Sunday, May 21, 2017

Start Something! What Happens Next? Lifes Halt!

As promised, here's a brief sample from the Start Something chapter for the book. This tour happened during the summer of 2001 and wrapped around the entire U.S. I was fortunate enough to catch five of these shows and they were fuckin' great! I think this tour captures the essence of a DIY hardcore punk tour in 2001. It was exciting then and it feels exciting now. Enjoy!

PS: I make an appearance in this chapter. So that's a first. And it feels kinda' weird.

PPS: Typos abound!

Craigums (What Happens Next) I saw Lifes Halt and I was so blown away and so impressed and so taken aback and there was that whole sense of danger to it. The music was intense. They were all into it. You know when you see a band and it's a band, a solid unit that’s just trying so hard to just fucking destroy! There's no shoegazing going on. Everybody is fighting to be awesome, to be powerful.

Max Ward (What Happens Next) We went down to LA and we played a few shows with them and that was it. It was almost like a romance for us. Any chance we got, we would play with Lifes Halt, because we just thought they were the best band at that time. We constantly tried to bring them up to San Francisco and any chance we got, we would go down LA and play with them.

Félix Reyes (Lifes Halt) I think that that's why they took a liking to us, because we in many regards, sort of embodied the spirit, and a little bit of the sound and the aesthetic already. I think that they also appreciated too, where we were from and who we were and that they saw that it was an organic thing.

Robert Collins (What Happens Next) They took the roof off the joint. They were great. Our 7” was out, they knew us, had heard us, people down there, already knew who we were and we knew who they were, but the kids down there just went ape shit for Lifes Halt. The whole show was super good and it got to the point where damn near every time we went down there, we played with them and then they came up shortly after that and played a show in San Francisco and it was the same way - we had more people that knew us but then they just smoked everything in the room when they played. LA was a second home for us and the Bay Area was a second home for them.

Félix Reyes We became good friends. We have a lot of respect for each other. At that time, it just made sense that we would play with such a band and that they would play with us, because we were one of a handful of bands that had that general, older style hardcore approach.

Devon Morf (What Happens Next) Their was definitely a genuine sense of camaraderie and genuine friendships between all members, and we complemented each other well.

Craigums Instantaneous closeness. We talked and hung out and we could not wait to hang out again. It was one of the very few times where you click and connect so quickly.

Ernesto Torres (Lifes Halt) We really looked up to those guys. They were awesome people. They really helped us out with a lot. Robert booked the whole second tour that we did, booked everything, did all the work. He was just full of energy, gung-ho, always ready to go.

Félix Reyes At that time already, they were like seasoned DIY professionals. They had been across the world in different bands. They had toured. They had put out records and so they certainly of course put us up even more. They put us under their wing. They had this aesthetic. They had this term or this label that was associated with us.

Max Ward When they approached us after the Japan tour - after we thought, well we've done everything we want to, we’re just gonna’ let the band kind of lie on the side - when they said let’s do a US tour together, we said okay we’ll do it. It was largely because we wanted to be with Lifes Halt and see them every night.

Craigums “Start Something” totally substantiated both of our band’s approach.

Félix Reyes It's good to take things into your own hands that you want to do and go forward and make it happen. Essentially, the whole DIY ethic conveyed through that phrase.

Max Ward That was Felix, “Flex” as we called him, Felix the bassist of Lifes Halt. He was like, “let's do this, let's do this tour, let's do this record, let's screen print our own shirts, we’re going to release this record ourselves, we are going to set up this tour ourselves, we can do this and it's not just about playing music ourselves, but we gotta’ take it beyond the club and we have to take it beyond the practice space, we’ve got to organize communities, we gotta’ talk politics, we gotta’ connect with different communities outside of our own.” What better way to do that then by actually go on the road and tour and see other people and see different communities…Felix came up with that. Ernie drew the cover.

Jon Westbrook (Lifes Halt) We were all really into the Big Boys. At the end of every Big Boys show, they would say “now go start your own band.” That was basically the starting point for that whole idea.

Noel Sullivan (Lifes Halt) Here’s the match, you just have to do your own thing.

Ernesto Torres We started taking in things around us, like the people, the places, things that were happening. It just came about. At that point we had met a lot of people and just felt really lucky and just wanted to express that a little bit more.

Craigums Felix was very big on maintaining your culture and your identity and where you live is where you should be focusing your energies on to your people, empower everybody in your life who you feel needs that help. He was very community-oriented.

Félix Reyes Much like the split 7” with No Reply, it almost seemed like a natural thing to happen between Lifes Halt and What Happens Next. We were such good friends, very supportive of each other and had a cut-from-the-same-cloth type vibe.

Robert Collins All that stuff just seemed normal like, of course we’re gonna’ do that. We were totally linked together and linked ourselves together, didn't mind at all that we were associated with one another all the time. I remember sitting with Max in the mastering studio when we heard their side of the split for the first time and both of our jaws hit the floor because it was within the context of the same kind of music but there are so many things on that record that are so next level. All those dudes can play their asses off.

