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#50: American Town (A Conversation With Glen Stilphen)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-fe6tm-d069d7

Episode 50 is a great conversation with Glen Stilphen. Glen plays bass in the band Northern Skulls, and got his start playing bass for Gang Green as a teenager during their Another Wasted Night era along with his brother Chuck. We talk quite a bit about his time in that band as well as the time that lead up to that and what he’s been up to since. His new band Northern Skulls are great and I’m glad we talked a bit about their formation and song writing process. Glen is a great story teller, funny and down to earth guy that was a great guest. 

#49: Careful With That Axe (A Conversation With Brian & Guy About Guitarists)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-y32qh-cf72f7

Episode 49 is a dive into guitar players, and not the same ones you always hear talked about. We talk about the more unheralded guitar players from Jim Babjak of The Smithereens to Geordie Walker from Killing Joke. There are a few more well known names on here but we wanted to shine a light on less-household names. As with other episodes I’ve recorded with Brian and Guy this one was a lot of fun and the passion the two of them have for everything they talk about here is always front and center. 

Sunrise On The Road Behind

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Imagine the year is 1975, it’s spring but still a little chilly out so you put your denim jacket on. You’re going to walk down to the local record store and see what’s new. You’re fourteen years old and its 1975, you have no real concept of record release dates, you just know what you like. You love hard rock, when your older brother goes out with his friends for the night you sneak into his room and borrow his records. Kiss, ZZ top, Blue Oyster Cult, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, whatever looks cool. You walk into the record store, and immediately see a bunch of new records on display: AC/DC High Voltage, Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, Alice Cooper – Welcome to My Nightmare, and ooh is who is this Olivia Newton John woman? And then sticking out like a sore thumb is this bright blue album with a giant owl on the cover, Rush – Fly By Night. Your brother had another Rush album that also stood out like a sore thumb with it’s big proclamation in pink letters “RUSH” That album was good, it was new and loud sounding, the singer had an insanely high voice and there was something different about them you couldn’t put your finger on yet and well this new one has to be good. The song titles on this one get weird right away on side one with some multi part song called “By-Tor & the Snow Dog” You, err, rush home to play this new album, and you’re greeted to a completely empty house, it’s a Saturday afternoon in April and you have the new Rush album that came out a couple months ago.

 

You drop the needle on the record and are immediately punched in the face, and then pummeled over and over by the arrangement of this song, particular the drumming. You don’t remember drumming like this on the other record. Again, it’s 1975 and you are fourteen. You have no concept of lineup changes especially when it comes to the drummer. You check the other Rush album and low and behold it is a new drummer, Neil Peart and strange, he also wrote most of the lyrics on this new one. This album becomes your favorite record of the year, you play it all summer. It’s catchy, it’s weird, the lyrics seem real mature and you don’t one hundred percent get them yet but there seems to be more interesting stuff happening than most of the rock albums you listen to. This is the album that makes you a lifelong Rush fan, you make other friends who love the band, go see them live whenever they come to town. It’s nice to meet you fourteen year-old Rush fan.

 

Fast forward to September of 1982. I am starting junior high school in Swampscott, Massachusetts. A nice upper middle-class suburb on the ocean north of Boston. My parents have been divorced for two years now, I am twelve years old and have been a “weird kid” for a few years now. My older brother and I had good record collections mostly because we got more of a head start having a dad in the music business. Rush was on my radar, my brother had Exit Stage Left. They sounded dark and other worldly to me.

 

We had moved to Swampscott in the summer and I would be going to the junior high school there in September. I had no friends there yet but had a skateboard and long hair and found other kids with skateboards and long hair. Once the fall hit we all had Levi’s Denim jackets. There was always that one weird kid that was a little poor that had a Wrangler denim jacket though and he was like the next level outcast. In the winter we switched to those Levis corduroy jackets with the fuzz inside. I fell in with a good group of fellow burnouts (that’s literally what kids like us were labeled in 1982), some of who I am still good friends with today. At this time I was simultaneously discovering heavy metal like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest (I had seen Ozzy in April at the Boston Garden after Randy Rhoads died with Bernie Torme filling in on guitar) and Rush who all of these new friends were into. Hardcore music would show up about a year later. I was nervous to start at a new school and even though I had a good circle of friend I got picked on. My first month there an eight-grader tied my sweatshirt sleeves to the door handles of the theater in the school. I was in the sweatshirt at the time. A lot of crap like that went down. On a side note a year later I would have a substitute teacher named Mrs Quint who was the nicest woman ever and showed off a “fanzine” her son Al published called Suburban Punk. Al would take me to my first hardcore show in 1983. So that was a whole other world of outcasts I would experience. It’s where I felt most at home. Rush fans, metal fans, punk rockers. At the time nobody in any of those groups would admit it but we were all the same.

Rush released the album Signals on September 9th, 1982 and it changed my life. The opening song, Subdivisions immediately spoke to my isolated self in a way nothing else had before it. The lines “Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth but the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth” Not only made me want to leave and explore other parts of where I lived like the city, but also in school and the people I associated with. I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing. The clean cut American kid, Alex Keaton, the football player, etc. Nothing about that was charming to me. Walking around in the woods with my friends, or playing Dungeons and Dragons was more my speed and seemed more interesting and fun than following a straight path. This record became my soundtrack for that entire first year at Swampscott Junior High, I turned thirteen in November of that year so it was a perfect record for a new teenager to hear. This record is often referred to as their big “synth” record (along with the next couple) which never even crosses my point at this point. It’s Rush in 1982, that’s all it sounds like. The progression makes sense when you think of what was happening in music at the time with bands like The Police and maybe even Talking Heads and think of side two of Moving Pictures.  This was the record that led me on my journey, just like the imaginary kid discovering Fly By Night. Signals was the one that did it for me. Rush became my best friends for many years. The later years I still bought every record but they didn’t have the same feeling as the earlier ones did.

