Saturday, December 24, 2005

He stands for the people, he lives for them! The following interview has been republished online a couple of times already, so it may very well be that you have read this before. Nevertheless, I think it is still damn interesting and that there still are people out there that haven’t read this. So once again, and for the last time, here’s the interview I did with Craig Setari in April 2002 about Straight Ahead, conducted at Groezrock Belgium and originally published in my zine The Ghent Decontrol issue #3.

How did you get involved in hardcore? What was your social background growing up?

I grew up poor white thrash in Queens, New York. I had no father, just a mother who worked very hard to support me and my brother. I was a bad kid, I did drugs and stuff. My brother went to junior high school with a guy named Danny Lilker. You know Danny Lilker? The guy who plays in Brutal Truth and Nuclear Assault? Well, he went to school with my brother, so when I was like 10 or 11 years old Danny would come to our house for lunch. Him and my brother had music class together. Danny was the first guy that turned me onto punk and hardcore music. One day he brought me these old punk tapes mixed with some heavy metal stuff and I loved it. When I went to junior high school there were these kids who were roadies for the band The Mob. They were very young, I was in my seventh grade and they were in their ninth grade. So they would give me old Bad Brains singles and Mob stuff and I just loved it. And they were like "Let's go down to the show this Sunday." And I would go to shows with them and once I went to one I went every week.
And that was in 1983 or something?

I started listening to hardcore in '82 and I went to my first show in '83, maybe '84. I listened to hardcore for a little while before going to shows. I still remember the bill of my first show, it was Adrenalin O.D., Bodies In Panic and Malignant Tumour.
When did you start playing music?

When Danny used to come to my house he was teaching my brother how to play bass and I just picked it up. I was probably 10 or 11 years old and I just started to play it and I liked it. I started to play when I was 11 and by the time I was 13 I was in a band. That's pretty fast.
How did your mother feel about you getting involved with hardcore?

My mother's German. She came straight from Germany. She gave me a lot of room to do what I wanted to do. She would understand. She asked what I was doing and I said that it was music by regular people. She came to see me play when I was 15 and she loved it. So I got support. Have you ever seen my old red bass? The one I've been playing forever? She got it for me.
You've been in all these legendary New York bands, like Straight Ahead, Agnostic Front, Youth Of Today and all the others. Do you sometimes feel like a living legend?

No, I just do what I do. I just happened to be in a time and place where there weren't many people that played instruments and who were really into it. I could play well, back then people couldn't really play their instruments. I was already a good musician. I practiced every day because I really like to play bass. So that coupled to the desire I had and the love of the hardcore made people wanting me to be in their band. I was sought after. And I jumped really high and all. But all that other stuff... The whole ego side of things... I appreciate the respect I get, because I put most of my life in it, but there's people who have done more remarkable things than I've done. I'm just dumb enough to stick around.

Don't you come across people idolizing you a lot? Idolizing you because of your past and present.

I get that a little, but I don't really bring that out to people very much. I just do the quiet talk, you know, "How are you doing?" and that kinda stuff. I don't like idolizing. I got into hardcore to get away from that, because everybody else was ego-tripping. When I got into this music it was because you're the same as me and I'm the same as you. Everybody was on an equal foot. That's why in today's music world I still don't fit in. I could probably make a lot of money if I acted and dressed like I was a big shot, but that goes into everything why I do this for. So why would I do that?

Which one of the bands you've been in do you like the most nowadays?
Straight Ahead!

In every aspect?

Every band taught me something different. I liked being in Agnostic Front, I like being in Sick Of It All. All the bands I was in meant something. I didn't like being in Youth Of Today very much at the time. Because they were "Look at me! Look at me!", they wanted to be famous. They said they didn't, but they wanted.
And eventually they got famous.

Well, I guess. Not more famous than me, we're all swimming in the same fish tank. But even that band taught me something. Every band I was in has its place. But Straight Ahead was fun. There was no pressure at that point, you just did what you wanted and nobody was really watching, it was a local thing.
Was Straight Ahead just NYC Mayhem, or were there different members?

The guitar player for Mayhem quit and Tommy went from drumming and singing just to singing and we got Arman to play drums.

Are you still in touch with the members of your old bands?

I talk to Tommy Straight Ahead a lot and that's about it. He's a construction worker. I see Roger and Vinnie sometimes. I see Matt Henderson a lot. I just see the Agnostic Front guys a lot and Tommy Carroll. I run into Porcelly once in a while.

How do you feel about the zillion Straight Ahead bootlegs?

