Thursday, March 29, 2012

Faith or Void? They both turn up the heat on this classic Dischord split LP from 1982

By Andy

"I'm gonna make their society bleed."

So sings the Faith's Alec MacKaye on "It's Time," one of many songs from both that band and the raucous Void that make up the sharp, mind-bending and thought-provoking split album from 1982 on Dischord Records.

If you switch the word "society" to "ears" in the above lyric, that's where Void comes into play. It's a rough-and-tumble, smash-and-grab punk-metal amalgamation that set the stage for many bands to come.

On the Faith side, you've got more subdued -- but still raging in its own right -- fare that I'm sure got the slam pit roaring, as well as digging into people's minds with the personal-politics style of lyrics that we all can relate to.

Whether you champion the Void side or praise the Faith, it's a corker of an album.

The following Void lyrics, sung by the wailing John Weiffenbach on "My Rules," sum up both sides of the album:

"I'm not the hand of their tools, I'm gonna live by my rules/ Why should I listen to those fools? I'm gonna live by my rules."

So now, we'll let Void bassist Chris Stover and Faith guitarist Michael Hampton take over with a Q-and-A session about the record and the bands:

* Give me a brief rundown of where you're at today: age, married (kids?), where you live, job, bands?-- anything else.

STOVER: Forty-something married man with two daughters living in San Francisco working in mobile software. I dabble in music, but not a full-time profession.

HAMPTON: I'm 46, married, have two daughters and live in Brooklyn, NY. I write music for a living, lots of television scores, sound a-likes, advertising, etc. Not in a band anymore, but trying to put something together.

* When you think of the Faith/Void album, what first comes to mind?

STOVER: Good times. A lot of things that a teenager at that day and age may have not had the experience of.

HAMPTON: I'm proud that 30 years later, people think enough of that band to ask questions like this! And I still like the Faith songs, I can remember writing most of them (what I was stealing from actually).

* It's solid from back to front, are you surprised that people still discuss it highly today? What makes this LP stand up after all these years?

STOVER: I think Kenny Inouye (Marginal Man) said it best, "Either you loved Void or you hated Void." I would guess it is the former that is growing, which is a good thing. Am I surprised? Yes.
I think that it pushes different genres, which is why it appeals to different audiences.

HAMPTON: I'm not sure. I'm glad people think it "stands up," there was so much great punk stuff coming out then. I'm really happy the demo recorded the fall before the LP came out this year as I always liked it better and it seems to be getting some critical respect.

* What are the highlights of the album from your band's standpoint?

STOVER: Listening to the album, you hear the growth of the mayhem.

HAMPTON: Well, I can only speak for myself, but it was a thrill to have anything released then. Keep in mind, we were in high school, didn't tour, barely had any equipment, etc. Song-wise, a highlight for me was "What You Think," one of the "newer" songs we recorded for the LP. The older numbers are better represented on the demo, I think. Honestly, can't remember much about the band's collective impressions of the record at the time.

* How do you feel about the other band's performance on the LP?

STOVER: I am biased because any band Alec MacKaye was involved in, I am huge fan. Add in Chris, Ivor, Mike & Eddie, it is hard not to love. That said, their performance is a singular sonic experience. As a band, we always admired that.

HAMPTON: Haven't listened to the Void side in years, but remember it as an Insane, extremely energetic performance that really didn't sound like anything else.

* Both bands are very different musically and lyrically and give the listener two sides of the punk coin-- does this matter in the grand scheme of things, or is it just great music to dig in to?

HAMPTON: I don't think the differences matter, unless of course you factor in the negative comparisons I've heard over the years. Musically, I think we were more rooted in English punk, the bad brains and California stuff. void were more rock or metal, or what would become metal, but I can't speak to Void's actual influences.

* Were Faith and Void close friends beforehand, and if not, did it bring the bands together in the name of this split LP?

HAMPTON: The way the split LP came about was interesting. We weren't friends with Void, although we were friendly, I think we had played together a couple of times. As I remember it, Dischord wanted to put out records by both bands, but didn't have the money to do so. Ian had the idea of doing the split and had to do some convincing. We weren't too thrilled by the idea, but at the same time we got to have a record out this way. In retrospect, we should have waited and done our own LP. I don't remember any new bond with Void as a result, but I'm pretty sure we played more shows together.

