Corey Williams (Internal Affairs, Carry On, Piece by Piece) on His Life in Hardcore

Piece by Piece @ Chain Reaction, Anaheim, CA, 2009. (Photo: Dan Rawe)

Both as a guitarist and vocalist, Corey Williams has left his mark on the hardcore scene. A Southern Californian native, Corey has played and released records with such bands as Carry On, Internal Affairs, Snake Eyes, and Manipulate going back to the late '90s.

He's since moved to Long Island, New York, where he got married and started a family, but he hasn't lost his deep connection to hardcore and its community. Corey has even returned to California for reunion shows with Internal Affairs in the years since.

It was a lot of fun to learn more about Corey's musical and personal journeys for this new interview. I hope you enjoy it.

Tell me a bit about your childhood. Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Van Nuys in 1978 but raised just outside of LA county in Simi Valley '78-'81 / Moorpark '81-'92 / Newbury Park '92-'98. A lot of my family either lived in the Valley or Hollywood, so we spent a lot of time there. Typical '80s childhood of out from sun up to sun down on bikes or skateboards terrorizing the neighborhood.

What kind of kid were you?

Skateboarding became my main focus quickly after discovering it. Moorpark was very isolated so we would walk the train tracks to Simi or sometimes hitch hike in the back of a truck to go to cooler skate spots.

Thinking back, it’s weird that through skate videos I was exposed to so much cool music but never really paid much attention to it until my teens. I got arrested when I was 10 for stealing a bike and we got in fights at least weekly if not daily at the bus stop from 3rd to 7th grade, there just wasn’t anything else to do, I guess [laughs].

Andrew Kline (Strife, Berthold City) mentioned you might have some connection to Ecuador? Since my mom is from there, I'm curious about that.

We aren’t Ecuadorian but my mom was born there. My family escaped Nazi Germany and fled to Ecuador. My grandmother was born in Vienna and was able to escape to South America.

My grandfather and his brother were let out or escaped a concentration camp and went to China. When Japan invaded, they were able to then escape to South America. I have a bunch of cousins who live there that are first-gen Ecuadorians.

How did you come to discover hardcore music? I have found that most people in our age group found heavy metal first and then gradually found out about crossover bands like D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies. Was that the case for you?

Sort of how it went. In the '80s I liked everything from Michael Jackson to Mötley Crüe. I had a few records, a Fat Boys 45 and Warrant 12. Around '88, a babysitter gave me a dubbed cassette of NWA and Too Short and I was hooked. Long story short, Public Enemy would become my gateway to metal with “Bring the Noise” and Anthrax.

Body Count was great but didn’t get the record til a lot later. Headbangers Ball and 120 Minutes is where I started paying attention a lot more but Anthrax and Nirvana were my favorite bands in 7-8 grade. When we moved to Newbury Park is when everything really clicked.

I met Greg Flack my first day of 8th grade and he immediately hooked me up with a copy of Slayer Reign In Blood and Suicidal Tendencies Lights...Camera...Revolution! From there, we quickly started listening to Minor Threat, Youth of Today, and many other hardcore bands. Wild that I didn’t discover Strife until '94 when One Truth came out as they were the hometown band. 

What were some of the first hardcore shows you remember going to? I didn’t move from NYC to Los Angeles til much later (2006), so I’m always curious about the hardcore/punk shows here during the early ‘90s.

My first big hardcore show was 1995 at the Las Palmas Theatre: Strife, Undertow, Snapcase, Ignite, 1134, Palefire. I didn’t know or understand how hardcore was a community until I experienced it first hand. Getting to meet band members in the crowd and everyone was super cool, it was an incredible first experience.

From there, we started going to everything from the Living Room in Goleta to Corona’s Showcase Theatre. 2-3 hour drives on school nights, sometimes multiple times the same week. Hollywood always sucked but we tried not to let it ruin a good show. My gripe is mostly with the Whiskey because they were real assholes to everyone. I got thrown out of the California Takeover literally by my hair and belt. 

