Steve Psycho is a former member of the infamous Psychos one of the bands that ruled the early days of New York Hardcore. I believe the interview was made around 2005, and it was originally released in my old ‘zine called I Drink Milk and Chiller Than Most newsletter #1. Interview made by Laszlo Nanyista. Pics by Mincey/Levy, Jessica Bard, The Godfathers of Hardcore documentary.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you first come in contact with the hardcore punk scene? Steve – 1979. I was listening to The Ramones, The Pistols, The Clash, the Slits and some other punk rock. My friends and I were just starting to get really excited about more underground stuff. Then someone got hold of the Black Flag “Miltown High” album and I had found SLF’s “Hanx”- those raw sounds encouraged us to find more music of that type. The first show I saw was The Bad Brains, The False Prophets, and maybe The Stimulators and The Offals at Botany 500 – a small bar in the NYC wholesale flower district. There was this huge black guy in a white t-shirt and across the back of the shirt written in black magic marker was “You bet I’ve got something personal against you”. It was Mojo (of “Egg raid on Mojo fame”). I went to see any band that identified as punk or hardcore, hung out at Max’s Kansas City and CB’s and began meeting more and more people. Except for 1 friend none of my friends was really into hardcore as a scene or a lifestyle. I found myself very attracted to the ideas and energy I was being exposed to and spent more and more time at clubs that featured this music. I’d regularly cruise by Bleeker Bob’s for new vinyl.
How did the formation of the Psychos come about? Were you a founding member or did you join later? Steve – Stu (Larry), Billy Psycho and Roger Miret had already formed the band when I met Stu. He had been singing and playing guitar and they were looking for a singer so he could expand the guitar parts. I fit in pretty well and I was also a source for lyrics as I had a bunch of ideas and some verse already written.
How many shows did you play with the Psychos? Steve – The Psychos generally played about once a month while I was singing. We did A7, CBGB’s, The Rock Hotel (with Void and Scream – to this day Void is one of my favorite bands). This was from 1982- 1984 and it was a time when hardcore bands were being shut out of a lot of NY clubs. I remember doing a show in a basement in Williamsburg, Bklyn with the Dicks and others but the show was set up, done and then the location couldn’t be used again. It was tough for me to travel because I had a 7-day a week job (not a slave to the clock – I loved the work and had a great boss who was well ahead of the curve in profit sharing!), which eliminated the idea of touring. Later on I think the Psychos had a more intense schedule largely due to Roger’s influence.
The lineup of the band: Steve -Stu and maybe Billy were later in Trip 6. I’ve been told Stu ended up dusted out and going to jail for some very brutal assaults. Billy was in the band Death Before Dishonor just long enough to get a tattoo then got kicked out. I sang and played some bass in a Jersey band called Swine Dive in the late 80’s. Roger started singing for Agnostic Front and Stu and I thought it would be best to find another bass player so we got a friend of mine named Fil (who now holds a PHD and teaches American History). After Fil and I left The Psychos, Roger rejoined on bass along with a series of singers. Roger always felt slighted for being replaced in the band – although we are still friends. The feeling was that he wouldn’t have time to commit to both bands and that his priority would be AF. HA! Little did I know that Roger would turn into the workhorse he is. Singing and playing in 3 bands at any given time (The Disasters, Lady Luck, etc.), founding the Rumblers Car Club, producing other bands, his own clothing line – he’s a true self made man – a working class hero. For my part – when I left the Psychos in 1984 I was pretty much done with hardcore. I loved the music I had been listening to and I loved hanging out, but as a continued lifestyle it wouldn’t really have worked out for me. I could see myself becoming a casualty somewhere down the line. I also had no interest in the newer bands.
Funny stories/memories: Steve – We would have to search for Billy before rehearsals. He was usually found lying on the sidewalk or in a doorway somewhere on the Lower East Side or around The Bowery, unbathed in the 3 or 4 days since the last rehearsal or show and smelling pretty rank. He would have to be cleaned up because you couldn’t breath if you were in the same room with him. Once he told us the night before he had sex with a high school girl who had defecated on his chest. He said it was the wildest sex he’d ever had but she kicked him out before he could shower. We eventually had to find a rehearsal space with an isolated drum room because he always smelled so bad. I met my wife at CBGB’s after an Abused matinee. The girlfriends of Kevin (vocals) and Dave (bass), both named Valerie and my future wife came out of CB’s all flushed and sweaty. They had just beaten the crap out of some guy who had been acting out and was annoying everyone. He dropped his pants in front of the girls and they proceeded to beat him, cracking some ribs. They kicked him repeatedly with steel toe boots. The 2 Valeries introduced me to their friend Gayle. Later at a house party she said 2 things to me: “That’s my comic book you’re reading, put it back when you’re done” and “Do you want a beer?” – we were living together a year later and have been married for over 22 years. We have 3 daughters. Most shows we played were $5 dollars to get in. I always felt weird having a couple people on the guest list and leaving out others. Usually I would pay on the side for a bunch of people and then tell them they were on the guest list, so everyone felt special. I think a lot of people were attracted to hardcore or “the scene” because they were excluded from other areas of society. It made sense to me that a Psychos show was a place everyone could feel included. Most times I sprang for $20 – which was about what my cut of the door was if we were lucky, but once at a show I ended up laying out almost a hundred bucks. I had a decent job, made good money – I was just playing for the fun of it and it was more fun if everyone got in. I had laid out the money for the first run of t-shirts the Psychos did. I gave so many away I had no chance of getting my money back – forget a profit – not much of a businessman! But these were my friends. I never felt quite right introducing filthy commerce into the relationship.
A7/Tompkins Square Park: Steve – There was a real period of tension between the punks who arrived on the Lower East Side and the residents, mostly Hispanics. I can tell you that one night hanging outside of A7 a friend and myself were shot at, but I couldn’t say who or where it came from. Early on there were few people hanging out so you’re really just an oddity to the locals. Then more people show up, and tension rises. As time went by we started moving into the neighborhood and our numbers increased and the dynamic changed again as we became the regulars. I would guess it’s a pretty common cycle of gentrification. A friend had gotten hold of some white blotter stamps of acid that someone just handed to him. He gave hits away to friends until that night there were about 150 people hanging in and around Tompkins Square Park tripping on acid and drinking 40’s. I remember just standing there listening to the buzz of the crowd, it felt like a beehive, just buzzing and humming with conversation and activity. A grey car pulled up at the corner, some kind of Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac – huge American metal- and a bunch of guys leaned out the windows yelling at us and cursing before driving away with us chasing them. Some time later a grey-ish Volkswagen or Subaru – maybe even Le Car – some compact shit, pulls up to the same light and somebody yells, “ There they are” and a bunch of people attack the car beating on it and trying to turn it over. I remember standing there thinking; “ok its sort of the same color but wasn’t the first car bigger”? The people in the second car must have been shitting!
You would see the cops scatter as soon as it got dark; they didn’t want any part of LES after 8PM. We mostly traveled in small groups when heading into Alphabet City in the small hrs (Hence the name of the SIN Club, Safety In Numbers) and I preferred walking in the street so someone couldn’t attack me by hiding in a doorway or by coming out of an abandoned building. My wife was heading down Ave B one night about half a block behind someone who was carrying a guitar. A man stepped out from the shadows, stabbed the guy and walked away with the guitar.