What was the feeling/spirit that surrounded WNITA as compared to BDTW in both sound and message?
BDTW was and still is a HC masterpiece. Only a very powerful and inspired follow up could ever hold a candle to it. By that measure I was not blown away by what we were coming with at first. It seemed Ray wanted to expand the possibilities of YOT’s formula. As a massive fan of YOT and BDTW, this initially made me nervous. Ray came with a rap song called Rebel With A Cause which was promising but we didn’t finish (a direction he would later take up with Shelter) and A Time We’ll Remember which, while I thought was a great song, it was missing that Stabbed In The Back/We Just Might kind of urgency and toughness that I was sure fans wanted. This left an opening for the rest of us to step up to the songwriting plate with some straight up HC. I had helped with YOT songs in the past, but this was my first opportunity to contribute complete songs. Porcell was also writing more and Sam always brought interesting ideas that would sew the songs together.
Of course, Ray ultimately wrote a grip of hits like Flame Still Burns, Potential Friends, and Prejudice, while also penning anthemic lyrics and fire vocals to elevate the songs we had presented. But he also empowered the rest of us to write and we all gave it our best.
How often had the new songs like Flame Still Burns, Put It Aside, A Time We’ll Remember, and Prejudice been rehearsed before they were recorded at Chung King?
None of the songs on WNITA were played live prior to the record coming out save for Understand and Wake Up And Live which were holdovers from The Way It Is and Ct. Fun comps. We probably spent a few weeks writing at Sam’s before we felt ready to record. Ray sang and developed lyrics in rehearsal but it was pretty hard to make out since he was singing through a guitar amp and the rest of us were playing loud as fuck. When it came time to record Ray went so sick in the studio. I only wish we had video of Ray bouncing off the walls of Chung King screaming “What the fuck?!” It was pure gold. We had a lot of problems recording at Chung King. For example, the engineer erased the entire snare drum track. Sam spent a night there re-recording the snare at HC speed, we were bummed but it was too late to turn back. It’s kind of insane that both GB and Judge ended up back at Chung King after such a shitty experience there, but we all loved Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Danzig and LL Cool J too much to resist. The songs are strong, but Ray’s vocals saved the record in my opinion. They were amazing.
Photo: Ken Salerno
As you recall the show from City Gardens or watch the video, are there any specific memories? Did City Gardens feel like a total away game, or was it familiar faces in NJ?
That show was incredible. I remember being psyched to see the photo of us in Thrasher a month later. Porcell, Ray and I all had our fists raised in the air along with the entire visible audience. That really told the story. City Gardens (along with The Anthrax in Ct.) was like a second home for us. We had tons of friends in NJ and there were great upcoming bands that YOT had inspired. YOT’s appeal in the suburbs and cities just outside of New York was what really fired up the movement in HC toward SE and vegetarianism across the country and eventually around the world. The importance of the shows at City Gardens can’t be underestimated in that way.
Porcell launches into the crowd, guitar in hand, during Youth Crew. Ken Salerno captured the shot and it was later used on the back of a Judge t-shirt. If there is a photo that belongs in the SEHC hall of fame, this is it. The action itself wasn’t the first or last time, but even watching it now...it’s perfect. What was that energy like in the moment?
The energy at City Gardens was fantastic for us. The first time I heard about City Gardens it was mainly about how all the white power skinheads beat the shit out of everyone, it had a bad and violent rep. By the time of this YOT show that racist asshole element had slithered back into the shadows. City Gardens had become a full on bastion of positive hardcore in the spirit of the bands that Revelation Records was putting out. As for the Porcell photo, it’s funny now but when I saw him jump in with the guitar my first thought was probably, “damn dude, you’re gonna break some poor kids neck that way.” But there’s no denying it’s a super iconic photo. Thanks to Ken Salerno for capturing the moment. Respect to Porcell for pulling it off without anyone needing an ambulance.
Photo: Ken Salerno
It’s been documented that by the summer ’88 tour, Ray’s own spiritual journey was starting to pull him away from the band (i.e. staying in temples with Steve Reddy while on tour), GB and Judge were growing as well, etc...but in early 1988, YOT seemed 100% focused and in the moment. An “us versus the world” sort of feeling. Is this accurate?
There were so many great bands at that time but I was always confident that YOT was the best at what we were trying to do. All the songs were anthems, we were good musicians, and as a frontman Ray was in an elite class. We literally never had a bad show. As for Ray’s spirituality, I wouldn’t say that it pulled him away from the band as much as it presented a new challenge in how to get his message across. YOT going Krishna would have been a tough transition, like Kiss going disco. Ray needed a change of vehicle to deliver the message of Krishna consciousness and Shelter was perfect for that. When I think of the “us versus them” vibe, I’m reminded that YOT is the only band I’ve been in that was hated almost as much as it was loved. Ray was never afraid to challenge the status quo of what punk was or adhering to scene politics. Lots of us got into punk to wear crazy clothes, get drunk, have fucked up haircuts and be like the kids in “Suburbia.” YOT forced us to see all that through a different prism, where being truly punk meant going counter to those nihilistic stereotypes. The positive message was there in bands like 7 Seconds and Minor Threat, but the unique YOT brand of HC that most people think of now really crystalized that year at shows like this one at City Gardens.