Monday, October 31, 2005

I Remember Halloween!



I don't think I could have picked a better day than Halloween to introduce all of you to our newest contributor at Barebones Hardcore, Mark Kennedy. Mark is the creator of Misfits Central, and for years, wrote a column for the Misfits Fiend Club newsletter called "Kennedy's Shattered Head." After taking a few years away from all things Misfits, Kennedy is back. He will be contributing a monthly column to BBHC, focusing on The Misfits & Samhain. Enjoy!

When it came to drummers, the Misfits often resembled the fictional band Spinal Tap. From 1977 to 1983, the band went through six different “official” drummers, averaging about one per year. Five of those drummers—Manny, Mr. Jim, Joey Image, Arthur Googy, and Robo—are well-known to most fans. Diehard fiends also know that Samhain bassist Eerie Von was offered the drummer position and that Necros drummer Todd Swalla filled in at two shows. But what about that sixth drummer? By the time he joined the Misfits, Brian Keats, then known as Brian Damage, was already a veteran of the New York punk rock scene. Although his time in the band was short, a month at best, his place in history was ensured by the events that unfolded during his one and only performance with the band. Years later, with almost three decades of musical tales to tell, Brian is understandably amused that anyone wants to hear about his “Misfits minute.” Nevertheless, he is willing to provide us with a Halloween treat. He starts from the beginning…

I was into music from a really young age. My parents had good taste and through them I got into music like Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Mott The Hoople when I was really young. I was born in New York and grew up in New Jersey. In 1976, when I was 13 years old, the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, and the whole New York scene were just starting. I would save whatever money I made from cutting the grass and washing cars, take it to the record store, and buy whatever new punk rock record was on sale (there were usually only 1 or 2 a week back then—early 45s by the Sex Pistols, Damned, Jam, etc.). I had some friends that were into the same music and we would buy every release that came out. In those early days of punk rock, it was really exciting because each band and record that came out seemed like something entirely fresh and new.

I started playing drums when I was 11. I learned a bit from taking lessons in school but was mostly self-taught. My first band ever was with some local friends (one of whom was Mighty Joe Vincent, who later would switch from being a really bad guitarist to a really good drummer with the Devil Dogs), and we would play concerts out of the garage to our screaming and adoring 11-yr old female audience. There were absolutely no people around who wanted to play punk rock or even knew what the hell it was, so I always ended up in bands with people years older than me—I was 13 and playing in bands with 24-year-olds. Let’s just say lots of sneaking into clubs and many false IDs were involved. One of those groups I had in the early days was called the Strangers (a.k.a. MIA, a.k.a. the Systematics), who played a lot around the New York / New Jersey punk scene, opened for 999 and others, played live on WFMU, and also appeared on the cult favorite Uncle Floyd TV show, in my first of three visits there.

One day, I was shopping in Sam Goody in the punk section and, to my complete shock, found someone else there as well. His name was Bobby Ebz (sporting a bad-ass Banana Splits Fan Club button), who introduced me to some friends of his that I began to play with, forming the band Propaganda. Eventually Bobby and I took the guitarist from Propaganda and formed our own band, Genocide. Years ahead of the scum-rock curve, we played all the New York / New Jersey punk clubs and biker bars we could find, sharing bills with bands like the Stimulators (whose drummer Harley Flanagan, later of the CroMags, was also super-young like me and gigging in that early scene), Bad Brains, Beastie Boys, and the Undead. We eventually released one LP (Last Rites) and contributed a couple of cuts to a Dirt Club compilation.

At the time, Genocide was completely misunderstood and hated by most other bands around, often having to physically fight our way out of gigs and usually ending up banned from clubs after an appearance for causing riots, destroying the bar, etc. Genocide, and Bobby in particular, were all about shock value, Stooges-like primitivism, and veering constantly on the edge of out-of-control as a full-time lifestyle. It was funny how the punk ethic of outrageousness and non-conformity was really only allowed if you expressed that in the approved ways. Ridiculous.

Upon leaving Genocide in the summer of 1983, Brian Damage traveled to San Francisco and ended up living in the basement of a club called the Tool And Die, after joining Verbal Abuse, whose drummer had recently left to join D.O.A. After just a few months, however, Brian was summoned back to New York by an invitation to join the Misfits.

I was of course a big fan of the Misfits and had seen them many times. In fact, I met Bobby Steele in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel on the day he joined the band in 1978. I always went to see the Misfits play because I thought they were a great live band—their gigs were also pretty infrequent and always a big event. While I was in San Francisco still playing with Verbal Abuse, I got a call from my New York roommate, saying that Glenn Danzig called, asking me to join the band. At the time, I don’t think I’d ever actually met Glenn. I think he had just seen me play in bands or had heard about me through other people.

Without hesitation, I dropped everything and moved back to New York. I took the bus out to Lodi and went to Glenn’s house for my audition. He told me that Robo wasn’t playing with the band any more and that they had a big Halloween show and possibly a tour of Germany coming up. I didn’t know the band was about to fall apart or about the dysfunctional relationships within the band and with the ex-members. I found out pretty quickly though.

We went over to the studio where they rehearsed, which was a converted garage at Jerry and Doyle’s house. My first memory of meeting those guys was them pulling up in a monster truck, blasting Van Halen’s “Unchained” on their way home from working out at the gym—not the exact image of the ghoulish Misfits that I had in my head. We went into the garage and rehearsed every song we could think of until they basically said, “You’re in, do you want to go do this thing in Detroit?” That was it—one rehearsal with the band, which doubled as my audition. We never got together to play again and I don’t remember if I even talked to them much before the Halloween show.

The Misfits’ annual Halloween show was scheduled for Saturday, October 29, 1983, at Graystone Hall in Detroit. With the imminent release of Earth A.D., a tour of Germany in the works, and a two-record deal with a German label, the Misfits appeared to be on the verge of something big. What Brian and the other Misfits didn’t know was that Glenn was disillusioned with the band and had already started rehearsing with an early incarnation of Samhain. On the morning of the 29th, Brian arrived at Glenn’s house to make the long trek from Lodi, New Jersey, to Detroit.

At Glenn’s house before we left Lodi, I spotted a copy of the ultra-hard-to-find “Cough/Cool” single, which Glenn generously offered me. Then we drove out to Detroit to play the Halloween show with the Necros at a pretty big place that held about 1,000 people. I knew the Necros guys pretty well from when they used to tour New York. When we got to Detroit that night, I started hanging out with them after soundcheck—drinking, goofing off, and having a good time. Without realizing it, I definitely started getting seriously buzzed.

