Interviews

Michael Scondotto (Confusion, Inhuman, The Last Stand)

Photo: P. Campo Photography

Born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Scondotto has been an active player in the hardcore and metal scenes since the late '80s. The first time I heard about him was through his work as the bassist in Confusion, a death metal-infused hardcore band that was one of the bigger local acts that played at L'Amour, the famed Brooklyn metal club. My No Echo partner, Andrew, posted an informative piece on Confusion a few years back on his former blog, Aversionline, that I recommend.

After Confusion broke up in the early '90s, Scondotto started Inhuman, a metallic hardcore band he still fronts today. In recent years, Scondotto also started The Last Stand, a more traditional hardcore outfit that released an excellent album on Eulogy Recordings in 2013.

I've known Michael since the early '90s, so it was a pleasure chatting with him for this new interview.

What came first for you, hardcore or heavy metal?

Heavy metal was first. Metal was my first love, at around age 10 or 11. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Van Halen, Ozzy/Sabbath, and Mötley Crüe were my favorites. From there I found thrash metal: Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth. After that came hardcore and punk in the beginning of 1988.

Did your older brother, Jon, influence you early on? He went on to sing in the band Lament.

Jon got me into heavy metal. He was already singing in bands when he was 12/13, and I was 10/11. But as fate would have it, I got Jon into hardcore! He was aware that I was heading to Manhattan a lot with other kids from Sheepshead Bay [the Scondotto's Brooklyn neighborhood] and he liked the music I was playing in our bedroom on our crappy radio. It was mixtapes with bands like Sick of it All, Rest in Pieces, YDL, Warzone, Leeway, Token Entry, Krakdown, Crumbsuckers, Youth of Today, Agnostic Front, Sheer Terror, etc.

Mind you, I am 14 at this time, a freshman in high school—around winter/spring of 1988. Jon went to his first hardcore show a bit after me, the show that would go on to become Agnostic Front's Live at CBGB's album, in which Maximum Penalty and Wrecking Crew opened up. For whatever reason, I missed that show. So, the first show Jon and I went to together was October 1988—the "Pete's Sake" benefit show for Pete Koller from Sick of it All.

SEE ALSO: 2014 interview with Howie Abrams (founder of In-Effect Records, former A&R at Roadrunner Records).

Growing up in Brooklyn, when was the first time you went to see a show at L'Amour?

My first show ever was May 1988 at the Ritz in Manhattan. It was a bill with Supertouch, Token Entry, Murphy's Law, and the Bad Brains. My second show was four weeks later at CBGB's with The Lead, Six and Violence, In Your Face, and Token Entry. For a year straight it was only CBGB's or the Ritz for me [laughs]. I did not set foot in L'Amour until May of 1989. The show was Social Disorder, First Order, and Biohazard. It was awesome! For some reason, I was so caught up with what was going on in Manhattan, I was sleeping on Brooklyn, but all that changed after that show. I was at L'Amour constantly after that. My first real hardcore band, Close Call, played L'Amour two times in 1989.

Confusion, 1992. (Photo: Brian Roman)

Oh, I thought Confusion was your first band.

There are two bands that I was in that came before Confusion. One was called Direct Approach, who appeared on the New Breed compilation, but never played one show. And the other was Close Call, a band I did with John LaMacchia of Candiria from 1988 to 1990. Direct Approach rehearsed a lot in our drummer James Loud's basement, and we got on that compilation, but we broke up before the comp was released! The guitarist in Direct Approach was "Karate" Chris of the Sunset Skins, who went on to form Merauder and then All Out War when he moved out of Brooklyn.

Close Call would have been a band that I think a lot of the crowd at CBGB's would have liked. It was like a cross between Token Entry and Leeway, but we were all very young and had no connections or enough booking savvy to get out of Brooklyn. We did two demos, both recorded live at Don Fury's, and played about four shows and one Crucial Chaos [an influential hardcore radio show in NYC] set. One of the shows we played was opening for Killing Time and Fit of Anger at L'Amour in September of 1989. Close Call called it a day around December 1989 and most of the band morphed into another Brooklyn band called Patterns. That brings us to the late summer of 1990 when I join Confusion as their bass player. Confusion had only played one gig before I joined them, this infamous backyard party/show that had them opening, Social Decay, Patterns, Merauder, Dmize, and Lament all on the same show. By 1990 - 1991, once the matinees at CBGB's had stopped, and not much was happening in Manhattan, Brooklyn had exploded with hardcore bands and places to play.

The earlier Confusion demo stuff had more of a gritty hardcore sound, but as the band progressed, you brought in more of a death metal influence to the songwriting.

