To commemorate the 25th year anniversary of Start Today, Rev have released some limited edition vinyl along with a cassette and a shirt.
Here at DxR HQ I thought it would be fitting to dig once again into the Start Today Zine archives and pull out this brilliant interview with CIV, as a nod to GB and one of the best Hardcore records ever made, along with another great piece of Jeff Lasich’s work.
With some extra media thanks to the internet.
Interview and Photography by – Jeff Lasich
Flyers Courtesy of Hardcoreshowflyers.com
My love for the Gorilla Biscuits is no secret. When I heard about the show they were going to play as part of the “save CBGB” summer of shows in 2005, I could not wait for the show. By the time GB took the stage on that hot August night, CB’s was packed to the walls and you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air. After a wait that seemed would never end, the original line-up was back on the stage. The familiar trumpets started what was one of the best live sets I have ever seen. No one walked away disappointed or with a bad word to say. I wanted to talk to Civ about maybe doing an interview but things were still crazy after the set, so I figured if I was really going to do it, I’d figure out a way. As luck would have it, he stopped in Red Bamboo later that night and I talked to him about my idea. We finally got our schedules together, and I called him the day after the 2006 summer tour was announced. I had planned on having this issue done for the tour but like most things in hardcore, it just didn’t happen on time. Most of you saw them in the US and they are about to embark on a European tour as I am typing this intro. I was beyond psyched to do this interview and I truly hope you enjoy it!
Every few months for years there were rumors that GB were going to play a show. Finally last summer, the rumors proved to be true with that benefit for CBGB. What finally made it happen and were there any other times where it almost did happen?
There were a couple of times we were approached about it. The reason we did it was because of what it was for CBs, you know. If it were any other club, I doubt we would have done it. I was just talking about this with a friend. It was more of a selfish thing to; trying to support CBs and hopefully keeping the doors open for another 30-40 years so people could go there are “get it.” It was also to play CBs one more time, just in case they did close it. That is basically the only reason I wanted to play. That is a kind of club you never get sick of playing, you never get you fill of, you just want to keep playing there. It’s the whole vibe. When you walk in, the way it smells, the way it’s lit, the way it sounds, the memories you have in it. We wanted to get back on the stage one more time just in case.
I heard that Walter said you guys were going to practice your asses off and be tighter than ever before because it would never happen again.
Everybody says certain things, but we wanted to practice because we never practiced prior. We used to go on tour, road trips and stuff, but we weren’t the most polished band. Kids used to say stuff like “I wish I could have seen you guys live.” We’re like “we weren’t very good live.” We had fun. If you watched us you had fun, but it didn’t really sound as good. We’ve also become better performers and musicians over the years too. When we were playing, we weren’t very seasoned. After years and years of playing in bands and doing stuff, you get a little more comfortable on stage, you become a better musician, a little more disciplined to try and do better and no just fucking do it because you have to play a show. The never doing it again thing, that is pretty much what we assumed because we hadn’t done it before and we were just doing it for CBs. We hadn’t seen or hung out with each other in years and years. Alex is in Iowa, Luke is in Texas, and Walter is super busy doing his own projects. We thought that would be it. We had a really good time hanging out for a couple of weeks, it just felt nice. We practiced, we played. It was cool hanging out with each other again. That kind of opened the door for us to play in the future again. It opened up the dialogue that wasn’t there before.
Did you think it would be as crazy as it was?
I kinda did. I don’t really pay too much attention or go online; I don’t really give a shit what people are saying. Everybody I know was kike “it’s going to be this” or “it’s going to be that.” Maybe idea was it’s going to be what it is going to be. If people want to come see it, it’s going to be cool. I never listen to rumors or hearsay. We used to play shows at CBs and they were always good. We thought it would be a cool show to play.
When I got home from the show, the CBs webcam video was online and I downloaded it. The crowd was so loud, completely drowning you out at times. And the webcam does not even come close to capturing what it was like being there.
I saw you before the show taking names of people that travelled really far to get to the show, to be sure that they would get it. Kids flew in from all over the world without tickets, hoping to get in. The stood in line for 12 hours, it was really hot out, there was occasional rain. I thought that was a very classy move.
