Interviews

Mike De Lorenzo (Sheer Terror, Serpico, Kill Your Idols, Milhouse, Enrage, C.R.)

Photo: Bill Jolliemore

With a résumé that includes Sheer Terror, C.R., Sleeper/Serpico, and Kill Your Idols, Mike De Lorenzo has been an important part of the New York City-area punk scene for the better part of 25-plus years. The guitarist's discography also displays his versatility as a musician. De Lorenzo's guitar and bass work gels perfectly in any style he takes on, whether it's hardcore, melodic punk, powerviolence, Oi!, or metal.

Currently holding guitar duties as a member of Sheer Terror, De Lorenzo has other projects brewing, something he's always done throughout his career. I've known him since our days playing gigs together when I was in Black Army Jacket and he was in C.R. Since I keep in touch with him via Instagram, I asked De Lorenzo if he was down to do an interview for the site. Here is the Q&A in its full glory.

Mike, knowing you all these years, it is tough to imagine you without also thinking of Staten Island, but were you born there?

[Laughs] no, I wasn't born there. I was actually born in Brooklyn and raised in Bensonhurst. We didn't move to Staten Island until I was 14. My dad was a homicide detective and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. They were both very into music, my father was actually a really good drummer.

Were they supportive of your musical pursuits?

They were always super supportive of my musical endeavors throughout the years.

A lot of people in our age range that love punk and metal started out with a KISS obsession when they were kids. Was that the case for you?

I love KISS to this day, no matter what Gene and Paul have done to it! There was always music on in our house. My parents had some pretty cool records... until my sisters ruined most of them by skating across the carpeting on them, that is [laughs]. My mother was into Motown and doo-wop stuff. My father had the goods... Black Sabbath, Hendrix, MC5... shit like that. I remember the cover of the first Sabbath record terrifying me as a little kid [laughs]. I was obsessed with my mother's "Earth Angel" 45 as a kid. I used to play it over and over. Then one day my grandmother bought me a gift... KISS' Love Gun. I think I was 6. It all changed from there.

What kind of student were you during your junior high and high school years?

I was a pretty good student, although my father recently baselessly refuted that claim. I did very well all through junior high (Our Lady of Guadalupe in Brooklyn). I went to Susan E. Wagner High School on Staten Island. I did pretty well for the most part. I had to go to summer school for biology in freshman year. I kind of fucked up in the beginning of sophomore year, but I pulled it together and graduated on the honor roll in 1989.

SEE ALSO: 2016 interview with Don Fury (Producer: Judge, Quicksand, Gorilla Biscuits, Underdog, Inside Out).

What crowd did you hang out with?

I got along with mostly everyone, but hung around with kids who shared the same musical interests as I did for the most part. Quite a few of which I am happy to say are still dear friends to this day.

The first band you played in that got some attention was Enrage, a hardcore band. I remember the 1991 demo getting around when it came out.

Jeff Altieri (frontman) and I met in my freshman year of high school. I think we had the same Italian class or something. We connected because we were both very metal. Fast-forward a couple of years and a few bands later and he told me he wanted to do a heavy hardcore band, sort of along the lines of Crumbsuckers, Leeway, Cro-Mags, etc. So we wrote some songs and did some covers and called the band Unbridled Energy, which I think Jeff got from a Zoetrope record [he's right]. The name was eventually changed to Enrage, and the rest is history. Jeff and Mike Pellegrino are still doing Enrage to this day, they just released the second of three EPs they recently recorded.

Speaking of Enrage, you recorded your demo with Josh Silver of Type O Negative at Sty in the Sky, which was essentially his house in Brooklyn.

Yep, that was a great experience. I love those songs. Recording with Josh was awesome. He is a super nice guy and an awesome engineer. I remember he had a bunch of dogs, and seeing Pete Steele's crazy car parked on the block. The whole experience was a lot of fun, and basically the first "professional" recording I ever did, really.

Pete Steele's car is so legendary that someone made a toy model of it. (Photo: Joey Rudolf)

Your next band was Sleeper, which was a melodic punk kind of thing. I know it was still early in your playing career, but were you burnt out on hardcore at that point?

