I became friends with Andrew Orlando in the mid-‘90s when we were both members of the band Black Army Jacket. During that time, he still ran Reservoir Records, the label he founded earlier in the decade.
During its run, Reservoir Records released titles by such bands as Silent Majority, Jesuit, Spazz, C.R., and Pig Destroyer, among other bands.
I chatted with Andrew in honor of ‘90s Hardcore Week.
What sparked the idea to start Reservoir Records, and was the name inspired by Mr. Tarantino?
Without a doubt, it was one of the reasons. I remember going to see Reservoir Dogs when it came out at the Elmwood Theatre in Queens. After it was over, I stayed and watched the next showing. Best line: “You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize”. [Harveyt] Keitel ruled '90s films. If you look up "reservoir" in the dictionary, one of the definitions is: a supply or source of something. I thought that was cool and made sense to me for a label name.
The first release on the label was Doc Hopper’s "Aloha" album on vinyl. Since they weren’t from our area in NYC, how did your relationship with them begin? Also, was the pressing and production a big learning experience where you made mistakes, or was it a relatively smooth experience?
Initially, I was going to put out a compilation 7” of Long Island bands but could not get it together and I had the label money I saved burning a hole in my pocket. I was talking to my good friend, Will Tarrant (Chainsaw Safety Records), and he told me they were looking for someone to do the vinyl of their 1st LP, "Aloha". I had seen them before and really liked them, Chris Pierce is a great talent and they were all really cool. They toured a lot too so; it was kind of a no brainer for me.
As for the pressing and production, I learned how to press records from the other labels I had close contact with from volunteering at ReConstruction Records (a record store in NYC). The people that helped me a lot were Freddy Alva (Wardance Records), Charles Maggio (Gern Blandsten), Freedom Tripodi (Struggle Records), and, of course, Will Tarrant and Tom O'Hagan from Chainsaw Safety Records/Thrashing Mad.
Without them, I would have no clue what to do. They gave me the encouragement I needed to start the label. Because of their guidance, I did not make a lot of mistakes to start off so it set the course for the label in the beginning.
Silent Majority was a young band that was part of the Long Island hardcore scene you released two EPs by early on in their run. What was it about the band that resonated with you?
They were young and really good players. They had that awesome melodic hardcore sound like 7 Seconds, Gorilla Biscuits, and Lifetime, without blatantly ripping off any bands. Their demo was also excellent and they had a great following on Long Island. I think Brian Meehan (Loya to None, Milhouse, Kill Your Idols, Celebrity Murders) connected me with Tommy Corrigan (vocals) and brokered the deal over the phone to put out their 1st 7”, This Island Earth.
The Garden Variety/Hell No split Reservoir released brings up an interesting point. Though Garden Variety went on to release a record on Headhunter/Cargo, and get a bit of wider acclaim outside of the NYC area, they certainly should have been bigger. I know you also spent a lot of time with them around that time. Why do you think they didn’t get more popular than they did?
I think if Garden Variety stayed together and toured more, they would have gotten bigger for sure. Knocking the Skill Level is a classic album and it should have been followed up. The recent box set was cool!
As far as Hell No, Freddy Alva included them on his contribution to this ‘90s Hardcore Week, but I always found them to be tough to categorize. You also released their ¡Adios Armageddon! album on Reservoir. Do you think they were ahead of their time?
Yes, the mid-'90s were a time when people my age were turning into adults and tastes were changing. A lot of the NYC scene gravitated away from hardcore and into noise/indie rock like AmRep/Touch & Go, etc. I think Hell No fit more into that scene but they never really broke in that crowd, even though they fit perfectly.
A band people in our local hardcore community will always associate Reservoir Records with was C.R. Tell me how you came to be like their honorary member. Why do you think that band was so special for so many people in our area?
I would never claim myself as a honorary member of C.R because it was the unstoppable force and will of those four that made that happen. Was I a close confidant? Absolutely. I remember seeing them for the first time at The Joint on Staten Island. I knew Mike D. from Sleeper/Serpico and Bricks from Phallacy a little, so I was sure it was going to be good. They blew everyone away that night! They didn’t even have a lot of material at the time and played the song "Popeye’"like 5 times during that set.
Immediately after, I told them I was putting out their 7” and from there it was family type collaboration with everything we did together. Still hard to put into words today. I love them forever. Keep an eye out for all the C.R stuff on digital platforms from Trip Machine Labs soon!
The Nothing’s Quiet on the Eastern Front compilation featured Brutal Truth, Assfactor 4, Black Army Jacket, Suppression, and Monster X, among other bands. I know I’m biased because I'm on it, but I’ve always felt that record was important for its time because it got the word out about bands from the East Coast region that were playing fast/heavy music, but weren’t straight-up hardcore.
During that era Spazz, MITB, Infest, No Comment, and Crossed Out got a lot of love and the West Coast put power Violence and thrashy/grindy hardcore on the map. No question about it. I really loved all those bands and conceptualized a comp with bands that made up our side of the US that needed to be documented together. We had a cool little scene here on the East Coast for that stuff and I always wanted to put out a compilation on Reservoir.
I worshipped the NYHC comps like The Way It Is, Where The Wild Things Are, and New Breed. I wanted each band to have two songs to demonstrate themselves and also as a tribute to those classic NYC comps. I recently found a test pressing and it holds up to me and is a perfect document of what was happening with the extreme side of things on the East Coast. The only bummer was that Hatchet Face wasn’t able to be on it, they were a cool band from the Boston area on Figure Four Records (shout out to Rick MacDonald).
Noothgrush was featured twice on the label’s discography via their splits with Black Army Jacket and Corrupted. You also did three issues of Monekybite zine with Noothgrush’s Gary Niederhoff during that era. Not to mention the touring Black Army Jacket did with Noothgrush.
I connected with Gary through trading our band’s demos with each other and we quickly developed a wise-ass sense of humor with each other through the mail and subsequent phone calls. I used to go out to the Bay Area all the time to hang out for shows and to hang with Noothgrush. We started talking about our kind of music and that Maximum Rocknroll and other zines weren’t covering bands like Spazz, Dropdead, and MITB the way we thought they should.
So, we decided to start Monkeybite but with a goofy angle so it wasn’t taken as a completely serious thing. All the bands had the same attitude we did about it so it made sense. The relationship between Black Army Jacket and Noothgrush was really special. We were all like-minded people even though we lived on opposite ends of the country. We did some great tours together that I’ll never forget.
Of all the Reservoir Records releases, which one do you think is greatly underrated and why?
The one that comes to mind immediately is Hellbender Con Limón. Every song on that record is great and it was a brilliant idea by Alap Momin to record it a Mix-O-lydian studios in NJ (the Misfits recorded there!) He really knew how to capture the essence of the band while making it sound big. Those songs mean a lot to me and still listen to it regularly.
What’s your all-time favorite Reservoir Records release and why?
Can I give you two as a tie? First is C.R. The John Lisa LP just because it was really cool to put that together and collaborate with all of the people involved. It took a lot to get that one out and it’s a great document of the expression of the band and label at the time.
Second is Black Army Jacket 222 LP just because my number one goal when starting the band was to put out a full length. It was really fun watching Dave Witte nail those insane fills on the first or second take, we had a lot of fun in the studio and the bonus was it being a split release with some of my best friends in the world, Will and Tom from Chainsaw Safety.