Fear Love: The Steve Karp Interview (Part I of II)

September 19, 2010 by Chris Grosso

I first met Steve Karp around 1996 while getting tattooed at Kustum Kulture of Plainville, CT & remember liking him immediately. Steve is a super friendly, honest, smart & funny guy who’s been involved in the punk/hardcore scene since the 1980’s. Instead of trying to describe Steve more in my own words, I figure I’d let his Facebook bio do the talking; “hard-working jerk; probably despises you for something, real or imagined. I used to be cool, a few eons ago: I worked in tat2 shops, even co-owned one. I played in bands, recorded loud music, went on tours, lived in sweaty vans, created artwork for bands and shows and skateboard and bmx companies, tattooed all day and night… Now I’m the person I used to write punkrock songs about: married, routine job, house in the suburbs.”

 Steve’s band “Yuppicide” was signed to Wreck-Age Records for their first release in 1990 called “Fear Love” recorded with legendary producer Don Fury (Helmet, Sick Of It All, Quicksand). Yuppicide toured relentlessly throughout the East Coast as well as Europe due to huge demand (and great label support), establishing a widespread fan base and much deserved respect in the punk/hardcore scene. They called it quits in 1998 but have recently reformed, playing a few shows in New England and are already lined up with a European tour.

Steve graciously accepted my invitation to sit down and discuss his years in the Punk/Hardcore Scene, Tattooing, Religion, Bigfoot, Star Wars & more. The following interview was conducted on 9/16/10, on a cool, rainy evening at Steve’s home in a remote part of CT. It has been very slightly edited for content. 

The Steve Karp interview

 TIS: The year is 1969 and little Steven Karp is born. Can you tell me a bit about your childhood, family, etc?

SK: I guess I had a typical lower-middle class kind of upbringing, you know. Spent a lot of time with my parents & grandparents too which kind of factors into my upbringing later on. I have a younger brother & sister and parents who are still together. I kind of came into one of the first generations where divorce became the norm more than not, and my parents actually stayed together, for better or worse. My parents and grandparents were really cool in that they really encouraged us kids to be kids. They really encouraged us to read, without forcing it on us. They saw that we were into reading and drawing and making stuff and they were always really cool about being encouraging. We were also really curious, so they’d take us to museums or they’d see we were curious about space and take us to the library to take out books on space. I was really fortunate to have my parents and grandparents (on my mothers side) encourage us when they saw that we were interested in something and to get really hands on. Like my grandfather had a lot of tools and he would always let us play with them, which may have not been the best thing, but he would always show us the right way of using them. I thought that was really cool.  Like many kids, I was (and am) crazy about airplanes, drawing, military history, cars & trucks and so they would take me to the library and I’d look at the books and draw the stuff I was looking at. I guess “nerdism” started at a very young age for me, and everyone around me sort of fed my nerd appetite, which was good. I did pretty well in school too, not because I think I’m smart but because my parents were always behind me. They didn’t care what grade I got as long as they knew I tried hard, so I think they were trying to instill a work ethic in us. Also, as I was growing up I saw family members around me have a work ethic and that was really inspiring. My grandfather especially, he was a crazy workaholic but always had time for us grandkids so that was super cool. And as a kid I didn’t see a lot of the bad stuff and I’m glad I took more of the good away. The more I look back, if I’m allowed to be introspective, I look at that early formation and a lot of who I am now is formed from that so I was really lucky to have that. I had other great family like my cousin Chris as I was growing up & we were very close. We were always doing stuff together, our families were pretty close and we were always doing family trips or going to the beach, so we were always getting into stuff together. And we were all into the same kind of stuff as well. We were all reading books and into monster movies, model kits and stuff so it was a good 1970’s kid upbringing. I grew up at a really good time.

TIS: So being an older brother as you mentioned, did you have a big impact on your brother & sisters musical tastes and lifestyle?

