Wednesday, December 31, 2008

PART TWO.. Starting off with Cuz Joe of Black N Blue

Part TWO shall illuminate work done by esteemed members of the hardcore community and show in turn what people can do when they put real work and core ethics to what they do.
If this is the first entry you've read-please refer back to past entries to catch on the ongoing discussion/interview series..

As this interview series continues to grow, I find myself looking for the people who are out there doing. They're out there pushing and making what we do/love/live all it can be. They've incorporated or acquired skills to help facilitate the progress in their efforts and the dividends are shared by the entire community. These "Part Two" people often sacrifice countless hours, dollars and endure stress and ungodly headaches to create what we enjoy.

To talk about hardcore and its past and roots to overlook the importance of NYC and the aesthetic of the Great NYHC shows would be a grievous error. I am very pleased to have Cuz Joe who has taken an annual event that has its own deep roots and importance out of its grave and made it to something better then what it was in the past. The Superbowl of Hardcore featured the best and brightest of the NYHC scene. After a decade and change, it shifted down to D.C. and fell out of its glory. Cuz Joe and Black N Blue Productions really took it back to its glory days with amazing lineups and implimented an innovative as well as creative promotion plan and incorporated sponsors and an overall vibe that has lead to a rebirth of the NYC scene.
Black N Blue Productions has the touch of the old school family mentality with the great looking glossy promotion and an ever widening grasp on the NYC hardcore scene. They strive to bring the real hardcore show vibe to the masses and bring the light back onto their hometown. No barricade, no dickhead bouncers and zero tolerance on fighting at their shows is just a portion of their efforts to improve the shows and the scene in NY.
So without further interruption, here he is Cousin Joe...

When you started off doing the Black and Blue shows, did you do them because you felt like you were filling a void or serving your scene? Was there others around you at the time to give you a hand or were your lessons learned through trial and error?
A little of both. At the time, we knew CBGB's was going to close down soon. The state of NYHC and hardcore music itself was at a changing point. Numerous figures in the NYHC scene were there to support me in the building of BNB productions. Some of my close friends like Civ, Freddy Madball, and others thought I was the one to do it. I felt we needed a legit hardcore production company that can penetrate some of the corporate walls that have engulfed NYC. And of course, me not being too familiar with the behind the scenes aspect of it, I asked Freddy to be my partner.

At what point did you try to distinguish what you were doing with Black and Blue from everyone else "in the game"? Did you think there was a competitive edge to it?
How do you feel as if you defined yourself different from others?

The only real difference was that we were street guys running a real legit production company. There were no real competitors who were focused strictly on hardcore/punk rock. The only way maybe I could say we were different is that we all have roots in NYC- the Mecca of everything.

Taking on the arduous task of running the Superbowl is something that I feel was absolutely necessary for not only NYHC but for the hardcore subgenres involved in the time honored event. How was it making the move back to NYC and what were your initial thoughts when you took on this burden?
I definitely didn’t think of it as a burden. Just like every hardcore kid, I was always a fan of the old school superbowls. Witnessing the deterioration of the show and what it use to mean to everybody everywhere, made me want to bring it back to where it was born.

Black N Blue productions have kick started a scene with a great past into the current history with great production, awesome venues and bills that are both pleasing to the old guard and the new crowd. What did you have in mind when things first started picking up? Were there specific goals you'd set up and have you reached them?
One of the first things I had in mind was trying to set a tone of unity being needed back in the scene. I am a firm believer of supporting the youth. Having them enjoy and acknowledge hardcore and how it should be. Yes there were specific goals, to get the kids excited about hardcore again, and to remind them that it wasn't all about fighting at was more about people coming to the same place for the same reasons and expressing our aggression against society not each other.

Name 5 bands over the course of your tenure in hardcore that have taught you something and in turn you wish the world would learn.

Agnostic Front
Majority of One
Gorilla Biscuits
Dead Kennedys

Few give you credit for the professional look and turn you took with your booking practices. I can remember seeing NYHC really started to just look like antiquated and outdated. Why did you go there and did you feel as if it was pushing you to heights and moving you past former d.i.y standards? Has the elder NYC crowd given resistance to this glossy change or have they lent a hand and been supportive?
I think in learning about the reality of the modern nyc attitude toward our scene, we found out it would benefit all around for us to come across as a legit/knowledgeable group of individuals who have their shit together, at the same time keeping it D.I.Y. The elder guys have been nothing but supportive, why shouldn't they?!

What do you see bands and promoters missing today? Where are they going wrong? Which aspect do you find most out of place today? Could you change it?

Really the only thing I can say is that everyone should communicate with each other to not do certain things such as booking 2 shows in the same night within a stones throw of each other.

Would you say the hardest thing about transferring what we've been through and what we've learned to the new generation is that there isn't the open ears and eyes to what we're saying and what we saw or is there a lack of a proper medium to show the new generations what the past has had to do to in order to get to this point?
I do feel that there is a good amount of the new generation that do understand and know about it, actually. The only problem is that those are the ones who need to step up and put more effort into contributing to spreading the word of this thing we all love and enjoy as one.

Do you feel helpless in watching ideals or principles of your generation, or things that you feel are important to the big picture be absorbed or covered up by the sands of time? Is there something you wish that would come back into play that has been lost? Or something that you'd like to see be rediscovered and back into the mix?
As Times change people change, that's just life. In my heart I feel that kids are starting to rediscover the ideals and principals that for some moments seemed lost. Such feelings may be stemming from the energy and reactions at the past 4 superbowls of hardcore in NY. Whoever has been to them has probably felt it also.

How does an event like the Superbowl retain its credibility in a world of kids who weren't around 2 years ago and may not be around next year? Aside from the change to the Black N Blue Bowl for legal name reasons, what other changes are you implementing to continue the prosperity of your event? Do you feel as if the entire hardcore community is served by your event or is there ways you could expand to include a bigger portion of the puzzle known as hardcore?
That event was brought back for the specific reason of giving everyone the vibe that so many of us older guys/gals experienced, in turn, changing many of our lives. At the same time, reviving the hardcore spirit. Not many changes are needed really, just keep the positive vibe at our shows and treat everyone like family, like it should be, like it was meant to be. We have always felt our shows have served the entire hardcore community, bringing bands from all over to play, young and not so young...haha.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Continuing Part One with Aram Betrayed/React! Records, Champion...

Aram truly loves hardcore. He loves hardcore in such a way that to not include him in part one would actually be heresy. I've been friends with Aram for years and he is one of the most thoughtful person to ever have a disagreement with. In recent years he has done time fronting Betrayed and playing guitar in the mighty Champion. His experience and interaction with hardcore has given him some amazing insight in which he shares with us and its a true delight to have his ideas in this series.

There seems to be a void in sincerity and concentration in Hardcore if you ask me. I’d like to hear what you’d like to see kids focus on? Where is there too much focus these days?
I see two things that are really prevalent in hardcore right now and that’s “fantasy” hardcore and “boutique” hardcore. “Fantasy” hardcore is when people write on topics that they have no actually experience with or emotional attachment to, and try to portray themselves as being something that they’re not.
DUDE- YOU ARE LIVING A FANTASY. Not only is it obviously insincere, it’s also an insult to the people who have actually really had those experiences.

“Boutique” hardcore is something that I feel is relatively new. It’s not something you live, but rather something that you experience. You catalogue it, you document it, you take pictures of, you obsess over in your blog, and above all you buy it. You don’t live it you put up on a self to admire it for the artistic aesthetic. Its kind of the musical/cultural equivalent to a fixed gear bike– hardcore for the hip.

I think there is far too much focus on the style of HC rather than the message or lifestyle. So in that regard I’d like to see people start to look into WHY they are into hardcore. Like ask yourself, “Is this just something for me to do, or does it mean something?

