Sunday, February 19, 2017

Not a Fucking Anthem: Your First Glimpse at the Thrashwagon Book

I've been toiling for months on this shit. Years, actually. I'm still knee deep in the whole damn thing, but now I have something to show for it. After more than 100 interviews (and still counting!), I finally turned my attention to transcribing some of them and generating some written words you nice folks could feast your eyes upon. This is nowhere near complete, but Tony, Steve, and Wedge were such fantastic interviews, I felt compelled to share some excerpts. And goddamn was Nine Shocks Terror a powerhouse with a hell of a story! Eventually, eventually, eventually this will all be available in the form of a book that you can read while trying to fall asleep, kill time, or poop...or maybe you'll just want to look at the pictures.

PS: This content is all part of a much larger project that will ultimately see the light of day. I'm being cool enough to share some of it with you now here on this blog. I'm working my ass off for no money, so please don't use this content for any other purposes. Just read and enjoy. Appreciated! -Ken

Thanks to Tony, Steve, Wedge, Mike, DJ, and Felix for sharing their time and stories.


Not a Fucking Anthem

Nine Shocks Terror

Michael Thorn (Maximum Rock 'N' Roll) There’s something about Cleveland, in general. I actually feel like the best punk bands come out of Cleveland. Going back to Rocket from the Tombs, Dead Boys, Pere Ubu, Devo. There’s something so fucked up about a city that was able to light its river on fire. It’s a total fucking shit town, it’s been shit on by everything, it’s a Rust Belt city, but it creates this need to have this amazing creative outlet.

Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) Pretty much everybody who's been involved with the scene here at some point time in the last 30 years has been some sort of degenerative, pill-popping skater that knew how to party and by the way, they had impeccable taste in music.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) One big thing about this town, even still now, there is this sense of humor that just runs through everything.

Michael Thorn (Maximum Rock 'N' Roll) I don't think I'll ever be able to fully explain how much I love Tony Erba as a human being, as a person in a band, just as this total fucking psychotic weirdo.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) Tony is trouble in good ways and bad ways but he’s just an absolute sweetheart, a very kind person. Tony Erba is one of the three most instrumental people in shaping my life.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) I was always motivated with the bands, I wanted to do something. First, it was like “you'll never put out a record.” Fuck you, I just did, the label’s from California, what do you got, asshole? “Well yeah, but you're never going to go on tour.” Fuck you, we’re going out for three months.


Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) Steve showed up one day blew our fuckin’ faces off.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) I'm in Wedge’s Basement with Wedge and Chard and Tony and they're about to start playing these songs and I’m just gonna’ scream shit that I have written down in this notebook.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) I go to Wedge, “this guys a real prick, he's perfect.” We got him in the band and there he stayed for like 10 years. I say that facetiously, the guy’s a really good friend of mine and we never, ever had a cross word.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) These Japanese thrash bands had more of a rock influence. There was more to the song. It wasn’t just like, okay, let's rip through this fucker, lets blast through it and it's over. There were solos, the songs were not necessarily a million miles an hour, there was a groove to these songs. I think that Nine Shocks also had that spirit, that rock influence.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) We rolled with a lot of amperage. We always were a very loud band.


Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) The first two or three years that we were playing in that band, basically nobody gave a fuckin’ shit about us.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) It was hyper-political and hyper-lifestyle conscious, not even lifestyle conscious, but lifestyle fashion. It was very serious, very judgmental, very weak, very weak…When we first started, for the first couple years, we were around, that's how people were at the shows we played. We’ll go play a show with Charles Bronson and it was a humorless scene. It was a humorless scene and weak. It was so fucking weak.

Michael Thorn (Maximum Rock 'N' Roll) When Nine Shocks Terror would roll up to your house, they look like the guys are coming to do drywall. A bunch of chubby dudes in their 30s, they weren’t cool, quote-unquote.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) We had a presence that did not jive with what else was happening and we didn't take ourselves seriously at all. I mean, we knew that what the band was doing was righteous and bad-ass and it was like, let’s take the fucking show on the road and just like slay every town just by being ourselves.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) If we’re gonna’ get scolded because someone started jumping up and down at a show, then we’ll just do our own thing, then. It might be real hard to find a place to play or an audience to play to, but we’re just gonna’ do it. That's what the H100s did and that kind of morphed into Nine Shocks and you probably had a bunch bands by osmosis doing the exact same thing their towns.

Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) Every time we were hitting the road once that split with Devoid of Faith was out it was like, wow we were here eight months ago and played to eight people and the bartender, and now there's 40 people here swinging from the rafters and they want to buy two of each of our T-shirts.


Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) Wedge had that book lying around, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. “We should call the record Zen and the Art of Fucking Kicking Your Ass.” We laughed and then we just shortened it to “Beating Your Ass.”

Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) We’d been touring a lot and Chard cleaned up his act with the heavy drinking and with bad drugs. He was sober for a little bit under a year, and in that time, we actually finished writing like the most of the songs and gotten really tight and had rehearsed a lot.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) I think the songwriting on that album was beautiful. The guitar playing is absolutely beautiful. Wedge to this day is my favorite punk drummer of all time. I can recognize his drumming from down the fucking street. It's just total battery, just thundering bombardment, galloping thundering bombardment and he is always fucking on.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) We went to Mars. That was a professional studio run by this guy Bill Korecky, who was a cool dude. He was a guy coming out of the 70s that was into hard rock and early British heavy metal.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) They did all the music in one day, which is the way you should be able to fucking do it and then I came in the next day and did vocals…At that point I still hadn't learned how to scream without giving myself the most piercing, painful, head-in-a-vise-grip headache.


Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) People here back then at least were just shit-heads. Throw a firework at a show. It's like where do you not light off a firework? Okay, let’s light off firework there…It wasn’t just for our band. It was definitely a Cleveland thing for other bands. But it wasn’t this huge thing. It was a thing that happened occasionally.

Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) The first time I remember anyone throwing fireworks at a show was a really early H100s show.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) All the shows that we played back then were at these nontraditional places for bands to play, because no regular club would let us play, and there was like an attitude of “well, fuck this place too.”

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) That fireworks thing started at Speak in Tongues. I think that whole thing all across America started right at Speak in Tongues. People always talk about this Easter Sunday show with No Justice and Gordon Solie. People throwing paint around, it was totally out of control, but I guess people took word of that back to their towns.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) All this whacked out behavior got noticed by all these people from out of town and they just fuckin’ ran with it.

Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) The first couple of times it was pretty cool, everyone is going this crazy over what we’re doing. It was always in the back my mind, I can’t fucking breathe with all this smoke and someone’s really gonna’ get their neck broken at some point in time, and we’re the ones who are gonna’ get blamed for it.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) When people were doing it organically originally, it was what you're not supposed to do and you're doing it and then it became what you're supposed to do.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) I can tell you right now, we never showed up with firecrackers.

Felix Havoc (Havoc Records, Damage Deposit) Well, there were a lot of pretty wild shows, as I drove them on two tours, only once did I think things had gotten “too out of hand” and that was a show in North Carolina with tons of fireworks. In retrospect, I was probably overreacting. But really, the mayhem was very good natured, kind of like the pro wrestling schtick that Erba was often promoting, just going wild and blowing off steam.

DJ Podolski (Last In Line) That Hampshire College show in 2001 was legendary. That was a legit legendary, awesome show. Nine Shocks killed it at that show.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) I remember that being a colorful performance.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) Al quint jumped out the window. Love it. One of my favorite memories. He bailed out because of the smoke.

Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) I still have 10 stitches in one of the knuckles of my left hand from that show.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) At that point, and for like a year afterwards, we were like hands down the best live hardcore band in the fucking world. We were so just dead on. We were so locked into our own thing. It was like the crowd is like this fucking mist. When you get to that point in the band, the crowd is like a vapor, like this mist floating around out there. You're just locked into this groove with these three other guys and you're just trudging across the tundra together in this gigantic fucking machine and you're all propelling it forward.


Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) I thought Paying Ohmage sounded kick ass. My bass sounded really good on it. Slabs of guitar sounded good. I was really kind of an amp guy by that time. We had like three stacks in there, three guitar stacks, two bass stacks. I wanted it to sound like a Mountain record, but with a hardcore band playing.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) Lotta’ good riffs on that record.

Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) We ended up writing four or five more songs that weren't bad, never got played live. They got recorded and then they were completely forgotten. But at the same time, there's three or four songs on that album that I think are some of the best shit we ever did.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) After the second album, our hearts just weren’t in it anymore.

Wedge (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) It was not long after that record came out where I was out of the band for the first time and that’s when the first big West Coast tour happened and they eventually ended up going to Europe after that. I was not a part of it unfortunately. It's my own fault.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) How many times can you jump up and down on stage and scream in the microphone? How many times can you do that? I think it got to a point where I wasn't enjoying it. But this is something I'm convinced I want to do, but I'm not enjoying this, so take it out on the crowd.


Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) Japan is its own little world, everything is completely different, different from Europe, different from the USA.
We played about 20 shows or so and the only place we didn’t go was Hokkaido, Sapporo, which are far northern islands and we didn’t go to Okinowa.
Sometimes I’d spy a ladder backstage and I’d go, “I could use this.” So I played the last song, I put the bass against the stack and there's the feedback and we’re obviously gonna’ come out and do a couple more songs…I Come out from the back with the ladder, I set it up and I motion to the crowd to start stage-diving off and they went berserk. That was the show with Nightmare and it was in this big club in Osaka that was upstairs. It was in this mall, but had this atrium. So this thing is on the second floor, but you can look out the windows and see down into the atrium of this mall. PS: there is also a giant sandbox in there the size of a living room. Everybody was tripping on acid and playing in the sandbox. Oh yeah, there’s also a roller coaster that just happens to go by right outside the window of this place. There’s a roller coaster there for some reason, it was so fucking freaky.


Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) So what ended up being our last show was at the Cathedral in Toronto playing with Drop Dead and Fucked Up.
By that point, I had totally disconnected myself from any sort of pleasure from playing these shows. My contempt for the crowd had gotten ridiculous and I was dealing with that by just getting totally fucked up at shows.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) Steve was really hammered at the show. Hammered! He knocked Kevin’s stack over and then I threw a brick through the monitor.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) At that show in Toronto, I just got so fucked up during the bands leading up to us and then, by the time we go on to play, I am just blacked out, fucked up. Kevin had a full Marshall stack that he was playing on, I knocked it over, all of it, like three times. Not even singing the songs. In a way it's almost performance art, in a sincere sense. I woke up the next day and I just thought, I’m never doing that again.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) I went to band practice one day and no one showed up.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) We had a practice scheduled and I think Tony was the only one who showed up and he left a note on the door. I still have the note on the door. It said “nobody showed up for practice” and then he signed it “zodiac killer.”

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) Those guys are such fucking characters. Now they’re older and more mellowed out, one of them’s dead, but fuckin’ a man, I was so fucking lucky to hang out with those guys.

Tony Erba (Nine Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers) When we were on, we could kick your ass. When we were off, we were pretty bad, but mostly we were pretty good.

Steve Peffer (Nine Shocks Terror) The best bands are different types of people. Different personality types, people with different ideas, people that get inspiration from different things, people that are influenced by different shit, people who have different ways of approaching things, different attitudes, different behavior, different sensibilities. The best bands are the bands made up of people of all different types. If you can get those people together to work towards a common goal, you become like a gang and that's how we felt. We were the fucking Mobile Terror Unit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Thrashwagon: An Explanation for Procrastination


If you are just tuning in, here’s the deal: I’m putting together a book on the late 90s/early 00s wave of thrashcore bands. Thrash revival. Y2K thrash. Whatever name you want to give it. My main activity over the past two years (and especially this year) has been collecting interviews for an oral history of the time period. I’ve done more than 100 interviews with people from more than a dozen different countries. I’m also counting on the book being highly visual as well, my hopes in capturing some of the incredible art and photography of the era. Consider yourself up to speed…


What the hell’s been going on? After a month of not much, I wanted to check-in with all the moshers out there about the state of this project. Well, we’re moving into Phase II. If Phase I was interviews, Phase II is doing something with all that content. I guess Phase III could be considered layout and design. Phase IV is publication. All of that should be easy, right? All that’s left is the doing. And where is a pile of blankets that I could hide under?

