Please enjoy the archives of the series, NY Hardcore Never Dies, by Angela Quinn:
Intro to the first interview with Jesse Katz: Very few people can say that they showed up to their local NY Hardcore band’s practice with cupcakes and brownies for everyone. At first glance with my pink shirt and glasses, I stuck out like a sore thumb at Metal and NY Hardcore shows. But I belonged there. I got “it” immediately. What teenage girl couldn’t relate to the lyrics of ‘Friend or Foe’ on Madball’s Set it Off? I heard something magical and magnetic in the lyrics of these local bands, and hearing their tracks performed live ignited something in my soul that I felt with every beat of that double bass. To the unappreciative ear, this music can sound angry, insulting, and satanic. But it’s beautiful. It’s real. It’s raw. It makes you feel not only the energy and angst but the love. It’s a disorderly utopia, and watching people mosh and throw down to the ebbs and flows of the sound is enchanting.
This community was, and is, an amazing family of people who came from all walks of life to fill some sort of void besides musical expression, be it family, friendship or an overall sense of belonging. I lacked all of the above, and I found it in these bands and among these friends. I found a fun place to come and hang whenever I wanted to be there, and I was always made to feel welcome.
Yes, we sometimes ragged on the emo guys with their eyeliner and chopped haircuts, but as soon as musical influences starting being thrown around and a similarity was established, the ragging got worse which was the true sign that you were loved. That you were “in.” That you had proven yourself. You see: most of these people got no easy passes in life, and they weren’t about to give you one, either. You earned your place here. Love was given freely here in this space, but it was given firm and with clear guidelines: don’t cross me or my friends. The fragile line between friend and foe was palpable, but unless you’ve been there to experience that brotherhood firsthand, it’s difficult to put to words just how powerful that feeling of belonging really was in this space.
Growing up in Rockaway, Queens, New York, I lived just two houses down from the basement studio of Jay Martin, the OG drummer of Sheer Terror. If it were not for his psycho dog attacking the fence every time I dared to get too close to the house, I would’ve stuck my face against that ground level window each and every time I heard that chaos erupting from that basement. I learned years later that the bands I came to love were the very bands walking down there to practice: Sheer Terror, Biohazard and Candiria, just to name a few.
One of my first “real” jobs besides babysitting was at the 101 Deli, where I met 36 Deadly Fists guitarist John Glick who burned me countless CDs of Metal and Hardcore bands to taint my teenage mind. Years later, my local bartender would be Mike Palmer, the 36DF bassist. Rockaway is like that: you just sort of know everyone! I also happened to live right across the street from Christian O’Leary, the 36DF vocalist, whom I also became friendly with. Christian was instrumental in constantly giving me another band to lookup every time we passed one another on Rockaway Beach Blvd. What’s really ironic about Christian is that I often heard people point to him and refer to him as a “freak” and a “drug addict.” Christian is not only one of the most loyal, giving people in my opinion, as well as the biggest friend to animals known to man, but like myself, he actually has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs in his personal life and space. If people took the time to get to know him, and to see past his septum piercing and green hair he sported back in the day, they would’ve been one of the lucky few to be the recipient of his giant, cheesy smile and his corny jokes.
This parallel between what NY Hardcore actually is, versus what people stereotype it to be, is exactly what drove me to create this column. I want to tell the other side: the story of the “softer” side of the NY Hardcore scene, which I feel is often glossed over in documentaries and books. Sure, it’s juicy and interesting to talk about the brawls that went on back in the day between NY and Boston, and to talk about all of the constant drama that goes on, but what scene doesn’t have all of those elements? There’s an untold story here, and I intend to tell it, one artist and one band at a time. I want to highlight all of the beautiful aspects of this enclave of people who create some of the most “offensive” music out there to show the ironic beauty in the organized chaos of the mosh pits, the synergy felt in those break downs and the spark behind those guttural lyrics which speak intelligently about life, relationships, politics and philosophy.
I couldn’t think of anyone better to start off this NY Hardcore Never Dies story than to start with one of my very first hardcore friends that I met at age 14, Jesse Katz. I hope you’ll see what an immensely intelligent and talented guy he is. For those of you that have judged this scene by the cover: I challenge you to read this interview and broaden your perspective just a bit. Take the time to understand and appreciate what this brotherhood is all about. Take the time to really give this scene credit for not only recognizing social constructs, but for rising above them. Take the time to appreciate that if one of these guys (or gals!) were driven to deck you right in the face one day, it wouldn’t be because of the color of your skin, your socioeconomic class, your sexual preference, or your peculiar choice in clothing: it would be simply because you’re a jerk.
Full List of NY Hardcore Interviews: