“1-9-9-6 it began, spawning a king, dawning a reign.” A reign that is known as the legendary E.Town Concrete. Hailing from the urban streets of Elizabeth, NJ, the band took over the New Jersey hardcore scene in the late '90s with their unique mix of hardcore, metal, and hip-hop backed by emotional lyrics about the trials and tribulations of growing up and dealing with hard times.
They played shows extensively in the late '90s, packing clubs throughout NJ and fueling mosh pits up and down the East Coast while gaining a loyal following throughout the country. Though E.Town Concrete never really gaining the credit and prominence they wanted and deserved as a band, they still sealed their legendary status in the history books of the NJHC scene.
The group's discography consists of 2 demos, a split 7 inch, 4 full-length albums and 3 EPs released between the timeframe of 1996-2012. All musically advanced for their time and each one presenting its own creative and unique presence in the hardcore community; but E.Town fans that have followed them from the beginning will always consider their early work as some of the greatest hardcore music that has ever been created.
I had the privilege to speak with one of the original E.Town Concrete founding members, guitarist Ken Pescatore, about the history of the quintet. They may have had their share of struggles and have since retired as a band, but the music that Ken helped create and the stories that fans tell about their experiences at an E.Town show will never be forgotten.
What got you into hardcore and what were your influences for starting E.Town?
I grew up listening to heavy music and hip-hop. I was huge into bands like Anthrax and Suicidal Tendencies while still listening to heavier stuff like Sepultura and Obituary. On the hip-hop side of things I was into EPMD, Boogie Down Productions, and anything you could breakdance to. The juxtaposition of those genres was the main influence to create E.Town.
When did E.town form, how did you guys meet, and what was your role in the development of the band from the start?
E-Town officially began in the summer of 1995 (although we always promoted that we launched in 1996). I grew up living down the street from original bass player Henry and around the block from drummer Teddy. While we were all from the same town, we did have some years between us. I grew up being friends with guitarist Dave's older brother (and my brother was friend's with Dave's eldest brother).
Anthony went to school with Dave and Teddy and we all hung out together as childhood friends. We played in bands together before E.Town, which I will get to in a moment, but I was the one that introduced the crew to the hardcore scene, and how the band should follow that developmental path.
What were some of the bands you guys played in before E.Town?
In grade school I was in a funk band with Teddy and Anthony called the Sourpuskies. I was singing, Teddy was on bass and Anthony was on guitar. The next project was called Trip Instinct. It was a rock band that leaned on the heavy side, but definitely wasn't hardcore.
What were your aspirations and goals for E.Town when you first started?
Like most musical kids, I wanted to be a rock star. We were focused on blowing up from the beginning and it was always the dream. Being from Elizabeth, NJ, we barely had the chance to travel. We all saw this as a way to escape the hood. We also grew up without having nice musical instruments. This was a way to support the desire of having some real gear to play on.
What were the first songs you wrote and recorded?
The Just Move It demo, better known as the "Red Demo," was recorded in 1995. We were exceptionally fortunate to work with Producer and Engineer Steve Evetts. Little did we know it, but he would go on to record bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Snapcase, Sepultura, Earth Crisis, and many more.
The demo had 5 tracks on it, some of which would make their way into future releases. The track listing was "Full Effect," "Hindsight," "ETC," "This Is It," and "Front Street." Many of the riffs in those tracks were written in 1993-94, when some of us were 15 years old.
Are there any songs that you recorded that were never released on any album or demo?
Everything that I have ever recorded (in the studio) with E.Town was published. I have some rehearsal studio tapes of unreleased stuff that is really interesting. It contained a ton of keyboards that never made their way onto The Second Coming either.
I know you played on "First Born" and "Shaydee," but did you demo any other tracks that were on The Second Coming album?
I actually wrote a ton of the music from The Second Coming (uncredited). We rehearsed and played those songs live for well over a year before that album was recorded. The iterations of the tracks when I was still in the band were very different from the released versions, as I wrote almost all of my stuff for 2 guitars.
What were your favorite venues to play?
The Pipeline in Newark, NJ was our home. There was nothing better than playing The Pipeline as it was like a giant gathering of our closest friends every week. We weren't old enough to buy drinks at the bar but we could pack that place. It was amazing to bring in out-of-state talent to show them what the NJ scene was all about. As for out-of-state venues, we were huge fans of The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY and Sea Sea's in PA.
What other NJ bands did you enjoy playing with the most?
In Jersey, it was great to play with bands like NJ Bloodline (who split their set with us at the Down Under in New Brunswick, NJ for our first performance), One4One, and Bulldoze. We played a ton of shows with 25 ta Life, Madball, Candiria, and Hatebreed in the NY/NJ area as well, and would play a lot with our friends from MD, Torn Apart if we traveled south down the East Coast.