Let’s re-cap. Undoubtedly 2016 has been a success. I gave myself through the summer to do interviews and, with some exceptions, I achieved what I committed to doing. In January, I sat down with my old buddy Matt Molnar to talk about Dead Nation and the enormous contribution he made to the style on the east coast. I could go on and on about the Dead End LP and the following Painless EP, but I’m pretty sure you are already aware of their value. At the time, my interview with Matt was the longest one I had done, just over 3 hours. Later that winter, 138 from DS-13 (and ETA and Bruce Banner) and I sat down on opposite sides of the globe over Skype (both in the midst of a blizzard) and hashed out his experiences and perspective. I also pulled a triple-header of separate interviews with three members of Vitamin X all in one day. I made trips to Philly to link up with members of RAMBO; to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to talk with Brad from The Gatecrashers, and finally to fucking Barcelona to meet with members of E-150. All the while, I kept a steady stream of mostly international interviews going. Summer saw things picking up steam when none other than DS-13 found their way to American shores for a week long blast of shows. I caught three and managed some great in-person interviews with the guys. As far as players from North America, I had some great conversations with the incomparable Tony Erba of Nine Shocks Terror and Gordon Solie Motherfuckers (to name only a few); a Skype chat with Max Ward (625, What Happens Next, Scholastic Deth) all the way in Japan; an evening hangout in Montclair, New Jersey with Jon Collins of Dead Alive/Manic Ride Records; and a record-breaking 3.5 hour interview with Nate Wilson of Gloom Records and Das Oath (and so much more). A personal favorite of mine was speaking with Félix Reyes from Lifes Halt. And speaking of Lifes Halt, I also spoke with John Westbrook, Noel Sullivan and the elusive Ernesto Torres from this legendary band. That was a fucking summer! And it wasn’t over…

In August, I leveraged the company I work for having an office in San Francisco and roadie duties for Government Flu’s west coast tour for an opportunity to spend a few days in the Bay Area interviewing folks. Not only did I score 11 interviews, a suitcase full of art, flyers and photos from Ernesto, and an incredible late night photo review with Robert Collins (What Happens Next), I also hit interview 100 with the amazing Karoline Collins and, and, and shattered my previous record with a six hour long hang out that yielded 4+ hours of content with the man of many talents (seen and unseen), Craigums (What Happens Next).*

So where does this leave things? Welp – Phase II will commence shortly with the massive, MASSIVE transcription of nearly 200 hours of audio content. Anyone know any good (read, cheap) transcription services?  Seriously. This one detail is probably the most daunting and frightening of all. After that, it’s time to build the narrative of the book. This will go hand in hand with weekly interviews with a random assortment of important folks I left out, plus some email interviews here and there.

Now speaking of interviews, I also mentioned that there were some major omissions. I’ve only just cracked open interviewing people in Japan. The contribution of the Japanese scene to the era I’m covering cannot be overstated. My hope is to devote an entire month to collecting interviews this winter. Ditto Brazil. Aside from that, my goal is to capture additional interviews with people from Limp Wrist, Municipal Waste, Nine Shocks Terror, Deadfall, Spazm 151, Betercore, Point of Few, The Horror, Hero Dishonest, Dead Stop and a few others. If I called your name, get in touch, please!

That’s where we stand as of October 11, 2016. Thanks to all the people that gave me their time and shared their stories with me. And thanks, as always, to you for reading, paying attention, encouraging me and kicking my ass into gear. More soon…


*I must confess that jet lag made this entire experience somewhat surreal, I stayed focused for the entire session, but when I wasn’t rambling about odd coincidences and similarities between Craig and I, I was marveling at how the light in his living room made him look like a completely different human being. Thanks to him and his family’s hospitality, I was able to stumble into their extra bedroom to crash when I eventually turned into a fucking pumpkin.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Punk Rock, Parenthood, and Pure & Total Exhaustion.

A couple months back, Brian Gorsegner from Night Birds and I interviewed each other about being enmeshed in the world of punk/hardcore while raising a kid. In a nutshell, what's it like being a punk parent? Specifically, a punk dad? Maybe it’s just self-evident and merely illustrative of what all parents face and deal with on a daily basis. But I like to think we reside in a rare place within our own subculture, unavoidably integrated into our greater society though we may be. Or not. Maybe we were just two creeps walking around the neighborhood chatting.

Also: Big, big thanks to Michelle from Your Parents Hardcore for giving us this idea. This interview is co-published through her site at https://xparenthoodx.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/two-punk-dads/.

And: These are excerpts from a very long interview. There’s been some gentle editing and grooming of our responses to complete sentences or thoughts and remove the tangential sprawling and nonstop superfluous language that flows from our mouths.



The Facts:

-Brian Gorsegner (BG) and wife Amanda have a little girl named Dorothy (aka Dottie).
-Dottie was born in Long Branch, New Jersey in 2013.
-While also a nod to Pee Wee’s would-be girlfriend, Dottie is named after the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy Gale. The trippy sequel, Return to Oz, being an early point of bonding between the two parents.

-Ken Ramsey (KR) and wife Emilie have a little boy named Robert.
-Robert was born in NYC in 2013, and now lives in New Jersey.
-Robert is named after Robert Matusiak from Refuse Records, an old friend of Ken’s. Ken is named after one of his father’s best friends who passed away. He always liked the idea of naming his child after a close friend.


The Bullshit:

How do you reconcile the arrested development nature of punk with starting a family and actually raising your own kid?

BG: Well, it's an interesting question because I don't really have an answer for it. That's kind of working itself out as time goes on. I remember when it was Damaged City fest a couple years ago and I was telling some people that my wife and I were going to have a baby. I remember talking to one of the guys from Cülo and him being like “oh man I'm really sorry,” as if we had missed the window to have an abortion. I was like “no man, we did it on purpose.” He wasn't being a jerk, he was legitimately shocked because I guess he just didn't know anyone that had had a child on purpose. It's kind of two-fold because there's people that, you know, are just irresponsible and maybe shouldn't have children. Then on the flipside, there's the category of people who just don't think it's economically smart or they just don't want to be bound down by a child. I totally get both. But Amanda and I always wanted one child. It was just something we always intended on doing. I like to travel the world and play stupid punk songs and stuff like that, but there can be a parallel.

KR: I don't think they have to be mutually exclusive. My answer for that question is, I never saw a conflict, I guess. I knew that I like the idea of having a kid and I wanted to raise a kid and be a responsible dad and have a family. But it doesn't mean I'm not going to shows anymore or I'm going to give up this hardcore bullshit. I think things can run concurrently. I'm not in a band so I don't have maybe the same levels of pressure. One thing that always stuck with me is, I saw Mark Andersen, who wrote the “Dance of Days” book on D.C. hardcore, speak once and he said one of the most punk things you can do is raise your kid the right way. I thought that was pretty fucking awesome. It basically sums up exactly what I think on the subject.

