Thursday, February 4, 2010

WHY BE SOMETHING THAT YOU'RE NOT - Detroit Hardcore '79 - '85

DCXX friend and contributor, Tony Rettman has been busy plugging away at a new book called "Why Be Something That You're Not", an extensive oral history of the Detroit Hardcore Punk scene from '79 to '85 complete with never-before-seen photos, fliers, etc. Slated for release in Summer 2010 by Revelation Records. Tony's given us a sample chapter to share, prepare yourself for this one… -Tim DCXX


The scene swelled to such proportions that the shows at the Freezer had to end. The final hardcore show there happened in June of ’82 with Minor Threat headlining.

John Brannon – I remember that show being one of the greatest shows for Detroit hardcore. That’s the show where all the photos for our seven inch were taken at. It kind of ended fucked up because there was a huge scale riot out in the parking lot afterwards.

Davo Scheich – After Minor Threat were done, I went backstage to get my photo equipment that I hid with all of Negative Approach’s gear. Turns out the ceiling backstage had dropped in while Minor Threat was playing. There was plaster all over our stuff. We were literally digging through rubble to get our stuff out the door. Just then it looked like a riot was about to break out, so me and Rob McCullough grabbed our stuff as a major brawl spilled into the street.

Barry Henssler – The funny thing is, I was in a car driving away while the whole thing was going on. I remember seeing someone swinging a skateboard at someone’s head. Years later, some guy pulled a knife on me at a party thinking I was the one who started the fight.

Ian MacKaye – I remember going outside to see something that resembled a battle from the middle ages. Police cars started flying out of nowhere and in the midst of all this, I see the promoter of the Freezer Theatre look around and start running down the street. I started running after him because he’s got the fucking dough. I chased that motherfucker to an apartment about three or four blocks away. I finally catch up to him and he’s like “Oh, hey! There you are! I’ve been looking for you!” So he takes me into this apartment where there’s this guy in his fifties and a transvestite teenaged boy. While I’m in this strange apartment arguing with this guy about money, the rest of the band are back at the Freezer wondering where they fuck I am while police are going ballistic, beating on all these kids. Detroit was always a fucked up scene.

John Brannon – We had these roadies, Tim and Randy King. We called them the Sleestaks because they were these big skinhead dudes who looked like wrestlers. We’re trying to get our amps out of there because the cops are all over the place, and either Tim or Randy clocked some fucker so hard he knocked him out of his shoes. I remember one of them saying, “I didn’t mean to hit that dude, I was just trying to get the gear out.”

Tim King – Me and my brothers were sort of at the center of fucking everybody up that night. The guys we got in the brawl with were these long hair kids who actually became the Sterling Heights skinheads a few years later. My brother punched a dude and he flew out into the road and slid out in front of this car. The guy hit his brakes and the sleeve of the kid’s shirt stopped under his wheel. The dude couldn’t move because his sleeve was stuck under the tire, so my brother beat the shit out of him more while he was stuck under there.

John Brannon – Ian was just freaking out saying, “This is fucked up man, this is crazy,” and I was just like, “Welcome to Detroit!” A couple blocks down me and Larissa rented out this storefront for 125 bucks, so we just gutted the place and built a stage and were like, “O.K, this is the new Freezer.” That’s how the Clubhouse got started. We had to keep the music going.

Since the closing of the Freezer Theatre, there hasn’t been a really cool place for bands to play without getting hassled by club owners. Well, now there’s the Clubhouse. What’s the Clubhouse you ask? For one thing, it’s a storefront a couple blocks from the Freezer that L-Seven and Negative Approach practice at. It used to be just for practicing, but the bands decided to renovate it to use for gigs. They tore down the loft, built a stage from the wood, and painted over all the graffiti.” – Excerpt from a review published in Filler fanzine of the Negative Approach/L-Seven show at the Clubhouse 7/30/82

Ken Waagner – We opened the Clubhouse when the Freezer fell through. I was the guy who came up with the genius idea of “You know, if we knock down these walls, we could probably use the materials to build a stage.” It was this three room loft that L-Seven and Negative Approach used to rehearse. The shows ended up paying the rent on the space. We could do one night a week every week and do 250 kids at five bucks a head.

Matt O’Brien – The shows at the Clubhouse were usually benefits for Negative Approach since they were always getting their equipment stolen from there. I think they had their equipment stolen nine times out of that place.

Andy Wendler – Once John and Larissa moved into the Clubhouse, there was a mutual respect with them and the local people in the neighborhood. The guys that owned the Rayes Brothers carry-out store loved them because of all the business they would bring. Imagine having some store in a wasteland and all of a sudden a bunch of kids just come in out of nowhere and you’re selling three hundred sodas a night?


Anonymous said...


(balls in throat)

(gasping for air)

Nick said...

I totally need to start buying these old hardcore history books that are coming out.

mrs.missalaineus said...

this is one of those rare times i get pissed for not being 4 or 5 years older. i lived at a squat just outside of detroit where a couple of the older kids would talk about this stuff from back in the day and man, i'll admit, i was jealous. this will definitely be a book i'll be investing in.


Unknown said...

There was a public access show from Detroit in the 80's by the same name as this book. I assume there is a relationship?

conquest for death said...

fucking great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! whatever happened to the necros?, that band use to be one of the greatest hardcore groups around.

Anonymous said...

I love reading all these crazy stories from back in the day.

Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous of my cousin that he got to experience a lot of this. I'll definitely be picking up this book.

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