Interviews

Daryl Taberski (Snapcase)

Photo: MArk X Miller

From the early '90s to the '00s, Snapcase was one of the most popular hardcore bands in the world. But more importantly, they were also one of the most original-sounding bands within the genre. With roots firmly planted in the underground Buffalo hardcore scene of the late '80s, Snapcase continously challenged the construct of their sound, going wherever their experimentation took them.

Snapcase broke up in 2005, but the group has reunited for sporadic performances and shorter tours in the years since then. But no matter how infrequently they play out these days, anyone who listens to modern hardcore knows how influential Snapcase's discography remains.

I recently struck up an online friendship with Snapcase vocalist Daryl Taberski, and I asked him if he would be into hopping on the phone for an interview about his life and the band's legacy. The conversation flowed nicely, and I found Daryl to be a truly humble and positive person.

[Special thanks to MArk X Miller of the Hello My Name Is podcast for the main image, and the later live shot in this piece.]

Snapcase is synonymous with Buffalo, but were you actually born there as well?

Yep, I was born and bred in Buffalo, in the suburbs.

What was it like for you growing up there in the ‘80s?

I was born in the early ‘70s, so, for me, it was growing up there in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I was heavily into sports when I was young. I was into baseball and football, and later on, basketball. Football was a big thing for us. But growing up in the suburbs, Buffalo was the kind of place where you did a little bit of everything. Here you have decent art museums, professional sports teams, but you also have nature, so you can get out an go hiking and camping, things like that.

Being that I grew up about a mile or so from Shea Stadium, I’ve always been a Mets fan. Since Buffalo doesn’t have its own MLB team, where did your allegiance lie?

Buffalo is an hour and half away from Toronto, so, as a kid going to Blue Jays games was a thing, but their stadium was awful. The Pittsburgh Pirates were an early team for me, but as a kid in the ‘70s, I was instantly a Yankees fan. I’m sure you hate to hear that [laughs].

Yes, I definitely hate that team!

[Laughs] For some strange reason—and it drives me crazy—there’s a huge Red Sox following here. I don’t get it.

SEE ALSO: 2017 interview with Dan O’Mahony (No For An Answer, 411, Done Dying, Carry Nation, Workshed Records).

What kind of music did you first get into and was there someone in your life that helped introduce you to cool music?

I didn't grow up around the coolest music, but around age 11 I had some older cousins that were really into Ozzy Osbourne and Rush and would play the records all the time. That was when I started to appreciate real rock. We had an 8-track player and there was a bargain bin at the supermarket and I picked [AC/DC’s] Highway to Hell. My mother was reluctant but she did buy it for me. I remember having an Ozzy poster in my room. I also had an Iron Maiden poster that my mother made me take down [laughs]. A kid that sat behind me in homeroom lent me a cassette that included the Sex Pistols, Misfits, Exploited, and the Dead Kennedy's and it all changed after that.

Jake E. Lee-era Ozzy rules.

Were your parents religious?

It was a Polish, Catholic kind of thing at home. You know, old-school parents. The funny thing is that Scott Dressler is my first cousin, and he was an original member of Snapcase. His mom and my dad are twins, so we grew up together. In fact, I can remember that he had a hard time buying me a Christmas gift when we were young once because he got me an Ozzy poster and his parents didn’t want him to get it, but then they agreed, but then my mother was questioning why they let him get it [laughs]. But I still had it on my wall.

Daryl and his mom, circa early '70s. (Photo courtesy of Daryl)

That’s too funny. As a parent yourself, can you picture ever being like that with your kid?

It’s weird for me to think about that kind of stuff at this stage. I didn’t have the “friend parents” when I was a kid. My parents didn’t like cool things. For me, being a kid was about being into things that your parents sorta hated. I have a hard time with kids now who are into all the same things as their parents. I guess it’s kind of cool, I don’t know [laughs].

SEE ALSO: Life’s Blood: Born Out of Chaos, Doomed to Failure

OK, going back to your high school years, I wanted to get a sense for the local music scene in Buffalo. The Goo Goo Dolls obviously became a huge radio band, but back in the late ‘80s, they were still more of a punk sort of thing in Buffalo, and Snapcase ended up working with Robby Takac, their bassist.