BG: Yeah. I actually totally agree. On the other hand, for punks it's just not a common thing to go to high school, go to college, get married, get a job, and have a baby. To a lot of “real lifers” that's kind of the path that is expected of you. But punk rockers are pretty much off the path as soon as they realize that the path exists. Then it just becomes something where you want to get as far off track as you can. You want to, like Void says, live by your rules and so doing exactly what your parents did might not be your idea of a good time. At the same time, I also have friends that are like “oh never, it’s the worst, kids are awful, it's a terrible idea to be a parent, I just want to be able to drop everything and go.” I mean I get where they're coming from but they should also be understanding and accepting of somebody who wants to do the opposite. Because I'm making my decisions for me and I'm making my own choices for me because I do everything in my life that way. I'm not doing it because it's a projection that was laid out for me. I'm doing it because it's what I've always actually wanted to do. And I think that's a good reason to have a child. Unfortunately, that's not, in my opinion, the reason that most people have a child. I think a lot of people have children because it’s what you do. It's what's expected and it's just the next life step and that's why I think the world's a piece of shit, because stupid fucking people have stupid fucking kids (laughter).


A lot of choices we make for ourselves as adults can have a huge effect on children. How do you choose what's best for your child or their mental and physical health and development, while not abandoning your personal beliefs?

KR: OK. So I think probably the short answer for this is, I would like to think that I'm confident enough in my own personal leanings and beliefs as being good or being positive to pass them on to my child and that he understands and embraces those things as good for him.


BG: Yeah. So I was raised to go to church on Sunday and to believe in god and as atheist as I am, I do think there were benefits to having a set of beliefs when I was younger, to a degree.
Personally, I fall under the category of I just absolutely know that there is no god. There is no in-between for me. So to raise a young child who isn’t thirty years old with that mindset, I don't know that that's necessarily the right route to take. I'm not going to start going church or take my kid to church because I don't believe in that at all. But I'm also not going to hard sell it the other way. It's a really gray area. When I was a kid I do think that there were some principles behind it all that were instilled in me that did some good to some degree. So it's like where do you land? Of course you get to a point where your child can think for themselves. But for the next sixteen years, what do you do?  I think everybody's situation is different but it is a weird thing.

KR: On the religious thing, I was raised religious too and I'm not religious at all now and I understand the system of values that was presented to me in that context when I was
growing up. When I think back on it now, my parents had a huge part of that and I had a pretty good relationship with my parents. So I wonder was it church telling me to like be good or do good things in a fucked up world or was it my parents? Where did that come from? I don't know? Like I said in the first part of my response, even without a formal system of beliefs that religion brings with it, I know I'm still passing on good values.

BG: Yeah, but even more than values, I'm talking about, the concept of all dogs go to heaven. You know if I die tomorrow, I cease to exist. There's no heaven. There's no afterlife. I'm not coming back as something in another life form. I'm done. That's it.

KR: It's kind of a morose thing for a little kid to hear.

BG: Yeah. Those are my beliefs, but they’re bleak as a motherfucker, so I'm not trying to pass that on to a four-year-old. I think you need to be old enough to make that decision for yourself and understand that concept. So when the family cat dies when Dottie’s seven, I need to tell her something. And if it’s “cat's dead, not coming back” versus “the kitty went to heaven” - that holds more water for me now than it has in the past twenty years. I’m kinda like, shit, I do see the merit to something like that because you don't want to teach something so bleak so early. It’s a pretty harsh thing. Am I really going to teach my daughter that concept?

KR: Right. It seems sort of callous. I learned about death through watching the movie Watership Down…about the rabbits. Spoiler alert, when the main character dies at the end I remember going, “uh what?” And my parents saying “he's dead.” And me throwing an absolute shit fit, like had to get like drug out of the room, drug to bed, close the door, screaming, throwing things, I wouldn’t accept it. So that was my introduction to the concept of death. (laughter)

BG: And did you start wearing a cloak and a hood to school the next day?  (laughter)

KR: No, no and who knows maybe it was because there was this imaginary heaven thing that my parents were talking about, but I don't remember that being a part of the discussion. I just felt like it was “dead is dead and that sucks.”


BG: On the physical development side, I haven't eaten meat in like six months, which is a bit late to be trying something like that out... My question is, if you know that doing something that you're morally opposed to could be better for your child's development, do you do it or do you not do it because you're morally opposed? When Amanda was pregnant she had been vegetarian for ten years and she started eating fish because she thought it could be healthier for her and the then unborn Dottie. Does Robert eat a strictly vegan diet because you guys are vegan?

KR: He eats a vegan diet at home with us. When it comes to school and treats and things like that, we don't tell his teacher he can't have this cupcake that everybody else is enjoying because it’s not vegan. They know that he's vegetarian. We're not ready to like single him out. If he goes out with grandparents and they feed him something stupid, then so be it, he gets
to try that and make his own decision, but our house is going to be vegan.

BG: Is that, in your opinion, the healthiest choice for him?

KR: For him, we absolutely think so and we have yet to get any pushback from any doctor, including Em’s when she was pregnant. We were even pleasantly surprised, one of the be all end all’s of child development, Dr. Spock, advocated a vegan diet for children. I don’t think we’ve ever been challenged on it, in fact, as it’s just becoming a normal alternative in our society. It’s more than just feeling morally opposed to meat, we think it’s a healthy choice. Hypothetically, if that belief changes because of one reason or another, then we’ll adjust his diet.

BG: I'm sure you guys have looked into it because you care about your kid and you're not just going to feed him…

KR: He's not just getting french fries. But, side-note, he had french fries tonight.

BG: Dottie had fuckin’ tater tots for dinner.


Have you ever received any flak or disdain from so-called normal or non-punk parents?


KR: The point I want to make on this that I think is important is, I personally have not received any kind of flack or no one has looked down their nose at me. It's actually quite the opposite. But looking at my wife's experience, she does feel like people look down at her for having tattoos or wearing a Municipal Waste shirt with skulls on it while out with our kid. In general, I think moms are totally out there and exposed to criticism and judgment. People are always ready to level criticism against a mom. But as a dad, I actually have the opposite experience when I’m out with my kid. I get “oh it's amazing that you're out with your child.” I traveled with him on an airplane to visit grandma and people were blown away, opening doors for me and they're like “this is amazing, oh where's mom, giving her a break?” and all this praise. For a second it feeds your ego and then I think, this is pretty fucked up, man. A mom goes out there and it's like “oh god look at her” and a Dad goes out there and he's a hero, automatically.

BG: You're absolutely 110% right. It sucks and it says a lot about our society. And dads need to step the fuck up to the plate…

KR: And make it normal.

BG: Yeah - you couldn't be any more right about that. What I'd say to the question is, I know some like uber-religious, just boring fucking people, a married couple and they already think I'm like this huge fuck-up because I'm in a band and have tattoos. One thing that they think is absolutely bonkers is that I tour without Amanda. And they're like “well what does she do when you go away?”

