Thursday, February 02, 2006

I Survived the Hardcore Scene and All I Got Were These Lousy T-Shirts

(Photos of Major Conflict and Urban Waste provided by Mad At The World Records. Records for both bands may be purchased at the Mad At The World website)

In my heyday, it was no secret that I was rather obsessed with record collecting. At one point I lived with both Fat Rich (Shark Attack) and Robby Redcheeks. Three sick record collections living under one roof. In some respects, living with two other adamant collectors was a great thing. We had a fire escape route for our vinyl (I’m not kidding). This included throwing Rich’s futon out of the front window and dropping boxes of precious wax in hope that they’d hit the soft cushion and didn’t suffer any serious damage (ok, not the best plan, but its better than no plan.) We had the occasional record swapping, the occasional lead to something on our want list and of course, hours of playing great tunes and talking shop. There was, however, a downside. As collectors, we were all in direct competition with each other. We had been known to get into vicious fights over finds.

I had a friend, Pat, who worked at CI records in Philadelphia. As Pat was always shopping for the store and coming across great finds, I gave him my want list and asked him to give me a heads up if he came across any of them. I’ll never forget when he called me up to inform me that he had a great source of records in an undiscovered record store in South Jersey. He started naming off Necros “IQ 32,” Teen Idles EP, etc. I had just gotten paid so I was ready to fucking explode. He gave me the directions and I was all set.

Now the dilemma; do I tell Rich and Robby, or do I go there alone and get what I want first? I decided that I would give them a choice. They could either come with me WITH the stipulation that I had first dibs on EVERYTHING. This included going through their finds and deciding if there was anything I wanted before they were allowed to buy them. OR, I would just go alone, and not reveal the source until after I returned (pretty ingenious if I do say so myself). So this wasn’t exactly the best set of choices for them, but since I was the only one with a car, they agreed that I had DIBS. That day I got Necros, Teen Idles, Negative Approach LP (Green Sleeve) The Effigies 7” The Process of Elimination comp (With NA, Meatmen etc) Toxic Reasons 7” and the coveted URBAN WASTE 7”. I don’t think I spent more than 25 bucks on any of the records, though most of them were under 10 bucks a pop.

Switching subjects COMPLETELY (since I don’t need to go into how the UW 7” was one of the top 5 early 80’s HC record and a huge influence on my music), I met Johnny Waste online in early 2001 and he agreed to do an interview with me. He seemed genuinely amazed that so many people still knew about UW. This is what planted the seeds for their reunion show (though I completely missed it since I was living in LA during that time). -- Smyth

Interview: Urban Waste

Well, to begin with, before I answer any of your questions, I would like to make this little statement. When Urban Waste broke up, it was one of the saddest times of my life, to present day. I still wonder what it would be like if we had stuck it out through our tough times. I guess a lot of us will never know, and probably will never find out either. Anyway, to all the fans I never got to thank in person, I would like to take the time now to thank all of you for supporting us, and to all the people who still have an interest in our music, you are what keep Hardcore alive. Keep the Dream Alive. -- Johnny Waste/Kelly

To get things started, Name, age, current occupation, and instrument played in Urban Waste?

John Kelly, AKA: Johnny Waste, I’m now 34, subside in The Catskills of New York, I attend New Paltz University, and played, and still play lead guitar.

How did UW get its start? Were you in any bands prior to this?

Urban waste was my 1st band, I was only 13 when myself and Drummer John Dancy decided to begin a band. I remember the day very well, I don’t remember a lot of things, but the birth of Urban Waste will always stay with me.

Who were some of the regular bands you played with back then? Ever play any bigger shows?

Most of the bands we played with were: The Mob, The Beastie Boys, Armed Citizens, Agnostic Front, Token Entry, Cause for Alarm, The Headlickers, The Cro-Mags, and of course Murphy’s Law. There were many others that my brain won’t let me remember at the present time, but let me tell you, there were a lot. I would have to say the biggest show UW played was at CBGBs. We played with The Mob, and Minor Threat. Minor Threat was late getting to the show, and the place was packed. This show was also to be the last Urban Waste appearances as a band.

What was the deal with Major Conflict? Who was in that band?

Major Conflict was a band that John Dancy and I joined after Urban Waste broke up. The music compared to Urban Waste wasn’t as hard, and I didn’t write any of the songs for Major Conflict. All Urban Waste songs, except for BNC, were written by myself, and John Dancy.

About how many shows did Major Conflict play? Was it as serious as UW?

MC played quite a few shows, but I didn’t stay with them for various reasons. MC was not my band; therefore I didn’t have as many decisions to make. UW was my life for 5 yrs.

Didn’t you try out for an early version of the Cro-Mags? What’s the story there?

Yes I did play guitar with the Cro-Mags, I was there 1st axe man when they started writing songs. I’m not sure why it didn’t work out, maybe because I was playing with MC. But it was fun while it lasted.

Were any other members of UW involved in any other hardcore bands?

Andy was in Reagan Youth before he was with UW, we were happy when he joined the band. He had the personality, and the style we wanted as a bass player. Our original bass player Freddie Watts was in other bands before us, but I have no idea who, or what type of music it was that he was doing.

Do you have any idea how many UW 7"s were made? They don’t surface very often, and when they do, they’re usually well over $150. How do you feel about that? Ever think about re-releasing the material?

