Freddy Alva interview (Abombanation/New Breed compilation/Some Records etc.)

Freddy Alva interview originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 3 (2014).

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CTM – Can you give us a lesson about the history of Abombanation? Do you have any info how did Abombanation form originally? What was their lineup? As far as I know Ernie Parada (Token Entry) played drums for them only on the demo and at one or two gigs at most. In Your Face Steve played with the band after the demo until the end and actually sang during one show after Ray Parada.
Freddy – I just asked Ray on the origins of the band & he said that the original members were himself on vocals, Matt O’Brien on guitar, Vadim on bass & Larry “Love” Kaplan on drums. He can’t remember exactly when they formed but I’m guessing it’s early 1987. He said Vadim was then replaced by Nick X& Ernie Parada replaced Larry on drums when Larry joined Breakdown in 1988.

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CTM – Are there any particular shows that stuck in your memory?
Freddy – I only saw A-Bomb-A-Nation once at CBGB’s& was lucky to sit in for a practice at Monkey Hill studios in Queens. The CBGB’s show was memorable because a lot of HC kids from Queens showed up to support a band from our neighborhood. I knew Vadim through Chris Wynne from In Effect fanzine & it was really cool seeing a lot of friends on the audience. The band was awesome, I’ve seen a couple of cool pics from that show, seem to remember someone filming it, hope that video pops up someday.

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CTM – The Abombanation demo, to me, sounds much more like a typical NYHC band of the time. We can hear standard fast parts and dance parts, but also a surprisingly distinct sense of melody. What do you think of the band’s sound? How did that differ from previous bands and attempts?
Freddy – I agree that their sound was very different from other NYHC bands at the time. Besides the other, band members, musical skills. I will credit singer Ray Parada for their atypical sound. Ray was an original class of 1982 HC scenester: he’d gone to the 1st shows at the legendary A7 & had also played drums for the early NYHC band Major Conflict as well as in the unrecorded Rat Patrol w/Adam Mucci from Agnostic Front & Sacrilege NY. Major Conflict had a period where they played a more melodic Stiff Little Fingers influenced sound & I think that Ray carried on that sense of melody to A-Bomb-A-Nation. Being around since the 1st wave of HC allowed him to draw from older influences of melodic HC bands like the Posh Boy Southern California sound or 7 Seconds as opposed to a kid that just got into HC in ’87 & all they knew was stuff like Youth Of Today or Breakdown.

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CTM – Their lyrics were not really typical hardcore lyrics. I really like their meaningful lyrics, what do you think about them?
Freddy – I think the lyrics are really intelligent & well thought out. I will attribute that to Ray being older than us. When I first met him, I’d just finished High School & He was already out of college & working in the “real world”. I think that his life experience was a vital part of the lyrics, rising above more simplistic topics like you ‘stabbed me in the back’ or other like-minded fare of the day.

CTM – I heard that there is an unreleased Abombanation album that they recorded but never released. Have you ever heard these songs? Would you mind writing about this unreleased LP?
Freddy – I’ve never heard the unreleased lp& Ray said that he only heard about a couple of minutes of, he wasn’t too interested because it was after he quit the band. I would love to see the demos & maybe this lp to be released some day.

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CTM – Outburst played their first show with Abombanation at Right Track Inn in late 1987. As far as I know it was an amazing show where Ray Parada was covered in blood from busting his nose open during Outburst set. Were you on this show?
Freddy – Unfortunately I was not at this show, actually only made it out to the Right Track Inn only one time. I asked Ray about the blood on stage & he replied that was from catching an elbow to the nose during the opening band, seems he couldn’t get the bleeding under control when they went on. I’m sure it was quite a sight!