I always had pretty eclectic tastes in music. Always loved the DC thing, Dag Nasty especially. So, when Sleeper came around, I loved them right away. They really did it right! I wasn't burnt out on hardcore at all, my time with Enrage had just run its course and I was moving on. I used to work at a comic store on Staten Island called Jim Hanley's Universe, and John Lisa came in one day sometime in 1992 and asked me if I wanted to play guitar on a European tour they had coming up, so I jumped at the opportunity and wound up playing with them for the next four years. That tour was tough [laughs].

I had known those guys for a while prior to joining the band. Lewis and Hobi were friends of mine that I knew from their days in Our Gang. I knew John Telenko and John Lisa because they had worked at the local record store, and from local shows, etc.

The first Sleeper album you played on was 1994's Preparing Today for Tomorrow's Breakdown. That was also the first time you worked with Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton of Descendents/ALL, who produced the sessions.

John Lisa and TJ Quattrone (the drummer at the time) had known Bill and Stephen for a while already. That's where the connection came from. We recorded the whole record in TJ's mother's house on Staten Island. It was the first LP I had ever recorded, so it was a little nerve-wracking for me, but all-in-all a great experience. Bill and Stephen were great guys. They really pushed us to make (what I think is) a great record. It was fun just hanging with them, too. I remember laughing at one point thinking to myself, "What the fuck... I am playing head-to-head Sonic the Hedgehog with the drummer of Black Flag [laughs]!"

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Was Sleeper touring a lot during that era? What kinds of bills were you playing on?

The most touring I did in my career was with Sleeper/Serpico. We would do month-long U.S. tours and go to Europe for six to eight weeks at a time. I think we did three or four U.S. tours and three European tours while I was in the band. The shows went from basements and living rooms, to VFW halls, to small clubs, to big clubs. We did pretty well most of the time. There were a few clunkers here and there, but it was a lot of fun. I always kind of hated touring, so they would let me bring one of my friends on tour all the time to roadie to keep me balanced [laughs]. We played with some great bands, though. Hellbender was a standout for me. Our European leg with Mind Over Matter was awesome. We also played a lot with Jawbreaker, Jawbox, and Down by Law. Tons of different bands.

Sleeper knocking out the hits, 1991. (Photo: MySpace)

Around that time another band from the UK caused some trouble for you guys because they wanted to claim the rights to the Sleeper name. I remember hearing rumors that they ended up paying you guys a pretty penny for the legal rights. Is there any truth to that?

Yes, we got paid for the name and changed it to Serpico. There's a Todd Barry comedy special on Netflix where TJ is in the crowd and tells the whole story.

Feel Bad Rainbow was the first album the band released under the Serpico name. The record came out in 1995, a time when mainstream media was all over poppy punk groups like Green Day and The Offspring. Did you guys feel any kind of change when you were out playing in support of the album?

We were courted a bit from a couple of big labels. I think Priority and Hollywood Records, if memory serves me... it wasn't really of interest to us.

Why did Serpico call it a day?

I think it was just its time. After the European tour we did in 1996, I was completely burnt out on it. We were on the road for 41 days over there. It was a great time, but when we got back I was done. I was in C.R. mode at the time as well. We parted on good terms. They continued for a little bit after I left, put out a couple of singles. I think John Lisa put it to bed shortly after. We did a reunion in 2009, and they did one without me a couple of years ago.

Serpico performing live, circa 1995. (Photo: Justin Borucki)

We first met in 1996 when you were playing in C.R., a hardcore/powerviolence band that was faster and heavier than a lot of what was happening around NYC around that time.

Brian (Bricks) and I had always talked about doing a band together from when we were in Phallacy and Serpico. He was supposed to move to California, so we decided to get some guys together to jam some Youth of Today and Chain of Strength songs to have fun. I had a bunch of fast hardcore songs written and I showed them a couple at our first rehearsal and everyone was down to do it. Bricks never moved away, and he and I wound up being roommates, and C.R. was full steam ahead. We were all kind of tired of what was going on locally with the hardcore scene and wanted to play fast, powerful, emotionally-driven hardcore. I made everyone in the band a tape that had the Dirty Rotten EP, Infest, Siege, and I think the first Dropdead EP, and I said, "This is what we sound like."

You mentioned Bricks, the singer of C.R. Talk a bit about him.