* Void has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for their style of music being ahead of their time and influential, do you think it's unfair that people often forget that the Faith side of the LP has some stellar tunes on it, as well?

STOVER: People I talk to usually say the Void/Faith record is a great comparison in styles. I don't think people forget about the Faith side at all. The new Faith release is on heavy rotation for me.

HAMPTON: I think Void deserve that attention, they were in fact, ahead of their time and influential. That said, I do think the Faith side has suffered from that attention and would have been better received at the time, and certainly historically, if we had each done separate records. If you listen back to back, the Faith side sounds a bit ordinary (although it has its champions).

* What was going on in your minds when you wrote the Void music? It's considered pretty groundbreaking these days-- did you have any kind of a game plan in mind?

STOVER: Hardcore provided an outlet for us to channel our rage and all the crazy hormones that were going on with us at the time. The game plan was to cause mayhem.

* Faith members would go on to make their marks in other important bands like Embrace and Ignition (and Rites of Spring when you factor in Eddie Janney later; Happy Go Licky and One Last Wish, as well)-- how important was your time in the Faith in pushing you forward? What were some key factors in making the Faith work well as a band?

HAMPTON: As far as Faith pushing us forward, I think we were all growing musically, and literally growing up. It was a very creative period for my friends and I-- we listened to a lot of different music and were influenced by it (although it doesn't often sound like it). The bands that follow were a pretty natural progression, and all of that stuff happened in a relatively short period of time. I think about mostly what DIDN'T  work in the Faith. It was a pretty "seat of the pants" affair, with some great moments of ram-shackled brilliance. We had some interpersonal problems (mostly myself and Mr. Bald), were teenagers (problematic by definition), in high school (16-17 years old) and had no equipment (no amps, just guitars). It's kind of amazing that we got it together enough to do what we did do (played CBGB's, recorded a bunch of songs, played with some cool bands, etc.).

 * Do you still think about Void and Faith today? Do songs or riffs pop into your head when you're going about your daily routine? Was it a special time in your life when the Faith/Void LP came out?

STOVER: I think about Void more today because of the new release. Overall, I think more about the time and people. It most definitely was a special time. We got to play shows, travel some and hang out with a great group of people.

HAMPTON: I think about some of the songs. "It's Time" especially pops in my head. I actually wrote that riff when I was 13 as a "rock" song. Later, it was an SOA song called "Red to Black", I think, with a chorus "influenced" by the fantastic Enzymes, and that became "It's Time" in the Faith-- one of the only songs Alec wrote lyrics for; Chris Bald wrote the words to most everything else. I still remember how to play all the songs (and sometimes do). Attention: Faith cover bands. I can show you the weird made-up chords.

Void: Singer John Weiffenbach, guitarist Bubba Dupree, bassist Chris Stover and drummer Sean Finnegan (RIP).

Faith: Singer Alec MacKaye, guitarist Michael Hampton, bassist Chris Bald and drummer Ivor Hanson; Eddie Janney joined the band for the "Subject to Change" LP.

Recent Dischord releases: Faith’s “Subject to Change + First Demo” and Void’s “Sessions 1981-83.”

Bubba Dupree -- above, with Hater in Seattle, 2005; below, with Brant Bjork's band in Vancouver, BC, 2014. (Andy photos)

Ivor Hanson, author -- this is a great read.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moral Crux headlines Chaospalooza at Seattle's Funhouse

Moral Crux vocalist James Farris. (All Cat Rose photos)

By Andy

James Farris digs talking about professional baseball and football just as much as national and world affairs and punk music.

The Elvis-like hip-shake and arm swing that the Moral Crux singer occasionally performs on stage might help him dodge a defender or two if he was a running back heading for the end zone.

Together since 1983, the band trekked its way from Ephrata to Seattle's Funhouse for the 10th annual Chaospalooza on March 24. Moral Crux headlined and were joined on the bill by fellow punk bands The Bloodclots, Toe Tag, No Red Flags, Potty Mouth Society, The Load Levelers, The Whorewoods, Gutter Gourmet and Shakin' Michael J. Dressed in purple and donning a wrestling mask, wild El Caballero was the host for the evening of raucous music.