CTM – What is your opinion of the band name Abombanation? I saw a few flyers where it was mispelled. Which band name do you like the most off of New Breed? Mine is Beyond. I read that they chose the name because it represents the way they feel about drugs and any other barriers that weaken your life. To be beyond something is to overcome it, or to surpass it. Awesome band name!
Freddy – Yeah, that was an easy name for people to misspell! I love it though, really conveys a lot. I have to say ‘Life’s Blood’ is my favorite band name on the comp. It is such a strong name that, to me, really illustrates what Hardcore is & to an extension; anything you feel passionate about that inspires the very core of your being & affects your life for the long run. A close second is ‘Raw Deal’. That really captures a situation that happens to the best of us & the band’s music is a release from the emotions that go along with said predicament. I was so bummed when they were forced to change their name to Killing Time due to legal reasons. I still never call them by the KT name!

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CTM – Crucial Chaos on WNYU every Thursday night. An awesome radio show a lot of you in NYC grew up listening to. As I imagine it in the late ’80s you would sit in your room and use your boombox to record all the NYHC bands appearing on Crucial Chaos, live sets and interviews. I really love listening to live sets and radio sets. What do you think, was it any different playing a show and playing a live set on the radio? How should we imagine a WNYU or WMFU set?
Freddy – Listening to Crucial Chaos every Thursday night was such a looked forward to experience. DJ Spermicide had such a cool husky voice. A lot of kids definitely had a crush on her just based on her voice & radio personality. Her sidekick on air was Johnny Stiff, an old school Punk Rock dude who’d been around since the beginning & booked some legendary shows. He was famous for being cranky to people calling in to the show. That’s the thing, it was an epicenter of info for the scene. I would tape the whole show to catch up on new releases, get turned on to old classics, listen for show announcements, ticket giveaways, band interviews; not to mention the live sets that we all anxiously waited for & hit the “record” button.

CTM – “Everybody mosh it up Break everything in your house!” What are your favourite radio sets and why?
Freddy – My favorite NYU sets are by bands who I think it’s their best recorded stuff. For example, I’m not a huge Judge fan but I think their NYU is awesome, best thing I’ve heard by them. Same goes for Side By Side, their studio stuff is ok, but the live set is smoking. Others favorites that come to my mind is being @the studio when Fit Of Anger played & all our friends were there, that was really cool. The interviews are classic too, like YDL & Warzone, there are some choice quotes in there.

CTM – I read about an awesome place on 14th street in NYC called Giant Studios. Many well-known NYHC bands used to rehearse there including Krakdown, Warzone, Side By Side, Breakdown, Death Before Dishonor etc. There were rooms A through Z so you could just walk in and hang out and listen to each band rehearse. What are your memories of Giant Studios?
Freddy – Giant studios was a who’s who of NYHC bands rehearsing there at any given time. It was a great place to catch band members if you wanted to interview them. I remember doing a couple of interviews for my New Breed fanzine there. I actually rehearsed with a band called Last Cause there in late 1988 & right next to us Underdog was rehearsing & we saw Sick Of it All coming in as we walked out. I remember going to see my friends in Our Gang rehearse & it would become a live show with like 15-20 kids packed in the rehearsal room doing “stage dives”, moshing& generally goofing around. Great times all around.

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CTM – I heard a funny story about the singer of Uppercut. Steve Uppercut had no idea they were on this compilation until 2006 when he saw it somewhere on the internet. Do you have any funny stories about the New Breed comp.?
Freddy – That’s funny Steve never knew they were on the comp. I think he drifted out of the scene, like a lot if us did, by the 90’s. I dealt mostly with Robert Sefcik, the Uppercut drummer, as far as getting the Uppercut tracks & artwork for the comp. I see Steve all the time now, I do Acupuncture on him & go see his awesome band Kings Destroy that also features Robert on drums.

CTM – Could you talk about the concept of making the cover for New Breed? The picture looks like the Minor Threat EP but taken from the side.
Freddy – The picture of Chaka sitting on the steps on 8th st near the old Venus Records location is meant to be a homage to Minor Threat’s Lp cover. I took a side view of him, the better to show off the Crucifix patch Chaka had on his right shoulder as well as the Air Jordan sneakers he was sporting. That was basically the only idea we had, took a camera one day after shopping for records & went for it. It’s cool that a lot of people dig it, there’s also a tag on the door above by “Shoe”, that’s Rich from All For One & one of my best friends, so that was great that it turned out that way too. I always considered it as our urban tribute to an iconic HC image.

