It’s no secret that podcasts are an extremely popular way to consume media. There’s a podcast for everything it seems, even underground music. There’s a ton of great podcasts that underground music focused and hardcore adjacent like Strange Nerve or 100 Words or Less, but nothing aimed so directly at hardcore and why? Was there not a demand for it? Who’s to say but luckily Axe to Grind decided to fill that void and give us what was missing.
Having launched in late 2017, Axe to Grind has been delivering content left and right giving the hardcore community something to really look forward to. In-depth discussion, special guests, insider insight into the scene, strong opinions with firsthand experience, and longer than normal episodes, are just a few of the things you’ll find in their archives. The hardcore community can’t seem to get enough and it shows no signs of slowing down. Hosts Tom Sheehan (singer of Indecision, Most Precious Blood), Bob Shedd (former A&R at Revelation Records), and Patrick Kindlon (singer of Self Defense Family, Drug Church) were kind enough to share some of their time with me to answer some questions and offer some inight into the world of Axe to Grind.
What made you decide to start Axe to Grind? Did it randomly come together or was it something that was planned or discussed for some time? When did Bob come in the mix since initially it sounded like it was maybe just Patrick and Tom?
Tom Sheehan: Patrick and I did an episode of Deathtalk for Deathwish Inc years ago and had a blast. We were always talking about doing an ongoing podcast but never got it going. We started talking about last year and finally got it started. Bob was part of a group chat where this all sort of came together and it made total sense to have him be a part of it, too. It wouldn’t work as well without the setup we have now.
Do you feel as if given the speed and adoption of technology nowadays, a podcast is an easier way to get news and information digested vs. reading an article?
Tom: I think it is way easier. You can listen on your commute, at work, at the gym, wherever while an article is more of an undertaking.
Patrick Kindlon: I’m not confident anyone can read anymore, so audio is our best bet.
Do you think given that your demographics can range from a younger hardcore kid to an “old guy” a podcast is the perfect fit?
Tom: I think we get a good cross-section of demographics, at least I hope we do. I think a podcast is the easiest way to reach out to the most people at once.
Bob Shedd: It works well; podcasts seem to be an equalizer in so much as they are something that people love regardless of age.
Patrick: Who doesn’t want three people chattering in their ear for hours at a time? Universal appeal.
Do you feel that a lot of things are taken the wrong way in an online forum; a tweet or a Facebook post, so having an open discussion on them is a better way to get the point across. For example, people will read a tweet and go “OH WOW THEY ARE TALKING SHIT” when it’s not really that at all, just having an opinion and not necessarily meant in a negative sense or in a full on fuck you kind of way?
Tom: I think it is really difficult to get the intent in an online forum, or even via text or email. Things tend to escalate but having an open discussion seems to be a far less contentious.
Bob: I feel as though we are not having a lot of conversations via social media in 2018. Not to say that it's not possible, but essentially these platforms are tools to declare your opinion, and for others to declare their own. In a perfect world, people can share their ideas with the world and generate conversation and insight. Rather, we see people shouting at each other with little nuance, and I'm scared that's coloring opinions as strictly binary, and that's unfortunate. The world is not yes/no. It is not black/white. And we should all be able to have conversations that go more than 140 characters.
Patrick: As a dude who is perpetually in trouble online, I can say with confidence that podcasts allow much more nuance. Even down to the tone of voice. Print always reads clinically and severe. Audio is more forgiving.
What’s the general feedback been like regarding Axe to Grind?
Tom: We have been really fortunate so far as it is has been overwhelmingly positive. We have gotten messages from people saying they checked out new or old music for the first time after hearing us discuss it on the podcast. We have had people reach out about certain topics we have covered to sort of reinforce our points, etc.
Patrick: I’m not much of a community guy, but I’m happy with how much of one has sprung up around the show. With online forums not as strong as they used to be, or monopolized by yelling weirdos, people were looking for an opportunity to talk about music but didn’t know where to go.
Do you think there’s a level of hesitation from both old heads and youngsters when it comes to checking out music. For example, an old bandmate of mine hated to check out bands that had broken up because of the worry that if they liked it, they’d never really be able to see that band live. They were more concerned with the now and being able to vibe and get into bands they’d have the opportunity to see live.
Tom: I think it is a natural thing. You like what you like and it is hard to open your mind to other things. I would tell your friend unless it is Mozart, there is a good chance they will be able to see it live at some point, other than Minor Threat or Inside Out.
Patrick: People are always creating reasons to not like something. It feels like our default is to dismiss things. That’s why media like Axe to Grind is cool. You hear someone talking enough that you get a feel for what they like, and you may give it a listen because you relate to that person or because you hate them. Either way, you’re listening to something new.
Do you hope that this podcast will open up the minds to old heads who don’t want to check out new bands or think hardcore is boring now and vice versa to youngers who might not be aware of older bands.
Tom: That is definitely our hope and it seems to have been happening with some regularity. We want to create that space where you can check out new or old stuff and not feel like you are being judged. We don’t want anyone feeling like we are the record store clerks judging for you checking out The Age of Quarrel for the first time in 2018.
Bob: Yes, though I believe the real push is to generate conversation about music regardless of age. I've seen tons of young people who've been closed off to old bands because of the way older people speak to them, address them, or address their opinions. If you think new band X sucks, and that all new bands suck, then when you try to tell someone who's into those bands "hey, everything you like is garbage, you should listen to this good music instead"... I'll bet you have less than optimal results.
Personally, I’m 30 and I’ve been listening to/involved with hc since I was 15 and would always do the normal thing back in the day, read through Thank You notes, look at merch bands wore, lists on band sites of influences/bands to check out etc, and I still find myself hearing about older bands I was unaware of, is that intentional to bring up smaller or lesser known acts of the past that you feel might have been missed?
Tom: I think it is somewhat intended to shine some light on some lesser-known bands that people should check out. Also, it may be a bigger band in our minds since it may have been our local band at the time but it never really stayed in the hardcore canon for most people.
Patrick: Yeah, that stuff is so specific to the region and individual. Maybe even moreso now, where people curate their Twitter feeds to the point where they believe the three people talking about a thing are the majority. People have wild ideas about what’s canon and what’s not.
Do you have plans to have more guests when Pat goes on tour with Self Defense Family?
Tom: I think we are looking to have some guests but not in the usual way. We really don’t want to become an interview show, so whoever comes on would just be part of the ongoing conversation.
Bob: We always have plans.
Patrick: Hoping they replace me with an agitated chihuahua.
I love how Axe is very focused on hardcore and not really an offshoot of the hardcore scene, and the conversation stays pretty in line with hardcore and what not. Was that an intentional thing or is that just how you guys are when discussing hardcore?
Tom: I can’t really say it was intentional; it is just 3 hardcore kids talking about hardcore. We definitely have some differing opinions on bands/styles but we are hardcore kids at heart.
Patrick: It’s disgusting how much we talk about it without a mic, so it came pretty natural with a mic.
The podcast seems to be much more creative and interactive whether it be reading emails out loud, hyping interaction social media, or the hardcore fantasy draft. Do you think it’s important to involve the audience as much as possible, much like an actual hardcore show?
Tom: We think it is super-important to be interactive; otherwise it is just the three of us yelling at clouds. We want everyone to feel invested in the podcast and feel like they are as much of a part of it as we are.
Patrick: I think it’s a fun change of pace for me. I get real Fountainhead about my creative stuff. Don’t want anyone’s suggestions. But this is really a talk show and meant for the listener as much as it is for us.
Has there be any discussion on live podcast tapings? What about possible Skype podcast for guests that are not in the New York City area?
Tom: We have had some preliminary discussions on doing a live show or two. We are looking to Skype-type arrangements for guests that are not in NYC and have no plans on coming through. We are still working on the technology on that for now.
Bob: Like Tom said, we are working on some live tapings — would people come out? As for Skype, it's certainly an option but so far there's been something magical about actually sitting in the room with our guests.
Being that you guys are older and the discussion of fests have come up fairly often, do you think so many fests can be damaging to local scenes?
Tom: I think they can be damaging because people can tend to skip the touring and local band shows.