When I first got into punk rock, I remember listening to the local college radio station and the Goo Goo Dolls were Buffalo’s local punk band. Our local version of CBGB’s was a place called The Continental. The older musician dudes from here like the guys from 10,000 Maniacs, Cannibal Corpse, Goo Goo Dolls…they were all friends and would hang out at the club together, which is kind of interesting [laughs].

When someone talks about Buffalo and hardcore, Zero Tolerance has to come up during the conversation. Why don’t you tell me a little about them and what they meant to you?

Buffalo had a really good scene back then, and all of the New York bands [Agnostic Front, Sick of it All, etc.] came up to play all the time. The link to those bands to Buffalo was Zero Tolerance cause they had become friends earlier on with the guys from Youth of Today and all those other NYC bands. So, Zero Tolerance kind of ended up being like the big brother band to the other budding hardcore bands in Buffalo. Zero Tolerance were first called Third Man In, and then they transitioned into becoming known as New Balance, and then Zero Tolerance.

Yeah, from everything I have read about that time period in Buffalo, Zero Tolerance was the band.

Yeah, we all looked up to them. A really influential show for me was seeing the Bad Brains. That might have been my second punk show. It might have been ’86. The Goo Goo Dolls also ended up playing that show. It was at the University of Buffalo, which is even weirder. That show blew my mind. Third Man In was clearly straight edge and I’ll never forget that these crazy punks in the crowd were heckling them and the band was up for it. It was crazy [laughs].

When Solid State—the band name before Snapcase—started to come together around 1988 or so, you were playing bass. Was that a case of the band needing a bassist and you volunteered, or were you really into playing that instrument at that point? I’m asking because in my case, I started playing bass because everyone I knew wanted to either play guitar, sing, or play drums.

I think that’s how it kind of came about, but it’s hard to remember. My friend Chris [Galas] and I wanted to start a band and he set out to be the singer. So, I told him that my cousin Scott played guitar and that I would play bass. It was something like that. I was not a good bassist [laughs].

Daryl laying down the bass at the River Rock Cafe, Buffalo, NY, 1989. (Photo courtesy of Daryl)

What was it like transitioning to the vocalist role in the band?

Becoming the vocalist was not easy at first, however, I did sing a lot of back-ups already, so the transition wasn’t too difficult. The band had already become my life, but becoming the vocalist wasn’t something I set out to do. The other guys were like, “You should be the singer because you’re already talking into the mic and singing back-up vocals at the front of the stage with Chris…”

Why didn’t Chris Galas continue on as the vocalist in Snapcase in the first place?

To this day, Chris is my best friend. Monday through Friday, we meet at the gym at 5AM [laughs]. So, back then, he was going through a lot of different things and he couldn’t put as much attention into the band as the rest of us did. So there was a consensus in the band to move away from Chris. It was hard because he was my best friend and he didn’t take it very easily. We had a big separation for a while because of that. I think because I became the vocalist, he ended up resenting me the most, you know? But obviously, we eventually reconnected.

Let’s get into lookinglasself, the first Snapcase album. I remember the first 40 seconds into “Drain Me / Filter,” the song breaks down into that odd guitar thing and it instantly grabbed me. Those weird guitar flourishes became such a signature of Snapcase.

One of or guitarists, Joe Smith, had come up with the repetitive guitar harmonic sound on Comatose, which was on our first 7". People seemed to be really into that, so we continued to build around that component in our songs. That was definitely a signature part of our sound, especially early on. Chris and I were heavily into NYHC and metal stuff, Scott was listening to the next wave of hardcore, but Joe Smith was way more the death metal kind of guy in the band. I know that he said he picked up that guitar harmonic thing from some other metal band, but I can’t remember their name.

Well, Human Remains had something similar in their guitar style, but I’m not sure if he would have known about them or not.

It might have been. I don’t remember right now, but I remember Maximum Rocknroll called it a “flute sound” in their review of the Comatose 7” [laughs].

That’s too funny! OK, going back to the first album, you guys had Don Fury produce some of the tracks. What was that experience like?

Don Fury was going through a rough stage in his life at that time and I don't think we were a focus for him during the time of the sessions. It didn’t meet our expectations, let’s put it that way. Don Fury did a lot of great things with a lot of great bands, but we just didn’t end up being one of them. However, we were blown away that we got to use some of the gear that was used on the Gorilla Biscuits recordings, such as the guitar amp that he had in the studio. We also tried to sleep in our van while parked in the street in front of his studio and we got harassed by locals late at night, it was a total nightmare. They tried to blow our van up with a half stick of dynamite but the wick went out [laughs]! I still have that explosive to this day.