I only did that because the people at CBs said there was beef between them and the people that people who own the building. The powers that be were saying they were going to shut down the show if they went beyond their capacity. They were being super cautious. They only had the club about half full. I think their legal cap is around 600 or something. They couldn’t fit much more than that in there. Black Train Jack and the other opening bands were saying the place was half full. I was getting pissed off. We haven’t played in 13 years to come back and play to a half full club. Kids waited outside for 24 hours in the rain and 95 degree heat. Kids were getting their cars broken into. We didn’t come here to have a shitty show because you are afraid it is going to get shut down. If it is going to get shut down then it’s going to get shut down so let everybody in. It wasn’t that bad. I’m friends with the people who were doing it, and they were just protecting their ass. I went outside because they gave us a hundred person guest list for the show and we had only about 50 people on it, so we knew we could get some kids in. It wasn’t just kids from the US, there were kids from South America, Japan, Europe. I just wanted to make sure kids didn’t get shut out. I just waited outside until everyone was in. They kept calling my cell phone, asking what I was doing. I said once everyone was in the club, I’ll come in and play. They said “where are you?” I said “don’t worry about it.” I don’t know about classy, just fair. In the end, everybody got in. I felt bad for Black Train Jack, I wish everyone was in for them.
When it was all said and done, were you happy with how you played? You sounded super tight.
Those guys all said they sounded tight and they played well. You can’t get that kind of vibe when you are the singer, because you are getting manhandled. I told myself not to get psyched, just play really well, but I can’t help myself. We were going to try and release some live tracks from it, but I definitely dropped the ball because I put the microphone out too much. It sounds like a tight band with a bunch of monkeys screaming or something. We don’t have good audio from it. But I had fun, and everyone seemed to have a good time.
Some Records was originally going to release the 1st 7” but obviously that never happened. Why did that fall through?
The 7” was on Rev because Rev had everything together. I think Some came after that. Some Records used to put out demo tapes and sold demo tapes for us.
I thought I read that in the news section of Boiling Point or something that Some was going to do a 7”.
You know what, it might have been but I don’t remember. It’s not something that stuck in my memory. Dwayne and Some Records are responsible for a huge portion of people getting their music out. He would get in trouble from the IRS because he wouldn’t charge tax. He wouldn’t charge us to sell our demo tapes. You’d go in there once a week and Dwayne would hand you $20 and say “yo, I sold X amount of demo tapes.” He was all about that lifestyle. He promoted everything: record sales, demos, t-shirts. He’s one of those unsung heroes. Most people don’t know who the fuck Dwayne is, or what he did.
What impact did the “shutdown” show have on the band?
It had an affect for a while, but there were always other clubs to play. CB’s was just THE place you wanted to play, and the place for Sunday matinees. If you have water running down a hill and you stop it with one rock, it’s gonna go around and go another direction. And that’s what the hardcore scene did. We went to the Pyramid Club, or ABC No Rio., other venues. We weren’t going to stop playing and sit home and cry because a club got shut down. I think it was more of a fantasy protest. That place is what it is, you don’t own it. If they want to stop hardcore shows, they can stop hardcore shows. They survived it.
Start Today was one of those crossover records that it seemed everyone had, whether they were straight edge or not, a hardcore kid or a punk kid. Did you ever think it would become such a big record?
I don’t know, people have told me for our generation; it would be like how we felt about Out Of Step. When you do it, you’re not thinking about it, you are just doing it. It takes years to come out right. I’m flattered and psyched that people liked it and it meant something. That’s what is important to us. We didn’t walk around thinking “we’re so great because we did this record.” When we were doing the record, we were just doing the record. I think in music, people and writers after their first record, they get distracted and try to redo something. I think that’s why things suck after the first or second record, because you’re trying to do something purposeful. When you’re writing to just put out music; that is when it’s cool and original. You can’t guess what people are going to like, you have to write for yourself.
Do you prefer the 7” or the lp?
I’m always a fan of when things are on the next level; I think the lp is my favourite. The other stuff is fun, and a much more juvenile record. I can picture being young and where I was at that time. I can listen to Start Today and feel psyched about it.
I don’t know if a band can use a line like “don’t be retarded” again without there being a ton of backlash.
There wasn’t a lot of thought about that stuff, it just came out.
It seemed that near the end of the band, some people didn’t have their full heart into the band anymore but there were still playing GB shows. Do you think that may have tainted the GB legacy?
I don’t think so. I think we were one of the bands that broke up pretty early on, when other people were trying to beat dead horses, you know? I still wanted to play and wanted to do another record. But Walter, he knew how he felt and he kinda saw the writing on the wall as far as where he wanted to take his career and what kind of song writing he wanted to do. It involved new people and a new style. Out of respect for him, I didn’t play any more. We sat down and talked about it and I didn’t want to do the Gorilla Biscuits without him. He didn’t want me to do it without him either. We just decided to drop it. It’s hard when you are enjoying the band you’re in, and you enjoy the music you play to stop. I don’t think anything was tarnished because I don’t think we hung on that long.
