The Twins, Minus, SOB... these are all names that either caused fear or respect among a certain age group of CBGB's matinee attendees, and the overall NYHC scene circa 1987 - 1989. Besides being notorious characters, they all happened to be part of the Sunset Skins, a predominantly Puerto Rican gang of skinheads from the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. If you were around at that time, you were either down with them, or if you got in their way, you might have had the misfortune of being involved in violent encounters with their crew that could have been random or premeditated.
I knew tons of kids like them growing up, so that type of mindset wasn't new to me. What was different was that the violence that followed them happened within the context of the hardcore scene, an unfortunate consequence being that kids coming to shows for the music faced some serious bodily damage from people I knew and was friends with.
As the years went by, and long after they were gone, the Sunset Skins' legend grew out of proportion at times. At various times, they were blamed for everything from shutting down the CBGB's matinees, to brandishing automatic weapons in the mosh pit, to the overall increase of violence in the hardcore scene. Regardless of public opinion, the truth, as always, lied somewhere in the middle.
I've kept in touch with a couple of the members of the Sunset Skins throughout the years and wanted to see what their thoughts were on those days. Some of the members became outlaw bikers. One became a Christian missionary in Africa, while another works as a corrections officer. Not surprisingly, some have toured the world playing in bands. But no matter what they're up to these days, their lives were irrevocably altered by growing up shaved for battle in the "Gunset."
I want to send a huge thanks to "Lusty" Lou Morales, Minus, and Jorge Rosado for their candor in answering these questions.
Did you grow up in Sunset Park, and when did you form the crew?
Minus: I moved to Sunset when I was about 10 on 54th St. between 4th and 3rd. I couldn't tell you the year on the start of the crew. "Lusty" Lou knows best.
Lou: I was born and raised on 43rd St. between 4th and 5th. Our crew started in 1987.
Jorge: No, I grew up in the ghettos of Williamsburg, before the invasion of the pilgrims a.k.a. hipsters [laughs]. But I was probably one of the last to join Sunset around, shit, I think '86 - '87. So, yeah, Sunset Skins was already formed by then.
Who started the Sunset Skins and about how many members were there in total?
Lou: I came up with the name for the crew, but SOB (Javier Carpio) introduced us to the whole skinhead thing. He grew up right down the block from us, so we knew him well. One day he came strolling up the block all skinhead-ed out. We thought it was cool. At that time, we were into metal. He took us to our first gig at Animal Hall, with Sheer Terror and Breakdown, and from that time, we were hooked. We went straight out and shaved our heads.
Minus: The first Sunset Skins were me, SOB, "Lusty" Lou, Big Richie, Hector, and Edwin. We were the very few Puerto Rican skinheads in Sunset Park. I was there from the start. It was six Latinos and one blanco [laughs]. That was Karate Chris, and a short time after that, Ray Torres joined. But the original six were from the neighborhood.
Jorge: Damn, I really can't say. You would have to ask one of the earlier guys, but when I joined, there were less than 10 guys altogether. But we rolled like 300 Spartans [laughs].
The crew had a reputation for violence, whether random or justified. Why do you think you guys got into so many fights back then, and how do you feel that era and environment influenced your behavior?
Lou: Growing up in Sunset Park, we were already influenced by gang violence. We had the Assassinators, the Filthy Mad Dogs, and the Macheteros, just to name a few. We grew up believing that the only way to get respect was with your fists. What better way to live it out than in a skinhead gang? In the beginning, I was uncomfortable with the fighting. I was listening to hippie music, and the guys would make fun of me because of it. One day, I was tired of the teasing and being called a hippie. We were down in Bay Ridge one night, looking for a party, and we saw this hippie up ahead of us. Before I knew it, I had taken off after him and eventually tackled him on the ground, wailing on him. We got separated by some rent-a-cops, but they let me go when they found out I was only 13 and the guy I jumped was 18. That night something changed in me, I think for the worse, but I never got picked on again by the guys.
Minus: I wanna say 80% was fighting for my race, 10% just street shit, and the other 10% just being a dumbass. We grew up in a violent era; some of us came from broken homes. Hate and rage is what we knew. You had to fight to survive or get chewed up. We had the reputation 'cause we had to fight on all fronts. We took no shit, fighting Nazis, blacks, guidos, and other Latinos, just because they thought we were Nazis. Shit was like the movie The Warriors, you know, trying to fight your way home. Then you go into the city and get into shit with rude boys, mods, punks, etc. Although it was a violent era, it was an era of true men, kids. We were in our very early teens and never thought twice about that man by your side, not like today. Sunset was my rite to passage.