As time moves on certain customs of our culture are dying out. Which custom would you like to see get a rebirth in 09? If only for aesthetics, what do you miss most of all when you walk up to a show to when the first note of the first band hits?
I really miss the crowd being up front at shows. Moshing and crowd busting have changed the dynamic of live shows. Rather than having people packed up front ready to sing along, people stand in that awkward U-shape and then rush forward to sing along, and then hightail it back for safety. Sorry kung-fu dudes I know you like to get buck-wild but it’s really made shows lame. When people stand in that U-shape it also keeps people from diving, which is such an awesome part of a live HC show, and that sucks the energy out of the room even more.

If you want shows to be fun and exciting then watch the, “Anthem” video by Agnostic Front and then do that. Get on stage and skank, dive off guitar cabs and monitors, grab the mic from the singer. Now for you kung-fu guys, you can still do your thing- just do it 10 away from the stage so that people can actually have fun.

You know once in Australia with Betrayed I talked about this on stage and people were psyched and the show was wild. But after we played this dude with a bandana and a tattoo of Jesus on his neck came up to me a got really steamed. He felt I was disrespecting his way of expressing himself at the show. It was weird because he was 1 person out of 150 and the other 149 wanted to sing along, stage dive, and circle pit. But, he wanted to stand in front of the stage, kick people in the back, and run into the crowd punching. It seemed like a pretty clear-cut case of him disrespecting how everyone else wanted to express themselves at the show. He didn’t see my side of it, but I gave him a Red Bull and he worked it out for himself.

You’ve done “enough” in hardcore to rest upon your laurels yet I find you working harder towards something that most kids today aren’t even capable of understanding its importance in the cogs of progress. Can you tell me why you’ve decided to do REACT! and you’re goals are? Is there one company or person that you’ve modeled this project after?

As insanely lame and cliché as it sounds- hardcore is in my blood. It’s the way I live my life, the scope through which I see, and an approach to engaging with what I think is fucked up in our world. I may not always play in bands- but I will always LIVE hardcore. That doesn’t mean that quote Side By Side all day and it doesn’t mean that talk non-stop about how, “Brightside” by Killing Time is a perfect record. It means that I have an unrelenting drive to be a part of our culture and try to giveback just as much as I’ve had the chance to take. Plus I love the Warzone self titled record- that really speaks volumes of what a truly legit character I am.

I started REACT! because I wanted to help bands get their message out there. We are living in some really troubled times and I think people need to speak up and I feel that the bands like Get the Most, Right Idea, and Mindset really have something to say. Beyond that- I love fast late 80’s hardcore and the art/aesthetic of that era of the core and I want REACT! to reflect that as well. So basically it’s about providing a voice for great bands with a message and then also putting a lot of time and care into the presentation of that voice. Intense attention is paid to every detail of each release so that when people get it hopefully that can see that and know that it’s an effort of love.

I definitely modeled the vibe of my label off early Revelation/Wishing Well Records but in terms of how it’s ran I’m 100% inspired and guided by Bridge 9, Deathwish Inc, Youngblood, Reaper, Powered, Six Feet Under, Rivalry, and Malfunction. Those labels are run by people that actually care about hardcore and who work their asses off to make sure bands have a voice. I can’t even begin to tell you how much Chris Wrenn, and Tre MaCarthy have helped my run the day-to-day of my label. Both have answered dozens of questions for me and gone way out of their way to support all of my releases. Furthermore, Michaelanne Jerome and Dave Larson have actually let me run REACT! out of their house in Seattle for the past year which is just such a generous and kind thing for them to do.

To be clear about this- the people in my life have been such an inspiration for me to do REACT! that I feel that the label goes beyond just the bands and me, I feel that people like Chris Wrenn and Tre, and all of my friends are a legitimate part of everything that REACT! does.

At one point does one truly decide that enough is enough and action is necessary to counter misdeeds of others, or a failed situation that hurts the community? Is there ever been a situation in your local scene where you felt like you could do nothing to change what was going on?
Well, in hardcore you always have people who are trying to prove themselves, or impress some idea about themselves onto others. Like, “fear me” or “respect me”, and that can be through violence, social pressure, or the cowardliness of the internet. The thing to keep in mind is that the world has ACTUAL problems that require our attention so in general I recommend not paying attention to that garbage.

But yes- sometimes situations do come up where enough is enough and things have to be dealt with. I’ve never shied away from those types of things, but I’ve also been very cautious about how I deal with them. The thing I keep in mind is that real change is made with an open hand than a closed fist, so in that regard I’ve tried to effect change in a very peaceful way.

Today I’d say the Edge is dull. I’d say it’s nothing more then a bath towel to keep the kids dry til they “grow up” and want to be more like everyone else. Would you say we’ve homogenized the edge to the point that the “rebel” factor has completely died out?
Well Straight Edge is a trend for most people and there’s no way to deny that. People get into it- are all gung-ho about it for 3 or 4 years, and then drop it when they get older. While I would love it if people stuck to it I also actually don’t really think that’s a bad things necessarily- I mean people are getting a chance to stay clean for a few years and get through points in their lives where they can really screw themselves up. Hopefully when/if they are done with the edge they’re in a place in their life where they can use responsibly and be healthy and safe. I try to be pragmatic about it and just accept people for who they want to be.

As for the edge being weak right now- yup I agree with you and I think it’s the fault of the bands and older edgemen/women. Hey, if you’re a Straight Edge band tell me WHY. If you have an X on your hand tell me WHY. What is important about the lifestyle and beliefs? Why is it a vital thing to your existence? Like make Straight Edge something real rather than just a way to identify the brand of music you play, or a cool thing to wear like an accessory. A big part of what I’m trying to do with REACT! is to talk about why I’m Straight Edge, what I find important about it, why I think it’s a smart way of living. Furthermore, I’m trying to encourage people taking something like Straight Edge and using that as a foundation for further growth. Don’t just stop using drugs and alcohol- try to live a good life, be the best person you can be!

I want you to name 5 bands that mean nothing to anyone the way they mean to you and why.

Beyond Possession- I grew up in Calgary Alberta, which is an isolated city in the middle of the prairies of Canada. Somehow a punk scene developed there in the early 80’s and Beyond Possession was without a doubt the breakout band. They melded hardcore and thrash and put out two unreal records, “Tell Tale Heart” EP which was released locally and the, “… Is Beyond Possession” LP which was released on Metal Blade. Despite being isolated up in Calgary BP not only became HUGE in Canada, but also managed to do multiple tours down the West Cast and even did a full US tour- which at the time was a really big deal.

They matter to me because when I was coming up in HC they were the archetype of DIY spirit. These guys didn’t wait for it to happen, they made it happen for themselves and that made a huge impression on me When I started playing music I never just waited for a handout, I made things happen for myself, and that’s something that’s just been valuable to my life in general. Beyond Possession played a role in helping to kinder that in me… and they wrote such SICK records!!!

Blindside- I know there have been a lot of bands called Blindside, so to specify this was the Blindside from Edmonton Alberta and they were the first Straight Edge band I ever saw live. By the late 80’s I’d been jamming lots of thrash and punk and by 1990 I was pretty much exclusively listening to early Dischord, Revelation, and the NYHC bands like Cro Mags, AF, SOIA, etc. Although I loved hardcore I kind of felt like a poser being into it because when I’d look at the records I’d see these huge tattooed dudes who looked like they spent all day jumping through brick walls. I was like, “I’m a skinny little dude from the suburbs… am I allowed to listen to this stuff????”. It’s funny looking back at those records because a lot of the dudes that I though were huge scary guys, now just look like normal teenagers to me.