SK: Yes & no. I wasn’t originally that into music as a little kid. I played in the school bands and my dad was pretty adamant about that, but I didn’t dig music. It was something I did because my dad wanted me to do it, more than anything. I didn’t feel a spiritual connection to music until much later on and then as I got older something clicked and I started to really dig modern music. Like most kids in Junior High start to get into rock music, but I really connected with it somehow, like I was taking it apart with my ears and was really listening to it. Some kid would be like wow, Styx is great and they’d give me a tape of Styx and I’d listen to it. I mean I’d really listen to it and be like wow, this really is great, I hear this, I hear that, and so I started to really feel this connection to that kind of music, but not to the school band music I was playing. The two things were very separate. Like one was very academic, dry and boring and I eventually developed a hatred of it, and the other one was something I found very cool and interesting, like there’s something here, I’m really drawn to it. And then I moved into the 70’s and 80’s heavy metal and that was it, it was all over. I started listening to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath & Deep Purple. My mom had a lot of records and we got a hold of some of the heavier stuff like Cream & Jimi Hendrix, man it was really all over, we were blown away. I wasn’t really digging the modern music at the time on the radio, like Genesis or whatever. And then we started playing guitar. My cousin Chris started playing guitar before us and then we got into it. So once we started to play guitar, we started to listen to guitar music a lot closer. Especially the 60’s stuff because that seemed to be a little more simple on the surface so we really grooved on it. And to this day, my cousin and brother are virtuoso guitar players. One of the stipulations of playing guitar in my house by my dad, was that we had to be formal about it, because he hated rock and roll, I mean despised it, and so one of the stipulations of playing guitar was that we had to take formal lessons and learn scales etc. I think he kind of wanted to kill it for us in a sense. We were very fortunate though that my cousin Chris had a phenomenal guitar teacher, who was probably one of the monster influences in my life. His whole vibe towards playing guitar and towards music was so cool. He was just so full of enthusiasm for music that you  really wanted to play and please this guy, you wanted to do your lessons. So he would have you do your lessons, scales, etc but at the same time he be like ok, what songs do you want to learn?  He wanted us to stay connected to the music and not just have it be a mechanical thing like scales and chords, and so as rewards, he would teach us Iron Maiden or Judas Priest riffs and we were absolutely amped on that. My brother and cousin ended up staying with this guy, taking lessons for a long time, and the upshot of that is they are like Randy Rhodes Jr’s now. Like if you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing my cousin play, his fingers are just on fire, and my brother is the same way to. Through hard work he developed the ability to sit down and just pull a song apart, and be like, ok, here’s Kirk Hammett’s solo, or here’s Kerry King’s solo. I stopped taking lessons when I got into punk rock. That was a pretty pivotal moment too. I remember I was like 16 and there was this kid in my drafting class in high school named Glen McGregor, and Glen was into skateboarding, this is like 1984 or 85, and he was also racing BMX and he worked at a bicycle store. So I knew this kid was into some different stuff but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. I heard the words punk rock thrown around, but kind of wrote it off because if you were watching MTV and seeing The Clash at that point, it was just kind of a joke unfortunately, or someone like The Psychadelic Furs and you’re like, they suck. So you don’t really take punk rock seriously because you’ve never really heard anything good.  So this dude was gaving me a ride one day and he was like hey, you’re into music, because I had long hair and had my Iron Maiden and Judas Priest thing gong on, and so I was like yeah, definitely, what do you have? We’re at his house and he puts on Black Flag’s cover of Louie, Louie from the “Everything Went Black” album, turned it up in his bitchin sound system and I literally had a religious experience. Something came over me and I was like What. Is. This?  And then he put’s on Agent Oranges cover of Jefferson Airplanes Somebody To Love, and I knew this was exactly what I’d been looking for. The volume, the intensity, everything about it and from that day on, in his basement in Newington, CT, my life took an entirely different turn. He started making me these mix tapes with bands like that on them, and I’d sit down with my guitar and learn it and realized it was so easy to learn, whereas you had with Iron Maiden, five virtuoso’s on stage and there would be a little disconnect, but when I heard punk rock I was like yeah, this is it because I can do it, I can be a part of this, this is not hard.  And then I started to learn more about it, the stuff people were saying, the lyrics. It related to true feelings that people had. Like a lot of the popular bands were singing about partying, etc. I was never into drinking and when someone found out they’d be like oh, you’re straight edge and I was like, what’s that, and they’d said well you don’t drink or do drugs and so I’m like oh, they even have a name for nerds like me, so it was jus ready fit. So that guy and that moment were really just pivotal because it blew the doors off of small town life and just changed everything in a way that to this day I’m still coming to grips with.

