Search

caffeineandcookies

Bad choices made, constantly

Tag

music

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

Advertisements

A Youthful Spark

1972385_10152932650951522_286653992704552857_n

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.

10404510_10153090490011522_2489184809789576370_n

10933876_10153091727411522_1083108992338877003_n

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.

30708_430219346521_6798614_n

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”

IMG_9530

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)

10671332_10153104054446522_8577367002253924308_n

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.

1510647_10153146613071522_3225204044430397298_n

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.

10955243_10205851982724265_8742332389561987425_n

 

(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.

 

10386745_10206014686225450_6004369323988912371_n

 

(photo by Liz Coffey)

North Carolina to Pittsburgh in Seven Hours

FireAlarm

 

I took one good long look at the rug of the hotel lobby, and realized I would be in for, at the very least, an interesting stay.

“Sir,”

She broke my concentration

“Your room is around the back, 113. Enjoy your stay.”

“Thanks” I replied and walked out into the thick pea soup air.

August was a hot month for North Carolina. I had already withstood a week of this nasty hot weather, but today was extra brutal. I walked by the pool on the way to my room and noticed an old white-as-a-ghost man sitting by the pool. We both made eye contact, and then broke when a young boy jumped into the pool screaming something unintelligible.

The smell of a new motel room is always nice, like a new car. After the stale ashtray of my car’s interior, any new smell is always greeted with a pleasant sigh. One time, I was in Pittsburgh, or rather outside of Pittsburgh. My reservation should have been changed weeks before, but I didn’t, so I stayed in some small blue collar town with all kinds of factories and Ford trucks, and men with mustaches, and white people with nice SUV’s and black people with dirty sidewalks, and fast food restaurants filled with acne covered Puerto Rican boys. This was the epitome of traveling to me. The people who lived in these towns I passed through. The people that live and breathe the towns always make me feel unwelcome. “People watching” is a favorite way to pass time when I have time between travel days.

So I’m in this outskirt of Pittsburgh and I show up at this run down motel that is in between a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a McDonalds, and about nine hundred other generic signs burned into your brain. I get the key to my room. Before I even open the door, I am greeted with an odor that makes me practically gag. It’s the smell of a room that apparently had someone smoke maybe a carton of cigarettes (in a row) in a room with an air conditioner blasting (with a dirty filter). Not wanting to deal with this for more than five more minutes I did what any smart traveler would do, I fumigated the room with steam. This was a trick I learned…that day. “Improvisational fumigation” I turned the shower, as well as the sink on full blast and turned the heat all the way up on both of them. The steam started pouring out of the bathroom swiftly. First little puffs of steam here and there, until eventually I had the Iron Maiden stage set (during the pre Bruce Dickinson era, Killers [Paul D’ianno, vocals] tour of course. As later tours seemed to have specific themes, like the Egyptian/Graveyard mood on the Powerslave tour, or the Blade Runneresque Somewhere In Time tour. The room started to get unbearably hot, so I opened the door, with a good weeks worth of facial hair, and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth to discover a family loading into the room next to me. I made eye contact and said hello to the wife first, the young daughter, and then to the father, as what must have looked like a scene from a Fellini film took place behind me, and eventually around me. Smoke and steam can have a cool effect sometimes. If used in an original manner such as greeting a family from Connecticut in the midst of trying to fumigate your room from the smell of cigarette smoke (while yourself smoking), one feels like some sort of character. The smell did eventually go away, and I never saw the family again the rest of my stay.

I rested easy that night, as the stench was gone, and in a day or two, Pittsburgh would be a dim memory for me.

Back to North Carolina.

I get to my room and it smells wonderful.

“That new car smell!” I think to myself.

