For those with a love of NYHC, the name Leeway is one you already know. Love em or hate em for their unique blend of hardcore, metal, thrash and more, there is no denying that they were one of the NY bands who broke down barriers and appealed to fans of so many different genres. Their front man Eddie was a madman. Flying into the crowd, climbing the rafters and going 100 MPH at all times. I was lucky enough to see them a few times back in the 80’s and it was always a wild show.
Eddie is back with a new project, The Eddie Leeway Show, and we were lucky enough to sit down with him to discuss it, Leeway’s history, his other band Truth and Rights, as well as Eddie’s life then and now. This is a long one so get comfortable and listen to Eddie’s tale.
NLY: How’d you get into hardcore?
ELS: After spending some of my childhood on Long Island, I actually moved back to Astoria, Queens the same night John Lennon was shot and killed. That summer I started to meet the people that started a great deal of the original NYHC scene when it was still quite punk rock sounding. Bands like Kraut, Urban Waste, and The Mob were the more noted bands from the Astoria and Jackson Heights area. But the guys from Gilligan’s Revenge, that became TOKEN ENTRY, helped turn me on to this world while I was also a fan of metal, old-school RnB, and original Rap during this time. I tried out for metal bands, and was in Gilligan’s Revenge for a minute, but I was also doing weekend things where I was doing Grandmaster Flash covers at a local bar for drinks and experience performing. Since I was a teenager that could get away with breaking night, I stayed out late and got to see shows at A7 before it died. During these years I met AJ and we always discussed getting something started and our discussions turned into a band by 1984, and after changing members and growing exponentially over 3 years we were ready to record Born to Expire.
NLY: I was into hardcore early on but hadn’t started to go to shows. I only wish I could have had a chance to see Kraut back then. When did you first come up with the idea for The Eddie Leeway show? Who are you playing with and what bands have they been in?
ELS: When Leeway did a reunion back in 2006, I told AJ I had an interest in going out and doing a set with friends, with Leeway songs included as a way to stay busy and work on newer material because I also knew IF leeway stayed together, it would be a very long process of writing/recording and would take too long. I was more interested in going all out, but it didn’t turn out that way. After breaking the band up for good in 2006, I was severely injured with my broken neck so that was the end of performing for a while. It was finally around 2009 I started to play short Leeway sets while toying with the name The Eddie Leeway Show. I did an assortment of say 3 or 4 shows up until last year, but it wasn’t until last year I started to find players and back-up musicians I could actually count on and work with, and it’s starting to finally build momentum.
NLY: whoa, how’d you break your neck?
ELS: Breaking my neck is a long story that’s too hard to explain. We’ll have to save that for a future book…hahaha!
NLY: Fair enough. Are you playing only Leeway songs with the new band?
ELS: At the moment it’s a full Leeway set of songs I actually enjoy playing. Some of the songs Leeway never played or rarely played. Since I’ve gotten older, I enjoy some of the more melodic songs that I enjoy doing live, and I’m not the type that feels you should do what you want up there and by doing what you want you can give your audience much more. I also don’t wish to be an oldies band either, so I do intend to record and do new music under Eddie Leeway, as well as my project Truth and Rights.
NLY: Are you working on new material? Do you have plans to release anything?
ELS: Truth and Rights is a project I’ve been a part of for several years and we released a 3-song ep and 7-inch called Green Light back in 2010. Since then we’ve been slowly working on a full-length I’m trying to have ready for the summer. This is my first full-length in 20 years and I’m confident that people will see I can still do the caliber of music I did before. That’s extremely important to me because not many can be a part of something and reach people over such a period of time. I feel I still have a lot to offer this thing of ours called Hardcore and I’m grateful to have been part of something that without question changed my life.
NLY: You’ve played some shows and just did a recent European tour. How has the reaction been so far? You were in Europe at the time of the attacks in France. I can’t even fathom how that must have been. How long after the attacks were you in Paris and what was it like?