Eventually, we got on stage to do the show—no set list, Glenn’s just gonna call out the songs. During the very first tune (20 Eyes?), we start playing, and of course the band is louder than all hell. I knew from seeing them so many times that they always had ten times as much equipment as they needed, but it looks good up there right? It was so freaking loud that when Glenn called out the first song, I couldn’t even hear what we were doing. It was just a complete nightmare of distortion coming through the monitors. So right after that, Doyle walks over, screaming “What the hell’s going on?” and I yell back that the sound was all fucked up and I couldn’t hear anything. So now Glenn calls out the second song, which I can’t even discern the title of through the distortion, and I’m just playing along hoping to hear something—anything—in the roar that’ll let me figure out what we’re playing. But it’s the same thing, just “KKZXRWKWKKXXZZ!!!” That’s when Doyle comes over and, still screaming, lifts me up by the collar and literally drags me from the stage.

It all happened so quickly. I was off the stage and just walked out the back door. Pacing back and forth, pissed off, I heard Glenn asking if anyone in the audience knew how to play drums. Eventually, Todd from the Necros went up and finished the show. We all stayed in Detroit that night and the next morning I was super-apologetic, trying to explain that I stupidly did have too much to drink but, more than anything, just couldn’t hear what was going on. I felt awful. The drive back to New Jersey was a solemn trip in complete silence. When we finally got home, to add insult to injury, I realized that somehow, in the tight confines of the van, I had accidentally sat on the copy of “Cough/Cool” during the trip and cracked it. Perfect.

After that I never spoke with any of those guys again. I was so fucking sunk by the whole thing, angry with myself for letting them down, and feeling like I’d just probably caused the breakup of my favorite band. On a positive note though (pretty much the only one)—as bad as the whole experience was, it was a major turning point for me, leading me to take the responsibilities of performing and being professional way more seriously from that point on.

Indeed, the Misfits had broken up. Glenn had surprised the audience and his bandmates by announcing, in the middle of the band’s set, that it was their last show ever. The Misfits were over, but Brian soldiered on. When he arrived in New York, he wasted no time and returned to what he knew best: punk rock. But his musical interests were changing.

After the Misfits, I played in a few more punk and hardcore bands, including Hellbent (who coincidentally opened for Samhain at their very first gig!), the Kretins, and the Skulls. A few years down the road though, I got tired of the whole punk scene in general, the attitude, and how violent everything had become. It had gotten away from being a place to have an original voice and it seemed like the people who used to beat up on punks were now the ones in all the bands. So I took a complete detour out of it.

That’s when I started just diving into other shit—old country blues, early jazz, Indian music, reggae—basically catching up on musical history from day one. I didn’t listen to any rock and roll for about two years. During that time though, I did start playing with rock bands like Angels In Vain and Princess Pang. Before punk existed, I had been heavily into Bowie, the Dolls, Lou Reed, and T. Rex. I loved the whole English glitter scene and I knew the guys from Angels In Vain, so when they asked me to do it, I said, “Why not?” Following that experience, I lived in London for about six months, trying to put a band together with several people, including Jimmy Pursey from Sham 69 at one point. When I came back to New York, a good friend and ex-bandmate of mine asked me to join his new group, Princess Pang, who really wanted nothing more than to be the new Sweet/Mott/Aerosmith rolled into one. Right out of the gate we got an incredible amount of interest and really good gigs, and things progressed very fast, leading to our record deal, major tours, MTV videos, and that whole thing. At the time though, I really wasn’t even interested in or listening to rock and roll. I hated hair metal and all that shit.

Princess Pang released a self-titled album in 1989 and seemed to be heading toward success, but the band imploded during a tour of the U.K. Frustrated, Brian decided to try something new.

I looked around New York for a while and found that there wasn’t much going on at the time. A friend of mine in Los Angeles invited me to join his band, which was on the verge of being signed. Although it wasn’t my ideal location, or band for that matter, I was ready for a change of scenery and this provided an opportunity to continue playing music for a living. So I sold a couple of armfuls of rare records at Bleecker Bob’s to fund the trip, getting ripped off in the process (hello Bob—you cheap bastard!). Unfortunately, when I got to L.A., I found out that the band had literally broken up during my flight out!

That’s when I met guitarist Michael Lockwood, then just out of Lions And Ghosts. Coincidentally, the last record I had bought before I left New York was Lions And Ghosts’ “Wild Garden.” We formed the band Wink, which quickly became pretty popular around the local scene. We were courted by several labels, played often with bands like Weezer, Redd Kross, and Celebrity Skin, and counted members of Cheap Trick and Jellyfish among our regular fans. Although a major deal eluded us, Wink provided me with connections and exposure that led to many other opportunities, including session and production work with Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls, Low Pop Suicide (working alongside Dave Allen of Gang Of Four), Jason Falkner, and many others.

After a few years of this session work, I once again returned to the band thing with 3 Day Wheely, who played intelligent, edgy, alternative pop. In a period of about three years, we released an indie EP, signed to IRS Records, and toured numerous times around the country with the likes of Aimee Mann, Semisonic, Gin Blossoms, and others, and had many songs used in films and on TV. On the verge of having our full-length debut CD released by IRS, the label went under and shut their doors. End of that story.

At that point, I thought, “That’s it. I just can’t spend another two or three years pouring my heart into getting another new band off the ground.” So again, I dove back into session work, touring and recording with people like Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles, Teddy Thompson, the Fuzztones and Jason Falkner. I recorded with Jordan Tarlow from the Fuzztones on his very cool garage/psych solo record, “Tonebender,” and also played briefly with Dave Vanian of the Damned with his side project the Phantom Chords. Dave graciously stopped into the studio to sing two tracks on Jordan’s CD, one of which, “Magic Potion,” the Damned now perform on tour. I played with roots rock/psychobilly maniacs Superhonky for a while and recorded a CD and performed live with up-and-coming artist AM, who was voted L.A. Weekly’s Singer / Songwriter of the Year for 2005. Most recently, I’ve been playing with the band Rayon, who are about to start recording their first full-length CD with John Avila from Oingo Boingo producing. And I’m still freelancing with other projects. So, if you need some fine rock and roll drumming…

One of Brian’s latest projects is his web site, www.briankeats.com. The site features photos and sound samples from all eras of his career as well as news updates and a comprehensive list of his diverse recording and touring credits. The one thing you won’t find there is a photo of Brian with a devilock…

I’m pretty excited to finally have my website up, after much prodding to get all that crap together into one place! I’m hoping to get a lot more up there still to expand on things, including some history, more sound files, and some rare video. I’m also really looking forward to the Rayon record, which I think is going to be a complete killer, continued recording, touring and whatever else lays ahead. Despite all the great music I’ve been involved with in the past, I’m really not very interested in sitting around looking backwards. Some people who hear that I was in the Misfits expect me to be a punk rocker forever and think there’s been some sort of betrayal. But you know, that was one type of music in one band that I loved, at a certain moment in time. I have pretty eclectic tastes, and I absolutely don’t regret any of the bands that I’ve been in or any of the time that I spent doing it. The way I see it, everything was a good time, a learning experience, and a stepping-stone to the next thing. Just not to a Misfits reunion, okay?

