen the Donahue show on TV a few weeks earlier doing a special on punk/hardcore in NYC and Harley and John were interviewed. I figured they were an Oi band because they were skinheads and Oi wasn’t really my thing at the time so I didn’t think much of them being on the bill.

I walked into the club and those dudes were killing it on stage! It was the first time I had heard a hardcore band play with the precision of a metal band and sound really pro. Plus, their energy on stage was unreal. I remember about 1100 people being pretty shocked at this, including me. Harley would say things in between songs like ‘This next song goes out to all you motherfuckers with looks on your faces like you don’t know what’s going on. You must be havin’ some kinda ‘MALFUNCTION.' I shaved my head about a week later.

2. The Dead Kennedys and Husker Du at the St. Paul, MN Armory. 1985. My first big show. There were A LOT of people there and I was still a young kid. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my ass kicked or not, but that was what made it exciting.

Black Flag on the ‘Slip it In’ Tour, First Avenue. 1985. I was a huge fan, but more of their earlier shit like Nervous Breakdown and Damaged. I watched Henry Rollins on stage with this long greasy hair and the band played this slow, boring shit. A real disappointment and the first time I realized that I didn’t have to like it just because it was hardcore.

I mentioned the 1986 show where the Cro-Mags played MN for the first time and it blew everyone away. We got to share the stage with them the next year and it was a damn good time playing and hanging with those guys for both the full attendance Matinee and the later “Drunk Show” with almost no one there but the bands and Joan Jett in the audience. Scott and I ditched the last half of highschool the next day to drive 5 hours to Milwaukee, WI and catch their show and the band took us in, shared their backstage and food with us, etc. That was also a great show and a good memory.

4. Agnostic Front on the Liberty And Justice For...tour, some suburb of Chicago 1988 – same summer that ‘Live at CBGB’s’ was released. For some reason AF never made it to my hometown in MN until after I joined the band, and me and my friends were all big fans since we were little punk rockers listening to Victim in Pain. In 1988 we were all skinheads and the place was packed with skins from all over the mid-west. My friends from Mpls and most of the Chicago guys were the anti-racists, and the majority by far that night, but there was always a possibility of nazis rollin’ in.

Also, even though we all wanted to believe that Agnostic Front were not White Power, there were a lot of rumors out there and because we had never seen them live we were curious to see how the night was going to go. AF got up on stage and the first words out of Roger’s mouth were ‘this whole set goes out to all the anti-racist skinheads out there’ - and they kicked in with ‘Crucified’. The place went crazy. That was a damn good show.

Bad Brains on the I Against I tour at First Avenue 1987. Bands that played First Avenue used to do 2 shows in one day – the all-ages matinee in the afternoon, and the later ‘drunk’ show in the evening which would open up the bar and required everyone to be 21. For some reason the Bad Brains only had the ‘drunk’ show this time around.

First Avenue was cool with me and my friends because we knew the management and they would let us in as long as we had some type of legal guardian, so under short notice that night we convinced my father to come out with us. The place was not even half full so we had a good time down on the floor and my dad was able to sit comfortably and watch from the balcony. The band was amazing and my father dug it a lot. He actually owns two Bad Brains records now (vinyl of course).

This is the back of the Cro-Mags/BA flyer that shows the calendar for the month that includes the Bad Brains the week before, and Joan Jett the night before we played. At the end of the night that we played we were all winding down backstage and Chris Williamson, the Cro-Mags manager and Rock Hotel owner, came up to John and Harley and said “hey guys, there’s someone that wants to meet you.” So John and Harley headed out to the floor, and of course we followed, and there was Joan Jett. She shook their hands and said “You guys got real balls” and she put her hand out like she was holding a pair. Classic.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brett Beach on the Alone In A Crowd show

Jules takes a knee with Alone In A Crowd at The Anthrax while Brett gets down in the background, Photo courtesy of Lars Weiss