What was your relationship with other NJ hardcore bands such as NJ Bloodline, Second to None and Fury of V?
We were exceptionally close to NJ Bloodline as they were also rooted in Elizabeth, NJ. I grew up as friends with Wreak Havok (RIP) and was good friends with guitarist Mario's younger brother Pete. Once E.Town started planting seeds throughout NJ, we found kinship with the Fury of V and Second to None crews. I was going to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ which brought me close to some legendary basement shows with bands like Strength 691 and Lifetime.
Many of the musicians were close friends. It's also important to remember that this was still pre-cell phone, so when we would see and hear from each other, it was when we were performing.
How did the split with Second to None happen?
Second to None also brought an urban style to their hardcore with hip-hop having a major lyrical influence. We all ran in the same circles, so it made sense to team up, as our audiences had a ton of crossover.
Are there any interesting stories about crowd fights or beefs with other bands?
Too many to remember! One thing about NJHC bands, was that we rolled pretty deep. Even when we played out of state we would have a caravan of people come with us. I remember once in Long Island we got into it pretty bad with Vision of Disorder over our call times.
Sometimes out-of-towners would roll up to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ which the Fury Crew had locked down. So, if there was any beef to be had, you better believe that the Asbury crew would send people home with bruises.
What were the most violent shows you played in?
Whenever we played with Madball or Bulldoze things were absolutely bananas. Especially because we were so young in the beginning, seeing someone get stomped out by 20 dudes was pretty nuts. I remember shows at Studio One in Newark, NJ where our walls of death would take out 100+ people. This was all from a time before the crowd killing craze. If things were going down, they happened front and center on the dance floor.
Are there any funny E.Town touring stories?
Our first West Coast tour was interesting. We left at midnight on my 21st birthday and drove straight to Sacramento, CA to meet up with our contact, Mikey Hoodz. I literally spent the entirety of my 21st birthday in a van with 5 dudes and all of our equipment. We drove straight through and made it there in 36 hours.
On the way home, we got pulled over 5 minutes from our house because the cop behind us saw a bunch of feet against the back window because some of us were sleeping on the top bunk in the van.
Were there any internal musical differences about E.Town’s style and what you wanted to accomplish as a band?
Early on, many of the members were just learning about hardcore. Introducing the ins and outs of hardcore song composition, like intros and dancing sections was a bit different than the metal and very far from the hip hop that we were all listening too.
As the years went on, I definitely started listening to heavier metal from Gothenburg, Sweden. If The Second Coming was recorded with 2 guitar parts, you would recognize that the harmonies were taken almost directly from melodic metal.
Do you think E.Town could have been bigger outside of New Jersey in today’s scene with more avenues to share music and promote bands through social media?
I'm not sure. The current climate for musicians is a massive departure from when I was playing. While marketing and exposure methods are through the roof, getting a deal, bookings, and representation is harder now than ever.
What happened with Back ta Basics Records and the original release of the Time 2 Shine album and why did you switch to Resurrection Records?
Like many bands from that time, we were completely bamboozled by Rick Healey and Back ta Basics. The deal was made on a handshake. It wasn't long before we learned that their version of Time 2 Shine was being distributed in Japan. I got a call from a Japanese distribution house asking to place another order of 5000 units. That call should have went to Back ta Basics but instead came to me.
So that began the process of learning how bad we were being taken advantage of. At the time I was doing A&R for Resurrection AD Records. I told the owner that if he paid the legal fees to serve Back ta Basics with a Cease and Desist then we would do a deal with them. Once the C&D went out we met with Res AD a week or two later to work out contracts.
What is the significance to the lyrics in "Shaydee"?
"Shaydee" was about how things went down with Back ta Basics. We wanted to let people know that we weren't afraid to talk about the elephant in the room. That elephant was Back ta Basics exploiting the artists that they were promised to endorse and protect.
How was the guitar and creative process shared with DeLux and were there any disagreements? Who wrote the breakdown riffs for the Time 2 Shine album?
DeLux really came to his own during The Second Coming. I wrote just about all of Time 2 Shine with the exception of "One Life To Live," which was written by Dave. The majority of songs on Time 2 Shine were written over the years leading up to E.Town, so when it was time to get down to it, everything was prepared and ready to go. DeLux was such an amazingly skilled guitarist that he was able to just pick things up and run with it.
What were the best and worst things about being in E.Town?
The best thing was creating music. Nothing better than getting out aggression through art. The worst thing was that when things went south for me and the band, I lost very close friends overnight. I remember getting calls from members of the band saying they were sorry and it wasn't their decision. There was a clear power struggle in the band and it took its toll.
How did your departure from the band occur and what do you feel went wrong?
The culture of the band professionally began to change. I was the workhorse through the band's early years, handling all of the operations of the band in regards to bookings, travel, marketing, promotion and everything in between. Anthony wanted to take control of things, which led to a complete culture shift to the rapport that I had built with all of the clubs, agents, and contacts within the industry.
