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An in-depth analysis of the history of BOLD

An in-depth analysis of the history of BOLD, interview with Nathan Simpson (Ancient Heads) and Matt LaForge (Ancient Heads, Mil-Spec). Originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 4 (2016). Pics by Boiling Point fanzine, Ken Salerno, No Answers fanzine, I4NI fanzine.

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CTM: How was your first time meeting BOLD? Was it love at first sight? What kind of impact did BOLD have on your life?
Nate: My first encounter with BOLD was in the winter of 1997 hearing Youth of Today’s cover of ‘Talk is Cheap’ on “Take A Stand: Live” which came out on Lost and Found. Then I heard ‘Looking Back’ on the Revelation “In Flight” sampler that spring. I liked the song, but it was definitely not what I expected. I had looked at the cover of “Speak Out” and read the description on the Revelation website so many times I was expecting it to sound like another Youth of Today. I picked up the “Looking Back” 12” in the summer of ’98 and, while I enjoyed it, I couldn’t say it was love at first sight. I then saw Matt Warnke do ‘Talk Is Cheap’ and ‘Wise Up’ at the Youth of Today reunion in June ’99 and later that summer I FINALLY got a copy of “Speak Out” (I also got “NYC Hardcore: The Way It Is” the same day) and suddenly everything made sense!! This was the BOLD I had been looking for, and I was instantly hooked. As the years have passed, I have come to prefer the Tom Capone era material. That said, “Speak Out” still slaps.
Matt: It wasn’t love at first sight. The first time I heard Bold was the track “Looking Back” on the In-Flight Program Rev sampler. For more, see my answer to your question about the 7”. I wish I could remember the moment I first saw a Bold shirt. That was love at first sight.

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CTM: The songs on Speak Out are awesome both musically and lyrically, I really like them. One of the greatest things on this record – for me – is that most every song has an awesome mosh part. Speak Out songs are not super complex, but these are very well written songs. What is your opinion about this record?
Matt: I think that’s well put: not complex but very well written. You can tell Matt had taken some lessons and learned a bit of theory. The songs tend to hang on recognizable key signatures; they’re not just exercises in throwing darts at the fretboard and hoping for the best. Which, by the way, makes them great for beginner guitar players who want to play HC. Within about two weeks of the first time I picked up a guitar with the intention of learning how to play it — this was five years ago — I was, according to a loose definition of the word “play,” “playing” along to “Clear.” The riffs had, even to my untrained ape ears, a kind of logic, which I later found an explanation for in basic theory. Way more fun than trying to get excited about playing “The House of the Rising Sun.” No shade — that’s a great song — but you know what I mean. On Speak Out Matt shows the songwriting promise that he later fulfilled.
Nate: I think Matt Warnke is an underrated song writer. As you said, the songs are simple, BUT they are incredibly catchy and well structured. They can’t help but get stuck in your head. BOLD’s appeal is build on the big sing-along chorus and Matt was an absolute master of that. I’m also a fan of how every mosh part is unique and avoids the trappings of the generic ‘mosh beat’. It doesn’t hurt when you have as an incredible drummer in Drew.

CTM: Do you like the way this record sounds? I think the quality of the recording is really low.
Nate: In a word, yes. Could it have sounded much better? Definitely. It was recorded at Electric Reels Studio, the same place Youth of Today did “Break Down The Walls” in 1986, a record that has flawless production. But something was amiss when BOLD hit the studio a year later. It’s no secret the compilation versions of ‘Talk is Cheap’ and ‘Wise Up’ smoke those on the LP. The comp version of “Wise Up” was also done at Electric Reels so I’m not sure what happened. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make a difference to me. The record is a classic, through and through.
Matt: I don’t like the way it sounds but I don’t let that bother me. I don’t let whatever relatively minor beef I have with the recording and performances ruin it. I think people can pay too much attention to that stuff. But, at any rate, no, it’s not a good recording. There’s something about the muddy sonics that gives the impression that the tempos are dragging in mud. I think it might be an aural illusion: the songs feel slow because they “sound” slow. I haven’t done a metronome test but I bet the results would be surprising. The comp versions of “Wise Up” and “Talk is Cheap” that we almost all prefer feel like they have more snap and drive, but maybe they don’t. Maybe it’s just a trick of the ears. There are ways to verify these guesses but I choose not to.