Well, whatever. I never put it out, I planned on it, but I never did. But nobody knows about that band, what that band was and it's kinda cool like that. Though if it ever gets put out I will do it...but it won't.
Do you still have Straight Ahead recordings laying around that never got released?
Oh yeah, I have a whole demo tape that no one has actually heard, no one but me. Knock Down is on it and a couple of other songs.
Sick Of It All has gotten a lot of shit for being on a major label from the hardcore in-crowd a few years back, nowadays kids don't bother too much anymore. Do you think kids don’t care about that anymore or is there some other reason?
I think these days so many bands are on majors that nobody cares anymore. When you do something first people complain. But not any of these people are paying my bills and food. They shouldn't tell me how to live, I make my own way. But it was a good thing. People judge things without knowing. That's what ruins hardcore. Everybody's trying to blame, make comments. There's no respect anymore. I never disrespected my elders back when I was a kid.
Tell me a good fight story from back in the days.
I wasn't really a fighter. I'm more a lover than a fighter. But I've witnessed a lot. One time outside CB's these skinhead kids came from New Jersey and they were fucking around. So after the show Russell from Underdog had a fight with this guy and they argue a little and they fought. So Russell and the guy are fighting and Russell grabs the guy around the waist and throws him on a car. And the guy is punching Russell on the head and they were going at it, when all of a sudden Todd Youth picks up a skateboard, brings it over his head and the guy's with his back on the car and hits the guy with the trucks of the skateboard. Right on the bridge of his nose and the guy's whole face explodes, there was blood everywhere. The guy was knocked out. And then all the bums that lived in the building on top of CBGB's started throwing bottles at everybody and newspapers that were on fire landed on people and stuff. There was this big riot. And we all ran away. That was in '86.
Tell me about the very first tour you did.
That was with Youth Of Today in 1986, before that I had done like five shows in a row, during summer. I had done stuff with Mayhem and Straight Ahead, but it wasn't more than four or five days in a row. We didn't have cars, nobody could drive. With Youth Of Today I went down south and back and that was pretty fun. Tommy was in the band playing drums, but then he quit. He said he didn't like the other guys in the band.
Was Straight Ahead still around then?
Yeah, we had it both going on. For a little while. In the end I quit Youth Of Today to join Straight Ahead again.
Had Straight Ahead broken up?
For a little while, me and Tommy had a fight and we broke up. But we were friends no matter what.
So you weren't replaced by someone else?
In Straight Ahead? No way, I'm Craig Ahead, you can't replace me. That was my band, I wrote all the songs.
Thanks for the interview man.
Testing British Accents.

After the entry in which I talked about bands such as Cider and The Darvocets and more of the Clevo scum punk bands I received a mail from Paul who does Non Commercial Records and also plays in several of those bands such as The Inmates, Cider, The Darvocets and probably a bunch more. He gave me some more detailed info about what bands share members, what some of those bands put out so far, whether or not they’re still around etc. I thought most of the stuff he told me was pretty interesting and since I said some not-so-straight facts in my first post here’s how it really is:

Paul is the lead sing and guitarist in Cider. Aaron Melnick is the bass player. The drummer Bobby was the drummer on the first Ringworm album. Paul is also the lead singer of The Inmates. Both Melnicks are in The Inmates. Aaron plays lead guitar and Lenny plays bass. The Inmates was always going on at the same time as Integrity, but most people never knew because they didn’t want to use a name to get them popular. Unfortunately at that time all of the members had five other bands so they never got the chance to tour or anything. The drummer of The Inmates is Wedge who also was the drummer of the H-100s, 9 Shocks Terror and The Ruiners (the original hardcore Ruiners that is). Upstab has the lead singer of H-100s and The Ruiners Chris Erba as the singer. Upstab has no former members of Ringworm or Integrity in them, only a few members of Puncture Wound and that’s it. Upstab will be touring Europe in 2006, don’t miss out for some confronting hardcore. The Darvocets has Paul on guitar again, Alien Obsessed Larry on vocals, Chris Pellow on bass who was the original bass player of Ringworm and guitarist of Apartment 213 and Bobby from Cider on drums. The Darvocets have a more late ‘70s sound going on.

Other Clevo punk bands that I found out about since my previous post are: The Wolfdowners, Brainwashed Youth and Windpipe.
The Wolfdowners play a noisy mix of influences combining The Stooges, Joy Division, Thin Lizzy, Radio Birdman, Coltraine and a shitload of punk and hardcore bands thrown in as well. At least, that’s how they describe themselves… I don’t hear too much Thin Lizzy or Joy Division or any of those bands in their sound though, only a little bit… It’s a cool band nevertheless. The Wolfdowners feature, surprise surprise, members of Cider, The Inmates, 50’s Fists and Brainwashed Youth. So far they put out a demo in 2004 called Wolf It Down on Non Commercial Records and a 12” should be out soon on Parts Unknown Records. You can listen to a song by them
Brainwashed Youth have two releases up to now, a demo which can be found on Battle Of The Worst Bands comp on Non Commercial Records (one of those songs ended up on the Dark Empire comp as well) and recently they put out an EP, again on Non Commercial Records, entitled Testing British Accents. From one I can tell this band also features Aaron Melnick and Paul. The other names on the EP are Whiskey Breath and Dan Sabu… I need some more time to figure out who they are. You can listen to an MP3 from the Testing British Accents
here. A Brainwashed Youth 12” should be recorded now and will be released on Non Commercial Records.
Windpipe is a band from the early ‘90s of whom Non Commercial Records will put out the demo on a slab of 7” vinyl. That demo was actually never officially released, but now after 15 years someone cares enough to actually do so. I’m curious as how they sound as I’ve been told they sound like Infest meets Siege. This band featured Chris Erba on vocals as well, Chris Pellow on bass, one of the guitarists and drummer from Confront after they broke up. Should be good.

Other releases that Non Commercial will be doing soon are: The Battle Of The Worst Bands on vinyl. This battle features the first Cider EP, the first Darvocets EP, the Ruiners EP (the three first releases on Non Commercial Records, put out in the early to mid-‘90s), plus the infamous Brainwashed Youth demo. Only 300 will be pressed, so if you want this you will have to be fast. I have the CD version of this comp already and it’s pretty solid and packed with stuff. The other release that will be out on Non Commercial Records is a Cider CD that will feature the first two EPs, unreleased demo tracks and live songs. There will be a nice booklet with this CD giving a good representation of the band’s history.

What I personally like about Non Commercial Records is that they totally didn’t steal their name, even for hardcore’s lower standards this label is definitely non-commercial. Their releases are cheap, their CDs are made dirt cheap and when you order from Paul you get a sweet package with a handwritten letter and free stuff inside, total pre-internet style. The only other band with the same punk approach/attitude I can think of is Kangaroo Records (thinking of the look of that Direct Control EP for example)…oh yeah, and maybe Back Ta Basics back then, but that actually was more out of greed rather than out of a punk attitude I guess.