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CTM – Some Records was an awesome meetig place for hardcore kids, bands, zine editors and people that would help launch that second wave of NYHC in ’86. Would you mind sharing some memories about Some Records?
Freddy – Some Records was the catalyst for me getting really involved in the scene, otherwise I would have just been another passive spectator rather than an active participant. I saw a flyer on a lamppost in 1986 that said “American HC” & gave the store’s location. I immediately went down there & bought my first fanzines & demos. This inspired me to do my own fanzine called FTW. The first interview I ever did for my zine was with Ray Cappo right outside the store. I met Chaka through hanging out there. The inspiration for doing the New Breed comp comes from picking up the legendary Guillotine benefit comp tape there & wanting to do something along the same lines.
Some of my favorite memories:
– Duane unwrapping a brand new copy of the Straight Ahead 12″ & playing it nonstop like 10 times in a row.
– Waiting anxiously for the delivery guy to bring YOT’slp& being the 1st one to buy a blue vinyl copy.
– Having a listening party in the store to AF’s “Liberty & Justice” lp w/Nick YDL, John Life’s Blood, Tommy Carroll, Side By Side guys & Alleyway crew dudes.
There are too many good memories of that place. It really was the epicenter & communication hub of the scene, amazing in itself because the place was only about 300 Sq feet & located down inside a dusty basement but in my memory it is NYHC’s grand palace.

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CTM – I know that you are working on a documentary about New Breed and the bands on it. Any updates?
Freddy – The latest on the New Breed documentary is that we finally got a new video editor, gone through two already. This time it’s Sean Murphy, he sang for Collapse on the comp, so he definitely “gets it”. We just have to figure out a good time for all of us to sit down & get this wrapped up. Not so easy these days with families, jobs & other necessities of daily life. It will get done, there’s no timetable, just taking it one day at a time. Thanks for the interest, you will definitely hear more about it as it comes out. It was great reminiscing about these old days that still mean a lot to me. I hope I was able to shed some light on the A-Bomb-A-Nation story, thanks again!

An in-depth analysis of the history of Mental, interview with Ambrose Nzams and Dylan Chadwick / Part II.

An in-depth analysis of the history of Mental, interview with Ambrose Nzams and Dylan Chadwick / Part II.
This interview originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 5 (2017). Photos by Dylan Chadwick, Patrycja Gagan, Start Today fanzine, Mike the mosher, Marlon, Chiller Than Most fanzine.

Part I. – https://doyouknowhardcore.com/2019/03/03/an-in-depth-analysis-of-the-history-of-mental-interview-with-ambrose-nzams-and-dylan-chadwick-part-i/

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CTM: At that time the Mental Lp got lots of negative criticism. What do you think was the reason for that?

Dylan: I vaguely remember it getting criticized, but by that point I was tuning out all the negative stuff around them, so I don’t really know. I love that album personally, and saw them a whole lot on the tour they did to promote it. I love that they wrote an LP that was entirely new material and loved the more introspective nature of the lyrics. The big comparison point I remember hearing is that it was “really Quicksand-esque” which sounded really cool at the time because it just wasn’t the type of band you’d expect Mental to be compared to. It would be kind of ironic if the same people who always criticized Mental for not being “serious” enough went on to criticize them for writing more “serious” music, but I bet that happened because so many hardcore fans have such a narrow view towards music, rock and punk and all that.
Ambrose: I can’t really say what it was really like ’cause I was 15 when it came out, but I definitely dismissed it because my peers and elders did. I mean the obvious reason for the backlash would be like the more “adult” vibe of the record; if you got into Mental because you mistakenly perceived it as something goofy and goofy alone then you’d be let down. I would also say that time’s were just changing: the end of Posi Numbers, the crew stuff, “Mental Broke Edge”, the real beginnings of social media, “Desperate Times”, etc. And, call me out if this is a faulty hypothesis, but it feels like back then roasting something or hating on something was more prevalent, or at least more public. If I was being foolish and naively positive, I’d say people were maybe more passionate, but in reality, people just wanted to put people down and could do so easier in the shadows of message-board or (e-)zine anonymity. Now, when a record you and your friends don’t like comes out, you just shit on it in a group chat and ignore it publicly until it goes away.

