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)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Here Comes the Ride: Blair Shehan talks Jealous Sound

The Jealous Sound's Blair Shehan in Seattle. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

Soaring, honest music that has band members and listeners alike reaching for bigger and better things in life.

That's what The Jealous Sound brings to the table with its soft-to-loud dual guitars and rhythm section and mellow-to-intense vocals from lead man Blair Shehan that address the highs and lows of personal relationships.

It's a rough yet inspirational journey the whole way for Shehan, who chatted with us following the band's set on Saturday at El Corazon in Seattle:

--How's the tour been going, how are the new songs translating live? (The new album, 'A Gentle Reminder,' follows the 2008 'Got Friends' mp3 EP, 2003 'Kill Them With Kindness' LP and 2000 'The Jealous Sound' EP.)

You know, it's funny doing new songs: you don't have the muscle memory like old songs; I've played the old songs a jillion times, so when you have new songs, you have to learn the tricks of what those songs require to work and you have to manipulate them, like, 'In this little spot, I'm gonna lay off.' I've forgotten that I've done it with all those old songs because it's been so long. So you have to learn those little tricks and then they get burned into your brain and then you knock them out.

We picked four that we wanted to do this tour or five, and they totally translate, they're a little bit different how they work, so it's a learning curve, you know.

--Are they resonating well with the crowd?

Yeah, they are, but you have to remember, too, they don't know them yet, so they're not burned into their brain either. So, we're all learning them together kind of thing. It's great.

--It's kind of got to be an exciting experience to bring these out, try them out live with a crowd that would know the bulk of the (old) songs.

It's funny, you prepare as much as you can when you hit the road, and then if something rears its head, you have to fix it on the fly. There's no real time-- you have your soundchecks, 'Oh let's deal with that hot spot' or whatever. You pack your bags, you cross your fingers, you hit the road. I always liken it to scuba diving: once it starts, you have to think on your feet, 'OK, what do you do?' It's not like you're at home and be thoughtful about it, you're like, 'Oh, I gotta fix this quick,' that's what it reminds me of.

-- That's rock and roll, that's what makes rock and roll exciting is being in the moment and never really knowing what's gonna happen.

And I think the thing that I've learned over the years more than anything is, it's like a currant, it's like a river, it just flows... it comes and it goes, and it's like, 'OK, how is it overall?' -- it's great, it's fun. If you bog down in your details, you suck the life out of everything anyway.

You just roll with it, have fun -- I fuck up, somebody else fucks up, it doesn't matter, I'll go and give you a hug. It's like, 'Cool, we'll do better next time.' It's not that important, it's more about how the whole thing feels. That's what I walk away with and I hope the audience walks away with. Overall, we had a good time, you had a great time, it's an awesome ping-ponging back of energy.

--The neat thing that I find about your guys' music, since we've known your music over the years (with Knapsack, as well), it's almost like when you're listening to it, you're reaching for the sky, you're reaching for your hopeful moment. In your music and your writing lyrics, what's the inspiration for that?

(Pauses in thought) We started to make the second record a long time ago, and I didn't finish it, and those songs were sort of... it was a different vibe at the time-- both of these records, it is what it is, I've had rough patches in life that were either self-caused or happened to me before each one, so they were pretty monumental.

Records to me in my life are like meaning and purpose, and it's something to dive into and do and accomplish, and if I've had the rough time --it's like, sort that out. It's not over till you're dead is my view, so whatever mistakes we've made or things that have happened or things that I've done poorly to other people and have been done poorly to me, that's all OK. There's tomorrow, so I always reach toward that. It's not the end of the world.

--We're always learning each day.

Yeah. I didn't think I was gonna make music again, my path took a different turn, and I was so grateful when my life took this turn that I could go back to that and dive into that. It legitimately gave me a meaning and purpose to do something in my life.

I feel so lucky that people still are here and I can do this thing. It's what I've always done. I walked away from it because it was difficult for me to do and it caused me a lot of anxiety and self doubt and it humbled me.

--It's the break between the first album and now?

I left because it was so difficult to do and it required so much out of me. The process was so difficult and I'd kind of be self destructive around it, I didn't really know how to operate very well.

So what I tried to do when I came back to it was, 'Oh, how do I handle this in a way that's good and healthy?,' 'How do I do this process in a way that will make sense for my life?' Coming back to it was a great learning experience  with a whole different set of tools and whole different viewpoint on how these things get done and how it interacts with my life. I can't overstate how important for me it was personally, it was really great for me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Battalion of Saints' 'Fighting Boys' -- four songs is all you need on this blistering record

By Andy

Before I even heard a note, I knew that Battalion of Saints was my band.