Oh yeah, as I mentioned before already, Painkiller Records will be doing the vinyl of the new Darvocets record and The Inmates reissue. Gloom Records will be doing the CD version of The Inmates’ discography.

Now that we’re still talking Cleveland, let’s talk about that obscure ‘80s band called The Guns. Possible to half the readers know as that other band on the Bowel CD. As even Kill From The Heart doesn’t even offer any info I tracked down a bit of info by myself through several informants. The Guns’ stuff that’s on the Bowel CD is actually an unreleased LP. They had recorded it to put it out on Toxic Shock Records, the label that put out the Peace Corpse EP and the Decry “Falling” LP, but it got shelved. What did The Guns then officially put out? Well, only a few songs on two different compilations. The first compilation they appeared on was an Ohio hardcore compilation LP called The New Hope (’82-’83 era), they had two songs on that one “I’m Not Right” and “Locked Inside”. Other bands that appeared on that compilation were The Agitated, Zero Defex, The Dark and a few more bands bathing in the annals of obscurity. The other compilation The Guns appeared on was They Pelted Us With Rocks And Garbage, an all Clevo comp (with a bunch of artsy bands on) put out by Negative Print Fanzine, the song they contributed was “Your Mistake”. This song can also be found on the Bowel CD. The band actually got together in 1982 when two friends, Scott Eikin (age 12) and David Araca (age 13) of the band The Dark, formed their own side project, The Guns. In 1983 they recorded for The New Hope comp that was put out by Scott’s older brother and singer for The Dark, Tom Eakin (a.k.a. Tommy Dark). In 1983 Sean Saley/Wright quit the drums in Starvation Army and joined The Guns as bass player. Those three dudes played tons of shows from late ’83 through ’84. In ’84 they recorded the album that never got a proper release with Scott Lasch. In late ’84 Sean Saley/Wright left Cleveland (and also The Guns) and moved to Washington DC where he joined Government Issue to play drums. The Guns weren’t done yet, they carried on with Scott Silverman on lead guitar and Bob Ries on bass through 1987. Scott Eikin went on to be in many bands, David Araca had a bit of success with the band False Hope and he also played in Integrity. Scott later also did Stepsister together with his brother Tom that also had Tony Erba in the ranks. David Araca passed away in 1994, age 26.

I hope to have enlighten you a bit again on the Cleveland scene with this post and if people have more info for me, feel free to e-mail me. I’m an information addict. Next Clevo time I’ll be talking about Midnight and Boulder.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Behold The Hand Of Glory.

Today’s post won’t be that much. Tonight I’ll be writing and preparing a bunch of other entries that will be posted in the next couple of days. I’m not gonna reveal anything yet, so you’ll have to check back daily. You won’t be disappointed. In the meanwhile here are some things to keep you busy online while you are impatiently waiting for updates of my fresh and genius rambling writings. Here’s some Friday relaxing reading material.

alpha) Every time I post something a little bit interesting on Megalomaniacal Supernauts I promote the shit out of this blog on various messageboards Western world wide. Yesterday I had the honour to get a visit on this blog from John Porcell. He had read the entry with the Henry Rollins stuff and noticed the Discharge passage. This is what he posted on the
Livewire messageboard in the promo thread I had put up there.

Funny that you posted that, I used to read those playlists every time they came out, awesome stuff, I'm psyched to read that book. When I first saw that blurb about Discharge's "It's No TV Sketch" I sent Henry an e-mail about it, I still have it so here it is...

Hey Henry, I noticed on one of your playlists, you had a description for Discharge's "It's No TV Sketch" (great song by the way) where you mentioned how legend had it, when Discharge went metal, HR tackled the singer onstage. Not exactly what happened, but it's an interesting story nonetheless...

I was at that show, my band Youth of Today played, it was at the old Ritz on 11th St. in NY with COC and Discharge. HR was indeed in the house and did a stagedive for Youth of Today in what appeared to be a three-piece suit, which I can honestly say is the highlight of my music "career." Anyway, onto the Discharge story... NYC was pumped to see them, there were definitely more skinheads and punks there than metalheads, and everyone was jam-packed shoulder to shoulder to see Discharge. Then they came out literally looking like Poison and launched into one of the lamest cockrock ditties that would've made even Junkyard-era Brian Baker cringe. Before they could reach the second chorus, the crowd immediately started booing, spitting and throwing anything that wasn't nailed down. There was almost a riot.

If you remember, the old Ritz had a backstage room that overlooked the stage on the right side, and HR was up there, looking quite disappointed and animated (and by this time stripped down to just a frilly shirt and vest). HR grabbed one of those big plastic garbage cans, full to the brim, and threw it down onstage, literally covering Cal the singer head to toe in nasty musician refuse. Perfect shot. Then he grabbed one of those plastic ice trays filled with beer and ice and launched it at the guitar player, smashing his pedal board and shorting out all his cables. Another bullseye, the guy is like a fucking marksman. With the guitar completely out and a bloodthirsty mob at their feet, Discharge had no choice but to tuck their tails between their legs and slink off the stage, without even finishing their 2nd song.

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool HR!

Take care, Porcell

Rollins wrote me back on that email, here's what he had to say:

Porcell. Thanks for that. I wasn't at that show, obviously, hence the disclaimer in the annotation. I did some shows with them and they were really cool guys. I guess they were going for something different and no one was digging it. In 1984 the Sisters of Mercy opened for Black Flag at the Ritz. I felt bad for them. The first three rows were trying to kill them.
Thanks. Henry

Oh yeah, one more thing on Porcell. Yesterday or so
Barebones Hardcore posted a history of The Young Republicans by Porcell, good writing with great stories. Read it!