Bob: Fests can be excellent. They should be seen as a way to discover new music and interact with people and ideas that you may not otherwise. However, if they become the only moment you interact with hardcore / punk / whatever subculture you involve yourself in, you may be short changing yourself on very cool experiences. Go to local shows. Check out small bands when they come through. Check out big bands when they come through.
Honestly, I haven’t fucked with the B9 Board in years, but it used to be/maybe it still is, an important part of hardcore and networking within in the community. Do you think Twitter/Instagram has replaced that? Also, do you think something like forums really hold a place in hardcore anymore? I feel like there was always tons of really absurd shit on there and shit talking, etc., and I wonder if that would even fly nowadays? The anonymity of the Internet is kinda gone now.
Tom: I think they had their place at the time but it wouldn’t seem like they’d be able to exist in the same space as Twitter/FB, etc.
Bob: Message boards have largely died in hardcore, and it sounds strange to even say this out loud, but I miss them. I mentioned earlier that social media is not really being used for nuanced conversation, and message boards weren't always doing that, but they certainly enabled a deeper level of conversation. There were certainly some abusive, negative, and outright offensive things that would go down on message boards and I don't miss those things for a minute.
The anonymity you refer to can be found on cesspools like Lambgoat, still. I'm pro-forum, I'm pro sharing ideas. I'm against people who use forums to abuse others and gang up on people. There's a balance that can be found, but is rarely done without extreme policing, which I'm also not really into. It's a disappointing paradox.
Patrick: “Van flip”
I usually hate super-long podcast episodes but Axe just keeps getting longer, and it’s never boring. I think it’s because it’s much less of an interview/discussion and just a straight up convo with friends and being opinionated and not holding back as much.
Tom: It’s funny, we assumed the episodes may have been too long but the feedback we get back is usually the opposite. I have some friends that are like “2 and a half hours?! Come on!” but most of our listeners prefer we talk too much than too little. I think we just have a conversation about certain issues and then we look up and realize it’s been 2-3 hours. We would do the same with or without the microphones, in fact, it happens quite often where we talk for another 2 hours after the show is done.
Bob: Thanks for not hating our super-long podcast episodes.
Patrick: People are crazy.
One of my favorite episodes was the America's Hardcore Compilation listening party, any thought into doing another one of those type episodes?
Tom: We definitely will do more of those types of episodes. We had a great time doing it and definitely found some new bands that we really enjoyed.
Bob: That was really fun and a good way to talk about music with people who hear things in a different way than I do. From the feedback, people who listened to that episode felt the same way and that's rad.
Patrick: I was shocked people were as pumped on that one as they were. I thought it might be taxing for the listener, but it was super popular and we got a ton of people telling us it turned them on to some acts. I like that format, but I should mention I’m a touring musician and giving honest feedback on some of these acts is gonna get my wig split at some point as I have to see these people.
Side thought, it would be cool if later on down the road, maybe making some playlists of suggested listening new/old bands for everyone..could be work but also fun and discussed on an episode.
Tom: We actually do playlists on Spotify that correspond to the episodes. I have fallen a bit behind on them but there are 5 or so playlists up there under our Axe to Grind account.
Anything you’d like to see happen with Axe to Grind? Fat checks from vegan sponsors?
Tom: A vegan pizza sponsorship. Above all, for it to continue to be fun for everyone involved.
Patrick: I want a vegan calzone and some cane sugar soda each episode and I’m good. The rest is gravy.
I know y’all have talked about possible Axe to Grind showcases, have y’all thought about a possible comps of both old/new? Or maybe like IF YOU LIKE THIS NEW BAND CHECK OUT THIS OLD BAND and vice versa?
Tom: We could definitely do that! We wanted to do listens with guests of bands they have may not have heard, new or old.
Patrick: The Patreon started as a way to pay for Bob’s tolls from Jersey, but it went higher than we thought and we’ll prolly direct that cash into some bigger projects at some point.
Any last shout outs or plugs?
Tom: Thank you to Devin and No Echo. Listen to music and discuss it with your friends. Support bands. Be nice to each other.
Bob: Shout out to our secret fourth host, Dusty Cloudin.
Patrick: Soulforce revolution. Avoid the Noid.