CTM: Ambrose, you wrote earlier that “Story Time” sounds like the sort of fun faux-fiction tale of the cyclical nature of hardcore that it is and so on and so forth. This is a very interesting topic, so please let us know more about this issue. What do you mean by the cyclical nature of hardcore? Dylan, I would love to know your opinion too.

Ambrose: I always thought it was super obvious, I don’t know. It’s all in the lyrics! “Story Time” is about a kid who didn’t know who he was and could have taken a bad route but “someone showed him something that blew his mind, that’s when he found his kind.” Everyone’s coming of age in hardcore story is probably pretty similar. Later, the kid grows up, doing everything the “right way” (for the subculture) and started to doubt his involvement until he meets a younger kid and “could see in those eyes what almost died” in him. A disillusionment with the mainstream world causing a connection to an outsider culture and then an eventual disillusionment with the outsider culture that saved you, but a reminder of it’s capabilities in the hopeful eyes of a younger kid puts you at peace. “The story never ends, it starts over again.” Related, I was having a conversation with some friends the other night about current hardcore and I’ve been thinking a lot about being 27 and how–although that’s still young in the world–in hardcore, it’s tougher to be moved by the same sort of stuff that would have moved you at 21 (or 19, or 17 or 15, etc.). So now, instead of outright loving or hating something, I think a lot about it’s merits for young kids; if a band is doing something that I think is cool or interesting or has a message or vibe or aesthetic I support, then that’s much more important than me liking their songs. Not to take away from the importance of writing good songs, but I don’t know, I’ve always been a proponent of this shit being much more than music (“…it’s a way of life!”)
Dylan: I’ve always interpreted the song to be about the cyclical nature of LIVING in that you start out, you don’t know shit and you kind of depend on other people to show you the way. Then, you get older and more experienced and suddenly YOU’RE the person people are depending on. Then, you enter new experiences and suddenly you’re the fuckin freshman again. IDK.

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CTM: I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about this. Me and my grandfather were very close. For the first few days after my grandfather died, I kept waiting for somebody to say something that made it feel better, or less painful. I just put the Planet Mental record on the turntable and play the “You never know” again and again. Honestly, this song helped me so much more than you’d think. Which Mental songs are the most important lyrically to you on the Planet Mental LP?

Dylan: I think Bad Brain. It’s a song (to me) all about not letting complacency and negativity stop you from creating. For me, when I’m not making art, I am miserable. I get really depressed. I 100% vibe with those lyrics.
Ambrose: Honestly, “Earthlings” is probably the most relatable to me lyrically. I feel like I’ve spent my whole life watching other human beings trying to learn how to be a human being but knew all along that those versions of human being-ness weren’t for me. “Don’t care about running, don’t wanna finish the race.”

CTM: There was the song featured on the Sweet Vision compilation “Get A Life”, and then there was “The Evils” on the Generations compilation.(They were on the Stab To Kill compilation and Town of Hardcore compilation too.) “Get A Life” and “The Evils” are severely underrated Mental jams, what do you think about these songs?

Ambrose: Both good songs, both definitely appropriate as comp only tracks. If I had to put them against each other, I’d pick “The Evils” because it’s the best song title (“D’Evils”) and also the lyrics are better.
Dylan: If I’m being honest, I need to revisit “the Evils” cuz I can’t even remember it. I love the breakdown in Get a Life though. I love that they wrote a new song instead of re-doing a version of an existing song already. I did an interview with Greg a while back and he told me the comp was made in one day with everyone in the studio together. To have been a fly on the wall during that recording session!

