“If you smash up the Antidote and the Abused 7″es and glue them together, you’ll have a Dead Stop record.” This DS interview was originally published in Push The Limit fanzine, please click images to view full size.
Back in the day in 2017, Tony Rettman was generous to send me an unedited BOLD chapter from his book “STRAIGHT EDGE: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History” which I also shared in my fanzine in the same year. So you can check it out below. Pics by: Free Thought fanzine, Boiling Point fanzine, Think fanzin, Ken Salerno.
(You can order the book here: https://sandpaperlullaby.bigcartel.com)
Ray Cappo (Violent Children, Youth of Today, Shelter): When Violent Children was active prior to Youth of Today, we always wanted a brother band to play out with.
John Porcelly (Young Republicans, Violent Children, Youth of Today, BOLD, Judge, Gorilla Biscuits, Shelter, Project X): Youth of Today’s first drummer’s little sister was friends with these seventh graders that had Mohawks and played in a punk band.
Ray Cappo: Crippled Youth was basically a local punk rock band made up of thirteen-year-olds. We were really excited to hear them. They played at the Anthrax in Stamford, Connecticut, opening for the Descendents, and everybody loved them.
Mike Gitter (xXx fanzine): Crippled Youth were twelve year-olds playing straight edge hardcore. That was such a great, uncalculated marketing idea. Who wouldn’t want to see a band of prepubescent kids playing their interpretation of old school hardcore?
Dave Zukauskas (Run It! fanzine): When Crippled Youth started out they were more punk. They had a song called “Desperate for Beer,” and they did Black Flag covers. But I guess even by the time of their first show they had posi-youth type songs like “Stand Together,” and that’s what really impressed Ray and Porcell. At the time there were no other straight edge type bands from the area. I’m guessing that Youth of Today saw Crippled Youth, who were all 13 and 14 at the time, as the one band playing the Anthrax with whom they had something in common.
Steve Reddy (NY Wolfpack): The scene was so small at that point that discovering these fourteen-year-old kids from Katonah, New York, playing hardcore was crazy. And the first time I met Crippled Youth, they were real punks. They had their hair gelled up into spikes and stuff like that.
Matt Warnke (Crippled Youth, BOLD): Ray, John, Darren and Graham from Youth of Today were all at Crippled Youth’s first Anthrax show. The fact that we were all from nearby and were into 7 Seconds, Agnostic Front, and Dischord Records made them interested in us. Also, we all skated at that point. We started hanging out, and those guys lent us so many great records by SSD, DYS, Jerry’s Kids, Negative Approach, Reagan Youth, the Abused, and Antidote. We knew of the bands, but having access to the records was critical and fortunate, and definitely helped to influence our sound and sensibilities.
Ray Cappo: They lived right near Porcell and we became friends. I had a ramp in my yard and we would skate it. They were young kids and wanted music. We’d give them all the good records and say, “It took us years of buying the stupidest records. I wish someone did this for me. Here’s a stack of nothing but the greatest records!” They became our younger brothers.
Drew Thomas (BOLD, Youth of Today, Into Another): Maybe it is a bit lofty to think about, but I believe at the time Youth of Today tried to align themselves with what SSD had done as far as taking a leadership role in the scene. With that said, I think in Bold, we saw ourselves a bit more as a “younger brother band” like DYS, if there had to be analogies drawn.
Dave Zukauskas: Plus, you know, Crippled Youth needed someone to drive them around, they weren’t old enough to have their licenses yet, so it made it convenient for Youth of Today and Crippled Youth to play shows together.
Jordan Cooper (Revelation Records): Ray and Porcell probably consciously wanted Crippled Youth to be a little brother band, and they ended up becoming longtime friends. As for their “role,” Bold was probably the closest band to Youth of Today as far as mutual support and camaraderie.