ELS: Each show was a trip in its own way. We played The Charm City Space on the US East Coast tour during flooding storms during hurricane season. The whole club was flooded with 6 or more inches of water everywhere including the stage, and a 50 gallon garbage pail in the middle of the dance floor. I should never had done the show with the risk of all of us being electrocuted to death, but I didn’t have the heart to the back out on 60 people that showed up in that torrent. The dates in Europe started with us playing Brussels on Friday the 13th, the same night of the Paris attacks. We came off stage feeling like we had a good start to the tour and then got dropped with the attacks. Currently, Intel says the soccer stadium bomb was actually made in Brussels for the attack. We closed the tour in Paris on Nov 30th, the original venue cancelled on us (after the attacks) but we lucked out. This venue was actually just around the corner from the café where they killed innocents as well. Thousands of flowers and wreaths laid out, kinda surreal really. I felt a ton of responsibility to each person I had out there on tour with me.
NLY: I can’t begin to imagine what all of that felt like. Do you have more plans to tour in 2016?
ELS: I intend to play out as much as I possibly can either with or even without a band. For example, I’m about to do 11 guest feature shows with Rhythm of Fear from Jacksonville, Florida. We cut a track together called Devil’s Chair, so I’m jumping on just to come out and do that particular song, and also toss in a nice surprise song for the people that come out. It’s all southern dates along with Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida cities I’ve never been to before, so it’s a great way to do a little promotional performing and hang out with a band half my age that I enjoy working with. The guys from Rhythm of Fear have toured with me and also have backed me up for 3 shows now, so this is an example of our support for one another and we’re having a good time doing it.
NLY: When did Leeway originally form and how did you come together?
ELS: As I spoke earlier how me and AJ met, we got our first show in June of 1984. We had 3 weeks to come up with a set, and we had no name. We called ourselves that first show The Unruled (laughing) and we opened up Gilligan’s Revenge. Some people feel we blew most bands away that night (laughing), and right after that in fact, Gilligan’s Revenge changed its name to Token Entry.
NLY: How long has it been since Leeway broke up? What led to the split?
ELS: Leeway has been done since 2006. I think we all grew tired of each other. Bands can very much be like a marriage, and I didn’t want to be in it anymore in 2001, but then we all had a change of heart in 2005 into 2006. We did a couple of shows with Bad Brains, went to Europe, and also did some East Coast shows, but I learned that nothing was going to change, so I called it a day. Again, it’s just more fun to go out and play shows with good friends I enjoy playing with, than put up with the pressure of trying to work with people who mutually don’t want to work with you.
(by Joe Booda)
NLY: Yeah I imagine any situation over that many years, even the best ones, can become hard work at some point. Was there any negative reaction from old band members to you playing out as Eddie Leeway?
ELS: It’s about 10 years since the break-up, then I broke my neck and I slowly worked my way back. Doing some shows, recording with Skarhead and Truth and Rights, touring with Skarhead. It’s taken a while to find the right people to actually get it all together because hardcore is full of many so called industry people who say they’re going to do A, B, and C, but they drop the ball and fuck a program up, failing on dates, it could be a release or tour dates, and without reliable people you’re stuck and not enough happens to build any momentum re-establishing a following and fan-base. I’m sincerely hoping to do more with 2016 than I have with the past year.
NLY: Any chance we would ever see a Leeway reunion again?
ELS: I wouldn’t try holding breath really. I’m very happy moving on by myself. I prefer to play my own music over jumping in another band. I know AJ doesn’t want to go back either, he’s mentioned it recently. Bands are as passionate and committing as being married. I’m done with that pressure, and I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up either. I also think some of the guys are used to getting paid to tour now, so I don’t think they want to go back to being broke, trying to do this again. I’m happier now as well and that’s important to me. I’m not interested in going back there either.
NLY: What led to the Leeway comeback in 2006 and why did it fall apart?