I throw the television on as usual, and go outside to get the rest of my stuff. A suitcase full of clothes, clean and dirty, a messenger bag filled with notebooks and journals filled with bad art, and worse memories, three CD cases filled with a total of 500 CD’s, and my trusty boom box. I can’t sleep in the dead silence, as my ears ring all the time and it keeps me awake, so I lull myself to sleep with anything from Miles Davis to Black Sabbath. Heavy metal is easy to go to sleep to actually. I set up the boom box and throw in the Duke Ellington trio CD (definitely one of the best things the Duke ever did in my humble opinion. With Charles Mingus and Max Roach rounding out the rhythm section, how can you get a better trio than that?) and immediately skipped to Caravan (track 8, which when one looks at the history of Track 8’s from tons of releases, you’ll see the attraction to this sacred home in album sequencing history, check it out: Bowie’s Man Who Sold the World: seven tracks before getting to the title track, Van Morrison gives us the beautiful When That Evening Sun Goes Down eight tracks in on Tupelo Honey, the Beach Boys Pet Sounds boasts (arguably) the greatest song they did in God Only Knows eight tracks in, my favorite track on the brilliant Stones Exile on Main Street, Sweet Black Angel is guess what, track eight. Even the Beatles knew what they were doing when they put the creepy Happiness is a Warm Gun 8 tracks in on the White Album. The Smashing Pumpkins Gish offers the listener Tristessa at number eight, T-Rex gives us Telegram Sam eight tracks into The Slider. This is obviously not an accident. Track 8 will be revered for years to come as the key spot to hook the listener and make a classic record just that, a classic record. One example of this not happening is on the seminal Replacements record Let it Be, where the weakest track on the record Seen Your Video is erroneously given the coveted track 8 spot. The albums best song actually opens the record as I Will Dare, or arguably opens “side two” with My Favorite Thing. There are good arguments for both songs. I Will dare boasts the best pop hook in the history of guitar playing this side of You Really Got Me, where My Favorite Thing presumably filled thousands of mix-tapes throughout the eighties. Both are great songs regardless.), one of my favorite songs of all time, made most famous by Dizzy Gillespie. I turned the volume down on the television set and started to fade off.

I dreamt of this big mountain I was driving on. It felt like I was driving for hours as my eyeballs felt like dry golf balls whatever that means. I was hot in the car as I drove down this huge mountain, and it surrounded me. There was mist and fog along the sides of the mountain that made it impossible to see how high up I was. My ears were filled with hot air. I felt all of this vividly in this dream. Perhaps it was the actual long hours I had been driving in reality, mixed with a steady diet of caffeine, nicotine, and THC I was living on for days that made me have such rich, alive dreams. So I’m on this thing driving not really knowing where I’m supposed to be going in the dream. Just following everyone else for the most part. Everyone is going just fast enough to make it uncomfortable, and unsafe. I feel like I am going to drive off the mountain. In the dream I am with someone else, they sit in the back seat, each time I look in the rear view mirror to see them they turn their head away so I can’t see their face. They sometimes obscure their face without turning their head confusing me even more, as I try to concentrate on gravity and speed at the same time. I picture the car driving off of the side of the mountain into the woods. Traveling at speeds well over one hundred miles an hour, this is a very real vision within a dream. I picture the car tumbling violently over jagged rocks and tree branches breaking, and the contents of my car being thrown around like balls in one of those bingo things. I picture myself landing though, and walking away from the car. Nobody is in the back seat. A bunch of broken picture frames and empty coffee cups litter the area in and around the car. I manage to get the crushed trunk open with the help of a piece of the bumper (?) and retrieve my most coveted possession, the boom box, and the CD’s. I start walking through the barren woods, knowing well I can’t climb back up the valley and make it to the highway above. I go through the CD’s and find Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and put it in the boom box and begin my descent into the woods.

I awaken to what sounds like someone hammering nails into a giant aluminum silo. I look out the window, and the father from the family is actually packing things into his car. I can’t figure out what he was doing to make such a racket, but I keep investigating. Pretty soon the mother, followed by the daughter come out of the room and start talking to the father. What looks like an argument turns into a kiss on the cheek from both women as they leave the parking lot and walk towards the gas station across the street.

