Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From hardcore to rock, Boston's SS Decontrol were a musical force/ Jaime Sciarappa interview

SS Decontrol at the Sun Valley Sportsman's Hall gig in 1983 in LA-- John in front. (Al Flipside photo)
By Andy

My friend John and I glanced at each other and shook our heads. We were not only stoked to be seeing SS Decontrol tear it up in the summer of 1983, but we also pointed at the poor stage at the Sun Valley Sportsman's Hall and joked that it just might crumble as the Boston hardcore band stomped all over it during its raucous set.

As songs from "The Kids Will Have Their Say," "Get It Away" and the not-yet-released "How We Rock" spewed forth, we knew this was a gig to remember. (Rounding out the stellar bill in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles were Government Issue, Willful Neglect and the Patriots.)

About a year later, we caught SSD again with Suicidal Tendencies, Red Hot Chili Peppers (I remember Keith Morris singing with them for a bit), Minutemen and the Abandoned at the old Olympic Auditorium in LA.

At the Olympic in LA in 1985 -- Andy and John missed this show. (Joseph Henderson photo)
All the songs from the first two records -- except for "Glue" -- were scrapped and they jammed on tunes from the forthcoming "Break It Up" LP and "How We Rock." We dug the show just as much as we had the summer before; even though they were playing more rock-styled songs, they still had a ton of bite and snarl to them in our minds. We had a good time laughing at the punkers who clearly did not approve.

As the show finished, one punk cried out to Springa, "Play something fast!" His reply: "Here's your fast" ... as they launched into "Get It Away's" slowest track,"Glue." Funny.

Jaime, left, and Springa (Courtesy photo)

Jaime in LA. (William Tuck photo)

Since John was pen-pals with guitarist Al Barile, we came in contact with bassist Jaime Sciarappa and drummer Chris Foley in the summer of '83 and hung out with them and their crew of Andy Strachan (DYS), Tony Perez (Last Rights) and Jake Phelps (Thrasher mag guy) at my house in Redondo Beach. We reunited with Sciarappa and Foley at the Olympic, but then lost touch over the years.

I recently located Sciarappa on Facebook and here's a Q&A I conducted with him via e-mail a week ago. Enjoy:

--What are some of your highlights from the SSD days?

West Coast tour in '83. Santa Monica Civic with GBH. Staten Island Show with Dead Kennedys. NYC with Minor Threat and Bad Brains....

Springa and Jaime. (Phil in Phlash photo)
--The first album was blazing hardcore, then you guys slowed things down and fuzzed the sound out with "Get It Away" and "How We Rock" -- what was that transition like?

I don't think we ever said we need to change the sound. We were always into heavy stuff and it just felt heavier when we slowed it down some. We never made a conscious effort to change. It just happened. People change, tastes change, likes and dislikes change, everything changes over time.

--When I saw you guys twice in LA during those days, the gigs were as energetic as all get out. Describe the SSD live experience.

We were all about playing live. I don't think vinyl ever did us justice. You had to see us. We didn't play a ton, but when we did, it was an event. There was a lot of energy pent up in us, and playing live was definitely a release.

--And then, "Break it Up," which is a great rock record -- what was that period of the band like?

"Break it Up" was just a reflection of what we were listening to, I guess. We always listened to heavy stuff like AC/DC and most of the metal that was out there, so I guess that influenced our songwriting. I know most people didn't dig it, but I've never been ashamed of that record.

Stompin' through an early set. (Courtesy photo)
--Why the transition from the SS Decontrol moniker to SSD on the last two records?

I don't exactly remember how the switch to SSD happened. I think people just started calling us that, and we adopted it.

--From Day One to the end, was being in the band just as exciting and meaningful to you?

I think being in SS Decontrol was one of the most exciting times in my life, but I think that by the end, we were all sick of each other. A band can be like a bad marriage, and so a divorce is inevitable. SSD ended at the right time. (The band also featured Francois Levesque on second guitar.)

Ragin' with the crowd. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)
--SSD was featured prominently in the "American Hardcore" movie (and the upcoming "All Ages Boston Hardcore" film)-- what were those experiences like?

For the "American Hardcore" film, they interviewed us for about an hour, but only used about 10-15 seconds of the interview. I'm not sure why. I don't remember specifically what we talked about, just a lot of questions about the band. I like the film overall, though. The "Boston Hardcore" film is real good from what I've seen of it. SSD is represented real well. I, like anyone who was there at the time, like hearing people reminiscing about the old days.

Rockin' the Olympic. (Joseph Henderson photo)
--We've heard all sorts of rumors on the Internet about Springa's version of SSD and maybe even a real reunion-- what's the scoop on all that?

I don't think a reunion will ever happen other than the four original members maybe jamming together. I can't imagine us ever playing live again. I don't think it would be pretty.

--What are you up to nowadays? Married, kids? Do you still break out the bass?

After SSD, I played in Slapshot for a while. Then I lived in LA and played in a couple of bands out there. I haven't played in a band in about 9 years, and I don't have a desire to ever be in a band again. I pick up the bass from time to time and have jammed with people once or twice, and that's enough. I'm married and have two boys, so hopefully they will carry on the musical torch, so to speak.

Jaime plays as the crowd slams; taking a break, below. (Courtesy photos)


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