Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Crosses: They Don't Say Please -- They're Ready to Get 'em

The Crosses, from left to right:  Mike Olson on drums, Daniel Kubinski on vocals, Joe Sanfelippo on bass and Dave Eck aka LuckyLacquers on guitar. Photo: Fred Fischer.

By Andy

Daniel Kubinski -- the man who possesses the gnarly voice behind the equally raucous Die Kreuzen tunes -- wants to give some of his former band's songs a jarring workout and gouge people's eardrums along the way.

To put his plan into play, he's joined forces with a new trio of bandmates and hammered the moniker The Crosses onto the music terrain.

Next month, Kubinski and crew will hit some stages in Wisconsin and crank out the first Die Kreuzen album from front to back. The 21-song record, which was released in 1984 on Touch and Go Records, clocks in at 29:27. It's a crucial hardcore platter, essential listening for anyone who likes to have the inside of their skull scraped away bit by bit.

As Tim Yohannan so eloquently wrote in his review of the album in MaximumRocknRoll issue #15 in July of 1984: "This is fucking great!" (12 times!)

"We worked so hard in the early years, the four or five of us, if we were lucky enough to have a roadie with us, in the back of a van for hours on end, either freezing our asses off or sweating our asses off. Fucking hell, man, I helped make these toys and now I wanna play with them," Kubinski said over the phone last Saturday. Those were golden times, he added.

My friend John and I sat in his bedroom when the album dropped (along with the "Cows and Beer" EP and the band's offerings on the "Charred Remains" and "The Master Tape" compilations in the early '80s) and unpeeled those songs note by note, scream by scream until we felt like we owned them, as well. It was always a satisfying listen and we felt mentally drained when the record or tape ended.


The Crosses, which is the broken German translation for "die kreuzen," also feature Mike Olson on drums, Dave Eck aka LuckyLacquers on guitar and Joe Sanfelippo on bass.

It's going to be a "fucking ferociously blistering" set, said Kubinski, noting that he's got some killer musicians in his corner. They've been hammering it out in the practice room since early December 2015 and have also penned an original song.

"We're doing our best to reproduce the record, to have that soul that the record has," he added. "I think we're gonna make people smile with it. I think it's gonna be cool. I think people are really gonna have a good time -- just as good of a time as we are."

Kubinski said the songs are a little bit faster and heavier than the originals, and The Crosses can't wait to play some small semi-secret gigs at Wisconsin punk rock bars next month before the big WMSE 35th Anniversary show on March 26 at the Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee.

"We feel we like we need to get our swerve on, so to speak, before we start doing these bigger shows. We need to kind of get a band face going here, so that should help," he said.

Also on The Crosses' agenda are gigs in Portland on May 20 and Seattle on May 21. In Seattle, they'll play with Toe Tag, which features former Fartz and Accused singer Blaine Cook, one of Kubinski's early hardcore heroes. He's stoked for this pairing, of course.

Art: Richard Kohl


Kubinski has the blessings of other original members Erik Tunison (drums) and Keith Brammer (bass) to dive into The Crosses. Original guitarist Brian Egeness has been out of the picture since he quit the band 24 years ago, and Jay Tiller took over six-string duties for a handful of Die Kreuzen gigs in 2012-2013, including the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands, which Cat and I were fortunate to attend and were blown away.

Die Kreuzen was offered more gigs, including Riot Fest in Chicago and the Flow Festival in Finland, but the other guys were either too busy to go for it or they weren't into it.

Kubinski wanted to taste every ounce of those gigs, hence The Crosses' formation.

After The Crosses learned the first five songs on the album, Kubinski felt the band was on the right track and he then emailed Tunison and Brammer. Tunison (who lives in Amsterdam) wrote back right away and told Kubinski to have fun with it. Brammer replied about a week later, saying that he wasn't enamored with the idea, but if it makes the singer happy, he should proceed with the band.

Don't call it Die Kreuzen, they both stressed. Kubinski wasn't going to anyway, and he went with The Crosses.

Kubinski discussed the emails: "(I told them) I really wanna do this, it makes me happy. The guys are seriously good players and you know I wouldn't do this half-ass -- it's gotta be right on or nothing at all. And so you can trust that and you can trust me and I'm not gonna fuck around with our reputation or anything, but I do wanna go after these things, and I just wanna have fun with it."

The singer noted that he misses playing music with his old bandmates, who were inducted into the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Hall of Fame in 2011.

Kubinski with Die Kreuzen at Roadburn in Tilburg, Netherlands in 2013. Photo: Cat Rose


Kubinski has wanted to put Die Kreuzen songs back on the map for years and years after he saw other bands reforming and playing shows.