Anyway- at that time grunge had hit and locally nothing was happing musically that really got me psyched. I mean there were tons of bands, and they were actually really good, but there was nothing that came close to matching the unreal jams that were coming out of my stereo. But, in the winter of 1990 I had the chance to catch Blindside and they really changed the way I viewed my place in HC. These guys played HARD and FAST, had songs about real day struggles, and actually looked like my friends and me. Seeing them up on stage ripping so hard really made me feel that hardcore was where I could be more than just a fan- that I could actually be a part of it. That was something that made a major impact in my life and helped to set me on that path that I’m on today. Seriously the three Blindside demos are AWESOME!!!

Road Crew Orange- When I was a kid we all played in bad bands, RCO was the first of my friend’s bands that got legitimately good. They were a punk band from Calgary, and the singer Rob (who currently sings in a punk band called The Dog Faced Models) was a great frontman. He was the first dude I knew who had a great record collection and he would always tape all of these new bands for us. He may or may not have been the guy who first got me into a lot of the stuff that I’m into today.

Anyway- all our bands all sucked, but when RCO put out their first demo it blew all our minds! This was legitimately good stuff and people in Calgary really started to get into them. That was so inspiring for all of us- people actually cared what our friends were doing! Immediately we all got serious about getting better, playing harder, and recording our music and that eventually lead us to getting our own demos out there. Man- that was a freaking exciting time of my life!! Road Crew Orange went on to record a second demo, which was even better than the first, but then broke up when the early 90’s PC wave hit Calgary. Great band!

Strain- Good lord! Strain were AWESOME. Imagine taking all the power of a tank, putting it in musical form, and then having a gorilla sing. EPIC. They had the 90’s heavy hardcore sound and put out a bunch of EPs on the German label Heart First and then a full length called, “Here and Now” on New Age Records and pretty much have a flawless discography. In fact, they never wimped out- they never did weird noise stuff, they never got melodic, they just always provided the ultimate crushing GROOVE.

Strain were important to me for a couple of reasons: They lived at home with their families, drove mustangs, and wore sweat pants on stage- yet still wrote some of the best HC at the time. It was just awesome to see dudes who weren’t caught up in trying to have an “image”, they just did what they pleased and people both loved and hated them for it. Also, they were the first band that I was friends with who ever went to Europe. I remember the bass player coming back from their first trip there and showing me video footage from the shows…. HOLY CRAP IT WAS AWESOME!!!! They just really inspired me to be who I wanted to be, and to set goals and make them happen.

Trial- Beyond being just an amazing band Trial also took me out on my first real tour. I roadied for them on the “Are These Our Lives” West Coast tour and the things that I learned on that trip I applied to Champion. Also, Timm Mac from Trial/Wait In Vain/Panic records is the reason that I joined Champion.

Trial were cool guys and a great band, and they gave a weirdo like me the chance to get out and see the West Coast for the first time. The van broke down one million times, I spent my birthday stranded in a parking lot, I saw Gilman Street, I met people I’m still friends with today, I pissed in bottles. It was great!

At the end of the day when you’re sitting on your porch with your lemonade and your grandkids are asking about your life, what do you share with them about your time in hardcore?

I’d share with them that I saw the world on my own terms. I was a part of something I believed in. My beliefs grew and evolved with time, but I never compromised them. I spoke out against what I thought was wrong. I made lasting friendships.

PS- I met your Grandmother through Myspace.

What is the most fundamentally important aspect of hardcore that you see drifting away? How do we fix it?

The most fundamentally important part of HC that I see drifting away is CARING- a genuine concern about what is going on in the world and the will to turn that concern into action. People seem to have been pacified by being “into” punk/hardcore and have been fooled into thinking that by just wearing the costume that they are making some kind of statement. Furthermore, instead of looking at the world around us people focus inward on our little scene and get caught up in petty bullshit that distracts them from real life. Here’s some reality for you- the powers that be would like nothing more for you to marginalize yourself by becoming obsessed with some little slice of culture. That way you stay distracted, follow the rules, and remain a dedicated consumer.

I don’t know if real CARING has ever been a part of HC. I like to think it has, but when I see people getting caught up in petty garbage I just feel sick inside. Oh shit! Did someone disrespect you? Holy fuck! Do they not wear “jaded” as gracefully as you do? Holy mother of god- does someone like the wrong bands? HELLO DUMMY!! HERE ARE SOME ACTUAL PROBLEMS: within 100 miles of where you live there are multiple people who are starving and have nowhere to sleep. Here’s another one- people within your community are still discriminated against because of their race, sex, or sexual orientation. Those are actual problems within every community in North America that people have the ability to effect in very real ways.

How do we fix it? First start by listening to, “Just Look Around” by Sick Of It All. I’m not even kidding- that song is so powerful and contains so much honest frustration that whenever I listen to it I get energized to do some good. Next, lets get the lines of communication open again! Lets talk about what’s going on and how we can help! Lets set REALISTIC goals and work on them. Hey- how about at your next show you do a food drive? Okay, how about you and some kids from the local scene volunteer once a week at the homeless shelter. Not into that? Okay, why not learn about the homeless situation in your city and then get that information out to the people in your scene- write about it, talk about it. Hey- is there a rally that supports gay marriage? Go to it! Bring your friends and wear YOT shirts. Talk with other people about how we can be more inclusive in our society, how we can respect people as they are rather than trying to force them to fit some mold. Don’ worry, you can easily wear so ill all over print shirt while doing this and rock some very fresh sneakers. Support people in supporting people. Be a decent human. Oh and stop eating animals because those guys are nice.

And now the counter to that, what is the latest element to hardcore that you find to be an insult to all you love and dear and when does it end?
Hardcore “professionals”. Guy- yes you- your band is not “professional”. I know things are going well for you but try to get some grip of REALITY. I don’t care if you tour 10 months a year and that your record is doing really, reeaaalllyy well. You are still in a hardcore band so grow a set and act like it. Don’t be rude to kids. Don’t talk down to promoters. Don’t ruin venues. That shit is more so you can tell the story- or so that people can tell the story about you- than it is about being in the moment. It’s totally weak and intensely boring.

Instead of traveling around the country and acting like either a shitty jock or a “shady dude” you have the opportunity to actually do something meaningful. Don’t fuck that up

Monday, December 8, 2008

Part One Continues with Freddy Cricien of Madball

Freddy Cricien needs little introduction here but I will do my best to explain the reason behind his importance to this interview series. As a direct descendant of Agnostic Front as a younger kid in the glory days of the hardcore scene to his teenage start in what would soon be one of the most important hardcore bands of the modern era, his life has always had some intimate interaction with the core. Madball to this day is one of the few bands that will play the small crowded diy shows and do well on a European festival in front of tens of thousands. They are the quintessential kings of hardcore as we speak and here is his words and thoughts in our last few interviews of part one.

There seems to be a void in sincerity and concentration in Hardcore if you ask me.
I’d like to hear what you’d like to see kids focus on?

I'd like to see kids focus on doing homework... Not to sound like a "teacher" or anything...haha But, some of these new generation kids are not well schooled on real deal HC. Old and new.

Where is there too much focus these days?
There's too much focus on who looks cool on the dance floor. Watch the show and participate! Like kids do everywhere else in the world.

Do you ever wake up and want something else?

Is there anything else you’d like your life to touch upon?
Of course there is, many things. And, I will touch upon them. Whether it is musically, personally. I'm not a limited/one dimensional individual in general.

