Ok, so here I am again writing about a very favourite topic of mine… Ed McKirdy and Tim McMahon bands.
It’s no secret that the bands these guys played in seriously do it for me.
I’ve been a real big fan of most of their work with an extra special interest in Mouthpiece and Hands Tied since the first time I head them, so really I guess this just caps it off for me with regards to writing about their bands.
After doing the big 4 part Definitive Tim McMahon interview nearly a year ago, I knew i wanted to do more, so my obvious choice with whom to get an extension on these topics was Ed.
DR: Hi Ed, how’s things?
Hey, man. Well, things are great on a personal level, but on global scale, I can’t imagine them being much worse. It’s gotten to the point that being informed means being gravely concerned. Thank God for distractions!
DR: Lets Talk a little bit about Killing Flame, give us a little bit of History.
Well, I moved out to Southern California (for the second time after a stint in 1995 when I worked for New Age Records and played in a band called The Suppression Swing with Mike Hartsfield) in late 1999. Shortly thereafter, I started Livewire Records, my first release being an Eleven-Thirty Four 7″. Those guys had been friends of mine since moving out to Cali in 1995, and with a final show coming up they wanted to put out a single to sell at the show. I had always flirted with the idea of starting a label and with only weeks until the show, I jumped at the challenge/opportunity to help them out and get a record pressed.
The Killing Flame
With the success of that release, and armed with the newfound awareness that I could actually pull off releasing records, I was eager to put out another. Enter Joe Nelson, vocalist for The Killing Flame. Joe contacted me, somewhat out of the blue, and asked if I’d be interested in doing a domestic release of their 7″ “The Dream Dies.” Having been a huge Unity and Ignite fan, this was a no-brainer. The band featured Joe D. Foster of both aforementioned bands and I was also into Joe Nelson’s vocals on the early Ignite stuff. LWR-2 was set in stone.
The Killing Flame
In getting to know those guys through releasing the record, when it came time for them to fill an open slot for a bass player, the guys asking me to join the band felt pretty natural. There was a slight learning curve with the songs as they were much more complicated than songs I’d played in my previous bands (and no one has ever compared me to Geddy Lee or Steve Harris as a bass player. My “skills” have always been painfully basic and utilitarian). Fortunately, Joe D. Foster was incredibly patient and, during my time in The Killing Flame, I learned more about playing and songwriting than I ever had in the past.
The Killing Flame
DR: You were a bit of an all-star band with members from some pretty crucial bands. Give us a run down on some of the dudes involved.
I’d hardly call myself an all-star; more like a psyched fan who just wanted to play and be more involved than just stage diving and singing along. But here’s a quick rundown of the bands I’ve been involved with:
The Killing Flame
(c. 1993) With Sweet Pete from In My Eyes, Mike Hartsfield/New Age Records from Freewill, Against The Wall and Outspoken, and Chris Daly from Resurrection and Texas is The Reason.
(c. 1995) With Mike Hartsfield/New Age Records again).
(c. 1996) With Tim McMahon (Mouthpiece), Sean McGrath (Mouthpiece/Saves The Day), Patrick Guidotti (pro skater).
The Killing Flame
(c. 1999) With Joe D. Foster (Unity, Ignite) Joe Nelson (Ignite), Gavin Oglesby (No For An Answer).
The Killing Flame
Triple Threat (c. 2004) With Tim McMahon (Mouthpiece/Hands Tied), Jason Jammer (Mouthpiece) and Aaron TFS (The First Step).
Mouthpiece (c. 2000—Present) With Tim McMahon (Hands Tied/Face The Enemy), Jason Jammer (Triple Threat), Matt Wieder (Automatic/The Enkindles/Frontiers.)
DR: You put out “Another Breath” on Equal Vision but you had some other releases too with KF, do you want to shed some light on those?