Stop, Look And Listen is a pretty cool fanzine that has a pretty cool website that hosts a bunch of pretty cool live sets by some of our favourite pretty cool hardcore bands. Right now I’m listening to an Inside Out Anthrax set, you know, that show you have seen on video with all the crazy shit going on, that made you want to be there and/or makes you decide that Inside Out must have been one of the most intense West Coast hardcore bands ever. Other shows that have been posted on there recently are two Youth Of Today shows from the ’89 European tour in Germany and a Judge show from Minneapolis in ’90. I still have to listen to all of those, but the Inside Out show has a good sound quality. Also check out the demo section on the site, you can download a bunch of demos from new and upcoming bands such as Wasted Time, Soulfire, Think It Through and a few more.

gamma) Let’s talk Steve Ready and NY Wolfpack.
How’s Your Edge just put up a new interview with Steve Ready about NY Wolfpack, Youth Of Today and fighting. Actually the first NY Wolfpack interview ever, 20 years after the band broke up. A good job done by the 2005 Boston Crew. Coincidently Middle Aged Youth MP3 Blog put up the NY Wolfpack ’89 Demo and LP for download, also the Albany Style compilation 7” (featuring, besides the Wolfpak, the OG Fit For Abuse, Carnal Abuse and No Outlet) is on there. Check out the comments on both posts as there is some interesting info to be found there.

delta) Delta stands for Black Flag. If you are down with the Flag and their early days
here you can read the draft, and extended version, of an article on the history of Black Flag that appeared in the December issue of Mojo magazine written by Jay Babcock. I still have to read the whole thing, but it seems to be on top.

epsilon) NWOBHMetallers from The Netherlands, Powervice, has been doing well in my iTunes player lately. So far they only put out a demo, that I don’t even have yet, and send out a promo to one label only, Nuclear Blast, but that’s already more than enough to make me curious to see them live. They were supposed to play with High On Fire, but that show unfortunately got cancelled. I’ve been told that they are a great live band, so I hope to see them soon. You can hear as much of Powervice as I do daily and get an MP3 from
their site. Yeah, that’s right…only one song. Try to get their demo, and if you get it before me, let me know. Good Judas Priest/early Maiden style of metal.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Harmony In My Fanaticism!

People reading my blog from the start may have noticed already that I’m a bit of a Henry Rollins fan. Well, here’s another entry about Mr. Rollins. Last month 2.13.61 put out two new books by the man, the first one is entitled Roomanitarian, I haven’t read it yet, but I can tell you that the book has three main parts. The first one has your-typical-Rollins poems, the second one has more short written pieces and the final part of the book is a series of letters full of social commentary written to a fictional character resembling some real life conservative leading lady. The other book, Fanatic!, is what this blog entry focuses on. I haven’t gotten this book either, but again, I can tell you what it is about. In 2004 Henry Rollins had his own radio show on LA’s based Indie 103.1 FM called Harmony In My Head, after the Buzzcocks song. On that show he played songs from his own collection and more than often tracks from either obscure bands or obscure recordings/tracks/mixes from cult bands. Disciplined as Rollins is he kept all of his play lists and in Fanatic! he wrote down some more info on all 600 songs he played on that radio show. There’s 300 pages of music worship from a real music geek in Fanatic!, and being a music geek myself, I can’t wait to get hands on that book. While browsing this thing called the internet for more info on either the book or the radio show I found out that Henry Rollins will be doing the radio show again from December 27th on. I still have to look up if there is an online streaming for the show or an archive to download the show once it has been broadcasted. I also found short versions of Rollins’ reviews of the chosen songs, as they appear (but then more expanded) in Fanatic! Here’s the selection I made of the most remarkable, interesting and/or weird songs he played and wrote about.

Dillinger – Ragnampiza: Originally I heard this at Ian MacKaye’s house in 1983 and I played a CD-R of the tape I made of it back then. I have since found the single but have never been able to track down the LP Bionic Dread which I think it comes from. I have a lot of Dillinger records. I think he’s most well-known for his album Cocaine in my Brain, which is a great one. I went online and did a little searching and found that the very cool Hip-O Records has just done a best-of with this version on it so I got it used for four bucks. I don’t know a great deal about reggae or dub music but I have a small stack of stuff that Ian turned me onto over the years. Scientist’s records on Green sleeves are cool, A lot of the CDs on the Blood and Fire label are great like If DJ Was Your Trade and King Tabby’s Dub Like Dirt. Scientist has one on that label called Dub in the Roots Tradition which I like a lot.

Discharge – It’s No TV Sketch: All the early Discharge singles and the first album are great. I don’t have all their records but I remember playing with them in 1982 in Canada and they were cool live and seemed like cool people. I know at one point, they made a kind of metal record and it wasn’t what people were expecting and they played New York and the legend is that while the band was playing their new music that was not going down well with the audience, HR from the Bad Brains ran onstage and tackled the singer guy. I would like tostate here for the record, that I wouldn’t like to get tackled by HR. The Discharge stuff is on Clay Records. Thank you.

Black Flag – Fix Me: Off the first Black Flag single Nervous Breakdown. It’s in print on SST. Keith Morris on vocals. This is available on what I think is the best Black Flag CD, called The First Four Years. It’s twenty some minutes long and says more in that time than most bands say in their whole careers.

The Ruts – Staring at the Rude Boys: Too bad that Malcom Owen died as the band were just starting off. Sad that he died anyway. You can argue but in my opinion, the Ruts never wrote a bad song. There’s a great new Ruts CD out that has their classic The Crack album plus the Grin and Bear It comp. album. There’s also a Peel Sessions CD. The Ruts will be getting a lot of airplay on this show.