KR: Hide in a corner!? (laughter)

BG: That shouldn't be the question, the question should be, “have you two never been apart?” That's
why you hate each other and that's why it doesn't work. She just thinks it's so crazy. Now she thinks it's really crazy that I would leave my wife and child and go out and do this foolish thing. I'm like, well this foolish thing keeps me grounded. It makes me a better dad overall and I know that. It's what makes me, me. So I'm not just going to abandon that and be resentful at home. This was part of the plan when I had a child. It's me having my own identity and being a father. Those things can still exist and it seems like so many people just, whatever you did in your previous life, before your child, you just hang it up and “aw man, I was going to be in the majors, but then I had a kid and now it’s all fucked.” Well no one told you you had to stop playing fucking softball on Sunday with your friends, you idiot.


Any cool punk rock baby stories that highlight the experience of having a kid within this community?


BG: My friend Karl works for the Descendents merch store in California and when Dottie was born, he sent us some Descendents onsies and some Descendents coffee with a note saying “you're going to need this!” Vanessa who does PR for Fat Wreck and James who plays guitar in Against Me! have a little one and those guys are my buds, and they brought me some really rad hand-me-downs right before Dot was born. My favorite being this hooded sweatshirt made up to look like a leather jacket with zippers and fake badges on it and stuff. I think it belonged to Laura Jane Grace first, then Vanessa and James, and they were kind enough to give to me. 


KR: When Emilie was pregnant, we went to see X play a small bar in Asbury Park. Em was in the bathroom before the show and she said this older woman came up to her and said “hey congratulations, when is the baby due?” and said these really nice things, a complete stranger. Then she goes and gets on stage and it's Exene. I thought it was fucking rad. So our kid can have a minor amount of bragging rights that he saw X in utero. Now along the same lines we also took him, while he was in my wife's belly to Bruce Springsteen, Anthrax, Chain of Strength, Dag Nasty, Scream, Government Issue. And obviously some Night Birds shows and Give and a few other current bands.


What's your kid's current musical taste? Has she or he ever shown any interest in some cool weirdo music?

BG: She kind of likes everything. We put on records and we dance in the living room almost every day. She’ll love listening to The Replacements but then we'll watch some show where they just sing “Wheels On the Bus” for thirty minutes. So at this point she just likes music. Like we get in the car and she has to turn on music. When she was really little, within the first month or two months, the Dwarves “Are Young and Good Looking” was a record we’d play. She would just cry and cry and cry at night, there was always this two-hour period where she would just go. I would try to put on different music and for whatever insane reason, I would put on that record and I would rock her back and forth in my arms and she would fall asleep. We did that every night, for months. That was just the go-to. It’s so weird and Amanda says that she was listening to that record a lot when she was pregnant. So I honestly don't know if it was something recognizable. I think it would be too bizarre to be any other reason, really. Unless Blag’s vocals were just this soothing thing.

KR: I should start by saying before Robert was born we made a playlist, Emilie’s push list, to play while she was giving birth. Rather than having like new age music or peaceful music, she wanted music that gave her energy. She wanted songs that sounded like “Kickstart My Heart.” So we had a two-hour playlist and it took exactly two hours for Robert to be born. And the very last song on the playlist when he was born was “Monkey Business” by Skid Row.

BG: Holy shit, that’s cool.

KR: Early on, when we were just having some father-son time, I would put on some kind of random hardcore record, like a new record I got. I would put on the Altered Boys 7” and mosh around the room and Robert thought that was hilarious. Eventually, he would start imitating me and throw his arms around and stomp around the room with me. But something happened- we were in Home Depot and they were pumping in the radio or whatever. Robert was pushing the shopping cart and a Taylor Swift song came on and he immediately started getting down in a way that I had never seen him get down before. I was like OK we're getting this kid pop music. Any pop music that he wants. That's totally fine. I want him to embrace the love of music, whatever it is. That being said, “Wheels On the Bus” is his all-time number one favorite song and if he could have it his way, we would have to sing it to him until we literally died and fell over as a corpse. (laughter)

Everyone’s child will get into something you don’t agree with or care for, where do you draw the line between what you find acceptable versus things you will absolutely not tolerate?

BG: The only thing I think we would ban at her age is, we’re not going to do any guns. That’s a weird one, guns were like my go-to when I was a kid. Playing guns, playing war, playing cops, that was my thing.

That’s just something that’s a society flaw. There’s no need.

KR: We have a fucked up culture when it comes to guns. I agree, that’s exactly how we would be with Robert.

On another thing, I'm sort of a walking contradiction when it comes to this. I played football when I was a kid. Backyard and then played high school football and then got into punk and totally gave up on organized sports. I thought it was all stupid. As an adult, I have gotten back into football and watch football with my son. And he likes it. But I would never let him play football. I mean, I’m still dealing with a knee injury I got when I was in 11th grade. I was like seventeen and I've got a sore knee for the rest of my life. That's messed up. There's just so much stuff coming out now about injuries and long-term damage, that the idea that I would put my growing, developing son in football pads and go out on the field and potentially injure himself, I don’t see that happening.

BG: But what if he really wanted to play football?

KR: I still think it would probably be a no. That's where I would draw a line. I saw a lot of injuries and there are horror stories out there. I just don't see the benefit of it.

BG: It's a pretty heavy contact sport for children to be playing. Another one is, my mom
really wants to get Dottie’s ears pierced. It's become one of those things where I see kids with their ears pierced and I just think their parents are fucked. Like kids don't care. They don't know that earrings exist. So to do this thing that you think is ascetically cool or whatever. Like do people even give a fuck about earrings? It's 2016, who gives a shit? To do that to your two-year old and puncture their head with holes so you could stick fucking jewelry, I think that's barbaric and insane and I legitimately think less of people that do that to their children. Even if it's a friend of mine or somebody I respect. I just cannot see how or why you would do that.

KR: So the same question you asked me - when Dottie’s of a certain age and says “I want my ears pierced,” how do you handle that?

BG: Fuck yeah. I don't care. But I'm not going to be one of those parents who… I used to work with a guy who was this biker dude covered in tattoos - this is 100% true - when his kid was six, he tattooed an L on the left hand and a R on the right hand to teach his child left and right. That's a pretty unrelated extreme. But you know there's going to be those super cool parents who when their kid turns fifteen and wants to go get a fuckin potato underneath their eye, they're going to go do it just because they want to be the cool parent. I'm not going to do shit like that.


When does Dottie get to go to shows and see Night Birds?



