Monday, May 30, 2005

From the Horse's Mouth: Project X 7-inch EP

Welcome to the first installment of From the Horse's Mouth. I'm going to try to make this a somewhat regular feature where I take great hardcore records and get the lyrical explanations straight from the people who wrote them. I've had this idea for a while, and even had the idea put to paper before when I did the interview with Ray Cappo explaining the lyrics to the We're Not In This Alone LP for Contention Fanzine so many years ago.

This installment of From the Horse's Mouth was done, if memory serves, almost ten or eleven years ago. At that time, Porcell was living in the Krishna temple down at West Allen's Lane, just outside of Philadelphia. A good friend of mine, Kevin McCafferty, used to take me down to the temple to listen to the Gurus contemplate on life and spirituality, but I think the real motive was always the awesome vegetarian Krishna grub they served at Prashadam. We were always conveniently late for the part at the beginning where there was chanting and dancing involved. I definitely wanted no part of that, and despite Kevin's dedication, I don't think he did either.

After Prashadam, Kevin introduced me to Porcell and the two of us went to a separate room to do the interview. For the record, I was a COMPLETE ASSHOLE -- to the point that I basically walked away from the experience with nothing that I could use as a formal interview. I was asking Porcell things like "who got laid the most in Youth of Today" and questions about his nose. Yes, I asked Porcell several pointed questions about the size of his fucking NOSE. To his absolute mountains (and mountains) of credit, Porcell did not take my shoes (sitting in a pile of random shoes at the entrance of the temple) and shove them up my nose.

I have no defense for my behavior on that evening. The only thing I can offer up as an extremely lame excuse is the fact that, at the time, I was worshipping at the altar of a fanzine called Combat Stance, which was one of the most obnoxious and antagonistic zines on the planet -- ever. I gave Porcell copies of Fuck You Fanzine before the interview. At one point during the interview, he had been flipping through them and came across several essays I had written on my idea that you could be straight-edge and still have a beer. Moderation was the bill of goods I was selling. Porcell looked up at me and said "the Sgt. of Straight Edge isn't straight edge?! What the hell, man."

Ouch. ZING!

I have no idea how, but I somehow managed to get lyrical explanations to all of the songs on the Project X 7-inch EP onto tape that evening. The intent was to use them for a zine I was planning to do after the first version of Fuck You Fanzine was over and done with, but it never materialized. Though the years, I lost the tape and forgot completely about this interview until I found a typed transcript of it while I was rummaging around my closet at my parent's house last weekend. Enjoy.


Straight Edge Revenge

Porcell: I wrote that song at a time was right around the time when Youth of Today played CBGB's. It was a weird time because Youth of Today was always a band that supported New York Hardcore. We always played CBGB's, and then we played this show where they just started instituting a no stage-diving rule, and of course, kids were stage diving anyway. So they blamed the bands and they kind of kicked us out of the club. At the time, straight edge was really starting to get a bad name. It was almost like a reactionary thing. Once it was cool to be straight edge, and then all of the sudden it was really uncool to be straight edge. So that song was kind of like a reactionary thing to that sort of anti-straight edge mentality. My thinking was, if you're going to push your peer pressure on me one way, I'm going to push it back on you the other way. But I'll tell you, I learned a lesson from having that kind of mentality. Even though Project X wasn't like a serious band that we actually did, it was a reflection of the times. In that way it was serious. But I find with that sort of "us and them" mentality, communication doesn't really take place. I used to be a straight edge kid that used to go around knocking beers out of people's hands when I was just like, a young stupid kid, and you know..."straight edge revenge," whatever, you put a big x on your hand. But then I realized that was just stupid. If you really have a message that you want to get across to people, you're not going to get that message across by yelling at them and criticizing them. So, I've started to have mixed feelings about that song these days. Even though it was sort of a mood, it's almost like reverse peer pressure. Like getting peer pressured in school to drink and everything, and it's almost like you just want to say "screw you guys," and sort of reverse the peer pressure. But when I think about it now, it's almost just like playing their game, you know? I'd rather just not play the game at all.

Shut Down

Porcell: Actually, Shut Down was about that CB's show (mentioned earlier in his explanation of Straight Edge Revenge). That was the CB's show that we played, and the kids were stage diving, and it wasn't our fault. I mean, the club was supposed to be responsible for security, and if they were going to all of the sudden just institute a new security policy, it's not really the band's job to enforce the rules, you know? So here's a club that we've been playing for like a year, and then all of the sudden they just banned us, and I thought that was just really uncool. So I wrote a song about it.

Cross Me

Porcell: Cross Me is actually written about that band Half Off. Have you ever heard of that band. (Porcell was talking to the future singer of a band named after a Half Off song. You bet I heard of them. --Ronny)Whenever we used to go to California, they (Half Off) were kind of like straight edge kids who were always into Youth of Today. The mentality is that if you're attached to someone's qualities, and then you let envy get into that, the reason why you're attached to that person's qualities is because you want that position for yourself. So that's kind of how I felt about those kids. Those kids were such big fans, but they were fans in kind of an envious way, where they actually wanted to be the big band. And so it's kind of like being enemy-centered. That whole band was about bagging on straight edge. That's what their band was about. They were enemy-centered. It was such a stupid way to be. It's another sort of dumb reactionary thing that sort of, like I was talking about with Straight Edge Revenge, how you get sucked into the whole negative vibe. It's the way I felt at the time, I guess. I think I've grown up a lot since the Cross Me days.

Dancefloor Justice

Porcell: You have to realize what the New York scene was like at the time, because back in the revelation days with Warzone, it was almost like...even though you had bands like Youth Defense League, who were the skinhead band, and you had Warzone who were sort of like the hybrid straight edge skinhead band, everybody in the scene got along. Sick Of It All weren't straight edge, but all of the straight edge kids loved them anyway. It was kind of just like one big family. And then the New York scene just all of the sudden got really bad. You'd go to CB's and, at a few shows people got shot. People would get stabbed. You were taking your life into your own hands just by going into the pit. So that's another reactionary song about the time. It was just about looking out for your friends in the pit, which was a problem at the time.

Where It Ends

Porcell: If you've ever heard that Shelter song "Letter to a Friend," it's almost like the same type of thing. When you're young, you're so filled with youthful idealism. It's just a part of being young. Since you're not that experienced with life, the good thing is you tend not to be jaded. And so when you see things that are wrong, it really affects you because you're not really hardened and conditioned to the way the world supposedly is. So you see things and you think the world is a screwed up thing. Why are people running around getting drunk, you know? This is stupid. I don't want to do this. So you start to disassociate yourself from that. But it seems like when you get older, the tides of materialism just sort of drag you back into whatever the norm of society is. And when you look at people that are still trying to keep up that revolutionary spirit, and others think of it as something tacky and something dated. Like straight edge, or vegetarianism, or environmentalism, or spirituality, or whatever. It's almost like some people grow up and they look at people that are still trying to make that sort of change, and they think it's tacky and stupid. "You're in your twenties and you're still edge? Get off your skateboard and grow up!" That kind of mentality. But it's a serious thing, so I wrote a song about those people. At the time, me and all of my friends were growing up, and a lot of them thought straight edge was a stupid thing. It actually meant a lot me, and I thought it meant a lot to them, too. When I heard what they would say about me still being into straight edge -- that it was a stupid thing, a sentimental thing -- I didn't think so at all. I still don't think so.

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