Max Ward We knew Youngblood and they put out the Lifes Halt EP. They were huge supporters and we were just thinking, let's make this a collective effort, so it was a Youngblood/625 co-release.

Ernesto Torres I think that was a six-week tour. You tell Robert, “hey we’re gonna’ go on tour.” He’s like “ok we’ll be gone for like half a year.” I don’t know if you know that about Robert and those guys, they don’t fuck around.

Noel Sullivan Robert’s like a road wizard. That was really cool meeting Robert Collins on that tour because on that tour, I was only 18. It’s my second tour and Robert’s like this tour sentinel. You know, he’s just been on tour forever. It was cool learning all these little tricks and shit.

Ernesto Torres Robert is still like that to this day.

Jon Westbrook My van broke a head gasket on the first day of tour, so we had to miss the next two shows while everybody was trying to pool their money together to buy another van.

Félix Reyes We arrived at some late show in Austin. The first thing we saw and heard about was like some girl sitting on the roof right by the entrance and pissing down from the roof. She was pretty wasted.

Noel Sullivan We just did this fucking 30-hour drive. Everyone is just like high as shit from just smelling each other’s farts and sweating your balls off. We’re just sitting on the street under this roof. I was with Craigums and all of What Happens Next and Lifes Halt was sitting there and this chick comes up to the corner. We’re like, what is she doing? She fucking takes her pants off and totally starts pissing into the alley. That wasn't the craziest thing, but it was pretty impressive. This is like a 15 foot spray. We’re just kinda’ watching it, mystified. There's these other guys in the driveway and we had no idea who they are, they’re just locals. Two guys just talking about something. One guy just sees this and immediately just runs up and starts drinking it. It's so brutal because it's like hittting his face from like 15 feet and it’s splashing everywhere. The chick has no idea this is happening with her bodily excrements. She's on the roof clueless. We’re all in this dark alley like, oh my god this guy’s drinking piss! Then it ended and she zips up and bails and he wipes his face off and just tries to go right back in the conversation with his buddy.

Robert Collins It would be really easy to focus on all the highlights, the killer fucking shows. The two shows in one day in Chicago that were totally different, but both incredible. We played a show at The Fireside with American Nightmare and Kill Your Idols and then we went a played a backyard show in Pilsen with a bunch of neighborhood bands and both were fucking killer and totally different. Other shows that stick out - the show at ABC in New York was next level.

Max Ward I always wanted to play ABC No Rio because it was a hallmark or foundation of the scene…When I think about that show, I’m thinking about it from behind the drum set. So I'm the one who’s sitting behind the protected drum set, but I remember Devon having a really energetic performance.

Devon Morf We would sit in the car and talk about history and philosophy in our van, they had a television with a VCR where they’d watch The Simpsons and eat junk food - totally a generation gap there. Some of them would hang out in our van and they were just bored silly really quickly. They had no interest in talking about the Young Officers Revolt in Japan prior to World War II.

Craigums They were playing the radio trying to drown out the TV, because they’d want to hear what was on that. So the radio would be full blast, the TV would be full blast and then they would be trying to give directions to each other and just yelling…We played one tape, it was Live After Death, Iron Maiden. It was the only tape in the tape deck and it looped for 5 weeks straight.

Noel Sullivan You're all bottled up, smelling each other’s fuckin’ assholes for like six weeks. You put yourself through these crazy situations and some people thrive on it, some people don't really like it. They can’t do it. I think some people think they like it, but don't really like it and they keep on doing it.

Max Ward Noel was younger than the other guys in the band. He was really goofy, so he was just constantly joking.

Craigums He was always our punching bag, but he was always too cool to be taken down by the punches, but it never kept them from trying to knock him down a peg. He was the one-liner and not because he was good at one-liners but because his thoughts were just little nuggets. He would just say weird shit. For some reason I remember, and it was such a tangential thing, but in hindsight, it was totally directed, he said “old people are dumb” …He would also say things that were really naïve, but totally correct. Something about Noel was really special.

Max Ward The one thing I remember about that Boston show was looking up at one of the pipes that ran across the ceiling and seeing a couple of centimeters worth of dust that had collected on the top, just to show you how much dust was in the air…There’s probably bands that would walk into that situation be like, “we’re not playing here. Where is the PA, there's no stage, wait, you mean we’re playing a dirty floor with plumbing going over our heads?” That's what separates the bands that want to play the clubs versus the bands who are “the local punks set this up, the local punks are trying to do something outside of the club scene.” Sometimes you gotta’ play on the dirt floor with tons and tons of dust.

Ernesto Torres Man, that place was fucking filthy!

Jon Westbrook I take back what I said about never having worn a bandanna, I wore one across my face at that show.

Craigums We wore bandannas. That was probably the greatest benefit of being bandanna thrash, was that one show we played in Boston where it was so dirty that we wore them over our faces just for health purposes.