Jorge: Yes, we did, more than anyone I've ever rolled with. Brother, it was a combination of things. That was the environment we came from. We lived in tough neighborhoods, and being a Latino skinhead was rough, well, for me it was. I had to fight with kids all the time because of how we were portrayed by the media. Everyone thought we were Nazis! Ain't that a bitch? We spent our days jumping racists, but then got called racists ourselves [laughs]. It's fucked up.
Home was rough, but rougher for others. But we came up poor and worked our asses off. We took the skinhead thing to the heart, and still do to this day, no matter how we look now. But because we were from hard, working class families, I feel that we had more claim to it than some of the other skins. Not everyone was from the streets like we were. We were brothers and we stuck together tight for a while. But the combination of our personal lives, our neighborhood, and the hardcore scene, all played a big part in our madness [laughs]. New York was rough all over, period. You had to adapt or get chewed up by the sharks. So we did that and then some.
I remember one time hanging out with the Twins and Ray Torres, driving in James "The Klansman"'s car. We almost got into a huge brawl with bat-wielding guidos in South Brooklyn. Do any other crazy stories like that come to mind from back in the day?
Lou: James' car was a '65 Impala four-door. I will never forget that vehicle. There were lots of fights, but one in particular stood out to me. It was at [legendary Brooklyn club] L'Amour on a Friday. Some white power guys showed up with emblems on their jackets. One of our guys lit up a dude with a Skrewdriver jacket and it became total mayhem. Before we knew it, the police showed up and we were gone.
There was also Rocco from American Eagle, who also had an Impala. One night we went around Greenwood Cemetery with a paintball gun and a fire extinguisher. We caught one dude by himself and he thought it was a drive by. We laughed real hard, shooting paintballs at him and watching him scramble for cover. 20 minutes later, we were in front of the Twins' place on 3rd Ave. and asking one of his drunk neighbors for directions. Then we sprayed him with a fire extinguisher [laughs].
Minus: Yeah, we [Merauder] played a show at the Marquee. By the end of the night, me and my brother, Dominican Bill DMS (R.I.P.), were both stabbed. That was life in those days, shit happens.
Jorge: I remember SOB and me going to some beach in Staten Island once. I think it was called South Beach, where the Sickies [gang] roamed. They noticed it was just me and SOB, and they started to flip out, but we just stood our ground. The beach got crowded with just Sickies [laughs]. But them bitches, all they did was talk. They definitely had us, but they knew that the repercussions were going to be bad. It had to have been that, 'cause we were in their backyard, flexing, and they did nothing.
But that was nothing compared to the times we caught racist metalheads outside of L'Amour, or the time we jumped the guitarist of Overkill for talking shit. Guidos or whatever, it didn't matter who you were when you crossed by us on the street, it was bad. I mean, we rumbled with hip-hop dudes, punks, metalheads, Nazis, whatever. I think we even scared off someone from Youth of Today, or any other band at that. We were dicks [laughs]. I also remember the rumble we had at the Rough Animals 1%er motorcycle clubhouse. Fuck them dudes! But, you know, first hand, brother, how it was back then [laughs].
I know you were really into Oi! Why do you think that type of music resonated with you guys?
Lou: Oi! music really spoke to where we were coming from socially. We came from poor, single-parent homes in one of the worst communities in New York. So we felt we could relate to what the guys were singing about. The only family we felt we had was on the street.
Jorge: 'Cause it was loud [laughs]. But seriously, Oi! was always one of my favorite styles of music besides hardcore or punk. It related more to skins and gave me a message that made more of a soldier out of me than the whole ghetto world, which was there waiting for me to come back. I figured that if I was going to die on the streets, I'd die a skinhead. I mean, how can you you not like Oi!? It had party songs, war songs, political songs, songs about girls... it was pure rock 'n' roll. I still love it [laughs].
Minus: I wasn't so much into Oi! music. I did like it, but I was more of a hardcore kid. But Oi! and hardcore music was written from the hearts and souls, from the eyes and visions of people who lived in society's sewers and were misunderstood in those days. They put our feelings into songs, that shit was real.
Besides standard Oi! fare like the 4-Skins and The Business, you guys were also into bands like Skrewdriver and Brutal Attack. Did you ever feel any contradiction being Hispanic and listening to white power tunes?