 

Fast forward to present time. In the early 2000’s my friend Jonah invited me to a party at his apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was there I met a guy named Brian, we talked about music and shared a love for Rush so of course immediately hit it off. We became friends on social media after that but never saw each other in person until I started my podcast. I was doing mostly one on one conversations with people so I decided to branch out and do some episodes with Brian and his lifelong friend Guy where we sit around and talk about a specific band or subject. It was later discovered either from Jonah or Brian that Jonah had wanted to get Brian and I together as he knew we’d hit it off and become friends. The first time I hung with Brian and Guy I met them at Brian’s place at 1:00 pm and left at 2:30 am because we basically talked music for twelve hours. I interviewed them as a pair, and we agreed to get together again and record some subject specific episodes and that’s what we did. The next time we got together we had no real plan and at the last minute we all wrote down a list of our favorite Rush songs and hit record. It was natural and a conversation we would have had even had we not hit record as we had already talked for many hours about Rush. I had found two guys with a similar love and passion for this band and how important they were. We are all around the same age and experienced the band around the same time in life, so it has been great having two friends to share all of this with the last year or so. Here is a link to the episode of the podcast if you want to hear it

 

The first thing I did today when I heard Neil Peart died was text Brian and Guy, and then a little later my friend and former decade long bandmate Breaux. Breaux and I saw at least two Rush shows together and they are also his favorite band of all time. I had an hour left of work and pretty much did nothing. I was in shock. My eyes welled up. I left the office a few minutes early and immediately played Afterimage, the song, on the Signals follow up Grace Under Pressure (which is just a gorgeous sounding 80s record) is about the loss of Robbie Whalen, an engineer on the Rush albums Permanent Waves, Exit Stage Left, Moving Pictures, and Signals. He was killed in a car accident outside the Rush studios one night. The video for this song is intense and you can see the anguish on Neil’s face and the emotional exhaustion he is filled with at the end of the video. I dare you to watch this and not feel that. This is how I felt today and this evening while writing this.

Neil was a friend of mine, or at least it felt like that. I almost had a chance to meet Neil when I was working for Rounder Records and we were invited back stage for a meet and greet with Geddy and Alex who I did meet. One of my co-workers had met with Neil and a few other employees earlier before I arrived. Neil was notorious for keeping his distance from fans (“I can’t pretend the stranger is the long awaited friend”) but a couple of people being brought over to him to say hello was okay. Personally, I’m glad I did not meet Neil Peart. It would have done nothing for him and what could I possibly say to him? What if he told me to buzz off? Instead I got a brief hand shake with Alex and Geddy and asked Geddy about his fantasy baseball team and that was of course a pretty surreal moment I’ll never forget, I touched the hand that plays that bass line in Analog Kid, or that crazy bridge section in Freewll. Fuck. Neil had a tough life later on losing both his wife and daughter in a short period of time. Reading his books after those incidents made it certain there was no reason for me to ever meet him. He was larger than life to my fellow friends who are fans and I. I liked Neil just where he was.

 

I saw a few of my denim clad friends from the early 80’s posting about Neil on social media today and it made me happy to think back that I experienced this band together with those guys when we did, and now have friends the same age as those guys to share the band with. Rush was never one of those bands I wanted to keep to myself like maybe some of the punk bands I got into later on. Rush is now universal, although for the first maybe twenty years of me liking the band they were considered a band nerds listened to, not so anymore. I don’t think I saw any tired snarky “Wow a lot of you are Rush fans all of a sudden” comments today because really, there are a lot of fans. Diehard and casual, who cares, everyone is allowed to love this music. I imagine the kid who discovered Fly By Night in 1975 is also feeling it today and e-mailing his friends about it (he’s using e-mail mainly because he’s old and still uses e-mail to communicate with people)

 

There have been two other major music deaths that have inspired me to write words down, Chris Cornell and Jeff Hanneman, both of those artists were huge parts of my life for a long time and still are. Rush was and is just a more important band for me. Rush had pretty much retired from touring after their last tour which I was completely fine with. The fact that it’s now impossible for that to happen is a sad reality to face, but with all of the music still here to listen to and all of the shared experiences with friends new and old I think I’ll be okay.

 

 

Suddenly, you were gone
From all the lives you left your mark upon

I remember
How we talked and drank into the misty dawn
I hear the voices

We ran by the water on the wet summer lawn
I see the footprints
I remember

I feel the way you would
I feel the way you would

Tried to believe but you know it’s no good
This is something that just can’t be understood

I remember
The shouts of joy, skiing fast through the woods
I hear the echoes

I learned your love for life
I feel the way that you would
I feel your presence
I remember

I feel the way you would
This just can’t be understood

 

 

 

 

 

#47 Till The End (A Conversation With Jeff Morris)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-pqbqs-c43571

Episode 47 is a conversation with my friend Jeff Morris, Jeff was a founding member of The Bruisers. We talk about his time in that band as well as how a couple of upcoming reunion shows came to be. Jeff grew up north of Boston and talks about getting into music at an early age, his first time at a hardcore show and everything else that happened in between. Like all of my guests, Jeff’s story takes a similar path (Although I don’t think Kiss was mentioned once!) and he is a great story teller so his memories and thoughts on music are all worth hearing. This was a great episode to record and it was great catching up with an old friend. 

