Combatant interview originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 4 (2016). Pics by Angela Owens, Squashed Warehouse, Brandon Pelletier.
CTM – Tell me about Combatant, how did the band came together? Would you mind sharing some background to Combatant?
Tyler – Combatant was just an idea to put some unfinished songs to use from my last band. I wanted to try singing which is something I hadn’t done before, so when I figured out how I wanted Combatant to sound, I contacted Ryan about playing guitar. Ryan then suggested we get Alex to play drums since we knew him through playing shows with his old band and he was going to college near Ryan. Al has known Matt for years and they’ve played in bands together since high school so once the demo came out we got Matt on bass and became a real band.
CTM – Others may have asked you this, but where’d you get the name from? Is there a connection to the record label Combat Records?Is there any particular significance or story behind the name?
Tyler – No connection to that label that I know of. My friend Darryl came up with the name a few years ago for a possible project he wanted to start up that never came to fruition. Fast forward to last year, I had the idea of doing a band but couldn’t settle on a name, and then I remembered ‘Combatant.’ It just sounded cool and old and fortunately hadn’t been used yet. I hit him up and he gave me the O.K. to use it – thanks again man!
CTM – The band recorded both releases at Side Two Studios in Boston with Ryan Abbott. Seems to me Side Two is as popular as Paincave, how was the working process with Ryan? What would we hear on your releases that is Ryan’s input as a producer? Haha!
Tyler – Ryan is super easy and laid back to record with. We would record a song in just a couple takes and then bullshit with him for almost the same length of time it took to lay the song down. He didn’t offer up too much input – the songs are pretty straight forward and he knows exactly what we’re going for so he just lets us do our thing. A few examples of when he did chime in would be trying to get a more Crucifix vibe out of the middle section on “Survive,” having me re-write a couple lines that didn’t quite fit while recording “Rat Poison,” and trying out a couple ideas on the solo in “Out For War.” He also tried to get me to yell a “BLEH!” at the end of one of the demo songs, ala the end of Madball’s “We Should Care.” Probably did about five or six takes but I couldn’t get the right “BLEH!”
CTM – Any good stories about the recording?
Tyler – The day we recorded the demo, me and Ryan went down a one way street near the studio, saw a drug deal take place and then had to awkwardly do a multiple point turn to get his car turned around to go back the other way while the two guys who had just made the transaction glared at us.
CTM – Tell me about the artwork for your first demo tape. I guess you wanted something that would totally stand out?
Tyler – Ryan and myself first saw the image in a old record insert and knew we had to use it for something. It wasn’t until I heard the recordings from the first Combatant practice that I knew it would perfectly compliment our idiotic riffs. I’m actually surprised more people don’t know where its from.
CTM – You released your first tape in the winter of 2015. It’s been out long enough how were people’s reactoions to it? What was the funniest reaction? What is one review or criticism you are most proud of?
Tyler – I think most people that have heard it like it but I’m still surprised to hear people list it in their “best of” or whatever. Matt showed me an interview awhile ago where we were mentioned alongside bands like Free and G.L.O.S.S. What’s funny about that is those bands more or less have a strong message and raise serious issues and I talk about hating rules while Ryan is re-enacting every Stigma stage move from the In Effect video at practice. To each their own.
CTM – Most of your lyrics are really critical and angry, these type of hardcore lyrics are not complicated. But when you write socially critical or politically-charged songs, do you try to phrase them so they are easily understood by your listeners? Or do you say what you want to say and trust that your message will get across?
Tyler – There’s a little of both. The lyrics take the longest to write, mainly just trying to streamline what I wanna say in a way thats relatable but so that it still sounds like me. My vocabularly is pretty limited so there isn’t much tweaking I have to do once I write a song – but at the same time, the bands I’m influenced by kept things simple and to the point, which to me is the best way.
CTM – Could you explain the lyrical meaning of a few of your songs on the Psychosis EP, namely “Rat Poison” and “You’re Another Victim”?
Tyler – “You’re Another Victim” is basically about someone trying to please others no matter what, and in doing so, they’ve become trapped and taken advantage of by always bending to the whims of someone else. “Rat Poison” came together really quick – I had no intention of writing any songs along the lines of what you might consider ‘scene commentary,’ but I started thinking of certain instances locally and nationally about mindless violence, a lot of it gang related, at shows. I just have a hard time justifying kids getting beaten almost to death over problems that could’ve been settled one on one, if nothing else. “Survive” is pretty self-explanatory, just a personal empowerment kinda song. “Public Threat” is written from the point of view of someone who basically is the dude on the cover of the ‘Nervous Breakdown’ ep – backed against the wall and about to lash out. The other songs are just the typical can’t-deal-with-bullshit authority figures or people on power trips.
CTM – Combatant are here and they are out for war. Expect great things from this band in the future. So, what is Combatant’s main goal for this or next year? What can we expect from the band? Is there already a label who wants to do a 7 inch for you?
Tyler – Pissed Off! Records from Malaysia is putting out a tape over there of the demo and Psychosis on one cassette. Its going to have some artwork drawn up by our friend Mike Fagan, and it should be out mid-September. As for new stuff, we’ve got about seven complete songs written towards hopefully a 7″ release. No one has hit us up yet about putting a record out, but we’re planning on recording a demo of the new songs to send out to a couple places and see if there’s any interest. New stuff still has an AF vibe, but a lot more Negative Approach and some UK82 thrown in there. It’s our best stuff yet; maybe a promo of those songs could happen within the coming months, we’ll see. I’m always writing stuff and we make it a point to at least meet up and jam once or twice a month so we’ll keep putting new songs out there regardless of format or who puts it out.
