Citizens Arrest Band Members Discuss the Making of Colossus Album on Its 30th Anniversary

On March 16, 1991 Citizens Arrest played their last show at ABC No Rio, before reforming in 2010. Divergent band dynamics led them to break up, ironically enough, as their Colossus LP was just about to come out and this being the 30th Anniversary of such a monumental release; I decided to ask everyone involved what they remember about the album making process and their thought decades after the fact.

I was lucky enough to be involved in releasing this and distinctly recall talking to their bassist Joe Martin right after we put out their debut 7 inch, asking him what they planned on doing next, he didn’t know and I suggested we do an LP, never mind the fact that I had no money and or experience in putting an album out.

The financial angle was resolved through Sam McPheeters, who graciously bankrolled the project, becoming a joint Wardance/Vermiform release. Bill Wilson (Blackout! Records) guided me through the production process and luckily enough, in drummer Pat Winter, we had an amazing layout designer that delivered a completely ready to print cover/insert/poster, all done in a now iconic style.

The early ABC No Rio scene had so many incredibly talented individuals and bands, Citizens Arrest are definitely one of the leading lights from that era, what they accomplished on this album is nothing short of breathtaking. From Don Fury’s stellar production and Tracy Sham’s stunning photos to the songs that the band came up with, it’s a performance for the ages that has stood the test of time.

Thank you to everyone that participated in this trip down memory lane, here’s to the album getting up on iTunes/Spotify sooner than later.

Daryl Kahan (Vocals)
Joe Martin (Bass)
Janis Chakars (Guitar)
Don Fury (Producer)
Tracy Sham (Photography)
Derek Stukuls (Roadie)
Freddy Alva (Wardance)

Recording Memories

Daryl: As you know, we recorded our A Light in the Darkness EP with Don so we feel quite comfortable working with him and are confident in his skills. Patrick Winter and I recorded at Don’s (Demo Demo) studio several times prior to our EP and Colossus with our previous band, True Colors. I believe Pat may have recorded with Our Gang there, maybe not. I also am a fan of Don’s work and the seminal hardcore records that were created at his studio ie: United Blood, Victim In Pain, etc.

I have some clear memories of us meeting with Don at his apartment above the studio the first day of tracking. Don was wearing his signature leather vest without a shirt and was always very cool, welcoming and enthusiastic. We hung out with him briefly in his apartment where we discussed our plan for the album and then headed down through the metal doors in the sidewalk and into the small control room. I believe he had a had a 16 or 24-track analog tape machine at the time and a small mixing desk. A couch lined the left side of the wall with the control desk in front of it.  

To the right of the mixing desk was a thick door plastered with all of Don’s completed albums and their covers on paper known as the “Wall of Fame." Inside was the tracking or live room, which was pretty big with the drum bubble in the right corner of the room. I remember the black and white striped drum set and the A7 Undead flyers and Plasmatics posters repeating across the walls.  

Once we got started I recall really liking Janis’s guitar sounds while he was tracking. He may have gone through a small Marshall amp which sounded great. The Gibson Les Paul (that Janis uses) coupled with the amps and Don at the helm, gave us that Youth of Today guitar sound, which I really like. Recording albums can be boring and sometimes a blur permeated with fun memorable moments. We certainly laughed a lot and were very focused on creating the best finished album we could. 

I recall the bodega on the corner where I bought cans of Nutrament drink.. this coats the throat and helped me achieve the vocals on the album. Since Colossus, I have recorded many records but do have good memories of our album recording with Don. We were stoked to be there recording. I was sitting on the stone steps listening to our album playback when Anthony and Walter/Gorilla Biscuits stopped by to say hello to Don. They checked a few of our songs and gave us the thumbs up which was cool. I corresponded with Anthony a few years earlier.  

There were moments that Don would let us record parts of the record ourselves and go upstairs for a break. You see that red button? “Hit it to start and stop.” We took part in the recording. I think on some of Joe’s bass parts and backups.  

Janis: It was a humble basement studio and you had to use the bathroom upstairs in his modest storefront apartment, but recording with Don Fury was always cool. It was like playing CBs. You knew you were in the place where all others had come before and you felt like you had arrived as a band. It even made me nervous, like I had to live up to the measure of musicians I felt were better than me, but Don was the master of working with inexperienced hardcore kids.

I was 18 years old when we recorded Colossus.

Joe: Recording Colossus was a little overwhelming for me personally. As opposed to the EP, which was barely organized chaos, we went for this huge-sounding album with very ambitious production; we even demo’d it first if I remember correctly (anyone still have a copy of that?).

