Rated X interview was originally published in Do You Know Hardcore? fanzine, issue 2.
DYKHC – Yo! Hows your edge, and are you going to wear construction gloves at your first gig?
The edge is sharper than ever, and as for the gloves, if it was good enough for Kevin Crowley then it’s good enough for Sergeant X.
DYKHC – Rated X is your solo band. Every straight edge band needs a member to be kicked out for breaking edge. What was the motivation for starting the band without other members?
I’ve actually don’t think I’ve ever been in a band where we have had a member break edge…no, wait, Ben from Payday broke edge right when we finished writing most of the LP stuff. Oh, and Cal from True Vision and Regiment. Fuck sake. I dunno what you mean about solo band though, we’ve got T-Crucial on the crunch, Ol’ Cease from across the pond shredding the leads, psycho skin Rito on bass and big bad Bombham holding it down on the drums! And of course your boy Sergeant X on the mic.
DYKHC – Project X and Judge were a reactionary thing, it was something to make people know that straight edge is still around. When No Tolerance started it was a reactionary thing too, they were putting Boston straight edge back on the map with speed and anger. How was that with your band? Did you have any sort of blueprint for how you wanted Rated X to run, based on other bands or anything like that?
Oh, totally. Straight edge is in the fucking toilet right now. It needs a good hard kick up the arse, and we’ve got the Jordans to do it. I’m genuinely scared that the biggest representation of straight edge out there right now is some weird IG account full of XVX shit and hippies that don’t even listen to hardcore. I don’t give a shit about some whopper who pretends to be Wolverine, or some christcore muppet with oreos in their ears. Straight edge is about fast music, hard mosh parts and X’d up lunatics busting head-first through walls and shit. People are always trying to attach some mad shit to straight edge. Being vegan is great. I’m a fence walking shitty vegetarian myself. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be anything to do with straight edge. Like, I love playing video games, but I’m not XGAMEREDGEX, I’m just a guy that fucking plays video games, who is also straight edge. Don’t even get me started on all that hardline, pro-life and anti-sex shit. Anyway, I digress. Rated X is absolutely reactionary. It’s a reaction to the state of straight edge hardcore, and the sound of hardcore today. There’s plenty of great bands doing great shit at the moment, but most bands are either on the heavier side or the ‘weird outsider’ tip. Or straight up crap. Which is cool, but that classic meat-and-potatoes hard & fast shit is what we love. Shout out to the young bloods out there doing the biz!
DYKHC – How would you describe the evolution of the band musically from the first demo to this new LP? Rated X reminds me a lot of The Abused in certain ways, and I feel that you wanted to add in some rocked out things (like the beginning of “Watch Out”) into your new songs.
There’s not much in the way of evolution at all to be honest. If anything, it’s devolution. Half the songs on the LP were actually written years before the demo and has been demo’d a million times over the last five years. There’s a few riffs that were used by this band I played guitar for called Standpoint a few years ago. We only ever did a demo and played a few shows, and I’d been holding onto those songs for too long to let ‘em go to waste, so they got the RX treatment. The recording that became the RX demo was only supposed to be an ideas session for some other project, but I liked the recording so much we just went with it. The Abused is definitely our number one influence, I like to think that one is pretty obvious. Negative Approach, early Agnostic Front, Straight Ahead, early YOT and Uniform Choice are in there somewhere too. Also, hard rock is in our blood, so I’m glad it’s shining through!
DYKHC – Some say they don’t want to write songs about edge, because it’s been done a million times. What’s your opinion?
Straight edge is fucking boss and is more relevant than ever. Three chords and mosh parts has been done a million times too. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
DYKHC – Could you let us know what the following songs are about and the source from which your lyrical inspiration is derived? “No”, “Rather Walk Alone”, “You’re Next”.