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CTM: Speak Out matrix says ‘carrot juice’. Do you know the story of this matrix?
Matt: I think Nate and Crucial John have explained the matrix to me, but I’ve forgotten the explanation. This is one of those finer points of youth-crew lore that, in my advancing age, I just don’t have the energy to internalize. The people who do the serious digging, who really work the internet hard and master all the minutiae are awe-inspiring to me. True scholars —there’s no other word for them. Me, I’m no scholar — I’m a journalist by trade, so I’m used to a much less rigorous and much more superficial model of information gathering and information spreading.
Nate: That’s an inside joke about a local health food store the guys would frequent.

CTM: BOLD self titled seven inch. It is pretty insane how quickly they progressed as a band from 1986-1989, people couldn’t get over how much BOLD changed from ‘Speak Out’ the previous year, to this 7 inch. While Tom Capone was doing Beyond, Matt heard their demo and he called him to join them after their summer 1988 west coast tour. BOLD at that time were looking to progress and rock, so he was a great choice for the band. What do you think about this record?
Nate: It’s funny how the focus only ever seems to be on the difference between “Speak Out” and the 7”. Everyone forgets about the differences between “Join Our Fight” and “Speak Out”. In a short time the songs became much more complex and interesting. And this trend naturally continued throughout the band’s tenure. “Speak Out” infamously took a long time to finally be released, well after those songs were written and recorded. While the public was hearing these songs for the first time in 1988, they were already considered old to the band. As I said above, Matt is an excellent song writer, and when he teamed up with Tom Capone, a bonafide shredder, it was only natural that they would continue to refine their sound and take it to the next level. I absolutely love the 7” and all of the songs from the Baby Monster sessions. The song “Speak Out” is my favorite BOLD track.
Matt: The 7” is easily Bold’s best record. In fact, I think it’s difficult to argue against the proposition that the 7” is the best record that the youth crew produced. Of course you can argue otherwise, but doing so is difficult — an uphill battle against taste and Kantian aesthetics. I didn’t always think this way. For one thing, my early exposure to later Bold was not via the 7” itself but via the Looking Back record and, before that, “Looking Back,” the song, which I heard on the In-Flight Program Revelation sampler from ’97. Looking Back is a much weaker record than the 7”. The extra three songs aren’t in the same league as the main four. “Speak Out” and “Looking Back” are soft and shapeless, to my ear, with lyrics that are fine in their own right but pretty pedestrian compared to the sharpness and specificity of the lyrics on the 7” songs. And the “Always Try” redux is a fun novelty but totally inessential. So you’ve got two tiers of quality on Looking Back, and the lower-tier songs clog up the middle section of the record and dilute the Big Four’s power. That’s my take, anyway. I know Nate will aggressively disagree. “Speak Out” is his favourite Bold song, and he’s always stood by Looking Back. At any rate, it wasn’t until I heard the 7” itself — which didn’t happen until an embarrassingly late date, some time in the late ’90s or maybe even the early 2000s — that I got with the program. The other thing that had turned me off was Matt’s interview in that book All Ages, which I read not long after it was published in ’97, when I was 17. In answer to a question about the 7”, he says something along the lines of “That’s the one record I’ll play when people ask me about the band. That’s the one I stand behind.” At the time, I resented him for that comment. I took it as an implicit denigration not only of Speak Out but of simple straight-edge hardcore in general. How could he say that?! How could he hold up the later era — which, keep in mind, I associated with Looking Back, not the actual four-song record he was talking about — as the only incarnation of the band worthy of posterity? I was too young, stupid, and over-sensitive to understand where Matt was coming from and what he meant. But I carried that resentment with me, along with my lukewarm feelings about Looking Back, for a long time. I was a knee-jerk Speak Out partisan until well into my 20s. Not anymore. The 7” is a masterpiece. Next question.

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CTM: Drew said in an interview that if Zulu or Tim Brooks played on this last record it would have been a hell of a lot different. What do you think about his personal opinion?
Matt: Drew is a musician, and in that comment he’s giving a pretty frank indication of his opinion of Zulu and Tim as musicians. My guess is he remembers the writing and recording of the 7” as a special process, which involved only the three band members who had the talent, sophistication, and technical ability required to realize any specific vision period, let alone a nuanced and ambitious vision such as what emerged on the 7”. Zulu and Tim would have needed to be accommodated, Drew is saying — their limited playing ability and/or their limited imaginations. Maybe he’s wrong about them, but I’ve no doubt he’s sincere in his belief. He probably remembers that record as a moment in his life when things really came together and something special happened. We all have those moments in our lives, but they’re vanishingly few. So we hold them dear, romanticize them, and marvel at their improbability: “If that one little thing hadn’t happened, then the whole outcome would have been different. Why did everything go right?”
Nate: Without additional context that is a difficult question to answer. If he meant “If Tom Capone didn’t play on this record” then yes, it would have likely sounded more similar to “Speak Out”. But I think it ultimately comes down to who is writing the tracks. I’m not sure Zulu and Tim would have made much a difference. But this is all speculation. I’m happy that it turned out the way it did.

