Monday, December 3, 2012

Youth Brigade: Full speed ahead in DC after 31 years

Youth Brigade 2012: From left, Steve Hansgen, Nathan Strejcek, Danny Ingram and Bert Queiroz. Photo was taken on 16th Street NW in DC, across the road from where the original sign stood, pictured on the cover of the band's "Possible" EP. Strejceck is wearing the same leather jacket from the old days. (Sally Ingram photo)

They'll be part of the "Salad Days: The DC Punk Revolution" documentary party in the nation's capitol on Dec. 28-29, playing a short set along with Black Market Baby, Dag Nasty, Kingface, Scream and GI.

By Andy

Our tall, friendly mailman sporting a pith helmet was sometimes a savior --- often an enemy.

During the early '80s, I religiously ordered records from Dischord, Touch and Go and other crucial labels that shipped the hardcore tunes I craved to my Redondo Beach, Calif., doorstep from the East Coast and Midwest. When I got home from school, I'd painfully wait for that mailman to arrive and hope that he had what I wanted in his sack of packages and letters. I was a stalker of sorts, peeking out the window or around the corner looking for that guy.

On the days he came empty handed of the precious vinyl, I was bummed. On one dreary weekday, I remember thinking: "That fucking Dischord package with my Youth Brigade, Government Issue and Necros 7-inches should have been here by now." I'd heard of these bands, but I needed to hear them. Now!

And then one day, a light must have shone down from above as the records finally arrived. The mail guy was smiling --- as he always did, but this time I accepted his toothy greeting, grabbed the records and bolted inside to my stereo.

Youth Brigade 1981: From left, Tom Clinton, Strejcek, Ingram and Queiroz. EP front cover.

EP back cover.
As Bert Queiroz's distorted bass line kicked off the Youth Brigade "Possible" EP, I knew something killer was on its way. Danny Ingram clicked in with his drum sticks and then barking frontman Nathan Strejcek and guitarist Tom Clinton jumped in simultaneously to bring the opening cut, "It's About Time That We Had a Change," to life.

"I'm sick of things the way they are ---- It's about time that we had a change!" That's the stuff, I thought.

One after another, the tunes kept coming: "Full Speed Ahead," "Point of View," "Barbed Wire," "Pay No Attention," "Wrong Decision" and "No Song" --- eight minutes and 50 seconds of raw, raging punk anthems that I still hold in high regard today, 31 years later. (There's also "No Song II" --- Nathan just screams, "No!!!," but it's something my brother, Ed, and I  always had a fun time imitating.)

The other night, I listened to the the "Possible" EP on Spotify because I was too lazy to walk downstairs and spin that original vinyl 7-inch. Times have changed--- and it's about time, right? ha ha....

Following is an e-mail interview with Ingram, whom I befriended on the Dag Nasty Web site. He touches upon Youth Brigade's past and present and his time in the DC punk scene and beyond, including a stint playing drums for Swervedriver. Cat and I saw him play with them once at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco ---- and when I was up front, I yelled out "Full Speed Ahead" in between songs; he probably didn't hear me, but I felt I did my Youth Brigade duty by giving it a shot.
(Oh, and those Government Issue and Necros 45's were solid, too.)

Youth Brigade 2012 practice: View from behind Ingram's drum kit-- from left, Strejcek, Queiroz and Hansgen.
(Sam Ingram photo)

**Just some personal info to start: age; family info -- married, kids?; still live in DC?; do you play in any bands?

I turned 51 last June.  My wife, Sally, and I have been married for 15 years and we have two incredible boys: Sam (10) and Noah (6). Both are aspiring musicians!  I still live in the DC area, and have done most of my life…aside from living in London for a year while I was drumming with Swervedriver (back in '92/'93). 