Jeff Jenkins, Moral Crux guitarist.
Andy caught up with Farris outside of the Funhouse during the show:


We get kind of pigeonholed into this pop-punk thing-- we're just a political punk-rock band that has melody like early punk rock, like the Clash, Generation X, the Jam and stuff.


Yeah, probably even more so; We've really grown musically, too, we've always been not afraid to do whatever. We've always got really great reviews, all these gushing reviews and all this stuff, but we've never really had the fortune to find good management or somebody to kind of back us, which you kind of need.


Obviously, the Occupy Wall Street deal; right now, as far as labor unions, they make up what, maybe 10 percent of the population, whereas say in the early '70s, maybe it was like 30 percent, and a lot of things like that.

You know the whole thing with technology, too, how that's affecting us socially, being somewhat muted as people just, whether it be like resolving conflicts or whatever, being able to kind of come up and talk to people, the whole texting thing. I suppose it has its purpose, but it just seems when it starts to kind of run you. And then, the whole Facebook thing, I just tell people, 'Why don't you just go talk to your real friends?' It's got a use, like if you're in a band or if you have relatives way far away...

Jamie Jaspers on bass.


(Playing live, meeting people, exchanging ideas in person) is not what it used to be. I don't know, maybe it's today people have got so many more entertainment choices ...Music used to be a bigger part of the culture, I think, now it seems, oh there's this ... The whole thing, too, with the Internet as far as bands, you can pretty much download anybody's catalogue somewhere for free -- and it's kind of hard to compete with free. It just seems like everybody thinks like, 'Oh, you're in a band, why shouldn't you just give away your music?' And they don't understand, 'Yeah, well, that would be great, but if I need my house shingled, are you gonna come do that for free, and I'll give you a bunch of songs or I'll give you a bunch of records?'

Blaine Cook, Toe Tag

Blaine Cook, Toe Tag vocalist who formerly sang with the Fartz and Accused, weighed in about playing music for 30-plus years:

"Feels pretty fucking good. I'm getting the opportunity to play music with some really talented guys. We all get along and enjoy what we're doing. Playing music for the fun of it with no delusions of greatness. Toe Tag, we just do our thing. I couldn't really say that we're trying to convey anything. Loud fast rules? I/we've all been at it for 30 some years-- I've known Alex and Steve both since around that 1981 time frame and met our bass player Steve maybe around that '89-'90 time frame. Would be great and kind of creepy at the same time for the younger crowd to embrace what we do."

Cook added: "I guess I'd toss the question back to you. You saw us play-- is what we're doing at all relevant? Or are we just a bunch of old guys trying to fit in?"

Andy's reply: "I definitely think what you guys are doing is relevant-- rocking out, great musicianship, stage presence, intensity, etc. Just what I'm always looking for in a band (I'm 45 and still as passionate about music as ever). You guys are spot-on."

Toe Tag's Steve McBeast with El Caballero; Alex "Maggot Brains" Sibbald, below.


Until next time ...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Smokin' with the Shamrocks in Seattle on St. Patty's Day

Smokin' Shamrocks' Cormac Duffin. (Andy photos)
Since St. Patty's day was on a Saturday and coincided with the first Seattle Sounders soccer game of the year, we decided to hit (Irish bar) Kells' all-day music fest. Here are a few shots Andy got of the Smokin' Shamrocks rocking the outdoor tent.  While we always appreciate a jammin' jig, the Shamrocks raised the level to even more of a foot-stompin' frenzy. 
P.S. The Sounders beat Toronto, 3-1, so it was a solid Saturday.

Cormac Duffin (from Toomebridge, Co. Antrim) is on fiddle, mandolin, whistle and vocals, and Ross Alexander (from Carrickfergus) is on guitar and vocals.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cornwell and Matlock pack a classic-punk punch

Hugh Cornwell in Seattle. (Andy and Cat pics)
By Andy and Cat

Hugh Cornwell smiled at the crowd and noted that he was quite pleased with the way he took a few songs and formed them into a Stranglers sandwich to start off his set. Some nice tasty morsels slapped together into a hunk of classic punk at Seattle's El Corazon last night.