TIS: Sure, I can definitely relate to that.

SK: Yeah, I think everybody has that experience, you know? Where everyone’s life takes a hard turn and you know you’re on some path, you’re hurdling towards something, and you don’t know what it is but you know it’s awesome.

TIS: Sure, I still remember the first time I heard Barkmarket or Neurosis driving in my friend Bernie’s little four door Honda in the early 90’s through the epitome of suburbia, East Haddam, CT and an entire new world opening up.

SK: Yeah and the funny thing is too, you kind of kick yourself because you say this stuff was out here all along and I didn’t know, and here I am wasting my time listening to Ratt or Wasp and thinking that’s bad ass. And then somebody plays you D.I. or The Vandals, and in suburban CT in 1985 the worst thing you could be was into punk rock. It was really not the thing to do. It was bad news and you got a lot of shit for it, which I think actually validated it in a sense to the teenage mind. You’d think all these dorks who like Pink Floyd hate me just because I cut my hair…awesome, I’m doing something right. And from there I began to seek more out like thrash metal because at that time everything began to coalesce anyway but again, I think it’s because I grew up during a really cool time and had the honor of having really cool people around me who fed that stuff and they were branching out too. They’d be like hey, I went to The Anthrax and you think even the name sounds bitchin, or they’re like “let’s go see Black Flag at Studio New York” and you’re like “See Black Flag? How can I see them?” because they’re this force of nature, you don’t see that. It’s like, lets see a black hole, you know? And once you embrace the music, it’s kind of mandatory you embrace more of the lifestyle. I’d already been pretty creative with drawing and painting and now I had this outlet and everything fell into place. My childhood pretty much ended with that.

TIS: So let’s jump forward a bit to Yuppicide and where that started.

SK: Cool,to be very brass tax about it, the original members are Joe Keefe and myself. We formed the band in Brooklyn, NY at the school we were going to and this is another thing in my life where I’ve had good luck to meet super monumental people, and Joe was definitely one of them. So I met him early on at school, I mean you go to art school and there’s going to be kooks galore there, especially in the late 80’s. I was there with my shaved head, feeling sort of cool and we just connected, he sorta took me under his wing. He was a little bit of an older guy and had been going to shows. He’d be like, I just got back from seeing Agnostic Front at CB’s, and just hearing that phrase was amazing. It was like somebody saying they were giving away ten million dollars down the block. So it turns out that he played bass and I played guitar and we started playing a little bit and then Yuppicide started to form around that. In it’s infancy it was sort of a school party band. We’d do covers like Murphy’s Law, Underdog, Misfits or Uniformed Choice and maybe messed around with one or two originals. We had another kid in the band who played guitar and he linked us up with someone in the neighborhood who played drums and that was great because now we had a rehearsal space. So long story short, the other guitar player ended up leaving and the consensus was sort of that the band was over, but I’d been writing all along and so when he left I approached the guys and said hey, I’ve got these songs and so we started working on them. Then we brought Jesse on board. He’d always sort of been in the picture and when the other guy left, he also sang so there left this void. And that was the real birth of Yuppicide as everyone knows it from that point on. So then with Jesse on board we recorded the first demo which opened up a new path.

TIS: And you ended up in Don Fury’s studio. How did that come about?