Matt Warnke: Crippled Youth came upon resistance and resentment in the same way Ray and Porcell had. One incident in particular occurred after Crippled Youth had a one-page feature in Maximum Rocknroll right around the release of our seven-inch EP Join The Fight. Our label New Beginning Records and its founder Mike Trouchon arranged that. The piece was fairly innocuous, and I was just completely psyched, looking forward to being in the zine in which I had read about so many bands. One of the questions was something along the lines of, “How do you feel about yourselves and other straight edge bands getting flack for stating your beliefs?” Drew responded by drawing the analogy between us and other straight edge bands championing our beliefs and day-to-day habits, and those of Murphy’s Law, who sang proudly of their party-loving ways. No one questioned them for that, he pointed out. I remember reading that and having a bad feeling in the back of my mind that this would not go unnoticed. Fast forward to say six weeks later, I was at a show at the Ritz. I’m not sure who headlined, but Murphy’s Law were playing. About midway through the set, Jimmy G introduced a song, I want to say “Care Bear,” and he basically called out Crippled Youth for having the audacity to say something about his band. I just remember it felt like a spotlight shone right on me, and everyone who was near me stepped back six feet. I was thinking, “Thanks, Drew.” Mark Ryan from Death Before Dishonor and Supertouch came up to me and was like, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll talk to those guys and straighten it out.”
Murphy’s Law’s set ended, and Mark insisted we head backstage to iron things out. I remember the looks I got from Petey Hines and Joe Bruno. I was trying to be tough, but I was like fourteen years old facing these cats. Anyway, nothing was really resolved that night despite Mark speaking on our behalf. So the next day, I had stayed over in New Jersey, and we headed into Manhattan to the CB’s matinee as per usual. I remember being in the back of Mike Ferraro’s Camaro. I don’t think we really talked about it too much, but there was a sort of underlying concern of what could happen. We had no real way to know. I remember walking down Third Avenue towards CB’s. Then I think Mark again had a word with Jimmy Gestapo, and Jimmy just came over and shook my hand, made a joke, and that was that.
John Porcelly: The whole Youth Crew thing is still relevant, because, like the new generation, we were young and considered naive and dumb for taking such a hard stance against drinking and still clinging to fast hardcore with breakdowns, instead of more “mature” music with complex songwriting and musicianship. Most of the older generation had moved on. But we loved that early mosh-tastic, super-hard hardcore. To this day I think young, energetic alternative kids find it the most powerful, moving music ever.
Caine Rose (Touch X Down, 4 Walls Falling, Fed Up!): I think Minor Threat, the Faith, SSD, DYS and a few West Coast bands already heralded the turn of the philosophy into a movement in the early to mid 80s. The late ‘80s saw a new and more powerful revival of straight edge by these amazing New York, Connecticut, and mid-Atlantic bands. It wasn’t necessarily new, but it was more dynamic and even supercharged. It was the right time and place for a music revolution. And straight edge hardcore was undoubtedly one of the most formidable champions of musical zealotry.
Chris Bratton (Chain Of Strength, Inside Out): When Nirvana broke in 1991, they’d hit the reset button powerfully stripping shit back down to the basics and in doing so, they instantly swept away and made irrelevant all the hair metal bands and all the other shit, even Michael Jackson, who was infamously bumped from the number on position on the Pop Charts by Nirvana’s Nevermind LP. When Youth of Today broke big in 1987, they’d also hit that same reset button stripping shit all the way down and also instantly swept away all that had become bloated and irrelevant in hardcore.
“STRAIGHT EDGE: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History” (Bazillion Points, 2017) by Tony Rettman is a compiled series of interviews regarding the origins and influence of the straight edge subculture/community. All the things you need to know about this release: Tony’s book is a very well done and really informative oral history, handy, quick read that is put together nicely in chapters with awesome photos and flyers. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you go and get it. Such a great book!
I made this interview with Tony about his book in 2017, it was originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 5. Pics by Ken Salerno, Christine Elise, JJ Gonson, Free Thought fanzine.