CTM: I mean their lyrics changed a lot from time to time, from “I just know what my scene’s like and I think it fucking rules” to emotional lyrics like “Change within” and “Today we live”. They were all about 14 and 15 years old when they started the band, so I think that they just wanted to be the little brothers of Youth of Today, they just wanted to be a simple cookie-cutter hardcore band without originality and their lyrics on the Crippled Youth EP definitely are reflective of that. As time went on, they started writing about how they were really feeling and they tried to reconcile the experiences out in the wilderness of the world. What do you think about their lyrics?
Nate: I think it’s being harsh and unfair to say “they just wanted to be a simple cookie-cutter hardcore band without originality.” I disagree with that statement completely. What more do you expect from a 13 year-old? Matt hadn’t even had the chance to live the experiences he would later sing of, let alone be to expected to articulate them lyrically.
Matt: The lyrics are good but unremarkable until the 7”. The lyrics on the 7” are as moving and surprising and direct and unfussy as a great John Cheever story.

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CTM: ‘You’re The Friend I Don’t Need’ is probably one of the most bizarre lyrics ever because this song was actually written about Drew by Matt. What are your feelings about this song?
Nate: It’s not as bizarre as you may think. Ian MacKaye wrote the entire “Out of Step” album sitting across the table from Jeff Nelson in Dischord house. It’s a great song. Think about how many hours/days/weeks the two of them spent together. And for Matt to feel that way about someone he considered one of his closest friends. Put yourself in that situation. As powerful as it is heartbreaking.
Matt: I think that if we knew how many songs were written, in fits of malice, pique, or jealousy, by one band member about a fellow band member, the number would shock us. Or maybe it wouldn’t. It probably shouldn’t: there’s a long tradition in rock of intra-band subtweeting-via-lyrics, “Go Your Own Way” being the most famous example. What do I think of the fact that “You’re the Friend I Don’t Need” was written by Matt about Drew? I think it’s heartbreaking. I’ve heard a lot of stories from credible sources about the circumstances that gave rise to the song, but I can’t pretend to know what really happened or what was in either guy’s head before, during, and after the composition of the lyrics. All I know is that every one of us has lost close friendships that we thought would last forever. We all know how it feels to suddenly, fall out with someone whom we’ve loved and with whom we’ve shared important, intense periods of our lives. It’s one of the most painful things a person can go through. Think about how long Drew and Matt knew each other, how young they were when they met, how much they went through together, how much the music they created together has meant to people. Think about how much intimacy and love would be produced by all that. And then picture the day when that intimacy and love suddenly became inaccessible to both of them. Even when a friendship degrades gradually, the final separation is always sudden. Listen, if you’re not at this very moment, while reading this, mentally screening a montage of the rise and fall of Drew and Matt’s friendship in the ’80s, and if the soundtrack to that montage is not “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and if you’re not currently on the verge of tears, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

CTM: Do you have a favourite break down in any BOLD song? Which one is probably the best and why?
Nate: I’m not sure if I could pick one that is the “best”, but one of my favorite breakdowns is in ‘Running Like Thieves’, which some may find surprising. ‘Always Try’ (“Speak Out” version) is another one. The cymbal crash into the bass part followed by Matt’s vocals (“…will al-ways fuck-ing try!”) is stirring before it drops right out into that crunchy-hard outro. One of the best BOLD songs.
Matt: I love the holler in “Change Within.” You can’t argue with the bounce of “Talk is Cheap”’s breakdown. But the “Change Within” holler is my take. Somewhat related: The best transition out of a Bold breakdown is in Running Like Thieves. When the beat picks back up, with Capone playing that little pentatonic theme… man. You could listen the song 12 times a day for the rest of your life and that moment would never cease to thrill.

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CTM: What are your favourite BOLD live sets and why?
Matt: The set at the Anthrax where Zulu plays in sunglasses. I love that move by Zulu — an act of whimsy that feels ahead of its time, the kind of gag I’d see in the ’90s and 2000s but don’t associate with the ’80s when everything was still pretty earnest. The youth crew bands are my favourites but there’s an element of self-seriousness in their aesthetics that I enjoying seeing pierced from time to time. Zulu’s shades piece it. “We’re serious about this band, but these sunglasses should tell you a lot about what we’re like offstage.”
Nate: My favorite live set is BOLD’s first show in Washington D.C. at the Safari Club in January 1988. It’s BOLD in their prime, playing as a five-piece (with Zulu) and just absolutely crushing it. Entire room is a mosh pit. Matt’s swagger is at an all-time high (“Don’t be afraid to come up and talk to us. I’d especially like to extend that to all the girls that are here.”) Great stage banter from both Matt as well as the sound man (“Everybody up on stage do a Houdini — disappear!”). An early version of ‘Looking Back’ called ‘Start Again’ is played with a completely different set of lyrics. An incredible set.

