Interview: YuppicidePosted 11/02/2010 10:48AM by Jake Oliver as Interview
A legacy can often be a fickle thing—so much of the mortar that holds the structure together is based on the transience of memory; memories fade and are distorted by time, and when your music is out of print and very difficult to find without paying a king’s ransom, the foundation of that legacy is ever-shifting. Alas, for a band like NYHC cornerstones Yuppicide, the scarcity of their recordings made their existence for the modern, Internet-driven music fan little more than a dusty collage stuffed in the attic of hardcore’s evolution. But for the fans who remember the band from their heyday, Yuppicide were a hardcore band that refused to compromise, doing things their own way, sticking to punk rock ethos as hardcore underwent its many evolutionary changes.
The band was not without its own evolution, as a spin through their new Anthology collection released through Dead City Records will make readily apparent. Now the legacy has been cemented for the next generation, and all of the fans who missed them during their active years in the late ’80s and '90s will have a chance to dig into the songs that had been out of print for over a decade, as well as have a chance to see them on the road for perhaps the first time, as the band is now once again active and has just returned to the States after a grueling European tour.
For older fans, the recordings are a chance to re-discover the magic that was Yuppicide, and the shows an opportunity to throw down to remembered classics. For the band, the Anthology collection is a work of art, not only a compendium of every song they’ve ever recorded, but a visual trip through their career with a first-rate lay-out in the liner notes containing artwork, concert fliers, live shots, lyrics, and more. I had a chance to talk to Yuppicide’s guitarist Steve Karp not only about the Anthology and the recent tour, but some career-spanning “big questions” as well.
Hey, how are you doing? I understand you just returned home from a roughly two-week European tour. How was that?
Steve: Seriously, the shows were insane. People had a blast and packed the clubs. We weren't expecting anything that nuts; it was a very pleasant surprise, to say the least. People knew the songs, stage-dived, bought stuff... a dream come true for us guys.
Let’s spark a little controversy here: what country had the best fans?
Steve: Europe's a country, right? So, yeah Europe had the best fans! I will say that Italy had the WORST toilets, but the best food!
What do you find to be the major differences in the various hardcore scenes of Europe versus, say, your hometown of New York?
Steve: Dedication to the old stuff from the Europeans, it would seem. I mean, we hadn't played any real tour there since 1996, and people came out in droves to see us in 2010. Tons of those folks had seen us as far back as 1992!
More controversy (after all, all the best interviews have a little, am I right?): Punk is dead. True or false.
Steve: That depends… I mean if people are still living 'punk', then it can't be dead, right? You'd never know that punk is dead at one of our shows in Europe. There's tons of liberty spikes, and boots-and-braces and mohawks! Is punk breaking any new ground? No, but its spirit is still alive. When I think of the word 'punk' as it pertains to music, I think of music that is immediate and intense and genuine; stuff that just rips and grabs you by the guts. I was stoked that we played our first 2 shows of the tour with Hammerhead because those guys raised the bar for me in terms of intensity and how to rip up a stage. You can't fake that kind of spontaneous ripping; they just killed it right out of the gate. No posing, nothing contrived or false, just intensity from the onset - that to me is 'punk'. Of course, some 'hardcore' dickheads gave me shit for having long hair and a beard, but I gave them shit for not showering since the last Crass album came out.
What bands inspired you to get into punk rock and hardcore?
Steve: For me, it was the gut reaction, the immediacy and intensity. It was full-throttle, no-holds-barred action that ANYONE could do. I had been listening to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and regular metal, and that stuff was great and all, but once I found punker stuff, I took to it instantly because it was crazy music done by average dorks just like me! Not guitar virtuosos with millions of dollars of gear up on some huge stage, but regular kids with crummy gear playing balls-out, singing about regular stuff I could relate to. Plus, the whole counter-culture thing was great because I was NOT into the usual high school social scene and all the lame bands that people worshipped like Pink Floyd or Genesis and big jock drinking parties and all that crap. Punk and hardcore had great art as well, cool flyers and logos and m/c jackets with 'discharge' painted on them, and regular people just freaked out over anything that wasn't 'regular'. Plus, the tie-in to where skateboarding was at just created this cool universe to jump into and leave the 'square' world behind.
As you guys have just released an Anthology collection through Dead City records, let’s talk about the album a little bit as well as some career-spanning questions. You must be pretty pumped to have your entire discography available after over a decade of being out of print. Can you tell us a little bit about how the relationship with Dead City and the release of the album came about?
Steve: We've known John for a long time, we were on some of his other comps like Sick But Slick back in the day. I guess the whole process really started maybe last winter when a bootleg 12" from Europe with some of our 1998 demo came out. That got people talking about how our stuff was long out of print and how original stuff of ours was starting to command some obscene prices... so initially we were approached by Daniel Bader in Berlin about doing an anthology... but through his connections John approached us and offered to do the 2-CD pacakage, and Bader would re-release the 3 LPs on vinyl on his vinyl label. John has great worldwide connections in terms of distribution, and he's a local guy we've known through hardcore for years, so we trust him implicitly. He had worked with Bader before as well, and I've known Bader for a long time and trust him 100% as well. So it's great to be working with people you know have a ton of integrity and experience doing this stuff, as well as people who are actually looking out for the band's best interests fully, and not just treating you like product. We knew we wanted the tracks to sound awesome, so it was a no-brainer that we'd have Don Fury remaster all the material, and we as a band did that out-of-pocket because we needed this stuff to sound amazing; it's our legacy after all! And Jesse Jones just went above and beyond in terms of collecting art and photos and then laying out and designing the whole package for the CD set; it's a work of art. He also put together the art for the 3 LPs along with all the art of the shirts and patches and stuff. He crammed about 6 months of work into maybe a month and a half!