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CTM: One of the best things about the Lockin’ Out compilation is that I like the Sweet Vision recordings better than the re-recorded versions. What is the best song on Sweet Vision? Why did you choose this song?

Dylan: I have changed my answer on this a bunch. In college, I really loved the SOS song, mostly because I like that noodly guitar shit at the end of the track and always feel that band came out of left field with their references and whatnot. I think a strong answer would be Jaguarz “Survival” because that breakdown is ridiculous and the lyrics are super awesome, like “what’s that noise, was it me or him?” It’s just super cool how it’s a dude’s internal monologue. Ultimately I think the RJ’s track is the best though. It just fires on every level in that it’s already a KILLER song and the best recorded version of it, the sample (which I later learned is from a workout video). It bangs.
Ambrose: The best song on the Sweet Vision comp is definitely “Feeding Time At The Zoo / Hangman’s Noose” but I say that with a hesitance. It’s a great song and the lo-fi comp version feels way better than the LP version BUT it produced two of the worst shirts ever made: the one with the noose printed on the center, right on the upper chest, in between the collar and ‘The Wrong Side’ bolded in all caps; and whatever shirt or shirts that said ‘Feeding Time Is Over’ on the back.

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CTM: If you could release a Mental tribute 7 inch compilation and you can choose any 4 bands you want from old and current bands (each 1 song) which bands would it be and why?

Ambrose: With all due respect, and not to be a copout, but tribute records are the worst. I would also say that a tribute record is the antithesis of what Mental was about. To me, Mental always seemed pro-reminiscing but so anti-nostalgia.
Dylan: I’d have Power Trip do the whole Sweet Vision comp. LMAO. IDK. I really love Lockin Out, but also have not-so-fond memories of the influx of “LOC-LITE” bands who sprung up in the later 2000s doing wacky graphics and graffiti fonts and stuff, minus the clever lyrics and memorable riffs.

CTM: Me and my friends were all so excited to see them when they played Europe in 2005. Mental played all the shows with Justice which released Elephant Skin by the time. We arrived to Vienna early in the morning to catch them in Austria. We spent the day in the city center sight seeing, enjoying the variety of shopping opportunities, and chilling on the riverside. Finally, we managed to miss the complete Justice set and I still have bad dreams about it haha. Mental was sooo bad ass btw, these guys were seriously mental. What’s been the most memorable Mental show you’ve been to and why?

Ambrose: Maybe this disqualifies me from being apart of this, but I never saw Mental.
Dylan: I got to see some great ones. The standout for me was in SLC. They played with Justice and Life Long Tragedy on the Planet Mental tour (I have the flyer somewhere) and then some locals. I won’t go too into it but at that time, SLC was kind of a weird place for shows. Still kind of on that straight edge hangover from the 90’s, so basically if a band didn’t sound like Grimlock or Stigmata, they got no reaction. I’d just started college and was SO hyped up on hardcore you know, like the Posi Numbers era, and had just seen an assfull of summer shows that had blown my mind. So anyway, I’d already seen Mental on 2 different dates of this tour and the reactions had all been insane, but at SLC there was hardly any reaction. I remember being SO ANGRY that no one was moshing LOL. I just remember going crazy. Like air-guitaring through every song, just like giving them the reaction I felt they deserved. I bet everyone thought I was some junkie who’d been let in off the street. They broke up just a few months after so it was the last chance I had to see them really.

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CTM: Breakbeats are drum parts—usually culled from funk, R&B records. Rap music has had its influence on hardcore for a long time, and hip-hop also had a heavy influence on Mental. The rap intro is biblical on the second demo, they made a Whodini cover on their LP, and Mental played a “8 miles” intro on their Planet Mental record release show. Do you like these elements?