The family is a foreign thing to me. I can’t really imagine what kind of things go with being a family person. Here I am traveling around the country in my car to amuse myself. I have a ton of money to just waste on nothing but rare blues records and cigarettes, and this guy probably has an agenda each day. “Today we need to leave the hotel room at seven in the morning so we can make our way to Hershey Park by noon. At ten o’clock this evening we will go to dinner at this restaurant I found in the travel book. This is what will go down. This is how my family will spend their vacation” Me, I’m showing up in these towns and cities and grabbing the yellow pages and looking for used record stores, book stores, and whatever else to look at along the way.

I close the drapes in the room and walk over to the boom box, The Ellington CD probably stopped playing 7 hours ago. I press the play button and crawl back into my seven thirty in the morning bed hoping to hit the town later in the day. Wondering how I fell asleep in North Carolina and woke up back in Pittsburgh.DSC02435

Jeff Hanneman Dying Was Like That Time John Lennon Died, But Worse

fiendclub

When Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died last week it was like that time John Lennon died, but worse. When Lennon died I was ten years old and although I listened to The Beatles for most of my young life, him dying in 1980 wasn’t really that big of a deal to me. I was a kid, I didn’t have any kind of connection to him aside from the melodies he wrote and performed that sounded good to my ears. For guys like me, who spent most of their formative years up until the present in the “metal scene” or “hardcore scene” Jeff Hanneman was a God.

Being a young and naïve teenager, I thought once I got into punk rock and hardcore music I wouldn’t be able to listen to heavy metal music anymore. (the pic of me above, I seem to be okay with Iron Maiden, Rush and The Misfits) At one point I made the switch over to hardcore from metal but that’s a whole other story. I published a fanzine covering hardcore and punk music when I was 14. I had the great fortune of interviewing some of my favorite musicians from the time. These artists were generally always approachable and friendly. My first interview was Keith Morris of Circle Jerks and Black Flag, I interviewed Peter Stahl from Scream, Corrosion of  Conformity, Lyle Preslar of Minor Threat and many others…Around my third issue of the zine I wanted to interview the band Siege. My friend Mark’s cousin Kevin was the singer. As it turns out, Kevin was no longer the singer. The new singer was living in Marblehead. MA and I went to interview him at his house.  (as far as I know they never did any shows with this singer) While there he played me two records: Metallica – Ride the Lightning and Slayer – Hell Awaits. He only had to play me the two opening songs and I was sold. Metallica’s Fight Fire With Fire with it’s pretty acoustic intro that then explodes into the first thrash metal song I ever hear, and then Hell Awaits which as you might know begins with what sounds like a Bosch painting coming alive. Demons speaking backwards, which I quickly discovered was “JOIN US” over and over backwards.

One of the main reasons (along with seeing Cliff Burton wearing a Crimson Ghost Misfits shirt or James Hetfield wearing a Discharge shirt) was Jeff Hanneman. When you saw pictures of Slayer they all looked like typical metal guys, making ugly faces, “throwing up the horns”, etc. but then there was this bleached blonde dude with punk rock stickers all over his guitar. He seemed like the most approachable guy, and he was a fan of the same music I was.

Both Hell Awaits and the EP Haunting the Chapel were on heavy rotation for quite some time as a teenager and then Reign in Blood came out. The band, now signed to Def Jam recorded with Rick Rubin, who had up until then produced LL Cool J, Run DMC, and the Beastie Boys among others. What? Rubin basically took all the reverb out of Slayer, sort of the opposite of what AC/DC did with Back in Black. Instead of sounding like the music was recorded in some cavernous chapel in the deepest level of hell, every instrument was completely up front and dry. The album was a quick twenty-nine minutes. It’s widely regarded as the best thrash metal album of all time.

Jeff Hanneman wrote, in my opinion (and it should be yours) the best Slayer songs. Angel of Death (the “Ace of Spades” of Slayer, yet I’m still not tired of hearing it. Sampled by Public Enemy, which means Spike Lee has heard part of the song Angel of Death by Slayer, not knowing it’s about Josef Mengele!), Post Mortem (my favorite Slayer song), pretty much every song on South of Heaven, most of Seasons in the Abyss, and much more. His songwriting has stayed with me much more than most of my other “favorite” bands. I could probably recite every lyric on Reign in Blood, he was the “quiet” member of the band, his guitar solos, which basically sound like demons being strangled to death stick in your head forever, sort of like the guitar solo in Something by The Beatles. That makes more sense; Hanneman dying was like when George Harrison died but worse.