Could you do this for the rest of your life?
I'd like to stay involved in "music" in one form or another... For as long as I can. If I live to a ripe old age, I doubt I'll be jumping around like I do with Madball... Then again who knows... Ha

Being in one of the most influential bands in hardcore leaves you in a precarious position that you’re not on the floor with everyone the way it used to be when you were younger. Do you miss just being a kid on the floor? Is there a band that brings you back to those youthful moments?
First off, Thanks for the props. But, what do you mean? I was on the floor with everybody last time I played the church... Haha. The bands that bring me to those youthful moments are AF and Cro Mags.

When you think of your extended discography which song are you most proud of lyrically? What song WON’T you play and why?
Lyrically... I haven't written it yet. We won't play Step To You... Not feeling that one really.

Despite rumors and allegations you’ve managed to keep your face clean and the kids love and respect Madball in a way that few of the rougher bands have ever been received. What would you see would cause Madball to win over the younger less “street” hardcore crowd over many of your rougher infamous peers?
Not sure really? I mean regardless of how people perceive us, we've always been and continue to be sincere or "real" with our music and in our personal lives. If that’s being a "tough guy" than so be it. Of course we've grown, matured, learned from mistakes,etc,etc... But in respect to MB, it's still as aggressive as always. Ok, maybe we're a Lil more positive and it's rubbed off! Ha. Or maybe, people stopped being so over sensitive. Maybe, people finally realized that they are involved in an aggressive, energetic, subculture that was born in the streets? That's not necessarily negative either. It's what you make and take from it. I'm not condoning unnecessary violence or anything like that. I'm saying loosen up and expand your minds.

As time moves on certain customs of our culture are dying out. Which custom would you like to see get a rebirth in 09? If only for aesthetics, what do you miss most of all when you walk up to a show to when the first note of the first band hits?
I think I'm going to bring back the custom of punching who ever is in front of me in the face... When the first chord hits of course. Just kidding, I've actually never done that. I guess honestly speaking; it used to be that when your favorite band hit the stage... You would just go nuts. Don't get me wrong, that still happens at a lot of shows! But especially in the states, there is a "cool" factor that needs to go. People waiting for the next guy to do a dance move to react,etc,etc. Have fun!

I want you to name 5 bands that mean nothing to anyone the way they mean to you and why.

Is this a trick question? Ok well, how about this...
Agnostic Front-for obvious reasons-my mentors.
Madball- for obvious reasons- This is by no means egotistical. It just applies to the question. This band will never mean for others what it means for me.
Bob Marley and the Wailers- for me it wasn't about weed or Jah. It was about the message. I learned to appreciate the power of lyrics with Bob Marley as well as many others!
Public Enemy- I actually studied it takes a nation of millions to hold us back... I had no choice. I had a broken arm that summer so I was bed ridden for a bit... Freedom of expression is a beautiful thing!
Johnny Cash- because I think he's singing about me sometimes... Haha. So does everyone else right...probably? This guy is the epitome of swagger.
Benny Morre-it's nostalgic and I think of my Family living (still today) oppressed on the Island of Cuba. Some people can probably relate though...

At the end of the day when you’re sitting on your porch with your lemonade and your grandkids are asking about your life, what do you share with them about your time in hardcore?
I tell them as much as I can remember. My memory is bad now... Imagine then... Haha. Seriously, I’d tell them they wouldn't be there if not for HC and their Grandma. You see, my life doesn't revolve around this subculture of ours... But, it definitely saved my life... Along with my wife.

I need the roster of the super hardcore band. Give them a name and tell me what they would sound like.
Roger on vocals, Vinnie on guitar, Matt Henderson on guitar, Craig Setari on Bass, Will Shepler on drums! Oh wait... That's Agnostic Front.., I had to do it man

What is the most fundamentally important aspect of hardcore that you see drifting away? How do we fix it?

The most fundamental thing we are losing is Unity. We fix it by not putting up walls, being elitist, and not being judgmental.

And now the counter to that, what is the latest element to hardcore that you find to be an insult to all you love and dear and when does it end?
Bad haircuts. It ends when I bust out the clippers... Haha. Thanks Joe.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Where Are They Now?

The internet is a funny thing. On the “local” message board or internet community that I often post, I made a post regarding the Carmen Blog so people who knew him could check out what I wrote. It’s the only way I tell people I wrote something new up here unless of course I am sure the person in particular has an interest worth alerting them to the stuff up here.
From an exchange of comments, funny stories of Carmen and those times came an infamous picture which seems so far away and so from a distant planet that viewing it again after the post and the release of all that from the writing I was shocked to see it.

Its 4 30 in the morning, I am currently sitting here with ice on my balls from getting the long overdue vasectomy and a light bulb went off in my head once I saw the pic.
Maybe it’s the percocet that is helping to take the sting out of the healing process or I may actually have found a fun way to tell a story on here.

Where I go with the first installment (maybe only??) of

Thanks to Chris, who is still a dear friend after all these years for posting the pic.

I am looking at this picture and I am seeing a few faces that are no longer with us. Two dear friends that actually are at the top of the seating arrangement in this particular shot. Could it be that they are foreshadowing their current status as dear friends, hopefully sitting above watching our lives and having a beer and a laugh at our misdeeds and hijinx?

To the Left is a man I just spoke highly about
Carmen Diamico. He may be gone but he is always kept in high honor and regard.

Top Right is my dear fallen brother Stoney. Dan Stone was loved by many and is remembered each year with a charity soccer tournament held by Casey Huckel followed by a beef and beer. The proceeds go towards the budding Stoney United and the Franklin Towne Charter Soccer Team. Stoney United is the brainstorm of Casey Huckel as the name of our indoor team in the men’s league we were in, which now plays outdoor and does a damn fine job (even without me :P ). Franklin Towne Charter is the school in which Casey works as a math teacher and high school soccer coach. Stoney in his last years was the assistant coach and he is now honored with an annual award given to a member of the Boys Soccer Team. It’s a blessing that someone who works as diligently as Casey does is out there keeping Stoney’s name alive as far as he can spread his Frankford Arsenal shirts and such. A true whole blog will have to written about Stoney, needless to say, he embodied the free spirit that we all wish we still had and he died tragically way too young. I still miss him every day.

2nd down on the Left is Mark Purnell from Chicago. Mark came out to visit Philadelphia on Easter Week in 98. This picture is from that time. I met the Chicago guys in the summer of 97 as they were sitting on South Street trying to sell cds. I later wrote (a physical letter) to them in regards to their band Catburglar. We had them come out that thanksgiving. It was an awesome time, with a football game the Friday after thanksgiving followed by two shows and I am thankful for that time as I’ve made a lifetime friend out of Luke who traveled with them, as well as Remis and had a few adventures in California 2 summers later with VJ. Mark’s brother Tommy and Shawn were in the band Catburglar and he had such a good time he wanted to come back out. 7 days or so and each night was filled with a lot of fun and chaos ranging from seeing Skarhead with Vanilla Ice to a weird post movies hangout with some random girls that had a girl drinking a glass of piss after she had sexual relations with none other then Stoney. Mark is doing well from what I’ve heard but it has been over 5 years since I’ve seen him.

Sitting down on the Couch to the left is Mike Holzer. Mike Holzer was the guy who Carmen hung out with a lot towards the end of his life. He was Carmen’s other best friend. He grew up next door to Bushy’s house on Hunting Park ave. He was an excellent zany mechanic who I could fill two blogs worth of funny Holzer stories with. Needless to say, he had some bad times and is now rebounding. I saw him this summer randomly as Jay and I were coming home from work. He is still himself only now he has a potbelly. I hope he stays on the good path he seemed to be on.