Robert Collins We all had black boogers for a week.

Devon Morf Who knows what was in that dust, that was ridiculous! Then I remember at one point I reached up and touched the lightbulb I gave myself an electric shock. It was a brutal show. I can't believe anybody stayed in there and watched the rest of that set because we should of just stood there silently and not moved instead of kicking up more dust.

Max Ward If you choose not to go through the regular route. If you're not going to go to the regular rock club, which provides a PA system and it’s got a bar and they’re gonna charge a ton of money because they want to make money off the show. But if you say, hey, we’re gonna’ do this ourselves, you have to find some space and normally it's some rough space not made for music. In Europe, you have all the squatted buildings, so you're literally walking into old factories or old buildings that have been occupied but not necessarily cleaned up. That kind of reminded me of playing a squat. We were definitely playing places of similar, let's say, uncleanliness.

Robert Collins A lot of really cool shows, but Flagstaff was pretty small, kinda’ like any other show, any other time in Flagstaff. Lifes Halt’s van broke down in Flagstaff and we missed our Austin show and had tons of really frustrating and regular tour things happen the whole time. We played in Rapid City, South Dakota, and there was a circle pit because when Lifes Halt played, all four members of What Happens Next ran around the stage and around the podium that was behind the stage the whole time they played because there was nobody else in the room, there was no one there, nobody came.

Ernesto Torres Fuck it, let’s just play! Everybody was going crazy.

Craigums That was probably the most fun show in that we had to make the fun ourselves…We actually switched instruments between bands. So I played drums for some of the Lifes Halt set. Felix played bass for some of our songs.

Robert Collins It was great, it was super awesome, had a lot of really killer shows. That West Coast stint coming down at the end was just next level. Those shows with Tear It Up and Fast Times were so good.

Max Ward It's crazy to think those two tours converged and the Seattle show was just out of control. The Portland show, it was fun for us even though everybody stood outside.

Craigums Lifes Halt’s van broke down again on the way to the last show and we were all stuck. I happen to be in their van on that stretch, because we were going home and they broke down an hour outside of San Francisco. It’s flat for probably 40 miles in every direction so it’s super hot. Everyone was already pissed and now we’re about to miss the homecoming show.

Robert Collins The last show of Start Something tour kinda’ blends in with other What Happens Next / Lifes Halt shows at Mission Records. It was killer and we were rolling with Tear It Up / Fast Times, but it didn’t feel like the tour was “over,” because Lifes Halt was still going south with those kids, and we had another show booked a week or two later in SoCal.

Craigums Lifes Halt were like “hey our friend Carl is doing this documentary of the tour.”

Robert Collins He came on the tour to make a documentary of the whole escapade.

Ken Ramsey Adding to the excitement of seeing those bands so many times on that tour was every time they showed up, Carl Cordova was there with a video camera capturing the fun. Definitely not today, but in 2001, when you see a person recording an event, you automatically are going to think there’s something significant happening, something worth documenting. That sort of put a fine point on the whole thing, hey this is important.

Craigums We worked for at least a year straight on editing all that footage into a documentary. We got as far as halfway through the trip and he was only logging footage. It was such a long time and then he quit the job where he had the editing bay, so that’s as far as it ever got.

Craigums When I saw Lifes Halt for the first time, they were doing it with a very specific pro wrestling approach. Ours was more just like a Monty Python way to fuck with each other…When we saw Lifes Halt they were doing shit that was just flat out dangerous…You can imagine when we did that tour, instead of it being us doing our thing, it became a battle.

Devon Morf Lifes Halt were good every night and we felt like with them as the standard bar, with What Happens Next, we were good every other night.

Max Ward It was very interesting, as with all bands, there is internal politics. It's not just internal about what the band is, but what kind of politics one has about their own relationship to the world, their own perspective on political or social issues. Everybody’s gonna’ come at it differently. It’s not like one band as a unit is going to go out and engage in the same way. Actually, you’re coming into communication and contact with these people who are coming to see your band, but you're also continuing to have these conversations within the vans as you’re driving between shows. You're thinking through like what was that about or if there was something that we were having a discussion about at a show, things got heated or something, we would talk about it in the van, kind of contemplate it. There was also probably people in both bands, who were like, “I actually don't really care about that stuff.” Some people could choose to be apolitical, some people could choose to be interested in one specific issue, but not all, some people really saw this as an idealistic venture and we need to consider all aspects of it, where we’re eating, who we’re staying with, what clubs we’re playing and all this kind of stuff. It was a constant conversation. There was fights on tour, for sure. There’s people who were leaving one van and going to the other because they needed to cool off. I don't think there was any fights between the two bands, but there were fights internal to the bands themselves and the other band would provide refuge for the one person who wanted to cool off. But at the end of the day, we would all pull up to the same gas station, go get some food, sit down on the curb, some people were skating, some people are talking about what the hell happened the night before.

Noel Sullivan You have to have some water come out of the pot sometimes.

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