Dylan: Yeah definitely. I am not as knowledgeable re: hiphop as I am many of the other subculture musics, but I used to go DL all the songs in the town of hardcore hip hop column. I loved that hip hop has kind of always been a cultural touchstone for NYHC bands, and since Mental essentially played the re-up of NYHC (via Boston) in the early 00’s it totally makes sense hip hop would be a big aesthetic factor.
Ambrose: I always thought it was so cool that Greg was a staunch proponent of current rap. There’s that interview in Town Of Hardcore where the rest of the band kinda clowns him for only being into the current stuff and he doesn’t waver in his opinion. I think that’s really cool.

CTM: Dumptruck helped create the Lockin’ Out sound with their cassette. This is basically left over early Mental tunes that were too hard, and they got one of their friends to sing on them. Do you like the Feelin’ Good demo?

Ambrose: Yeah, of course.
Dylan: Shit I LOVE this demo. I did the sickest Chris Morgado interview like 7 years ago now. We talked wrestling and illustration and Dump Truck and everything. I never published it because I’m a dumbass. But yeah, I love the Wrong Side. My fav lil nugget from that interview is hearing that Dump Truck had a song called “March of the cockroaches” and (I think) it’s what became “Feeding time at the zoo.” I could be wrong on that last bit though.

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CTM: I think Mental really knew how to do record covers and record release covers right. Rasta cover, Mental Crew cover, Earth Sucks cover, Morgado covers, Sean Taggart cover etc. What do you think about their covers, what do you think of the style of their covers?

Dylan: I feel like I already covered this throughout the interview, but I always loved that Mental didn’t do “stereotypical HC artwork” for their records. For the most part, none of the LOC bands did. It wasn’t like generic youth crew live shot stuff or metalcore skulls and cursive lettering…just kind of like a visual overdose that pulled queues from tons of artists I liked. Like, you know the Look Alive cover kinda looked like Keith Haring art, or the Rage of Discipline LP looked like one of those generic DJ sleeves. That shit always made you wonder what the tunes contained within sounded like, you know? Yeah, I will always love the fact that Mental’s covers were unique.
Ambrose: And You Know This cover is a little crude and juvenile, Get An Oxygen Tank is cleaner, more pro, features art by an OG. Yo! is far from subdued but it’s a step down from the colorfulness of GAOT, and then Planet Mental is muted and more abstract. Every record cover tells you so much about the record. As far as the special covers, I’ve always been partial to ‘Earth Sucks’. I know it’s simple, but sometimes simple’s the best.

CTM: My personal favourite cover is probably the Mental cat cover of the Bum Rush EP. Why did they change the artwork, what do you think?

Ambrose: Honestly, no idea. Love the cat’s slippers.
Dylan: I never really got the story, and I’ve asked! No idea. That is a good cover. I remember when it was making the rounds on the internet though!

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CTM: Thanks for the interview guys! Finally, what are your fave Mental t-shirt designs?

Dylan: The Pam Grier shirt is the only right answer.
Ambrose: On Instagram the other day, this woman I know posted a picture of her in a white longsleeve with the word ‘Mental’ like repeatedly stamped and then stamped over it with a sort of white border was a red or orange ‘Mental’ in the same font as the blue, and I think that might win. Need that shirt. Prior to seeing that one though, my favorite was definitely the black Elephant shirt. They didn’t make many black shirts, so that one feels special. Also, in the market for the Mental / Desperate Measures ‘Lock Up Your Daughters’ tour shirt too. That one couldn’t really fly in the modern era. The only Mental shirt that I currently have is the yellow one with the gorilla on the front and the back. I’ve worn it out a total of one time because I’m not quite confident in that yellow. The Pam Grier one is obviously great, but I can’t wear that in public. Before we exit, next time we gotta talk about the Yo 7″. “Bootleg” are my favorite Mental lyrics; “They cared, I care, you should care.” Incredible.