I’ve seen criticism over the years about later day Gorilla Biscuits, or pictures. You know, the way things were starting to change in the early 90’s anyway. Sometime it seems easier to single you guys out.
As people who changed during the band?
Yeah. Instead of people quitting then changing and just fading away.
I think things happened a little bit faster then. Our first US tour was in ’89 and we broke up in ’92. That’s not that long of a run for a band. If you think about saying “oh you guys have changed” or something like that, in the whole history of the band it’s a pretty short time to do you first tour and then actually break up. There are bands that have been playing for twenty years. I think change is good. You can come back to stuff, but if you don’t try something you want to do, then you’re selling yourself short. We had line-up changes due to people leaving or wanting to do other things. We had an incarnation with Porcell when we played Europe. We had tours booked and we had to play them. A lot of times you can rely on your friends to fill in, and not get some new guy in the band.
Was there an “official” last show?
We played the Marquee in ’92, that was our last show. We were playing and knew we were going to break up after that so we just played. If you’re not going to come to the show, then I don’t want you to come because you think it’s going to be the last time. If you’re gonna fucking pose and not show up, well then you missed it.
What did you do in the months after GB broke up?
I always worked at health food stores and stuff so I worked and chilled. I had already started to learn to tattoo, so that was it; working and tattooing.
How did you start tattooing? Did you always have an interest in art?
I always drew a little bit. Never had anything formal, I just liked to draw when I was a kid. Working in health food stores ran its course, and tattooing presented itself. I just ran with it.
1995 CIV started.
Walter and I did that 7” with those 2 songs on it. We pretty much got signed to Atlantic just off that, we had never even played a show. We had to throw a record together kinda quick. There wasn’t much time.
Why did you even bother with doing another band? Was it still something you really wanted to do?
I really had no intentions of…Shit, I never had intentions of playing in Gorilla Biscuits. I had no intentions of being a singer at all. Anything that happens in my life is completely accidental. Charlie from Outface and Walter approached me saying “we got these songs; we want you to sing and do a 7”.” I was like “no fucking way.” They said “come on, it’ll be cool.” Walter can pretty much talk me into anything. I said I’d do the 2 songs, we could record them. We felt like hardcore was moving too much into hip-hop and metal, no one was really playing hardcore anymore. That’s how we saw it. We figured we’d put out a 7” that was what we thought hardcore was. We could get stuff done quickly because we have been doing it for a long time, and we know Jordan. That is basically how it was. We called him up and said “hey we want to do a 7”.” He said ok. He didn’t say “well I don’t know” or “I want to hear it.” He just said “ok, what do you need?” It was like asking your friend for a ride somewhere.
CIV ended up being a little bit. You were on Atlantic, had some airplay, Can’t Wait ended up getting played at sporting events. Kids were quick to call you a sell out because of the “commercial” success of CIV, and it’s funny because most of those kids are gone now.
Yeah, that’s always the case. If you let that shit bother you, you’re stupid. They’re at the show. They paid their money to get into the show and they are waving “fuck MTV” things. Now what are they doing? I respect my peers and people who have done something for music and for hardcore; the people who have given their lives to it; guys who are still playing in bands after 20 years. I could give a fuck about a fucking kid who’s never even played in a band. If makes him feel good to call you a sell out. My answer to that was always “I’m playing music in a fucking band for a living, what the fuck did I sell out?” When you’re straight edge or hardcore or punk until you get to college and then you fucking act like a douche and get corporate and wasted because now it’s time to grow up, that’s fucking selling out.
What about that Nissan commercial with Can’t Wait in it? I was watching football and during commercials, I hear a CIV song. My wife and I looked at each other like “what?!?” but not in a bad way, more of an ironic way like “can you believe that” or “how crazy is that?”
That’s what I mean. When people think of that in a bad way, it cracks me up. We didn’t steal your song; that is our song. We wrote it and if we want to sell it to anybody in the world, it’s up to us. Especially now when every fucking band that stems from punk, hardcore, or metal goes on MTV and are selling millions of records. I think the idea is so jaded and cliché that somebody sell out hardcore. I have friends in bands that are still playing in weekends. They’ve been playing for years and hold down jobs. What about their family? You gotta take care of yourself at some point.
