American Hardcore - Steven Blush

American Hardcore
Steve Blush, fast turning into the underground music historian of our time, talks to Bruce Alexander about his book, and his work at Don Hill's and going on the road.

The book is about the early eighties American Hardcore Punk scene.

This was a big part of my life and a very intellectual chapter of Rock history that which was kind of overlooked and forgotten. It was this very small and underground movement and despite the fact that this was such a small scene, it had such an incredible impact on music. If you look at almost every direction music took after the mid eighties, at least in white music, you can make the correlation to Hardcore. Look at Sound Garden and Nirvana, they came out of Hardcore, you look to the alternative rock and that came out of hardcore, SpeedMetal was a kind of cross between Heavy metal and Hardcore. There are so many tentacles, there are so many points of reference on the importance this music had. That was kind of the reason I wrote this book. I wrote it because of this forgotten history and I wanted to put the record straight.

That's what inspired me to write the book.

How did you choose the cover?

On the cover is Danny Spiro From Wasted Youth. They were out of Los Angeles. They weren't one of the bigger bands to come out of the scene, but they were pretty big back in the day. It's a photo by Edward Colver, Edward Colver Was the preeminent Los Angeles Punk photographer, in Hardcore he is best known for his work with Black Flag. He's one of the most important photographers and it was really important that I work with him on this book. The reason we went with this picture of a bloody Danny Spiro Is because to me, this picture says Hardcore, it is right in your face, it says music, it says blood. And people bled for Punk Rock and Hardcore.

Don Hill's

Have you ever been involved in GG Allen performances, he's pretty Hardcore.

I make mention of him in the book. I have my own unique history with GG. I booked him at the Cat Club. His most infamous part of the show is to shit on the stage and throw it at the crowd and got thrown out. I got written up in the Village Voice for the show that I had put on. The irony, of course, is that the manager of the Cat Club was Don Hill and I couldn't work any more at that club after that but we always remained friendly. I threw this Rock'n'Roll party that Don came to a couple of years ago and we were just on the same wavelength to start working together at this club. It's been almost two years now that I've worked with Don Hill doing the Rock Candy parties, and I DJ there. Hardcore was a very stripped down movement and Rock Candy is very stripped down too, in fact it is all totally stripped down Rock'n'Roll. I think people respond well to that. There's not a lot of hype when it comes to Don Hill's or when it comes to Rock Candy, but everyone knows if you want a serious Rock party that's where you go. But, I said in the mid eighties that I would never, ever book bands again. But working at Don Hill's has made it okay.

I feel that it's the best club in town, definitely the most important to the bands and that's where we've made our reputation out a 'no bullshit' kind of thing. Working there is Bobby, and Ronnie, and there's Tommy and there's Don and there nightBob and of course there's Bruce, he oversees the Bitch parties that we throw. I like to joke that we're all members of the same dysfunctional family.

Don Hill is the best club owner in New York. After the Cat Club, when that closed, a couple of years later, Don did what he was supposed to do, which was own his own club. Don has the support of the whole club community of the local neighborhood which is unheard of for clubs. The clubs got a great reputation. Sometimes I wish we were bigger and trashier, but then we wouldn't be Don Hill's. I remember when the Flames played, they are from Massachusetts, and they said something to me like, Wow this place is great, it reminds me of a Rock club in Main. I can just imagine a guy from New England feeling something like that, meaning it's a very friendly place. Which is kind of unheard of in New York. Because, anyone who is in NY has seen the nastiest, the worst, and the meanest, and the hardest.

Go on the Road!

I'm a writer, I've played music in the past, but I like to say that I've not. A lot of people I know try to pass themselves off as musicians, but they are second rate and I don't wanna make that same mistake. When you get up on stage at Don Hill's I expect you to be a pro. There's a lot of bands that come and go, and you've got to have effort first and foremost. If you want to talk about the New York bands I give it first and foremost to the Toilet Boys. There's a certain family of bands who make their home at Don Hill's and we like that. Toilet Boys are probably the biggest band out of New York right now. The important thing that I'd like to say, is that first of all, those boys work every gig, really hard, they make a spectacle, but most importantly, I know a lot of bands read this publication, but You gotta go on the road, you've gotta work, you've gotta get out of town and play a lot before, because this place is like, you can be a big fish in a small pond it doesn't matter, I mean it's nice to be big in New York, but it doesn't mean anything. I say you've got to go to Austin, TX, and Portland, OR, five times before anyone gives a shit.

Let me tell ya, I was out on the road doing my Hardcore show and I was doing very well, because people want to know about Hardcore, but I hooked up with good shows. For the book tour, I do a slide show to which I tell the story of Hardcore. I would show up at the clubs, I would show up at bookstores, I would show up at record stores and I did some pretty big rooms and I did just about every city in the country and the only other band that people knew from New York was the Toilet Boys. They weren't doing the biggest rooms or anything like that, but they had respect. In San Francisco, they were a big deal. You know some of those towns, like Austin, I kept missing them by a few days in every town and they're not huge in these towns, but they are known. You've got to be a Road Warrior. You wanna go to other cities because coming from New York is a big deal, but you don't wanna stay at home because it doesn't mean anything. People read a little about New York, but basically you've got to go to these places and show them. You've gotta get on the road, gotta work hard. New York is kind of deceptive, you've got your friends here and get free drinks, meet chicks and rock out, but it means very little in the scheme of things. And, I've got a pretty good handle on that.