Stuck in Lodi



Story by Jon DeRosa
Reposted from www.pitchforkmedia.com

Long before I knew what nostalgia meant, I knew that not a whole lot had changed over the decades since my parents grew up in Lodi, New Jersey. Even now, there remain 1950s coffee counters like Cardi's Sugar Bowl, and you can still get a good piece of fresh mozzarella from Mike Vincentini's deli. A statue of Christopher Columbus overlooks Main Street, anchoring Lodi's proud Italian roots. Life there is still a lot like living in the old neighborhoods my grandparents grew up in: Not only do you know everyone, you're most likely related, too. If you're born in Lodi, you tend to live there all your life, remaining at home until you're married and then moving into the house down the block.

It's not a bad place to grow up. It's safe and clean, and you have your entire neighborhood keeping an eye on you. On the other hand, you have your entire neighborhood keeping an eye on you. Action-wise, it's no New York City, the metropolis that taunts Lodi from across the Hudson River.

Glenn Danzig grew up in Lodi, raised on Elvis and his dad's 1950s country music collection. As he got older, he'd turned to Black Sabbath, but by 1976, the Ramones had crashed onto the New York scene. Glenn took aspects of their sound, shed the "cool" vibe, and set the music firmly in the milieu of suburban alienation, speaking in a language every pissed-off kid in Middle America might understand. His obsessions with horror and sci-fi genre films permeated his lyrics and, just as importantly, his image, placing his music in an entirely unique context.

New York punk was just punk, simple and static. When Glenn started the Misfits, he mutated the punk sound and image into something darker and more sinister, a punk/metal hybrid that later found bloom in the quiet, boring suburbs of Oslo and the boggy backwaters surrounding Tampa. Punk belonged to the media/celebrity hubs of London and New York; ghoul rock was for the kids in the suburbs where nothing ever happens.

You Think You're a Zombie, You Think It's a Scene?

I was 12 and cleaning out my grandmother's Lodi garage when I found an original pressing of the Misfits' Walk Among Us. Whose copy it was I may never know, but it was as though fate had placed its alien nightmare art and title's grim invitation into my eager hands. Just a week earlier, I'd bought Danzig's second album, Lucifuge, inspired by an ad in Circus magazine featuring a shadowy and muscular Glenn Danzig wearing an upside-down cross around his neck: pure black menace.

Steve Zing is one of punk's great drummers and would later join Glenn in Samhain. "My bedroom was all black, I'd have black paper on the windows so light couldn't get in," recalls Steve, drumming the dashboard with one hand, steering with the other through narrow streets in the old neighborhood. We're seeing all the sights today. "Let's drive by Glenn's house, maybe his mom's home."

Steve was a few years younger than Glenn but got into the same music around the same time. He went to school with Doyle, Jerry Only's younger brother, who would eventually join Jerry and Glenn in the Misfits. Everyone lived within four blocks of each other. In the years before Doyle joined the band, he and Steve knew that a seat atop an adjoining roof was the best place to listen in on Misfits rehearsals. Jerry got a bass for Christmas a month or two before joining Glenn and was learning as he went. They couldn't play for shit, but musicianship was never the point. It was about seizing control, creating something evil, making people afraid.

Mike Morance, formerly of Lodi band Active Ingredients, remembers: "That was a strange time, because it wasn't only the change in music happening, it was a change in state of mind. To me, as far as the town itself, it was like I was here physically, not mentally, wrapped up in the change, the transition of the music-- and also, kinda stickin' together with the same friends. We weren't too much of acquaintance people."

At the time, pop radio was Boston, Fleetwood Mac, Air Supply, Meat Loaf; the Misfits were the willful antithesis of everything on the airwaves. They inhabited a violent world, walked among scenes of zombie apocalypse, murdered classmates who teased and made fun. The Misfits were ahead of their time, and they had to open doors themselves as well as build some. Their first records were only available in New York City at Bleecker Bob's and Soundz, and in Hackensack, N.J., at the Record King, an oldies record store where Steve Zing bought his first Misfits album.

"I remember Doyle coming into high school with cases of Night of the Living Dead records and just giving them away for free," Zing remembers.

Everyone hung out in New York City, on St. Marks or 7th & A, but they lived in Lodi. And in Lodi it was the pizza joint down the street, Sunday morning horror movies on TV, and hanging out in your friend's basement. Glenn was a ringleader of sorts for the local disenchanted teens. He was the first punk presence in Lodi, and everyone wanted to be around him.

Steve Zing: "Glenn was very charismatic, and [the Misfits] were very different than what was going on at the time. As a band they had a style and a sound that nobody else had."

Glenn's understanding of fear and intimidation put him at the forefront of the movement. Though he was of slight stature, his band was a giant, muscled, black squadron. Both Jerry and Doyle were varsity football players. Their black devillocks and gruesome ghoul paint didn't exactly scare the townsfolk shitless. They knew Glenn and company as good kids from the neighborhood. They knew their parents. When they saw Jerry carving up his guitars on the front lawn with a power saw to make them look more gothic, the reaction was more amusement than terror. They didn't even mind that they could hear the Misfits rehearsing from blocks away.

Glenn was doing things that were pretty much unheard of at the time. He ran Blank Records out of his home in Lodi in 1977, releasing the first Misfits seven-inch, "Cough/Cool". Mercury Records created a sub-label called Blank Records the following year, but Glenn had been smart enough to trademark the name. In the end, he let Mercury have the name in return for 30 hours of studio time, which Glenn used to record the Misfits' Static Age album. Glenn (and legendarily bad B-horror auteur Ed Wood) gave the label a new name: Plan 9.

Aside from a few random shows at Al's Bar and Hittsville, the Misfits rarely performed around Lodi. This was before basement and American Legion shows, and most venues hadn't yet figured out what to do with bands like the band, who opened shows by busting out of onstage coffins. It wouldn't be until around 1982 that the hardcore scene really hit the Northeast and more local show opportunities started to open up. But touring and a slew of 45s had earned them the hardcore community's respect-- even fear. Steve Zing: "Not a lot of people talked shit about them."

In underground Lodi, the Misfits' influence was rampant. Prior to joining Samhain in 1984 (and later Danzig in 1988), Steve Zing classmate Eerie Von had a death-rock band called Rosemary's Babies; Eerie was also known for documenting the Misfits as their photographer. Mike Morance and original Misfits guitarist Franche Coma had Active Ingredients, one of the scene's more avant-garde acts. There was Bobby Steele's Undead. There were the Victims, the only other band to have an album on Plan 9. And of course there was Steve Zing's own Mourning Noise.

I Singled Out the Kids Who Are Mean to Me

As Steve and I drive past his old middle school, I'm reminded of another Plan 9, the Misfits cover band I started in 8th grade. We played two gigs, one at a school assembly (where "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" got us into considerable trouble) and one in Washington, D.C. during an 8th grade class trip. Our principal wasn't real bright and allowed us to take our gear on the bus and perform for our class in the hotel banquet hall. The front desk was instantly overwhelmed by complaints. A preppie-girl classmate asked me why I sang "I want your skull." My reply: "Because I do."