Remember we were only teenagers, and as big as the album sounds (the drums sound amazing), I think it lost some of the frenetic exuberance that the EP, and our live shows, contained.

Here’s a Colossus fun fact: I stole the print of Colossus from the Queens College art library when I snuck in pretending to be a student. The artwork on the Hell No lyric sheet from the first 7 inch was also purloined from the same heist. Also, the quote “Goya created Colossus…” that’s on the sleeve, it was taken directly from the boosted print.

Don Fury: It would be hard for me to name a 7 inch I recorded with more feral ferocity than A Light in the Darkness by Citizens Arrest for Wardance Records’ first release. When Citizens Arrest came in to record their epic LP Colossus for Wardance, the band painted with a broader brush.

The ferocity came along with Daryl Kahan’s shredding vocals. And the band—Joe, Janis and Patrick—were writing in the beginnings of New York post-hardcore style—medium heavy grooves and riffs—style just emerging with bands like Burn and Quicksand, along with a few ultra-heavy vibes

Derek: I believe I went with Janis when they recorded the first tracks. Sadly, since I did not live in NYC I had to go back to Boston and missed the rest of the recording. I remember hearing the initial recording before being mixed and was so impressed then hearing the final mixes I knew this was to be a classic. 

I can remember being some creative differences starting at the time since each member was a bit ahead of their time as far as what they were looking for in the sound. Think that is why in the end it all came together.

Album Influences

Joe: As for influences, we were kinda going in different directions at the time, so it’s sort of a mix of those. You can definitely hear the metal direction that Daryl would eventually go in; we had many an argument of just how guttural the vocals should be, and you can also hear the direction myself and Janis were going in, and would explore with our subsequent bands.

When I wrote "Number," I was just thinking Poison Idea, but "Through the Mist," and "Burst of Silence," both grew out of my interest in I guess what would eventually be considered “doom." As someone who was never into metal-metal, I always appreciated the super heavy slow stuff ala Celtic Frost, Black Sabbath, Winter, etc.

I had just bought a Boss Bass Overdrive pedal and I would fuck around with it, and that led to both of those songs. It’s no coincidence that Antiem (side project band with members of Rorschach, The Manacled, and Born Against) recorded not long afterwards.

Daryl: Hard to say really. I wasn’t aiming to emulate someone else’s style in our band but my personal influences at the time were: Siege, Choke, Springa, Sid Sludge, Japanese hardcore, Extreme Noise Terror, Chaos UK, Bathory, Slayer, Napalm Death…  

Freddy: I can pinpoint their influences when I hung out with them: Joe would always be blasting Poison Idea and Neurosis, Daryl was all about Napalm Death/Siege/Ripcord, Janis would use a Neil Young riff as inspiration for a song and Pat was all about melodic HC like Dag Nasty and was still heavily into Youth Crew bands.

Janis: I wanted Citizens Arrest to be a straight up hardcore band. It would be like if you looked up hardcore in the dictionary, it would just say Citizens Arrest, but what does hardcore mean? It is a lot of things, so I suppose what you get on our records, especially Colossus, is us collectively trying to define it.

In the process, you got fast and short like “Briviba,” super long like “Burst of Silence,” and everything in between. I think, along the way, we wound up making our own kind of hardcore too.

Original front/back cover and lyrics insert

Album Photos & Layout

Tracy: Not only did Citizens Arrest's LP Colossus changed the lives of the people who were in the scene, they've also inspired a generation of budding artists, writers, and musicians. I was one of those budding artists that started taking "snapshots" of friends who just happened to be these four talented guys in their young 20s. I am honored to have witnessed the raw magic that occurred when Joe, Janis, Daryl, and Pat arranged the pieces of songs together for the album.

Freddy: Tracy’s photos completely capture the spirit of the band and the super-charged sonic dynamics found within the grooves, eternally grateful Shammy Sham.

Joe: We were so fortunate to have these three amazing photographers (Tracy Sham, Justine DeMetrick, and Chris Boarts Larson) who did such an incredible job of documenting the scene. I don’t think we would be doing anything today if it weren’t for these awesome photos popping up here and there that intrigued people enough to seek out the music.

Janis: We were lucky in three ways. We were lucky that Pat went to Art and Design for high school. We were lucky that Tracy Sham, who later became a professional photographer, was taking pictures at shows in those days. I suppose we were also lucky that I worked for a typesetter at the time, so between the type and pictures Pat had something to work with. It was cool to see Colossus and the 7 inch show up in the book Radio Silence: A Selected Visual History of American Hardcore Music a few years back. 

