TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This e-mail interview with former Brutal Truth and current Venomous Concept vocalist Kevin Sharp was done by Chris Rohde in August, 2004.
Kevin Sharp was one of the founding members of the American death / grind band Brutal Truth back in 1990. Today he fronts the punk / hardcore project Venomous Concept. Our own Chris Rohde takes him back in time to discuss the early American hardcore / punk scene step by step.
Be warned Kevin, I have gone a little crazy with the amount of questions. So, if you don't have time, I totally understand. Or if you feel like leaving out some questions, then do so. I just think it's really interesting, Barney (Napalm Death) was going to write something up for the British scene, but then Napalm Death got real busy with Order of the Leech.
You should hit him up again as he is a vault of info… tell him I said to take the time… Yeah it was long and drawn out, and I would have kicked your ass if the questions sucked. But they didn’t and it was nice to reflect… before it all dripped out of my head…
Unfortunately I wasn't old enough to witness the great hardcore bands when they all started out. Actually I've only been able to see Fugazi and The Misfits well into their existence. In my opinion, Minor Threat, DRI, Bad Brains, Discharge, Black Flag, Sick of it All, etc. . . they were all responsible for pushing music further. They are the true originators of the extreme scene. The scene back then is nothing like it is today, it must have been raw, intense, just fucking brutal. What was it like to go and see those bands play?? What was the atmosphere like, how did people respond to this new musical attack??
Sometimes I look back and it is hard to separate the time period verses my age at the time… if that makes sense… I started going to shows in 83… To me the biggest difference was a sense of open-mindedness… Yeah it was raw, but there was nothing before this… That may have made it seem more visceral, more chaotic… I heard about the Pistols coming through town, but was too young to go… Other than that, the first Motorhead record… pretty raw… Maybe it had to do with punk in Atlanta… but the scene was so small, that the punk, hardcore, skinhead, metal and cross-dressers hung out in the same clubs… The queers had the best drugs and even though everyone was completely different in philosophy and attitude… everyone was given their space… Granted the skins got out of control here in there, but I lived in a squat that had a pretty even mix… Except for cross-dressers… they never squatted… But I can honestly say that both Wendy O Williams and Ru Paul have tried to get in my pants… That’s good comedy…
I don't think kids of today really understand what it was like back then. It went from the pop rock stuff, to this insane punishing musical/youth movement. Back then there were no Blink 182's, or Sum 41's, who are mainly about making cash. The punks back then were rebellious, did everything themselves and in return weren't accepted. These days, you see shirts in Wal-Mart that have "I love Punk" written on them. Where did the attitude go?? Or did the "youths" get too lazy. It seems that most of the DIY scene has shifted to the metal underground?? Any comments??
Well… I would say that the only major nationwide outlet for punk was TV… There was a guy on the west coast Rodney Bingemheimer, or something like that, that was big for exposing the west coast stuff on the radio, but nothing where I grew up… There was this rockabilly show called Sha na na… They had the Ramones… which was wild…. And everyone seems to forget one of the greatest promoters of the scene, John Belushi – he got bands like Fear and Devo on Saturday Night Live… I’ll never forget the Devo show… They were rocking out in their radiation suites and sunglasses… Blew me away… I’m pretty sure Nirvana – albeit a great band – killed punk rock… They gave it a mainstream forum, indirectly making metal once again punk… Even the hair bands… These fools are out their playing one of the most “uncool” styles of music for the time, thus making themselves somewhat punk… They are doing it themselves and on their own terms… If you were to place Blink 182 or Sum 41 on the scene back then – they would have openly weeped on the touring conditions… there were no contracts… no free booze… you got what they felt like giving you …and they would have obviously gotten their ass kicked everywhere they stopped their van…
Which bands did you see live?? Who were the real great hardcore bands live/Why?? Who plainly sucked live/Why??