The name was intriguing, and I could just imagine that the San Diego band would be rock solid and make my 15-year-old ears bleed.

In early 1982, I believe, I got my chance to experience the aural attack for the first time via a mix tape that Tim Tonooka of Ripper magazine from San Jose sent my way to Redondo Beach. It was in the pages of Ripper that I first saw the BATS' eye-catching, spiky and winged-like logo, and the head-crunching tunes on the four-song "Fighting Boys" EP matched it perfectly.

Smith, Olson, Frame and Anthony-- "Fighting Boys" back cover.
Guitarist Chris Smith's chunky, wailing riffs, Ted Olson's crisp drumming, George Anthony's "I Wanna Make You" screams and Dennis Frame's fluid bass leaped out of the speakers of my Sony Walkman and into my willing brain forevermore.

If "Fighting Boys," "E/B," "Modern Day Heroes" and, of course, "I Wanna Make You Scream" were the last four songs ever written, I would have been a happy lad to be privileged to hear them. Just the perfect blend of hardcore and metal to satisfy my musical palate. Even though I'd replaced my old AC/DC and Van Halen records with Minor Threat and Black Flag vinyl platters at that point, I was now thrilled to be hearing a glorious mixture of the two styles.

The "Mad" Marc Rude skulls cover gave the tunes an intense feel, as well.

June 11, 1982, was a big night: BATS at Bob's Place in LA and I was not going to be denied. I offered to ride in the trunk of a friend's car to the gig since the inside was packed. Really, I would have done it! However, I managed to squeeze inside, and we were off. In short, it was everything I thought it would be: just a blazing set and lots of sweat and energy.

Smith told me of a gig about a month later in San Diego with the BATS playing with Minor Threat (Husker Du and Men of Clay would later complete the killer bill) at the International Blend on 30th Street, and thankfully, my friend Mike and I were in attendance. Once again: raging.

I soon struck up a pen-pal friendship with the band, and live and demo tapes, T-shirts and stickers came my way. Whenever I saw them live in LA, we'd always chat and have a good time.

The last time I saw the band live was at the Vex, and after they finished, Smith spotted me from the crowd and gave me a firm handshake with his bloody hand-- he was playing his axe so damn hard, you know.

I saw Smith and Anthony about a year later at a Husker, Minutemen, Meat Puppets and SWA gig in San Diego -- at least I got a chance to speak with Smith before he passed away not too long after that. A true guitar warrior, for sure.

(This story originally ran in issue #6 of McHank's Perpetually Twelve fanzine.!/pages/Perpetually-Twelve/295656287130890 )

Saturday, February 18, 2012

'Noshing and Moshing' -- Freaks and Geeks: the Punk Episode

By Cat

From the very first episode of Freaks and Geeks, we were hooked. 

From quotes like:

* "Hey, I believe in God, man. I've seen him, I've felt his power. He plays drums for Led Zeppelin and his name is John Bonham." (Nick)

* "Then how did he get them to name the band after him?" (On Santana) ... Daniel: "I don't know, man. Maybe he's just a bad ass."

* To Lindsey's father saying:  "Well, Neil Peart (Rush) couldn't drum his way out of a paper bag."

* And to one of the best all-time quotes:  "I have to get into a bar. Everything fun in life happens in bars." (Ken)

It's no wonder that this show resonated with us.  It also figures that a show this classic and filled with such a great cast would not last more than one season.  But at least we have that one season to relish, and it doesn't take much reasoning to figure out the episode that we have watched the most...


The punk part of the episode starts out when Daniel Desario (James Franco), Ken Miller (Seth Rogen) and Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel) scope out Jenna Zank (a dropout from their high school working at the local liquor mart).  Zank is sporting a bleached-blond spiked "do," somewhat pineapple-esque.  Nick says, "She used to be so hot", but Desario thinks she's still hot, then Ken observes, "if you like clowns," as she is spotted reading a Slash Fanzine with Darby Crash on the cover.

In this episode, we get a look into Desario's life, which is bleak.  The glimpse in this episode into his background shows why he is somewhat of a fuck-up.  Between his mother asking him to skip school or be late to help take care of his dad (having no regard for his education) and his girlfriend Kim Kelly (Busy Phillips) constantly nagging him and calling him a loser, he starts to pull away.  After he picks up some medication for his dad, he then goes to his room and pulls out what appears to be his first punk LP, and it's an excellent choice:  Black Flag, "Damaged" and plays "Rise above"...feeding his angst.