CTM: A lot of people don’t like live recordings of hardcore bands, they are deemed as too steril or raw. One of the reasons that I love listening to live sets is because sometimes you can catch genius stage banters, memorable quotes, memorable moments. What are your favourites? Do you like the Mark rap intro for BOLD (The Anthrax Norwalk CT 02 07 1987) ?
Matt: Yes, I love Mark’s rap intro. It’s a damn sight better than the Turning Point rap intro, from the latterday set in, I believe, DC. I always thought that TP thing was a little snarky. I’ll give you my favourite piece of Matt banter. Once again, it’s from the Zulu-in-shades set at the Anthrax. Roughly paraphrased: “Let’s get everyone up front so people can stagedive on you and then you can stagedive on them, et cetera.” That “et cetera” fucking kills me.
Nate: Live sets are such a valuable source of information. I think its so cool to hear early/alternate versions of songs (as mentioned above), or hearing songs that were played live but never recorded (i.e. ‘Till The End’ by Chain of Strength). I’m a fan of Mark Ryan and Supertouch, but as far as that rap intro goes…lets just say I think his mic skills were far better suited to HC.

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BOLD with Mark Ryan (Supertouch)

CTM: BOLD reunited in 2005 with Matt on vocals, Tom on guitar, Brooks on bass and Vinny Panza on drums. Porcell who periodically played with the band in the 80s, joined on second guitar. Did you catch them on these reunion shows? I had the pleasure to see them in Austria and Italy, I loved how they updated some of their songs or made little changes in subtle ways. The Vienna show is a great memory for me, we went into the club early that day to hang out. The guys allowed us to check out their soundcheck which was great, and the show was really bad ass. One of my friends lost his tooth and another friend of mine broke his x-rated swatch. Do you have any memories of BOLD reunions?
Nate: I will leave this question to Matt who has one of my favorite BOLD stories.
Matt: I caught this lineup once, at Posi Numbers ’05 in Wilkes-Barre’s world-famous inflatable sports dome. They rocked pretty hard, opened with Running Like Thieves to racucous moshing. But it’s difficult to mention that set without also mentioning the 65-yard Vinny Testaverde-esque spiral that Matt effortlessly tossed when for some reason — possibly related to the gig being held in an inflatable sports dome — a football found its way onstage mid-song. Lets all take a moment to remember and appreciate that spiral.

CTM: Livewire Records worked on a live record (‘Watch As Time Moves Past’) and they wanted to release a new BOLD 7 inch too. These records never saw the light of day but as far as I know they recorded a rehearsal tape with new songs. Have you ever heard these songs?
Nate: I have never heard these songs and hopefully never will. I know the band wasn’t happy with the songs so one can only imagine how terrible they are.
Matt: I have not and I’m not losing sleep over that. I don’t think they had another classic record in them. I say that as a devoted fan.

CTM: Top3 BOLD tees?
Matt: Speak Out — Yellow and red on black. Yes, it’s a bootleg, yes it’s just a repurposing of the LP logo, but it’s perfect. / The dark-on-white logo shirt Cappo is wearing in his “fallback” jump photo from We’re Not in This Alone’s layout. You remember “It’s gotta be the shoes”? Well, it had to be the shirt. / Not Join The fight. I do not care for the Join The Fight design. I realize you didn’t ask to name a shirt I don’t like, but I wanted to take this opportunity to get my feisty take on the public record.
Nate: In no particular order: Summer Tour ’89 — BOLD forewent the traditional full tour back print for a subtle “Summer Tour ’89” under a pocket print Rev Star. The gold print on the front perfectly compliments the regal purple of the BOLD on the reverse side, partially layered on top of Alex Brown’s iconic back cover photo. / Join The Fight — Simply one of the most iconic HC tees ever printed. There’s a reason Porcell is wearing it on the cover of “Bringin’ It Down”. / BOLD Fan Made Bootleg — White tee with BOLD in yellow and black collegiate lettering. A very small number were made by some fans of the band. Highly sought after grail — even for a boot.

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Nathan and Matt