Friday, June 8, 2012

Growing up with New York Hardcore and Bullshit Monthly

I started going to CB’s in Nov, 1984, right after I turned 16. I saw an article earlier that year in the NY Newsday (in Queens) – a full-page on the Nihilistics and “slam dancing” (with photos, even). Within a couple of months I was going every week, twice if there was a Saturday HC show, too. And then other shows would pop up at the Lismar Lounge, Pyramid, Nameless Theatre, Rock Hotel, Ritz, and so on.

Between bands I could go around asking everyone what was up with their band for the next Bullshit Monthly. So and so needs a bass player, or is playing May 30th, or is recording an EP, or got signed to a label, or was planning a tour, or needed a new drummer, and so on. Sometimes I would interview bands right there. I took pics with my little beat to shit $5.99 camera held together by duct tape. (As you can see - they often didn't photocopy so nicely. Oh well.) People and events were also included. Both the birth of Moon's twins and Alexa's little one were announced in Bullshit Monthly. Click on any of issue to download the PDF. (Agnostic Front Feb, 1985 interview in BSM #4)

So then I’d come out with an issue and sell them – usually 25¢, 30¢, 40¢, some even 50¢. At a Rock Hotel show I could sell 100-200 copies and everyone would be reading it between bands. I’d end up with my pockets bulging with change. By 1986 I was selling 700 copies of each issue. There was some mail order, and some stores would carry it (Bleeker Bobs, Venus, the wonderful zine store See Hear) but for the most part I sold each one person by person, show by show. And so BSM was pretty much made to be read and discarded, especially being on taller, legal-sized paper.. Now all these years later it's wonderful to be able to share the issues with everyone - although I wish I could still walk around selling fanzines for 25¢ or 30¢ and meeting everyone in the scene.

There were plenty of other zines also coming out at the same time – Hard Times, Guillotine, Tse-Tse Fly, Worthless, Attitude, Free, Constructive Rebellion, Last Daze, and shortlived ones like Grinsnip and Alexa's classic Lifestyles of the Poor and Homeless. Lots of us fanzine editors knew each other. Donny the Punk even put together an organization by and for punk media types, the APRC.

You saw the same people every week, so it was possible to really get to know people, make friends. Hardcore was such a small thing in the 80's, esp before the straight edge thing took off. We were like freaks, with ripped jeans, and punk t-shirts, shit written on our clothes, strange haircuts, pins and studs on our jackets, tattoos (which NO ONE had back then). Once SxE got more prevalent in 86 and 87 there was less of a ‘freak’ mentality. At the time I wasn't as involved with that scene - and it shows in the bands I featured in BSM. (I have some regrets now about that, but, y'know - tough shit on me.)

If a bigger band, like Flipper, Suicidal, Agnostic Front, Youth of Today, would play, CBs would be just fucking jammed. No idea how all those people squeezed in. And then the right mosh part would happen and the place would just explode, and hold the fuck on somehow. There wasn’t as much of the tough guy “karate” style dancing back in 84-89, but it was still pretty raw, very primal, and a lot of fun.

There was definitely violence. Someone would just get picked out and beaten the fuck up. I saw a horrifying "fag bash" incident across the street. Just fucking bloody, and I was scared shitless. I couldn't do a damned thing. Gang of "us" just pummeled the shit out of this guy, left him bleeding in the street. I never understood the violence, and I guess was immune to it all since I knew everyone. Even when I came out of the closet in Bullshit Monthly #20 (June-July, 1989) I still went to CB’s every week and just about never got shit from anyone. Even people known to be really violent were cool with me. Even though I was the biggest fucking dork and openly gay.

After CB's stopped doing shows (the first time) I started booking the weekly HxC matinees at ABC-No-Rio so the focus shifted to that scene. 7 months later I was on tour with GO!, then I was studying anthropology in Texas, followed by 6 months in a squat in Germany and 3 years on a commune in rural Missouri.

