If you're a fellow '90s hardcore (unofficial) historian, you might already be familiar with Cinderblock. For those reading who aren't, the band was co-fronted by Scott Vogel (Terror, Slugfest) and Tim Redmond (Snapcase, Slugfest), along with drummer Dennis Merrick (Earth Crisis), guitarist Karl Dutton, bassist Clint Marriott, and guitarist Phil Popieski (Discontent, Against All Hope, Despair).
Though they released a poorly recorded demo in 1992, Cinderblock never got around to dropping a proper release during their short time together.
That will all change next month when WAR Records releases Breathe the Fire, the debut EP from Cinderblock. The new recording was produced by Jay Zubricky (Mindforce, Terror) and finds the New York natives bringing forth a tough, taut, and melodic-leaning hardcore sound that was well worth the wait.
Today, No Echo is honored to present not only an interview with drummer Dennis Merrick and vocalist Tim Redmond to get the Cinderblock story, but also a premiere of "Sundial," the opening track from Breathe the Fire.
Hey Dennis, can you give the No Echo readers a quick history on Cinderblock and how you guys came together?
Cinderblock started out in 1991. The idea was to have a band with two singers and for the whole band to completely go off on stage. We wanted to make it a super energetic, crazy live show. I went away to school a few hours from Buffalo that year and, if I remember correctly, we actually started the band after I went away.
It was originally Tim Redmond and Thom Hardwick on vocals, Phil and Carl on the guitars, Clint on bass and I played drums. Scott replaced Thom on vocals about a year after we started. Tim and Phil wrote most of the music and, since I was away, they would send me cassette tapes in the mail and I would learn some of the songs that way. When I would come home on breaks for the holidays or over the summer, we would get together and practice as a full band.
What were some of your influences starting out?
We were influenced by some of the newer, more progressive hardcore bands that were coming out around that time: Quicksand, Shelter, Inside Out. We wanted our sound to be heavy and energetic, but with more melody than a typical hardcore band.
Cinderblock didn't stay together very long, but of the shows you did play, which ones stick out in your memory?
I’m not even sure how many shows we ended up playing, but there were a couple that were more memorable. We played at the Hamburg Roller Rink, which was in a suburb south of Buffalo. That may have been our first show. The most memorable show for all of us was at Lost Horizon in Syracuse. It was our only show outside of the Buffalo area and we all loved the Syracuse scene and were pumped to play there.
On basically the first note of the first song, Tim jumped off a monitor and smashed his head on the ceiling. He cut it open really badly and was bleeding profusely throughout the whole set—holding a t-shirt to his head to stop the bleeding.
What led to Cinderblock breaking up back then?
We all loved playing together. The only reason we split up was simply because we did not have the time to dedicate to it. Shortly after we got together, I joined Earth Crisis, Tim joined Snapcase and Scott got busier with whichever one of his 4 million bands he was in at the time!
Members of Cinderblock would go on to make huge waves in the hardcore scene throughout the rest of the '90s and '00s with bands like Terror, Snapcase, Earth Crisis, Despair, and Buried Alive. Where does Cinderblock fit within this history of Buffalo and East Coast hardcore as a whole?
It’s awesome that three of the bands in that question are Scott’s bands! He has been so deeply involved in and dedicated to hardcore music for so much of his life.
Cinderblock was really just a short blip in the history of Bufffalo hardcore. I think we were a good band at the time and probably could have accomplished a lot more than we did if we stuck with it; but we just got too busy with all of our other bands. I feel like the people that did get to hear and see us at the time dug our music and our live shows, but our time was so short lived that I cannot imagine we made much of an impact.
I would guess that, unless they were around in the scene at that specific time that we were playing, most people would not know who the band was.
Last year you went into the studio with Jay Zubricky to re-record all of the early Cinderblock material… What was the impetus behind that?
Scott was really the impetus for recording the Cinderblock stuff. He recently moved back to Buffalo and the rest of us were all still around. He reached out to Tim and I to see if we would be interested in re-recording the music we wrote over 30 years ago (damn—we’re old as fuck!).
We were instantly down to do it, so we tracked down the rest of the dudes and everyone was into it. Scott had done some work with Jay in the past, so he suggested working with him on our material. It all clicked easily and it came out great. Jay really dedicated his energy to realizing our vision for putting this music out and did an amazing job with it.
Hey Tim, No Echo is premiering “Sundial" along with this interiew today. What can you tell us about the song?
The song is about reconciling with and ultimately overcoming one’s past. Whether that be mistakes that one had made in the past or old thoughts and beliefs that one may have moved beyond, it is essentially about the struggle for self-improvement.
Breathe the Fire is coming out on WAR Records this fall. What brought you together with the label and why was it the right fit for this project?
We have known Andrew [Kline] for a long time. We sent the music to a few different labels and there were a couple that offered to put it out. Andrew seemed the most excited to do it and seemed to have the best vision for it. We trust him to do the best he can with it.
You have an upcoming show in Buffalo with Snapcase, Against All Hope, Exhibition, and more… Are you guys excited to play some shows again? Can we expect more shows in the future?
Yes, we are super pumped to play that show. It’s a great idea for a show too—old meets new with some old legacy Buffalo bands and some bands fresh to the scene. We are really looking forward to it. We’ll see how this first show goes and take it from there to see what the future holds.
What are some current Buffalo bands we should all be paying attention to?
Exhibition and Smash N' Grab are playing the show with us in November. They are both great new bands from Buffalo. I have heard them both but have not seen either of them yet and I’m excited to check them out.
And not that they need any light shined on them, as they already have plenty, but Griselda is amazing!
Breathe the Fire will be out on October 28th via WAR Records. The pre-order will go live this Friday (Sept. 23rd) at 10AM PT at this link.
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