Episode 61 is a conversation with Randy Larsen, this is the second time Randy has been on the podcast.You may know him from his bands Cable and Empty Flowers. On this pretty free form episode we have a conversation about various subjects including the ending of Cable, a new musical project he’s involved in now as well as a bunch of different bands we go back and forth about. This was a lot of fun and I love talking to Randy about music, especially in a loose format like this.
Episode 59 is a conversation with Eric Komst. Eric grew up in Boston (Jamaica Plain to be exact) and was around music as a kid playing in his first band with friends, including Jordan Knight who would go on to be a New Kid on the Block. Later on EK got himself into a number of great bands like Straw Dogs out of Boston and then of course Warzone and Sick of it All. I had a great time talking to EK, he’s a great story teller, a well spoken and good hearted guy I’d definitely have on again.
Episode 57 is a candid conversation with my friend Keith Bennett. This is Keith’s second appearance on the podcast, the first episode (# 14) was an origin story about how he got into music, his bands, most notably The Wrecking Crew & Panzerbastard. Recorded in early April 2020 during the Coronoavirus pandemic this episode starts off pretty dark and then I throw some records at him, the second DYS album, Celtic Frost – Cold Lake, and other divisive albums from our world we talk a bit about those types of records as well as when el established bands would change singers. I had a great time talking to Keith, his love and passion for this music is deep and real and I’m glad I got to take us there for an hour.
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.
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!
Reed: Get out of here
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
(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.
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.
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.
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”
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)
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.
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.
(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.
(photo by Liz Coffey)
The first time I heard 7 Seconds was in 1983 on the epic compilation fanzine Maximum Rock and Roll released, Not So Quiet on the Western Front. On a record with forty-seven bands their song “Fuck Your Amerika” stood out with its sing along chorus and catchy simple little riff. Like most songs on the record it was less than a minute long. Aside from some of the bigger bands like Dead Kennedys, MDC, Crucifix, and a few others most of the bands on that compilation fell into obscurity, at least in my world.
When I came across their 7” record Committed For Life at Newbury Comics a few months later I had found my new favorite hardcore band. Seven songs in eight minutes that encompassed everything I loved about that first song I heard. Where that song was yet another angry political song in a sea of angry political songs, I now had a few more songs to take in and see what they were all about. That 7” is pretty much a blueprint for everything I loved about the band and what I always thought the band was about: positive thinking, some anti-drug lyrics, songs about “the scene” and “tough guys”, all themes that would remain in their world for at least a few more releases anyway.
When someone lists their top hardcore records of all time and doesn’t include “The Crew”, the bands full length from 1984, I have to think they don’t understand hardcore music. When this record came out, everything about it was exactly what I wanted in a hardcore record. The epitome and a building block of the hardcore scene and what it was for many years. Even the album cover with its dark picture of the band on stage surrounded by fans on stage would be something bands would use for years. More themes like anti-racism and anti-sexism came out on this record with “Colourblind” and “Not Just Boys Fun” respectively. I spent all of 1984 with my best friend at the time listening to this record. Thirty years later every lyric is still embedded in my brain.
They followed The Crew with the slick sounding “Walk Together, Rock Together”, recorded at Inner Ear Studios by Dischord’s unofficial engineer, Don Zientara. This record included their cover of “99 Red Balloons” which became a pretty big “hit” (at least in the underground hardcore scene) and live staple for the band.
Right around this time is when a good amount of hardcore bands started incorporating metal into their sound, something most people, myself included enthusiastically embraced. When 7 Seconds released “New Wind”, it was the complete opposite, in between a few faster hardcore songs was a number of slower melodic poppy songs. They still maintained their catchiness, and as I was also growing, the album became one of my favorite albums for years. I felt like I was growing with the band, which is an important thing for any music I love. The album even included a song aimed at said bands called “I Still Believe” I always thought that song was aimed squarely at the Boston bands that had “gone metal” especially with the line “they’re playing better music with a message aimed at other crowds/and they don’t include the lyric sheet ‘cause what they say ain’t proud” In the midst of an album of songs about relationships, growing older they also manage to throw in a “fuck you” to bands who turned their back on hardcore. That was an amazing point in this band’s history.
Last night’s Boston show of course, opened with “I Still Believe” which doesn’t hold the same weight it did at the time it was released, especially in Boston, but if you look at the last line of the song “an empty pedestal and all these heroes, where’d they go? When I find myself a hero I’ll be sure to let you know” Well, Kevin Seconds is that guy. I haven’t really followed the hardcore scene as much as I did thirty years ago, but I still regularly listen to all of the bands I listened to in my formative years. Kevin Seconds err, in my eyes, is larger than life; up there with Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Glenn Danzig, Jello Biafra and any of the other iconic front men from American hardcore bands. Kevin is a hero, an icon and someone who deserves all the respect he gets. He still looks like pretty much the same guy I saw live for the first time thirty years ago at The Paradise, still has the same charisma and ability to work a crowd.
The set they played last night included songs from their whole history including a number of ones from their newest record that fit perfectly in with old staples like “Young Til I Die”, “Regress No Way”, and the extremely old “Skins, Brains and Guts” which I was amazed they still knew how to play. Kevin, along with his brother Steve Youth, long time drummer Troy Mowat and guitarist Bobby Adams (who also doubles as a smooth jazz guitar player!) gave me exactly what I needed, a quick trip back to what it was like in the 80’s at hardcore shows, a good time. No fights, hanging with friends and good music. I’m glad I made it out. I took some videos of the show I’ve posted here.