1035 – Laid Off From “The Music Business” Pt. 2

(the first part of this can be found here: http://wp.me/p1zaMw-1f )

When the phone at my desk rang I immediately knew what was about to happen. I had just arrived at work via taxi after dropping my car off at a garage for a number of repairs that cost just under $1000. In the dead of winter, smack in the middle of January, there was still filthy grey snow and ice everywhere. I walked from the garage to a Dunkin Donuts, and then a convenience store. I found a card on a bulletin board for a taxi service, which ended up just being some local guy in his 60’s with a Lincoln Town Car. I told him I would call him back later in the day for a ride to the garage when my car was ready if I couldn’t get a ride over from someone at work.

I was working at Square Records for a little under eleven years. Unfortunately they had been laying people off for a few months. I felt pretty safe. There were two other “equals” in my office. One had been there much longer than I, the other a little shorter than I had been. A few weeks before someone “from upstairs” accidentally printed a document in the printer room listing the salaries of everyone in the company, (even the owners, president, etc). A co-worker and I both discovered it. We of course immediately decided we needed to look it over. The best way to go about this was to make our own copy. The person who printed it could be showing up in the printer room at any moment. One of us acted as a “lookout” while the other quickly made a copy of it and put it inside of a manila folder. I still have this document at home in a folder along with other stuff from there. If you ever want to feel like shit at your job, find out what all those people you don’t like above you make on their paychecks.

I walked into the HR woman’s office and she had a bunch of paperwork ready for me and told me they were letting go go of my job. I could tell she must have hated doing this job. I think that particular day five of us got laid off. I signed all the papers including ones that basically said I wouldn’t talk shit about the company. I think this was just during the period where they were paying out my severance. Now it’s probably okay to talk shit about that sweatshop of a warehouse that released albums by some pretty amazing artists but also some really bad music as well. that’s for another time though.

I don’t really remember the reasons why I was laid off, all I can say as boy was I excited. I had hated the job for quite some time and I had just been told to go home, forever. They would still continue to pay me for four months and keep me on the 100 % full health and dental plan. Since my car was still in the shop and I had only been at work for a few minutes I had nowhere to go aside from back to the garage. My car wouldn’t be ready until way later though. The company offered me $25 to catch a cab back to the garage and then one of my co-workers offered me a ride. The ride was a bittersweet drive. I had seen this woman every weekday for years and now would probably not see her for some time. She was one of my favorite co-workers.

I got back to the garage and told the guy fixing my car I just lost my job but to “keep working on it” I then called my family, and texted a few friends and my girlfriend. Not knowing some of the turns my life would take over the next few years I was filled with excitement. Also, I was scared. Arriving home I hugged both cats and sat on the couch wondering what to do. I think I made a bunch of chicken cutlets. Or got high. Probably both.

That night I went to sleep and for the first time in who knows how long, and didn’t turn my alarm on. There was something liberating about that. I of course woke up early the next morning anyway. My first though? “Fuck, I have about twenty-five minutes left to make McDonalds breakfast!”  This was a mantra I would become very familiar with for a long time. The Mc Donalds breakfast had become a ritual for a while until one day walking in I saw a rather large man in his 50‘s walking out. I went in and bought a newspaper and waited in a brief line. When I got my food a few minutes later I went and sat at the window. Outside was an ambulance and a small group of about four or five people gathered around. Seems like my buddy from the way in dropped on the ground. I quickly ate my two egg and meat sandwiches, hash browns and coffee and left. I made it to my car without having a heart attack. It was a good day indeed.

When you get laid off it’s almost like having someone break up with you. They’re not really pissed at you, they just don’t think you should see each other anymore. I guess this would make a severance package a period of make up sex that abruptly ends a few months later.  I spent a few months confused not knowing what to do at first. Knowing I could collect unemployment at some point, knowing I had a place to live and a patient girlfriend that was working a good job was comforting. I decided looking for a new job would be maybe the fifteenth priority. My top priorities would be buying things from the internet to a point where a package was arriving everyday. I memorized the sound of that mailman’s truck pulling up in front of our house. Peeking out the window until he drove away and making my way outside to grab my presents. It was like Christmas every single day, just without the having to spend your money on other people.