CTM – Your last book (“NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990”) covers the glory days of the first wave of NYHC, rising from the drug-infested streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side to the suburbs and beyond. I know a lot of hardcore kids were turning into junkies. Heroin was a real big thing, it was very prevalent back then on the Lower East Side, and I heard there was a lot of mescaline going around too, psychedelic drugs were big part of the early years. Where did the idea to write a book about the other side come from? Where did the idea to write a book about straight edge come from?
Tony – I wanted to put together a book on Straight Edge done in a fashion I personally would want to read. Most books that are out there are written from a personal angle or tell the story stripped of the musical aspect. I wanted to do a book that traced the whole history of it throughout Hardcore Punk and the various places it went throughout the past 35 (or so) years.
CTM – How long did you work on the book, and what was the first thing you did for the book?
Tony – From January 2015 to November 2016. First thing I did was reach out to people I thought should be interviewed while also scanning through the other interviews I’ve conducted throughout the years seeing if there was anything within them I could use.
CTM – What did you find the most surprising in conducting all your interviews?
That no matter what moment in time the person came from within the Hardcore scene, their story on how they became interested in Straight Edge was the same. Strung out family members or seeing kids become potheads at 13; it didn’t appeal to them and the concept of Straight Edge seemed welcoming.
CTM – The cover photo of the book was made by Ken Salerno in 1989, CIV from Gorilla Biscuits dives into a BOLD crowd (City Gardens, Trenton). Could you please tell me something about the cover of the book, why did you choose this photo?
Tony – The photo was chosen by the publisher. I’ll be honest and say it wasn’t my first choice or personal choice for the cover image, but it looks pretty bad-ass in the here and now! And it tied Civ in to do the intro which is cool. He’s not a guy who grants himself out on the reg, so I’m shocked and honored he agreed to do it.
CTM – You interviewed a ton of people for the book. “STRAIGHT EDGE: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History” is written out in an oral history type of layout again, each person you interviewed for the book tells the story in their own words. It seems to me you really like this format.
Tony – It’s a format that lends itself to being unobtrusive to the proceedings. You can get the story out there in its pure form without interjecting too much of yourself into it.
CTM – The early DC straight edge scene saw itself as a counter-culture movement, like the hippies were in the 60’s. Brian Baker said in an interview that people hypothesize that DC is the cradle of straight-edge, so there was this ethical sidebar that was part of everything, but DC was really just like any small town scene. It wasn’t just a straight-edge town.
Tony – Yes. I think it was a matter of it simply being the town where a band wrote a song that spurred some thought in people.
CTM – Al Barile said that straight edge is one of the most important cultural influences of the last century. Straight edge kicked down the walls and opened the doors to music and choices that formed a new core of cool. SS Decontrol and Department of Youth Services took straight edge to a different place, the brand of straight edge was solidified in Boston. What do you think about Al’s statement and how do you feel about SS Decontrol’s and DYS’s legacy?
Tony – I think Al is 100% correct. I was the youngest of five kids. My brother and sisters were really living that American high school lifestyle you see in films like Dazed and Confused or maybe even Fast Time At Ridgemont High. I was under the impression that drinking and getting high was just what you did when you hit high school and you had no choice in the matter.
When my brother brought home SSD’s Get It Away and DYS’ Brotherhood, the way they looked (an accessable fashion that I was pretty much already wearing) combined with the lyrics honestly put this proverbial lightbulb over my head and made me think “Oh..I can do WHATEVER I want!” That epiphany not only put me on the path of being Straight Edge at that point in my life, but also blew my mind wide open on a larger scale in the aspect of how I would conduct myself for the rest of my life.
CTM – Youth of Today were a pioneering band. There were really important and influential bands up until that point, but I don’t think any band had the impact that Youth of Today did. Ray Cappo had an unusual talent to make changes in the scene. They had a mission statement: bring back straight edge, in a new way, they wanted to prove that it is not just a passing trend or whim but a legitimate alternative to a self-destructive drug culture. “The Youth Crew look became a stance against the violent, nihilistic, drunken mentality that was prevalent in the hardcore scene at the time.” How do you evaluate the work of Youth of Today?