#46: It’s Alive! (A Conversation With Brian & Guy About Live Records)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-rv7mc-c353da

Episode 46 is a deep and long dive with my co-hosts Brian Smith and Guy Weatherbee about live records. More than just a discussion of our specific favorite live records, we get pretty loose and open about the live album as an archive of a band at a certain point in time, infamous “fake” live recordings, and we somehow manage to cover everyone from the usual suspects like Rush and Kiss to artists like Dave Brubeck and Sammy Davis Jr. This was a lot of fun to record and there will most likely be a volume two to this one 

Sorta Like Heaven

Whitestrat

“So did we ever…you know?”

“Umm, no we never did that”

“Why not?”

(Are we really having this conversation?)

“Well because you said you were good friends with your landlord and felt weird having sex in her building”

(I mean also because the first time you kissed me was three minutes after we finished a half-drunk game of Yahtzee. Well, you were half drunk. I was drinking Sprite. You had your hand in a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips that you had been snacking on throughout the night. If I know potato chips, they leave behind a lot of remnants in one’s mouth. So I still have vivid memories of that first kiss, where I was transferred some of the remnants of said sour cream and onion potato chips. The landlord thing was certainly part of why we never had sex, but I didn’t want to bring up the chips while you and your friend were coincidentally sharing a basket of tortilla chips)

“Oh okay, I wasn’t completely sure”

(How do you not remember who you’ve had sex with? Also, in retrospect, that’s kind of an insult! I can remember the women I’ve been with, fooled around with once, dated briefly or for years. A good chunk of those women, are connected to The Cure and my history with that band so it was no surprise a random girl I dated for a month almost a decade ago would pop back into my head the night of a Cure concert)

My friend Michelle sent me a message a few days before this show saying she may have an extra ticket and if so I can have it, and if I’ll drive. Deal. I tend to never get tickets when they go on sale at this point. There’s no real reason to, especially with all the buying options out there, and friends on social media going. If you can’t find a ticket to a concert the week of in 2016 you’re not trying. Also, I’m never dropping however much money people spend on beer and drinks at shows so I’m willing to pay a bit more for a ticket if I need to.

Michelle and I got to the venue early and grabbed dinner nearby. We’ve been friends for a few years online, met once in person while I was working the door at a bar six months ago but never hung out so it was nice to be able to drive and chat and sit down to dinner and chat instead of meeting up at a show and not having time to talk. She is similarly minded as me I think, and is hilarious in person as she is online. It’s good to have friends like this.

There was a woman sitting to my right alone who at one point ordered two drinks. At one point I look up and approaching the table is a girl I recognize immediately as the sour cream and potato chip girl. I have no idea what her name is at this point. I struggle with the guilt of this lapse in memory later as I judge her for forgetting if she had sex with a particular person. When I realize forgetting someone you played Yahtzee with isn’t that big of a deal I move on. Emotionally. We exchange pleasantries, she even says her name for some reason, probably sensing my lapse. I introduce her to Michelle

“This is my FRIEND Michelle”

When it’s time to leave Michelle is well ahead of me and pretty much outside when she stops me and asks

“So did we ever…you know?”

We get to the venue and of course run into Yahtzee woman and her friend again who are sitting in THE SAME SECTION AS US. That’s the last interaction we have with them.

Just as that is happening the band is suddenly on the stage and you can hear some sort of noodling around on stage for a few minutes. I think it’s maybe some sort of pre-recorded thing playing and then realize they are opening with “Open” from 1992’s Wish. I posted about them hopefully opening with this on Facebook earlier in the day so that was exciting. I mean not really but it was a tiny personal victory I celebrated inside my head alone in a venue surrounded by thousands of people.

They followed Open with five songs from what may be my favorite Cure album, The Head on the Door. It was the first record I heard by them, it’s short and has catchy pop songs and just enough darkness to at least place it in the top five essential albums in their catalog. When I first heard the record I was heavily immersed in the hardcore scene, especially what was happening there with all of the new more metal sounding bands like Corrosion of Conformity and D.R.I. The Cure was a quirky thing for me at the time. I wasn’t married to hardcore and metal, I grew up loving The Beatles and later on Squeeze and Joe Jackson and The Clash so the Cure was kind of natural for me. I think this era of the Cure is right before they would get the badge of being that band you put on a mix tape for the girl at the book store, or the band you were a sad sap for listening to. That wouldn’t start happening until the next record, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.

This was also around the time I was dating my high school girlfriend I was with for about two years. After getting burned by my first girlfriend in junior high I was a slightly paranoid boyfriend. I was one of those dudes. It was early in life and I’m not even remotely like that at this point, but yeah I could get jealous.

My brother got tickets to see them at the Orpheum in October of 1985. October 25th to be exact. My girlfriend mentioned a party her and her friend were going to the same night as the show. The party they were going to was being hosted by a boy her and her friends thought was cute. I can still remember him. He was that weird quiet misfit kid. Like the one in that movie American Beauty who films the grocery bag. I was bummed she would be going to this party so I tried getting out of going to the show but couldn’t. And of course nothing happened aside from me being able to be that obnoxious guy that says things like “Oh, cool, yeah I saw them in 1985” Hanging out with that high school girlfriend years later she did admit that her and the weird quiet misfit kid had sex after she and I broke up which was a horrible thing to tell a person.