I was making relatively good money so once I started collecting I would be getting a good amount of money every week as long as I checked in every Sunday. I supplemented my income with the sale of various collectable items I had acquired through the years working around music. Music collectors have deep pockets, and it’s always been a way for me to make extra money for as long as I can remember. The first week I started selling on eBay I put a Slayer 12” single I bought in 1987 for probably $4.00. A guy in Canada bought it for $450.00 FOUR-HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS. Yeah, I know right?

Music would end up helping pay a lot of bills. Not music I was playing, music I was selling. Whether it was promotional items I held onto for years or expensive Misfits albums (I had doubles of some so it was okay), I was always able to make some sort of money. At the same time I was burnt out from that business. Selling things I wasn’t supposed to and that kind of thing seemed ridiculous to me, and still does. It’s not my fault some asshole thinks buying a rare CD by the Cult for $60.00 is a good idea. Of course I eventually ran out of stuff to sell and grew tired of hunting down cheap stuff to turn over for more money so I slowed down. Thankfully, the government was in a generous mood as I was somehow able to collect for well over two years.

For the longest time, well for one-thousand and thirty-five days, I had no idea what going back to work would be like, What being responsible was like anymore. Without really knowing it I was entering a mid-life crisis. It was kind of fun though.

(to be continued)

I Went to Baltimore

As a general rule I like to travel by myself. Having traveling companions always slows you down. For the most part I like to observe things and report back instead of enjoying them with others. Thankfully my travel companions on this trip understand this as I’ve managed to do my own thing for the majority of this trip.

Two of us left early on Thursday morning to come to Baltimore, Maryland for a festival of basically all metal and metal related bands. Four days of music. Loud music. I love this shit. Well, not as much as the kids here toughing it out for every second of it, but I love this music and scene. The drive down was pretty uneventful. I messed up somewhere and missed the Tappan Zee Bridge and ended up pretty much on 95 for the majority of the drive, which is a pretty bland stretch of travel. Maybe because I have done the drive so many times it’s just become a boring background for the trip to somewhere better. Somewhere like Baltimore. Wait, Baltimore? Is this place any good?

Standing alone in crowds at shows, sporting events, anywhere. When people are behind me I imagine they are all watching me. Every single one of them freezes me in my footsteps. The second night there I wanted to turn around and go get a drink and stood there for ten minutes thinking it over until finally turning around, head down, avoiding eye contact and making my way to the bar to get a soda. It’s worse than it ever has been nowadays. Social anxiety. Yesterday I never went to the festival at all, catching a baseball game, and retiring to the room at 7:00, cutting off the outside world. Well, aside from attempting to be funny on the Internet and posting pictures here and there. I did this back home a few weeks ago as well, buying a ticket to see the Bad Brains after looking for months for one, going through some hoops to get one. The night of the show, drove by the venue and realized there was no way I could make it inside there so I just went home and ate the $30 I spent on the ticket. My passion for music, seeing it live, creating it, caring about it in general is pretty low at this point anyway.

Baltimore is indeed pretty good. The architecture here is pretty great. I’m staying in downtown, a mere five-minute walk up and down a hill to the venue. The walk back to the hotel is the only problem as it’s up a hill and I’m in horrible shape.  The other night on the way down to the show, near the venue I saw what looked like half of a joint on the ground. When I left hours later I remembered where it was and picked it up and it turned out to be a rolled cigarette. Well, I figured this out by lighting it and attempting to smoke it and then coughing pretty hard. Yeah I did that. Walking around the city as a white minority is refreshing and makes me feel like I’m in Los Angeles where being a white person you’re also a minority.