Hands Tied – Rick Ta Life and crew
Well, in 1996 Hands Tied released a 7″ with Equal Vision. The experience of working with Steve Reddy/Equal Vision Records could not have been better. In addition to getting our record out quickly, Steve gave us significant promotion and even set us up with a three-week European tour with Ten Yard Fight. The relationship between Hands Tied and EVR was virtually flawless, so when it was time for The Killing Flame to record our LP, I recommended to the other guys in the band that we try to work with Equal Vision. The rest of the band agreed, so I flew home to NYC and met with Steve. We hammered out a deal in no time and Steve did everything he could to promote our record. Sadly, I don’t think it was a profitable release for him at all, but I’m very proud of what we did on that record (most of it, anyway.) I’m sad it wasn’t a financial success for Steve, however, as he has been nothing but helpful and supportive of me and my projects since I’ve known him. I just think the timing for that record wasn’t right. Who knows?
DR: Ok, so it’s no secret Hands Tied are one of my Favourite 90s’ Hardcore bands. What were some of your early memories of Hands Tied? Practices, shows etc.
The early days of Hands Tied were incredibly fun. In fact, I wish I realized how good we had it because I don’t know that I’ve ever had as much fun doing a band as I did in those early HT days, circa 1996. Sean McGrath (who’s since died of cancer) was one of the funniest human beings to walk the face of the earth. I have some great HT practice tapes of us just goofing off, writing silly songs and just being kids having fun. At the time, I took it all for granted, thinking it would always be this fun and easy. We’d get together, write songs I loved, goof off, order pizza, play shows and kids would go nuts, and then go home and do it all over again the next day. It was all so natural and pure.
This definitely won’t earn us any points in the street-cred sense, but my favorite HT practices took place at Sean’s parent’s pool cabana in Hamilton, NJ. We’d literally go through our set a few times, toss down the guitars, hit the pool, snag a quick tan, and then get back in the cabana and hash out some more tunes. Pizza almost always followed. Occasionally, Sean’s Mom would poke her head in and ask us to “turn it down,” which we always agreed to do and never actually did. How do you turn down drums?
DR: What was your main drive while in HT? Did you have much involvement in writing lyrics?
My main drive in Hands Tied was to write and play in-your-face Straight Edge hardcore. I am speaking for myself here but I really wanted to push the envelope of what might be considered over the top in terms of our image, lyrics and sound. Hands Tied (for me) was meant to be confrontational: clean cut, pure Straight Edge hardcore with a crisp aesthetic to match. It’s probably not that cool, thinking back, but I really had an Us vs. Them mentality with Hands Tied. I was never into the mentality that everyone, regardless of his or her extracurricular activities, is welcome to enjoy the show, Straight Edge or not. For me, Hands Tied was for the Straight Edge kids. Go smoke your garbage outside and keep your booze out of sight. In retrospect, I suppose that is a little elitist but that’s how I felt.
People at the time tried to label us (and some of the other faster bands of our era) as “revivalist” or “bringing it back” and other goofy terms. This was always so silly to me. We were just playing what we loved, which was then and still is now, timeless.
DR: Which bands were you mostly listening to while you were recording the 7?
SSD, DYS, Antidote, The Abused, and The Cro-Mags (among others.) The idea was to get to the roots of the stuff we worshipped: Youth of Today, Chain, etc. Of course The Smiths and Morrissey were a constant soundtrack, as well.
DR: What were your personal favourite HT shows and venues?
My favourite Hands Tied show of all time has to be our record release show. I’ll never forget the feeling I had seeing throngs of kids crowd our table to buy our record. I remember taking a second to just soak it in while it was happening and for about a half a second I nearly got misty. It sounds pathetic, I know, nothing hardcore about that! But it was just so cool to see kids getting as psyched about what we were doing as I was. It was a very special show.
I remember we were supposed to have purple Hands Tied 7”s at this show, but for whatever reason they just weren’t ready yet. Somehow, kids knew about the purple records so I took it upon myself to make a list of kids who wanted the limited purple records. That turned out to be a bit of a messy disaster but (I think) most of the kids on the list got their records.
DR: You were also in Face The Enemy. When you look back at that band how do you feel? I know a few people would say you flew under the radar a bit in Europe.