Ok, let’s see….‘No’ is a not-too-subtle nod to No For An Answer. I don’t know too many people who rate NFAA, which I find odd, cause that 7” is hard! It’s a straight forward straight edge ballad about not giving in to peer pressure. If don’t wanna drink or do drugs, just don’t. If your mates ignore you cause you’re not getting hammered with them, then they aren’t really your mates.
‘Rather Walk Alone’ is actually about Everton Football Club. The first song by a straight edge band about Association Football? Answers on a postcard please. Being from the blue half of Merseyside, we are constantly in the shadow of Liverpool FC. Their motto is “you’ll never walk alone”, so you can figure that one out for yourself haha. It can also be frustrating as fuck supporting such an inconsistent team, but no matter how many times in my life I’ve tried to ignore football, Everton always brings me back. This is our year anyway, I can feel it!
‘You’re Next’ is about a British phenomenon called Gammon. I’m sure every country has their own version, but our Gammon are outraged, conservative, middle-aged, straight white males, who read all the bullshit newspapers and get so pissed off at everything that their faces are constantly pink. They think refugees are stealing their jobs and living in palaces for free, are terrified of the LGBTQ+ gang, hate vegetarians, support All Lives Matter, hate the EU, and generally think that they are the most persecuted people on earth because they “can’t say anything anymore”. They can get fucked. I name drop Piers Morgan cause he’s their poster boy. You might have fooled a few people during lockdown mate, but you won’t fool the Sarge.
DYKHC – One topic Rated X (and Violent Reaction) has never written about that needs to be addressed?
I don’t know actually. Part of me thinks that there is probably a lot I could and should talk about more openly in lyrics, especially considering the eye-opening events of this year. But another part of me thinks that our straight edge and left wing stance is pretty clear, so I’ll let the 45 second songs do the talking. We’re just a band and I’m just a dumb white guy. I’d rather leave that space for those who need it.
DYKHC – If you could have any singer from the early 80s do guest vocals on the LP who would it be (and why)?
This is a difficult one. To quote DFJ, “everyone from the 80s is terrible”. Being such an overt straight edge band, it’d have to be Ian. No one can even pose like Minor Threat isn’t the GOAT. Who else is even still straight edge?? Smalley might be, but he’s some conservative gimp now. Yo if Kevin Crowley is still drug free (middle aged) youth, then him. Sickest vox!
DYKHC – Make You Break, Firing Line, Here Today are exclusive songs to the promo tape, these songs are not on the album. Why?
We just wanted to have some exclusive trax on the tape, and we had enough songs to spare so why not? It makes getting the tape a bit more worth it in my eyes. Maybe they will pop up again on another record one day.
DYKHC – The promo cassette has six covers (Ripcord, NFAA, Posion Idea, The Fix, SOA, Crucifix), why did you choose these bands? Poison Idea is definitely about as far away from straight edge as you can get haha!
We chose those bands because those bands fucking rock. Yeah I’m a straight edge guy with a fade, an X-Swatch and Air Jordans, but that doesn’t mean we sit around just listening to YOT all day every day. The Ripcord intro sounds like it could be on an ‘87 NYHC demo. That NFAA song is their best and hardest tune, the slow riff makes me wanna skank it up. Poison Idea is one of my all time favourites, and I think Pick Your King might even bang harder than the Minor Threat 7”, come at me. The riff in that song is so similar to AF, YOT, MT riffs etc and has a sick mosh part. Also, it’s about self abuse so kinda fits the edge vibe when we do it! The Fix, incredible song and incredible band. Makes me wanna headbutt the wall. SOA is in my top 5 7”s of all time I reckon, tough as shit, also early DC proto-edge. And as for Crucifix, that LP is infuckingcredible and that’s my favourite song on it. You can hear so much on that record that later influenced Agnostic Front and Youth Of Today etc.
DYKHC – Is hardcore music cyclical?