"Then Flag started to play out, and I'm like, 'Alright, this is a thing, man, you can actually do this,'" he said.

So, he started gathering his new group.

First came LuckyLacquers, whom Kubinski met at the guitarist's disc-mastering business while he handled a release for Go Go Slow, Kubinski's other band in which he plays guitar.

LuckyLacquers told Kubinski that he would carry a cassette of the first Die Kreuzen album around with him wherever he went -- to parties, car rides, wherever -- and he'd make people listen to it.

"And then he followed that up by saying, 'You know, and I can pretty much play most of that record the way it is' ... and then my wheels went from turning to spinning and I'm like, 'Ah, OK,'" Kubinski said with a laugh.

A couple weeks later, he checked out hardcore unit Population Control, which features Sanfelippo on bass.

"They had a couple songs where he was doing some speed picking on bass that was just very Keith Brammer-esque. I'm like, 'Jeez, I think I found the second piece to my puzzle here,'" Kubinski said.

In his search for a stellar drummer, Kubinski looked no further than Olson, his old friend and former bandmate in Decapitado and Enemy Star. Olson also blazed away in Realm, a ripping prog-thrash-metal band that released a couple of records on Roadrunner.

After purchasing a copy of the first Die Kreuzen album, Olson listened to it and told his wife, "'Yeah, these songs are really short and they seem pretty simple, I think I can do this,' which later he countered with, 'This shit is really difficult, I've never played music like this before -- this is crazy intense,'" Kubinski said.

So, what about Kubinski's voice? The set of pipes that were once described as being able to peel paint off walls?

It's different these days, he said, and he's not really growling through the whole set, but he's belting it out at the most important points.

"So, yeah, it works. And we're having fun with it. I'm having a blast." he said. "I can't stop smiling or laughing by the time we get to side two that opens up with 'Pain' then 'Sick People' and then 'Hate Me.' They've got it down pat and I get to add the 'Yo Mamma' right before 'Hate Me' starts."

They've also got Wire's "Pink Flag" and the Germs' "Land of Treason" ready for encores, and they may reach into the "October File" and "Century Days" albums in the future.

Kubinski at Roadburn. Photo: Cat Rose


Rehearsing the album and revisiting the lyrics has been like a trip back in time for Kubinski.

"I remembered who I was and where I was and why I wrote this particular lyric, and the bad times I had in high school. Cuz that's how young I was, some of those lyrics were written when I was like 17 years old," he said. "For the longest time, that stuff would make me feel kind of bad, like I had wasted a whole bunch of time. But over the years, that's changed. I realize that I wasn't wasting time, I was writing what was in my head. I was doing my best to be some kind of an artist or something, freeing up myself to write this stuff."

The songs are angsty and display youthful aggression. There's talk of money woes and people looking down on him in high school, which many of us also experienced.

But those tough times drew him toward something crucial that became his lifeblood: Music.

"It was the one thing that I could get into and crawl into and immerse myself into to forget about what a bad day I'd had at school or outside of school or whatever," he said. "It makes me think back to those times. Actually, I wouldn't change anything because I might not have what I have had I not done what I did, which was move away from Rockford and then pen these songs with my friends."

I noted that we probably wouldn't be talking last Saturday if Kubinski hadn't gone through some hardships, like we all do. I added that we've got to embrace everything from our past because it's part of our life path. Sometimes we cringe a little, but it all happens for a reason.

"Yeah, I totally agree. It's part of who I am and where we were at those times," he said. "And of course, you know, the country was different at that time, Reagan and stuff... So I wouldn't change anything. I love where I've been and where I'm going and there were some dark times here and there, but, like you said, we wouldn't have this."

More Roadburn action. Photo: Cat Rose


Here's LuckyLacquers' Crosses "book report," as he calls it:

Die Kreuzen goes way back for me.  I first heard heard this record in a friend's car on the way home from seeing The Crucifucks and The Burning Ernies at the Wilmar in Madison, WI.  I had actually seen the band multiple times before ever hearing the LP on its own.  Many agree, that the recording is quite an experience.

After that, I was the guy who brought a cassette of the first record to every party, road trip or skate jam, so I could take over the stereo with it.  Even my wife still has the comp tapes I made from back in our high school days with many of these songs in between tracks from 7 Seconds, Crass, MDC, Motorhead, The Fall, The Residents, and she still knows the songs, too.  I used to jam along to the record all the time back then on my Les Paul.  I played in some punk bands, the local venues and house parties back then, O'Cayz, Black Bear, Nottingham, community center shows, etc, etc…nothing too serious and I still have some of the old DK flyers, too.