When I joined the band in 1990, they were a straight hardcore band with some metallic moments here and there, but no death metal was to be found, yet. What happened was we all became obsessed with death metal. I started listening to it in 1990, but by 1991/1992, that was almost all I was listening to. Bands like Obituary, Death, Morbid Angel, Entombed, and Carcass. In 1992, after the recording and release of our 7", we let founding member Frank Collins [Collins passed away in 2002 after a motorcycle accident] go and went full on into being the most brutal band in Brooklyn, and we succeeded, especially if you saw us live. That 7" was dated by the time it came out. It was very hardcore/thrash styled, with only small death metal elements in it. What we wrote afterwards was what we called "deathcore."

Speaking of the "deathcore" label, what's your take on it?

In the very early '90s, the only bands I was aware of that were mixing death metal and hardcore were our friends in Darkside NYC, and perhaps kindred spirits in Integrity and Ringworm, but that is about it. The early music of Sheer Terror has its Celtic Frost worship in its guitar tone, but what Confusion did went beyond that. We wrote songs that were straight Deicide and Obituary styled. Merauder had very heavy songs back then, but not a lot of actual death metal in their sound, at least, for the most part. As far as what that term "deathcore" means today, from what I understand, it gets tagged with a lot of bad music and is quite laughable. I know what it means to me, though. I guess that is all that matters.

I first met you in 1994 when I was interning at Roadrunner Records, and you were working at a college station. I remember you inviting me to a Confusion show at L'Amour. You guys were definitely hometown heroes there. Did you ever have any real label interest? You would figure with all the other "L'Amour bands" getting deals, they'd be all over you, too.

There was a time when the band was on fire from 1992 - 1994. We were playing all over New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. We opened up for Cannibal Corpse, Dismember, Disincarnate, Biohazard, Carnivore, Life of Agony, Pro-Pain, and two shows for Deicide. We did a few of the death fests at the Wetlands, too. Our crowd definitely got more death metal-based in the local scene, which was what we wanted. But we still had a lot of hardcore kids coming to see us as well.

At one point, the label JL America was interested in us. We had done a show or two with this death metal band on that label called Morpheus Descends. But nothing came of it, and the label ended up going by the wayside. At one point in 1993, a very small label in Maryland was interested as well, but again, nothing came of that either. Honestly, the guys in the band did not care as much as I did, and everything was a struggle and a challenge.

SEE ALSO: '80s Action Film Montage Music

After your singer, Mike Fried, went off to college, Confusion broke up at the end of 1994. You then decided to hang up the bass and start a new band called Inhuman where you handled lead vocals.

By late 1993, I wanted to front a band, but I didn't have the guts just yet. When Confusion did our last show in December of 1994 opening for Deicide at L'Amour, I felt that I was ready to give singing a shot in 1995. My first inclination was that Inhuman would be this really heavy, brutal band. But I had just come from that situation and something happened in the summer of 1995 which was that I had a total re-awakening of my hardcore roots. The scene in NYC was alive and well again with Wetlands, CBGB's, and Coney Island High all booking hardcore shows at the same time. Ignite's Call on My Brothers and Strife's One Truth albums both lit a fire under me to play more traditional hardcore as well. Also, seeing my younger brother Mark's band [Shutdown] play out a lot, and being involved in some of their songwriting process back then, also inspired me. So Inhuman was going to be my new hardcore band, but one unlike most, and that is surely what it became.

Since you already built up some experience from your years in Confusion, did you approach anything differently once you started Inhuman?

The entire approach was different because in the early days of Inhuman, I was not only the singer and lyricist, I also wrote most of the music, booked the shows, did the flyers, etc. It was my "baby," so to speak. There was no Internet then; everything was phone calls and letters! It's so crazy to think about it, but that was how it was. It was all word of mouth, reviews in zines, and hookups from other bands.

You've done quite a bit of touring with Inhuman throughout the years. Have many people approached you at the shows asking about Confusion?

In the beginning, yes, they did. Then for an extremely long period of time, no one did. In the last year or so, yes, again. It seems that there are several bands in California that really like the Confusion material, Soul Search and Twitching Tongues in particular. I think it's cool and I am very flattered, as these dudes were either not alive when we were at it or they were babies. Good music is good music; sometimes it takes a while to be found.

What's Inhuman's status as of today? I noticed that you've been playing out, but are you planning on recording any new material soon?

Well, October 2015 will mark 20 years for us as a band. We've had no breakups, no reunion shows, and no asses kissed, ever. It has been me, [guitarist] Joseph James, [bassist] Hank Hell, and [drummer] Steve Gallo for a long time now. We got to play with Slapshot for the first time ever this past September, and we have a show with our friends in Subzero scheduled for December, and a show in Brooklyn in January. I have a lot of lyrics and ideas for new Inhuman songs. They are all hard and dark songs, fast and heavy. I need to sit down with Joseph James and hash them out. I'm hoping to do this over the winter. Our last record came out in 2007, so it's time for new material for sure. It has been a long and hard road for Inhuman. We do it for ourselves and those who enjoy it and get what we do.