In present day Lodi, a stop at a local watering hole affords a chance meeting with Steve and Doyle's middle school science teacher. Mr. P, who just happened to be there, is only too happy to recall their legendary 8th grade graduation ceremony.

"I was informed by the vice principal of the middle school that [Doyle] would not be allowed to participate because of how he was dressed. [Doyle] and his brothers came in dressed in black suits, narrow ties, peg pants, pointy shoes-- very strange looking. One had blue hair, rumor was that he was with Sid Vicious-- the night Sid killed himself, or killed a girl."

Doyle followed the procession of students onto the stage. His hair was pink, and he wore a lime green suit with a narrow tie and black boots. The principal ordered the teachers to get him off the stage, but his massive entourage, clad in leather and spikes and looking to make a scene, intimidated them.

"Now the brothers are getting up out of their chairs and lining the sides of the auditorium. There's maybe two or three of them. So I figure 'Fuck this shit,' you know? So as they name the students, they skip his name. [Doyle] sits on the edge of the stage and starts giving the principal of schools, the superintendent of schools, and some other dignitaries up there the finger and tells them to go fuck themselves."

At this point the brothers start running around the joint inciting the crowd, and mayhem ensues. Doyle was popular with the student body, who began rioting in his favor. As things reached their inevitable boiling point, the Vice Principal rose and walked over to hand Doyle his diploma. Doyle tore it up, flipped off the VP, and again asked everyone to go fuck themselves before walking offstage.

Broken Bodies in a Death Rock Dance Hall

"I wouldn't say the Misfits were visionaries, but I would say Glenn was a visionary," explains Bob Allecca, owner of Reel Platinum Studio in Lodi. "There were really no bands at that level that were playing and putting records out on a regular basis: He marketed [his music] well. Who would've thought back in the early-80's to hook up with a skateboard magazine and put the Misfits logo on skateboard decks? Plus he was always on the road with the band playing every place he could think of. He was selling his records through magazine ads..."

Bob Allecca still runs the studio, which, in 1980, was one of the few 24-track recording facilities in New Jersey. Reel Platinum was far more affordable than its Manhattan competitors, so nearly every Lodi punk band (including the Misfits and Samhain) recorded there. Even some of Glenn's later work, like his Wagnerian epic Black Aria, saw time at Reel Platinum with Allecca, who was also working with a then-unknown Christina Aguilera.

"Glenn always had something going on and was always moving along. He was always moving up a little notch, a little notch, a little notch. And he never let anything get him down, he was always positive. He was a professional. He had a head for business," Allecca recalls.

Glenn's professionalism might also have contributed to the Misfits' split. They were never able to tour as much as Glenn wanted, as Jerry and Doyle worked for their dad. They couldn't keep drummers. Their live shows were visually stunning but sucked musically. They were never in tune. They'd smash their instruments eight measures into a set. Jerry played basses that he'd demolished and glued back together the night before. Their energy and brutality was inspiring, but Glenn knew the songs themselves were being ruined on stage. As the band was beginning to gain national attention, they were falling apart.

By 1983, Glenn had discovered the more gothic sounds of Bauhaus, Birthday Party, and Alien Sex Fiend (while Jerry was digging Iron Maiden), and his interest in the occult had peaked. The dawn of Samhain made space for new sounds and ideas, as well as a level of musicianship the Misfits would never attain.

Glenn stayed in Lodi throughout Samhain's lifespan, all the way through 1992 and the release of Danzig's Lucifuge. In fact, most Misfits/Samhain/Danzig alumni remain in and around Lodi. The punk venues they played began serving breakfast long ago or simply disappeared altogether.

If You're Gonna Scream, Scream with Me, Moments Like This Never Last

When I was about 14 I befriended Glenn Danzig's dad. He had me over the house and showed me the hearse Glenn bought at age 17, now relegated to cinder blocks in the backyard. He even offered it to me. He gave me a stack of Misfits skateboard decks, which had been sitting under his deck in unopened boxes.

At 15, Steve and I saw a Danzig show in Red Bank, N.J. It was one of their last performances before John Christ and Eerie left the band. We hung out with Glenn, and it was probably the best night of my life. Later that same night, Jerry and Doyle showed up at Glenn's hotel, asking him to rejoin the Misfits. They were escorted out by security. I would see the Misfits reunion the following year at the Stone Pony on the eve of my SATs. It was a blast, but without Glenn, it just wasn't the Misfits.

So what about Lodi made it a petri dish for ghoulish punk rock? Why do kids still make pilgrimages to Lodi just to pore over the Misfits' old tax records and yearbooks in the public library? What was in the water in Lodi in the late-70s that caused kids to take up instruments and frighten people? Some credit Glenn with creating a movement. Some deny there was ever a movement at all. Some, like Bob Allecca, chalk it all up to coincidence.

Steve Zing offers a more nostalgic perspective. "It was more the fact that, at the age we were, we were stuck in Lodi. Glenn lived at home. I lived at home...the Misfits [were] what I looked up to."

Franche Coma considers it simply a natural progression of adolescent routine. "We'd hang out, if you had a job you'd go work. Then you'd practice. You'd go to clubs, you'd go to concerts."

Mike Morance: "I think probably a lot of the nostalgia is in our minds. You can see it a lot of different ways. You can see it as a kid brought up in Lodi that had a twisted view of things."

It's truly impossible to tell if it was a coincidence or if timing was everything. It's something Steve claims can't be described; it can only be felt and understood by the folks that were there. Not only the fans from Lodi, but those that got to see them perform throughout the country.

"It's almost a shame that the Misfits never really got bigger than what they were [when they were together]," says Steve. "It wasn't as big a scene as people think there was. But for the maybe few thousand that felt it, you had to be there...And to this day, any time I see a kid with hair in his face, that's Glenn."

He said it himself: "Moments like this never last," only the stories live on. Like former Misfits guitarist Bobby Steele throwing up on John Lennon's shoes during a show at N.Y.'s Mudd Club. Or Glenn getting locked up in a London prison cell after a fight with skinheads during the botched UK tour with the Damned. Or the Misfits getting banned from Max's Kansas City after a glass thrown from stage injured an audience member. Every tale carries the personal trademark of the person telling it, and each ensures the Misfits' transcendence of their own death rock icon status. The Misfits were nothing less than an undead urban legend.

I spent Super Bowl Sunday at the Lodi Moose Lodge. My dad was tending bar, and I got to talk to my godfather about what I've been up to in New York. We drank scotch and I had homemade peppers and eggs for the first time since I was a little kid. At around my third scotch, this guy I vaguely recognize approaches me and says:

"Your dad tells me you're doing an article about the Misfits. Man, I got a story about them you wouldn't believe..."

Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!

The following excerpt has been taken from an interview I did with Ian MacKaye in 2002. In the interview, MacKaye relived one of Hardcore's most celebrated television moments (along with NYHC vs. Donahue and Skinheads vs. Geraldo)...Saturday Night Live with FEAR as the musical guest, Halloween 1981.

