Monday, May 09, 2005

Interview -- Striking Distance

The trail of fresh red droplets began at the microwave in our kitchen. One small smear on the microwave, three large blobs on the Formica counter tops, one long red streak slowly inching it’s way down the lower cabinet door, until finally a speckled trail of red took me across our white linoleum kitchen tiles, over our shaggy cream (now partially red) carpeting, and then vanishing at the living room couch where my roommate, Striking Distance front man Dave Byrd, sat watching TV. With his left hand, he applied pressure to a bleeding wound on his head (the result of a close encounter with an errant tuning peg). With his right, he polished off what remained of his dinner -- the Dave Byrd Special (micro-waved Boca Burger, white bread bun, ketchup). Ketchup dribbled down the corners of Dave’s mouth, onto his white Mucky Pup t-shirt. To this day, I still don’t know whether I was following a trail of blood or condiments to that couch.

I’ve known a lot of punks in my life, and there was never a single one I wanted to live with, until I met Dave Byrd. Dave was different. Here was a guy who could be the hardest dude on the dance floor, skate a 15’ half-pipe with the ease of a pro, play any instrument, and at the same time give you tips on your resume, stock portfolio, women and life in general.

Dave walks a very fine line. He is the perfect blend of Regular Guy & Joe Hardcore, and I’ve always dug that about the dude. As the ideal roommate, he was relatively neat, sociable, he’d carry my share of the bills on difficult months, and he’d always pay the rent on time (whether I had my half of the money or not). On the one occasion that Dave and I were late with the rent, we were penalized with a $125 late fee. Joe Hardcore came out swinging on that one -- I had to talk Dave out of slashing our landlord’s tires.

I know we haven't lived together in over a year now, but I meant to tell you that John Hennessee (singer of D.C. band For The Living) called for you one night. He woke me up out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night wanting to speak with you, but you weren't home. The message was that the next time he saw you it would, and I quote, "come to blows." Were there any fireworks going on between you two?

Dave Byrd: All this happened over a year ago. There was a shady promoter running this venue in College Park, MD called St. Andrews Church. Let me preface by saying that this venue was originally secured by Steve No Justice and another guy who did a few awesome shows there until the shady promoter took the venue from them. How could this be done? Well, he (Mr. Shady) called up the owner and told her that all this bad stuff was going on at their shows and that he would be a better person to control the happenings at the venue (Venues are hard to come by in the DC area, so this was a major scandal). Also, let it be known that this guy had put us on a couple of local shows (not at St. Andrews) and NEVER offered to pay us. In fact, he would leave the show early to avoid us. He starts booking bigger independent bands and the popularity of the venue grows exponentially.

My major problem with the whole situation stems to the simple fact he was making a killing ($7,000-8,000) per show while the bands received much less. I happened to know the venue cost $200 to rent out, plus another $200 for sound. St. Andrews has a capacity of 800 people. He would charge $10 for a show and 800 people would show up which would equate to $8,000 with $400 to 500 in costs. He would pay the bands the minimum amount and pocket the rest, usually leaving with $6,000. He even quit his day job because he was making so much money. So for me, it all came down to fairness and the basic ‘punk rock’ ethic. He didn’t treat bands fairly, and he didn’t treat the DC area people fairly. For me hardcore, punk, or whatever should not be a means to someone’s pocket. I know it happens on a grand scale everyday, but I saw this as something I could change and something that I was an integral part of and very important to me, the DC scene.

So, some friends and I conjured up ways we could put an end to this because we (Jon Hennessee included) were all pretty fed up with what was going on. In all sincerity, we could have just walked into one of his shows, told him it was shut down, and started beating people up to seal the deal (the cops would have shown up…etc). Instead, we thought of something funnier to do, see, we had a shit load of fireworks and thought we would create an apocalyptic scene at an upcoming Darkest Hour show. About 10 of us all had fireworks and we all agreed to light them after the 4th Darkest Hour song (they were headlining band). When the fireworks started going off, most of the kids were into it, but it was the promoter who stopped the show. Some other kids decided to jump one of my friends so we defended him. Jon H. tried to fight me, and we got a lot of shit for doing this by some other ‘friends’ who in the past were critics of this promoter, but took his side. Hypocrites. Brian McTernan criticized us, but didn’t have the sense to call me to ask me what the motivations behind the action were. So basically, that’s what ‘The Fuse is Lit’ is all about. Taking action, getting shit for it, and calling out ‘holier than thou’ friends.

Over the last year, you've been spending a lot of time in the van. While on the road with the band, what are things that push your buttons?