Circle Jerks – Beverly Hills: A great track off the now classic Group Sex album. I was lucky. I saw the band play in San Francisco in the summer of 1980. I was out with the Teen Idles when they were doing their west coast tour. It was a great bill. Circle Jerks, Flipper and the Dead Kennedys at the Mabuhay Gardens. I didn’t know anything about the Jerks, all I knew was Keith was the original singer in Black Flag and we had met him a few hours before. Tony Alva was there as well so I met two of my heroes in one day. The Jerks came on and basically played the Group Sex record which wasn’t recorded yet. I remember just being blown away. The band was so tight and one song slammed into another and it was one of the most intense things I have ever seen.

The Ramones - Time Bomb: Great song with Dee Dee on lead vocal. I was about to leave for a tour and a few hours before I was going to ship out, I was told that Joey was looking really bad and he could be near the end of his life. Before I went to the airport, I put on the Ramones Subterranean Jungle album. I play that one a lot. On the flight to Australia, I thought of the times I had hung out with him and wondered where I would be and how I would feel when he passed away. Several hours later I got off the plane in Melbourne and the press person who picked me up gave me the local paper that had the notice that Joey had slipped away. I guess it happened when I was on the flight. This album and the Pleasant Dreams albums are really cool and often overlooked.

Bad Brains – I: One of my favortie Bad Brains songs. I watched them work on this song as well as Right Brigade in Nathan Teen Idles basement many years ago. When they would play it, the place would go nuts. If you ever get a chance to check out the Bad Brains stuff, Black Dots, Rock for Light, I Against I and the ROIR Sessions are recommended.

Slayer – Stain of Mind: My favorite song off the Diabolus in Musica album. What a band. Talk about no sellout. This song is so relentlessly killing it should get an award.

Skrewdriver – You’re so Dumb: The singles and the All Skrewed up LP are punk perfection. Then it all went horrible wrong when the band started spouting the worst White Power crap and went into the blind world of racism. This song is from the Better Off Crazy/You’re so Dumb single. There’s a pretty interesting interview with the band’s drummer: that’s a good read. The band’s singer, Ian Stuart is one of the scariest people I have ever seen. The singles and LP give no hint of what was to come.

Bad Brains - The Man Won't Annoy Ya: This is from a live tape made at the legendary Madam’s Organ house located in the Adams Morgan district in Washington DC. This would be in 1979, probably around November or December. This was one of the band’s more reggae flavored songs but before they brought out several reggae songs, that was 1980. If you pick up the very cool Banned in DC photo book, you will see killer Bad Brains pictures at MO. So cool, no stage really, bands played in the living room. I had so many great nights in that place it’s not even funny. At the beginning of the track you can hear people yelling out “Jah!” and shit like that. That would be Ian, Geordie Teen Idles, myself and others in the front. Later on in the song, you can hear people chanting, “Hey, hey, hey.” Ian and I would get on each side of the band and provide stereo backing vocals without mic. the band was not all that into us giving them mild amounts of shit but it was fun. These were some great times in the early DC music scene.

Bad Brains - Pay to Cum: From the Black Dots album. The Bad Brains recorded this as a demo in August of 1979. It was a tape that got passed around in the DC scene quite a bit. I still have the copy that singer HR gave me around that time. To me, this single recording session is as important and relevant to Punk-Independent music as Never Mind the Bullocks or Nevermind. I also think, (he puts on his corny critic cap and clocks in . . .) that if they had released this in 1979, it would have been an immediate lightning rod, here’s your godhead punk release of the decade. It’s interesting that all these years later, this tape finally gets released. This is a must-have album.

Minor Threat - Stepping Stone: From the Minor Threat Complete Discography CD. Don Zientara of Inner Ear Studios did this mix on his own and played for Ian when Ian came into mix the session. Ian liked it and so it goes. SS was a kind of in-joke amongst DC bands. Everybody did it. It was a cool song and it’s easy to play and sing so everyone started doing it. I think the first time I heard a band do it on a regular basis was when the Teen Idles would play it from time to time. Of all the versions, I think the Minor Threat one is my favorite.

Teen Idles – Get Up and Go: From the Teen Idles Minor Disturbance EP. The Teen Idles single was the first ever Dischord release. Here’s something kinda lame that I did but I’ll tell you: When the Teen Idles EP came out, it was a big deal in our small DC music scene. Record stores weren’t all that interested in some band hawking their single so they allowed a few copies to sit on the shelf on consignment. Ian took five of the Teen Idles EP and put them in a record store down the street from where I worked. I went on a break and bought all of them. I figured it was an important record. I kept them in the plastic bags they came in until last year when I took them out and transferred them to other bags and stored them.

Saint Vitus – White Stallions: The album this comes from, Hallow’s Victim isn’t on CD I don’t think. If it is, I have not been able to find it. I got this track off a kind of best of called Heavier than Thou. We used to do a lot of shows with these guys in 1984. It was cool to be on tour with them but cooler to see them when not on tour so you could really have a great time and not have to think about the show you had to do as soon as they were off. I had a lot great times seeing these guys. I still have tapes of them playing parties and I can hear myself and other SST/Black Flag types singing along with them. Those were some great nights.

The Effigies – Below the Drop: Boy do these guys have fans. I got enough letters about the Effigies. Please play the Effigies, how come you haven’t played the Effigies, etc. Well, ok, here you go! This was a great live band. They were friends with Black Flag. I remember taking a series of busses through LA to see them play at some club. How I got back to SST I don’t remember. This is from the Remains Nonviewable comp. CD.

Black Sabbath - War Pigs: When the band reformed in 1997 and played those two shows in Birmingham UK, I was there and on the first night when they came out and opened with this, one of the greatest songs of all time, the entire place went nuts. What a great night. Seeing what’s happening in American foreign policy these days, there’s never been a more perfect song to play.

Black Sabbath - The Mob Rules: What?! More Black Sabbath? A damned outrage! I think this is one of the all time great riffs. I listen to the Dio-era Sabbath all the time. Great records. If you listen to the lyrics, you can see that Dio nailed down the state of things. Hey, he lives in the Valley, right? Let’s all drive by after the show and give him a Hail Satan, what do you say?!