ELS: I started to talk to AJ when I wanted to start a DVD series on NYHC bands, so of course I wanted to start with Leeway. We saw there was still interest and we tried giving it another shot after I broke us up in 2001. Things were starting to happen so we tried to make something of it. I learned after 9 months of trying (Jan 2006 through to September) that some things never changed and to even consider a record again would be years, simply because some couldn’t make a decision that would benefit us in time. An offer would come and we’d take forever deciding. Many things went out the window, some of us never changed and a lot of us didn’t respect each other. I wasn’t going to sacrifice everything to do this at 40 years of age if I couldn’t consider every guy in the band “my boy”, ya know? To be broke and do what you love to do is one thing, but if you can’t be around people you want to be with, then it’s pointless to suffer and try to keep an apartment. At the time, I think only me and Mike Gibbons had out own places, actually.
NLY: It was at that point that you formed Truth & Rights. What ever became of that project? You had mentioned to me recently about revisiting it.
ELS: When I closed up Leeway, I was meeting the guys from Agents of Man at the same time. I started hearing how George was considering a break-up so, as a fan, I started offering myself up right in and seeing if we could do something together. I wound up breaking my neck so after about a year, maybe, we started to jam together with this other drummer, and started writing songs. We recorded 3 tracks as we tried to come up with a name, but we scrapped the demo, and started over when Dimi jumped in. Before that it was me, Rey Fonseca, Zack Thorne, and John Doherty Jr., who are the original Agents of Man guys. Once Dimi jumped in, we had a solid run of success in my opinion, and we eventually released the 3-song 7-inch ep called Green Light in 2010. We did very few shows but we kept writing on and off over the last 5 years and finally have enough for a full length release that I’m trying to have out by June. We’re trying to finish up now over the next 8 weeks. It’s a special project to me, and got me feeling the fire I once had for this thing of ours. I lost that with Leeway.
NLY: Glad to hear you are still able to feel that spark that draws us all to this in the first place. I know for me it has gone dim a few times but in the end, I always wind up right where I started. Born to Expire and Desperate Measures were both recently reissued on Reality Records out of Belgium? What made you choose them?
ELS: Well, it actually started with Marquee Records down in Brazil. Armando Perriera was the first to come to all of us separately, and after he started the ball rolling in South America and Japan, Reality Records jumped in to take care of North America and Europe. I spoke with Tom Coghe about doing things in the future, but it was coincidental when AJ started discussing the re-issues with him as well. I’m giving Reality Records the opportunity to run with Truth and Rights as well now. I went to other labels before all this happened, but nothing came of it. Now that we all have been working together over the past year, we’re starting to have a decent level of communication….I never was happy with a record label, but I can say I’m a little closer to being happy for the first time, hahaha. I still have a future goal of starting my own label just so I can release my own music. I don’t want to be one of those industry types, so I don’t think I will sign bands except to try and help friends, but business is also difficult with friends, so I don’t ever want to be that “piece of shit label owner” the way others get labelled. It’s a tough fuckin business and I don’t want to be the guy people hate as a thief or some shit because the band didn’t make money or felt I didn’t properly compensate them and they deserved more, and blablablah. A lot of labels are creative with accounting and always show a band losses due to costs but then the band is only getting one-fifth of the unit sale so it’s easy to feel cheated. I’m trying to learn from all of that so as when people work with me, I try to be very open and honest about finances and what I can do to compensate them. That’s important because I do want to treat others the way I expect to be treated, but there comes a time when some feel shorted or left out, it’s a juggling act.
(by Joe Booda)
NLY: A juggling act I know all too well. I never want a band I work with to feel anything except happy with the work I have done for them, and I think so far I have achieved that. But it is always in the back of my mind. Are you happy with the results of the reissues so far?