Center of the Couch is Chris Palmer sang for Victory Strike who would later reform without him as HorrorShow. As many guys from the neighborhood came into hardcore and left quickly Palmer is still an avid fan, though because he works in the downtown bars, he has to pick and choose what shows he can go to. He is still a great friend and even though he may get a lil emotional when he is drunk, I am glad he is still the same person he ever was. There is nothing like hearing him and Mikey argue. I wish I could tape it and later sell it for a fortune. They are possibly the greatest comedy duo of this generation. Last time I seen Palmer was at Paddy’s Well last month. He got very drunk and bit the top of my head. Despite his constant professing of his undying love for me, I love him very much and I am glad he is doing what he always does.

Sitting on the right of the couch is ME. This picture features me with a 40 of St. Ides. Back when I still drank and I was not even 18 in this picture. Nothing like partying at whatever time at night it was in my house. God I’ve changed so much since then.

Sitting down on the floor to the left is Chris X- This picture could have been taken 2 days ago. He is still about the same size and hasn’t changed much in how he dresses at all. We can add some tattoos on his hands and we have modern day Chris. I met Chris many years ago and to this day I can see him after not seeing him in months and it’s like we were just hanging the other day. It’s safe to say he is the diametric opposite of Chris Palmer, although they probably love a lot of the gay 80s music that Chris X spins for a living. Chris is still the man and I hope we can hang out and shoot the shit soon.

Sitting on Chris X’s lap is Kayla Devon
My dear Kayla who is now a few months from being 12 years old, back when she was not a few months passed her 1st birthday. You can see from the toys everywhere that Kayla had full carte blanche to play as she needed and yet she still managed to find time to jump into a pic with Dad and the fellas. She is my oldest and she is so bright it makes me so proud. It’s uncanny how close my wee girl Keira (who is 2 now) resembles Kayla at nearly the same age. I guess I have some serious genes huh? Kayla is currently kicking ass in the 6th grade, playing the cello and involved in a few Christian girl’s groups. She would like to be an actor one day and Fall Out Boy is her favorite band. I am a very lucky father indeed.

Sitting down in the center is Brian Tobin
This is at the stage in Brian’s life when he was all consumed with graffiti and just started getting tattooed. It’s interesting to think of this pic in terms of people that have changed a lot and people who haven’t. Out of all them Brian has changed the most. He was never a settled kid who soon after this phase began dressing more in Polo and fine duds of the time. After some jeering from others he got swept up in the MakeOutClub early '00 's scene that left some scandalous stories about him making out with dudes and such. He looked more like a mod at the time and could been seen with Spock hair and tight dress pants. Today he is a skinhead who has some small ties to the rockabilly world via his very hot girlfriend. I believe he is doing well and I hope he finds something that he is comfortable with so he can reach true happiness. Until then I am sure he will at least have a string of very hot girls from his past to make up for being unsettled in his music and clothes.

I find this picture to be a great freeze frame on an end of a night of a week that will always standout in my mind. You could really have interchanged all of these guys in the pic and somehow it made sense how they were tied into each other. It was a wide variety and margin to which we all filled in and found each other but we can all be accounted for and it’s awesome to see this online nearly 12 years after it was taken. I have tons of pics like these and the thoughts that rush out of my head and stories that flash before me seem to never end. I will have to take some time and dig through and see if I can put some more of these up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

9 years and I am still in disbelief.

Carmen Diamico was a friend like No One Else.

He came at a time when I had several patches of friends in the neighborhood.He was standing there in the rain with a 40 waiting outside the FU Kwai Inn.

This only stuck out because he was only like 16 and drinking a 40 and waiting on his food like we were. I saw he had a different look on him then some of these guys who had rolled around these blocks. I’d only lived there a few weeks but I’d hung there for about a year or two now. He and I exchanged glances and that was it till he started walking ahead of us up the block. I saw he turned down the block down the way from my boy’s house and I didn’t know anyone on that block. It was less then 5 days later that I was on the el with him coming back from a concert at the Troc that I said what’s up to him.

Since then we had our great times, our up's, our down’s.
I never had a friend who could be so quiet and yet still be so a part of everything that was going on at the moment. There was a few running jokes that he was the silent Bob to me being Jay (me with long hair and a baseball cap- it’s a bad joke but sadly a dead on resemblance once I get goin’)

Carmen was from Juniata but lived down this part of Frankford. He was the closest thing to a bridge between those worlds for me. Bushy knew his sister and such and he was into a few of the metal bands I was about and showed me some punk and oi! Bands. We would steady go back and forth about different hardcore bands and records. It was a great mix for me because I felt comfortable around him and I could tell he needed this the way I did. A lot of my earliest show days Carmen was there. Maybe at first he didn’t roll with us but he was at the shows, could tell you every detail and wasn’t a bullshitter. It was uncanny that he could be in the room and you wouldn’t see him till he liked a song and then he was out on the floor.
That was our friendship for about a year till he disappeared. We had a running joke that soon followed “where in the world was Carmen Diamico?”
I actually remember posting up on Bridge Street and seeing him going down on the 25 bus and he waved. It was fuckin odd to say the least.

Fast forward to me being 16 and living over the bar my mom worked at. I was working on my GED through a catholic services school because I was 16 and not able to take it without their “help”. They taught me a few things about computers (back when DOS was the shit) and I even learned how to type. My main gig was being a porter at a bowling alley. 16 years old, working 55 hours plus a week for 5.35 an hour, man those were the days huh? Maria was pregnant and collectin so that little bit helped.
When Carmen told me he was having problems at the house back there I offered him the “other” room we had. He jumped in and I had my first and only roommate (unless you count the 21 days Bushy lived with us after Maria went into the hospital not long after Kayla was born till we got kicked out :P ) We would get a ton of shit from Maria and Michelle (her best friend and one of his hookups) but we didn’t mind. He was working at the pool as a lifeguard and later he would work at the bowling alley with me. The job was cake work and better then anything we could have got around FKD.
He and I really grew a bond that fall into winter. The running joke at the time was “_____ was going off the deck” that lead to the back of the apt from the driveway behind the bar.
It could be I’m throwing you off the deck, Maria and her stupid dog or a particular CD. It was a good stress reliever and a great line. We’d have more then crazy girls and shitty jobs to share. When H2O opened for Social Distortion, we made the choice to stay for the show instead of going back to Bushy’s house party at his mom's.

What we missed was a legendary showdown between our friends and the neighborhood crew that hung at McVeigh playground. A few words were exchanged with some Jtown guys going from the El to the party and a mob ensued and laid waste to most of the dudes outside who were unlucky enough to be locked out when the girls inside the party locked the door effectively leaving everyone on the porch to an asswhooping and keeping all the rest inside. That is except for Bushy who was eventually thrown through the large window and left with a scar on his elbow since. Our fate was to be singled out at first by some Nazis and due in part to our own stubbornness we were rolled out in the middle of the crowd. There were more then a few hardcore “kids” that watched as the two of us had our asses handed to us, but since we had few friends and all of which who were at the party we were left out to dry and beaten merciless until Mike Ness threw a water bottle into the crowd and H2O tried jumping the barricade to get involved. I can remember outside bleeding from my face and all the people who watched were so quick to jump on the “lets get them Nazi @%*& bandwagon”. It was good timing that Toby called them on their shit and told them they had their chance and did nothing.
Going home that night with ripped clothes and smashed heads we laughed at the scum on the el shuttle. We both knew the shit the girls would have to say and it was glorious.