BG: My biggest concern now is just hearing. Things like that are too loud for a young child's ears. Night Birds played a show in L.A. a couple years ago, and there were these punk parents that brought this kid who must have been three or four. And he was sitting on the drum riser while the band was playing and maybe had little earplugs in, might have even had the ear muffs. I basically told the promoter we wouldn't play if they didn't leave with their kid. Like I just don't tolerate that. You know there's no reason for that. The child, in my opinion, was clearly too young to be there. The biggest reason being damage to your ears. Aside from the fact that it was like this straight up downtown L.A. show. Like there just shouldn't have been a child there. I, as an adult, should not have been there (laughter). But just a little kid, even more so.

KR: We decided that maybe when Robert’s four we would get the heavy-duty construction noise blockers so he could see the spectacle of a show. But we’re not going to take him to a show that starts at 10:00 pm. He’s gotta go to bed. It will have to be under a very specific circumstance.

BG: In my opinion, I think that's still too young but it's the kind of thing that I haven't researched, it's just a gut instinct. I think it would really depend on the situation, I guess.

KR: Yeah, we're not going to some sketchy. D.I.Y. show, like a fire hazard in a New Brunswick basement or something.

When my old band reunited over the summer, our guitar player brought his little girl, who was not quite five. She had the noise blockers on. I think it was maybe her first or one of her first live music experiences. It was so cool that she was there to see her dad playing, but it was also strange because I'm singing and cursing like a sailor. There's my friend’s daughter and I'm saying stuff I would never say in front of her in a non-show environment. Hopefully those noise blockers worked. I also sang towards her and smiled at her and I just got back that stoic little kid expression, like “this is really weird.”

BG: Yeah I never really thought about it like that. If one day we took her to a Night Birds show just so later in her life she remembers her first musical experience being seeing her father play music, that's something that probably sticks with you. But I've never really thought about it.


KR: As a parent to a daughter, you have different pressures or stresses that exist that I don’t have as a parent to a son. I think there are different ones that a boy might have but women in general are more vulnerable, because of how fucked up our stupid society can be. Does that keep you up at night?

BG: Not yet. Because I think a big part of that is the kind of woman that she turns out to be and she's two and a half now. So I have no idea. We're doing our best to make her a well-rounded human being who is aware and can think for herself and make her own decisions. But you only have control over so much of that. We might have created some total dumb ass, in which case, yeah, of course I'm worried. I don't need a pregnant fourteen-year-old.

At the same time, when Amanda was thirteen, she’d fuck you up if some guy came up and gave her lip. She was already a strong independent woman when she was thirteen years old. That also will determine a lot of what I will be accepting of her doing, as far as letting her go to shows or parties or whatever. If she's a total dumb ass I'm going to be worried to let her do anything. But if she's the kind of woman that I hope we are raising, I think we're going to be able to be as trusting as I hope we can be.


What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a parent?



BG: It's really just a matter of making everything work. I'm totally maxed out in my life. Basically right now, it’s work, family and Night Birds takes up pretty much every iota of my free time. That's pretty much it. The biggest thing I face all the time is just doing all three of them as good as I can possibly do all three of them and not feeling like I'm letting any of them slack. Of course I have them prioritized in order that I think they should be prioritized. But even my job, it provides my family with health care and it keeps a roof over our head. So I can't let that be the thing that I slack off and risk losing my job. I need to do everything to the best of my ability. Even something like a band maybe shouldn't be as important within those other things, it is important. It's important to me, it's important to my mental state. Again if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. I'm not going to let everybody else down because I've chosen to add on new responsibilities to my life. It’s just a matter of doing everything and doing it as well as I possibly can. Which is difficult every day.

KR: For starters, we’re first-time parents, so we don't know what the fuck is going on half the time. Right around the time that Robert turned two and went to his check-up, the doctor was asking about his speech and we’re like, “he doesn't have much speech, he's just got like “mamma” and “dada” and even those come and go.” He said his own name for a while, “Obert.”  So his pediatrician noted “oh, well, he's two, he should definitely have more words than that.” So he got involved in Early Intervention. This is where, up until the age of three, he can get different therapies or different services to help him catch up on some of the things that he's lacking. They come out and they do this assessment and speech was like hugely delayed. So he immediately started getting Speech Therapy and eventually we put him into preschool and almost overnight he just started talking. It was kind of incredible to see that. It's really a transformation between a baby and a boy. At two years and six months, they do another evaluation just to see where he's at and he’s still really delayed despite his advances and he may be eligible for a special pre-school and hey, you may want to get him on some occupational therapy.

There's this cascade effect that happens when he's getting all this attention, all the services for better or worse. It seems like one meeting or appointment or whatever begets like ten other appointments. Like the speech therapist said he should see a neurologist because he has a slight tremor in his hand when he stacks blocks or feeds himself and stuff. So we get him an appointment and we start doing some research on this intention tremor and it turns out to be a sign of brain tumors and all these like horrible, horrible things. The internet is like the worst thing you could possibly do before seeing a specialist. We take him to the neurologist and he basically laughs us out of the office, “so he’s an awkward kid, whatever. Maybe he won’t be a star athlete but maybe he will. Who knows? He's young.” While this is going on, we’re also exploring this special pre-school. For that, you go to like a meeting where you learn about it. Then you go to a meeting where they meet Robert. And then they do all these individual evaluations. I'm taking time off from work and running him to the school to see a psychologist, see an education specialist, see a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, meet with like a counselor to tell him the social history of our family. All these fucking appointments. And then we’re taking him to a really nice children's hospital where they do an overall evaluation. The reason we're doing that is because when he ages out of Early Intervention, if he doesn't get into this other school, he's going to need to have continued therapy, privately. So we're taking him to all of these goddamn appointments. I’m lucky that Robert is a really happy-go-lucky kid. He's always up to the challenge and super-motivated. Even though I’m getting totally worn out by the whole process.

When these reports from the school start coming in, their findings are all really different from the external evaluations that we’re doing. They're all like “oh, he's fine, just put him in regular school.” Now there is this push-pull as a parent. You want to hear that kind of stuff. He’s fine. But it contradicts what you're hearing on the other side, so you want to make sure that he can avail himself of services that are going to help him. It's an odd duality to face as a parent.

Anyway, we go to this meeting to determine if they’re gonna’ let him in the school and we're already going into this with our eyebrows raised. With us was our dynamite Early Intervention Service Coordinator who is really assertive and pro-active. My wife and I are both former case managers and we really had them on the defensive, in defending all of their evaluations, because it really contradicted everything else that we’re hearing. The whole meeting was two hours-plus of your word versus mine. Basically we just had to go at it like lawyers in a courtroom. We just cross-examined each other for two hours. They're basically saying no he's not eligible for this program and in the state of New Jersey, it's like “uh, sorry, you're on your own.” Long story short, we're going into an appeal process now. I've been so stressed out over this entire thing and depressed.