To be perfectly honest, I never felt like Face The Enemy was my band. I was very grateful to the guys in the band for asking me to join them for the live shows and a brief tour, but I had absolutely nothing to do with the writing of those songs. Also, I was never particularly psyched on the guitar sound on the recorded material—it felt too crispy and buzzy. I do think, however, Tim took those songs and delivered an exceptionally good vocal performance. I was there when he knocked out those vocals in the studio and I remember wishing we were still doing Hands Tied. Tim recycled some unused Hands Tied lyrics for a few of those songs. Face The Enemy is really just a pleasant blip on the radar for me, at this point.
Face The Enemy
DR: What was the vibe and common idea when you guys started up FTE?
My vibe with the guys in that band was one of cordial acquaintance. Super nice guys but it never felt like a unit. I wasn’t involved when it started because it never really started like a real band. The Face The Enemy stuff, in the beginning, was just an unused Better Than A Thousand LP that, for whatever reason, Cappo never sang on.
Face The Enemy
DR: And With Triple Threat, where were you Tim and the guys planning on going with that Band?
Triple Threat was a real band with real plans. Tim and I have always had somewhat of a fascination with the darker side of hardcore, both aesthetically and sonically. Bands like Bl’ast!, early COC and Samhain etc. have always been a big influence and inspiration. Our plan, from the outset, with Triple Threat was to start a Straight Edge hardcore band with a darker, less predictable sound and aesthetic. I wrote about 90% of the songs and I’d say my biggest influences were Bl’ast!, Danzig and elements of black metal. The songs might not sound like any of those bands, but that was the driving force behind the sound. I have to say, I hate the way our LP came out. The recording is terrible; some of the songs shouldn’t have made it on to the LP and some of the performances should have been redone from scratch. I wish people cared enough because I would love to go to a decent studio and re-record the better songs from that record.
On a positive note, I’m very pleased with the single we did for Livewire called, “A New Chapter.” I love how that record came out and I think part of that has to do with Aaron from The First Step being in the band at the time. Aaron’s playing and his ability to craft some of my piles of riffs into actual songs made him a much more indispensable member than any of us realized at the time. He left the band on perfectly amicable terms, but I still regret him leaving. I wish he could have stuck around and been there for the LP.
DR: you were a roadie for Mouthpiece – do you have some special moments or story’s from that era?
Roadying for Mouthpiece was literally a nonstop fun-fest. I literally cannot think of one moment where I wasn’t enjoying myself just hanging with the dudes and being a goofball. No particular memory stands out because nearly every moment was pure fun. I remember eating at Hardy’s every chance we could. I’d buy this large mashed potatoes thing for like 2 bucks and then pile up about 20 dollars of crap on top of it in the fixins’ bar. It was terrible and we kept doing it over and over again. At the time, it didn’t matter. It was cheap and when you’re a kid you can eat anything and feel fine.
At the end of the night, it was up to me to get us a hotel. This would always involve the dudes in the van dropping me off about 50 yards from the hotel, me walking in solo and renting a single room with nary a mention of the 5 other dudes in the van and then sneaking them in once all was secured. With tight funds, it was the only way to do it!
Another role that developed naturally on that tour was my role as the hype-man at the shows. As an out-of-town band, sometimes kids aren’t sure how to react and there’s a stiffness among the kids. My job was to break the ice and I generally did this by stage-diving, singing along and generally causing a ruckus while Mouthpiece played. Inevitably, the kids in the crowd followed, the ice would break and the kids would go off. It was fun sparking that flame, when need be.
DR: how were the MP reunion shows in 2000?
2000 represented an odd time for me, in terms of hardcore. I was just settling in to life in California, starting Livewire Records and playing in The Killing Flame. Returning to the East Coast to get together with the Mouthpiece guys was a slight culture shock at first, much like someone pulling up the shades on a sunny day when you’re fast asleep. I remember being a little overwhelmed, but a few hours into it not wanting to go back to California. Again, nothing but fun and silliness before and after the shows. All of those guys are just too funny and cool to hang out with so we always seem to have a blast.