That life continued till we had Kayla Devon born to us in Feb of 97. Within 2 weeks Maria would go from sick to near death in the hospitalization.
I remember coming home from visiting her to Carmen and Bushy on the speaker phone in our living room on a “talk line” trying to line up girls to hang out that night. I’d crushed my finger in between two bowling balls and effectively wrecked my left pinky for life just 4 days after my daughter was born. I was out of work and spending my days by Maria’s side as she showed her true colors more and more.
We eventually had to leave the apartment and it was time anyway. Carmen and I were at each other's throats for the frustrations the girls caused. Maria and I had split up only a month after our kid was born and I was still only 16 so back to my moms I went. I remember he and I got into a fistfight soon after in my dining room and it ended with my mom throwing him off me bc he was biting my stomach. Needless to say, I didn’t see him for a few months. Tempers cooled and he was really one of the main people in the development and continuation of my struggle of mastering the arts of the street and hardcore scene.
He drove the smallest Plymouth Sundance and it was in that car that I took and passed my driver’s license test. It would be that same car that would be packed to the gills driving to NY, or Long Island or the many trips up the Northeast Extension to Sea Sea’s.

Conning Carmen into the driving became an art I’d perfected. I would drive, he would party we would all win. 3 and 4 show weekends were guaranteed. It was in those times that we would have the deep conversation coming home from the show about life. I really understood a lot of where he was coming from in those moments. I got a lot of my ideas of release and escapism from those talks with him. Soon enough we were both busy with jobs and doing shit that kept the shows to maybe twice a month traveling and everything in the city and close by. He’d eventually hooked up with Maria’s other friend who had a serious set of fake boobs and absolutely adored him. I truly thought he had it all at that stage. He was never happier then with that girl.

At that stage in my life, I was so bummed on the missed opportunity of rushing out of high school to live the love life with Maria that would ultimately end 7 months into our daughter’s life. I felt like I’d passed up my chance and was throwing myself into a pity pot and getting into lots of reckless useless trouble. He helped sooth the wounds and would steer me from total damnation. He was always the sound mind in the noise and chaos. He never went over the edge. He never had that bloodlust or that need for vengeance. I’d gotten my pass to get out of the city and troubles by touring with Dysphoria. He was still working the bowling alley only moving up to being trained to be the mechanic. They made the real bucks and he was doing ok. He would fuck his back up and be laid up for a very long time. It was parties in his mom’s basement and shows where we would hang out at this point. I remember him telling me he loved me and that he wish he could go with me on the Dysphoria tour.

It wasn’t long after I was home from tour that life changed. Younger kids had gained ground, older guys were backing away. Carmen had put some distance on the world.
That fall he would watch practice tapes of Punishment and get super excited for our eventual first show. He was the one who helped me with the lyrics to Prisoner. He liked the idea of No Way Out. There was a store in the mall near us called Way Out and he was drunk laughing “No Way Out” and making silly references to our friend who used to work there. About a month later he called me after an H2O show at the Troc. At this point I wasn’t allowed there and it was a bumout for him. It was a short check in call and that was it.

I can remember it like it was yesterday only it was 9 years ago today.
My mom was putting up decorations and George called. Earlier he’d had to bite the bullet and tell me Jay Insana was burned alive in a fire. He was calling in tears to tell me they think Carmen was dead. We rushed to his house to see cops everywhere. They wouldn’t let us by the tape. His mom who hated me with all the fire of Hades ran out and embraced me. I was his bad influence. I was the one who got him into trouble. Yet I was the one consoling her as she told me Carmen shot himself this morning.

That night was a blur, it was agony. There was 30 or 40 of us at my house. I was shit faced within an hour. I don’t know what I drank or how much but it was not enough.

My friend was dead and I didn’t know why.
Through the haze of the wake up the following morning I’d decided I was never going to get drunk or fucked up again. He was gone. In a moment of clarity that has rarely touched me; I knew my friend was connection to the fun involved in the drinking. I needed self control now. I needed strength. Drinking was going to be my undoing. I was 19 and I needed to be better for everyone.

The rest of this tale plays out easily. He looked like a lil boy in his casket. I’d cried so much the first night I was dumbfounded and numb till I got there. We walked the 2 miles to the service jokingly talking shit on him to keep our spirits up. The minute I saw his face I was done. I couldn’t hold back.

Punishment would later write a song for him that we butchered up through the years. I wish it was good enough to stand the test of time for a friend whose memory is etched in so much of my every day life that I constantly smiling at his small touches still left in my life.

December Third is a day of sadness for me and one I dread as the calendar year thins down to the last of the pages. I am always alone; I barely can speak or function some years. This was the 9th time and one of the worst.

I wish I had all the lessons learned from the mistakes of those days.
We all have our ways to remember a friend. In the hardcore world, it’s not uncommon for someone to be memorialized with a tattoo. I took one of the pieces of flash from the Love Songs for the Unloved record by Sheer Terror and had it customized for the situation. The flash is associated with the song Jimmy’s High Life, yea the Gun and the flowers. Carmen being such an accurate sniper and world class smart ass he would have loved the pun of it. I’d had his name on the banner and the gun; well you just read the story.
Not a bad way to remember the kid who ended a suicide note, P.s. Mom sorry about the mess.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Part 1 Continues with Chris Wrenn of Bridge 9

For me to properly introduce this man I feel like there should be a sold out stadium full of hardcore kids with their fists pumping in the air... All the house lights blacked out as I began the overly reverbed big voice over the PA - Here he is ladies and gentlem, boys and girls- hardcore kids for all ages. The man who played such a key role in the release of hardcore from the death grip of the Bulldog's hands. A man who has played a major role in the reformaion and rebirth of hardcore over the last decade. A guy who took an idea that was older then he was, built out of his CT bedroom and into one of the most respected record labels in hardcore ever..
(cue the spotlights on the man running out of the tunnel with the mic in his hand)

Actually, to say the least I've been a fan of Chris "work" since B901. I've always thought he came out at such a great time and really stuck with it until he was able to really "tear down the walls" so to speak with the American Nightmare releases. It was his steadfast work ethic, eye for detail and aesthetic authenticity that brought some of the best of the new era out to the world, as well as keeping a legacy to the old world and releasing some amazing records and projects like the Schism book. Chris's dedication and love for the core, coupled with his intimate relationship with hardcore and today's scene made him an obvious choice for an interview in my ongoing works. I hope you stay with me for the duration as it only gets better from here.

There seems to be a void in sincerity and concentration in Hardcore if you ask me. I’d like to hear what you’d like to see kids focus on?
Where is there too much focus these days?

Hardcore has gotten too easy. The barrier of entry is so low, that there is no quality control. Finding the hardcore scene used to be difficult and when people got there, they didn't take it for granted, because they had to earn their way there. Not to say that it was a closed subculture, but it was a place that you didn't jump into right away. Kids leave hardcore as quickly as they come in these day - but while they're here, they cherry pick their favorite parts whether it is mosh parts or a particular style or look and then apply it to whatever mutation of hardcore punk they've created.... I think that the internet has homogenized hardcore like a fast food hamburger. The easy access of information has watered things down. Kids have so much music available to them, that they don't connect with it on the same level, making it easier to drop when something cooler comes along. I think kids need to focus on the content and the message, not on the trends and bullshit.

You created Bridge Nine out of thin air. You’ve had time to hone your business skills and the ropes have left their burns on you. Which labels had the most influence on you when you were working on the earlier releases? Who has been an inspiration or motivation to what you’ve done since?