Saint Vitus - War is Our Destiny: I remember when the lyrics of the song were different. Scotty used to sing “Sad wings of destiny” instead. Isn’t that a Priest song? Anyway, they did a little re-write and I always thought it was one of their best songs. Live it used to kill. This was a great band to see. I had a lot of fun at those shows. High On Fire - Baghdad: I figure this is a great way to finish tonight’s pre-election angst broadcast. This is from The Art of Self Defense album and it’s a monster all the way from start to finish.

Flipper - Love Canal: A great Flipper single. I did a lot of shows with Flipper in the 80's. What a band. I will never forget hanging outside Target Video in San Francisco with them as Greg Ginn asked them if they wanted to be on SST and the band’s singer, Bruce just went off on Ginn. I’m paraphrasing, “You guys are just punk rock stars and SST is just a small label that wants to be mainstream,” etc. It was hard to watch Ginn take it from Bruce. We put them on our bills all the time and SST was a great label and Ginn wasn’t in line for that kind of dressing down but that was Flipper. Devastating live band. Their version of Super Freak was incredible.

Butthole Surfers – Sweatloaf: From the Locust Abortion Technician album, came out in 1987 I think. I’ll never forget all the shows we did with the band in 1991 on the Lollapalooza tour. I forget how many times they did this but there were some shows where the band would be onstage and the band’s roadie Danny would come out with a shotgun and give it to Gibby. No one in the audience knew that the gun was loaded with shells that had no shot, just powder. With no shot and more powder, sound was enormous and the flame that came out of the barrel was quite intense. Gibby would yell into the mic, something like, “I didn’t see you little motherfuckers dancing to the Rollins Band!” and then he started firing on the crowd. It was really scary and people scattered. What a swell band.

Mercyful Fate – Black Funeral: From the Melissa album. I don’t know a damn thing about the singer, King Diamond besides the fact that he made me laugh my ass off when I saw him on MTV once talking about Satan. The make-up was great and you can’t help thinking what he would have done, looking like that walking through Brooklyn. Satan can’t help you in Red Hook.

Venom – The Chanting of the Priests:
From the Calm Before the Storm album. Black Flag played with these jokers in Trenton NJ in 1986. Price of a ticket? A few bucks. Joe Cole getting in the singer/bass player’s face with his palm covered in a penned-on pentagram, doing his best Richard Ramirez imitation as he told Kronos to, “Hail Satan”? Priceless.

The Obsessed – Tombstone Highway: From the Obsessed album on Tolotta. I have known Scott the singer/guitar player/songwriter of this band for almost twenty-five years. You may have heard “Wino” in some other bands like Saint Vitus, Shine, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand. What a great musician he is. Talk about the real deal, Scott’s all that and a beat down.
“The band that prays together has found the Hare Krishna way and it’s called hardcore, music that says being a kid in 1986 is hard.”
It’s been a while since you all heard from The Megalomaniacs, but here I am back again with a nice piece to kick off the holidays. I have a bunch of ideas and articles in my head already and I hope to do at least four more entries before the end of the year, possible more. You’ll find out about it anyway.
The text below is from a 1986 article about the Cro-Mags. I found the original article scanned somewhere online, but I don’t really recall where I got it from (if the person responsible for the scan happens to read this, on behalf of every Cro-Mags fan: Thank you!). I just typed the whole article and left it as it was, including the spelling. I think the article’s pretty funny, at times patronizing, at times naïve and other times just stupid or on point. Read it for yourself and realise how much times have changed concerning the relation between mainstream press and hard music. Oh yeah, this article was written by Annetta Stark and it appeared in a paper or magazine that I don’t know the name of.
Enjoy this article and be on the lookout for more NYHC worship this week.
These are the alien beggar kids: They started to get dressed in the morning but came up with a better idea. They used razors, an axe, hatchets, anything they could get their hands on, and turned themselves into skinheads and Mohawks. Sure they look tough, but let’s get things straight: Being a kid in 1986 ain’t as much fun as you thought.
The Cro-Mags have known this for years. Their solution is musical and brilliant in its simplicity. Blend hardcore with the sexual powers of heavy metal and add some punk rock to be true to their roots. The Cro-Mags are the extraterrestrial sewer workers of hardcore. If it’s possible to be down to earth and orbit it at the same time, they’ve been there. While other bands are looking for new ways to say the same old thing, the Cro-Mags speed-sing simple, lyrical songs with a simple, non-lyrical message. One message: Being a kid sucks. Period.
Sounds like fun? Well, it’s a lot like playing sandlot baseball in Lebanon. But in rock culture the definition of ‘fun’ comes up for renewal every couple of years. The angriest musical message ever sent was the one punk rock gave to the hippies: “We hate your idea of fun.” Punk rock gave you a place to go when your parents were getting into Studio 54. But when rock ‘n’ roll grew up, how the hell could a kid rebel respectably when his parents were hanging out, smoking pot, and listening to the Clash? It is the action-reaction theory of evolution: One generation’s idea of fun is always the next generation’s poison.
The Cro-Mags have their own ideas. Three of the band members are Hare Krishnas. They are vegetarians and, for a bunch of non-smoking, non-drinking herbivores, they look pretty good. Unless you happen to hate tattoos, in which case they look healthy but scarred.
The band arrives on time. There are five of them, two of whom –Harley Flanagan and John Joseph- are twins. Equally tanned, attractive, muscled, shaved, and tattooed, they are the same height and finish each other’s sentences. Usually they agree. Onstage, you can tell them apart because John is the lead singer, and Harley plays bass. Offstage, it’s harder. Doug Holland, lead guitar, looks like John and Harley, but without the tattoos. Parris Mitchel Mayhew (known to friends as Kevin) appears to represent the preppie faction of the group. He stands taller than the others and has hair. Mackie, the drummer, also has hair and always look unhappy.
They are, by rock star standards, well-behaved and soft-spoken. Nobody squirms or tells ‘in’ jokes. They bring their own Perrier, answer all the questions, and don’t all talk at once. They don’t make comments about the interviewer’s legs just because she happens to be a girl, and they’re a rock band. They are, in a word, mellow. But onstage they play such angry music.
“It’s not angry,” John protests in a barely audible voice. “Maybe people think that because there is a certain energy associated with it that is physical and aggressive.”
“Yeah,” Harley agrees, “but we have a message. There is a certain amount of frustration in our lives, but we feel we have ways to deal with it.”
“Some people go to clubs, do cocaine, and listen to demonic metal to get out their frustrations. It’s negative. Hardcore kids come to a show, slam and stage-dive with their friends, and feel better. There’s hardly any frustration on the dance floor. If there is, it’s someone who has a lot of negativeness in them, but basically it’s all non-violent.”
“Still you appear to be afraid. You’re always telling the kids to watch out.”
For the first time they all talk at once. “No!”
“I just don’t want them to come up and unplug me in the middle of a song,” Harley says.
“Recently, people are getting a bit sloppy. I just have to tell them to watch out for the equipment. It does get chaotic, which is why the energy has to be real. Outsiders can’t make the distinction between the fans having fun and the ones that are negative.”
“Yeah, outsiders just get scared,” Doug adds. “But people want more violence at a hockey game.”