SK: If you were in New York, you were working with Don Fury. So we were kind of naïve. We could play our instruments ok but we’d never really gigged, recorded, knew anything about equipment, and recording was something that seemed really far fetched for us. So we ended up with Don Fury in a sort of round about way. We were approached by Sam Evac to do something on “Look At All The Children Now”, and he needed it quick. We’d just recorded our demo at Coyote Studios in Brooklyn. They were a great studio, but for the style we were doing they didn’t know how to relate. They were more garage punk so if you were going to do something like Dead Boys or The Ramones you’d go there, but if you wanted to do New York Hardcore, they didn’t really have it. So we ended up with this demo that was sort of lacking and Sam says hey, bring it to Don Fury, he’ll redo the vocals and remix it for you. Sam then asked us if we were doing anything else and we told him we were doing a 7” and he suggested we do it with Don. It seemed like a good idea because Jesse had established a working relationship already with him. It was then that I really put two and two together because I had really started listening to the New York Hardcore scene stuff at that time and it clicked that everybody on Revelation Records worked with Don Fury.  We were in NY playing that style of music so eventually we would have found our way to him, everybody does, everybody did, because he had his fingers on the pulse. He knew what everybody wanted and was kind of the default go-to guy. Basically, if you have Victim In Pain & United In Blood in your resume, everyone is going to go to you. And that’s what sold it for me, I was bananas for Victim In Pain. There’s an album that just sums it all up. And people will say yeah, he did Side By Side or Gorilla Biscuits but I was never that into those bands much, but all someone had to say was Victim In Pain and I was like that’s it, we’re going there. So we’d be in the studio and Don would say this or that, like I want you to try this pedal and I’d tell him I don’t like to use pedals, I used those when I was a little kid and he’d be like, well that’s Vinnie Stigma’s old pedal and I was like ok, let’s go. It was definitely a case of hero worship and we were naïve, but nobody took advantage of us. We were babes in the woods but nobody led us astray. We were super fortunate. And then we continued working with Don because we were really comfortable with him, and the label that we were on, Wreck-Age, had a really good working relationship with him. I didn’t know other people were recording in New York, it was Don Fury or nobody. I mean you’d go there to record and you’d see like nine other bands come in and out dropping stuff off or picking stuff up. I even sort of met GG Allin and The Murder Junkies there.

TIS: Wow, how was that?

SK: Ah, pretty scary, but not really. We were there working on something and these guys came in, and the one thing that sticks in my mind is that they all had brand new, shiny ass cowboy boots on, I mean, they had their leather jackets and looked scraggly too. I knew who they were by seeing them in Maximum Rock N Roll,   but I wasn’t really going to approach them.And when they left someone was like, hey, do you know who that was? And I was like yeah, it was that punker guy and they said it was GG Allin and The Murder Junkies. No one really went out of their way to approach one another, here we were with our shaved heads doing the hardcore thing and there they were with their shiny cowboy boots, looking more like they were on a Guns N Roses type thing. So that goes to show how Naïve we were about how rad Don was.

TIS: Who else have you met along the way that you’re really psyched on?

Casey Royer

SK: Wow man, there’s so many of them. There’s one instance, to this day that still floors me, which is DI. They are still to this day one of my favorite bands. I love Casey Royer, I love Southern California punk rock and hardcore more than anything. You know, Aggression, DI, Circle Jerks. Those bands to this day drive me up the wall. So DI actually opened up for Yuppicide in 1995 which made no sense to me. I remember I was working at a tattoo shop when I got a call from our singer who said hey, we’re doing a show at the Wetlands with The Bouncing Souls and some other D1 or something band is opening for us and I asked him, DI? And he said yeah that’s them and I was like, they’re not opening for us, we’re opening for them, they’re the deal man and he said that we were headlining because we had the draw here. So at this point, I didn’t get nervous about playing gigs anymore but for this one, I didn’t sleep for a week. They went on before us and Casey Royer had a broken foot and crutch and still put on an awesome show. I mean I was 16 and I worshipped his movie “Suburbia”, especially the scene where the dude Richard hung himself and I was like, that’s Casey Royer! It was unbelievable. And when I finally went up to meet him, I had my DI tattoo that was just finally starting to heal and it’s big as life too. I’m thinking, what a fan boy you know? So I went up and told him they were awesome and he said thanks and that they were off cause they were sick and how we always get them sick on the east coast, and we were talking like we were best buds. I was just blown away. He was just the nicest, non affected guy ever. So that was just one of the people I got to meet. I also got to meet the guys from AF who are just the coolest guys ever. We played a Valentine’s Day party in Don Fury’s living room. Don Fury had the brilliant idea to have a Valentine’s Day party because I think he’d just broken up with some girl, and he’s like, we’re having an un-Valentine’s day party and I want Yuppicide to play because all their songs are about breaking up and stuff like that, so we were like, ok. So he invites all these people, and to this day I’ll still see Vinny Stigma and he recognizes me. He’ll come across the room and be like, I still love the fact that you guys played Don Fury’s living room. We got to meet so many cool people. I was on tour playing bass for a little while with 100 Demons in 2000 and we played some shows with AF, and that was great. And Dwayne Peter’s band, “US Bomb’s” came to see AF play and their guitarist Kerry Martinez had played in a band I was absolutely head over heals about Shattered Faith. They were a huge, huge, huge influence on me. Not a lot of people know them out here. So I went up to him and was like hey Kerry, I don’t mean to weird you out but I’ve been a huge Shattered Faith fan since I was a little kid, I had you guys painted on my leather jackets and stuff and he was really surprised. He said, I didn’t even know anyone on the East Coast had even heard of us. He was such a cool guy, like he couldn’t believe I liked Shattered Faith. And so whenever we go on tour or play gigs or meet bands we’re always meeting super cool people.