Some good Alone In A Crowd material lately. Hopefully it lures Jules in for an interview. Brett Beach recalls their one and only show... -Gordo DCXX

Friday November 25th (1988) at The Anthrax was one of the most anticipated shows I ever attended. Even the flyer had me psyched for the 3 hour drive with my crew at the time, Rob and Chris. I finished work around 5:30pm and went home to wait for them to pick me up. Rob was in Crucial Youth at the time and they were recording the Crucial Yule 7” that day. So I’m waiting and getting nervous. Finally I get a call around 6:30, they’re still recording “Christmastime for the Skins”, but it’s almost finished so they’ll be over soon. I was still nervous.

Finally they show up and we’re off to Connecticut. As it turned out they had two more songs to record, but Rob told them he had to leave to go see AIAC. Joe Crucial and Gentleman Jim were pissed, but Rob split anyway and that was his last official act as Ollie “ye Faithful” Grind.

I bought a red longsleeve Judge shirt and watched Chain tear the place up. I’m pretty sure this was the second time we had seen COS at The Anthrax in a week (!). Then it was time for AIAC. As they’re setting up I’m wondering, “Where’s Jules?” It seemed like he was out of sight at shows for a while. Did he have long hair now?

Finally they’re ready and Jules hits the stage, full of energy, wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up and a Judge shirt over it. They opened with “Is Anybody There?” and the place went nuts. Once that hood came off you could see Jules’ freshly bleached crew-cut. No long hair sellout!

Jules belts it out for Alone In A Crowd, Photo courtesy of Lars Weiss

Looking back, I know a lot of people already had copies of the 7” recording (but we did not) so that must have helped. The four songs off the 7” and the GI cover later and they were gone, never to hit the stage again.

After the set Chris and I caught up with Jules and asked if he’d do an interview for our zine (which never came out). He was real cool about it and we all went into the back room to ask some questions while Hogan’s played. That hard-hitting piece of journalism was finally printed in Hardware #5.

Do I even need to mention that Judge kicked ass?

*The Anthrax flyer has Jules' address and phone number written on the back!

More Jules, more Alone In A Crowd, Photo courtesy of Lars Weiss

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sick Of It All - "Injustice System"

By no means a new video here, but in my opinion, one hell of a classic well worth revisiting. I remember first seeing this pop up on Headbangers ball back in '89 and taping it to watch it over and over and over again. Back in '89 when my friends and I weren't at shows doing our stage dives, we'd all hang out at my parent's house, put on videos like this and dive like idiots on top of each other on the sofa. From that point on "Injustice System" easily became one of my favorite Sick Of It All songs. Those early '89 era Sick Of It All shows at City Gardens were just incredible, the band had and energy level that was almost unmatched and the crowd ate it up. Sick Of It All definitely raised the bar high for how a band's stage presence should be. At one point I'm sure I had done more stage dives during Sick Of It All sets than any other band of the time.

And for good measures, a little Sick Of It All footage from the Superbowl of Hardcore at the new Ritz in NYC, January 1991 off the In-Effect video. Now go G.I. Joe Headstomp through your Friday and into the weekend. -Tim DCXX

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gorilla Biscuits poll wrap up

Civ goes for a big dive at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno

Not surprisingly, Start Today took the first place position in this poll. That said, I was shocked by how clearly it was in fact the winner here. I went with the seven inch, and was surprised at how few were with me.

Allow me to dissect...

Start Today gets insane amounts of love from almost every sub-sub-sub-subgenre of the hardcore/punk scene. There's a good chance you can bump into a poser who is walking out of Hot Topic and he has at least heard of Start Today. In many ways it is still the record you can play for the funky girl you work with who lives on iTunes, loves "going to gigs," and shops exclusively at Urban Outfitters, but has never actually heard a hardcore band. The inverse of this of course, is that amongst many hardcore purists, it's considered a crap record that defined everything that was going terribly wrong with NYHC circa 1989.