Q: Who invented hardcore?
A: Probably the Russians.
Q: What do hardcore kids and Russians have in common?
A: Whenever you see either group having too much fun, you worry.

John and Harley insist that church devotees attend their shows, which I find hard to believe. I make a mental note to look for them at the next show, but since skinheads and Hare Krishnas resemble each other, I realize that I have to look hard.
The Cro-Mags’ devotion to Krishna caused problems over the packaging of their first album, The Age Of Quarrel. They selected a painting from The Bhagavad Gita, the bible of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, that depicted acts of lust, violence, and drug abuse (rock ‘n’ roll and religion coming together again). Originally chosen for the jacket cover, the painting was moved to the inner sleeve because Profile (the band’s record label) decided it was too controversial. To add insult: The painting was altered to soften its effect. The band was angry and insisted that the album be shipped with CENSORED stamped in large letters across the painting.
Krishna and hardcore? It seems implausible. But glancing through the concert ads from the Village Voice I noticed another hardcore band that calls itself Krishna Madness. Given the action-reaction theory, it makes sense that these kids would be involved in a religion that opposes drugs and promiscuity rather than embrace all the things rock music has stood for in the past. The average age of a hardcore musician or fan is 15. This would put his parents at close to age 35. The Rolling Stones are older. The idea of Mick Jagger prancing around in drag while Keith Richards shoots up is enough to make any kid rebel.
“It would take a long time to explain,” says Doug, “but being a devotee is in part a result of seeing all your friends dead from drug overdoses. For me it is an answer.”
“Everyone is looking for answers to their questions,” says John, “It’s tough in this city. You have to meditate wherever you are. I was into reading a lot of books about philosophy. When I was hanging around the Bad Brains, they attracted a lot of Hare Krishnas. I read those books, and I felt that this philosophy mixed devotion with serious, intense philosophy and explained why even bad things happen. I started hanging around with devotees. Now we go to meetings every Sunday.”
“I resented a lot of our friends who are devotees at first,” says Harley, “but then I started to know them better. I believe in God, and I can associate comfortably with anyone who does. The religion preaches being positive about anything that happens to us.”
“Everywhere we go we hear things about our friends,” says Doug. “Like two people we knew hung themselves. When we go onstage, we try to think positive. Sometimes things can go wrong, but that is our karma. We’ve grown up seeing people around us dying, killing themselves with drug overdoses. We try to have a message, for ourselves and these kids. The message is the same as our religion: Be positive.”
“Yeah, a lot of people we knew were bugging out,” says John. “Taking money to buy crack.”
“I get frustrated,” says Harley, “and the only time I can really relax is if I relax my mind, chant, play this music, and meditate.”
And on Sunday nights they play mind wrenching, insane hardcore rock ‘n’ roll, and sing songs about how everything sucks.
Perhaps if a lot of people sit around and complain loudly about how bad things are, how we’re a bunch of pagan heretics, and how the world is going to end from all this horror; if everyone agrees about it, the experience could be “positive”. People might feel better knowing that they’re not alone. The experience could almost be religious. It could be a Cro-Mags show.
“I have no proof that it’s true,” Doug finishes, sensing my scepticism, “but I had my lung punctured by a Catholic priest. I was in the hospital, and the priest came to give me last rites. He held my arm out and left it hanging. The strain in my arm, I felt it, left a hole in my chest.”
“But,” Doug is quick to add, “it wasn’t his fault.”

