When I was interviewing Ron Sakowski (Bass player for Gerbils, Affiliated, Necros, Laughing Hyenas and the revamped Negative Approach) for the book, he declared 'Barry Henssler invented Hardcore and that's that!' Although he was just having a little fun with that statement, Ron had a similar story to many people interviewed of being turned onto the sounds eminating from LA, DC and beyond by Barry and his legendary record collection. It boils down to this, Barry and the boys were beyond being the catalyst for Midwest hardcore. If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't have your precious Negative Approach...not even your beloved Suburban Anger! Gadzooks! In this initial installment, Barry goes over the origins of the band, first gigs and all that jazz...
'Hangin' out on a Friday night...' Barry Henssler, Todd Swalla and Andy Wendler
Andy (Wendler; Necros guitarist) and I were real into collecting records pretty much right off the bat. When the punk ’77 thing happened, there were a bunch of record stores around us run by these well meaning hippy types who were real into Dave Edmunds and shit like that. They ordered these punk records and they would just sit there, so we ended up getting a lot of great shit for real cheap. I remember buying the first Suicide record on Red Star for two bucks. Anyway, we discovered the Drome record store in Cleveland when I was waiting on line at a Tubes concert at the Toledo Sports Arena and this guy was talking to me about records and he was like, "I got this crazy single called ‘(I’m The) Hillside Strangler’ from this band called The Child Molesters" and I was like, "Oh really? Where’d you get that?" and he said he got it at a store called The Drome. Cleveland is like 100 miles from Maumee, so we didn’t get out there that much except for that time there was a Patti Smith in-store with The Pagans playing next door. I remember flipping out over how tiny Patti Smith was. In pictures she looks like she has this real presence, but she’s really tiny. She had this scarf wrapped up like a burka and I remember my first reaction being "Aw man, she looks like a monkey!" Next door, the Pagans were bringing in their own gear and we went over there. I can’t express how much that gig meant to me. That show was really pivotal in a way. The Pagans made us realize it could be done, and plus they were so fucking great. Tommy Metoff, who played guitar for the Pagans, had this real authoritative sound. It was inspirational. It was our next phase as people; clearly we needed to start a band.
Todd’s (Swalla; Necros drummer) family was very musical. His mom played piano, and he had a bass and would jam it really loud and he also had a drum kit. We had stopped hanging out with Andy for a little bit because I was going to a different school and Andy started hanging out with this other cat from his neighborhood and they got way into collecting beer cans. When Andy’s parents would go away, he’d ask them to bring back specific beers. He built these special shelves in his basement and he was a contributor to some beer can collector anthology. So I have to say we saved Andy Wendler from intense nerdiness by making him join the Necros.
The first time we played live was at the Brass Bell, which was a University of Toledo bar. There was this band called The Best who would play Elvis Costello covers and the lead singer and the bass player were brothers who worked at this record store called Boogie Records. They were cool and we’d hang around there and one day we asked if our band could play with them on Halloween of ‘79. The crowd dug it because it was Halloween and they were just having fun. We went over really well and were really surprised. Maybe a month later we played again there and we weren’t nearly as well received, and to top it off, it was really humiliating because my aunt was there! I was 16 and told her, ‘Hey! Don’t tell my step mom about this!’
We started so much at ground zero that we sounded more like the Shaggs, it was that primitive. And this wasn’t for a couple months, it was for awhile we’d actually try to play out sounding like that! In January of ’80, we played in Windsor, Ontario and we were so shitty. This friend of ours whose nickname was Zonk came up to us after the set and was like, "God, you guys are fuckin’ terrible!" He was aghast of how shitty we were. We covered ‘1977’ by The Clash and it was so bad.
'81 line-up of the Necros (minus Andy) graces the cover of Touch & Go #14
Around this time is when I saw an issue of Touch & Go at Schoolkids (record store in Ann Arbor). I sent them a copy of Smegma Journal (fanzine edited by Barry) They didn’t believe we were the age that we were until we met. We started meeting up on Saturdays to go record shopping in Ann Arbor and hang out. Tesco and Dave were the best/worst influences you can think of. They were probably the first older people who weren’t dismissive of us. Ann Arbor had all these hippie commune places and we got a show at one of them in the summer of ‘80. It was us and some really fucking shitty band with Lori who worked at Schoolkids records. I think we had gotten on our feet a bit because Jeff Lake was playing bass at the time and he took to the bass quickly. He moved to L.A. a few months later and joined that band Symbol Six who came out on Posh Boy. He changed his name to Donnie Brooks. He was a decent bass player and we probably sounded pretty good at the time. Tesco and Dave showed up at the show and they were hilarious, they always had beer. Tesco used to always smoke these weird, pink colored playboy guy cigarettes. They really stood out from these Ann Arbor granola hippy type people that I remember being there that night. They were real encouraging of everything we did and they’d also buy us beer which was a plus in our book. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think the Midwest hardcore scene would have existed.