For the record, I love it - but I understand the inclination for some of the criticisms. For one, it's a very digestable and 'pleasant' hardcore record of sorts - the appeal lies in the fact that it is very listener friendly and inclusive in a way that many of the contemporary Rev releases of the time are not. I don't think that was a contrived thing - I think it's just who the band was and how the songs came out. It's not trying to be "hard" - it isn't from "the street" - it doesn't have a "challenging" vibe - it isn't blatantly straight edge - and it seems to have at times some un-hardcore ambitions (i.e. harmonica, which I love by the way).

But somehow, Start Today works. And the whole package, right down to the colorful embossed cover and all the imagery, is catchy as hell.

Further, the production is nice and clear, it has lyrics that are inviting to all, and the music is well crafted melodic hardcore that fuses a bit of a NYC backbone with what I always perceived as California and DC pop sensibility. When I was 14 years old it at times felt like the greatest HC record of that era, and I would spend hours listening on repeat, studying the lyric sheet and photos, convinced that this was perfect and confused as to how it wasn't as popular as any Beatles album. (My enthusiasm would soon settle, but I still think it's a great record).

The GB 7" is a younger GB - raw, chaotic, funny, straight edge, but still kinda pissed and spazzy (as far as SE hardcore goes). The beauty of this record to me is how spontaneous and live it feels, even 22 years after its release. While the horn introduction to "New Direction" on the LP can still give me goosebumps at times, the bass intro of "High Hopes" just makes me want to start stage diving while peeling a banana.

The writing and arrangements of things is much more juvenile, and the fun and energy of it is really just contagious. You feel like you are just hanging on a corner in Astoria with your boys on a summer night without a worry in the world, being young and 'retarded' while this plays on someone's ghetto blaster. Right down to the cover art, to me this record has always said (in a really cool and sincere way): "YO!!! We are straight edge!!! But we can all hang out and mosh and go down to CB's together and everyone can come and then we can have a huge sleep over and drink tons of soda!!!" You listen to that record and instantly you are significantly younger.

GB will always carry a gigantic legacy and to me both are timeless records for their own reasons. But the EP is just a classic in a way so few records are, and that's why it got my vote.


Civ with Gorilla Biscuits at Club Unisound, Photo courtesy of Revelation Records

The man himself, Jordan Cooper, was kind enough to lend his thoughts and memories on GB and each of these records. Thanks Jordan!!!

No surprise that "Start Today" was the winner. The LP was amazing in so many ways that I didn't realize until I actually heard it the second time around and the layout was done. It seems like they always recorded at just the right time to capture the band's best songs as soon as they were ready. On both records, regardless of the age of the songs, they were done with the energy of new songs and the confidence of old ones. It's hard for me to name a favorite between the two.

To start with, the EP was really incredible. It was done right after the band really got a hold on its sound and personality; Walter's writing got more focused without losing the band's sense of humor, Civ found his signature vocal style and both Arthur and Luke were solid players. The label was brand new when the 7" came out so everything was a group effort and every step involved learning something. The 7" was the first time the Rev logo was used on a record. Billy's amazing artwork was on the cover. Alex was friends with them before joining the band and did the layout.

The LP was another turning point for the band and Walter. His songwriting got even better, the band was even more solid and the recording came out perfectly. I'm not sure of the exact sequence of events, but once they quit Chung King and went to Don Fury, everything went more smoothly. After the music tracks were finished, Walter went on tour to Europe with Youth Of Today while the vocals were getting done. As I remember it, everyone loved the record, but Walter wanted Civ to re-do the vocals. I'm not sure if the "Walter Sings" vocals were done before or after Civ's first tracks or after, but basically Walter had really specific ideas about how each line should be delivered. I went to the studio one of the days they were working on it and I couldn't believe how much work they were putting into every song. The amount of patience Civ, Walter and Don had was incredible and the effort that went in is the reason that record is so great.