Out of however many bands are at this festival I’ve watched about five bands that I am a fan of. Metal fans are a dedicated lot, and the passion and love these kids put into just being metal heads is pretty intense. It reminds me of how it was in the 80’s when I was like that. The two best bands I saw were Eyehategod and Today is the Day, the rest is a blur of “yeah that was cool’s” but nothing I could write a trillion word essay about. I’ve been more interested in taking some photos than writing about music. Tonight is the last night of music and we are heading out tonight, rather than dealing with driving home on Memorial Day from Baltimore to Boston. I can usually do late night drives pretty well, especially if someone is with me. If I never update this blog again, it’s because I fell asleep at the wheel and went over a bridge.

Los Angeles, CA to Flagstaff, AZ

January 14, 2012 (Flagstaff, AZ)

Early on into this trip this morning I was thinking about different times I’ve lied to women about music or food or something to impress them. The most memorable one was in the early 90’s when being a “music person” didn’t mean anything; everyone was a music person in the 90’s. I was working at a small record store in New Hampshire in this beach resort area that was like a less good (wait, better?) version of the Jersey Shore. Next to the store was a small coffee shop. There was a girl my age that worked part time there and often we would kill the day chatting about life and music. She knew quite a bit about music, which is always a good thing. I considered myself and still consider myself to have a good knowledge of hardcore, punk rock, metal and stuff related to those genres. There are always holes in someone’s taste of knowledge though. She mentioned she loved The Repalcements and held up a copy of “Let it Be” asking me if I agreed it was a classic.

“Of course, what are you shitting me?” I replied

I had never heard the album in my life. I immediately grabbed a copy that night and listened to it over and over just in case she “tested me” on it at some point. A short time later she stopped working there and evidently stole money from the coffee shop to support a drug habit. It was nice of her to introduce me to that album which is obviously a classic I will tell any woman in the future.  I can’t remember what this has to do with this trip.

Another time I lied to a woman to impress her was every single time I’ve ever talked to a woman in my entire life.

Saying goodbye always sucks, even if it’s temporary. Last night was laid back. I went with one friend to a restaurant that is basically one of these chain bakery/restaurants that old people go to. My friend had wanted to go to one before he moved (he is also leaving LA). For my last meal in Los Angeles, really? It turned out to be just what I expected. Gross. I barely ate it. He enjoyed his meal but I enjoyed the scenery in the restaurant. Some observations: Every customer had some sort of problem walking. Limping. Crutches. A hunchbacked woman. Some woman was wearing these weird winter gloves that looked out of place with short sleeves indoors on someone that isn’t playing drums. There was a guy that looked like he was probably in some horrible rock band in the 70’s. He even had like a vest and frosted hair. Him and his date sat on the same side in their booth. She was older than she wanted us to think she was. I wasn’t fooled. Obviously he was 57.

We said our farewells and then I shot to the other side or some other side, I don’t really understand valleys, of the valley and met “the girls”. We went for food and of course I didn’t think twice of ordering a meal forty minutes after another meal. Come on, I barely ate the first one. I’ll miss all of these people and Los Angeles.

This part of the drive is easily the best and thankfully I had bright blue daylight to make it even easier. Eventually this will turn grey and ugly and I’ll be back home.  I’ve never been happier.

January 15, 2012 (Flagstaff, AZ)

It’s 5:00 AM. I can’t really sleep in this area of the country because of the altitude and just sleeping on an actual bed at this point is hard. I think I slept a total of two hours last night. I slept three or four the night before, and drove a little more than seven hours. I may just leave here soon for the next stop. It’s still dark here and, well sleeping is boring when there is so much to see out here. Everything here is standing still so it’s not like I’m going to miss anything. If I leave this early I can drive in daylight for the majority of the day though. Fuck this?

1035 – Intro/Pre-Laid Off Life in “The Music Business” Pt. 1

Intro

In early 2008 I was laid off from my job. I didn’t work again until almost three years later, or 1,035 days later. Not something I’m proud of but also, who gives a shit really? The government gave me money for two years of that, other times I made money by selling all sorts of collectible stuff, gambling and somehow managing to have every single person I know buy me at least one meal (I swear I’ll buy them all a meal soon).

At the end of the day, I had some great experiences as well as some horrible ones. I moved to Los Angeles and then back to the Boston area, had a couple of significant relationships end, old friends and family members die, quit smoking and above all sat around and pretty much did nothing.