I started going to shows in 1991 and started B9 in 1995, so in the grand scheme of things I was still pretty young and new when I decided to put out my first 7". In regards to "bigger" labels at that time, Revelation was still a force and I was a huge fan of their earlier catalog. Victory was getting huge in terms of hardcore and it wasn't hard to be swept up in that wave of mid 90's bands like Earth Crisis, Strife, Snapcase. Equal Vision was also a big influence - I liked their bands as well and dealt with Steve Reddy quite a bit (EVR printed our merch in the early days). Smaller labels like Indecision, New Age, Bloodlink... All were an influence to me. All of those labels did their own vinyl which included limited editions, which I like. Record collecting is fun. Revelation made a series of huge 24"x36" posters in the late 80's for their bands, and that was a direct influence on my deciding to make a similarly sized poster for a few of our bands. It's a cool thing for a band to have, no one makes posters that size anymore, so I'm glad to do it. I have no formal business background. I studied art and design and had to learn through trial and error how to handle a business. Fortunately, it has been over a long period of time - I started very slowly and have grown over the past 13 years, and I am still learning new things all of the time. I am constantly being inspired and motivated - seeing someone like Johnny Cupcakes (Boston based designer) accomplishing everything that he is, is inspiring. I just read Richard Branson's autobiography - that is inspiring. Getting a care package from Aram's (former Champion / Betrayed member, current label guy) label React! and seeing the quality and attention to detail of everything included, that is inspiring. Every time B9 accomplishes something new, or innovates something, or creates a cool opportunity for one of our bands, I become more motivated.

As time moves on certain customs of our culture are dying out. Which custom would you like to see get a rebirth in 09? If only for aesthetics, what do you miss most of all when you walk up to a show to when the first note of the first band hits?

If someone asked me to describe the physical aspects of hardcore culture, tangible things that I think have played a significant role and should continue to exist and be promoted, it would include several things that have been eliminated by the convenience of the internet. First, and one of the most important, the photocopied show flyer. Flyers that I have collected over the years, are in some cases the only physical evidence that a show even happened. A good flyer features artwork and design by someone involved in the scene and is a documentation of the event. A cool flyer will always be relevant - something that you want to collect, or tape on your wall, to remind you of a show that you went to or one from before your time that you wished you had seen. It can be a showcase for a talented illustrator and a social commentary for an artist. I've always loved flyers and that is why I use a background compiled of flyers on the B9 messageboard - just to continually reinforce something that I think is important. Those myspace and messageboard bulletins that have since replaced the widespread use of flyers might be cheaper and more convenient to design, post, and copy, but they disappear just as quickly as they came and they don't leave a permanent record. Another dying custom is the fanzine. I've commented on this before - there are a ton of great interviews online with current bands that will be lost to time, if they are not reprinted in a tangible form. The only reason why I was able to reprint the issues of Schism Fanzine, 18 years after the fact, was because I was able to track down the original copies. Being able to hold an almost 2 decades old fanzine allowed me to scan & compile them in book form. The current generations of hardcore are going to have a hard time piecing together their history a decade or so after the fact, when 95% of the interviews and photos and commentary and editorials related to their scenes are deleted when each and every current HC websites, myspace pages and blogs are no longer online. Even if people started printing tangible fanzines at the end of the year with a "best of" format, that would be a start.

How do you do it? What drives you to be someone who stands behind the scenes and makes some of the biggest wheels in our scene turn? What still motivates you to get up and live for this the way that you do?

The challenge has always been the motivating factor. Every part of being involved in a label like B9 has been a challenge at some point, and trying new things, developing new ideas, taking risks has always been exciting for me. I didn't go to school for business, most everything in that respect has been trial and error. I also have help from some really hard working people at the B9 office, who really help make the wheels turn. Karl is B9's label manager, and has become the life's blood here at B9. Seth is our multi-tasker, keeping Karl and I on point. Matt keeps our mailorder department in check, and Jamie, our latest hire, helps handle all of our publicity and promotional responsibilities. I also give everything that I do 110%. I got up for YEARS at 6am so that I could drive my wife to the commuter train and then head into the office by 7am, so that I could get to work early. Most people that I know got to work around 9am, and by getting in an extra 2 hours every day, I was gaining a years head start over a 4 year period, roughly the time that B9 was based out of Salem, MA. Having an extra years worth of time to focus on my projects was invaluable. I don't get up as early these days but I feel that having done so during that time was critical.

Name 3 things that people would never associate with your job but being a big part of the behind the scenes work.

This is a tough one. When you start an independent record label, you're responsible for everything. If anything breaks, or goes wrong, or needs to be addressed - no one else is going to fix it. For many years if I didn't figure out how to handle something, it just wasn't dealt with - I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are just as good at problem solving as I tried to be. Lately, I've had the opportunity to spend more time developing new projects and sourcing out new merch that B9 can provide for our bands. For years, I've wanted to make die cut clear stickers like the one that I used to put on my skateboards when I was younger. I finally found a place and made them for Verse and Have Heart. The 3'x5' banners that B9 brought out earlier this year - this is something that literally does not exist for independent bands. If you want an Iron Maiden or Metallica tapestry - you can get a pretty cheaply made one easily. I was able to source out a banner that is not only a high quality material (with grommets in each corner - my Led Zeppelin one growing up didn't even have that) and I was able to do it at a quantity of only 500 pieces per band. And just over the past month, I've been able to switch over to B9 branded t-shirts, tagless tees that have our logo and sizing information screenprinted into the inside of the shirt - something that no other label has done, to my knowledge. I've only been able to explore some of these ideas because I've got such a great group of people working with me - for a long time, I was wearing most of the hats, so I was too burned out to be creative. Over the past year or so, I've been able to think outside of the box more than ever before. Designing stuff like this is one of the many rolls that a label can play. I recently saw someone post "let's show the world that we don't need labels anymore" on the B9 board... They were promoting their own self released EP. In 2008 - there are a lot of things that bands can do for themselves, and it's pretty amazing. It's possible for a band to finance their own recording, set up their own online store, and distribute their own music and merch. But what happens when the band goes on tour? Who's going to pack up their mail orders? Mail order fulfillment is one service that a label can provide. The band loses a cut to the label when we fulfill their merch, but their store doesn't have to close while they're on tour, or kids don't have to wait 5 weeks to get their order. When a band works with us - they get more than just their music and merch out. They also tap into 13+ years of relationships and bands. While we don't book bands on tour, we get great hookups for our bands on tours because of the bands and agents that we know. Most hardcore bands start out with a few years of relationships and connections. When we sign a band, they can tap into opportunities far beyond their own circles, and hopefully realize their potential faster because of it.

If you could put out 1 release that came out on another label what would it be? (fantasy release)

Considering B9's pretty humble beginnings - I've had a chance to do a lot of records that I would consider fantasy releases. 7" EP's with Sick Of It All, Agnostic Front, Project X, New Found Glory, LP's with Slapshot & some bands that I've had the opportunity to work with early on, like American Nightmare, Have Heart, Death Before Dishonor... I guess a fantasy release at this point would be some long lost / never release EP from Bad Brains or 7 Seconds.

Today I’d say the Edge is dull. I’d say its nothing more then a bath towel to keep the kids dry til they “grow up” and want to be more like everyone else. Would you say we’ve homogenized the edge to the point that the “rebel” factor has completely died out?

The Edge has gone through SO many waves of popularity. Early 90's, it's not cool to be Straight Edge. Mid-late 90's, it's cool to be Edge. Early 2000's, it's not cool to be Edge. Mid 2000's, it is. Late 2000's, seems like it's not as cool anymore. For the most part in hardcore, it has been safe and cool to claim Edge when you're a teenager and once you have the chance to legally drink and are onto college, peace. Pre-Straight Edge, if you didn't drink you were an alien. With the Edge, you're part of something punk and different and you can tell people "you just don't understand". I adopted the Edge in 1994 when I was 18 and have never second guessed it since. I don't want to contribute my money to those industries, and I don't want to become a statistic because of their use. I'm not saying anyone is wrong by not being Straight Edge, do what you want in your own life, but considering how many people die because of the tobacco and alcohol industries, and the drug trade, I decided that I didn't want anything to do with that. And that did not change when I turned 21, or when my friends all started breaking edge, and being Straight Edge in my life became more abnormal than "the norm". It just boils down to the fact that people are apathetic and just don't care, or they decide that facilitating their social lives is a worthy tradeoff for their health and well being.