I didn’t evolve down the same path as the Die Kreuzen guys did, but I witnessed this record become a landmark for punk, HC and metal and I was able to say that I was at the heart of it, here in middle of nowhere Wisconsin, watching and hearing it influence new releases all the time and in pretty much every genre that spawned from punk, from then on.  And when I’d meet someone who knew the record as well as I did, there was always a bond, and the people who it was new to, were always appreciative of being turned on to it.

A couple years after HS, I moved to Minneapolis and as a radio DJ, was always sure to pick a song or two off the first LP for airplay.  Played guitar in a few more bands, again, nothing ever too serious, then moved out west and continued to form bonds with fans of the record, old and new.   One side project even covered and recorded a couple songs, along side a couple tunes from the legendary Born Without A Face from Michigan (aka Mark Dancy / Big Chief / Motorbooty), my second HC favorite from that era.

As a mastering engineer and getting to work with a new punk, HC or metal band every day, I haven’t stopped sharing this record with bands and shredders, young and old.  I especially enjoy enlightening the folks who like to throw around the term “Voivod Chords” and turn them onto Die Kreuzen for the first time, too.  To me and every other local, it's always been the “Die Kreuzen Chords”, a HC style assembled by guitarist, Brian Egeness, the mastermind behind all of these crazy riffs and chords integrated into super-mathy HC.

At a certain point in the '80s, Die Kreuzen were a local staple, "Cows and Beer" was on the local jukebox, and today, what are we on, maybe the 4th or 5th wave of HC in the 2010s?   It's no longer surprising to hear the influence of Die Kreuzen in new music I work on, almost every day.  I mean, some of the songs off of this record date back to the late '70s!  It's really been that long, but this record has effectively influenced all of the modern HC and metal that I hear today, from Voivod to Bane, to the new local up-and-comer.   And let's face it, the new kids didn’t get it from Wire and they didn’t even get it from Die Kreuzen.   And from time to time, I check out one of these “history of metal” books and if I don’t find Die Kreuzen in there as a heavy influence, or even in the appendix, the author has obviously missed out on a lot of history and I don’t need to go any further than that.

With so many generations in between, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that most don’t realize their influence, because the techniques have been handed down generation after generation, just like blast beats, another story entirely.   There is no argument that Die Kreuzen were before their time, or more would know of them today and their connection.  Even after I got into them in the early '80s, these songs dropped off Die Kreuzen's playlist way too fast, and I was local!  So to me, playing and hearing these songs live, the way they were intended, with Dan at the helm, will be a scratch off the bucket list for many.  I'm honored to be a part of it, as well as getting to remaster the "Cows and Beer" EP that came out a couple years back.

The songs we play are still exponentially mind-blowing to anyone who's hearing it for the first time or the hundredth, and very, very much fun to play live!   Happy that Dan still loves to rock them and I know the rest of the guys love to play them too!  21 songs of absolute mayhem!!!   As a band we all intend to honor the material as accurately as we can, and to honor all of the DK band members by playing them, and hopefully even turn their music on to all the new generations of shredders!  And we have new songs in the works, too!

Contact Dave at for more information about vinyl, CD mastering and restoration.

Sanfelippo added:

I first crossed paths with Die Kreuzen at the ripe age of 15 (c. 2006). I worked at a gas station on the south-ish side of Milwaukee, and during my time there I had a habit of wearing T-shirts of my favorite bands to work, much to the ire of my superiors. One day in walks a tall dreadlocked stranger (none other than Daniel Kubinski himself), and upon eyeing my garments he says, "Nice shirt, I opened for those guys back in the day." I replied something like, "No kidding, who the heck are you?" The very next day “Cows and Beer” was crackling away on my hi-fi, and despite being 20-something years late to the party, I was enthralled.

Years go by and out of the hearsay and speculation, Die Kreuzen finally emerge with not just one but several reunion dates! Who WASN'T imagining being on stage with them at that point? What could be more exciting? The live experience was something I never thought I would have the privilege to attend and it far exceeded expectations.

Add a few more years to the count and here we are; The Crosses. Dan approached us individually fall of 2015 and I was on board from the word go. A band playing Die Kreuzen's legendary self-titled LP? Of course I want in, Dan. Of Course I do. Being included in this experience is a huge honor, and a hell of a lot of fun. No one in the know needs me to tell them that the Die-K LP is perhaps the finest specimen of hardcore face-stomping available on the market, both at the time of release and today. The riffs are unforgettable and the lyrics hold a gleaming relevance that haven't aged a day. As for now, we The Crosses eagerly await the day when we finally bring our labors to the public, hoping that all of you will enjoy this as much as we are.

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