So as soon as Kim breaks up with Daniel again (as he was being distant and they break up every week anyway), he goes back to that liquor store to try to impress the "punk chick".  As they discuss his and Kim's breakup, he quips that part of the reason is that "she's not a punker, I am".  She quickly clarifies, as any proper punk chick would do, "you know what punkers don't themselves punkers".   Desario attempts to redeem himself by stating he listens to The Clash, Iggy, Ramones and Sex Pistols and she confirms:  "all the obvious guys".  He then claims he listens to more obscure stuff, too, so why would he not mention his recent Black Flag purchase to her is a question.

She lets him in on a show at the "Armpit" downtown (obviously the person on the writing staff that came up with that club name was out of ideas).  Prior to him heading to the club, the camera breaks away to show him trying to "punkify" his jacket with his boot and hubcap poundings and then he hits it with the safety pins (a classic staple of the early '80s- I would often wear the safety pins as earrings myself).  As he is listening to X's "Your Phone's Off The Hook, But You're Not"...(another missed mention to Zank), he cuts up his T-shirt and jeans, and then growls at himself in the mirror --his look is not quite complete yet, so he starts in on the egg whites. 

Somehow, the next time we see him, his spiked hair is blue, how did that happen?  -maybe he mixed the egg whites with the ol' Kool-Aid? As he heads to the gig, he picks up Nick and Ken, who promptly start giving him shit.  Ken states:  "Hey Nick, maybe you'll get lucky at the punk club tonight"..."think so?" (Desario)...(Ken again) "sure, all these punk girls hate themselves, that's gotta improve your chances." Ken's just going with what he knows here, which is obviously not much.
Nick asks if he can use him to clean out his ear later, and Ken:  "Edgar Winter called, he said he needs his hair back for a gig tonight"..."we'll see who looks stupid when we get there," counters Desario. 
As they arrive at the "Pit," punk band Diesel Boy is playing "Lime Green." Their song "Punk Rock 101"  fittingly plays later.  Desario yells: "man isn't this great!"... Ken:  "Yeah, no one has carded us and I like it" ... "yeah, no rules, we do what we want here"---like Desario knows. 

Ken, of course, heads to to the bar as Desario runs into a punk who swigs his beer and spits in the air and he yells "yeaaah," and Desario follows suit.  Nick calls the bartender a bastard and Ken says that he's only serving people with stupid haircuts, so he tells Daniel to go get the drinks-- "bite me" Desario says.  He then spots his punk pineapple honey across the bar.  She does not recognize him and he claims that this is the "real" him when she says he looks different.  He says that "Puss"  rules, referring to the current band onstage and she clarifies that it's "Pus" and they are up next.

Later, Desario, never being in a pit before, gets kicked in the head and starts bleeding --seems he has realized he may be out of his element.  In the bathroom, some real poser wearing a red lightning bolt shirt says to him "man can you believe how many posers are out there?" Desario gets defensive immediately, showing his wound to prove that he is not one of them.  When he gets out of the bathroom, he claims his head is "just another battle scar" to piney queen ---his angst and willingness to prove that he is not a poser causes him to almost get an impromptu piercing, but then pineapple princess starts making out with another guy and he flinches, getting the needle stuck in his nose instead.

He finally gives up and leaves with Nick, but they can't find Ken.  Ken is then seen jamming in the least he got it. 

After his adventure into the punk scene, Daniel then goes back to Kim with his tail between his legs.  With Dean Martin's "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" playing, Desario goes back to Kim where he begrudgingly belongs.

This was also the episode where Neal and his freaky "figure" appeared, and Lindsey's father, Harold, gets drunk.  So when you think about it, there is really something for everyone.

For a Diesel Boy interview, click here:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Henry n' HR: The Bad Brains' 'Pay to Cum' has never sounded so brilliant

Henry Rollins and HR with Andy's brother, Ed, stage right. (Anna Summa photo)
Since the above photo generated much discussion on the Black Flag Facebook page this week, we now give you the lowdown on that gig for the ages:

By Andy

HR and the Bad Brains were in full swing, absolutely raging to the ferocious punk-rock beat, when some guy turned around and yelled, "What's PMA stand for?"

"Positive Mental Attitude!" I blasted back, but I'm not sure if the guy heard me over the roaring vocals, guitars and drums -- all steamrolling toward us with such finesse that all other bands that evening seemed useless.