I was contacted by Lorne Michaels, the producer of Saturday Night Live, and John Belushi and asked to put together a crew of people to come dance at the Fear appearance on the show. Belushi had been asked to make a cameo appearance on the show, and he agreed on the condition that one of his favorite bands, FEAR, would be invited to be the musical guest. He then insisted that the band should have some punk rockers on the premises to add some "authentic" flavor.

He got my number from Penelope Spheeris, who directed "Decline of the Western Civilization" as well as "Suburbia," after she told him that the D.C. scene was the "happening" scene on the east coast. Anyway, they called and we agreed to come up to the show. As it turned out our good friends from Ohio, The Necros, were playing with the Misfits in NYC the night before the SNL show (Halloween '81), so we invited them along as well as numerous New York punks (I'm fairly sure that Harley Flanagan from the Cro-Mags was there).

The actual experience was really disorienting. We were kept in a room until they were ready to have us appear, at which point we were led down through the backstage area and on to the set. The band would come out and we would all have to immediately jump into action. It was cold on the set and completely sterile, the music was quiet, and the people sitting in the crowd absolutely hated us. This was okay, beacause we hated them too, and we had chips on our shoulders.

During the dress rehearsal (the show is run through twice, once as a dress rehearsal, and then the actual "live" show), a camera was accidentally knocked over and there was some damage, but the producers decided to let us come on the actual show. This was probably in some part due to Belushi pressuring them to let it go forward. The actual show was as weird as the dress rehearsal, though I think we were no longer interested in trying to keep things cool. As I remember there were even small skirmishes breaking out between audience members and dancers, and there was some headknocking going on between the punks themselves. Keep in mind there there was quite a bit of territorial friction going on in those early years.

At some point during the show one of the D.C. punks, Billy Mackensie, jumped up on stage and grabbed a jacko'lantern pumpkin that the show had been using as it's commercial break transition shot. He hoisted it over his head and smashed it on the front of the stage in front of the band. We all started slipping and sliding on the pumpkin mush until the song was over. As it turned out the producers had cut away from the show the moment Billy appeared with the pumpkin, so no one ever saw the rest of the mess. When we left the room we were booed by the audience.

We were locked into another room and told that we were going to be facing charges in connection to the "damage" done. Eventually, they let us go and in the days following the media picked up on the story. Before long, the story had blown into us "rioting on the set" and causing $100,000 worth of damage. It was, of course, not true, but SNL got some coverage out of the deal.

Who needs Glenn, anyway?



Twelve Hits from Hell...without Danzig.

The Adventures of Jerry & Doyle, brought to you by Skateboard Naked

Danzig Interview in Revolver Magazine

Someone scanned a recent Danzig interview that appeared in last month's issue of Revolver Magazine and posted it to the message board over at Misfits Central. Too bad they didn't scan the awesome centerfold poster in the magazine. It was a Misfits-era poster of Danzig with Jerry Only playing in the background. I had never seen the picture before, so I made sure to pick up a copy of the magazine.

Anyway, here's links to the interview, page by page.

Pages 1 & 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

If the image appears too small to read, click on the lower right hand side of the scans to expand the image.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Goodbye to Dave K...for now

The Last One...

Sorry folks for the long delay but it seems life has taken many turns and I really can’t continue on with this lovely column. As I wish to continue, time runs short on a daily basis. Between taking care of my daughter (yes, I’m a Mr. Mom), running an eBay business, starting an archive CD thing, helping out my sister and father who have just arrived at my home, taking care of household chores, etc... (I can go on but I think you get the point.) It’s really annoying to be so passionate about writing this thing every week to find that you can't put a couple of hours together to get it done. I love hardcore and punk music very deeply. I have found out very quickly even though I have been away for a bit that things basically never changed in the last five years. There is still many good bands and a zillion crappy ones. People are still arguing about the same crap. God what fun, right?

It’s really funny how labels releasing records still are using an ancient form of manufacture and distribution. Bands really don’t need to release a record or a CD anymore. This is true especially with bands just starting out. I don’t even see the point with it. With the internet, you have this ultra fast means of getting your songs out there. You shouldn’t even worry about if you are going to make money or not. You are not going to anyway, so why not just bypass the whole system of doing things? I really can’t believe people even buy CDs anymore. Whether you do a MySpace page or other older methods such as FTP transfers, Usenet Binaries or peer to peer services, you are going to get connected to more people, and more people will hear your stuff. I mean just in the short time doing my latest column thing here on BBHC, I seen some of the dumbest and most generic press kits cross my path. Do you really want your band compared to what’s “hot” at the moment, just so somebody might listen to your release? I really thought by now that labels would find that the major label way doing things doesn’t work. But most labels adopt this for their format. You shouldn’t be promoting a band on your label by how many “units” they have moved. It should be that they are a great band. I also think labels have way too many bands to promote. This leads to many crappy releases that people end up buying. It’s money wasted across the board. Punk and hardcore music are supposed to be beyond that, though time and time again, this is just not the case.

It’s one of the reasons I just asked bands to send in MP3s with the lyrics and artwork. I don’t think you should waste money on review copies. It would also be easier on you when I destroy an unworthy release in a review. Recently, I have read a lot of review sites and never liked it when they told you that you have to send a full release with packaging. This might be OK for the larger labels that have a budget to send out promos, but for the smaller or one off labels, promos are a big expense. If you have to promote a release, a small label can only afford to get it out to the big review mags/websites. If people would just send MP3s, they could plaster the world with the tunes. I still am holding on to the idea that a demo should have more than 3 songs on it. Bands need not to be in such a rush.

It was one cold night in NYC, some time in late 1985/early 1986. There was a show that was happening near Tompkins Square Park (of course in a squat). It was a weird scene. I didn’t know anybody hanging out that night and was just listening in on conversations that were interesting. Over on one of the park benches, sat a few people, in the center was three or four punk girls. One was a very good-looking woman, but very pregnant. Some people I was talking to ventured over by the benches and I only heard a tail end of the girl’s conversation, ”but Amy, what if you have twins!?!” I don’t know why but for some reason that line has always stuck with me. Anyway, I have been thinking a lot about one of the recent punk reissues. Nausea’s “The Punk Terrorist Anthology Vol.2 1985-1988" CD is probably in my eyes the most important punk and hardcore music re-issue in years. I know this is Volume 2, the first was a re-issue of the hideous Lp and some other tracks. To me this is the true Volume One. Nausea was a very important band to me when I first starting going to shows in NYC. They were one of the first true political punk bands I was exposed to, which led me to find out some of older bands that influenced them. Nausea has been featured on the Revelation NYC hardcore compilation with good reason. They were one of the few bands at the time that appealed to everybody in the scene. They totally bridged the gap, skins moshing next to punks and straight-edge kids. Nausea impressed me to no end. The trouble was other than the tracks on the aforementioned comp, they really didn’t have anything else out. There was no “demo” sold (as far as I know...I was a big tape trader and nobody had it). They were big on t-shirts and everybody had at least one. I am glad to see that somebody finally released the “Electrodes” shirt again, it was my favorite. The point is along with bands like Krakdown & NY Hoods, Nausea were one of those bands who either had very little out or nobody approached them about doing a proper release.

Well, better late than never. This is a big release in more ways than one. Over 30 tracks here, all from different sessions are presented here. The first few are from a demo, which like I said, I had no knowledge of. It’s funny that I hadn’t heard their songs played in their proper way for over 15 years, but knew each note of them by heart. Most people would never release that Nausea had some great mosh parts. "Clutches" is a good example. The tracks further along vary in quality and this is to be expected, though they blow away most modern tunes. I love the fact that a couple of tracks features Amy singing solo. Some of my favorite Nausea shows were between the time Neil left and regrettably Al came in, Amy kicked ass. There is a couple of cover songs, including my favorite “Real Enemy” by the Business, which sadly should have been a live version because this track is not too hot. The live tracks are solid, loved Neil’s banter between songs. The last song on the disc is my overall favorite (did they call me?), “Electrodes”, which sums up the band’s stance on animal experimentation very well. A fucking anthem.

When I got a hold of this, I must have played it through 10 times to make up for lost time. I really can’t believe it took so long to get out there. No longer will this band be remembered for that bastard LP that disappointed so many long time fans. This are the way the songs were meant to be heard. They slay, kick ass, and trounce the competition. If you truly only buy one CD this year, this is the one.

Again sorry to everybody for letting you think that this was going to be a big blown out ongoing thing. If you sent stuff for review, I'm going to send it along to other 'zines and websites. Honestly, though much of it was crap. Big thanks to Brett Beach for the monetary assist. He has been more than patient with me and I will get the money back to you as fast as I can. Same to my sister. Next release for my fanzine archive label will be the It's Alive fanzine CD. Fred Hammer is a great guy and when this gets out there it'll be huge. Fred, I'll get the 'zines out to you very soon (if I can only get five minutes to do this). I have been in talks with a couple of others to release their older stuff. Hopefully it'll all pan out. If you got the Hardware CD (thank you) but if you liked or disliked it, let me know. Feedback has been slow and since this is a newer concept, some people don't understand what it's all about. When the It's Alive CD is out there will be a big advertising blitz for the two and I hope to get some people to interview me on the projects.

I may still do something for BBHC when things are less hectic. I want to do e-mail interviews with some of the older folks that influenced me in the punk scene. Ronny asked me to look into doing some kind of radio show (podcast?) and that would be fun because it would involve no thought on my end. I know I can put out one of the best HC/punk shows out there. Been looking into that too. I still be posting on the Livewire board (best around), so you can all make fun of me if you wish. 'Til then...

Fuck MTV, it's not for me... (X3)

Dave K.

E-mail: Grandnagus69@yahoo.com

Ebay Store: http://stores.ebay.com/The-Book-Binders-Book-Shelf

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hardcore Art Gallery: Montreal







Literally, a hardcore art gallery -- graffiti style in Montreal. Normally I'm not into graffiti at all, but these are awesome. I haven't seen anyone talking about these on any of the message boards I frequent, so I thought I'd post them here for everyone to check out. Thanks to Jeff Jawk for turning me onto these by posting them on his site first.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hardcore Handles: Anthony "The Wrench" Moreschi



The first time Rain On The Parade ever played with Ten Yard Fight was, if memory serves, February 1996. I only remember a few things about the show: it was at Stallag 13 in Philadelphia, and it was only TYF's second show. The way the band played that night, you would've thought they had been together for years. Very high energy. Very tight. Very fun to watch. I also remember that ROTP and TYF both played so well that, together we basically mopped Stallag 13's filthy punker floor with Chokehold's (the headlining band) crusty vegan dreadlocks.

Apparently, this show was when Anthony Moreschi became "The Wrench." Here's the story, as told by Ten Yard Fight guitar player John Lacroix.

----------

Who annointed Anthony Moreschi "Wrench," and what was the significance behind the name?

It's actually "The Wrench" since he's the only one. We were in a car driving to our second show ever, in Philly (it was before we had a van) and we were just joking about how Anthony needed a tough nickname. Chris Patterson used to call him "Ma-wrenchy" instead of his real last name which is "Moreschi". So when we decided "the hammer" was too cliche of a name, "The Wrench" just stuck. Back then we made up names for everybody, we'd told him "you are no longer Anthony."

We tried to make up reasons why he was called The Wrench. I think the best one was that he was packin' a wrench in his pants or that he killed a man with a wrench at summer camp. We were interviewed on this kid's talk show and we would just yell "the wrench!" We did some radio interviews too they always wanted to know why his name was The Wrench, but we'd just say... "he's a wrench" or "he's good with tools," which he is actually.


Do his parents know that thousands of people know him only as Wrench. Did they have any kind of reaction to it?

I remember when he quit school for like the 4th time to go on tour, his dad was pissed, he'd just mumble... "rockstar" every time Anthony would walk by. And I'd just mumble "it's the wrench." When we both worked at 411, nobody even knew he was a singer in a band. They didn't even know he was The Wrench. He was like a retired superhero with his wrench costume collecting dust in the closet. Good thing he started another band, cause The Wrench needs the stage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Heads Up Dancefloor Justin, Moshpit Steamroller and Slam

Articles like this one make me yearn for a kinder, gentler time when people routinely got stabbed in the pit at shows...

For your reading pleasure.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hardcore Dancing: Part II

My second round of correspondence with Carl at Uth TV. Yeah, the Hardcore Dancing feature on their show was a bit silly, but it's refreshing to see the people at the show are interested in trying to do it better next time around:
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Ronny,

Thank you! I really appreciate your honest and thoughtful critique of the piece, and the background behind it.

The shows we produced over the summer (Elements and Speak On It) were created entirely by people between the ages of 16 and 20 - we gave them a budget, equipment, a general outline of what we wanted, and a requirement of very high quality work. We put very few editorial constraints on them. Clearly they wandered outside their areas of expertise once in awhile.

Our longer term goal is to build out a community of young filmmakers to create and submit films on things that are of interest and importance to them for distribution both online and over the air. I would love to find someone who is young and has cred in the hardcore community to create the right film about it - one that would be respected by the hardcore kids as real. Do you think this is a realistic idea, or would the community rather just be left alone?

Thanks,
Carl


Carl,

I may have some people in mind, but I think just about all of them fall out of the 16-20 year old range. Most of them are in their mid-to-late 20’s.

I think hardcore kids would embrace a well done film. I’ve always been disappointed that there were no real good follow-ups to documentaries like “Another State of Mind” in the 80’s, especially now that video/editing/CG technology is so much better these days.