Bricks is insane. He is passionate about what he believes in. He is positive and energetic. He is one of the best friends I have ever had, and I am happy that we were able to get over a lot of old bullshit and become close again, after way too many years of not speaking. His new band, Miracle Drug, is awesome.

SEE ALSO: 2016 interview with Bricks Avalon (C.R., Phallacy, Miracle Drug).

It felt like C.R. broke up right when things were starting to happen for the band. Bricks told me that he made the call. What happened?

Without opening up any old wounds that took almost a decade to heal, I will quote [musician] Chris Jensen and say it was "the unstoppable force versus the immovable object."

Mike De Lorenzo screaming for change with C.R., circa mid-'90s. (Photo: Justin Borucki)

That's totally fair. Let's move on. You next played guitar in Milhouse, a band that featured members of Black Army Jacket, Mind Over Matter, and many other local NY acts throughout its run. What was that experience like and how long did you do it for?

Milhouse, at the time, was probably my favorite New York band. I had become close friends with [vocalist] Artie [Philie] and [guitarist] Brian Meehan over the years, so when they needed someone to fill in to do shows when Justin [Brannan] and Rachel [Rosen] were on tour with Indecision, they asked me and I was more than happy to do it. I played quite a few shows with Milhouse. I played a few New York shows, Connecticut, DC a couple of times, Delaware... a couple of others, too, I think. The shows were always pretty intense and we had a lot of fun together.

Celebrity Murders was a band you played in after that with the singer of Milhouse, Artie Philie. Initially, the lineup also included Dan Crowell and Chris Russo, two guys I was in Black Army Jacket with.

Celebrity Murders will always be one of my favorite bands that I played in. Artie and I both moved away from and back to New York around the same time, so when we were both back, we put the band together. We wanted people to feel uncomfortable when they heard us play. It was fast, noisy, confrontational, and ugly. We started as a four-piece with Dan and Chris, then added Brian Meehan on guitar as well. Eventually, Dan left to play with Matt Pond PA, so we asked Elway from C.R. if he was interested in playing drums. He came along with Sean McCann, who became our bassist. It was fun and productive writing with those maniacs. They are masters at their craft for sure. We recorded Time to Kill Space with Chris Pierce around 2004, I think. I wish the snare was louder, but I love that record. It's really ugly. I eventually got burnt out and left. They continued on for a bit with Ed Ortiz [Cattlepress, Candiria] on guitar. I think they called it quits after the Rorschach reunion show. That band was intense. Someone once told me we were like a pack of wild dogs [laughs]. We were always getting into some shit with someone.

At what point did you play in Deathcycle, and did you appear on any recordings?

Deathcycle was another situation where they needed a fill-in and I wound up a fixture for a while. I started by filling in on bass, then played second guitar for a while, then filled in on bass occasionally. It must have been 2004/2005-ish? The only recording I played on was some demos for the first LP.

SEE ALSO: Beyond: Metalheads Gone New York Hardcore

Let's talk about your time in Kill Your Idols. Again, they are from Long Island, so there was already a local connection there.

I was already friends with those guys for years. In 2003, Paul Delaney [currently in Black Anvil] was doing a lot with None More Black, and I was recruited to fill in, which eventually led to me joining the band full time as the bassist. I loved playing bass, especially on those songs. Paul really had some awesome, memorable bass lines. I was nervous when we recorded the From Companionship to Competition album because I never played bass on a record before, but I think that record turned out great.

Vinnie Value, a drummer who played with you in Kill Your Idols, and who many people will also know from his time in Warzone, started a band with you called S.S.S.P. You've had an eclectic discography, and that project saw you playing a mix of traditional hardcore and Oi!

The original S.S.S.P. recordings were never really even supposed to see the light of day. Vin had some songs he wanted to record and he and I did it real D.I.Y. style in the Kill Your Idols rehearsal room. Mark Jessup (Koi Records) heard it and put it out as a 7", and then we did an LP, a couple of splits, and another 12" EP for him. It was a lot of fun. We are actually going to do another EP soon.

Oi! has had its share of black eyes in the past. What's your take on the controversy that seems to follow it in the minds of many people?

Anyone who thinks of Oi! in terms of controversy really doesn't know what it's about, which is one of the reasons behind the tongue-in-cheek nature of the name of the band.

