Joe Songco (Outburst) interview originally published in In Effect fanzine, issue 1. (Click the picture for bigger size.)
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.)
Intro – Things to check out in NYC, a hardcore-fanatic’s guide
A few years ago, one member of Death Before Dishonor asked: “Why are all the people posting about A7 club even most of you never been there before what’s going on here?”. To be honest, I thought a lot about this and I’m afraid the question missed the point. I truly believe that hardcore is still alive and well, but keeping the tradition is really important. Hardcore has a lot of history and I think it is relevant for the kids to know about the bands that came before them and influenced their current scenes. I really enjoyed the NYHC Chronicles documentary, it was fun to read the “New York Hardcore 1980-1990” book and “My Riot: Agnostic Front, Grit, Guts & Glory” book, despite I was never part of the early hardcore scene. I want to believe that these guys are happy that the new generations show interest in music from previous generations.
Everyone’s background in hardcore is relative. For me, I missed out on the first wave of New York hardcore and I missed the second wave too, I never went to A7 or some of the earlier clubs, I never saw the Psychos, Gilligan’s Revenge or Outburst live. I don’t have memories about these infamous places and legendary bands, for two simple reasons. Firstly, I’m in my thirties. Secondly, I was born in Europe and I’ve been living here since my birth. Regardless of these things, I feel a mystical connection and attraction to these places. Last year (2016) I got the chance to spend some days in New York City and make one of my bucket dreams come true, so needless to say, I visited and explored these legendary locations… (Originally released in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 5.)
DJ Spermicide (Marlene Goldman) interview originally released in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 4.
CTM – How did you first come in contact with the hardcore punk scene? What was the first hardcore record that made an impact on you and why? What were some of your first shows you saw that you would classify as hardcore in NYC?
DJ Spermicide – I was already into punk music my first year at NYU in 1984, so when I started seeing shows, there were usually local bands opening for them, some hardcore. I remember going to an Exploited/UK Subs show at the Rock Hotel on Jane Street and the Cro-Mags was one of the opening bands. They had amazing energy but the crowd was a bit intimidating. My dorm in the East Village was not far from where the hardcore scene was happening, so when I started to see shows, I became exposed to some of the local bands. Some of the first hardcore music I heard was actually on cassette tapes while hanging out in Tompkins Square Park, bands like Circle Kaos. I saw a lot of shows at CBs–Reagan Youth, Underdog, Murphy’s Law, The Mob, Agnostic Front, Kraut, Warzone, Youth of Today, Token Entry, Straight Ahead. I also went to some all-day warehouse shows in Williamsburg, which back then was more like a war zone (and I’m not talking about the band) than the hipster enclave it is now. As in, you were always happy when you made it back alive. Anyway, there were dozens of bands playing at those shows, most of the names I don’t recall, but it was definitely a scene.
CTM – Who influenced you to start your own radio program? Did you used to listen to the “Noise the Show”? (Tim Sommer was the creator and host of Noise The Show, a pioneering New York City-based hardcore punk radio show aired during 1981-82 on WNYU.)
DJ Spermicide – I mostly listened to WNYU’s New Afternoon Show growing up on Long Island, which featured more of the alternative, college radio music with some punk and local music mixed in. After Noise the Show, Jon Fox had been hosting Hellhole, which was more of a punk/metal mix. I had been hanging out in Tompkins Square Park and a lot of the small, local bands were playing their tapes for each other, but there was not really an outlet for their exposure back then. The loss of Hellhole had left a void and the time slot opened on Thursday nights. I started with a one-hour version of Crucial Chaos, which eventually went to an hour and a half to accommodate the interviews and live bands. Murphy’s Law was my first guest on my first show. They brought up pizza and beer for the occasion.
CTM – Crucial Chaos was really popular and the radio show left a huge impact on the hardcore scene. It was so influential that kids would run to Some Records to buy the records that were played the night before on air. A lot of musicians mentioned how important it was for them to play on Crucial Chaos. Jeff Terranova (Up Front) said he left a cassette tape in his bedroom stereo and taught his Mom how to start recording when they played. In those years every hardcore kid in NYC would tape the whole show to catch up on new releases, listen for gig announcements, ticket giveaways, interviews, not to mention the live sets that everyone anxiously waited for and hit the record button. What was your message that you want to give to people through this radio program? What did you accomplish with the Crucial Chaos?
DJ Spermicide – Obviously Chaos was in the pre-Internet, music sharing era, so hardcore kids only heard about bands through word of mouth or some other outlets, like Pat Duncan’s show on WFMU. I really wanted there to be a sense of community in the New York scene that revolved around the music, so promoting shows and new bands was all part of that. Letting them speak and get their message out was also one of my goals. For a lot of the kids, the hardcore scene was their family, their life. A lot of the kids I met came from broken homes or rough backgrounds—not everyone, but enough that I started to realize how important having this hardcore family was to them. It brought together street kids, squatters, and a lot of people who identified with that music and energy.
CTM – In 1986-87, and particularly the summer of 1987, it was a really amazing time to be into hardcore in New York City. I know that the different cliques seemed to get along, shows featured diverse bands on the bills, and there were lots of shows. I assume that Crucial Chaos contributed to the popularity of hardcore… What do you think about this period? Who were some memorable characters from the NYHC scene?
DJ Spermicide – It’s easy to romanticize that time in New York because of all the great music back then and all the colorful characters that made it such a unique place to live. But this was a turbulent era in New York history, which was reflected in the angst of the music. The city was filled with heroin dealers, people shooting up in Tompkins Square Park, newly released Reagan-era mental health patients, escalating crime, garbage cans on fire, graffiti everywhere, and a lot of grit and grime that in a lot of ways in turn brought the scene together. There were so many characters back then. I moved into the city in 1984, which was when A7, which was pretty much the birthplace of the hardcore scene, closed. The CBGB hardcore matiness on Sundays ended up being as much a gathering place as a place to hear the music. People back then… Of course Jimmy Gestapo and, Raybeez, big Charlie, Ralphie, Harley Flanagan, Roger Miret, John Joseph, Vinnie Stigma, Stephan from False Prophets. I used to hang out with some the Avenue C squatters. Others like John Spacely -Gringo- who ended up in the Sid and Nancy movie.
WNYU’s Crucial Chaos (WNYU-FM (89.1 FM) is a college radio station owned and operated by New York University) was really popular in the ’80s and the radio show left a huge impact on the hardcore scene. It was so influential that kids would run to Some Records to buy the records that were played the night before on air. A lot of musicians mentioned how important it was for them to play on Crucial Chaos. In those years every hardcore kid in NYC would tape the whole show to catch up on new releases, listen for gig announcements, ticket giveaways, interviews, not to mention the live sets that everyone anxiously waited for and hit the record button. Crucial Chaos (hosted by DJ Spermicide) has had many classic NYHC bands on air such as Supertouch, Breakdown, Our Gang, Underdog, Token Entry, Warzone, Fit of Anger, Beyond etc.
DJ Spermicide (Marlene): “Some Records for a while was one of the sponsors of Crucial Chaos, meaning they would give us records in exchange for an air mention. It was a great place for smaller bands to get noticed and for everyone to mingle.” (New york Hardcore 1986-1993, by David Koenig)