And when Henry Rollins joined the band on stage for the finale, "Pay to Cum," forget about it. Nothing could top that.

The night was March 12, 1982. The place was the Ukrainian Cultural Center on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Seven bucks for the Bad Brains, Bad Religion, the Lewd and Jody Foster's Army. A powerhouse bill that was hard to beat.

JFA's "Blatant Localism" EP had been a staple on mine and brother Ed's turntable for awhile, so we were stoked to hear "Beach Blanket Bongout" and other tunes live. If my memory serves me correctly, singer Brian Brannon displayed his own version of double-fisting during JFA's set: mic in one hand and a joint in the other.

We also had our eyes on the Lewd that night since its "American Wino" LP was one of our faves, as well. J. Sats Beret whined and gargled his way through the set to our approval, and bassist Olga de Volga and the rest of the SF crew powered things home.

Unfortunately, the cops were up next as they crashed the party-- to our disapproval-- and threatened to pull the plug on the gig because of some problems with the punks outside. After a long wait, and much worrying that we wouldn't get to see the Bad Brains, things were sorted out and the cops toddled off into the night.

Bad Religion then ripped through its set of favorites -- I believe the brilliant "New Leaf" was in there -- but most of us were already leap-frogging the locals' time in the spotlight for what awaited us next.

Yes, Washington, DC's Bad Brains were in the house, and they tore it up in some spots and slowed it down reggae-style in others. And Mr. Rollins and HR brought it all home with a bang in the end.

But that would not be the last we'd hear from those four bands.

A few weeks later, the Bad Brains did it again as they joined the Circle Jerks, Circle One and Public Nuisance for a gig at Devonshire Downs. I'd see the BB's a few more times over the years, but they were never as potent as those first two times in '82. That ROIR cassette still gets some serious airplay around mine and Carrie's home.

JFA surfaced in the LA area again a few months later with Battalion of Saints (!) and the Blades at Bob's Place. I saw them again later at the Whisky, and many years down the road with Carrie at the Hey Punk! festival in Seattle as Brannon traded in his "green" for a piano on some songs. Fu Manchu did "Bongout" right with a solid cover.

We all know what happened to Bad Religion-- some good songs and a lot of average ones that led them into the mainstream. I used to be afraid of my parents seeing their "cross-buster" logo on fliers that adorned the bedroom wall, but it eventually didn't shock as much over time. It's still hard for them to best "New Leaf" in my mind.

The Lewd has also stayed with me over time: I've seen them three times up here in Seattle (where they started out), including two nights straight at the old Breakroom. Beret's body and vocal cords are a bit worn these days, but he can still bring it. "Public Execution" is one of their great "lost" songs and "Dressed in Black" is a stunner.

As for Henry, he did his Black Flag thing well, but a few months after his HR pairing, he crowded up to the stage with us for a Minor Threat gig at Dancing Waters in San Pedro and sang along with Ian MacKaye on "Seeing Red" like he owned the song. Another killer night with Hank and another one of his DC brethren hit the spot for us punk-rock faithful.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Metal Frenzy with Black Breath and Crew at the Comet Tavern

Black Breath in action. (All Cat Rose pics)
By Cat

The Comet Tavern in Seattle may be way too small to fit another Black Breath gig.  Apparently, it was advertised in a local newspaper as the "place to be" that night, but as far as our crew is concerned, a Black Breath gig is always where it’s at. And Friday night’s gig (1/27/12) did not disappoint.

We got there early to secure our entrance, a little too early-- the tables were still out, which they quickly removed entirely along with most of the chairs.  Usually they will just move the tables sideways for crowded shows, but for this one, they had to completely go. 

Occult SS, above and below.

It was quickly packed as the first band hit the stage, Occult SS, who powered through their hard-hitting set.  Next up, Leatherhorn, who almost knocked it out of the park with singer Jeff swaying, screaming, screeching and sweating on and at the crowd.  Third was Scourge Schematic, loading the bases with the crowd in tow, and then the Grand Slam: Black Breath.

Leatherhorn, top and bottom.

Scourge Schematic, above and below.

Black Breath worked it as they always do with a new guitar player to boot (at least since the last time we saw them).  As they blasted out their set, I had no choice but to get into the crowd with my SLR and work my way to the front, got up on a chair and was there for a few songs, then eventually was knocked down. But the bruises that are still with me today (5 days later) were totally worth it.  My neck also paid the price for the continuous head banging (when not taking photos), but seriously, whose wouldn't?

And here are some of the Black Breath results, enjoy: