I think the other thing that drew the Midwest and D.C. people together was we were both really obsessed in what was going on in L.A at the time. We were all reading Flipside and were very aware of what was going on out there. Corey went out there at one point and videotaped some shows and the Teen Idles were out there the summer of ‘80, so we had this parallel thing of both experiencing it. We were also all skateboarders too, so that was another connection.
The way I became aware of any sort of Midwest thing going on was finding a copy of Touch & Go Fanzine at the Virginia Record and Tape Exchange sometime in 1980. It had a picture of Penelope Houston on the cover and I was blown away because I didn’t think anyone besides us in D.C. knew who the Avengers were. At that time, people were on little islands. So anytime there was any sign of life from anywhere, we jumped at it. When The Teen Idles 7” came out, we sent a copy to them, but it got broken in the mail. They thought the cover looked so cool that they taped the pieces of vinyl together but obviously the needle couldn’t track the sound, so they wrote for another copy. We became friends and pen pals and Tesco introduced me to Corey and the Necros guys. The first time I met them all face to face was June or July of ’81 when they came down to D.C. to see Minor Threat and the Circle Jerks; the infamous show where I blew my voice out. They stayed for a few days at various houses of ours. Tesco was great to us because he was a bit older than us, but super encouraging of everything we did. We were used to the older people in D.C who were constantly poo-poohing us and calling us wanna-bes. It was a rarity to stumble upon an older person who didn’t make fun of us.
The amazing thing about music – to me- is that it can be an incredible education if you want it to be. I would go into Yesterday and Today and I’d hold up some record and be like, ‘What does this sound like?’ and the owner would be like, ‘It’s kinda Velvet Underground-ish,’ and I honestly didn’t know what the Velvet Underground was. I really thought that when punk came along that it was the beginning of underground radical music. I had no idea that there had been radical music before punk. I didn’t know about Iggy Pop or the Stooges until Black Flag started talking about them. I thought they meant like…The Three Stooges!
The first time we tried to go out to the Midwest to play was sort of a bust. It was the summer of ’81, and Minor Threat and Youth Brigade tried to tour all the way out to California. We tried to play in Chicago and that didn’t work out. The Effigies guy booked a show that wasn’t all ages and we were furious about it but the guy was saying that we had to play the show. As soon as we started the first song, I ran over and pushed open the emergency door of the club and we had all the D.C kids run in…so the entire show was just management throwing the kids out. I think also in Chicago, this guy tried to rob my brother on the street and I remember twelve of us running down the street after this guy. That was the kinda crap going on, you know? Hijinks! Life was good! (laughs) Suddenly, it came as a shock to us all when Tommy from Youth Brigade was like, ‘Hey, I gotta take the van back’. We were like ‘What?’ I guess he took this vehicle without his parents’ permission and he had to take it back. Now we were down to a Volvo wagon. It was ragtag to say the least. We made it as far as Madison, Wisconsin and that’s where we met all the Tar Babies. I know that in Madison there was a tremendous fight, it was at this place called Merlins’. We played with The Bloody Mattresses, which was a precursor to the Tar Babies, and there was this brawl that literally went down the stairs. We made it to Windsor, Canada to play with The Meatmen and Necros. We had to borrow equipment to play Windsor and we were at this bar where there was this crazy French woman who was trading Canadian for American dollars one to one, which was not to her advantage. There was this big fight that happened with Zuheir, the drummer for Negative Approach. He hit my brother and I do remember him getting kinda bloodied by us. That night we met all these kids from the Midwest who were friends with Tesco and Necros guys and it was great. We’d meet all these kids and be like, ‘Let’s roll! Let’s fucking do this!’ Don’t accept the idea you can’t do this because your kids; we should do this because we’re kids.
The guys in the Necros liked the sound of the Minor Threat EPs’ and asked if I’d come out there to help them record their second EP (“IQ32”) We recorded at this house with this older hippie dude. Basically, the control room was in the dining room and the band played in the living room and Tesco and Dave Stimsons’ brother Rich were all there and they did the background vocals. We recorded it there and I mixed it at Dons’. That was a good session. That single was lean and mean, I really appreciate that record.
The second time we made it out to the Midwest, we played in Lansing and Detroit at the Freezer Theatre. There was a major riot at that Freezer show. I remember going outside to see something that resembled a battle from the middle ages. Police cars started flying out of nowhere and in the midst of all this, I see the promoter of the Freezer Theatre look around and start running down the street. I started running after him because he’s got the fucking dough. I chased that motherfucker to an apartment about three or four blocks away. I finally catch up to him and he’s like “Oh, hey! There you are! I’ve been looking for you!” So he takes me into this apartment where there’s this guy in his fifties and a transvestite teenaged boy. While I’m in this strange apartment arguing with this guy about money, the rest of the band are back at the Freezer wondering where they fuck I am while police are going ballistic, beating on all these kids. Detroit was always a fucked up scene. Black Flag played at Clutch Cargos while we were in Detroit and we were at that gig. That was a really fucking intense gig. It was Henrys’ first show in Detroit, and he cut the crap out of himself with a broken beer bottle; just hacked his chest opened. Chuck had pneumonia, and I remember he came off stage and he was completely drenched in sweat, his body was just letting out everything, and he collapsed and I actually undressed him and wrapped him in towels; it seemed like he was going to die. It was incredible, just this really intense show.
When Tesco and his wife moved out here to D.C. in ’82…that was great. Cynthia and I used to go over to his house every Tuesday night for dinner and Tesco would put on this record called ‘Soul Gumbo’ when I’d come into the house. It was supposed to be my theme music. Gumbo is one of my nicknames ever since; it’s used on the ‘Dutch Hercules’ record. I remember reading this interview with Tesco where he was sure that record (‘Dutch Hercules’) was the biggest regret of my life and how ashamed I must’ve been, and it was really not true. I actually enjoyed that session a lot and yeah…it was juvenile but I think that was sort of the whole idea of the record.
A lot of people – especially men – have this idea that history is a real important thing; that they have to be a part of it. When I was growing up, you always heard older people saying ‘I was there when Martin Luther King gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech’ or ‘I was there for Pearl Harbor’. So now, for men who are in the second part of their life, the closest they can come to saying they had a brush with history was to say they were at a punk show or rode a skateboard in a swimming pool in the early eighties, you know? I wasn’t in the Battle of the Bulge or the Selma marches, but I was at a Necros show! I’ve come to terms with that idea because in the long run, it’s just important to talk about these things and share your knowledge. I do not believe in the philosophy of ‘That will never happen again’ or ‘You Had to Be There’. By believing that, you negate the existence of it in the first place. I can assure you in 1979 or 1980, there were people telling me ‘You kids are a joke! You missed the boat!’ All I had to say back to that was ‘Fuck You!’ But that resentment fueled what I did and I hope kids today come across statements like that in films like ‘American Hardcore’ and say the same thing; FUCK YOU! How can anyone even begin to do anything when all they’re being told is it’s over? What if you were born in 1985? ‘Just forget it, you weren’t there to see The Fix, so give up now…’ You know what I mean? My whole thing is I want these kids to come across this history and say ‘That’s cool, but check out what we’re doing now’ and hopefully it blows that shit away.
Images courtesy of Ian MacKaye and James Sinks