TIS: Cool, and now Yuppicide is back together again, playing some shows and even lined up with a European Tour. Can you tell me a little about that, and how things are going?

SK: Yeah, sure. That came together as sort of a series of happy accidents. A bootleg was put out in Europe of some unreleased Yuppicide demos. The 1988 demo was actually released in 1998. I think we’d made a hundred of them on cassette ourselves and then the 1998 Yuppicide demo never got released. It was something we really did for ourselves, because in ’98 we were deciding if it was something we were really going to pursue and try to get on a label that was really going to put us to work, like Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords even Relativity or Combat, or was the reality that there were too many bands out there already doing this. So we did this demo and it really showcased where Yuppicide was at, at that time and it was never released. Somehow it got out on the internet as well as our demo so some enterprising goons in Europe put out a bootleg vinyl of our demos.  We had a buddy in Europe who has a distro and let us know he had some and asked if we wanted any and we were like, yeah and really couldn’t believe people were still into this stuff because it had been years since we’d formally called it quits in ’98. So within the year of the bootleg release someone asked what we thought about doing an anthology as our stuff had been long out of print and that people still want it. I couldn’t believe people still wanted our stuff and thought he was crazy but we decided ok, let’s try this. So we started making some vague attempts at it, and behind the scenes things started spiraling. We were going to do the anthology with one label, and the next thing you know Cuz Joe, the guy from Black N Blue productions who does the Black & Blue Bowl, which I still call the Superbowl of Hardcore, was like hey, I want Yuppicide to play which really moved the time table of our schedule up by about two months. We knew we were releasing the anthology and wanted to play some shows around here as well as Europe to promote it, but now we really had to focus and from that point on we kept getting show offers. We ended up going to Europe because somebody dropped out of the With Full Force festival and we got the invitation to fill in. And again, one thing lead to another and John from Dead City Records was like hey, I think it’d make sense if I put your anthology out here in America and let this guy Daniel in Europe, release the vinyl because he’s a huge vinyl kook. We’d known and worked with John for a while, he was in Awkward Thought, so we were like yeah, he’s got a legit label, they’ve put out Norman Bates and the Shower Heads, which is a great super under appreciated New York band, and so we know John is the real deal. So now it’s done, it’s coming out. The pre-press is being done, the vinyl is coming out and I won’t lie to you, it was a ton of work. We had to pull all this old weird material, which was on a variety of formats, I mean we’re talking reel to reel tape, DAT, 1” VHS, just all of this different media. So we had to combine it and obviously have Don remaster it, and we’re really happy with how it sounds. So now we’ve got the tour coming up to promote it.

TIS: Is there any chance of new Yuppicide material being written and released?

SK: It’s really pretty doubtful. Everybody’s schedules right now are just so packed, plus I live here and they’re in New York, and the other thing too is that our heads are in a different place in terms of that music and what our musical tastes are now, they’re kind of light years apart. So it’s like if we did start writing together again and playing the stuff we’re into now, would it be fair to call it Yuppicide? As much as I like the idea, and I know the other guys do too, the reality is probably not. But then again there’s a lot of stuff riding on the European tour and when we go there it’s a really big unknown. If anything, starting to play with these guys again has been very humbling because we’ve done some shows which were just mobbed and then we did some shows where there was just nobody there. It was also really interesting to play the Black N Blue Bowl to see how we stacked up against the “modern hardcore scene”. We were really fish out of water there but I think we played well. There were people there who payed $25 just to see us and that makes you feel really special. They sat through all these bands they didn’t like just to see us just to play a short set and that was really touching. But also, a lot of people didn’t know who we were, which was fine. My hat is still off to Cuz Joe for booking that show and having us there. He’s a real fan and had a fun time having us there in and amongst the other bands.