Right now I’m drumming in a band called Dot Dash. We have two CDs out on The Beautiful Music –- a small label based in Ottawa, Ontario.  The band is most often compared to the Jam, Buzzcocks and early UK pop/punk…and has former members of Julie Ocean, Weatherhead, the Saturday People and Modest Proposal. And me -– who was in DC bands like the Untouchables, Youth Brigade, Emma Peel (with John Stabb and Steve Hansgen) and many more. We play out regularly in the DC area and actually have had some great press over our one-and-a-half-year existence.

I also play occasionally with a band called King Mixer. It consists of old bandmates of mine from Radio Blue and Ultra Cherry Violet. It’s kind of a shoe-gaze thing…brooding and such. But we don’t really play out more than once a year, if that. It’s like the punk equivalent of the monthly poker game. Guys get together, play some music, have dinner and drinks…and catch up with each other.  My kids usually tag along with me for those practices and we typically end our rehearsals playing Who songs, or Weezer songs so that my boys can sing along. My 10-year-old actually played drums on “Hash Pipe” last night! His first time sitting behind the kit for a full song. And he was pretty good, if I say so myself.

Youth Brigade from the past. (Paul Nee photo)

** With the DC punk documentary "Salad Days: The DC Punk Revolution" on the horizon, how did Youth Brigade get hooked into the upcoming gigs? How are things going to prepare for your first gig in 31 years?

Scott Crawford interviewed me for the movie a while back. It rekindled some fond feelings about that era. I’m typically not one to do the nostalgia trip, but talking about it at length with Scott reminded me of how great the scene was back in the early days (1978-1982). 

Anyway, Scott contacted me to see if we would be up to doing the Salad Days show. By this point in time, my position on doing a reunion had softened. I’d rejected previous inquiries about doing it –- but this seemed like the right place and the right time.  Three of the original members (Nathan Strejcek, Bert Queiroz and I) will be in the line-up for the show.  Steve Hansgen (former Minor Threat, GI and a million other bands) will be filling in on guitar, as Tom Clinton can’t escape his work and family obligations out in California. Besides, I think Tom is still grounded for stealing his family’s van for Youth Brigade’s one and only (aborted) U.S. tour!!

Nathan and I are still in the area, but Bert is in Brooklyn…so Hunter Bennett (the bassist from Dot Dash) has filled in for the first two practices.  Amazingly, things sound pretty good, considering that none of us have played that “fast” for quite some time.  And I don’t think Nathan has sung in a band since Youth Brigade (though he has played bass in a few unreleased bands, such as Mr. Id and Dear Season). Bert will be coming down for two rehearsals prior to the show…hopefully that will be enough to get us up to speed.

** I still dig the Youth Brigage "Possible" EP after all these years ... what are your thoughts on the record? Do those songs still hold up over time?

It’s funny. I’ve not really listened to the single for nearly 30 years…but I’ve enjoyed revisiting the songs in the last few weeks.  They are better than I remembered…but it’s not really for me to say whether they’ve held up over time. J Mascis, however, did give us a nice shout-out in a recent issue of MOJO. That made my day.

From the "Banned in DC" book. (Susie Josephson photos)

 ** What were the highlights of playing in Youth Brigade?

I don’t remember too many specific highlights. Getting shows back in those days was difficult…but we managed to play a handful. I think the highlight was getting released on Dischord and helping to document the nascent DC punk scene. The aborted tour was funny –- we got as far as Ohio, I think, and had to turn back. I think we ambitiously aspired to heading west…but it turned out that Tom didn’t really have permission to use the van for an extended road trip!  Still, we made friends along the way…and got to play with the Necros and others.

** You were part of the early DC punk scene... How did you get involved with it and what was the scene like back then?

Music has always been an integral part of my life –- so when the punk scene exploded in NY and London in 1976/77, I was on it. It was something that resonated with me -– and has stuck with me my whole life. Nathan and I were two of the first kids in DC to embrace the whole punk culture…which wasn’t easy at the time, since it was not readily understood by parents, friends and such.

