My brother Steve is three years older than me, and he was best friends with Mike. And they got into punk...but guess what punk band? You’ll never guess this…Duran Duran! Crazy, right? But at that time, 1980, they were considered punk. Now we look at them, and it is like the softest, weakest music. Duran Duran used to be punk? Funny right? Them and Blondie…Steve and Mike would listen to that and be like, “hah, yeah, we are punk!” Of course I didn’t know any better. I mean everyone else is just into Eddie Van Halen and AC/DC, but this, in America, was punk. So my brother and these other guys took Mike to see Duran Duran and to get him into it. You would have to check, but that might have been Mike’s first punk show! Think about that, Mike going to see Duran Duran. Too funny. But he and my brother got into it. And then me.
And at this time, my Mom wasn’t ever really home. She’s a single parent, traveling for business and everything. So she would leave my brother with money for us. He’s 15, I’m 12, and we are crazy kids…you know? How do you think that went? We didn’t know how to manage money. So we would spend it all right away and then not have any for the basics. So Mike would help us out, to get food, gas money, etc. But with my Mom not being there, my house just turned into like, “the pit.” We would just go crazy, we’d slam into walls, jump into the ceiling, practice our stage dives and our “moves.” It was bad.
But more and more I was really getting exposed to punk, and my brother, Mike, and these other punk guys in Montville were who I learned from. I think the first punk in Montville was this guy Paul Schraff, and Howard Horowitz, too. They were a little older and friends with my brother, but we were all outcasts. My brother got picked on too, but since we moved there when he was a little bit older, he didn’t deal with it as much, because the kids his age weren’t as cruel. Usually it was the younger kids that said things.
So I used to fight the kids that made fun of my brother. And so did Mike. We were very angry, and very violent, and we stayed that way. Sometimes we would just jump these kids. Later on once we started driving, we would see them somewhere, and we would just stop the car, get out, and jump them. We would beat the hell out of them, get back in the car, and go. It was terrible, I know. I’m really glad I found Buddhism!
My first show was Vice Squad, and that was the first time I saw slam dancing. And I remember seeing Eric (Cassanova) slam dancing so hard. And he just ruled the pit. He was crazy, he was so skinny, but it didn’t matter. Back then, there was a particular form of slam dancing. I’m not sure what people do now, I mean I saw this band the other night, like a metal hardcore band at a friend’s show, and there were these kids with long hair just pushing each other. When I was coming up, people always took care of each other and looked out for each other, and were just expressing themselves in this extreme way. Once in a while you would get some dickhead punching people. If that happened, we would take care of him, and just jump him. But when I saw Eric that night, I was just like, “WOW…WOW.”
At the same time, we were also really into skateboarding. Of course, this was a total outcast activity back then too, absolutely nothing like it is today. So we all skated together, even Mike had a board! He mostly just held it, but he did have a skateboard! He really wasn’t bad at skateboarding. We would take our boards into the city, and get out at Port Authority, and skate through the city, and he could do that. And that’s what we did every weekend. Usually we would go in on Friday for a party or a show, because we didn’t have any friends or anything to do in Montville.
Sometimes we would drive to the city, but most other times we would take the bus. A lot of times we would just stay over there all weekend, crashing at a random kid’s house, or some skinhead’s loft, or some rundown place, or even just stay at Port Authority. Through this, we got to know Mark Ryan, he lived in Nutley, New Jersey. We would pick him up in Nutley and he would come with us.
We went to NYC every single weekend, if not more. And we saw so many great bands. For example, Bad Brains, we saw them at least 30 or 40 times. HR was so crazy, but they were so talented, too. I mean, they had incredible leads! We were like, “solos? We can’t do that!” I mean we had some solos in Judge, but not like that. HR though, he would just run up a wall and flip back, or just do flips on his own from a stand still. Every time they played CB’s, it was like an ocean of heads. There wasn’t even a pit because there was no space. The whole floor would move as people tried to get on stage to dive. Sometimes we would just wait on stage before they started playing, so we could have a head start. We didn’t want to be up front in front of the stage, because we would get crushed and never be able to get back up! So we would wait, and the lights would go down, and then the feedback, and people would start diving. I remember the big monitor on the side of the stage that was hanging, kids would crack their heads open on it when diving. Once they stopped the show because that happened, and the ambulance had to come. Every time they played, every time they came in, we went.
Minor Threat, each time they came to New York we saw them. Black Flag…we saw them dozens of times. Henry Rollins was so much older than us, but so crazy. He looked so strong, so violent…I mean, he was built! At that time that was different, because the New York kids weren’t muscular, they were strong from fighting, but they didn’t look like that. I remember one time some kid was diving, and Henry just grabbed him out of mid air and threw him down. So Black Flag stuck out.
And so did The Misfits. Actually, one time I saw Glenn Danzig at a flea market back then in New Jersey. And he had his hair up! I’m like, “hey, you’re Glenn Danzig!” And he was cool. He was there buying those metal pointed studs for the Misfits jackets and everything. He would go there because that stuff was cheap. Otherwise you would have to buy it in the city, and it was expensive. But that was cool.
Sometimes we would stay at some rundown place in the city, and we would just have an all nighter, and maybe Agnostic Front or another band would play. And there wasn’t a flyer for it, it wasn’t a real show, but there might be fifty or sixty kids packed in, so there would be a pit! And we would go off. We would also stay at A7 sometimes. Because after the CB’s show ended, we would go to A7 for the next show just an hour later, and after that just stay there.
Pretty quickly, even though we were these kids from New Jersey, we were recognized as a part of the New York scene, because we hung out all the time. We still got in fights with these other punks – either like Mohawk punks or nazi skinheads. But we all stuck together. Even though the NY kids grew up on the streets and got into it all a little bit earlier, they took us in. The original New York skinheads, they were really just street kids. No parents, no family. Harley, Eric, Raybeez who worked the door at A7 (who I just found out died, Mike told me), Frenchie, all of them. Even like Little Chris, he was the youngest. At the time I was 13, but he was like 7! And he ran away from home. People were living at this guy Alex’s house. There were two things in their lives: Hardcore, and Hare Krishna. And Hare Krishna provided all of us free food. You know, if you were living on the street, that’s where you would go. And the New York City Hare Krishnas were all different, with like tattoos all over, because they were like former skinheads or whatever! So Hare Krishna, even if you didn’t really follow it, it was a part of that early scene.
The real core of people at CB’s, the punks, we all knew each other. Even though some people were into so many different things, we all hung out. Vinnie Stigma used to be like, “Man here come these crazy Jersey kids that love to fight!” He was a lot older than us, but we would go hang out with him. And the funny thing was that he had his own apartment, which was right next door to his Mom’s. I remember we got there and we were like, “Whoa! Great apartment!” While we were there we made food or something and he ran out of something, and he’s like “Hold on a minute, let me go to my Mom’s and get it.” We are like, “Huh?” Because this is Vinnie Stigma, New York City Skinhead from Agnostic Front, going to his Mom’s! But he goes literally right next door to borrow salt or whatever from his Mom.
So, we were exposed to so much amazing music, and we saw everyone. If someone good was playing, how could we miss it? It was incredible. Those bands were so much fun, and there was so much energy, the adrenalin was unreal. It was unlike anything else you could ever encounter. And that kept us coming back. And it made us want to create our own music. We had to. These bands…we saw their performance, how they played, what they did. It was so much to take in, and we just soaked it all up. We decided we had to do a band…