It all amounts to just getting him ready for kindergarten so he can start being a good kid in school, follow directions and communicate with his friends. His attitude and his eagerness to be involved and his overall social nature are going to help him. But we have to make sure that things that his body can't do or can't control now, that we help those parts along as well. We don’t want the things he lacks to frustrate him and eventually crush that positive nature he has going for him. That has been consuming my life for the past few months.

BG: Yeah that's an insanely tough one because it's like you're straggling this line of “are we overthinking this, are we being overprotective or are we being proactive?” With the teachers it's like, “yes he is definitely off or we don't think so, we think it's probably fine.” It's like the acceptable amount of rat feces in the food that we eat every day. I prefer no rat feces, how ‘bout that. This is your child, it's the most important thing to you, so any portion of rat feces is too much.

KR: Right and like I said, there’s this cascading nature to it where, before you know it, you’ve got all these appointments set up. And you’re saying “holy fuck I'm like involved in all this and this is life.” It’s really kind of crazy.

BG: Because there's no hooking them up to monitor and saying “yes, you're sick or you're not sick. You know he doesn't have the flu, you can’t say “yes, and now here’s the solution.”

KR: Well he just plays with toys and they check boxes. And then they add up all the checks and they say “oh, he's at this level.”

BG: There's so many people. And there's so many children. And they're so many overprotective, crazy parents. And then there's so many parents who are fucking idiots who don't give a shit. You guys are smart parents who just want what's right and you want your kid just to get the amount of attention that they deserve and need.

KR: We’re tenacious parents and so it's very hard for us to go “oh ok, he's not accepted, oh well.”

BG: Yeah. Of course it’s not going to go like that. You're going to be the school’s squeaky wheel.

KR: I guess that's a punk rock thing, honestly. You see something broken and you fuckin’ deal with it. Or you know, you don't go along with the status quo or you don't necessarily buy everything that everybody tells you.

Update: After agreeing to an additional evaluation, the school ultimately accepted Robert into their program. Just this month, he began receiving daily classroom instruction in a language-rich environment coupled with speech therapy twice a week. In just two short weeks, we’re already seeing a difference…




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015's Top 1: Mutiny at Muscle Beach

Not to be glib, but I'm boiling 2015 down to one awesome hardcore punk LP, Night Birds' Mutiny at Muscle Beach. Lemmy's just left us and I feel like piecing together a Top 10 is just pointless now. Let's just fuck off and go listen to Motorhead instead. It's evident that Lemmy loved loud-ass rock-n-roll music more than anything. And I'm lucky enough to know (and occasionally travel with) four other punkers that do as well. That they released a damn near perfect LP this year is just an added bonus...

"Oh fuck you - fuck off!" A quickly angering Joe Keller glares into a busy stream of endless traffic as dickheads behind us decide to take their chances and swerve around. They were probably in a hurry to get home and do nothing; guzzle Thanksgiving leftovers, watch TV. We had no such luxury. It was Vermont for us. Finally a slight break in the highway and Joe guns it northward.

This weekend was just one in a series of outings this past fall that Night Birds undertook to support their latest LP Mutiny at Muscle Beach. It was a disjointed, sleep-depriving tour, that enabled them to simultaneously work full-time and play your town. "We had to take some time off to record the LP, so basically used up all of our allotted vacation time by the time it came time to promote the record, so we really had no choice but to do it this way," Brain Gorsegner (on the vocals) explains.

But fuck it, who's not up for a bunch of raging weekends sharing the stage with everyone from Dillinger 4 to Boston Strangler to French oi! rockers Rixe to Iron Reagan!? Not a one band pairs with Night Birds in any kind of obvious way. "We all like all kinds of shit, so we'll always play with bands we don't necessarily fit with," says Bri, "we do this for fun, so it's like we'll go to Toronto and play a bill where maybe we are the odd-balls, but it's a cool bill with bands we actually want to see so who cares if we fit in 100%. It's all punk rock in some way." Cool bills usually (not always) = killer shows. Now as I sit in the van, this coming weekend might be the crown jewel - Negative fuckin' Approach. Thus, The Author weaseled his way into the extra seat for the next three days.

This is how they get their new LP to the masses. Like deranged DIY door-to-door salesmen. Trading hard-earned for vinyl, CD, and cassette. And maybe some new threads and pins to boot. I know cuz I was the guy hocking it for the weekend. Plenty of folks walked away armed with 12 short attacks of blazing HC ferocity, moody/melodic punkers, and surf-inspired monsters.


There's kinda a big change though. This new one is on Fat Wreck Chords. And it doesn't detract or add to the tunes, but it does mean the album is available far and wide for way more people to dig or tear down or whatever. More Bri: "I 100% think that it's having more of a positive effect than a negative. There was definitely people at the show last night also who came up and said 'ok i have this one' pointing to the new one, 'i need everything else.'" Regardless, Bri goes on, "each time a new record comes out it's a couple years later and, at that point a shit-load of people have gotten out of punk and a shit-load new people have gotten in, so there's always gonna be a new audience."

Mutiny opens the same way they start their sets lately - exploding directly into "(I'm) Wired" with a fevered intensity that makes me shake and grind my teeth. Machine gun verses with a quick chorus you can chant along with if you are on the ball. Also note, this number couples the guitar lead with a killer bass solo. Before you know it, it's over and we're immediately onto "Life Is Not Amusement For Me." Another State of Mind reference? Check. This number balances the velocity of the opener with a pounding mid-tempo and a farfisa filling the space. Brian's vocals waver seamlessly between Biafra and Brannon, howling this way and that, unveiling a new motto for the rejected, "I'll face each day like it's an incurable disease!"


The LP's third track "Blank Eyes" has received some previous attention for it's light-shining on postpartum depression. While hardcore punk by its very fucking nature acts as a catharsis against depression while exploring the depths extensively, I can't think of another occasion where a band has lifted the veil on such a specific trauma. Kudos! This tune chugs along with a poppiness that betrays the lyric. A trick (shall we say) Night Birds deftly employs.

And that's how they kicked it off in an old church-turned-venue in Brattleboro, VT. Though they bring a wall of aggression and kids were psyched, this isn't exactly their crowd. Grinders Dropdead play next followed by Negative Approach. Tomorrow night they're playing with jangly power-pop bands. When Dropdead play, it's a swirl of moshers, punks, crusties and dirty hippies noodle-dancing away. Only in Vermont. Only in Bernie Sanders country. There were over/under bets on whether J Mascis turns up. If you bet heads, you won.