That is a problem in hardcore. A majority of the scene consists of younger kids, but you reach that point where you have to factor in the real world.
The things kids are yelling about, if they do math and realize we don’t live with our fucking parents, and our moms don’t take us to the mall to buy Vans and a punk belt. We’re grown ass men. I’ve lived on my own, paying my bills since I was 18. I paid for my college at 18, working. That’s just reality. No one is taking care of us, no one ever has. That is why we do what we do. If kids don’t respect the work ethic and longevity that someone who has 20 years in have, then on behalf of everyone who is 20 years in, go fuck yourself. That’s just me. If someone is going to pay you for what you do, like you’re gonna say no? That’s so full of shit. I won’t even get into that argument, it’s so childish.
OK, back to current events. It’s no longer a secret since Walter posted it yesterday, but GB will be touring this summer. How was that decision made?
All original members. There is no real over thinking. Why wouldn’t we ask the original guys to do it if they’re down? Those guys said they were down. If they didn’t want to do it, we’d go another route. Everyone wants to do it, so we’re going to make it cool and make it fun.
You’re going to do 5 weeks in the US and then Europe?
The only thing we are committed to right now is 5 weeks in the US and a few shows in Canada.
You know kids are going starting quoting the lyrics to New Direction, about the money being green and all that.
If they don’t want us to play, they don’t have to come see us play. And money issues, Gorilla Biscuits have never played the United States with the record out. We played the Start Today tour, but the record wasn’t out until the last 3 shows. We played on the 7” in ’89 because we couldn’t get the record out on time. Really we’re just playing to kids who have never seen us play with the record out. Most kids never saw us with the full record out. Europeans did, but not Americans.
As far as making money, I’m sure you’ll make a little cash but I’d bet you would make a ton more sitting at Lotus for 5 weeks.
I make a good living. For me, this is not about making a fucking boat load of money. But I’m not doing this for free; I’ve got mouths to feed. Kids love to talk shit, who cares? Not me.
Not that it matters in the big picture, but when you hit the stage at CB’s X’d up, I have to admit it put a pretty big smile on my face. You know there have been rumors about your edge and all that.
Like I just said, kids talk shit; they love to talk about things they don’t know about. When you are in a band, you get people fucking talking about you who have never met you in your life. So what the fuck are you going to talk about? All these kids that are saying this or that, or quoting our lyrics (which is really ridiculous, like “oh man you got us with that one!”) but you don’t know me so what the fuck are you going to talk about. I can’t talk shit about someone I don’t know. Are you going to turn hardcore into a fucking Hollywood tabloid, like Lindsay Lohan or something? What the fuck, I don’t know her. I’m not gonna talk shit, I think she’s hot. I don’t care what she does, I don’t know her. In reality, you don’t know us and until I personally disappoint you when we meet, keep your mouth shut. If you have a knee jerk reaction to someone playing music and it’s a negative thing, then you’re just a jerk. Not a knee jerk, a jerk reaction. “Those fuckers are gonna play music? We should stone them! It’s my scene, I’m old school. I’ve been down since 2002.
Eventually this zine is going to run its course. Right now it is real hard for me to finish. I’ve called you 3 or 4 times just trying to get things together because I’m busy and you’re busy.
I think it’s amazing that people still do zines, when everything is so computer friendly. To put a piece of paper together seems like a crazy idea these days. Some friends of mine just put on the Superbowl of Hardcore in New York. They are doing it while working, doing 100% of it by themselves and taking months and months to do it because they love hardcore. They’re paying for bands, security, rental fees on giant clubs. They’re not making shit. They’re doing it because they love hardcore. They are trying to promote hardcore. Same thing with kids who do fanzines. That’s the thing that makes hardcore different than anything else. You’re doing it yourself. And that is why it’s still cool. And that is why I’ll do a phone interview with you; because you are putting out a fucking fanzine. I think that is still important.
It’s so much easier to talk about shit on the internet.
It’s so stupid too. Just call the person so you can have a dialogue. I hate email because it’s all one sided. That is why kids get away with everything. Now they’re talking shit online because there is no retribution to what they say. There is no one on one argument. It’s real easy to get tough and be opinionated because you are anonymous. You’re just being a fucking pussy. If you have something to say, let people know who you are. Say it and defend it if you feel so strongly about it.
Any final thoughts?
We’ll try to get some dates out when we have them confirmed. Hopefully the tour will be cool and the kids will check it out and have a good time.