ELS: I’m very happy. After no availability for close to 20 years, it’s all being reissued as an updated product with bonus live tracks, colored vinyl, 11 page color booklets in the CDs, shit that our previous label never thought about back in the day. Adult Crash and Open Mouth Kiss are expected to be released soon. We already sold out of the first pressing of Born to Expire and Desperate Measures, each with 1000 count pressings in varied color vinyl, so we’re repressing now. For the very first time I can say I’m pretty happy with Reality and Marquee as record labels.
After all you guys went thru with your old labels, I can only imagine what a sigh of relief it is being able to say that. There was a big delay between the cd releases and the vinyl, what happened? Was it just the standard bullshit with pressing plants these days, or was it something more?
ELS: Every record plant in the US and Europe are backed up. What a fuckin nightmare. That was a time I wasn’t happy, but at the same time, record labels aren’t to blame. The larger labels are being dicks and offering an added premium on each unit being manufactured and bidding themselves ahead of smaller labels waiting for their orders to get pressed and printed. We are now in motion, and the interest is strong, so we’re in the fuckin hunt, looking forward to a busy year.
NLY: Don’t I know it about the plants. I have heard every excuse as my releases get delayed and I know it’s nothing more than preferential treatment being given to the larger labels. All the while the prices just keep rising because the majors don’t care, they just pass it along to the consumer. Yet for an Indy, it gets harder and harder with each increase. The same label is doing Adult Crash and Open Mouth Kiss. When are they coming out? Will it be CD and LP again? What about bonus material?
ELS: Yes, I hope the digital release is soon. Born to Expire and Desperate Measures is now available everywhere, that’s was important. Adult Crash and Open Mouth Kiss CD release in the spring and vinyl should be out by the summer. As I mentioned, the repressing of Born to Expire and Desperate Measures on vinyl is easier to have made, so everything should start to drop starting April and May. I’m preparing to do this year’s Black N Blue Super Bowl of Hardcore on May 14th, so it would be great to have everything fall in the right timeline for once. I also plan to work with both Reality and Marquee to release Truth and Rights for a summer release too.
NLY: That would be killer if it can all fall into place and I can’t wait to hear new Truth and Rights as well. Awesome you will be playing the Black N Blue Bowl. I still remember seeing Leeway at the Super Bowl of Hardcore back in the 80s at the Ritz. A Leeway song was used in one of the Grand Theft Auto video games. I read an article once where you talked about not getting paid. Did that ever get worked out?
ELS: Yeah, hahaha I did. I’m sure because of it, Leeway will never be in another game too. The company that did the game did millions of pre-sale orders, and as of the day of release, none of the artists were paid from what I understood. I knew I didn’t get the check yet. I should add there’s not royalties with this it’s a licensing fee which isn’t much at all, my payment was equal to a month’s rent, so compared to the millions this game sold in advance, and they couldn’t do the right thing and show respect to the artists that bring the whole ambiance to their product. I joke at times, if I had a nickel for every copy sold, hahaha. I called the New York Daily News and made the gossip page when I called them. At the time Grand Theft Auto IV had something like 5 million pre-sales, and how much is that? We’re talking a game that’s three times the cost of a CD and they can’t do right? I was calling it for what it was, and I don’t care if the industry has me pegged for a troublemaker who can’t play ball. I’m keeping it real and I called them out. I got paid pretty quick after that came out in the paper.
NLY: Seriously? Fuck them! Sometimes you have to be the nail that sticks out to get your due. If someone used an image from their game or something of theirs, you know their lawyers would come calling. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dollar or a million dollars (although the million would be nicer) they used your music to make their product, pay up. Glad it was all worked out, but what a fucking headache. Speaking of not getting paid, over the years I’ve always heard stories about Rock Hotel ripping off bands on their label. How did they treat you? Did Leeway ever get paid? How hard was it to get the rights back to the records?