SEE ALSO: Don Fury (Producer: Judge, Quicksand, Gorilla Biscuits, Underdog, Inside Out).

What do you remember about the initial reaction to the album? Did you get any resistance from the more traditional-leaning hardcore contingent?

There was some resistance, however I remember just being so excited that kids were going off to our songs at our shows. Also, in the early to mid-‘90s we were playing with a lot of bands that were also doing their own thing.

How much touring did you do on the first album, and did you play strictly hardcore-related bills?

We always played a lot of shows but not long tours. We did a ton of weekend outings. We played with just about everyone back then, including Earth Crisis, Strife, 108, Sick of it All, Lifetime, Refused, Turmoil, Ignite, Slugfest/Despair, and Supertouch, just to name a few. We also opened in Buffalo for Murphy's Law, Fugazi, Cannibal Corpse, Sacred Reich, Corrosion of Conformity, Goo Goo Dolls, Uniform Choice, and Insted, amongst many others.

1993 show flyer, courtesy of Daryl.

As good as lookinglasself is, I thought the Steps EP from 1995 was a huge leap up in the songwriting department. It felt like you guys had honed in on what made you unique and focused on concise songwriting, not just stringing good parts together.

I completely agree! The Steps EP is when we truly started to evolve into a better and more original band. We were becoming better songwriters, but we also had really found our identity, both musically and lyrically.

Progression Through Unlearning came out in 1997, and it’s the album where a lot of people outside of the hardcore scene came to know Snapcase. When you went into Trax East to make the album with Steve Evetts, was there a feeling within the band that there was a lot at stake?

A lot at stake? No, not really. I think we felt very confident at this point and extremely motivated. We were really excited to write, record, and get back on the road. It was great at this point because we didn't really care about sales or popularity at this time. But the big move at that point was that Scott Dressler left the band and he was the primary songwriter. Frank Vicario took over for Scott and we didn’t know what to expect.

Snapcase at the Mercury Theatre, Buffalo, NY, 1997. Photo: MArk X Miller

Wow, that must have been scary to face, especially since the band was really taking off.

I think during the first week of rehearsals with Frank, he came in with the main riff to “Caboose.” [Laughs] We were like, “Whoa! That’s cool!” I remember our first show with Frank and Scott was there. Anyway, Scott comes up to me after we finished playing and said, “That ‘Caboose’ song is the best Snapcase song.” That probably took a lot for him to say that, but it was really interesting for me.

One of the tours the band did in support of the album was with Deftones and Quicksand. Do you think you turned a lot of their fans onto hardcore by seeing you live, and what are some memories from that tour that stick out?

I'm not sure about how much influence we had over the Deftones fans. We were big fans of the Deftones, and we always loved Quicksand, so that tour was really fun for us. Being the hardcore band as the opening act on a tour that big was tough. You’re playing when people are still coming through the door. However, when you ask about memories, I still always remember the smaller hardcore shows that we played over the years and not as much regarding the bigger shows when we opened for larger bands.

The next Snapcase album—Designs for Automotion—arrived in 1999. You made a proper music video for the song “Typecast Modulator,” which I remember seeing on MTV at some point.

It was fun making that video, Darren Doane took the lead although we collaborated on the original ideas. We did it in California. Darren’s father was also a filmmaker, so he learned a lot from him.

Since the band was doing so well, what was the relationship like with Tony Brummel/Victory at that point? Were you seeing any royalties?

We were seeing royalties and kept in close contact with Tony at the time. We worked hard and spent very little money, so we never had much to recoup before seeing royalties. A lot of other bands used to split their earning every day on tour. We used to all go out and eat meals together, and then we would put it on one bill, and pay it, rather than do a per diem kind of thing. The great thing was that at the end of a tour, we would be surprised about how much money we had made. We would then talk as a group about what we wanted to reinvest back into the band.

There was a lot of talk about Snapcase being courted by a few major labels at some point. Is there any truth to that, and if so, what was that experience like?

There was nothing that any of the labels that were interested in us could offer us that we thought could take us to another level. We also didn’t want to alienate the scene we came from. But we did think that if there was more money, we could have a better recording budget, and do more stage presentation, and things like that.