Back here in 2016 they follow the dark and brooding Sinking with three songs in a row from Disintegration (Pictures of You, Closedown [like on the album] and Fascination Street) and then on to Hot Hot Hot !!! from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (God I’m sick of typing that out over and over. Wish they played more from Wish, or Faith) was a soundtrack of a whole crush I had on a girl who turned out to be my cousin. I swear I can explain. She was a cousin as her aunt married my mother’s cousin. This would have been around a year after Pretty in Pink came out (February, 1986) The Cure album with too many words in it came out in May of 1987. Me and, I’ll call her Elizabeth became friends when my uncle introduced me to her at a family event. When I found out she wasn’t related by blood it was over. She became Molly Ringwald. Had red hair, wore those hats, may have even had “The Rave-Ups” written on her book cover (doubtful) for all I know. We spent many nights driving around Swampscott and Nahant, Ma parking and listening to that album. I was a scared baby with this kind of thing so I never made any kind of move at all. Neither did she and we just remained friends.

A couple of years later we would go to a Cure show together, it was the Disintegration tour, well “The Prayer Tour” I had seen them a couple of more times and was going to both nights. She went with me one night and I went with another friend or maybe my brother another night. The night we went at one point in the show I was yawning and my eyes got all watery. I consciously thought that if she looks at me she’s going to think I’m crying. And low and behold the next day she told one of her friends about it and they told two friends, and so on and so on…I get told by a friend “Hey dude Elizabeth said you were crying at that Cure show”

I hope I didn’t reply “Boys don’t cry”

The band bounced around their immense catalog of music throughout the remainder of their thirty-one song set. Once you get rid of any kind of disappointment you may have if they don’t play a particular song, seeing The Cure is always an amazing treat live.

I was hesitant seeing them in a hockey arena as the last place I saw them was in a nice old theater in Los Angeles (performing their first three albums and a host of other rarities) and it was probably the best time I’ve ever seen them. I was by myself at that show, thousands of miles away from seeing anyone I know, far away from Molly Ringwald and Yahtzee girl. This show here in 2016 was just as important, and if it ends up being the last time I see them it at least has an amusing bookend to it running into that girl, and spending the time with a good friend, meeting a few new people and seeing other friends.

Also, because of how we were sitting (me on the inside, and Michelle on the seat closer to the aisle, with me facing the stage and her essentially behind me) she didn’t see me get a little misty in the eyes during Just Like Heaven.

Corrosion of Conformity Interview – August 10th 1985

In August of 1985 the mighty Corrosion of Conformity played in Cambridge, Massachusetts at The Christ Church along with Post Mortem, PTL Klub, Executioner and The Offenders who were the buzz of the hardcore scene at the time. C.O.C had been around previous to this gig. I saw them a year before with Battalion of Saints and the Outpatients at the Paradise with the four piece line up, and also as a four piece with D.OA and The Freeze even before that at the Northeastern YMCA which held a few great shows for a little while (ummm, Void, Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Kilslug and Siege on one bill? Good times!) They always put on one of the most intense shows you could see around this time. Just a loud thundering wall of sound coming out of three guys. At this particular show I remember there were a number of fights, something happened with the PA at one point forcing the band to perform an instrumental version of “Loss for Words”.

Also of note were openers Executioner, one of Boston’s more underground metal bands at the time. The reason a lot of these shows were happening (metal bands and hardcore bands playing together) was a result of guitar player Marc Johnson who was booking a lot of these shows. Executioner in true Spinal Tap fashion emerged on stage as smoke machines went off which then set off the fire alarms, almost shutting the show down. Marc and Executioner really did play a huge role in the history of hardcore and metal in Boston and any discussion about “the scene” without mentioning him or his band would indicate “you weren’t there”. They certainly weren’t the best band around but their presence was huge to kids like me. Also their song Victims of Evil was pretty awesome.

I was doing a fanzine at the time called One Step Forward. I was interviewing some great bands, and even as an awkward quiet 15 year old I never felt like I couldn’t approach an artist for an interview. At one point I was introduced to Brian Walsby or became pen pals with him, I don’t remember. He may or may not have helped set up the interview but obviously at this point, I can’t remember. Also of note in the van with us was a young lady named Lisa Carver who later went by the name “Lisa Suckdog”. Her and I were pen pals and she came down to Cambridge from New Hampshire to see the show and sat in for part of the interview near the end. Her questions are, ummm, exactly as they were printed in my zine…I was 15 years old during this interview so some of the questions are obviously kind of bland.

In subsequent visits to Boston, even as late as the Blind era, Corrosion of Conformity always put on an intense show and Reed Mullin always took the time to say hello, remembered my name and was a generally great guy. They are apparently touring with this lineup soon and hopefully I’ll make it out to one of them. For more info on those new shows,  check out their website

The blurry pictures here are from the show. Once I get a scanner set up I will scan the pages from the actual fanzine.

 

An interview with Reed Mullin (drums) and some comments by Brian Walsby

OSF: Okay first off, where do you think you fit in: metal or hardcore?

Reed: Metal or hardcore? Definitely hardcore, don’t you think?

Brian: I think you’re definitely hardcore

OSF: Well, some people call you “metal”

Reed: Well look, I can’t even do a drum solo…Woody can’t play “Eruption”. I consider us more a hardcore band than anything else, lyrically and musically I think – (bassist/vocalist Mike Dean opens van door) Get out of here Mike Dean!

Mike: Huh?

Reed: Get out of here

Mike: No

Reed: Lyrically, definitely. I don’t think we have anything in common at all to do with heavy metal lyrics. We’re influenced I guess by Black Sabbath, Black Flag and Bad Brains.

Mike: I hate heavy metal

Reed: You don’t hate heavy metal, you’re just saying that to irritate people

OSF: When did COC form?