You have the unique vantage point of having been active in three separate decades. How have things changed?
Steve: I think we as a band are better than ever, especially now that we really have Jay dialed in on drums. When we play live, I think we're even more intense than in the 'olden days' because we're really into it and not taking a moment of it for granted. We're more comfortable with our instruments, and we really take our gear seriously now, as well as bust our asses in soundcheck to have a great stage and live sound. When we 're-debuted' at the BlackNBlueBowl, we really kind of stood out like a sore thumbs amongst all the other bands. We really are more from the punk rock end of the hardcore spectrum: really stripped-down, 3 or 4 chord straight at your throat kind of music. Just 4 guys tearing it up... and we're more of a small club band as well, so to be thrust out on that monster stage where we'd seen so many shows as kids was intimidating, especially with the other bands we were playing with, all young kids playing the latest incarnation of this music form which is light years different than us old fossils! We really noticed it at the 'With Full Force' festival as well. What people nowadays consider 'hardcore' was to my mind death metal for the most part. I mean kids with $4000 7-string guitars, crazy downtuned songs with like 23 changes and stuff... and he were come, with our 4-chord anthems and battered gear and greasy clothes!
Can you tell our readers who were not fortunate enough to have been around during the ABC-No-Rio and CBGBs days a little bit about what that was like? Who were some of the bands in the scene you particularly enjoyed?
Steve: Back in 'thee olden days' we were really lucky in that we were able to play a wide variety of the shows that normally polarized the scene. I mean, we'd play CBs, and we played ABC, but we'd play Squat-or-Rot gigs as well and play divey clubs with garage punk bands. This was in a time when the CB's matinee scene was starting to separate from the ABC scene and so on, which was a shame. I used to like the days when everyone would come to every show: crusties, punkers, skinheads, skaters, longhairs - everybody just going to see a bill that had a variety of loud music acts; but then things started to fragment and the scene started to specialize into all these subdivisions. CB's matinees sort of eventually came to be known as having a more aggro audience, and the ABC shows were a reaction to that, they had a more left-leaning bent, more political. But we could play anywhere and be comfortable and make friends because we weren't tied to any establishment or crew or anything like that; we'd play wherever and whenever we could and we were writing music that we thought that was good, not that conformed to the hardcore standards of anyone at that time.
I was going to shows on the regular, but I think the bands that stood out for me were ones who were different. I saw Swiz at a CB's matinee and they just KILLED IT- so intense, so honest, great songs. I really dug Bad Trip a lot too. They were heavy, but different, they rocked out like nobody else. To me Life's Blood were THE NYHC band because they kind of carried the 'Victim In Pain' torch and just played so hard and honestly. I really dug Norman Bates & The Showerheads so much because they ripped and had a great Misfits/Motorhead vibe that was missing from a lot of the bands at the time. Nausea was a band that was so good I was almost afraid of them. We were lucky enough to be friends with The Radicts who were just the best guys in the world, as well as being such a great band. And we got billed with The Devil Dogs a bunch, which was great because those guys were such sweet guys, and they killed it on stage. It's funny that even though I was sXe (still am) I was NOT into any of the youth crew or sXe bands of the time... though Token Entry was a great band to see. We as a band loved Underdog a lot and would see them any chance we got, plus we always supported our friends in their bands, like SFA or Outburst, but we dug a lot of different bands too, like ska bands, or Oi bands, or noise bands.
What is the best show you’ve ever played?
Steve: There's SO many 'best shows'... some of the gigs from our last tour were so incredible: packed houses, everyone singing along, going bonkers, stage diving, tearing it up with reckless abandon! I think for me personally, playing CB's matinee to a solidly packed club stands out, because just a few years before that show I had been in the audience of a packed CB's gig for Murphy's Law or Token Entry, and then here I was now on the stage of CBs, watching a million kids going apeshit from the front of the stage to the back of the club. I think our best shows might be ahead... like maybe in Japan!? (if you're reading this in Japan, please get at me as we'd love to play your country!!)
Okay Steve, one last question. Yuppicide is now officially an active band again. What are your plans for the future?
Steve: Our plans for the very immediate future are to recover from our 16-day, 16-show European tour! After that, we have a few local shows to play, like Shirley Li and then New Jersey with the Bouncing Souls at the end of December, but after that, who knows really?
I mean, we had a million people asking us if we were going to do anything new, record new material, go back on tour... and the honest answer is that we just don't know right now. You have to remember that we've been going non-stop, balls-out since April with rehearsing, gigs, tons of work to get the anthology out, tons of work on new merch, the tour; so combine all that with our day jobs and family obligations and it's been a crazy few months. It's kind of nice to not touch the guitar for a few days.
It's not so easy at 41 or 44 to be able to say unequivocally that we're going to do a new album or not do one... there's so many things to discuss and consider now that we've suffered that adult crash. We have to look at where we're at musically as a band. Our tastes have evolved and changed since 1998, when we last recorded, and look at how the 1998 stuff differed from Dead Man Walking (1995), let alone how much it differed from the 1988 demo! Other things to consider would be who would put anything new out, where we'd get the money to record, let alone the time to write and rehearse the new material, then go record it... growing up sucks! Also, I live 2 hours north of the other guys, so we always have to factor that into the equation as well.
You never know, though, there was time when we honestly thought we'd never get up and play together again, let alone tour Europe, so you never know.