Earth Crisis at the original California Takeover @ Whisky a Go Go, Hollywood, CA, 1996. (Photo: Dave Mandel)

I’m pretty sure Stand Your Ground was your first band. 

Stand Your Ground was my first band thanks to Todd Jones. Todd knew I took a lot of pictures at shows so he introduced himself and I believe he gave me a copy of his zine and asked if he could use some of my photos. Maybe not exactly like that but that’s the gist.

He came over to go through photos and saw that I had a guitar, of course he asked if I could play. I laughed and said only one Strife song, played it for him and basically ended up jamming at his house.

I think he had one song so he taught it to me and he put a band together. The name was from a Fred Hammer band that was either a joke band or a band that never recorded so he gave us the blessing to use it.

Stand Your Ground @ Cobalt Cafe, Canoga Park, CA, 1998. (Photo: Greg Flack)

You weren't in that band for long.

I quit the band on the day of the 7-inch recording, so I only played on the demo. Lame move on my part quitting the way I did but I was young and should have talked to those guys before I just cut it off. Luckily, they didn’t harbor any ill feelings towards me and we all stayed friends. 

What’s the story behind you joining Carry On? 

So, at this time hardcore was very splintered, at least in SoCal. We were part of the Youth Crew revival but also loved everything that was out from Floorpunch to Converge to Hatebreed. It wasn’t really the same for the kids from the more metal side of hardcore. Our circle of friends were super tight and supportive, bands like Life’s Halt, No Reply, Persevere (pre-Carry On), Collision, Dirty Dirts, Built to Last, Diehard Youth, etc.

As Persevere transitioned into Carry On, Ryan would end up with a whole new line up from a 5 piece to only a 4 piece. They asked me to come try out and asked me to join.

The Stabbed in the Face 7-inch was cool but this new lineup had recorded a live set at the Living Room just before I joined that had some amazing songs, some unreleased and some that would end up on The Line Is Drawn 7-inch. It was incredible and I’m sure that’s why I had no problem making the 3.5 hour drive to practice once a week. 

From your memory of that time, was there a specific sound or scene that was more popular than others here in Southern California? How popular was Carry On in that context?

Mid-'90s was probably the biggest and easily the most diverse until the post-COVID era that I got to experience. I missed the Country Club and Fenders era. Sick of It All in '95 at the Showcase felt like it was double over capacity 1000+. Agnostic Front returning was booking back-to-back nights. Strife and AFI getting shut down by the fire Marshall and playing two full sets in same night was so wild.

Then, in '98-99, we were playing Headline Records, PCH Club, and Living Room to 30 people unless a touring band or one of the Orange County metal bands were playing. Bands like In My Eyes, Bane, Floorpunch, Ten Yard Fight, and Battery had amazing draws, so people liked the hardcore we were playing but maybe just hadn’t found that it was in their own backyard just yet. 

After you joined Carry On, the band started to tour and according to Ryan George in my No Echo interview with him, that’s how you ended up hooking up with Chris Wrenn and Bridge Nine Records. Was that the first time you ever came out to the East Coast. I ask since you’ve been living on Long Island for some time now. What were some of the memories from those longer tours?

There weren’t a lot of tours but it wasn’t until Todd joined the band. Our guitarist Jordan was sick with a heart condition and would leave the band on his own. Todd would join the band in his place, sadly Jordan passed shortly after. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.

Carry On would start playing San Diego and the Bay Area regularly. We did a West Coast tour to Seattle and an East Coast tour before the self-titled record came out. We were super-close with Count Me Out, Champion, and Striking Distance from those tours and road trips. Once the self-titled record dropped, things really start to change in a positive way.

We would end up getting on the first American Nightmare California tour and that’s where we meet Chris Wrenn. The band would start playing out more and this is around the time where the Ojai Valley Women’s Center really took off. We were seeing a lot more people at shows as well as people driving crazy distances to be part of it. People from San Diego would drive like 4 hours for some of them.

Once the LP dropped, the band would tour with Over My Dead Body, Death Threat, and Hope Con. I unfortunately missed the tour because of an injury but Jon Westbrook from No Reply was able to fill in. 