Reed: June 1982 in Woody’s basement. We just practiced a little, played parties and so on. When we started none of knew how to play so we did GBH covers and stuff like that

OSF: How would you compare this new record (Animosity) to the first record (Eye for an Eye)?

Reed: I like the first one a lot. I liked the songs, but I hated the production, the production was just really bad. It was really disappointing, and our old singer’s vocals were really bad on it. The new one, the production on side one of is a lot better

OSF: Who produced it?

Reed: The guys from Metal Blade…well we produced it, but it was engineered by them. It was recorded in a better studio. Side two was done at the same place we did “Eye for an Eye”

OSF: What do you think of Satanic lyrics?

Reed: I think they’re cool just because they open people’s minds. They irritate Christians I guess. As long as you don’t take it too seriously it’s pretty funny. I don’t know, that Satanic stuff has been so overplayed it’s cliche

OSF: Do you think you sound better as a three-piece?

Reed: Things move a lot faster because me and Mike Dean sing. All our old singers were really slow in learning lyrics. As far as live stuff, I think we’re lacking a bit. But our old singe he was a real nice guy, he just couldn’t sing. I think I like the three piece better

OSF: What do you do when no playing in the band?

Reed: I work for my dad as a secretary, and I set up all the shows in Raleigh. That’s about it, my job is nine to five.

OSF: How old are all of you?

Reed: I’m 19, our guitarist Woody just turned 20 and Mike is 20 or 21, I’m not sure.

OSF: What are you listening to for music?

Reed: Right now my favorite bands are Descendents, Honor Role, Bad Brains and Rudimentary Peni, that’s what I’m listening to most. I like millions of different things; I like Slayer, Exodus and Venom, and some reggae.

OSF: Who’s idea was it to cover “Green Manilishi”?

Reed: Well Woody was in a heavy metal band, heavy metal cover band before he was in COC and he used to do it so we thought it would be funny if we just tried it. We did it and thought it was funny so we kept doing it.

OSF: What happened last time you were supposed to play here?

Reed: Well we were ready to go, I mean everything was packed up and ready to go, and then our car wouldn’t start, and it was our alternator. We got a new alternator at the last minute  and while we were putting that if we poked a hole in the radiator.

Lisa: How did you get together?

Reed: Me and Woody went to school together for a while, and Mike Dean moved up from a southern city and we just started practicing in Woody’s basement

OSF: Do you guys like Elvis?

Reed: Which one?

OSF: Well I saw Elvis Presley stickers all over the van…

Reed: Elvis Presley was pretty cool I guess. All of these stickers are from Toxic Shock. They moved their store into a head shop and they had all of these stickers left over so we just took them

(some guy is is trying to look into the tinted windows of the van)

Brian: What the hell is this guy doing?

Lisa: Do you guys have advice for beginning bands?

Brian: Go metal, that’s where the bucks are!

Lisa: Do you get along with Boston Bands?

Reed: Which ones?

Lisa: Minor Threat

All: Minor Threat???

OSF: SSD, DYS…

Reed: I think all the Boston bands are great

Lisa: Do you have day jobs?

Reed: Woody works as a jeweler and I work as a secretary and Mike Dean works for me

Brian: It should be said that both Reed and Woody work for their own families

Reed: Brian Walsby mooches

Brian: I just mooch off of Reed

Reed: Brian Walsby’s a moocher

Brian: Hey Reed can I have some money, I’ll pay you back

Reed: I wanna go see The Offenders

OSF: Any last comments

Reed: Have a good day

OSF: Have a day

Whatever We Do, We Do As A Crew The Gallery East Reunion 8/29/10

(Previously Published in 2010 on my old blog)

In the summer of 1982 I was living in Nahant, MA about to move off the peninsula to the “suburb of Lynn”, Swampscott. In the summer we would often spend time at my great aunt Grace Barile’s house, especially around July when her son Frank would light off fireworks with the blessings of the fire department. Growing up around music in the family I was already a rock and roll kid but I was at that age where I could have gone any direction. I was leaning towards stuff like Cheap Trick, The Clash, Joe Jackson, but also had a foot planted in hard rock like Kiss, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and that kind of thing. At one of these summer cookouts my aunt mentioned to me that I had a cousin named Alan I never met that played in this band called SS Decontrol. She had a copy of the record and I took it into her house and played it. I thought it was the worst thing I had ever heard in my life. Well, not really, but I didn’t like it. Being around a father working for a major label I had no concept of DIY. The album cover, which to me just looked like Sha Na Na or extras from the movie The Wanderers rushing the State House in Massachusetts seemed silly, and the fact that there were so many songs on the album was weird to me as well. I kind of forgot about the band and didn’t even take the copy of the album she offered me to keep (it’s okay I currently have a sealed copy!).

A few months later in junior high school we had a substitute teacher, Mrs Quint a few times. She was the sweetest woman, much better than the regular teachers we would have. She would often bring in these things called “fanzines” that her son wrote called Suburban Punk for us to look at. Most of the kids were pretty dismissive of them, but I remember thumbing through them slightly interested in this whole world, and connecting the dots back to that record my great aunt let me hear. I was familiar with stuff like The Clash and Sex Pistols and wasn’t completely ignorant of punk rock music, I just had no idea what hardcore music was.