When it comes to television features about hardcore, kids in the scene can be very hard to please (as you may have guessed), but I can assure you that stems mostly from the mainstream media’s piss-poor coverage of hardcore over the years. Camera crews tend to flock to the most extreme fringe elements of the scene to get the shocking story that will scare parents silly (the recent “Straight Edge is a Gang in Utah” news/magazine show theme is the latest indignity thousands of good hardcore kids have had to suffer and explain to their parents in recent months). The result is dubious fame for a few kids that go way outside of the boundaries, while the other 99.999% of the scene collectively slaps their foreheads in disgust when they see the coverage on TV.

To answer your question, I think a well-done segment/movie/series on hardcore would be welcomed with open arms, but you need to keep in mind that hardcore, in its structure, isn’t so different from rock n’ roll. Let me explain:

Rock and Roll began with dudes like Elvis, Duke Ellington, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc. They were the first wave. The Beatles were in the 2nd wave, along with bands like the Stones, Kinks, The Who. Then there was the third wave that got heavier and weirder like Led Zepplin, Hendrix, and the Doors. The 4th wave was bands like AC DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith. After that, it went down hill to bands like Poison, Motley Crew, and a million different hair bands. From that point on, people pretty much stopped calling it “Rock n’ Roll” in favor of identifying music by genres like alternative, speed metal, nu metal, pop punk, ect. None of them are considered “rock,” but they all came from the same bloodlines.

Here’s my point: the definition of rock n’ roll spans as widely as Elvis to Poison. Putting the two together side by side looks pretty silly, but they're both technically Rock n’ Roll. It’s the exact same thing for hardcore. The umbrella of hardcore, which started at the Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, Agnostic Front and DOA now covers everything from The First Step and Betrayed (current bands in a more traditional vein of HC) to band like Darkest Hour and Most Precious Blood (bands on huge indies that market these bands as “hardcore,” but purists see more as Metal).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that a movie about hardcore, as broad the scene is, would be hard to do in a manner where it would please everyone. However, a television show or a series covering “genres” of hardcore (straight edge, street punk, old school, oi, metalcore, emo, etc.) would be something that would be easier to accomplish with credibility. My feeling is the scene would collectively embrace that approach, because hardcore would be shown for what it is – a broad music category that has many different native peoples. Think of each genre of hardcore as a tribe. The natives get upset when you start pointing out Cherokees as Navajos. Make sense?

If your requirements for segment and movie producers is capped at 16-20 years old, I don’t know many people I can refer you to at the moment, but I’ll keep my eyes open for you. However, if you ever want to solicit an outside opinion on anything the realm of hardcore, I’m always willing to offer advice. The presentation of your shows is top notch, and I really think a show, or series of shows dedicated to hardcore would draw a lot of interest in a very large underground scene like hardcore.

Best,
Ronny Little

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hardcore Dancing

I had the following email exchange with someone that does a television show called "Elements" on something called "Uth TV" (Youth TV). One of the segments in their 5th episode featured a 4 minute segment on "Hardcore Dancing," and as you may have guessed, the feature is as silly as its title.

Anyway, I went back to the site to check "hardcore dancing" out again, but the link for the segment had been removed. I wrote to the show to ask why and got a reply. I've posted their response below, along with my reply. You can see the feature yourself at the "Uth TV" website. Since the link to the feature itself is no longer posted, you can only see the "hardcore dancing" segment by viewing the full broadcast of "Elements" (episode 5). The clip begins at 6:11 and ends at 10:19 of the bradcast. It's a hair over 4 minutes long.

Hey!

What happened to the hardcore dancing segment you had posted to your website? I’d like to view it, but it’s not there anymore.

Ronny



Ronny,

We took it off the site. Some people in the hardcore community were sending extremely threatening messages to a few of the people in the video, and it just wasn't worth it for the harassment factor.

Out of curiosity, have you seen the piece and what was your reaction to it?

Carl.



Carl,

I got into hardcore in the mid-80’s when skinheads would target people in the pit for a beating when some poor bastard had long hair, or the skins didn’t like the way someone was dressed, or if someone was wearing Doc Martins without being a skinhead, or some other really important and urgent reason like that. So, to me your feature looked a little silly. But like I said, I came in at a time when people routinely got stabbed while dancing at shows. Hardcore was hardened city kids and dysfunctional suburban kids. It wasn’t a very welcoming environment.

In my view, to see some goofy kids just “moshing in place” was kind of funny. But to be honest, I’m glad the worst thing anyone has to worry about in the pit these days is an errant elbow rather than a broken bottle being swung around.

I think your piece might’ve had a little more “cred” if you had sought out people who are legendary for their prowess in the pit. Did you ever see that Sick of it All video with all of the dudes demonstrating dance styles? I can’t recall which song it was, but it had a lot of people in the video that were sort of well known back then simply for how they danced, which is one of those weird accomplishments you’ll only find in the hardcore scene. But every hardcore scene has its kids that “rule” the pit, and I can guarantee you none of the Abercrombie-looking kids you had in your feature are the type. Your casting basically had a bunch of mathletes giving a demo on how to play football. Does that make sense?

If you don’t mind the critique, I thought it wasn’t a good idea to solicit the opinions of outsiders that basically just made fun of the hardcore kids for how they dance. They get that every day, and then when there’s something on TV trying to explain it, people are still there laughing at them. It was like you were trying to explain the phenomenon, and then in the same instance show how stupid everyone outside of the scene thinks “hardcore dancing” (“skanking” in my day) is.

Also, the live footage looked like a goofy cardio kick-boxing class with everyone moshing in place lock-step. My guess is you filmed it at a local show, which is fine, but if you really want to see some seriously destructive dancing at it’s finest, get your clips at shows that have bands like Terror or Internal Affairs playing (both very well-though of California hardcore bands that seriously know how to throw it down).

I think your show is kind of cool and very well done over all, but hardcore is one of those things that, if you’re going to cover it in a segment, the producer really needs to know his stuff on a very real street level. No “hardcore” producer would EVER even think of calling what goes on in the pit “hardcore dancing.” Hardcore kids don’t even like to call it moshing anymore. Well, the kids that know better anyway.

Best,
Ronny Little

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mail Bag

SUGGESTIONS

Ronny,

Nice blog. Great content. It could use one thing, though: an XML feed.

I usually don't have the time to sit at a computer and read the site, but if there was a feed link, I could sync it with my iPod and read it on the train, waiting at the dentist's office, at lunch, etc. Blogger is all set to do this, but you would have to enable it through your account preferences. A compatible feed would have a URL that ends with .xml. It would be nice to read BareBones Hardcore right next to the Wall Street Journal and ArsTechnica.

OK, at any rate, the site is great and I've enjoyed it. Thanks!

Shawn


Shawn,

Wow. I wasn't aware you could read site feeds on your iPod. Considering everyone has an iPod, I'd be silly to ignore your advice. I'll look into adding this feature sometime this week. Thanks for the heads up!