You played on Carry On’s A Life Less Plagued, an album that didn’t get a lot of support since Carry On broke up right after it came out but still went on to become one of the most popular hardcore records of that time. 

Here’s how Ryan explained how it went down when I interviewed him in 2018:

But let me get this straight... when you guys recorded 'A Life Less Plagued,' you were still straight edge?

(Ryan George, Carry On vocalist): Yes, when we recorded the album, I was still straight edge. But once it came out and I wasn't straight edge anymore, I still wanted to keep Carry On going. I thought it could be a cool thing. You know, we were just people who were going to grow and change and why should we stop doing the band. But they weren't into it. I understood why they were upset because we were a straight edge band. That was our thing. Some of our best songs were about it. But it was right after the album came out.

What is your memory of how this all went down? Do you agree with his take on that situation?

I was fortunate to play on the LP. It’s an incredible record, the artwork was different, Kurt Ballou’s recording gave the band something to stand out and give Todd’s songs the justice they deserved. Ryan’s lyrics were great, influenced partially by peers like Wes Eisold (American Nightmare) and Gibby, but raw and in your face when they needed to be.

We played some epic East Coast shows while out there recording the LP, signs that people truly loved what we were doing.

This is how I remember the end coming about: LP comes out and everyone started accusing Ryan of "selling out" because of the way he looked but we knew plenty of people who were into different shit and still straight edge.

Obviously, the rumors were going around and I’d ask Ryan if he was still straight edge and always said yes. Why would I need to second-guess my friend. Things with the band were getting tense, not like fights or anything just less hanging out.

The nail in the coffin was a show with Converge, American Nightmare, and Hope Con at the Troubadour in Hollywood. We played awful, possibility the worst ever. Not sure if it was that night but the band broke up. No one talked for several days and I would later find out that we broke up from the Rev Board. I assume Ryan not being straight edge was the reason it was kept from me because I would have quit. 

How did Piece by Piece start, and was it right after Carry On dissolved? It’s mainly known as Nick Jett’s project, but did it start off that way? Did you guys want to do something very different from what Carry On did?

Once Carry On broke up, fairly quickly Todd started Vengeance and Nick started Piece by Piece. Me and Nick were super close and hung out pretty much every day around this time. He had a couple songs and asked if I was interested in joining. It was right up my alley with a raw angry punk style plus Nick, Jeff [Givens], Shaun [Grine] and myself were always together, so even if it wasn’t going anywhere they were the guys I wanted to be around making music.

We put out a demo early '02. I don’t think there was any real thought to do something different, it was just do what felt natural. This was also the birth of Nicks recording career. He built a studio at his mom’s house that we pretty much lived in called Blood Tracks. I feel like that’s how or why we all had so many guest vocals, everyone was there hanging out.

Did Piece by Piece play a lot of shows early on when you were still in the band? What are some of the memories that stand out from the band’s early days?

We played as many shows as a band could with sharing members with Terror. There was never an issue with that as we were stoked to see them on the path to greatness. We had some wild shows and a lot of the friendships I made then are who I’m closest with today.

It was a time when we were playing with bands we loved like Donnybrook, Madball, Death Threat, and the list goes on. It was a real special time for us all. We did a West Coast tour with First Blood that was awesome.

Not sure how last-minute it was but we were in Seattle and Nick gets told he needs to get on a plane for Terror and we would have to cancel the last show. I believe we knew there was a possibility of this happening so we were cool with it until we realized Nick got on the plane with our van keys [laughs].

I played in the band up until Primitive as Fuck came out with an open door to play with the band again at any time. Nick to this day always asks if I’m in any situation to fly out and play. It was a combination of moving to New York and getting sick with fibromyalgia that has made playing guitar very difficult for me these days. Hopefully ill share the stage with those dudes again.

That brings me to Internal Affairs. Did you always want to start a band where you sang? How did you conceptualize Internal Affairs in your mind and then take that into action and put together a lineup?

I think it was after Carry On I had it in my head that I would only do a straight edge band if I was going to be the frontman, but I honestly had no idea what that would be like. I tried to sing on some Piece by Piece stuff and I sounded terrible [laughs]. I knew nothing about song writing but I always had some riffs just no clue what to do with them.