Byrd: I’m a solitary guy. I’ve always been alone. So being in a van in close proximity to other people is sometimes difficult. On the road, we’re a democracy as a band. Let me just say, fuck democracy. The other guys in the band are younger and into different things than I. I don’t like going to the mall & dollar stores, listening to Weezer, RFTC, Leatherface 24-7. I seriously don’t listen to these bands anymore because of tour (my headphones were broken, so I couldn’t escape it). We’ve learned to deal with each other pretty well. We fight. We get over it. It’s pretty cool (strange to some) that we’ve kept the same line-up since 1999.

What’s the alpha-omega of your record collection? The first one you ever bought (punk/hc) and the most recent one you've gotten.

Byrd: My first hardcore purchase was Dead Kennedy’s ‘Plastic Surgery Disasters’ LP and Minor Threat’s ‘Filler’ LP (not the EP). The most recent (damn I have a lot of new stuff) was Tragedy ‘Vengeance’ & Hellacopters ‘Cream of the Crap’ CDs, Cast Aside 7” & Modern Life is War and Suicide Files CDs.

What's the sound track to your life right now? (List the band and the song that has lyric subject matter that fits what's going on in your life right now. Give me 5 songs).

Byrd: Tragedy: Conflicting Ideas, Beginning of the End. Bad Religion: Modern Man. Aftermath: Falling Down. Dead Stop: Hate Your Guts

I'm glad that I've been exposed to punk and hardcore music. It
helped me to discover so many things like vegetarianism, straight-edge (later reduced to moderation and sensible drinking), and questioning the powers that be. Without the influence of this music in my life, I'm certain I'd be a much different person. Of course, there was a lot of pain and persecution attached to growing up punk, and not all of it was times that I look back and feel like it built character. So my question to you is this: you're in your 30's now. Family may be in the future someday. Would you want your kids to be punks and go through all of the difficulties involved, or would you rather they be more mainstream, but raised by the ideals you picked up through punk (like being vegetarian, questioning authority, etc.)?

Byrd: First off, I feel the same way regarding growing up punk. It is something I often ruminate as I have aged. Prior to 1985, I was on the road to becoming a mainstream frat boy indulging in every societal ill you can imagine. I was in middle school and starting getting involved with drinking, drugs, crime, violence, and had formed attitudes/biases towards certain groups of people. I was 13, apathetic, and I only cared for one person, me. As I became involved in punk and hardcore, it opened my mind to different ways of thinking and being. I believe punk rock was the answer for me given my situation. It is not a path for everyone because like you said it is painful, but it is sometimes necessary.

So back to your question, I don’t think I want my kids to go through the same trials and tribulations as I. This is often the goal of most parents, being, to make a better life for your children. However, I know there’s only a certain amount of influence you can have on your kids before they need to make decisions on their own. I would hope to instill some of the basic values of punk and hardcore in my kids and try to ensure they are happy and satisfied with their lives. Not to say that they will not encounter difficulties, but I will mindfully try to prepare them for such things so they can think their way out of them. Will they turn out to be mainstream monozygots? I hope not!

Who gets the most ass in Striking Distance?

Byrd: I’m basically the single guy in SD right now, so I get the least ass. Everyone else in the band has girlfriends.

A lot of hardcore kids have a bad attitude about college as far as its value beyond four years of partying. You have a bachelor's and master's degree. What are your degrees in and how have they helped you both in terms of finance and personal growth?

Byrd: I find that most kids who have a bad attitude about college are typically the ones who’ve never taken any classes outside of high school. They perceive college as a big frat party where you learn how to do keg stands, rape girls, and waste your parent’s money ala ‘Animal House’ the movie. Unfortunately, this is sometimes true. However, I think what you learn and experience in school is directly related to the amount of effort you put into your education. College is not for everyone. What I mean is, depending upon what your goals are in life you might not need a 4-year degree. While growing up, I worked commercial and home construction, landscape, and even dug gas line trenches and I quickly realized that kind of work was not for me…there had to be something better out there. After all, I wasn’t going to become a professional skateboarder like I had hoped!

I earned a B.A. in Psychology in ’95 and an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in ‘97. In terms of personal growth, it was a life-changing experience. I learned a lot about my mental capabilities, people, and most importantly, I learned HOW to learn. My education involved a lot of research and analysis and this mode of thinking enabled me to approach everyday issues (personal, political, etc) in a more rational way. Financially, the degrees have open doors to better paying jobs where people rely upon what’s in my brain rather than how much dirt I can move with a shovel.

Do the math: four guys + one van = ass gas. In Striking Distance, the worst ass in the van goes to?

Byrd: We have a Barth in the band…enough said.

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