TIS: So you mentioned the modern punk/hardcore scene and I was interested in getting your thoughts on how it compares to that of the 80’s & 90’s?

SK: Yeah, the Black N Blue festival is one extreme of “modern hardcore”, we also saw it on the With Full Force tour and the reality is that where we’re at, doesn’t relate in the slightest to where a lot of those bands and kids are at. The scene has evolved into this thing which is just really removed and different. But then again, we (FTE- Steve’s other band) just played the other night in Meriden, CT and that show was like right out of when I first started going to shows. Every band didn’t sound like modern hardcore. The opening band were these real young kids and I swear to God, they sounded like Jerry’s Kids, which is great. I saw a kid there that had to be 16 or 17 and he had an Ill Repute patch on his punker vest and I said to him, Ill Repute, your 16, but all these kids at the show were into the older stuff. I was talking to some of the kids from the first band who were a thrash punk band, not a thrash metal band, not a metal band, but a thrash punk band like Jerry’s Kids or Rat Pack or something and I told them how they took me back because there was not a drop of metal in it and they said yeah, that’s the stuff we’re really into. And I asked them about the modern hardcore bands and they said they weren’t into that stuff, that they liked the old bands. And the other bands we played with were either younger kids or people around my age who were into the older stuff and that’s what they played. The other extreme is at the With Full Force festival. The bands they were calling “hardcore” were to my untrained ear death metal bands. They would have some melodic parts and breakdowns but for all intents and purposes they were nothing like old hardcore. The funny thing about hardcore/punk is that it’s so open to translation. One person’s hardcore is another person’s metal is another person’s punk or whatever. When I think of hardcore, in my eyes it reached it’s apex with the Cro-Mags , it started with Black Flag but the apex was the Cro-Mags. So to see these other bands play what they consider hardcore, and I’m not getting on them for calling it whatever they want to call it, but I didn’t know how we were going to compete and get on the same stage with them. We’re four chords, closer to Negative Approach or Victim In Pain and that’s our era. These guys are doing some songs with 65 changes and they have seven string guitars and they’re tuned to drop B, and the drummer has two kick drums, a gated kick, and I thought it was so far removed from what I knew to be hardcore. I just didn’t know how we were going to get on stage or where we’d fit in and that was a question that we as a band asked ourselves too. Their playing levels were phenomenal & technical & their equipment was top notch, but would I consider it hardcore? It’s a lot different from The Freeze which I consider hardcore. There’s a lot of different scenes running around now. We played with a band called The Tired And True who were a melodic, fantastic band. They were like 22 years old and having the time of their lives, they wrote really catchy stuff and played really well together. They had really nice equipment. All the equipment I’ve owned up until now doesn’t even come close to what they had, which is good because these kids played so well, I’d want them to play through good stuff. I didn’t want them to play through a stack of Gorilla amps with two Metal Zone pedals kind of patched together.

TIS: But on the flip side, nowadays you can see a lot of bands at shows that have really stellar equipment, vintage nice stuff, but can’t really play for shit, or write together.