SEE ALSO: Oi! Music: Dig the New Breed

One of the bands you've played with that I know very little about is No Resistance.

No Resistance is a band from Houston that another of my oldest friends, and consequently my brother-in-law, Scott Mesorana started. They had done an EP for Koi and a split with S.S.S.P. They were recording an LP and asked if I wanted to play guitar on their cover of Slaughter & The Dogs' "Situations," so I demoed it for them and they loved it and asked me if I wanted to play guitar on the whole LP. They sent me the rough mixes and I recorded my tracks in my bedroom and sent them over to the studio to mix. I played one show with them in Houston before a Dynamo match. It was a good time. They play catchy, upbeat, Oi!-ish, street rock-ish, bootboy-type stuff. Seeing as I live 1,500 miles away, being a full-time member wasn't really possible [laughs]. They have since released an awesome 10" EP on Rebellion Records and are recording some new stuff.

You're currently playing guitar in the mighty Sheer Terror.

In early 2010, Gary Bennett (Kill Your Idols, Black Anvil) called me and said that [vocalist] Paul Bearer was looking to put Sheer Terror together again to do a tour of Japan. Paul had asked Gary, but he couldn't do it, so he suggested me to Paul. I recruited [bassist] Jason [Carter] and [drummer] Anthony [Corallo], and here we are six years later with a bunch of shows all over the world, an EP, and an LP under our belts.

Had you been a big fan of Sheer Terror before you joined?

I was always a huge Sheer Terror fan. I think I saw them for the first time in 1986 at Animal Hall in Brooklyn. There's a tape of an old Enrage radio interview floating around somewhere where I was asked what I want to do when I grow up and I said something like, "Play guitar for Sheer Terror [laughs]."

Sheer Terror, 2015. (Photo: Reaper Records)

I have to know, what is it like working and hanging out with Paul Bearer? He seems like such a character!

It's probably everything you imagine it would be [laughs].

SEE ALSO: 2016 interview with Mike McTernan (Damnation A.D., When Tigers Fight).

Since you tour with Sheer Terror, do you meet people out on the road who know you from your former bands?

Actually, it happens quite a bit. Mostly people talk to me about Kill Your Idols and S.S.S.P.

What's this new project you mentioned to me?

It's called Faithless. It's new, but it's old [laughs]. Anthony Corallo (Sheer Terror, Sick of Talk) and I recorded some music about eight or nine years ago for a band we were going to do with [vocalist] Ron Grimaldi (Leech Implant, Deathcycle). Well, fast-forward to 2016 and Ron has finally gotten around to writing lyrics [laughs]! So, we are going to record his vocals and put it out as a demo or some shit. I am pretty psyched to let people finally hear it.

Wardance Records owner (and No Echo scribe) Freddy Alva and Mike De Lorenzo give a thumbs up, 2016.

Outside of Sheer Terror and Faithless, what else have you been up to?

Well, musically, Vin and I are looking to do another S.S.S.P. EP, and possibly play a show in Houston this year. Also, I have another potential project in the wings with Lew Dimmick (Our Gang, My Rifle, Sleeper) with someone from the best NYHC band of all time, but I will keep you in suspense on that for now.

In real life, I live on Long Island with my amazing wife, Alyson, and my step kids, Justin and Emme, and our dog, Rocky. I'm keeping busy and living life.

Alyson and Mike De Lorenzo, 2016.

Weren't you working at a music company at some point?

I worked for Korg USA for almost 13 years, and recently moved on and am working for D'Addario.

SEE ALSO: 2016 interview with Steven "Skogger" Meketa (Apartment 213, Lockweld).

Tell me about your sister and her health struggles. Maybe people reading this can help out.

Kim was diagnosed with cancer last year and has a long fight ahead of her. Even with insurance, the bills are astronomical. So, we did a couple of benefit shows that were very successful, as well as accepting donations through GoFundMe.

I like to close out these things with a pressure-filled question. So, if you had to pick three musical artists from Staten Island that you loved the most, who would they be and why?

Bricks, Grover, and Elway, because... C.R.

C.R. pose for a quick shot before a rehearsal for their 2016 reunion benefit show.

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Head to the Kim Mesorama GoFundMe page to help Michael's sister out with her health struggles.

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