Original LP photos by Tracy Sham 1990

Daryl: I always liked Tracy's photos. We have reconnected with her and see her and her lovely family from time to time. She is a part of our crew and hopefully will be taking new photos of us. Pat's (CXA Drummer) visual style is a large part of our first two records. He has a great eye for art, design and typography. I continued his look for CXA on our last EP [2011's Soaked In Others Blood].

Freddy: Pat and I were in the same engineering college at the time. I remember him giving me, in between classes, the finished layout with color separations for the photos and everything with meticulously instructions for the printers. This is as all way before photoshop, pre-internet graphic design, just an amazing and skillful job all around.

Colossus zine ad from 1991

The Last Show in 1991

Janis: The record release show, our final performance, was at ABC No Rio, where we had played to a handful of people at the first of its regular hardcore shows in December 1989, and it was packed. I remember being so jammed up by the crowd that Pat’s cymbal was hitting the back of my neck and for the first time it dawned on me that it wasn’t just Charlie Adamec and Jon Reed jumping around in front of us anymore. It felt really good and then it was over.

Years later, Daryl would occasionally call me and ask if I wanted to get back together. I never lived anywhere near New York when he did, so it would have been difficult, but I told him that I didn’t want to anyway because I wanted to preserve the memory. I wanted to leave what we had made as it was because I was pleased with it and I didn’t want to mess it up. We ended with Colossus and that beautiful show.  

It’s funny because eventually we did get back together and we still play those old songs (and a few new ones). We still squabble and fight like we did in 1991, but I can’t imagine ever calling it quits again. I am happy to still find people that want to pile on and yell “Just another fucking number pushed through the machine!” and even if we don’t, I will never tire of playing it.

Joe: I think the “record release” show was also ambitious in that it happened some time before the record actually came out. I was set to split for the West Coast for 3 - 4 months, and we were definitely two separate camps at that point, but there was absolutely no fucking way we weren’t going to do a record release show.

Freddy: I was supposed to have the albums available at this show but in true “ready in 2 weeks” pressing plant delays, that didn’t happen. No Escape, Intent, and Mental Floss also played and my one lasting memory is Daryl wearing a mask while singing through an echo delay pedal on the microphone. They would all have new bands and be playing out within a couple of months from this show.

Derek: Yes. No idea of how I got there. I remember the show so well. It felt like the biggest show ever at ABC. Felt like the crowd was x3 size it was it was so packed and everyone so into it. Felt sad but at the same time such a happy and fun moment. Really positive rather negative and sad. One of the best shows I have been to.

Daryl: I remember many of our friends were at our last show, including you, Fred. Huge pile-ons, sing-alongs, moshing and total mayhem in the tiny crumbling basement of ABC No Rio. It was a good last show for us and sad that we couldn’t continue as a band into the '90s.

I am very thankful we were able to get the original lineup back together and do all the great things we managed to do after our 2010 reunion. A new album for 2022. Thanks for the support and interest, Fred. Also, big thanks to our fans and friends worldwide. See you on tour!

Citizens Arrest @ CBGBs, NYC, 1990. (Photo: Chris Boarts Larson)

Colossus 30 Years Later

Daryl: It sounds solid. I am listening to it  at this moment after not listening for a long time. At this point these songs are engrained into our DNA. We have been playing them with some consistency for the past ten years or so minus a few we never played again, like "Suffer Now" or "Burst of Silence." With any artistic endeavor there will always be things that stand or jump out at you, wishing you could have changed or done it differently at the time.

Colossus sounds like the record we wrote and practiced at rehearsals and our performance sounds organic to me. Anecdotes: At the end of “Suffer Now,” Joe and I included yet another sample from the film Evil Dead, like our EP intro. We brought back ‘Briviba’ into our live set with a new lyrics by Janis. Monique the consummate entertainer was Traci Lords from a loaned VHS tape from my roommate at the time (now Generation Records owner, Mark Yoshitomi).

Joe: By the time the album was released we were already broken up; I was already emotionally removed from it, and I was looking forward to other projects. 30 years later, whereas I still think A Light in the Darkness captures the true essence of the band, I have developed more of an appreciation for Colossus. It has this attitude of “fuck it, who says we can’t do this” slathered all over it, and this deep, some might say hubristic, ambition that is completely devoid of what the guitar nerds at Sam Ash, or the Van Halen or Rush-loving shitheads of the time might think.

We had this attitude of not only were we going to do this, but it’s going to be big, it’s going to be ugly, it’s going to be loud, and powerful, and you know what else, it’s going to have a big-ass poster inside of it too.