I want you to name 5 bands that mean nothing to anyone the way they mean to you and why.

1. Suicidal Tendencies - as a teenage skateboarder - their s/t debut was mandatory.

2. Dead Kennedys - when I was in high school I took the train into NYC and bought "Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death", DK was a highly influential band to me. I picked this up because one of the guys in Slayer used to wear a DK shirt in magazines.

3. Sick Of It All - for me in the early 90's, SOIA was the band of legend. Their shows were crazy and violent and they were one of those bands that I had their first couple of albums, knew every word, and counted down the days to when they came through town.

4. American Nightmare - I saw this band come together first hand, had the opportunity to release their earlier material, and accompanied them on their first tours in New England, California and Europe. They were my friends, roommates, and their first records helped set off the momentum that carries through B9 to this day.

5. Champion - these guys released a bunch of records with B9, and I got to tour with them all over... There is a bond with the guys in this band that I don't reach with most bands, and I know I'll be friends with those guys for years.

At the end of the day when you’re sitting on your porch with your lemonade and your grandkids are asking about your life, what do you share with them about your time in hardcore?

I'd tell them about how hardcore instilled me with the DIY ethic. It showed me that if I wanted to see something happen, that I could just do it myself. Like I mentioned before - I did not go to school for business - but I ended up starting one anyway, and I've received a better business education and have actually applied what I've learned more effectively than a lot of MBA's that I've met. With this knowledge, I've been able to apply what I've learned to other business opportunities, so that I could profit elsewhere and not have to squeeze B9 for my paycheck. I'd also tell them about all the opportunities that I've had to travel. Hardcore is a unique subculture in the respect that a moderately known band, who have sold maybe a few thousand records (not even a blip on the mainstream music radar screen) can tour on multiple continents. Take a band like Champion - a band who sold maybe 10,000 copies of their album while they were touring - a TINY number in the grand scheme of distributed music - yet they were able to tour all over the U.S., Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia - and multiple times. I don't know of any other subculture like that. I'd tell them about visiting Japan with Terror, Australia with Champion, and Europe with a few bands including American Nightmare, Champion and Slapshot.

What is the most fundamentally important aspect of hardcore that you see drifting away? How do we fix it?

I think that people need to have a better understanding of their history. Since hardcore punk is a culture - just like any culture, you need to know your history, how things got to the place that they're at. You don't need to know every band that ever was, but you should know all of the major ones. If you claim edge, you should be familiar with Minor Threat and Ian Mackaye. If you're a touring band, you should know Black Flag, they practically laid down the DIY touring network. If you like hardcore with a little metal crossover, you should know Agnostic Front and the Cro-Mags.

And now the counter to that, what is the latest element to hardcore that you find to be an insult to all you love and dear and when does it end?

Not so much hardcore - but the kids who appropriate their images from hardcore, but give nothing back. I went to school in VT and there were tons of kids who dreaded their hair, wore drug rugs and smoked weed all the time. But none of them were vegetarian (literally, none), they had no agenda whatsoever than to snowboard and get high in between classes. They stole the superficial hippy style but had no substance. I feel like that same thing is happening, but with hardcore.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shows,news,notes and other nonsense...

This Month I've received my 12 kg (just over 26 lbs) kettlebell and my Hatha Yoga book. Maybe I will find the physical exertion and body building regimen that will give me a more productive day. I am hoping the yoga works out a few kinks and gets me somewhere better physical and mentally.

I had a blast on Halloween, Yes I saw the show on History Channel. Email direct if you have questions - I am sure people saw it and have their opinions and I know I have mine. With that behind me I had a great time out til 530 am with the fellas. The following day H20 and Bane at the Church... man that was a blast. So necessary and perfect. Hanging out with Samantha is always a blessing. The first public viewing of the TIH dvd went over as I expected and I am back at the drawing board on that one.

I've been up to my neck in new shows, new venues and its about time. The Church is the best place on earth for a show but lately with the amount of poorly put together 4 to 5 band packages the best we can offer is 200 kids or so, which is still better then most areas but just not quite the packed event like H20-Bane. So luckily for us Sean and R5 has cleared the way for the first few all ages hardcore shows at the Barbary to take place. Smaller room, less overhead gives us more opportunity for more shows, more diversity and we can take some real risks now. I am excited.

How great is PA Hardcore right now? ....
the answer being Sooo great that Shockwave is playing Forward Hall in Erie,PA Sat Dec 27th and Wisdom In Chains is on it as well! To top it off Out To Win/Mushmouth are playing Croc Rock Jan 10th in Allentown and it will be a blast. Man the Wisdom dudes got alot of steam under them now with Philly and NYC dates with the CroMags as well as the big Shockwave show. I can't wait for their new record and I am sure the rest of you will agree it is already in the running for possible record of 09.

Expect me to branch out and do the CroMags (featuring John Joseph, Mackie, AJ -Leeway and Craig Sick Of It All) at the Broad Street Ministry. Its a great venue we broke the cherry on 6 months ago with the Hoods and Wisdom In Chains. Hopefully the shows there will get some more exposure as the place is awesome.

I will be routinely adding more info as to the shows I've got going on here so that way I can dissect and comment on them and I will start going more into detail about the goings on of 2009. Lets just say that the next 10 shows for me are going to be something special and I plan to get some momentum going to carry us into This Is Hardcore 2009 which is already lining up to be our best year yet. Everyone says it, but I've been at work on it for almost 3 months (since the Monday after the last) so I am hoping the extra months in will add to it.

This Sunday we will witness the 4 horsemen showdown at the Church.
Blacklisted has really been a band for almost 5 years now and you can see the ugliness dripping out of them. The years spent on the road and grueling with the paparazzi obsessed gossip bleeding hardcore scene has turned them into machines. This set will be a testament to all of that I just said and then some.
Ceremony is really one of the bands that everyone put on such a high pedestal that I worry they will drop. They are so vastly different then most bands out and popular these days, its necessary for them to stay at the forefront of the pack so that way we stave ourselves from being homogenized into following only one beat of the drum. I love them and can't wait to see what happens when they take the stage.
Have Heart have become the most important straight edge band today. Its a great thing to see their rise and I really hope that they continue to excel where others have fallen short. I will be hard pressed to not dive a few times during their set.
Let Down when all these bands are on tour with 20 guitar pedals on stage its awesome to see a scraggly 4 piece get up and just rock the fuck out. They pull no punches and provide no bells and whistles but rest assured they are one of the most dangerous bands in hardcore today.
the New Lows I am not informed on them as I've yet to see them live and can only go off of what others say and hope that they are everything and more.
Cut It Out Their name may not appear on the flyer but they undoubtedly will make a great entrance to this show and their first show at the Church. This band has done quite a bit and despite some outward complaining a year back about never being offered a set at the Church, I think the time is right for these guys to get out of the backwoods and show this scene what they are made of.

No matter who you're there for on Sunday its going to be nothing short of chaos, madness and that's just what we need at this point. Just make sure you don't miss out as this show will be talked about for years to come.

Until then, Peace...

Friday Dec 26
730 pm
$13 in advance/ $15 day of

Death Threat
Wisdom in Chains
the mongoloids
Bad Seed

at the Broad Street Ministry

315 S Broad St (broad and spruce)
Philadelphia, PA

email for more info for online tickets or deep sleep for tickets in person

jan 4th At the Barbary

Reign Supreme
Trapped Under Ice
Full Blown Chaos
Dirty Money
Layin Waste
www. r5productions. com

Jan 11th at the Church

Maximum Penalty

www. r5productions. com

Feb 1st at the Barbary

Cold World
Internal Affairs
Brain Dead
Alpha Omega
Cruel Hand

March 1st at the Barbary
Trap Them