Though I gave them a bunch of suggestions for artwork and packaging, Walter had his own vision for the package and worked with Dave Bett directly on the layout and I'm sure just as much effort went into that as every other part of the record. The one thing I suggested that they did do was the embossing on the covers. "Start Today" was a big step forward for the label too. This was the first full-length that I handled the production for on my own without the help of a distributor. It was also the first time we had enough money to pay for an album's recording and the first time we released a new record on CD at the same time the vinyl was done. - Jordan Cooper

Gorilla Biscuits - "Start Today" - 302
Gorilla Biscuits - 7" - 123

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hardcore Flyers

I've been collecting flyers forever, used to have all four walls of my bedroom covered in these things. Unfortunately after a couple of moves, the majority of my original flyers are in pretty beat shape. Thanks to Pat West from Change Fanzine, I've got a pile of cds full of scanned flyers. Eventually you'll be seeing a lot of those flyers hit DCXX, but for now, the flyers you're seeing here came from Facebook's Old School Hardcore group. Hope you enjoy and if you happened to have gone to some of these shows, feel free to leave comments. -Tim DCXX

Monday, January 18, 2010

Howie Abrams - In Effect Records part II

NYHC veteran Howie Abrams digs into the history of In-Effect and the evolution of the NYHC scene... -Gordo DCXX

What was your involvement with Hardcore pre-In Effect? What was going on in the hardcore scene that inspired you to want to get involved as more than just a fan? How did you view the hardcore scene as it pushed to the late 80s?

Before the label, I was simply a fan and supporter of the NYHC scene and its bands. Really - there were relatively few of "us," so if you came down to CB's every week and danced and went to the bigger shows when the NY bands played, you were doing a lot. One of the best things you could do was travel to see the bands out of town. It's what gave the scene it's presence and reputation.

Around late '84/early '85, a friend of mine, John Rooney, and I started a fanzine called Occasional Irregularity. We did show reviews, album reviews, interviews etc. We'd sell them at the matinees and other shows as kids waited to go inside. I remember peddling our first issue outside The Ritz before some show and Parris from the Cro-Mags came up and thanked us for reviewing the Age Of Quarrel cassette. It was rare that these bands were recognized in any way outside of playing their shows - even in a fanzine, so our efforts were appreciated and that was gratifying. That's how I actually met so many people from the scene.

Almost everybody was in a band or aspired to be in a band, so everyone had an opinion and was curious about yours, which through the 'zine I was obviously putting out there. I met Roger and Vinnie, all of the Alleyway Crew guys, Danny Lilker and John Connelly, Jimmy Gestapo and Chuck Valle, John Joseph, Harley and Parris, AJ and Jose (original bass player) from Leeway...

Doing Occasional Irregularity is what probably made me feel most like a "somebody" in the scene. Little did I know at the time how much I was doing to support what was going on. To me, I was just some kid with a big mouth.

As the NY scene was reaching the late 80's, a lot had changed. The HC/Metal crossover scene was in full swing and a number of the bands also began introducing other styles of "alternative" music into Hardcore. These developments were simultaneously the best and worst things that could have happened. It was great because these new influences helped the music to progress and remain interesting, but as more and more kids from outside the immediate scene came around, everything moved farther and farther away from what made NYHC what it truly was at its core.

Moshing became more important than the bands and the community and the apathy set in. A lot of people feel that the straight-edge resurgence led by Youth Of Today around '87 kept NYHC intact and to some degree it did, but many of those kids were really elitist and created this whole new clique that I had a hard time relating to. I felt preached to and was like "fuck that!" Some good bands came out of it, but things were definitely different.

Roger with AF at CBGB, photo from the Live at CBGB album

Tell us about how In-Effect came together and what you wanted to do with it.

In 1987 I got my first "real job" in the music business at a record distributor called Important in Hollis, Queens as a salesman. It was 10 minutes from my house, so not only was I selling records to record stores, but I got to sleep until maybe 20 minutes before I had to be at work!