Let's talk about The Last Stand. The band features you on vocals, and Dion De Nardo (bass), Stephen Della Croce (guitars), and Jimmy McCormack (drums), three members of the hardcore band Shutdown. Now, I know your younger brother, Mark, is the singer of Shutdown. So how did The Last Stand come to be?

I have known the guys in Shutdown since day one. They are all like additional younger brothers to me. In the spring of 2010, Dion approached me about singing in a new band with him and the rest of Shutdown, and it all went on from there. My brother Mark moved to Florida in 2001 and has lived there permanently ever since, leaving Shutdown in a bit of a limbo state. In that time, Shutdown did a few shows in 2003 and 2006, but Dion and Steve and Jim wanted to do something more permanent and active. Dion had a lot of new and unheard material and played it for me and I loved it. The Last Stand has some comparisons to both Shutdown and Inhuman, of course, but it is more groove and riff-oriented, and has no metal to it at all. I consider Inhuman to be my dark hardcore side and The Last Stand to be the light and positive side.

The Last Stand's debut album, The Time is Now, came out in 2013, and features guest appearances from Lou Koller (Sick of it All) and Dave Franklin (Vision). It was released on Eulogy Recordings, a label I know you've admired for a long time. It feels like the entire project comes from a place where you wanted to clearly define the line between hardcore and metal, unlike some of your earlier bands.

I am very proud of The Time is Now. It will go down as one of my favorite vocal performances, for sure, and the guys play their asses off on it. We were blessed to get Lou Koller and Dave Franklin on it, as well as some guitar work from Joe Inhuman. I would agree with you that, yes, it makes a very 100% hardcore statement. Me and the rest of The Last Stand share common goals with the band, one being to play real hardcore.

SEE ALSO: No Echo's review of The Time is Now.

What's on the agenda for The Last Stand in 2015?

We are putting together new songs, we have about four or five songs in different stages of completion. We want to do an EP on vinyl and digitally, but we don't know who will be putting it out just yet, we shall see. 2015 will mark five years of The Last Stand already, which is mind-blowing in its own way. We also hope to play more shows as well.

A few years back, you owned a comic book store called Brooklyn Monster Factory. What was that experience like? Owning a business seems like an all-consuming type of endeavor.

My brother, Jon, and I had the store from 2006 to 2010, and I still miss it very much, it was a lot of fun. We sold comic books, t-shirts, toys, etc. When the recession really kicked in around late 2008, we saw the customer base shrink, and the ones who stuck around didn't spend as much as they used to. The entire time we had the shop, we both also worked full-time jobs, so it was a bit much at the time. In 2010, we sold it to a customer and his business partner, and they had it 'til 2013 when they had to close shop. I still read, buy, and sell comics to this day.

Being such a horror geek, have you ever thought about writing a screenplay, or anything along those lines?

Well, once in a while I will have a story in my head that may seem like a good idea, but it will often find its way into some lyrics. I do co-host a horror-themed podcast with my friend Mike Hill of the band Tombs called Necromaniacs Podcast that you can check out.

Mike Hill and Michael Scondotto, 2014.

SEE ALSO: 5 Best Horror/Sci-Fi Hybrid Films, by Mike Hill (Tombs, Anodyne)

Is there anything else you'd like to promote here?

Look for new music from Inhuman and The Last Stand in 2015. And maybe, just maybe, a metal band from yours truly will surface in 2015 as well.

Looking back at the late '80s, early '90s, what were some bands you think deserved more attention?

For hardcore and death metal, it seems like almost every band from 25 years ago has been getting their due and beyond in the last few years. Maybe now we'll see some more mid '90s bands get the recognition next?

***

Michael Scondotto Select Discography:

Confusion, Taste of Hate 7" (Hardway Records, 1992)
Inhuman, Inhuman 7" (Back ta Basics Records, 1996)
Inhuman, Evolver CD (Eyeball Records, 1997)
Inhuman, Our Dedication 7" (Now or Never Records, 1998)
Inhuman, Rebellion CD (Exit Records, 1999)
Inhuman, Black Reign MCD (Released Power Productions, 2002)
Inhuman, The New Nightmare (CD on A-F Records, 2003; LP on 1124 Records, 2012)
Inhuman, Last Rites CD (I Scream Records, 2007)
The Last Stand, The Last Stand 7" (1124 Records, 2011)
The Last Stand, The Time is Now (CD on Eulogy Recordings, 2013; LP on Demons Run Amok, 2013)

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