Snapcase hangs with Millencolin and Samiam in Japan, 1997. (Photo courtesy of Daryl)

Which record labels did you meet with?

I remember meeting with Tommy Boy Records. They were trying to branch out and sign rock bands and had offered us decent money. I ended up having a meeting with [Tommy Boy Records founder] Tom Silverman, and it was very awkward. You know, it was probably awkward for both of us [laughs]. He still thought of all music as dance music and he asked me what BPM the new Snapcase material was at [laughs]. I also remember he told us that he had sent some of his people to one of our shows and that backpacks seemed to be a common theme within our crowd. He said, “We’re thinking we could develop a Snapcase backpack.” Anyway, I went back to the band with all of this information and we all had a laugh. Nope, it’s not for us [laughs].

Photo: Christopher K. George

The songs on the End Transmission album are threaded together by a single concept.

End Transmission—in a nutshell—is about recognizing the struggle to maintain one's personality and autonomy versus the strong current of societal norms/limitations (along with the debilitating powers of government). Sounds punk, huh? It's meant to be set in a future where people are corralled and limited (and in a way imprisoned) by the powers that be.

There’s a definite sense that the band was spreading its wings on that album. For instance, the song “Ten A.M.” is slow and moody, while “Synthesis of Classic Forms” and “Id/Hindsight” both have a slow-burn to their arrangements. It makes me wonder what direction the material would have taken if Snapcase got to make a fifth studio album.

It's interesting, but over time there were songs on that album that we think got overshadowed by those "different" songs that you mentioned. As a band, we all love the song “Aperture,” which is heavy and not that much of a departure from Progression-era Snapcase. I think that is a sound that we would carry on moving forward.

I guess what I was trying get at was how different Snapcase was compared to the more traditional hardcore bands of the time, or even the ones that first influenced you.

It’s interesting to me to look at the hardcore scene now. The people that are still talking about hardcore who aren’t young, typically are the hardcore purists. They like fast beat hardcore. The traditional hardcore. That group of people really hate the types of songs Snapcase were playing on the Transition album [laughs]. But that was never a factor to us. We didn’t start out trying to be Youth of Today, Jr. We loved Youth of Today, but we also loved Corrosion of Conformity and Prong and Quicksand. You know? So we never were trying to emulate one thing.

Snapcase ended up ending its original run in 2005. How satisfied were you with the work the band did at that juncture? Were you pleased with the discography? How do you feel about it now?

I will always look back and be satisfied with Snapcase, we accomplished way more than we ever imagined! I will always remember getting asked to tour with Sick of it All in Europe in 1994 and remember that they were legends to us and we were going to be on the road with them? Amazing.

SEE ALSO: 2016 interview with Arthur Smilios (World Be Free, Gorilla Biscuits, CIV, Token Entry).

You work in the health care space. What was it about that field that appealed to you?

Specifically, I work in behavioral health, so, mental health and chemical addictions. I love helping people and it helps give me perspective on life. There is so much mental suffering that goes on with people that gets buried, but it can resurface for many people all too often.

Has fatherhood something that has come naturally for you? I know for me, when we had our first kid, there was a lot I had to learn regarding patience. My wife was way more of a natural with that. Now with my second kid, I feel like I’ve overcome all that.

Everything I was fearful of ended up not being a problem. My son has also been relatively easy, you know, from talking with other people and their experiences. He was a great sleeper and eater, right from the beginning. Also, he’s never really been one to cry for more than a minute or two. Yeah, I think I have been very fortunate for all those things. Maybe my age and having room in my life for everything when he was born also was helpful. You know, it doesn’t always go smoothly [laughs]. I can come home sometimes and he’s throwing a tantrum about something that I'm not in the mood to deal with, but that comes with the territory. I can say that seeing my son after I get home from work is the best part of my day.

From a 40-something-year-old's perspective, what do you love about hardcore the most? Is it the music or the community?

For me, it's more comprehensive; I love all of it together. The music brings together a camaraderie that is special. I love music that is motivating and inspiring. The best hardcore music does both.

If you had to pick one Snapcase song that best bottles up the spirit of what the band was/is about, what would it be and why?

Probably “Cognition” or “Caboose,” because I think that they best represent Snapcase, both lyrically and musically. They’re both progressive and heavy enough, but they also still have a groove.

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Head to Snapcase's official website for more info on the band.

Tagged: daryl taberski, snapcase

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