Important distributed a lot of cool labels like Revelation, SST, Touch and Go... It also had a few of its own labels, including Combat and Relativity. Combat was one of the biggest indie metal labels there was and Relativity was the home of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. At the time, Combat had some great hardcore bands on the label such as AF and Ludichrist, but they were getting shit on compared to the metal bands on the same label. For instance, Agnostic Front was touring the U.S. in a van and drawing a lot of people to their shows, while many of the metal bands were receiving all kinds of tour support and were bombing on the road. It made no real sense, but metal was big and that's where the company put their money. Eventually, it became painfully apparent that much of the music business makes no fucking sense.

My Hardcore "us vs. them" instinct began to kick in and I became vocal about what I saw as a gross injustice (I'm so dramatic). I started talking with the head buyer for Important, Alan Becker, and he felt a lot of what I felt. I guess something like this was on his mind too. Why should we really invest in these bands (on other labels) whose records we were distributing, when their labels weren't even investing in them? They had no signed agreements with these labels, so why don't we start a label and sign some of these bands directly? Also, there were under-served bands already in the building that deserved better. Why don't we move these bands over to this new label and put them in the hands of people who give a shit??? The seeds of In-Effect Records were planted.

All I really wanted to do was put out records by these bands and work my ass for them because I thought they deserved it. Hardcore deserved it. I never considered it, or anything I did to be particularly special. I simply wanted these bands that represented something which meant a lot to me to have a fighting chance to be heard.

Run us through the first few In-Effect releases. Why were these chosen, what were you hoping to do, what was your relationship with each band, what are your memories of the creation and completion of each record, and what do they mean to you now?

The first In-Effect release date was pretty fucking amazing looking back at it now. On the same day, we released: Agnostic Front Live at CBGB, Bad Brains Attitude: The ROIR Sessions and Prong Force Fed. One important reason In-Effect was created in the first place was to provide a new and improved label home for Agnostic Front. The idea of a live album recorded at CB's was already being discussed, so everyone agreed that we should launch the label with that album. Also, working so closely with our distribution (down the hall), we came to the conclusion that we needed to kick everything off with more than one release on the first day in order to make a bigger impact, so we began looking into what else we could do.

Important was already distributing ROIR, which was truly a cassette-only label at the time, so the classic Bad Brains cassette had never been released on CD. In fact at that point (late '88), not a lot of HARDCORE had been released on CD, so seeing as it was such a legendary recording, we pushed really hard to get ROIR to license it to us so that we could put it out on CD. Thankfully, they agreed and it became part of our first day release schedule. We created a great new package, featuring photographs taken of the band at CBGB back in 1981...the year the recording was made. It was and still is such an honor to have been involved with this one for obvious reasons.

At that time, Important, true to the first 6 letters of its name, was one of the only indie distributors bringing in numerous titles from the UK and elsewhere to distribute in the United States. One of the labels they were working with was Southern Studios in England, who were about to release the second Prong album. As with a lot of truly cutting-edge bands, Prong meant very little in their hometown NYC, but were beginning to make a lot of noise overseas. I liked their first album a lot and to me, Force Fed just blew the debut away. It's a great album. They really weren't so much a metal band then. They had a lot more in common with bands like the Swans or Killing Joke, but with a more metallic bent to their sound. We decided that we really wanted to put it out and we also attempted to sign the band long-term, but lost them to Epic Records in the end. I suppose our instincts were right on, because they wound up becoming pretty big and influenced a lot of other bands.