It's also important to remember that we were still young at this time but had already sold a ton of records and had a lucrative deal with Resurrection AD Records. So we were on a high.
One day I caught wind that some Island/Def Jam execs were coming to the Everlast show at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ. I went to the show, bought them drinks, introduced myself, handed them my press kits, and went on my way. That began some early talks with Island/Def Jam to do a small development deal. It ended up blowing up in spectacular fashion during a conversation that I wasn't a part of. That's when I started to mentally check out.
Fast forward a few months, and some drama happened around a girl that I won't get into now out of respect. But yeah. The nail in the coffin was a misunderstanding around a girl. We were young. It was typical machismo stuff that prevents any truth from ever coming out. Then to boot, there was a strong effort to pretty much erase me from the band's history. It was heartbreaking. But you know... Hard times build character.
What do you think about the direction E.Town took after you left and what do you think of the songs they released after you?
When The Second Coming was released I was pretty shocked that they used so much of my material. It was difficult to listen to hearing it without many of the melodic elements that were the driving force of our maturing style. I think that the raw energy that was captured in our $800 recording of Time 2 Shine was exceptionally difficult to replicate. I think over the years the vibe that Time to Shine putt off had been lost a bit.
What was E.T.A.C. and how was it started?
ETAC was the E.Town Assault Crew. A group of friends that had rough upbringings that bonded through hardcore. At its core was our dear friend Mark who is no longer with us. We were grade school friends from different parts of Elizabeth. His childhood circle included Wreak Havok from NJ Bloodline. That's how we all came together.
We were all super young and rolling deep to shows at Studio One (which was around the corner from The Pipeline) to see pretty much every legendary hardcore band you can think of. Those shows were absolutely insane so you needed to roll with a crew. We were a motley crew of misfits that would follow through on all of our trash talk.
Are you still in contact with any former members?
Not actively. I helped Eric buy a car a few years ago because I worked for Volkswagen. Teddy and I stay connected on Facebook. It's very difficult to not have them in my lives actively.
How did it feel to play with E.Town Concrete again at Starland in 2012? Were you apprehensive about it?
I wasn't apprehensive at all. It had been in talks for years and I was ecstatic that it was finally happening. Jersey came out in numbers with two sold out shows. We had bands we grew up idolizing like Biohazard and Madball opening for us. It was absolutely surreal. My favorite part of the process was the months of rehearsing leading up to the shows. It felt great just to hang out with them again in that setting, especially Teddy.
We were inseparable as kids, for years and years before E-Town was ever a thought. It was great to be able to spend time with him again.
Has there been any offers for another E.Town reunion show with all the original members?
No there hasn't. Anthony and I had a weird vibe. I don't think he was really feeling it. I would do another reunion in a heartbeat if we could arrange it. (But I would need to play those Second Coming tracks)
What is your most prized piece of E.Town memorabilia?
I still have every letter that was written to the band from the late '90s. It's amazing seeing hand written notes about the $5 they have included for a demo. I love all of it. Outside of that I still have the original copy of our Resurrection AD record contract, and also a ton of uncut red and green demo covers.
When did Arson start and what were your inspirations and goals for this band?
I started building Arson a day after things went down with E.Town. I wasn't going to waste any time and I wanted to keep the momentum going. My goals for the band were to bring metal to the hardcore scene the same way that thrash was brought into punk. I wanted to take the music I listened to as a kid like Slayer and Sepultura and blend it with hardcore as well as other forms of modern European metal.
I wanted to play metal, but I didn't want to play metal shows. What ended up happening was a new branch of metal that was spawned out of the hardcore scene.
What was the last hardcore show you attended?
I went to see Reaching Out a few months ago. Some of the members are the kids of Beto from 25 ta Life and Gene from Second to None. All of them have hardcore lineage. We all still connect on Facebook, so it was a reunion of sorts. It was awesome seeing the next generation of hardcore kids killing it.
Are you involved in any bands today?
I haven't played in quite a while. Every 6 months or so I get a random call from an old friend asking to jam. I really think it is time to start playing again. I would really like to do some technical/math style metal with a splash of djent.
How do you think today’s hardcore scene compares to the scene in the '90s and early '00s?
It's super different. Music streaming changed everything. The magic of hardcore from the '90s was that you had to go to a show to experience it. In my opinion, once that changed with streaming, shows became less about the music, and more about the "show and scene" itself.
That's not to say that solid bands haven't thrived in recent years, but it can't compare culturally to the '90s. We were hood. Now the scene is made up of the kids of people that used to be hood.
Any closing comments or things you would like to say to the E.Town fans?
I absolutely want to say thank you to the fans that have kept E.Town alive for 25+ years. Being 44-years-old and having a song that I wrote when I was 15 still being requested on radio is an amazing thing.
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