Going through the NYHC scene was like a rite of passage. Whenever I run into people from back then now, there’s a reconnection, even if we haven’t talked for 25 years. And rightfully so. What an amazing time.When I read these issues of Bullshit Monthly it totally comes back to me. Hopefully it will for you, too. (And visit "Bullsh*t Monthly" on Facebook. Lots of pics and misc. LIKE it and get the occasional post.) PS - Here's my band No Mistake (totally 80's style HC) - listen to and download free music, too.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Behind the Scenes: Writing songs with Mike Bullshit

(for those – if any – who are interested)
Having a band again forces me to write new lyrics and y'know, I love it. There were 3 years between when GO! stopped recording new material & No Mistake came together and since I didn’t have a reason to write, I didn’t. But needing lyrics makes me open my eyes and my mind, allows me to creatively process everything going on around me. Having that awareness back is awesome.

I mean, I’m just always frikkin writing lyrics. It doesn’t turn off. I was listening to a pledge drive on the radio on the way home a coupla weeks back and just wrote this. It’s all worked out with stanza, YOT-style moshy chorus build-up, bridge to chorus. I knew right away how it went and how to sing it.
Pledge Drive
Begging for funds
All dried up
Matching gifts
Ain't pulling them in
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And Keep... Us... Alive!
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Your funds Keep... Us... Alive...
In the past I sang everything I wrote (over 100 recorded songs). But it is really different now cos Greg sings like 80%+ of the time, and there’s only some songs where we share vocals. So my focus is not only what subjects to write about but how he would make the song his. I need to be careful because I can sing faster if need be (I’m one of the few who can sing “Pay to Cum” and get all the words in), but he sounds better at a medium pace so I need to put a point across more succinctly. With GO! I tended to sing kinda “off” from the music at times, which I have to really resist when writing for No Mistake. And I need to figure out which parts I do sing – and not to make them too long cos he’ll be bored just standing around when I’m singing and he’s not.

On the songs where we share vocals the mix really is great, like on We Stole Hawai’i. Our singing voices are so different they work well off each other - both in the chorus we sing together and the seperate parts we individually sing. (Here's We Stole Hawai'i.) I’m definitely into giving each of us blocks of text, not going back and forth line by line. (Usually not so into when bands did that.) Sometimes I’ll sing the back-up / sing-along part. In an ideal world all you out there will knock Greg down and grab the mic to shout along at that point.

With GO! Aaron and I split the music writing – often he would come up with music and I’d whip open my book of lyrics and make something fit. Or we’d combine a stanza part he wrote with a chorus part I wrote and pull together a bridge or intro and that would more or less be it. I miss that. At this point I write like 90%+ of the music so there’s more pressure. Trying not to make all the songs sound the same really pushes me. I have to pay more attention to the guitar parts and song structure than I ever did before. I’m happiest when an absolutely killer part evolves, like the middle section of Crossed Words. In our video you can see me moshing with my guitar during the bass intro (at about 8:00). Coolest thing I've written in a while.

So what have I been writing about? We Stole Hawai’i retells our overthrow of their traditional government in the 1800’s. Unlucky You is my wildlife conservation song. Expiration Date is about the pollution and nuclear waste we’re leaving behind as our legacy to future generations. We Are Enemies is the “Hey, asshole!” song I never got a chance to write. FBLA is about the next generation of 1%ers. Crossed Words is about humanity’s need to know the answers to all possible questions. The Death of Democracy in the United States is about the Supreme Court's horrendous Citizens United decision. I need some fun songs, too, I know. And of course Pledge Drive... :^) Here's some No Mistake songs to listen to.
Y'know, it's not tough to write a "Well, ok, this is what sucks and this is why and here's a mosh part and see ya later" type song. Unlucky You, departing from this, ends urging the listener to take action and support those doing conservation work. There are real people acting now to make a change. Like WildAid. And I'm working on a song about respecting people and looking up to them. But it's tough. So much easier to write something bitchy, isn't it?
Anyhow, whatever.
Note: When I say "write songs" that generally means guitar & vocals. I usually have a sense of how the basic beat should go but not always and have relied on the awesome drummers I've played with to come up with their usual stuff. And I usually leave it up to the bassist to do what he wants.