SK: Ha, I may come across as a dick for saying this but I don’t go to shows. It’s not because I’m a jerk but because I don’t really fit in. I don’t want to go there and feel like a weirdo. My only real exposure to shows and bands has been through playing them again. I read a lot of books about hardcore. There’s a lot of books coming out now, people are getting nostalgic. I love to read interviews with people from the 1st and 2nd generations of hardcore, and a lot of them say that hardcore died by ’83. When I was younger I couldn’t relate to that, I was like, what are you talking about, I go to shows all the time, but if you really read into why they’re saying, then it starts to make sense. When I was younger the Black Flag that I loved was Everything Went Black or Nervous Breakdown, you know? And then Black Flag started going off on this other stuff, they grew their hair long and they started playing long songs and I was like, what are they doing, get out there and play Nervous Breakdown, play Jealous Again, what are you doing playing My War? But now that I’m older I can really wrap my head around My War or Slip It In. These guys did it and they got tired of it and wanted to progress and they got a lot of shit for that. It’s funny to read some of the shit about that because people started to purposefully antagonize punkers because they were so close minded and I think that’s a pretty powerful statement. You know punk rock or hardcore were supposed to be an alternative to the close minded FM rock and the reality is it’s sort of become that, it’s come full circle. When I read interviews with guys that talk about punk rock or hardcore, a lot of them say hardcore died when bands started listening to other bands. I can relate to that now. It’s kind of the concept of hey, we’re not paving any new ground, we’re just sort of taking this idea and we’re riffing on it but we’re not really pushing that idea forward. It’s funny, I saw somebody wear a shirt that said something like “remember 1995- the good old days” or something like that and I thought wow, I wonder how somebody from Reflex Of Pain or one of the other early CT hardcore bands would feel if they saw that, cause in’95 they were already probably retired. So I think hardcore is in the eye of the beholder and I think it would be disingenuous of me or my band to come and say ok, I hear what kids are doing now, I’m going to try and do what they’re doing. For example, Yuppicide is back and we’re playing the same thing as Killswitch, not that Killswitch is a hardcore band. A lot of today’s hardcore bands have a lot of complex names now too like, Death From Another Friends Mother Across The Street Who I Never Saw, and I could never think up one of those names. They’re really fighting to sound profound and when you look at a flyer for all of these bands you’re like really, c’mon, but then again, I look back at some of the flyers from the early shows I went too and I’m like really, that’s the best you could do? Every generation has it, but my hat is still off to the true pioneers, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Minor Threat, especially Black Flag. The guys who did it from scratch. Though the counterculture did begin developing in the 50’s and a network of weirdo’s had developed with the hippie bands, like MC5 and then progressed into the early 70’s , so the DIY, stick it to the man, off the pigs culture had already started. Punk Rock was really supposed to be a big F.U. to hippies but they were really kind of carrying on a lot of those anti-establishment traditions and later on Hip Hop picked up on that too. I guess I’m pretty jaded now that I see how easy it is for people to do bands, with the internet and all. The internet is probably the biggest contribution to bands now. Even the ability to go into Hot Topic, which makes me sort of sad. To see all of these things made overseas and packaged up and marketed just as another product is kind of heart breaking. There was a time when if you wanted a Suicidal Tendencies shirt you wrote to Mike Muir through an add in the back of Thrasher, or if you wanted some Misfits shit, you wrote to Glenn Danzig at Plan 9 and you got the stuff that he made himself. There was something about the magic of finding that one weird store, that has that one crazy zine, which had an add for a demo tape that you’d order, and then they’d put a hand written letter in with that saying “hey dude, thanks for buying our demo. Here’s some stickers” and then you’d write back to him saying how the demo rips and you’d start this correspondence thing.

TIS: Sure man. I remember when I was a teenager, I wrote to get an Overcast 7” & to book a show or something and got a hand written letter back from Mike D’Antonio and that meant the world to me. I was young it was just so awesome.

SK: I like to think that anybody who felt the way that you felt, who were really blown away, that they take that with them, and any kid who writes them, though now it would obviously be email, they take that and pass it along, they pay it forward. The one thing I’ve learned from reading a lot about this, from a lot of people, is that you just don’t let it go to your head. You stay grounded, and even if you think you’re hot shit and you can’t humble yourself, you need to realize stuff if going to happen that is going to humble you. Whether it’s a higher force or a cosmic being or cosmic justice, somebody is going to humble you and you’ve got to check your ego. It’s really important when people come up to you and say that they were really stoked on your gig that you be sincere with them, which they’ll really respond too. Things are so slick and packaged nowadays, there’s a huge corporate support apparatus, and seeing that is tough. You know that a record label used to be one kid in his bedroom running the label and now for the most part, it’s not like that anymore. You used to order a shirt and it would be smudged because they were making themselves and you’d be like, this is the best shirt ever. It’s that hand made feel that the music always needs to have, the sincerity. That’s important, especially nowadays with the Ipods and Blackberries. There’s a level of distance & insincerity. I mean I know some kids are still doing it, and when I see that it brings a bit of a tear to my eye. It’s cool to know there’s still kids in vans with shitty guitars running around and playing shows for no money and that’s a tradition you never want to die. It’s like a folk tradition that’s handed down and that’s cool.

End of Part I. Look for Part II to be posted soon where Steve and I discuss Religion vs. Spirituality, Tattoos, Star Wars, Bigfoot and much more!

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.