ELS: Chris Williamson was Machiavellian, and a lot of people do not have fond memories of him. He was always nickel and diming people so that’s most of his legacy. But most people forget that he was the biggest show in town and he had a lot to do with getting many bands recognized As I look at the present compared to even my anger and lack of respect at the end of our relationship, I see today what he did in regards to Leeway getting recognized world-wide and how he put us into a position so we could make our legacy back in the day. If you were a headlining band doing Rock Hotel, there was a time you didn’t want Leeway being your support band. We stole the show from a lot of bands and we were notorious for that at the time. This business is very hard to achieve in and succeed. Chris controlled recording budgets, and helped finance The Quickness Tour with Bad Brains. Most shows he may have held back portions but I see now it’s the juggling a manager does to keep the ship afloat. When you’re young and broke while being a part of a band where Leeway was at the time you want to blame someone. I’m not sticking up for the guy but some of who and what Chris Williamson is, is exaggerated due to his personality and position in the NYHC music game.
(by Joe Booda)
NLY: Definitely a different take on Chris compared to most of what I have read, but a nice change of pace. What do you think it was about Leeway that made you stand out from the crowd of NYHC bands? (other than you always rockin Boston gear!)
ELS: Our individuality as a musical style. We worked hard at it very early. You can hear our growth from The Enforcer demo to Born to Expire, and then each release/album we released after, we grew together and expanded our sound. I think there’s very few bands that showed the growth year after year as we did. Such solid musicians being fronted by a genuine character like me who can sing a little and be a “one-of-a-kind circus freak” had a lot to do with it, I think…..hahaha. I only wore Yankee gear once, for the video for Kingpin. Yet I was always a Boston Red Sox fan since I was really young. I was a Carl Yastrzemski fan. I would also wear Celtics gear when I played Boston. I have to laugh because half the comments I’ve read online have to do with what gear I wore instead of a musical issue. Goes to show you how fashionable hardcore can be to people.
NLY: Very true, I only ask knowing how strong the NY/Boston rivalry used to be yet there would be Eddie flying all over the stage in a Celtics jersey. Looking back over Leeway’s career, what song do you think best represents the band? Why?
ELS: I don’t really know. I guess at first glance early on I would say Rise & Fall, but each record has more than a song that could answer that. Trying to make a set list for The Eddie Leeway Show is even hard because as a tribute to Leeway, I’m trying to offer a full balance of the band’s legacy.
NLY: Back in the day, you were known as a heavy partier. How long have you been clean? Is it still a struggle?
ELS: Well, I’m not a sober man. I advocate for medical marijuana, but then again, I’m no Cheech and Chong. I’m proud to say I’ve been in recovery a full 20 plus years now, despite what people may believe. I dealt with health issues (8 months Liver disease treatment that’s equal to having chemo and suffered serious weight loss) as well as recovery from a broken neck where I now have two cadaver vertebrae transplanted into my neck. I spent some of my time the past decade doing volunteer work (harm reduction, outpatient treatment, and sponsor) and it keeps me grounded. I feel very blessed because it was opiate dependency that truly was my problem. When I was abusing it wasn’t really a significant amount like most endure, I really didn’t have the money. I never liked Cocaine, so when people talk about me being a crackhead I laugh because I was never into it. Having bad teeth like I do makes people assume I’m worse than I actually was then or now. I was medicating severe depression which became opiate dependency. Since I’ve been in treatment for over 2 decades, I’ve been able to control this, and through educating myself I was blessed with the coping skills to endure today. Bottom line is I can’t tour or maintain in this business if I’m in a program, and if I was using I’d be shooting up, so there’s no way I can do that without my family, friends, and partners seeing, and they’re not going to stand by me. I’m too old to endure it. I may enjoy a little herb day to day, but it’s minimal. I will never suggest my recovery to someone else, and I’m incredibly lucky after living through that. It’s always hard to explain this, and there’s never a simple answer. I’m not in any program now but I still do therapy for my mental health. This helps me and keeps me on a better path.
NLY: Just the fact that you can own your demons and have worked out something that works for you is huge.