Fast forward to around a year later, I had since taken the “hard rock” route, was hanging out with some new friends. Kids with long hair, skateboards, acne and a love for all things that had to do with dragons and guitar solos. Oh yeah, and smoking weed. At one point we needed some weed and one of my friends had a connection, this punk rock guy Peter could sell us a couple of joints for the going rate back then, $1.00 each. Pete and I quickly became friends and once I made the connection that he was also involved in this hardcore scene I mentioned my cousin and he told me how they were one of the bigger more influential bands in Boston. Wow, I had a “famous” cousin.

Over the next few months I immersed myself in this music. Pete was friends with Mrs Quint’s son Al who took me to my first show, Channel 3 and Kraut at the Channel. Pete sent me to Newbury Comics with a list of albums to buy: DYS – Brotherhood, Jerry’s Kids – Is This My World, SSDecontrol – Get it Away, F.U.’s – Kill For Christ along with a number of other ones I picked out myself. I would listen to the Salem, MA radio station WMWM (where I was a DJ years later) to Chris Corkum, another North Shore guy who played punk and hardcore music. At one point my aunt arranged for my cousin Al to call me and introduce himself and talk about music or whatever (SSD had just released Get it Away at the time and this was at the time when they would pretty much just move forward and only play newer music from their next album, How We Rock which was generally panned by everyone for being a “sellout”. It was far from hardcore, but I liked it anyway). Over the next couple of years I would often call him and we’d talk and I can’t even imagine what we talked about, but the fact that he was nice enough to give his young cousin some phone time was great. If you know Al he is kind of an intimidating looking guy, and had a “tough” reputation. back then. Al Quint and I would remain friends for years. We worked together at Rockit Records for a long time and were band mates in Shattered Silence. If you know Al, you already know he is one of the coolest guys around with an encyclopedic knowledge of not only punk and hardcore but hard rock music, and just a general sweet guy. He was probably the first punk rocker at my high school, Swampscott High School…Peter being the next generation followed by, umm me I guess. Hey this was back when if you saw someone who looked different you knew they were probably on the same trip as you…not to get all “these kids these days”.

From 1983 to about 1988 I went to just about every hardcore show in Boston, as well as a number of shows in Rhode  Island and New Hampshire. I never became one of those “hardcore died when I stopped going” people. I stopped going as I just didn’t find it fun anymore, got into different styles of music and whatever other excuse I can’t think of. I see a number of people from that scene here and there at smaller metal related shows and that kind of thing. The main reason I am writing this long ass introduction to this write up on the show is the importance of that scene to a number of different aspects of my life now and throughout the years. I wouldn’t be friends with my circle of friends if it weren’t for that scene, which in turn lead to my last long time job, and a number of friendships I still have. Embracing the concepts of DIY and word of mouth has been an ongoing part of me for as long as I can remember.

I still listen to a good chunk of hardcore from that era, and although I came in a tiny bit late missing Dead Kennedys, Misfits and Minor Threat I got to see pretty much every great band from that scene even if it was at a later era. I saw SSD, but only performing stuff from “How We Rock” and their final album “Break it Up”.

When all of the Boston bands “went metal” they still remained vital bands. The F.U.’s probably being the best example. After having some of the best songs on the This is Boston Not LA compilation followed by two amazingly blistering hardcore albums (“Kill For Christ” and “My America”) their third album “Do We Really Want to Hurt You?” was pure rock and roll, hell their previous album closed with a pretty straight forward cover of the Grand Funk Railroad song “We’re an American Band”. In my opinion some of the band’s best work was on this album (Warlords, Killer, Shitheads, Walking Tall and of course Young, Fast Iranians). DYS was the other band that did really well progressing into this more rock based style. In retrospect, and hearing the songs from their second self titled album at yesterday’s show those songs were just as heavy and hardcore based as their first album “Brotherhood”. When listening to all of these band’s that “went metal” now, none of them really sound what you would call metal in my opinion. Gang Green and SSD also had their own brand of rock that basically was just an extension of what they were doing on their material before they transitioned. The one band (Although I’ve included SSD in this, I’m only talking about the bands who performed at the Club Lido show) that did not make this transition was Jerry’s Kids who seemed to get even faster on their second full length, KIll  KIll KIll.

When I initially heard about this “Gallery East Reunion Show” I was skeptical…Who would be in these bands? DYS, really? Do Dave Smalley and Jon Anastas know about this? Jerry’s Kids? Why isn’t The Freeze on this, they coined that “This is Boston not LA” line? Negative FX? I’ve always been a purist for the most part with this stuff. I never saw that version of the Misfits without Glenn Danzig and anytime someone who isn’t in their 40‘s tells me they saw The Misfits I immediately assume they are lying or that they saw them in 1998 or whatever with that other singer. After finding out this was a legitimate show my friend Jon picked up a couple of tickets. Jon is a few years younger than me, but we’ve known each other for a long time, he started seeing shows around the time I stopped so he saw some of those great late eighties bands like Swiz, Soul Side, etc.

To say the day and show was great would be an understatement. I ran into quite a few people from all different eras of my life and places. People I worked with, people I played in bands with, people I barely knew, friends of friends and everything in between. We arrived a little late and due to running into people outside didn’t make it inside to see the first two bands Refuse Resist and the Revilers.

The first band we saw was Slapshot. I had no idea who would be playing with the band at this point. The lineup was great though, Choke backed by long time bassist Chris Lauria, guitar player Craig Silverman who is best known for Only Living Witness drummer John Bean. They opened with Back on the Map and sounded great. Choke was his usual self, pushing some buttons with his stage banter. The highlight of the set, and one of the highlights of the whole day was their performance of Chunks by his short lived band Last Rights. They closed their set with Hang Up Your Boots which was introduced by Choke’s son.

Antidote followed. I didn’t know much about them aside from the guy responsible for putting the whole show together and the director of the film, Drew Stone was the vocalist. They were a lot of fun, fast old school hardcore, they even covered a couple of Minor Threat songs. Funny as you could definitely tell that they were from New York. I enjoyed them for the most part and obviously you have to give the guy respect for putting this whole thing together.

Gang Green was next. They were kind of a mixed bag to me. I liked them for the most part but they kind of lost me after their “Another Wasted Night” album and their whole Budweiser thing. They played a nice mix of songs from their career including their cover of Til Tuesday’s Voices Carry which didn’t have the same effect it had at the Rock and Roll Rumble in 1987. They did kill it at the show, they’re just my least favorite of all the old Boston hardcore bands.

Jerry’s Kids, who I always thought were THE best band to see in the 80’s were great, but suffered a little from some sound issues and a feedback problem that remained the whole set without being dealt with. It kind of bummed me out as they were the band I was most looking forward to seeing. Thankfully they blazed through a set of almost all of their  “Is This My World?” record, a couple from the “This is Boston Not LA” compilation and a cover of “Protest and Survive” by Discharge. Bob Cenci was only a little more subdued than the younger version of him that would often roll around on the floor not missing a note. He managed to drop to his knees, get up on the monitor and sing his signature tune “Lost”. If I remember correctly they didn’t play anything off of “Kill Kill KIll”. Ross Luongo was also on guitar and Jack Clark played drums and of course Rick Jones on bass/vocals.

The F.U.’s were the next highlight of the night. Playing an impressive set from all over their career including a Straw Dogs song (Trigger Finger). John Sox can still sing his ass off, and aside from a head of short gray hair, looks pretty much the same as he did the last time I saw the Straw Dogs which was probably in 199? Rounding out the band was originals Steve Grimes, Wayne Maestri, and I think Bob Furapples as well as Mick Cotgageorge on second guitar who I believe plays in a band with John Sox called Payload which also includes bass player Richie Rich who played the second half of the set. I saw them quite a bit in the 80’s, probably more as the Straw Dogs so as far as I remember they never played “T Sux”, “F.U.” and “Green Berets” (!) back then, so that was a nice surprise!

With all due respect to every band that played DYS could have been the only band I saw at this show and I would have been satisfied. They really brought it to a close with an intense set that hit both of their albums as well as a cover of Motorhead’s “We Are the Road Crew” and of course closing with “Wolfpack”. There was so much energy on the stage and on the dance floor for their forty five minutes, everyone there felt it and it really was a “unity ideal”. Dave Smalley was very talkative and it was great hearing him talk about passing the torch to younger bands, metal and hardcore kids mixing it up and other brief meaningful speeches that didn’t sound forced. I’ve always thought Smalley was a guy with his heart and soul in everything he does musically so it was nice to hear that stuff coming from him. With a long day spent seeing old friends and having a good time watching these bands with no fights or problems I saw it was an amazing cap to the day. A complete success in the eyes of everyone there. I can’t imagine anyone walked out of that show thinking they had a bad time.

There are a lot of words here that express what the day was about for me. A friend there said this was like a “last hurrah”. I have to disagree, this was more like opening a door to this whole history and period of my life as well of hundreds of people who were there even before me. If anything this is the beginning of another chapter in this scene. The film will be released in the spring of 2011 and judging by the clips online and the few they played on screens in between bands it should be great. I love talking about my time back then with anyone who wants to listen, and the renewed interest in the scene and the new means in technology to connect with people is making this easier. I’ve had friends say people only want to look back at things like this because they are getting old and want to hold on to this piece of their life. I feel sorry for anyone who thinks like this, they are generally just jaded people who seem to never feel satisfied or just never were part of something like this. In my mind, reflection on the past is great especially when the majority of the memories are so great. If having fun for a day with old friends and listening to great music is bad, well I don’t want any part of the miserable and cynical, or as John Sox says “F U!”.

I have more pictures I took at my Flickr account

Also, if I got any band member names wrong, names spelled wrong, etc please let me know.

A Youthful Spark

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When I think of where I started in hardcore I think back to junior high school in Swampscott. Two different events, one of them has to do with me buying weed off of one of the three known punk rockers in the town at that time (1982). The other time would be in my class when we had a substitute teacher named Mrs Quint. I had heard about her. She was supposedly this really nice woman, and she was. On the desk when we arrived for class she had a couple of stapled together booklets that said “Suburban Punk” on them. I picked one up and leafed through it. She told me it was her son’s “fanzine” I was curious enough to read some of it and then kind of forget about it. Around the same time my great aunt told me of her nephew Al who was in a band called SS Decontrol. She had a copy of the first record. It looked poorly put together and silly to me. I was used to Iron Maiden album covers. Fast forward to the following spring when I needed to buy weed. One of my burnout friends directed me to this kid Peter who was “kind of weird, a punk rocker” Peter and I became good friends, he played me a number of hardcore records, namely the compilations “Not So Quiet On the Western Front” put out by Maximum Rock and Roll and the Flex Your Head compilation put out by Dischord. We would spend days in Peter’s basement bedroom in Swampscott listening to Minor Threat, MDC, Misfits, SSD, Crass, Rudimentary Peni and just about anything else that fell under the hardcore or punk rock umbrella. Peter told me there was a show coming up at a club called the Channel. The bands were Channel 3 and Kraut, and his friend Al Quint would drive us in along with Al’s friend and Suburban Punk photographer Paul. Al was friendly and had an encyclopedic knowledge of punk rock music. He had his nose broken that day in the pit. This was the beginning of a friendship that is still here thirty-two years later.