Jorge: [Laughs] Yes, we did, again, guilty as charged! But we totally knew it. It was our way of saying we did what the fuck we wanted. We also wanted to see if anyone would do anything about it. We liked the bands, not the message, but overall, Skrewdriver wasn't that bad. Their first album was great and not racist. People seeing Latinos singing "Hail the New Dawn"? Hilarious [laughs].
Minus: Yup, and I'll still listen to Skrewdriver. I'm 43 and never spent money on a [Skrewdriver] album, and I know the lyrics. They were about blood, honor, and loyalty, pride in your race. It was everything I was about, just for Latinos. Nobody complains when I listen to gangster rap, singing about drugs, killing, and fighting and racist shit about us. And I paid cash for that. Well, I listen to everything from death metal to classical.
Lou: Not really. It didn't bother us much. I think some of us already had prejudices we grew up with. I know I did. But I think most of all we liked the sound of the music itself, but I do think the lyrics had an effect on some of the things we said and did.
The first time I got arrested was at Hell Park. We were hanging with Scott Ebanks and some other guys. We had lit a fire in Carmine Street Park. The fire guys chased us out, and me and another kid got arrested. After we were released, we walked past the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Big black skinheads, and me with a Skrewdriver shirt. I locked eyes with Troy, but kept walking with my friend 'til we hit 6th Ave. Then we stopped, 'cause I knew the guys were following us. So, four bouncers from that place surrounded me and lectured me on the evils of Latino 13-year-olds wearing white power t-shirts. Lesson learned. But I'll be darned if they were gonna chase me down. I'll stand and take it like a man, 'cause I'm from Sunset [laughs].
Speaking of music, I know Karate Chris and Ray Torres were in Direct Approach, and SOB/Minus/Jorge in Merauder. Did any other Sunset Skin crew members play in bands?
Lou: Big Richie was in Brute Force. They were definitely down with Sunset.
Jorge: Yeah, Richie did that Oi! band, Brute Force, for a little while. I'm not sure, but I think there was some kind of closet Nazi shit with a member, or I could be totally wrong. Karate Chris also created the band All Out War.
When and why did the Sunset Skins dissolve?
Minus: I wouldn't say "dissolved." Sunset Skins kept going. They used to call us the Goya Boys back in the days. SOB, Karate Chris, and myself were who kinda went another way. We were the Brooklyn addition to what started as DMS. Sunset is my hood, it's where I grew to be a man, my roots. I just went on a different ride.
Lou: I don't remember exactly when, but somewhere around the time Edwin got locked up for trying to stab someone in Woodbridge Mall. He did two years in Rahway [a prison in New Jersey], and the guys sort of dispersed. I think it coincided with the lull in shows at CB's because of the violence.
Jorge: Bro, towards the end, whatever dude that didn't do drugs started to do bands, or get involved with girlfriends and careers. Some members went to prison. But as the hardcore scene declined a little, so did the old school. The new scene, I would say, came up around '92 or '93. But I'm bad with dates and stuff.
I heard rumors about one of the Twins (Hector or Edwin) dying or in prison while the other one is living in Puerto Rico. Do you know whatever became of them?
Lou: Last time I spoke to Hector was in 2006, just before moving my family to Zambia. They were living with their mom and doing work locally. They were also both involved in MMA and got really good at it. I have no ties to them other than their brother living in Brooklyn, who works for the MTA [Metro Transit Authority].
Minus: It was just a rumor. The Twins are alive and well. They're just antisocial and hate the world [laughs].
Question for Lou: I know you've been living in Africa and doing missionary work. How did that come about, and what's been your personal journey since those days in Brooklyn?
Lou: Believe it or not, my intro to "religion," and the whole Jesus thing, was from the Twins. I knew their mom was a "holy roller" and I would ask them questions about it. I didn't really grow up in church, but we would be drinking, and they would be getting high. They shared with me everything their mother had taught them. I felt that what I was hearing was the truth, but I didn't want to give up the skinhead lifestyle.
All of it came back to me six years later, when the whole crew was gone, and I felt like I was the only one left. The police were looking for me. I was depressed and purposeless and felt like the family I had on the streets had betrayed me. That's when I gave my life over to Christ, not in some weird, loud, "holy roller" church, but in the privacy of my own living room. I think because of my time on the streets, I can sort of identify with the street kids that we work with. Sometimes we feel like no one gets us or cares. I can definitely go into those dark situations in the streets and let the kids know that someone does care.
Jorge and Minus, are you still living in Brooklyn, and what have you been up to lately?
