Tag Archives: badbrains

171A, Rat Cage Records Store / A hardcore-fanatic’s guide – Part IV.

Originally released in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 5. (Click the picture for bigger size.)

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This innocuous construction was built in 1900, in 117 years this building tells some great history. In 1976, Hyman Lieberman was arrested for possessing 2400 pounds of mannite worth $500,000 which he was distributing to drug dealers for use in cutting heroin. Lieberman owned a store at 171 Avenue A, which he had previously owned and sold in 1966. The burnt-out abandoned building at 171 Avenue A became the epicenter of the New York City hardcore movement, it was down the block from A7.

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MDC with Jerry Williams, 1982.

It was pretty much a community center ran by a guy named Jerry Williams, perfect for hanging out, and a great meeting place too. Jerry was a key figure in the burgeoning early 80s NYHC scene, recording bands at his 171A studio and doing sound at CBGB, as well as playing guitar in Bloodclot and later on with Irate (NYC). He produced records for the Bad Brains, Token Entry, Antidote, Reagan Youth, Warzone, Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law, and a ton more. In September 1980, Williams began renovating the interior of 171 Avenue A, which had formerly been a glass shop. By November, 171A housed after-hour parties where downtown bands like the Cooties performed. Kids used the space for everything: they put on shows, recorded bands, screened movies. Williams successfully pulled off gigs at 171A every Friday and Saturday night for a few weeks until a rival club tipped the New York Fire Department that it was selling liquor without a license. The NYFD closed it down before a New Year’s party, so it was converted to a rehearsal space. They charged $6 to $8 per hour for bands to rehearse and had a gigantic PA system.

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Dave Parsons

A year later, Jerry’s friend Dave Parsons opened his Rat Cage Records store in 171A’s cellar. There he started the label Rat Cage Records, and put out these awesome records by Beastie Boys (Polly Wog Stew EP), Agnostic Front (Victim In Pain LP) and The Young And The Useless (Real Men Don’t Floss 7″).
Rat Cage was actually the first advertiser in The Big Takeover, way back in issue #8 from December 1981. Their ad described some of their services: “T-Shirts, import records, sold & traded clothes, fanzines, badges and local shit.”

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– 171A is the place where I wrote and recorded the first Cro-Mags songs. Don’t get me wrong, Harley and John wrote many great lyrics to songs but the brutal truth is that I am the Cro-Mags’ founding member. I know who wrote what, what happened and when it happened, who did or didn’t do this and that!* (* Yes, it was irony.)
– 171A is the place where the Bad Brains recorded one of the most influential hardcore releases of all time, the legendary ROIR cassette. The Bad Brains played a gig at 171A in May 1981, Jerry Williams recorded it on reel-to-reel tape. The band really liked the sound and returned to 171A, the Bad Brains spent the rest of 1981 in the East Village, recording with Jerry. 12 of the 15 tracks on the album came from these sessions, while “Jah Calling”, “Pay to Cum” and “I Luv I Jah”, were from Williams’ live recording in May.

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– 171A is the place where Jerry Williams screened music documentaries (“Shellshock Rock” / “Self Conscious Over You” documentary movies about the evolution of the punk scene in Belfast) in the evenings, and between the two flicks the Stimulators performed. Harley Flanagan was 14 old at the time, he was playing drums for the Stimulators.
– 171A is the place where Harley Flanagan used to practice when he was trying to get the Cro-Mags together. He jammed there with the Bad Brains, who lived there at the time. When Harley was putting together the Cro-Mags, with the original lineup was him on bass, ex-Mad drummer Dave Hann, and a pre-Even Worse Dave Stein on guitar, and Louie Rivera (Antidote) was singing with them until Eric Casanova stepped into the picture.
– 171A is the place where Circle Jerks, Angry Samoans, The Subhumans all jammed and recorded.
– 171A is the place where Beastie Boys played their first gig, they opened up for the Bad Brains.
– There was an infamous night when DOA were playing at A7 and then they went over to 171A and did their set and then they went back over to A7 and did another set and the crowd just followed them back and forth.
– 171A is the place where Williams formed a band comprised of Bad Brains roadies who called themselves Bloodclot. They did perform many live gigs opening for the Bad Brains. Although Bloodclot never released an album, they only recorded a demo at 171A.
– 171A is the place where the Beastie Boys recorded the “Polly Wog Stew” EP with producer Scott Jarvis. Utilizing a four-track and an Echo-plex, they were kicked out of the studio after two days so they mixed it in Jarvis’s apartment.

 

Interview with Gene Melkisethian (Give) – Part I.

Gene Melkisethian (Give) interview originally published in Chiller Than Most, issue 3.5. Pics by Susan, Brett Sweeney, Dan Gonyea, Tyler Ross.

CTM – How did you start playing drums, and who were your biggest influences growing up?

Gene – I started playing drums because there was a drum set in my attic and I was a curious little bugger. Influences are kind of hard to pinpoint, as I’m more into music in general than just trying to cop someone’s vibe. I saw Fugazi almost constantly from when I was six or seven years old until they stopped, so I heard a lot of Brendan’s drumming, and he’s a great drummer, so I’m sure that’s in the mix. A cassette I found at a very young age was the Bad Brains Roir cassette, and how can you not dig that? As a teen, Sammy Siegler was in every cool band, so when I was the same age he was a big influence. Besides that I really dig Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell, Vinny Appice, Bill Ward and like a million others.