Dead Kennedys – Holy shit they were good, tight, fast, unique… Jello made being a dork super cool…
Minor Threat – Even though they were straight edge and that didn’t really fly in Atlanta… No one denied how amazing they were on stage, aggressive, young angry white kids…
Bad Brains… up until HR got into crack, the Bad Brains were flawless… Back flips and one of the best drummers in the biz… Never a bad show… they were great for the crossover… and not the metal one… When I Against I came out… That was the beginning of alternative music… Indie-rock started there…
DRI – nonstop… 4 or 5 song bursts… swirling pit
Black Flag… just flat out cavemen with feedback
Poison Idea Scary big men playing brutally beyond their ability
COC – Just consistently amazing – Very political – very true and basically local…
Misfits… They were so bad on so many levels live that it made it difficult not to smash those records… Never bothered seeing the rehash line-up cause even with Danzig they sucked… Although Samhain was pretty terrifying
I’m sad to say Discharge as well… and I think I had the same feelings about the Misfits… Because they used the same riffs in different patterns, the horrible-ness came from sounding like they were all playing different songs at the same time… It was weird… there would be this huge chaotic noise that would stop on the dime… It was like… everyone in the pool… everyone out of the pool… same time… which now that I think about probably sounds pretty cool…
Which bands actually disserves the respect that people show today?? The Misfits just keep re-incarnating themselves, when they should just retire. Was Danzig the man, or is he/the band overrated?? Same with Jello (DK), Henry Rollins (Black Flag/State of Alert), Tesco Vee (The Meatmen), HR (Bad Brains), Yamataka Eye (Boredoms)??
Jello is valid and true definition… Same ideals, same attitude, valid as a twenty-dollar note… Rollins is sort of half ass Hollywood, and just lost the plot somewhere… Loved Tesco… Hate Police kind of sucked… but the Meatmen were the fucking the other side to that DC emotional crap… they knew how to laugh… Saw the Meatmen with the Mentors and Gwar, before they had a record out, very punk… theater meets porn… Like I said… we lost HR to crack… Eye, I kind of lost his plot with the rave-electro angle he took, but he was and will always be someone to check out, cause you never know what to expect… At any moment, chainsaw or distortion… makes him dangerous and definitely valid… The Misfits had a great image, but now –I think those guys should go back to doing the Kryst The Konquer – late 80’s metal… It just sounds bad on so many angles… I’m not even addressing the current Dead Kennedys -its blasphemous.
Personally Minor Threat made a huge impact on me. I never took their ideals too seriously, but musically they fucking tore shit up. For Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson to have started Dischord Records back in, what was it 1980/81, and to still be releasing music DIY style to this very day, that is integrity right there. Now you mentioned to me about going to a Minor Threat show, and to Fugazi's first shows outside Washington DC, I figure that either Ian MacKaye or Dischord Records has impacted you. If so, then how?? If not, then just forget this question.
And on the other coast Alternative Tentacles before the rest of those Dead Kennedy fucks destroyed a good thing… the commercial end of it is Epitaph with the Bad Religion… But Discord was the first to create a vibe - a scene… Like Sub Pop and the loser stick… But Ian is a man of principles. He is very intense, especially when he is on tour, and even though his view ain’t mine… I’ll always give it up to him… major respect… On a side note… my dad plays golf with Brian Bakers father… Oh yeah -one more plug on DC -the Faith Void split is total classic… and if you are into the obscure… track down the unreleased Void record… I think it was supposed to come out on Touch and Go… sort of metal through a gas-huffers mind…
Another band that really fucked with my mind is the Boredoms. Since you and Brutal Truth covered some of their stuff, they must have meant something to you or the band, can you describe how the Boredoms have affected you?? Or do you lean more towards SOB, GISM, and Gauze for you Japanese fix??
I met Eye through John Zorn, we shared vocal duties in Naked City… Toured with the Boredoms and the Pain Teens in 93 here in the States, before the Lollapalooza / Nirvana splash… recorded with them as well… The way they wrote and recorded was unbelievably strange… He single-handedly developed both the punk and noise scene at the same time… The Shimmy Disc record is one of the greatest records of any genre released… I sort of looked at the whole Japanese thing as one, even though all the bands you mentioned were entirely different… Yet I liked them all for different reasons… GISM’s Sekevi’s legend is forever… I met him back in 92… He is all that and a bag of chips… the real deal… Used to trade with Totsuan… Sang in SOB for a couple of shows when Totsuan passed away… He was a great man… The Gauze influence on the record I just did is unmistakable… And they are still kicking much ass… Way too many great bands to get deep on in Japan…Nightmare, Outo, Death Side, Systematic Death, Laughing Nose… on and on…
I can only read about how the hardcore scene started. Everyone has a different perspective about how the scene actually went down. From your perspective what band(s) started hardcore punk?? I believe that the Bad Brains influenced many bands, especially Minor Threat. Were they the originators of the style?? I know it's probably a mix of bands, and it's hard to say who really started the genre since one person could only account for where they lived, but maybe you can help out.
That is definitely a chicken or egg concept… The Ramones were the first punk band… there shit was pretty fast and meathead oriented… they started the English thing… but for pure hardcore punk… Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Poison Idea… That is a tough one… It was so long ago… and I’m not real good with time.