Jorge: Yes, I'm still in Brooklyn. I was born and raised here, and it's fucking hard leaving this place. I have a lot of history here; great friends, family, memories, etc. I'm a father with two great kids who are both into punk rock, hardcore, and all that stuff. My boy, Devin, is a die-hard punk. I love them so much. I went to see the Misfits with my boy. He had a blast and took pics with them for his birthday. I'm working on some artwork and my brotherhood, the Babas Social Club. That's about it, besides singing in Merauder, and doing other music.
Minus: I'm a union bricklayer and do waterproofing. I'm living in Boston. I love riding and enjoying the road and working on the new band, Minus1.
Do you know whatever happened to the other crew members?
Minus: I've been in contact with a few. "Lusty" Lou is building churches in strange places. Big Rich is doing the family thing. SOB R.I.P. Karate Chris and Ray I haven't talked to. We're just getting old, family, kids, bills, headaches, and college payments. I love them the same today as I did back then. They are always my family.
Lou: Rich Rod is a corrections officer in NYC, but the other guys are long gone. Not sure where a lot of them are these days. But I think of them often.
Jorge: Damn, I wish I knew! It would be great to see them all again. Oh, shit, I forgot I had Lou the Jew's number [laughs]. I know "Lusty" Lou is reborn Christian. I guess all of the violence got to him, but good for him as long as he's happy. I'm still in touch with Richie. He's doing his thing. He's a dad and rides for a close friend of mine's motorcycle club. Minus is in Boston, I think. I hope all is well with him. That's all I know [laughs].
He passed away some years back, but SOB was such an integral part of the crew. Can you share any stories from his younger years?
Minus: SOB opened up the doors to the punk, hardcore, and skinhead world to me. He is, and will always be, Merauder, no matter what anyone has to say. Merauder wouldn't be if it wasn't for him. That name rose from the back room of his house in Sunset. Like a true brother, I love and hate him at the same time. I just wish he was here so I could tell him myself. So fuck anyone that has had anything to say about him and his passing into a new world.
Lou: The first time he smoked a cigarette was on 36th St. in front of Melody Lanes bowling alley. He took a nice long puff, got dizzy, and fell over the bannister right into the basement entrance of the house we were chilling at [laughs]. Another time, we were walking to Sunset after a L'Amour show, and he decided he was gonna roll a green garbage container down a quiet block. It wound up crashing into a parked car. We all ran, laughing out of our minds. SOB was just crazy like that.
Last question: where do you feel the Sunset Skins fit in the NYHC story?
Lou: Well, we thought the Sunset Crew were the first Latinos on the scene, but your article proved different. Because we were from Sunset and grew up in the shadow of the gangs, we felt like we had to prove ourselves, and I think to some extent we did. But I think back on some of those incidences and realize I was a coward. The brotherhood part of it I will never forget. Those guys always had my back and I always had theirs. But I think there comes a time when you realize that actually the whole world isn't out to get you. Does that make sense?
Jorge: Shit, bro, we were the ones that put in most of the work. A lot of them were for the scene, and a lot weren't [laughs]. But I don't give a fuck what anyone says. A lot of Nazi dudes hung out when I first came around, and I couldn't understand it, nor did my boys. Whether they weren't doing anything or not, it didn't matter. They didn't belong here, especially in hardcore.
Not only that, we also supported our scene, 200%, at shows and in the streets. Whether motherfuckers liked us or not, they showed respect. We made them Nazi skinheads look like baby shit compared to us. Not that it's a good thing [laughs]. But give us our spot. I got it when I was in DMS, in a hardcore documentary. Before anything else, there was the Sunset Skins. We ruled with an iron hand, until most members vanished, but SOB, Minus, and I stayed. Damn right we belong in it!
We're still here doing our thing. We're still involved, passing down stories, knowledge, and traditions to the younger kids still putting out music. We've done some real shit. Merauder created one of the genres of music that's big right now. I never thought in a million years that I'd be in a touring band that is known and respected by new and older bands. But I also didn't know I was going to get fucked by the music industry. I should have seen that coming [laughs].
Minus: With no ego whatsoever, Sunset was the pioneer to the skinhead movement for a lot of Boricuas in the New York scene. Not saying we were the first, but we made you aware. Merauder also played a part in NYHC music. We were around for a lot of the beginning stages and made our mark in time. Good or bad.
End note: This piece is dedicated to the memory of Javier "SOB" Carpio, R.I.P.