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.
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.
(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.