While Nick was away with Terror, myself and Shaun, the drummer, were always jamming, whether it was Piece by Piece songs or just fucking around. We decided to start something new to fill the gap of waiting for Piece by Piece shows as Terror’s tour schedule really started to build. No idea why we chose to be an edge band as very few songs of ours are about straight edge, probably most of our circle was still edge, so why not? 

I wanted to be Infest but neither of us had the chops to pull it off. Since it was a project, it took several shows with various lineups to happen before we nailed down a solid group of dudes. Since the music and lyrics were my outlet, naming the band after my issues seemed fitting.

The lyrics to the songs Internal Affairs pretty much sums it up. I was going through personal stuff that left me very angry and it was really all I could write about at the time. The lyrics were kind of ridiculous at the same time so hopefully people got a laugh as well. 

A label closely associated with Internal Affairs was Linas Garsys and Tru Pray’s Malfunction Records. How did that relationship with the label come to be?

We knew them from the Count Me Out tour from earlier Carry On days. Before Tru and Linas had contacted, us our intention was to do a release with Scott [Magrath] and Takeover Records, who had released the first Piece by Piece and Terror 7-inches.

I think it was being on a label that released American Nightmare was a "holy shit!" moment with East Coast connections and probably why we ended up on Malfunction. They helped bridge the gap to a lot of the newer east coast bands. We had an amazing relationship that spanned pretty much the entire career.

After the 2003 demo, Internal Affairs released the Casualty of the Core EP. 

So finally we had a legit regular line up with Jon Westbrook on guitar, Dennis McDonald on bass and Shaun on drums. Jon was great because he was contributing riffs and songwriting ideas, he wrote the intro where we lifted an idea from Leeway and made it our way. It’s funny with how many records we released but I hated recording. I had awful timing, often wrote most of the lyrics on the spot in the studio as well. I guess once we had a style I did enjoy the song writing process. Something about the excitement of discovering new cool shit.

Things were really picking up where we did two East Coast tours our first year as well as tons of West Coast stuff all over. Our release show was with In Control and Over My Dead Body. I believe it was In Control's release show as well. I could have that wrong but I remember it was an important show for them as well. Zack [Nelson] always looked out for us with shows. 

As for the response, we were getting it was definitely positive. Started getting tons of offers out of town and tried to everything we could. We did a Southwest tour with Born From Pain off that 7-inch where we really connected with a ton of bands in Texas.

Internal Affairs (Photo: Robby Redcheeks)

Internal Affairs then released a split EP with Allegiance, a Northern Californian hardcore band that you had a close connection to. 

That friendship goes way back to the Carry On / American Nightmare tour where we met Duane [Harris] and a lot of those guys. I don’t think we played the Bay without them so it made perfect sense. Especially Kyle Whitlow, who had Rivalry Records and he was a longtime friend from the Carry On days, so a split band and split label release was just something that kept friends even more connected.

Out of the many recordings, this is possibly my favorite, might not be the best-sounding Internal Affairs record but I feel like it represented us the best. Duane also played in IA a bunch, he did both Outbreak / Miracle Mile and the Blacklisted tour as well as a bunch of random shows. John [Eightclip], the singer, played bass for IA at our recent reunion at For the Children, so its proof of how strong that bond was even many years later.

The sole Internal Affairs studio album came out in 2005. How do you feel about the material on that record today? Do you ever go back and listen to it these days?

I love the songs. It was awesome to have both Dennis and Todd contribute songs. Having Todd and Bill track everything made it super tight and faster than I had hoped, there’s a few songs I struggled to sing because of the speed but I loved it. My only complaint was my vocals. I tried way to hard and blew my voice out first day and then left on tour with Terror as I was working for them around that time.

Finally came back and recorded the rest of my parts and my voice was ridiculous, just not the same as the previous recordings. But other than that, Malfunction Records killed it. Linas truly went above and beyond. Besides the two different layouts for the CD and vinyl versions, Linas had to make two different etchings for the vinyl because the first version interfered with the labels.