The AF live album is really the only one of the three initial releases that I was "directly" involved with in terms of recording. My working relationship with the band was still kind of new, but it was good and I dealt mainly with Roger. We knew capturing this band live, as well as the atmosphere of a matinee was crucial, but we also knew that it was going to be a huge challenge given the chaos that ensued at their shows. The one thing we were surprisingly able to do was keep the amount of people on stage to a minimum so that the band could actually play without getting knocked out of tune every two seconds and have the mics constantly bulldozed by stagedivers. As the show progressed, it became tougher and tougher, but for the most part, the recording came off without too many problems and I think the album stands as one of the best live punk...hardcore...whatever recordings to date. Next to Victim in Pain, it seems to be most AF fan's favorite album of theirs. I know it's mine!

Jimmy Gestapo, Freddy Madball, Howie Abrams and Joseph Cammarata, Photo courtesy of: Howie Abrams

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rob Mars AKA Ollie Grind of Crucial Youth on the No Justice Just Us benefit show

January 2, 1989: The day was brutally cold. Brett Beach, Chris Strickland, and myself braved the weather to wait in the long line in front of 313 Bowery to see what we each knew was a historic date in hardcore history. We looked homeless, huddled in line as if waiting for a free meal on Thanksgiving at the local shelter but it didn’t matter.

What awaited us behind those graffiti covered doors was too good to pass up. We had received the flyer at a previous CB’s matinee. This show was a greatest hits of NYHC bands plus it promised a Side By Side AND Straight Ahead reunion, so we knew we could not miss it. Once we got into the club you could feel the energy. It was packed and everyone was just waiting for the show to start. You could not tell the weather outside was so cold because the club was sweating down the walls from all of the people. There was not a band that disappointed that day. After witnessing band after band belting out angry chants, we were witness to one of the best shows that Sick Of It All has ever performed. - Rob Mars

Pete Koller with Sick Of It All, Photo: Dave Brown

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Cro-Mags shirt collection

When it comes to the Cro-Mags, there are tons of shirt designs out there. Some great, some not so great. Here are a few favorite Cro-Mags shirts from my collection.

Probably my second favorite Cro-Mags design, the "Best Wishes" Lord Nrsimhadeva shirt is a total full color Mags classic. Based on the story of a half man half lion incarnation of Lord Krishna that appears out of nowhere to save a saintly little boy from his demonic father, this is one hell of a gory piece of art. Comes complete with the simple "Down But Not Out '89" on the back. This one gets two thumbs up from me.

The 1991 European Tour longsleeve isn't quite as loud as the original full color "Best Wishes" design, but the Cro-Mags logo going down the left sleeve definitely ads a nice touch. I think the white print Nrsimhadeva artwork with the red Cro-Mags logo works pretty well too. The back is simple like the '89 tour shirt, but this one drops all the cities and dates on it. A little odd to see a Navy Blue Cro-Mags shirt, but I'm stoked to have it.

This is definitely a newer Mags shirt, or at least from the 1994-1995 John Bloodclot, AJ Novello, Mackie era of the band. I can't remember the name of the club that I saw them play when I bought this shirt, but I'm pretty sure it was in the ghetto of Newark, New Jersey. Believe it or not, the crowds for this era were pretty slim, but that didn't stop me and a handful of other Jersey guys from making it out to every show they played. I remember someone with the band inconspicuously pulling out these shirts and all of us not so inconspicuously buying up everything they had. Obviously not the coolest Cro-Mags shirt ever made, but I've always liked the simplicity of the pocket print logo on the front and the re-vision of the classic "Age Of Quarrel" mushroom cloud artwork on the back. Revenge.

This one here, unfortunately, is not mine, but a contribution from DCXX reader and ex-Youth Crew roadie, Navy Jim. Jim said he picked this shirt up in Brooklyn, NY at a L'Amour show in 1986. The only memories Jim had about the show were that Nuclear Assault played and that he went to the show with Mike Judge and a few other friends. Jim said there was something special about seeing the Cro-Mags at L'Amour and that they were always intense there.

This particular shirt is one that I've been searching for forever, so if anyone out there has one and is looking to unload, sell or trade it, get in touch, I'll be eternally grateful. -Tim DCXX