Monday, March 28, 2005

Interview: Chain of Strength

This is a reprint of an interview I did with Chain of Strength almost 14 years ago after they broke up. It's appeared in other zines of mine (Fuck You Fanzine and Long Shot Fanzine), but it's probably never been seen by more than 200-300 readers in the entire time I've had it.

I'm crazy busy today, so my apologies for subjecting you to reruns. Take it out of my salary.

I did this interview with Curtis Canales, singer of Chain of Strength, back in the summer of 1991. It appeared in the fifth and final issue of my first endeavor into zinedom, Long Shot Fanzine. Unfortunately, only about 75 people actually saw this interview. In 1994, I dusted the interview off and put it in the seventh and final issue of the first generation of Fuck You Fanzine. Probably about 100 kids actually saw that issue, so I’m bringing this one out of the vault yet again, because I feel it should get a little more play than 175 sets of eyes can give it. This interview was done a few weeks after Chain of Strength broke up. A lot of kids today view Chain of Strength as the gold standard for all that was straight edge, but as you’ll read, they had a hard time getting respect from any of their contemporaries.

So why did Chain of Strength break up?

Alex and Chris left the band. They have a band of their own called Statue. I guess Chain of Strength was just dying to them and they wanted to do something else. That’s pretty much where their minds were (Statue). We saw it coming, and when it did we talked it over and played together one last time. Nobody has any hard feelings about it. We had two guys who filled in for them when they couldn’t play and we could have made them a part of the band, but Frosty and Ryan weren’t into it as far as having other guys play. I wanted to do it and do one last tour, but as far as Ryan was concerned, he just wanted to end it. I guess he just figured it wouldn’t be the same without Alex and Chris.

I hear you’re training to become a police officer.

Yeah. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

Will you still sing for a band once you become a cop?

No, that will be it for me. I don’t see anything in the future as far as singing for a band is concerned.

Why didn’t you get along with Gorilla Biscuits on your first tour of the East Coast?

When we were in New York, there was a lot of tension between the bands. It was apparent that everyone was trying to out-do each other. We thought that was really stupid. I was really disappointed. Everyone wasn’t as tight as I was led to believe. They were all bad-mouthing each other. It was the same with Gorilla Biscuits. They thought we were a sham and that we made a generic straight edge record because it would sell to the hardcore kids. For them to make those kind of remarks without really knowing us was really retarded.

How did Chain of Strength get tagged with the “New Kids on the Block” image?

There were always those people from the start who were going to bring us down as much as they could. I hope they didn’t think it hurt our feelings. It was the way we dressed. We weren’t wearing the militant straight edge attire. Now, we’re hearing a lot of straight edge bands on the east coast are dressing like us (preppy Gap stuff). When we first started dressing the way we did, I guess nobody was really used to it, so they started knocking us. We just dressed however we felt most comfortable with. I thought that New Kids on the Block/Chain of Strength page in Maximum Rock n’ Roll was pretty funny. I can’t believe somebody actually went to that much trouble to take a shot at us. It shows a certain level of maturity and insecurity in that person. We have all of these straight-edge police out there who knock down any band, especially well-known ones, yet they praise all of these bands that have been around for six months and then have broken up. We’ve been around for 3 ½ years, and we never broke up once. I think that says a lot about those bands who couldn’t take it.

Apparently “New Kids on the Block” wasn’t the band’s only nick name. How did you get the name “Chain of Drunks?”

In an interview, we stated that we occasionally had a drink. We made that comment and a lot of people lost their minds over it. We explained that straight edge doesn’t mean never. It’s your own set of rules. Straight edge is turning into “don’t do this, don’t do that.” Everybody is living by everyone else’s rules. When straight edge started, it was your own set of rules. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you have a beer. Straight edge kids should worry about Ray of Today before they worry about a guy who has an occasional beer. That guy is obsessed with religion. Religion is controlling his whole life. I think that’s more abusive than alcoholism.

I have to laugh at all of these overly militant straight edge kids, because their obsessed with a movement that’s based upon non-obsession.

Their obsessed with straight edge and that obsession is making them angry and violent.

Speaking of angry and violent, why did you have problems with Cleveland?

The first time we went out there, we had a great time and played a good show. We stayed at Cubby Fresh’s house. We went out there a second time and it was more of the same. Then we didn’t go out there for a while, and the next thing we know, Chubby started these rumors saying we were smoking pot in the van across the street from his house. The singer from Die Hard never even met us, but he’d bad-mouth us every time we were in Cleveland. His band had its chance to come out to California, and they chose not to. If they thought we were going to stoop to their level and threaten them with violence, they were wrong. There’s always someone from every state that we’ve been through that has either seen us sell drugs or rip people off and rape girls. There are so many different rumors about it. It’s ridiculous. If people believe this bullshit, they might as well believe we are New Kids on the Block.

Why did Nemesis Records cancel the production of the What Holds Us Apart e.p.?

One particular show we played with Carry Nation, I supposedly said something that upset Dan O’Mahoney and Big Frank Harrison. We got in a big fight right there, which pretty much ended our friendship along with our record on Nemesis. We’ve always had a problem with Dan. With him, there was always a grudge when it came to Chain of Strength.

When that fell through, why didn’t you do the record with Revelation?

Revelation is a good label to be on, but as far as our first record went, we really didn’t get what we wanted. It took longer than we thought it would. Ryan and the other guys wanted to do a record on a California label. The second record was much easier to work on because it was done out here.

What is the “Dan O’Mahoney Kiss Ass Crew?”

I’ve never believed in idolizing anyone in hardcore. I thought that was a joke. We’d get a lot of flack for dressing the way we did and the things we did on stage, and we’d have people telling us we should be more like Dan O’Mahoney. I just got sick of it after a while. There were all of these people preaching for the guy. I always thought he was a hypocrite. I was tired of all of the worshipping kids. We’re all on the same level. I never looked at my self as someone above anybody. If somebody came up to talk to me, I’d talk with them. Their (NFAA, Carry Nation) rock star image is pretty much what brought on that statement. Dan spends a lot of time making himself out to be this big hero. I don’t think anybody should preach the way he does to kids, and make them out to be these bad kids, and he’ll turn them into the person he is. I think that’s ridiculous.

The matrix on the first side of True ‘til Death says “hey, can we play more than two songs…?” and the second side says “No is your Answer.” Is there a story?

The first time we played CBGB’s, we played with No for an Answer. We were supposed to play that night, but the promoter forgot to put us on the bill. He said the only way we’d be able to play is if NFAA trimmed their set. So we asked them if we could play more than two songs, and Dan O’Mahoney had a cow and started crying. That’s what it basically meant.

What’s Frosty’s real name, and why is his nick-name Frosty?

His real name is Paul. When he was little, he was chubby and all of the kids called him “Frosty the Snowman.” The nick name just kind of stuck.

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