When the dust had cleared, Cornwell -- backed by drummer king Clem Burke of Blondie fame and bassist Steve "Fish" Fishman -- bit into a host of Stranglers classics like "Hanging Around," "Peaches" and "Nice N' Sleazy" along with some solo tunes like "Nerves of Steel" and others.

Glen Matlock
It was Burke's second round on the skins, as he backed Glen Matlock earlier in the evening during his set of tunes from the Sex Pistols, Rich Kids and Philistines. Burke gave each man's tunes an extra kick in the ass with his match of finesse and sledgehammering on his drum kit. (Although Cat and Andy had to take pics with our plan-B camera since the bands' policy didn't permit SLRs in the venue, we still captured the scene well. We also came to the conclusion that no camera could truly nail down Burke's drumming style. It needs to be seen to be believed.)

As for original Pistol Matlock, he engaged the crowd with his sense of humor and go-getter attitude as he rolled through "God Save the Queen," "Pretty Vacant," "Burning Sounds" and "Ghosts of Princes in Towers," from you know who and Rich Kids, respectively, along with Philistines songs like "On Something," "Idiot" and more.

Fishman and guitarist James Stevenson (Chelsea, Generation X, Gene Loves Jezebel and the current Alarm lineup) joined the Matlock crew during his set.

Local openers Red Jacket Mine and Toxic Kid set the stage for the one-two Matlock/Cornwell punch.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Peter Case & Paul Collins: Bringing back the songs of The Nerves (along with some Plimsouls and Beat tunes)

Peter Case, left, and Paul Collins in Seattle. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

Peter Case once called me from a pay phone in Hollywood.

Thanks to my former journalism adviser at San Jose State University -- and Case's ex-brother-in-law -- the man who practically helped invent power pop in the mid-'70s with The Nerves and Breakaways chatted with me in '89 about his second solo album, "The Man with the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar," for the Spartan Daily.

I caught the ex-Plimsouls leader at Club Oasis on that tour and was impressed with how the acoustic tunes from his solo LPs translated live.

Twenty-three years later, Case jammed an electric guitar into his hands while rocking along with former Nerves/Breakaways bandmate Paul Collins (he has his stellar Beat, too) at Seattle's Funhouse on March 2.

Alongside Amos Pitch on drums and Timm Buechler on bass, the two old pals rolled through a 25-song set of numbers that spanned their careers (see set list!)

4-song EP from 1976: Jack Lee, left, Collins and Case
Backstage after the gig, Case pointed at my Nomads T-shirt and reminisced about writing a song (with Jeffrey Lee Pierce) in the mid-'80s for the Swedish band: "Call Off Your Dogs." When he was in Stockholm, the band kept him up all night to write lyrics for the tune, he laughed.

Collins and Case each spoke with me briefly about playing together again and embarking on a two-month tour (Seattle was the second stop):

* COLLINS, who noted that he and Case played a show together a couple of years ago with their respective bands, but they haven't played in the same band for more than 30 years --

I think it's going great, we've got a crack backup band and the songs speak for themselves, so it's really kind of easy.

I would say more people have not heard of (The Nerves) than people who have heard of them -- but I don't care about that. It feels great, I'm very proud of what we did. Those songs will live on forever-- I love it. It's just wonderful... you know, you work hard and you can do good things.

(On memories of playing with Case)...It's more looking forward, that it's fun to be doing this and that we can, that's what I think. It's great to hear those songs again, play them again -- it's a rush.

* CASE --

You know what's great? For me, it's like a lot of fun: One, we've got a lot of history, you know, and I've always believed that soul is when you're proud of where you've been. So, if you've got history with people, it's nice to be able to go -- even if it's not just a group, but friends or something -- to be able to go out and share life with some people you go way back with is always a real fun thing to do. So, that's good, even though there's certain difficulties we've always had working together, we love working together, because it's really fun...

The other thing about it is the song catalogue that we made up. All these songs from back before 1983, it's really fun to kind of revive them and bring them back around because we made them at the time to be sort of timeless-- we never went with gimmicks or the time.

Andy's Spartan Daily review from '89, plus pic below by Kendra Luck