Ronny
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THE HARDCORE BENEFIT SHOW

Ronny,

In the last 3 years I've had a hand in a number of benefit shows. From promoting, to performing to being security at the show, I've seen all the things you managed to bring up occur. A lot of people pay with 20 dollar bills and refuse to accept change. The only distro that has been at our benefits have been a long time supporter of us and he is always on hand to donate easily over $100. What's the best is the fact that he isn't asked ahead of time -- he just always does the decent thing.

I find it curiously odd that you mentioned all the bands trying to play. I find that to be the most ironic facet of the whole hardcore benefit show. You have bands who would otherwise be a pain in the ass willing and able to play and yet you still have 1,253 bands trying to jump on the bill for nothing more then exposure. It's always interesting for these kids and their bands to get turned down but yet aren't half as eager to show up and support the show in general. In the end what I agree with the most is the fact in what you said -- its a supportive gesture.

In most cases where benefits are neccesary the dire situation goes beyond a fiscal problem. The money is nice and it may go a long way but it is nothing more then a gesture. I see a lot of people scrambling for benefits for this Hurricane Katrina disaster and I am blown away at the amount of money that is going to be wasted in the shows overhead, gas money to get to the show and so on, that could just be sent directly to whomever (the Red Cross I presume). I don't think a hardcore show in every town would even make an impact. The idea is there but I don't know if it's anything more then a "gesture" from these kids to feel as if they've done their share morally. Who knows.

Keep up the good work.

Joe Hardcore

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Ronny,

Well said. Though many bands have approached me about doing a benefit for my leg, I've been reluctant (in spite of my needs) in light of all the CB's mumbo jumbo. Benefits can be a sketchy thing, and honestly, though I ppreciate every effort, $400 doesn¹t offset $100,000 in medical bills. To surmise, I'm glad you wrote this, and not to aid my cause, but to shed light on the needs of those in far worse situations than me.

Your friend

Dan Cav


You're my hero Dan! =]
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RICHIE BIRKENHEAD INTERVIEW

Nice... but, Ronny, did you have to use the single worst picture of myself I have ever seen?

Richie Birkenhead


Richie,

Ha! So sorry man! I have since changed the photo of you on the interview. A friend of mine from the Hardcore Office took the photo at the most recent CBGB's show.

For those of you who didn't see the original photo, it was pretty bad. Richie looked like a bloated frat boy. Sorry Richie!

Ronny
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HELLO FROM IRAQ

Sir,

How's it going? You don't know me. In fact we have never even been formally introduced. A long time ago, at some Rain On The Parade show in PA (when the LP came out), you gave me dirty looks for buying 5 of them (the 300 limited "When It Rains, It Pours" LP). Matt Smith said "those will be on ebay tomorrow," except I was buying them for dudes who couldnt go to the show. Ha. I remember in 1997 I was having bad times at home and in life, and I saw rotp at that Yuletide Youth Crew fest in Maryland, and the whole attitude there was so A+ and positive, and i always think going to that show helped me.

Anyways, I just saw your website, and I like it a lot. I'm in the army, and sometimes its hard to keep up with hardcore as much as I used to. Sometimes life takes over more than I would like it to, you know? I do get to check the internet a lot, as long as we're not out in the field, and I'm glad I found your site. There is some cool stuff on here that makes me think about fun times, and it is definately a good read.

I've rambled enough, probably too much. Dude, thanks for the cool site.

-E


E-

I just made myself drop and give you 20 for the dirty look, and then another 20 for how much that record SUCKED!

Stay safe in the desert over there!

Ronny

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Hardcore Art Gallery: Dead Kennedys "Plastic Surgery Disasters"



Please join me in welcoming Jason Powell as the new cover art critic at Barebones Hardcore!

Dead Kennedys "Plastic Surgery Disasters"

When I was 11 years old, my friend let me borrow his brother's tape of this record. It was the first time I had ever heard punk or hardcore (in fact, I didn't even know what those words meant until maybe a year later). After I returned it, I saved up my lunch money for what seemed like a month and I bought the record for myself, and saw for the first time what the cover looked like. I dont know what I really expected it to look like, but it definitely seemed odd.

The front cover is a seemingly innocuous, harmless photo of two hands, one black and shriveled, and one white and healthy. It has a journalistic feel to it, like it was photo from the Associated Press about some news item. Over the years I heard almost insane readings on who is in the photo, as if it could not just be some anonymous persons' hands; people said it was ET or Michael Jackson holding hands, or the white hand was JFK. Of course, in the 80's the starvation of people in Africa, particularly Ethiopia, was common knowledge, and was the source I thought responsible for the photo, but still it begged the question of what it was doing on the cover of a music record. You get the impression that this is a serious picture, meant to be taken seriously, its so stark and important looking, it could have been taken out of your high school history book, or the newspaper, but then, its surrounded with hot pink, and its on a piece of entertainment. Its a strange dichotomy.

Scrawled at the top in either a childish or demented handwriting is "Dead Kennedys." Juxtaposed to that is "Plastic Surgery Disasters" written in a very elegant script. But looking at the track listing, "Plastic Surgery Disasters" is not a song title, in fact, the phrase doesn't even appear in any of the lyrics. It seems to be just an arbitrary phrase meant to give meaning to the picture on the front. The picture is too straight forward to imply that the hand is really a botched plastic surgery job, instead the assertion seems to mock the seriousness implied by the photo.

The back cover is a shot of an anonymous Anytown, USA suburbia with a smiley face printed on the water tower looming in the background. Its a sharp contrast to the front cover, in a similar way to how the script of the album's title contrasts with the chicken scratch band logo, and it too carries a trivial playfulness that seems to mock the subject in the photo. Inside, the record sleeve reflected all this and more- a Da Da-esque collage of consumerism, media, and sarcasm.

The appropriated images placed into humorous yet serious new contexts seem to want an answer as to whether this is intended as parody or pastiche. It offers open and various meaning to be attached to the art, but it makes on thing clear: this is not normal. It wears that idea all over the images it gleans from the culture it is breaking away from, practically beating you over the head with it. Whether you want to take these images seriously or as a joke is up to you, but one thing is obvious and that is how this record does not conform to the rest of the world. There is a pattern here, that echoes the lyrics and music of the band on the record inside. Does Jello really think the government is putting drugs in our water, that rich people care more for cocaine than their family, that the secret police kill protesters by slipping LSD in their drinks and spin them out into traffic, or that campers feel it is their right as pioneering americans to feed doritos to bears? At the same time, it establishes a critique on politics, religion, authority, and the american dream.

The record stood out from the rest of the records, even though the photo on the cover wasn't really very "shocking" or gory or typically "punk," it had this displaced feel of something wonderfully unusual and bizarre and exciting, which had been what I loved about the music in the first place. It was a thrilling experience buying something that was this different from almost everything else there in the shop. I say almost, because there was one other record that I also thought looked out of place because of the cover, even though I had never even heard the band, I wanted that record too because it looked like it also was going to be a fun new experience. I'll write about that record next month.