Lion of Judah (DC Hardcore) interview originally published in Things We Say fanzine, issue 2. (Click the picture for bigger size.)
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Gene Melkisethian (Give) interview originally published in Chiller Than Most, issue 3.5. Pics by Farrah Skeiky, Dan Rawe, Lonetriker, Elena Des
CTM – It’s such an inane bit of trivia but I really like working titles of songs. What have been some working titles of songs in the past? why did you give these working titles to these songs? Share some stories!
Gene – Working titles often relate to one element of the riff/rhythm/whatever that evokes something else, or an inside joke. We used to have a number system, but I can’t remember any of the corresponding songs anymore. We just use working titles because John is lazy and we have to force him to write lyrics when we’re in (or about to go into) the studio. Every band I have ever been in is like this, so I think that singers just can’t help it.
CTM – Did you read the book called “New York Hardcore 1980-1990” by Tony Rettman? I really enjoyed my time with this book.
Gene – I haven’t had a chance to read it, but Tony did a reading from it at my store. The stories about the ‘80s hardcore scene are cool, but I kind of liked it better when everything was a mystery.
CTM – I heard that your dad was around for everything that happened in DC in the early 80’s. He was the go to guy in town for amp repair and all of the big name hardcore bands came to him. Please feel free to share some great stories you heard from him!
Gene – My favorite story that isn’t too long to write is that when he got the Rites of Spring LP from the guys he told them, “Finally, this is some real music,” or something to that effect. Another cool story is that Darryl Jenifer stopped him on the street in Georgetown (fancy DC neighborhood) way back when and handed him a “Pay to Cum” with picture sleeve. It’s not every day that your father gets handed a $3000 record by the greatest band ever, but lucky for me I still have it.
CTM – Your latest release is an awesome live set, Moshers Delight put out your set from Fort Reno this past summer on a cassette. Fort Reno has got a great history and Amanda MacKaye continues to put on shows there every summer. I think it’s an awesome tradition in your town.As the city’s DIY rock scenes blossomed, it became a place for new wavers and then punks—an identity Fort Reno has kept even as D.C. hardcore has given way to D.C. post-hardcore. Give played there a couple of times, please tell me something about the vibe of Fort Reno!
Gene – Fort Reno is great, I think I first when there in ’90 or so to see Fugazi. My parents would bring me along and I got a chance to check out great music in a kid friendly environment. I was there for the “Ice Cream Eating Motherfucker” incident, so how could I not love the place? Fort Reno is many of the things that make DC great: it’s free (tons of free cultural activities here due to all of the museums), it’s outside (DC has tons of parks including a huge one behind my house that we shot the cover for our LP in), lots of good bands have played and money is not the object(another DC thing and I’m proud to be part of it). Also, big thanks to Amanda, she rules.
CTM – If I am not mistaken everyone has their favorite era/line up of Youth Of Today. What was the best Youth Of Today line up?
Gene – BDTW lineup, no question. That shit is untouchable! I first got my hands on a copy of it when I was very young (maybe I was 10?) when my sister borrowed if from some trench coat wearing goth punk at her school. I looked at the cover and the lyrics and knew that this was EXACTLY what I was into. I can’t even believe that P-O-S-E-R Crucial John prefers the sellout record.
CTM – Which NYHC hardcore band or song writer do you think writes the deepest lyrics, those that you can tell come from the heart?
Gene – I don’t look to NYHC for that kind of vibe, NYHC isn’t really the place for deep introspection. More often I’m thinking to myself “Boy, this music is great, why did they say THAT?!?” Notable exception being Absolution, those lyrics are pretty cool.
CTM – What have been some of your personal highlights or defining moments of the last European tour? What are the weirdest things you’ve ever seen on your European tours? Unusual European foods, weirdest European buildings, traditions etc.