These writings will cover those times, as well as some of the times leading up to being laid off, and the adjusting back to life as a normal working person. When I was hired for my current job I mentioned to a friend how crazy it had been not working for two years, she informed me it was close to three years. I swear I have a strong work ethic, you’ll see.


Pre-Laid Off Life in “The Music Business” Pt. 1

Sure I worked for a pretty prestigious, famous independent record label for a decade, but really this job could have been any job. When you work in fulfillment or service it doesn’t really matter what you’re selling, music or paper towels. It’s a product. I never  really considered this working “in the music business”. My whole life has been around the music business since my dad has been in it since before I was born and still is, the vast majority of my friends are musicians or have something to do with it, I’ve played music, recorded music, released music and just spent time immersed in it in some way for as long as I can remember. That part of me is more “music business”,  this job was just a job…it just happened to also be a record label.  People who work at record labels or in the business in general are pretty gross. While telling the world how awful it is to steal their music they themselves pretty much never pay for music whether recorded or live. There is an entitlement in the music business there that is way beyond art and what music should be about. It’s a different place than it used to be, and as cliche as it sounds, the DIY/underground is where you’re going to find people who are truly doing it for their love of music. The good people who worked with me at the label were these people. Life there would have been awful if it wasn’t for them.

The company I worked for was an independent record label in the Boston area. I’ll refer to the company as “Square Records” since the higher ups were just that, a bunch of fucking squares. The label had a reputation of putting out quality music, also of being a shitty place to work. There were obvious perks to working there. Aside from a small handful of folks that were short lived, the vast majority of people I worked with were great people and remain at the very least friends on whatever the latest social network is right now. Anytime I run into these folks in person it’s great. We spent a lot of good and bad times together. As with any job there was a network of people you associate with that are “in the know”. The ones you complain about work with, talk about other people with, go to lunch with and maybe even hang out with outside of work. These are the people that made going to work everyday okay. In general this place wasn’t as horrible a place to work as I might make it out to be, but how boring would that be to read about?

In close to eleven years I held a few different positions there. Mostly my positions had something to do with fulfillment and direct to consumer sales and customer service. For a good chunk of this time I somehow got promoted into something I’ll never do again: managing a group of people. Everyone who worked under me was pretty cool, we had a nice tight knit group and I really have to say I miss working with them all. Even the woman I fired that one time.

One thing that set the company apart from other record labels was Square Records was a union shop. For a brief period I even became a Union Steward. I kind of got talked into it by fellow employees and then when I discovered a girl I had a slight crush on was also a steward, I joined. Unfortunately I was painfully shy and socially awkward and she had a boyfriend so nothing ever happened there. If someone was disciplined at work or fired I had to “represent” them. My first “case” was the firing of the head Union Steward who had been with the company for years. A recently hired General Manager pretty much fired him for nothing and I had to help him fight it. Even though I got involved with the union for other reasons once I realized how serious of a job I had it became more interesting and serious to me. A few years later I would end up in contract negotiation meetings on the union side of the table up against some of the higher ups including my own boss. Listening to grown men say right to your face that giving people a five cents raise on their hourly wage once a year was okay was beyond disgusting. Eventually I somehow managed to get myself into a position where I negotiated myself out of my job and into a management position. This is when things got real fun.

I was kind of the lead customer service guy in my department. Now I was the manager. Our little group had become pretty tight knit so it was a little difficult having to now be the boss of people who I considered my friends. With the mixture of my employees being union employees and my boss being very detail oriented when it came time to do yearly performance reviews I had to be extra detailed on everything. Dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s. Making sure I justified why this particular person deserved a fifteen cent raise. Reviewing people’s work performance might be the single worst thing one can do. For one thing, you are in control of if someone is going to be getting more money and how much. This is a lot of pressure for someone with no managerial experience whatsoever. My boss was a cool guy if not a little nerdy. He was into auto racing and used a lot of racing metaphors in his management and in training me to become a better manager. I still use some of his ideas to this day, well aside from that time he ran through the office with a big checkered flag because we had a good month in sales.