The test presses looked sick, too. I revisit it every now and then but I skip through the different records when strolling down memory lane as they all spark different feelings and memories.

How much touring and local gigging was Internal Affairs doing at that time? Did you feel that the band was getting more popular with each release?

As for touring we hit it hard in '03-04, wouldn’t say we peaked in '04 but never really got any bigger locally. Outside the States is where we were growing, Europe in '04 and '07, Australia in '05 and '07, Japan '07, and Guatemala at some point.

Our first trip to Europe and Australia seemed bigger than the second tours but maybe that’s just my perception. I believe our first tour in Australia was the first time three American bands toured together. The lineup was Champion, Internal Affairs, Miles Away, and Betrayed. Every night was so wild and exciting.

I think each release just kept our name familiar. In '06, we were on tour with Guns Up! and Betrayed and kept crossing paths with Have Heart and Verse. The nights that we played together the shows were pretty big. That was also the tour where we played the first This Is Hardcore, which was so awesome.

Our tour in Japan was incredible, we played places most bands didn’t go to at that time. Played everywhere from Sapporo to Okinawa and everything in between on the main island of Japan. We weren’t the first hardcore band to play Okinawa but we were the first to play a club show, at least that’s what we were told. They had a big fest there and all the big NYHC bands had played that.

I remember there being a lot of talk about Internal Affairs shows being violent at that time. What’s your take on that from literally being in the band? Was it a fair statement or something that was blown way out of proportion? 

That’s interesting because I don’t feel like our shows were any more violent than a lot of other shows. We weren’t a mosh band by any means, we weren’t heavy, I guess it was an attitude.

I think the idea that Internal Affairs was violent is maybe more pointed at me specifically. I had a lot of injuries, a fucked up back that I had surgery on prior to starting the band, a destroyed knee where I ruptured my ACL at the Terror 1-year anniversary show, and lots more…so I wasn’t about to have someone hanging around my neck or a dog pile ruin me again.

Don’t get me wrong I love the passion that comes along with those interactions, but I wasn’t in a physical condition to allow it to happen to me. I feel like I lost years of my life to my back injury and probably responsible for a lot of my anger as well.

We weren’t trying to be Bane or Have Heart. Don’t get me wrong, we love those bands, I was just being what I was at the time and I was ok with people possibly not liking the band because of it. We played with all bands from Champion and The First Step to 100 Demons and Donnybrook, it was the Wild West of hardcore, I feel like everything was violent at that time.

I hate fights at shows and always try to avoid them, the vibe sucks and losing venues is the worst but there are times where you have to stand up and get rid of the shitty element. Whether its Nazis or bouncers mistreating people, sometimes you have stick together and smash’em. Our US tour with Donnybrook was incredible and the things that happened on that tour are so wild, but the only fight that happened at a show that I can remember was Nazis at Hellfest. 

Internal Affairs released a couple of more EPs before signing with Deathwish Inc. for the Evil Egyptians EP in 2009. That label—especially in that era—was like a major label in the hardcore scene. 

Deathwish is an incredible label and I had been friends with Jake [Bannon] and Tre [McCarthy] for many years before. They acquired Malfunction from Tru and Linas. Prior to this, we had recorded four songs for a collaboration with Triumvir the clothing company and Dalek the artist.

Richard at Triumvir, I believe, is the one who brought it up and made it happen. Dalek had already done a record with Blacklisted, which had his classic space monkey but with us he went wild with the artwork. It came out sick and sold out quick. With those songs sort of in limbo after that release, the Deathwish / Malfunction situation happened and the songs got rereleased as the Evil Egyptians EP.

It was awesome working with them and crazy how smooth everything went. Linas did the artwork as usual. I actually like the first draft art that went unused more but unfortunately there was no way to make it fit the 7-inch format. Then when he came up with the mummy art, it was too good, crazy how the dude just made magic happen over and over.

Why did Internal Affairs end up breaking up?

Our popularity had fallen off for a couple years and we had so many member changes that it was kind of a preemptive strike to go out while people still gave a fuck. I think it was Dennis and I and possibly Andy at one point discussed that if we needed to make one more member change, it would be over.