Gene – I have a much more impressionistic way of looking at things, I used to know mundane details and facts about shows, records, etc, now I just follow life wherever it takes me. Getting to see old friends is always a highlight. Getting to see my friend Sarah, who almost died in a terrible accident, was a real blessing. Spending extra time in Berlin and Budapest was also great. We have so many great hosts that it seems unfair to single people out. Nothing in Europe is very foreign to me, I think I’m foreign to most other humans on Earth, I’m good to go wherever I am. No food is gonna really freak me out. If it’s from a plant, how bad could it be? If it’s a dead animal, it’s gross no matter what.
CTM – I heard that Beady Eye “Different Gear, Still Speeding This” was the soundtrack to the Flowerhead tour. (Beady Eye was bad ass as well although it’s not good as Oasis. I was lucky to see them in Germany in 2013.) What do you listen to when you are on the road? what do you listen to in your tour bus?
Gene – That record is real good. I don’t care about Oasis. We listen to all kinds of stuff, depends on who is driving. If 85 is up front we’re probably listening to Z-Ro or some chopped and screwed shit. I’m more into conversation than listening to even more music (we do that all night).
CTM – Thanks for your time! Last words?
Gene – Thanks for being our friend, thanks for doing a zine, thanks to the Budapest HC scene. Start a band, start a zine, get involved.
Pics by Jessica Bard, The New York Hardcore Chronicles, Phil In Phlash.
Before A7 was A7, it was a social club for old Polish people. This tiny space opened on the south east corner of Avenue A and East Seventh Street in 1980, it was a heavy Puerto Rican neighborhood and those guys were heavily territorial. The after-hours club became a ground zero between 1981 and 1984 for the burgeoning hardcore scene, when Dave Gibson (owner of A7) started to organize hardcore bands. The club operated without a liquor license and was often raided by police.
Bands played from 1 am to sunrise for an underaged crowd, and the club was staffed by members of the NYHC scene, on a good night, Raybeez was doorman, Doug Holland bartened, and Jimmy Gestapo deejayed. Sometimes 8 or 10 bands played for 3 bucks, and there was a sheet of paper tacked on the wall with the names of all the bands playing that night. There was a couch in there and the room couldn’t have held more than 30 kids, many just listened on the sidewalk outside next to the building wall. There was already a reggae scene going on at A7 at the time, and jazz bands played there too. The space is now the back room of a bar called Niagra, part-owned by scene veteran Jesse Malin (Heart Attack). As you go into Niagara’s backroom you notice on the wall a plaque that reads: “A7 1980-1984, pioneers of American hardcore and the birthplace of NYHC”.
– A7 is the place where The Abused played their first gig, and Kevin Crowley (singer of The Abused) used to give haircuts to people in the bathroom.
– A7 is the place where hardcore kids were getting into a lot of fights bruising their hands up too much, so they started to wearing construction gloves to protect their hands.
– A7 is the place where Gilligan’s Revenge (pre-Token Entry) played their first show with Kraut on November 12th, 1982. Johnny Steigerwald was the oldest member in the band, he was 16 at that time.
– A7 is the place where SS Decontrol showed up with ski masks.
– A7 is the place where The Young And The Useless played horrible hardcore covers like “Grease” and “Billy, don’t be a hero”.
– A7 is the place where the bathroom had no lock on the door so you had to pee expecting some unwanted visitors. If you had to take a dump, you’d better not had been shy.
– A7 is the place where a spray-painted message was written right over the side door, “Out of town bands remember where you are!”.
– A7 is the place where one of the best footage ever created in the history of hardcore. The video starts out with two songs by the Psycho’s, features Roger Miret on bass and Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy’s Law on vocals for the first song. Both songs are Void covers (“Who Are You” and “Time to Die” is the second track). After that, Jimmy Gestapo introduces the band and after a few minutes of tuning up, Agnostic Front do the song “United Blood”. Dave Jones of Mental Abuse on drums, Todd Youth on bass, Stigma on guitar, Roger vocals.
– A7 is the place where Future Confusion (pre-Death Before Dishonor) gave their first show in 1981.
– A7 is the place where Roger Miret played with three different bands (Rat Poison Band(pre-Warzone), The Psychos, Agnostic Front) on the same night in November 12th, 1983.
(Originally released in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 5.)