Now about Mutiny's fourth song - Dead Kennedys sang "Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round;" while Night Birds clarify "Lapsed Catholics Need Discipline." This is The Author's favorite track on a full-length of legit favs. It rages in a way that makes me ball my hands into fists, with a tempo that doesn't let up or fall apart and call/response vocals urging participation in the violence. Other songs that make me feel this way: AF "Victim in Pain," the mosh part in Megadeth's "Wake Up Dead," and Big Boys' "No."

Brian and I slept on the floor of a child's bedroom surrounded by Legos on the first night. No children present at the time. No heat either, for that matter. We stayed at the house of not the person who hosted us. He was just house-sitting. A delicate rain greeted us as we ventured back into town for morning coffee. "Look sweetheart, I think these guys are a rock n roll band." What gave it away? Leather jackets, the farty stench or the palpable, carnal desire for caffeine as we waited in line? The goddamn people of Vermont are just too nice to be irritated by.

Navigating through New England in the chilly rain, listening to New Bomb Turks sounds right to me. The Middle East Upstairs tonight. Cambridge, Mass with Conmen, Casanovas in Heat, and Dark Thoughts, oh and Negative Approach topping the bill. First we scatter - Brian to Veggie Galaxy to old-man-it at a diner; Joe, PJ, Darick down the block to one record shop; and me up to Harvard Square and Armageddon Records. The sun sets at what feels like 3:00 pm, but at least the rain has stopped. Talkin' some shit with Cliff from Boston Strangler as he works the register while I pour through old thrash records. Talkin' about Night Birds. He smiles earnestly, reflecting on playing with them in Canada last week - "They're a band's band. If you are in a band, you like them." Fuckin' nailed it. There's this extra dynamic that bleeds through as if, they know rock n roll's dirty little secret. It's not about appearing cool, it's about the obsessiveness handed down from generation to generation; worshipping a catalog that grows exponentially and making it your own, all the way down to your core.

All this evident on the new LP as it winds down Side 1, with an ode to television built like a warning. "Golden Age of TV" smacks of Static Age with a West Coast burn. Flip the goddamn vinyl over and rage to the record's title track. A friend of mine once talked to me about letting songs breathe. This song doesn't breathe, it hyperventilates. Tag it with whoas ala Naked Raygun and a some Ribbed-era metal solos. Without a second of dead air, the opening beat of the next tune, "Son of Dad," wrenches your ears into a 360 tempo shift of ass-shaking drive. It's the slowest track here, but perhaps the most-disturbing. A serial killer as a "force of nature" set to some rock n roll riffage. A deep-cut Seinfeld reference takes on a grisly life of it's own. All of that and the line "can't renovate the hate in my soul." Goddamn, to be a mall punk again and stumble across this doozy as I sift Fat's releases.

The show goes off hitchless, punctuated by Negative Approach. Al Quint does a stage dive, I nab some records from Painkiller and Radio Raheem, John Brannon tells us old stories and the night winds down with junk food and Danzig videos. All the NA dudes are so fucking mellow and friendly. This is not what you get on stage. Taken together, the members have a done time or are currently playing with Detroit's holy trinity: NA, The Necros, The Meatmen. Drummer Darick says, "it's an awesome experience and then it's also inspiring because they're so down to earth and having a blast in what they're doing. 20 years from now, if we're lucky, maybe we could be doing the same thing."


The next morning, fortified by the dual weaponry of Spikes dogs and strong coffee we hurry up n' wait in what's arguably the worst traffic day on the east coast - Thanksgiving sunday. It's an opportune time to get the guys on record with my handheld recorder, re-jigger the night's set list with a surf opener, and of course, have an emergency pee at the side of cemetery. Boston's wet, but Brooklyn's cold and after the drive, we huddled in the Acheron waiting for oversold bodies to pile in and warm the place.

The final third of Mutiny takes additional twists and turns, starting with a "1-2-3-4" by CJ Ramone, guesting well on "Off the Grid." Naturally, it's the album's poppiest number as an actual Ramone croons along. Then we have a Kinks cover followed by the lone surf number, "Miskatonic Stomp." Deep nerd reference? Check. The Author loves that surf and horror seem to hold hands so well. Remember these guys morphed John Carpenter's "Escape from New York" into their own ditty.

Wrapping the record is the dour "Left in the Middle," bleakly laying out America's current social breakdown between "the one percent and the penniless." It's a truly depressing picture as The Author counts himself as one of the "regular schmucks trying to keep up the pace." I suspect most of us do. And that's why it hits so hard when the LP just ends without any redemption. For all the nods to Seinfeld, horror movies and playful explorations, Night Birds don't shy away from systemic suffering bred in our fuckin' society.

There's something to be said about a hardcore punk band being on Fat Wreck Chords. What could be a cautionary tale, spins out of control with Mutiny at Muscle Beach. Purists and the cynical expect a dumbing down. But whether intentional overcompensation or a natural devolution, Night Birds deliver a spastic package brimming with savagery and anger like Urban Waste jamming Dead Boys.

Pulling this off included using Mitch Rackin (who recorded their previous rager) on the boards at Seaside Lounge, with Chris Pierce (who recorded their first LP) now serving as Producer. Got that? It's a genome of their recording legacy, really. On this, Bri says, "I wanted to find somebody to fill that role just to help solve debates and arguments, and also offer solutions for certain things and that's where we got Chris Pierce." And at the last minute, there was a line-up change - exit Ryan McHale, enter Darick Sater on the drums. Sure to impact the record and recording, "I think Darick is just a bigger, heavier, fuller-sounding drummer," Bri continues. For his part on joining the band and immediately recording an LP live in the studio, Darick adds that there was "a lot of urgency and coffee and stress and anxiety...I think everybody just kinda fed off of each other and getting to record live, you're not gonna lose any of that urgency."

And now New Jersey's Night Birds rip the stage in Brooklyn; for all intents and purposes, co-headlining with Negative Approach. As perplexing as it may feel prima facie, it makes sense that they're sharing the stage with Negative Approach weeks after playing the pop-punk round-up The Fest. This is, in fact, the natural order. Are they a band's band? I mean, none of this is for bystanders whether you are in a band or not. Guitarist PJ says on seeing NA three nights in a row, "Every single night, I thought I was too exhausted to dance and every single night I fucking started moshing during "Nothing." You lose it one way or another when a band you love plays and people lose it when you play in a band that they love. I think it's part of that obsessiveness, where your devotion to gritty, loud-ass music manifests as such. And Mutiny at Muscle Beach is that feeling in a bottle.