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CTM – Who are your favourite hardcore drummers? Who left the biggest impact on your drum style and why?

Gene – Earl Hudson is the correct answer to this question, but I think that Jeff Nelson is waaaaay overlooked. The good NY(area) guys are obvious: Mackie, Sammy, Drew Beat, Will Shepler. Real into the drumming on the best Integ releases, whoever did it??? Besides that, I’m into the razzmatazz of Chris Bratton- he knows how to put on a show. More modern? Justin DeTore is a machine, and Connor Donegan is a young dude that crushes it. Also Brandon Ferrell from a bunch of NC/VA bands was always fun to watch and super on point, Jonah from Fucked Up is also great. Some of these guys I don’t even know one song by the bands they play in, but I always grab an up front spot to watch them play. I might try to cop a good idea they execute, but I’m too hyperactive to actually learn anything from them, I just make shit up that sounds good with whatever song I’m working on. I’d probably be a lot better (and all of these guys slay me) if I cared about fine-tuning my skills.

CTM – You said in an interview that the lyrics celebrate individuality, free will and a pride in self that stems from personal choices rather than thinking in a group. Do you think it’s important for a band of individuals to all have the same beliefs? What do you think about John’s lyrics?

Gene – Having the same beliefs would be boring. We are all on the same page on a lot of things, but I think that comes from growing together as a unit. We all can learn from each other, and there are a bunch of brainiacs in the group, so we’re always arguing about current events or having political debates. I think John’s lyrics are very good. They are the right mix of simple generalities and detailed snapshots of life. They resonate with a wide variety of people, and stand for the good things: positivity, love, acceptance, tolerance, individuality and growth.

CTM – Looking back, how do you feel about the self titled 12 inch? What memories does it bring to you?

Gene – It’s a cool record, the band was in a constant state of flux and had like three false starts before that. We got in some stupid arguments over the intro track, but that honestly makes the record for me. The opening track is the last thing that the previous lineup did together, and then it busts into a song that kind of summarizes the next era of the band. We were finding our style and image, and we didn’t have it all there at the time. I conscripted Ian to move from bass to guitar because he can actually handle being in a band, and that’s something important to consider. It was also cool because Ben is such a good player (in a more typical mode) that Ian’s inexperience would help us to have a more creative vibe (and how many pics of him prancing about would be posted on the internet if he had a bass in his hand…..). So it was fun to do something new and ambitious and more in line with what I’ve always been working towards.

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CTM – Do you feel like you accomplished something with this Electric Flower Circus record that you hadn’t done before on earlier releases?

Gene – It was an insane amount of tracking. We did like twenty songs almost. So that was something that I’d never done before. It was also cool to put it out ourselves. There are definitely things that I wish we had done differently, but that means that I care about it, and the fire is there to do something that’s hopefully “better” in the future.

CTM – What’s been your proudest moment in the band?

Gene – Who knows? It’s all fun. I love playing music, and these guys are great. We can all be giant babies about things, but that’s even fun at this point.

CTM – The Voodoo Leather cassette is probaly one of my most favorites. How would you describe this tape as far as music and lyrics?

Gene – It was all of the weird loose ends that we had hanging at the time. Ian and I are always trying to sell the other guys on our stupid riff-collections that aren’t really songs. I actually think that the music is really cool, but the recording doesn’t fit us. I also think that the lyrics aren’t as thought out as the other releases(with the giant exception of Voodoo Leather). That tape is like a glimpse into our practice space and showcases a side of the band that you might never see otherwise.

CTM – Give plays a style of DC punk mixing influences like Swiz and Rites of Spring with New Order and Soundgarden.Besides this the character/the attitude of what the band represents is totally hardcore. What makes a band a hardcore band in your eyes?

Gene – Who knows? That’s a tough question. On the good side, I see the bands in DC- lots of creative kids, lots of new faces. On the bad side I see bands in other places: conservative politics, sexism, homophobia, gang-mentalities, violence, glorifying the past above all else. Hardcore is our way of approaching things, always giving everything we’ve got when we play, not acting like rock stars- the usual shit, caring about the world and trying to make a difference- not giving in.

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CTM – Lion of Judah were a really unique band, you were a little weird compared to the typical hardcore formulas and Give was creating something completely new too in the hardcore scene. What do you think of the state of hardcore music nowadays and the way a lot of bands have a very similar sound?

Gene – It’s the same as it will always be, lots of people that like the violent imagery and need a place to bully others and they’re too weak to be real criminals. On the flip there are people everywhere that want to be different and don’t fit in where they’re from. They need a place to go where they are respected for whoever they are, and they need people that will stick up for them. There are more people that are good than bad, and more people that want to create than destroy, so there are good things to look forward to. We just try to make music that we like and we hope to inspire others to do the same.

CTM – Do you find it difficult to create your own sound and your own identity?

Gene – Not at all.

CTM – It seems to me you are still enjoying the creative process, you are still full of new ideas. What goals do you still have for the band and what are you hoping the future holds?

Gene – More music, more songs, encouraging more diversity in the scene.