Since the late '90s, Youth Attack has been a purveyor of fine hardcore records. The one-man operation is the brainchild of Mark McCoy, the former vocalist of power violence maniacs Charles Bronson. Throughout the years, Mark has also played in Absolute Power, Das Oath, and Suburbanite, among other excellent bands. I recently caught up with Mark to chat about Youth Attack and the first thing I asked him was which labels helped inspire him to do his own. "There was a sketchy German hardcore label in the '90s called Anomie Records that had threatened to bootleg my old band, Charles Bronson," Mark told me.
"In order to beat these scumbags to the punch and stay in control of our own music, a few of us pooled our money together and released a discography 2 x CD ourselves, which became the first Youth Attack release. I never wanted to run a label and never thought about modeling it after any label in particular, but, over time, I fell into releasing most of my own music, which required me to also design the packaging. Soon I was asking my friends if I could release their music, too, so I designed their records as well. Had those German bootleggers not tried to rip us off, I'm not sure what I'd be doing now."
Youth Attack is known for its limited edition vinyl runs, which obviously has inspired a rabid collectibility among record fiends. I was curious to find out what some of the most sought after releases were to date. "Many people have asked about the Culture Shock test press, which was only limited to 33 copies and sold out right away. It looks really cool and comes with several separate parts with graphics that were unique to the release—for example, an inner spread of a wolf eating the Minor Threat sheep, which I always hated. But I try to make every edition special in its own way, even the standard versions of a record—for me the presentation is just as important as the music."
Mark is also an accomplished artist and graphic designer, and he's used that talent to further the uniqueness of Youth Attack's discography. "For years, I've made test press editions of new releases with hand-crafted packaging and somehow, with each new release, they seem to get more and more intricate. Most recently, the Suburbanite LP contains something like a dozen separate parts. This stuff is fun for me to do, so I just keep making them crazier."
Since he's been doing it so long now, I asked Mark what he loved most about running Youth Attack. "I would say the best part is having a creative outlet where I can try to do my best and push hardcore in the right direction. Though Youth Attack has gone through several phases since it began in 1999, I've always strived for quality. Even the best labels start to suck after about 2 or 3 years, so I became more mindful about what I release. Most labels have no singular identity, instead they just seem to follow trends to stay afloat, which makes them boring. In some sense, this is inevitable and I can sympathize to a degree, but since the record industry fucked itself in the '90s, existing today in what I view as a collapsed industry requires being more purposeful than ever."
In terms of the tougher aspects of keeping Youth Attack going, Mark offered: "Just about all aspects of the label itself are hard to a certain degree, but it's something I put myself through because, at the end, I know that these records have to exist. So long as I'm doing good work, whatever struggles I endure in the short term matter nothing in the long run—this music will exist far longer than me."
Before I let Mark go, you know I had to ask about some of the label's future releases. "YA just released three LPs by Vile Gash, Suburbanite, and Cadaver Dog, which comprises about 10 years of work. Up next will be the City Hunter LP followed by a batch of awesome 7"s, one of which, Life Support, is a new project that I'm doing with James Trejo (Cadaver Dog, Civilized, Culture Shock) and marks my return to vocals."