Tony – Youth of Today were very important for me personally because at the time my brother started taking me to shows (summer of ‘84) it felt like I missed something. By that point, SSD and DYS went hard rock/heavy metal and Minor Threat had broken up. Bands like Stalag 13, Justice League or Ill Repute weren’t touring the east coast. When I read an interview with Youth of Today a year later in a local NJ ‘zine called Faith, I felt a connection as they really laid it out there that they were looking to rejuvenate the Hardcore scene. They meant a lot to me and still do.
CTM – You processed the story of the youth crew fashion in the “NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990” and you will publish a chapter (“Youth crew style: more than fashion”) about this topic in your upcoming book. Varsity jackets instead of leather jackets, rolled up jeans instead of bondage pants, crewcuts instead of liberty spikes and Nikes, Adidas instead of Doc Martens, no Mohawks, Champion sweatshirts, Air Jordans, low top Vans with colored laces. The youth crew image was a powerful one, and as the new straight edge bands, most notably Youth of Today, got more popular, it seemed straight edge started becoming more externalized. Many people thought that the imagery started taking precedence over the substance. What do you think about this topic?
Tony – I think when Straight Edge went beyond a philosophy or a set of “rules” and the iconography took over in the later part of the 80’s, that’s when it gained traction in a way it never did before. The building blocks for the look came from the back covers of SSD and DYS records for sure, but I think the tie-in of hip hop fashion at the time sealed up the “Youth Crew” look and made it what it’s observed as today. No matter how much people crapped on the idea of all these kids ‘looking the same’, it gave people something to hone in on and identify with in the same way someone might have looked at the back of a Discharge record and said, “That’s me”.
CTM – I really like what Gordo wrote about Mike Judge’s lyrics on Double Cross: “Whether you were straight edge in the past or straight edge in the present, there is no denying the sheer brutal honesty and power of JUDGE lyrics. It can be an uphill battle if you fall outside the social structure that involves drinking or even recreational drug use, but if you ever need some lyrics to help cement your feelings, having Mike Ferraro’s words handy is probably your best bet. “I’ll try to keep my cool…”” Mike is the master of being brutally honest with a life that is put into lyrics, what do you think about his lyrics?
Tony – At the time the “New York Crew” 7 inch came out, those lyrics Mike wrote were so cathartic for a guy in high school like myself who seemed to be constantly being ridiculed from every angle for not going along with the party aspect of teenage culture, but I think the lyrics of “Bringin’ It Down” still resonate more with me in the present day. After laying down these hard as nails lyrics on the 7”, it was shocking to hear him growl, “I can still remember the last time I cried’ He was showing vulnerability after taking shots for being too reactionary and it added another dimension to his persona.
The new issue of I Question Not Media fanzine is out now!
Issue 5: the Five Fingers of Death Issue. Cover star Rollie Fingers honors the Five Fingers of Death: Eye 2 Eye, Billy Club Sandwich, Sworn Enemy, Irate, Everybody Gets Hurt. https://iquestionnotmedia.bigcartel.com/
-Five Fingers sets on Crucial Chaos
-Multifarious Mosh Forms (aquatic mosh and more)
-a look inside the Scene Report Comp – and how some other classic comps were arranged
-Venn-detta diagrams (Next Step Up + Irate, Next Step Up + Lost Empress)
-Highlights of the Dusty Digest Zine Swap
-Bands where someone else wrote the lyrics
-Five Fingers Crossword Puzzle
-the Secret History of Secret Tracks & more!
24 page half size zine
Released March 2021
Cover art by Mike McAuley
Dead Stop and Justice. These two bands made a really huge impact on the European scene. I remember around 2004 me and my bros talked a lot about them, they were so inspirational and everybody loved to scream the “2, 3 JUSTICE” intro. A “Look Alive” era interview has gone up on the website, hope you will find it fun to read! Wake Up And Live was a really awesome fanzine from Portugal, Diego was always putting out great content and quality stuff. (Please click images to view full size.)