Chris Williamson owns the Rock Hotel, which promotes the Cro-Mags and other hardcore shows all over the country. He loves the stuff. Williamson wears shorts and sneakers backstage, classic attire for a hardcore fan. He runs in circles, stopping for a minute to make a point. He speaks to you assuming that you already agree with him, which makes it easier to agree with him.
Williamson points out to the video monitor, ablaze with the opening band onstage. “This,” Chris says, and I nod in agreement, “already sounds too soft to us.”
He happens to be right. This music is an addiction. The louder and faster and rawer you get it, the more important those things become to you senses. It numbs you to anything else. All the Cro-Mags mastered other kinds of music –Doug was a blues guitarist and Mackie is an accomplished studio drummer- but the energy just wasn’t there in anything else they played.
“Hardcore was born as a reaction to punk and music from the UK and has to be called a truly American creation,” says Chris. “Although it was originally an East Coast phenomenon, I believe that the West Coast is finally falling under the incredible power of hardcore especially after seeing the Cro-Mags totally blow away everyone who witnessed their recent West Coast shows.” The Cro-Mags’ blending of hardcore and metal (metalcore) is unique, and the experience is devastating with slamming, diving, and stage storming –critical mass energy, and it’s overtaken the American musical scene.
The music is also a drug. A Cro-Mags show is not a Hare Krishna prayer meeting. It’s more like the Quaalude of the ‘80s. L’Amour in Brooklyn, New York, is traditionally a heavy metal rock club. On this night the battle lines are drawn. You can tell who’s into what around here by what they wear and where they stand. Hardcore fans are up front where they can slamdance and chickenfight. They have shaved heads, wear active sportswear, and sometimes go shirtless revealing well-muscled bodies. Heavy metal kids hang back –way back, where no one can step on their high heels, rip their spandex, or slamdance on their well-sprayed hairdos. The hardcore section smells like sweat, the heavy metal part like VO-5.
With things so divided you’d expect half the club to be bored half the time. But as the Cro-Mags open, John goes into an epileptic fin onstage, twisting into contortions that suggest a hardcore Joe Cocker. Everyone is wild. Clenched fists and the horns, the heavy metal hand sign, go up at once.
These are the toughest fans, even though they don’t know how to dress. Deviate even momentarily from the established hardcore format, and they’re finished with you. Forever. “That,” Doug points out, “is because they come here to relax.”
The Cro-Mags slow, then speed up tempos. It’s rush hour: John and Harley run the length of the stage like they’re in a marathon. Doug hangs back, playing the great leads that require intense concentration. Parris just about smashes himself.
When it’s over, everyone is spent. Fans file out quietly. They are even quiet outside, as they walk home or hang out on cars near the club. But you can’t help being afraid. They really look awful.
Though the music is quite repetitive, the fans are touchy about what they want to hear, and these guys are actually decent musicians. (Most hardcore bands are composed of kids who never even graduated high school, much less took a music lesson).
The Cro-Mags say they don’t get bored playing hardcore. I look around the room, taking a sight poll. Mackie, the unhappy looking one, shrugs. “I do.”
What, then, is he doing here?
“Well, I am happy as long as I can play other kinds of music. I like hardcore, it’s the only thing where the kids can jump around and be part of the show. But I am locked into a certain format, and it can be boring. But the energy in this is great.”
“I mean, we play gigs where kids break their arms,” says Harley, “kids have come up to me and said, ‘Man, you guys were great. I had such a good time, look, I broke my arm.’” To the Cro-Mags, all that matters is that the music is good, releases frustrations, hurts no one, and isn’t illegal. And as long as the kids don’t slamdance naked on public beaches, western civilization is safe.
Too bad things had to change. In the ‘60s there were just two kinds of music: rock and Joan Baez. Apparently nobody could stand her, but everything else was considered listenable. It was sort of like being a kid and having your mother insist that you eat all your liver because starving children in other parts of the world would be thrilled to have such a nice dinner. The hippies listened to everything because, in places like Poland, there were hippies going to bed hearing Perry Como.
There was less to listen to, so no one avoided Cream because Clapton played blues or laughed at Hendrix when he played just plain metal. Hendrix became a legend to guys who wouldn’t be caught dead at a heavy metal show today. But back then it never occurred to anybody to complain. No one ever noticed that when the Beatles played Shea Stadium they had become “too commercial.”
Then, again, maybe it’s good that things changed. Maybe rock doesn’t need any supergroups. Obviously, with so many classifications and with fans reluctant to listen to new groups that fall outside of their specific musical preferences, the best success any band can hope for is cult status.
As for the Cro-Mags, they’ve succeeded in raising your conscious and are preparing for a 50-city tour with Motörhead. If you’d like to be a fan but feel that you are too old, can’t stand hardcore, or just simply don’t remember how to have fun, the band advises you to attend one of their shows. “People always ask me,” says Parris, “but the only way I can describe it is to say, ‘you gotta see for yourself.’ Get there early, because the shows are always crowded. Wear sneakers.”
Is great commercial success in this band’s future?
“Success for a rock band,” Kevin concludes with conviction, “means surviving.” You can say pretty much the same for a kid in 1986.
Days later we are sitting in Doug’s New York East Village apartment, which is furnished modestly and is very clean. The bathtub is in the kitchen. He glances around with pride. “To be able to work and buy things and have a roof over my head gives me something that these kids need. I work a day job because for the first two years we made no money at all.”
What about the tattoos? Well, only John and Harley have them (you don’t have to get tattooed to be a Cro-Mag or a fan). But when you do something so permanent to yourself, don’t you wonder what you’ll feel about it in 20 years? You might be real sorry.
“The body is deteriorating every day,” John tells me in his best I-Play-Hardcore-So-I-Am-Calm-Now monotone. “You can’t get too attached to it.”
“Yeah,” agrees Harley, who’s a tattoo artist in his spare time. “If I thought I’d live forever, I’d worry about it. But for now the worst thing is when you think of something you’d like to draw there, but you’ve run out of space.”
A recent Cro-Mags show at New York’s Ritz. Skinheads bang heads with Hare Krishnas. Everyone has fun. Richie, the Ramones drummer, known for playing faster and louder than anyone around, is in the audience, applauding the show.
“Great, huh?” a Ramones/Cro-Mags fan with a Statue Of Liberty hairdo exclaims.
“Yeah, really great,” says Richie, “but it wiped me out. I guess I’m too old.”
“Don’t worry, Richie,” the fan reassures him. “It’s supposed to make you tired. Besides, you’re not too old till you can’t go to shows anymore.”