Oh yeah, it should be noted that during my whole time employed at Square Records I came into work high on marijuana probably every single day aside from maybe ten days out of ten years. There were quite a few people working there that were doing the same thing. Some of them managers. Since my initial position at the company was pretty much mindless warehouse work I was able to get away with being mindless most of the time. I somehow managed to get things done every day, even if it meant delegating it to other people so I could check Facebook, I mean Myspace…or maybe it was Friendster. My boss even told me once his goal for me was to have everything delegated out so I could just put my feet up on the desk and do nothing.

“Wow, management sounds intense!” I thought to myself

The warehouse was a hot disgusting place to work. In the summers it was often just as hot if not hotter than it was outside. Since there was a union that promoted from within, when a coveted office job was posted warehouse folks often scrambled to get their resumes to the particular manager in hopes to finally make it back to the air conditioned heaven of the offices.

Once you made it to the offices you were home free. It was true, people with desk jobs don’t really do much work at all regardless of what they try to tell you. They get stressed out but for the most part, desk people have really bad people skills and can’t work as a team so they are constantly talking about each other and complaining about their job. Every single person I know that works a job that is spent at a desk will often let you know about their shitty day at work or how much crap they had to put up with. You rarely hear this from warehouse workers, laborers, etc. I consider myself one of those people now. I enjoy being tired and dirty when I get home. If I had a shitty day at work or got hurt somehow then I probably did a good job that day. If a desk/office person has a bad day at work it’s probably because they couldn’t log on to the internet or they had to wait seven minutes for the IS guy to come and fix a printer.

When I became an office person and realized how office work was I was initially happy, in retrospect I feel like I learned very little beyond just how petty people can be. Office politics can be a dirty game and I certainly wasn’t willing to play. I was willing to get paid more money for doing things like keeping an online journal with well over fifteen-hundred entries (most of which were written in the office), e-mail friends, take ninety-minute lunch breaks so I could go CD shopping. I even took a four hour lunch break once without telling anyone so I could go to a Red Sox day game (they lost).

In retrospect I really wish I saved some of the ridiculous e-mails from there. In ten plus years there was a vast amount of communications between me and customers, me and artists and of course me and coworkers that would surely make me laugh out loud if I were to read them. For instance what kind of e-mail exchanges did I have with that woman I was secretly sleeping with for a little while there? What were those awkward e-mails from the even more awkward president like? He was like a creepy, younger, extra tall version of Mr Burns from the Simpsons mixed with Bill Gates and someone who looked like they probably never had really disgusting sex. Talking to him was awkward, he had a voice that sounded like Jim Henson or Frank Oz was inside of him. I really did not like this man. After working there for as long as I did he barely ever spoke to me and when he did it was to ask for something to get done for him and his interests. He was another person that basically told me my co-workers and I didn’t deserve more than fifteen cents/hour once a year for a raise (if we did “excellent” in or yearly review) in contract negotiations.

At one point, while I was a manager they had a vote to decertify the union. They brought in these professional union busting guys  to train us managers how to talk our employees into voting to decertify the union. We had to meet one on one with this guy. I remember him having longer hair and a mustache, but obviously more put together. He didn’t look like Doug Henning is what I’m saying here. I sat in a small office with him across from me. He held a clipboard with the names of the employees in my department. At the time my office consisted of four people. Three women and one man. Two of the women were former union stewards or active in union activities and the one man was a current steward. He went down the list:

“Okay so these two women used to be stewards so we can forget about them” he tells me

“Probably a good idea”

“And this guy, he is a current steward so we know how he is going to vote”

“Sure”

“What about this other girl here…?”

“I’m not one hundred percent sure about her but I used to also be a steward so the anti-union vibe in our office is pretty much non existent. You guys might want to concentrate on other departments”

The union was decertified shortly thereafter. The company started putting all of its money and time towards a horrible all girl “tween-pop” group which featured our president’s daughter. In my opinion, and I’m sure in many other’s, this is when the company started getting way worse. And then people started losing their jobs.

(to be continued)

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