Steve Blush comes from New Brunswick, NJ, went to college in Washington DC, became the college DJ.

I was lucky enough to be one of new Punk Rock kids in DC at that time. We used to get the same shows as in New York, and we would see amazing stuff all the time and no one would be there. We had a place called the 930 club and every band that came from New York or England came down to DC because of the 930, but of course, no one was there. We were that scene, and right on the heels of that Punk and New Wave scene came the Hardcore scene. Hardcore comes out of LA, but DC has a lot to do with it. The big band was Minor Threat, and there was Discord Records. That's where a lot of this movement started. I was lucky to be there during that time. Here, I was just a Punk kid, I was from New Jersey, I used to come to New York on the weekends with my New Wave girlfriend and see shows at CBs or Irving Plaza, Max's even, a little bit. A lot of people talked about the glory days of New York Punk, it definitely was there. I was not there in 1977. I was showing up at shows in about 1979, I was young, and everyone told us that we had missed it all, that it was over, that we missed it. I remember I saw the Clash's first American show. It was at the Palladium with Bo Diddley and the Cramps. A mind boggling show. What I remember about that show was the Clash were really into having rap musicians and a lot of that kind of stuff opened their shows. I give the Clash a lot of credit for that retrospectively, but the crowd did not like that. It's not like Curtis Blow got on the stage and everyone thought it was cool. No, people would throw bottles at him and yell nigger and whatevers I think it was The Clash's way of teaching people, I think they really believed that. I believed in the Clash for a long time. I think that they believed they were changing the world in their own way. I don't know how much they accomplished, musically the whole crossover of black & white was pushed by guys like that so I guess it's very important. I saw a lot of the shows.

There's one part of New York that everyone kind of forgets right now which I got to see. I saw the first New Wave. I saw the very first New Wave bands, as opposed to Punk bands. I saw Human League, Depeche Mode, I saw The Cure open for the Dickies. I remember seeing the Cure with 30 people. I remember seeing Echoe and the Bunny Men with about 20 people. I saw the U2 tour with about 40 people in DC. Duran Duran's first tour. And a lot of Punk bands, UK Subs, GBH, Stiff Little Fingers, Discharge. These bands did not draw, these were small shows. Case and point, I saw Bauhaus In the 930 club and there were 8 people there. I think there was this feeling that these shows were so big and they weren't. Hardcore was even smaller, it was even more underground, Hardcore being Hardcore Punk. The idea being that I describe this New Wave scene kinda happening and there were a lot of kids that were juiced on Punk and didn't really see it happening, so they started their own movement. There were bands everywhere, there was Black Flag in LA, there was Bad Brains in DC, the Effigies in Chicago, the Necros in Detroit and on and on and you had a growth of this national movement.

You had Punk and then you had New Wave and the kids who were jacked on Punk but reacting against New Wave, that was Hardcore.

Yeah, I'm sure the people into the Sex Pistols were not into the Flock of Seagulls.

Yeah, there were embarrassed that they were put under the same umbrella and so was I, I was horrified. It was really hard to tell, going back a little bit '78 or '79 when they started doing that, all of a sudden Tom Petty was New Wave and whole bunch of 30 year old men with beards were being called New Wave and Punk. That's what Hardcore was reacting to.

New York was an amazing place for Punk and New Wave, it was not a center of Hardcore till many years later. Basically kids from Boston and DC came here and proceeded to wreck shit. New York - kinda like everybody had already seen it, done it, what the hell were these stupid kids doing, that was basically the vibe from what I can remember. The rise of the East Village, the white people, comes out of all of this alternative culture. Really, a lot of it had to do with the Hardcore kids coming in and fighting with the Puerto Rican gangs and clearing Avenue A out. The Club A7 which I guess now where Niagara is. A7 was where you saw Hardcore bands in New York. You could show up and three in the morning and see Black Flag and Bad Brains play there to 200 kids in a 75 person room. It was very on the edge. What I remember about Avenue A back then was the Pizza place, A7, and the Park Inn, that was it, everything else was like bombed out. There was like nothing else there. 171 A was where the Bad Brains recorded their first record, Beastie Boys did their first, that was like as Punk turns into Hardcore. That's about how small the scene was in New York, about 7 or 8 bands.

I was about 17 years old and I wasn't snorting coke, and I probably have a lot of different views on those clubs but at the same time I loved those clubs and that's where I learned so much about myself and about music. There's so many bands that get forgotten over the years. This was something that I was part of and wore like a badge, it was my life, the music was everything. It sounds kinda stupid to talk about that like that.

All I care about is underground. That's where the pulse is.

If you really have your finger on the pulse beat, you want to protect what you have. It's very important now, more than ever, to watch out and protect the scene there is now.

Don Hill's is at 511 Greenwich St, NYC

Feral House is the publisher of this book.