Don Fury: Every aspect of Colossus was impressive—CA’s reach in writing, the depth of the studio production, and the high quality art and LP package put together by Wardance.

Original poster that came with the LP

Tracy: They were all babies then; unbeknownst to their tremendous talent, they made a massive impact in the scene and produced an epic masterpiece that left an eternal mark in our hearts. 

Freddy: I didn’t pay for the recording and pressing of the record, had no masterful recording input even though I’m listed as “Executive Producer” but I’m forever associated with this timeless masterpiece, doesn’t get better than that!

Janis: I am proud that 30 years later people still know, like, and listen to the record. How often do people make things that last 30 years, especially music? I am proud that the record was Wardance Two, Vermiform Five, and stayed in print long after (2 years ago another CD version even came out in Japan on Crew for Life Records).

The LP helped give us our own little place in hardcore history, especially since we only played shows for 2 years and at least half of them were probably at ABC No Rio. Most importantly, I think that in the end, we did make something quintessentially hardcore.

Hardcore music invites participation by any and all and the record was made by the four of us kids, brought out by a couple of dudes named Freddy and Sam, and it holds up all these years later. I suppose that makes it a testament to the scene and the genre.

On the record, we thank everyone who lent us equipment (we didn’t have any) and gave us rides and shows (we had no cars or even licenses to move borrowed gear to clubs). Citizens Arrest ran on pure enthusiasm for hardcore music and little else. Still does.

Citizens Arrest @ Kraken Sthlm, Stockholm, Sweden, 2018. (Photo: MIchael Thorn)

I asked several folks about their thoughts on the album’s legacy

Stan Wright (Deathreat, Arctic Flowers): I first heard Citizens Arrest on a mixtape a friend made. I was blown away and quickly tracked down the EP. Later I found their tracks on Look at All the Children Now. I bought the Colossus LP when it came out. It sounded so huge and heavy. Daryl’s vox are unhinged and perfect. For me, it's a top NYHC record along with Born Against and Rorschach at the time.

My own hardcore band, Deathreat, was heavily influenced by CxA and even named ourselves after their song. Our first EP also uses Goya artwork! I had a promo poster for the LP on my wall and we made our own Citizens Arrest shirts.

Many years later, I was stoked when Deathreat got to play ABC No Rio where so many of my favorite bands had played. Can't believe it's 30 years old. Still sounds fresh and innovative today. Don Fury did a great job on the production.

James Khubiar (Justified Arrogance): Citizens Arrest's Colossus is a benchmark in the history of NYHC. Released in 1991 on Vermiform and Wardance Records, Colossus expounded on the sound previously explored on A Light in the Darkness serving to bridge two worlds in New York's vaunted hardcore punk scene. The Don Fury-produced record is a masterpiece for the NYHC genre because of its ability to push the limits of heaviness and ferocity in a sonic ecosystem that only the famed NYHC 
producer could cultivate.

True to the band's canon, Daryl Kahan referred to the same aloof and tenacious lyrical themes found on earlier releases. The end result was a record that could lead a show at either CBGB or ABC No Rio. 30 years on, the record's legacy continues to be felt with its influence on bands across a wide spectrum and to say there is only one Citizens Arrest would be a colossal understatement.

Joe Martin on a Citizens Arrest 2019 tour in Japan

Al Quint (Suburban Voice): Citizens Arrest always seemed to distance themselves a bit from the better-known NYHC bands. They had more of a DIY vibe, dark, intense and less, for want of a better term, user-friendly. A mix of heavy crush and blazing speed, but without any sort of tough-guy, macho bluster. Colossus increased the metal quotient a bit but, at their heart, Citizens Arrest remained a hardcore punk band. One I’m glad I got to see and, in retrospect, perhaps wish I’d appreciated a little more back then..

Welly (Artcore Fanzine): Looking back through the mist to thirty years past, Citizens Arrest were an antidote to the turgid fusions of differing styles that plagued the late '80s and early '90s. They'd announced their arrival on the scene in 1990 with their A Light in the Darkness 7 inch EP, a blazing inferno of hardcore rage that opened up a conversation that they then went on to conclude with their sole LP in 1991 Colossus. A short-lived band whose name spread like wildfire through the pre-digital international hardcore scene, quickly becoming a punkhouse-hold name, and by the time Colossus arrived, everyone was waiting.