CTM – Agnostic Front against society’s system (“Remind Them”), Agnostic Front against the NYPD (“Blind justice”), Agnostic Front against anyone else (“Your Mistake”). These early AF songs took the us-versus-them mentality, they hate society and they are here to fight. I am wondering how does Combatant would reflect this kind of us-versus-them mentality?
Tyler – Those particular AF songs resonate with me more than the songs about trying to unite people. The stuff I write about comes from a real place and I still feel its “me against them” everyday. If there was a meaning to the name Combatant, then thats where it would fit.
CTM – What do you think about the Victim In Pain album musically? Critics deride Vinnie Stigma’s guitar talents, or lack thereof but Stigma is the only guitarist on those classic first two Agnostic Front records (United Blood EP / Victim In Pain LP).
Tyler – Victim In Pain musically is one of the greatest records of all time, hardcore or not. There’s a certain charm to United Blood but I think with Victim In Pain they really came into their own. You can definitely hear the Negative Approach and Crucifix influence but if Stigma wasn’t there, you would’ve had a totally different album. You can tell he’s not giving a shit about playing anything really on time or even in tune.Going from United Blood to Victim In Pain, yes the drumming made a huge difference but you gotta love how Stigma made sure each song had at least twice as many chords as anything on United Blood. The ’84 Don Fury rehearsal for Victim In Pain is almost as classic as the record – always annoyed me on that when Roger would try and quiet Vinnie down or tell him not to do something or play something a certain way in the next song. We all know who’s band it is.
CTM – You said in an interview that you just try to write things that you think would cater to a bunch of angel dusted bald freaks stomping around A7. This is one of the best descriptions/statements I have ever read about what the motivation is behind a hardcore band. So let’s say I gave you a hardcore time machine. It’s the early 80’s and you are about to take a road trip to the A7 in East Village. Who are joining you on the ride and who are playing the show? (When you enter to the bar please don’t forget the warning spray-painted on the outside of the A7 building read: “Out of town bands remember where you are.”!)
Tyler – Keeping the “out of town bands” warning in mind, I’m linking up with Al Barile and the rest of the crew on the way through Boston. The bill is The Psychos, The Abused, SS Decontrol, Void and AF.
CTM – What are some early NYHC bands (1980-1984) that you feel are underrated and deserve more attention? Do you like the The Young and the Useless, The High And The Mighty, early Beastie Boys releases?
Tyler – Nihilistics get overlooked, but I know they don’t care. Kraut doesn’t really get mentioned too much, well not to where I feel they’re an ‘overrated’ band of that era.”Unemployed” is one of my favorite riffs ever. The High And The Mighty are cool, but I think we’d all rather see a non-Drew Stone fronted Antidote.
CTM – Which would you have rather seen: the Agnostic Front show with John Watson, or Tommy Rat singing for Warzone show?
Tyler – I love the Tommy Rat demo, but I’m gonna pick Agnostic Front with John Watson. They played a few shows with John so if I had to pick one, it would be the Buff Hall gig in ’82 with Minor Threat.
CTM – I am working on an article about the WNYU’s classic punk/hardcore radio show, “Crucial Chaos” and I did an interview with DJ Spermicide too. I would like to know what are your favourite Crucial Chaos radiosets and why?
Tyler – Favorite WNYU sets would be Krakdown – “Everybody mosh it up…Break everything in your house!” The first Breakdown set is great too. Despite Perlin having a “sore throat, put up with me,” his vocals are so rabid sounding. “Punk rock haircuts, $4 dollars come on down!” Warzone, Nihilistics, Life’s Blood…
CTM – This will be a tough question. Do you think hardcore has or should have limits sound wise?
Tyler – No I don’t think it should have limits but what’s hardcore to me is gonna be different to someone else. Personally I like hardcore thats pretty stripped down and simple, from the hardcore punk stuff to the more heavy/metallic styles, so I have my own limits for what sounds hardcore to me. Everything from Heart Attack to 100 Demons falls under the hardcore category so what do I know?
CTM – A lot of people criticize hardcore for, in many ways, being a microcosm of the real world. What do you think about this topic?
Tyler – I’d say thats pretty accurate. Just because its a ‘community’ based around music doesn’t mean there’s not going to be greedy and conceited people involved with it. At the same time, I’ve met people throught hardcore who have remained close friends of mine. I really don’t put much thought into it though. I get out of hardcore what I want to get out of it and thats enough for me.
CTM -How much do you love Maine? What makes it that bad ass, special, different?
Tyler – There are some fun outdoors oriented things to do, sure, but I don’t really care about the state at all. The music scene is really hit or miss: one or two good bands every three or four years. I grew up in the sticks and always wanted to get out, but when I got out I just wanted to find a place with a little peace and quiet again. I’ve learned to appreciate it a little bit but I really don’t spend too much time thinking about it.
CTM – Do you know the Hungarian band called Contra? Brain Abuse Records released their demo too.
Tyler – The demo was really good and the new promo is even better.
CTM- Thanks for your time dude. Any closing thoughts, shout outs or words of encouragement?
Tyler – Thanks for the interview, keep an eye out for the Psychosis EP cassette on Brain Abuse and Pissed Off Records. Listen to Motorhead everyday.