Did you see the Beastie Boys play live back when they were all about the hardcore?? If so, were they shit??
No they never made it to Atlanta… got the record, it wasn’t very good… Was it called Egg or something… If you really want crap hardcore from that period… check out Rick Rubins old band… now that was pure horse shit…
What do you think of the tribute albums that both Napalm Death (Leaders Not Followers) and Slayer (Undisputed Attitude) have released?? For me, "Undisputed Attitude" was important, because I loved all those bands (except for TSOL), and it marked my cross over to metal music. Where I was introduced to bands like Sepultura, Napalm Death, Brutal Truth etc. . . .. .
They are fun nostalgia type stuff… Let’s people know where you came from… and on the other side… people checked out the punk stuff… TSOL were a pretty good band before the did the hair metal thing… I guess Retroactive Abortion is a similar concept… same reference points, riffs and whatnot - just our arrangements…
Okay, lastly I'm going to name a bunch of early bands, if you have an opinion or thought about them mention it. If you've already covered the band earlier in this discussion, then just fuck it and forget about it. They aren't all hardcore bands though. . ... .
The greatest force in extreme music… without them, there would be nothing.
Classic English noise punk… without them maybe no Carcass or Napalm.
Not my bag, but obviously an influence on numerous bands .
Sexy music for sexy people… classic example of image over talent… that said, they were / is the principles of punk… If they can do it, anyone can… simple principle of motivation over talent.
One of the most potent bands from England… The raw side of punk with an intense political edge… Amazing live band… total energy…
State of Alert (with Henry Garfield, aka Henry Rollins):
Over rated… but a young angry white kid develop into an urban animal… Everybody got a starting point… My first band was horrible… me with drum sticks now that’s a joke…
Rocking the politics, image… no rules kind thing… Very influential with me.
Napalm Death (Scum era):
Speaks for itself… Launched Earache and everything that came from there.
DYS (with Dave Smalley):
Never cared too much for the Dave Smalley thing… I have friends that will bottle me over this one… Yes… very important -- but to someone else…
I got an Egg Hunt 7” somewhere around here, so that should tell you a little something on the importance.
So many of us would not exist without them… When you are writing music and you try an explain what you want… You say – “Go out of that Slayer bit and dive into a Siege…” the world may never truly know how influential they were… Just ask Drop Dead…
Sick of it All:
Bitter, angry and funny as hell… Give it up to the Koller boys and the Alley crew… part gang part core… Real men… real hardcore.
Italian stuff… Missed them live… Wish I hadn’t -heard they were a blister on your heal.
Smoked a joint with Jesus Bonehead… funny guys with funny records… Where’s your DOA question? Mr. Joey Shithead… appropriate don’t ya think?
[I suppose, but D.O.A. isn’t my style.]
Loved the music, hated their fans… On the other note… wasn’t the other Subhumans SST from Canada?
[Yeah, they were.]
Richard hung himself – they should have followed…
Old school in the know cool guy reference… not near as good as what those kids eventually put together…
Never really all that much a fan, but they seemed to play shows with just about everyone on the face of the planet.
Can’t believe I didn’t mention them earlier… they were amazing live band… face it what is more punk than a gay communist?
Great Band live, didn’t care too much for the records though.
The Germs with Pat Smear or Nirvana with Pat Smear:
The Germs… one of my favorite west coast bands… couldn’t play for shit but the Darby thing is way more legend than the Syd Vicious thing… I could talk for ages on why I think they were cool… Face it Joan Jett… Runaways hot…
Over-rated - over-paid hipster shit… Sister and a few other bits… total classic… Love Thurstons kung-fu…played some shit with him and Zorn in old Knitting Factory stuff, but I’m not even certain what they are doing now…. They should move on to a different thing… I guess old dog new trick is harder the older we get…
DRI (Before the "Cross Over"):
DRI – exhausting – explosive – bloody - some of the craziest circles I’ve ever been through… fists, boots, chaos and the ultimate teen anger…
Also Kevin, if you have any funny or fucked up stories that you want to mention, like a crazy mosh pit story or police trying to shut a show down, then please feel free to include it.
Your questions have forced me to overload… remember things I have not thought of in years… Let me make another pot of coffee and I will try and spit another thought out… the haze of it all… Never mention the Butthole Surfers… But I’m certain there was some acid stories there – we used to wear wedding dresses to their gigs … Also, going to Graceland again on acid… More with tabs we -went to Dead shows to pick fights with hippies… I guess it all was pretty funny ride…
Cheers once again. Thanks for your time man. It's appreciated!!
Links of interest: