Interviews

108: Vocalist Rob Fish on the Making of the Holyname Album

Photo: Carl Gunhouse

Featuring musicians who previously played in such bands as Beyond, Ressurection, and Shelter, 108 first burst upon the hardcore scene in the early '90s. The group became part of what many people in the hardcore community labeled as "Krishnacore," but 108's metallic riffs and driving rhythms widened their appeal way beyond that scope.

Though 1994's Songs of Separation would prove to become widely regarded as 108's finest hour, I was intrigued to find out more about the story behind the previous year's Holyname album. Since I remembered hearing that their debut record was a rushed affair, I reached out to 108 vocalist Rob Fish to get his perspective about Holyname, his entry into the group, and how he and founding member Vic DiCara developed their relationship in and out of the band.

Tell me how you first met Vic DiCara (Vraja Kishor das). Did you first meet when he was in Beyond, or was it through the Krishna temple in Philadelphia, where you both were living at some point in the early ‘90s?

We had met when he was Beyond but it was nothing more than a quick hello. At some point, while he was Inside Out, he wrote me about an interview I did where I spoke of my interests in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. When he joined Shelter, and the Inside Out, Quicksand, Shelter tour ended, I was living in the Philadelphia temple for about 3 months.

One day, I was told that Shelter would be all moving to the Philadelhia temple once they made their way back east. Vraja and I shared a room with 4-5 other people, until I left the temple in January of 1991. Vraja and I always got along well in that we shared many pet peeves, both personally and philosophically.

Vic DiCara (Photo: Joshua Wildman)

What do you remember about the initial conversation when Vic asked you to sing for 108? Did it take any convincing, or did you make your mind up right away?

Ressurection was playing a show in Atlantic City with Chuck Treece, No Escape, Worlds Collide, and Lifetime. 108, who was a brand new band, hoped on before Worlds Collide played and did a few songs. The next day, Vraja called me and told me that they kicked out the singer and wanted me to sing. I liked the idea of playing with Vraja, because he was an awesome guitar player and writer, but wasn't sure if I would fit in.

I had been involved with Krishna Consciousness for 3 years at that point, and while aspects of it were attractive and helpful to me, I also knew that I didn't really fit in philoshically or from a social or political perspective. Vraja knew that, and as I said in many ways we bonded over similar feelings in that respect, so I decided to do it. 

108 performing w/ original vocalist, Jai Nitai Holzman, in 1991. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Tell me what your initial thoughts were about the material that would end up being recorded on the Holyname album. I read somewhere that you hadn’t even practiced/jammed with Vic before Holyname was recorded. Is that true, and if so, did that cause any issues for you in terms of working your vocals out?

Maybe two weeks after Vraja called, I went down to Maryland and right into a studio and sang a few parts from different songs as I didnt even know the songs or lyrics. There was no plan on how to approach the recording so I was woefully unprepared in all respects. I think we were in the studio for maybe an hour or two and left. After a conversation with a resident Swami, upon returning from recording those few songs, I left a bit unsure if I could do 108.

108 @ Unisound, Reading, PA, 1993. (Photo courtesy of Rob Fish)

So, wait, how long did the Holyname recording sessions actually last? 

To be honest, I was in the studio for maybe 2 hours and everything was already recorded. Zach from Worlds Collide layed drums and I believe Vraja played everything else.

From your point of view, what was the reaction like once Holyname came out in stores? Do you think the “Krishnacore” tag limited the audience a bit? 

Our first show, together as a band, was on March 15, 1993 at the Unisound with Shelter. The club was packed and from the first song on it was complete madness. Everyone had gotten a copy of the record and it was mayhem. From there we went on a 5-month long tour with Shelter and most shows felt similar. Our energy was very different than Shelter's and everything just clicked. Did some people take issues with the whole HK thing, sure but most didn't seem to care.

We did our thing, we did it unaplogetically, and when people challenged what we were doing, or what they perceived we were doing, it typically was much to do about nothing. Most of the critiques, if you will, were things that we also took issue with which were about how people interpreted or chose to present points of philosophy versus the philosophy itself. Even with that said, our individual approaches varied in a way that didn't align with your typical Hare Krisha thought process. 

108 @ Unisound, Reading, PA, 1993. (Photo courtesy of Rob Fish)

I’m not sure if you want to talk about this or not, but you decided to sit out the first gig of the tour after Holyname came out, but then came back for the rest of the run. What happened?  

So, in September of 1992, I was supposed to set out on a tour with 108. I had just gotten off the Ressurection and Lifetime US tour. I was just not in a good place and on the eve of the tour I just decided I wasn;t going to do it. I literally just didnt show up to the first show which took place at the Unisound. A few days later, I showed up at their show in Connecticut and explained that my heart, head, and all of that wasn't in the right place.

After those few shows Vraja broke up the band until him and I reconnected in January of 1993. We talked through the things that worried me about doing 108 and we came to the conclusion that much of what I was worried about were things that he too worried about and we decided we would do our own thing and if that was a problem for others, then that would be their problem, not ours.

So, from there on in, I joined and we that was that. When we decided to break up in 1996, we were all done doing the band, so there was no disappointment. 

What is your favorite song on Holyname and why?

"Liar" and "Holyname." "Liar" because I struggled mightily with sexuality and the lyrics hit home for me.

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Tagged: 108, 90s hardcore week, ressurection

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