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Although Al and I aren’t as close as we were, we spent a good amount of time in the late 80’s in our band Shattered Silence. The first lineup I played bass and he sang, I eventually traded places with Al and took over the microphone, mostly during my time as a (non-racist, duh!) skinhead. We even did a brief set at Al’s wedding to his long time amazing wife Ellen. Al and I also worked together at a used record shop called Rockit Records, often commuting in together. At a certain point in the early 90’s I stopped going to hardcore shows; I missed the whole “early 90’s” thing that is apparently “a thing” Although I continued listening to hardcore music I didn’t really think of myself as part of that scene anymore. I certainly wasn’t one of those folks we heard about in all of those songs who “turned their back on the scene” but I just lost interest.

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In the last few years as social media has taken over everything I met a group of people on a private message board from different eras of the hardcore scene. Most of the discussion generally has nothing to do with the hardcore scene, hardcore music and more with making fun of people once they leave the private group. Some of the folks on here I knew in real life, and some I had never met. We had a couple of meet ups in person and then one particularly great one at a Seven Seconds show last August that I wrote about here. That night was great, great new friends with a common background against the back drop of one of the best hardcore bands from back in the day (at least for us). I felt like I did when I went to shows as a teenager, hanging out with similar people and seeing our favorite bands that you could easily approach and talk to. “Hey that’s Kevin Seconds just leaning on the van talking to Hank from Slapshot’s ‘wake up Hank we’re off the line!’ no big deal” It is kind of a big deal for people like me. I guess it would be the same as if your parents saw Paul Simon leaning against his Prius talking to Phil Donahue. The only difference is these popular faces in the hardcore scene aren’t on some pedestal or hidden back stage. Often you could call or write these people (Tony Erba from Fuck You Pay Me hilariously recalled on stage calling Al Quint whose phone number was in the credits of his zine) When I realized who my cousin was (Al from SSD) I got his number from my great aunt and would often call him to talk about “the scene”. This was after “Get it Away“ came out so the last thing he wanted to talk about was hardcore. He did give me a list of albums I should buy. In retrospect I realized he just told me to go buy all of the records on X-Claim! I’m pretty sure he talked about AC/DC and the band’s “new direction” And hey I do like some of “How We Rock” Al Quint sort of became one of these “legends” in the hardcore scene, not just in Boston. I mean there is literally a picture that exists of him singing with his arm around Ian MacKaye from a Minor Threat show. The closest I have to this is a picture of me in the crowd at a U2 era Seven Seconds show with an ill advised mustache…that and half of my face is on the original pressing of “Break Down the Walls”

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Al had been contacting me off and on through the years to do a Shattered Silence reunion something I imagined nobody would ever care about. We never released anything official and I really just didn’t feel like playing hardcore music in my 30’s or 40’s. When he contacted me for this recent gig, for his 55th Birthday at first I was apprehensive and after some thought I decided why not? After a somewhat depressing few months in my personal life this could be a great outlet for me to get my head somewhere else. We recruited long time friend Ian to play guitar, I would play bass, Al would sing. Our original drummer could not do it for personal obligations so we recruited another friend of Ian’s, Jimmy to play drums. I couldn’t be happier than with this line up.

 

A number of messages between the four of us started happening, Al picked out some songs we would do (I immediately shot down my song “Aqua Net Crew” which was embarrassing to do when I was 17, at 45 I don’t know if I could sing the lines “I wish I looked like Robert Smith but I need something to color my hair with” with a straight face) Instead we went with our song about Oliver North. We would do a handful of Shattered Silence songs, and some covers (Might Makes Right by Negative FX/Slapshot, Always Restrictions by Discharge, Can’t Tell No One by Negative Approach)

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Our first practice went great. I learned right off the bat Jimmy was an encyclopedia of old hardcore songs and could jump in to any of the brief jams on cover songs we fooled around with (Black Flag, SSD, Slapshot, etc.) Our second attempt at a practice only kind of happened because of a communication issue and it was just Al, Ian and myself. Playing hardcore without drums is kind of a useless exercise really. No worries, we’d pick it up a few days later with the whole band. A couple of snow day cancellations later and we were ready to meet up again. We all got to the practice spot in South Boston at the same time only to discover we didn’t have keys to get in. A week before the show. On the drive back we noticed the spot where the famous Channel club was, we decided to get out and take some photos and a hilarious video of Al and Ian “stage diving” into a snow bank. I passed on the snow bank stage dive because the camera adds about 40 pounds to me. We got two more practices in the week of the show and nailed everything. Everyone left the last night happy and confident.

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The night of the show was great. I met up with friends for dinner beforehand, got to the hall and was not the least bit nervous. Outside of hardcore I had been playing guitar in bands and played many shows, this show would be different though. I felt like I wasn’t a boring 45-year old guy reliving his youth, it felt like an actual thing. Playing music in front of people, some originals nobody has ever heard for the most part and a few covers. People danced, sang along, celebrated Al and hardcore music, it was great. The three other bands were all amazing, Stranger, Fuck You Pay Me and Dropdead. The intensity with which all of the other bands played was amazing and if you didn’t feel it while watching you were probably wasted or dead.

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(Photo by DJ Murray)

I can’t really get into writing about my experience on stage playing aside from saying it was cathartic and perfect and look forward to doing it a couple of more times. I drove home by myself slow and carefully on the snowy highway listening to John Coltrane to bring my head back down to earth with a different type of cacophony but still coming from the same place.

 

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(photo by Liz Coffey)

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