Anyway, I saw loads of bands back then and I was buying every record and music publication I could get my hands on. Oddly enough, the thing that got me off the sidelines and into a band was going to see the Clash at the Ontario Theater in Washington in February '79. I hung out with the band after the show and spent quite a while talking with Joe, Mick and Paul about music and such. Joe asked if I was in a band –- and I said no, but that my best friend (Nathan) was. He admonished me to get off the sidelines and get in a band: “You’ve got to do something, create something!”  When someone you admire gives you advice like that, you have to act on it. So I did.

Shortly thereafter, the Untouchables lost their drummer to college life…so I quickly offered to fill in…never having really played the drums.  A few weeks later we were doing our first show together. I played with the Untouchables for about six months or so…and then started Youth Brigade with Nathan in 1980 or so, after the demise of the Teen Idles. 

Back then, the scene was very youthful. Full of energy, rage, curiosity…and a bit of innocence.  It is, by far, my favorite era of the DC harDCore scene.

Some Touch & Go magazine photos.

 ** Who influenced you as a band? Was there a specific moment when you saw a band playing on stage and wanted to give it a go?

Even though my musical tastes inclined more to the UK punk scene, the band itself was largely influenced by bands emerging from the early California punk scene.  Black flag, the Dils, the Circle Jerks and Dead Kennedys probably shaped us more as a band than any of the UK influences. But in DC, we were really trying to establish a sound of our own.  For me, it was definitely the Clash show at the Ontario theater when things clicked about wanting to get into a band.  Prior to that (1979), I’d been quite happy just going to shows and watching other people play.

** What bands shaped you as teenagers and got you into the punk scene?

Back then, the most influential bands for me were the Stooges, the Clash, Ramones, Buzzcocks, 999, Stranglers, Dead Boys, Heartbreakers, Television and such.  I devoured all of it. I still do.

** How did your experiences with YB shape your life? Do you have good, long-lasting memories from those days?

I don’t think there was anything formative that came from playing in Youth Brigade. My memories of Youth Brigade, whether right or wrong, were always that we were quite raw…and teetering on the edge (musically)…kind of like a toy that has been wound too tightly and the springs are about to snap.  That said, I have some amazing memories of that time…and hope to put them down on paper at some point.  But, to me, the most memorable thing about that time wasn’t the music we made –- it was the friendships that I made…and how they have weathered the punk rock ravages of time.  I guess the one important thing is that, as a father, I will likely be able to support my kids in their musical endeavors and better understand what it is they are trying to do.

Slamming to Youth Brigade. (Sarah Woodell photo)

 ** Are you still in touch with guys from the old days? People like Henry and Ian are regarded as important musical figures ... what's it like seeing them grow from the early DC days to now?

As I mentioned, the most enduring thing for me is the friendships that built up from those days. Nathan and I have remained close friends for nearly 40 years. Getting to play with people like Steve Hansgen and Bert Queiroz is a treat for me. They are both incredible people.  And we are cut from the same cloth: Music is still a driving force in our lives and we all cut our teeth in the early DC punk scene.

I’m still in touch with Ian and quite a few of the other early DC crew.  Facebook, for all its faults, has been great for reconnecting with those who were part of the great harDCore diaspora. As for Ian and Henry? I couldn’t be happier for their success. I always get a kick out of reading about Henry’s globe-trotting adventures…or seeing him on the telly.  These are guys I grew up with –- played football with –- played shows with –- stole girlfriends from!  I think the people who were here during the formative years have a bond that will endure.  And it seems most of the people from that time have aged well…though not all of them have made it. 

Anyway, it will be fun to do the show with GI, Scream, et al -– like a high-school reunion.


  1. Really enjoyed the interview and cant wait to see YB again. Wouldnt miss it. Tina

  2. Thanks for the interview. I have tickets for those shows, but getting a reasonable plane ticket from Seattle for that week is proving a challenge. I hope to make it. Chris

  3. Youth Brigade played an amazing show, stunning folks who were looking forward to other bands they knew better. I hope to high heaven they play some more!