Colossus continued directly on from their debut, and while it took its cues from contemporaries such as Infest and Born Against, it also somehow filtered it through early Washington DC hardcore and Scandinavian metal. Its 12 songs, dense and muscular, just like the towering figure on the cover painted by Francisco De Goya in the early Nineteenth century. None of the Bermuda shorts or New York hardcore sports aesthetic of the day are present herein, no forced frat boy funk or eye-watering emo so prevalent at the time, just a straight forward hardcore attack in red, white and black, with all the fat trimmed off and covered from head to toe in a thin layer of crust, just stood there glaring at you before lunging for your throat. Because sometimes something familiar can seem like a breath of fresh air.

Unlike A Light in the Darkness with its zip-fast riffs and speed thrash burn, Colossus also lumbered like its namesake behemoth, and staggered slightly as it leaned down to wipe another provincial town off the map with ease. The band's urgency this time was punctuated with breaks that acted like the columns holding up the broken streets of a pre-gentrified New York, a place and time so firmly embedded in the grooves of this decaying slab that it is impossible to remove it from its context. Thirty years has not diminished its impact, the Colossus marches on.

Negative Insight magazine: 30 years after its initial release, Citizens Arrest's Colossus LP serves well as a musical time capsule to life in New York City in late 1980s and early 1990s. Recorded by Don Fury in December of 1990, the album encapsulates the tension that was ever-present in New York City at the time.

It's a volatile and corrosive sound paired perfectly with the caustic vocals of Daryl Kahan. These are backed by twisting riffs with a jagged, metallic edge as well as thunderous drumming that only add to the unrelenting sonic pummel. The song "Suffer Now," with its searing lead, remains a standout track that gets stuck in your head. The lyrics found throughout the album, such as those from the song "C.D.R.F.," remain poignant as well: "How much more can we take? Increasing pressure, hate breeding state. Human brutality won't dissolve." It's a sad lament when one considers how little has changed.

Jamie Behar (Saetia): I put the needle of my turntable down on Colossus for what might be the 10,000th time and in an instant, as the first chords of "Utopia" are struck and the hairs on my back of neck stand up, I am transported to any number of hot summer days spent in the backyard of ABC No Rio. For me, and doubtless for countless others, it is an album inextricably linked to a feeling: the feeling of being young, sweaty, and punk on the streets of the East Village, making your way somewhere on a blistering Saturday afternoon.

Colossus was one of my first hardcore obsessions, one of the first albums that drove me to know it intimately. And I know it as intimately as the house I grew up in. The opening drum fill of "CDRF," which I practiced for hours when I still had the stamina to play drums. The superhuman roar at the beginning of "Through the Mist." The mysterious guitar tone change in "Burst of Silence." The "Fortress" teaser at the end of "Pain." Some phrases in the intro to "Utopia" start with a crash cymbal.

I combed through Colossus as a young punk, over the course of hours spent with my Walkman on, cutting through the crowd on St Mark's, the frantic energy of "Agony God" driving my feet. It was the soundtrack to my commute to class, to my pilgrimage to Reconstruction, to my weary schlep home from a CBs matinee. And at 30 years old, Colossus has aged far better than most of its contemporaries, in my modestly informed opinion. The energy and the tone are still unmistakable and irreplicable, uniquely NYHC and uniquely Citizens Arrest.

Citizens Arrest in Los Angeles, 2019. (Photo: Albert Licano)

Alexandros Anesiadis (Crossover the Edge: Where Hardcore, Punk and Metal Collide book): Being a mainstay of ABC No Rio (alongside other inspiring acts such as Rorschach, Go!, SFA and Born Against), Citizens Arrest were hands-down, one of the best bands to ever come out of NYHC’s third (post-1988) generation. Colossus was a mature step-forward towards their first classic, 1990's A Light in the Darkness 7 inch, in just one year, Citizens Arrest progressed their sound to a heavier, more complex and more bitter style.

Punishing and crushing, Colossus contains elements from such different styles such as early NYHC, the anarcho punk of Nausea, Revolution Summer bittersweet melodies. Deep thoughtful lyrics such as the excellent "Number" (that attacks the US educational system) or the anti-pornography "Paper Cuts," and the commentary of human relationships on "Touch & Go" are just examples of Citizens Arrest's brilliance. The kind of lyrics that make your heart pump faster.

Back in musical terms, Colossus has another distinctive element; it contains all the grittiness that you can find on the early NYHC records such as Urban Waste or Victim in Pain, but now it is added one more feeling, the feeling of desperation, of the hopeless disaffected youth of Lower East Side, that somehow predicted that things were changing forever, and not for their own good.

Cliché or not, Colossus is one of those life-changing records.

2010 Reunion (L to R) Joe Martin, Janis Chakars, Pat Winter, Ted Leo, Daryl Kahan, Freddy Alva (Photo: James Damion)


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