It’s also great that you have been able to work with others who are in recovery. How’d you get started in that? Do you think you would ever want to do something like that as a full time job?
ELS: Well, before my volunteer work I was already doing home health aide work while living in Pittsburgh for a couple of years. Most people don’t know what it’s like to be helpless and have another person clean, dress, and take care of you. It’s an eye-opening experience, and I felt I was giving back for a lot of my past street life through helping others. One mentor of mine, who got me started on this named Fred Marshall just passed away, actually. He told me one day that I actually owed it other addicts to share and give back and he started me on that path. When I moved back to New York, I started going to high schools with him and some detox wards with him and we established a local group for new outpatients as they assimilated into maintenance programs. I also advocated for several regarding patient’s rights. I currently volunteer my time for a medical alert/response service dog that I became close with as well. It keeps me grounded and helps to remind me that life can unravel real fuckin easy if I don’t take care.
NLY: That has to be so rewarding and beneficial to you as well. I hope it keeps working for you and you’re able to continue to give back and help those who could use it. Last time we spoke, you mentioned to me about you doing work with some other bands. Who are you working with? Is it just a guest spot or is something bigger brewin?
ELS: I’ve been offered the opportunity more lately to do featured guest appearances with younger bands, so I’ve been having fun with it. Divebomb from Ohio just released A.D.A.D that we did on their new and upcoming release and from Jacksonville, Florida the group Rhythm of Fear. I did Devil’s Chair which should be out in about 10 days. Rhythm of Fear has even backed me up on some of The Eddie Leeway Shows over the last 6 months and I even jumped on one of their south tours they finished last month. I’m having a lot of fun right now jumping up with other bands either live or studio and I’m enjoying it quite a lot. I’m getting more respect today than I did before and it’s inspiring to get down with a generation of bands that are half my age. It comes off on the tracks, I think, so expect more. I also plan to move forward as simply Eddie Leeway aside from what I do with Truth and Rights. I don’t have any other projects where I need to name it.
NLY: Just great to see you still out there making music and still having fun. Do you have a favorite Leeway story from back in the day that you maybe haven’t shared before and would be willing to share?
ELS: One that comes to mind is rather recent. When I went on tour with Skarhead to Europe about 4 plus years ago. While driving through Poland to get to Warsaw, or any city in the country, they don’t have the 4 lane highways the modern world has except in the cities. It’s mainly one lane, two-way traffic highways. We’re going about 95km and out of the fucking forest comes this steroided out giant boar. It had to be a good 800 pounds, and was as big as a Euro car. As it barrels out of the trees and brush, the car in front of our Mercedes Benz Strider slows to a stop…..and the boar runs right into it, drops, then gets right up and runs back into the woods. This all happened in about 10 seconds, and I’m not exaggerating. It was something you had to actually witness to believe.
NLY: Wow, I can’t even imagine what that must’ve looked like to you guys. What does the future hold for Eddie Sutton?
ELS: Steady grindin. I’ve made a commitment to doing music and going for it all out, one more time after missing out on a lot
due to stepping away to recover from my past health issues. I understand my mortality now and I know what happens over the next 2, 3 or more years just may be my last chance to have the opportunity to do this, and to do it well without half-stepping or not be as good as before. I don’t want to play the same set I played 25 years ago like other bands do, and I intend to put out music that will stay relevant today just like before. I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to go for it again and I worked real hard over the last year putting things together. Up until now, I had to do it all myself, but I’m honored to have some good friends who happen to be killer musicians to collaborate with and some even tour with, so I’ve started putting more and more things together and I intend to tour as much as possible. I have things coming up and I’ll be building momentum over the next few months.
NLY: I look forward to checking it all out and seeing where it goes from here. Any final thoughts?
ELS: Keep an eye out for Truth and Rights. Message me at http://www.facebook.com/eddie.sutton.754 for merch, CDs, and vinyl. Thanks for the opportunity and time Mike.
NLY: Thank you Eddie!!