2000 UW 7” were pressed, and then we went to the 12”. As far as I know, they don’t surface at all, except for Ebay Auctions. I think it’s great that people are interested in what we did way back when. I’m shocked, and even thrilled that someone would pay so much for our record, thinking about all the free ones we gave away, it makes me laugh. It also makes me want to kick myself, think of all the cash I could be making on them today. We didn’t make anything off the records ourselves. I talk to a few of today’s hardcore kids who are really into what we did. I don’t see any way of re-releasing the record. The master was given to someone who I heard was dead now.

What was that weird "space ship" looking image that is made out of random letters and symbols at the bottom of the lyric sheet? Any significance, or did it just look "really cool"?

I was wondering when someone was gonna ask that question. We did all that, just to take up space. We couldn’t think of anything, so we got creative with the keyboard.

Explain the song "Skank". It says hardcore is for posers, what’s that about?

I’ll do my best on this one, cause we never really discussed what the lyrics meant. But there is a difference between Hardcore Kids, and Living the Hardcore Lifestyle. A lot of kids put their combat boots on for the weekend, “The Posers.” Other Kids lived in their boots, day after day, “Hardcore to the Bone.”

Was there ever a real problem with "police brutality" with you guys, or was that just something "punk" to sing about?

The Song may have been a little over exaggerated for some, but for some people, it was as true as it gets.

Did you ever see any royalties for the track on Profile Records "Sunday Matinee comp"?

Not a Dime

Why did Big City repress the 7" onto a 12" and not just another 7"? Did you guys specifically request the "Miami Vice" style lettering instead of the standard stencil font from the 7"?

At the time, I didn’t know Big City had our masters. If I had known about it, it never would have happened. One of the reasons for our breakup. Nuff Said.

I know Big City also pressed the Mob Lp. was there some connection with Big City and Mob Style records, or did they just happen to pick up both "Mob Style" bands for releases?

You would have to ask One of the members of The Mob on that one.

How did you feel about the Boston scene back then? Was there really as big of a rivalry between Boston and NYC as the Boston bands made it out to be?

I really don’t know what was up with that. I liked a lot of the Boston bands that were coming out. Especially Gang Green were one of my Favorites.

You mentioned to me before that UW covered a VOID song? Was it strange for bands to cover other somewhat-current bands back in those days? Did you do any other cover songs?

UW liked to experiment with other bands music, we did Void covers, and Ramones covers. And when we played them, we played them like they were our own songs. We put as much energy into their songs as we did ours, which may be why they went over so well. I think we also did Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen”.

Isn’t it true that there were a whole bunch of UW songs that were never recorded? Was there ever a 2nd record in the works? Did any labels offer to put that out (mob style)? Or did it never get that far?

We had enough songs to put out 2 more records, but it never got that far. Sadly enough, there is no recordings left to even put one out now. I do have some songs off a video that a friend sent me, (you know who you are Matt) that does have 3 songs that are not on the record. If I decide to re-release anything, it would certainly have those cuts, “as bad as they sound” on the record/CD.

Where did you record the UW 7" and how did you get that raw guitar sound? What equipment were you playing through?

Powerplay studios in Queens, “probably shut down these days”. The raw guitar, well I think our soundman smoked a little too much weed that day, and probably just turned all the levels up on the guitar track. I was really upset that there wasn’t more of a bass sound to it.

Any "sketchy" CBGB’s stories? Did you ever know anyone who actually took a dump in that bathroom?

Well I never really stayed down in that dungeon of what very few might call a bathroom. But I have enjoyed the openness that CBGBs basement bathroom had, and still has. There are no doors on either the men’s or ladies rooms. It’s a nice place to pee, but I wouldn’t want to rest my ass there.

What led to the demise of UW? Was it a sudden thing, or did it just fizzle out?

The Inevitable breakup of UW was just that. We rocked the NYHC scene from late 1980 to mid 1985. We had started becoming frustrated with each other, and playing the same places was starting to wear on us. We could have stuck it out, I believe in my heart if we had more incentive. We never made much money for our shows, and neither did we invest our own money into the band. I’ll say at the time, not a single member of the band was straight; we all played, and partied hardcore. I’m not proud to say that our partying may have been an influence towards the breakup as well.

The NYC scene seemed to have an abrupt end in the early 80’s with Antidote, The Abused, CFA, Reagan Youth, etc. all breaking up around the same time, and bands like AF going more metal. Did you guys continue going to hardcore shows through out the rest of the 80’s, or did you all just lose interest in the scene once things slowed down?

It was a tough time keeping bands together. Today NYHC is a legacy. But if I look back to when it was all happening, we needed more support. I remember how hard we would go around advertising shows, and putting up flyers in areas we knew no one would even be interested in coming to see us. But all NYHC kids were hard working, in trying to spread the word. It’s the year 2001, and hardcore is not in any way dead. There are still bands playing it, and there are still kids who want to hear it. There are also people still living a hardcore lifestyle. The Hardcore scene has become more low profile than when it was born about 20 years ago.

Ok, I asked Negative Approach this same question, so I’ll ask you as well. Any chance of us seeing an Urban Waste reunion? (This is of course before the reunion that they played with the 16 year old singer. Unfortunately I was living in LA during that time and missed them).

Wouldn’t that be a trip, an Urban Waste Reunion. Well since I found out that we are still being listened to by today’s Hardcore fans, I’ve made a few attempts to try and contact the original members of the band. I’m sorry to say that I have had no replies. I would love to hit the stage with Urban Waste. I also know we would be able to do today, what we did when we started. Get on that stage, plug in, and rip-out nonstop thrash hardcore, that would have people leaving with sweat pouring off of them like they just got out of a pool. The future of an Urban Waste reunion is uncertain. But the memories, the fun, and the lifestyle will never be forgotten.

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