I feel like the '00s was when bands started lasting longer than the 4-year average no matter how many records they had put out. December 2002 to February 2009 is a pretty good run in my eyes. We felt like we were going out on top with the 7-inch on Deathwish, an incredible last tour on the East Coast with Cruel Hand and Alpha Omega, and an amazing last show at Chain Reaction.

Internal Affairs @ For the Children 2014. (Photo: Dan Rawe)

I would be remiss to not ask you about Snake Eyes, a short-lived hardcore band that also featured Todd Jones (Carry On, Terror), Nick Trujillo (Donnybrook, Lone Wolf), Bill Lanz (Internal Affairs, Last Second), and Bo Thomson (Donnybrook, Lone Wolf). You released a demo in 2005 and the Hellbent EP in 2007, but the band broke up rather quickly. Was that a matter of everyone being too busy with other projects? 

Todd and I were living together at the time and a couple cool things happened. One was the Carry On “final” shows at the showcase and Snake Eyes. Being the riff master he was, he wrote the demo and we started playing. Todd and Bill were both in IA at the time and we were super close with Donnybrook, so we’re close with Bo and Nick. Nick is also who recorded the IA self titled record.

There were some tensions and people had jobs and things just didn’t work out in the end. I still listen to the demo often. 

What was the impetus for you moving to New York? Do you miss living out here, or did the change suit you well?

In 2011, I moved to Phoenix for school to be a motorcycle mechanic. While in Arizona, I had decided that I would go where ever the work was, praying it was civilized [laughs].

During my time there, I would meet my wife. She would fly from New York at least once a month to see me and when it was my time to prove my dedication to our relationship I moved east once school was done. I visited a few times and had a job secured until Hurricane Sandy fucked that up.

Luckily once things started to get back to normal, I was able to get a job at a different shop and start enjoying New York. Plenty of things I miss about California but New York is where I’ve started a family and I wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Corey, his son Charlie, and wife Pam Piffard-Williams

You also played in a hardcore band called Manipulate for a while since living in New York.

Pretty much as soon as I got to Long Island, Buske (The Promise, Another Victim), Iván Murillo (Dead Wrong, Unforgiven), and Rich Perusi (Sex Positions, The Dedication) started Manipulate. Eventually Ricky Singh (Backtrack, Flatspot Records) would join as well. I also filled in for the Wrong Side a few times.

Internal Affairs reunited to play live to help promote the No Way Out discography that came out with last year. How was that experience?

It was nerve racking [laughs]. I don’t think I ever got nervous before. We did a reunion in 2014 at For the Children and I felt like I was a little rough and out of shape, so this time we had something to prove. As usual, we had some member stuff that put a wrench in things sort of last minute. Two weeks before the show, Dennis needed back surgery so we had to scramble so we were lucky enough to get Andy who was previously in the band to jump in and keep it on track.

Other than the venue and stage being huge, I’m stoked on how we performed. Brought back a ton of great memories and seeing tons of old faces singing along and pitting was great! Not sure when but I’d like to play a couple more before hanging it up for good, something smaller and more up close and personal would be perfect.

Burt [Jenkins] and Safe Inside Records did a great job with the discography and was awesome to have Linas on board again as well as finally getting to work with [Jonathan] Buske on the booklet.

We always did things from a collectors perspective with vinyl colors and rare covers so this was just another box checked with the gatefold and book. We always had silkscreened covers that Robby Redcheeks would make, but this time last minute my whipped up some silkscreened covers just for the show.

What are you to these days and do you miss being in a band?

Playing guitar isn’t really in my future with my hands the way they are but won’t say singing in another band is out of the question.

The reality is that the current youth of today are fucking killing it, and there are so many incredible bands of varying styles and messages. Not sure I could produce anything as creative as what’s happening at the moment, it’s exciting to watch and listen.

Having the time is more the issue these days so I guess we will see what the future has in store for me, if people want caveman music by a caveman I’m your guy!


Tagged: carry on, internal affairs, piece by piece