I think so yeah. It’s like a cycle of reactionary scenes. I’m hoping we get another explosion of bread & butter hardcore in response to all the metalcore, nu-metal and alt rock stuff that seems to have a grip on hardcore these days. It makes me feel so old that kids regard early 2000s style as retro now. People are rocking bowling shirts and backing Slipknot, what’s next? Yo-yo tricks? Rollerblading??
DYKHC – Most edge thing you have ever done?
Spent a New Year’s Eve on my own watching the first season of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, eating pizza and drinking Vanilla Coke. On a side note, since switching to sugar free drinks, Pepsi Max is now king. Face up to it.
DYKHC – Comment on these please! – “If I put an X on my hand we would have twice as many people at our shows just because we are straight edge.”
I don’t know who said this, but what I wanna know what dimension they’re living in, and how I can get there.
DYKHC – “90% of straight edge and youth crew hardcore is terrible boy scout, pledge of allegiance, popcorn selling, safe sounding “hardcore” that revolves around merch.”
I’m pretty sure a friend of mine from DC said this in my zine haha. I’m not sure of the accuracy of the stats, but she could well be right on the ‘terrible’ front. If you listen to the first two YOT records (let’s be honest, we don’t need the other two), that shit is hard! A lot of more modern youth crew takes its cues from softer stuff like GB, Chain and In My Eyes. When the youth crew sound is done well, there is no denying it’s sick as fuck. Please see Step Forward or Loud And Clear for examples. I’d say straight edge was overpopulated by low quality chugging self righteous XVX type shit more than anything though. Half of them turn out to be pedos too. Anyway, merch rocks. Just try and convince me that the Uniform Choice four-siders aren’t the greatest shirt design of all time.
DYKHC – In theory, Brexit will be a reality soon. And if that wasn’t enough, the boot of pandemic crisis is standing on our necks. Any profound political or social viewpoints you wish to share? What will Brexit mean for the hardcore (underground) music? How will pandemic change our music culture? I can only hope that underground music, in all its cultural variety and outward-looking ambition, can survive whatever comes next.
As far as Brexit goes, although we had a song about it on the demo, I think my good pal Port Daddy explained it the best; “Brexit is like being annoyed you can’t get your dick out in public. Not because you want to get your dick out, but because you’d like to have the choice to be able to get your dick out. So your solution is locking yourself in a room by yourself, because even though you don’t want to get your dick out, at least you always have the choice to”. Maybe it’s because I’m from a traditionally left wing part of the country, but I just struggle to get my head around these things sometimes. I think there is also a huge generational and cultural divide too. I feel so distant from my ‘fellow Brits’ who want to leave the EU, don’t believe in Covid, think Britain isn’t racist, and say things like “all lives matter” and “why can’t we have straight pride”. Merseyside needs to secede from the UK. In an ideal world, Ireland would take us in as the 33rd county. Ireland has its own problems, sure, but they never invaded or conquered another country. Solid craic.
DYKHC – I know you love punishing yourself with impossible and pointless decision-making lists too. I really like your “bleh” yelling in the end of the song called “NSEDFY”! “The “bleeeh”, the hardcore battle cry, the pre-mosh call out, the yell of excitement. What do you do if you don’t know the lyrics? Get up on stage anyway, grab the mic and just yell Bleh! BLEEEH!” (Something about the Bleh! article by Boothaeven’s zine) What are your top3 favorite “bleeeh” on hardcore records/tapes and why?
As much as I do love punishing list-making, I’m afraid there is only one true BLEHHH, and that is the one spat by 14 year old Frederick!
DYKHC – Read somewhere in a review that my interview questions are always awful. So thanks for your time and your answers! One last thing, I just showed The Flex drum-cam video to my mom. She said she will re-evaluate everything about music, you are better than Ringo Starr and John Bonham. Peace!
Your questions are always the best mate, but mum must be crazy! I mean, my dog Dougal is better than Ringo, fuck Ringo. But no one beats Bonham!!! X up, mask up, and listen to Cactus. Sinabit.